Saturday, June 10, 2017

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

The Fall of Theresa May — and Donald Trump?

Following up on the previous post, Andrew Sullivan has a piece in New York Magazine that ought to be cautionary to Republicans, especially those in Congress.  Brexit passed in the UK by a 52 to 48% margin in a low turn out election. Donald Trump lost the popular vote 46 to 48% in a low turn out election and only won the presidency because the Electors of the Electoral College refused to do their duty and vote against a dangerous, malignant, narcissistic demagogue.  As Theresa May found out on Thursday, when the real majority does get out to vote, things can change drastically.  For Republicans, especially amoral sleaze bags like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell need to grasp is that they have ZERO mandate.  Trump/Pence has no mandate despite the lies and braggadocio of Der Trumpenführer.  The true majority of Americans - which excludes evangelical Christians who have become a malignant cancer just as dangerous as Trump - needs to mobilize and  make it clear that our response to Trump's and the GOP's reverse Robin Hood agenda and bows to theocrats is a resounding "No!"  As Sullivan lays out, Trump is worthy of impeachment.  The British have shown us that we can re-correct the course of America.  To do so, Trump and the GOP must be defeated and thrown out of office.  We can start by electing Democrats in November, 2017, in Virginia and New Jersey.  Come, November, 2018, the Republicans need to suffer a bloodbath defeat.  Here are highlights from Sullivan's column:
Just a few months ago, it’s worth remembering, we seemed to be careening to a new and possibly long-lived right-populist era in Anglo-American politics. In the U.S., Donald Trump had stunned the world and his own party Establishment by seizing the nomination of the GOP, and then defeating the overwhelming favorite, Hillary Clinton, to win the presidency. In Britain, a referendum on Brexit had shocked and overturned the British and European Establishments, and dispatched Prime Minister David Cameron to the bucolic shires whence he came.
The uninspiring but dogged Theresa May emerged as Cameron’s successor, after her Tory male rivals had out-machoed and out-plotted each other into mutual destruction. And both Trump and May seemed to have captured a restless, rightist mood in the American and British publics, as Reagan and Thatcher had before them. Trump had endorsed Brexit and May, in turn, had been the first foreign visitor to the White House, desperate for a new U.S.-U.K. trade deal. Although many of us believed that Brexit was understandable but irrational and that Trump was a catastrophe just waiting to unfold, the people of the two countries begged to differ.
Except they didn’t entirely, did they? Trump, it’s always worth recalling, lost the popular vote 46–48 percent. Brexit passed only narrowly, 52–48 percent. Both countries, despite the top-line results, remained deeply divided — riven by the cleavages of globalization and its discontents. And now, it’s clear, the divisions have not evaporated and the opposition has revived, with increasingly robust energy.
This week, Trump slumped to the lowest approval ratings of his term — in the upper-to-mid-30s — while being called a liar by the former head of the FBI. And May was humiliated — there is no other word for it — by the British voters in a snap election. In the wake of Brexit and Trump, the forces of reaction in Europe have also seemed to recede. The far right gained but didn’t triumph in the Netherlands; Le Pen, while winning a historic level of support, faded in the home stretch. And now the British have actually made it conceivable that Jeremy Corbyn — the most left-wing leader in the history of the Labour Party, a sympathizer with Hamas and the IRA, and an old-school “unelectable” hard-line socialist — could be prime minister in the not-so-distant future. There were some specific American parallels to May’s defeat that are worth noting. She ran an Establishment campaign shockingly like Hillary Clinton’s in an era when populism can swing in all sorts of unlikely directions. She began with the presumption that she would coast to victory because her opponent was simply unelectable, extremist, and obviously deplorable in every way. She decided to run a campaign about her, rather than about the country. She kept her public appearances to small, controlled settings, while Corbyn drew increasingly large crowds at outdoor rallies. She robotically repeated her core argument that she represented “strong, stable leadership,” with little else to motivate or inspire voters. She chose to run solely on Brexit — and the hardest of Brexits on offer — while Labour unveiled a whole set of big-spending, big-borrowing, big-government policies that drew a million new younger voters to the polls. And on the critical issue of Brexit, she underestimated the ambivalence in the country as a whole. She mistook 52 percent for a national consensus. In London and the Southeast in particular, those who voted Remain in the referendum — or who intended to but didn’t — came out in force to oppose a hard Brexit. The millennials actually turned up this time. In a student town like Cambridge, for example, the Labour majority went from 599 to more than 12,000 — a staggering leap. Labour, moreover, shrewdly didn’t run to reverse Brexit, and were thereby able to siphon off some pro-Brexit working-class voters from the swiftly collapsing UKIP.
What all this means now that Article 50 has been triggered to kick off the Brexit process is anyone’s guess. But among those celebrating last night were surely Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, and the EU elite. This could put Brexit back in play, and certainly destroys May’s credibility in the looming negotiations. It’s therefore a near certainty now that she will be gone in short order.
A possible replacement: the young lesbian leader of the Tories in Scotland, Ruth Davidson, whose success north of the border may well have kept the Tories from an even worse result. And that, indeed, was another surprise: the parties in Scotland that favor keeping the union with England won twice as many votes as the Scottish Nationalist Party. This was a vote for keeping the entire country together and for less of a rush to get out of the EU (and even perhaps a second referendum). It was a populist wave … for the recent past.
The populism we’ve seen bolster the right, in other words, is a fickle beast. . . . . But what it has been able to do is to tip Britain into an unexpected political impasse, to give it a parliament where the Tories will not be able to sustain a reliably pro-Brexit majority for very long, and to make it all but certain that another election will at some point have to be called, possibly in the fall. What the result of that will be is something I will not safely predict until the morning after — except that Corbyn will be running, and May won’t.
And there was a lovely resonance, don’t you think, that this shocking reversal for right-populism came on the very same day that President Trump was definitively shown to be more than worthy of impeachment. I’ve long been a skeptic of some of the darkest claims about his campaign’s alleged involvement with the Russian government — and possible evidence thereof — but I’m not skeptical at all of the idea that he has clearly committed a categorical abuse of his presidential power in his attempt to cover it up.
This sobering reality was not advanced by the Comey hearings yesterday, riveting though they were. We have long known that Trump colluded with the Russian government to tilt the election against his opponent — because he did so on national television during the campaign, urging the Kremlin to release more hacked Clinton emails to help him win. We also know that he fired FBI Director James Comey in order to remove the cloud of the Russian investigation from his presidency — because Trump said so on national television himself and then boasted about it to two close Putin lackeys in the Oval Office!
What else do we really need to know?
Or look at it this way: We now have a witness of long public service, clear integrity, with contemporaneous memoranda and witnesses, who just testified under oath to the president’s clear attempt to obstruct justice. Any other president of any party who had been found guilty of these things would be impeached under any other circumstances. Lying under oath about sexual misconduct is trivial in comparison. So, for that matter, is covering up a domestic crime. Watergate did not, after all, involve covering up the attempt of the Kremlin to undermine and corrode the very core of our democratic system — free and fair elections.
[I]f this were a Democrat in power, almighty hell would have already been unleashed. We wouldn’t be mulling impeachment. It would already be well under way.
The “defenses” of the president are telling. . . . The Speaker of the House then tried this one on: “The president’s new at this. He’s new to government and so he probably wasn’t steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationships between DOJ, FBI, and White Houses. He’s just new to this.” Excuse me? Someone who assumes the office of the presidency without knowing that we live under the rule of law, and who believes that the president can rig the legal and investigative system to his own benefit, has no business being president at all.
Imagine how many other functionaries, less established and far weaker and less pliable than Comey, will acquiesce to abuse of this kind, if it is ignored, enabled, or allowed to continue. . . . He [Trump]will say or do anything — and yes, lie through his teeth repeatedly — to obscure the reality in front of our eyes. But we need to be clear about something. If we let an abuse of power of this magnitude go unchallenged, we have begun the formal task of dismantling our system of government.
Do we Americans have sufficient integrity to do this, and to reverse the drastic error we all so recently made? Maybe the British have just showed us that, yes, we can.

Will Young American Voters Learn From Young Britons?

During the 2016 presidential election - which had a pathetic overall voter turn out - many of America's young voters stayed home.  The consequences for the country have been catastrophic.  Something similar happened in the United Kingdom during the Brexit vote- young voters stayed home and older, racist and bigoted voters tipped the election in a way that shocked many young voters.  On Thursday, they got their revenge and voted against pro-Brexit politicians and deprived the Conservative Party a majority in Parliament.  One can only hope that young American voters will take a page from the vote in Britain and turn out in large numbers both in November, 2017, in Virginia and in November, 2018, and direct their wrath at Republicans.  Staying home from the polls is never an acceptable option and for the young, it merely allows all too often greedy, aging bigots to sway the election outcome.  There is a message too for Democrat candidates: they need to connect with young voters and make the case for policies that address their concerns.  A piece in the New York Times looks at this past week's vote in the UK. Here are excerpts:
LONDON — As Britain took stock on Friday of the stunning results of a snap election that wiped out the parliamentary majority of Prime Minister Theresa May and her governing Conservative Party, one narrative bubbled up to the surface: The youth had spoken.
The election results were fueled partly by a higher turnout rate among young British voters who had long been angry at the results of the referendum last year to leave the European Union, known as Brexit. That vote, overwhelmingly supported by older Britons, was seen by many younger people as a threat to their jobs, their ability to study abroad and their desire to travel freely across the bloc’s borders.
In other words, the vote by young Britons on Thursday had a whiff of payback.
“I was so angry about Brexit that I buried my head in a pillow and screamed,” said Louise Traynor, 24, a waitress in the southwestern district of Battersea in London, who had never voted before Thursday.
Shaking her head in frustration, Ms. Traynor said she had been angry at herself because she hadn’t bothered to vote the first time around. “I was stupid enough to think that the country had some sense,” she said.
The Brexit referendum, Ms. Traynor said, could lead to closed borders, which threatened to tear her long-term Spanish boyfriend away from her, and her away from the group of European friends she had made while working at a tapas restaurant.
On Friday morning, she said, much of the anxiety she had felt about her future was replaced with excitement when she realized that her vote for the opposition Labour Party had denied the prime minister a mandate.
Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour gained 31 seats, while Mrs. May’s party lost 12 seats and its overall majority — leaving a hung Parliament, one in which neither side has enough lawmakers for control. In a statement on Friday, Mrs. May grimly announced that she would form a minority government with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland.
Ms. Traynor said that Mr. Corbyn’s campaign had “injected energy” into what otherwise seemed like a stale election that would bring more “doom.”
“Does Theresa May care that I’ve been on minimum wage for three years and I’m still paying my student debt?” she asked. “No, she doesn’t. All she cares about is Brexit and getting her deal.” Many young Britons felt compelled to vote after the Brexit decision, because of austerity budgets and what they saw as the establishment’s tendency to serve the interests of the rich. This year saw a spike in young people registering to vote — more than one million people under 25 applied. The turnout in constituencies with younger voters rose significantly, appearing to benefit Labour. The turnout for 18- to 24-year-olds was 66.4 percent, according to Sky News data. Other reports put it as high as 72 percent. In the 2015 general election, the rate for voters of the same age range was 43 percent, according to Ipsod, a marketing and opinion research company.
The payoff was evident in Battersea, where Labour seized the Conservative seat.
“Representatives from the Labour Party knocked on our doors and gathered us in groups, asking us about our problems and talking to us about solutions,” said Jessie Cox, a 21-year-old student. “They gave us a reason to vote.”
Jennifer Hudson, a senior lecturer in politics at University College London, said the effectiveness of Mr. Corbyn’s campaign could be seen in a picture of him with young supporters, cheek to cheek.
“I thought: ‘We will never see Theresa May like that with her supporters,’” Ms. Hudson said. “He has managed to create a human connection with his voters.”
“We may still be far from the final result that we wanted, but this feels like progress, and hopefully, it gives out a message to the pompous Tories that they can’t make bad decisions on our behalf,” said Luke Rossi, 25, a musician who had voted for the first time.
In Battersea Park, students ages 19 to 21 were debating possible political outcomes of the election aftermath. All said they hoped Mrs. May would be removed as leader of her party.
“She’s an embarrassment to the country,” said Fiona Barry, 20, a student at Queen Mary University in London. “England deserves so much better than that.”
Trump, Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell and  and Paul Ryan are all an embarrassment to America. Even more so than the Tories, Republicans have nothing to offer to young Americans given the GOP's sole desire being to give enormous tax cuts to the wealth while slashing benefits and the social safety net that aids everyone else.  I hope young voters wake up to this reality and get out and vote in their own interest.  It's a virtual guaranty that aging whites - and evangelical Christians - do not give a damn about the long term future of the country or economic opportunity for all. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday, June 09, 2017

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Gavin Grimm's Fight Isn't Over

Deirdre and Gavin Grimm

One of the things that I have enjoyed through my blog - and opportunities it has opened - and my activism is meeting wonderful people.  Be it my network of LGBT blogger friends who I first met in December 2008 at a Mircosoft/Progressive Insurance sponsored LGBT blogger summit in Washington, D.C., or friends that I have made through HRBOR, HR Pride, or friends first met through other activism, I have build an amazing circle of friends and activists who continue to work to create change for the better.  Two of this group of people are Gavin Grimm and his mother Deirdre Grimm who I first met at an event in our home.  The two have become true champions for equality for all Americans and had little idea of what they were going to experience when Gavin's saga began. Now, Deirdre has an op-ed in the Washington Post about the continuing efforts needed to move the clock forward.  Here are highlights:
We teach our children to be kind. We teach them to love and to live life to the fullest. We teach them countless things to help them become better people, because as parents we all want the best for our children. And we demand that these values be taught in our schools so that when our kids graduate, they are open, compassionate people who understand that we all bleed the same blood and that everyone deserves to be treated with equality, dignity and respect.
My son, Gavin, will graduate from high school on Saturday. But he did not get the opportunity to learn those values at school. Instead, he learned them despite his school board treating him with the opposite of those values.
By now, my son’s story has spread to communities all across this country, because he stood up for himself as a transgender boy who wanted only to fully participate in his high school. He fought a policy that singled him out by forcing him to use a restroom separate from his peers. That fight took him all the way to the Supreme Court. Along the way, he helped people learn about the importance of treating transgender people fairly and equally.
Time magazine named him one of the 100 Most Influential People of the year. During the Grammys, actress and activist Laverne Cox implored viewers to “Google ‘Gavin Grimm’ ” to learn about his fight. Countless people around the world began to #StandWithGavin on social media.
When Gavin came out as his true self, I honestly didn’t even know what it meant to be transgender. I spent days and nights reading as much as I could. I read a study that said some 50 percent of transgender teenagers had seriously considered suicide. That was all I needed to know.
As a parent, you are terrified for your child’s safety. You expect there to be some tough times, especially in high school, but you tend to imagine it coming from other students. You don’t expect the parents to be the bullies.
These parents then attacked him at a public meeting, humiliating him and our family in front of our community. This led to the school board requiring Gavin to use a private restroom.
Some may think this was a reasonable compromise, but this fails to appreciate how difficult such stigmatizing treatment can be, even just on a practical level. My son faced being late to class because he had to use a restroom on the other side of the building. 
So, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, we sued. It hasn’t been an easy fight, but it eventually brought us all the way to the steps of the Supreme Court.
Unfortunately, just weeks before Gavin’s case was to be heard, the Trump administration withdrew the Obama administration guidance that had clarified that Title IX protects trans kids. The Supreme Court sent Gavin’s case back to the lower courts to be reargued in light of this new reality.
Make no mistake: Gavin’s fight is not over. We are about to have the case reheard. No administration has the ability to change the meaning of Title IX. I look forward to seeing the rights of my son and other trans people recognized.
But the fact that we did not settle this while Gavin was still in school will be like an asterisk on his graduation. He won’t be able to remember his high school experience the way his classmates will, but he doesn’t think about that. Instead, he thinks about all the trans kids still out there who are being treated as less than everyone else. Gavin knows that this fight is about much more than him, just as it is about much more than restrooms. It’s about dignity and respect.
Gavin wasn’t looking to be on the front lines of a major civil rights battle. But he had the courage to stand up — because he knew deep down that it was right. His bravery has made all of us better and stronger people. My kid is truly awesome.
This week, Gavin will cross the stage at his high school graduation. I will undoubtedly feel the same emotions that mothers throughout the country with graduating seniors will be feeling: pride, love, excitement and so much more. But I am also inspired. I’m inspired by my son’s unyielding courage and determination. And I’m so thankful for all those who stand with Gavin as his fight — our fight — continues.
Kudos to both Gavin and his parents who have had his back throughout this saga.  And shame on the parents - especially those who pretend to be "godly Christians" who have led the efforts to persecute Gavinn and other LGBT individuals.

Are the British Rethinking BREXIT?

Before Donald Trump won the presidency through a flaw in America's Electoral College system that ignored Trump's significant loss of the popular vote, we witnessed a campaign similar to that of Trump which emphasized xenophobia and bigotry in the United Kingdom for that nation's exit from the European Union.  As in America, many British were shocked that the forces of hatred and isolation won the day in the BREXIT vote.  Based on the results of yesterdays elections in the UK, perhaps many voters are having second thoughts.  Prime Minister Theresa May’s had called elections in what some see as remarkable gamble on a snap election to increase her party's power.  It backfired and now Conservatives no longer hold a majority of seats in the House of Commons.  As in America where urban areas oppose the Trump/GOP agenda, in the UK urban areas rejected the policies of the Conservatives and, by extension, Brexit.  A piece in the New York Times looks at how the election results may put Brexit in danger.  Here are highlights:
In a global economy amply stocked with anxiety-provoking variables, Britain just added another.
An election designed to bolster the government’s mandate instead yielded fundamental confusion over who is in charge as the nation prepares for fraught negotiations in its pending divorce from the European Union.
Prime Minister Theresa May had called the election on the assumption that her Conservative Party would emerge stronger, solidifying her negotiating position. Instead, the electorate’s stunning rebuke of her leadership all but guarantees a period of unpredictable political jockeying, intensifying uncertainty about future commercial dealings across the English Channel.
Investors took the latest turmoil in Britain as a prompt to unload the British pound. As European markets began trading on Friday, the currency slipped about 2 percent against the dollar.
And yet the shocking electoral outcome also has the potential to diminish the looming economic costs of Britain’s exit from the European Union, commonly known as Brexit.
It enhanced the possibility that a chastened government led by Mrs. May, or perhaps an administration led by someone else, would now strike a less confrontational approach with Europe while seeking a way to keep Britain within the bloc’s large single marketplace.
As Britain prepared for its face-off with Europe, the prime minister had been adamant that her country would impose strict limits on immigration, a posture seemingly enhanced by recent terrorist attacks. Yet limiting immigration appeared certain to cost Britain inclusion in the European single market, a swath of the globe stretching from Ireland to Greece and holding some 500 million relatively affluent consumers.
The European authorities have consistently emphasized that Britain’s continued inclusion in the single market requires that it abide by the bloc’s rules — not least, a provision that people be allowed to move freely within its confines.
This redrawing of the basic geography of European commerce was playing out just as President Trump was disavowing regional trade deals across the Atlantic and Pacific, while variously threatening trade hostilities with Canada, China, Germany and Mexico.
This election could change that trajectory.
Whoever will be in charge — a government led by a weakened Mrs. May, another member of her Conservative Party, or a coalition spearheaded by the Labour Party — might well construe a mandate to pursue a softer Brexit. The unexpected new political configuration might compel Britain to relinquish its pursuit of immigration limits in an effort to keep itself within the single market.
In short, the election has complicated the assumption that Britain is headed irretrievably toward the exits, producing a moment in which seemingly everything may be up for reconsideration.
Those who have favored Britain remaining within Europe, or at least softening the terms of its exit, now have “an expectation, or at least a hope, that cooler heads will prevail,” said Jeremy Cook, chief economist at World First, a company based in London that manages foreign exchange transactions. “It may be that hard Brexit has been rejected by the electorate.”
Worries about the economic impact of Brexit have been weighing heavily on the pound, which plunged after the referendum last June that unleashed Brexit. With Britain at risk of suffering barriers to trade, it has lost some of its considerable luster as a place for companies to invest, making its money a less desirable currency to hold.
A weakened pound has, in turn, translated into rising prices in Britain — on food, gasoline and imported components used by domestic factories. All of this has reinforced concerns about the fate of the economy. 
Would that America could hold a snap election.  With Trumps approval levels at new lows, perhaps Americans could rid themselves of the foul and dangerous occupant of the White House.  Meanwhile the Trump/GOP border tax could similarly impact prices in the USA and make goods more expensive for Trump's knuckle dragging supporters. 

Reflections on James Comey's Testimony

Given my work schedule and client demands, I was not able to watch all of James Comey's testimony today before members of the United States Senate.  I did, however, get to hear portions of the testimony and various commentators' views.  I even heard Paul Ryan's ridiculous attempt to excuse Trump's obstruction of justice efforts as the result of Trump "being inexperienced" in government. As readers know, I view Trump as a totally amoral person who operates in a manner akin to a Mafia don. Trump knows exactly what he is doing.  He simply sees himself as above the rules and the law itself. Throw in his malignant narcissism and the result is a poisonous brew.   True, Comey said that he told Trump that at the time of the conversations he was not personally the subject of an investigation.  The operative part of Comey's statement was that at that time Trump was not under investigation.  That has likely changed given Trump's firing of Comey and the subsequent appointment of a special prosecutor.  A piece in Talking Points Memo sums up some of my thoughts.  Here are excerpt:
One key takeaway emerges in both the written statement and today’s Q&A: from close to the beginning, Comey believed President Trump was untrustworthy, a bad actor. True or not, that was there in really everything he said, every assumption, every decision he describes making. One can certainly interpret his remarks to mean that he thought Trump was a liar. (“I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting, so I thought it important to document.“) This comes out just in the fullness of everything Comey said: the immediate decision to start keeping detailed notes, the entirety of the way he described the President, his descriptions of his own reactions in the moment when dealing with the President. They all paint a picture of Trump as dishonest, scheming and predatory. That is Comey’s take and he went out of his way to make that clear. Perhaps the most noteworthy example of this – though not the only one – was going into some depth about how he’d never felt the need to make a contemporaneous record of his dealings with either former President he’d dealt with – one Democrat and one Republican. We’d heard that Comey is a consummate note taker, recording virtually every consequential discussion he has. Apparently not. When it comes to meetings with major political leaders and presidents, this was only for Trump.
Also highly notable was that while Comey was clear and emphatic about President Trump not being personally a target of the Russia probe, he also made clear – albeit implicitly – that he believes that Trump is now being investigated for obstruction of justice. That’s not hugely surprising, based on what we already knew. But it’s still a very big deal. He marshaled strong evidence that he is correct. And we didn’t know that before.
Also highly surprising was that brief aside that suggested that there was some other problem we don’t know about with Attorney General Sessions and Russia. Here’s the quotation: “We also were aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic.”
I think it’s possible that this is a reference to the then-unknown but subsequently reported additional meetings with Russian Ambassador Kislyak. In that case, he’s only referring to things we already know or know in their outlines from published reports. But that’s a strained interpretation that is hard to square with the context. It sounds like there’s something else that we don’t know about. That’s another big deal.
Less legally significant but still consequential and highly revealing is Comey’s discussion of providing copies of his memos or at least some of them to a friend, a law professor at Columbia University with the express direction to surface them in the press. He went further than this and made clear that he did this with the express intent of forcing the appointment of a special counsel – something indeed happened. This definitely reveals Comey as a skilled and unabashed bureaucratic and press player. But we were naive if we didn’t know that already. Trump supporters will clearly, indeed are seizing on this as discrediting any notion that Comey is somehow pristine and above politics. Though Comey didn’t frame it that way, it’s not unfair to see this as payback for his firing. But a close read of the testimony suggests that Comey thought that his superiors at the Justice Department, certainly Jeff Sessions and (I think he’s saying) Rod Rosenstein were compromised. As I said earlier, I’m not sure it has to be either/or.
At the end of the day, I think it all confirmed what we should know. Huge and far ranging cover-ups don’t happen for no reason. Almost invariably they occur because of major wrongdoing. It’s the cover-up not the crime – as I’ve said, that’s almost always wrong. You cover up because you may get away with it and you can’t afford the crime to become fully known. Usually cover-ups work, at least in part. What I think we have here is some major wrongdoing, possibly of various different sorts. That is matched by a President who acts as though the government is something like his own possession, his own company. He acts like it. His lawyer talks like it. Whatever the nature of the original bad acts – which I am assuming occurred based on a lot of information but which we do not know with certainty – the President has managed to stumble into a massive scandal with almost unbelievable speed. As was really clear throughout the campaign, he is predatory, bad-acting and impulsive and even self-destructive in a way that compounds and in some respects makes less effective the underlying malignant behavior. He and his lawyer are in way over their heads and will cause untold damage before this is done, however it ends.

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Click image to enlarge

The Potemkin Policies of Donald Trump

There are many who have stated that Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, decided to withdraw America from the Paris climate accord for purely domestic political purposes: he has failed to deliver so far on any of his campaign promises and, therefore, was desperate to throw a political bone to his base of Christofascists and xenophobes.  With his plans for health care reform - using the term "reform" very loosely - and an overhaul of the tax code going nowhere in Congress, trashing the Paris accord was the easiest way to convince his less than intellectually brilliant and non-analytical base a bone.  Indeed, it is part and parcel with Trump's effort to construct a Potemkin village if you will for his base - for Fox News viewers, a "Potemkin village is is any construction (literal or figurative) built solely to deceive others into thinking that a situation is better than it really is - so that they will believe he is actually doing something for them as promised even when he is failing to do so in fact. A piece in The Atlantic looks at Trump's failing policies and his efforts to continue to dupe the gullible in the GOP base.  Here are excerpts:
It’s “Infrastructure Week” at the White House. Theoretically.
On Monday, the administration announced a plan to spend $200 billion on infrastructure and overhaul U.S. air traffic control. There was a high-profile signing in the East Wing before dozens of cheering lawmakers and industry titans. It was supposed to be the beginning of a weeklong push to fix America’s roads, bridges, and airports.
But in the next two days, Trump spent more energy burning metaphorical bridges than trying to build literal ones. He could have stayed on message for several hours, gathered Democrats and Republicans to discuss a bipartisan agreement, and announced a timeframe. Instead he quickly turned his attention to Twitter to accuse media companies of “Fake News” while undermining an alliance with Qatar based on what may be, fittingly, a fake news story.
It’s a microcosm of this administration’s approach to public policy. A high-profile announcement, coupled with an ambitious promise, subsumed by an unrelated, self-inflicted public-relations crisis, followed by … nothing.
The secret of the Trump infrastructure plan is: There is no infrastructure plan. Just like there is no White House tax plan. Just like there was no White House health care plan. More than 120 days into Trump’s term in a unified Republican government, Trump’s policy accomplishments have been more in the subtraction category (e.g., stripping away environmental regulations) than addition. The president has signed no major legislation and left significant portions of federal agencies unstaffed, as U.S. courts have blocked what would be his most significant policy achievement, the legally dubious immigration ban.
The simplest summary of White House economic policy to date is four words long: There is no policy.
Consider the purported focus of this week. An infrastructure plan ought to include actual proposals, like revenue-and-spending details and timetables. The Trump infrastructure plan has little of that. Even the president’s speech on Monday was devoid of specifics. . . . . The ceremonial signing on Monday was pure theater. . . . Meanwhile, Congress isn’t working on infrastructure at all, according to Politico, and Republicans have shown no interest in a $200 billion spending bill.
In short, this “plan” is not a plan, so much as a Potemkin policy, a presentation devised to show the press and the public that the president has an economic agenda. The show continued on Wednesday, as the president delivered an infrastructure speech in Cincinnati that criticized Obamacare, hailed his Middle East trip, and offered no new details on how his plan would work. Infrastructure Week is a series of scheduled performances to make it look as if the president is hard at work on a domestic agenda that cannot move forward because it does not exist.
Journalists are beginning to catch on.  The administration’s policy drought has so far been obscured by a formulaic bait-and-switch strategy one could call the Two-Week Two-Step. Bloomberg has compiled several examples of the president promising major proposals or decisions on everything from climate-change policy to infrastructure “in two weeks.” He has missed the fortnight deadline almost every time.
The starkest false promise has been taxes. . . . . . the simplest summary of White House tax policy is: There is no plan. There isn’t even a complete staff to compose one.
The story is slightly different for the White House budget, but no more favorable. The budget suffers, not from a lack of details, but from a failure of numeracy that speaks to the administration’s indifference toward serious public policy.
Trump and his party are alike—united in their antagonism toward Obama-era policies and united in their inability to articulate what should come next. Republicans are trapped by campaign promises that they cannot fulfill. The White House is trapped inside of the president’s perpetual campaign, a cavalcade of economic promises divorced from any effort to detail, advocate, or enact major economic legislation. With an administration that uses public policy as little more than a photo op, get ready for many sequels to this summer’s Infrastructure Week.

The only good news is that since Trump's and the GOP's policies would likely be so bad for the country that it is a benefit that nothing is actually happening. 

Watergate Prosecutor: Comey’s Statement Grounds for Obstruction of Justice Case.

Today Daniel Coats refused to answer questions posed to him by Senators concerning possible requests or directives from Der Trumpenführer that he squelch the FBI  investigation of Trump BFF Michael Flynn.  The ruse for refusing to answer was that it was a public session and, therefore, Coats and others talked about their "feelings" and seemingly gave the various Senators the finger.  Ditto for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who either (i) doesn't appreciate the seriousness of where the nation finds itself - he wasn't even 10 years old when Watergate unfolded- or (ii) has become complicit in the Trump obstruction of justice effort.   Meanwhile, many Vichy Republicans, many of whom were adults during the Watergate scandal and at the time of Richard Nixon's resignation from the presidency, continue to close their eyes to the many sins and seemingly illegal acts of  Der Trumpenführer.   A column in the Washington Post by one of the Watergate prosecutors argues that James Comey's prepared statement released today provides sufficient evidence to launch an obstruction of justice case against Trump (and by extension his accomplices).  Here are are column excerpts:
In prepared testimony released on the eve of his appearance Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, former FBI director James B. Comey placed President Trump in the gunsights of a federal criminal investigation, laying out evidence sufficient for a case of obstruction of justice.
Comey proved what Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and National Security Agency Director Michael S. Rogers carefully avoided admitting in their testimony on Wednesday— that the president had specifically attempted to shut off at least a major piece of what Trump calls the “Russia thing,” the investigation into the misleading statements by fired national security adviser Michael Flynn concerning his role in dealings with the Russians. This kind of presidential intervention in a pending criminal investigation has not been seen, to my knowledge, since the days of Richard Nixon and Watergate.
Comey’s statement meticulously detailed a series of interventions by Trump soliciting his assistance in getting the criminal probe dropped. These details are red meat for a prosecutor. Presumably, the team of experienced criminal prosecutors that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has assembled will be following up on this crucial testimony, which rests on contemporaneous memorandums that Comey was sufficiently alarmed to prepare immediately after receiving the president’s requests.
 That both Coats and Rogers denied that they “felt pressured” provides no comfort for the president’s position. The obstruction of justice statute prohibits not only successful interference with pending criminal investigations but also any use of “threats” to “endeavor” to obstruct an investigation. Thus, it is the attempt or objective that is criminal, and Coats and Rogers were apparently unable to deny that the president had solicited their interference in the pending FBI investigation. If Coats and Rogers did not yield to the endeavor, kudos for them, but that is no excuse for the president.
 Moreover, Comey’s testimony also supplies the element of “threats.” . . . The president asked Comey whether he liked his job and wanted to continue in it, . . . . Leaving little doubt about the price of continued retention, the president twice, according to Comey, told him that he expected “loyalty” from Comey, just as he did from everyone else around him.
 Then, on Feb. 14, the president carefully structured another one-on-one meeting with Comey, specifically ordering Attorney General Jeff Sessions, to whom the FBI director ordinarily reports, to leave the Oval Office where Comey, Sessions and other national security officials (and Jared Kushner) had been meeting. At that point, the president laid his cards on the table, according to Comey: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.
Next, in phone calls on March 30 and April 11, the president solicited Comey’s help in removing the “cloud” over Trump resulting from the FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible Trump campaign collusion. . . . . The president dropped the other shoe on May 9, summarily firing Comey.
He brazenly stated that he fired Comey in order to bring the “Russia thing” to a close, and he bragged to senior Russian officials in a private Oval Office meeting that this is what he thought that he had accomplished by sacking Comey.
Comey’s statement lays out a case against the president that consists of a tidy pattern, beginning with the demand for loyalty, the threat to terminate Comey’s job, the repeated requests to turn off the investigation into Flynn and the final infliction of career punishment for failing to succumb to the president’s requests, all followed by the president’s own concession about his motive. Any experienced prosecutor would see these facts as establishing a prima facie case of obstruction of justice.
The ball now is in Mueller’s court to decide whether he has (or will have) enough evidence to charge Trump with obstruction and, if so, whether to reach the same conclusion that I reached in the Nixon investigation — that, like everyone else in our system, a president is accountable for committing a federal crime.
The author if the column?  Philip Allen Lacovara, a former U.S. deputy solicitor general in the Justice Department, who served as counsel to Watergate special prosecutors Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski.  I find Lacovara more believable than Trump apologists and Vichy Republicans. 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Texas Governor Calls Special Session to Wage anti-Transgender Jihad

Texas transphobes Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick
With all the problems facing the United States and the various states that range from millions of Americans still lacking health insurance, and economy that continues to leave too many behind, to a crumbling infrastructure, there are many serious and legitimate reasons to call a special legislative session.  In Republican controlled Texas, however, none of those issues matter.  No, only a desire to wage a jihad against transgender students and citizens is the sole motivator for Texas Governor Greg Abbott.  True, this is a topic that excites the Christofascists who disproportionately make up the GOP base in Texas and nationally.  But it also says something about Abbott.  Time and time over the years we have seen that it is Republican elected officials who have their own psycho-sexual issues who are obsessed with gays and transgender citizens and stamping on their rights, if not very existence. And remember: there are ZERO documented cases of sexual misbehavior by transgender individuals in restrooms.  ZERO.  The same cannot be said for Republican elected officials.  Personally, I can only wonder at Abbott's what dark secret or mental illness motivates Abbott.  The New York Times looks at the disturbing events in Texas.  Here are excerpts:
Gov. Greg Abbott reignited one of the most divisive issues in Texas politics on Tuesday, calling lawmakers back to the Capitol for a special session of the Legislature in part to consider a bill that would reinforce the state’s effort to regulate bathroom use by transgender people in public buildings.
An attempt during the regular session by conservative lawmakers and pastors to pass legislation to regulate bathroom use had been unsuccessful by the time the session ended on Memorial Day. But on Tuesday, Mr. Abbott, a Republican, ordered a 30-day special session starting in July and put on the agenda a bathroom bill that would prevent municipalities from passing anti-discrimination ordinances designed to protect transgender people.
Opponents of bathroom restrictions, including moderate Republicans, say such rules are discriminatory and would cause economic damage similar to that in North Carolina last year after the state passed transgender bathroom restrictions that spurred widespread boycotts and the cancellation of concerts and sporting events. Supporters say the restrictions protect public safety and privacy in public buildings. They believe the predicted economic fallout has been exaggerated.
“At a minimum, we need a law that protects the privacy of our children in our public schools,” Mr. Abbott told reporters at the Capitol in Austin.
Chuck Smith, the chief executive of the gay rights group Equality Texas, said Mr. Abbott’s decision would harm already vulnerable transgender people. “This is a 100 percent political issue, and the only reason for it is to target, demonize and stigmatize transgender people,” Mr. Smith said. Because the Legislature failed to pass the bill during the regular session, it effectively died; its only chance for survival had been a special session, and only a governor has the authority to convene one.
In doing so, Mr. Abbott ignored the concerns of local and national business leaders but earned swift praise from social conservatives, some of whom had complained that he had remained largely on the sidelines in the debate. Critics said Mr. Abbott, a former judge who is viewed by many as more cautious than his predecessor, Rick Perry, had capitulated to the extreme right, and to one of his Republican colleagues, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who led the push for the restrictions.
[T]he chief executives of more than a dozen companies, including Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook, warned Mr. Abbott in a letter that they were “gravely concerned” that any bathroom-related legislation would hurt the state’s business-friendly reputation. On Tuesday, the gay rights organization Glaad denounced the special session. Democrats criticized the governor for jeopardizing the state’s business-oriented brand. “My take is that he is clearly panicked about the far right, and he feels the need to shovel as much red meat to the far right of his party as he can,” said State Representative Chris Turner, a Democrat. . . .
 [The bill] would effectively ban local regulation of discrimination. The bill would prohibit cities, counties and school districts from passing anti-discrimination measures to protect any class of people already protected under state law. And it would nullify existing policies in San Antonio, Dallas and other cities that allow transgender people to use the public bathroom that matches their gender identity.
Note how Republicans, the supposed champions of local control will not allow localities to make their own decisions, at least not any that challenge the bigotry and embrace of ignorance of their Christofascist supporters.  If this bill passes, Texas will be added to the list of places that the husband and I will avoid - even for connecting air flights. 

Director of National Intelligence: Trump Asked Me to Block FBI Probe

The rats will likely be speeding up their evacuation of the S.S. Trump, in light of a new breaking news story from the Washington Post which reports that Donald Trump asked Daniel Coats, Director of National Intelligence, to pressure then FBI Director James Comey to end the investigation into Trump BFF Michael Flynn.  Stated another way, Coats shared this information with his associates and will likely find himself as another witness, willingly or not, as to Trump's obstruction of justice efforts.   Meanwhile, Yahoo News reports as follows:
Top lawyers with at least four major law firms rebuffed White House overtures to represent President Trump in the Russia investigations: Brendan Sullivan of Williams & Connolly; Ted Olson of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Paul Clement and Mark Filip of Kirkland & Ellis; and Robert Giuffra of Sullivan & Cromwell. . . . .“The concerns were, ‘The guy won’t pay and he won’t listen,’” said one lawyer close to the White House who is familiar with some of the discussions between the firms and the administration, as well as deliberations within the firms themselves.
It would seem that we are thus rapidly approaching a reprise of Watergate.  The sole question is whether or not Congressional Republicans will put the nation first and act as Watergate era Republicans did, or instead tacitly subvert the law and the Constitution.  Here are highlights from the Post  breaking news story:
The nation’s top intelligence official told associates in March that President Trump asked him if he could intervene with then-FBI Director James B. Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on former national security adviser Michael Flynn in its Russia probe, according to officials.
On March 22, less than a week after being confirmed by the Senate, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats attended a briefing at the White House together with officials from several government agencies. As the briefing was wrapping up, Trump asked everyone to leave the room except for Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
The president then started complaining about the FBI investigation and Comey’s handling of it, said officials familiar with the account Coats gave to associates. Two days earlier, Comey had confirmed in a congressional hearing that the bureau was probing whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 race.
After the encounter, Coats discussed the conversation with other officials and decided that intervening with Comey as Trump had suggested would be inappropriate, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal matters.
The events involving Coats show the president went further than just asking intelligence officials to deny publicly the existence of any evidence showing collusion during the 2016 election, as The Washington Post reported in May. The interaction with Coats indicates that Trump aimed to enlist top officials to have Comey curtail the bureau’s probe.
Coats will testify on Wednesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Lawmakers on the panel said they would press him for information about his interactions with the president regarding the FBI investigation.
The question of whether the president obstructed the Russia investigation is expected to take center stage this week with Comey’s highly anticipated testimony on the Hill on Thursday. Comey associates say that before the director was fired in May, the president had asked him to drop the investigation into Flynn, and Comey refused.
In an appearance last month before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Coats refused to provide details about his interactions with Trump.
But he indicated that he would cooperate with the Russia probe now being led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Under questioning by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Coats said that if asked, he would provide details of his conversations with Trump to Mueller.
Coats also said that if he is called before an investigative committee, such as the Senate Intelligence Committee, “I certainly will provide them with what I know and what I don’t know.” He said the Trump administration had not directed the ODNI to withhold information from members of Congress conducting oversight.
Let's hope the steamroller is about to run over Der Trumpenführer and, if we are lucky, many others in the Trump/Pence regime.