Friday, August 11, 2017

London 2017 - Day 4

The husband at the Tower of London
After the utterly horrid rainy weather on Wednesday, yesterday was warmer and mostly sunny.  As a result, the husband and I were up and out the door early  to see sights that we had put off due to the rain.  We started the day by visiting the Tower of London,. with a highlight being the Crown Jewels exhibit which has totally been redone and greatly expanded from what it was 35 years ago, the last time I had seen it.  We then proceeded to the Churchill War Rooms back at Whitehall from which Churchill and his war cabinet directed the war effort from underground offices, sleeping accommodations - the works.  The site also has an amazing museum on Churchill himself.  We had lunch at the nearby Westminster Arms Pub situated in a 1913 vintage building.  The food was good and the waitstaff very cute. 

The highlight of the day came when we toured the state rooms at Buckingham Palace.   Highclere Castle was very nice (I'd live there in a heartbeat), but Buckingham Palace is in a league of its own.  Like the Palace of Versailles in France, Buckingham Palace underscores that Britain was once the world's dominant superpower with all the wealth that entailed.  The Palace's "gardens" that one never sees in photos are likewise gorgeous.  What was striking was how many public functions are held at the Palace and the number of non-tourists visit it each year.

We then rushed back to the hotel and headed to the home of one of the husband's friends and sometimes client who is originally from Newport News, Virginia.  After cocktails we dined at Bradley's and had an amazing meal.  On the way back to the hotel we stopped at Compton's of Soho for a drink and then another one at the Admiral Duncan where we met a very nice young man with whom we had a great conversation.  As always., the issue of Donald Trump came up and the man is universally hated (one shop we walked past was selling tee shirts with Trump as Hitler on the front side).
The husband walking up to our friend's home

Based on our busy day, no posts were published yesterday! 

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

London 2017 - Day 3

Big Ben in the distance at center

It would be hard to describe the weather as anything other than wretched with heavy rain all day. Thankfully, tomorrow is supposed to clear and be mostly sunny.  As for today, only indoor activities were in order and when traversing the city, maximum use of the Underground was a must (we purchased 6 day unlimited passes).  Despite the rain, we did some shopping and I found two spot coats for work that had sleeves that were the correct length "off the rack" - something that never happens in American stores. 

The other main attractions visited were Westminster Abbey and the National Portrait Gallery - where the photo above was taken from the cafe.  We had hoped to see the Churchill War Offices, but the prospect of standing in line in the blowing rain ended that effort.

Several things I have noticed about London: no litter, few overweight people other than tourists, and many, many handsome men.  All contrasts from Hampton Roads, Virginia.

The FBI Raids Paul Manafort's Home in a Search for Documents

Things are already disturbing enough with the situation with North Korea, yet there is a further worry:  what will Der Trumpenführer do to change the media narrative away from the seemingly intensifying Russiagate investigation  as exemplified by the FBI raiding Trump sycophant Paul Manafort's home in a search for documents, including documents relating to Manafort's meeting with Kremlin connected Russian attorney along with Donald Trump, Jr., and Jared Kushner.   One can well imagine the ranting that must have emanated from Trump's lips as the supposedly fabricated - at least in Trump's alternate universe world - took a new concrete turn.  The New York Times looks at this new development.  Here are excerpts:
Investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, recently searched the Northern Virginia home of President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, for tax documents and foreign banking records, a sign that the inquiry into Mr. Manafort has broadened, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The search was carried out at Mr. Manafort’s Alexandria, Va., home shortly after Mr. Manafort met with investigators for the Senate Intelligence Committee on July 25. In that meeting, Mr. Manafort answered questions and provided investigators with notes from a 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials and Russians claiming to have damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
Mr. Manafort’s spokesman confirmed that an F.B.I. raid had been carried out.
Until now, it was only known that Mr. Manafort was under investigation for his business dealings with his son-in-law, his role in the 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials and the Russians and whether his work for the Ukranian government violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
[T]he search warrant for the tax and foreign banking records suggests that investigators are looking at criminal charges related to the federal Bank Secrecy Act, which requires Americans to report their foreign banking accounts.

Politico has more coverage on the fact that this raid should be considered a big deal and could spell trouble for Manafort, and perhaps others:
“It is a big deal,” former Justice Department prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg said. “Prosecutors do not take aggressive steps like this with subjects who the government feels are being open and cooperative. And they also do not do this to ‘send a message.’ They do it because they think there is evidence to be found and that if they do not act aggressively, it could be destroyed.”
Duke Law School professor Samuel Buell, a former federal prosecutor, said a search warrant would be needed only if Mueller doubted Manafort would comply with document requests or a subpoena.
"Of course it confirms, beyond doubt, serious, criminal investigative focus on Manafort," Buell said.
A Washington-based defense lawyer with a client caught in the Russia probe said Mueller may also want to turn Manafort into a cooperative witness, something the former campaign manager's representatives had previously said wasn't happening.
“Manafort is on many levels a key subject of the investigation and someone who might be leveraged to share information about others,” the white-collar attorney said.
Manafort is only one prong of a Mueller probe that is examining a wide range of issues related to the 2016 election, including the use of Kremlin-linked social media bots to influence American voters on Trump’s behalf; the hacks into email accounts of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta; and Trump’s decision in May to fire FBI Director James Comey.
Mueller has a team of 16 attorneys working on the investigation, and he’s also using a grand jury in Washington to present evidence, question witnesses and issue subpoenas for business and financial records.

Wednesday Male Beauty

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Will Trump Push North Korea to War?

Personally, I view the leadership of North Korea to be basically insane and frighteningly inclined to provoke a war.  Sadly, my view of the current regime in the White House falls pretty much into the same category as that in North Korea.  Watching the British news coverage, my assessment would seem to coincide with that of the man/women on the street in London.  North Korean leader Kim Jong Un belongs in a mental war.  So does Der Trumpenführer.  And, I hate to say it, but after the debacle over the false claims of the U.S. military over WMD's in Iraq before George W. Bush launched an unnecessary war, I cannot feel all that comfortable with the new claims that North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles.  The Washington Post looks at these troubling claims:
North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles, crossing a key threshold on the path to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power, U.S. intelligence officials have concluded in a confidential assessment.
The analysis, completed last month by the Defense Intelligence Agency, comes on the heels of another intelligence assessment that sharply raises the official estimate for the total number of bombs in the communist country’s atomic arsenal. The United States calculated last month that up to 60 nuclear weapons are now controlled by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Some independent experts think the number of bombs is much smaller.
The findings are likely to deepen concerns about an evolving North Korean military threat that appears to be advancing far more rapidly than many experts had predicted. U.S. officials concluded last month that Pyongyang is also outpacing expectations in its effort to build an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the American mainland.
President Trump, speaking Tuesday at an event at his golf course in Bedminster, N.J., said North Korea will face a devastating response if its threats continue.
“They will be met with the fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before,” he said.
The DIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment.
An assessment this week by the Japanese Ministry of Defense also concludes that there is evidence to suggest that North Korea has achieved miniaturization.
Kim is becoming increasingly confident in the reliability of his nuclear arsenal, analysts have concluded, explaining perhaps the dictator’s willingness to engage in defiant behavior, including missile tests that have drawn criticism even from North Korea’s closest ally, China. On Saturday, China and Russia joined other members of the U.N. Security Council in approving punishing new economic sanctions, including a ban on exports that supply up to a third of North Korea’s annual $3 billion in earnings. 
“What initially looked like a slow-motion Cuban missile crisis is now looking more like the Manhattan Project, just barreling along,” said Robert Litwak, a nonproliferation expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the author of “Preventing North Korea’s Nuclear Breakout,” published by the center this year. “There’s a sense of urgency behind the program that is new to the Kim Jong Un era.”
Although few discount North Korea’s progress, some prominent U.S. experts warned against the danger of overestimating the threat.
“Overselling is particularly dangerous,” said Hecker, who visited North Korea seven times between 2004 and 2010, and met with key leaders of the country’s weapons programs. “Some like to depict Kim as being crazy — a madman — and that makes the public believe that the guy is undeterrable. He’s not crazy and he’s not suicidal. And he’s not even unpredictable.” “The real threat,” Hecker said, “is we’re going to stumble into a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula.”

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, America had a sane occupant in the White House.  That is not true today.  Be very afraid. 

London 2017 - Day 2

Yours truly

Today was a wonderful but long and busy day.  The highlight was our visit to Highclere Castle located about an hour and a half west southwest of London (even though the show, Downton Abbey place the estate in Yorkshire to the north of London).  The estate is spectacular and the grounds are amazing.  Due to the early hour involved in heading to the estate, not posts were feasible after I had dealt with my usual office emails and preparing a few document.  Once we got off the tour coach, we visited Harrod's - which is amazingly opulent, albeit very expensive. 

We then took the underground back to the Soho area.  After a visit to Compton's of Soho for a cocktail, we ended up at a wonderful restaurant called The Ivy of Soho.

One thing that has been noticeable is the extreme dislike of Donald Trump literally everywhere we go.  We constantly have to stress to Brits as well as other Europeans we have met that we did NOT vote for him and that we find the man to be just as foul as they view him.  Indeed, perhaps even more negatively than the non-Americans do. Polls have shown that the good opinion of the United States has plummeted since November 8, 2016, and the drive factor is Donald Trump.   Believe me, the polls are 100% accurate.  Those planning to travel abroad had best get ready for statements that "you people elected him"

The husband

Tuesday Male Beauty

Monday, August 07, 2017

Is Trump Preparing His Base for the Worse or Insurrection?

Today, Donald Trump yet again attacked the news media and ranted to his Kool-Aid drinking supporters that the entire Russiagate investigation was based on fabrications an suggested that it may have as its goal to steal the rightful election from him - and, of course, them.  This is taking Trump's demagoguery to new levels and suggests he may seek to cause a severe upheaval if Robert Mueller's investigation produces damaging information on Trump, his family members, or campaign.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at this growing prospect.  Here are highlights:
President Trump is again attacking the media this morning, and his broadsides carry a newly ominous edge: He is both faulting the media for allegedly downplaying the size and intensity of support from his base and accusing them of trying to deliberately weaken that support for him. This comes some 24 hours after deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein told “Fox News Sunday” that if the special counsel finds evidence of crimes in the course of his probe into Russian sabotage of our election, it may be within the scope of his investigation to pursue them. In these seemingly disparate developments, it is hard not to discern the potential for a volatile, combustible combination.
Because Trump is undermining our democratic norms and processes in so many ways, it is often easy to focus on each of them in isolation, rather than as part of the same larger story. But, taken together, they point to a possible climax in which Trump, cornered by revelations unearthed by Robert Mueller III’s probe and by ongoing media scrutiny, seeks to rally his supporters behind the idea that this outcome represents not the imposition of accountability by functioning civic institutions, but rather an effort to steal the election from him — and from them.
It bears repeating that Mueller’s investigation is looking at how a hostile foreign power may have sabotaged our democracy, and at whether the Trump campaign colluded with it, and at conduct by Trump himself that came after the election: Whether the firing of former FBI director James B. Comey after a demand for his loyalty was part of a pattern of obstruction of justice. The first of these has been attested to by our intelligence services, and evidence of the second (at least in the form of a willingness to collude) and the third of these has been unearthed by dogged scrutiny by the news media. It is hardly an accident that Trump continues to cast doubt on the credibility of both those institutions, even as he and his spokespeople continue to cast the entire affair as an effort to reverse the election by illegitimate means.
This threatens damage on multiple levels. By casting the entire Russia story as fiction, Trump seeks to undermine the credibility of efforts to determine how our electoral system might be vulnerable to further attacks, separate and irrespective of what is learned about the Trump campaign’s conduct, possibly making it less likely that we secure our system against any such future sabotage.
 [I]t’s also easy to envision the flip side: Trump demagoguing his supporters into a frenzy of rage, at rallies that are exactly like the ones we’ve seen in recent days, in the face of legitimate revelations.
[I]t’s likely that more future revelations about Trump’s unfitness for the presidency will further undercut his efforts to cast institutions holding him accountable as illegitimate. But Trump is already giving every indication that he will go all out in trying. And how much damage that will cause is anyone’s guess.

Be very, very afraid.

London 2017 - Day 1

Yesterday was exhausting with the drive to Washington Dulles airport taking over 5 hours due the growing gridlock on I-64 and I-95.  The trip was a reminder of why we rarely visit Washington, DC. Thankfully, our flight on Virgin Atlantic left on time- the service was very good - and we actually arrived early.  The downside of the early arrival was an even lengthier wait to get through passport control.  We took the Heathrow Express into Central London and then made our way to Soho and our hotel on Firth Street.  Our room wasn't ready so we got breakfast and walked a great deal, including going to Saville Row.  The clothing was gorgeous, but the prices were generally astronomical.  I would one pair of dress pants for 75% off and the husband and I both score with a sale on jeans.

The husband is taking an afternoon nap after little sleep on the flight - I will do the same shortly - then we''\ll shower, get dinner and then check out some of the plentiful gay clubs in the neighborhood.   More posting tomorrow morning.

Monday Male Beauty

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Sunday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Reduced Posting - London Bound

The husband and I are hitting the road to Washington Dulles shortly to catch our flight to London on Virgin Atlantic.  We booked this trip six moths ago and cannot wait to arrive.  I have not been to London since my in-house counsel days and it will be the husband's first trip to London.  We have our "London Passes," tickets to Buckingham Palace and on Wednesday will spend the day at Highclere Castle  - one of the husband's bucket list items.  As in the past, I will post as our schedule allows and post photos of our travel adventure.  Our Ralph Northam campaign staffer who is living with us through November will be house sitting and taking care of our dogs.  Since he's been with us for a month already, even our high maintenance, six pound Chihuahua, Sassy, has warmed up to him.  We are staying in the theater district and looking forward to all of the clubs and menswear shopping. :)

Dowd's Delicious Take Down of Trump vs. Mueller

Maureen Dowd has a wonderful way with words and one should never want to be on the receiving end of her sharp, but very accurate tongue.  A case in point is her column that compares Der Trumpenführer, an amoral, narcissistic vulgarian, with special prosecutor Robert Mueller, a man who is the opposite of Trump in almost every way.  Trump voters would do well to read the column, but, of course, they will not.  Like the Christofascists who comprise so much f Trump's still loyal base, anything that challenges their simple minded beliefs must be ignored or derided as "fake news."  The only thing fake is their claims of intelligence and true adherence to the gospel message.  Here are highlights from Dowd's column:
As we contemplate crime and punishment in the Trump circle, it should be noted that our Russia-besotted president does share some traits with Dostoyevsky’s spiraling protagonist, Rodion Raskolnikov.
Both men are naifs who arrive and think they have the right to transgress. Both are endlessly fascinating psychological studies: self-regarding, with Napoleon-style grandiosity, and self-incriminating. Both are consumed with chaotic, feverish thoughts as they are pursued by a relentless, suspicious lawman.
But it is highly doubtful that Melania will persuade Donald to confess all to special counsel Robert Mueller III and slink off to Siberia.
We are in for an epic clash between two septuagenarians who both came from wealthy New York families and attended Ivy League schools but couldn’t be more different — the flamboyant flimflam man and the buttoned-down, buttoned-up boy scout. (And we know the president has no idea how to talk to scouts appropriately.)
One has been called America’s straightest arrow. One disdains self-promotion and avoids the press. One married his sweetheart from school days. One was a decorated Marine in Vietnam. One counts patience, humility and honesty as the virtues he lives by and likes to say “You’re only as good as your word.”
And one’s president.
Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio says the president has been lying reflexively since he was a kid bragging about home runs he didn’t hit. He gets warped satisfaction from making up stuff, like those calls from the head of the Boy Scouts and the president of Mexico that the White House just admitted never happened.
He is never deterred by the fact that he can be easily caught. But considering he survived the “Access Hollywood” video, it’s no wonder he has a distorted sense of what is an existential threat.
Going hammer and tong after hammer and sickle, Mueller has crossed Trump’s Red Line, using multiple grand juries and issuing subpoenas in a comprehensive inquiry covering not only possible campaign collusion but also business dealings by Trump and his associates with Russia. The Times reported Friday that Mueller’s investigators had asked the White House for documents related to Michael Flynn.
A White House adviser told me recently about how scary Mueller’s dream team is, and how Jared Kushner should be nervous. . . . . One lawyer helped destroy the New York City mafia; another helped bring down Nixon; another tackled Enron; others are experts on foreign bribery and witness-flipping.
 Mueller is taken seriously as Mr. Clean Marine, a Republican willing to stand on principle even against other Republicans, as when he and James Comey resisted W. on warrantless wiretapping. Mueller is seen as incorruptible, so his conclusions will most likely be seen as unimpeachable.
Trump does not yet seem to fathom that Mueller is empowered in a way no one else is to look at all sorts of things. This isn’t some tiff over a casino, where Trump can publicly berate opposing counsel and draw him into a public spat. Mueller won’t take the bait.
There may be no more bizarre, byzantine mystery in the history of American politics than Trump’s insistence on dancing with the red devil in the pale moonlight. Even for this most unlinear, illogical, uninformed president, it is flummoxing.
 [S]omething happened to give him a Blame America First attitude when it comes to the Russians. How transcendentally strange that the new president’s own party has to help the Democrats box him in both on sanctions against the Russians and on a measure preventing him from firing Mueller. On Thursday, the president pout-tweeted that it was Congress’s fault that “our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low.” So he was blaming lawmakers who punished Russia for a cyberattack on our election rather than blaming Russia for sticking a saber in the heart of our democracy.
Trump needs to go and I hope the ever falsely pious Mike Pence gets caught up in the web of Trump's lies, deceit and possible treason.  Both need to be out of office and preferably wearing bright orange jumpsuits. 

Sunday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1