Saturday, June 17, 2017

New Survey: Rural America is Racist and Out of Touch With Reality

A new Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey of rural Americans confirms several things that I have long believed to be the case: (i) rural Americans tend to be much more racist than urban residents, (ii) even though they are the largest recipients of federal safety net spending, they think those who are "other" are the ones living off the dole, and (iii) rural Americans believe "Christian values" are under attack because there are more restrictions on their ability to persecute others.  Again, rural red states - especially those with white populations - receive far more federal funding that they contribute to Washington and they contribute far less to the national budget than the large cities and blue states that are the economic engines for the nation's economy. One can only assume these people get their "news" from Fox News, Breitbart, or their right wing "Christian" pastors.  It would almost be funny that these people who are the largest drain per capita on the federal government think minorities are the ones playing the system if it did not disclose an insidious deep seated racism that unfortunately goes hand in hand with much of rural America and conservative Christianity.  Here are highlights from the Washington Post:
The political divide between rural and urban America is more cultural than it is economic, rooted in rural residents’ deep misgivings about the nation’s rapidly changing demographics, their sense that Christianity is under siege and their perception that the federal government caters most to the needs of people in big cities, according to a wide-ranging poll that examines cultural attitudes across the United States. The results highlight the growing political divisions between rural and urban Americans. While urban counties favored Hillary Clinton by 32 percentage points in the 2016 election, rural and small-town voters backed Trump by a 26-point margin, significantly wider than GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s 16 points four years earlier. But popular explanations of the rural-urban divide appear to overstate the influence of declining economic outcomes in driving rural America’s support for Trump. The survey responses, along with follow-up interviews and focus groups in rural Ohio, bring into view a portrait of a split that is tied more to social identity than to economic experience.
“Being from a rural area, everyone looks out for each other,” said Ryan Lawson, who grew up in northern Wisconsin. “People, in my experience, in cities are not as compassionate toward their neighbor as people in rural parts.”
In the poll, rural Americans express widespread concerns about the lack of jobs in their communities. Two-thirds of rural residents rate local job opportunities as fair or poor, compared with about half of urban residents. Nearly 6 in 10 rural residents say they would encourage young people in their community to leave for more opportunity elsewhere.
Rural areas have experienced a weak recovery from the Great Recession, with the total number of jobs down 128,000 from pre-recession levels. Suburban and urban counties have each gained about 3 million jobs, according to an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
Rural Americans express far more concern about jobs in their communities, but the poll finds that those concerns have little connection to support for Trump, a frequent theory to explain his rise in 2016. Economic troubles also show little relation to the feeling that urban residents have different values.
Rural voters who lament their community’s job prospects report supporting Trump by 14 percentage points more than Clinton, but Trump’s support was about twice that margin — 30 points — among voters who say their community’s job opportunities are excellent or good. Trump also earned about the same level of support from those who say they don’t worry about paying their bills as those who couldn’t pay their bills at some point in the past year.
Most rural residents say they think key elements of Trump’s economic agenda would help their local economy. Large majorities of rural residents say infrastructure investments, better trade deals, a crackdown on undocumented immigrant workers, lower business taxes and deregulation are “very” or “somewhat” important to boosting jobs in their communities. The largest fissures between Americans living in large cities and those in less-dense areas are rooted in misgivings about the country’s changing demographics and resentment about perceived biases in federal assistance, according to the poll.
Rural residents are nearly three times as likely (42 percent) as people in cities (16 percent) to say that immigrants are a burden on the country.
“They’re not paying taxes like Americans are. They’re getting stuff handed to them,” said Larry E. Redding, a retired canning factory employee in Arendtsville, Pa. “Free rent, and they’re driving better vehicles than I’m driving and everything else.”
The poll reveals that perceptions about abuse of government benefits often go hand in hand with views about race.
When asked which is more common — that government help tends to go to irresponsible people who do not deserve it or that it doesn’t reach people in need — rural Americans are more likely than others to say they think people are abusing the system. And across all areas, those who believe irresponsible people get undeserved government benefits are more likely than others to think that racial minorities receive unfair privileges.
That sense of division is closely connected to the belief among rural Americans that Christian values are under siege. Nearly 6 in 10 people in rural areas say Christian values are under attack, compared with just over half of suburbanites and fewer than half of urbanites. When personal politics is taken into account, the divide among rural residents is even larger: 78 percent of rural Republicans say Christian values are under attack, while 45 percent of rural Democrats do.

The other irony, of course is that it is rural America's racism and religious based bigotry that prevents new and progressive businesses from locating to their areas. Until they let go of their 1950's beliefs, they will be increasingly fall by the wayside and continue their downward social and economic death spirals.  I'm sorry, but I find it hard to have sympathy for these people. With the Internet and other avenues to access truthful information, they have chosen to embrace ignorance. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

A Lesson for HR Pride: The Alt-Right Is Wooing Gays to Fascism

Self-loathing gays suffering from internalized homophobia?

I recently wrote about the disturbing phenomenon of - self-loathing? -  gays voting for and otherwise supporting anti-gay politicians and political parties.  True, it is an minority of the LGBT community that engages in this form of ultimately self destructive behavior, but it remains troublesome.  Now, Hampton Roads Pride has stepped into this excrement by granting a vendor booth to the local "Gays for Trump" organization. They will be present at tomorrow’s PrideFest in Town Point Park.  Having anything Trump at PrideFest is disgusting, in my view, but it gets far worse: 

Joe Jervis, quoting a GAYRVA piece notes that the group in question, "Gays for Trump, was largely spearheaded by a 757 local, Scott Presler, who worked for the Trump campaign under gubernatorial failure and Confederate Flag fetishist Corey Stewart until they led a protest at the Republican National Committee headquarters in DC prompting Trump to fire him . . . . Presler is a main organizer for the extremist group ACT For America, which held dozens of anti-Muslim rallies across the country last weekend. The SPLC describes ACT For America as “the largest grassroots anti-Muslim group in the country.”  

Outwire757 correctly notes that "the Trump administration, despite promising to be a “friend of the gays” on the campaign trail, has undertaken a laundry list of anti-LGBTQ actions, from rolling back protections for transgender students in public schools, to removing any mention of LGBTQ from federal employment policies, to removing sexual orientation and gender identity questions from the 2020 census, too being the first President in eight years to not proclaim June LGBTQ Pride Month… and much much much more."

Having this group at PrideFest is an insult to those in the community who have labored long and hard to advance LGBT equality - and put up a great deal of money to sponsor Pride Fest.  Obviously, some one at HR Pride failed to vette this group.  Similarly, in my opinion, there needs change in direction from what I see as a too GOP friendly leadership at HR Pride that may be in part due to naivete.   Having been in the GOP for the better part of a decade years ago and a City Committee member for 8 years, the party will NOT be changed from inside. Anyone who thinks otherwise is allowing themselves to be used.  Sadly, the situation is part of an even large problem of some in the LGBT community actively supporting our enemies to the harm of the majority of the LGBT community and other minority groups.   A lengthy piece in Slate looks at how gays are being wooed by the Al-Right and used for its purposes, not civil rights for all citizens.  Here are excerpts:
At the National Policy Institute’s 2015 conference, alt-right star Richard Spencer’s annual Nazi-fest, a speaker named Jack Donovan exhorted the crowd "to leave the world the way you entered it, kicking and screaming and covered in somebody else’s blood." The same year, in the pages of the The Occidental Observer, one of the most prominent white nationalist webzines, another alt-righter, James J. O’Meara, held forth about how "behind the Negro, hidden away, as always, is the darker, more sinister figure of the Judeo. The Negro is the shock troop. The Jew is the ultimate beneficiary.” Aside from being open fascists and “white racialists,” Donovan and O’Meara have another thing in common: They’re both out gay men.
In his book The Homo and the Negro, O’Meara says that gay white men represent the best of what Western culture has to offer because of their "intelligence" and "beauty," and that "Negroes" represent the worst, being incapable of "achievement." Donovan calls women "whores" and "bitches," and, when a questioner on Reddit asked him his views of the Holocaust, responded, "What is this Holocaust thing? I’m drawing a blank."
Both have become influential figures in the alt-right; horribly, they are not the only gay men to respond to an olive branch lately offered by white nationalism. In the United States, unlike in Europe, out gay men have never been welcome in white supremacist groups. The Klan and neo-Nazi groups, the main previous incarnations of white hate in this country, were and still are violently anti-queer. And while a subset of openly gay men has always been conservative (or, as in all populations, casually racist), they never sought to join the racist right. That was before groups like NPI, Counter-Currents Publishing, and American Renaissance started putting out the welcome mat. Since around 2010, some (though by no means all) groups in the leadership of the white nationalist movement have been inviting out cis gay men to speak at their conferences, write for their magazines, and be interviewed in their journals.  And there are many more gay men (and some trans women) who have been profoundly influenced by two white nationalist ideas: the "threat" posed by Islam and the "danger" posed by immigrants. Donovan tries to sugarcoat his own racist beliefs when speaking to his main fan base, gay men who like his macho looks and straight men from the "pickup artist" culture and the manosphere who are desperately trying to learn from him how to be manly. . . . he functions as beefcake for the neofascist cause. He’s parlayed his butch allure into a brand, earning money from a line of T-shirts and wrist guards that say things like BARBARIAN and a series of books that seek to instruct both straight and gay men in how to become more masculine and in particular, more "violent." But when Donovan says violence, he means violence. This is not BDSM. "The ability to use violence effectively is the highest value of masters," Donovan said in a 2017 speech at a fascist think tank in Germany. "It is the primary value of those who create order, who create worlds. Violence is a golden value. Violence rules. Violence is not evil–it is elemental." . . .  it's straight-up people hurting and killing other people he's endorsing.
 And what is all this violence for? Creating small, decentralized "homelands" in this country separated by—surprise!—race. He enthusiastically embraces an idea the alt-right calls "pan-secessionism," under which, as Donovan says in his book A Sky Without Eagles, "gangs" of white men would form "autonomous zones" for themselves and white women, where women "would not be permitted to rule or take part in … political life." The gangs would enforce racial boundary lines, because, as Donovan puts it, whites have "radically different values [and] cultures" than other people, and "loyalty requires preference. It requires discrimination." If Donovan is a caricature of the gay Nazi strongman—almost a personification of the phrase "body fascism" (which was originally used by gay men to critique other gay men's obsession with perfect gym bodies)—his counterpart, James O'Meara, is an embodiment of something that could barely be imagined until now: Nazi camp. I hesitate to write that phrase, because it's almost painful to acknowledge that camp—that subversive, gay "turning" of seriousness into playfulness and straight narratives into gay ones—could be deployed by a Nazi. . . . we no longer have the luxury of assuming that queer tropes are inherently, and trans-historically, progressive. Of course, neither O’Meara nor Donovan actually support gay rights. This is partly because they don't believe in "civil rights." Although O'Meara wants to be part of an imagined elite band of men who love each other and rule society—his version of an Aryan fantasy called the Männerbund—he doesn't want to support, as he put it in the interview with Alternative Right, "some sniveling queen demanding 'my rights!' … 'The plight of the homosexual' … is a Leftist myth." Donovan says explicitly that straight people should be given more power and privileges than gay folks, because their "reproductive sexuality" is superior to ours. Both men openly detest lesbians and trans and genderqueer people. . . . .
 So why are white nationalists 
smiling in our direction? Most importantly, because it worked in Europe. In Holland, France, Germany, and Sweden, white nationalists have deliberately used LGBTQ people and Muslims as a wedge against one another. Bringing queer people in, in both Europe and America, is a way to grow the neo-fascist movement. It is also a way to court millennials, who are consistently supportive of gay rights even when they swing conservative on other issues. It's a testament to the fact that, in some ways, the queer movement has already won the battle for public opinion. The far right could not beat us, so they decided to join us—in the most superficial way possible. Ultimately, it's a form of pinkwashing, which YourDictionary defines as “the practice of representing something … as gay-friendly in order to soften or downplay aspects of its reputation considered negative. There is another potential benefit: If white supremacists can equate "Muslims" with attacks on LGBTQ people—and women—they might be able to attract liberals and moderates into a kind of anti-immigrant "big tent."

This is what HR Pride unwittingly welcomed to 2017 PrideFest.  

Trump’s Tantrums Over Rosenstein Speak Volumes

As the Washington Post and other news media outlets have reported, Der Trumpenführer let loose with a Twitter tantrum directed at Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that complained as follows:
“I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt,” 

Never mind that Trump himself told the world on national television that he was going to fire James Comey regardless of an advice from Mr. Rosenstein or anyone else. Sadly, it is part and parcel with Trump's constant lying that is believed only by the most brain dead of his core base of evangelical Christians and white supremacists.  There's a reason why Trump now has a disapproval rate of 64% based on the latest polling.  Unfortunately, as a column in the Washington Post notes, this may be the beginning of even more chaos if Trump fires Rosenstein, something that will only add to grounds for finding obstruction of justice.  Trump is proving daily that his is mentally and morally unfit for office. We are rapidly approaching a 2017 version of Watergate. Here are column excerpts:
It’s come to this, on his 146th day in office: The president, under investigation for obstruction of justice, attacked his own deputy attorney general for orchestrating a “witch hunt” against him.
Sometimes my role as a columnist is to advise readers not to overreact, to maintain perspective. Today my advice is to buckle up. Brace yourselves.
I’m not sure for what, exactly. President Trump firing Rod J. Rosenstein or taking moves that would force the deputy attorney general, and perhaps others, to quit? Firing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, whose probe has pushed Trump to this frenzied state? Using his pardon power in an effort to shut down the investigation, on the theory that Mueller would then have nothing left to probe? Pardoning himself, a move of contested legality that even Richard Nixon balked at? Facing impeachment proceedings, however unlikely that may be with a Republican-controlled Congress?
That any of these seem within the realm of possibility is the measure of how unsettled, and unsettling, this moment is. Actually, that’s an understatement. This situation is alarming in a way I have never experienced in almost four decades here.
I am not alone. “The message the president is sending through his tweets is that he believes the rule of law doesn’t apply to him and that anyone who thinks otherwise will be fired,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said in a statement Friday. “That’s undemocratic on its face and a blatant violation of the president’s oath of office.”
 Trump’s wounds are entirely self-inflicted. He has seemed determined — frantic, really — to see that the case against fired national security adviser Michael Flynn is dropped. If you credit Comey’s sworn account over Trump’s news conference denials, Trump demanded Comey’s loyalty; pressed him to drop the case against Flynn; and eventually fired Comey himself because of his handling of “this Russia thing.” As Comey might say, no reasonable prosecutor would fail to investigate in these circumstances.
What Trump derides as a “phony witch hunt” is the legal system working as it should. Attorney General Jeff Sessions needed to recuse himself. Rosenstein needed to name a special counsel. And Mueller needs to pursue the investigation, impartially and fearlessly, to its logical end.
That Trump now feels the need to attack seasoned prosecutors for simply doing their jobs speaks volumes — and says nothing reassuring about the lengths to which Trump, for whom self-preservation has always been the top priority, might eventually go.
Again, the irony is that with ever lie and insane outburst, Trump is only adding to the momentum of the Russiagate investigation.  If Trump colluded with Russia - something I would not put past him - and/or engaged in illegal money laundering schemes with Russians, he has no one to blame but himself.  If he is forced from office and/or prosecuted, he will have done it to himself.  Another Post article looks at this irony:
 We are heading toward Donald Trump’s version of the Saturday Night Massacre.
While the details aren’t precisely the same, the parallels are many. A president under a widening investigation for (among other things) possible obstruction of justice. A special counsel targeted by the president’s ire. High-ranking officials in the Justice Department unwilling to put loyalty to the president above their obligations to the country, and losing their jobs because of it. All that’s left is the dramatic round of firings and resignations and the headlong rush toward impeachment.
Richard Nixon didn’t have Twitter, but Donald Trump does. And this morning, he attacked his deputy attorney general, . . . . In addition to everything else, Trump confirms here the reports from anonymous sources that he is the target of an obstruction of justice investigation. Glad we cleared that up.
What does this have to do with Watergate? Let’s go back to the Saturday Night Massacre. In October 1973, Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal, demanded that President Nixon turn over recordings of his Oval Office conversations. Nixon refused, and tried to negotiate a deal that Cox rejected. Nixon then ordered the attorney general, Elliot Richardson, to fire Cox. Richardson refused, and resigned. Nixon then ordered the deputy attorney general, William Ruckelshaus, to fire Cox. Ruckelshaus refused, and resigned. Nixon then ordered the next person in the Justice Department hierarchy, Solicitor General Robert Bork, to fire Cox. Bork agreed. While it would be 10 more months before Nixon himself resigned, the Saturday Night Massacre may have been the point where his determination to obstruct the Watergate investigation became the most clear to everyone in the country.
We aren’t there yet, but let’s take a good look at where we are. There is something serious going on between Trump and Rosenstein, who is overseeing the investigation of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. . . . . only Rosenstein has the authority to fire Mueller. And it’s plain that Trump would like to rid himself of this meddlesome special counsel; the question is whether he will try. Multiple reports from inside the White House paint a picture of Trump as obsessed with the investigation, railing against Mueller and considering whether to fire him — an act that everyone around Trump knows would be a political catastrophe (and possibly a legal one as well).
By Trump’s own admission, he had already decided to fire FBI director James Comey when he ordered Rosenstein to prepare a report describing Comey’s alleged shortcomings.
If Rosenstein is considering recusal, it’s because of his role in the Comey firing — which, let’s not forget, Trump admitted both on national television and in a conversation with Russian officials in the Oval Office that he did out of unhappiness with the Russia investigation. Rosenstein could become a witness in the obstruction investigation, which would make it problematic for him to be overseeing Mueller. The authority would then fall to Brand. Is Trump going to go after her next? What happens if he orders her to fire Mueller? Would she resign in protest like Richardson and Ruckelshaus, or follow orders like Bork?
Let’s step back and try to grasp everything that’s going on here. The president of the United States is waging an inept public relations campaign against the special counsel’s investigation . . . 
[I]t [the Russiagate investigation] seems to be pushing Trump to particular heights of irrationality. If you were trying to limit the investigation and its political fallout and not antagonize the prosecutors, it would be utterly insane to send out these kinds of tweets. Trump’s staff and lawyers are surely begging him to stop. But they can’t control him.
In an ordinary scandal, you have some initial set of misdeeds, and then possibly a coverup that adds more misdeeds that could themselves be criminal. In the Russia scandal we could have those two sets of actions, but on top of them we have a paranoid, infantile president seemingly determined to put himself in ever-greater political and legal jeopardy. The more we learn about how deep Mueller’s investigation is reaching, the higher the chances that Trump will, in a moment of rage, order Mueller to be fired. If you think things are dramatic and absurd right now, just wait — it’s going to get worse.
 What I cannot understand is why anyone sane would have voted for Trump.  His entire career and behavior for decades proved beyond question that he was unfit for office. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday, June 16, 2017

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Special Counsel Follows the Russia/Trump Money

Two things seem to motivate Donald Trump: (i) a seemingly endless lust for money and (ii) satiating his narcissism.  The two are obviously tied together since Trump apparently thinks having money erases the fact that he is an ill inform vulgarian who likes to sexually harass women.  A review of Trump's business dealings in New York City underscores that he views himself above the law and that he has no reluctance about dealing with unsavory characters since as Mafia figures and Russian oligarchs/mob figures, the constant motivation being to get his hands on more money and/or prop up his business ventures.  Now, as part of the Russiagate probe, Special Counsel Robert Mueller appears to be hard at work tracing the money flow of Trump, Jared Kushner and others of Trump's Russia loving minions.  Money laundering is suspected and, if proven, could not only document collusion with Russia, but also be the criminal offense needed to document "high crimes" for impeachment.  A column in Esquire looks at what could be a most enlightening investigation.  Here are highlights:  
I'd say that shit just got real around the White House on Wednesday night, but shit hasn't been anything but real there ever since the country determined it would be best led for the next four to eight years by a vulgar talking yam. As everyone who follows Preet Bharara on the electric Twitter machine—and why don't you, by the way?—knew was coming, the news that special counsel Robert Mueller had rolled out the railroad artillery broke well after the close of business. Let's see if there's any solace to be found over here with the folks at The New York Times. Oops, no, shit's gotten pretty real there, too, via RawStory:

"A former senior official said Mr. Mueller's investigation was looking at money laundering by Trump associates," a source told the Times. "The suspicion is that any cooperation with Russian officials would most likely have been done in exchange for some kind of financial payoff, and that there would have been an effort to hide the payoffs, most likely by routing them through offshore banking centers." A separate investigation into Russia has also reportedly focused on potential use of offshore banking centers to launder money. In April, House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) visited Cyprus, which "has a reputation as a laundromat for the Russians who are trying to avoid sanctions."
It is now painfully clear that Mueller has opened the ballgame on the Trump organization's entire business model, which always has been aromatic but which now has become entangled with the intelligence community, the institutions of government, and the national interest, as interpreted by Robert Mueller. He isn't some roofing specialist that you can stiff and then drag through the courts until he can't afford the trip any more. He isn't someone you can scare off with your usual gang of billable-hour button men. He isn't some dingy Russian banker who can float you a loan to tide you over. He is honest and respected and relentless, and the only way you're going to get rid of him is to fire him. In a way, the country is daring you to do that, just to see if you have the stones for what comes next, and (possibly) as the last excuse it needs to insist on a new president. Go ahead. Make our day.
For a long time, I didn't believe that the president would bring all this down on himself just to hide the fact that he isn't as rich as he says he is, but now I'm less sure. I think, maybe, that's what's at the bottom of everything else. I think he isn't that rich, so he and the family business allegedly needed freshly laundered Russian money to keep the business—and his image—afloat. Then, of course, the bill came due from Moscow, and that required another set of malodorous transactions which, in turn, required that they be concealed by another set of malodorous transactions, including the firing of James Comey, and so on.
God, the tax returns. If he'd only released the tax returns, and the people had gotten a look at how he does business and how much he's really worth, it's likely none of this happens.
In any event, it appears that we're all going to get a crash course in the crooked side of high finance—like we need another one of those—and in identifying all the various fauna in the wild kingdom of the international real estate game. I love those teachable moments. Truly, I do.

As Russiagate Probe Expands, Mike Pence Hires A Lawyer

Christofascist zealot - and liar? - Mike Pence
As a crisis management seemingly engulfs the White House, Vice President Mike Pence who has claimed ignorance on virtually every issue even though he headed Der Trumpenführer transition team, has reportedly now hired his own private legal counsel.  To date, Pence's feigned ignorance has indicated that he either was utterly incompetent - e.g., he knew nothing of Trum BFF Mike Flynn's ties to Russia and foreign paymasters - or was lying.  Given the Christofascist belief that lying is fine so long as it furthers the Christofascists' agenda, my money is on lying as opposed to incompetence and pretend ignorance.   This is in complete accord with my experience of over 20 years where no one lies more often or more deceitfully that the godly right wing Christians.  As Pence is lawyering up, Der Trumpenführer continues to run his big mouth and ignores the reality that he has created the majority of his own problems.  Here are excerpts from the Washington Post
A heightened sense of unease gripped the White House on Thursday, as President Trump lashed out at reports that he’s under scrutiny over whether he obstructed justice, aides repeatedly deflected questions about the probe and Vice President Pence acknowledged hiring a private lawyer to handle fallout from investigations into Russian election meddling.
Pence’s decision to hire Richard Cullen, a Richmond-based lawyer who previously served as a U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, came less than a month after Trump hired his own private lawyer.
The hiring of Cullen, whom an aide said Pence was paying for himself, was made public a day after The Washington Post reported that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is widening his investigation to examine whether the president attempted to obstruct justice.
A defiant Trump at multiple points Thursday expressed his frustration with reports about that development, tweeting that he is the subject of “the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history,” and one that he said is being led by “some very bad and conflicted people.”
Trump, who only a day earlier had called for a more civil tone in Washington after a shooting at a Republican congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Va., fired off several more tweets in the afternoon voicing disbelief that he was under scrutiny . . . .
Before the day ended, the White House was hit with the latest in a cascade of headlines relating to the Russian probe: a Post story reporting that Mueller is investigating the finances and business dealings of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-law and adviser.
“The legal jeopardy increases by the day,” said one informal Trump adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss conversations with White House aides more freely. “If you’re a White House staffer, you’re trying to do your best to keep your head low and do your job.”
At the White House on Thursday, aides sought to portray a sense of normalcy, staging an elaborate event to promote a Trump job-training initiative, while simultaneously going into lockdown mode regarding Mueller’s probe.
As Trump’s No. 2 and as head of the transition team, Pence has increasingly found himself drawn into the widening Russia investigation.
Pence — along with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Kushner, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and White House Counsel Donald McGahn — was one of the small group of senior advisers the president consulted as he mulled his decision to fire Comey, which is now a focus of Mueller’s investigation.
He also was entangled in the events leading up to the dismissal of Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, who originally [purportedly] misled Pence about his contact with Russian officials — incorrect claims that Pence himself then repeated publicly.
The vice president was [purportedly] kept in the dark for nearly two weeks about Flynn’s misstatements, before learning the truth in a Post report. Trump ultimately fired Flynn for misleading the vice president. 
There were also news reports that Flynn’s attorneys had alerted Trump’s transition team, which Pence led, that Flynn was under federal investigation for his secret ties to the Turkish government as a paid lobbyist — a claim the White House disputes. And aides to Pence, who was running the transition team, said the vice president was [supposedly] never informed of Flynn’s overseas work with Turkey, either.
In the meantime, the Republican National Committee appears to be girding for a fight.
“Talking points” sent Wednesday night to Trump allies provided a road map for trying to undercut the significance of the latest revelation related to possible obstruction of justice. . . . The RNC also encouraged Trump allies to decry the “inexcusable, outrageous and illegal” leaks on which it said the story was based and to argue that there is a double standard at work.
As noted before, Pence's claims of ignorance have about the same level of veracity as those of Sargent Schultz in the old TV show, "Hogan's Heroes"  No slight intended toward sex workers, but Trump, Pence and their sycophants make the tawdriest of whores look down right virtuous. And lest it be forgotten, 81% of evangelical Christians backed the Trump/Pence ticket. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Gun Violence: When Prayer Does Not Suffice

In the wake of the shooting in Alexandria, Virginia, yesterday that targeted Congressional Republicans, one once again saw the hypocrisy of politicians who have blocked any form of meaningful gun control - a hearing on lessening restrictions on gun silencers thankfully was postponed - bloviate about sending "thoughts and prayers" to the victims and their families.  Thoughts and prayers do nothing to address the root problem and why gun violence in America exceeds that of any other developed country in the world.  The real solution is strict gun control and a weapons surrender program as occurred in Australia in the mid-1990's after a horrific mass shooting. Decent people ought to view Republicans who have sold their souls and the lives of their constituents to the gun manufacturers with disgust and need to make their disgust loudly and frequently known, especially at the ballot box. Conservative columnist David Frum calls out these hypocrites of the right in a piece in The Atlantic.  Here are column highlights:
The attack on members of Congress at baseball practice in Alexandria this morning is, by one count, the 195th mass shooting of the year. Thankfully, this time it appears that nobody was killed. The same can’t be said, alas, for the gun battle in a Fresno home on June 6, or the workplace eruption in Orlando on June 5, or the shooting in St. Louis on June 2.
Mass-casualty gun violence, like all forms of violence, has declined from its terrible peaks of the early 1990s. Yet it remains prevalent in the United States on a scale that staggers the rest of the civilized world. Earlier this month, we grieved the terrible car and knife terrorist attack on London Bridge. In the United Kingdom, jihadis employ knives precisely because they cannot readily lay hands on guns. The consequence is that committed ideological murderers, operating in teams, inflict fewer fatalities on the rare occasions they strike than do American casual killers every few days.
In only one of all the completed and attempted Islamic terrorist atrocities in the U.K. since 9/11 did the killers even carry a single gun: a 90-year-old Dutch revolver so battered that they never tried to use it.
Yet despite the predictable recurrence of these crimes, Americans have developed a strong taboo against ever discussing or even thinking about them. When the killer strikes, it is “too soon.” The next day, it is “too late”; we have all moved onto the next topic. Then comes the next massacre, and it is “too soon” all over again.
Americans accept periodic plagues as a visitation from the gods, about which nothing can or should be done. The only permitted response is “thoughts and prayers”—certainly never rational action to reduce casualties in future. Even to open the discussion as to whether something might not be done violates the taboos of decency: How dare you politicize this completely unpredictable and uncontrollable event!
The fact that such things do not happen anywhere else with anything approaching the same frequency—that too is the work of some ineffable mystery. Who can say why such things happen so seldom in Canada and Australia and Britain and Germany and France, and so often in the United States? Who would be rude enough even to wonder?
About fires, apparently, it is permitted to use human reason. But not about firearms! Against the much greater toll from those, the only remedy—the only approved response—is to send “thoughts and prayers.”
[P]rayer alone does not lift from human beings the duty to do what they have the power to do. And that’s not my personal opinion. It’s also the opinion, emphatically declared, of the God to whom believers in the Bible address their prayers. In the stately words of the King James translation, Isaiah 1:15: And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.
In some ways, yesterday's attack was a case of Republicans reaping what they have sown.  Sadly, I doubt that it will be enough to end the party's self-prostitution to the gun manufacturers who are the true power behind the NRA.  The result will be more avoidable deaths. 

Special Counsel Investigating Trump for Obstruction of Justice

For those of us who are of a certain age, the unfolding of the Watergate scandal and Richard Nixon's ultimate decision to resign from the presidency rather than face impeachment remain clearly in our memory.  Now, with a new Washington Post story reporting that special prosecutor Robert Mueller has expanded to include whether or not Der Trumpenführer is guilty of obstruction of justice in connection with his efforts to quash the Russiagate investigation and the investigation of Michael Flynn., those memories are again springing back to mind.  Some continue to try to denigrate those who see stark parallels.  Needless to say, most of such naysayers have prostituted themselves to Trump and/or his base and, in my view, sold their souls for power or financial gain.   The sad truth is that if one looks at Trump's history of bullying and shady dealings with Russian oligarchs, Mafia figures, and others, it would be difficult to conclude that trump would not have tried to derail an investigation likely to expose unsavory and likely criminal activities of Trump and his companies and associates.  Here ar are excerpts from the Post piece:
The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said.
The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said.
Trump had received private assurances from then-FBI Director James B. Comey starting in January that he was not personally under investigation. Officials say that changed shortly after Comey’s firing.
Five people briefed on the requests, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said that Daniel Coats, the current director of national intelligence, Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, and Rogers’s recently departed deputy, Richard Ledgett, agreed to be interviewed by Mueller’s investigators as early as this week. The investigation has been cloaked in secrecy, and it is unclear how many others have been questioned by the FBI.
The officials said Coats, Rogers and Ledgett would appear voluntarily, though it remains unclear whether they will describe in full their conversations with Trump and other top officials or will be directed by the White House to invoke executive privilege. It is doubtful that the White House could ultimately use executive privilege to try to block them from speaking to Mueller’s investigators. Experts point out that the Supreme Court ruled during the Watergate scandal that officials cannot use privilege to withhold evidence in criminal prosecutions.
The obstruction-of-justice investigation of the president began days after Comey was fired on May 9, according to people familiar with the matter. Mueller’s office has taken up that work, and the preliminary interviews scheduled with intelligence officials indicate that his team is actively pursuing potential witnesses inside and outside the government.
The interviews suggest that Mueller sees the question of attempted obstruction of justice as more than just a “he said, he said” dispute between the president and the fired FBI director, an official said.
Officials said one of the exchanges of potential interest to Mueller took place on March 22, less than a week after Coats was confirmed by the Senate to serve as the nation’s top intelligence official.
Coats was attending a briefing at the White House with officials from several other government agencies. When the briefing ended, as The Washington Post previously reported, Trump asked everyone to leave the room except for Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
Coats told associates that Trump had asked him whether Coats could intervene with Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on former national security adviser Michael Flynn in its Russia probe, according to officials. 
As part of the probe, the special counsel has also gathered Comey’s written accounts of his conversations with Trump. The president has accused Comey of lying about those encounters.
Mueller is overseeing a host of investigations involving people who are or were in Trump’s orbit, people familiar with the probe said. The investigation is examining possible contacts with Russian operatives as well as any suspicious financial activity related to those individuals.
Investigators will also look for any statements the president may have made publicly and privately to people outside the government about his reasons for firing Comey and his concerns about the Russia probe and other related investigations, people familiar with the matter said.

Thoughts on the Shooting in Alexandria on Wednesday

Shooting victim Steve Scalise at a white supremacist gathering.
To avoid any misunderstanding, I am utterly opposed to the use of violence to solve political differences.  Thus, I abhor the shooting of Congressman Scalise this morning along with two members of the Capitol police and several Congressional staffers.   The gunman, whom authorities have identified him as James T. Hodgkinson, 66, from Belleville, Ill., a suburb of St. Louis, obviously should not have been allowed to possess an automatic rifle given his checkered history of violence, including misuse of firearms and violence against women.  Nonetheless, Hodgkinson reportedly had acquired and owned the weapons involved legally.   So who has championed unrestricted gun ownership?  Congressional Republicans, of course.  Today, they got a taste of the results of their self-prostitution to gun manufacturers.  Despite this Republican drive to abolish common sense gun control laws - a hearing had been set for today to loosen restrictions on buying gun silencers - many on the right are blaming the shooting on too much anger among Democrats and the media.  The hypocrisy is stunning for several reasons. First, Steve Scalise of all people has not standing to complain about fanning hatred.  As I reported more than two years ago, Scalise has an ugly history of supporting white supremacist groups.  And then there is the mushrooming of right wing hate that has been legitimized by Der Trumpenführer. For Republicans to whine about fanning hatred and gun violence is to ignore their role in fostering the atmosphere for violence and unlimited guns in the hands of those who should not have them.  A piece in Think Progress looks at the GOP hypocrisy.  Here are excerpts:
Republicans in Congress and the White House have been attacking the media all year, but one House member just tried to pin the blame for a mass shooting on the fourth estate.
Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI) told Fox News Wednesday afternoon that “the media is complicit” in acts of violence like the mass shooting targeting members of Congress “if they keep inciting, as opposed to informing.”
Fox News anchor Melissa Francis then played a clip from Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) who said some of his best friends are Democrats and that the House passes a lot of bipartisan legislation, “but it’s the major issues that lead to political discourse that has in my opinion, led to such an uptick in just hateful, hateful rhetoric of all sides, and I stand here today and say stop. We have to stop.”
Bergman was attempting to pin the blame for the shooting on the media without offering much proof. The media, as a group, has been abused and demonized by Bergman’s party.
Greg Gianforte, who will still join Bergman’s caucus despite the fact he pled guilty to physically assaulting a journalist the day before, is the latest and most direct example of politicians attacking the media for doing their jobs. 
Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) joked about shooting reporters at a gun range last month. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) traced the violence that happened on Wednesday in another Fox News interview to “political rhetorical terrorism.”
Before and after becoming president, Donald Trump has used rallies to deliver brutal attacks on the media. He has baselessly accused the media of purposely covering up extremism attacks it didn’t want people to know about. He’s attacked them as his “opposition party,” and at rallies, directed the overflowing rage of his supporters at the media pen, causing some journalists to get direct threats. Trump’s Twitter attacks targeting journalists like Megyn Kelly and Katie Tur resulted in death threats. He defended his then-campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, when he was arrested for simple battery of a Breitbart reporter. The NRA, of all groups, has recently mimicked Trump’s rhetoric, telling members its job is to give “the media the big fat black eye it so often richly deserves.”
It is most ironic that these remarks were made to Fox News, a purveyor of lies, alt-right misinformation and fake news.   As I said above, perhaps the Republican Party is reaping the fruits of what it has sown for many years now and since the beginning of the Trump campaign in particular.  My best wishes to the staffers and police who were injured.  Perhaps the staffers may want to reconsider who and what they are working for.