Saturday, March 10, 2018

More Saturday Male Beauty

UK Considering a Ban on Fraudulent "Gay Conversion" Therapy

One of the biggest lies - out of so very many - that Christofascists organizations continue to peddle is that on can "pray away the gay" and/or be cured of homosexuality through fraudulent "therapy" typically administered by quacks and charlatans, often hiding from regulation behind the pretense of being "Christian ministries."  Lunatic Michelle Bachmann and her closeted husband run such a program under the guise of being a "Christian counseling" center. The lie serves two purposes: (1) it rakes in lots of money, and (2) it is used to bolster the Christofascist claim that since sexual orientation is a "choice," no legal protections are needed for LGBT individuals.  True, some gays suffering from internalized homophobia and religious brainwashing will pretend - both to themselves and others - that they are "cured," but the list of those who have later admitted the lie is a long one.  The practice needs to be banned and thankfully, the United Kingdom is poised to do just that, a nationwide ban.  Here are highlights from Gay Star News:
A UK Government survey could lead to making the controversial ‘gay cure’ practice illegal, Gay Star News can reveal.
The Home Office will publish the results of a National LGBT survey later this year. It includes an analysis of how much conversion therapy is happening in the country. Previously the Government rejected calls to make the practice illegal, saying it had done enough to stop the practice. But now the Home Office will use the results to explore new measures, to stop the practice.
A government spokesperson calling ‘gay cure’ therapy ‘bogus’ tells GSN: ‘This Government is absolutely clear that being LGBT is not an illness to be cured. The practice of conversion therapy is wrong. . . . . We have already been working with the main registration and accreditation bodies for psychotherapy and counseling practitioners, including the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), to develop a Memorandum of Understanding to put a stop to this bogus treatment."
Paul Twocock, Director of Campaigns, Policy and Research, Stonewall UK says: ‘It is good that the Government is so clear in recognizing that more needs to be done to tackle the bogus, deeply harmful practice of conversion therapy. All forms of “therapy” that attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity are unethical and unacceptable. Lesbian, gay, bi and trans people are not ill.
Malta became the first country to ban ‘gay cure’ therapy in 2016. And now eleven states in the US have banned the cruel so-called ‘therapy’, including in Washington and Hawaii last week.
Raymond Buys was left starving after torture where he had to eat his own feces. Severely malnourished, dehydrated, with burns and wounds all over his body. He lay in intensive care for four weeks until he died.  He was just 15. Just 10 weeks before, the teen’s parents signed him up in 2011 for the Echo Wild Game Rangers course in South Africa in perfect health with the intention of ‘making him a man.’
Writing for Gay Star News, editor-at-large Joe Morgan says: ‘Many people believe ‘gay cure’ camps are basically full of repressed gay dudes sitting around praying all day. And then going into each others bunks to have sex. But even if you are not murdered in the attempt to make you ‘manly’, the vast majority of the people sent to these camps are vulnerable teens. ‘I shudder to think about the LGBTI teens whose families sent them to find a ‘cure’. Leaving traumatized, and later committing suicide. The number is countless.
Of course, the third reason Christofascists support these awful programs is because it helps them avoid admitting that the Bronze Age beliefs on human sexuality are simply untrue and wrong.  Harming others is preferable to threatening the fantasy world beliefs.

Hypocrisy Alert: Trump Administration Pushes Abstinence-Only Education

Coincidence?  Not at all.

A serial adulterer who has boasted about sexually assaulting women occupies the White House thanks to evangelical Christians. So what are these "godly folk" pushing?  Abstinence only sex education which study after study have found NOT to work.  Indeed, industrial nations with science based comprehensive sex education programs have far lower teen pregnancy rates than the United States.  Likewise, states with the most comprehensive, fact based sex education programs have far lower teen pregnancy rates than deep red states in the so-called Bible belt which has the highest teen pregnancy rate and the highest divorce rate  - and the highest usage of Internet pornography - which suggests that evangelicals ought to be worrying more about their own sex lives (and that of their "dear leader") than those of others.  The idiocy and hypocrisy is off the charts.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at this batshitry (I have edited out the false term "social conservatives):

Abstinence-only sex education — long-championed by [Christian extremists] social conservatives — is reemerging as the preferred approach during the Trump administration, a political era in which there's increasing attention to the alleged past sexual activity of its leader.
[Christian extremists] Social conservatives at the Department of Health and Human Services say the current White House is more supportive of abstinence education than the Obama administration.
In addition to allocating millions of dollars to programs that encourage teens to abstain from sex, groups seeking Title X federal family planning funds are being asked to place a “meaningful emphasis” on “the benefits of avoiding sex” in their sex education and to avoid programs that “normalize sexual risk behaviors.”
But data shows that teens are having sex less and that the teen pregnancy rate has declined, arguably in part because of the more comprehensive sex education programs of the Obama era.
Births among Hispanic and black teens have dropped by nearly half since 2006, according to the CDC.
And the most recent report from the National Center for Health Statistics reported that the teen birthrate in the United States is at a record low, dropping below 25 births per 1,000 teen females for the first time since the government began collecting consistent data on births to teens ages 15 to 19.
Perhaps support for abstinence-only education is in part rooted in what is happening in the communities of [Christian extremists] social conservatives. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof said:
“When evangelical kids have sex, they’re less likely to use birth control — and that may be a reason (along with lower abortion rates) that red states have high teen birthrates.
Nine of the 10 states with the highest teen birthrates voted Republican in 2016. And nine of the 10 states with the lowest teen birthrates voted Democratic.”
[T]he 10 states with the highest teen birthrates are: Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Texas, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Mexico, West Virginia, Alabama, Tennessee. President Trump won in all those states except New Mexico.
Despite the interest in teens' sex lives from some affiliated with [Christian extremist] socially conservative groups, others from those same organizations appear to have little concern about the sex life of the president they support.
Robert Jeffress, who also is one of Trump’s most high-profile faith advisers, told Fox News: “Evangelicals still believe in the commandment: Thou shalt not have sex with a porn star. However, whether this president violated that commandment or not is totally irrelevant to our support of him.”
Trump has failed to be a strong leader when it comes to morals, especially sexual ethics. In addition to reports about his infidelity, nearly 20 women have accused the president of sexual misconduct.

It is far past time that the deceptive term "social conservatives" cease being used by the media.  These groups and their followers need to be accurately called what they are, Christian extremists.  As for their claims of moral superiority, their loyalty to Trump underscores their utter hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy.  Give me a moral atheist any day over a "godly Christians."

Question of the Day: Why Do Bad Things Happen to the Good While the Horrible Live On

Trump surrounded by evangelical "Christian" leaders
The past seven days have been emotional and bring to mind the perennial question of why, if the Christian god exists, do bad things befall good people while foul and reprehensible people  (yes, I am talking about the current occupant of the White House) seemingly live on unscathed. A week ago, our nephew was badly injured in a freak accident that took the live of one of his employees who we knew from when our nephew's company did tile work in our master bathroom - they had also done the marble floors throughout the entire first floor of our home after it flooded in the 2009 Nor'Ida storm. Tuesday, one of my sons-in-law lost his father unexpectedly at a far too early an age.  All three of these men are/were devoted family men, honest in their dealings with others.  My son-in-law's father made a career out of protecting and helping others. All three are honest, decent men.  The contrast with Der Trumpenführer could not be more stark.  

Adding to the quandary of the question posed above is the reality that those who most loudly claim to represent and revere the message of Christ are the ones most supportive of the most foul and toxic individual to ever occupy the White House.  Endless lies, serial adultery, the rescission of regulations that protect citizens from rapacious and greed driven corporations, corruption on an unprecedented scale are all either cheered on or dismissed as unimportant even as these same "Christians" judge and condemn others who overall lead far more exemplary lives than they themselves. Worse yet, they reject knowledge and bear hatred towards the majority of the world's population.  If they represent the Christian god, who would want to be a follower?  Indeed, 1/3 of Millennials have demonstrated that they want no part of it at all and have walked away from religion.  

But evangelicals do not have a monopoly on hypocrisy and ugliness.  The Roman Catholic Church remains racked with sex abuse scandals literally around the globe yet no bishops and cardinals who allowed these horror to happen - and continue to happen - have been punished.  Indeed Pope Francis attended the funeral of one of the most reprehensible protectors of child rapist, Cardinal Bernard Law. Meanwhile the Catholic Church demeans women, condemns gays, and puts protecting its wealth ahead of all else.  Again, if these are what it means to be "Christian," why should anyone decent want any part of it?

I ceased calling myself a Catholic close to two decades ago.  Several years back, I joined author Anne Rice in ceasing to call myself a Christian because I wanted no association with those horrible, hate and bigotry-filled individuals who claim that moniker.  Like Jefferson, by default I am a deist.  I believe there is a creator, just not the one depicted in the Bible - or the Koran for that matter.  I will never know the answer to my question, but I do know that the answer is not found in Christianity as practiced by far too many of its adherents. 

PS.  Yes, I am in a negative mood.  As icing on the cake for a horrible week, we lost one of our dogs yesterday. It's 7:05 am and I feel like I could use a drink!

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, March 09, 2018

More Friday Male Beauty

The Stormy Daniels Scandal Gets Serious

Alleged Trump mistress Stormy Daniels.
Ironically, most of Donald Trump's problems are self-made and the growing scandal swirling around porn star Stormy Daniels' affair with Trump is a perfect example.  Like so many other of the Trump/Pence regime scandals, this scandal - which would upset evangelical Christians if they actually stood for what they claim - stems directly from Trump's belief that he can do whatever he wants.  A wife and small infant at home, who cares.  Ditto for possible conspiracies with Russia.  Ditto for the stream of daily lies.  The law and common morality simply mean nothing to the man.  Now, the Stormy Daniels scandal seems to be gaining steam and more and more questions grow about possible illegalities that may surround the $130,000 in hush money paid to Danils under a bizarre agreement that seemingly did not use either Daniels' or Trump's names.  A column in the New York Times looks at the mounting scandal which, if Republicans were consistent with the feigned outrage over the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, ought to be resulting in outrage.  Here are column highlights:
In January we learned, thanks to The Wall Street Journal, that Michael Cohen, a lawyer for Donald Trump, arranged a $130,000 hush money payment to the pornographic film star known as Stormy Daniels in the closing days of the 2016 presidential campaign. The payment was to stop Daniels from speaking out about an alleged affair she’d had with Trump shortly after Melania Trump, his third wife, gave birth to their son, Barron.
With any previous president the story would have been explosive, but with this one, it felt relatively minor. The real scandal, it seemed, was that there was no scandal, because no one expects any better of Trump. The religious right was willing to give him a “mulligan,” in the words of Tony Perkins, president of the [hate group] Family Research Council. Liberals rolled their eyes at right-wing hypocrisy, but ranked the affair fairly low on the list of Trump outrages.
But Daniels — whose real name is Stephanie Clifford — is a clever capitalist who’s been determined to force the story of her relationship with Trump into the public eye. She has parlayed her new notoriety into a series of strip-club appearances, including two in South Florida on Friday and Saturday. More significantly, her lawyer has filed a lawsuit arguing that the nondisclosure agreement she signed is null and void because Trump himself never signed it. The suit, ingeniously, has given Daniels’s lawyer a pretext to make that agreement public.
[F]or all its sordid details, it isn’t really a sex scandal. It’s a campaign finance scandal, a transparency scandal and potentially part of an ongoing national security scandal. It’s salacious and absurd, but we should take it seriously. Trump’s team certainly seems to; Cohen recently obtained a temporary restraining order to silence Daniels.
Let’s start with the campaign finance piece. On Jan. 22, the nonpartisan government watchdog group Common Cause filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Justice claiming that the $130,000 payment to Daniels constituted an in-kind contribution to Trump’s presidential campaign, in violation of federal campaign law.
[T]he release of the NDA makes clear that Trump himself was a party to the agreement. If Trump authorized the $130,000 payment, it’s harder to explain away his campaign’s failure to disclose it, as required by law.                               He calls it the “Al Capone problem.” The Daniels NDA refers repeatedly to “property” that she agreed to turn over to Trump, including video images, still images, emails and text messages. Eisen argues that Trump was required to report ownership of this property, as well as any obligations he might have had to reimburse Cohen for the $130,000, in his federal financial disclosure forms. . . . . “Imagine what she could get if she has texts or images. Imagine the millions she could command! So there’s this incredibly valuable agreement, and the L.L.C., Essential Consultants, which Trump now appears to be a beneficiary of. That’s an asset.” But it’s an asset Trump didn’t reveal.
Finally, the Daniels story is germane to the overriding scandal of the Trump administration, the one involving Trump’s relationship with Russia. Christopher Steele, the British ex-spy who compiled an infamous dossier of opposition research on Trump, wrote that Russia could blackmail Trump with evidence of his “sexual perversion.” Nothing we know of Daniels confirms the dossier’s outré claims about what such perversion entailed. The NDA does, however, show that Trump was susceptible to blackmail. 
Indeed, Daniels isn’t the only woman who was allegedly paid off after an encounter with Trump. . . . . Steve Bannon told “Fire and Fury” author Michael Wolff that another Trump lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, “took care” of “a hundred women” during the campaign.  “It all kind of fits together in a way,” Nick Akerman, a former Watergate prosecutor, said of the Daniels scandal and the Russia one. “It’s really blackmail over sex.”
Ultimately, the details of Trump’s relationship with Daniels will likely come out. . . . Should Daniels prevail in court, we might learn interesting information about the president. Among other things, the NDA forbids her from discussing Trump’s “alleged children” or “paternity information.” But the scandal will lie less in the details of Trump’s degeneracy than in the steps he and his lawyers took to cover it up. “This is early days yet in the unfolding of this scandal,” said Eisen. Like Trump himself, it’s preposterous, but it’s not going away.
I hope Daniels is successful in getting the story out.  I have no desire to see images of a naked Trump cavorting with Daniels - the very though is repulsive and vomit worthy - but I do want all of this rubbed in the faces of the evangelical Christians who threw away morality when they voted for Trump and Republicans only too willing to prostitute them self to Trump and the hideous GOP party base.  I suspect that the only person laughing about all of this is Vladimir Putin who likely has more sexual escapade bombshells in his possession.  As for Melania, I feel sorry for her, but she should have known what she was getting herself into given Trumps adulterous past. 

Gun Control Advocates May Want to Boycott Wells Fargo

While numerous national corporations have ended relationships with the NRA - a front organization for gun manufacturers - there has been far less publicity of those who are in the pockets of the NRA's puppet masters. As case in point, according to a piece in Bloomberg, is Wells Fargo, the financier of choice of many gun manufactures which hide behind the visage of the NRA. The Bloomberg piece also identifies other leading lenders who have, by default in the eyes of many,  blood on their hands.  Some of these lenders include Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, JP Morgan, US Bancorp, BB&T, and PNC Bank.    If readers who do business with these banks find these relationships distasteful at best, call them and voice your displeasure.  Better yet, close you accounts and move them elsewhere and let the offending bank know why they have lost your business.  Here are highlights from the Bloomberg piece:
Wells Fargo & Co. has emerged as the preferred financier for the U.S. gun industry.
The bank has helped two of the biggest U.S. firearm and ammunition companies access $431.1 million in loans and bonds since December 2012, when the gun control debate gained steam after the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That puts it on the top of the list of banks arranging funding for gunmakers.
Wells Fargo also has a long relationship with the National Rifle Association, inherited from banks that Wells took over. The San Francisco-based Wells Fargo created a $28 million line of credit for the NRA and operates the primary accounts for the pro-Second Amendment group, financial documents show.
Following the Feb. 14 shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high-school that left 17 dead, retailers such as Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. have implemented stricter gun rules, such as increasing the age necessary to buy one, and some companies, like Delta Air Lines Inc., have cut ties with the NRA’s member-benefits program. Those changes were largely driven by boycott movements on social media. Banks, which have made millions financing the NRA and firearms manufacturers, haven’t been a focus in the same way.
Other banks are active as bookrunners for gunmakers, sometimes jointly. Morgan Stanley helped arrange $350 million in debt and TD Securities $332.5 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. and two other banks each arranged $273.6 million. That’s counting loans and bonds to gun and ammunition manufacturers American Outdoor Brands Corp. and Vista Outdoor Inc. since the day of the Sandy Hook bloodshed. Another gunmaker, Sturm Ruger & Co., currently has no public debt. Remington Outdoor Inc. has debt outstanding, but it was issued before December 2012. The NRA paid $9.9 million in banking fees in 2015 and 2016, according to annual reports filed with the Internal Revenue Service. The NRA didn’t respond to requests for comment. The [Wells Fargo] bank’s involvement with the NRA stemmed from its 2008 purchase of Wachovia Corp. Wachovia’s relationship with the NRA, in turn, came from its takeover of First Union National Bank.
The NRA and Wells Fargo amended its longstanding financial arrangement in 2014, according to public records, when the lobbying group agreed to borrow $22.6 million in exchange for pledging its Fairfax, Virginia, headquarters as collateral. The building was assessed at $40.4 million last year, according to Fairfax County records, down from $57.9 million a decade ago.
It’s been a profitable relationship for Wells Fargo. The variable-rate loan of as much as $28 million carries an interest rate of 6.08 percent, according to the NRA’s most recent financial statement. That’s higher than typical commercial-mortgage rates. Based on year-end 2016 figures, Wells Fargo would make an estimated $1.2 million annually from the loan. The NRA owed Wells Fargo $19.8 million as of Dec. 31, 2016. 
The NRA and its Freedom Action Foundation bank only with Wells Fargo, according to documents filed with state regulators. The group’s Civil Rights Defense Fund had bank and investment accounts at Wells Fargo and an investment account at Morgan Stanley. The NRA Foundation also had bank and investment accounts at Wells Fargo, and a separate investment account at Charles Schwab.
The NRA’s political action committee, the Political Victory Fund, also banks with Wells Fargo, Federal Election Commission records show. Over the last three years, the political action committee has paid Wells Fargo nearly $71,000 in various banking fees.

GOP Senators Re-Introduce Federal License to Discriminate Law

In an apparent desperate attempt to motivate their base now that (i) Der Trumpenführer likely trade war may wipe out whatever meager take home pay increases the working class elements of GOP  base might have experienced from the GOP/Trump tax cuts - a column in the Washington Post looks at this topic and others here - and (ii) the Stormy Daniels story seemingly gaining steam, 22 GOP U.S. Senators have re-introduced the falsely named "The First Amendment Defense Act" ("FADA") which would bar the federal government from taking any action against Christian extremists (and arguably other homophobes) who engage in discriminate against same-sex couples or others based on "a sincerely held religious belief."  With polls showing congressional Republicans down by double digits compared to a generic Democrat and Trump's polling still in the toilet, Republicans see pandering to still loyal evangelical Christians critical in the lead up to the 2018 midterm elections. The Hill looks at this disgusting effort at self-prostitution.  Here are excerpts: 
A group of 22 GOP senators is reintroducing a controversial measure that would protect opponents of same-sex marriage from federal actions intended to curb discrimination. 
The First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) would bar the federal government from taking any action against individuals who discriminate against same-sex couples or others based on "a sincerely held religious belief."
The bill would also protect those who discriminate against marriages not recognized under federal law or individuals who engage in sex outside of marriage.
The measure was introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and 21 Republican co-sponsors, including Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Ted Cruz (Texas) and Orrin Hatch (Utah). 
FADA was introduced in both the House and the Senate in 2015, but only received a hearing in the House.  The bill never advanced to a full vote, however, amid protests from Democrats and concerns among Republicans that then-President Obama would veto the measure if it reached his desk. 
Supporters of the bill say that it is necessary to protect First Amendment guarantees, while opponents argue that it ultimately amounts to an attempt to legalize anti-LGBT discrimination. 
As a presidential candidate, Trump indicated that he would sign the measure if it were sent to his desk, saying that it would "protect the deeply held religious beliefs of Catholics and the beliefs of Americans of all faiths."

Note that Ted Cruz - a man with a long history of homophobia and self-prostitution to Christofascists  - is one of the bill's sponsors.  This bill would allow Christofascists - and arguably homophobic Muslims - to ignore non-discrimination laws while demanding protections for themselves under they very laws they seek to ignore.  As stated often, NO ONE is more selfish and self-centered - and more hypocrisy filled - than the "godly folk."

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, March 08, 2018

More Thursday Male Beauty

click image to enlarge
Dedicated to Mike Pence

Did Trump Try to Tamper With Witnesses?

For years Donald Trump rain his real estate operations in a manner akin to a narcissistic mob boss, with a clear mindset that he could do whatever he wanted, be it dealing with shady underworld figures or ignoring the advice of his above board legal counsel.  This latter inclination continues unabated as Trump seemingly ignores the advice of his legal counsel in the Russiagate investigation.  A huge no no in any criminal investigation is witness tampering and any good legal counsel will tell a potential target of the investigation to either completely stay away from witnesses or  avoid any conversations whatsoever about their testimony to investigators.  To do otherwise creates the appearance that efforts may be underway to alter what witnesses will testify - a potential crime in itself and an indicator that obstruction of justice is occurring.  As the New York Times is reporting, Trump has ignored these basic rules (no surprise here) and may be worsening his own situation.  Adding to the negative potential is the exposure of lies Erik Prince - a well know shady individual to Hampton Roads residents - has lied about his efforts to set up a "back channel" to the Kremlin for Trump/Pence regime.  Here are highlights from the Times piece:

The special counsel in the Russia investigation has learned of two conversations in recent months in which President Trump asked key witnesses about matters they discussed with investigators, according to three people familiar with the encounters.
In one episode, the president told an aide that the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, should issue a statement denying a New York Times article in January. The article said Mr. McGahn told investigators that the president  [Trump] once asked him to fire the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. McGahn never released a statement and later had to remind [Trump] the president that he had indeed asked Mr. McGahn to see that Mr. Mueller was dismissed, the people said.
In the other episode, Mr. Trump asked his former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, how his interview had gone with the special counsel’s investigators and whether they had been “nice,” according to two people familiar with the discussion.
The episodes demonstrate that even as the special counsel investigation appears to be intensifying, the president [Trump] has ignored his lawyers’ advice to avoid doing anything publicly or privately that could create the appearance of interfering with it.
The White House did not respond to several requests for comment. Mr. Priebus and Mr. McGahn declined to comment through their lawyer, William A. Burck.
Legal experts said Mr. Trump’s contact with the men most likely did not rise to the level of witness tampering. But witnesses and lawyers who learned about the conversations viewed them as potentially a problem and shared them with Mr. Mueller.
In investigating Russian election interference, Mr. Mueller is also examining whether [Trump] the president tried to obstruct the inquiry. . . . The experts said the meetings with Mr. McGahn and Mr. Priebus would probably sharpen Mr. Mueller’s focus on [Trump's] the president’s interactions with other witnesses. The special counsel has questioned witnesses recently about their interactions with [Trump's] the president since the investigation began. The experts also said the episodes could serve as evidence for Mr. Mueller in an obstruction case.
“It makes it look like you’re cooking a story, and prosecutors are always looking out for it,” said Julie R. O’Sullivan, a law professor at Georgetown University and expert on white-collar criminal investigations. . . . “It can get at the issue of consciousness of guilt in an obstruction case because if you didn’t do anything wrong, why are you doing that?”
Central figures in investigations are almost always advised by their own lawyers to keep from speaking with witnesses and prosecutors to prevent accusations of witness tampering.
Mr. Trump’s interactions with Mr. McGahn unfolded in the days after the Jan. 25 Times article, which said that Mr. McGahn threatened to quit last June after the president asked him to fire the special counsel. After the article was published, the White House staff secretary, Rob Porter, told Mr. McGahn that [Trump] the president wanted him to release a statement saying that the story was not true, the people said.
Mr. Porter, who resigned last month amid a domestic abuse scandal, told Mr. McGahn the president had suggested he might “get rid of” Mr. McGahn if he chose not to challenge the article, the people briefed on the conversation said.
Mr. McGahn did not publicly deny the article, and [Trump] the president later confronted him in the Oval Office in front of the White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, according to the people.
[Trump] The president said he had never ordered Mr. McGahn to fire the special counsel. Mr. McGahn replied that [Trump] the president was wrong and that he had in fact asked Mr. McGahn in June to call the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, to tell him that the special counsel had a series of conflicts that disqualified him for overseeing the investigation and that he had to be dismissed.
It is not clear how the confrontation was resolved. Mr. McGahn has stayed on as White House counsel, one of the few senior administration officials who has been with the president since the campaign.
Mr. Priebus met with [Trump] the president in the West Wing in December, according to the people with knowledge of their encounter. . . . . Mr. Trump brought up Mr. Priebus’s October interview with the special counsel’s office, the people said, and Mr. Priebus replied that the investigators were courteous and professional. He shared no specifics and did not say what he had told investigators, and the conversation moved on after a few minutes, those briefed on it said. Mr. Kelly was present for that conversation as well, and it was not clear whether he tried to stop the discussion.
In organized crime and complex white-collar investigations, prosecutors often ask witnesses whether they have spoken to the person under investigation to determine whether they are coordinating their stories.
Given the daily flow of lies that flow from Trump's mouth, I candidly do not believe anything he says, especially when it comes to collusion and coordination with Putin/Russia.  

Republicans Trash Their Candidate in Pennsylvania Special Election

Democrat candidate Conor Lamb.
Next Tuesday will see a special election in Pennsylvania that, with luck will see the GOP candidate lose and start a trend that will carry through through November, 2018.  What is interesting is that with the election not even yet past, Republicans are trashing their candidate as if setting the stage to throw him under the bus and blame the electoral loss on the individual candidate rather than the toxicity of today's GOP.  One can only hope that the intra-party backbiting and backstabbing continues - indeed, let's hope the phenomenon escalates. True, the Democrats have a telegenic candidate who has raised lots of money.  But the GOP's real problem is that its main message - GOP/Trump tax cuts and opposition to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi - doesn't energize voters.  Worse yet, voters who crossed party lines to vote for Trump are seemingly having a major case of buyer's remorse.  A piece in Politico looks at the drama playing out around next week's special election. Here are highlights:
Shortly after the new year, Rep. Steve Stivers, the House GOP campaign chief, delivered a stern message to Rick Saccone, the party's special election candidate in Pennsylvania.  You need to start pulling your weight, Stivers implored Saccone, the mustachioed 60-year-old state legislator who is carrying the weight of the Republican Party in a crucial contest next week.
Stivers’ warning, described by two people familiar with the discussion, was intended to put the candidate on notice. The national GOP would be helping him out substantially, Stivers said. But if Saccone didn’t start upping his fundraising game and getting his sluggish campaign in order, he could lose a race that should be a gimme for the party.
Tuesday’s special election, which is being held in a district President Donald Trump won by 20 percentage points, has emerged as the latest testing ground of whether Republicans are headed for a midterm bloodbath. A loss would be wholly embarrassing, many Republicans privately acknowledge, given that it would take place in a state that Trump made a cornerstone of his 2016 victory. And the themes that the GOP has highlighted in the special election — namely tax cuts and opposition to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — are the centerpieces of the party’s 2018 campaign plan.
But as election day grows closer, the national GOP is increasingly pinning the blame on Saccone. In interviews with nearly two dozen administration officials, senior House Republicans and top party strategists, Saccone was nearly universally panned as a deeply underwhelming candidate who leaned excessively on the national party to execute a massive, multimillion-dollar rescue effort.
They describe a candidate who largely ignored pleas to raise the money he needed, who blindsided the White House and the national party with his choice of a political strategist, and whose amateur-style social media feed included low-quality videos of him at a local bar and yukking it up with Santa. To make matters worse, Saccone is up against a Democratic rival the party could hardly have engineered had it tried: Conor Lamb, an Ivy League-educated 33-year-old Marine veteran and former federal prosecutor.
Lamb has used a nearly $4 million war chest to cast himself as independent of his party, airing slickly produced TV ads underscoring his aversion to Pelosi and his fondness for shooting machine guns. He has a campaign staff of 16 full-time employees, compared with just four for Saccone. . . . .The Saccone campaign declined to comment.
Many Republicans expect that Saccone will ultimately prevail, thanks largely to the conservative nature of the southwestern Pennsylvania district and the national GOP’s effort. Yet three senior party strategists said they’d reviewed internal polling data in recent days pointing to a narrow Lamb lead, raising alarms. And this week, the Republican National Committee conducted a data analysis finding that just 47 percent of voters in the district viewed Saccone favorably, 3 percentage points lower than Trump.
With Trump set to campaign with Saccone on Saturday evening, some White House officials have questioned whether the president should scrap the trip, fearful that a Saccone loss would be seen as even more of a rebuke to the president. But Trump has told aides in recent days he’s going anyway, convinced that he’ll likely be blamed for a defeat regardless.
Capitol Hill Republicans had hoped for another nominee. But late last year, when Pennsylvania Republicans selected their candidate to run in the race, the two prospects favored by House GOP leaders — state Sens. Guy Reschenthaler and Kim Ward — lost to Saccone.
Short on campaign cash of his own, Saccone has relied almost entirely on the national party and outside groups to wage a media blitz on his behalf. Those involved in the effort have been horrified at the candidate’s few attempts at TV advertising, one of which featured him sitting at a kitchen table next to a coffee mug emblazoned with the American flag.
While Saccone has a compelling biography — like Lamb, he served in the military — the outside groups have found that introducing him to voters, rather than having Saccone do it himself, has proven challenging. The telegenic Lamb, meanwhile, has used his extensive campaign bank account to air a series of commercials highlighting his military service.
Even more troubling for Republicans, because Pennsylvania’s congressional map is being redrawn, the special election district will likely no longer exist by the time of the November election. But with so much attention trained on the race, House GOP leaders determined they had little choice but to spend whatever is needed to pull Saccone over the finish line.
Some Republicans say it’s unfair to pin the blame solely on Saccone. They argue that his struggles reflect the broader challenges the party is facing as the midterms approach.
Particularly concerning, they say, is the fact that the millions of dollars Republicans have spent — much of it highlighting the GOP tax cuts and attempting to tie Lamb to Pelosi — has failed to move the needle.
Others note that Lamb has adroitly cast himself as a conservative figure, allowing him to win over the scores of blue-collar Democrats in an area that has voted Republican in recent elections.
“This is a seat that is certainly more competitive than it ought to be,” said Rep. Charlie Dent, a moderate Pennsylvania Republican. “Democrats are very energized both in Pennsylvania and nationally, and that’s really the issue.”
If they come up short on Tuesday, House GOP leaders say it will reinforce that candidates need to pull their weight in such a toxic environment for the party.
“In a tough political environment, candidate quality matters more than ever. In an anti-GOP year — which this is shaping up to be — the Republican candidates will need to run much stronger campaigns or be prepared for the national party to cut them loose,” said Ken Spain, who served as a senior aide at the NRCC during the GOP’s 2010 House takeover.
After Labor Day, Spain added, there would likely be dozens of seats in play. And the national party, he said, would be “unlikely to prop up weak candidates by doling out millions in political welfare like they did in this race.”
I sincerely hope that Lamb wins the election and sends even more Republicans into panic mode - perhaps causing more incumbents to decide on retiring rather than run the risk of electoral defeat. 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Mass Shooters: Entitlement and Rage Nurtured by the Far Right

Not everything that is wrong in America today flows from the rise of the far right in the Republican party and right wing "news" outlets such as Fox News and Breitbarth deliberately fan the flames of hate and resentment on the part of the ugliest elements of the GOP base: white supremacists, Neo-Nazis, and Christian extremists/evangelical Christians.  All of these elements of the right wing base experience rage that they are not adequately respected, blame their societal isolation or lack of economic good fortune on others be it blacks, women, gays, immigrants, etc.  They are never the ones at blame regardless of their actions, be it dropping out of school, mistreatment of others or the embrace of ignorance.  Sadly, today's Republican Party is only too happy to play upon this rage and hatred factor and wittingly or not, nurtures those most threatening to society, including mass shooters who almost invariably are disaffected white males., many of whom are obsessed with guns. A piece in Salon looks at this connection between the white male mass shooters and today's political and social far right.  Here are excerpts:

Many mass shooters end up shot dead, either by their own hand or by the police. Unlike serial killers, they aren't generally available for post-crime interviews by psychologists or criminologists. But the Washington Post published a profile last week of Jesse Osborn, who survived his attempt to become a nationally famous school shooter on Feb. 14, 2016, when he was tackled by a voluntary fireman after Osborn's gun jammed during his attempted mass murder at an elementary school. He was 14 years old at the time. His rampage left two people injured and two others dead -- his father and a six-year-old boy. Osborn himself is alive and on trial for murder.
Osborn offers "extraordinary insight into the mind of an American school shooter." Those who have studied him report that Osborn shows little to no signs of remorse, and in fact seems proud of the will to dominate that led him to his crimes. He "considered himself the victim of an unfair world," Cox writes, and tried to manipulate psychologists by faking autism and schizophrenia, unsuccessfully, and claiming, again unsuccessfully, to be a victim of bullies.
But what struck me is how much Osborn — like many other mass shooters, including Nikolas Cruz, the shooter in Parkland, Florida — reminds me of the army of right-wing trolls that has grown online: The ones who call themselves "edgelords," who decorate their profiles with Pepe the Frog and who call Donald Trump their "god emperor." Like mass shooters, alt-right trolls are predominantly white men of various ages, but leaning young, fueled mainly by a belief in their own superiority and resentment that the rest of the world doesn't seem to respect it.
They are unapologetic in their sadism, relishing the pain and trauma they attempt to inflict on "libtards" and "snowflakes." Mass shooters get competitive about their body counts, and online trolls treat harassment like a game, where they "win" by maximizing the amount of abuse they dish out.
Mass shooters should be understood, it seems, as the radical edge of a larger trend of celebratory sadism spiked with right-wing politics -- a great boiling-over of rage from young and disaffected white men who believe they are victims and take great glee in trying to dominate, abuse and even assault others. This brings up extremely serious questions about the role the larger conservative movement is playing in allowing this toxicity to fester and grow.
In 2014, researchers published a paper demonstrating that online trolls showed high rates of what psychologists call the "Dark Tetrad" of personality traits, . . . "Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others)." [The piece correctly notes that the current occupant of the White House displays all of these traits.]  
Mass shooters and the alt-right intertwine directly in many other ways as well. A recent Southern Poverty Law Center report counted 43 murders at the hands of alt-right-aligned killers in the past four years. . . . Perhaps even more tellingly, the alt-right has made a habit of swarming after any high-profile mass shooting, targeting the survivors for re-victimization. Often within minutes of the first news reports, right-wing trolls will begin spreading rumors online that the survivors and family members of victims are "crisis actors," and may even encourage their followers to harass these people.
That we have seen an apparent surge in sadism, rooted in white male entitlement, is troubling enough. What makes the situation worse is the way the larger conservative movement has, almost habitually, run interference for not just alt-right trolls but, to some extent, the mass shooters who represent the most extreme expression of the same problem.
Whenever alt-right conspiracy theorists and white supremacists face actual consequences for their behavior — social media bans, public protests or just higher security expenses at public events — more mainstream conservatives, including Fox News pundits, have been willing to defend them, usually by declaring their "free speech" is being attacked by "snowflake" liberals.
Similarly, whenever there's a mass shooting, the conservative press snaps into action, seeking to minimize the situation and dissuade any effort to stop future mass shooters by disarming them.
In both cases, conservative pundits play a manipulative game, where they swear up and down that while they disapprove of the actions in question — whether it's bigoted harassment or mass murder — their supposed commitment to principles like "free speech" or "right to bear arms" prevents them from supporting even mild, common-sense efforts to rein in the bad behavior in question.
It's high time to understand mass shootings as not an anomaly, but as part of a larger ecosystem of viciousness that is growing in our culture, and has been shielded and fed by a conservative movement more interested in retaining power than confronting these larger social problems. Until we make these connections, and take actions are taken to counter the epidemic of white male sadism and rage, we can expect these terrible events to keep on happening.

Is Texas Poised to Begin the Shift to Purple?

The always foul Sen. Ted Cruz (R) faces a strong challenge from Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D).

years Virginia was a reliable Republican leaning state.  The two things happened: the Christofascists and white supremacists hijacked the Virginia GOP and the party base basically became something akin to a rabid dog.  The second thing that happened was that the voters in the growing urban areas finally decided that they were over the insanity of the GOP and its efforts to drag Virginia backwards in time.  The 2017 Virginia elections underscored the results of these two factors when Republicans lost the gubernatorial election by 9 points and 15 Republicans lost their seats in the House of Delegates.  Now, some believe - or at least hope - that Texas may be on the verge of a similar shift towards Democrats and modernity in general fueled by the growth of that state's urban areas and growing minority population.  The turn out in the Texas primaries today suggest a surge in Democrat voters - more, in fact than the Republican turnout. Here are highlights from a piece in the Washington Post:  
Texas polls have closed and the vote counting has begun in the first statewide primary of the 2018 election season, a major test of the elevated enthusiasm of Democratic voters in a Republican-dominated state.
According to figures published over the weekend by the Texas secretary of state’s office, of the 885,574 ballots already cast in the state’s 15 largest counties, more than 52 percent were for Democrats — a major jump from the last midterm primary.
In 2014, only 592,153 early ballots were cast in those counties, with Republican voters accounting for nearly 62 percent of the votes.
Tuesday’s voting stands to give a fuller picture of whether Democratic turnout in the state is truly outsized or whether Republicans simply waited till Election Day to cast ballots. Texas has routinely elected GOP officials in statewide races for a generation, though recently with declining margins. President Trump won the state by nine points four years after GOP nominee Mitt Romney beat President Barack Obama by 16 points.
Democratic turnout has been surging for months in elections around the country. Democrat Ralph Northam handily won the Virginia governor’s race in November, even though the Republican candidate, Ed Gillespie, received more votes than any GOP candidate in the state’s history.
Democrats have also been winning special state legislative elections around the country, including seats in states like Florida, Wisconsin and Kentucky that were once considered safe for Republicans. “WAKE UP CALL,” tweeted Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) in January, after a Democrat handily won a state legislative race in his state that Republicans won by 27 points in 2016.
The trend was set to continue Tuesday.
“There’s something different going on in Texas this cycle,” said David Wasserman, who analyzes House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “It’s a uniquely anti-Trump state, because it has a rare combination of diversity and a suburban professional class. And, in that sense, it’s becoming a little bit more like California every year.”
Top Republicans are taking notice of the trend, with Sen. Ted Cruz (R) telling state reporters even before polls closed that the new enthusiasm among Democrats, including his opponent Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D), had limited potential. “Congressman O’Rourke’s campaign is benefiting from left-wing rage,” Cruz said. “Left-wing rage may raise a bunch of money from people online, but I don’t believe it reflects the views of a majority of Texans.”
Others were more cautious about the coming danger.
“I think it would be malpractice if we didn’t pay attention and respond accordingly,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said Monday of the early voting results, suggesting that “we need to encourage the president” to email his supporters “and encourage them to vote in November.”
What Tuesday’s voting is unlikely to do is pick nominees in the most closely watched House races, many of which feature jam-packed fields where even the best-financed and best-known candidates will struggle to win an outright majority and avoid a May 22 runoff.
Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Tex.) predicted Tuesday that the elections will reflect a rising wave of discontent in his home state not just with Trump, but also with state Republican leaders who have governed from the hard right.
Few things would give me more joy than to see Ted Cruz defeated in November.  I hope Democrats continue to push and organize their ground game.  I remain convinced that the Northam/Democrat ground game in Virginia provides a wonderful template for implementation nationwide.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

More Tuesday Male Beauty

What Respect , If Any, Is Due Donald Trump?

As readers of this blog no doubt have gathered, I have no respect for Donald Trump and I refuse to attach the word "president" to his name and I will not surrender to the bullshit argument that one should show him respect because of the office he holds.  Trump ha shown only disrespect for his office and has brought a level of crassness, vulgarity and corruption to the White House never seen before.   Richard Nixon looks almost noble in comparison and George W. Bush comes across as thoughtful and knowledgeable in contrast.  Trump has lowered the dignity not only of his office but of the nation as a whole.  Just travel abroad and see how many times you need to explain that you did not support the man to moral and decent people who still cannot believe America lowered itself by allowing such a foul person in the White House.  A column in the Washington Post lays out an argument as to why showing no respect to Trump is the decent thing to do.  Here are excerpts:
What respect — if any — is due President Trump?
I ask that because, ever since his State of the Union speech, I’ve been wondering if congressional Democrats were out of line when dozens of them refused to stand for him as he entered the chamber. My Post colleague, the enviably talented Dana Milbanktook the Democrats to task for their behavior. He said the office of the presidency, if not the man, deserves our respect.
I respectfully disagree. In the first place, I am unable to separate the man from the office. Trump certainly hasn’t. He has shown no respect for the presidency, not a nod of homage to the aura of his predecessors, some of whom he must have heard about. He has used foul language in describing certain emerging nations, wakes in the morning engorged with brattiness and tweets denunciations of almost anyone. In an instant abdication of all dignity, Trump began his presidency with a squalid visit to CIA headquarters, where he stood before a memorial for the fallen ranting about the size of his inaugural’s crowd. It was an epic act of civic sacrilege. Trump is frequently dismissive of his own aides. This, though, is their own affair. They are men and women who seemingly lack pride or, in an act of self-abnegation not seen since Henry II submitted to flagellation for the murder of Thomas Becket, choose to suffer for their own foolish actions. They hitched their wagons to a star, but he was really a one-man black hole who swallows truth. In assessing what respect Trump is owed, it is not the man I consider but his victims. All presidents have victims, of course. The lives of countless people, both here and abroad, were ruined or ended by George W. Bush’s Iraq War. The issue with Trump, however, is not over policy. It is about empathy. Bush himself was wrong about so much, but he is a courteous man who treated everyone with dignity. That is not the case with Trump.  The politicians, however, can take care of themselves. It is Trump’s other victims that I have in mind when I consider if the man deserves any show of respect. Should I stand for a president who has called Mexican immigrants criminals? If I do, does it show respect for some abstraction called the office of the president or a lack of respect for the actuality of the Mexican people?
Similarly, do we ignore how Trump mocked the physical disability of a New York Times reporter or attacked Gold Star parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan? What about the Charlottesville protesters who Trump equated to neo-Nazis? I envision all these people feeling abandoned when Trump is cheered.
 [H]is aides are stalked by their former selves.  Whenever they accompany Trump anywhere, they should feel the contempt they have diligently earned by putting themselves at the service of a man who will sooner or later reward their stupidity with disdain. These are people who, in many cases, knew Trump was hugely unsuited for the presidency but let their demented hatred of Hillary Clinton and their personal greed blind them to the consequences. When they accompany Trump, they should feel the contempt Trump himself feels for people he’s bought. They are bimbos . . . .
There will be a presidency after Trump. With any luck, the next president will restore the dignity of the office, not merely with appropriate ceremony, but by acknowledging the honor and obligation of precedence. But until that happens, Trump gives us no choice. At the next state of the union speech, I’d like to see even more members rise to the occasion — by keeping their seats.
I would go further than the author and urge members of Congress to refuse to attend.   A half empty audience would be most appropriate.  Plus, it would drive Der Trumpenführer nuts.