Saturday, October 01, 2016

The Clear and Present Danger of Donald Trump

For some time now, I have described Donald Trump as a clear and present danger to America.  Now, the Washington Post has taken up the refrain and in a series of editorials will lay out the danger that Trump poses to America and, in my view, democracy in this nation.  Besides being a pathological liar and being temperamentally unfit for the presidency,  Trump could use executive orders to wreak havoc across the government and undermine safety and workplace regulations.  And that doesn't even consider the potential damage that could be done by Trump if he were commander-in-chief.  Here are excerpts from the Post editorial:
IF YOU know that Donald Trump is ignorant, unprepared and bigoted, but are thinking of voting for him anyway because you doubt he could do much harm — this editorial is for you.
Your support of the Republican presidential nominee may be motivated by dislike of the Democratic alternative, disgust with the Washington establishment or a desire to send a message in favor of change. You may not approve of everything Mr. Trump has had to say about nuclear weapons, torture or mass deportations, but you doubt he could implement anything too radical. Congress, the courts, the Constitution — these would keep Mr. Trump in check, you think.
Well, think again. A President Trump could, unilaterally, change this country to its core. By remaking U.S. relations with other nations, he could fundamentally reshape the world, too.
Of course, in many areas Mr. Trump would not have to act unilaterally. If he won, chances are Republicans would maintain control of Congress. GOP majorities there would be enthusiastic participants in much of what Mr. Trump would like to do: gutting environmental and workplace regulations, slashing taxes so that the debt skyrockets, appointing Supreme Court justices who oppose a woman’s right to have an abortion. In areas where Republican officeholders such as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) imagine themselves acting as a brake on Mr. Trump’s worst instincts, skepticism is in order. If these supposed leaders are too craven to oppose Mr. Trump as a candidate, knowing the danger he presents, why should we expect them to stand up to the bully once he was fully empowered?
 The president would appoint officers — a budget director, an attorney general, a CIA chief — who were disposed to let him have his way. And in the U.S. system, the scope for executive action is, as we will lay out in a series of editorials next week, astonishingly broad. At times we have questioned President Obama’s sweeping use of those powers even when we agreed with his goals, such as his broad grant of amnesty to millions of undocumented immigrants. Mr. Trump could push it much further.
 Could he tear up long-standing international agreements? Round up and expel millions of longtime U.S. residents? Impose giant tariffs? Waterboard terrorist suspects? Yes, yes, yes and yes — all without so much as an if-you-please to Congress. Could he bar the media from covering him? To a large extent, yes. Could he use the government to help his businesses and, as he has threatened, injure those he perceives as enemies? Yes, he could.
[I]t would be reckless not to consider the damage Mr. Trump might wreak. Some of that damage would ensue more from who he is than what he does. His racism and disparagement of women could empower extremists who are now on the margins of American politics, while his lies and conspiracy theories could legitimize discourse that until now has been relegated to the fringe. But his scope for action should not be underestimated, either. In our upcoming editorials, we will examine some arenas where Mr. Trump has been relatively clear about his intentions — and where presidential powers are mighty. We hope you will read them before you vote.

This last point needs to be underscored.  Already Trump has emboldened white supremacist groups and racist discourse has been normalized - at least in GOP circle.   Equally frightening are the secret pacts that Trump is making with Christofascists to rally their support to his banner of hate and discrimination.  Be afraid, very afraid.

Saturday Male Beauty - Pt 1

Wedding Weekend at The Greenbrier - Day 1

Hotel front last night

The drive up to The Greenbrier in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia, yesterday was uneventful other than a torrential rainstorm that left me white knuckling the steering wheel on Interstate 81 in among the large number of 18 wheelers.  Once we got back onto Interstate 64, thankfully, the traffic - and the rain - let up. Last night as part of the weeding weekend for the daughter of friends we had the good fortune to have the welcome cocktail party moved to the Presidential Suite in the Windsor Wing of the hotel.  The suite is named after the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and is wonderfully elegant.  The husband and I had our photo taken under the portrait of the Windsors - who one of the husband's clients actually met many years ago.

I had always known that the place was historic, but the public rooms of the hotel are almost museum in terms of near priceless pieces.  Interesting items ranges from 18th century portraits to the chandeliers that were in the set for "Twelve Oaks" in the movie, Gone With the Wind.  Below is a sample of the elegant public rooms.

After a leisurely breakfast in the gorgeous main dining room - and me, of course, checking on office e-mail from yesterday and drafting a couple of documents - we had a historic tour of the hotel and the bunker that was build in the 1950's at the height of the Cold War that was to house the President and Congress in the event of a nuclear attack on Washington, DC.   Our tour guide, Linda was wonderful. Here's a taste of the history from the hotel website:
The Greenbrier is a National Historic Landmark and world-class resort that has been welcoming guests from around the world since 1778. The natural mineral springs that drew our first guests over 235 years ago continue to lure visitors to our 11,000 acre luxury retreat today. With a guest list that includes 26 of our country’s 44 Presidents, America’s Resort has long been a favorite destination of royalty, celebrities and business leaders.  . . . . This renowned property offers 710 rooms, including 33 suites and 96 guest and estate homes. The Greenbrier has 10 lobbies, 40+ meeting rooms and a complete conference center facility. 
The Greenbrier offers exclusive services and amenities such as championship golf, fine dining, more than 55 activities, designer boutiques, our world-renowned mineral spa and a 103,000 square foot gaming and entertainment venue. 
Construction began in 1958 on the 112,544-square-foot bunker, which was built 720 feet into the hillside under The Greenbrier's West Virginia Wing.  Once complete in 1961, the facility was maintained in a constant state of readiness by a small group of government employees working undercover as Forsythe Associates, a company hired by the resort for audio/visual support services.
During its Eisenhower-Era use, The Bunker provided the following:
  • Four entrances; three to The Greenbrier's grounds and one to the main building
  • 25-ton blast door that opens with only 50 lbs. of pressure
  • Decontamination chambers
  • 18 dormitories, designed to accommodate over 1,100 people
  • Power plant with purification equipment and three 25,000-gallon water storage tanks
  • Three 14,000-gallon diesel fuel storage tanks
  • Communications area, including television production area and audio recording booths
  • Clinic with 12 hospital beds, medical and dental operating rooms
  • Laboratory
  • Pharmacy
  • Intensive care unit
  • Cafeteria
  • Meeting rooms for the House and Senate, the Governor's Hall and Mountaineer room
Today's wedding events begin at 5:00 pm with a pre-ceremony toast followed by the wedding ceremony, and cocktail hour and reception dinner.    One last photo of the husband in the hall leading to the Presidential Suite.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

How the Clinton-Trump Race Got Close

With the now seemingly close election contest between Hillary Clinton making me at times consider formalizing my dual citizenship with Honduras so that the husband and I could move to and purchase property in Roatan in the Bay Islands, I keep asking myself, "what is wrong with Americans and why isn't Clinton killing Trump."  A column in the New York Times looks at the question and proposes an answers and places much of the blame on a complicit media. A media that much like the German media as Hitler came to power helped normalize ugliness and hatred until it was too late.  Then these same media types found themselves to be the among the first targeted for silencing.  Why can't Americans learn from history?  Here are column highlights:
Monday’s presidential debate was a blowout, surely the most one-sided confrontation in American political history. Hillary Clinton was knowledgeable, unflappable and — dare we say it? — likable. Donald Trump was ignorant, thin-skinned and boorish.
Yet on the eve of the debate, polls showed a close race. How was that possible?
After all, the candidates we saw Monday night were the same people they’ve been all along. Mrs. Clinton’s grace and even humor under pressure were fully apparent during last year’s Benghazi hearing. Mr. Trump’s whiny braggadocio has been obvious every time he opens his mouth without reading from a teleprompter
So how could someone like Mr. Trump have been in striking position for the White House?
Part of the answer is that a lot more Americans than we’d like to imagine are white nationalists at heart. Indeed, implicit appeals to racial hostility have long been at the core of Republican strategy; Mr. Trump became the G.O.P. nominee by saying outright what his opponents tried to convey with dog whistles.
If he loses, Republicans will claim that he was some kind of outlier, showing nothing about the nature of their party. He isn’t.
But while racially motivated voters are a bigger minority than we’d like to think, they are a minority. And as recently as August Mrs. Clinton held a commanding lead. Then her polls went into a swoon.
What happened? Did she make some huge campaign blunders?
I don’t think so. As I’ve written before, she got Gored. That is, like Al Gore in 2000, she ran into a buzz saw of adversarial reporting from the mainstream media, which treated relatively minor missteps as major scandals, and invented additional scandals out of thin air.
Meanwhile, her opponent’s genuine scandals and various grotesqueries were downplayed or whitewashed; but as Jonathan Chait of New York magazine says, the normalization of Donald Trump was probably less important than the abnormalization of Hillary Clinton.
This media onslaught started with an Associated Press report on the Clinton Foundation, which roughly coincided with the beginning of Mrs. Clinton’s poll slide. . . . . As it happened, it failed to find any evidence of wrongdoing — but nonetheless wrote the report as if it had. And this was the beginning of an extraordinary series of hostile news stories about how various aspects of Mrs. Clinton’s life “raise questions” or “cast shadows,” conveying an impression of terrible things without saying anything that could be refuted.
The culmination of this process came with the infamous Matt Lauer-moderated forum, which might be briefly summarized as “Emails, emails, emails; yes, Mr. Trump, whatever you say, Mr. Trump.”
I still don’t fully understand this hostility, which wasn’t ideological. Instead, it had the feel of the cool kids in high school jeering at the class nerd. Sexism was surely involved but may not have been central, since the same thing happened to Mr. Gore.
Then came the debate itself, which was almost unspinnable. . . . . tens of millions of Americans saw the candidates in action, directly, without a media filter. For many, the revelation wasn’t Mr. Trump’s performance, but Mrs. Clinton’s: The woman they saw bore little resemblance to the cold, joyless drone they’d been told to expect.
How much will it matter? My guess — but I could very well be completely wrong — is that it will matter a lot. Hard-core Trump supporters won’t be swayed. But voters who had been planning to stay home or, what amounts to the same thing, vote for a minor-party candidate rather than choose between the racist and the she-devil may now realize that they were misinformed. If so, it will be Mrs. Clinton’s bravura performance, under incredible pressure, that turned the tide.
But things should never have gotten to this point, where so much depended on defying media expectations over the course of an hour and a half. And those who helped bring us here should engage in some serious soul-searching.

If democracy should fall in America, irresponsible journalist will certainly have played a major role in helping it happen.

Trump's Russian Roulette With Putin

Given Donald Trump's refusal to release his tax returns, we may never know whether his bromance with Vladimir Putin stems from dependence on Russian oligarch funds to keep his real estate pyramid scheme afloat or envy of Putin's dictatorial style of ruling over Russia, including the silencing of the press and political opponents, a number of whom have turned up murdered. Or, of course, it could be a combination of both given Trump's Hitler-like political style and bullying personality.   While I believe that there are MANY reasons why Trump is unfit for the presidency, his embrace of Putin may be forcing a number of traditional Republicans into the arms of Hillary Clinton.  A piece in Politico looks at the phenomenon.  Here are excerpts:
The Hillary Clinton campaign is meeting with swing-state leaders of Eastern European descent, encouraging ethnic debate watch parties and phone banks, and scheduling conference calls with Clinton allies from her State Department days as part of an aggressive effort to capitalize on Donald Trump’s embrace of Russian leader Vladimir Putin and his equivocal support for NATO.
For years, voters with Eastern Bloc roots embraced the Republican Party, viewing the GOP as an anti-communist bulwark and a champion of strength in the face of Russian aggression.
But the Republican nominee’s frequent praise of Putin and talk of conditional American backing for NATO members under attack has alarmed voters with close family ties to Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and other Eastern European countries, raising the prospect that they’ll bolt the top of the GOP ticket in November.
“The Latvians are primarily Republicans, as are Lithuanians, Estonians, and many Ukrainians, but Trump has put them in a real bind,” said Maris Mantenieks, a Latvian leader in Ohio’s Eastern European ethnic community. “Because in all honesty they don’t want to vote for [Clinton], and yet again they can’t express their Republicanism due to Trump’s positions.”
These voters, many of whom live in swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, are deeply worried by an emboldened Moscow, and anxious over the possibility that the Baltic nations might be the next target of Russian adventurism. Trump’s lavish praise of Putin has exacerbated those concerns — leaving an opening that Clinton’s campaign is leveraging by emphasizing her willingness to get tough with Putin, and her unwavering support for NATO. Earlier this month, Clinton met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in New York — and her allies made sure to publicize the message that Trump snubbed him.
In Pennsylvania, according to the most recent Census data available, there are more than 100,000 people of Ukrainian descent; 820,000 of Polish descent (a demographic that tends to lean more Democratic but that cares about strong support for NATO); 46,000 Croatians; and thousands of Lithuanians, Latvians, Albanians, Estonians and people of other Eastern European ethnicities. In Ohio, there are around 40,000 Ukrainians, more than 400,000 Poles, and thousands of Americans of other Eastern European heritage.
“I believe in our community, in many Eastern European communities, there is a high percentage of … voters that do still take foreign policy seriously because of our own immigrant story, or their strong support for NATO, that would lead one to be a supporter and vote for Hillary Clinton,” said Steve Rukavina, a leader in the national Croatian community based in Pennsylvania 
In Ohio, engaging Eastern European ethnic communities is a campaign staple, particularly in northeastern Ohio, which is home to significant Polish and Ukrainian communities. 
I don’t think Donald Trump has any idea about how these smaller countries depend on NATO. That’s the only defense against Russia. These countries were invaded during the Second World War, they lived under Russian rule for 50 years, NATO is the only military protection they have.”
In a sign his campaign senses the risk, Trump has launched his own attempts to reach out to Americans of Eastern European descent, addressing Polish Americans in Chicago on Wednesday.
“Especially with the Ukrainian community, the message is very strong and clear,” she said. “You have a choice: Do you vote for Putin, basically, or there’s another choice: Do you vote for Hillary?”

Fifty percent of my heritage comes from the Austria-Hungary Empire, much of which fell first to Hitler and then was ruled ruthlessly by Russia for five decades.  My vote, of course is with Hillary.

Wedding Weekend at The Greenbrier

The husband and I are headed to The Greenbrier (pictured above) located in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia, this morning to attend the wedding of the daughter of dear friends who were among the handful of true friends who stood by me when I came out after years of marriage to a woman and fathering three children.  We are delighted to be included in this wonderful event at a fabled resort.  Posting may be reduced, but as always I will try to give accounts of our experiences and stay up with current events.   Our usual house sitter will be staying at the house and caring for our two Chihuahuas - our furry children, as the husband calls them.  She will be staying at the house again when we sail on a cruise on October 28th.  More on that later.

The main dining room

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, September 29, 2016

How Donald Trump Violated the U.S. Embargo Against Cuba

Donald Trump likes to talk about "crooked Hillary," but given the Trump University scam, Trump's use of his foundation as a personal piggy bank, and Trump's six bankruptcies and screwing over of contractors, Trump is the one who looks crooked.  Now, on top of all of this, Newsweek is reporting that Trump violated the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.  Admittedly, the dollar amounts are not huger - at least for someone like Trump.  But what I find so disturbing is Trump's attitude.  Like his Christofascist supporters, Trump obviously thinks that he is above the laws that apply to the rest of America.  Here are excerpts from the Newsweek piece:
A company controlled by Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, secretly conducted business in Communist Cuba during Fidel Castro’s presidency despite strict American trade bans that made such undertakings illegal, according to interviews with former Trump executives, internal company records and court filings.

Documents show that the Trump company spent a minimum of $68,000 for its 1998 foray into Cuba at a time when the corporate expenditure of even a penny in the Caribbean country was prohibited without U.S. government approval. But the company did not spend the money directly. Instead, with Trump’s knowledge, executives funneled the cash for the Cuba trip through an American consulting firm called Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corp. Once the business consultants traveled to the island and incurred the expenses for the venture, Seven Arrows instructed senior officers with Trump’s company—then called Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts—how to make it appear legal by linking it after the fact to a charitable effort.
The payment by Trump Hotels came just before the New York business mogul launched his first bid for the White House, seeking the nomination of the Reform Party. On his first day of the campaign, he traveled to Miami, where he spoke to a group of Cuban-Americans, a critical voting bloc in the swing state. Trump vowed to maintain the embargo and never spend his or his companies’ money in Cuba until Fidel Castro was removed from power.

He did not disclose that, seven months earlier, Trump Hotels already had reimbursed its consultants for the money they spent on their secret business trip to Havana.
 Without obtaining a license from the federal Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) before the consultants went to Cuba, the undertaking by Trump Hotels would have been in violation of federal law, trade experts say.

Officials with the Trump campaign and the Trump Organization did not respond to emails seeking comment on the Cuba trip, further documentation about the endeavor or an interview with Trump. Richard Fields, who was then the principal in charge of Seven Arrows, did not return calls seeking comment.

In that statement, Conway has acknowledged that Trump broke the law. Paying the money for the business trip and meetings in Cuba – regardless of whether it resulted in an additional investment or casino deal – would directly violate the law. 
[O]ne OFAC official, who agreed to discuss approval procedures if granted anonymity, says the probability that the office would grant a license for work on behalf of an American casino is “essentially zero.”

The goal of the Cuba trip, the former Trump executive says, was to give Trump’s company a foothold should Washington loosen or lift the trade restrictions. While in Cuba, the Trump representatives met with government officials, bankers and other business leaders to explore possible opportunities for the casino company. The former executive says Trump had participated in discussions about the Cuba trip and knew it had taken place. 
The fact that Seven Arrows spent the money and then received reimbursement from Trump Hotels does not mitigate any potential corporate liability for violating the Cuban embargo. . . . If OFAC discovered this and found there was evidence of willful misconduct, they could have made a referral to the Department of Justice.” 
Like the Communist regime, the company was struggling, having piled up losses for years. In 1998 alone, Trump Hotels lost $39.7 million, according to the company’s financial filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Its stock price had collapsed, falling almost 80 percent from a high that year of $12 a share to a low of just $2.75.

Though it has long been illegal for corporations to spend money in Cuba without proper authorization, there is no chance that Trump, the company or any of its executives will be prosecuted for wrongdoing. The statute of limitations ran out long ago, and legal analysts say OFAC’s enforcement division is understaffed, so the chances for an investigation were slim even at the time.

And perhaps that was the calculation behind the company’s decision to flout the law: the low risk of getting caught versus the high reward of lining up Cuban allies if the U.S. loosened or dropped the embargo. The only catch: What would happen if Trump’s Cuban-American supporters ever found out?

The Next New Yorker Cover is Too Funny!

In the wake of Monday's presidential debate, on comment on Facebook summed up Donald Trump's sexism and vulgar treatment of women this way:  I find it ironic that an old, ugly, fat white guy, with a horrible comb-over and an orange spray tan, would criticize a woman on her looks?   New Yorker Magazine - which, like most New York based publications that know Trump well, can't stand the man - has found a wonderful way to humiliate Trump with its next magazine cover (the image is above).   How the narcissistic Trump will react is anyone's guess.   Mother Jones looks at the fun satire.  Here are highlights:
The New Yorker this morning gave us a sneak peak at next week's cover, and boy it's a keeper.
A little cursory context if you don't get it: In the closing minutes of Monday's presidential debate, Hillary Clinton called out Donald Trump for his poor treatment of women. Clinton said Trump called 1996 Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado, from Venezuela and now an American citizen, "Miss Piggy" and "Miss Housekeeper." (Trump didn't deny the language he used, and in fact doubled down on his attack against the former beauty queen the next day by saying, "She gained a massive amount of weight and it was a real problem.")
The punchline of The New Yorker cover, of course, is classic role reversal: a portly Trump as the pageant winner, struggling to maintain dignity while balancing a tiara and holding back tears on a runway under intense scrutiny.

Right Wing Christian Convicted in Isabella Miller-Jenkins Kidnapping

Kidnapping conspirator, Philip Zodhiates, a "godly Christian"
From time to time I have posted about the continuing saga of the Isabella Miller-Jenkins kidnapping in the wake of her mothers' split.  My interest in the story is three-fold (four fold if one considers the Virginia ties).  First, the custody struggle was one of the first time the always reactionary Virginia Supreme Court ruled for a LGBT petitioner. Second, the case highlights the bogus "pray away the gay" scams operated by "Christian ministries" out to fleece the desperate and/or gullible.  Lastly, it demonstrates the manner in which Christian extremists view themselves as above the civil laws.  Adding to the intrigue is the role that Liberty University and Matt Staver, head of the hysterically anti-gay Liberty Counsel, seem to have played in aiding and abetting lawbreakers.  ABC News has details on the criminal conviction of one of the co-conspirators in the kidnapping of Isabella Miller-Jenkins.  Here are highlights:
A federal jury in Buffalo returned the verdict against Philip Zodhiates, of Waynesboro, on Thursday after hearing during a week long trial how he had driven Lisa Miller and 7-year-old Isabella Miller-Jenkins from Virginia to the Canadian border in 2009 so they could fly from Toronto to Nicaragua, and had helped with their living arrangements in the Central American nation.
Neither Miller nor Isabella, now 14, have been seen in the United States since.
Lawyers for Zodhiates, the owner of a direct mail business that serves conservative Christian groups, denied that he was trying to obstruct the other mother's parental rights by helping Miller, who became an evangelical Christian after dissolving her civil union with Janet Jenkins in Vermont.
Miller, who gave birth to Isabella during the civil union, defied court orders granting Jenkins visitation and left the country shortly before a court shifted custody to Jenkins, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Van de Graaf said.
Miller also is charged with international parental kidnapping and conspiracy and is considered a fugitive.
A third defendant, Timothy Miller, recently was arrested after being deported by Nicaragua, U.S. Attorney William Hochul's office said Thursday.
A fourth defendant, Kenneth Miller, a Mennonite pastor, was convicted of international parental kidnapping in Vermont in 2012.
None of the Millers are related.  Kenneth Miller, of Stuarts Draft, Virginia, is serving a 27-month prison sentence.
 Zodhiates faces up to eight years in prison when he is sentenced Jan. 30.
In my view, it is unfortunate that criminal charges were not brought against Matt Staver, a thoroughly vie individual and modern day Pharisee, in my opinion. 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

The GOP is in Denial About Trump

I grew up in a Republican family and I understand it can be difficult to let go of past habits in one's voting pattern.  But in my grandparents' and parents' day, the Republican Party valued knowledge, science, and looked down on out right racism.  Fiscal conservatism was a must, but so was staying out of people's bedrooms.  And for the most part, the GOP selected sane and responsible candidates, especially at the presidential level.  All of that has changed, yet too many otherwise sane Republicans cannot let go and recognize that the GOP has this year nominated a horrible individual as its standard bearer and that for the good of the country, they need to abandon him.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at the denial plaguing the GOP voters.  Here are excerpts:
If you’re a Republican who has been clinging to the wan hope that Donald Trump might somehow, in his eighth decade on Earth, develop into a plausibly competent president of the United States, the first debate should have been your moment to abandon ship.
Trump displayed the factual command of a small child, the emotional stability of a hormonal teen, and the stamina of an old man, staggering and losing the thread as the 90 minutes wore on. Instead, Republicans — without a single exception I have seen — have responded very differently. They have treated their candidate’s glaring unsuitability for high office as, at worst, a handful of discrete errors that in no way reflect on his character, and at best, the dastardly unfairness of the liberal media.
Among the optimists was conservative columnist Holman Jenkins, who registered his approval with the candidate’s ability to clear two impressive hurdles: make it through the debate without literally dying, and display the ability to make at least one planned action. “He is not a lifelong politician like Mrs. Clinton and it showed,” writes Jenkins. “But he survived on stage. 
National Review, which had published a splashy issue devoted to denouncing Trump during the primary, used its post-debate editorial not to remind readers that the array of disqualifying traits it had once denounced were on vivid display, but instead to chastise moderator Lester Holt for exposing them.
Holt’s alleged bias was a favorite subject on the right. Every question that exposed Trump’s unprecedented violation of political norms simply proved to conservatives that their party was being singled out for unprecedented scrutiny. Conservatives expressed a mix of resentment and confusion that Trump faced hostile questions and scrutiny for his refusal to take the expected and routine step of releasing his tax returns. “These columns warned Mr. Trump—and GOP voters—during the primaries that by not releasing his returns he was giving Democrats an opening to assert what he might be ‘hiding,’” warns The Wall Street Journal. Note the scare quotes around the term “hiding,” as if it is a hyperbolic and unfair term to apply to the act of not revealing something that is customarily shared. 
The New York Times, which recently published a harrowing account of Trump’s debate preparation, or lack thereof, today has an equally harrowing account of his failures. Trump surrounds himself with completely unqualified advisers offering bad advice (a “large number of voluble people on his prep team, including two retired military figures with no political background”). His advisers are hoping after the first debate to “impress upon him the need to stick to a strategy and a plan of battle.” Trump has a childlike attention span . . . .
So Trump, according to the people trying to help him win, is unable to pick good staff, manage his time, follow advice, or even accept the connection between preparing for an event and succeeding at it. Republicans have so internalized Trump’s wild unsuitability for the presidency that they have decided to treat these facts as mere hurdles to overcome on the path to the presidency. But why are they trying to help him win in the first place?

Will Saturday Night Destroy Trump?

For over 40 years Saturday Night Live ("SNL") has delivered blistering political satire and at times has helped to underscore negative aspects of candidates and to get across prevailing character flaws the mainstream media is too spineless to attack.  This past year has been no different.  Yet, in the wake of Monday's presidential debate and Donald Trump's disastrous performance, some are conjecturing that SNL may be particularly brutal on Trump - and deservedly so in my opinion.  A piece in Politico looks at the process underway at SNL in the lead up to Saturday's show.  Here are highlights:
Monday night was live from Hofstra. Saturday night is live from New York.
While Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton argue over who won Monday night’s debate, inside 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the winner in the all-important satirical showdown is still being scripted.
That’s where the cast and crew of “Saturday Night Live” gathered Monday night to watch the debate. And it’s where they’re still sketching out portrayals that will shape how Americans see their presidential candidates.
SNL, which timed the launch of its 42nd season for the weekend after the first Clinton-Trump clash, made one big reveal Wednesday: Actor Alec Baldwin will debut as Trump. But heading into Saturday, the biggest drama is how Baldwin and SNL will parody the GOP nominee: Will they mock his sniffles? His hair? His orange hue? His gesticulations? His supposed microphone malfunction? Or do they cast him in more ominous terms: as a racist hate-monger? Some comedians are pressing for the latter. Dean Obeidallah, who worked on the production staff of SNL for eight years and now has a radio show on SiriusXM, said late-night comedians “have a moral obligation” to highlight the darker elements of Trump’s candidacy. “Donald Trump is not a normal candidate. This is not Mitt Romney, not John McCain. This is a man who has trafficked in racism, sexism and bigotry,” Obeidallah said.
“Maybe it’s going to take comedians to do the job that cable news has relinquished for so much of the campaign.”
Samantha Bee took some of her comedy colleagues and network executives to task for coddling Trump and inviting him on their programs. “I guess because ratings matter more than brown people,” Bee exclaimed. “Sure, he’s making life palpably dangerous for Muslims and immigrants, but, hey, he’s good at entertainment!”
Last season, one faux pro-Trump SNL ad featured stirring testimonials from what at first appeared to be everyday Americans who ended up as a Nazi, a woman ironing a Ku Klux Klan hood, and a white supremacist. 
Historically, SNL’s political satire has penetrated the national consciousness. It was Will Ferrell as George W. Bush who coined “strategery,” not Bush himself. And it was Tina Fey as Sarah Palin who claimed, “I can see Russia from my house,” not Palin. The skewering tradition dates all the way back to Chevy Chase’s 1976 portrayal of President Gerald Ford as a klutz, and Jon Lovitz’s disbelief, as Michael Dukakis in 1988, that “I can’t believe I’m losing to this guy.” In 2000, Al Gore’s own advisers made him watch Darrell Hammond’s stilted, stiff, sighing impersonation of his debate performances to show Gore how poorly he was coming off to others.
Lorne Michaels, the creator and executive producer of SNL, told Parade this week that “fundamentally we’re non-partisan,“ but there are growing pressures inside the satire world to wage a comedic war on Trump in the election’s final weeks.
Spokespeople for SNL did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
Debates have long been fertile ground for SNL and the Baldwin-McKinnon teaser suggested that’s how Saturday’s episode will open. As it happens, there will be a debate, including the vice presidential one next week, before each of SNL’s first four episodes this season.
The campaigns, if not the candidates themselves, will be watching on Saturday.
Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton’s communications director, hasn’t thought much about it yet even though she said, “‘Saturday Night Live’ will certainly matter from now until the election a great deal.”  “It’s among the things I can’t control,” Palmieri said with a hearty laugh. “‘Saturday Night Live’ — among the things I can’t control.”

Again, I hope SNL brutalizes Trump.  The husband and I will be at a wedding at The Greenbrier on Saturday, but we will be sure to tune into SNL afterwards.  

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Former Defense Department and CIA Officials Slam Trump

The previous post noted how Hitler's rise to power was aided by sycophants who thought they could control him and/or by those who put personal advancement ahead of the best interests of the nation. Some of the later ended up losing their lives when Hitler turned on them and others lost everything when Germany was crushed in defeat.  Thankfully, some of America's career defense and intelligence are not ready to sell out the nation for a few pieces of silver and put the interests of the nation first.  A column in the Washington Post by a former undersecretary of defense for intelligence from 2011 to 2015 and assistant secretary of defense for special operations from 2007 to 2011, and former deputy director of the CIA underscores why Donald Trump is unfit for the office of the presidency and the danger that he poses for America.  Here are excerpts:
Donald Trump showed again during Monday’s presidential debate the many ways in which he is unfit to be president. But nowhere did he reveal himself to be as temperamentally unfit, unserious, unprepared and incoherent as he did on the topic of national security.
Trump continued to question the global alliance system that has served U.S. national security interests so well since World War II. He continues to see our relationships with our closest allies and partners solely in terms of cost — who is paying how much of the bill. He does not see all the benefits that have accrued to the United States from this system, including the stability of Europe and East Asia that has made this a more secure and prosperous nation.
Trump spoke off the cuff about the most important responsibility of our commander in chief: U.S. nuclear weapons policy. Apparently unaware of the meaning of the words, he first said he believed in “no first use” of nuclear weapons, then contradicted himself by saying he would keep his options open as president. One of us (Michael Vickers) had oversight for U.S. nuclear weapons policy during the George W. Bush administration, and we can say unequivocally that absolute clarity is critical to the strength of our nuclear deterrent. And these comments come on top of Trump’s already-reckless pattern of remarks on allowing more countries to obtain nuclear weapons and the potential scenarios in which he would consider using such weapons.
Trump failed to articulate a plan to defeat the Islamic State, and he baldly lied about initially opposing the Iraq War. He continued his silly argument that to talk about his plan would give away secrets to the enemy. Nonsense. As two people who fought terrorists for almost two decades, we can assure Trump that offering the broad outlines of a policy gives nothing away. 
Trump has repeatedly claimed on the campaign trail, as he did again Monday night, that the United States would have prevented the emergence of the Islamic State if we had “taken the oil” in the aftermath of the Iraq War. Trump is apparently unaware that the terrorist group got its oil from fields in Syria, not Iraq. Trump likewise dubiously asserted that had the United States maintained 10,000 troops in Iraq after 2011 — against the wishes of the Iraqi government — it would have prevented the Islamic State from becoming a threat. Again, Trump is seemingly unaware of the facts. The Islamic State’s most rapid growth occurred when it crossed the border into Syria, where most of its forces remain today.
And Trump was not serious when he was discussing one of the most significant threats of our time: cyber. In discussing Russia’s possible involvement in the recent hack of the Democratic National Committee, he posited that a 400-pound person sitting on a bed could have been responsible. It is highly unlikely that a lone hacker conducted this attack. Trump did not want to admit that the most likely culprit was Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Trump actually encouraged to conduct cyber espionage against his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
As bad as he was on the issues, Trump was even worse on temperament and style. He was clearly not prepared for the debate, rambling through answers with many digressions that had nothing to do with what he was asked or even the point he was trying to make. 
If Donald Trump thinks preparation is overrated and that a seat-of-the-pants approach makes sense for the most important debate of his life, why do we think he would treat meetings in the White House Situation Room any differently?

Trump is not only a threat to America but to the world at large.  No wonder so many of America's allies are worried about the outcome of November's election.  I find the thought of Trump in the White House nothing short of terrifying.

New Hitler Book Could As Easily Describe Trump

I have been blasted by some for my comparisons of Donald Trump and Adolph Hitler.  In my opinion both represent narcissistic demagogues subject to tempestuous love affairs with themselves.  Both pandered/pander to hate and bigotry and viewed scapegoating others as a means to power. Trump may have come a background of wealth and comfort whereas Hitler came from a meager background, yet the self-importance ascribed to themselves is remarkably similar.  Likewise, temper tantrums and violent out bursts follow criticism or  suggestions that they were not always right.  If you don't believe me, you need to read a new New York Times book review of “Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939,” by historian Volker Ullrich, and think of Trump as you read the review.  The book could as easily describe Trump's tactics today as those of Hitler in his rise to power.   Here are review highlights:
How did Adolf Hitler — described by one eminent magazine editor in 1930 as a “half-insane rascal,” a “pathetic dunderhead,” a “nowhere fool,” a “big mouth” — rise to power in the land of Goethe and Beethoven? What persuaded millions of ordinary Germans to embrace him and his doctrine of hatred? How did this “most unlikely pretender to high state office” achieve absolute power in a once democratic country and set it on a course of monstrous horror?
A host of earlier biographers (most notably Alan Bullock, Joachim Fest and Ian Kershaw) have advanced theories about Hitler’s rise, and the dynamic between the man and his times. Some have focused on the social and political conditions in post-World War I Germany, which Hitler expertly exploited — bitterness over the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles and a yearning for a return to German greatness; unemployment and economic distress amid the worldwide Depression of the early 1930s; and longstanding ethnic prejudices and fears of “foreignization.”
Other writers — including the dictator’s latest biographer, the historian Volker Ullrich — have focused on Hitler as a politician who rose to power through demagoguery, showmanship and nativist appeals to the masses.
In “Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939,” Mr. Ullrich sets out to strip away the mythology that Hitler created around himself in “Mein Kampf,” and he also tries to look at this “mysterious, calamitous figure” not as a monster or madman, but as a human being with “undeniable talents and obviously deep-seated psychological complexes.” This is the first of two volumes (it ends in 1939 with the dictator’s 50th birthday) and there is little here that is substantially new. However, Mr. Ullrich offers a fascinating Shakespearean parable about how the confluence of circumstance, chance, a ruthless individual and the willful blindness of others can transform a country — and, in Hitler’s case, lead to an unimaginable nightmare for the world.
Mr. Ullrich, like other biographers, provides vivid insight into some factors that helped turn a “Munich rabble-rouser” — regarded by many as a self-obsessed “clown” with a strangely “scattershot, impulsive style” — into “the lord and master of the German Reich.”
Hitler was often described as an egomaniac who “only loved himself” — a narcissist with a taste for self-dramatization and what Mr. Ullrich calls a “characteristic fondness for superlatives.” His manic speeches and penchant for taking all-or-nothing risks raised questions about his capacity for self-control, even his sanity. But Mr. Ullrich underscores Hitler’s shrewdness as a politician — with a “keen eye for the strengths and weaknesses of other people” and an ability to “instantaneously analyze and exploit situations.”
• Hitler was known, among colleagues, for a “bottomless mendacity” that would later be magnified by a slick propaganda machine that used the latest technology (radio, gramophone records, film) to spread his message. A former finance minister wrote that Hitler “was so thoroughly untruthful that he could no longer recognize the difference between lies and truth” and editors of one edition of “Mein Kampf” described it as a “swamp of lies, distortions, innuendoes, half-truths and real facts.”
• Hitler was an effective orator and actor, Mr. Ullrich reminds readers, adept at assuming various masks and feeding off the energy of his audiences. Although he concealed his anti-Semitism beneath a “mask of moderation” when trying to win the support of the socially liberal middle classes, he specialized in big, theatrical rallies staged with spectacular elements borrowed from the circus. Here, “Hitler adapted the content of his speeches to suit the tastes of his lower-middle-class, nationalist-conservative, ethnic-chauvinist and anti-Semitic listeners,” Mr. Ullrich writes. He peppered his speeches with coarse phrases and put-downs of hecklers. Even as he fomented chaos by playing to crowds’ fears and resentments, he offered himself as the visionary leader who could restore law and order.
• Hitler increasingly presented himself in messianic terms, promising “to lead Germany to a new era of national greatness,” though he was typically vague about his actual plans. He often harked back to a golden age for the country, Mr. Ullrich says, the better “to paint the present day in hues that were all the darker. Everywhere you looked now, there was only decline and decay.”
• Hitler’s repertoire of topics, Mr. Ullrich notes, was limited, and reading his speeches in retrospect, “it seems amazing that he attracted larger and larger audiences” with “repeated mantralike phrases” consisting largely of “accusations, vows of revenge and promises for the future.” But Hitler virtually wrote the modern playbook on demagoguery, arguing in “Mein Kampf” that propaganda must appeal to the emotions — not the reasoning powers — of the crowd. Its “purely intellectual level,” Hitler said, “will have to be that of the lowest mental common denominator among the public it is desired to reach.” Because the understanding of the masses “is feeble,” he went on, effective propaganda needed to be boiled down to a few slogans that should be “persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”
Hitler’s ascension was aided and abetted by the naïveté of domestic adversaries who failed to appreciate his ruthlessness and tenacity, and by foreign statesmen who believed they could control his aggression. Early on, revulsion at Hitler’s style and appearance, Mr. Ullrich writes, led some critics to underestimate the man and his popularity, while others dismissed him as a celebrity, a repellent but fascinating “evening’s entertainment.” Politicians, for their part, suffered from the delusion that the dominance of traditional conservatives in the cabinet would neutralize the threat of Nazi abuse of power and “fence Hitler in.”
 “Many Germans jumped on the Nazi bandwagon not out of political conviction but in hopes of improving their career opportunities, he argues, while fear kept others from speaking out against the persecution of the Jews. The independent press was banned or suppressed and books deemed “un-German” were burned. By March 1933, Hitler had made it clear, Mr. Ullrich says, “that his government was going to do away with all norms of separation of powers and the rule of law.” 
• Hitler had a dark, Darwinian view of the world. And he would not only become, in Mr. Ullrich’s words, “a mouthpiece of the cultural pessimism” growing in right-wing circles in the Weimar Republic, but also the avatar of what Thomas Mann identified as a turning away from reason and the fundamental principles of a civil society — namely, “liberty, equality, education, optimism and belief in progress.”

Sound frighteningly familiar?  I hope and pray that a majority of voters will wake up and save America from repeating the tragedy of Germany.  Having read a great deal about Hitler's rise to power, I continue to be amazed at how the man manipulated people and played to their ugliest instincts - just like Donald Trump.