Saturday, August 04, 2018

More Saturday Male Beauty

Trump's Commission Produced No Evidence of Voter Fraud

Trump and Kobach sought to manufacture support for Trump's lies. 

His fragile and narcissistic ego apparently unable to cope with the reality that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Trump claimed that as many as three to five million fraudulent votes had been cast in the 2016 election.  Lacking any proof for the claim - which was eagerly embraced by his knuckle dragging, racist and white Christian nationalist supporters - Trump established a commission to investigate whether voter fraud had occurred. Vice Chair of this group was Kris Kobach who has a ugly record of voter suppression and untruths in his home state.  Ultimately, faced with multiple law suits, the commission was disbanded.  As for voter fraud and/or voting by illegal aliens, the commission produced no evidence whatsoever. The commission's entire purpose in retrospect was to manufacture  support for Trump's lie.  A piece in the Washington Post reports on the commissions true agenda and failure to produce any evidence of fraudulent voting.  Nonetheless, mindless and/or racist Trump supporters continue to repeat the meme and some, like one local "friend" continue to re-post utterly false information.  My view on this individual and those like them: be honest about your bigotry and join a white supremacist group.  Here are article highlights: 
Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, one of the 11 members of the commission formed by President Trump to investigate supposed voter fraud, issued a scathing rebuke of the disbanded panel on Friday, accusing Vice Chair Kris Kobach and the White House of making false statements and saying that he had concluded that the panel had been set up to try to validate the president’s baseless claims about fraudulent votes in the 2016 election.
Dunlap, one of four Democrats on the panel, made the statements in a report he sent to the commission’s two leaders — Vice President Pence and Kobach, who is Kansas’s secretary of state — after reviewing more than 8,000 documents from the group’s work, which he acquired only after a legal fight despite his participation on the panel.
Before it was disbanded by Trump in January, the panel had never presented any findings or evidence of widespread voter fraud. But the White House claimed at the time that it had shut down the commission despite “substantial evidence of voter fraud,” due to the mounting legal challenges it faced from states.
Dunlap said that the commission’s documents that were turned over to him underscore the hollowness of those claims: “they do not contain evidence of widespread voter fraud,” he said in his report, . . .
Dunlap said of the more than 8,000 pages of documents in an interview with The Washington Post, “I see that it wasn’t just a matter of investigating President Trump’s claims that three to five million people voted illegally, but the goal of the commission seems to have been to validate those claims.”
Dunlap said that his time on the panel was “the most bizarre thing I’ve ever been a part of.” “We had more transparency on a deer task force than I had on a presidential commission,” he said. “We had probably a dozen meetings. They were all public. We published everything we did in the newspaper and published results, including information we got from the public.” In contrast, the voter-integrity panel was marked by obfuscation, secrecy and confusion related to the work the panel was engaged in.
He received the documents he sought only in July, after a federal judge ordered the administration to turn them over, despite the objections of the Justice Department.
The materials provide a window into the panel’s operations. In one email, Christy McCormick, a Republican member of the commission, spoke to a staff member about recruiting a career statistician from the Department of Justice to the commission, writing that she was “pretty confident that he is conservative (and Christian, too).”
Trump’s claim that as many as three to five million fraudulent votes were cast in the 2016 election remains one of his most notable falsehoods.
No credible evidence has ever been produced, by the White House or anyone else, to substantiate the claim. 
That lawsuit is not yet resolved. Dunlap says he believes that the committee may yet have more information to procure, while the government has said it wants to terminate the litigation, said Clark Pettig, a spokesman for American Oversight.
Meanwhile, despite the truth, I expect my "friend" to continue pushing the Trump inspired lie that voter fraud is rampant. What truly amazes/sickens me is the failure of such people to see the common humanity of others.  Sadly, seemingly, all they see is black or brown skin and the other is transformed into something less than fully human.  Yet many of them park themselves in church pews every Sunday even as they make Christianity an exercise in rank hypocrisy. No wonder the younger generations are leaving religion in droves. 

Manafort is Screwed — and Trump Knows It

Having worked with the FBI as a expert witness and/or consultant on several occasions and one large bank fraud/wire fraud case in particular, I know first hand that it is rare that a prosecution case will be filed unless there is an extremely high expectation that the defendant will be convicted. True, the FBI doesn't always prevail in its case, but their loss rate is very low.  Applying these realities to the ongoing trial of Paul Manafort, it is reasonable to expect Manafort will likely be convicted for tax fraud, bank fraud and/or related  charges. Then the question becomes what Manafort will offer Mueller in an effort to negotiate a lesser sentence. This latter point is what worries Der Trumpenf├╝hrer the most.  If there was a conspiracy with Russians to tilt the 2016 presidential election to Trump, odds appear good that Manafort was the nexus for information sharing and outright conspiracy.  A piece in The Week looks at Manafort's prospects and why Trump is ranting and raving via Twitter.  Here are highlights:
The trial of Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chair, is officially underway. The many charges against him include tax and bank fraud. Special Counsel Robert Mueller likely has a strong case against Manafort, since the federal government rarely takes charges to court otherwise. But another way of knowing that the trial is unlikely to end well for Manafort is the tweetstorm by his former boss, in which Trump cursed Mueller and distanced himself from Manafort. Aside from demonstrating general contempt for legal restraint, Trump's threats portray a president who knows his former campaign chair is guilty, and is worried about what that means for him.
The most notable revelations from the first few days of Manafort's trial were about his lavish lifestyle.
But what's important is not what Manafort bought, it's how he paid for it all. He spent nearly $1 million at the exclusive Manhattan boutique Alan Couture, and nearly all of those purchases were made by wire transfers from foreign accounts. According to a salesperson, Manafort was the only customer to pay this way. His spending on homes was also generally done through secret accounts.
The prosecution's theory is that Manafort used secret offshore accounts to fund his lavish lifestyle because he was hiding money for tax purposes and submitting fraudulent loan applications. Whether further evidence will persuade the jury remains to be seen, but it is enormously unlikely that all of this was on the level.
[Trump] The president knows this, and it has him worried.
As Manafort was in federal court, Trump engaged in one of his patented Twitter tantrums, railing against the prosecution. He did not claim that Manafort would be vindicated and found innocent. Rather, he tweeted that "this is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further." . .  .  . that Trump would encourage his attorney general to stop an investigation that potentially implicates his own campaign is disturbing nonetheless.
Trump also played the victim with respect to Manafort.  . . . . It's not exactly shocking that someone who had extensive ties to Eastern European oligarchs and plutocrats and agreed to nominally serve as Trump's campaign manager for free would be up to his neck in shady behavior.
Trump is nonetheless worried, as he should be. As David Eckles-Wade argues at Reuters, the Manafort trial is ultimately — if indirectly — "about how Russia moves money and buys influence." It seems that, owing to his lavish lifestyle, Manafort was in serious debt when he agreed to run Trump's campaign "for free." Considering his extensive ties to the Kremlin and his surreptitious meetings with Russians during the 2016 campaign, the implications of Manafort being found guilty are obvious.
Manafort's trial will not in itself prove collaboration between the Trump campaign and Russian electoral meddling. But it would be a major step in that direction, which is precisely why Trump wants Mueller's investigation shut down.

I hope Manafort is found guilty and ends up facing the rest of his life in prison.  I also hope that at some point he opts to spill his guts in order to save his hide and set Trump up for impeachment or worse.  

Pew Research: U.S. Catholics Give Pope Francis Failing Grade on Sex Abuse Scandal

Pope Francis arriving in Chile where Church cover ups remain a hot button issue.

Many Catholics, especially in the United States, had hoped that Pope Francis would lead the Roman Catholic Church into the 21st century and mark a turning away from the reactionary policies of his predecessors, the far less than saintly John Paul II, and the "Nazi Pope", Benedict XVI.   Five years into Francis' reign, little has actually changes, especially in terms of addressing the still ongoing global sex abuse scandal - a scandal that will be further reignited once the Pennsylvania grand jury report is released.  The more or less forced resignation of Cardinal McCarrick for sex abuse - something reportedly known by many in the Church hierarchy - is adding fuel to the demands that a house-cleaning of implicated high clerics be undertaken.  Of the things fueling the exodus from the Catholic Church is the sex abuse scandal. Among the others are the Church's continued anti-gay agenda and its rejection of commonsense contraception policies.  A piece in Pew Research looks at the growing impatience with Francis' failure to clean house.  Here are excerpts:

The long-simmering Catholic Church sex abuse scandal has been back in the headlines following new allegations against Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., who resigned from the College of Cardinals last weekend. Pope Francis accepted the resignation — reportedly making McCarrick the first cardinal in church history to resign over allegations of sexual abuse. In addition, some church officials have been accused of having long known about at least some of the allegations against McCarrick.
Even before news stories about McCarrick came to light in recent weeks, U.S. Catholics were increasingly unhappy with the church’s handling of the sex abuse scandal. A January 2018 Pew Research Center survey found that just 45% of U.S. Catholics said Pope Francis is doing an “excellent” (13%) or “good” (33%) job addressing the crisis, down from 55% who said this in 2015, the last time the question was asked.
The survey also found that U.S. Catholics’ ratings of Pope Francis had become less positive on some other issues, including spreading the Catholic faith and standing up for traditional morals.
U.S. Catholics have long viewed addressing the sex abuse scandal as a particularly high priority. A survey conducted immediately after Francis’ 2013 election found that 70% said this should rank as “a top priority” for the new pope, compared with far fewer who said the same about standing up for traditional moral values (49%) and spreading the Catholic faith (39%).
Francis’ declining rating on the sex abuse scandal mirrors a pattern seen during the papacy of his immediate predecessor, Benedict XVI. By the time of Benedict’s retirement, in February 2013, just a third of American Catholics who were following the news of his resignation (33%) rated his handling of the issue as excellent or good – down from roughly half (49%) who held this view five years earlier.
Francis' problem, of course, is the entrench, power mad Vatican hierarchy which cares far more about money, power, perks of office and protecting the secrets of the many bishops and cardinals who aided and abetted predator priests or engaged in sexual misconduct themselves.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, August 03, 2018

More Friday Male Beauty

Will Democrats Retake the House of Representatives?

GOP's Barbara Comstock - VA 10th District - She needs to be sent into retirement. 
With election day 2018 a little more than three (3) months away, despite the daily distractions of Trump's deranged and/or lie filled tweets, the Manafort trial and the ongoing Russiagate investigation, more and more focus is on the political prize of the control of the  House of Representatives.  If Democrats win control, some of Trump's most egregious efforts can be blunted, hearings and subpoenas can be held and issued, and spending and budget bills will originate under Democrat control.   Moreover, oversight of federal agencies - which Republicans have failed to do - can perhaps rein in the Trump/GOP effort to create a new Gilded Age.  A lengthy piece in the Washington Post looks at the coming election - where many believe the Democrats are favored to win control - and analyzes the hurdles the Democrats must overcome.  Here are excerpts:
Democrats are likely to win back control of the House of Representatives. That's the conventional wisdom in Washington about November's midterm elections.
“Democrats remain substantial favorites for House control,” wrote David Wasserman, a nonpartisan election analyst for the Cook Political Report, last week.
We explained why here. The short version is: Voter energy on the left is palpable, Republicans are defending vulnerable seats, and their historic level of retirements is only making their exposure worse. Plus, Republicans are in power, which history suggests voters will try to counterbalance this November.
Not surprisingly, Republican operatives working to keep control of the House disagree with some of that reasoning.
Here's why Republicans are hopeful they can hang onto their majority:
1. Special elections are just that, special. There's no denying Democrats have had extraordinary success in special elections in the Trump era.
Democrats have picked up more than 40 state legislative seats across the nation since President Trump was elected, some deep in Trump country. They won a Senate seat in Alabama last fall. This spring they flipped a congressional district in Pennsylvania — again, deep in Trump country. On Tuesday, they could take a deep-red Ohio congressional seat. That could trim the target number of seats Democrats need to take back the House this November from 23 to 22. Republicans argue that each one of those scenarios was unique . . . . Democrats will have to decide how to spread their resources across some 60 potentially competitive races. (Though so will Republicans, for that matter.)
2. Republicans feel good about their most vulnerable incumbents. If Democrats are going to win a wave election, they need to start with the lowest-hanging fruit. And Republicans don't think that will be so easy.
There are a couple open seats that are gimmies for Democrats to pick up, notably two in Pennsylvania and one in New Jersey. . . . Other top races to topple Republicans will play out in the New York City, Miami, Houston, Los Angeles and Seattle media markets.In other words, Republicans calculate that a wave is going to cost Democrats significant money and energy to build up. That being said, the Cook Political Report is out Friday with one stat that underscores just how exposed House Republicans are this election in defending those seats: It ranks 60 Republican-held seats as vulnerable, compared to just five for Democrats.
3. There are structural barriers for Democrats to overcome.Gerrymandering is a big one. Republicans swept into control of state legislatures in 2010 in time to take charge of drawing electoral districts after the 2010 Census. Democrats have been locked out of power in the House ever since.
Voters are also increasingly self-sorting into congressional districts in a way that gives Republicans an advantage to control Congress. Democratic-leaning voters cluster in cities, while conservative voters spread out in rural areas across the rest of the state. The result is that Democrats' votes are essentially diluted by living in areas that would vote for a Democrat for Congress anyway.
Some independent analysts think Democrats will need to win the popular vote by seven to 11 percentage points just to get a bare majority. While seven points is firmly in doable territory — for a wave election at least — 11 points is a historically large margin.
4. The economy is chugging along, and there are no major international disasters. Republicans openly acknowledge that they're at a disadvantage this election because they control all major levers of government. That means they've been able to pass a tax-cut bill, but it also means voters who aren't happy with their health care or the impact that tariffs are having on their industry can reason it's Republicans' fault. . . . wage growth remains sluggish — and everything is below Trump's vocalized expectations, as The Post's Philip Bump notes.

Corey Stewart Aide Compared GOP Establishment to "House Negro," Disparaged Civil Rights Leaders

Lest we forget that not all insane Republicans are found in Washington, D.C., Corey Stewart's campaign is underscoring the extremism of both Stewart's agenda and how the Republican Party of old is dead and gone.  Specifically, Rick Shaftan, a spokesman and leading consultant for Stewart called "establishment Republicans" by the derogatory term of "house Negros" and then went on to attack leaders in the civil rights movement.  Like Stewart who is challenging Democrat Tim Kaine for one of Virginia's U.S. Senate seats, Shaftan makes little effort to hide his racial bigotry or his willingness to subscribe to far right conspiracy theories.  Here are highlights from CNN:
A top consultant and spokesman for Corey Stewart, the Republican nominee for US Senate in Virginia, has used the term "house negro" to criticize the GOP establishment and disparaged prominent Civil Rights figures John Lewis and Rosa Parks.
Rick Shaftan made the comments in tweets newly uncovered by CNN's KFile. The previously unreported tweets come on the heels of a report from the Daily Beast that he described majority-black cities as "sh**holes" and told his followers not to open businesses in black neighborhoods.
Shaftan's consulting firm, Atlantic Media & Research, has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Stewart's campaigns for governor and Senate, according to election records. He previously worked on Stewart's gubernatorial campaign and for a super PAC that backed Paul Nehlen, a candidate for Paul Ryan's congressional seat who has made racist and anti-Semitic posts on social media. 
Stewart, who has faced scrutiny of his own for defending Confederate symbols and publicly associating with white nationalists in the past, is challenging Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine in November.
Neither Shaftan nor the Stewart campaign returned a CNN request for comment. In response to the Daily Beast story, Shaftan wrote on Facebook, "I must have said something worse than that in all these years! They need to look harder."
A closer look reveals that in a tweet on October 2014, Shaftan wrote, "There are a lot of parallels between the 'House Negro' and the GOP Establishment."
In September 2015, Shaftan again used the derogatory term, which refers to slaves who worked in the house of their master as opposed to in the fields, implying that the slaves' loyalty lay with the master rather than with their fellow slaves.
In September 2015, he suggested that he did not admire civil rights figure Rosa Parks, tweeting, "Rosa Parks. Give me a effing break. How about PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY?" Schlafly was a conservative political activist.
Shaftan wrote of Democratic Georgia Rep. John Lewis in January 2017, "So what has John Lewis done besides get beat up 50+ years ago? #PompousAss." In 1965, a then- 25-year-old Lewis was beaten badly by state troopers while marching for voting rights in Alabama.
In other posts, Shaftan referred to Michael Brown, the black teenager shot by white police officer Darren Wilson, as a "thug", saying that he "received justice at the hands of Officer Wilson" in August 2014. In response to the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, following Brown's shooting, Shaftan tweeted, "Animals. #Ferguson" in November 2014.
In July of this year, Shaftan referred to New Jersey's attorney general, the first Sikh to hold the office, as "Turban Man," a term for which two local radio hosts were suspended last week.
In April 2017, Shaftan also hinted at the conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, joking on Facebook, "You all know we never saw the REAL Obama Birth Certificate because it had Politically Incorrect 1961 language on it."Responding to a comment saying that he thought the birth certificate might have said "illegitimate," Shaftan wrote, "Or 'bastard', or 'colored', or 'Negro', etc."

Sadly, Stewart and Shaftan now represent the face of much of the Republican Party base. It is crucial that anyone who finds this version of the GOP offensive get out and vote for Tim Kaine in November.  Stewart needs to lose by the widest margin possible. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Statistics: Blacks Treated More Harshly Than Whites Under Virginia's Marijuana Laws

From the end of Reconstruction onward through the Jim Crow period and then to Massive Resistance, Virginia lead the South in devising ways to disenfranchise black voters and/or subjugate blacks to an inferior status. Virginia's current marijuana laws are a continuation of that legacy which involves two steps: first, enact draconian marijuana laws and second, disproportionately target blacks for arrest and prosecution.   Under § 18.2-250.1, Code of Virginia, possession of marijuana is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine up to $500 for the first offense and up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,500 for subsequent offenses.  Under § 18.2-248.1, the delivery or sale of one-half ounce of marijuana or less is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,500. For greater than one-half ounce, the penalties increase to a possible 1 - 10 years in prison and a fine up to $2,500. Add to this the disproportionate prosecution of blacks for marijuana offenses and one discovers a vehicle to accomplish the voter disenfranchisement so loved by Republicans, including those in the Virginia General Assembly.  Inroads have been made in legalizing medical marijuana, but much reform and decriminalization for recreational use is needed. A piece in the Daily Press looks at the damning statistics on what happens to black Virginians.  Here are excerpts:
Whites charged with marijuana possession in Virginia are more likely to get a second chance, while blacks are far more likely to spend time behind bars, a Daily Press review of court data found.
And, while only about one in five Virginians is African-American, half of those charged with a first offense of marijuana possession are black, the review found.
The data show the pattern holds for all marijuana charges, for first offenders and for first offenders who were not charged with any other offense when arrested. 
Health surveys suggest blacks and whites are about equally likely to use marijuana. But, in Newport News and Hampton, where U.S. Census figures show just under half the residents are black, African-Americans are defendants in more than three-quarters of first-offense marijuana cases.
“This is something I kind of knew, I felt it in my gut, but we never had the numbers,” said a shocked Del. Mike Mullin, D-Newport News, who has worked as a prosecutor for a decade and has been thinking Virginia might need its first update in four decades of its marijuana possession laws.
The Daily Press analysis of district court case records found 49 percent of all first-offense marijuana charges statewide are filed against African-Americans, compared to 47 percent against whites. The percentages are almost exactly the same when those first-offenders have no other charges, which occurs a bit less than half the time.
The disparities are sharper on the Peninsula. In Newport News, 75 percent of charges are filed against blacks; in Hampton, the figure is 80 percent.
The paper reviewed nearly 29,500 marijuana cases from 2017 arrests, matching them against a database of more than 200,000 earlier cases to sort out individuals charged with possession for the first time, and a database of more than 1.8 million other district court cases from 2017 to find those who had been charged only with marijuana possession.
The review found:
*Once in court, blacks are slightly more likely to be found guilty, but are significantly more likely to go to jail. Only about one out of 14 convictions for a first-offense marijuana possession ends up with jail time; but of those that do, 65 percent are black. 
“These figures are staggering,” said Bill Farrar, director of public policy at the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia. . . . Farrar said, “there is no reason to keep possession on the books as a criminal charge except as way to punish a particular group of people … this is a major racial justice, criminal justice and mass incarceration issue.”
 “It was meant to be an easy conviction, especially after the General Assembly dropped the requirement for a crime lab analysis of seized marijuana in possession cases — the field analysis is sufficient to prove a substance is marijuana,” he said. In Hampton Roads’ urban cities, four out of five charges for a first offense of marijuana possession making it to court were filed against African-Americans. In suburban communities, that figure was just under two-thirds. In Newport News, the figure was three out of four. In rural communities, about half of cases going to court were filed against blacks. In the Williamsburg/James City County General District Court, about half the cases of first-offense marijuana possession were filed against blacks. Once in court, judges found blacks guilty in seven of 10 cases, whites in four of 10. Four out of 10 blacks found guilty spend time behind bars, while two out of 10 whites did.

And, of course, once has a criminal record on their record, it becomes much more difficult to find a decent job setting the stage for marijuana law loving Republicans to whine about blacks not in the work force and being freeloaders.  If Virginia wants to escape some of the worse elements of its past, one step is to decriminalize recreational marijuana. 

More Thursday Male Beauty

Pennsylvania Catholics Brace for Release of Scathing Grand Jury Report

Harrisburg Bishop Ronald Gainer - doing too little, too late.
Roman Catholics in Pennsylvania are bracing for the release of a special grand jury report that is expected to show hundreds of predator priest preyed on children and youths for decades in numerous parishes with the knowledge of bishops in six dioceses who looked the other way or sought to cover up the sexual abuse. The report will likely hit like the bombshell that ignited in Boston in 2002 and will reflect a pattern seen across the globe in diocese after diocese in country after country.  As a preemptive measure, the current bishop of Harrisburg has order the names of former bishops removed form church building.  Yet the same bishop worked to prevent the reports release and to block any extension of the statute of imitations for victims to bring lawsuits against abusers and/or the church.  Sadly, its the typical crocodile tears so prevalent up and down the Church hierarchy.  Here are highlights from the New York Times on the coming revelation:
Anticipating the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report exposing decades of mishandled sexual abuse cases in the Roman Catholic Church, the bishop of Harrisburg on Wednesday ordered that the names of former bishops dating to the 1940s be stripped from church buildings.
This was the first time a bishop has conducted such a sweeping purge of his predecessors’ legacies, although the names of individual bishops and priests involved in sexual abuse scandals have been excised from church buildings in other dioceses.
Harrisburg is among six dioceses in a heavily Catholic region of Pennsylvania that are bracing for the release of what is expected to be a devastating grand jury report exposing more than 300 priests accused of sexual abuse over seven decades, as well as the bishops who failed to remove them from the ministry. The Harrisburg and Greensburg dioceses had tried last year to end the grand jury’s investigation, according to court records reported by The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The bishop of Harrisburg, Ronald W. Gainer, also published on Wednesday a list of 71 clergy members, seminarians and church personnel accused of sexual abuse of children since the 1940s and said their names would be removed from church buildings, schools and halls. The move comes as Catholics in the United States have been reeling from a new wave of accusations that have brought down an American cardinal and revealed possible cover-ups at the church’s highest levels. Church officials knew for decades about allegations that the former cardinal, Theodore McCarrick, had sexually molested young men training to be priests in New Jersey, but they failed to take action.
With outraged Catholics calling for a Vatican investigation into Archbishop McCarrick, the president of the United States bishops’ conference, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, the archbishop of Galveston-Houston, released a statement on Wednesday saying that the accusations “reveal a grievous moral failure within the church.”
Archbishop McCarrick, who is 88, resigned from the College of Cardinals last week after an additional report that for years he had sexually abused a boy he had known ever since baptizing him as a baby. The archbishop, a globally known figure who had led the Washington archdiocese, is set to face a church trial. The church, however, has a powerful pull in the statehouse in Harrisburg and has successfully fought off efforts by abuse victims and their advocates to expand the statute of limitations, which would give victims a longer period in which to bring civil or criminal cases. Bishop Gainer is the president of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, the church’s statewide public policy arm, which has lobbied state lawmakers against expanding the statute of limitations. The Harrisburg diocese does not know how many places will have the names of bishops or priests removed, a spokesman, Joe Aponick, said. Many parishes have buildings or rooms named after accused priests, he said, and a conference center and a retirement residence for priests are named after former bishops.  With his blanket decree, Bishop Gainer did not say how many of his predecessors had been negligent in handling abuse.
Joe Grace, a spokesman for the state attorney general, Josh Shapiro, called the release of the names of accused perpetrators “long past due.” He said that the Harrisburg diocese had previously pushed to end the grand jury investigation. . . . “Their proclamations today only come after intense public pressure and in the face of the imminent release of the grand jury report exposing decades of child abuse and cover-up,” Mr. Grace said. The grand jury report has been ready for many weeks, but its release was delayed by objections from people who are said to be identified in it. The state Supreme Court decided recently to allow the release of a redacted version of the report. It will cover the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton. Another grand jury report, released in 2016, cataloged the scope of abuse in one small Pennsylvania diocese, that of Altoona-Johnstown, and found that bishops there had failed to notify the police or remove abusers from ministry.

Collusion - a/k/a Conspiracy - Is a Crime

Donald Trump and his sycophants are running about claiming that collusion is not a crime.  Like much of what comes out of Trump's mouth - and those of his enablers -  the claim under analysis is untrue. Indeed, collusion is simply another term for conspiracy and numerous federal statutes confirm that, if Trump and his campaign are guilty of what is claimed, then crimes did indeed occur and Trump is guilty of crimes.  A piece in The Atlantic by former Republican David Frum, lays out why saying "collusion is not a crime" is simply untrue and lying.  Indeed, Trump is a national security threat (as is Mike Pence, in my opinion since he was Trump's lackey throughout the 2016 presidential campaign).  Here are article excerpts:
It’s a crime for a U.S. presidential campaign knowingly to receive—or even solicit—anything of value from any foreign entity. It’s a crime for anyone, campaign or not, to knowingly receive stolen data. In fact, receiving stolen data triggers a complex nexus of crimes, both state and federal. Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and other top Trump aides met with a lawyer who identified herself as an agent of the Russian government offering damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
Lying to Congress is a crime, albeit one seldom prosecuted. Trump Jr. was under oath when he testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 17, 2017, that he did not tell his father about the Trump Tower meeting with the lawyer. “I wouldn’t have wasted his time with it,” he said. Should that testimony prove untrue, the younger Trump could also face perjury charges.
Money laundering is a crime. Tax evasion is a crime. Obstruction of justice is a crime. Lying to federal investigators is a crime.
It’s true, as Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani keeps insisting, that you will not find the word collusion in the federal criminal code. You will not find the word hacking there either. But that does not mean that hacking is legal, only that lawyers speak differently from other people.
The kernel of truth in the “collusion is not a crime” defense is this: If the Trump campaign avoided tripping over federal election law and computer fraud in the course of a hypothetical collaboration with the Russian GRU, then it is very possible it did not violate any criminal statutes. I wrote about such a possibility here last May. But the predicate for that possibility is that there be no direct contact between the Trump campaign and the Russian state . . .
 But Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s second indictment of Russians claimed that voter analytic data was stolen by Russian hackers from Democratic servers. If those analytics were shared by the Russians with the Trump campaign, that would be a straightforward crime, just as much as the Watergate burglary of the Democratic National Committee in 1972.
The crucial context for assessing the claim that “collusion is not a crime” is the way the Trump-Russia story has emerged into the light, denial after denial collapsing into dust.
Trump, his campaign, and the White House have denied the campaign had Russia contacts. The campaign met with Russian agents.  They denied that the meeting discussed stolen email. The meeting discussed stolen email.
They denied that the Russian intervention was intended to help elect Trump. At the Helsinki summit of the two leaders, Vladimir Putin said, plainly, that he had wished to see Trump elected.
Only this year, and only thanks to the Mueller investigation, have Americans begun to learn the full industrial scale of the Russian intrusion into the 2016 election. Only last month, and again only thanks to the Mueller investigation, was it confirmed that the hackers of the Democratic Party were indeed agents of the Russian state—a truth that Trump still will not unequivocally accept.
Yet there is one way in which the “collusion is not a crime” talking point actually directs attention in the right direction. The Trump presidency’s connections to Russia are a national-security issue first, a criminal-justice issue only second.
Donald Trump owes his presidency at least in considerable part to the illegal assistance of the Russian state: hacking, data theft, prohibited election advertising. This compromised president has in office launched himself against U.S. alliances and trade arrangements built by administrations of both parties over the past three-quarters of a century. The president describes the European Union as a “foe,” quarrels with Canada and Germany, and enters into agreements with Putin that he seems not to have shared even with his own secretary of state and national-security adviser. He blabs vital secrets to the Russian foreign minister, resists holding Russia to account for nerve-agent attacks on British soil, and refuses to implement sanctions voted almost unanimously by Congress.
Meanwhile, the single data point that supposedly proves how tough he is on Russia—the provision of lethal aid to Ukraine—may actually prove something very different. Ukraine halted its cooperation with the Mueller probe ahead of the sale, to “avoid irritating the top American officials.”
It was—or should have been—obvious to anyone paying attention on voting day 2016 that Donald Trump was not an honest businessman. What has come further and further into the light since Election Day is something much more dangerous even than dishonesty.

Scott Taylor Paid to Get Failed Democrat Candidate on Ballot as "Independent"

Scott Taylor and his apparent role model, Donald Trump
I have made no secret of the fact that I want to see GOP Congressman Scott Taylor defeated this November and replaced by an individual who will not vote for Donald Trump's agenda roughly 98% of the time.  Now, Taylor, whose chances of re-election have been re-categorized as a "toss up"  has been exposed of engaging in dirty tricks and deceptive acts in  what can only be deemed an act of desperation given his seemingly declining re-election hopes. As the Virginian Pilot is reporting, Taylor paid his campaign workers to assist a failed Democrat primary candidate, Shaun Brown, who is facing charges of defrauding the federal government on the ballot for November as an independent.  The obvious goal - peeling off votes from his Democrat challenger, Elaine Luria.  Dirty tricks and corruption are one of the leading problems with Congress and by this action, Taylor has shown that he is indeed part of the problem and willing to engage in fraud and deception.  Here are highlights from the Pilot: 

Four of U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor’s paid campaign workers gathered more than half the signatures needed to assure Shaun Brown a spot on the November ballot as she faced charges of defrauding the federal government.
Brown, who had originally sought the Democratic nomination to challenge Taylor, is now running as an independent against Taylor, seeking to represent the Williamsburg-to-Eastern Shore 2nd Congressional District. Norfolk business-owner Elaine Luria is the Democratic candidate.
The staff members’ efforts were first reported by WHRO-FM radio, which obtained the records through a Freedom of Information Act request and are published on its website.
Stephen Farnsworth, a political scientist at the University of Mary Washington, said the Taylor campaign’s work was most likely an effort to split the vote against him.
“The first rule of politics is to figure out a way to divide your opposition,” Farnsworth said. “It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book …
Brown was still pushing hard on deadline day to nail down enough signatures – she herself gathered more than 50 that day, the elections department records show.
Federal Election Commission records, meanwhile, show that Taylor’s four staff members – Lauren Creekmore, Roberta Marciano, Nicholas Hornung and Heather Guillot – were each paid more than $1,200 the week after turning in the signatures.
Asked if Taylor was aware of what the four were doing, spokesman Scott Weldon replied: “Yep, of course he knew.”
Brown, who was charged in December with defrauding the federal government, had originally planned to run as a Democrat. But after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Commission endorsed Luria, a Norfolk business owner, Brown began gathering signatures in May, seeking a place on the ballot as an independent. Luria campaign manager Kathryn Sorenson issued a statement Wednesday afternoon:
“Dirty and deceptive politics like this are exactly why Washington is broken and people are losing faith in their government. Clearly, Scott Taylor is terrified and willing to do anything to avoid going head to head with Commander Luria.”
Brown’s trial on charges of defrauding the government by overstating the number of meals her nonprofit agency distributed under a federal summer program for young people goes to a jury this week.
In a court filing for the case, prosecutors said they have evidence Brown lied to an investor while seeking funds for that agency, and that she falsified campaign finance filed with the Federal Elections Commission.
Lies, questionable morality, and loyalty to Trump define Taylor.  If you live in the 2nd Congressional District, vote for Luria in November and send Taylor into forced retirement.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2018

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Will Southern Suburbs Abandon the GOP?

One of the keys to turning Virginia blue in statewide elections has been growing support for Democrats in suburban areas, particularly Northern Virginia.  The reality has become that if a Democrat carries the so-called "urban crescent" from Northern Virginia southward to Richmond and then southeaster to Hampton Roads, there simply are not enough votes in the rural, reactionary regions of the state to overcome the deficit.  One aspect of this change has been the flight of college educated whites from the GOP, a party that now is overtly racist, panders to Christian extremists, and embraces ignorance - all thing deemed offensive by a majority of college educated whites (and I would argue, decent, truly moral people). As the 2018 midterms approach (and 2020 two years from now), one of the questions of the day is whether the flight from the GOP in other southern suburbs can propel Democrats to statewide victories and flipping congressional districts.  A piece in CNN looks at the phenomenon.  Here are excerpts:

One key measure of any Democratic wave in the midterm elections will be whether it crests high enough to overcome the formidable Republican defenses in the growing suburbs across the South. The answer will have implications that extend far beyond 2018.
While Democrats have notched significant gains since the 1990s among white-collar suburban voters in most parts of the country, they have until recently made very little progress at loosening the Republican hold on affluent and increasingly racially diverse suburbs around such Southern metro areas as Atlanta, Houston and Dallas. But suburban unease with Donald Trump's turbulent presidency may finally provide Democrats an opening to establish a beachhead in such places -- a development that would rattle the electoral map. Although the recoil from Trump among white-collar suburbanites inside the South is not as great as outside of it, both public and private polls signal that enough suburban voters are pulling away from him to create much greater opportunity than usual for Democrats this fall in the governor's race in Georgia, Senate races in Tennessee and Texas, and several suburban House seats across the region.
 [W]e are also definitely making inroads first and foremost with college-educated white women, but also college-educated white men." Many of the most vulnerable Republican House seats around the country are centered on white-collar suburbs. Democrats have strong opportunities in suburban seats from New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia through Northern Virginia, Chicago, Minneapolis, Detroit, Denver and Los Angeles. That vulnerability is rooted in the unusual resistance Trump faces among well-educated white voters: Three national polls last week each found that around 60 percent of whites holding at least a four-year college degree disapproved of his performance.
 In addition, gains in white-collar suburbs will be critical to Democratic prospects in the Georgia governor's race between African-American Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp; the highly competitive Tennessee Senate contest between former Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen and Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn; and the more uphill, but still competitive, challenge by Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas.
 Even if Democrats fall short in some or all of these races, a significantly improved performance in white-collar suburbs could offer them a roadmap for seriously contesting North Carolina, Georgia and perhaps even Texas against Trump in 2020 -- when African-Americans, Latinos and other minority voters, who mostly lean Democratic, will likely comprise a bigger share of the electorate than this fall. But in virtually every state in which Democrats have grown more competitive since the early 1990s, increased minority participation has been only part of the equation -- it has been necessary, but not sufficient. Whether in California, Illinois and New Jersey, which tilted toward Democrats in the 1990s, or Colorado, Virginia and (more equivocally) North Carolina, where the party strengthened its position in the 2000s, the winning Democratic formula has combined both an increase in minority participation and improved performance among college-educated white voters. In the states where Democrats have gained ground in recent decades, those two changes have offset lackluster, and an often deteriorating, performance with evangelical, rural and non-college educated white voters. [Wendy] Davis pointed to two principal reasons Southern suburbs have remained so difficult for Democrats.  "One is that we've had a booming economy and it's the economy stupid as the saying goes, so people have felt pretty satisfied with where things are," Davis said. "We also suffer the problem of being absolutely ignored in presidential election contests which means that we haven't built the infrastructure that's necessary to communicate with a lot of the voters that are needed."
 The Democratic improvement in white-collar suburbs in other regions has been keyed largely by cultural affinity, since many college-educated voters, especially women, take more liberal positions on social issues from abortion and gay rights to gun control. But fewer Southern suburbanites are social liberals, probably because more of them than elsewhere are evangelical Christians or otherwise religiously traditional. Democrats still confront all of these barriers this year. But Trump's rise has provided them a new opening. With his racially infused nationalism and belligerent personal style, Trump conspicuously lost ground across many Southern suburbs in his 2016 race against Hillary Clinton when compared to Mitt Romney's performance in the same places in 2012. . . . in key suburbs around the major metropolitan areas, such as Gwinnett and Cobb counties outside of Atlanta, the shift away from the GOP was undeniable and ominous for Republican strategists. . . . Basically we've traded the smaller, slower growing more rural counties for larger fast growing suburban counties." In last November's Virginia governor's race, Democrat Ralph Northam posted big advances not only in suburbs outside of Washington DC, which politically behave more like Northern suburbs, but also the suburban communities around Richmond, which have tilted more reliably Republican. A more immediate problem for Texas Democrats, he said, may be improving their performance among Latino voters, among whom Republicans have retained a significant minority of support even under Trump. Still, the most recent statewide poll conducted by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune in June shows some clear openings for Democrats among well-educated white voters who have previously resisted them.
 [N]ow in Georgia, he adds, "If you are the business community, you have to think twice about do you get behind a Republican as you normally would, or would Kemp scare away business?" . . . Whether or not Abrams makes history as the nation's first female African-American governor, November's results in suburban Atlanta will provide one revealing measure of whether Democrats can truly pressure Trump in 2020 in Georgia -- and perhaps elsewhere across the South.

I truly hope that Democrats replicate Northam's ground game which resulted in a surge of Democrat turn out across demographic groups.  Of course, Gillespie's decision to tie himself to Trump made that all the easier.