Saturday, June 09, 2018

The Other German Autocrat Trump is Channeling

There are many accurate parallels between Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, and Adolph Hitler.  Both held simmering hatred towards certain groups - for Hitler, it was Jews, for Trump it is non-whites - and were narcissists to the extreme.  But there is another German autocrat that bears remarkable parallels to Trump who, like Hitler, lead that nation to catastrophic loss. Trump, who doesn't read books and seems to have no interests in knowing or understanding the lessons of history (he accused Canada of burning the White House in the War of 1812 when it was burned by the British Army), likely doesn't even know this former ruler's name: Kaiser (i.e., emperor) Wilhelm II.  Like Trump, Wilhelm thought he knew everything and thought he was a wonderful negotiator and could connect with people. Reality, of course was the exact opposite. Wilhelm was an idiot and took Germany to War in 1914 with terrible results.  The thick history book, "Ring of Steel" goes into great detail about the lead up to WWI and German's many wrong assumptions and the reality that Germany was doomed to defeat in any protracted war. A piece in New Yorker remind us of the other tyrant Trump seemingly tries to emulate.  Here are article excerpts:
One of the few things that Kaiser Wilhelm II, who ruled Germany from 1888 to 1918, had a talent for was causing outrage. A particular specialty was insulting other monarchs. He called the diminutive King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy “the dwarf” in front of the king’s own entourage. He called Prince (later Tsar) Ferdinand, of Bulgaria, “Fernando naso,” on account of his beaky nose, and spread rumors that he was a hermaphrodite.  

After a visit to Germany, in 1909, during which the Kaiser slapped him on the bottom in public and then refused to apologize, Ferdinand awarded a valuable arms contract that had been promised to the Germans to a French company instead.
Not that this deterred the Kaiser. One of the many things that Wilhelm was convinced he was brilliant at, despite all evidence to the contrary, was “personal diplomacy,” fixing foreign policy through one-on-one meetings with other European monarchs and statesmen. In fact, Wilhelm could do neither the personal nor the diplomacy, and these meetings rarely went well. 
In 1890, he let lapse a long-standing defensive agreement with Russia—the German Empire’s vast and sometimes threatening eastern neighbor. He judged, wrongly, that Russia was so desperate for German good will that he could keep it dangling. Instead, Russia immediately made an alliance with Germany’s western neighbor and enemy, France. Wilhelm decided he would charm and manipulate Tsar Nicholas II  . . . . into abandoning the alliance. In 1897, Nicholas told Wilhelm to get lost; the German-Russian alliance withered.
About a decade ago, I published “George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I,” a book that was, in part, about Kaiser Wilhelm, who is probably best known for being Queen Victoria’s first grandchild and for leading Germany into the First World War. Ever since Donald Trump started campaigning for President, the Kaiser has once again been on my mind—his personal failings, and the global fallout they led to.
Trump’s tweets were what first reminded me of the Kaiser. Wilhelm was a compulsive speechmaker who constantly strayed off script. Even his staff couldn’t stop him, though it tried, distributing copies of speeches to the German press before he’d actually given them. Unfortunately, the Austrian press printed the speeches as they were delivered, and the gaffes and insults soon circulated around Europe.
The Kaiser reserved particular abuse for political parties that voted against his policies. “I regard every Social Democrat as an enemy of the Fatherland,” he said, and he denounced the German Socialist party as a “gang of traitors.” August Bebel, the Socialist party leader, said that every time the Kaiser opened his mouth, the party gained another hundred thousand votes.
When Wilhelm became emperor, in 1888, at twenty-nine years old, he was determined to be seen as tough and powerful. He fetishized the Army, surrounded himself with generals (though, like Trump, he didn’t like listening to them), owned a hundred and twenty military uniforms, and wore little else. 

In fact, Wilhelm didn’t accomplish very much. The general staff of the German Army agreed that the Kaiser couldn’t “lead three soldiers over a gutter.” He had neither the attention span nor the ability. “Distractions, whether they are little games with his army or navy, travelling or hunting—are everything to him,” a disillusioned former mentor wrote. “He reads very little apart from newspaper cuttings, hardly writes anything himself apart from marginalia on reports and considers those talks best which are quickly over and done with.” The Kaiser’s entourage compiled press cuttings for him, mostly about himself, which he read as obsessively as Trump watches television. A critical story would send him into paroxysms of fury.

To add to the confusion, Wilhelm changed his position every five minutes. He was deeply suggestible and would defer to the last person he’d spoken to or cutting he’d read—at least until he’d spoken to the next person.  . . .  Wilhelm’s staff and ministers resorted to manipulation, distraction, and flattery to manage him. “In order to get him to accept an idea you must act as if the idea were his,” the Kaiser’s closest friend, Philipp zu Eulenburg, advised his colleagues, adding, “Don’t forget the sugar.” 

More sinisterly, Wilhelm’s patronage of the aggressive, nationalistic right left him surrounded by ministers who held a collective conviction that a European war was inevitable and even desirable. Alfred von Tirpitz, Germany’s Naval chief—who realized at his first meeting with the Kaiser that he did “not live in the real world”—consciously exploited Wilhelm’s envy and rage in order to extract the astronomical sums required to build a German Navy to rival Britain’s, a project that created an arms race and became an intractable block to peace negotiations.
I spent six years writing my book about Wilhelm and his cousins, King George V, of England, and Tsar Nicholas II, and the Kaiser’s egotism and eccentricity made him by far the most entertaining of the three to write about. After a while, though, living with Wilhelm—as you do when you write about another person over a long period—became onerous. It was dispiriting, even oppressive, to spend so much time around someone who never learned, and never changed.
The Kaiser wasn’t singly responsible for the First World War, but his actions and choices helped to bring it on. If international conflict is around the corner, it would seem that you really don’t want a narcissist in control of a global power. Wilhelm’s touchiness, his unpredictability, his need to be acknowledged: these things struck a chord with elements in Germany, which was in a kind of adolescent spasm—quick to perceive slights, excited by the idea of flexing its muscles, filled with a sense of entitlement. At the same time, Wilhelm’s posturing raised tensions in Europe. His clumsy personal diplomacy created suspicion. His alliance with the vitriolic right and his slavish admiration for the Army inched the country closer and closer to war.
The defeated Germany sank into years of depression, resentments sharpened, the toxic lie that Germany had been “robbed” of its rightful victory in the war took hold. The rest, as they say, is history.
I’m not suggesting that Trump is about to start the Third World War. But recent foreign developments—the wild swings with North Korea, the ditching of the Iran nuclear deal, the threat of a trade war with China—suggest upheavals that could quickly grow out of American control. Some of Trump’s critics suppose that these escalating crises might cause him to loosen, or even lose, his grip on the Presidency. The real lesson of Kaiser Wilhelm II, however, may be that Trump’s leaving office might not be the end of the problems he may bring on or exacerbate—it may be only the beginning.
Unlike the German political parties of Wilhelm's time, the Republican controlled Congress could rein Trump in.  Yet it doesn't. Why? Congressional Republicans care more about remaining in office and living well of the taxpayer teet. Like Trump, the focus is all on themselves and they don't give a damn about what happens to the nation or everyday Americans.  History provides many lessons.  Sadly, our education system gives it short shrift.  We are about to pay the consequences.  Let's hope Trump, like Wilhelm, finds himself thrown from office and his dreams of empire destroyed.
Kaiser Wilhelm - who lead Germany to disaster.

More Saturday Male Beauty

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State Terror in Trump’s America

America - morally bankrupt. 
The international world order is not the only thing that Donald Trump, a/k/a Trumpenführer, is destroying.  He and his foul regime are destroying America's decency and basic morality.  True, America has some ugly history - e.g., slavery, the genocide of Native Americans, the Japanese internment camps during WWII - but one would have hoped that as a nation we would have moved past such inhumanity.  Not so under the Trump/Pence regime and its evangelical Christian base which is showing itself to be no better than the majority of German Christians who supported Hitler's rise to power.  When a nation has as official policy the mistreatment of children, some as young as infants and toddlers, national moral bankruptcy is complete. Yet this is what is happening along America's southern border where children are being forceably ripped from their parents and being warehoused like animals.  Even U.S. Senators have been barred from seeing the inside of these detention centers which certainly suggests that Trump/Pence/Sessions do not want images of the horrors being disseminated. Frighteningly, Trump's base sees nothing wrong with this.  They see brown skin and, thus, the victims of the policy are not deemed even human.  Disgusting!! Andrew Sullivan has a column that laments this violation of human rights and basic decency.  Here are excerpts:

Keep a list, they tell you. Notice the little landmarks that tell you that authoritarianism is making headway.
It’s worth making a note, then, when a president goes out of his way to declare he has an “absolute right” to pardon himself, and anyone else, if he so wants, for any reason, including protecting himself and others from possible charges of conspiracy against the United States.
And it’s also worth taking a note when a near-universal norm of human decency is thrown out of the window, with a sudden change in procedure. I’m talking about the idea of a government that reserves the right to separate children from their parents forcibly — and not for interests of rescuing the child from abuse. I’m talking about the 658 children taken from their parents at the border in the two weeks since a new policy was introduced, with the aim of prosecuting everyone who enters the U.S. illegally immediately. In May alone, hundreds of children were subjected to this trauma, now counted alongside 11,000 children in government shelters across the U.S. Most are kept in huge detention centers, without their mothers or fathers, and outsiders are barred from entering. Hewitt is not a softy, he’s a hard-line Republican, reliably partisan, often ludicrously so. But even Hewitt was aghast at the sheer cruelty of this and the banality of [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions’s response to it. [T]he children are separated from their parents in order to send a message to future illegal immigrants. Come here, and we’ll take your kids away. This was not a panicked measure, taken quickly, to avert a crisis. It was months under due consideration, with plenty in the Trump administration balking at the inhumanity of it all. These children are being traumatized to send a message. They are being used as a form of deterrence for others.
When the government threatens to tear families apart in this way, it is inflicting what can only be called state terror. Masha Gessen notes how this tactic is deployed by Putin against the children of demonstrators, as a form of intimidation, and is straight out of the totalitarian playbook: “Putin and the system he has created have consistently, if not necessarily with conscious intent, restored key mechanisms of Soviet control. The spectacle of children being arrested sends a stronger message than any amount of police violence against adults could do.”
As for the facilities in which these kids are held, Sessions told Hewitt he has never been to one. Senator Merkley of Oregon tried to gain access recently to one in Brownsville, Texas. He was not allowed in, and the windows in the massive building holding the children are darkened. Why, one wonders? Senator Menendez was also barred from inspecting another holding center.
The Trump administration argues that if they are going to immediately detain all illegal immigrants, and they can’t house children in adult jails, they have no choice. Really? It seems perfectly possible to find a way to ensure that at least mothers and children are detained together, to ensure that some decency is possible in an otherwise callous process. If the resources are not there, right now, then it should be a matter of extreme urgency for the Congress to find them. Being detained in a foreign country, separated from family, unable to understand the language being spoken to them, is what can only be called profound trauma. . . . This is simply something the United States should never do.
I’m fine with tough enforcement, open to E-verify, lower future immigration levels, and even Trump’s fricking wall. But there are some core humane lines no civilized country should cross, some red lines, such as torture, or mistreatment of prisoners, or the wrenching of children from loving parents by agents of the state. This isn’t a completely isolated instance either. The ICE arrests that are happening every day just as mothers and fathers drop their kids off at school are particularly horrifying. They violate official policy, which is supposed to restrict arrests at “sensitive locations,” but the loopholes in this provision are legion. Children see their mom or dad suddenly subjected to force, shoved out of cars, handcuffed and then simply spirited away. No child should ever be subjected to this, period. The sheer trauma it will generate can last a lifetime. Yes, these are noncitizens. Yes, many have broken the law. But they are also children. Every day we numb ourselves to these core violations of decency, America dies a little. When challenged on this, of course, Trump simply lied and insisted that the Democrats came up with this “horrible law.” He has nothing to do with what his own ICE is doing, he tells us. Nothing.  The thing about this despicable man is that he doesn’t even have the courage of his own cruelty.

I am ashamed to be an American.  No doubt when we travel to Europe in September, the husband and I will have to repeatedly explain that we oppose such inhumanity and that we worked hard to stop Trump's election.  

Trump, Putin's Dream Come True, Is Destroying the World Order

Trudeau, Macron and America's cretin/saboteur/bully in chief.
After WWI the United States largely withdrew from world affairs and returned to a self-center, isolationist agenda.  The move set the stage for World War II which ultimately cost America dearly.  At the end of WWII, America decided that it would not repeat the mistake made after the end of WWI and the United Nations and NATO were formed and important military and economic alliances were formed and maintained. The result has been peace on the larger world scene despite ill conceived and ultimately disastrous American military adventures in Vietnam and the Iraq and Afghanistan.  The main force trying to destroy this system of alliances?  The Soviet Union and its principal successor, Russia. Now, Donald Trump is out to destroy what Russia could not succeed on its own: destroying NATO, America's alliances with Europe and even Canada.  One can only imagine the laughter and high fives around the Kremlin.  Meanwhile Trump's base applauds since its main motivation is hatred of anyone different from themselves, be the difference racial, religious, one of education and refinement, and even mere open mindedness to science and knowledge. A piece in the Washington Post looks at the wrecking ball that Der Trumpenführer has become.  Personally, if he persists in his madness, I hope America's allies hit back with severe retaliatory tariffs which devastate the economies of Trump supporting states, especially in Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin where voters should have known better.  Another excellent piece on how Trump is fulfilling Putin's dreams is here. Here are article highlights from the Post:

When does a feud become a separation? A separation a divorce? When do arguments, sharp-tongued put-downs and perceived betrayal among allies become the collapse of the Western-dominated order that has ruled the world, under U.S. leadership, for the past seven decades?

As each day brings a new series of punches and counterpunches between President Trump and longtime U.S. partners, the question appears to be moving beyond the realm of the academic.The most recent episode began with Friday’s Group of Seven summit in Quebec, the annual chat-fest with the United States and the world’s other self-described economic leaders, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. It followed Trump’s decision not to exempt any of them from new U.S. “national security” tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

That ruling came on the heels of nearly 18 months of clashes over climate change, trade, NATO, Iran and other issues on a list so long it is hard to remember everything on it.

“What worries me most . . . is the fact that the rules-based international order is being challenged,” European Council President Donald Tusk said as the G-7 summit got underway. What is surprising, Tusk said, is that the challenge is driven not by the “usual suspects, but by its main architect and guarantor, the U.S.”Trump’s actions, he said, “play into the hands of those who seek a new post-West order where liberal democracy and fundamental freedoms would cease to exist.”

Tusk’s usual suspects certainly include China and Russia, the latter suspended from the group after its 2014 annexation of Crimea. As Trump left Washington early Friday, he said Russia should be invited “back in” to the club. 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron held a news conference in Quebec on Thursday to hail their own close relations and said they would continue, politely, to try to convince Trump that his actions are “unacceptable” and counterproductive, even for American workers.

“We don’t know” if the confrontations will have any lasting effect, said Stephen J. Hadley, who served as President George W. Bush’s national security adviser. “First, does the accumulation of these incidents over time begin to erode trust and confidence?” Hadley said. “Secondly, what is it doing to public opinion and public views of the United States. That’s the thing the Trump people don’t sufficiently take into account.” Trump’s attitude is often as irritating to allied leaders as are his policies, according to numerous European officials, who consistently address such issues only on the condition of anonymity to avoid making the situation worse.

Two administration officials acknowledged that Trump simply does not see allies and adversaries in the traditional way, nor any reason to couch his views in diplomatic niceties. He often describes countries that have been historically aligned with the United States, including Germany, France and Canada, as “so-called allies” who take advantage of the nation.

Trump cares very little about the traditional world order, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about what the president has said in private. . . . .“where I’m wringing my hands is the 2020 presidential election,” said Cliff Kupchan, chairman of the Eurasia Group, which advises investors about the impact of politics on risks and opportunities in foreign markets.

“If President Trump is reelected, and it will be very close, then during his second term, we have to worry about the end of the liberal world order,” Kupchan said. “A second term would allow him enough time to do irreparable damage to liberal institutions, to the WTO [World Trade Organization] and Bretton Woods,” the 1944 conference where the current international financial system was created, which was quickly followed by the establishment of the United Nations.

“With the petrification of a new normal involving tariffs and protectionism,” he said, “that’s the definition of the end of the world order.”

Americans have long had a love-hate relationship with Europe and foreigners in general, along with a strong current of belief that others have taken advantage of U.S. beneficence, sentiments that Trump has been more than willing to exploit. To the extent that his supporters see a lean toward isolationism as advancing their own lives and pocketbooks, Trump has reason to think he is doing something right.

But the promised benefits from tariffs and canceled trade and climate deals have yet to arrive, and many of the supposed beneficiaries, including farmers and leaders of industry and business, have expressed concern that Trump’s policies will end up hurting them.

Just as Trump’s tough talk is often directed toward his political base, U.S. allies have to answer to their own parliaments and publics, where Trump is highly unpopular.

“The American President may not mind being isolated,” Macron tweeted Thursday from Quebec, “but neither do we mind signing a 6 country agreement if need be.” The other G-7 members, he said pointedly, “represent an economic market which has the weight of history behind it and which is now a true international force.” . . . “I welcome the friendship between our peoples.” Whatever the context, he said, he would “try to maintain these links.” Macron said he had “constantly tried to convince President Trump about climate, about Iran or about trade.

As scary as the idea of a president Pence may be, America might be safer than with the continued misrule of a malignant narcissistic madman. If Trump doesn't come to his senses, I truly hope it leads to the financial ruin of much of his base - Trump's efforts to destroy healthcare will leave them even more economically vulnerable. I for one will have zero sympathy for these people who allowed hatred and bigotry to matter more than anything else.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, June 08, 2018

More Friday Male Beauty

Race Baiting Is The GOP's Midterm Strategy

With no popular legislative successes and trade policies emanating from the White House that will likely harm the economy and particularly damage Trump stronghold regions of the country, the Republican Party, led by the master of hatred, is falling back to race baiting and racial resentment as the principal means to try to motivate their base to go to the polls in November. The problem is, of course that the tactic seems to be more effective in motivating Democrats and decent, moral people - which excludes evangelical Christians - to mobilize to resist the hate driven message. Ed Gillespie tried a similar approach in Virginia in 2017 and it did not end well for Republicans: Gillespie suffered a 9 point loss and the GOP lost 15 seats in the House of Delegates. Yet the GOP still believes that the message of huge tax cuts for the wealthy and race baiting will resonate with a majority of voters. A piece in Slate looks at the disgusting GOP strategy lead by the foul occupant of the White House. Here are article highlights:

It’s still too early to know if a “blue wave” will carry Democrats to victory in November, but Tuesday’s results bode well for the prospect. Democrats advanced competitive candidates in California’s “top two” elections and flipped a state Senate seat in Missouri that had long been held by Republicans. New polling gives Democrats a 10-point lead in the congressional generic ballot, bringing their average lead to roughly 8 points, and the same poll shows Democrats with a substantial enthusiasm advantage heading into the summer.
The sense that Republicans are behind in the race for a House majority might explain why President Trump has recently turned up the heat on racial resentment. There were his broadsides against MS-13 as “animals,” part of a broader attack on illegal immigration that, taken together, collapsed the distinction between violent criminals and otherwise law-abiding migrants. This week, Trump brought debates over sports, racism, and police violence back to fore when he pointedly disinvited a delegation from the Philadelphia Eagles from a White House gathering, accusing the NFL players of disrespecting the country for kneeling during the national anthem.
Never mind that no Philadelphia player has knelt in protest during the anthem. Reality is less important than the goal at hand: to stoke cultural anger and racial resentment, and hope that it brings GOP voters to the polls. It’s a national version of what Ed Gillespie tried in the closing days of the Virginia gubernatorial election: running on Hispanic gangs and “ungrateful” football players and hoping to stem a loss by enraging enough white people to blunt Democratic enthusiasm.
In other words, race baiting. A number of Republican strategists think this might work. “Trump’s habit of ignoring the economic message preferred by House and Senate Republicans in favor of the culture war tropes that propelled him to the White House is increasingly seen as an asset,” reports David Drucker for the Washington Examiner . . . conservative analysts and consultants, including Bill Whalen of the Hoover Institution, who says Trump “very cleverly tapped into this issue.”
Clever might be stretching it. At the start of the year, Republicans thought they would be running on tax cuts. . . . But when put to the test, it failed. Backed by outside groups and party organizations, Republican Rick Saccone touted those tax cuts in the tight race to hold a heavily Republican House district in the Pittsburgh suburbs. Voters weren’t interested, and opponent Conor Lamb, a Democrat, made ground by tying Saccone to “tax cuts [that] go to the wealthiest 1 percent.”  By Election Day, Republicans had stopped talking tax reform, and Saccone had pivoted to a Trump-like message of brash resentment.
The same was true of Gillespie in Virginia, who turned to racial and cultural flashpoints after his chief economic idea—large upper-income tax cuts—fell flat with voters throughout the state. In an ominous sign for Republicans, 42 percent of voters say they are “less likely” to vote for a candidate who supports the president’s tax bill.
In the absence of popular accomplishments or a broad economic message—the party’s other agenda item, Obamacare repeal, is similarly unpopular—racial resentment is all that’s left. With Trump at the lead, that’s where Republicans are headed . . . . it’s also true that this strategy hasn’t worked. Gillespie floundered and Virginia Republicans nearly lost their hold on the state’s House of Delegates. Saccone, running in a deep-red district, couldn’t close the gap. And Republican voters haven’t been motivated enough to stop Democrats from winning dozens of special elections in districts across the country that were previously held by the GOP.
So far, “Trumpism” has only worked for Trump. Perhaps Republicans will successfully use his appeal to retain their House majority. But voters have suggested that what they want is less of Trump, not more. Mimicking his approach may help tip the scales in the other direction.
As I have argued before, Democrats need to emulate the coordinated ground game that Ralph Northam used so successfully in Virginia.  I continue to hope November brings a blood bath for Republicans. 

Trump's Appeal to His Base: I Share Yor Hate

While it is not an excuse for failing to meet the expectations of the Founding Fathers that citizens be well informed and educate themselves on issues of the day, many Americans are finding themselves exhausted from the daily barrage of lies, disinformation and calls to hatred emanating from the Trump White House and other minions of the Trump/Pence regime. Yes, it is exhausting even for those of us who are political junkies, but paying attention to and resisting against the false propaganda issuing from Trump, his amoral Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Fox News is a civic duty. Looking away, burying one's head in "personal matters," stating that one "doesn't like politics," or engaging in the pretense that one is "too busy," are not portraits in courage or morality, but rather is akin to what the "Good Germans" did during Hitler's rise. A column in the New York Times argues that if one needs to find a means to energize their resistance to the moral abomination that is the Trump/Pence regime. then look at Trump's underlying message to his base.  It is all abut hate and animus towards those who are not far right white evangelicals or the obscenely wealthy. Trump's siren call to his base is hatred towards non-whites, gays, non-Christians, and those unwilling to reestablish unfettered white privilege. Grotesquely, white evangelicals have bought into this message without reservation.  Here are column excerpts:

In Trump’s America people are understandably experiencing news fatigue. There are torrents of it on multiple streams. There is outrage after outrage. It is often overwhelming.
That’s the plan, I suspect. Trump is operating on the Doctrine of Inundation. He floods the airwaves until you simply give up because you feel like you’re drowning.  And unfortunately, it’s working. A Pew Research Center report released Tuesday found that nearly seven in 10 Americans “feel worn out by the amount of news there is these days.”
Fighting this fatigue is the real test of a person’s resolve, including mine.
I remember the episode that first revealed to me the darkness at Trump’s core, and I am renewed.
On an April night nearly 30 years ago, a young investment banker was beaten and raped when she went for a jog in Central Park. The attack left her in a coma. She happened to be white. Five teenagers arrested for the crime — four black and one of Hispanic descent — went to trial. As this newspaper reported at the time, they were “in what the police said was part of a marauding spree by as many as 30 youths in the northern end of the park” that night.
After being questioned for hours, the defendants gave false confessions that conflicted with one another, and those confessions were captured on video. As The New York Times pointed out in 2002: “The defendants in the jogger case were put on camera after they had been in custody, in some cases, for as long as 28 hours.”
As one of the five wrote in 2016 in The Washington Post: “When we were arrested, the police deprived us of food, drink or sleep for more than 24 hours. Under duress, we falsely confessed.”
A few days after the attack, long before the teenagers would go on trial, Donald Trump bought full-page ads in New York newspapers — you may think of this as a precursor to his present-day tweets to a mass audience — under a giant, all-caps headline that read: “Bring Back the Death Penalty. Bring Back Our Police!”
The boys would be convicted even though the physical evidence in the case was inconclusive. When one of the teenagers was led away in handcuffs, he yelled at the prosecutor: “You’re going to pay for this. Jesus is going to get you. You made this … up.”
After serving up to 13 years in prison, the boys were proven right: Another man confessed to the crime and his DNA matched that at the scene of the crime.  The boys, then men, had their convictions overturned, were freed, and eventually reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with the city over their wrongful convictions.
How did Trump respond after having called for them to be put to death? In true Trump fashion, he refused to apologize or show any contrition whatsoever.

[I]t is the language in the body of Trump’s 1989 death penalty ad that sticks with me. Trump wrote:
“Mayor Koch has stated that hate and rancor should be removed from our hearts. I do not think so. I want to hate these muggers and murderers. They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes.”
That to me is the thing with this man: He wants to hate. When Trump feels what he believes is a righteous indignation, his default position is hatred. Anyone who draws his ire, anyone whom he feels attacked by or offended by, anyone who has the nerve to stand up for himself or herself and tell him he’s wrong, he wants to hate, and does so.
This hateful spirit envelops him, consumes him and animates him.
He hates women who dare to stand up to him and push back against him, so he attacks them, not just on the issues but on the validity of their very womanhood.
He hates black people who dare to stand up — or kneel — for their dignity and against oppressive authority, so he attacks protesting professional athletes, Black Lives Matter and President Barack Obama himself as dangerous and divisive, unpatriotic and un-American.
He hates immigrants so he has set a tone of intolerance, boasted of building his wall (that Mexico will never pay for), swollen the ranks of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and attacks some as criminals and animals.
He always disguises his hatred, often as a veneration and defense of his base, the flag, law enforcement or the military. He hijacks their valor to advance his personal hatred.
So I remember that. I center that. I hear “I want to hate” every time I hear him speak. And I draw strength from the fact that I’m not fighting for or against a political party; I’m fighting hatred itself, as personified by the man who occupies the presidency. That is my spine stiffener.
Pause for a moment and think about Trump's policy of brutality and force separation of immigrant families, his demagoguery against black NFL players, his attempts to ban Muslim immigrants, and his regimes rigorous attacks on LGBT civil rights protections and all are united by a single motivation: hatred of others who are different due to skin color, language spoke, religious faith or sexual orientation. Hatred is what unifies Trump with his base and, if one opposes hatred and bigotry, then one must oppose the Trump/Pence regime and its enablers and sycophants within the GOP.  If one is a moral and decent person, one must resist. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty

One of my favorite models.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

More Thursday Male Beauty

Reflections on the Wrongly Decided Masterpiece Cakeshop Ruling

While Christofascists and parasitic "professional Christians" are heralding the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop as a huge victory, the case is no such thing and was very narrowly decided - and in my view, wrongly decided at that. The anti-gay baker should have been handed a full blown defeat.  The Court's sole basis for reversing the ruling of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission came down to finding that the Commission had exhibited "hostility to religion." The sad truth is that religion receives far, far more deference than it deserves in America.  Rather than being a positive good, religion - especially evangelical Christianity - sows hatred of others and exhibits rank hypocrisy and dishonesty virtually on a daily basis. Evangelical support of Donald Trump, an individual who is the antithesis of what evangelicals - the least educated of any religious group - claim to believe underscores the reality that their beliefs are selective and used as weapons against others. Under the First Amendment, people a free to believe the earth is flat, but that doesn't mean their belief is worthy of respect or deference by the rest of society. Moreover, religious belief is a choice and not an immutable characteristic like race, national origin, age, or sexual orientation. A column in the Washington Post looks at the limited nature of the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling which does not afford Christofascists the victory they claim they won.  Here are column excerpts:

In law, as in less civil arenas of conflict, you can lose a battle but win the war. That’s what happened in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the case pitting a Christian baker against a gay couple who sought to buy a wedding cake on the same terms as any other customers.
The court ruled Monday in favor of the baker, but on the exceedingly narrow ground that the state civil rights commission’s consideration was biased by hostility toward religion. Importantly, the court declined to adopt the baker’s principal argument — and the only argument made by the Trump administration — that “expressive” businesses that object to gay and lesbian weddings have a First Amendment right to discriminate. On the contrary, the court reaffirmed our main point: that there is no general First Amendment exception to laws protecting LGBT customers from discrimination. When bakery owner Jack Phillips learned that they were going to use the cake to celebrate their wedding, he turned them away, claiming that his religion barred him from making a cake for a same-sex couple, even though he routinely made such cakes for opposite-sex couples.
The ACLU filed a complaint on behalf of the couple, claiming that Phillips’ actions violated Colorado’s public accommodations law, which forbids businesses that serve the public from denying service on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation and the like. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and next the Colorado Court of Appeals, ruled in our favor.
In the Supreme Court, the baker won, but not on the ground he principally advanced. His main argument was that where a business offers expressive products, the First Amendment prohibition on “compelled speech” bars the government from requiring the business to provide that product when it objects to doing so. The Trump administration backed that argument, . . . . [that] the First Amendment bars states from requiring them to provide them to gay and lesbian customers on the same terms as heterosexual customers.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing the majority opinion, could not have been more clear in rejecting the argument that there is a First Amendment right to discriminate. He wrote that “it is a general rule that [religious and philosophical] objections do not allow business owners . . . to deny protected persons equal access to goods and services under a neutral and generally applicable public accommodations law.”
Kennedy acknowledged that a minister (who is not, of course, a business open to the public) could not be compelled to perform a same-sex wedding if his religious scruples prohibited it, but warned that “if that exception were not confined, then a long list of persons who provide goods and services for marriages and weddings might refuse to do so for gay persons, thus resulting in a community-wide stigma inconsistent with the history and dynamics of civil rights laws that ensure equal access to goods, services, and public accommodations.”
Why, then, did the baker win? The court  . . . cited a commissioner who said that “it is one of the most despicable piece of rhetoric that people can use to — to use their religion to hurt others.” It cited another commissioner saying that Phillips can believe “what he wants to believe,” but cannot act on that belief “if he decides to do business in the state.” 
That aspect of the ruling is wrong. “Despicable” was an unfortunate choice of words, but the commissioner’s statement that one cannot invoke religion to harm others is actually black-letter constitutional law, as is the notion that one cannot invoke religion to avoid complying with a general rule requiring businesses not to discriminate.
But what’s critical is that this reasoning is a one-time ruling for this case only. The court made clear that states are free to require businesses, including bakers, to serve gay and lesbian customers equally, including in the provision of wedding cakes. In fact, Charlie Craig and David Mullins could go right back into Masterpiece Cakeshop today and request a cake to celebrate their wedding anniversary — and if Jack Phillips refused them, he would have no First Amendment right to turn them away.

Sadly, Christofascists are now bellowing that religion deserves deference when that is NOT what the court ruled. Their behavior is not surprising given that over the course of the 25+ years that I have tracked Christian "family values" organizations, they are among the most dishonest groups one can find (outside of perhaps the Trump White House)and the only safe assumption is that, if their lips are moving, odds are strong that they are lying.  So much for "Christian" values. 

Paul Ryan and Senator Burr Say FBI Has Acted Appropriately

Senator Richard Burr (R-NC)

To stir up his knuckle dragging base and in apparent preparation for possible impeachment, Donald Trump has been working overtime building the myth that the FBI placed a spy withing his campaign and/or worked to entrap him or his sleazy and possibly traitorous minions.  Far too many congressional Republicans have kissed Der Trumpenführer's ring and have rebroadcast the lies, most notably Devin Nunes who seemingly takes orders from Vladimir Putin himself.  Now Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and House Speaker Paul Ryan - although very belatedly in the case of Ryan - have challenged Trump's untrue fabrications (another name for lies) and have stated that the FBI acted appropriately contrary to Trump's claims.  How Trump and his insane/morally bankrupt apologists will try to frame these simply statements of the truth as the result of machinations and manipulation on the part of Democrats remains to be seen.  The only certainty is that Trump's base will continue to swallow his lies like pigs at a trough.  A piece at CNN looks at Burr and Ryan's break with the Trump lie machine. Here are highlights:
House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, both Republicans, broke with President Donald Trump on Wednesday over allegations spies infiltrated his 2016 campaign, saying they agree with GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy that the FBI did "exactly" what it should have done over its handling of a confidential source. The declarations by the leading Republicans are the latest indications that Trump lacks any evidence to back up his claims of a major political scandal he calls "spygate" -- since those lawmakers were among a select group briefed on the classified intelligence at issue. The only Republican briefed on the intelligence who has yet to break from Trump is Rep. Devin Nunes, the House Intelligence chairman who has demanded more documents as part of his investigation. "I think that Trey Gowdy's description of the process was correct," Burr said
Officials briefed Ryan, Gowdy and other congressional leaders last month on the FBI's use of a confidential source that interacted with Trump's campaign two years ago as the Department of Justice investigated Russian meddling.
 The briefings came after House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes demanded more information about the source -- a push that has prompted Trump to publicly speculate whether the FBI infiltrated his campaign. Nunes declined to comment Wednesday.
Gowdy, chairman of the House Oversight Committee who is retiring at the end of his congressional term, concluded last week after attending a classified briefing that the FBI acted appropriately in the probe. "I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got, and that it has nothing to do with Donald Trump," Gowdy said in an interview on Fox News. . . . I have seen no evidence to the contrary of, of the initial assessment that Chairman Gowdy has made," he [Ryan] said.
 Ryan was also asked whether he believes the President is able to pardon himself, after Trump tweeted Monday that he has the "absolute right" to do so, though he added he's done nothing wrong as special counsel Robert Mueller continues his investigation.
"I don't know the technical answer to that question, but I think obviously the answer is he shouldn't," Ryan said. "No one is above the law."

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

More Wednesday Male Beauty

GOP Mega-Donor: Not a Penny Until "DACA" is Resolved

While Der Trumpenführer and his base love to trash non-whites and immigrants - indeed, the family separation policy has been ruled a human rights violation - some major Republicans campaign donors appear to be growing tired of the demagoguery and outright cruelty.   One such individual is Mike Fernandez, a billionaire Florida health care mogul and Republican mega-donor, who says he will cut off all contributions to elected officials and candidates who refuse to fix America’s immigration laws. Trashing Hispanics and cruel and inhuman policies may play well with Trump's white evangelical Christian base, but many business owners are aware of the damage being done to various industries - and even many small towns with immigrant labor reliant economies - that rely on immigrant labor.  Now, these donors are pressing Republicans to pass immigration  reform.  Here are highlights from Politico

Mike Fernandez, long at odds with President Donald Trump over deportations, told POLITICO in a phone interview he’s behind a broadening strategy among donors to punish politicians who will not sign a discharge petition in the House that would trigger a congressional showdown over the fate of hundreds of thousands of so-called Dreamers.
“Over the last 10 years, the Republican Party has received $47 million from me, in state, gubernatorial and party contributions,” Fernandez said. “I’m not writing one penny to any of them anymore.”
The Cuban-born Fernandez is one of a growing number of GOP donors who are demanding Congress take action on the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Trump canceled last year. Last week, former Exelon chairman John Rowe and Weather Tech CEO David MacNeil told POLITICO they would curb resources to Republicans over the issue.
Fernandez said Tuesday he’s enlisted dozens of businesspeople in Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee who “will abide by that commitment,” and close up their pocketbooks to politicians who won’t take action on DACA. He implored House Speaker Paul Ryan to “get a backbone” and allow a debate on immigration to advance to the chamber’s floor. As of Tuesday, just three more signatures were needed on the discharge petition.
No one should have the authority to prohibit a debate on the House floor,” Fernandez said. “And that is exactly what Speaker Ryan has done in the House. I have been a supporter of Speaker Ryan, I think he’s playing chicken and needs to get a backbone.”
In his capacity as co-chair of the American Business Immigration Coalition, Fernandez recently authored an open letter to House Republicans declaring “DACA discharge is our litmus for giving.”
We cannot sit idly by. We urge you to join your 23 GOP House colleagues to sign H Res. 744, a DACA discharge petition filed by Representative Carlos Curbelo (R-FL).Last September, President Trump revoked DACA, putting the lives of 800,000 dreamers, their families and their employers in limbo. We urge you to sign H Res. 744 to provide our Dreamers the opportunity to continue to invest their talents in our economy, our military and our country.”
Others donors who have added their names to the letter and who have collectively donated millions of dollars to GOP candidates, include Dr. Zachariah Zachariah of the University of Miami Health System; Coastal Construction CEO Tom Murphy Jr.; Century Homebuilders Group CEO Sergio Pino; Carnival Cruise Lines former CEO Bob Dickinson; and Enrique Sosa, a retired senior vice president of Dow Chemical Company.
Fernandez is right:  Paul Ryan is a despicable individual who is morally bankrupt despite his pretense of being a "devout Catholic." 

Mexico Hits Back With $3 Billion in Tariffs

The foul occupant of the White House is quickly learning that his bullying on international markets will have a cost as Mexico hits backs with $3 billion in tariffs tailored to hit GOP controlled states the hardest.   As in everything else, Trump views everything as a zero sum game and, like a petulant child - or malignant   Mafia boss - insists on having his way and "winning."  With luck, these tariffs imposed by Mexico along with those imposed by Canada will cause significant economic pain in Trump supporting states where his toxic base will get to experience what "winning" feels like. Yes, I do wish these people ill.  They deserve to reap what they have sown.  Iowa in particular needs to suffer for having thrown away its progressive history and embracing racism and religious extremism as embodied by Trump and his policies. Here are highlights from the Washington Post:
Mexico said it would impose import duties on $3 billion worth of U.S. products, including cheese, bourbon, pork and others, making good on its threats that it would retaliate for U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum.
With its presidential election 26 days away, Mexico’s government imposed a 20 percent tariff on U.S. pork, apples and potatoes and 20 to 25 percent tariffs on cheese and bourbon. Mexico tailored the list of retaliatory duties to hit states governed by senior Republicans, such as the bourbon produced in the home state of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.).
Trump is trying to use the threat of tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, as well as other goods, to force numerous countries to agree to trade concessions. He’s in standoffs with Mexico, Canada, China, Japan and members of the European Union, the largest U.S. trading partner.
In talks in Beijing over the weekend, China offered to buy close to $70 billion in U.S. agriculture, energy and manufacturing products over a year as part of a package meant to ward off U.S. tariffs, according to a senior administration official who was briefed on the talks. . . . even that amount “would not address the underlying, long-run concerns the United States has with China.”
Those include China’s assistance to state-owned enterprises, investment restrictions on foreign firms, forced technology transfer, industrial policy and the protection of intellectual property.
Even with the weekend’s developments, all the trade talks appear to be moving slowly or stalling, leading to angst on Capitol Hill and among business leaders.
Trump and Kudlow are traveling to Quebec this week for a meeting of leaders from seven of the world’s leading economies, and several of those officials have expressed frustration at Trump for his protectionist approach to trade.
A Canadian government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss diplomatic relations, said there have long been one-on-one talks as part of the NAFTA negotiations but noted that the trade pact is a three-country agreement and that any resolution would require all three countries to sign on together.

Of course, it will not be just Trump supporting states that suffer.  All of us can expect higher consumer prices, especially for cars and trucks.