Thoughts on Life, Love, Politics, Hypocrisy and Coming Out in Mid-Life
Saturday, January 06, 2018
Trump's Republican Sycophants on the Potomac
For years now I have argued that the only way to reform the Republican Party is through massive electoral defeats. Anyone talking about "reform from within" is clearly delusional. Now, with the Republican Party's "dear leader" in an apparent mental meltdown (based on his unhinged Twitter rants) over the rapidly selling book, "Fire & Fury," it is far past time to hold Republicans, especially those in Congress, accountable for their betrayal of the nation and their efforts to cover up for and normalize perhaps the most abhorrent individual to ever occupy the White House. Thankfully, November, 2018, may provide an opportunity to inflict such an accounting.
It is also important to be mindful that, while their behavior is disgusting - for some it is now approaching efforts to obstruct justice - what is just as vile is the motivation behind their efforts: to further enrich the 1% and large corporations at the expense of everyone else and perhaps the nation's democracy itself. Even former Trump critics like Lindsey Graham, a/k/a the Palmetto Queen, have sold out the country (in Graham's case, more and more suspect he is being blackmailed either by Trump or the Russians who may have gleaned damaging information from his hacked emails). A column in the New York Times takes these individuals and the GOP as a whole to task for the betrayal of the country and one might argue, morality and decency. Here are highlights:
I haven’t yet read Wolff’s book – do I really have to? — but the basic outlines of his story have long been familiar and uncontroversial to anyone with open eyes. Trump is morally and intellectually incapable of being president. He has also exploited his office for personal gain, obstructed justice, and colluded with a hostile foreign power. Everyone who doesn’t get their news from Fox has basically known this for a while, although Wolff helps focus our minds on the subject.It seems to me that that the real news now is the way Republicans in Congress are dealing with this national nightmare: rather than distancing themselves from Trump, they’re doubling down on their support and, in particular, on their efforts to cover for his defects and crimes. Remember when Paul Ryan was the "Serious, Honest Conservative?" . . . .Now he’s backing Devin Nunes in his efforts to help the Trump coverup.
As Brian Beutler says, Republicans have become the Grand Obstruction Party. Why?
The answer, I think, is that the cynical bargain that has been the basis of Republican strategy since Reagan has now turned into a moral trap. And as far as we can tell, no elected Republican – not one – has the strength of character to even attempt an escape.
The cynical bargain I’m talking about, of course, was the decision to exploit racism to advance a right-wing economic agenda. Talk about welfare queens driving Cadillacs, then slash income taxes. Do Willie Horton, then undermine antitrust. Tout your law and order credentials, then block health care.
For more than a generation, the Republican establishment was able to keep this bait-and-switch under control: racism was deployed to win elections, then was muted afterwards, partly to preserve plausible deniability, partly to focus on the real priority of enriching the one percent. But with Trump they lost control: the base wanted someone who was blatantly racist and wouldn’t pretend to be anything else. And that’s what they got, with corruption, incompetence, and treason on the side.
They knew what Trump was, but were willing to overlook it as long as they could push their usual agenda. . . . Trump didn’t even hesitate about abandoning all his campaign promises and going all in for cutting taxes on the rich while slashing benefits for the poor.
Early on, some speculated that this would be a temporary alliance – that establishment Republicans would use Trump to get what they wanted, then turn on him. But it’s now clear that won’t happen. Trump has exceeded everyone’s worst expectations, yet Republicans, far from cutting him loose, are tying themselves even more closely to his fate. Why?
The answer, I’d argue, is that they’re stuck. They knowingly made a deal with the devil, and can’t back out.
More specifically, Trump’s very awfulness means that if he falls, the whole party will fall with him. . . . when the corruption is big time, and it’s combined with obstruction of justice and collaboration with Putin, nobody will notice which Republicans were a bit less involved, a bit less obsequious, than others. If Trump sinks, he’ll create a vortex that sucks down everyone involved.
What this means, among other things, is that expecting the GOP to exercise any oversight or constrain Trump in any way is just foolish at this point. Massive electoral defeat – massive enough to overwhelm gerrymandering and other structural advantages of the right – is the only way out.
Every American who cares about this nation and its future needs to begin working - and do so daily - to make sure that the 2018 midterms are a historic bloodbath for the Republican Party. Volunteer to help build a massive grassroots effort to get every voter possible to the polls to make sure the GOP loses control of the House, Senate and as many state houses and state legislatures as possible. Virginia and the Alabama special election have shown that this is possible.
Posted by Michael-in-Norfolk at Saturday, January 06, 2018 No comments:
Labels: 2018 midterm elections, Donald Trump, GOP moral bankruptcy, Michael Wolff, Republican Party, treason, Trump unfit for office, Trump: mentally ill, White House
An Out of Touch Criticism of "Call Me By Your Name"
It seems that increasingly many younger gays are utterly oblivious to the reality that many of us older gays grew up in. They seem oblivious to the reality that for many of us up until 2003, even having a physical same sex relationship put one at risk of a felony conviction. They also appear oblivious to how much religion has lost its grip over the lives of Millennials compared to those of my generation growing up. In a recent post, I praised the movie "Call Me By Your Name." Indeed, Gay Star News, a British LGBT outlet, rated the film as the top LGBT film of 2017. Similarly, every gay man of my age that has seen the movie has loved it. Yet in a commentary in The Advocate, the case is made by a young writer who from what I can discern is considerably younger than my youngest child, argues that this exceptional movie isn't a "gay movie" since the main characters do not display a "gay identity." Here's a sampling of what in my opinion is utter bullshit from someone who is clueless of what life was like for so many of us:
The film is typical of our fetish for straight-acting romance, here presenting a sort of country house fairy tale in which the two leads just happen to be men. It is a summer-affair flick, but with two cocks instead of one. . . . . in its high-class, pastoral isolation, Call Me by Your Name depicts an enchanted utopia where the social realities of gayness cannot intrude.
For gayness itself — gayness as a way of feeling, a way of engaging the world, an identity, a community threatened by disease and violence — has been carefully pushed into the closet. . . . . It is reckless to praise this move as a progressive step toward a post-gay cinema, a stance that toes the line of homophobia. Are AIDS and bullying and fem affect mere distractions from some imagined purity of straightened-out desire? These so-called distractions are simply too gay. They uncomfortably remind us that we are more than our “sexual orientation” alone; we are a community, a subjectivity, a culture, an identity.
A cosmopolitan, intellectual milieu fills the sun-bathed, Fascist-era villa of Call Me by Your Name as bits of Greco-Roman art, German literature, and Italian cooking decorate the frame — but the queens are for sure locked in the closet.
The attitude of this piece may ring true with young, often self-absorbed young gays who never experienced what those of us in older generations lived through - and which many closeted gays in red states continue to live through. Go to any gay hookup app and you will find large numbers of still closeted gays married to women who still cannot accept a gay identity as a result of religious brainwashing, fear of job loss, or a financially ruinous divorce from the opposite sex spouse they deal with. And this true in 2018, so imagine the realty for so many thirty-five (35) years ago when the movie's story is set.
As the name of this blog underscores, I did not "come out" until mid-life (in fact, I was 49) and even then it took a considerable period of time to achieve a "gay identity." Like so many of my current circle of gay friends, I married (some friends married more than one woman), had children and only after years of denial faced the reality of our sexual orientation. For many of us, the story line in the movie is what we felt but never acted upon. I hope that Call Me By Your Name will secure a wide heterosexual audience and that just perhaps, it will help to further open minds and hearts.
Meanwhile, those, like the youthful author enjoy the benefits others achieved for them (and from my experience based on my local community often do little to support the larger LGBT community) while lacking any perspective on what times were like thirty five years ago or what will be viable outside of theaters in major urban centers in blue states. It is noteworthy that many of the comments on The Advocate article take the author to task as I do.
I would urge every LGBT individual to encourage their straight friends to see the movie. It underscores how there is so much more to love than mere physical connection and it might give cause them to think about the harm that an anti-gay society needlessly does to so many.
How the Myth of American Exceptionalism Threatens Democracy
|A variant of the Star and Stripes used by a neo-Nazi party headquartered in Westland, Michigan, 13 August 2015.|
As a history major and one who has traveled overseas much more than many in Donald Trump's base of support, one of the things that I have always found maddening is the myth of American exceptionalism that has become an article of faith in America's civil religion, if you will. This myth entails the belief that America is different from any other country on earth, that it doesn't need to learn from the experience of others, and that problems and fates that have befallen other nations simply cannot happen here because this is America. Not only is the hubris of this myth - which sadly even those who should know better, like Barack Obama - off the charts, but this mindset ignores aspects of America's history which many would prefer to forget or pretend never happened. As a piece in Newsweek by a historian points out, there is nothing in America's history that proves it is immune to sliding into authoritarianism or even autocracy. And, if one knows history, examples abound where autocrats have maintained the trappings of a democracy - the Roman emperor Augustus created the template in 27 BC when he became the first Roman emperor yet kept the Senate and trappings of the Roman Republic - while democracy has died. With an occupant of the White House who views himself as an autocrat and a Congress controlled by Republicans only too happy to aid in the subversion of the United States Constitution, we have a great deal to fear. Here are article excerpts:
For too long, progressive intellectuals have mocked conservatives as “know-nothings” for their insistence that the U.S. is immune to history and can’t be compared to other countries because it is simply superior.
I suspect, however, that historians, even radical ones, suffer just as much from American exceptionalism.
Our version of this mindset is evoked by the title of Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel, It Can’t Happen Here. No military coups, no dictatorships, no violent revolutions, no breaks in the constitutional order—what do we really have to worry about?
The United States will persevere somehow, and if you need reassurance, recall Watergate’s bipartisan removal of a president via constitutional processes.
And then along came Trump.
It’s pretty obvious that the certainty “it could never happen here” was foolish in hindsight. More than just admitting error, we need to face up to what history tells us is possible. . . . . . There is no fundamental reason to insist the U.S. is immune from authoritarian government, whether outright fascism or a regime maintaining the technical forms of democracy (a legislature; formal elections; courts that issue sentences) while actively subverting democracy’s real content.
Turkey and much of central and eastern Europe, including Czechia, Hungary, and Poland, are trending towards authoritarian democracy, an oxymoron if there ever was one, and Putin’s Russia shows them how to do it.
We have to stop treating the deep anti-democratic currents in modern U.S. history as exceptions—mistakes that will never happen again. We should know better.
In the past century, there are any number of existing legislative and judicial precedents for large-scale repression and direct attacks on democratic rights, none formerly overturned by Supreme Court action or constitutional amendment.
The Espionage Act of 1918 criminalized peaceful dissent in wartime. Approximately two thousand people were jailed for speaking or writing against U.S. entry into World War One, often for long sentences.
World War II was worse. In February 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the Army to deport anyone it saw fit from the West Coast.
This order targeted Japanese immigrants (Issei) and native-born citizens of Japanese descent (Nisei), 120,000 of whom were deported to desert concentration camps for the rest of the war, unless released to do manual labor or serve in the armed forces. It was validated by the Supreme Court’s 1944 Korematsu decision, which has never been overturned.
Moving past 1945, the “McCarthyite” Red Scare is remembered, but in ways that soften its impact and mask the responsibility of liberals and the larger civil society. Large-scale purges of employment and blacklists began well before Senator Joseph McCarthy became a household figure in 1950 and lasted long after the Senate censured him in 1954.
In 1947, President Truman ordered a Loyalty Security Program to assess the political sympathies of federal employees. The criteria for “loyalty” were entirely ideological. Thousands of government workers were fired and many more quit, a process repeated in every state and by all employers with government contracts.
Constitutional protections of due process were abrogated; the FBI interviewed neighbors and associates and presented evidence in cameraas to what books people read or opinions they had voiced.It is naïve to think these precedents are not on the minds of
the President[Trump] and the people around him. Trump justified his attempted ban on Muslims entering the U.S. by evoking FDR’s executive order authorizing internment; he has pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who used his shield to cover explicitly racial violence against Mexicans and Mexican-Americans.
Most frightening, of course, is the presidential tolerance extended to neo-Nazi “alt-right” groups, equating them with civil rights protesters.
In sum, it has, repeatedly, happened here. And it may again, with lasting consequences.
Posted by Michael-in-Norfolk at Saturday, January 06, 2018 No comments:
Labels: attacks on democracy, authoritarianism, Donald Trump, FDR, GOP complicity in treason, lessons of history, loyalty oaths, myth of American exceptionalism
Friday, January 05, 2018
Wolff Did What Every Other Reporter Is Too Cowardly to Do
|Trump and Michael Wolff|
Having been around politics for decades and also been authoring a blog and columns for over a decade as well, one of the games that is played all too often by members of the media and reporters is that of scratching each others backs. From the politician's perspective, it helps keep coverage more favorable while for the reporter it keeps the doors and access open to the politicians they write about. In the process, coverage of the unvarnished truth often gets lost in the process as reporters put continued access above their duty to the public to expose corruption, incompetence, sexual misdeeds, etc., etc. In his new book, Fire & Fury, Michael Wolff threw this game of protecting future access out the window and laid bare what far to many reporters are afraid to do and in the process centered a spotlight on the foul cesspool that is the current occupant of the White House and his enablers and sycophants. A piece in GQ lays out this premise and explains what so many journalist who play the access game are acting as if someone pissed in their Cheerios and assailing Wolff. Here are excerpts:
All of Wolff’s excerpts from Fire & Fury . . . . . it confirms what we have all always known to be true: that the president severely lacks the cognitive ability to do this job, and that he [Trump] is surrounded at all times by a cadre of enablers, dunces, and outright thieves. As much as I wanna discredit Wolff, he got receipts and, more important, he used them. Wolff got it all. Wolff nailed them.And look how he did it. He did it by sleazily ingratiating himself with the White House, gaining access, hosting weird private dinners, and then taking full advantage of the administration's basic lack of knowledge about how reporting works. Some of the officials Wolff got on tape claim to be unaware that they were on the record. Wolff denies this, but he's very much up front in the book's intro about the fact that he was able to exploit the incredible "lack of experience" on display here. In other words, Wolff got his book by playing a bunch of naive dopes.
Thank God for that. Wolff has spent this week thoroughly exploiting Trump and his minions the same way they've exploited the cluelessness of others. And he pulled it off because, at long last, there was a reporter out there willing to toss decorum aside and burn bridges the same way Trump does.
Everyone around Donald Trump is too polite to Donald Trump. Democrats, foreign dignitaries, underlings… all of them. And the White House press is perhaps the worst offender. From the media pool playing along with Sarah Sanders during press conferences—conferences where Sanders openly lies and pisses on democracy—to access merchants like Maggie Haberman doling out Trump gossip like so many bread crumbs, too many reporters have been far too deferential to an administration that is brazenly racist, dysfunctional, and corrupt. And for what purpose? It’s clear to me that Haberman and the like aren’t saving up their chits for just the EXACT right time to bring this Administration down. No, the only end goal of their access is continued access, to preserve it indefinitely so that the copy spigot never gets shut off. They are abiding by traditional wink-wink understandings that have long existed between the government and the press covering it.
But Wolff didn’t do that. He did not engage in some endless bullshit access tango. No, Wolff actually USED his access, and extended zero courtesy to Trump on the process, and it’s going to pay off for him not just from a book sales standpoint, but from a real journalistic impact. I am utterly sick to death of hearing anonymous reports about people inside the White House “concerned” about the madman currently in charge of everything. These people don’t deserve the courtesy of discretion. They don’t deserve to dictate the terms of coverage to people. They deserve to be torched.
Fundamentalist "Christians" and Muslims: United in Anti-Gay Hatred
Pink News is reporting that the Islamic executioner responsible for having numerous men suspected of being gay thrown from rooftops of tall buildings has been captured by Iraqi security forces. These horrific murders were motivated by ISIS' selective reading of the Koran which is not consistent with Islam during its golden age. Back here in America, Right Wing Watch ("RWW") is reporting on the efforts of self-style fundamentalist Christian "leaders" to “re-horrify society about the sin of homosexuality." Like their Islamic extremists counterparts, this effort is based on a selective reading of the Bible which transforms the Bible into a message of hatred. Indeed, the only difference between the two groups is the degree of violence - at least so far - the "Christians" are willing to use against gay individuals. As is the norm with these "Christians" mentioned by RWW, neither Linda Harvey nor Peter LaBarbera - both of who I have had email debates with in the past - have any legitimate credentials to qualify them as experts on sexuality, mental health or medical issues. Both merely set up "ministries" that allow them to shrill for money while disseminating hatred. Here are highlights from the Pink News piece:
Security forces in Iraq have captured a ISIS executioner who was notorious for homophobic murders. Thousands of LGBT people have been displaced in Iraq and Syria, as the terrorist group known as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) continues to actively target and execute gay men. The terrorist group has taunted the West with a string of ‘death to gays’ execution videos, showing men accused of homosexuality being thrown off buildings and pelted with stones.
One of the ISIS executioners who most aggressively targeted gay people was captured this week. Abu Omer, a senior jihadi executioner known as ‘White Beard’, had ruled the city of Mosul with an iron fist until the city was retaken by security forces last year. . . . . according to The Times, he was arrested on January 1 after officials were tipped off about his hiding place in the city.
Among the vicious attacks: ISIL has tied nooses around these men’s necks and dragged them behind trucks, burned them alive, thrown them off buildings and stoned them to death.
The report states: “ISIL has unleashed a reign of terror against civilians and vulnerable minorities living in areas it has seized, including barbarous violence against LGBTQ people. “ISIL’s extreme ideology is interpreted by its followers to require the death penalty for those who engage in sexual relations outside of heterosexual marriage, including same-sex sexual relations.”
Turning to the Right Wing Watch article, note how these parasitic American Taliban members repeat the lie that gays are sexual predators (most are, in fact, heterosexual men):
On a recent episode of her “Mission America” radio show, Linda Harvey interviewed fellow anti-LGBTQ activist Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality about the importance of working to “re-horrify” society about the sin of homosexuality.The two lamented that homosexuality is now widely accepted in America, with Harvey voicing her alarm that it is even welcomed in public schools where “predators” are allowed to use LGBTQ clubs to target children for recruitment.
“So many of these groups are predators,” she said. “I believe that the homosexual clubs in schools are just red flags for predators. I think that they exist there as an audience to continue to fast track kids into the lifestyle, network with adults—I mean, who knows what goes on there.”
“How do we re-horrify people about the sin of homosexuality?” she wondered. “People are becoming so comfortable with this, even people on our side. We need to re-horrify them.”
From my past interactions with both Harvey and LaBarbera, in my opinion, they are mentally unbalanced and might benefit from a mental health intervention.
Posted by Michael-in-Norfolk at Friday, January 05, 2018 No comments:
Labels: anti-gay animus, Bible as justification for evil, fundamentalist Christians, Islamic Extremists, Koran as a message of hate, Linda Harvey, murder of gays, Peter LaBarbera, religion as a message of hate
Does Mueller Have Evidence to Confirm an Obstruction Charge Against Trump?
A new piece in the New York Times would seem to indicate that the noose is tightening around Donald Trump's neck in terms of being guilty of obstruction of justice as a result of his efforts to kill the FBI Russiagate investigation. The evidence appears to include James Comey's contemporaneous notes, hand written notes of White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, and evidence that Trump pressured his White Counsel to lobby Jeff Sessions - who himself had lied about his Russia contacts - not to recuse himself from the Russiagate investigation. This news combined with the revelations of Michael Wolff's new book makes one wonder how much longer Congressional Republicans keep their heads up their asses and refuse to act to protect the nation and remove Trump from office. Yes, I am fearful of what a Mike Pence presidency could mean - the man is a religious fanatic and a liar - but I suspect he would not trigger a nuclear war because of his obsession with his penis size and the need to satiate his narcissism. Here are article highlights (read the entire piece):
President Trump gave firm instructions in March to the White House’s top lawyer: stop the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, from recusing himself in the Justice Department’s investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s associates had helped a Russian campaign to disrupt the 2016 election. . . . . White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, carried out the president’s orders and lobbied Mr. Sessions to remain in charge of the inquiry, according to two people with knowledge of the episode.
Mr. McGahn was unsuccessful, and the president erupted in anger in front of numerous White House officials, saying he needed his attorney general to protect him. Mr. Trump said he had expected his top law enforcement official to safeguard him.
The lobbying of Mr. Sessions is one of several previously unreported episodes that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has learned about as he investigates whether Mr. Trump obstructed the F.B.I.’s Russia inquiry. Among the other episodes, Mr. Trump described the Russia investigation as “fabricated and politically motivated” in a letter that he intended to send to the F.B.I. director at the time, James B. Comey, but that White House aides stopped him from sending. Mr. Mueller has also substantiated claims that Mr. Comey made in a series of memos describing troubling interactions with the president before he was fired in May. The special counsel has received handwritten notes from Mr. Trump’s former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, showing that Mr. Trump talked to Mr. Priebus about how he had called Mr. Comey to urge him to say publicly that he was not under investigation. The president’s determination to fire Mr. Comey even led one White House lawyer to take the extraordinary step of misleading Mr. Trump about whether he had the authority to remove him.
The New York Times has also learned that four days before Mr. Comey was fired, one of Mr. Sessions’s aides asked a congressional staff member whether he had damaging information about Mr. Comey, part of an apparent effort to undermine the F.B.I. director. It was not clear whether Mr. Mueller’s investigators knew about this episode.
Mr. Mueller has also been examining a false statement that the president dictated on Air Force One in July in response to an article in The Times about a meeting that Trump campaign officials had with Russians in 2016. A new book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” by Michael Wolff, says that the president’s lawyers believed that the statement was “an explicit attempt to throw sand into the investigation’s gears,” and that it led one of Mr. Trump’s spokesmen to quit because he believed it was obstruction of justice. Regardless of whether Mr. Mueller believes there is enough evidence to make a case against the president, Mr. Trump’s belief that his attorney general should protect him provides an important window into how he governs. Presidents have had close relationships with their attorneys general, but Mr. Trump’s obsession with loyalty is particularly unusual, especially given the Justice Department’s investigation into him and his associates.
Everyone in Trump World Knows He’s Unfit for Office
|Trump: just as insane as Emperor Caligula?|
Like the scene in the movie the Wizard of Oz where the dog Toto pulls back the curtain and reveals the wizard to be a fraud (see the image below), Michael Wolff’s new book Fire and Fury has done the same to Donald Trump and his White House that is staffed by liars and enablers who have placed their own ambition, greed, and prejudices ahead of the best interests of the nation and its citizens. As for Trump's desire to stop the publication of the book, his threats show that (i) he has absolutely no understanding of the libel laws as they apply to public figures and politicians, and (ii) the field day that discovery in any lawsuit would be for the book's author and publisher. Only an absolute idiot - which may be the best description of Trump - would open that door. Why his attorneys haven't shut him up on this losing effort is baffling. However, perhaps the biggest revelation of the book is that it has shown a spotlight on what anyone one other than Trump's evangelical Christian and white supremacist supporters have known all along (an "open secret," if you will): Trump is unfit for office and presents a clear and present danger to America, A column in the New York Times and another in The Atlantic excoriate those who have sought to cover up Trump's unfitness with no apparent loyalty to the nation or the oaths to support the United States Constitution. First, highlights from the Times:
One of the more alarming anecdotes in “Fire and Fury,” Michael Wolff’s incendiary new book about Donald Trump’s White House, involves the firing of James Comey, former director of the F.B.I. It’s not Trump’s motives that are scary; Wolff reports that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were “increasingly panicked” and “frenzied” about what Comey would find if he looked into the family finances, which is incriminating but unsurprising. The terrifying part is how, in Wolff’s telling, Trump sneaked around his aides, some of whom thought they’d contained him.
“For most of the day, almost no one would know that he had decided to take matters into his own hands,” Wolff writes. “In presidential annals, the firing of F.B.I. director James Comey may be the most consequential move ever made by a modern president acting entirely on his own.” Now imagine Trump taking the same approach toward ordering the bombing of North Korea.
[Wolff's book] It’s already a consequential work, having precipitated a furious rift between the president and his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who told Wolff that the meeting Donald Trump Jr. brokered with Russians in the hope of getting dirt on Hillary Clinton was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.” On Thursday the president’s lawyers sent a cease-and-desist letter to Wolff’s publisher, Henry Holt, demanding that it stop publication, claiming, among other things, defamation and invasion of privacy. This move would be fascistic if it weren’t so farcical.
But most of all, the book confirms what is already widely understood — not just that Trump is entirely unfit for the presidency, but that everyone around him knows it. One thread running through “Fire and Fury” is the way relatives, opportunists and officials try to manipulate and manage the president, and how they often fail.
Trump’s chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, compares his boss’s intelligence to excrement. The national security adviser, H. R. McMaster, thinks he’s a “dope.” It has already been reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron,” which he has pointedly refused to deny.
And yet these people continue to either prop up or defend this sick travesty of a presidency. Wolff takes a few stabs at the motives of Trump insiders. Ivanka Trump apparently nurtured the ghastly dream of following her father into the presidency. Others, Wolff writes, told themselves that they could help protect America from the president they serve . . . . This is a delusion as wild, in its own way, as Trump’s claim that the “Access Hollywood” tape was faked.
Some of the military men trying to steady American foreign policy amid Trump’s whims and tantrums might be doing something quietly decent, sacrificing their reputations for the greater good. But most members of Trump’s campaign and administration are simply traitors. They are willing, out of some complex mix of ambition, resentment, cynicism and rationalization, to endanger all of our lives — all of our children’s lives — by refusing to tell the country what they know about the senescent fool who boasts of the size of his “nuclear button” on Twitter.
Maybe, at the moment, people in the Trump orbit feel complacent because a year has passed without any epic disaster, unless you count an estimated 1,000 or so deaths in Puerto Rico, which they probably don’t.
Eventually, we’ll hit the ground, and assuming America survives, there should be a reckoning to dwarf the defenestration of Harvey Weinstein and his fellow ogres. Trump, Wolff’s reporting shows, has no executive function, no ability to process information or weigh consequences. Expecting him to act in the country’s interest is like demanding that your cat do the dishes. His enablers have no such excuse.
I would add that these criticisms extend to every Republican member of Congress who have closed their eyes to Trumps unfitness and perhaps even his possibly treasonous dealings with Russia. McConnell, Ryan, the list goes on and on have betrayed the nation in favor of their party and its hideous reverse Robin Hood agenda.
The piece in The Atlantic goes further in demanding an accounting of those who have sought to hide the open secret that Trump has no business in the White House - or any public office. Here are highlights:
Three months ago, when Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey of The New York Times unloaded their first big report about Harvey Weinstein’s pattern of sexual aggressiveness and abuse . . . . Of the reactions that flowed from this and parallel revelations—about Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly in the Fox empire, or Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose in mainstream TV, or Kevin Spacey and Louis CK in the film world, or Michael Oreskes and John Hockenberry in public radio, or Mark Halperin and Leon Weiseltier in print and political media, and down the rest of the list—one response was particularly revealing. It was that the behavior in question had been an “open secret.”In the very short term, a few people reflexively offered “open secret” as an explanation, even a rationalization. . . . . But you rarely hear rationalizations of that sort any more. Now the open-secret premise usually leads to a follow-up question. If “everyone” knew what was going on, why didn’t anyone do more to stop it? And this in turn has led to institutional and personal self-examinations. In all these cases, the malefactor remains most to blame. But “it was an open secret” now properly seems a broadened indictment, of all those who quietly let him get away with it, rather than an excuse. The details in Michael Wolff’s new book Fire and Fury make it unforgettable, and potentially historic. . . . But what Wolff is describing is an open secret.
Based on the excerpts now available, Fire and Fury presents a man in the White House who is profoundly ignorant of politics, policy, and anything resembling the substance of perhaps the world’s most demanding job. He is temperamentally unstable. Most of what he says in public is at odds with provable fact, from “biggest inaugural crowd in history” onward. Whether he is aware of it or not, much of what he asserts is a lie. . . . . He is aswirl in foreign and financial complications. He has ignored countless norms of modern governance, from the expectation of financial disclosure to the importance of remaining separate from law-enforcement activities.
And, as Wolff emphasizes, everyone around him considers him unfit for the duties of this office. . . . This is “news,” in its detail, just as the specifics of Weinstein’s marauding were real, hard-won news. But it also is an open secret. This is the man who offered himself to the public over the past two-and-a-half years.
I chronicled signs of every one of these traits through the campaign cycle, in The Atlantic’s 162-installment “Trump Time Capsule” series. But practically anyone else in political journalism can make a similar claim. Who and what Trump is has been an open secret.
It was because of this open secret that nearly 11 million more Americans voted against Trump last year than for him, including the three million more who voted for Hillary Clinton.
It was because of this open secret that virtually every journalistic endorsement in the country went against him, including from publications (like The Dallas Morning News or The Arizona Republic) that are ordinarily rock-ribbed Republican, and others (like USA Today) that had not offered endorsements before or (like The Atlantic) generally did so only once per century. It was because of this that his party’s previous nominee, Mitt Romney, publicly denounced him—and that most of the political establishment, Democratic and Republican alike, assumed that no person like him could ever reach the White House.
Thursday, January 04, 2018
The Top LGBT Movies for 2017
The enemies of LGBT Americans - which include the current occupant of the White House and the virulently anti-gay Mike Pence - seemingly never tire in their efforts to malign and stigmatize us or to basically depict us as less than fully human. The Roman Catholic Church and a legion of evangelical "Christian" denominations - I use quotation marks because these people are anything but truly Christian - reject science and modern medical and mental health knowledge that confirms that sexual orientation is not a choice and that being gay is not abnormal. Just as troubling, they utterly ignore the emotional legitimacy of same sex relationships, many of which are more stable and long enduring than those of many heterosexual couples (two friends will soon have their 40th anniversary). Our lives and loves involve far more than sex acts, just like those of heterosexual couples. How do LGBT individuals defeat this bigotry and embrace of ignorance? One way is to live our lives authentically and without apology ("coming out" remains the strongest form of activism). Another way is to have movies depict our lives with sensitivity and respect. A piece in Gay Star News - a British outlet - lists its picks for the top 10 LGBT films of 2017. My favorite is "Call Me By Your Name" which I saw last week in Fort Lauderdale. Read the entire piece and see the movies. Here's GSN's review of its No. 1 pick:
Truly amazing films about queer people often make for punishing viewing. Moonlight, Brokeback Mountain – don’t get me started on Boys Don’t Cry. Love and sex battle with hatred and violence. Conclusions are tragic. Watching these films rarely feels good.
Call Me By Your Name, about an American student who spends a lazy summer in Italy assisting his professor before falling for his son, is different. Homosexual love – between gifted, libidinous 17-year-old Elio (Homeland’s Timothée Chalamet) and sultry, strapping 20-something Oliver (The Social Network’s Armie Hammer), in 80s Italy of all places – is permitted to flourish.
To clarify, don’t expect a sweet, sickly rom com. The wait for the principal players to get it on is agonizing. It makes up the vast majority of openly gay director Luca Guadagnino’s languid 130 minutes, and said flourishing is brief – but thankfully not too brief.
There’s pain too. But it’s deliciously melancholic. There’s no darkness. I steeled myself for the inevitability of prejudice – as the guys skip drunkenly down an empty street, when Elio opens up to his father about the affair – but no such moment arrives. Everyone in the movie is a good person.
Sound too good to be true? It’s allowed to be. It’s fiction, based semi-faithfully on André Aciman’s 2007 novel of the same name. (Fans of the book have slammed the comparable lack of explicit sex; for me it’s a criticism that certainly stands up stronger than with Tom of Finland).
For the most part the movie exists on a different plane – the unreliable world of Elio’s memory, perhaps. The dense foliage and the hanging fruit of his parents’ gorgeous, ramshackle mansion conjure thoughts of the Garden of Eden. But there’s no fall, per se.
Hammer seduces with his booming voice and statuesque physicality, but the movie belongs to Chalamet. On paper, Elio is dislikable. An awkward, arrogant intellectual who speaks three languages and plays piano and guitar. He’s a rich kid who gets to hang out and read all summer: why the hell doesn’t he get a job?
But you quickly fall in love with him, too. After regarding Oliver like a shaking, frightened gazelle would a predator, he gets plucky. He sarcastically imitates his crush’s performed, all-American manliness and the dynamic between them palpably shifts. I didn’t see it coming and my heart skipped a beat. It’s as heightened and erotic a moment as the now-famous peach-fucking scene.
Guadagnino’s luxurious palette and harnessing of light elevate the story. So does the piano-led soundtrack, including three moving contributions from Sufjan Stevens. A near-perfect movie.
Unless you have a heart of stone, the movie will move you. I am told that the Naro Theater in Norfolk, Virginia, showed previews of the movie in "coming attractions" although no date is set as yet. For local readers, I recommend this movie highly. I also highly recommend the book as well.
Wolff's Trump Book on Sale Four Days Early; Wolff Taped Sources
While Der Trumpenführer continues to lash out at Steve Bannon over statements Bannon made in Michael Wolff's new book on the insanity and malfeasance of the Trump White House, word is out that (i) sales of the book are starting tomorrow instead of next week, and (ii) Wolff has tapes of his sources to back up his allegations. Obviously, the tapes will make it far harder for Trump apologists to claim that Wolff's sources never made the statements attributed to them. And meanwhile, the furor coming from the White House and efforts to attack the book and its publisher - a cease and desist demand was sent by a Trump attorney to both Wolff and the publisher - will only serve to make sales even more brisk (you can pre-order it on Amazon now - I did). A piece in Axios looks at how Wolff documented the book and his sources. Get out your popcorn as the shit storm begins in earnest. Here are Axios excerpts:
Michael Wolff has tapes to back up quotes in his incendiary book — dozens of hours of them.
Among the sources he taped, I'm told, are Steve Bannon and former White House deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh.
· So that's going to make it harder for officials to deny embarrassing or revealing quotes attributed to them in "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House," out Tuesday.
· In some cases, the officials thought they were talking off the record. But what are they going to do now?
· Although the White House yesterday portrayed Wolff as a poseur, he spent hours at a time in private areas of the West Wing, including the office of Reince Priebus when he was chief of staff.
· The White House says Wolff was cleared for access to the West Wing fewer than 20 times.
· Wolff, a New Yorker, stayed at the Hay Adams Hotel when he came down to D.C., and White House sources frequently crossed Lafayette Park to meet him there.
Some reporters and officials are calling the book sloppy, and challenging specific passages.· How could Wolff possibly know for sure what Steve Bannon and the late Roger Ailes said at a private dinner?
· It turns out Wolff hosted the dinner for six at his Manhattan townhouse.
Part of Wolff's lengthy index entry for Bannon:
Racist Jeff Sessions to Target Marijuana Users
As previous posts have indicated, in my opinion Attorney General Jeff Sessions is an avowed racist despite his protests to the contrary. Having known the man since the days we were both in Mobile, Alabama (I lived there when Sessions refused to prosecute KKK members who lynched a young black man), Sessions will do anything he can to keep blacks - and gays for that matter - second class citizens. Moreover, he supports any policy that will help to disproportionately disenfranchise black Americans. Hence the news that Sessions plans to enforce antiquated federal marijuana laws even in states that have legalized and regulate the sale and possession of small amounts for personal use. The move comes just as Der Trumpenführer has disbanded his committee to investigate non-existent voter fraud which many believed was a thinly veiled effort to disenfranchise minorities and the poor. Apparently what could not be accomplished by Trump's farcical committee will now be accomplished through marijuana prosecutions. Politico looks at Sessions' disingenuous move. Here are excerpts:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is rescinding the Obama-era policy that had paved the way for legalized marijuana to flourish in states across the country, two people with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press. Sessions will instead let federal prosecutors where pot is legal decide how aggressively to enforce federal marijuana law, the people said.
The move by President Donald Trump's attorney general likely will add to confusion about whether it's OK to grow, buy or use marijuana in states where pot is legal, since long-standing federal law prohibits it. It comes days after pot shops opened in California, launching what is expected to become the world's largest market for legal recreational marijuana and as polls show a solid majority of Americans believe the drug should be legal.
Sessions, who has assailed marijuana as comparable to heroin and has blamed it for spikes in violence, had been expected to ramp up enforcement. Pot advocates argue that legalizing the drug eliminates the need for a black market and would likely reduce violence, since criminals would no longer control the marijuana trade.
The Obama administration in 2013 announced it would not stand in the way of states that legalize marijuana, so long as officials acted to keep it from migrating to places where it remained outlawed and out of the hands of criminal gangs and children.
The pot business has since become a sophisticated, multimillion-dollar industry that helps fund schools, educational programs and law enforcement. Eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use, and California's sales alone are projected to bring in $1 billion annually in tax revenue within several years.
Sessions' policy will let U.S. attorneys across the country decide what kinds of federal resources to devote to marijuana enforcement based on what they see as priorities in their districts, the people familiar with the decision said.
The change also reflects yet another way in which Sessions, who served as a federal prosecutor at the height of the drug war in Mobile, Alabama, has reversed Obama-era criminal justice policies that aimed to ease overcrowding in federal prisons and contributed to a rethinking of how drug criminals were prosecuted and sentenced. While his Democratic predecessor Eric Holder told federal prosecutors to avoid seeking long mandatory minimum sentences when charging certain lower level drug offenders, for example, Sessions issued an order demanding the opposite, telling them to pursue the most serious charges possible against most suspects.
Sit in criminal court any morning and you will witness white defendants with money getting off or light sentences for marijuana possession while poor blacks without resources to hire a private attorney get slammed and receive sentences that put them in prison and deprive them of the right to vote. Sessions knows what he is doing and it is disgusting. He might as well wear KKK robes while on the job.
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