Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Hypocrisy of the "Pro-Life, Anti-Abortion" Movement

White "pro-life" teens harass a Native American military veteran. 

For the record, I am not pro-abortion and think abortions should be medically safe and rare.  However, I also believe that if one is going to oppose abortion in all cases, you need to be consistent and be "pro-life" across the spectrum of ages, races, faiths and economic circumstances.  Sadly, A video of Catholic teenagers wearing MAGA hats at the "March for Life" in Washington, DC, has gone viral and is thankfully helping to focus a spotlight on the hypocrisy of many anti-abortion fanatics. In the video, a group of white youths are harassing a Native American military veteran and demonstrating that far too many lives mean nothing to the anti-abortion crowd.  Indeed, once one has passed out of the birth canal, all concerns of life seemingly nearly vanish.  The same people avidly support the GOP war against programs for the poor, the sick, the homeless and, of course, support Trump's border wall.  If one is non-white, an immigrant, non-Christian, or gay, forget it.  Your life means absolutely nothing to these anti-abortion fanatics who would happily watch you die in the gutter. Their hypocrisy is literally off the charts.  The good news is that the alliance these extremist have struck with Donald Trump (perhaps the most immoral man in America) is making more and more people open their eyes to the ugliness and hypocrisy of so many of these "pro-lifers."   Here are highlights from a piece in the Washington Post:
A viral video of a group of Kentucky teens in “Make America Great Again” hats taunting a Native American veteran on Friday has heaped fuel on a long-running, intense argument among abortion opponents as to whether the close affiliation of many antiabortion leaders with President Trump since he took office has led to moral decay that harms the movement.
The video, which began to spread Saturday morning, showed a throng of young, mostly white teenage boys, several wearing the caps, closely surrounding a 64-year-old man who was beating a drum as part of the Indigenous Peoples March happening near the Lincoln Memorial on Friday. 
A few of the young people chanted “Build that wall, build that wall,” the man said, adding that a teen, shown smirking at him in the video, was blocking him from moving.The students in the video had just come from the March for Life, the country’s largest antiabortion rally and march, which happens annually on the Mall, a few blocks east of the Lincoln Memorial.
In a statement Saturday, the Catholic high school and diocese some of the teens belong to issued a statement of apology to the man, Nathan Phillips, and to “Native Americans in general.” . . . . this incident also has tainted the entire witness of the March for Life and express our sincere apologies to all those who attended the March and those who support the pro-life movement.”
The event happened as abortion opponents in recent days debated the March for Life’s decision to feature a greeting from President Trump — this year and last year — as well as one by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro. Some abortion opponents say the March has become too partisan and too aligned with politically conservative figures, Trump in particular.
Antiabortion leaders' embrace of Trump has alarmed a wide range of Christian abortion opponents. They see Trump’s comments on race and immigration, his lying and crudeness as damaging to the “pro-life” label. Younger religious conservatives continue to place an extremely high priority on decreasing abortions but more and more talk of a “consistent life ethic” that sees issues such as health care, global warming and support for poor pregnant women as among those that should be under the “pro-life” umbrella.
Catholic ethicist and writer Charles Camosy wrote in The Post last month that the antiabortion movement — including the March for Life — is rolling back years of progress by becoming increasingly seen not as a broad-based human rights movement but as a “Republican or conservative constituency,” he wrote. . . . Indeed, the term has become so toxic that the group Students for Life refuses to say ‘pro-life’ when doing its activist work,” Camosy wrote.
The Friday incident happened less than a week after Trump made light of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre of several hundred Lakota Indians by the U.S. Cavalry in a tweet that was meant to mock Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who Trump derisively calls “Pocahontas.”

The Catholic Diocese where the students are from tried to depict the boys behavior as an aberration, but it is not.  The Catholic Church remains vitriolically anti-gay, wants healthcare professionals to have the right to refuse to treat gays, and to block same sex couples from adopting.   Like so many of the anti-abortion advocates, some lives simply do not matter.  Thank you to these boys for making that reality obvious to all.  

Karen and Mike Pence's Anti-Gay Animus Puts Them Far Outside the Mainstream

Click image to read sign in background.
Mike Pence has delusions of being president, yet the anti-gay views of he and his wife place them far outside the main stream of American opinion.  Indeed, the only evangelical Christians - who have demonstrated to the rest of the country their complete moral bankruptcy by steadfastly supporting Donald Trump - seemingly share their anti-gay animus.  As CNN notes in referencing a Pew Research survey, two-thirds of Americans said gay or lesbian relationships are morally acceptable.  The third of the population who share anti-gay beliefs equates to almost the same percentage of the population that supports Trump.  If Pence dreams of the White House, he needs to stop clinging to and loudly supporting views rejected by a strong majority of Americans.   Here are highlights from CNN:  

Second lady Karen Pence has taken a job as an art teacher at a Christian school in Northern Virginia that bans gay students, parents, and employees.
The policy places the school on the other side of US public opinion; recent polling on the issue suggests most people don't see the homosexuality as immoral or even as an issue of morality.
According to a Pew poll from May 2018, two-thirds of Americans said gay or lesbian relationships are morally acceptable and only 30% said they are morally wrong. This was the highest number to say gay or lesbian relationships are morally acceptable since Gallup began tracking the question in 2001.
 Pew's findings that homosexuality isn't controversial are backed up by a Gallup poll from December 2017. While fewer overall said homosexuality was either morally acceptable (22%) or morally wrong (34%), that's because they offered a third option: not a moral issue. When offered the third option, 44% said that homosexual behavior wasn't a moral issue.
 And most people don't want religion to dictate government policies on LGBT issues, from an AP-NORC survey in August, 2018. Almost half of all respondents said they thought religion should have no influence at all on government policies. A third said it should have a lot or some influence and 16% said it should have "not much."
 In a May, 2018 Gallup poll, 67% of Americans said that marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized by the law as valid and have the same rights as other marriages.

Note: half of Americans want religion to have no influence on government policies.  As Millennials become more politically engaged, expect Mike Pence's anti-gay bigotry to become even a bigger political liability.  

More Saturday Male Beauty

Trump May Try to Kill Medicaid by Executive Fiat

To me one of the prime signals that the Republican Party is the antithesis of so-called Christian values that per the gospels include caring for the poor, the sick, the hungry and the homeless is the party's incessant obsession with killing Medicaid and other government programs that assist these desperate populations.  The GOP's basic message if you are a member of any of these categories is basically, "do us a favor and just die."  What's disturbing is that evangelical Christians - today's Pharisees motivated by hate rather than Christ's message - fully support the GOP agenda, or at least until grandma needs to go into a nursing home or they lose their job and their health insurance.  Besides being un-Christian, this mindset is stupid and these greed driven cretins fail to grasp that America's healthcare costs are sky high because we do not cover preventive care and force many to rely on non-profit hospital emergency room care - the least cost effective means there is.  Add to this the failure to catch illnesses when they have an inexpensive fix and it's a recipe for fiscal disaster.  The result is that ALL OF us end up paying ridiculously high hospital costs as hospitals seek to recover lost revenue. Medicaid is one mechanism that addresses this ass backwards approach of America's broken healthcare system and recognizes the lives of the less fortunate.  So what does Der Trumpenführer want to do?  Basically kill Medicaid as we know it, in part to pay for his tax cuts to the obscenely wealthy and, in my view, in part because he sees the poor as little more than vermin.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at this dangerous Trump/GOP agenda.  Here are highlights: 
One of the most ancient Republican policy hobbyhorses has been eliminating Medicaid’s status as a federal-state entitlement program guaranteeing health-care services for low-income Americans and certain other categories of needy people. You think killing Obamacare is an obsessive Great White Whale for conservatives? Attacks on Medicaid’s basic structure date back at least to the beginning of the Reagan presidency (fittingly, since the Gipper was one of the most visible opponents of the original Medicare and Medicaid proposals back in the early 1960s). In fact, an effort to arbitrarily “cap” federal Medicaid payments was one of the few early legislative setbacks for his administration.
GOP efforts to turn Medicaid into a “block grant” (i.e., a proposal in which the federal government would appropriate a fixed sum of money that states could use to deal with the Medicaid population, with the federal contribution expected to wither away over time), terminating any individual entitlement to benefits, have come back over and over again like a recurring nightmare. There was a Medicaid block grant in the 1995–96 Gingrich budgets that Bill Clinton repeatedly vetoed. George W. Bush proposed the same thing in 2003. It was a regular feature of all those “Ryan Budgets” during the Obama administration. And most recently, Republicans tried to smuggle it into law as part of their unsuccessful bills to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, under the guise of rolling back Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid.
Even as such frontal assaults on Medicaid continued, the Trump administration, under Medicare and Medicaid director Seema Verma, has been working hard at using “waiver” powers originally designed to help states cover more people under Medicaid to let them move in the opposite direction via work requirements and other provisions aimed at discouraging eligibility. Last year there was even talk of letting conservative states impose an arbitrary lifetime limit on how long childless adults could receive Medicaid benefits, which would have been a pretty clear abrogation of congressional authority . . . .
Now, with the 2018 midterm elections ending any fantasies of Republican-style “health-care reform” legislation making any progress before 2021 at the earliest, Verma is reportedly contemplating a giant and audacious leap into the past: turning Medicaid into block grants via state waivers, or to put it another way, abolishing Medicaid as we have known it by executive fiat. Politico first reported the scheme:
The Trump administration is quietly devising a plan bypassing Congress to give block grants to states for Medicaid, achieving a longstanding conservative dream of reining in spending on the health care safety net for the poor. new limits could apply to all Medicaid populations — including nursing home patients — or just a smaller subset like working-age adults.
Any way you slice it, though, any block-grant-by-waiver initiative would change Medicaid’s basic structure and purpose, with the clear intention of abrogating congressional powers. The reaction from Democratic Members of Congress has been predictable:
“Hell no,” Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) wrote on Twitter on Friday evening, vowing to oppose the administration’s block grant plan “through legislation, in the courts, holding up Administration nominees, literally every means that a U.S. Senator has.” 
If Verma goes ahead with this scheme, a legal challenge will most definitely arise. But it’s an indication of how determined conservatives are not just to fight the long-term trend of making Medicaid a de facto universal health coverage program for the poor, but of rolling it back as far as possible.
But make no mistake: most ideologically-prone Republicans hate Medicaid with the heat of a thousand suns, and they won’t give up trying to hamstring it, restrict it, cut it, or kill it so long as a devious way to go about it has yet to be deployed.
I truly do not see how a decent, moral person can be a Republican any longer.

A Republican Challenge to Trump?

As often noted, I grew up in a family of Republicans and even held a precinct seat on the City Committee of the Republican Party of Virginia Beach for eight years (if you check the Virginia State Corporation Commission records I was the incorporator of that body).  I left the GOP when it became clear to me that (i) the party no longer grasp the concept of separation of church and state and (ii) increasingly stood for racism and policies diametrically opposed to Christian principles.  The irony, of course, is the latter shift directly correlated with the rise of evangelical Christians in the party, perhaps the most un-Christian folks one will ever encounter.  Donald Trump is the outcome of that ugly transformation of the party.  With polls indicating the 58% of Americans say they will vote against Trump if he runs in 2020 and his support eroding even among his Christofascist and white supremacist base (in my view, the two are one and the same), there are noises that Trump - assuming he's still in office - will face a primary challenge for the 2020 nomination.  Such a move might save the GOP from a form of suicide and might allow the party to again claim some semblance of support for common decency and morality.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the growing chances of a primary challenge.  Here are excerpts:
Donald Trump’s job approval rating now stands at a paltry 39 percent, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, while his disapproval rating is 53 percent — a net decline of seven percentage points from last month when the government shutdown began.  No surprise there.
What’s surprising, and potentially more hope-inspiring, is that [Trump's] the president’s support from his base is also beginning to tumble, according to the same poll. It’s down since last month by a net of 10 points among Republicans, a net of 13 points among white evangelicals, and a net of 18 points among suburban men. Even white men without college degrees — the very core of his base — are turning on him, with 50 percent approving of his performance and 35 percent disapproving, down from 56 to 34.
All of which raises the question: Might the waters be getting a little warmer for a potential Republican primary challenge to Trump?
Larry Hogan, the recently re-elected centrist Republican governor of Maryland, isn’t about to announce — but neither will he rule out a run. “I’m very frustrated and concerned about the direction of the Republican Party and the country,” he tells me in a phone interview on Friday.
Hogan is attracting notice partly because he just romped to re-election over the progressive Democrat Ben Jealous — becoming the first G.O.P. governor to win re-election in Maryland since 1954 — and partly because he’s one of only three Republican governors in deep-blue states (Massachusetts’s Charlie Baker and Vermont’s Phil Scott are the other two). His approval rating is 68 percent in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1.
But mostly Hogan makes no secret of his disdain for [Trump] the president, though he goes out of his way to avoid mentioning his name. . . . . his father, the late Congressman Lawrence Hogan, was “the first Republican to come out for the impeachment of President Richard Nixon.”
“Despite tremendous political pressure,” Hogan said of his dad, “he put aside partisanship and answered the demands of his conscience to do what he thought was the right thing for the nation that he loved.”
The downside of any primary challenge is that it is guaranteed to be nasty: Nobody emerges from an encounter with Trump without feeling soiled. It’s also likely to be losing: With the qualified exception of Lyndon Johnson in 1968, no incumbent president who sought his party’s nomination has failed to win it since Chester A. Arthur in 1884.
Then again, there are upsides to a potential challenge. Three in particular.
First is the fact that Trump is losing his showdown over the shutdown. Having volunteered — on camera, no less — that he was “proud to shut down the government for border security,” he cannot disavow the consequences. . . . . it will cost [Trump] the president political support that a bold primary challenger could reap.
Second, it is no longer mere wishful thinking that Trump either won’t serve out his term or won’t be on the ballot next year. . . . . there is no question the president's legal jeopardy is increasing. A Republican who challenges him early could reap benefits in fund-raising and visibility, not to mention personal honor.
Most important, though, is the future of the G.O.P. itself. Every democracy is bound to have a party that represents society’s conservative instincts. The question is: What kind of conservatism? As Jerry Taylor of the Niskanen Center puts it, “The party deserves a choice about whether it wants to continue down the path of Le Pen-style blood-and-soil nationalism or return to its noble origins as the party of Lincoln.”
Larry Hogan isn’t the only Republican who understands the need for that choice. But he is one of the few who can offer a serious and meaningful alternative to the corroded conservatism we have in Washington today. Stepping forward now would mean stepping fully into his father’s shoes.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, January 18, 2019

Pentagon: Essential Military Bases Threatened by Climate Change

Naval Base Norfolk - sea level has risen 18 inches. 
The Trump/Pence regime continues to deny the reality of global warming and climate change and is hell bent on rolling back regulations that protect the environment and seek to reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere.   Now, Trump's acting Secretary of Defense - Jame Mattis resigned and was forced out early by Trump - has over seen the release of a report that notes that essential military bases are under threats from climate change yet, Democrats argue, tries to down play the severity of the danger and fails to meet the statutory requirements for the congressional mandated report.  A piece in The Hill looks the report as well as the alleged deficiencies in it which refuse to look at the imminent dangers faced by bases.  Joint Base Langley-Eustis referenced in the article is located in Hampton, Virginia and York County, Virginia.  I can see the Norfolk Naval Base located across the harbor from our bedroom window.   Here are highlights :

A Pentagon report reveals that more than two-thirds of operationally critical military installations are threatened by the effects of climate change over the next 20 years, including repeated flooding and wildfires.
The 22-page report released this week, titled the “Effects of a Changing Climate to the Department of Defense,” took a look at 79 “mission assurance priority installations” from the Army, Air Force and Navy that are based in the U.S.
Of the 79 installations, 53 are at risk for flooding now, and seven additional locations are at risk in two decades. 
“The effects of a changing climate are a national security issue with potential impacts to Department of Defense missions, operational plans, and installations,” the report states.
The congressionally mandated document was delivered to lawmakers on Thursday but was not officially announced or released to the public. Numerous environmental organizations released the report publicly on Friday.
The report follows the November release of the National Climate Assessment, which was created by 13 federal agencies and found that climate change is expected to quickly interrupt the way people live day-to-day, with current efforts to stop it deemed insufficient.
President Trump, however, has continued to cast doubt on the scientific consensus that climate change is caused by human activity and, at the time of the assessment’s release, said, “I don’t believe it.”
The Defense Department report, however, notes several examples of how military bases are already running into issues caused by climate change.
“Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, has experienced 14 inches in sea level rise since 1930,” with flooding at the base becoming “more frequent and severe,” the report states.

Navy Base Coronado in California, meanwhile, “experiences isolated and flash flooding during tropical storm events,” with the main installation reporting “worsening sea level rise and storm surge impacts that include access limitations and other logistic related impairments.”
Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) bashed the document as “inadequate, incomplete” and “partisan.”  Reed pointed out that the report did not include a list of the ten most vulnerable installations from each military service, as required of the document in the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. The report also was supposed to include a cost estimate to alleviate climate change risks at installations. 
“Unfortunately, under the leadership of the Acting Secretary, the Department transmitted a report that failed to adequately answer the litany of reporting elements required by law and instead produced an alphabetical list of 79 military installations. ... The report reads like an introductory primer and carries about as much value as a phonebook,” Reed said in a statement. . . . . under current leadership, the Department is treating climate change as a back burner issue.”
In a separate statement, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said the report “demonstrates a continued unwillingness to seriously recognize and address the threat that climate change poses to our national security and military readiness.” 
The report “fails to even minimally discuss a mitigation plan to address the vulnerabilities” and “failed to estimate the future costs associated with ensuring these installations remain viable. That information was required by law,” Smith said.

Mother Chooses Gay Daughter Over Evangelical Church

All too often I find myself writing about parents who have rejected their LGBT children and instead clung to the brainwashing of their evangelical churches and the cherry picking of selected passages form myths handed down from uneducated Bronze Age herders - the true authors of the so-called Old Testament.  But sometimes parents, such as my own, make the right choice and stand by their LGBT and choose to reject the bigotry and embrace of ignorance that sadly defines a large portion of Christianity - and Islam for that matter.   A piece in The Advocate looks at one mother - and her husband as well - who when given the choice, chose their child and walked away from an anti-gay church.  Now, she works with other parents to help them make the choice to accept their LGBT child and to move on to a loving form of Christianity.   One doesn't choose to be gay, but one does have the choice in what kind of religious indoctrination they will embrace. Stated another way, sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic whereas continuing in a toxic religious tradition is 100% a matter of choice.  Check out her website here.  Here are article excerpts:
Susan Cottrell, mother, pastor, and founder of, recently released a TED talk where she shared the difficult choice she made when her daughter came out. "One day the phone rang and everything changed," Cottrell said in her speech. Her 20-year-old daughter, Annie, called her from college and said, "Mom, I've got something to tell you. I'm attracted to girls. I think I'm bisexual. I prayed about it, Mom. I resisted, but it won't go away." Cottrell admitted that her total acceptance for Annie didn't come immediately. 
After 20 years in an evangelical church, the mother of five "believed that being gay was somehow wrong." . . . . But she knew their family would never be the same in the church again. The advice from her Bible study peers was clear: "Homosexuality is a sin and we can't accept it."
So she had a choice to make. And in a tearful moment onstage she said, " I realized I was being asked to choose between the two most important parts of my life: my child and my church. I chose my child." And the audience stood and applauded.
 After leaving the church and losing the support of half her family, Cottrell found her heart opened to a new mission. "God was telling me to serve the gay community," she explained. Since that remarkable moment, Susan and her husband, Rob, also a pastor, have created a blossoming community of parents and LGBTQ children, that all started with a simple blog.
 Their work has helped over 3,000 people choose to love their children and has kept families together by reconciling their faith issues. "As pastors, Rob and I represent the voice of God, and it’s a voice of love," she said in her speech, countering the hateful messages often spewed by those who claim to represent Jesus Christ. The Cottrells have led support groups, officiated same-sex weddings, offered free mom and dad hugs at Pride parades, and connected LGBTQ folks with parents who love them, even when their birth parents won't.
 Cottrell is very aware of the lifesaving change that can come from choosing your child. She quoted a report that showed 57 percent of transgender youth without parental support attempt suicide. However, with parental support that number drops to 4 percent. "Fifty-seven percent to 4 percent — that’s the power of a parent’s love!" Cottrell commented,
By the end of the speech, she had shed tears and so had the crowd. The impact was visible on faces in the audience when she said, "LGBTQ people come up to us and melt into our arms. Many have not had parental encouragement in years." She and Rob tell everyone, "You're worthy. You matter. You belong." She affirmed that “real love accepts people as they are with room for who they may become.” And she reminded us that choosing love is always the right choice.

More Friday Male Beauty

The Case for Impeaching Donald Trump

I have always viewed Donald Trump as unfit for office both due to his total immorality and his greed and never ending quest for self-enrichment.  It's telling that New Yorkers who knew him best and had most closely witnessed his skirting of the law and questionable business practices overwhelming voted against him.  Indeed, Trump embodies the personification of the type of individual the Founding Fathers feared and caused them to build in two safeguards for the nation.  The first was the Electoral College which was empowered to overturn the election of a dangerous and immoral demagogue to protect the nation.  Sadly, in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, the electors failed to uphold their constitutional duty and instead rubber stamped the Trump victory even though he had lost the popular vote by 3 million votes and had already displayed his unfitness for office throughout the campaign.  The second mechanism to protect the nation was impeachment whereby an unfit and dangerous occupant of the White House could be removed from office. Given the failure of the Electors to do their duty, a very lengthy piece in The Atlantic makes the case for beginning impeachment proceedings now against Donald Trump.  It's very long and deserves a full read.  Here are substantial highlights: 

On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump stood on the steps of the Capitol, raised his right hand, and solemnly swore to faithfully execute the office of president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. He has not kept that promise.
Instead, he has mounted a concerted challenge to the separation of powers, to the rule of law, and to the civil liberties enshrined in our founding documents. He has purposefully inflamed America’s divisions. He has set himself against the American idea, the principle that all of us—of every race, gender, and creed—are created equal.
This is not a partisan judgment. Many of the president’s fiercest critics have emerged from within his own party. Even officials and observers who support his policies are appalled by his pronouncements, and those who have the most firsthand experience of governance are also the most alarmed by how Trump is governing.
“The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naïveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate,” the late senator and former Republican presidential nominee John McCain lamented last summer. “The president has not risen to the mantle of the office,” the GOP’s other recent nominee, the former governor and now senator Mitt Romney, wrote in January.
The oath of office is a president’s promise to subordinate his private desires to the public interest, to serve the nation as a whole rather than any faction within it. Trump displays no evidence that he understands these obligations. To the contrary, he has routinely privileged his self-interest above the responsibilities of the presidency.
More troubling still, Trump has demanded that public officials put their loyalty to him ahead of their duty to the public. On his first full day in office, he ordered his press secretary to lie about the size of his inaugural crowd. He never forgave his first attorney general for failing to shut down investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and ultimately forced his resignation. “I need loyalty. I expect loyalty,” Trump told his first FBI director, and then fired him when he refused to pledge it. . . . His efforts to mislead, impede, and shut down Mueller’s investigation have now led the special counsel to consider whether the president obstructed justice.
As for the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution, Trump has repeatedly trampled upon them. He pledged to ban entry to the United States on the basis of religion, and did his best to follow through. He has attacked the press as the “enemy of the people” and barred critical outlets and reporters from attending his events. He has assailed black protesters. He has called for his critics in private industry to be fired from their jobs. He has falsely alleged that America’s electoral system is subject to massive fraud, impugning election results with which he disagrees as irredeemably tainted.
[T]he Framers were concerned that a president could abuse his authority in ways that would undermine the democratic process and that could not wait to be addressed. So they created a mechanism for considering whether a president is subverting the rule of law or pursuing his own self-interest at the expense of the general welfare—in short, whether his continued tenure in office poses a threat to the republic. This mechanism is impeachment.
Trump’s actions during his first two years in office clearly meet, and exceed, the criteria to trigger this fail-safe. But the United States has grown wary of impeachment. The history of its application is widely misunderstood, leading Americans to mistake it for a dangerous threat to the constitutional order.
That is precisely backwards. . . . . Impeachment, in fact, is a vital protection against the dangers a president like Trump poses. And, crucially, many of its benefits—to the political health of the country, to the stability of the constitutional system—accrue irrespective of its ultimate result. Impeachment is a process, not an outcome, a rule-bound procedure for investigating a president, considering evidence, formulating charges, and deciding whether to continue on to trial.
The fight over whether Trump should be removed from office is already raging, and distorting everything it touches. . . . . By denying the debate its proper outlet, Congress has succeeded only in intensifying its pressures. And by declining to tackle the question head-on, it has deprived itself of its primary means of reining in the chief executive.
With a newly seated Democratic majority, the House of Representatives can no longer dodge its constitutional duty. It must immediately open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump, and bring the debate out of the court of public opinion and into Congress, where it belongs.
In no small part, this trepidation is due to the fact that the last effort to remove an American president from office ended in political fiasco. When the House impeached Bill Clinton, in 1998, his popularity soared; in the Senate, even some Republicans voted against convicting him of the charges.
Pelosi and her antediluvian leadership team served in Congress during those fights two decades ago, and they seem determined not to repeat their rivals’ mistakes. . . . . To move against Trump now, Democrats seem to believe, would only strengthen the president’s hand. Better to wait for public opinion to turn decisively against him and then use impeachment to ratify that view. This is the received wisdom on impeachment, the overlearned lesson of the Clinton years: House Republicans got out ahead of public opinion, and turned a president beset by scandal into a sympathetic figure.
Congress can’t outsource its responsibilities to federal prosecutors. No one knows when Mueller’s report will arrive, what form it will take, or what it will say. Even if Mueller alleges criminal misconduct on the part of the president, under Justice Department guidelines, a sitting president cannot be indicted. Nor will the host of congressional hearings fulfill that branch’s obligations. . . . . Only by authorizing a dedicated impeachment inquiry can the House begin to assemble disparate allegations into a coherent picture, forcing lawmakers to consider both whether specific charges are true and whether the president’s abuses of his power justify his removal.
Waiting also presents dangers. With every passing day, Trump further undermines our national commitment to America’s ideals. And impeachment is a long process. . . . By delaying the start of the process, in the hope that even clearer evidence will be produced by Mueller or some other source, lawmakers are delaying its eventual conclusion. Better to forge ahead, weighing what is already known and incorporating additional material as it becomes available.
Democrats’ fear—that impeachment will backfire on them—is likewise unfounded. The mistake Republicans made in impeaching Bill Clinton wasn’t a matter of timing. They identified real and troubling misconduct—then applied the wrong remedy to fix it. Clinton’s acts disgraced the presidency, and his lies under oath and efforts to obstruct the investigation may well have been crimes. The question that determines whether an act is impeachable, though, is whether it endangers American democracy.
Trump’s bipartisan critics are not merely arguing that he has lied or dishonored the presidency. The most serious allegations against him ultimately rest on the charge that he is attacking the bedrock of American democracy. That is the situation impeachment was devised to address.
The process of impeachment itself is likely to shift public opinion, both by highlighting what’s already known and by bringing new evidence to light. If Trump’s support among Republican voters erodes, his support in the Senate may do the same. One lesson of Richard Nixon’s impeachment is that when legislators conclude a presidency is doomed, they can switch allegiances in the blink of an eye.
[T]his sort of vote-counting, in any case, misunderstands the point of impeachment. The question of whether impeachment is justified should not be confused with the question of whether it is likely to succeed in removing a president from office. The country will benefit greatly regardless of how the Senate ultimately votes. . . . The protections of the process alone are formidable. They come in five distinct forms.
The first is that once an impeachment inquiry begins, the president loses control of the public conversation. Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton each discovered this, much to their chagrin. . . . . Trump is easily the most pugilistic president since Johnson; he’s never going to behave with decorous restraint. But if impeachment proceedings begin, his staff will surely redouble its efforts to curtail his tweeting, his lawyers will counsel silence, and his allies on Capitol Hill will beg for whatever civility he can muster. His ability to sidestep scandal by changing the subject—perhaps his greatest political skill—will diminish.
As Trump fights for his political survival, that struggle will overwhelm other concerns. This is the second benefit of impeachment: It paralyzes a wayward president’s ability to advance the undemocratic elements of his agenda. . . . It is, rather, the extraordinary elements of Trump’s presidency that merit the use of impeachment to forestall their success: his subversion of the rule of law, attacks on constitutional liberties, and advancement of his own interests at the public’s expense.
The most a president generally has to fear from congressional hearings is embarrassment; there is always an aide to take the fall. Impeachment puts his own job on the line, and demands every hour of his day. . . . . There may be no more effective way to run out the clock on an administration than to tie it up with impeachment hearings.
But the advantages of impeachment are not merely tactical. The third benefit is its utility as a tool of discovery and discernment. . . . The process of impeachment can also surface evidence. . . . . The evidence that drove Nixon from office thus emerged as a consequence of the impeachment hearings; it did not spark them. The only way for the House to find out what Trump has actually done, and whether his conduct warrants removal, is to start asking.
Hosting that debate in Congress yields a fourth benefit: defusing the potential for an explosion of political violence. . . . . A system without a mechanism for removing the chief executive, he [Benjamin Franklin] argued, offered an invitation to violence. Just as the courts took the impulse toward vigilante justice and safely channeled it into the protections of the legal system, impeachment took the impulse toward political violence and safely channeled it into Congress.
[T]he overwhelming majority of political violence is committed by the far right, albeit on a considerably smaller scale than in the Nixon era. Trump himself has warned that “the people would revolt” if he were impeached, a warning that echoes earlier eras.
The predictions were wrong then, as Trump’s are likely wrong now. The public understood that once the impeachment process began, the real action would take place in Congress, and not in the streets. Johnson knew that inciting his supporters to violence would erode congressional support just when he needed it most. That seems the most probable outcome today as well. If impeached, Trump would lose the luxury of venting his resentments before friendly crowds, stirring their anger. His audience, by political necessity, would become a few dozen senators in Washington.
And what if the Senate does not convict Trump? The fifth benefit of impeachment is that, even when it fails to remove a president, it severely damages his political prospects. Johnson, abandoned by Republicans and rejected by Democrats, did not run for a second term.  . . . . If Congress were to impeach Trump, whatever short-term surge he might enjoy as supporters rallied to his defense, his long-term political fate would likely be sealed.
Today, the United States once more confronts a president who seems to care for only some of the people he represents, who promises his supporters that he can roll back the tide of diversity, who challenges the rule of law, and who regards constitutional rights and liberties as disposable. Congress must again decide whether the greater risk lies in executing the Constitution as it was written, or in deferring to voters to do what it cannot muster the courage to do itself. The gravest danger facing the country is not a Congress that seeks to measure the president against his oath—it is a president who fails to measure up to that solemn promise.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Giuliani’s Meltdown Foreshadows Another Russia Bombshell

Rudy Giuliani's latest episode of diarrhea of the mouth during an interview with Chris Cuomo makes me wonder whether (i) Giuliani is suffering from growing dementia, or (ii) Giuliani belatedly realizes that his client, Donald Trump, has been lying to him and is in fact guilty of conspiring with Russia against the United States and its electoral process. If it is the later, Giuliani has a couple of options, one of which is to resign and run as far away from Trump as quickly as possible.  The other is to try to spin the situation and lower public shock when Robert Mueller's report shows comprehensive conspiring by the Trump/Pence campaign with a hostile foreign power. Part of that spin will be that Trump knew nothing about what his campaign was doing.  The problem is that this spin confirms one of two things: Trump is incompetent or he;s lying yet again.   A piece in Vanity Fair looks at what Giuliani may be up to.  Here are highlights:
Watching Rudy Giuliani’s latest televised confessional on Wednesday, one Washington defense attorney called to express his astonishment at the spectacle of Donald Trump’s personal attorney intimating that perhaps the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia, after all. “I think it is long past due that we disregard anything he says about the law because I think he is confused,” the attorney said of Giuliani. “If he ever knew anything about it, he doesn’t remember.”
The interview was indeed baffling: over the course of a prolonged, heated exchange with Chris Cuomo on CNN, Giuliani claimed that he “never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign”; that if there was any collusion, “it happened a long time ago”; and argued that the “only crime you could commit here” would have been if the president had “conspired with the Russians to hack the D.N.C.”
“Whatever Giuliani‘s motives for going on a show with Chris Cuomo, he’s clearly looking to sharply redefine the issue in the Russia collusion case,” said Bob Bauer, former White House general counsel to Barack Obama. During the campaign through the first several months of the Mueller probe, Trump and his allies were insistent that there had been “no contact” with any Russians and certainly “no collusion” to influence the 2016 election. Over the past year, however, those claims have broken down in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. . . . . Court filings in federal cases involving Trump’s former campaign chairman, former lawyer, and national security adviser, among many others, all paint a portrait of a sweeping Russian influence campaign. On Thursday, Giuliani appeared to concede that some Trump associates might have coordinated their efforts with Russian agents, telling CNN: “Neither he nor I can possibly know what everyone on the campaign was doing.”
Neal Katyal, a former acting solicitor general in the Obama administration, suggested that Giuliani’s prime-time interview—while rambling and inarticulate—represented a calculated shift in Trump’s legal strategy: “He had no choice. . . . . he’s pivoting to a different fallback argument: ‘O.K., even if there was collusion, Trump didn’t know about it.’”
There’s two problems with that claim, Katyal said. “First, it means the whole ‘witch hunt’ story Trump has been saying for years is false—if it is a witch hunt, Mueller found a coven. And second, since the Trump defense was entirely wrong on ‘no collusion,’ what is there to give us confidence about the accuracy of the Trump defense that he didn’t know about it?”
Eric Columbus, a former top-ranking attorney in the Justice Department, zeroed in on Giuliani’s perplexing remark about hacking. “To me, the biggest goalpost shift is Giuliani saying that there’s no evidence that Trump ‘committed the only crime you could commit here—conspired with the Russians to hack the D.N.C.,’” he told told me. “That’s far from the only possible crime, and it raises questions about whether Giuliani is trying to get out in front of new and damaging revelations about his client’s actions.”
Giuliani has previously admitted that his cable-news appearances are for “public opinion, because eventually the decision here is going to be impeach, not impeach.” To that end, Giuliani’s most recent on-air meltdown might be seen as the latest in a series of efforts to reset expectations for the president, continually lowering the bar for what might be perceived as unethical behavior.
Cuomo, on Wednesday, was not having it. “Crime is not the bar of accountability for a president,” he protested when Giuliani made that point. “It’s about what you knew, what was right and what was wrong, and what did you deceive about.” But Trump’s legal team seems to think that differentiation will be enough to save him from impeachment.
Those are “bogus talking points to the base,” not a legal argument, said former U.S. attorney and deputy assistant attorney general Harry Litman. “It has nothing to do with the law and even nothing to do with a persuasive rhetorical strategy to anybody who for instance remembers the things he said last week.”
But even bogus assurances for the base may come back to haunt Giuliani and his client, once Mueller delivers his final report. “If anything, I think that he is hurting the president’s defense, because now the president’s defense is ‘he didn’t know.’ Well, what happens if that falls apart?” the D.C. defense attorney told me. “It is like Bill Clinton. I will never forget when Bill Clinton wagged his finger in a press conference and said I never had sex with that woman. And then we all know what happened after that.”

The New Culture War: The Fight Over "Masculine" Men

Those on the far right and the base of today's Republican Party - i.e., Christofascists and angry white males - seem to always be looking for something to hold up as a threat to their "values" and have found a new rallying cry over the growing recognition that some aspects of "traditional masculinity" are downright toxic and harmful not only to the males who subscribe to it, but also to women and to the larger society. Last week, the American Psychological Association released guidelines addressing "toxic masculinity" and the right wing outcry was loud and clear.  Adding fuel to the fire, Gillette ran an add with a simple message that men can be better and should embrace values like kindness and empathy towards others and what might be described as subscribing to the so-called "golden rule" - basically a concept in keeping with Christ's gospel message.  From the push back from the right and the farcically named "men's rights movement" one would have though Gillette had proposed raping nuns on the high altar at St. Peter's Basilica.  A column in the New York Times looks at this new culture wars battle ground.  Here are excerpts:

How you see the role of men and women at work and at home has become an integral element of contemporary political conflict.
Until recently, most of the attention has been focused on partisan evaluations of problems confronting women. A 2017 Pew Research report found, for example, that by nearly 3 to 1 (73-25 percent), Democrats believe women face “significant obstacles that make it harder for them to get ahead than men,” while Republicans believe those obstacles are largely gone (63-34).
Last week, however, the American Psychological Association entered the fray with the release of its long-planned “Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men.”
The A.P.A. guidelines argue that the socialization of males to adhere to components of “traditional masculinity such as emotional stoicism, homophobia, not showing vulnerability, self-reliance and competitiveness” leads to the disproportion of males involved in “aggression and violence as a means to resolve interpersonal conflict” as well as “substance abuse, incarceration, and early mortality.”
According to the A.P.A., the persistent commitment of many boys and men to the norms of traditional masculinity helps explain why . . . .Men commit 90 percent of homicides in the United States and represent 77 percent of homicide victims. They’re the demographic group most at risk of being victimized by violent crime. They are 3.5 times more likely than women to die by suicide, and their life expectancy is 4.9 years shorter than women’s. Boys are far more likely to be diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder than girls, and they face harsher punishments in school — especially boys of color.
Republicans and Democrats have sharply polarized views on such findings.  According to an October 2017 Pew Research report, a quarter of Republicans said the country has not done enough to insure equal rights for women, while 54 percent said the country has done enough and 18 percent said the country has gone too far. Among Democrats, 69 percent said the country has not done enough, 26 percent said the country has done enough and 4 percent said the country has gone too far.
Even Gillette has joined the debate with its new television commercial, “We Believe: The Best Man Can Be,” a critique of toxic masculinity:  “It’s been going on far too long,” the narrator declares. “We can’t laugh it off.”
In a Jan. 7 National Review article, “Grown Men Are the Solution, Not the Problem,” David French, one of the most outspoken critics of the A.P.A. guidelines, wrote “We are in the middle of an intense culture war focused around men.”
There is a major difference between the two parties regarding the basic nature versus nurture issue that plays such a prominent role in the debate about men. Edward M. Adams, past president of Division 51 on Men and Masculinities of the American Psychological Association, emailed that the guidelines espouse positive manhood to include living in cooperation, respect, appreciation, courage, and fearlessness about being fully human. We do not see negativity, shame, unwarranted violence and aggression, gender domination, or hate and prejudice as ways to promote a better quality of life for any one of us.
The men most negatively affected by changing economics, according to Hibbing, are also those most often inclined to reject the fact that “government is the best source for providing assistance and retraining in the face of these changes.” Instead, these men “resist such assistance and feel they are entitled to the arrangements of the past.”
In this heated debate, Judith Butler, a prominent feminist and a professor of comparative literature at Berkeley, provided a strong case for the progressive argument in behalf of expanding gender norms. Butler argues “that feminism has opened up possibilities for boys to play football or to pursue the arts, or even to do both.”
The larger point, she wrote, is to let boys find their way toward activities and passions that more fully express who they are and let them flourish apart from any social judgments about what is appropriate for their gender. Indeed, the only prescription that most feminist positions make is to treat people with dignity, to honor the equality of the sexes, to accept gender diversity, and to oppose all forms of violence against people, whether young or old, on the basis of their gender or sexuality.
Many Republicans believe gender roles to be distinct and that categorical denial of hormonal or biological underpinnings to sex differences is erroneous — while simultaneously voicing doubts about the legitimacy of the science of evolution.
The current era has been marked by a continuous series of challenges to once indisputable truths about sex and gender. Ubiquitous contraception, for one thing, has altered the fundamentals of reproductive roles. The alteration of these fundamentals has been followed by a series of transformations and dislocations — women’s rights, reproductive rights, gay rights, transgender rights, new forms of family formation and dissolution, and vastly altered patterns of fertility. Challenges to core understandings of masculinity — and femininity — are inescapable.
The immensity of these upheavals should not be underestimated. That people are seeking political solutions to rapid societal changes is no surprise. That these solutions erupt in political conflict is also inevitable. For some, new horizons in matters of sexuality and sexual identity offer opportunity; for others, discomfort and fear predominate.

Karen and Mike Pence's Moral Hypocrisy

Mike and Karen Pence: modern day Pharisees.
In today's America, nothing more defines evangelical Christians than their hypocrisy.  And no one better personifies this hypocrisy better than Mike Pence - a man who, to me, has all the hallmarks of a self-loathing, closeted gay - and Karen Pence who is now working for a stridently anti-gay "Christian" school.  Of course, if one believes in Christ's gospel message as set forth in the New Testament, there is little Christian about this school and its policies of exclusion and condemnation.  Instead, it more closely mirrors a gathering of Pharisees of the type repeatedly condemned by Christ in the New Testament.  Meanwhile, the Pences and the vast majority of evangelicals continue to blindly support Donald Trump, the most morally bankrupt individual to ever occupy the White House.  With such hypocrisy - and hatred on others - on such open display, it's little wonder that now 40% of the under 30 generations have walked away from religion.  A piece at CNN calls out the Pences' hypocrisy.  Here are highlights:
Karen Pence, the wife of America's vice president, Mike Pence will be teaching art at a Christian school in Virginia that bans LGBTQ children and requires employees to declare their religious beliefs. Like a real-life setting for "The Handmaid's Tale," Immanuel Christian School insists applicants initial a pledge to "live a personal life of moral purity."
Listen to what else the pledge says: "I understand that the term 'marriage' has only one meaning; the uniting of one man and one woman in a single, exclusive covenant union as delineated in Scripture." It asserts that God intended sexual acts only between "a man and a woman who are married to each other." It identifies "moral misconduct" that would disqualify employees as premarital sex, cohabitation, extramarital sex, homosexual or lesbian sexual activity, polygamy, transgender identity, any other violation of the unique roles of male and female."
This language is disgusting and insults millions of taxpaying American citizens, many who have served their country. That it is acceptable to the wife of the man who is a heartbeat away from the presidency should horrify and alarm all Americans. For all their professed beliefs, Pence, and his wife, show unwavering support for a man who has been married three times, divorced twice, has had five children with three women and who has been accused of (though denies) paying a porn star and a Playboy model hundreds of thousands of dollars to conceal affairs he'd had with them. The hypocrisy here, and indeed from white evangelical Trump supporters, is astonishing. . . . . Obama, a man who had no sex scandals, was never accused of sexual harassment, had two children with the same woman, couldn't crack 25% white evangelicals. Of course, race is a huge reason, but Hillary Clinton only received 16% of the white evangelical vote.
 For white evangelicals, it appears to be Trump over country -- and Karen Pence is a glowing example.   The school where Karen Pence will work — and indeed she has taught there in the past, for 12 years -- does have a legal right to its brand of hate. But it is deplorable for the wife of the vice president to work in this space. If the Pences love their God so much, then they would not sit in a White House with a man who shows no moral compass and said he never asks for forgiveness. They would be on the White House lawn, with the King James Bible in hand, disavowing a President who is a horrible representation for our children. If Karen Pence loves "moral purity," she would have denounced Melania Trump for — for example -- posing naked and in handcuffs for a men's magazine when she worked as a model. If she and her husband want to sign a pledge of moral purity, they should first hand it to the President of the United States for his own signature. Do Karen and Mike Pence (who, incidentally, supports conversion therapy) not see LGBTQ people as humans deserving the same respect and rights as anyone?
Mike and Karen Pence, where is your Jesus?

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Vladimir Putin Could Not be Happier as Turmoil Grips US and UK

In the wake of yesterday's vote in Parliament which rejected Theresa May's hideous Brexit plan, the United Kingdom is in the worse political crisis since the end of WWII and Britain faces an economic nightmare of its own creation.  Estimates are that at least $1 trillion has fled the British financial system and things may get far worse if the UK leaves the European Union.

Meanwhile, political chaos reigns in the USA as Trump refuses to strike a deal to reopen the federal government. 800,000 federal employees are going without pay and airports are slowly edging towards shutdowns as TSA workers and air traffic controllers prepare to seek new employment in order to save themselves and their families financially. 

Though separated by the Atlantic Ocean, the two crises share two common threads.  One is that the cause of the instability traces to rural white voters who hate urban and suburban populations and, in the final analysis are racists who long for a return of the "good old days."  The other common thread is that Russian cyber attacks and social media ploys helped drive what is in my view described as a "populist" movement. In both the USA and the UK the voters supporting Trump and Brexit are in reality most motivated by hatred of others and fear of modernity (and perhaps even thinking for themselves).  A piece at CNN looks at the phenomenon and the man smiling through it all, Russia's Vladimir Putin.  Here are highlights:

The news just keeps on getting better for Vladimir Putin.
On either side of the Atlantic, the United States and Britain, the two great English-speaking democracies that orchestrated Moscow's defeat in the Cold War, are undergoing simultaneous political breakdowns.  And the Russian leader may have had a hand in triggering the turmoil. In London, Theresa May on Tuesday suffered the worst defeat in the modern parliamentary era by a prime minister, as lawmakers shot down her Brexit deal with the European Union by a staggering 432 votes to 202. The United States, meanwhile, remains locked in its longest-ever government shutdown, which is now entering its 26th day, is nowhere near ending and is the culmination of two years of whirling political chaos sparked by President Donald Trump. It's hard to believe that two such robust democracies, long seen by the rest of the world as beacons of stability, have dissolved into such bitter civic dysfunction and seem unmoored from their previous governing realities. The political self-recrimination is a far cry from the days when President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher bonded to face down totalitarian threats to Western, liberal democracy. Now the threat to the political solidity of the West is coming partly from the inside, from a fractured political consensus that makes it impossible to address vital questions like Britain's relations with Europe and immigration in the US. Supporters of Trump in the US and Brexit in Britain see their revolts as uprisings against distant or unaccountable leaders who no longer represent them or share their values. . . . . The meltdown in Britain has some foreign investors wanting to know if Britain has "lost its mind," said Tina Fordham, chief global political analyst for Citigroup.
 [S]ome common factors combined to lay siege to what have long been two of the world's most resilient democracies. The allies are experiencing the reverberations of populist revolts that erupted in 2016 -- in the Brexit vote and the election of Trump -- and are now slamming into legislatures and breeding division and stasis. The result is that Britain and the United States are all but ungovernable on the most important questions that confront both nations. That's music to Putin's ears.
 The Russian leader has made disrupting liberal democracies a core principle of his near two-decade rule, as he seeks to avenge the fall of the Soviet empire, which he experienced as a heartbroken KGB agent in East Germany. In the last two years, Putin has had a witting, or unwitting, ally in Trump, whose attacks on NATO and US allies and decision to pull US troops out of Syria played into Russia's goals.
Whether the political distemper in the West was sown by a Russian intelligence operation masterminded by Putin may not matter because he is making a belated effort at winning the peace after the end of the Cold War. His success is adding urgency to the question that special counsel Robert Mueller has spent nearly two years investigating -- whether Trump's campaign cooperated with Moscow to influence the election in 2016. In another win for Putin, America is tying itself in knots in a surreal national debate over whether Trump -- who incidentally is a vocal supporter of Brexit -- is working on behalf of Russia, following a bombshell New York Times report. Trump's enlistment of rural, conservative voters against metropolitan elites echoes the arguments of leaders orchestrating Britain's exit from Europe. Now, in both nations, the unwillingness of rebels to dilute the purity of their goals is causing gridlock and resistance in Congress and in Parliament. Britain, meanwhile, is mired in the worst political crisis since World War II. While a slim majority voted to leave the EU, there is no consensus on how to do it, and about half the country still wants to stay in the bloc. Trump has been saying the same thing for days -- that Democrats are soft on the border and need to capitulate. But he's failed to rally a coalition of Americans behind his border wall. Effectively he's led the Republican Party into a political dead end. May repeatedly insists that her rejected deal is the only way to honor the 2016 referendum, right up until its massive defeat.  But she has failed to build public support for her approach. If anything, she's more locked into a failed political position than Trump is on the shutdown. And the deeper the trans-Atlantic dysfunction gets, the better it is for Putin.