Saturday, February 16, 2019

Paul Manafort Keeps Lying About Russia Collusion

At the same time that special counsel Robert Mueller has linked Trump insider Roger Stone to Wikileaks, a federal judge has ruled that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort consistently lied to Mueller's team about the campaign's communications and conspiracy with Russia to flip the 2016 presidential campaign in favor of Trump not withstanding his cooperation agreement.  Mueller has now recommended a 24 year prison sentence for Manafort, a virtual life sentence for the 29 year old Manafort.  The only plausible reasons for Manafort's repeated lies are (i) a effort to protect Trump, and (ii) the hope for a presidential pardon.  A piece in New York Magazine links together what is currently know and maps out at least part of the conspiracy between the Trump campaign and a hostile, enemy power.  It' hard not to have the t-word - treason - spring to mind. Here are article excerpts:

Last night, a federal judge ruled that Paul Manafort violated his plea agreement by lying repeatedly to federal prosecutors about the Russia investigation. Some of Manafort’s lies go “very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating,” a prosecutor told the court. In particular, Manafort deceived prosecutors about a meeting he had with his former partner and active Russian agent, Konstantin Kilimnik. At this meeting, the two discussed a peace plan to resolve Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the top Russian foreign policy priority. Manafort passed on polling data to Kilimnik, data that was “very detailed” and “very focused,” not just some topline numbers. And according to prosecutors, Manafort did all this in hopes of getting a pardon from President Trump.
Here we have, in this case alone, every single element one would need to establish collusion. There was a meeting between Trump’s campaign manager and a Russian operative; the discussion of something Russia would gain from a Trump victory (a favorable Ukraine settlement); the exchange of information that would assist Russian campaign intervention (polling data that would allow Russia to target its social-media attacks). Also, they left the meeting place via separate entrances. This isn’t merely suspicious. It’s a scene from The Americans.
And perhaps most curious of all, you have the interest of the president. If Manafort was just running a side hustle behind Trump’s back, Trump would have little reason to care about him getting caught. Prosecutors have already charged that Manafort maintained secret contacts with the White House as recently as 2018. Howard Fineman reported last year that, according to “friends and aides” of the president, Trump believes Manafort “isn’t going to ‘flip’ and sell him out.”
The revelations about Manafort have dribbled out slowly enough that it’s easy to lose track of how far along they have come. . . . . This is exactly what you’d expect in the prosecution of a massive conspiracy: The prosecution works its way from the bottom up and the outside in, finding crimes by key figures to force them to testify against higher-ups. Instead, conservatives have treated every step in the prosecution as evidence that Manafort did nothing wrong with Russia.
This defense has been smashed to pieces. There’s a ton of collusion in the case against Manafort. Of course we haven’t even seen the full extent of the charges, much of which is still hidden in the procession of indictments beneath tantalizing black lines. What we already know is that Trump’s campaign manager was working tightly and in secret with Russia during the campaign, and that his interests and those of Donald Trump have been very much in alignment.

More Saturday Male Beauty

Anti-Gay House of Delegates Speaker Cox to Be Targeted in November Elections

Anti-gay Speaker Kirkland Cox
The Washington Post is reporting that the, in my view, utterly toothless Equality Virginia ("EV"), is planning on targeting House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) and Majority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) for defeat in November after Virginia Republicans yet again killed all non-discrimination protections for LGBT Virginians.  Yes, Cox and Gilbert need to be defeated, but don't hold your breath waiting for EV to pull it off, especially if the Democrats do not field top quality candidates to oppose them.  Meanwhile, if EV had placed more focus on securing passage of these bills and less time attacking Governor Northam, the strongest ally EV has ever had in the governor's mansion, and riling up its own donor base in the process, perhaps the bills might have succeeded this legislative session. EV also needs to grasp that with Republicans, bipartisanship doesn't work.  They only understand the threat of electoral defeat,  

Democrats will be headed into the November elections suffering from self-inflicted wounds, thanks to national Democrats who butted into Virginia's affairs and self-aggrandizing organizations like the Human Rights Campaign which I suspect talked EV into attacking Northam.  Personally, I've had enough and I have stopped my monthly donations to EV and will likely end up going to the Commonwealth Dinner in April - we had already bought tickets before EV's attacks on Northam - solely so the husband and I can give the EV board members and Democrat elected officials in attendance a piece of our minds face to face.  Here are excerpts from the Post story:
Gay and transgender activists, fed up with four consecutive defeats in trying to ban discrimination in housing and government employment, say they will now turn to the ballot box, targeting GOP leaders who have failed to support them. “No one has taken a more bipartisan approach than we have,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, which lobbied for the bills that passed the Senate but died in a House subcommittee. . . . The only solution we see now is new leadership.”
State Republicans hold a two-seat majority in the Senate and a three-seat majority in the House, with one seat open for a special election in a district previously held by a Democrat. A federal court approved a new redistricting map Thursday that is expected to favor Democrats.
Equality Virginia says it will work to unseat House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) and Majority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) because it blames those leaders for blocking a full committee hearing of the bills.
The bills would have prohibited discrimination in all state and local government jobs on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and barred housing discrimination against people in those same groups, with exceptions for rentals in single-family homes, property owned by religious organizations or private clubs.
Advocates thought they had a better-than-average chance for passage this year given the Republicans’ determination to try to win back seats in November and attract suburban swing voters, who are more open to supporting gay and transgender people than some constituencies within the Republican Party.
“We don’t live in 1980 anymore, and it’s time for us to get past this and not discriminate against a community when most people don’t have a problem with this community,” Del. Roxann L. Robinson (R-Chesterfield), who sponsored the legislation, said earlier this year.
Conservative groups, including the Virginia Catholic Conference and the Family Foundation [Virginia's leading hate group], opposed the effort. . . . “Once again, the speaker and majority leader said ‘nope, under our watch this is not going to happen,’ ” Parrish said.
Cox “is only the speaker because his name was drawn out of a bowl,” he said, referring to how state officials broke a tied legislative race and handed control of the House of Delegates to Republicans. “He did not have a mandate . . . Now we will pivot, look at the new maps. Speaker Cox is in a very different district this year. That will be a priority of ours.”

Why People Talk About Invoking the 25th Amendment

Watch Donald Trump's bizarre press conference declaring a bogus national emergency on the US/Mexico border and then watch old news reel footage of Hitler's unhinged ranting or Mussolini posturing and suddenly one realizes what the 25th Amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution. We have a mentally deranged individual in the White House which is the real national emergency facing the nation.  Everything else pales in comparison (national Democrats worried about ancient black face photos in Virginia need a serious reality check).  We face a clear and present danger that needs to be addressed immediately.

As for Trump's still loyal supporters, they are really no better than the ugliest elements of Hitler's base who were motivated by anti-Semiticism, hatred and bigotry, or greed over the money they thought they could make.  I truly do not know how otherwise sane Republicans cannot feel alarm as Trump increasingly shows he is not tethered to objective reality.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the bizarre spectacle that took place in the White House rose garden.  Here are highlights:  
There was no sign of alarm as administration officials and journalists assembled Friday in the Rose Garden under a perfect blue sky amid unseasonable warmth. Nor was there any sense of crisis conveyed by President Trump, scheduled to fly to his Mar-a-Lago resort later Friday.
His topic demanded utmost solemnity: The situation on the border is so dire, such a crisis, that he must invoke emergency powers to circumvent Congress, testing the boundary between constitutional democracy and autocracy. But with the nation watching, Trump instead delivered a bizarre, 47-minute variant of his campaign speech.
He boasted about the economy, military spending and the stock markets (“we have all the records”), and he applauded the Chinese president’s pledge to execute people who deal fentanyl (“one of the things I’m most excited about in our trade deal”). He said Japan’s prime minister had nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. He declared Ann Coulter “off the reservation” but praised his favorite Fox News hosts and celebrated Rush Limbaugh’s endurance . . . .
[H]e declared the “eradication of the caliphate” in Syria (his top general in the region begs to differ). He introduced his new attorney general, disparaged the Democrats’ “con game,” criticized retired House speaker Paul Ryan, invoked campaign promises, recited the “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan and pronounced his reelection prospects excellent. He pinged from regulations to Britain to MS-13 to “monstrous caravans” to an apocryphal story about women gagged with duct tape.
Oh, and he also mentioned his emergency declaration — specifically, that it isn’t necessary. “I didn’t need to do this,” he said in response to a question from NBC’s Peter Alexander. It’s just that the emergency declaration lets him build a border wall “faster.” He acknowledged that “I don’t know what to do with all the money” . . . Somewhere, administration lawyers were face-palming.
On Thursday came reports that former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe had confirmed that Justice Department officials discussed the possibility of removing Trump under the 25th Amendment for incapacity. The president then spent the next 30 hours showing exactly why some people think him incapacitated.
Prayers and frantic reassurance: This is how Republicans deal with an erratic president determined to defy an overwhelming bipartisan majority in Congress, take money from the military (the Pentagon’s uses for it “didn’t sound too important to me,” Trump said) and set a precedent for future presidents to declare emergencies for their pet projects.
When President Barack Obama attempted a less aggressive use of executive power in 2014, Republicans denounced him as a “tyrant” and “dictator,” . . . Trump seemed not to have heard such warnings as he ricocheted from topic to topic in the Rose Garden. He carried a speech to the lectern but mostly ignored it as he spun fantasies.
Evidence that most of the illegal drugs pass through legal border crossings? “It’s all a lie.”  CNN’s Jim Acosta pointed out that border crossings are near record lows and illegal immigrants are not disproportionately criminal.  “You’re fake news,” Trump replied.
Playboy’s Brian Karem asked Trump to “clarify where you get your numbers.” “Sit down,” Trump told him, declaring that “I use many stats.” Minutes later, he pumped a fist in the air and departed.
“What about the 25th Amendment?” Acosta called after him. Trump’s performance had already provided a compelling answer.
Trump is not mentally well - and neither are those who continue to support him (e.g., evangelical Christians) and/or make endless apologies. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Mueller Filing Connects Roger Stone To Wikileaks

While Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, has declared a bogus national emergency to improperly secure funding for his border wall to thrill his knuckle-dragging, racist base, it now appears that Trump's real emergency is that special counsel Robert Mueller is close to connecting the dots to document a criminal conspiracy between Trump and Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.  Loud mouth braggart Roger Stone is, per new court fillings looking more and more like he was the Trump-Russia-Wikileaks go between.  Expect more shrieks of "witch hunt" as Mueller finds more and more witches and draws his noose closer and closer around Trump. The take away is that when Trump asked Russia to "find Hillary's 30,000 emails" during one of the debates, he was in active communication with Russian operatives through Stone and perhaps others.  A piece in The Hill looks at this new development which should shut up some of the blathering talking heads who say that Mueller has found not hints of direct collusion with an enemy power.  Here are excerpts:

Special counsel Robert Mueller said in a new court filing that search warrants have uncovered communications between longtime GOP operative Roger Stone and "Organization 1,” which is widely believed to be WikiLeaks.
Mueller made the disclosure in a filing Friday arguing that Stone’s case is related to the one involving Russian military hackers who are alleged to have breached the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and personal account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
The communications were uncovered in search warrants executed on accounts in the investigation into Russian hackers, Mueller said.
The hacked emails were given to WikiLeaks, which later released them, in what U.S. intelligence officials say was part of a broader plot by the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Mueller’s prosecutors wrote Friday that in the course of investigating the email hacking “the government obtained and executed dozens of search warrants on various accounts used to facilitate the transfer of stolen documents for release, as well as to discuss the timing and promotion of their release.”
“Several of those search warrants were executed on accounts that contained Stone’s communications with Guccifer 2.0 and with Organization 1,” the filing states.
The special counsel said the search warrants would be produced to Stone’s defense attorneys in discovery and included in a sealed addendum to Friday’s filing.
A longtime friend of President Trump, Stone was indicted in Washington, D.C., late last month for lying to Congress about his communications regarding WikiLeaks, witness tampering and obstructing a congressional investigation. He pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Stone has said he never directly communicated with WikiLeaks but instead used a backchannel. Stone, who made public statements that appeared to forecast WikiLeaks releases before the 2016 election, has maintained that he had no inside knowledge of the hacked emails before WikiLeaks released them.
They [prosecutors] said that during his [Stone’s] testimony before the House Intelligence Committee he claimed that former New York radio host Randy Credico was his backchannel to the organization. Stone also allegedly testified that he did not ask any other individual to contact the group.
Credico has repeatedly denied being Stone’s source. Emails exchanged between Stone and another individual, believed to be conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi, allegedly show Stone had asked Corsi to get in touch with WikiLeaks about any damaging Democratic emails the group might have in its possession.
Last July’s indictment against the Russian hackers cited communications between Guccifer 2.0, who is identified as a Russian GRU officer, and “a person who was in regular contact with senior members” of Trump’s campaign. Stone has acknowledged that he is likely the person referred to in the indictment.
Trump has denied any collusion between his campaign and Moscow and regularly derides the investigation as a “witch hunt.”
Stone’s case is expected to go to trial later this year; prosecutors and his attorneys have asked for extra time to prepare, given the amount of evidence in the case.
On Friday, Jackson issued a gag order restricting Stone and his attorneys from discussing the case publicly.

Friday, February 15, 2019

More Friday Male Beauty

In the Closet of the Vatican

Heavens knows that hypocrisy is one of the hallmarks of the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church.  For centuries these supposedly celibate men, many seemingly bitter at the world while seeking power and perks for themselves, have preached a warped dogma on human sexuality and inflicted psychological damage on countless millions.  Now, a new book that appears to focus more on sensation than hard proof claims that 80% of the priests at the Vatican are gay.  The allegation, of course, will whip the far right elements in the Church into a frenzy and be cited as a justification for a witch hunt against gays while ignoring the heterosexual sexual escapades of non-celibate clerics. Personally, I view the Catholic Church as beyond repair and left it years ago after the sex abuse scandal exploded in Boston in early 2002. A column in the New York Times looks at the book, "In the Closet of the Vatican," and the coming circus it will likely ignite.  Here are some excerpts:
Marveling at the mysterious sanctum that his new book explores, the French journalist Frédéric Martel writes that “even in San Francisco’s Castro” there aren’t “quite as many gays.”
He’s talking about the Vatican. And he’s delivering a bombshell.
Although the book’s publishers have kept it under tight wraps, I obtained a copy in advance of its release next Thursday. It will come out in eight languages and 20 countries, under the title “Sodoma,” as in Sodom, in Western Europe and “In the Closet of the Vatican” in the United States, Britain and Canada.
It includes the claim that about 80 percent of the male Roman Catholic clergy who work at the Vatican, around the pope, are gay. It contends that the more showily homophobic a Vatican official is, the more likely he belongs to that crowd, and that the higher up the chain of command you go, the more gays you find. And not all of them are celibate. Not by a long shot.
Whatever Martel’s intent, “In the Closet of the Vatican” may be less a constructive reckoning than a stockpile of ammunition for militant right-wing Catholics who already itch to conduct a witch hunt for gay priests, many of whom are exemplary — and chaste — servants of the church. Those same Catholics oppose sensible and necessary reforms, and will point to the book’s revelations as proof that the church is already too permissive and has lost its dignity and its way. Although Martel himself is openly gay, he sensationalizes gayness by devoting his inquiry to Catholic officials who have had sex with men, not ones who have had sex with women. The promise of celibacy that priests make forbids all sexual partners, and what violates Catholic teaching isn’t just gay sex but sex outside marriage. In that context, Martel’s focus on homosexuality buys into the notion that it’s especially troubling and titillating. The sourcing of much of “In the Closet of the Vatican” is vague, and other Vatican experts told me that the 80 percent figure is neither knowable nor credible. “It’s not a scientifically based accusation — it’s an ideologically based one,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a columnist for The National Catholic Reporter who visits the Vatican frequently and has written several highly regarded books about the Roman Catholic hierarchy. “One of the problems is that Catholic bishops have never allowed any kind of research in this area. They don’t want to know how many gay priests there are.” Independent studies put the percentage of gay men among Catholic priests in the United States at 15 percent to 60 percent. It depicts different sexual subcultures, including clandestine meetings between Vatican officials and young heterosexual Muslim men in Rome who work as prostitutes. It names names, and while many belong to Vatican officials and other priests who are dead or whose sexual identities have come under public scrutiny before, Martel also lavishes considerable energy on the suggestion that Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, and other towering figures in the church are gay.
Perhaps the most vivid of the double lives under Martel’s gaze is that of Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo of Colombia, who died a little over a decade ago. According to the book, he prowled the ranks of seminarians and young priests for men to seduce and routinely hired male prostitutes, sometimes beating them up after sex. All the while he promoted the church’s teaching that all gay men are “objectively disordered” and embraced its ban on priests who are believed to have “deep-seated homosexual tendencies,” whether they act on them or not.
As David Clohessy, a longtime advocate for survivors of sexual abuse by priests, said to me on the phone a few days ago: “Many priests have a huge disincentive to report sexual misdeeds by colleagues. They know they’re vulnerable to being blackballed. It’s celibacy and the secretive, rigid, ancient all-male hierarchy that contributes to the cover-up and, therefore, more abuse.” Abuse has no sexual orientation, a fact made clear by many cases of priests having sex with girls and adult women, including nuns, whose victimization by priests was publicly acknowledged by Pope Francis for the first time early this month.
But that’s a crucial subtlety that’s too easily lost in the thicket of exclamation points in “In the Closet of the Vatican.” And more people will read the racy headlines about the book than the book itself. What they may take away is this: Catholic priests are twisted characters. And gay men are creatures of stealth and agents of deception who band together in eccentric societies with odd rituals.
I asked him if he worried about homophobes weaponizing the book. If they read it correctly, he answered, they’ll realize that rooting out gays would mean ridding the church of some of their heroes, who inveigh against homosexuality as a way of denying and camouflaging who they really are. The cardinals most accepting of gays, he said, are those who are probably straight.

Trump Shocks GOP with Bogus Emergency Declaration

Much of Trump's core base is motivated by one thing: a seething hatred of anyone non-white.  And this hatred extends to the Christofascists as evidenced by hate group leader Tony Perkins who heads the Family Research Council, formerly an affiliate of The Family Foundation here on Virginia. Perkins told his lemming like followers to "ask God for Trump’s wall to protect America from “thieves, murderers, and invaders”." Statement such as this underscore why Trump will cite a bogus national emergency to use funds not appropriated by Congress as required by the U.S. Constitution to build his farcical wall that serves no purpose in most instances other than to satiate the racial hatred of his base.  If Virginia Democrats busy wringing their hands over issues of race are truly concerned, they need to move to stop Trump's batshitery.  Fortunately some Senate Republicans seem hesitant to support Trump's lie which may be blocked by the courts as the Department of Justice has already warned Trump.  Of course, the real national emergency is that Trump still occupies the White House.  A piece in Politico looks at the GOP unease as Trump seeks to thrill the ugliest elements of his base.  Here are highlights:
The surprise announcement Thursday that President Donald Trump will use his emergency powers to try and build his border wall blindsided some Republicans, confused others and sent the Senate GOP into a general state of shock.
The news, delivered by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the Senate floor, came after weeks of warnings from his own party not to declare a national emergency at the border.
Trump has decided to challenge Republicans’ resolve anyway — but he may not like the outcome. Aides privately predicted Trump will lose a vote on the Senate floor once the Democratic House passes a resolution of disapproval to block the move.
“I wish he wouldn’t have done it,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who McConnell interrupted on the Senate floor to make his announcement. “If [Trump] figures that Congress didn’t do enough and he’s got to do it, then I imagine we’ll find out whether he’s got the authority to do it by the courts.”
“In general, I’m not for running the government by emergency, nor spending money. The Constitution's pretty clear: spending originates and is directed by Congress,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who like almost everyone else on Capitol Hill wants more information. “So I’m not really for it.”
Others were blunter.
"It’s a mistake on [Trump's] the president’s part," said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). "I also believe that it will be challenged in court. It undermines the role of Congress and the appropriations process.”
The question is not simply a theoretical one. Republicans might have to go on record on the Senate floor in the coming days over the matter. Under congressional rules, the Senate would be forced to act on a resolution of disapproval passed by the House, and just four Republicans would need to join with 47 Democrats to rebuke the president at the simple majority threshold. [A] battle over Trump’s executive powers will draw attention to the Senate GOP's on-again, off-again rift with the president over his hard-line immigration positions. And a veto override vote against their own president is not what Republicans want to be dealing with as the 2020 campaign begins.
Some Republicans breathed a sigh of relief that Trump’s unilateral move would at least end, for now, a wall fight that sparked a 35-day partial shutdown and threatened another.
But the move also represents a blow to any GOP effort to work on immigration reform while Trump is president.
“I always kind of take pause to the assertion of executive power,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). “The main reason is it could detract attention away from the long-term solution that can only occur through an act of Congress.”

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Democrats Hope for a Nationalized Virginia 2019 Election

With things somewhat calmer in Richmond and the clamor for Governor Ralph Northam to resign seeming to quiet down except from mostly out of state and inside the Beltway pundits and talking heads, (the First Lady, Pam Northam was warmly welcomed at the HR Pride launch last Sunday despite the, in my view, anti-Northam idiocy of Equality Virginia), focus is again returning to the 2019 Virginia elections.  I have a piece that hopefully will publish at sometime soon and other Virginia commentators, including my UVA classmate Larry Sabato are looking forward in their prognostications towards the lead up to November's election during which the entire membership of the Virginia General Assembly will be up for election.  At Sabato's Crystal Ball analysis is done as to where we are at present and how Democrats can move their prospects forward by nationalizing the election to make it, in par, a referendum on Donald Trump.  With Trump opposing payment to many government contractors harmed by the government shut down and many federal employees, especially in Northern Virginia, votes aimed at punishing Trump and the GOP at large could still win the day for Democrats.  Here are article highlights:

For Virginia Democrats, the agony of the moment mixes with the promise of the future
The still-unfolding political crisis in Virginia threatens to derail what could be a breakthrough moment in the South this November for modern Democrats, although it also provides a test of nationalization versus localization that could still break in the Democrats’ favor.  
So here we are, with the top three officials in the state all damaged to at least some degree, but without any real indication as of this writing (Wednesday evening) that any will leave office voluntarily.
What is at stake in the state is more than the future of the three state-level, statewide elected Democrats. Before this cascade of revelations and party chaos, Virginia Democrats were looking at the very real possibility of total state government control and — given that many Southern states were ruled by conservative Democrats before Republican dominance in the region — perhaps the most liberal (or progressive, if you prefer) state government in the post-Reconstruction history of not just Virginia, but the South in general.
The post-Reconstruction political history of the South generally featured conservative white Democrats dominating state governments. But the party’s strength in the South began to weaken for a number of factors, most notably the national Democratic Party’s embrace of civil rights following World War II.
Democrats do not control a single state legislative chamber in the South; that’s true even if one defines the South in a broader way by including states like Kentucky and West Virginia, where Democrats have also lost state legislative chambers in recent years.
The second observation is that control of state legislatures aligns almost perfectly with the 2016 presidential results. Donald Trump won 30 states, and Republicans control every state legislative chamber located in those states.
Virginia is an outlier among the states when it comes to state legislative control — it’s the only state where the majority party in both chambers of the state legislature is clearly at odds with its federal partisanship.
Democrats made huge gains in the Virginia state House of Delegates in 2017, netting 15 seats and winning 49 total in the 100-member chamber. They could have forced a 50-50 tie, but Delegate David Yancey (R) prevailed in a drawing to determine the winner of his reelection bid, where the vote ended in an exact tie. As of now, Republicans hold a 51-48 majority in the House of Delegates with a special election coming next Tuesday to fill a vacancy in a heavily Democratic seat (more on that at the end of this piece).
Democrats made their heavy gains in 2017 on a Republican-drawn map that could not stand up to the strain Donald Trump’s presidency put on it. Democrats ended up making their gains almost exclusively in districts that Clinton carried in 2016. These were districts that Republicans either believed would perform better for them in non-presidential years and/or ones whose Democratic trend only emerged later in the decade. The map may very well be unwound in time for the 2019 elections, as a federal court found that the GOP-drawn map was an illegal racial gerrymander, although it’s still possible that the old map could remain. . . . All told, the Virginia Public Access Project analyzed the new districts and found that just one Democratic district would be harder for Democrats to defend under the new map while six would become harder for Republicans to defend.
The state Senate map, which was a Democratic-drawn map that nonetheless failed to protect the party’s state Senate majority when drawn in advance of the 2011 election, will remain in place regardless of what happens to the House map. Republicans currently hold a 21-19 majority, but they are defending four Clinton-won districts while Democrats don’t hold any Trump-won districts. So the most vulnerable seats appear to be Republican-held ones, most notably an open Northern Virginia district Clinton won with 54% of the two-party vote.
So Democrats need to pick up two seats in each chamber to win outright control of the state legislature. It is reasonable to wonder whether this extraordinary scandal reduces the Democrats’ ability to do so, particularly if the tantalizing (for Democrats) new House of Delegates map falls through. That the three elected statewide state officials, all Democrats, are now compromised complicates the state legislative picture.
To us, the major Democratic concern isn’t necessarily that a significant slice of Northam voters will defect; instead, it’s that Democrats will be on the wrong end of what even before this scandal broke was an inevitable turnout drop from the most recent election. In the two most recent gubernatorial elections, 2013 and 2017, turnout of registered voters was 43% and 48%, respectively; in the two most recent off-year state legislative elections, 2011 and 2015, it was about 29% each time. Democrats will want that turnout figure to be higher, because it probably would mean that their generally less reliable voter base is coming out in stronger force than it did during the Barack Obama era.
This is where the nationalization of American politics could bail out the Democrats. Virginia’s voters sometimes seem to take the White House into account when casting their ballots: 10 of the last 11 gubernatorial elections have been won by the party not in the White House. More recently, state legislative districts that seemed Democratic on paper, or at least at the presidential level, backed Republicans while Obama was president. Perceptions of Trump helped unlock these districts for Democrats in 2017. We see this nationalization in other places.
While Virginia is a more competitive state than either Connecticut or Oklahoma, it has been trending Democratic, and feelings about [Trump] the president could nationalize what otherwise are state-level elections. It’s also worth noting that President Trump’s assertion that Virginia would trend back to the GOP in 2020 because of the Democratic state-level scandals is almost certainly wishful thinking. . . . the state’s trajectory suggests it will vote more Democratic than the nation as a whole in 2020, like it did in both 2012 (by just a hundredth of a percentage point) and 2016 (by more than three points as Sen. Tim Kaine occupied the Democratic vice presidential slot).
Trump benefited from his modified GOP coalition, which is very reliant on white voters who do not have a four-year college degree, in a lot of places, particularly in the electorally vital Midwest. But the tradeoff hurt him elsewhere, such as in Virginia, which is more diverse than the Midwest and has higher-than-average levels of four-year college attainment.
No doubt, the Richmond scandal is an immense headache for Democrats, and a black eye for the commonwealth. If Democrats fail in the fall, the scandal probably will be part of the reason why. But it may be that Democrats suffer through agony all year and then win the state legislature in the fall anyway. If that happened, it would be another triumph for the long-term, nationalized trends that have more often animated politics across the country in recent years than the local ones that seem so politically important in the moment they are happening.
I hope the prediction that the Democrats prevail in November prove accurate.   The reality is that a majority of Virginians - both black and white - are better off and better represented if Democrats hold both houses of the Virginia General Assembly.  Only rural reactionaries, Christian extremists and white supremacist Republicans benefit if the GOP retains control.  This message needs to be broadcast non-stop from now through November and Trump must be incessantly linked to the Virginia GOP as well, especially in areas that suffered from the government shutdown. 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Virginia's Long, Messy, and Contradictory History on Race

The last two weeks in Virginia politics have been tumultuous. Interestingly, while national news outlets continue to stir the pot and take shots at Governor Northam and Virginia, it seems most Virginians are moving on, especially the 58% of blacks who are comfortable with Northam remaining in office.  Perhaps part of this seemingly huge disconnect is that those from outside of Virginia - and the South in general - do not have the perspective on the positive changes that have occurred in Virginia, at least over the 45 plus years that I have counted myself a Virginia.  In May, I have my 45th college reunion of the class of 1974, the University of Virginia's first co-ed undergraduate class. When I first arrived at UVA and moved to Charlottesville (I went on to attend law school at UVA as well), having grown up until then in New York State, it was a major state of culture shock, especially on racial matters.  One needs to recall that my undergraduate class started college a little more than 2 years after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its ruling in Loving V. Virginia.  Many public buildings -including many court houses - had two sets of rest rooms from when rest rooms were segregated. 

Over the years things have changed remarkably, but there is is still room for much improvement.  Ironically, Northam, in my view, is one of those pushing to make Virginia more racially tolerant despite the year book fiasco.  A piece in Salon looks at the descendants of Thomas Jefferson, black and white, who represent Virginia bi-polar racial history.  The piece was written by one of Jefferson's white descendants.  Here are highlights:
The man on the left is Shannon Lanier. He is my cousin. We are standing on our great-grandfather’s grave at Monticello. The man buried beneath that obelisk fathered two children with his wife, Martha Wayles Jefferson, and six children with his slave, Sally Hemings. My fifth great grandmother is Martha Jefferson. Shannon’s fifth great grandmother is Sally Hemings. We talk all the time about the “founding fathers” of this nation, the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, who attended the Constitutional Convention. Well, this nation had founding mothers, as well. One of our founding mothers was a slave, Sally Hemings.
Just as the early citizens of the United States and the descendants of its founders helped to build this country, so did the enslaved humans they owned, and their children, and their descendants. If Thomas Jefferson had not owned more than 600 slaves during his lifetime, we would not have Monticello to visit today. Slaves built every inch of Monticello. They felled the trees and put them through a saw mill to make the lumber. They forged the nails to hammer that lumber into walls and floors and doors and windows. They made every brick with their hands — in fact, you can see the fingerprints of slave children in some of the bricks in the walls of Monticello today.
Slaves built the nation’s Capitol building. They built the White House. They built countless state and county buildings throughout the south, including state capitol buildings. The labor of slaves was used to build the roads and bridges that forged our way west into the unexplored territories of the Louisiana Purchase. Slaves harvested the cotton crops in the south that put shirts on the backs of early white Americans. They harvested the wheat that put bread in their bellies. Slaves tended the cows that produced milk for white children to drink. In many cases, slave women nursed the babies of their white owners. There is a photograph in the new exhibit of Sally Hemings’ slave quarters at Monticello that shows the black arms of a female slave holding a white baby.
In fact, if Thomas Jefferson had not owned slaves, he probably wouldn’t have had the time to write the Declaration of Independence, in which he famously declared that “all men are created equal.”
That’s our national tragedy, isn’t it? That so many years have gone by, and still Thomas Jefferson’s dream has not been realized. Before the photograph of my cousin and me was taken last weekend at Monticello, there were other photographs taken in the state of Virginia published all over the place, shown again and again on cable news. They were photographs of the governor of Virginia in blackface, or someone in blackface anyway, standing next to a man in a Ku Klux Klan white robe and peaked hat. Whoever was shown in the photos, they appeared on the personal page of the governor of Virginia’s medical school yearbook. Later, the attorney general of Virginia admitted that he, too, had put on blackface for Halloween costume when he was in college.
Today, I’m a writer of novels and movies and journalism, and Shannon is the host of a morning television show in Houston, Texas. You could say that we are among the lucky ones in this country, and you would certainly be correct that we are lucky as an accident of birth. But we had to fight to get to stand together on the grave of Thomas Jefferson. We had just finished an interview with CBS This Morning, which will air tomorrow morning on that show. Finally the day came when we sat together in the new exhibit of Sally Hemings’ slave quarters, and we were interviewed as cousins, as acknowledged descendants of Thomas Jefferson.
It wasn’t always that way for Shannon Lanier. He knew from his family history that he was descended from Madison Hemings, the son of Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson. He told the story of being in the second grade during a class on the American presidents when he stood up and announced to the class that he was a great grandson of Thomas Jefferson, the third president. He was told by the teacher to sit down and stop telling lies. In order to get him out of trouble with his teacher, Shannon’s mother had to go to the principal the following day and tell him that what Shannon had said in class was true.
But for years before and afterward, few people — white people, anyway — believed that Jefferson had fathered Sally Hemings children. Not until a DNA test was released in 1998 did historians come around to accept the oral history of the Hemings family that had existed for more than a century.
It was then that I met Shannon for the first time. In 1999, I invited about 50 of my Hemings cousins to the family reunion of Jefferson descendants at Monticello. It did not go well. At that time Monticello was just beginning to come to grips with the legacy of Thomas Jefferson’s owning slaves. You could still take a tour of the house and never hear the word “slave” uttered by one of the docents. As for the white descendants of Jefferson, they were not happy with the Sally Hemings descendants crashing their reunion. They were especially unhappy with me because I invited the Hemmings.
For the next three years we kept going back. I was trying to convince the white descendants of Jefferson to accept our Hemings cousins into the family. In 2002, they held a vote, and it went 95 to 6 against the Hemings family. Five of the six voting yes, that the Hemings were indeed our cousins, were me and my brother and sisters.
Twenty years have passed since I first invited my cousins in the Hemings family to Monticello. It’s a different place now. They uncovered the slave quarters where Sally and one of her brothers lived. They found and have preserved one slave graveyard, and they are actively looking for more.  Today if you take a tour, you learn as much about slave life at Monticello as you to about Thomas Jefferson himself.
More than 240 years after Thomas Jefferson wrote that all men are created equal, we still see too many overt acts of racism, and not nearly enough acts of equality.
Monticello is committing an act of equality by telling the story of slave life there, and by extension, slave life in America. When my cousins in the Hemings family stand up and proudly say, we are descendants of Thomas Jefferson, they are committing an act of equality. I guess I committed my own act of equality when I invited them to come with me to the family reunion at Monticello. I was saying, and they were saying, here we are. We are all from the same family. We are all Jefferson’s children.
The photograph you see here is a picture of who we are as Americans. One day, a photograph of two cousins, one black and one white, will not be seen as unusual. One day, acts of equality will outweigh acts of racism. Until that day, however, Shannon and I will keep fighting for what’s right. And one day, we will win.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Virginia’s Catholic Bishops Release Names of 58 Sexual Predator Priests

Virginia's Southern Baptists are still reeling from the sex abuse scandal in their denomination exposed by two Texas newspapers over last weekend.  Now Virginia's two Catholic bishops - Bishop Barry Knestout of Richmond and Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington - have released the names of 58 clergy credibly accused of sexual molestation of children and youths, thereby bring home to Catholic Virginians the reality of the abuse scandal is not off in far away cities. 42 of those named were in or had been in the Diocese of Richmond.  The remainder were in the Diocese of Arlington.  Both the Virginian Pilot and the Washington Post look at the releases which may have been spurred in part by the ongoing investigation of the Virginia Attorney General's office which is asking victims of clergy abuse to contact its hotline found here. First excerpts from the Pilot piece:

The Catholic Diocese of Richmond released a list Wednesday of 42 clergy members who "have a credible and substantiated allegation of sexual abuse against a minor."
It follows the conclusion of an independent investigation completed by a third party. Citing the "highly sensitive nature of the information reviewed," diocese spokeswoman Deborah Cox declined to name the independent examiners.
None of the named clergy are listed as active members. Thirteen are deceased. Most are classified as suspended or removed; five were "laicized," meaning they have been removed from ministry.  Past news reports and information on the diocese website show at least six have ties to Hampton Roads.
"To the victims and to all affected by the pain of sexual abuse, our response will always be about what we are doing, not simply what we have done," Bishop Barry Knestout wrote in a letter published along with the list.
A diocese spokeswoman did not respond to a reporter's requests for comment.
Attorney General Mark Herring announced in October the state would investigate the diocese. A spokesperson for the office said Wednesday the investigation is ongoing. Survivors are encouraged to reach out through their clergy hotline.  
[O]n the list is John E. Leonard, who served as principal of Norfolk Catholic High School from 1987 to 1992. According to an Associated Press story from 2004, he had been on the faculty at St. John Vianney Seminary in Goochland in the early 1970s, when he was convicted of assaulting two teenage boys. He was sentenced to two consecutive 12-month jail terms, which were suspended. Leonard was instead placed on lifelong probation.  The diocese website says Leonard was removed from the diocese in 2004 before his death in 2015.
Another local pastor was Eugene John Teslovic, who, according to a 2002 story published by The Pilot, was expelled from active ministry while serving at St. Luke Catholic Church in Virginia Beach, where he had become pastor in 1991. He previously served at the Church of Resurrection in Portsmouth. Teslovic is listed as removed on the diocese website.
The piece in the Washington Post looks at both dioceses and adds details on the Diocese of Arlington action and notes the larger scandal in the United States that intensified again last summer.  Here are excerpts:
Virginia’s two Catholic dioceses Wednesday released lists of clergy whom officials say were deemed “credibly accused” of sexually abusing youth, the latest in a slew of U.S. dioceses to make public such names amid a national crisis over clerical abuse and coverups.
The diocese of Arlington, which covers the northeastern corner of Virginia, released a list of 16 names. It said the list was the product of two former FBI agents contracted by the diocese and given access to clergy files and information dating to its founding in 1974. It wasn’t immediately clear if any of the names were completely new to Catholics of the diocese.
The diocese of Richmond, which covers the rest of the state, released 42 names.
A local survivor-advocate on Wednesday criticized the Virginia lists, noting that they don’t include the names of the parishes where the men served nor when they were removed.
“The church has been in crisis . . . and this is something they think will make them look good? To me this is reactive, not proactive,” said Becky Ianni, who said she was abused beginning at age 8 in 1965 by Alexandria priest Rev. William Reinecke, whose name appears on the Arlington list.
The Catholic Church has been under the gun since last summer, when a top D.C.-based cardinal — Theodore McCarrick — was suspended amid charges of abuse and extensive coverup. He later resigned as cardinal and a decision is awaited any day from Rome about his fate within the church. A grand jury report out of Pennsylvania about dioceses there led to the early resignation of D.C. Archbishop Donald Wuerl as well as additional civil investigations, bills calling for expanded statutes of limitations so clergy victims could sue, and more lists like the ones Wednesday out of Virginia.
Virginia’s attorney general, Mark Herring, is among the state prosecutors who recently opened an investigation into Catholic dioceses and whether there have been abuse and coverup.
Arlington includes 458,000 Catholics and 70 parishes. Richmond includes 222,000 Catholics and 142 parishes. The reason for the apparently lopsided numbers wasn’t immediately clear but the Richmond diocese covers a far larger, spread-out territory. Richmond was established in the early 1800s while Arlington was formed out of that in the 1970s.

The sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church is a topic this blog has covered for many years.  With the Diocese of Richmond belatedly revealing at least a portion of its dirty linen (there could well be more names not released), I  am reprinting a portion of my February, 2002, guest editorial piece in the Virginian Pilot:
Bigotry Claim Is Disingenuous
As a life long Catholic, former altar boy, and a 4th Degree Knight of Columbus, I was dismayed by Bishop Walter F. Sullivan’s letter to the editor (Virginian Pilot, January 30, 2002) decrying the editorial cartoon carried by the Virginian Pilot on January 21, 2002, focusing on the Catholic Church’s track record in respect to pedophile clergy. Bishop Sullivan would have readers believe the cartoon is “pure bigotry” against the Catholic Church. The reality is that the Catholic Church hierarchy is most vigorous in instilling guilt and a sense of sinfulness in its members on a host of topics ranging from birth control, divorce (on January 28, 2002, Pope John Paul II directed all Catholic lawyers and judges to refrain from taking divorce cases, Associated Press), remarriage by divorced Catholics, and in-vitro fertilization, to attendance at non-Catholic church services. Yet, the Catholic Church hierarchy has shown little vigor in weeding out pedophile priests or disciplining high Church officials who knew of sexual abuse problems but did not act to stop it.
The editorial cartoon carried by the Virginian Pilot surely arose from the on-going scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston where, due to unrelenting reporting by the Boston Globe on the lawsuits against former priest, John J. Geoghan, it has been disclosed that over the last 10 years, the Archdiocese has quietly settled child molestation claims against at least 70 priests. Church records turned over under court order, document that five (5) bishops and two (2) cardinals knew of Geoghan’s child molestation, yet he was repeatedly reassigned to new, unsuspecting parishes (Boston Globe, January 31, 2002). Unfortunately, the situation in Boston is not an isolated incident as shown by a very brief search on the Internet . . . 

Sadly, my words back then understated the huge global scale of the problem and the culpability of high Church officials. 

The East Coast May Become the Gulf Coast in Terms of Future Weather

While Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer,  and many in the GOP continue to admit the reality of global warming and climate change, many living on the nation's coastlines beg to differ.  Now, a new study suggests that in addition to higher sea levels, coastal cities need to be planning for sharp changes in the seasonal  temperatures and rainfall.  Meanwhile, Mid-West farmers will see significant decreases in rainfall as the east coast becomes much wetter. A piece in The Atlantic looks at what our children and grandchildren may witness in their lifetimes. One has to wonder what it will take to make climate change deniers open their eyes. Here are highlights:

Sixty years from now, climate change could transform the East Coast into the Gulf Coast. It will move Minnesota to Kansas, turn Tulsa into Texas, and hoist Houston into Mexico. Even Oregonians might ooze out of their damp, chilly corner and find themselves carried to the central valley of California.
These changes won’t happen literally, of course—but that doesn’t make them any less real. A new paper tries to find the climate-change twin city for hundreds of places across the United States: the city whose modern-day weather gives the best clue to what conditions will feel like in 2080. It finds that the effects of global warming will be like relocating American cities more than 500 miles away from their current location, on average, mostly to the south and toward the country’s interior.
For instance, the Philadelphia of the 2080s will resemble the historical climate of Memphis. By the time kids today near retirement age, Philadelphia’s average summer will be about 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it is now. Winters in Philly will be nearly 10 degrees more temperate. Memphis’s scorching, sticky weather provides the best guide to how those climatic changes will feel day after day.
Meanwhile, Memphis’s climate will come to resemble that of modern-day College Station, Texas, by 2080.
“Everything gets warmer,” says Matthew Fitzpatrick, an author of the paper and a professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. “I don’t think I’ve seen a place that doesn’t.” In the West and Midwest, cities also tend to get drier as the Great Plains shift east. So Chicago comes to Kansas, Denver drifts to Texas, and San Francisco starts to feel like Los Angeles.
[N]o city will perfectly match its climate twin, especially when it comes to rainfall. Many cities in the South simply do not have a good twin: “The climate of many urban areas could become unlike anything present” in North America, the paper says.
In the Northeast, you can envision the future as one big Arkansas-ification. The paper finds that if the world meets its goals under the Paris Agreement, then Washington, D.C., will enter the 2080s feeling a lot like Paragould, Arkansas. But if the world follows a worst-case scenario, then D.C. will more closely resemble northern Mississippi—and New York City will feel like Jonesboro, Arkansas.
[T]he eastern U.S. will become hotter and wetter, while the [Midwest] will become drier and hotter,” she told me. Her own research focuses on eastern bluebirds, which have historically spent the summer in New York before migrating south for the winter. But “they’ve started staying in New York” for the winter, she said, “so I know it’s getting warmer there.”
She also warned future New Yorkers about what Jonesboro has in store: “Summer-wise, it’s like Florida here. And I cannot imagine New York like Florida … it’s hard to think about how humid it will be.”
“If I have grandkids and they lived in the same place I do,” he said, “they might not recognize this climate that we’re living in now.”

The False Equivalency of "Outing" Lindsey Graham and the "Lavender Scare"

A piece in Politico tries, in my view, to falsely equate those who are insinuate or flat out state that Senator Lindsey Graham is a closeted gay - I've called him the Palmetto Queen myself - with those who hunted down and "outed" and fired gays back during the so-called "Lavender Scare" of the 1950's.  Society of today is far different than six decades ago, not the least because thanks to Lawrence v. Texas handed down in 2003, same sex relationships no longer carry the potential of a felony conviction.  Then of course, there is the legality of same sex marriage - something the far right wants to reverse despite public support - spousal benefits for same sex couples, the ability to file joint tax returns, and even full adoption rights for same sex couples in some states.  In short, outside of Christofascist circles and GOP politicians who prostitute themselves to them, the social stigma (or lack thereof) and legal jeopardy of being gay nowadays is in no way comparable to the 1950's and 1960's.  Thus, saying those speculating on which team Graham plays for are no better than J. Edgar Hoover - himself a closeted gay - is simply is simply not true.  That said, the piece does look at the ugly history of government persecution of gays.  Here are article highlights:

In March 1953, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover prepared a secret report for Sherman Adams, President Dwight Eisenhower’s chief of staff. The document concerned Charles “Chip” Bohlen, whom Eisenhower had nominated to succeed George F. Kennan as ambassador to the Soviet Union. A career diplomat, Bohlen had served as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s interpreter at the 1945 Yalta Conference, where the Allied powers ceded control of postwar Eastern Europe to Soviet Premier Josef Stalin. Bohlen’s involvement at Yalta made him suspect in the eyes of some Republicans, led by Senator Joe McCarthy, who tried to paint him as not only soft on the Soviets but also gay.
Washington at the time was in the grips not only of the Red Scare, but a more destructive (and less-remembered) “Lavender Scare.” In the popular imagination, communist disloyalty was intertwined with sexual immorality; communists were more likely to be “sexual deviants” and vice-versa. “I don’t say every homosexual is a subversive and I don’t say every subversive is a homosexual,” Nebraska Senator Kenneth Wherry had warned in 1950. “But a man of low morality is a menace in the government, whatever he is, and they are all tied up together.”
Bohlen, (who was, in fact, straight) was eventually confirmed as ambassador to the Soviet Union, and went on to have a long and distinguished Foreign Service career. He was later immortalized as one of the postwar “Wise Men” of American diplomacy.
Moral disgust was not the only consideration that made being gay a disqualifying trait for government service at the time; gays, it was widely believed, were also uniquely vulnerable to blackmail. So reprehensible was being gay, the thinking went, that a gay person would rather betray his country than risk exposure of his shameful secret.
Fast-forward over six decades to the present, and the same smear tactics are being employed, again in service of a dubious narrative involving supposed corruption of presumed gay people by a hostile foreign power. Except this time, the inquisitionists are not reactionary Republicans, but supposedly enlightened progressives.
Jon Cooper, chairman of a Democratic Super PAC which purports to be “the nation’s largest grassroots Resistance organization,” tweeted that “a Republican” had told him “he doubts [Graham] is kowtowing to Trump (and indirectly Putin) because he’s being blackmailed over his sexual orientation (an open secret) or even financial corruption. Rather, he thinks it probably involves some pretty serious sexual kink.” And that same day, MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle speculated, “It could be that Donald Trump or somebody knows something pretty extreme about Lindsey Graham.”
Last January, after Graham had positive words for Trump following a meeting with senators at the White House, comedian Chelsea Handler tweeted the following missive to her 8.3 million followers: “Hey, @LindseyGrahamSC what kind of #$%&-sucking video do they have on you for you 2 be acting like this? Wouldn’t coming out be more honorable?” She followed that up in October with, “If you’re wondering why Republicans took a sick day today, it’s probably because it’s #NationalComingOutDay. . . . And this week, the Washington Blade, the capital’s LGBT newspaper, put Graham’s smiling mug on the cover of its “50 Most Eligible Bachelors” issue.
[O]f all the Americans who did betray their country by committing espionage for a foreign power, there is not a single example of a gay person blackmailed into doing so. A 1991 study found that in the 117 spy cases discovered since World War II, only six involved gays, and in none of these was sexual orientation a deciding factor. That same year, asked about the impending outing of his spokesman, then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney referred to the blackmail rationale as “an old chestnut” used to bar gay people unfairly from serving in sensitive government positions. To claim today, baselessly, that a closeted gay person is being blackmailed into working against his country, retroactively validates the Cold War persecution of gays, who could be denied security clearances until a 1995 Executive Order by Bill Clinton reversed Eisenhower’s mandate.
The sad irony is that the only informing some gay men and women did during this time was under duress from their own government, which pressured them into identifying fellow gay people so that they, too, could be purged.
In one of the few cases where the Soviets did try to blackmail a closeted gay man, their plans backfired. When the virulently anti-communist newspaper columnist Joe Alsop visited Moscow on a reporting trip in 1957, the KGB lured him into a honey trap with an attractive young agent and took photographs of the ensuing sexual encounter. Confronting Alsop with the dirty pictures, the KGB men demanded that he work on their behalf back in Washington. Yet rather than cower and do the Soviets’ bidding, Alsop archly asked for copies of the photos depicting him in flagrante delicto, hurried straight to the U.S. Embassy and revealed everything that had happened, including his history of gay experiences. Over the rest of his long career, despite knowing that the Soviets could have exposed him at any moment (and they tried), Alsop not only never softened his strident anti-communist views, he became even more assertive in espousing them.
It seems never to have entered the fevered imaginations of Graham’s antagonists that the reason he has changed his tune about Trump is not to protect the secret of his scandalous peccadilloes, but because of something even grubbier: politics. Graham is, after all, a Republican from a deep red state where Trump is popular with the people Graham needs to win re-election. But such quotidian explanations do not suit our increasingly conspiratorial times. . . . By stooping to gay baiting, the McCarthyism of the “Resistance” has come full circle.