Thoughts on Life, Love, Politics, Hypocrisy and Coming Out in Mid-Life
Saturday, May 13, 2017
Haven't Republicans Had Enough with Defending Trump?
Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin and one time Republican Party apologist seems to be finally reaching a point I reached years ago when I left the Republican Party. I long ago concluded that the GOP was morally bankrupt and that hatred of others, racism, greed and hypocrisy had become the pillars of the party and that acceptance of such ugliness had become a prerequisite to party membership and support. Things have gotten much worse over the intervening years as the GOP has become a reverse Robin Hood operation, taking form the poor to give to the rich and trashing the Constitution to pander to Christofacists. The party - and those who insanely continue to support it - has now reached a point with Donald Trump where the decision must be made between Trump and decency and constitutional democracy. Rubin sums this choice up well in a Washington Post column. Here are highlights:
President Trump tweeted this morning, “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” One doesn’t know if this is a threat or another bit of bluster. Congress should immediately issue a subpoena for all tapes of presidential conversations, just to be on the safe side. The sheer bizarreness of his tweet will, for those not immune to Trump’s lunacy, reintroduce questions about his mental stability. One wonders when, if ever, Republicans will declare they’ve had enough.
The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol remarks to me, “I think there is movement among Hill Republicans, for now mostly in private and behind the scenes. And then, I think (and history suggests), the dam will break suddenly.” One hopes that is right, but outwardly, the Republicans by and large continue to support Trump and defend his nonsense.
The 2016 election demonstrated that the party once united by political thought (e.g., smaller government, objective truth, respect for tradition, the rule of law) and respect for civic virtue would accept a thoughtless, entirely unscrupulous leader for the sake of holding power. . . . En masse, most Republicans — including those at some premier publications (which are now unreadable to all but the Trump cultists) — declared willingness to defend ignorance, bigotry, dishonesty and ineptitude on the chance that they’d get a top marginal tax rate of 28 percent. The calculation, to those not driven by partisan zeal, seems shockingly small-minded and tribalistic.
Republican Party identification has begun requiring intellectual vacuity. One has to be free from shame to agree that it’s no big deal when Trump confesses he fired former FBI director James B. Comey because he decided Russian interference in the election was “just a made-up story.” A slew of FBI agents is now investigating the “made-up story,” the entire intelligence community verifies it and members of both parties acknowledge that it occurred. To go along with such utterances means condoning Trump’s inability to accept reality (Russia did, in fact, meddle) and refusing to concede that pressuring and then firing the FBI director must be impeachable, if not criminal, conduct.
We’re not surprised in the least that the president thinks he’s entitled to shut down an investigation if he doesn’t like the way his political opponents are utilizing evidence to attack him. We expected nothing less and warned fellow Republicans that this was what they were buying into.
No, we remain incredulous that so many seemingly mature conservatives are going along with this, even now when his political utility to the party is so slight. . . . . Have they truly lost their intellectual bearings, or are they so cynical as to conclude that sticking with the “tribe” is better than simple truth-telling?
We’re hoping that the dam breaks quickly, before more harm comes to the republic. The GOP, however, may be irreparably broken.
In a second column, Rubin goes on in part as follows:
There are two problems coming together at once. First, the president is blabbing about actions (real or not) that would constitute abuse of power, if not obstruction of justice. It is coming from his mouth. He does not even have the excuse of “fake news.” Second, because the Comey firing sent events spinning out of control, the president now appears to be irrational, if not ill. No one in control of his emotions or taking counsel from sober advisers would behave as he is.Now would be a good time for the adults — former presidents, secretaries of state and defense, former FBI and CIA directors and past heads of the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee — to speak up in unison. The president has either confessed to a pattern of conduct that is unacceptable or he is so out of it that he would make up facts that suggest a pattern of conduct that it is unacceptable. There are options here, including commencement of bipartisan impeachment hearings, legislation passed by a veto-proof majority to enlist an independent prosecutor and/or a decision that, aside from national security matters, the Congress will devote itself full-time to the resolution of this entire matter over the next few weeks. Vice President Pence, who has been repeatedly lied to in service of actions to deceive the public, needs to remember he serves the country, not the president.
Action needs to be taken before too much damage is done to the republic. The GOP is lost, but the country can be protected.
The broken nature and swamp fever of the GOP began when the Christofascists hijacked the party base. As the prior post examined, these people are not mentally right and will do anything to protect their hold on power. They have long wanted a theocracy in America. Now, they seem willing to embrace fascism and a dictatorship.
Study; Link Between Brain Damage and Religious Fundamentalism
Even a casual reader of this blog will soon understand that I hold religious fundamentalists of all stripes in exceedingly low regard. Indeed, I see them as a threat to a progressive society and inclined towards abuse of others and violence, if need be, to oppose anything that threatens their house of cards religious beliefs which are ultimately based on myths and legends that are increasingly at odds with modern knowledge and science. Here in America, Christofascists are always describing gays as "damaged" and in need of "change" yet ironically, a new study suggests that it is they who are the damaged ones. Brain damaged, in fact. Yes, it is delicious, if you will, and could go some lengths in explaining what to many looks like a form of insanity. The Raw Story has a piece on the study findings. Here are excerpts:
A new study published in the journal Neuropsychologia has shown that religious fundamentalism is, in part, the result of a functional impairment in a brain region known as the prefrontal cortex. The findings suggest that damage to particular areas of the prefrontal cortex indirectly promotes religious fundamentalism by diminishing cognitive flexibility and openness—a psychology term that describes a personality trait which involves dimensions like curiosity, creativity, and open-mindedness.
Religious beliefs can be thought of as socially transmitted mental representations that consist of supernatural events and entities assumed to be real. Religious beliefs differ from empirical beliefs, which are based on how the world appears to be and are updated as new evidence accumulates or when new theories with better predictive power emerge. On the other hand, religious beliefs are not usually updated in response to new evidence or scientific explanations, and are therefore strongly associated with conservatism. They are fixed and rigid, which helps promote predictability and coherence to the rules of society among individuals within the group.
Fundamentalist groups generally oppose anything that questions or challenges their beliefs or way of life. For this reason, they are often aggressive towards anyone who does not share their specific set of supernatural beliefs, and towards science, as these things are seen as existential threats to their entire worldview.
Since religious beliefs play a massive role in driving and influencing human behavior throughout the world, it is important to understand the phenomenon of religious fundamentalism from a psychological and neurological perspective.
To investigate the cognitive and neural systems involved in religious fundamentalism, a team of researchers—led by Jordan Grafman of Northwestern University—conducted a study that utilized data from Vietnam War Veterans that had been gathered previously. The vets were specifically chosen because a large number of them had damage to brain areas suspected of playing a critical role in functions related to religious fundamentalism.
Based on previous research, the experimenters predicted that the prefrontal cortex would play a role in religious fundamentalism, since this region is known to be associated with something called ‘cognitive flexibility’. This term refers to the brain’s ability to easily switch from thinking about one concept to another, and to think about multiple things simultaneously. . . . . It is a crucial mental characteristic for adapting to new environments because it allows individuals to make more accurate predictions about the world under new and changing conditions.
Brain imaging research has shown that a major neural region associated with cognitive flexibility is the prefrontal cortex . . . .
[I]n the present study, researchers looked at patients with lesions in both the vmPFC and the dlPFC, and searched for correlations between damage in these areas and responses to religious fundamentalism questionnaires. . . . cognitive flexibility and open mindedness present a challenge for fundamentalists. As such, they predicted that participants with lesions to either the vmPFC or the dlPFC would score low on measures of cognitive flexibility and trait openness and high on measures of religious fundamentalism.
The results showed that, as expected, damage to the vmPFC and dlPFC was associated with religious fundamentalism. Further tests revealed that this increase in religious fundamentalism was caused by a reduction in cognitive flexibility and openness resulting from the prefrontal cortex impairment.
The data suggests that damage to the vmPFC indirectly promotes religious fundamentalism by suppressing both cognitive flexibility and openness.
These findings are important because they suggest that impaired functioning in the prefrontal cortex—whether from brain trauma, a psychological disorder, a drug or alcohol addiction, or simply a particular genetic profile—can make an individual susceptible to religious fundamentalism. And perhaps in other cases, extreme religious indoctrination harms the development or proper functioning of the prefrontal regions in a way that hinders cognitive flexibility and openness.
By investigating the cognitive and neural underpinnings of religious fundamentalism, we can better understand how the phenomenon is represented in the connectivity of the brain, which could allow us to someday inoculate against rigid or radical belief systems through various kinds of mental and cognitive exercises.
Very interesting to say the least. It certainly helps to explain the irrationality of many of the "godly folk" who we now know are likely mentally impaired.
Trump Just Incriminated Himself
I have been a fan of Andrew Sullivan for years and have even had the pleasure to meet him once at an Equality Virginia event some years back. I often disagree with him, especially in respect to his views on Catholicism and remaining a Catholic - he did while I left the Catholic Church for the less soul killing Episcopal and then Evangelical Lutheran Church where gays are not deemed "intrinsically disordered." Where we do agree is on the descent of the Republican Party into something evil itself. That cancer has now fully metastasized in the form of Donald Trump and the Vichy Republicans - who like the Vichy French in WWI who collaborated with the Nazis - who continue to put party over country. Conservatives are working strenuously to downplay the consequential nature of the Comey firing and now Trump's apparent threats directed at Comey and suggestion that White House tapes exist. The parallels with Watergate just seem to keep growing, but with a much more dangerous underlying betrayal. Here are highlights from Sullivan's latest piece in New York Magazine:
At the center of the Comey firing is, it seems to me, a simple question. Is the presidency of Donald Trump a threat to liberal democracy? This has always been the question. It’s why his presidency is different than any other. Yes, there are policy goals that can be debated — health care, foreign policy, mass immigration, etc — and he can be opposed or supported on those grounds. There are appointments — or a stunning lack of them across the executive branch — that reflect amateurishness and incompetence outside the norm. There are habits — like Trump’s tweeting — that degrade the office of the president. There are skills — such as shepherding legislation through Congress — that may be absent, and their absence might even be a cause for relief. There is evidence that the president knows close to nothing about the world — see this latest jaw-dropping interview with The Economist, where he imagines you can buy health insurance for $15 a month. And there are clear indications he is off his rocker — see this staggering exchange about steam, “digital,” and aircraft carriers in an interview with Time. These are horrifying indications he is unfit for the office he holds. But they can all be handled within the boundaries of democratic electoral accountability — and, with any luck, will be in 2018 and 2020.The core concern was always deeper than this. It was that Trump doesn’t understand the Constitution he has sworn to protect; that he would abuse his executive power, to lash out at enemies; that he would undermine the rule of law by trying to get his way, consequences be damned; that he would turn vital democratic institutions, such as the Justice Department and the FBI, into mere handmaidens of his own interest, rather than guarantors of the public’s. And it is clear to me that the firing of Comey — while within the president’s Constitutional powers — falls squarely into this category. To fire someone who is conducting an investigation into your own campaign cannot help but be seen as an interference with the rule of law. It is to cast doubt on the integrity of that investigation, and its future. It undermines public confidence that the executive branch can enforce the law against itself. It politicizes what should not be politicized. It crosses a clear line.
And it also crosses a line when you keep lying brazenly about why you did it. You don’t pin it on Rod Rosenstein. You don’t pretend it’s about “showboating.” You don’t ludicrously argue that you’ve just finally realized that Comey did Hillary wrong. You don’t also say that you were going to fire him anyway. You don’t say the FBI was in turmoil under Comey, when it wasn’t. And you don’t say you want to get to the bottom of the matter when you have already declared the entire story a hoax. More to the point, you don’t lie about all these things and then go on television and blurt out the truth: “When I decided to just do it [fire Comey], I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russian thing with Trump and Russia … is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election.” Read that again. The president has just said on national television that the Russia investigation was in the front of his mind when he decided impulsively to fire Comey. He has admitted he wanted to remove the FBI director because his investigation — which is fast intensifying — was targeting his campaign. That is called obstruction of justice. His spokeswoman yesterday reiterated that, after the Comey firing, the administration hoped the Russia investigation, which was trivial, would be wound up soon.
We also learned overnight that, according to sources close to Comey, just seven days after his inauguration, Trump invited the former FBI director to a private dinner. At the dinner, he twice asked him for his personal loyalty. Comey demurred, as any decent FBI director should. But the very idea that a president should ask the FBI director this is astonishing and deeply disturbing. It’s an attempt — just a week into his presidency — to control an agency he absolutely must not control.
All of this is simply unacceptable. An attempt to obstruct justice is an impeachable offense. And Trump has just openly admitted to such a thing. When, one wonders, will the patriots in the Republican Party stand up and confront this? If Clinton had done such a thing, the House would be drawing up articles of impeachment right now.
Now, if I am not to be stupefyingly naive, I have to assume the president is guilty of something and is busy rigging the system to stymie any attempt to bring potential traitors to justice. And yes: This is about the possibility of treason against our democratic system. And the president, chumming it up with Lavrov and Kislyak the next day, seems incensed that there is even an investigation at all.
If this is swept under the rug, we take one giant step toward the authoritarianism Trump has always threatened. When a democracy believes its own president can put his finger on the scales of justice whenever his own interests are at stake, and get away with it, it is on its way to disintegration. I hope the Senate understands that this is not a drill. There needs now to be an independent prosecutor to take charge of the FBI case. If there isn’t, the checks in our system will have failed.
Michael-in-Norfolk: Soaring Readership in Russia
|The darker the green, the higher the volume of readers|
I suspect some American readers may think my coverage and thoughts on Donald Trump - and what I will confess is the strong hope that the Comey firing will invigorate the Russiagate investigation and lead ultimately to Trump and Pence's impeachment - or better yet, conviction of treason - is too much. But there's one audience that seemingly cannot get enough discussion on the topic: Russian readers. Over the last week, Russian readership has soared and as of this morning is considerably more than twice that in the USA. In the 10 year history of this blog, I have never seen foreign readership at this level even from France, my usual highest foreign readership base. I'd love to hear from some of the Russian readers what is drawing them to this blog and their perspective on the situation.
Friday, May 12, 2017
Charles Krauthammer: A Political Ax Murder
I rarely agree with much of anything that Charles Krauthammer has to say on almost any topic. Indeed, he has his head up his ass about 99% of the time, especially when it comes to supporting reactionary policies and individuals. But he does get it at least partially right in a column in the Washington Post when he looks at Trump's implausible - and now denied - reasons for firing James Comey and his huge miscalculation. Here are column excerpts:
It was implausible that FBI Director James Comey was fired in May 2017 for actions committed in July 2016 — the rationale contained in the memo by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
It was implausible that Comey was fired by President Trump for having been too tough on Hillary Clinton, as when, at a July news conference, Comey publicly recited her various email misdeeds despite recommending against prosecution.
It was implausible that Trump fired Comey for, among other things, reopening the Clinton investigation 11 days before the election, something that at the time Trump praised as a sign of Comey’s “guts” that had “brought back his reputation.”
It was implausible that Trump, a man notorious for being swayed by close and loyal personal advisers, fired Comey on the recommendation of a sub-Cabinet official whom Trump hardly knew and who’d been on the job all of two weeks.
It was implausible that Trump found Rosenstein’s arguments so urgently persuasive that he acted immediately — so precipitously, in fact, that Comey learned of his own firing from TVs that happened to be playing behind him.
These implausibilities were obvious within seconds of Comey’s firing and the administration’s immediate attempt to pin it all on the Rosenstein memo. That was pure spin. So why in reality did Trump fire Comey?
Instead we got this — a political ax murder, brutal even by Washington standards. (Or even Roman standards. Where was the vein-opening knife and the warm bath?) No final meeting, no letter of resignation, no presidential thanks, no cordial parting. Instead, a blindsided Comey ends up in a live-streamed O.J. Bronco ride, bolting from Los Angeles to be flown, defrocked, back to Washington.
Why? Trump had become increasingly agitated with the Russia-election investigation and Comey’s very public part in it. If Trump thought this would kill the inquiry and the story, or perhaps even just derail it somewhat, he’s made the blunder of the decade. Whacking Comey has brought more critical attention to the Russia story than anything imaginable. It won’t stop the FBI investigation. And the confirmation hearings for a successor will become a nationally televised forum for collusion allegations, which up till now have remained a scandal in search of a crime.
So why did he do it? Now we know: The king asked whether no one would rid him of this troublesome priest, and got so impatient he did it himself.
Frighteningly, Trump does see himself as a king - or perhaps another Vladimir Putin. He must be stopped and removed from office. The sooner the better.
Firing Comey Won't End Russia Probe Vanish, and May Take Trump Down
Outside of the alternate universe of Fox News and Breitbart where blind allegiance to Der Trumpenführer seemingly remains the norm, indicating the power of promises of racist policies and religious extremism to the GOP base, many are realizing that rather than end the Russiagate investigation, Trump may have breathed new life into the matter and could have hastened his fate to parallel that of Richard Nixon. That Trump and his surrogates lie at every turn and/or that Trump views himself above the law should surprise no one. His history over the years gave a clear picture to anyone willing to look at it be it his dishonesty in business dealings to his troubling ties to the Mafia and to the Russian mafia. For now the Vichy Republicans are circling the wagons, but they may live to rue the day they sold their principles and souls and supported a man utterly unfit for any office much less the presidency. An op-ed at Reuters looks at how Trump may have set the stage for his own undoing. In my view, the end cannot come quickly enough and I only hope that the damage done to the Republicans who supported Trump is enormous. Here are highlights:
Our commander-in-chief has made a serious miscalculation. He seems to think the U.S. government is like a reality television show he once ran, where you get great results and top-flight ratings by firing people.
If President Donald Trump dismissed FBI Director James Comey to impede the increasingly intense investigation of the Kremlin's meddling in the 2016 election, that act could someday be construed as an obstruction of justice and an impeachable offense.
That may seem a harsh judgment. But the only precedent we have is – you guessed it – Richard Nixon and Watergate. Nixon's deliberate attempts to obstruct the FBI's investigation of the White House formed a key part of the first article of impeachment approved by the House Judiciary Committee in 1974. Nixon resigned weeks later.
We seem to be watching Watergate in fast-forward. Trump has been in office 110 days, and he's already fired his acting attorney general, his national security adviser, and now the head of the FBI, all of whom have played key roles in the Russia imbroglio. But it's Comey's dismissal that will accelerate the political consequences for Trump, even if it might threaten to slow the pace of the FBI's probe.
It's clear that, until Tuesday, the investigation was growing in size and scope. Last week, Comey reportedly asked the Justice Department for more money and more agents to be devoted to an already expanding case (a claim the DOJ denies). Federal prosecutors in Virginia have issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of the dismissed national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, who had a troubling discussion with FBI agents in the first days of the Trump administration.
But it seems to me the last straw came on March 20, when Comey testified in public as part of the House Intelligence Committee hearing. He affirmed that the Bureau was in the midst of a massive investigation into Russia’s deliberate attack on American electoral politics, that the aim of that attack was to defeat Clinton and elect Trump – and that Americans may have aided and abetted that assault on democracy.
And in passing, Comey all but called Trump a liar for asserting that President Barack Obama had spied on him by tapping his telephones during the campaign.
If Trump, as he keeps saying, thinks the Russia case is a hoax, and that he can make it vanish by canning Comey, he’s wrong. The FBI is a powerful machine, with thousands of agents, and the ones I know, both active-duty and retired, think Trump’s derision of the investigation was an insult to the institution. They believe that the rule of law is the true rudder for the ship of state; the president cannot reverse its course with a wave of his hand.
It’s bad news for the president that Republicans in Congress were taken aback by his bold and brusque action. They are his last line of defense against the formation of a full-fledged bipartisan independent investigative commission in Congress – on the order of the Iran-Contra committee created three decades ago – a development that could be politically disastrous for Trump.
Senator John McCain, who heads the Armed Services Committee, and is no admirer of Vladimir Putin, defended Comey as an honorable man and called the firing “unprecedented,” which is true. No president has fired an FBI director who was investigating the White House. Not even Nixon had the temerity to do that.
If Congress moves toward an independent commission this summer, which seems possible in the wake of Comey’s dismissal, those same two Senators [McCain and Burr] will be among a handful to lead the way. The FBI will provide crucial support to congressional investigators, and the press will keep digging deeper into this story.
And if Trump continues to alienate Congress and the citizenry with intemperate decisions – he’s now the least popular newly elected president in modern history – it’s going to be an interesting time when the next election rolls around. Imagine what a real congressional investigation of Russiagate might look like if Republicans aren’t holding all the gavels.
Despite what Trump thinks, America is not Putin's Russia and he may have accelerated his own demise. As noted before, impeachment is not an adequate punishment. Prosecution and conviction for treason and an appropriate sentence is now the end goal patriotic Americans need to be demanding, and not just for Trump, but everyone in his regime that is implicated.
Could Jeff Sessions Be Disbarred for the Comey Firing?
The firing of FBI Director James Comey seems to be putting more and more of Der Trumpenführer's surrogates and henchmen in jeopardy. Not only have many gone before the press and lied through their teeth about the made up reasons for Comey's firing, but some could have set themselves up for disbarment. In particular, I'm speaking about Attorney General Jeff Sessions - with whom I interacted when I lived in Mobile, Alabama and found to be a foul individual - who has seemingly violated his recusal from any aspects of the Russia investigations. This could potentially lead to disbarment proceedings or, worse for Sessions, possible charges for obstruction of justice. A piece in New York Magazine looks at the legal jeopardy that Sessions has placed himself in as a result of his quest to align himself with a deplorable individual. Here are article highlights:
In March, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, having suddenly remembered he had some meetings with the Russian ambassador to the United States that he had earlier denied, recused himself from involvement in “any existing or future investigations of any matter relating in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States.”
So to those who have concluded that the Comey firing was at least partly about angst over his investigation of the Trump-Russia campaign, Sessions’s involvement in said firing would seem to violate his recusal pledge. And as Jennifer Rubin points out, that is an act with consequences:
Refusing to recuse oneself from a conflict or breaking the promise to recuse from a conflict is a serious breach of legal ethics. “Someone could file a bar complaint, and/or one with DOJ’s office of professional responsibility, if Sessions had a conflict of interest when it came to the firing decision, and if he did not follow the ethics rules, including those of DOJ by acting when he had a conflict of interest,” legal ethics expert Norman Eisen tells me. “The fact that he broke his recusal commitment, if he did, would be relevant context, and violating an agreement can sometimes in itself be an ethics violation.” In sum, Sessions has risked his law license, whether he realized it or not. He needs to testify immediately under oath; if there is no satisfactory explanation, he must resign. The alternative could be impeachment proceedings.
Democrats on Capitol Hill have been raising alarms about the issue, with Senator Ron Wyden calling on Sessions to resign over the breach of the recusal pledge.
The immediate counter from Team Trump, of course, is that Sessions’s letter recommending Comey’s firing didn’t mention or even allude to the Russian investigation.
No so fast, say Susan Hennessey and Quinta Jurecic at Lawfare Blog:
[E]ven if we accept the White House’s stated rationale that the Director was fired because of his controversial conduct surrounding the Clinton email investigation, this might still fall within the scope of Sessions’ expansive pledge to recuse himself from “any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States.”
In any event, the possibility that Sessions broke his vow in his haste to help his boss get rid of this troublesome subordinate is worth further inquiry. And maybe the attorney general should get himself some high-life legal representation, since aside from the risk of disbarment, he shares the president’s vulnerability to a charge of obstruction of justice, if it turns out the whole thing was an effort to stop investigations into suspicions about collusion between Team Trump and Team Putin.
One can only hope that as with Watergate, Russiagate will not only sweep away the president but also many of his minions. Let's hope the web of collusion and now cover up and obstruction of justice has long tentacles.
Thursday, May 11, 2017
GALLUP: Americans Turn Increasingly Liberal On “Moral” Issues
With the news - OK, the legitimate news, which excludes Fox News - in a constant cycle of coverage of the lies of Donald Trump and the White House's efforts to sabotage the FBI investigation into Trump's possible, and in my view, likely, treason, on a different note, a new Gallup poll underscores the fact that the Christofascists are losing the culture wars. And losing them significantly. On every issue dear to the Christofascists, the majority of Americans hold the opposite opinion. On contraception, gay relationships and a number of issues, the Christofascists are in the distinct minority. While perhaps having achieved a last gasp under the Trump/Pence misogyny, long term the prospects for the Christofascists are not good. The poll results should also send a clarion call to the Republican Party that tying itself to Christofascists is not a wise political move. Here are highlights from Gallup:
The leftward movement in perceptions of what is morally acceptable has been ongoing, with Gallup also noting shifts in 2014 and 2015. Since then, there have been additional, albeit slight, changes in a more permissive direction. All of the new highs this year are one or two percentage points above previous highs.
On an absolute basis, Americans are most likely to view birth control, divorce and sex between unmarried people as morally acceptable. At least two-thirds say each of these is OK.
Of the 19 issues included in this year's poll, 13 show meaningful change in a liberal direction over time, regardless of whether they are currently at their high point in Gallup's trend. No issues show meaningful change toward more traditionally conservative positions compared with when Gallup first measured them. That leaves six issues for which there has essentially been no change over time.
Some of the largest changes in opinion reflect a transformation in Americans' views about the institution of marriage and intimate relationships. Since the early 2000s, the percentage saying that gay or lesbian relations, having a baby outside of marriage, sex between an unmarried man and woman, and divorce are morally acceptable have increased by double digits.
Gallup has previously shown that Americans in all age groups have adopted more liberal views on these issues over time, but the changes have been proportionately greater among older Americans. Older Americans today are more accepting of same-sex relations and sex between unmarried people than older Americans at the turn of the century were. Still, older Americans today are not as likely as younger Americans to hold permissive views on these issues.
Not only is the more liberal outlook apparent in the perceived morality of issues, but it is also evident in the increasing percentage of Americans who describe themselves as liberal on social issues.
Has Trump Unleashed the Next Deep Throat?
Hopefully, Donald Trump's malignant narcissism will be his undoing. In firing James Comey to seemingly stop the FBI's Russiagate investigation, Trump may actually have set the stage for an intensifying of the investigation with any delay being short term at best. Perhaps more dangerously for Trump and his fellow conspirator, the move may make more true patriots in the FBI and intelligence agencies feel compelled to leak what they know to the media and accelerate things towards impeachment or better yet, prosecution for treason. Trump, of course is too impulsive and too easily enraged by anything or anyone who upsets his fragile ego. A column in the New York Times looks at Trump's possible undoing of himself. Another good piece is in New York Magazine. First excerpts from the Times piece:
Once again, Donald Trump has done something that no president before him dared to do. This time, he has fired an F.B.I. director engaged in an active and continuing investigation of his own campaign. The decision reflects President Trump’s most autocratic instincts, showcasing his contempt for the independence of federal investigators as well as for the basic search for truth.Given his frequent calls to prosecute Hillary Clinton for using a private email server, the anger he directed at the F.B.I. director, James Comey, for giving her a “free pass,” and reports that he directed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to find a reason to fire Mr. Comey, it’s hard to believe the president’s claim that he made his decision out of concern for Mr. Comey’s harsh treatment of Mrs. Clinton during the campaign.
But if Mr. Trump actually hopes to shut down or limit the F.B.I. investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia, he may well be disappointed. History suggests that his decision is likely to backfire, producing new leaks and heightened inquiries that will be more difficult to control than he imagines.
President Trump may think he has sent a stern warning to leakers and independent bureaucrats unwilling to toe the White House line. Instead, he may well have incited an internal rebellion.
That’s what happened in 1972, when President Richard Nixon suddenly found himself in a position to replace J. Edgar Hoover, the long-serving and infamous F.B.I. director. . . . . Hoover and Nixon came into conflict over the investigation of the Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg. Nixon discussed the possibility of firing Hoover, convinced that the director was too old and cautious — and too independent of White House influence. But Nixon worried that Hoover knew too much, and he recognized the political dangers inherent in firing an F.B.I. director.
Then Hoover died, of a heart attack, on May 2, 1972. The event made front-page news, and all three television networks carried Hoover’s funeral live. For Nixon, it appeared to be a moment of serendipity — a chance to do what he had long wanted to do. Instead, it turned out to be the beginning of a long national nightmare.
The F.B.I.’s Watergate investigation was not yet underway. But Nixon already believed that control of the F.B.I. would be critical for his political future. He hoped especially that a newly cooperative bureau would help to dam the fast-flowing stream of leaks from the executive branch. Instead, he inspired one of the great leakers of all time: the F.B.I. associate director W. Mark Felt.
In June 1972, when Washington police arrested five men connected to the Nixon campaign during a break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office complex, Felt recognized an opportunity. As the journalist Bob Woodward admitted more than a decade ago, Felt turned on Nixon in the summer of 1972, feeding information to The Washington Post as the legendary informer Deep Throat.
Felt’s leaks served in part to counter intense pressure from the White House, which sought to end the F.B.I. investigation. . . . The F.B.I. proceeded nonetheless, painstakingly digging into Nixon’s campaign and its ties to the Watergate burglars. Felt leaked some of those discoveries to the press, keeping the story alive at a moment when Republicans hoped it would simply disappear.
Many commentators have pointed to Cox’s dismissal as the closest precedent for Mr. Comey’s firing: the last time a president tried to use his executive power to stop an investigation — and failed to get what he wanted. The story of the F.B.I.’s succession crisis raises still more troubling prospects for Mr. Trump in the months ahead. Despite having political skills far superior to President Trump’s, Nixon never managed to “consolidate control of the F.B.I.” in 1972, at the peak of his popularity. To the contrary, his attempts to do so fatally undermined his presidency, setting in motion a political and bureaucratic backlash from which Nixon — indeed, the presidency itself — never fully recovered.
Trump, of course, knows little or no history, his focus always being on himself. The sycophants with which he has surrounded himself at the White House are little better.
The New York Magazine continues the theme. Here are highlights:
The axing of James Comey will not be the end of the Russia investigation. But it may be the beginning of the end of the Trump administration.
Let’s assume the worst immediate scenario for the moment. That the Vichy Republicans in D.C. — whether Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, or the big-bark-no-bite John McCain and Lindsey Graham — either block or pocket veto the Democrats’ calls for an independent prosecutor. And that somehow Trump and Jeff Sessions (who claims to have recused himself from all matters Russian, but clearly has not) ram one of their personal toadies through the Senate as the next FBI director: Rudy Giuliani perhaps, or Michael Mukasey, or, heaven knows, Jeanine Pirro.
Nonetheless, the new director’s attempts to further derail the ongoing investigation will be met with revolt by the career professionals within the organization — an unwinding that may already be happening. There will be chaos. There will be leaks. There will be resignations. There will be synergy, clandestine or otherwise, with the Senate and House investigations into Trump and Russia. There will be blood. After the news of the firing broke last night, McCain called the scandal “a centipede” and made an unassailable prediction: “I guarantee you there will be more shoes to drop, I can just guarantee it. There’s just too much information that we don’t have that will be coming out.”
Anyone in criminal jeopardy will be out to save his or her own butt, not to protect Donald J. Trump. This includes Michael Flynn — whom Trump is trying to hush up by continuing to sing his praises in public, presumably because Flynn knows enough to blackmail Trump (just as Russia knew enough to blackmail Flynn). My guess is that Flynn, who took such delight in calling for Hillary Clinton to be locked up, does not want to go to prison. Nor, I imagine, do the other White House hands who may be implicated in the 18-day gap that separated Sally Yates’s informing the White House counsel Don McGahn that Flynn was lying about his dealings with the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Flynn’s exit.
Now that Trump, by his own actions, has shown that the Russia investigation is anything but the “total hoax” that his tweets have claimed — now that everyone knows he sees himself in criminal jeopardy — he’ll be engulfed in 24/7 whack-a-mole as the “fake news” rolls out one revelation after another. And those revelations won’t just be about Russia, but about the entire family enterprise
Missouri Republican: Homosexuality is Different from Being a Human
|Rick Bratinn: self-loath closeted gay or pandering political whore?|
One of the tactics used by the Nazi regime to set the stage for the Holocaust was a never ending propaganda campaign to depict Jews as less than human. Jews were described as a threat to children, disease ridden and many other horrible things. This Nazi tactic was adopted by fundamentalist and evangelical Christians years ago now and directed at the LGBT community. Again, the goal has been to dehumanize gays and to in the process make their mistreatment acceptable to the "godly folk." Indeed, change "Jew" to "gay" and some of the Christofascists propaganda reads nearly verbatim with that of the Nazis. Typically, Christofacscists stop short of flat out saying gays are subhuman. Not so with Missouri state representative Rick Brattin - likely a closeted gay himself given the track record of virulently anti-gay Republicans - who flat out said that being homosexual is something different from being a human being. In a main editorial, the Kansas City Star takes Brattin to task. Here are excerpts:
Rick Brattin, a Missouri state representative from Harrisonville, seems pretty certain: Homosexuality and humanity are incompatible.
“When you look at the tenets of religion, of the Bible, of the Qur’an, of other religions,” he said Monday, “there is a distinction between homosexuality and just being a human being.”
The statement, made on the Missouri House floor, was deplorable. It betrayed a stunning lack of understanding of theology and self-government: The Constitution protects all Americans from the tyranny of any single faith-based approach to secular law.
We asked Rep. Brattin to explain his statement, but he did not return a phone call to his office.
It isn’t the first time state Brattin has tripped over the Constitution.
He has sought an equal footing for teaching creationism in public schools. He proposed requiring the father’s consent before an abortion except in cases of “legitimate rape.”
It’s a disappointing record. Sadly, some of Brattin’s colleagues appear to sympathize with his views.
Monday, state lawmakers tried to pass an amendment prohibiting discrimination in the state on the basis of sexual orientation or gender status. In Missouri, you can still be fired because the boss thinks you might be gay.
Brattin made his statement during the debate on that amendment. But it quickly became clear that there were not enough votes to pass the plan, leaving gays and lesbians still unprotected by Missouri’s discrimination law.
That sends exactly the wrong message about tolerance in the state.
It gets worse. After all the amendments were dropped, including the protections for gays and lesbians, the House passed Senate Bill 43, a measure that would actually make it more difficult to sue for discrimination.
The bill is another unnecessary blemish on the state. . . . . what business wants to operate in a state that tolerates discrimination? Or a state where a representative thinks gays and lesbians are less than human?
The states that grow in the 21st century will be those that show tolerance, acceptance and intelligence. Missouri’s lawmakers are sending a clear signal this state is not any of those things. The governor should veto the bill. And Brattin should apologize.
Comey Had Asked for More Resources for Russia Inquiry
Although I've been at work and at a political function all day, I have checked the news outlets throughout the day and the take away from James Comey's firing by Der Trumpenführer, is that Trump likely made his situation far worse. Despite the bloviating - OK, let's be frank, lies - of Vichy Republicans like Mitch McConnell, the growing impression is that Comey was closing in on Trump and his Russian collusion (treason, if you will) and Trump stupidly acted in a knee jerk reaction that only confirms the impression that Trump and his campaign are guilty of high crimes. Also of interest is the fact that the Senate Intelligence Committee has asked "Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network for financial information on Mr. Trump and some of his associates that was relevant to the Russia investigation." From my own experience assisting the FBI and Justice Department officials, often it is the financial, banking and wire transfer activity that takes a target down. The New York Times looks at the growing confrontation between Congress and Der Der Trumpenführer. Here are highlights:
Days before he was fired as F.B.I. director, James B. Comey asked the Justice Department for more prosecutors and other personnel to accelerate the bureau’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the presidential election.
It was the first clear-cut evidence that Mr. Comey believed the bureau needed more resources to handle a sprawling and highly politicized counterintelligence investigation.
Two separate congressional inquiries into Russian meddling are relying on evidence and intelligence being amassed by the F.B.I., and if the bureau’s investigation falters, the congressional inquiries are likely to be hobbled. Perhaps for this reason, Mr. Comey’s firing appears to have imbued the Senate Intelligence Committee with a renewed sense of urgency.
The committee issued its first subpoena in the Russia investigation on Wednesday, ordering Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, to hand over records of any emails, phone calls, meetings and financial dealings with Russians.
It was an aggressive new tack in what had been a slowly unfolding inquiry. A day earlier, the Senate panel began pressing a little-known government bureau that tracks money laundering and terrorism financing for leads in the Russian investigation.
Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, the Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the Democratic vice chairman, also invited Mr. Comey to testify in a closed session — a setting that would allow Mr. Comey to discuss classified information and any meetings he held with superiors at the Justice Department or with Mr. Trump.
“I’m told that as soon as Rosenstein arrived, there was a request for additional resources for the investigation, and that a few days afterward, he was sacked,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois. “I think the Comey operation was breathing down the neck of the Trump campaign and their operatives, and this was an effort to slow down the investigation.”
According to the congressional officials, the Senate Intelligence Committee learned of Mr. Comey’s request on Monday when Senators Burr and Warner asked the F.B.I. director to meet them. They wanted him to accelerate the bureau’s investigation so they could press forward with theirs. Congressional investigators do not have the authority to collect intelligence that agencies like the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. possess.
At the meeting with the senators, Mr. Comey said he made the request because he believed the Justice Department had not dedicated enough resources to the investigation, a fact partly stemming from the unusual situation under which the inquiry was being run. Until two weeks ago, when Mr. Rosenstein took over as deputy attorney general, the investigation was being overseen by Dana Boente, who was acting as the deputy and had limited power.
But if the White House was hoping Mr. Comey’s firing would provide relief from the pressure of the Russia investigations, the Senate Intelligence Committee appeared eager to fill any temporary void.
Late last month, it asked a number of high-profile Trump campaign associates to hand over emails and other records of dealings with Russians, and the committee’s subpoena of Mr. Flynn on Wednesday made good on its threat to legally compel anyone who failed to voluntarily comply with its request.
Also on Wednesday, Mr. Burr and Mr. Warner asked the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network for financial information on Mr. Trump and some of his associates that was relevant to the Russia investigation.
Both Mr. Warner and Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon — the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee with jurisdiction over the Treasury Department and also a member of the Intelligence Committee — have said they will block the confirmation of Sigal Mandelker, Mr. Trump’s nominee to be the top Treasury official for terrorism and financial crimes, until the network delivers the information.
“I have stated repeatedly that we have to follow the money if we are going to get to the bottom of how Russia has attacked our democracy,” Mr. Wyden said on Wednesday. “That means thoroughly review any information that relates to financial connections between Russia and President Trump and his associates, whether direct or laundered through hidden or illicit transactions.”
The financial crimes network would not confirm its participation in the inquiry, in line with its policy not to comment on investigations or even confirm that they exist, said Steve Hudak, a spokesman.
But financial intelligence experts, including several former employees of the bureau, said its database, which contains more than 200 million records, can be a treasure trove of information about financial ties between individuals and companies for law enforcement agencies pursuing complex investigations.
I sincerely hope that Trump's firing of Comey backfires and instead of delaying the investigation ends up accelerating it - and hopefully confirming that Trump and his associates - including Pence - are guilty of collusion with a foreign hostile government and deserving of prosecution and severe penalties.
Is It Time to Stop Being Polite And Start Raising Hell with Republicans
Many have argued that to succeed, Democrats must be polite and try to reason and "educate" Trump supporters. Similarly, Democrats and anti-Trump forces are told to stop looking down on and being disdainful of Trump's racist and ignorant supporters. I do not fully agree, or at least not insofar as it applies to Republicans and Republican staff and surrogates. As my fellow LGBT blogger Michelangelo Signorile argues, it is time to go all out and raise Hell with Congressional Republicans and others who are protecting Trump and his corrupt and possibly treasonous regime. It's time to make their lives Hell and pressure them relentlessly and make it clear that a majority of Americans do not support their Vichy France like conduct and their lies to protect a man who is nothing less than deplorable and unfit for the White House. Here are highlights from Michelangelo's piece at HuffPost:
Donald Trump made his most frightening authoritarian power grab yet in firing James Comey, the FBI director who was leading an investigation of his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia.This could be viewed as a direct step toward consolidating power and, yes, toward fascism, as we’ve seen play out in other countries ― in Turkey recently, and in many other countries in history from which you could choose as an example.
And Trump is only four months into his administration.
It’s time to move beyond polite protests within specified boundaries. It’s time to escalate the expression of our outrage and our anger in a massive way.
Starting today and from here on, no elected official ― certainly those in the GOP defending and supporting Trump on a variety of issues, for example ― should be able to sit down for a nice, quiet lunch or dinner in a Washington, DC eatery or even in their own homes. They should be hounded by protestors everywhere, especially in public ― in restaurants, in shopping centers, in their districts, and yes, on the public property outside their homes and apartments, in Washington and back in their home states.
White House officials too ― those enabling the authoritarian ― need to be challenged everywhere, as do all those at the conservative think tanks who support Trump and those who publicly defend him in their columns and on television.
The elected officials and White House staffers must be challenged going to and from their cars and at the many public speeches they give at organizations and think tanks throughout DC and elsewhere. They should be bombarded with questions and placards by groups of people as they head to media appearances at the cable networks where they spew their lies every day. And they should be challenged when they come off TV for what they just lied about.
These people also attend functions and fundraisers at night (which are easy to locate), and these events should be disrupted, inside and out, until these politicians answer to the recklessness in which they are engaged. Paul Ryan, the House Speaker, should not be able to attend any function, eat in public, or enjoy dinner at home without hearing people expressing how his actions are harming their lives and their families’ lives in terrible ways.
Donald Trump is not operating within boundaries ― nor is anyone who is enabling him. We must fight back with equal force. But let me be clear: I’m of course not calling for violence or any of the thuggish behavior of the Trump supporters during the campaign.
I’m calling for what ACT UP, the life-saving AIDS activist group with which I was involved, did in the ‘80s and ‘90s . . . You don’t need a large crowd, but you do need an idea that grips people, puts the target on notice, displays passion, makes a spectacle, and says, “No more business as usual.”
One of my old friends, Greg Gonsalves, wrote about how we need to “ACT UP To Stop Trumpcare.” After the Comey firing, we need to ACT UP against everything Trump, and against anyone enabling him.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and for civil disobedience in the tradition of the civil rights movement. Democrats who don’t push hard should be targeted too. Right now, all business in the Senate should be made to stop immediately by Democrats, for example, until we have a special counsel in the Trump-Russia probe (which Democrats have called for). And we have to make them do it.
I’m imploring some in the Resistance to up the ante. Everything that’s already been undertaken ― the marches, the phone calls to Congress, the letter-writing, the protests, the town halls, putting up candidates for House races ― has been powerful and needs to continue. But it’s time to also be more forceful and more captivating.
The firing of Comey is an audacious turn toward fascism that must be stopped before it’s too late. We are now fighting for our lives as we know them. There’s no time to waste.
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