Saturday, October 07, 2017

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

The Flagrant Sexual Hypocrisy of Conservative Republican Males

I make a point in many of my posts of highlighting the hypocrisy of Republicans who find themselves embroiled in sex related scandals for several reasons.  First, to point out that with the exception of Anthony Weiner, the scandals almost always involve Republicans, not Democrats.  Second, to underscore the hypocrisy of both those caught in the scandals, but also of those who vote for them.  These voters feign piety yet display a level of hypocrisy that would make the biblical Pharisees blush (e.g., the highest. use of Internet porn is in the Bible Belt; evangelical Christians have the highest divorce rate, etc.).  In the wake of "family values", "pro-life" Republican Tim Murphy's decision to resign his seat in Congress after being caught in an abortion scandal, a column in the New York Times offers a welcomed compilation of a number of Republican hypocrites.  Here are excerpts:
The most recent culprit in the category of anti-abortion double-think is Tim Murphy, a Pennsylvania Republican who on Thursday announced he would resign from his House seat this month. Two days before, Mr. Murphy had voted for a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks on the medically dubious grounds that, at that age, a fetus can experience pain. 
Then The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published texts revealing that when Mr. Murphy’s mistress thought she was pregnant, he urged her to consider an abortion.
Sound familiar? Perhaps Mr. Murphy’s story calls to mind the Tennessee congressman Scott DesJarlais, who is similarly pro-life in the streets, pro-choice in the sheets.
In 2015, Mr. DesJarlais voted in favor of a 20-week ban, and boasted of a “100 percent pro-life voting record” while in Congress. Meanwhile, The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that he supported his ex-wife’s decision to have two abortions (no word on how far along she was) and encouraged a patient with whom he was having an affair to terminate her pregnancy as well. Like Mr. Murphy, he is a co-sponsor of the abortion bill that passed on Tuesday. It’s a child, not a choice, abortion opponents tell us. Unless the pregnancy is embarrassing and super-inconvenient and an impediment to your political future, in which case it’s merely a clump of cells.
 The double standards employed by some members of the “do as I say, not as I do” Christian right are nothing new.
Show me a senator who votes against gay marriage, and, at least in one infamous case, I’ll show you a guy who’s soliciting same-sex encounters in the airport men’s room. (Hello there, Larry Craig!)
Show me another Republican senator who made his name as a “pro-family advocate” and I’ll show you a guy whose phone number showed up in a Washington madam’s little black book. (Howdy, David Vitter!)
Show me the far-right speaker of the House, a man with perfect scores from the National Right to Life Committee and the Christian Coalition, and I’ll show you a guy who, as a high-school wrestling coach, set up a chair in front of the boys’ shower the better to ogle his protégés, and who was eventually jailed as a serial child molester. (Dennis Hastert, come on down!)
We’ve been down this road of duplicity before. The televangelist who prayed, alongside his wife, for the return of traditional morals, admitted to having sex with — and was accused of rape by — a 21-year-old church secretary, and found to have paid her $279,000. The congressman who voted for the Defense of Marriage Act was sexting with his underage male pages.
Scandals roll by so frequently that there is, by now, an expected script: the shocking revelation, the tearful confession, the up-from-the-ashes reinstatement plea or re-election campaign, garlanded with declarations of “God/my wife/Willie Robertson, star of ‘Duck Dynasty’ has forgiven me, why can’t you?” Perhaps the most shocking part of Mr. Murphy’s story is that he elected to quit, rather than scream “Fake news!” or sit back and wait for a new story to eclipse his hypocrisy, as Mr. DesJarlais did.
But what Mr. Murphy’s moral flexibility ultimately reveals is that, for these particular hard-line anti-abortion politicians, it’s not about fetal pain or the sanctity of life. It’s all about control — whether you’re telling a woman she can’t have an abortion, or forcing a woman to get one.
To this list we need to add former Virginia 2nd District Congressman Ed Schrock who voted anti-gay in Congress and meanwhile was seeking gay sex trysts.    Of course, there are even more than could be added to the list besides Schrock.

Trump Injects Lies and Sleaze into Virginia Governor's Race

Sadly, it seems that if Der Trumpenführer's lips are moving (or if he is tweeting), there is an extremely high probability that he is lying.   This certainly holds true with his effort to slander Virginia Democrat gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam who Trump and a seemingly desperate GOP candidate Ed Gillespie are falsely claiming voted to protect violent gangs.  The effort seems aimed at (i) firing up the racist GOP base, and (ii) confusing undecided independent voters.  When your policies are rightly viewed as toxic and you are losing in the polls, this has become the new standard practice of today's despicable Republican Party.  Stated another way, when all else fails, lie about your opponent - and this from the party that claims to support "Christian values."  LGBT and minority voters (as well as younger voters) need to turn out on election day and send Gillespie down to defeat.  If these voting blocks fail to do this, they will have no one to blame but themselves as they see themselves disenfranchised by GOP efforts and/or subjected to license to discriminate laws.  This election is just as important as last year's presidential election. The Washington Post looks at this shameless lying campaign on the part of Gillespie and Trump.  Here are highlights:
The Virginia gubernatorial race is shaping up as an early test of two pressing political questions: Will Trump’s unique awfulness energize Democrats enough to break their midterm voter dropoff curse? And what sort of continuing political effect or potency will “Trumpism” have, now that Donald Trump is actually in the White House?
Virginia is a particularly intriguing staging ground for this test. That’s because the state’s demographic evolution — it is becoming more diverse, educated and suburban — is both pushing it slowly into the Democratic column and (you’d think) rendering it less and less fertile soil for Trumpist arguments.
Trump himself has now pumped a gusher of Trumpist sleaze into the Virginia contest.  This attack is absurd. Ed Gillespie, the GOP candidate, has been running ads that make the similar claim that Ralph Northam, the Democratic candidate, “voted in favor of sanctuary cities that let dangerous illegal immigrants back on the street, increasing the threat of MS-13.” As lieutenant governor, Northam did cast a tiebreaking vote against a bill that would have prevented any locality from restricting the “enforcement of federal immigration laws.” But as noted in debunking the attack, the vote was procedurally meaningless — the result of a tactical trick by Virginia Republicans that never would have had any impact other than creating fodder for an attack ad. Regardless, Virginia doesn’t have any sanctuary cities in this sense, a fact Gillespie himself has admitted. What’s more, this line questionably conflates undocumented immigrants with violent criminals, something that Trump himself underscored more emphatically by claiming that Northam is “fighting for the violent MS-13 killer gangs.” So Trump’s version is even sleazier and more dishonest than Gillespie’s rendition is. It appears that Gillespie probably wanted Trump to tweet this to juice up the GOP base. As James Hohmann explained in a good piece, Gillespie is increasingly leaning on culturally charged “Trumpist” issues, because he appears to have a “base problem.” Experts on Virginia politics have argued that all this is directed at the Trump wing of the GOP base in Virginia. 
But, by tweeting on the race, Trump also creates risks for Gillespie. Trump’s approval rating in Virginia among those likely to vote in November is at an abysmal 33-59, and 60 percent say their opinion of him has gotten more negative.
[S]ome Democrats are worried that Gillespie could pull off a surprise win, because Democratic voters are not motivated enough by the race (some have argued that Northam is to blame for this problem). If so, the moral might end up being that Trumpism continues to energize the GOP base bigly, yet Trump’s presidency is in and of itself not motivating Democratic voters enough to overcome their insufficient attention to state-level contests and their tendency to turn out at lower levels in off-year and midterm elections.

Get out and vote on November 7, 2017, and vote for Ralph Northam, Mark Herring and Justin Fairfax! 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Trump Justice Department Grants Christofascists License to Discriminate

Tony Perkins, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Victoria Cobb of The Family Foundation here in Virginia, and other leading hate merchants must be near orgasmic in the wake of Jeff Sessions' release of "guidance" regarding “Protections for Religious Liberty.”  The guidance will mean that far right Christians who cite alleged religious belief will be able to discriminate at will against others and that employers, including federal agencies must accommodate their bigotry.  While the LGBT community is not directly referenced, given the ongoing efforts of Christofascists to put themselves above non-discrimination laws and public accommodation laws, we will certainly be impacted.  But the scope of this license to discriminate is so broad that many others will be impacted as well: unmarried cohabitating couples, those using contraception, non-Christians, the religiously unaffiliated - the list goes on and on and one has to wonder when the Bible will be cited to justify racial discrimination.  

What must be remembered is that Trump - and Mike Pence, a right wing Christian lunatic himself - made it clear that he would do the Christofascists' bidding, yet many who claim to be friends of LGBT individuals voted for Trump anyways.  I feel as if I am surrounded by enemies.  "Friends" have smiled at me only to stab me and my community in the back.  A piece at Think Progress looks at the horrors Trump/Pence/Sessions are ushering in.  Here are excerpts:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued extensive guidance Friday morning regarding “Protections for Religious Liberty” throughout the federal government. The document scrupulously avoids mentioning the LGBTQ community by name but it is undeniably the latest in a string of actions targeting LGBTQ rights.
Among the 20 “key principles” in Sessions’ memo are several assurances that the government will not penalize religious organizations for their religious beliefs, including their hiring practices or other aspects of their religious practice. Principle 2 states, “The free exercise of religion includes the right to act or not to act in accordance with one’s religious beliefs,” and that reference to not acting is the exact argument that has been used in countless cases where businesses and organizations have refused to serve LGBTQ people because of their religious beliefs.
Other points reinforce this. For example, Principle 6 states, “Government may not exclude religious individuals or entities based on their religion,” and Principle 20 states, “Generally, the federal government may not condition federal grants or contracts on the religious organization altering its religious character, beliefs, or activities.” The language in these principles strongly resembles language used to protect child-care and adoption agencies from losing governmental grants if they refuse to serve same-sex couples.
The guidance also protects businesses that would discriminate against same-sex couples through its interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Principle 11 ensures that RFRA extends to businesses as well as individuals, consistent with the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling. Principles 13-15 then outline how RFRA could be used to justify discrimination:
  • 13. A governmental action substantially burdens an exercise of religion under RFRA if it bans an aspect of an adherent’s religious observance or practice, compels an act inconsistent with that observance or practice, or substantially pressures the adherent to modify such observance or practice.
  • 14. Under RFRA, any government action that would substantially burden religious freedom is held to an exceptionally demanding standard.
  • 15. RFRA applies even where a religious adherent seeks an exemption from a requirement to confer benefits on third parties.
Principle 15 is a direct reference to the controversy regarding the state-level RFRA that Indiana passedand then watered down after a massive backlash — in 2015. Previous RFRA laws referred only to protections citizens enjoy when the government was directly burdening their religious practice, but Indiana’s law [which Mike Pence signed into law surrounded by hate group leaders] was designed to offer “religious freedom” as a justification in cases between two citizens, thus protecting those who would discriminate because of their religious beliefs. Stipulating that RFRA applies to disputes related to conferring benefits to others is nothing short of the same license to discriminate from Indiana’s legislation.
The lengthy appendix of references reinforces this intention. In language borrowed almost directly from arguments the Department of Justice joined defending the bakery that refused to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple, Sessions explains, “A law that seeks to compel a private person’s speech or expression contrary to his or her religious beliefs implicates both the freedoms of speech and free exercise.”
In the context of the other principles in the document, this suggests there could be no repercussions, for example, for religiously affiliated universities that accept federal grants but refuse to accept LGBTQ students.
In addition to Session’s primary memo, he also sent a second memo outlining implementation of the first across the federal government. This means that all agencies will effectively have to run a “religious freedom” test on all of their actions, further cementing how it will negatively impact grants and litigation, among other things.
Sessions’ guidance is a follow-up to an executive order President Trump issued in May regarding “religious freedom.” That order, which was narrower than expected, focused on allowing religious organizations and leaders to engage in political speech without penalty and weakened the Obamacare contraception order. It also included, however, the vague instruction that, “In order to guide all agencies in complying with relevant Federal law, the Attorney General shall, as appropriate, issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in Federal law.” The DOJ’s new guidance is only the latest in a litany of actions the Trump administration — and particularly Sessions’ DOJ — has taken to undermine LGBTQ equality, including:
  • Reversing a policy recognizing that transgender people are protected from employment discrimination.
  • Arguing in court that a business refusing service to a same-sex couple was justified.
  • Working to roll back Obamacare’s rules protecting transgender people from discrimination in health care.
If "friends" who voted for Trump think this will not alter how I feel about them are delusional.  In future social events in our home, there will definitely be some who will no longer be welcome.  Likewise, I am not going to go to events hosted by those who voted for this ugliness.  As for the pleas of ignorance on the part of some that "they did not know," that will be no excuse for my rejection of them.  Their f*cking laziness  in not educating themselves on who/what they were voting for simply will not wash with me.  Yes, I am livid and I will not forgive and forget, especially if these individuals do not immediately contact their senators and members of Congress and demand that legislation be passed to reverse this hideous agenda.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Mueller's Team Met with Trump Russia Dossier Author

While the Senate Intelligence Committee would have the public believe that former MI-6 agent Christopher Steele, author of the sensational dossier on Donald Trump's Russian ties, has been uncooperative, special prosecutor Robert Mueller seems to have had no problem arranging a meeting with Steele in which I for one hope Steele spilled his guts and provided information that will lead to verification of the explosive allegations.  Der Trumpenführer, who knows whether the allegations are in fact true, cannot be happy and it's a good bet that he will unleash more batshitery as a means to distract the media (Trump must be secretly relishing the media's fixation on the Las Vegas tragedy which has lead to far less reporting on Puerto Rico and Russiagate).  Hopefully, CNN's reporting on the Mueller/Steele meeting will get the media back on the trail of possible Trump/Russia collusion.  Here are highlights from CNN:
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigators met this past summer with the former British spy whose dossier on alleged Russian efforts to aid the Trump campaign spawned months of investigations that have hobbled the Trump administration, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Information from Christopher Steele, a former MI-6 officer, could help investigators determine whether contacts between people associated with the Trump campaign and suspected Russian operatives broke any laws.
 CNN has learned that the FBI and the US intelligence community last year took the Steele dossier more seriously than the agencies have publicly acknowledged. James Clapper, then the director of national intelligence, said in a January 2017 statement that the intelligence community had "not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable." The intelligence agencies, particularly the CIA, and the FBI took Steele's research seriously enough that they kept it out of a publicly-released January report on Russian meddling in the election in order to not divulge which parts of the dossier they had corroborated and how.
This contrasts with attempts by President Donald Trump and some lawmakers to discredit Steele and the memos he produced. . . . In a series of tweets earlier this year, Trump said the memos were written by a "failed spy" who had relied on "totally made-up facts by sleazebag political operatives."
While the most salacious allegations in the dossier haven't been verified, its broad assertion that Russia waged a campaign to interfere in the election is now accepted as fact by the US intelligence community. CNN also reported earlier this year that US investigators have corroborated some aspects of the dossier, specifically that some of the communications among foreign nationals mentioned in the memos did actually take place. A representative for Steele did not respond to a request for comment. The special counsel's office declined to comment. But the intelligence community had bigger concerns, sources tell CNN. The classified version of the report would be disseminated beyond then-President Barack Obama and the President-elect to other officials including members of Congress. And if that report included the dossier allegations, the intelligence community would have to say which parts it had corroborated and how. That would compromise sources and methods, including information shared by foreign intelligence services, intelligence officials believed.
 In the end, the decision was made that the FBI and Comey personally would brief the incoming President on the allegations. That briefing occurred January 6 in a one-on-one conversation following a broader intelligence briefing on Russian meddling provided to then-President-elect Trump and his key staff. Trump later told The New York Times in July that he took Comey's briefing on the dossier to be an attempt to hold it as leverage over the new President.  "In my opinion, he shared it so that I would think he had it out there," Trump said.  Exactly what Comey feared had come to pass.

My personal thoughts?  I suspect the allegations in the dossier are true.  One need only look at the last 30 or more years of Trump's life to see that he has no qualms about dealing with the Russian mob and underworld figures to further his personal interests.  The man is amoral and his behavior toward women suggests, at least to me, that even the most salacious elements of the dossier could well be true. Trump is simply a foul and horrible person.  When it comes to Trump, believe the worst and you are probably right.   That Trump continues to be embraced by evangelical Christians tells the world all that it needs to know about these equally morally bankrupt individuals. 

How Racism Carried Trump to Victory

Trump supporters at Macomb Community College in Warren, Michigan
In some ways the ongoing Virginia 2017 statewide campaigns are a mirror of what happened in the 2016 presidential election with Republicans pandering to racists, religious extremists and aging, reactionary rural white populations, especially in Southwest Virginia and the southern tier of the state exclusive of the Hampton Roads region.  Meanwhile the Democrats are running inclusive forward looking campaigns.  Hopefully, Virginia's demographics will prevent GOP victories and hopefully Democrats will recognize the fact that ultimately the outcome of the 2016 presidential contest ultimately hinged on rural white racism and animosity toward non-whites.  It is far past time that the false meme that "economic uncertainty" is what flipped prior Obama voters to Trump in key states like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.  True, many in the mainstream media do not want to call these voters out for what they are: racist bigots who are outraged over their declining white privilege and by extension the fact that their backwardness is increasingly causing younger generations to migrate to liberal urban areas where employment opportunities exist and accepting communities abound.  But reluctance to speak the truth does not change the facts.  A column in the New York Times looks at the data that confirms racism and hatred towards immigrants were the key motivation for these Trump voters.  Here are excerpts:
What Democrats missed was the profound political impact recent immigration trends were having on the more rural parts of the once homogeneous Midwest — that the region had unexpectedly become a flash point in the nation’s partisan immigration wars.
In a Brookings essay published last month, John C. Austin, director of the Michigan Economic Center, a local think tank, writes that the region is experiencing a “steady stream of immigrants from Mexico, Central America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.”
As a result, Austin continues,
Immigration has become an unambiguous factor in this racially charged Midwestern landscape. While immigrant-rich states like Arizona, California, and Florida are often at the center of immigration policy discussions, the political debate about the role of immigrants burns hottest in the heartland.
Austin went on, in an email, to provide more detail about the power of immigration to move white voters into the Trump column:
The "rural” voters here are some farmers, but more likely, as in the hinterlands outside Flint, Monroe, Toledo, Erie, or Janesville, Wisconsin, they are mostly white, working class blue collar workers or retirees, many, sadly, who fled their small cities to escape blacks. They are anxious about the economic prospects for their future, their aging communities (the kids have fled), making folks mad. And now all these immigrants come and are changing the society!! Just as Macomb County, where working class white voters fled Detroit in advance of blacks, now sees nearby communities like Hamtramck becoming (in their view) a Bangladeshi bazaar — and they don’t like that. And they are easily fanned to blame those folks.
In February 2017, Stanley Greenberg, a Democratic pollster and strategist, conducted four postelection focus groups with white voters who had cast ballots for Trump in Macomb County, Michigan, an area he has been studying since 1985. The participants were not Republicans. They were whites without college degrees who identified themselves as independents, as Democratic-leaning independents, or as Democrats who voted for Obama in 2008, 2012 or both.
Three developments are taking place in the rust belt simultaneously.
First, as recently as 2000, many of the key Midwestern counties that moved from blue to red in 2016 had very few minority residents. Since then, their immigrant populations began to increase at a rapid rate well above the national average. Second, at the same time that immigrants are moving in, younger native-born residents are leaving in droves to seek employment elsewhere, while the remaining white population is aging and is often hostile to change. It is the perfect formula for cultural conflict, and Trump proved to be the perfect candidate to exploit it. Finally, these changes are taking place in a region that Austin points out is home to “15 of the nation’s 25 major metro areas with the sharpest black-white segregation,” making it even more unreceptive to nonwhites than other sections of the country.
Arrayed on a diversity index, Michigan with an index of 42, Wisconsin at 35, Ohio at 36, and Pennsylvania at 41, all rank in the bottom twenty — i.e., the least diverse — of the fifty states. The diversity index for the entire country is substantially higher at 63. Examples of states with very high diversity indexes include California at 79; Nevada at 73; Texas at 70; and New York at 70.
A rapid rate of growth in the percentage of immigrants in communities that have in the past experienced little diversity is particularly explosive.
In other words, communities that are close to 100 percent white will react intensely to a modest increase in foreign-born residents, while highly diverse communities will shrug it off.
Exit poll data from 2016 shows how critical opposition to immigration in the Midwest was to Trump’s victory.
In Michigan, for instance, exit poll data showed that those who believe immigrants to the United States “hurt the county” voted three to one for Trump. Those who said illegal immigrants should be deported voted for Trump by better than five to one. The same pattern can be seen in exit poll data from Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania, which, while not part of the Midwest geographically, resembles it politically.
At the same time, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and, to a lesser extent, Pennsylvania, have each experienced a net out-migration of native-born residents. The effect of this exodus is twofold.
First, the people leaving tend to be younger and more open-minded, willing to risk moving to a faster growing section of the country. Second, those left behind tend to be older, more closed-minded and more set in their ways.
William Frey, a demographer at Brookings, emailed me:
These “left-behind” populations tend to be older and more backward rather than future oriented — less likely to embrace the nation’s new diversity and the emerging global economy. This was surely the case among 2016 voters in rural parts of swing states that helped to elect Trump as president.
Further compounding the rightward movement of these white voters is their animosity to nonwhites. . . . The task for Democrats is how to come up with a non-xenophobic, non-racist answer to this problem.

Many of these Trump voters pack the pews of their churches every Sunday and regularly feign piety and give lip service to "family values."  But do not be fooled.  They are not nice or moral people and their most certainly do not follow the Gospel of Christ.   Structuring a means to reach out to foul and morally deficient voters will not be an easy task for the Democrats.  One obvious effort that is needed is to educate minority voters that they MUST turn out and vote every Election Day because those who hate them will be turning out.

P.S., yes, I may be biased since many of these same voters hold animus towards LGBT citizens. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Trump in Puerto Rico - The Race-Baiter As Kindly Monarch

It is no secret to regular readers that I view Donald Trump as an exceedingly foul human being.  Ultimately, he seemingly cares about no one other than himself.  But then, we were warned long ago that Trump is a malignant narcissist.  His supporters, who thankfully represent a minority in America, failed to heed this warning and/or were so swept up by his race-baiting that they simply did not care. Trump's visit to hurricane devastated Puerto Rico represented yet another display of Trump's self-centered world.  Rather than truly focus on American citizens in dire need, the trip largely became yet another scene for Trump to laud himself and denigrate his detractors even when those detractors were 100% correct in their criticism.  Sadly, Trump is little better than a petulant monarch of old who expects no complaints from the rabble who in his mind should be happy for whatever scraps he might throw their way.  That evangelical Christians remain his most stalwart supporters speaks volumes about the foulness that has taken over a large segment of Christianity.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at the spectacle of Trump in Puerto Rico.  Here are excerpts:
The aftermath of Hurricane Maria has inspired President Trump to say a number of weird, creepy, and resentful things. In this way, of course, it is not a completely unique event. But the particular creepiness of Trump’s utterances has revealed something more profound about his worldview than previous events have managed to draw out of him.
Trump’s view of the role of government has always diverged from standard-issue Republican dogma. (This is one of the reasons he defeated the 17 standard-issue Republicans who opposed him in the primary.) That dogma was recently articulated by Wisconsin Republican senator Ron Johnson, who recently told an audience he does not see access to medical care, or any material human need, as a basic right. “I think it’s probably more of a privilege,” Johnson said. “Do you consider food a right? Do you consider clothing a right? Do you consider shelter a right? What we have as rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We have the right to freedom. Past that point, everything else is a limited resource that we have to use our opportunities given to us so that we can afford those things.” . . . . The role of the state is to provide open markets, and if you fail to earn enough for food, clothing, or a roof over your head, that is your own fault.
Puerto Rico’s disaster has made Trump think about the role of the state in furnishing basic survival goods. He quickly adopted positions far to the right of even the most hardened libertarian ideologue. Trump assailed “ingrates” who “want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.” How could people possibly take personal responsibility when they lack access to electricity, drinking water, and even their own money? He mused that Puerto Rico is “throwing our budget out of whack,” a strange complaint from a man who frequently calls for the “the biggest tax cut we’ve ever had.”
The Trump who complained about lazy Puerto Ricans who needed to pick themselves up by their bootstraps rather than drain the Treasury was the familiar race-baiter. But there was also another dynamic on display: Trump’s habit of personalizing every case to an almost pathological degree. What set off the president was less the formal position of Puerto Rican politicians and their constituents (that they needed help to recover from a natural catastrophe) than the fact that they complained about it.
Trump views his powers as president in near-absolute terms. “I will give you everything,” he promised during the campaign. “I will give you what you’ve been looking for for 50 years. I’m the only one.” In this sense, Trump occupies the opposite end of the ideological spectrum from the small-government conservatism of his party. He imagines himself as a monarch, dispensing favors to grateful subjects and punishing the ungrateful. He has promised to give the people “everything,” but if he sees them expecting to be given “everything,” he will rage at them.
When Puerto Rican officials grasped the dynamic, and dutifully praised their commander-in-chief for his attentive and not-at-all-incompetent handling of the disaster, it set the stage for Trump to flip from scornful race-baiting autarch to generous favor-dispensing autarch.
“I am your redeemer. It is by my hand you will rise from the ashes of this world!” is not something Trump would say — but only because the language is too elegant to have come out of his mouth. The sentiment is perfectly his own. The subject who gives Trump his gratitude will have everything. And the unappreciative one will have nothing.

Senate Intelligence Committee: Russia Did Interfere in 2016 Elections

Committee chairs Burr and Warner

Donald Trump continues to rant about "fake news" and to claim that the entire claim that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential elections is a "hoax."  Meanwhile, most of the fake news seems to have come from Trump himself, his rabid dog base, and/or Russian operatives masquerading as Americans.  As noted in an earlier post, Facebook ads by Russian operatives targeted swing states.  Meanwhile, as Salon reports, public confidence in the main stream news media is rising even as confidence in Trump is declining.    But most damning to Trump's lies and denials are the preliminary findings to date of the Senate Intelligence Committee released yesterday.  These findings flat out conform that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.  The only unanswered - or at least to date unrevealed - is whether Americans, particularly individuals from the Trump campaign colluded in the Russian effort.  Here are excerpts from the Washington Post on this issue:
The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday largely endorsed the findings of the intelligence community that Russia sought to sway the 2016 U.S. elections through a hacking and influence campaign, and they called for a “more aggressive, whole-of-government approach” to ensure future elections are not similarly compromised.
“There is consensus among members and staff that we trust the conclusions of the ICA,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the committee’s chairman, said at Wednesday news conference, referring to the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia was behind hackings of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign director John Podesta’s email account and had attempted to exploit public opinion by sowing false information, much of it through fake social media accounts.
Burr also said that “the issue of collusion is still open” and would not be resolved until the committee’s work was done. He said that a deadline for the committee was the looming start of the 2018 primary season.
“You can’t walk away from this and believe that Russia’s not currently active,” he added.
Burr and Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), the committee’s vice chairman, said the committee has interviewed more than 100 people and reviewed more than 100,000 documents, many of them from the intelligence community, President Trump’s inner circle and former members of the Obama administration. 
The committee has lately been focusing on the role social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter played in the dissemination of false or misleading ads and stories planted or otherwise backed by Russian operatives.
Warner said that the tech giants were beginning to take the issue of Russian meddling more seriously and that the committee was “seeing increasing levels of cooperation.”
The committee recently received over 3,000 advertisementsfrom Facebook detailing the content of ads Russia had purchased to appear on the platform during the election.
Burr added that the committee would not release the content of those ads, though he added that the committee would be “fine” with any of the social media companies choosing to release the content of documents and other information they had turned over to the committee themselves.
Expect Trump's rantings to increase as the evidence accumulates that Russia played a perhaps decisive vote in his election which has done immense harm to the nation both domestically and internationally. 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

The Republican Attack on Feeding the Hungry

If Republicans succeed in their effort to provide massive tax cuts to the very wealthy and huge corporations, not only will the federal deficit explode, but the GOP will push for severe cuts in social programs for the poor, spending on public education, infrastructure and a host of other programs  that benefit the majority of Americans.  One of the programs the Congressional Republicans salivate over cutting is the Food Stamp program which helps feed poor children and the impoverished elderly.  It goes without saying that the majority of Christofascists support such cuts - never mind the Gospel message of feeding the hungry - because in their minds those receiving aid from the program are "other" - non-whites, especially blacks, and others targeted for hatred by the "godly folks."    A piece in The Atlantic looks at this ugly agenda that needs to be blocked.  Here are article highlights:
The end of September marked the 40th anniversary of the Food Stamp Act, the program that institutionalized the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Its passage was a model of how to make constructive and important legislation, finding common ground by making tradeoffs across all the usual boundaries. In this case, the key players included George McGovern and Bob Dole, Tom Foley and Shirley Chisholm, among others. 
The McGovern-Dole alliance was a striking one. When I came to Washington in 1969-70, I witnessed the near-nuclear conflict between the two men. . . . . But the two men built a different relationship around the issue of food. McGovern cared deeply about hunger in America. Dole cared deeply about the plight of farmers, who were whipsawed by the commodity markets and prices that sank when there was too much surplus food. That was the basis for a partnership that turned into a legendary friendship spanning four decades, until McGovern’s death in 2012. They used the relationship, and their overlapping interests, to build the broad coalition for the Food Stamp Act, . . . SNAP has been an enormous success story, feeding hungry, poor people. Forget the outrageous anecdotes about food stamp recipients feasting on lobster; consider instead a story I wrote about when I last addressed this issue four years ago, from a column by Katy Waldman in Slate, based on a conversation she had with Debra, a single mother in Washington whose food stamp allotment had been cut from $203 a month to $130. This is what Debra said about getting by on $203 a month:
It’s me and my daughter at home. She’s 21. It was bad enough before the cuts. We were eating lunch meat all week, and we only had enough for a can of vegetables a day. Divide $203 by 30 days, and then by three meals, and then halve it for each person. It’s not a lot.
According to Feeding America, 42 million Americans suffer from what the experts call food insecurity—for many, it is simply hunger, period; for others, it is like Debra, rarely if ever getting a full and nutritious meal, often finding near the end of the month that there is nothing left to buy food until the next allotment of food stamps, and perhaps getting by with food banks. According to the Department of Agriculture, 80 percent of SNAP benefits are used within the first half of the month. The consequences of food insecurity are bad; trouble concentrating, more vulnerable to illness. Another longitudinal study found that poor children with access to SNAP benefits, years later had lower rates of heart disease and obesity, along with better high school performance, than kids who did not. Leaving people hungry hurts not just them, but the entire society, adding to health costs and reducing productivity. 81 percent of SNAP benefits go to those who are working or to those we do not expect to work—children, the elderly, the disabled. [Y]et again, Republicans, including the Trump administration, are going after SNAP with a meat ax. President Trump’s budget calls for a cut of more than 25 percent over five years, massively shifting the burden to states, cutting eligibility, and hammering the benefits now going to millions of children, elderly and the disabled. Even as they shift the burden to states that are not prepared to jack up their own budgets, the president and his budget crew want to allow the states to pare basic benefits way below a marginally healthy diet that will make Debra’s situation look great by comparison. For kids, we also have the school lunch program—from which Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue wants to remove the nutrition requirements for healthy food put in place at the urging of Michelle Obama. There is Meals on Wheels for seniors—and the Trump budget blows up community block grants that provide a sizable share of the funding for that program. So if Trump, his Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, and congressional Republicans get their way, the hungry will grow a lot more hungry and a lot less healthy. [T]his is a time for all of us to reflect on what kind of society we want to live in. Let’s keep in mind Hubert Humphrey’s eloquent appeal: The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.
Our government met that test 40 years ago. We are on the verge of failing it, miserably, now.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Russian-Linked Facebook Ads Targeted Michigan and Wisconsin

While Der Trumpenführer continues to lie and claim that the entire Russiagate investigation is "fake news" and a "hoax,"  more and more information is unfolding that increasingly suggests that Trump won on November 8, 2016, for one reason: Russian assistance in the form of targeted (and false) social media ads aimed at harming Hillary Clinton and pushing Trump over the finish line.  Indeed, CNN is reporting that these Russian sourced ads specifically targeted Michigan and Wisconsin which Trump won by very small margins and as a result, prevailed in the Electoral College despite his 3 million vote loss in the popular vote.  One ultimate irony is that many who see themselves as the "real Americans" and super patriots voted for Vladimir Putin's chosen candidate.  If Putin sought to destabilize America internally and to lessen its influence in the world, Putin has certainly gotten his wish over the last none months.  Here are highlights from the CNN report (note that even GOP nutcase John Cornyn states we are looking at "just the tip of the iceberg"):
A number of Russian-linked Facebook ads specifically targeted Michigan and Wisconsin, two states crucial to Donald Trump's victory last November, according to four sources with direct knowledge of the situation.
Some of the Russian ads appeared highly sophisticated in their targeting of key demographic groups in areas of the states that turned out to be pivotal, two of the sources said. The ads employed a series of divisive messages aimed at breaking through the clutter of campaign ads online, including promoting anti-Muslim messages, sources said. It has been unclear until now exactly which regions of the country were targeted by the ads. And while one source said that a large number of ads appeared in areas of the country that were not heavily contested in the elections, some clearly were geared at swaying public opinion in the most heavily contested battlegrounds. Michigan saw the closest presidential contest in the country -- Trump beat Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by about 10,700 votes out of nearly 4.8 million ballots cast. Wisconsin was also one of the tightest states, and Trump won there by only about 22,700 votes. Both states, which Trump carried by less than 1%, were key to his victory in the Electoral College. As part of their investigations, both special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional committees are seeking to determine whether the Russians received any help from Trump associates in where to target the ads. White House officials could not be reached for comment on this story. The President and senior White House officials have long insisted there was never any collusion with Russia, with Trump contending the matter is a "hoax." The focus on Michigan and Wisconsin also adds more evidence that the Russian group tied to the effort was employing a wide range of tactics potentially aimed at interfering in the election. In all, Facebook estimates the entire Russian effort was seen by 10 million people.  Facebook could still be weaponized again for the 2018 midterms Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN the panel was still assessing the full geographical breakdown of the Russian ads and whether there was any assistance from individuals associated with the Trump campaign. "Obviously, we're looking at any of the targeting of the ads, as well as any targeting of efforts to push out the fake or false news or negative accounts against Hillary Clinton, to see whether they demonstrate a sophistication that would be incompatible with not having access to data analytics from the campaign," Schiff said Tuesday evening. [S]ome of the ads were aimed at reaching voters who may be susceptible to anti-Muslim messages, even suggesting that Muslims were a threat to the American way of life. Such messaging could presumably appeal to voters attracted to Trump's hard-line stance against immigration and calls to ban Muslims from entering the United States. Lawmakers have only started to assess the scope of the data, and sources from both parties said the 3,000 ads touched on a range of polarizing topics, including the Second Amendment and civil rights issues. The ads were aimed at suppressing the votes and sowing discontent among the electorate, the sources said. Members from both parties said that there was a clear sophistication in the Russian ad campaign, and they said they were only just beginning to learn the full extent of the social media efforts. "It's consistent with everything else we've seen in terms of Russian active measures -- a combination of cyber, of propaganda and paid and social media," said Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican who sits on both the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary panels, both of which received the Facebook ads. "So, we're just looking at the tip of the iceberg."

I wonder how some of my "friends" who voted for Trump feel about having been played for fools by Vladimir Putin's operatives. 

Republicans Find Themselves Trapped by Their Own Flimflam

Yesterday I noted that both the Donald Trump "tax reform" plan and the tax cut proposals of GOP gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie are based on the long disproved GOP economics that tax cuts for the wealthy will somehow miraculously cause an expansion of economic activity and replace the revenues lost to massive tax cuts.  It did not happen under the Reagan tax reform and more recently it utterly failed in Kansas where extremist governor Sam Brownback and a GOP controlled legislature imposed a GOP dream approach to tax cuts on that state. the results were disastrous and eventually many Republicans joined with Democrats to raise taxes to avoid junk bond status for the state's borrowings and to fund needed services such as roads, public schools and higher education.  Thus the question becomes one of why does the GOP continue to cling to economic and tax policies that have been documented to never work in any way except to put money in the pockets of the super rich and large corporations?  A column in the New York Times gives and explanation.  Here are excerpts:
Last week the Trump administration and its congressional allies working on tax reform achieved something remarkable. They released a tax plan — or, actually, a vague sketch of a plan — that manages both to add trillions to the deficit and to raise taxes on a large fraction of the population. That takes talent.
But like the G.O.P.’s terrible, no good, very bad health plans, this tax debacle was years in the making. On taxes, as with health, leading Republicans have been lying for years. And now the fraud has caught up with the fraudsters.
The road to this tax-cut turkey began in 2010, when Paul Ryan — now speaker of the House — unveiled the first of a series of much-hyped budget plans, all purporting to offer a blueprint for eliminating the U.S. budget deficit.
In fact, they did no such thing. They proposed major tax cuts — primarily benefiting the rich, of course — then simply asserted that no revenue would be lost, because reduced tax rates would be offset by closing loopholes and eliminating deductions. Which loopholes and deductions? Ryan didn’t say.
[T]he Ryan plans also assumed drastic cuts in spending outside Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. What programs would be cut? The budget office again: “No proposals were specified that would generate that path.”
And what was the Ryan plan if you took out those mysterious revenue raisers and spending cuts? A plan to drastically cut taxes on the rich, savagely cut benefits for the poor and the middle class, and increase the overall deficit.
In other words, it was all a con. As I wrote in a 2010 column titled “The Flimflam Man,” “The Ryan plan is a fraud that makes no useful contribution to the debate over America’s fiscal future.” That judgment looks as valid now as it did then.
And the con went on for years. To this day one sometimes reads articles portraying Ryan as a serious policy wonk, despite abundant evidence of his unseriousness and real questions about his actual command of policy.
But then Republicans regained the White House, meaning that they had to come up with actual tax legislation. And this has put the con under terrible strain.
True, Republicans could just cut taxes on rich people — always their overriding priority — not worry about paying for it, and blow up the deficit. After all, their supposed concern about federal debt was always just a pose, applying only when a Democrat was president. But after all those years of pretending to be deficit hawks, they feel the need to be seen doing something to offset their high-income tax cuts, to close some loophole somewhere.
So they came up with what probably seemed like a clever idea: eliminate the deductibility of state and local taxes. Hey, that would mainly punish people in tax-and-spend blue states, right? Not their problem.
But this turns out to be a much bigger deal than they seemed to realize. (As with health care, they appear to have no idea what they’re doing.) . . . . But eliminating deductions would make many Americans, especially in the upper reaches of the middle class, directly worse off: Almost 60 percent of households between the 80th and 90th percentiles of the income distribution would face tax increases.
And this would happen even though the plan would add several trillion dollars to the deficit. Did I mention that many of those facing tax hikes vote Republican?
In broad outlines, the tax story is a lot like health care. In both cases, Republicans have spent years getting away with big promises backed by lies. Now, with real policy to be made, the lies won’t work anymore. And they can’t handle the truth.