Saturday, April 01, 2017

More Saturday Male Beauty

Trump Internet Trolls Upset Over Gutting of Online Privacy

I'm less than thrilled with the Republican move to gut online privacy protections put in place under the Obama administration.   Der Trumpenführer has promised to sign the GOP passed legislation. Some have argued that the move will be a boon for the FBI.  Meanwhile Verizon, Comcast and others will be racking in the cash.  Ironically, some Trump supporters are up in arms and, if you think about it, rightly so.  All those Trump supporters frequently white supremacist websites will have their data tracked and sold.  Even more humorous is that fact that all the evangelical Christians in the South - you know, the anti-LGBT "godly folk" who use more Internet porn than anyone else - will likewise have their Internet usage tracked and sold (one can only hope they get some "interesting" marketing materials mailed to them via the Postal Service!).  Lastly, there are the true political trolls at sites like Free Republic and other wacko right wing sites who will similarly be tracked.  As Think Progress reports, many of these deplorables are not happy.  Here are excerpts:
Of all the constituencies that supported Donald Trump last November—working class white voters; anti-establishmentarians; the Ku Klux Klan—perhaps none displayed more unwavering, unyielding loyalty than his army of online trolls.
You know the ones: the Pepe-loving, hashtag-tweeting deplorables. They weaponized memes the way political operatives typically weaponize phone banks, and their effectiveness was rewarded by the loving embrace of Donald Trump himself, who bent over backwards to engage with the internet’s most vile users.
Even as some voters began expressing remorse for entrusting a misogynistic failed businessman with improving their health care and saving jobs, Trump’s army of trolls—on 4chan, on, and, most notably, on the r/The_Donald subreddit—remained steadfast.
At least, until this week.
Earlier this week, Republicans muscled a bill through Congress that strips away Obama-era protections on users’ online privacy, opening the door for internet service providers to begin selling their customers’ private information to the highest bidder. Everything from a user’s location to their shopping habits to their browsing history will be on the menu.
For a group of people whose cretinous online behavior is predicated on remaining largely anonymous, such a disruption would be unwelcome to say the least. And the fact that the Trump administration has vowed to sign such a bill into law has proven to be a very triggering turn of events.
Now, users in Donald Trump’s online safe spaces are cycling through all seven stages of grief.
But this is Donald Trump we’re talking about, a scam artist who bilked hundreds of people by creating a fraudulent university atop a charter of “trust me, I got this.” Is it any wonder, then, that some Trump supporters still assume the president knows what he’s doing, even when all the evidence suggests otherwise?
These folks wanted "deregulation" and that's what they are getting.  Sometimes one needs to be careful what they wish for.  Before it's over, these folks may realize they brought a nightmare on themselves. 

EV Commonwealth Dinner - Reduced Posting

This morning the husband I and his sister and a dear friend are driving to Richmond to attend Equality Virginia's Commonwealth Dinner.  We will be staying at the home of a friend who is a member of Gov. McAuliffe's cabinet as we have done in previous years when attending the gala fundraiser.  The big difference this year is that I will be honored as an "Outstanding Virginian" along with six other honorees.  As an added treat, one of my law school roommates who I haven't seen in almost 20 years will be attending and sitting at my table.I am both excited and nervous about the event and suspect the nervousness will build as I get closer to standing in front of 1200 some people, including the Governor of Virginia (who is the keynote speaker) and other important elected officials. 

Between the cocktail party before ther event, the reception, dinner and post dinner party, posting on this blog will suffer. Expect pictures and reflections tomorrow late in the day.

PS, as is our habit, we have a friend staying at the house to house sit and baby sit the two Chihuahuas who while sweet and loving are truly some of the most spoiled dogs in Virginia.  

The Age of Trump: The Truth is Again in Danger

Being of an age where I distinctly remember Watergate - I was just shy of 22 when Nixon resigned - and the scandal that ultimately forced a suiting president to resign - the only time up until now in the nation's history.  Now, with Russiagate continuing to dominate the news, several factors from the Watergate era need to be remembered.  First, now, as then, many Republicans and Trump supporters are down playing the dangerous nature and shrugging off concerns that the occupant of the White House and his henchmen may have conspired with a foreign enemy to throw the presidential election to Trump. Second, we see the likely law breaker attacking the independent news media in a desperate attempt to change the topic and/or damage the credibility of stories that expose possibly illegal activities by the President and his inner circle. Lastly, we see citizens wondering whether Congressional Republicans will put the nation first and their political party second. In the Watergate era, the truth prevailed and Congressional Republicans rose to the challenge and put the nation first.  Whether they will do so again - especially in the House of Representatives - remains a looming question.  In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Robert Redford reflects of both scandals and questions whether the truth will prevail now.  Here are highlights:
In July 1972, I was on a train tour through Florida promoting the film “The Candidate.” Entertainment and political press were on board, and I heard them gossiping about a break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington. The story was being covered by two young reporters from The Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
The reporters were at the infancy of an investigation that would come to be known as Watergate, the greatest political scandal in modern American history. But at the time it was simply a few small articles about a break-in. . . .  It was only later that the depth of the Watergate scandal was discovered.
I tried to get in touch with Woodward and Bernstein. . . . . We finally made contact and eventually made a movie about their story, “All the President’s Men.”
This year marks the 45th anniversary of the Watergate scandal. Because of my role in the film, some have asked me about the similarities between our situations in 1972 and 2017.
There are many. The biggest one is the importance of a free and independent media in defending our democracy.
When President Trump speaks of being in a “running war” with the media, calls them “among the most dishonest human beings on Earth” and tweets that they’re the “enemy of the American people,” his language takes the Nixon administration’s false accusations of “shoddy” and “shabby” journalism to new and dangerous heights.
Sound and accurate journalism defends our democracy. It’s one of the most effective weapons we have to restrain the power-hungry. I always said that “All the President’s Men” was a violent movie. No shots were fired, but words were used as weapons.
[T]he real-life Watergate scandal didn’t have just two people searching for the truth. It had an entire cast of characters in minor and major roles who followed their consciences: President Richard Nixon’s counsel John Dean, whose testimony blew open the congressional hearings; Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, who both resigned rather than follow Nixon’s demand to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox; and, most of all, congressional Democrats and Republicans.
Nixon resigned from office because the Senate Watergate Committee — its Democratic and Republican members — did its job. It’s easy now to think of Watergate as a single event. It wasn’t; it was a story that unfolded over 26 months and demanded many acts of bravery and honesty by Americans across the political spectrum.
What’s different now?  Much. Our country is divided, and we have a tenuous grasp on truth.
There was a time during a period of national crisis when politicians from both sides of the aisle put partisan politics aside to uncover the truth. There was a time when Democrats and Republicans united to navigate a peaceful ending to a corrupt and criminal presidency. There was a time when members of Congress placed defending our democracy above party interests for the greater good. There was a time.
Now is a different time. If we have another Watergate, will we navigate it as well? In a statement in May 1973, John Dean addressed what he described as efforts to discredit his testimony by discrediting him personally. He famously said: “The truth always emerges.” . . . .  I’m concerned about its chances these days.

The more Trump and his surrogates malign the mainstream media, the more likely he is guilty of high crimes - possibly treason.  The independent media - which excludes Fox News, Breitbart, etc. - must stay resolute and continue to dig and report until the truth is revealed. Trump, Devin Nunes and others have made it clear that they will do everything possible to subvert the truth. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday, March 31, 2017

Friday Male Beauty - Pt 2

Brexit and Britain’s - and America's - Delusions of Empire

The parallel's between those in Britain who voted for Breixt and white Americans who voted for Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, are remarkable.  In both instances, the two groups long for a perceived glorious past and a seek to reject modern economic reality and the fact that globalization and emerging economies make the days of "good old days" of yesteryear impossible to a bring back.  For the British, it's a longing of Imperial Britain on the eve of World War I when things may have been good for many whites in Britain proper, but not so wonderful for many of the subject peoples.  For Trump voters, it's the days immediately post World War II when America dominated the world, segregation at home maintained white privilege and minorities "knew their place" and gays, for their part remained largely invisible.  One irony is that America, with its crumbling infrastructure and disproportionate military spending is making the same mistake made by Britain post WWI when it failed to modernize its infrastructure and industries to remain competitive.  With China, India and other economies rising, going back to the late 1940's and 1950's simply isn't going to happen no matter what false promises Trump made to the gullible and .those motivated by bigotry.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at British delusions and indirectly makes the case for a wake up call by Trump supporters in the USA.  Here are excerpts:
[I]t’s Brexit supporters who may be in line for a real shock. Even beyond the coming “traumatic” loss of access to the E.U.’s market — as the Economist put it — the promise of a politically resurgent Britain is likely to fall flat.
Much of the rhetoric of the pro-Brexit crowd centers around the reclamation of British “sovereignty” from technocrats in Brussels. But Brexit proponents have also projected a nostalgic vision of Britain once more asserting itself as a dominant player on the world stage. May trumpeted the dawn of a new “Global Britain” earlier this year: a nation shorn of its continental commitments and capable of finding a new accommodation with other parts of the world — especially those it once colonized.
Brits are hardly alone in harboring delusions of empire — consider, for example, the colonial nostalgia of France’s far-right nationalists or the Ottomania of Turkey’s ruling party. But the fantasy of Britain’s past collides almost farcically against Britain’s present.
Never mind that Britain’s empire was a precursor to the forces of globalization and migration that the Brexiteers so profoundly resent.
Never mind that Brexit will “be a considerable blow to Commonwealth nations that export to Britain,” as the Financial Times reported: “Thirty-two Commonwealth countries, mainly in Africa and the Caribbean, are covered by free-trade agreements with the E.U. These states therefore enjoy duty-free and quota-free access to the E.U. for nearly all their goods. . . . Once the UK is out of the E.U., these countries will end up paying $800m a year in additional duties to access the UK market, according to an analysis by the Commonwealth Secretariat.”
The reality is that many Commonwealth nations simply don’t need Britain. Australian exports to its former colonial ruler amounted to just 1.4 percent of its total outgoing trade. Canada, which shares a huge land border with the United States, will always look south, not east. India, once the jewel in Britain’s imperial crown, has an economy already roughly the same size as Britain’s; Indian moguls now own some of Britain’s most iconic companies.
“In anglophone Africa, the game is already up,” British historian David Olusoga noted in the Guardian. “The motorbikes on the freeways of Accra and Lagos are Chinese, assembled by local mechanics from kits shipped direct from Shandong. 
“Brexit is rooted in imperial nostalgia and myths of British exceptionalism, coming up as they have — especially since 2008 — against the reality that Britain is no longer a major world power,” British academic Tom Whyman wrote in a withering column. “Those most under the spell of imperial nostalgia have now become the sorcerers themselves, having somehow managed to conjure up a mandate to transform Britain in their image.”

The myth of British exceptionalism.  Sound familiar?  America suffers from a similar delusion and myth making.  Clinging to myths and what allows one to avoid thinking  is not the answer to achieving prosperity and a just society. Brexit supporters and Trump supporters are both in for a rude shock and the economic pain will be self-inflicted. 

North Carolina’s Bait-and-Switch on HB2

Faced with continued economic hemorrhaging, and an ultimatum by the NCAA, North Carolina has passed a supposed repeal of HB2, a toxic anti-transgender law that also attacked many other civil rights of minorities in that state.  The problem is that what was passed and signed into law is not a full repeal of HB2.  It's not even close to a full repeal.  North Carolina Republics still put appeasing one of the foulest elements of society - so-called "Conservative Christians" - ahead of the best interests of the state as a whole.  Hopefully, the NCAA and others will see that the new legislation is a farce and will continue the boycott of North Carolina and openly rebuke the state for continuing to legalize discrimination.  Religion has absolutely no place in public laws or public policy, especially when the beliefs fostered are based on fear and hatred of others.  Time will tell if this legislative attempt is seen for what it it is: a disingenuous attempt to dupe the NCAA and others.  Here are highlights from a New York Times main editorial that trashes this false repeal effort:
Facing a deadline to do away with a law that turned North Carolina into a national pariah by denying the right of transgender people to use public restrooms of their choice, state lawmakers rashly settled on a terrible compromise.
On Thursday, they repealed the law in name but not in substance, hoping to assuage organizations and employers that have boycotted the state to protest its discriminatory law. The National Collegiate Athletic Association had given state politicians until Thursday to get rid of the law before it would resume holding championship games in the state.
All those who have taken a principled stance against the law, known as H.B. 2, should stand firm. The law’s revision would deprive North Carolinians of protection from discrimination for years, and retains the odious notion that transgender people are inherently dangerous.
“We can never compromise on fundamental civil rights,” William Barber II, the president of the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said in a call with journalists Thursday morning. “It was never just a bathroom bill. It’s a bill that discriminates against so many people in so many ways.”
The original. . . . law mandated that transgender people use restrooms that matched the gender marker listed on their birth certificate, and barred localities from enacting laws to protect gays, lesbians and transgender people from discrimination.
It’s mystifying that Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat whose narrow election in November was seen as something of a referendum on H.B. 2, would regard the amended law as a suitable compromise. The repeal law did away with the birth certificate requirement, which was unenforceable all along because it would have turned law enforcement officials into genital inspectors. But it bars schools and other government entities from adopting policies allowing transgender people to use the restroom of their choice. And it still prohibits anti-discrimination ordinances until 2020.
He and other Democrats who supported the compromise said they concluded that a modest step toward undoing the law was the best they could hope for while Republicans have veto-proof majorities in the legislature. That is misguided. The deal was struck days after The Associated Press reported that the backlash against the law would cost North Carolina at least $3.7 billion in business over 12 years.
Getting employers and organizations to steer business and jobs to North Carolina should require more than window dressing. State officials must address the underlying problem: a law that enshrines discrimination against minorities and perpetuates harmful stereotypes about transgender people. Until they do, business as usual will represent an endorsement of bigotry and intolerance.
 The husband and I will continue our avoidance of visiting or spending money in North Carolina.  The embrace of bigotry has to made to bear a heavy price. 

White House Officials Colluded with Intelligence Committee Chair, Devin Nunes

Devin Nunes - White House co-conspirator?
Watergate may yet pale in comparison to what appears to be unfolding in the efforts to investigate the ties - and possible treason - of members of the Trump/Pence campaign and of Trump and pence themselves.  With Trump minion Mike Flynn now seeking immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony it would appear that there is indeed fire, not just smoke swirling around the scandal.  Now, three White House officials have been identified as the parties that supplied materials to Devin Nunes,  - who chairs a committee that is supposed to be investigating the White House - in an effort to protect Trump and his surrogates and henchmen.  But for the seriousness of the what is happening, one would think that were were living through a Hollywood espionage thriller movie.  One of the obvious questions is that of who at the White House directed these White House officials to take the actions they took.  Was it Bannon or perhaps Trump himself?  The Washington Post reports on the ever growing scandal.  Here are excerpts:
At least three senior White House officials, including the top lawyer for the National Security Council, were involved in the handling of intelligence files that were shared with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and showed that Trump campaign officials were swept up in U.S. surveillance of foreign nationals, according to U.S. officials.
The White House role in the matter contradicts assertions by the committee’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), and adds to mounting concerns that the Trump administration is collaborating with the leader of the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
One of those involved in procuring the documents cited by Nunes has close ties to former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The official, Ezra Cohen, survived a recent attempt to oust him from his White House job by appealing to Trump advisers Jared Kushner and Stephen K. Bannon, the officials said.
Nunes reviewed the material during a surreptitious visit to the White House grounds last week. He then returned the next day in a visit he said was arranged so that he could brief Trump on what Nunes depicted as potential abuses­ by U.S. spy agencies brought to his attention by an unnamed source.
That assertion is under new scrutiny after U.S. officials confirmed that three senior officials at the National Security Council — considered part of the White House — played roles in the collection and handling of information shared with Nunes.
The officials said that the classified files were gathered by Cohen, the senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council. . . . Cohen took the matter to the top lawyer for the National Security Council, John Eisenberg.
The third White House official involved was identified as Michael Ellis, a lawyer who previously worked with Nunes on the House Intelligence Committee but joined the Trump administration as an attorney who reports to Eisenberg. Ellis and Eisenberg report to the White House counsel, Donald McGahn.
Nunes, who served as an adviser to the Trump transition team, said the files he reviewed had made him concerned that U.S. intelligence agencies had mishandled information on members of the Trump campaign, although Nunes acknowledged that he saw no evidence of illegality.
The U.S. official said Cohen was not involved in showing the material to Nunes, didn’t clear Nunes onto the White House grounds, didn’t review the material with Nunes and wasn’t even aware that the material was going to be shared with the committee chairman.
Even so, White House officials appear to have recognized the value of Cohen’s material in defending Trump from criticism for his false accusation that he had been wiretapped by Obama.
During a preliminary meeting this month to discuss the possibility of Flynn testifying before Congress, Flynn’s attorney said he wanted to explore the possibility of his client receiving full immunity in exchange for his participation.
Intelligence committee lawyers responded to the attorney by saying that immunity request, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, was premature. “That’s not on the table,” an official said. “We aren’t entertaining immunity for anybody.”
Flynn frequently battled with the CIA, which mounted a failed effort to have Cohen removed from his job.
The stench just continues to grow.  Nunes needs to be removed from his committee chairmanship and investigated along with Trump and the rest of the possible traitors who may have colluded with a hostile enemy power. 

Trump Supporter Could Learn From Britain's Self-Inflicted Wounds

Many British voters who supported the Breixt vote to have the United Kingdom exit the European Union acted from with motivations akin to those of Trump voters: racism, anti-immigrant animus, religious based hatred, the embrace of ignorance, and fear of modernity and globalization.  Now, many of these voters are having second thoughts about their vote and may yet rue the consequences of their vote.  Not only is Scotland pushing to now have a vote to leave the UK so that it can remain in the European Union as an independent nation, but today German Chancellor, Angela Merkel signaled that the trade consequences of the Brexit vote could wreak havoc on the United Kingdom's international trade.  Falling for appeals to racism, religious based animus, and a false sense of superiority can bring about severe financial consequences as I believe many Trump voters will ultimately learn.  The Independent looks at today's action by Merkel which will without a doubt likely harm Britain's economy and, in my view, deservedly so.  Here are highlights:
Angela Merkel has dealt an instant blow to Theresa May's plan for Brexit by rejecting the PM's plan for trade talks to take place at the same time as Article 50 secession negotiations.
Britain will be put into the slow lane for discussions about any future trade deal with the EU following an intervention by the German Chancellor, who intervened just hours after the UK invoked Article 50.
Ms May had called for talks on a future comprehensive trade deal between the EU and UK to take place at the same time as the so-called 'Article 50' talks on how Britain will exit the bloc.
Ms Merkel today however said that talks on British divorce terms would take place first, after which talks on a future relationship would "hopefully soon" take place. The intervention could potentially make the Brexit process significantly more arduous for the UK.
The German Chancellor told reporters in Berlin: "The negotiations must first clarify how we will disentangle our interlinked relationship... and only when this question is dealt with, can we, hopefully soon after, begin talking about our future relationship."
Ms Merkel's unpicking of Ms May's plan also comes as European Parliament chief negotiator Guy Verhofstadt explicitly ruled out giving the UK a better trade deal in exchange for better security or defence arrangements. The Prime Minister had also repeatedly and explicitly linked "economic and security cooperation" in her Article 50 letter.
If the German leader gets her way Britain might not see a final comprehensive trade with with the EU for years, and almost certainly not before the next general election in 2020. The UK would also likely have to rely on a transitional arrangement with the bloc after it leaves but before a separate trade deal can be negotiated. 
The German Chancellor pledged that she would do all she could to make sure the talks were “fair and constructive” and said she hoped British negotiators would do the same.
Britain now has two years to negotiate a divorce deal with the European Union, which will cover issues such as whether Britain owes the bloc any money.
If Trump voters in West Virginia and Kentucky can pry themselves away from Fox News, they might like to read up on what the British counterparts have likely doe to themselves.

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Mike Flynn Offers to Testify in Exchange for Immunity

The Trump/Russia story line has taken on even more life as the Wall Street Journal reports that Mike Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, has offered to testify to the FBI and the House and Senate Intelligence Committees in exchange for immunity from criminal prosecution.  I'd find it hard to believe that part of Der Trumpenführer's anatomy isn't puckering big time at the moment.  Having assisted the FBI in a few cases as noted in prior posts, to win immunity, one generally needs to have something very good - translate damaging to the main targets - to offer. Watch for  Der Trumpenführer to trigger something outrageous in an effort to distract the media from what be the first sign of blood in the water so to speak.  Here are highlights from the piece in the Journal:
Mike Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, has told the Federal Bureau of Investigation and congressional officials investigating the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia that he is willing to be interviewed in exchange for a grant of immunity from prosecution, according to officials with knowledge of the matter.
As an adviser to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, and later one of Mr. Trump’s top aides in the White House, Mr. Flynn was privy to some of the most sensitive foreign-policy deliberations of the new administration and was directly involved in discussions about the possible lifting of sanctions on Russia imposed by the Obama administration.
 He has made the offer to the FBI and the House and Senate intelligence committees through his lawyer but has so far found no takers, the officials said.
It wasn’t clear if Mr. Flynn had offered to talk about specific aspects of his time working for Mr. Trump, but the fact that he was seeking immunity suggested Mr. Flynn feels he may be in legal jeopardy following his brief stint as the national security adviser, one official said.
Mr. Flynn was forced to resign after acknowledging that he misled White House officials about the nature of his phone conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. during the presidential transition.
Mr. Flynn’s communications with the Russian ambassador, Sergei Kislyak, have been scrutinized by the FBI, which is examining whether Trump campaign personnel colluded with Russian officials who are alleged to have interfered with the presidential election, according to current and former U.S. officials. Russia has denied the allegations.
 Mr. Flynn also was paid tens of thousands of dollars by three Russian companies, including the state-sponsored media network RT, for speeches he made shortly before he became a formal adviser to Mr. Trump’s campaign, according to documents obtained by a congressional oversight committee.
Democratic lawmakers have requested a copy of the security-clearance form that Mr. Flynn was required to file before joining Mr. Trump in the White House, to see if he disclosed sources of foreign income. And they have asked the Defense Department to investigate whether Mr. Flynn, a retired Army general, violated the Constitution’s emoluments clause by accepting money from RT, which U.S. intelligence officials say is part of a state-funded media apparatus.
If Flynn indeed "knows where the bodies are buried" and has the good to take down Trump - and, hopefully, Pence as well  - keep watch on whether his immunity request is accepted.  It could be the first sign that Der Trumpenführer's reign is going to be short in duration.  I will be watching with baited breath.

Thursday Male Beauty - Pt 2

Trump - A Study in Ignorance

One of the dangers of having a malignant narcissist in the White House is that Der Trumpenführer thinks he is smarter than everyone else and, perhaps even more dangerous, he is so self-absorbed that he refuses to see his own ignorance on a host of issues. His emotions and views become "facts" even when utterly wrong.  Sooner or later, this will have likely catastrophic consequences, especially since the man has surrounded himself with sycophants and ideologues to whom true facts are likewise irrelevant.  A column in the New York Times looks at the disaster(s) down the road.  The take away? Be very, very afraid.   Here are excerpts:
How prepared is our president for the next great foreign, economic or terrorist crisis?
After a little more than two months in office, President Trump has raised doubts about his ability to deal with what the former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld famously described as the “known unknowns” and the “unknown unknowns.”

“President Trump seems to have no awareness whatsoever of what he does and does not know,” Steven Nadler, a professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, wrote me. “He is ignorant of his own ignorance.”
During his first 63 days in office, Trump made 317 “false or misleading claims,” according to The Washington Post.
The FBI, the Treasury Department and two congressional committees are probing whether Trump’s campaign aides and advisers — including Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Roger Stone and Michael Flynnwere complicit in alleged Russian interference.
Without an obvious mandate (as the world knows, he lost the popular vote by 2.87 million), Trump has proposed a profound retrenchment of domestic policy.
His 2018 budget, the potential impact of which he does not seem to grasp, calls for cutting $54 billion from programs that pay for education, housing and child care assistance for low- and moderate-income families, protection against infectious diseases, enforcement of environmental, worker and consumer protection regulation, national parks and a host of other social programs.
Trump proposed these cuts in spite of what Richard N. Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, described in as essay titled “The World Without America” as threats to “the domestic foundations of American Power,” including “crumbling infrastructure, second-rate primary and secondary schools, outdated immigration system, and slow economic growth.”
In addition, Trump has antagonized the leaders of allied countries like Mexico, Australia and Germany, and he has repeatedly demonstrated an extraordinary lack of knowledge about foreign affairs.
This is the president who faces what Warren Christopher, President Clinton’s first secretary of state, called problems from hell. . . . . How dangerous is the situation that the United States faces?
Steve Nadler of the University of Wisconsin had more to say:
Donald Trump and the people with whom he has filled his cabinet are perfectly unqualified and unprepared to handle any and all of those developments and trends. The lack of experience and understanding of the world, especially of our historical and contemporary relationship with our European allies and rivals is frightening, especially in today’s world, where the stakes and the dangers are so much greater than ever.
Andrew Bacevich, professor emeritus of international relations and history at Boston University and a retired Army colonel, wrote that Trump is “utterly unqualified, both intellectually and by temperament, for the office he holds,” adding that “The possibility that Trump will disastrously mishandle” foreign policy “is real.”
Of the multiple international tensions that could turn into crises at any time, North Korea could lead the way.
Toby Dalton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment, focuses on this growing threat. In an email, he writes:
Between an impulsive president who seems uninterested in details, an advisory systems that does not (yet, at least) produce good advice, a general lack of respect for expertise, and a distrust of intelligence, a crisis with North Korea could go very poorly.
The current situation is not stable, Dalton said
David Bell, a historian at Princeton, emailed his thoughts on Trump’s capacity to handle the difficulties that will face his administration:
Trump himself is abysmally ignorant about both international and domestic affairs, and he is nearly always guided by a single principle: his own self-interest.
Given the magnitude of the problems that lie ahead and the embedded contradictions that make them difficult to solve, we face precisely the kind of world President Trump is least equipped for, mentally and morally.
And let's not forget the two groups responsible for the dangers now facing America: evangelical Christians and racist working class whites who refused to grasp their own shortcomings and prior bad decisions. They wanted to say "Fuck you" to the system, but in the process have likely fucked over them selves and the nation.  They need to be held responsible.  They deserve no respect, deference or attempts to understand them.  They are deplorable. 

Today's GOP: America Has Never Seen a Political PartyLess Caring

Just this week Der Trumpenführer has signed executive orders and directed minions to take actions that will trash the environment, erase LGBT citizens from the 2020 census, rescind non-discrimination protections, and reduce safety regulations.  And this follows last week's thankfully failed attempt to throw 24 million Americans off of healthcare insurance and budget cut proposals that would slash the social safety net. Yet the Republican Party farcically continues to claim that it is the party of Christian values even as its agenda and the seething hatred of much of its base towards others make the biblical Pharisees look like a combination of Mother Theresa and generous philanthropists.  What is stunning is the fact that the GOP wasn't always this way.  Indeed, not to sound like a broken record, the party was not so cruel and, in my view evil, until its base was hijacked by Christian fundamentalists, a large portion of whom (if not a majority) are racists.  Yes, this is a harsh statement, but if one looks at leaders of the so-called "family values" organizations, these groups are lily white and beneath the surface there is a strong current of racism and white supremacy.  Here in Virginia, The Family Foundation traces its roots to the proponents of segregation and "Massive Resistance." At the national level, individuals like Tony Perkins of Family Research Council has open ties to white supremacy groups.  Having seen the rise of these factions in the GOP prior to my leaving the party and having watched the rot that has occurred since, this element of the GOP based bears much of the blame.  Throw in the Koch brothers and those who want to rob the poor to benefit the rich and one gets an ugly and toxic result.  An op-ed in The Guardian looks at the horror that today's Republican Party has become.  Here are excerpts:
Last week I was taking an Uber (I know, I’m sorry, it was a necessity) across an unfamiliar town when the driver, whom I’ll call Randy, started telling me about this cool dude named Jesus. Randy’s big opener, earlier in the ride, was to gesture at a homeless man panhandling by the side of the road and say: “Isn’t it terrible?”
“Yeah,” I agreed, though I was unsure whether he was referring to homelessness as a blight or a form of state violence. “I can’t believe my tax money pays for the president’s golf vacations while people are freezing to death on the street. It’s robbery.”
At least Randy cared about that homeless guy, though, which is more than I can say for the Republican party.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the notion of “care” lately. Care can be florid and romantic or bureaucratic and dry; it is maintenance and stewardship and only sometimes love. You can take care of something without personally caring about it, which is precisely what we pay our elected officials to do: take care of our communities and our planet, whether or not you share our priorities and fears and weaknesses and religions and sexual orientations and gender identities and skin colours. We put ourselves and our money in your hands. Take care.
I don’t know that America has ever seen a political party so divested of care. Since Trump took office, Republicans have proposed legislation to destroy unions, the healthcare system, the education system and the Environmental Protection Agency; to defund the reproductive health charity Planned Parenthood and restrict abortion; to stifle public protest and decimate arts funding; to increase the risk of violence against trans people and roll back anti-discrimination laws; and to funnel more and more wealth from the poorest to the richest. Every executive order and piece of GOP legislation is destructive, aimed at dismantling something else, never creating anything new, never in the service of improving the care of the nation.
That void at the heart of the party, that loss of any tether to humanity, is breeding anxiety on both sides of the political divide. According to the Atlantic, Florida Republican Tom Rooney recently turned on his cohort with surprising lucidity: “I’ve been in this job eight years and I’m racking my brain to think of one thing our party has done that’s been something positive, that’s been something other than stopping something else from happening. We need to start having victories as a party. And if we can’t, then it’s hard to justify why we should be back here.”
In the wake of the Republican party’s luscious, succulent failure to obliterate the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and replace it with catastrophic nationwide poverty and death, an old video of a Paul Ryan gaffe went viral. “We’re not going to give up,” Ryan assures his audience, “on destroying the healthcare system for the American people.” 
The clip is from 2013, not 2017, and obviously Ryan did not mean to say into a microphone that he wants to destroy the healthcare system. But here’s the thing. I talk into a microphone in front of people all the time, and not once have I ever accidentally said: “Hitler was pretty cool” when what I meant to say was: “Throw all Nazis into the sea”. Even if we acknowledge that such a slip of the tongue is technically possible (if not likely), we don’t actually need to wonder about what Ryan secretly believes. Gaffe or no, we already know he wants to destroy the healthcare system for the American people, because he tried to pass legislation that would destroy the healthcare system for the American people. And because destruction, not life, is the foundation of Ryan’s party.
I truly do not know how decent, moral people can continue to support the Republican Party.  Those that I know who do, like to see themselves as decent, informed people.  Yet, most are highly uninformed - Fox News brainwashing should be categorized as a clinical condition - and if pressed either cannot support their positions or end up agreeing with liberal positions.  I truly do not comprehend the desire to "be a conservative" when conservatism as represented by today's GOP is something so abhorrent.  As for the "godly folk" who comprise the GOP's care base, they are such hate-filled and hypocrisy-filled people, that I no longer even want to call myself a Christian because the connotation has become so negative.  Witness the under 30 generations, a third of whom have walked away from religion.  I am hardly alone.

Senate Intelligence Committee Probe Puts Trump Squarely in the Crosshairs

While the House Intelligence Committee investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election has turned into a circus with Republican chairman Devin Nunes more concerned with protecting Donald Trump and his fellow traitors than finding out the truth and protecting American.  Based on a press conference today, the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation is something far different with bipartisan cooperation and Mr. Trump himself firmly in the crosshairs. The contrast between the committees could not be stark with the Senate Committee definitely in the hands of adults versus Nunes' childish cover up attempt.  Talking Points Memo looks at the press conference.  Here are highlights:
One thing was made crystal clear in a Wednesday press briefing on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election: this investigation is a very big and very serious deal.
In an hour-long appearance, committee Chair Richard Burr (R-NC) and Vice-Chair Mark Warner (D-VA) framed their probe as one of most ambitious investigative efforts ever taken on by a congressional committee. Burr, a 22-year veteran of Capitol Hill, framed the investigation as “one of the biggest” he’s seen in his tenure in Washington, D.C.
Warner concurred, saying, “When we started this, we saw the scope, what was involved, I said it was the most important thing I have ever taken on in my public life. I believe that more firmly now.”
Their solemn assurances to investigate the full scope of Russia’s involvement, to look into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russian officials, and to produce a truly bipartisan report on their findings offered a stark contrast from the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation, led by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA). The House’s probe came to a standstill this week over Nunes’ overly close relationship with the President
Here are the key takeaways about the Senate committee’s investigation from Wednesday’s press conference:

Whether Trump was involved is the probe’s core questionAsked if there was evidence of “direct links” suggesting the President played any role in Russia’s interference, Burr said that was the ultimate question the committee would seek to answer.
He and Warner also said it was too early to definitively reject coordination between Trump’s campaign team and Russian officials, saying they would “let this process go through before we form any opinions.”
The White House hasn’t interfered in or coordinated with the probeWarner said he has seen “no evidence” to suggest that the White House is “interfering in the integrity of this investigation,” pointing to Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner’s offer to be interviewed by the committee as a “good sign.”
"If we see any attempt to stifle us with information or cut off the intelligence professionals giving us the access we need, you’ll hear from us,” he added.
Russia’s election meddling goes beyond the U.S.
The senators stated Wednesday that Russia is actively working to undermine or interfere with election campaigns underway in several countries outside the United States, including Germany, Montenegro, the Netherlands and France.
“We feel part of our responsibility is to educate the rest of the world about what’s going on because it’s now into character assassination of candidates,” Warner said.
“I think it’s safe by everybody’s judgment that the Russians are actively involved in the French elections,” he said.
This will be different from the House investigationBurr and Warner went out of their way to put distance between their probe and that of the House Intelligence Committee.
“This investigation’s scope will go wherever the intelligence leads it,” Burr said in his opening remarks. “And contrary to maybe popular belief, we’re partners to see that this is completed and that we’ve got a product at the end of the day that we can have bipartisanship in supporting.”
The senators emphasized information sharing between all members of the committee and reiterated their agreement to issue subpoenas to desired witnesses if need be.
The probe is looking at the role of “fake news”Warner said one of the most alarming findings so far in his estimation is the use of paid Internet trolls who promote false news stories and target them to specific geographic areas.
Saying that those trolls could have targeted states where the margin of victory was razor-thin, like Wisconsin and Michigan, with negative stories about Hillary Clinton in the run-up to the election, Warner vowed the committee has “got to find this out.”
Committee has more access to classified information than it had in previous probesThe senators said the classified information they have been able to access far exceeded what was available to them during their investigation of the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
Seven committee staffers assigned to sift through thousands of intelligence documents have access to information typically only available to the most senior members of Congress, known as the Gang of Eight, the senators said.
The committee will move slowly and deliberatelyBurr said the committee would not release names of people who would be interviewed, nor ask them to come before the committee until the “appropriate time.”
Warner noted that the committee would not schedule its interview with Kushner, the only person named as an interview subject so far, until “we know exactly the scope of what needs to be asked” of him.
Both lawmakers emphasized the wide-ranging scope of the investigation, which will also look at Russian capabilities and previous influence campaigns.
Somehow, I don't think the press conference will help Der Trumpenführer,sleep well at night.  Trump may have his stooge in the form of Nunes on the House Committee, by the Senate investigation looks like it will be far different and one can only hope that it confirms Trump - and Pence's - collusion and that it takes them down.  Nothing is sweeter than to picture Trump in prison in prison garb, hopefully with plenty of black inmates who are well aware of the racism Trump peddled.