Saturday, December 29, 2018

Trump's Fixation on Pleasing His Base May Torpedo 2020 Chances

As a former Republican I have been complaining for years that the GOP seemingly has no long term plan for survival as it increasingly focuses on the hatreds and bigotries of a shrinking base of aging, religiously extreme, low education whites. Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, is taking this losing approach no new levels as he ignores the House results in the 2018 midterm elections, his toxicity among Millennials and the increasing revulsion with which he is viewed by the college educated and suburbanites.  And that doesn't even consider the Midwest voters who are now facing a collapse in the soybean market or workers losing their jobs due to steel and aluminum tariffs and might not give Trump his 70,000 vote margin spread over three rust belt states that gave him his Electoral College win (the failure of the Electors to do their duty as envisioned by the Founding Fathers and reject Trump is a topic for another post).   A piece in the Washington Post looks at Trump's hopefully failing focus.  Here are highlights:

President Trump’s headstrong refusal to reopen the federal government without new border wall funding has set him on a risky and defiant path for 2019, relying on brazen brinkmanship to shore up his base support and protect him ahead of a challenging year for his administration.
The latest overtures in the wake of the midterm elections, which brought about sweeping Democratic gains and the end of GOP control of Congress, stand in stark contrast to the historical behavior of modern presidents, who have moved at least briefly toward the political center after being humbled at the ballot box.
But Trump — counseled by a cadre of hard-line lawmakers and sensitive to criticism from his allies in the conservative media — has instead focused on reassuring his most ardent supporters of his commitment to the signature border pledge that electrified his followers during his 2016 presidential run even though it is opposed by a majority of voters.
Trump’s fervent appeals to his supporters — not just on the wall but in his sharpening criticism of Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome H. Powell, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and Democrats — leave him both emboldened and hamstrung heading into the new year, according to top Republicans and Democrats. While he is galvanizing his base amid political and economic uncertainty, he is also making it difficult to work with Democrats or recast his own presidency.
Republican critics, such as veteran strategist Mike Murphy, say Trump is threatening the GOP by “learning nothing from November and playing to the third of the country that he already has.”
“He’s trapped,” Murphy said. “He’s playing poker holding two threes and suddenly putting all of his chips in. It’s pure emotion, the mark of a panicking amateur.”
Democrats see a president unready for the siege coming in the new year from empowered House Democrats and developments in the special counsel probe of Russia’s role in the 2016 election — and flailing as the financial markets endure a roller-coaster of highs and lows.
Democrats have also pointed to another recent online poll by Morning Consult showing a six-point decrease in Trump’s approval rating since mid-November as evidence that their position remains strong even as the effects of the shutdown become more severe. . . . . “Talking only to your base while alienating the rest of the entire country is not a recipe for success.”
Pelosi, in a recent interview with USA Today, mocked Trump’s ultimatum as the battle cry of a weakened executive searching for a legislative fig leaf: “Now he’s down to, I think, a beaded curtain or something, I’m not sure where he is.”
Some Republican pollsters have also been watching the president’s tactics with concern, noting that there is little evidence he has grown his electoral coalition after the 2016 election, when he won the White House despite losing the popular vote.
“The problem is that the base is nowhere close to a majority of the nation,” GOP pollster Whit Ayres said. “In a government of the people, for the people and by the people, it sure helps to have a majority of the people behind what you are trying to do.”
As Trump has rallied [while at al-Asad Air Base in Iraq], House Democrats say they believe their leverage has only increased. They have repeatedly highlighted Trump’s claim this month that he would be “proud to shut down the government for border security,” which was made in a televised meeting with congressional leaders where Trump expressed dismay with Democrats by acting as an avatar for his base voters.
One longtime Trump adviser, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, said Trump has been “spooked” not by the midterms but by a brewing rebellion on the right earlier this month when he was considering accepting a deal from Democrats to fund the government through early February.
“He’s spooked by what the world would be like for him if the base wasn’t there” for whatever comes from the Mueller probe or House investigations, the Trump adviser said, adding that the volatility of Wall Street has increased Trump’s private frustrations to include not just Democrats and the media but the Federal Reserve.
Trump’s current border stance has polled poorly. A Quinnipiac University poll in mid-December found that 62 percent of the country, including 65 percent of self-identified independents and one in three Republicans, oppose shutting down the government over wall funding. The same poll found that Americans oppose building a wall on the Mexican border by a margin of 54 to 43 percent.
Trump’s 2016 victory was dependent on winning over white voters in the Midwest who did not attend college by using populist and nativist pitches, and some officials and allies continue to believe he can repeat the same success.
In a 2018 study of the nation’s changing demographics, Brookings Institution political scientist Ruy Teixeira concluded with his colleagues that increasing margins and maintaining turnout among this group provided Republicans the greatest opportunity to continue to win the White House. . . . “It’s the way to finesse the structure of the electoral college,” Teixeira said. “White non-college, in the center of the country.”

If Trump ends up causing a recession in the middle of the country, all bets will be off.  And that assumes he doesn't get indicted or impeached. 

Trump: Give Me a Wall or I’ll Engineer a Recession

Malignant narcissism is defined as asyndrome characterized by a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), antisocial features, paranoid traits, and egosyntonic aggression, with symptoms including an absence of conscience, a psychological need for power, and a sense of importance (grandiosity).  While Donald Trump has not been diagnosed by a physician, the traits and symptoms of malignant narcissism are constantly on display for anyone taking even a small amount of time to pay attention and inventory his behavior (both before and after the 2016 presidential election).  Consider Trump's threat that he will engineer a recession if he doesn't get his "Wall"  - which utterly ignores the many years required for condemnation lawsuits that would be needed to acquire land for the wall.  New York Magazine looks at this sick threat which ignores the harm a recession would mean for many Americans and underscores that for Trump, it's all about him and his ego.  Here are article excerpts:
Trump declared himself qualified for the world’s highest office in 2016, on the grounds that his exceptional deal-making acumen and economic expertise more than compensated for his lack of conventional credentials.
On Friday morning, [Trump] the president tweeted that if Democrats refuse to fund his wall, he will engineer a massive recession (that would all-but ensure Democratic victory in 2020) – because he is under the impression that the United States would “profit” by closing its southern border to all commerce, since the U.S. runs trade deficit with Mexico: We will be forced to close the Southern Border entirely if the Obstructionist Democrats do not give us the money to finish the Wall . . . .
This is not the first time Trump has threatened to “close the border” if Congress defies his will. But until now, what the president meant by that phrase has been ambiguous. His latest tweets confirm that he has, in fact, been threatening to end (virtually) all commerce between the U.S. and Mexico, our nation’s third-largest trading partner. Upward of $30 billion worth of goods are shipped across the U.S. southern border on a monthly basis; interrupting that flow of goods for any significant period of time would paralyze major corporate supply chains, drive countless small businesses into insolvency, and terrorize global markets with the specter of American autarky.
Such a scheme would be so economically devastating — and politically suicidal — it is safe to assume that Trump’s threat is entirely empty. Or, at least, that is what investors appear to believe; hours after the president’s tweetstorm, the Dow and S&P 500 were both up in early trading.
And yet, “Trump would never do X because that would be stupid and politically counterproductive” isn’t the world’s most reliable heuristic. After all, the current (partial) government shutdown is itself the product of the president deciding that he could secure leverage over congressional Democrats by doing something stupid and politically counterproductive.
[Trump] sabotaged the basic functioning of his own administration to draw attention to the fact that the Democratic Party does not support an extremely unpopular immigration policy, out of the ostensible belief that doing this would force Chuck Schumer to do his bidding immediately (instead of, say, waiting for Nancy Pelosi to collect the Speaker’s gavel next week).
This plan proved to be less than airtight. Recent polling shows that a large plurality of Americans blame Trump for the shutdown, and oppose his border wall. Meanwhile, the president’s approval rating in Morning Consult’s polling just dipped below 40 percent for the first time since he defended the “very fine” neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville in the summer of 2017.
Trump’s threat to “close the border” appears to be a desperate attempt to secure some kind of leverage over negotiating partners who show no signs of caving.
[Trump] is the kind of demented nihilist who threatens to use his national security powers to inflict suffering on the American people, for the sake of narrow legislative gains — not the kind who would actually do so! Or, probably not, anyway!
And that is apparently enough to persuade congressional Republicans that they have no responsibility to remove a demented nihilist from the Oval Office.

More Saturday Male Beauty

Indicted Russian Firm Says Mueller Has Collected "Nude Selfie"

With the investigations swirling around the Trump/Pence regime already resembling something out of a David Baldacci novel or movie thriller (remember the alleged pee tape?), many likely believed that things could not get much stranger.  But then again, we are talking about Donald Trump, so nothing should be deemed beyond the realm of possibility.  A prime example is the current legal battle being waged by a Russian owned company - with a very deceptive American sounding name - resisting discovery subpoenas in the Russiagate investigation where a "nude selfie" has become part of the fray.  So far there is no word on who is in the photo or where and when it was taken, but with Trump one can certainly find one's imagination running amok (the prospect of a nude photo of Der Trumpenführer borders between frightening and nauseating).  The Washington Post looks at this latest bizarre twist in the ongoing saga.  Here are article excerpts: 
A Russian company accused of bankrolling efforts to disrupt the 2016 presidential campaign says that a “nude selfie” is among the materials collected by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in his ongoing probe.
An attorney for the firm Concord Management and Consulting made an offhand mention of the purported photo in a court filing Thursday.
“Could the manner in which he [Mueller] collected a nude selfie really threaten the national security of the United States?” attorney Eric A. Dubelier said in the filing. The document provides no further details on the selfie, such as who is depicted in the photo and when or where it was taken.
Concord is owned by Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a Russian businessman known as “Putin’s chef” because of his close relationship to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The firm has pleaded not guilty to a February indictment charging it, 13 Russian individuals and two other companies with conspiracy in an online effort to trick Americans into following and promoting Russian-fed propaganda that pushed 2016 voters toward then-candidate Donald Trump and away from Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
Thursday’s filing was related to Concord’s motion to disclose discovery in the case. Earlier this year, a federal judge approved a request to tightly control how evidence is shared with the firm, ruling that prosecutors had provided “ample good cause” that sharing sensitive case materials could imperil ongoing U.S. national security investigations.
Concord’s attorneys said at the time that it was critical that their defense strategy include Prigozhin. But prosecutors warned Concord’s requests would reveal government investigative techniques and identify cooperating individuals and companies, as well as personal information of U.S. identity-theft victims whose data was used in the plot.

Former Catholic Cardinal Said to Have Abused Child During Confession

2018 may well go down as the year that at last saw the beginning of the end of the Roman Catholic Church's continued efforts to cover up rampant sexual abuse of children and youths by Catholic priests in the United States.   The Church hierarchy has previously been exposed as thoroughly morally bankrupt in Ireland and Australia (where Cardinal Pell was convicted of molestation) and the movement begun by the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report earlier this year has created long needed momentum for investigations in dioceses across the USA.   With roughly 17 states mounting investigations and a federal investigation in the works, the true scope of the abuse and the lengths bishops, cardinals, and yes, popes, went to deceive the authorities and sheep like parishioners  hopefully will be revealed.  Meanwhile, The Daily Beast looks at allegations against the former Archbishop of Washington, DC:
The Catholic Church’s sexual abuse case against an ex-cardinal from has broadened after an accuser testified that he was groped for years, including during confession, according to reports. Theodore McCarrick, who was the archbishop of Washington, D.C., had been accused of groping an altar boy in the 1970s. The New York Archdiocese previously said that this allegation was credible, the Associated Press reports.
James Grein on Thursday told the judicial vicar of New York City's archdiocese that McCarrick had abused him for years. Grein told the judicial vicar that McCarrick repeatedly groped him during confession, his lawyer reportedly said. “He touched James’ genitals as part of the confessional. That became the course, it happened almost every time,” Grein’s lawyer, Patrick Noaker, reportedly said. The New York Times first reported on Grein’s allegations. McCarrick, who now resides at a religious residence in Kansas, has denied the allegation that he groped an altar boy.
Yes, I am a former Catholic and yes I am bitter at all the psychological abuse I suffered as a closeted gay youth as I foolishly bought the lie that one can "pray away the gay." And do not get me started on the hypocrisy of the Church leadership which continues under Pope Francis who still clings to a 12th century knowledge of sexuality and sexual orientation. My regret is that I did not walk away years earlier. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Inevitability of Impeachment

Chaos continues to reign in Washington, DC, most of it stemming from the out of control occupant of the White House who has forced portions of the federal government into shut down and roiled the stock market making it look like a roller coaster.  At some point even Congressional Republicans will likely say enough is  enough.  Therefore, a well reasoned column in the New York Times lays out an argument as to why Trump will eventually be impeached or forced to resign before the end of his term. Simply put, at some point Trump becomes too big a liability for the GOP and fears of his unwashed, knuckle dragging base will be overwhelmed by more pressing concerns for self preservation.  It is a prospect that many long for even with the specter of Pence moving to the White House - assuming Robert Mueller doesn't have the goods on him as well as Trump.  Here are column highlights:

An impeachment process against President Trump now seems inescapable. Unless the president resigns, the pressure by the public on the Democratic leaders to begin an impeachment process next year will only increase. Too many people think in terms of stasis: How things are is how they will remain. They don’t take into account that opinion moves with events.
Whether or not there’s already enough evidence to impeach Mr. Trump — I think there is — we will learn what the special counsel, Robert Mueller, has found, even if his investigation is cut short. A significant number of Republican candidates didn’t want to run with Mr. Trump in the midterms, and the results of those elections didn’t exactly strengthen his standing within his party. His political status, weak for some time, is now hurtling downhill.
The midterms were followed by new revelations in criminal investigations of once-close advisers as well as new scandals involving Mr. Trump himself. The odor of personal corruption on the president’s part — perhaps affecting his foreign policy — grew stronger. Then the events of the past several days — the president’s precipitous decision to pull American troops out of Syria, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’s abrupt resignation, the swoon in the stock market, the pointless shutdown of parts of the government — instilled a new sense of alarm among many Republicans.
The word “impeachment” has been thrown around with abandon. The frivolous impeachment of President Bill Clinton helped to define it as a form of political revenge. But it is far more important and serious than that: It has a critical role in the functioning of our democracy.
Impeachment was the founders’ method of holding a president accountable between elections. Determined to avoid setting up a king in all but name, they put the decision about whether a president should be allowed to continue to serve in the hands of the representatives of the people who elected him.
Lost in all the discussion about possible lawbreaking by Mr. Trump is the fact that impeachment wasn’t intended only for crimes. For example, in 1974 the House Judiciary Committee charged Richard Nixon with, among other things, abusing power by using the I.R.S. against his political enemies. The committee also held the president accountable for misdeeds by his aides and for failing to honor the oath of office’s pledge that a president must “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
The current presidential crisis seems to have only two possible outcomes. If Mr. Trump sees criminal charges coming at him and members of his family, he may feel trapped. This would leave him the choice of resigning or trying to fight congressional removal. But the latter is highly risky.
I don’t share the conventional view that if Mr. Trump is impeached by the House, the Republican-dominated Senate would never muster the necessary 67 votes to convict him. Stasis would decree that would be the case, but the current situation, already shifting, will have been left far behind by the time the senators face that question. Republicans who were once Mr. Trump’s firm allies have already openly criticized some of his recent actions, including his support of Saudi Arabia despite the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and his decision on Syria. They also openly deplored Mr. Mattis’s departure.
In the end the Republicans will opt for their own political survival. Almost from the outset some Senate Republicans have speculated on how long his presidency would last. Some surely noticed that his base didn’t prevail in the midterms.
But it may well not come to a vote in the Senate. Facing an assortment of unpalatable possibilities, including being indicted after he leaves office, Mr. Trump will be looking for a way out. It’s to be recalled that Mr. Nixon resigned without having been impeached or convicted. The House was clearly going to approve articles of impeachment against him, and he’d been warned by senior Republicans that his support in the Senate had collapsed. Mr. Trump could well exhibit a similar instinct for self-preservation. But like Mr. Nixon, Mr. Trump will want future legal protection.
While Mr. Trump’s case is more complex than Mr. Nixon’s, the evident dangers of keeping an out-of-control president in office might well impel politicians in both parties, not without controversy, to want to make a deal to get him out of there.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Proposed DC and Virginia Laws Would Mandate Clergy Report Sexual Abuse

In reaction to the ongoing sex abuse scandal embroiling the Roman Catholic Church not to mention sex abuse by athletic coaches and physicians, and other authority figures, bot the District of Columbia and Virginia will take up proposed legislation that will strengthen reporting requirements for clergy.  The proposed DC bill will be the far tougher of the two and, sadly, the Virginia proposal contains a carve out for priest-penitent confessional disclosures.  While understandable from a political perspective, the exemption leaves a huge loop whole for Catholic clergy to circumvent the laws.  Long time friend Senator Janet Howell is the main sponsor of the Virginia bill.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the proposed legislation in each state.  Here are highlights:

In response to recent Catholic Church clergy sex abuse scandals, lawmakers in the District and Virginia say they will soon propose legislation that adds clergy to the list of people mandated by law to report child abuse or neglect.
Both efforts hit at the hot-button intersection of child protection and religious liberty, but lawmakers are expected to give them an open reception at a time when recent sexual abuse scandals in churches and others involving athletes have prompted conversation about broadening legal responsibility to extend beyond positions such as teachers and doctors.
The ideas under consideration by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine include not exempting confidential conversations for any mandatory reporters, possibly including those that occur in the Catholic Church’s confessional. . . . . Under D.C. law, anyone 18 or over who knows or has reason to believe that a child under 16 is a victim of sexual abuse is required to report it to civil officials. But the requirements of mandated reporters are more extensive, and Racine is considering taking them much further.
It also suggested requiring mandated reporters to tell their own boards of directors so their institutions become responsible as well; increases the penalties for people who fail to report and requests funding for training so mandatory reporters understand what that term obliges.
Virginia’s narrower proposal, which will be considered by the state legislature after the session begins Jan. 9, is sponsored by Sen. Janet D. Howell (Fairfax County) and delegates Karrie K. Delaney (Fairfax County) and Wendy Gooditis (Clarke), all Democrats.
As written, it will simply add clergy to the list of “persons who are required to report suspected” abuse, with an exception for when a faith’s doctrine requires the report “to be kept confidential.” The carve-out, lawmakers said, was added specifically to protect the confessional – a sacrament in Catholic doctrine.
Twenty-eight states make clergy mandatory reporters, according to the Children’s Bureau, an arm of the Department of Health and Human Services that works to combat child abuse. Those measures vary widely on allowances given religious leaders – in particular whether their confidential conversations are protected.
Experts and lawmakers who have followed this issue for years say the climate has changed. Recent child sex abuse scandals, including those involving athletes and Catholic clergy, and the overall decrease in power of and deference towards religious institutions, are making it harder for faith groups who want to limit civil oversight.
Howell has been unsuccessfully proposing similar measures since 2003. She called the issue a “major brawl” in the past, with Catholic and Baptist organizations opposing such measures – for either the protection of the confessional or because, she said in the case of Baptist clergy, they felt it was a secular intrusion and “they answered only to God.”
Howell thinks the new measure has a good chance of passing this upcoming session. “Between the investigations going on [of the Catholic Church] with attorneys general and the outrage of the public about what’s happened, the times have changed a lot,” she said.

The 10 Biggest Homophobes and Transphobes of 2018

Homophobes Dallin H. Oaks, Mary Fallin, and Roger Severino.
As is common as December 31st approaches, many news outlets are looking back for significant events of the past year as well as heroes and villains.  In the last category should be included those who peddle hatred of others, especially LGBT individuals, under the smoke screen of religion or political self-prostitution to haters and hate groups.  A piece in The Advocate looks at some of the worse homophobes and and purveyors of hate towards those who are transgender.  Not surprisingly, the faux "Christian" Alliance Defending Freedom, the Roman Catholic Church, the Mormon Church and Republican politicians and apparatchiks that the prizes as the most hate-filled groups/individuals domestically.  The following are article highlights that look at these hate merchants and religious zealots:
LGBTQ people have made great strides toward equality in the U.S. and around the world, but we still have homophobes and transphobes trying to roll back our progress, and unfortunately some of them are running the country. We of course have had the usual suspects to deal with -- Mike Pence, Tony Perkins, Bryan Fischer, Louie Gohmert, Pat Robertson, and many more -- but here we'll spotlight some of those who particularly made news this year. 
Alliance Defending Freedom  The year's top Phobie Aware goes to the Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal nonprofit that specializes in causes important to the religious right. . . . . The ADF is still fighting for the right to discriminate. It's asked the Supreme Court to take up cases where ADF is trying to end a Pennsylvania school district's transgender-inclusive restroom policy and advocating for a funeral home's right to fire a trans employee. Oh, and it's got another case involving Masterpiece Cakeshop, for a refusal to make a birthday cake that celebrates a trans woman's gender transition. The ADF contends that the state of Colorado is harassing Philllips by expecting him to obey the antidiscrimination law.
Dallin H. Oaks [Mormon Chrch]  It's not news that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, known informally as the Mormon Church, isn't accepting of LGBTQ people, but one of its top leaders, Dallin H. Oaks, took the homophobia and transphobia to new heights this year. “Our knowledge of God’s revealed plan of salvation requires us to oppose many of the current social and legal pressures to retreat from traditional marriage or to make changes that confuse or alter gender or homogenize the differences between men and women,” . . . . Those pressures, he said, come from none other than Satan, who “seeks to confuse gender, to distort marriage, and to discourage childbearing, especially by parents who will raise children in truth.” . . . . There's an epidemic of suicide among LGBTQ youth in the church's home state of Utah, and much of the blame can be placed on the denomination's hatred.
Right-wing Catholics  It has been a banner year for homophobia in the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Francis, who once said “Who am I to judge?” about gay priests, said gay people don’t belong in the clergy. Not that the church has ever been truly accepting of gay clergy, but their presence has been an open secret for eons. With the church rocked by sex abuse scandals, Cardinal Gerhard Müller blamed gays for abuse, even though there’s no correlation between homosexuality and pedophilia.
Roger Severino [Trump Appointee] Roger Severino, director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, is overseeing the Trump administration's effort to define transgender people “out of existence,” as The New York Times put it in an October story breaking the news of a memo circulating among federal government agencies to legally define gender as something immutable and fixed at birth, as indicated by a person’s genitalia. He's also spearheading HHS's "conscience protection" efforts, aimed at aiding health care workers with religious objections to serving certain patients, which could well result in denial of care to LGBTQ people. Severino has a long history of working for far-right groups and opposing LGBTQ rights. He has opposed marriage equality, defended “ex-gay” therapy, and objected to allowing transgender people to serve in the military.
Mary Fallin and Jeff Colyer [GOP Governors]  As governors of Oklahoma and Kansas, respectively, Mary Fallin and Jeff Colyer signed bills into law that will allow adoption and foster care agencies that provide state-funded services to reject prospective parents who offend the agencies' religious dogma. They could be interfaith couples, single parents, or, yes, same-sex couples or single LGBTQ people. That's discrimination funded with tax dollars. For Fallin, the action was one more notch in a long record of anti-LGBTQ governing.

Texas Republican Party  Whenever the Texas Republican Party approves a platform, it's sure to be anti-LGBTQ. This year's may be its most hateful yet, though. At its biennial convention in June, the party adopted a platform that again endorses “ex-gay” therapy, as it has since 2014, as well as opposing marriage equality and supporting business owners’ right to discriminate against anyone who offends their religious sensibilities. It makes a new call for the state to repeal its hate-crimes law and opposes all efforts to recognize transgender people’s identity. 

More Thursday Male Beauty

O'Rourke and Castro on Collision Course in Texas

Beto O'Rourke and Julian Castro.
Following up on the theme of the last post, two possible 2020 Democrat contenders are on a collision course in their home state of Texas of all places: Beto O'Rourke and Julian Castro.   Ironically, Castro may have hurt himself by not running against the loathsome Ted Cruz, thereby giving O'Rourke the opening to become a surprising darling of Democrats both within and outside of Texas. Where the contest between the two will go is anyone's guess, but should be interesting to watch.  The goal for Democrats, of course, should be selecting a candidate to defeat Trump and/or Pence if  they avoid indictment or impeachment.  A piece on Politico looks at the coming collision course.  Here are excerpts:

The Democratic Party’s dream of a resurgence in Texas has long run squarely through San Antonio and the Castro brothers — Joaquin, the third-term congressman, and Julián, the city’s ambitious former mayor.
But that was before Beto O’Rourke catapulted himself into the party’s national consciousness this year.
Now, O’Rourke and Julián Castro are both inching toward presidential campaigns, an unlikely bounty for Texas Democrats accustomed to near-irrelevance at the statewide and national levels. O’Rourke and Castro would likely run on different platforms and rely on different donors, limiting the likelihood of direct combat.
But assuming they both run and don’t flame out, the presence of the two Texans in the race would test the allegiances of state Democrats in a way that could be a significant factor in the fight for the nomination. Texas will hold its primary relatively early in the 2020 calendar, timing that will likely make the diverse and delegate-rich state a big prize in a competitive contest.
Until now, the two have operated worlds apart despite their home-state ties. In San Antonio, Castro cultivated a local following while steeping himself in policy and traditional fundraising practices. Five hundred miles and one time zone to the west in El Paso, O’Rourke became an instant sensation with his charismatic, closer-than-expected U.S. Senate run and a national following of small-dollar donors.
“They’re not only from two different parts of Texas, they’re from two different parts of the country,” said Colin Strother, a Texas Democratic strategist who has advised Castro in previous campaigns. “This idea that there’s a finite constituency that they’re going to chop up, I just don’t see it … I see them as two completely different types of candidates.”
Castro and O’Rourke have cast each other as nonfactors in their decisions whether to run. But Castro has moved aggressively to climb out from under O’Rourke’s shadow.
But the uphill climb facing Castro has been exacerbated by O’Rourke’s attention-grabbing run against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. O’Rourke is now soaring in early 2020 polls, often running behind only Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, while Castro is barely a blip on the national landscape.
Even in Texas, the last time Castro appeared in a University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, when he was still mayor of San Antonio in 2013, a majority of Democrats statewide did not know him well enough to form an opinion of him. In the midst of a supercharged Senate race five years later, O’Rourke’s favorability rating among Texas Democrats hit 93 percent.
Jeff Roe, who was Cruz’s chief strategist, said after the November election that Democrats “don’t have anyone of [O’Rourke’s] caliber on the national stage.”
Castro, on the other hand, is “the Bobby Jindal of the Democrat cycle,” Roe said. “He’s pound cake. He’ll run, he’ll raise like $3.2 million, he’ll be out by August and they’ll recruit him to run against [Republican Sen. John] Cornyn” in 2020.
Castro could hardly have foreseen O’Rourke’s rise. Long viewed by Democratic Party activists and donors as an emerging star in Texas, Castro was a significant surrogate for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign and made her shortlist for vice president, while O’Rourke served in relative anonymity as a backbench member of the House minority.
But in a cruelty of political timing, the Castros themselves may have helped open a door for O’Rourke. Many Democrats were courting Joaquin to run for U.S. Senate, and had he opposed O’Rourke in the primary, his appeal in heavily Latino swaths of the state — areas where O’Rourke struggled — might have stamped out O’Rourke.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Democrats Are Conflicted in Who They Want to Run in 2020

With the 2018 midterm elections not quite two months behind us, the focus now becomes - other than in Virginia where the entire Virginia General Assembly is up for election in November, 2017 - who will be the Democrat standard bearer in the 2020 presidential election.  The number one criteria needs to be who can defeat Trump if he runs for re-election and hasn't been impeached or criminally indicted. Personally, I know who I don't want: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, neither of whom, in my view, could beat Trump and garner across the board Democrat support. Both meddled in the Virginia 2017 gubernatorial election and backed a primary choice who would have lost the general election and in the process burned enough bridges to may be unable to carry Virginia in 2020.  USA Today surveyed Democrats on their candidate of choice for 2020 and found a mixed bag with some conflicting views.  Most wanted "someone new."  Here are article highlights:

Democratic and independent voters are crystal clear about the candidate they'd be most excited to see in the 2020 presidential field: Someone entirely new. Oh, and also the most seasoned prospect.
Asking voters their pick for president more than a year before the primaries begin typically doesn't tell you much beyond name recognition. Instead of asking about support, a USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll tested which candidates now seem intriguing to voters, and who turns them off, in an effort to get clues about the dynamic ahead. 
Landing at the top of the list of 11 options was "someone entirely new" – perhaps a prospect not on the political radar screen yet. Nearly six in 10 of those surveyed – 59 percent – said they would be "excited" about a candidate like that; only 11 percent said they'd prefer that a new face not run. 
That said, close behind was Joe Biden, the opposite of someone entirely new. . . . 53 percent said they would be excited about that, while 24 percent urged him not to run. 
"He has the common touch," said Thomas Maslany, 72, a Democratic retiree from Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania, who worked for the Environmental Protection Agency. He thought Democrats might need to nominate an older white male to defeat President Trump for re-election, although he agreed the party needs to move to a new generation of leaders. "The world's changing so fast."
Catherine O'Connor, 63, an artist and a political independent from Lockport, New York, had an idea how to reconcile those conflicting impulses: nominate Biden for president and choose someone like California Sen. Kamala Harris or Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke as his running mate.
The 'someone new' versus Joe Biden finding illustrates the generational divide within the Democratic Party dating back to Walter Mondale versus Gary Hart in 1984," said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk Political Research Center. Mondale won the nomination only to lose to the incumbent Republican president, Ronald Reagan. "The test is which candidate can build on their core 'excitement' and not lose the voters of other Democrats who fall by the wayside."
Thirty percent said they would be excited about O'Rourke, 46, running; just 13 percent said he shouldn't, a net positive of 17 percentage points. He also had room to grow: More than a third of those surveyed, 35 percent, said they had never heard of him. 
Also in positive territory was Harris: 29 percent said they would be excited if the 54-year-old California senator ran; 19 percent said she shouldn't. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, 49, was seen as "exciting" by 28 percent; 19 percent thought he shouldn't run.
Some better-known candidates were more controversial. Asked about Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 27 percent were excited about the 69-year-old's possible candidacy but 33 percent were against idea, a net negative of six points. And former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg was an "exciting" possibility for 20 percent, but 32 percent urged the 76-year-old not to try, a net negative of 12 points. He re-registered as a Democrat in October for the first time since leaving the party in 2001.
Voters weren't exactly doting on the presidential contenders who ran in 2016.
For Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, 77, 36 percent would be excited if he tried again. but even more, 41 percent, thought he shouldn't run. Just about everybody knew his name: Only 3 percent didn't know who he was. 
Hillary Clinton, 71, won the popular vote against Trump two years ago, but lost the Electoral College. She had the steepest climb of all: 15 percent would be excited if she ran again – a number swamped by the 70 percent who said she shouldn't. Asked recently if she wants to run again, Clinton said "no" but then added, "Well, I'd like to be president."

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Americans' Trust in Honesty, Ethics of Clergy Hits All-Time Low

Clergy honesty: click image to enlarge - source Gallup.
According to a new Gallup Survey, Americans are seemingly belatedly waking up to a reality that should have been obvious long before now: most church clergy are not trustworthy or ethical.  Not surprisingly, the view of Catholic clergy has taken a major hit and are seen as significantly less honest and trustworthy than Protestant clergy in general.  That said, evangelical clergy who have tied themselves to the thoroughly immoral Donald Trump have suffered as well - hence the exodus of young evangelicals who disdain the political partisanship and homophobia that now defines perhaps a majority of evangelical clergy.  Here are some survey highlights which found nurses to be the most honest and trustworthy of any profession:
Americans' view of the honesty and ethics of clergy has fallen to an all-time low in a ranking of different professions released by Gallup.
The Gallup poll, conducted between Dec. 3-12 of 1,025 U.S. adults, found that only 37 percent of respondents had a "very high" or "high” opinion of the honesty and ethical standards of clergy. Forty-three percent of people gave them an average rating, while 15 percent said they had a “low” or “very low” opinion, according to the poll that was released on Dec. 21. 
Gallup noted that the 37 percent "very high" or "high" score for clergy is the lowest since it began asking the question in 1977. The historical high of 67 percent occurred back in 1985, and the score has been dropping below the overall average positive rating of 54 percent since 2009.
"The public's views of the honesty and ethics of the clergy continue to decline after the Catholic Church was rocked again this year by more abuse scandals,” Gallup noted in its observations.
Sexual abuse claims, involving both children and adults, have rocked churches across the U.S., South America and Europe this year, affecting both Protestant and Catholic congregations.
In the Gallup poll, 48 percent of Protestants rated clergy positively, compared to only 31 percent of Catholics.
Nurses, meanwhile, came out on top of the rankings, with 84 percent of respondents rating their honesty and ethical standards as "very high" or "high."
Medical doctors, pharmacists and high school teachers followed near the top of the list, while at the very bottom were telemarketers, car salespeople, and members of Congress.
"One notable change this year is that one-third of Americans now rate the honesty and ethics of journalists more highly, marking a 10-point jump since 2016 to a level not seen in four decades,” Gallup observed.. 

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas Morning Male Beauty

Time for GOP to Fire Trump

One has to wonder how bad and debased things in the White House need to become before Congressional Republicans reach the point of telling Donald Trump "you're fired."  Some have conjectured that this will happen only when the financial interests of the very wealthy and big business become significantly harmed.  With the stock market plunging and trade uncertainties rising, that point may be near at hand.  Add to this the rapid degrading of the United States' position in the world, and a perfect economic storm may be on the horizon - a storm that can be averted by restoring sanity and stability to the White House. I have absolutely no desire to see Mike Pence in the White House - hopefully Mueller will implicate him in Trump's treason with Russia - but something must be done to end the rampant chaos and criminality that define the Trump regime.  A column in the New York Times argues why Republicans need to accept the fact that  Trump needs to be removed, preferably sooner than later.  Here are column excerpts:
Up to now I have not favored removing President Trump from office. I felt strongly that it would be best for the country that he leave the way he came in, through the ballot box. But last week was a watershed moment for me, and I think for many Americans, including some Republicans.
It was the moment when you had to ask whether we really can survive two more years of Trump as president, whether this man and his demented behavior — which will get only worse as the Mueller investigation concludes — are going to destabilize our country, our markets, our key institutions and, by extension, the world. And therefore his removal from office now has to be on the table.
I believe that the only responsible choice for the Republican Party today is an intervention with [Trump] the president that makes clear that if there is not a radical change in how he conducts himself — and I think that is unlikely — the party’s leadership will have no choice but to press for his resignation or join calls for his impeachment.
It has to start with Republicans, given both the numbers needed in the Senate and political reality. Removing this president has to be an act of national unity as much as possible — otherwise it will tear the country apart even more. I know that such an action is very difficult for today’s G.O.P., but the time is long past for it to rise to confront this crisis of American leadership.
Trump’s behavior has become so erratic, his lying so persistent, his willingness to fulfill the basic functions of the presidency — like reading briefing books, consulting government experts before making major changes and appointing a competent staff — so absent, his readiness to accommodate Russia and spurn allies so disturbing and his obsession with himself and his ego over all other considerations so consistent, two more years of him in office could pose a real threat to our nation.
The damage an out-of-control Trump can do goes well beyond our borders. . . . Donald Trump has proved time and again that he knows nothing of the history or importance of this America. That was made starkly clear in Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’s resignation letter.
Trump gloats at the troubles facing the European Union, urges Britain to exit and leaks that he’d consider quitting NATO. These are institutions that all need to be improved, but not scrapped. If America becomes a predator on all the treaties, multilateral institutions and alliances holding the world together; if America goes from being the world’s anchor of stability to an engine of instability; if America goes from a democracy built on the twin pillars of truth and trust to a country where it is acceptable for the president to attack truth and trust on a daily basis, watch out: Your kids won’t just grow up in a different America. They will grow up in a different world.
But this is not just about the world, it’s about the minimum decorum and stability we expect from our president. If the C.E.O. of any public company in America behaved like Trump has over the past two years — constantly lying, tossing out aides like they were Kleenex, tweeting endlessly like a teenager, ignoring the advice of experts — he or she would have been fired by the board of directors long ago. Should we expect less for our president?
That’s what the financial markets are now asking. For the first two years of the Trump presidency the markets treated his dishonesty and craziness as background noise to all the soaring corporate profits and stocks. But that is no longer the case. Trump has markets worried.
The instability Trump is generating — including his attacks on the chairman of the Federal Reserve — is causing investors to wonder where the economic and geopolitical management will come from as the economy slows down.
We are now left with the B team — all the people who were ready to take the jobs that Trump’s first team either resigned from — because they could not countenance his lying, chaos and ignorance — or were fired from for the same reasons.
I seriously doubt that any of these B-players would have been hired by any other administration. Not only do they not inspire confidence in a crisis, but they are all walking around knowing that Trump would stab every one of them in the back with his Twitter knife, at any moment, if it served him. This makes them even less effective.
If America starts to behave as a selfish, shameless, lying grifter like Trump, you simply cannot imagine how unstable — how disruptive — world markets and geopolitics may become. We cannot afford to find out.

Our Worse Fears Are Being Realized

The gift America most needs.
Anyone who followed Donald Trump's real estate career and public life in general - ask New Yorkers who knew he best - and it should have been a foregone conclusion that the man was unfit for the White House or any public office.  Yet by playing the race card and playing to white fears of loss of privilege, Trump convinced 70,000 voters spread across three states to throw away decency, morality and even common sense and vote for him.  Now, we are seeing the spectacle so many of us feared borne out in the form of a dangerous narcissist in the White House who is creating chaos on literally every front.  Wall Street, with its ominous December stock market plunge has belatedly signaled its fear of a madman in the White House. International relations with long time allies are in chaos as well with Trump giving a nod to dictators and enemies of the United States to do as they wish.  NONE of this should be a surprise to anyone not blinded by racism and hatred towards those who are different.  A column in the Washington Post looks at this realization of responsible Americans' worse fears.  Here are highlights:

When the new year begins next week, President Trump will have an acting chief of staff, an acting secretary of defense, an acting attorney general, an acting EPA administrator, no interior secretary, and no ambassador to the United Nations. The officials originally in all those positions have either been fired or have quit in various measures of disgust or scandal. His former campaign chairman, deputy campaign chairman, national security adviser and personal lawyer have all pleaded guilty to crimes. His campaign, his transition, his foundation and his business are all under investigation. The United States’ allies are horrified at the chaos Trump has brought to our foreign policy. The stock market is experiencing wild swings as investors are gripped with fear over what might be coming and what Trump might do to make it worse — a situation alarming enough that the treasury secretary felt the need to call up the CEOs of major banks to assure them that everything is under control.
And, oh yeah, the government is shut down.  This, my friends, is exactly what we were afraid of when Trump somehow managed to get elected president two years ago. This is what we warned you about.
. . . . here’s what happened over the weekend with regard to the departure of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, widely regarded as the sanest of Trump’s national security team and one of the few original members of Trump’s Cabinet who did not show himself to be incompetent, corrupt, or both. . . . . Mattis, who has watched in dismay as Trump has set about to degrade the alliances that have shaped U.S. foreign policy for the last seven decades.
So Mattis tendered his resignation. . . . Trump decided hastily to remove Mattis in reaction to negative news coverage, according to senior administration officials, one of whom said the president was eager to retaliate against Mattis and show up the widely respected former general.
Nothing says “well-oiled machine” like that distinctly Trumpian combination of paranoia and vindictiveness.
Meanwhile, the government shutdown is expected to last into the new year, a shutdown that is happening because a bunch of Fox News and talk-radio hosts criticized the president for not being tough enough in fighting for his ludicrous border wall. Trump, always deeply insecure and eager to feed his base’s endless rage and desire for conflict, responded quickly to the accusation of weakness. “He spends ever more time in front of a television, often retreating to his residence out of concern that he is being watched too closely,” reports the New York Times.
Two years ago, as we were still trying to wrap our heads around the idea that Trump was actually going to be president of the United States, it was not uncommon to hear the hopeful prediction that things wouldn’t work out as badly as we feared. The weighty responsibilities of the office would turn Trump serious, sober, “presidential.”
That has not occurred. If anything, Trump has shown himself to be even more of a despicable human being than he appeared then, and utterly incapable of growing into the office. He is just as petty, just as impulsive, just as narcissistic, just as dishonest and, perhaps, even more corrupt than we realized.
[I]f you’re a Republican, he has done many things that pleased you, such as cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy, or slashing regulations that protect workers, consumers, and people who enjoy breathing air and drinking water. If you thrill to the sight of immigrant children being ripped from the arms of their parents, then this presidency has been a joy.
[I]n so many ways, he has shown himself again and again to be not just as bad as we thought, but worse. As as we look forward to the next two years, we must realize that there will be no stability, no settling down, no period of calm. The best we can hope for are brief moments when the lunacy pouring from the White House is more comical than terrifying. But most of the time, they’ll probably be both.
A second column adds this summary:

The chaos all around us is what happens when the nation elects an incompetent, narcissistic, impulsive and amoral man as president. This Christmas, heaven help us all.
It is difficult, at the moment, to fully assess the damage Trump is wreaking. We have never had a president like him, so history is a poor guide. For his racism, we can perhaps look back to Woodrow Wilson; his general unfitness to hold the nation’s highest office recalls the hapless Andrew Johnson. Maybe Andrew Jackson was as impetuous, maybe Richard M. Nixon as venal.
As multiple investigations close in, including the one led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, Trump will surely lash out. I believe things will get worse before they get better.