Saturday, April 28, 2018

More Saturday Male Beauty

The Teacher Revolt Spreads to Arizona

Photo credit: Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press.
Slashing funding for public education has long been a favored tactic of Republican politicians who realize that their wealthy supporters could care less about public schools as their place their little darlings in private - and often  segregated - schools.  The other pillar of the Republican base, the Christofascists and evangelicals in turn hold hatred for public schools since they teach inconvenient things like science, especially the theory of evolution, and  fact based sex education.  Hence all the GOP efforts to provide vouchers and/or charter schools to the cheers of Christian extremist groups.   
For most Americans, however, public schools are an essential part of what the government is supposed to provide.  Good public schools maintain property values, make an area attractive for business investment, and provide their students with a path for upward social mobility.   Belatedly, more and more of the public and school teachers are waking to the damage that GOP attacks on funding for public schools is causing.  Soccer moms may be brain dead politically on most issues, but trash their child's school and even they can grasp the fact that things need to change.  As a column in the New York Times notes, the revolt against GOP efforts to defund public education has spread to Arizona.  Here are excerpts:

On Thursday, a historic walkout by teachers and the support staff closed more than 1,000 public schools in Arizona. The state became the latest and the largest to be swept by a labor insurgency among underpaid educators that started in February in West Virginia, then spread to Oklahoma, Kentucky and, also on Thursday, Colorado.
The wildfire spread of the teachers’ movement — in parts of the country that are singularly hostile to organized labor — is one of the more surprising and exciting developments of this otherwise bleak political moment. Conservatives are right to worry: We’re seeing a citizens’ revolt against their policies.
There are several interrelated factors behind the teachers’ movement’s explosive growth. Most significant, of course, is that teachers in some red states feel backed into a corner after a decade or more of disinvestment by Republican governments. Because of a series of tax cuts, particularly over the last 10 years, Arizona teachers are among the worst paid in the nation, and they have some of the country’s largest class sizes — up to 40 students to a single teacher, according to Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association teachers’ union.
This week, I visited a K-8 school in the scrublands of South Phoenix, a flat, dusty, wide-open area that’s only a 15-minute drive from downtown but feels much farther. (The principal asked me not to identify it, or him, for fear that his school would suffer administrative reprisals for letting a journalist in.) The science teacher told me her classes have 30 to 36 students each. Aside from desks, she’d either bought most of what was in her classroom, or had it donated — not just books, but also chairs and even a water dispenser, which the class needed during the seven months when the school’s drinking fountains were broken. The teachers’ strike in West Virginia made Arizona educators think that something could happen. Teachers told me they were also inspired by other bursts of activism nationwide, from the Women’s March to the Never Again movement for gun control. In Phoenix this week, I went to an organizing meeting in the suburban backyard of an elementary school teacher named Lisa Wyatt, where teachers and parents made plans to knock on their neighbors’ doors to build support for the walkout. “To see these kids organizing marches across the country, it’s like, ‘Wait a minute, we can do that!’” she told me. The impetus for the walkout in Arizona, like those in other states, . . . began with a Facebook group, Arizona Educators United, and a hashtag, #RedforEd, which an elementary school music teacher, Noah Karvelis, had created to encourage school employees to wear red in solidarity with their brethren in West Virginia.
It’s not a coincidence that the teacher walkouts have happened in states where unions are weak. . . . . because of its abysmal salaries, Arizona has such an acute teacher shortage that many schools are already hiring teachers without formal education training, some with only high school diplomas. Small-government conservatives have pushed teachers to the point where many feel they have nothing to lose.
Still, it’s not clear how long the educators can hold out. This month, Arizona’s governor, Doug Ducey, scored a public relations victory by offering teachers a 20 percent raise. Many educators didn’t trust him to deliver, saying that his plan had no dedicated revenue source. Nor did it address the teachers’ demand to restore education funding to 2008 levels.
But as we’ve seen all over the country since Donald Trump’s election, protest is contagious, and builds on itself. Ducey, meanwhile, is up for re-election this year in a state that’s trending blue. “Maybe I’m foolishly confident, but we have a ton of power,” Karvelis told me. “We have the truth on our side. We have the people on our side. And we have people who are not afraid to take a risk.”
Kudos to these teachers.  Let's hope the revolt expands further.

Paul Ryan Wants Priests to Shut Up About the Poor

I have noted in numerous post how Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House of Representatives claims to be a "devout Catholic" even as the reverse Robin Hood agenda he has pushed for years is diametrically opposed to the Catholic Church's social gospel which makes helping the poor, the hungry, the homeless and the sick a priority.  Ryan's policies, indeed, seek to kick those very categories of people into the gutter while lavishing tax cuts on the obscenely wealthy.  Ryan's hypocrisy is  on a par with that of evangelicals who want to police the sex lives of others yet support a morally bankrupt and confessed sexual predator that occupies the White House.  Now, with the firing of House chaplain, Jesuit priest, for lamenting the misplaced priorities of the Republican majority has put Ryan's hypocrisy on glaring display (while also raising the issue of the impropriety of having congressional chaplains in the first place).  A column in Esquire looks at Ryan's behavior.  Here are highlights:    

Right around 1817, after his term as president and having retired to the family homestead at Montpelier in Virginia, James Madison, who never stopped thinking about things, jotted down some further thoughts on one of his favorite subjects—the danger of mixing religious faith and secular, godless politics. He was pretty clear about where he stood. He was opposed even to the idea of congressional chaplains:
The law appointing Chaplains establishes a religious worship for the national representatives, to be performed by Ministers of religion, elected by a majority of them; and these are to be paid out of the national taxes. Does not this involve the principle of a national establishment . . . . The establishment of the chaplainship to Congs is a palpable violation of equal rights, as well as of Constitutional principles: The tenets of the chaplains elected [by the majority] shut the door of worship agst the members whose creeds & consciences forbid a participation in that of the majority.
[R]ecent events have added a third reason for not having congressional chaplains. Because, one day, a zombie-eyed granny starver might become Speaker of the House and fire a chaplain for being insufficiently devout as regards the theological basis for sacred tax cuts. From The New York Times:
Though Father Conroy said he did not know whether politics were behind his departure, he pointed to a prayer he had given on the House floor in November, when Congress was debating tax overhaul legislation.
“May all members be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle,” he prayed. “May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.”
About a week later, Father Conroy said, he heard from the speaker’s office. “A staffer came down and said, We are upset with this prayer; you are getting too political,” he said.   . . . . “That is what I have tried to do for seven years,” Father Conroy said. “It doesn’t sound political to me.” “If you are hospital chaplain, you are going to pray about health,” he added. “If you are a chaplain of Congress, you are going to pray about what Congress is doing.”
Fr. Conroy is a Jesuit. Ryan can’t seem to learn the fundamental lesson that you do not fck with The Society. When he was employed as a millstone on the 2012 Republican presidential ticket, Ryan got crossways with the Jesuits at Georgetown, to his hilarious disadvantage.
However, as this incident makes clear, and even though he has announced that he will blight our lives no more next year, Paul Ryan plans to “run through the tape” in his tireless search for ways to be a public jerk. Mr. Madison says, “I told you so.”

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, April 27, 2018

More Friday Male Beauty

Trump's Unhinged Rant on Fox News

Reportedly Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, rants and yells at the White House regularly when his delicate sensibilities are upset about people speaking the truth and/or opposing his more idiotic policies.  Yesterday, listeners of "Fox and Friends" got to observe Trump's melt down as he called into the show and even the anchors felt the need to shut him down.  For his lawyers, it was an even worse experience as Trump basically indicated that past statements on a number of matters had been lies - something that should surprise no one - and did everything competent legal counsel would caution against.  One former federal prosecutor stated that "For his lawyers, it must be like watching your toddler play in traffic."  There is a reason that no high profile/big firm lawyer wants to represent Trump.  He's a train wreck could likely drag the attorney into legal trouble of his/her own, not to mention he probably would default on paying his legal bills.  A piece in Politico looks at the "emperor has no cloths" episode.  Here are highlights:

Donald Trump's penchant for freewheeling chatter on issues being litigated in court landed him in hot water again Thursday, potentially upending his attorneys' strategy in ongoing court battles involving his personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
In a matter of about 90 seconds in a "Fox and Friends" interview, Trump appeared to undercut Cohen's claim that he acted on his own in paying $130,000 to porn actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election and managed to weaken his own attorneys' arguments in an ongoing fight over records the FBI seized from Cohen's home, office and hotel room.
"It's just a complete nightmare for his lawyers," said Ken White, a former federal corruption prosecutor based in Los Angeles. "The problem isn't just what he specifically admits in these statements. It's constantly generating inconsistent statements about issues that are going to be litigated, and that's what he has been doing."
"For his lawyers, it must be like watching your toddler play in traffic," White said. "You've got a client completely out of control."
The phenomenon is hardly new. Trump's tweets about his travel ban policy have been repeatedly cited in court to undermine the Justice Department's legal defense of those orders and were even raised at Supreme Court arguments this week on the subject. Now, he seems to be throwing more personal litigation into confusion.
Trump first seemed to drift off message when he told the TV hosts that Cohen performed only a “tiny, tiny little fraction” of his legal work. Prosecutors in New York seized on those comments to argue that few of the records the FBI seized from Cohen earlier this month fall under attorney-client privilege protections, despite Trump’s legal team’s arguments to the contrary.
"President Trump reportedly said on cable television this morning that Cohen performs 'a tiny, tiny little fraction' of his overall legal work," prosecutors said in a letter to U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood. The prosecution team also noted that another Cohen client, Fox News host Sean Hannity, also minimized the volume of legal work Cohen did for him.
"These statements by two of Cohen’s three identified clients suggest that the seized materials are unlikely to contain voluminous privileged documents, . . .
Next, Trump turned to Daniels, whose given name is Stephanie Clifford and who Cohen has acknowledged paying $130,000 in exchange for her silence about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump in 2006.
"Michael would represent me and represent me on some things," Trump said. "He represents me, like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me."  Up to that point, Cohen and Trump's legal team had sought to preserve ambiguity about Trump's role — if any — in the $130,000 payment.
But in the Thursday interview, Trump seemed to blow up that strategy. ". . . . Trump's statement this morning certainly sounds like an admission that he was involved in the Stormy Daniels hush payment," said Paul Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center, which filed complaints in January with the Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission over the payment. . . . his remarks appeared to tie him closer to events that federal prosecutors in New York are examining as a potential criminal violation of federal law.
"If there is a federal criminal investigation into the Stormy deal, then Trump definitely supplied a link in the chain by admitting being represented, knowingly, by Cohen," White said. "We don't know exactly what the government's theory is. It's reckless to go out there mouthing off without knowing all the factual circumstances."
"Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen previously represented to the American people that Mr. Cohen acted on his own and Mr. Trump knew nothing about the agreement with my client, the $130k payment, etc.,” her attorney, Michael Avenatti, wrote on Twitter. “As I predicted, that has now been shown to be completely false."
Trump is a pathological liar and mentally unfit to occupy the White House - or any other elected position.   I suspect the Cohen documents will yield a treasure trove of information on shady, if not outright illegal, activities.

The Republican Party's War on the Poor

The Republican Party and its most reliable base, evangelical Christians, bloviate endlessly about their supposed support for "Christian values" and worship of the Bible and its admonitions.  Yet the policies they pursue and support are diametrically opposed to Christ's principles and values as laid out in the Gospels.  Indeed, Matthew 25:41-46 states as follows:  
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
The dishonesty and hypocrisy of these Republicans and evangelical Christians is truly mind numbing.  A column in the New York Times underscores just how far apart the Gospel message and the evangelical Christian/Republican agenda have become.  Here are column highlights: 
America hasn’t always, or even usually, been governed by the best and the brightest; over the years, presidents have employed plenty of knaves and fools. But I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like the collection of petty grifters and miscreants surrounding Donald Trump. Price, Pruitt, Zinke, Carson and now Ronny Jackson: At this point, our default assumption should be that there’s something seriously wrong with anyone this president wants on his team.
Still, we need to keep our eye on the ball. The perks many Trump officials demand — the gratuitous first-class travel, the double super-secret soundproof phone booths, and so on — are outrageous, and they tell you a lot about the kind of people they are. But what really matters are their policy decisions. Ben Carson’s insistence on spending taxpayer funds on a $31,000 dining set is ridiculous; his proposal to sharply raise housing costs for hundreds of thousands of needy American families, tripling rents for some of the poorest households, is vicious.
And this viciousness is part of a broader pattern. Last year, Trump and his allies in Congress devoted most of their efforts to coddling the rich; this was obviously true of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, but even the assault on Obamacare was largely about securing hundreds of billions in tax cuts for the wealthy. This year, however, the G.O.P.’s main priority seems to be making war on the poor.
That war is being fought on multiple fronts. The move to slash housing subsidies follows moves to sharply increase work requirements for those seeking food stamps. Meanwhile, the administration has been granting Republican-controlled states waivers allowing them to impose onerous new work requirements for recipients of Medicaid — requirements whose main effect would probably be not more work, but simply fewer people getting essential health care.
The interesting question is not whether Trump and friends are trying to make the lives of the poor nastier, more brutal and shorter. They are. The question, instead, is why.
Is it about saving money? Conservatives do complain about the cost of safety net programs, but it’s hard to take those complaints seriously coming from people who just voted to explode the budget deficit with huge tax cuts. Moreover, there’s good evidence that some of the programs under attack actually do what tax cuts don’t: eventually pay back a significant part of their upfront costs by promoting better economic performance.
For example, the creation of the food stamp program didn’t just make the lives of recipients a bit easier. It also had major positive impacts on the long-term health of children from poor families, which made them more productive as adults — more likely to pay taxes, less likely to need further public assistance.
The same goes for Medicaid, where new studies suggest that more than half of each dollar spent on health care for children eventually comes back as higher tax receipts from healthier adults.
So what’s really behind the war on the poor? Pretty clearly, the pain this war will inflict is a feature, not a bug. Trump and his friends aren’t punishing the poor reluctantly, out of the belief that they must be cruel to be kind. They just want to be cruel.
Glenn Thrush of The New York Times reported, “Mr. Trump, aides said, refers to nearly every program that provides benefits to poor people as welfare, a term he regards as derogatory.” And I guess you can see where that comes from. After all, he’s a self-made man who can’t attribute any of his own success to, say, inherited wealth. Oh, wait.
Seriously, a lot of people both in this administration and in Congress simply feel no empathy for the poor. Some of that lack of empathy surely reflects racial animus. But while the war on the poor will disproportionately hurt minority groups, it will also hurt a lot of low-income whites — in fact, it will surely end up hurting a lot of people who voted for Trump. Will they notice?

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Trump's Improper War on Blue States

Among the many threats that Der Trumpenführer directs at all kinds of targets - typically, those who reject his lies and/or refuse to embrace his racist agenda - is that federal funds will be withheld from blue states that voted against Trump in the presidential election and/or refuse to cooperate in Trump's effort to terrorize undocumented immigrants. The irony, of course, is that blue states contribute far more to the federal government that they receive back and, therefore, indirectly finance red states that are the states equivalents of the welfare queens constantly derided by right wing Republicans.  The ongoing warfare between the White House and blue states such as California (with its voting record of late and Democrat led state government, Virginia could soon find itself a target of Trump's untethered wrath).   In the eye of the storm is the always despicable Jeff Sessions, and man with a long documented history of racism and bigotry, who is acting with no statutory authority.  A piece in the New York Times looks at this disturbing situation.  Here are article excerpts:
In the civil war now being waged in this country, the combatants are not the blue and the gray of old. It’s the White House versus the blue states.
And the weapons aren’t cannon balls but rather the threatened withholding of federal money from “sanctuary” cities and states, the plan for the next census that would have the effect of shrinking liberal states’ representation in Congress, and the cap on tax deductions that will strike at residents of cities and states where high tax rates support decent public services.
While California is most prominently in the administration’s cross hairs . . . . the free state of California is not the only target. Chilling headlines like a recent one in a local newspaper in New Haven — “ICE Lies in Wait at Elm Street Courthouse” — are appearing all over the country as federal agents stalk and capture undocumented immigrants and leave the rest of us to shudder at tactics we used to ascribe to countries we regarded with disdain.
Those old enough to remember the Rehnquist federalism revolution of the 1990s and early 2000s will recall how startling it was when Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist’s long-sought majority began to rein in the federal government’s authority over the states with an enthusiasm and to a degree not seen since the early years of the New Deal.
The federal government can’t “commandeer” the states to carry out its enforcement objectives, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote for the majority in a 1992 case, New York v. United States, invalidating a federal plan to oblige the states to help dispose of radioactive waste. “Congress must accord states the esteem due them as joint partners in a federal system,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in a 1999 case, Alden v. Maine, immunizing the states from suits for violations of federal labor law.
[T]he current reversal of polarity is head-snapping. The Trump administration is not only commandeering local courthouses as convenient places to trap its prey, it also seeks to punish cities and states that resist.
That effort ran into a major roadblock last week in the form of a decision by the federal appeals court in Chicago. The three-judge panel blocked the effort by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to withhold millions of dollars in federal law-enforcement grant money from cities and states that fail to give advance notice to federal authorities when individuals who are “believed to be aliens” are expected to be released from custody or deny federal agents access to jails to meet with them . . . 
[A]ll three judges were Republican appointees, . . . .  Attorney General Sessions, Judge Rovner wrote, “repeatedly characterizes the issue as whether localities can be allowed to thwart federal law enforcement. That is a red herring. First, nothing in this case involves any affirmative interference with federal law enforcement at all, nor is there any interference whatsoever with federal immigration authorities. The only conduct at issue here is the refusal of the local law enforcement to aid in civil immigration enforcement . . . .
The judge added, “The choice as to how to devote law enforcement resources — including whether or not to use such resources to aid in federal immigration efforts — would traditionally be one left to state and local authorities.”
Congress granted the department no such authority, the appeals court concluded, nor can the statute be interpreted as bestowing it inherently. To quote Judge Rovner: “We are faced, then, with conditions on the receipt of critical law enforcement funds that have been imposed by the attorney general without any authority in a manner that usurps the authority of Congress — made more egregious because Congress itself has repeatedly refused to pass bills with such restrictions.”
Judge Rovner wrote . . . The founders of our country well understood that the concentration of power threatens individual liberty and established a bulwark against such tyranny by creating a separation of powers among the branches of government. If the executive branch can determine policy, and then use the power of the purse to mandate compliance with that policy by the state and local governments, all without the authorization or even acquiescence of elected legislators, that check against tyranny is forsaken.”
And if that wasn’t strong enough medicine, her opinion includes this observation: “It falls to us, the judiciary, as the remaining branch of the government, to act as a check on such usurpation of power.”
Nor is there middle ground in another front in the new civil war: the Trump administration’s decision, announced on March 26, to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. California, New York, the N.A.A.C.P., and others promptly filed lawsuits.
The legal complaints assert that requiring people to reveal their citizenship status will predictably depress participation, thereby preventing the government from obeying the constitutional command to conduct an “actual enumeration” every 10 years. . . . . In other words, while there is little chance that the citizenship question will produce a more accurate census, there is every chance that it will bring about a shift in the national balance of power.
New York, heading a plaintiff coalition of 16 states and several cities, asserts in its complaint that “a person-by-person citizenship demand that leads to a systematic undercount of minority populations across the United States will impair fair representation of those groups and the states in which they live.”
“A state of war is not a blank check for the president,” Justice O’Connor famously wrote in one of the cases that reached the court during that period. That goes for a civil war, too.

More Thursday Male Beauty

Macron Tears Down Trumpism

During an address to a joint session of Congress French President Emmanuel Macron demonstrated that he is everything that Donald Trump is not: young, handsome, well spoken, able to show empathy for others, and cares beyond simply himself.   Indeed, he looks and acts presidential while Trump comes across as crude, not overly bright trailer park trash with money.  I will confess that I love the French and that Paris is perhaps my favorite city in the world.  I also - unlike, I suspect far too many Americans - know that France is America's oldest ally and that but for the French fleet which blocked British reinforcements, the battle of Yorktown would have likely been lost by the American army under George Washington.  Likewise, many of the founding principles of America embraced by the Founding Fathers trace back across the Atlantic to French writers.  Thus, it was proper that Macron reminded Americans of everything being lost under the toxic Trump/Pence regime.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at Macron's speech.  Here are highlights:

Before French President Emmanuel Macron delivered an address at a joint meeting of Congress on Wednesday, the headlines about his trip to Washington centered on his apparent “bromance” with President Trump 
But on Wednesday, as his three-day visit drew to a close, Macron shifted the story dramatically. In his speech to American lawmakers, he offered a comprehensive rejection of the main tenets of Trumpism, excoriating “extreme nationalism” and protectionism, championing climate-change science and defending the international liberal order. “You can play with anger and fear for a time,” Macron said, alluding to the themes that fuel right-wing nationalist movements in the West, “but they do not construct anything.”
Macron went on, urging his American audience to look beyond borders and walls. “We can choose isolationism. But closing the door to the world will not stop the evolution of the world,” he said. And he bristled at the rise of autocrats and illiberal democrats, which include some leaders favored by Trump: “I don’t share fascination for new strong powers and the illusion of nationalism,” he said.
Macron also cast a skeptical eye at Trump's efforts to slap tariffs on imports from allies and undermine existing free-trade deals. To Macron, this bid to boost American manufacturing jobs at home — combined with Trump's dismissals of climate change as a “hoax” — was counterproductive and shortsighted.
“Some people think that securing current industries and their jobs is more urgent than transforming our economies to meet the challenge of global change,” he said. In the final analysis, he suggested, the impasse cannot last. “In the long run, we will have to face the same realities,” he said. “We’re just citizens of the same planet.”
There's no “Planet B,” Macron pointed out, echoing an earlier argument he made about there being no “Plan B” for the Iran nuclear deal that Trump wants to dismantle. Then he drew thunderous applause from Democrats with this confident declaration: “I am sure one day the United States will come back and join the Paris agreement.”
Macron also played the role of the proud transatlantic ally. He hailed the historic French-American friendship and the two countries' shared sacrifices from World War II to the current fight against Islamist militant groups in various parts of the world. And he predictably appealed to a love of liberty and the many other cultural connections between the two countries.
Macron also summoned legacies largely ignored by Trump. . . . . . “Human rights, the rights of minorities and shared liberty are the true answers to the disorder of the world,” Macron said to Congress. Meanwhile, across the street at the Supreme Court, the Trump administration pressed its case to impose blanket travel bans on certain Muslim-majority countries.
There are few things Washington officialdom loves to discuss more than the importance of American leadership in the world. Macron did not disappoint. He reminded Democrats and Republicans that the nuclear deal Congress approved in 2015 was worth defending, and that the alternatives — a confrontation that may lead to war with Iran — would “replicate past mistakes.”
He also told his audience of the importance of the world order that “you built,” pointing to the institutions and international norms developed after World War II.  . . . . “You are the one now who has to help preserve and reinvent it,” he added, calling on Washington to help build a new world order “based on a more effective, accountable, and results-oriented multilateralism.”
Macron “solidified his standing as leader of the West (to the extent there still is a West) by his call today before Congress for an updated liberal world order to meet regional, global challenges,” tweeted Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a doyen of the Washington policy establishment. “His problem is a lack of partners in Europe and here in U.S.”
“The most likely result is that the American president won’t pay attention to what Macron was trying to say — indeed, that he won’t even understand that he has been so openly challenged,” wrote Post columnist Anne Applebaum. “And that may have been the point, for Macron’s speech will be perfectly understood in France, in Europe, and even in the United States (at least outside the White House).”
Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, an inveterate Atlanticist, echoed the sentiments of many in her milieu with a tweeted jab at Trump“It has been too long since a President delivered a speech in Washington about the need to defend democracy and support international cooperation.”

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Modern Day Pharisee Evangelicals Look to Rescue GOP

I try not to reference articles from the same publication more than once per day, but I could not pass up this second piece in the New York Times that looks at the plan on the part of evangelical Christian organizations to mobilize a massive voter turnout operation in the lead up to the 2018 midterm elections.  For these groups and their followers, the fact that the GOP's agenda is the antithesis of Christ's social gospel message and/ot the fact that Donald Trump is close to being the antiChrist when it comes to living a life that is the diametrical opposite of the Christian message seemingly is irrelevant.  Instead, their sole focus is on supporting a man/political party that gives them deference and that attacks and denigrates their perceived enemies, gays and Muslims leading the way in terms of those most hated. The take away, for me, is that anyone who values the separation of church and state needs to redouble their efforts to support Democrat candidates and urge family and friends to vote come November, 2018.  Here are article excerpts:

The conservative Christian coalition that helped usher President Trump into power in 2016 is planning its largest midterm election mobilization ever, with volunteers fanning out from the church pews to the streets to register voters, raise money and persuade conservatives that they cannot afford to be complacent this year.
But the cumulative weight of scandals in Mr. Trump’s private and public life is threatening to overshadow what the religious right sees as its most successful string of policy victories in a generation. And Republicans will be up against not only a resurgent liberal opposition to Mr. Trump but also the historical disadvantages that burden any party in full control of Washington, especially in the first off-year congressional elections of a president’s term.
The vast majority of evangelical Christians are digging in for Mr. Trump, despite accusations by a pornographic film star and a Playboy playmate that he had separate affairs with them shortly after his wife, Melania Trump, gave birth to their son. Those controversies, paired with the multiple women who accused him of groping them before the election and his own boasts of sexual aggressions, have highlighted the unyielding support of a political bloc that once put moral behavior at the center of its political judgment.
“Now even the Christian culture is O.K. with it,” said Jim Daly, the president of Focus on the Family, one of the nation’s largest evangelical groups. “That’s the sadness,” he added. “The next time a Democrat in the presidency has a moral failure, who’s going to be able to say anything?”
But Christian conservatives say Mr. Trump has also more than honored his end of the bargain . . . He has begun the process of moving the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, won the confirmation of numerous judges and a Supreme Court Justice who seem likely to advance their anti-abortion cause, moved against transgender protections throughout the government, increased the ability of churches to organize politically . . .
“I don’t know of anyone who has worked the evangelical community more effectively than Donald Trump,” said Ralph Reed, the chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, which this year plans to devote four times the money it spent in the 2014 midterms.
A poll released last week by the Public Religion Research Institute found white evangelical approval for Mr. Trump at its highest level ever: 75 percent. Only 22 percent said they had an unfavorable view of the president.
The message to energize Christian conservatives has twin purposes: to inspire them to celebrate their victories and to stoke enough grievance to prod them to vote. . . . leaders of the movement plan to lean hard into a message that fans fears and grudges: that the progressive movement and national media mock Christian life and threaten everything religious conservatives have achieved in the 15 months of the Trump administration.
Leaders of the Christian right have not only largely accepted Mr. Trump’s flaws and moved on; they seem to almost dare the president’s opponents to throw more at him. Ms. Nance said she heard a common sentiment from volunteers and supporters who did not seem bothered by the allegations of Mr. Trump’s infidelity.
The danger for Republicans is the many evangelicals who do not like what the president is doing. His petty insults, coarse language, lack of humility and private life are difficult to square with Christian faith, opponents say. The president has helped devalue character, morality and fidelity as essential qualities in political leaders, they say.
A meeting of evangelical leaders in Illinois last week featured a frank and candid discussion of the president’s failings, prompting some pro-Trump attendees to walk out.
The take away is that the "leaders" of the evangelicals will disseminate yet more calls to fear and hatred while underscoring their utter moral bankruptcy as they link evangelicals to a man devoid of basic morality.  One can only hope that as a result revulsion for evangelicals will grow and the exodus of Americans from organized religion will accelerate. Christianity has become something hideous under Trump supporting evangelicals. 

Study: Trump Voters Driven by Fear of Losing Status

Photo credit: Damon Winter/The New York Times.        

Personally, I never bought into the supposed explanation for working class whites moving to support Trump due to their "economic anxiety."  First, the economy had improved remarkably since the Great Recession, real estate prices had finally begun to rebound, and America enjoyed respect across most of the globe (travel abroad now, and you find yourself striving to explain that you were NOT a Trump voter).  Instead, I always believed that the real motivation was reaction to a perceived loss of white privilege or, stated another way, racism against minorities, particularly blacks and Hispanics.  Add to this the manufactured myth of Christian persecution disseminated by Christian "family values" organizations with roots tracing back to proponents of segregation and the fig leaf of economic anxiety as a primary motivating factor falls completely apart. Now, a new study further debunks the economic anxiety meme pushed by lazy and irresponsible journalist reluctant to call out the bigotry of Trump's base.   The New York Times looks at the study findings which are more or less an indictment of white, Christian, male voters in particular.  Here are highlights:
Ever since Donald J. Trump began his improbable political rise, many pundits have credited his appeal among white, Christian and male voters to “economic anxiety.” Hobbled by unemployment and locked out of the recovery, those voters turned out in force to send Mr. Trump, and a message, to Washington.
Or so that narrative goes.
A study published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences questions that explanation, the latest to suggest that Trump voters weren’t driven by anger over the past, but rather fear of what may come. White, Christian and male voters, the study suggests, turned to Mr. Trump because they felt their status was at risk.
“It’s much more of a symbolic threat that people feel,’’ said Diana C. Mutz, the author of the study and a political science and communications professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where she directs the Institute for the Study of Citizens and Politics. “It’s not a threat to their own economic well-being; it’s a threat to their group’s dominance in our country over all.”
The study is not the first to cast doubt on the prevailing economic anxiety theory. Last year, a Public Religion Research Institute survey of more than 3,000 people also found that Mr. Trump’s appeal could better be explained by a fear of cultural displacement.
In her study, Dr. Mutz sought to answer two questions: Is there evidence to support the economic anxiety argument, and did the fear of losing social dominance drive some voters to Mr. Trump? . . . . Dr. Mutz’s statistical analysis focused on those who bucked the trend, switching their support to the Republican candidate, Mr. Trump, in 2016.
Even before conducting her analysis, Dr. Mutz noted two reasons for skepticism of the economic anxiety, or “left behind,” theory. First, the economy was improving before the 2016 presidential campaign. Second, while research has suggested that voters are swayed by the economy, there is little evidence that their own financial situation similarly influences their choices at the ballot box.
The analysis offered even more reason for doubt.
Losing a job or income between 2012 and 2016 did not make a person any more likely to support Mr. Trump, Dr. Mutz found. Neither did the mere perception that one’s financial situation had worsened. A person’s opinion on how trade affected personal finances had little bearing on political preferences. Neither did unemployment or the density of manufacturing jobs in one’s area.
“It wasn’t people in those areas that were switching, those folks were already voting Republican,” Dr. Mutz said. . . . It showed that anxieties about retirement, education and medical bills also had little impact on whether a person supported Mr. Trump.
While economic anxiety did not explain Mr. Trump’s appeal, Dr. Mutz found reason instead to credit those whose thinking changed in ways that reflected a growing sense of racial or global threat. . . . the voters, in a defensive crouch, found themselves closer to Mr. Trump. . . . the findings revealed a fear that American global dominance was in danger, a belief that benefited Mr. Trump and the Republican Party.
“The shift toward an antitrade stance was a particularly effective strategy for capitalizing on a public experiencing status threat due to race as well as globalization,” Dr. Mutz wrote in the study.
Her survey also assessed “social dominance orientation,” a common psychological measure of a person’s belief in hierarchy as necessary and inherent to a society. People who exhibited a growing belief in such group dominance were also more likely to move toward Mr. Trump, Dr. Mutz found, reflecting their hope that the status quo be protected.
“It used to be a pretty good deal to be a white, Christian male in America, but things have changed and I think they do feel threatened,” Dr. Mutz said.
The other surveys supported the cultural anxiety explanation, too.
For example, Trump support was linked to a belief that high-status groups, such as whites, Christians or men, faced more discrimination than low-status groups, like minorities, Muslims or women . . .
If wrong, the prevailing economic theory lends unfounded virtue to his victory, crediting it to the disaffected masses, Dr. Mutz argues. More important, she said, it would teach the wrong lesson to elected officials, who often look to voting patterns in enacting new policy.
Once again, I ask my "friends" who voted for T rump to look at themselves in the mirror and admit what really motivated their vote.  Given the GOP/Trump tax bill, we know that references to supporting "fiscal conservatism" are complete bullshit.  Sorry, to be blunt, but it's time to be honest about people's motivations.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Trump's Continuing Michael Cohen Problem

Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, continues to blame all of his legal problems on a "horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media."   The problem with that claim, of course as one commentator noted, is that the witch hunt keeps finding witches as evidenced by the growing list of criminal indictments and cooperating witnesses.  Outside of Paul Manafort - who some believe was Trump's conduit to Russia during the 2016 campaign - Trump's biggest problem is his long time personal attorney and"fixer," Michael Cohen.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at Trump's behavior and the absence of the behavior of someone with nothing to hide.  Obviously, when one needs a fixer in the first place to clean up sordid affairs and who knows what other unsavory or illegal actions, there is always a risk that they can "flip" and provide very damaging information.  Here are article highlights:

Trump has not been tweeting like a man with nothing to fear.
Over the weekend, he tried to project confidence that his longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen — under federal investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations — will not flip to avoid legal trouble. But in doing so, and skipping a denial of wrongdoing, [Trump] the president implied two things.
One is that Cohen would need to strike a deal with prosecutors to avoid charges or prison time. Trump's tweet did not even entertain the idea that the investigation will turn up nothing because Cohen committed no crimes.
The second is that Cohen possesses damaging information about [Trump] the president. Trump said he believes Cohen will keep his mouth shut, not that Cohen can talk all he wants because there is no dirt to dish.
[O]n Monday, Bloomberg's Justin Sink said the president's Twitter thread “prompts two questions: The first is what the president believes his personal attorney might have done to get him in trouble with the government. And, secondly, what [Trump] the president's done that he is worried Michael Cohen could flip about.” “The president's been clear that he hasn't done anything wrong,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders replied. . . . I don't have anything to add.”
 It is the absence of “anything to add” that is striking. The simple, playing-it-cool response would be that the president encourages Cohen to cooperate fully with an investigation that will surely end in exoneration. But the White House hasn't said anything of the kind. In fact, the White House appears to be leaving open the door to a presidential pardon for Cohen — which, of course, would be necessary only if there were a crime to pardon. Trump seems clearly worried about Cohen, and he and his White House aren't doing anything to change that perception.

Could a Democrat Score an Upset in Arizona?

Democrat challenger Hiral Tipirneni, MD
If nothing else, Donald Trump's election has ignited a fire in many women, especially college educated women, who are horrified by both Trump's election and the reverse Robin Hood and misogynistic agenda of today's  Republican Party. Women have been throwing their hats into the political ring in record numbers and now a Democrat is within potential striking range of scoring an upset in a reliably Republican district in Arizona.  Combined with the ongoing teacher strike in Arizona - Arizona has among the lowest teacher pay in America - Democrat Hiral Tipirneni strong campaign suggests that Arizona may be on its way to joining Virginia in as a purple or even blue state in the near future.  A column in the New York Times looks at the changing scene in Arizona.  Here are column excerpts:
On Tuesday, there’s a special election in Arizona’s Eighth Congressional District, which Donald Trump won by 21 percentage points. It’s to replace Trent Franks, the abortion opponent who resigned amid reports that he tried to create his own personal version of “The Handmaid’s Tale” by pressuring female employees to serve as gestational surrogates.
In the past two elections, Democrats didn’t contest the district, which encompasses suburbs northwest of Phoenix. This time, a Democrat named Hiral Tipirneni, a former emergency room physician and first-time political candidate, is running against a Republican state senator, Debbie Lesko. Though Lesko is expected to win, some polls show the race in a dead heat, and Republicans have spent more than $1 million on the campaign.
On Thursday, public school teachers in Arizona, among the lowest paid in the country, are planning to walk out, following the lead of teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky. For 15 years, “we’ve continued to get cut and cut and cut,” Theresa Ratti, who teaches high school in Mesa, told me. “My A.P. government textbook that I teach from, the new president is George W. Bush.” These two events — an unexpectedly competitive Eighth District election and a rare labor action by teachers — are connected. Partly this is because Lesko is a villain to many local champions of public education. . . . . Lesko has been an advocate of vouchers and privatization and pretty much anything she can do to destroy the public school system.” But there’s a deeper link. Both the walkout and the surprising viability of Tipirneni’s campaign are manifestations of the explosive activist energy, particularly among women, set off by the catastrophe of Trump’s election. Since Hillary Clinton’s defeat, “college-educated women have ramped up their political participation en masse,” . . . . women who were once politically disengaged felt demeaned by Trump’s victory. Overcome by a need to do something in response, they’d turned to local politics, which had gradually come to consume their lives.
Save Our Schools, a prominent grass-roots organization supporting the walkout, is an outgrowth of an Arizona group called Stronger Together, which itself is a spinoff of the pro-Hillary Clinton Facebook group Pantsuit Nation. . . . .  before the election, Republicans had more than 3,000 precinct committeemen in the county, and Democrats only 600. Since 2016, he said, the Democrats’ total has grown to 1,700.
Even with this new infrastructure, local activists realize that winning on Tuesday is a long shot. Unlike the pro-Trump district that the Democrat Conor Lamb won in Pennsylvania, Arizona’s Eighth has no Democratic roots. It’s both very white and, because of a high concentration of retirees, very old.
But whatever happens this week, politics in Arizona, which Trump won by a mere 3.5 percentage points and which is key to the Democratic dream of retaking the Senate, is changing fast. Though our national politics remains a horror show, here, among so many indefatigable women, it’s easy to be hopeful.
Even if she [Tipirneni] comes up short, the work she’s done to build up the Democratic Party in her district will have a lasting impact, she said: “It’s going to be incredible to see what Arizona looks like after November.”
I will keep my fingers crossed and hope for a Democrat upset.