Saturday, May 04, 2019

More Saturday Male Beauty

Cracks Are Developing in Trump's Stonewalling

Lies and obstruction are the hallmarks of Trump's occupancy of the White House - I will never afford him the title "president" - with an overall goal of keeping the American public from learning all of the dirty business deals, money laundering, self-enrichment, and violations of U.S. Constitution provisions such as the emoluments clause that define the Trump regime.  Now, as a piece in The Atlantic notes, cracks may be developing in the wall of obstruction and obfuscation that Trump has spun for the last four years. One can only hope that Democrats in the House of Representatives and the courts will hold Trump to account and expose Trump's crime syndicate like business scheme.  Here are article highlights:

To date, the cover-up has worked about as well as President Donald Trump could have hoped.
Almost four years after Trump declared his campaign for the presidency, and more than 30 months since he won that office, he has successfully kept secret almost all the things he wished to keep secret. How much debt does he owe, and to whom? How much of his income derives from people who do business with the U.S. government? How much of his income derives from foreign sources? Who are his business partners, and do any of them present ethical or national-security concerns? These basics of post-Watergate official disclosure have all been suppressed.
If Trump has his way, the secrecy will continue for a lot longer. In the past few days, he’s filed suit to prevent his bankers from complying with a congressional subpoena. His secretary of the Treasury has defied a never-before-questioned law and refused to surrender the president’s tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee. His attorney general mischaracterized the Mueller report, as Mueller complained in writing, and now has operational control over the ongoing criminal prosecutions bequeathed to the Justice Department by Mueller. Trump’s trouble is that the dike is sprouting more leaks than he has fingers with which to plug the expanding trickles. Two federal judges, one in Maryland and one in the District of Columbia, have approved lawsuits based on the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause demanding information about Trump’s revenues from foreign-government entities. Those lawsuits—one filed by congressional Democrats, the other by attorneys general for the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia—now proceed to two different appellate courts, the Fourth Circuit and the D.C. Circuit. At this rate, an emoluments case could reach the Supreme Court before the 2020 election. The dispute over the president’s tax returns has not yet triggered a judicial process. . . . If the tax-return demand ends up in court, we’ll witness the unusual spectacle of a Republican administration inviting judges to reverse decades of conservative legal theory and to defy the clear letter of the law in favor of nebulous concepts of privacy. The law very much favors Congress in the subpoena of Trump’s bankers. Congressional subpoena power extends to any subject on which Congress can constitutionally legislate, among other realms, as the Supreme Court has affirmed again and again. It’s not necessary that Congress actually have any legislation in mind, so long as it potentially could. . . . To be a valid legislative inquiry there need be no predictable end result.”
Meanwhile, Attorney General William Barr has just advanced a likely doomed new legal theory that a president is entitled to shut down any investigation that he feels is unfair to him: “The president does not have to sit there constitutionally and allow [a special-counsel investigation] to run its course. . . . . It’s an argument for total impunity based purely on political power—and for that reason will gain no favor from either Congress or courts.
Perhaps the Trump administration hopes that it can run out the clock on the bank subpoenas and the other matters, too. But so many clocks are ticking over so many inquiries into so many areas of potential scandal. Can they all be postponed and postponed past 2020? For a president with many guilty secrets, everything turns on the ability to insert delay after delay before ultimate legal defeat. It’s not a great plan. It’s liable to go wrong, maybe catastrophically wrong. At this point, though, it’s all he’s got.

San Francisco Sues to Block Trump/Pence Health Care 'Conscience Rule'

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera with Deputy City Attorney Sara Eisenberg.

As noted many times on this blog, Donald Trump's - a/k/a Der Trumpenführer - most loyal supporters are evangelical Christians.  Why?  Because he has promised to support their desire to harm and discriminate against those who do not subscribe to their Bronze Age beliefs and general hatred of others who are different from themselves. Among those they hate the most are gays, although the list of targeted individuals includes racial minorities, non-Christians, women seeking to control their own bodies, and anyone who challenges the Christofascists' perceived right to be above the law when it comes to non-discrimination laws.  Freedom of religion which the Founding Fathers viewed as (i) freedom to worship as one chose, and (ii) freedom from having to pay taxes to support an official state church has now become a smoke screen for hate and bigotry as long as one bases their cruelty on "sincerely held religious belief."  The Trump/Pence regime's "conscience rule" announced this week would put right wing Christians completely above the law while endangering the health and lives of other citizens.  Thankfully, the city of San Francisco has sued to block this vile license to discriminate and hopefully other cities and states will join in opposing this dangerous special right for Christian extremists (Mark Herring, are you paying attention?).  The Advocate looks at why San Francisco has taken action.  Here are highlights:

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera has filed a lawsuit seeking to block the Trump administration’s new “conscience rule” that allows health care providers to opt out of procedures to which they have religious or moral objections.
The final version of the rule, announced by the administration Thursday, stands to jeopardize care for LGBTQ people, women seeking reproductive health care, and many others, according to Herrera and others who oppose it.
“At its core, this rule is about denying people medical care,” Herrera said in a press release. “This administration is willing to sacrifice patients’ health and lives — particularly those of women, members of the LGBTQ community, and low-income families — to score right-wing political points. It’s reprehensible." "People’s health should not be a political football," he continued.  
Herrera filed the suit Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, within hours of the final rule’s release. It appears to be the first lawsuit challenging the measure.
The Department of Health and Human Services says the rule simply assures the implementation of existing conscience protections for health care workers. But the San Francisco suit contends it goes much farther.
“The rule is so broad it applies not just to doctors and nurses, but anyone even tangentially related to health care, like receptionists,” Herrera’s press release notes. “Schedulers, for example, could refuse to schedule appointments for LGBTQ patients or a woman seeking information about an abortion, with potentially devastating impacts on the patients’ health or lives."
Herrera notes that this new regulation could potentially have employers facing a discrimination lawsuit if they do not agree with a health care worker's beliefs. 
"If San Francisco sought to address the situation by transferring the staff person to another assignment so their professional role did not conflict with their personal beliefs, that could be considered ‘discrimination’ against the staffer under the new federal rule," he adds.  
Noncompliance with the rule will result in loss of federal funding. San Francisco, for instance, risks losing nearly $1 billion a year in funding from Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal programs, according to the city attorney.
Herrera’s lawsuit seeks to not only have the rule declared unconstitutional but also seeks a court order preventing the new rule from taking effect, which is set to happen within 60 days.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, May 03, 2019

Buttigieg's Rise Exposes a Deepening Rift in the "Christian Right"

Buttigieg and Christofascist extraordinaire, Mike Pence.
I have long argued that the Republican Party has no long term plan for survival short of a coup that would overthrow the U.S. Constitution and end popular elections with independent political parties.  For years now, the GOP has based its future on aging white voters - who are literally dying off - and far right Christians extremists (I call them the Christofascists), groups that basically hate everyone who is not just like them. Meanwhile, the rest of the population is becoming increasingly diverse and whites are headed towards a minority status within a few decades.  Now, compounding the numerical decline of aging white bigots is a growing rift in the so-called Christian Right (it is neither Christian nor right on the issues) that centers on LGBT rights and acceptance that is best personified by the rise of Pete Buttigieg.  Younger generations even among evangelicals are supportive of gay rights and same-sex marriage while their elders are not. The growing rifts within evangelicals in many ways mirror the fissures developing in the United Methodist Church over LGBT rights which many view as on the cusp of a major schism. Younger evangelicals increasingly reject the anti-gay vitriol of their denominations and demand that 12th century understandings of sexuality be abandoned.  A piece in The Week looks at the growing rift over LGBT rights which ultimately could endanger the GOP as it remains committed to anti-gym extremism. Here are excerpts:
Pete Buttigieg is having a moment in the national spotlight. Buttigieg, as most of America now knows, is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and a Democratic candidate for the 2020 presidential nomination. He's also gay, married to a man, and a regular churchgoer. And his meteoric rise has brought the debate over faith and sexual ethics clearly into focus.
This debate over same-sex relationships has been tearing apart American churches for years. Sometimes it presents itself as a dividing line between denominations. For example, Episcopalians, of which Buttigieg counts himself, have largely embraced gay rights. Evangelicals mostly have not. Last month, conservative commentator Erick Erickson said that "if Buttigieg thinks evangelicals should be supporting him instead of Trump, he fundamentally does not understand the roots of Christianity. But then he is an Episcopalian, so he might not actually understand Christianity more than superficially."
The debate is also alive and well within denominations themselves. For example, the United Methodist Church — the largest in U.S. mainline Protestantism — recently strengthened its prohibitions of same-sex wedding ceremonies and gay clergy, even while many similar churches have been liberalizing their teachings on homosexuality.
This aligns the United Methodists with the Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, and a growing number of Christians in the Global South. Indeed, it was African delegates, working with U.S. evangelicals, who supplied the margin of victory for the Methodist Church's recent interpretation of Scripture and tradition.
But no doubt many in the church were outraged by the decision. Methodist pastors in the Washington, D.C., area took out an ad in The Washington Post decrying the vote and calling for a more inclusive church. The chaplain at the Methodist college I attended, a longtime ordained minister within the denomination, has even signed on to work for Buttigieg's presidential campaign. Another nearby school ended its affiliation with the Methodist Church over the LGBT vote.
The people on both sides of the religious debate over homosexuality aren't merely talking past each other. Their views on the issue are fundamentally very different from one another.
Buttigieg summed up his view well when addressing his ongoing dispute with Vice President Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian with traditional views on sexual mores. He said that "the Mike Pences of the world" should understand "that if you got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me — your quarrel, sir, is with my creator."Buttigieg would shift the focus toward gay rights, where social conservatives are losing ground as more people support gay marriage.
A Buttigieg nomination would also put evangelicals on the defensive over their support for President Trump. After all, how can you say you stand for the sanctity of marriage but still vote for the twice-divorced, thrice-married, locker room-talking, frequently incendiary president?
This debate is no longer just between Episcopalians and evangelicals. It's raging between Christians on the left and the right side of the political spectrum. Conservatives have long struggled to grapple with committed same-sex relationships, as well as the increasing number of otherwise theologically orthodox people who disagree with them about sexual ethics.
Such weighty theological questions aren't likely to be solved in the rough and tumble of a presidential campaign. But the right 2020 developments could get voters — and people in the pews — talking about them.

As conservative denominations - including the Catholic Church - hemorrhage  members and younger individuals are eschewing religion entirely, the rift over gays and gay rights and Christian hypocrisy will likely intensify.  Among the big losers will likely be the GOP which has placed all of its eggs in one basket. Frankly, the demise of the GOP cannot come soon enough in my opinion.

More Friday Male Beauty

Pete Buttigieg and Husband Make History on Cover of TIME

Even as the Trump/Pence regime announces yet another attack on LGBT Americans through a regulation that would allow "Christian" healthcare workers - perhaps even ambulance drivers - to refuse to treat LGBT patients and others who offend their religious sensibilities, something remarkable has happened.  Pete Buttigieg and his husband (to the abject horror and character assassination attempts of Christofascists and those who prostitute themselves to them politically) have made the cover of Time Magazine with a caption  "First Family."  Where Buttigieg's campaign will go is anyone's guess as more and more Democrats, many totally unknown to the general public, throw their hats in the nomination ring.    Here are some excerpts from a very lengthy story:  
As Pete Buttigieg addressed supporters off a back porch in Marshalltown, Iowa, the Devil was whispering his name. “Pete,” the Devil hissed into a microphone. “You’re sooo smart, Pete.”
Buttigieg ignored the heckler, plowing forward with his stump speech about American decency as his husband ­Chasten looked on. “Pete,” the Devil whispered. “I want the heartland, Pete.”
The man in the devil costume was Randall Terry, an antiabortion activist. He had traveled to Iowa to torment the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind., the early breakout star of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.
Four years after the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed his right to marry, Buttigieg has become the first openly gay person to make a serious bid for the presidency. And Terry is hardly the only right-winger worried about the rise of “Mayor Pete.” Buttigieg’s saying that “God doesn’t have a political party” prompted evangelical leader Franklin Graham to tweet that being gay is “something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicized.” Concerned by the campaign’s rise, right-wing provocateur Jacob Wohl was recently caught trying to fabricate sexual-­assault allegations against Buttigieg to slow him down.
But to some Americans, Buttigieg may just be the man to vanquish America’s demons. In a field of more than 20 ­candidates­—including six Senators, four Congressmen, two governors and a former Vice ­President—Buttigieg (pronounced Boot-edge-edge) has vaulted from near total obscurity toward the front of the Democratic pack, running ahead of or even with more established candidates and behind only Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.
Buttigieg is a gay Episcopalian veteran in a party torn between identity politics and heartland appeals. He’s also a fresh face in a year when millennials are poised to become the largest eligible voting bloc. Many Democrats are hungry for generational change, and the two front runners are more than twice his age.
But Buttigieg’s greatest political asset may be his ear for languages. He speaks eight, including Norwegian and Arabic, but he’s particularly fluent in the dialect of the neglected industrial Midwest. Buttigieg is a master of redefinition, a translator for a party that has found it increasingly difficult to speak to the voters who elected President Donald Trump. The son of an English professor and a scholar of linguistics, he roots his campaign in an effort to reframe progressive ideas in conservative language. “If the substance of your ideas is progressive but there’s mistrust about them among conservatives, you have three choices,” Buttigieg tells TIME, sitting on his living-room couch in South Bend. “One is to just change your ideas and make them more conservative. The second is to sort of be sneaky and try to make it seem like your ideas are more conservative than they are. And the third, the approach that I favor, is to stick to your ideas, but explain why conservatives shouldn’t be afraid of them.”
His platform is “Freedom, Security and Democracy,” which wouldn’t sound out of place coming from a Bush-era Republican yet actually harks back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But in order to maintain his momentum, Buttigieg will have to do more to flesh out those ideas. Unlike many of his opponents, he hasn’t posted any detailed policy proposals on his website. He’ll also have to convince Democratic voters that his experience running South Bend (pop. 102,245) is adequate preparation for running the world’s most powerful country. And he’ll have to make inroads with black and Hispanic voters who have so far appeared unimpressed with his campaign.
Buttigieg likes to say he has more government experience than Trump, and more military ­experience than any ­President in 25 years. And Trump’s victory in 2016 proved that many Americans were willing to elect a President without a traditional Washington résumé. But some voters long for stability after three years of chaos, and it’s not clear whether the Trump presidency has made it easier or harder for outsiders.
In many ways, Buttigieg is Trump’s polar opposite: younger, dorkier, shorter, calmer and married to a man. His success may depend on whether Democrats want a fighter to match Trump, or whether Americans want to “change the channel,” as Buttigieg puts it. “People already have a leader who screams and yells,” he says. “How do you think that’s working out for us?”
Buttigieg met Chasten Glezman, then a Chicago grad student, on the dating app Hinge in 2015. They talked over FaceTime for a few weeks before Chasten drove to South Bend for their first real date, at an Irish bar famous for its Scotch eggs. Less than three years later, Pete proposed in gate B5 of Chicago’s O’Hare airport, the exact spot where Chasten had first noticed his dating profile.
Both men grew up closeted in conservative Midwestern communities. “Being gay was not culturally acceptable where I grew up, mostly for a lack of understanding,” Chasten says. “And so my family and I were just at a crossroads, and we didn’t really know how to talk to one another.” When he came out after his senior year of high school, tensions at home forced him to spend months crashing on friends’ couches and sleeping in his car. His parents ultimately changed their minds, welcomed him back home and now fully support their son and his marriage.
It was a sign of how rapidly public opinion on LGBTQ issues has changed. In 1996, only 27% of Americans supported same-sex marriage; today 67% do, including 44% of Republicans. Some of Buttigieg’s fellow officers who had used gay as an epithet in his presence reached out to express their support. “I bet some of them still go back and tell gay jokes because that’s their habit, you know?” he says. “Bad habits and bad instincts is not the same as people being bad people.”
All this informs his belief that it’s still possible to reach across America’s political divide. “We’ve got to get away from this kill-switch mentality that we see on Twitter,” he says. He has seen once disapproving parents dance at their gay son’s wedding and homophobic military officers take back their words, and so he believes in the power of redemption and forgiveness. “This idea that we just sort people into baskets of good and evil ignores the central fact of human existence, which is that each of us is a basket of good and evil,” he says. “The job of politics is to summon the good and beat back the evil.”

Other black leaders in South Bend say Buttigieg listened to the concerns of the community and adjusted when he was wrong. “I trust him,” says Stacey Odom, founder of a local organization that helps families on the West Side repair their homes. “I asked him for five different things, and he gave them all to me.” Buttigieg created an office of Engagement and Economic Empowerment to help address the wealth gap, and issued an executive order on diversity and inclusion in response to local demands, Williams-Preston said. When local leaders asked for $3.5 million to renovate the Charles Black community center, Buttigieg came up with $4.5 million, according to ­Cynthia Taylor, the center’s director. “You’re gonna have to invite him in, you’re gonna have to sit him down, you’re gonna have to show him the issue,” she says. “Because he definitely will listen.”

Buttigieg’s sexuality has imbued his campaign with a sense of historical promise. After the valedictorian at Brigham Young University, a conservative Mormon school, came out as gay in his commencement speech in April, he cited Buttigieg as his inspiration. (“I know that kid is going to make it easier for somebody else,” Buttigieg told BuzzFeed News.) Buttigieg’s campaign has also gotten a boost from a network of wealthy LGBT donors.
The millennial mayor’s call for generational change could also prove to be a powerful one. Even as young voters stay enamored with Sanders, older voters seem attracted to Buttigieg’s youth: according to an April 29 Morning Consult survey, his highest polling numbers come from baby boomers. “I like the idea of a millennial,” says Alice Mayer, 62, who voted for Sanders in 2016, as she waited for Buttigieg’s speech in South Bend. “He’s looking at the future, while Bernie’s been there, done that.”

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Trump/Pence Regime Issues "Faith-Based" License to Discriminate

The Trump/Pence regime unleashed another attack in its war against LGBT Americans and others who offend the "deeply held religious beliefs" of Christofascists.  While one of the most direct targets, gays will likely not be the only victims of discrimination by organizations receiving federal taxpayer funds. Recently, the Trump/Pence Justice Department also filed briefs in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that employment discrimination against LGBT individuals is legal and not covered by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Not by coincidence, each of these latest attacks on LGBT Americans has coincided with growing troubles for Trump in the context of the release of the Mueller Report and now Congressional hears and his need to rally his evangelical Christian base.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at this ominous and dangerous regulation.  Here are excerpts:
President Trump announced a new rule allowing health providers, insurers and employers to refuse to provide or pay for services such as abortion, sterilization or assisted suicide that they say violate their religious or moral beliefs.
The 440-page rule is broad in scope, spelling out specific services that individuals and entities could refrain from providing or paying for based on their beliefs. It also emphasizes parents’ rights to refuse several specific types of care for their children.
Conservative [Christofascist] groups welcomed what they call “conscience protections” for health care workers and others, while LGBTQ and women’s groups warned the rule would reduce services and potentially harm patients if providers refuse to deliver certain care, or treat gay and transgender people.
“Religious liberty is a fundamental right, but it doesn’t include the right to discriminate or harm others,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union. “This rule threatens to prevent people from accessing critical medical care and may endanger people’s lives. … Medical standards, not religious belief, should guide medical care.”
Trump’s remarks on the National Day of Prayer were the third time he has used the 77-year-old annual multifaith observance to make announcements addressing the concerns of Christian conservatives, who are a large part of his base. During his first year in office, he promised to make it easier for religious leaders to speak openly about politics. On Thursday, he said the Johnson Amendment, which prevents churches from endorsing political candidates, has been effectively eliminated, though it would take an act of Congress to officially strike it.
The final rule regarding health care — issued by the Department of Health and Human Services — explicitly mentions abortion, sterilization, assisted suicide and advance directives as issues, and says that individuals and entities — from medical students to people who prep patients before operations to charitable groups — could object on religious or moral grounds.
It also includes language that supporters and opponents alike said would ratchet up parents’ right to dictate whether their children receive several types of care, diminishing the role of the government in guaranteeing youngsters’ well-being.
[T]he rule says that children cannot be made to undergo suicide assessment or early treatment if their parents or legal guardian hold religious or moral objections to such services. And in any state that allows parents to exercise religious objections to childhood vaccines or to testing newborns for hearing loss, doctors must heed those parents’ wishes.
Health-care providers and civil rights groups, however, expressed worry the rule could compromise patients’ well-being in ways large and small. On page 80, for instance, HHS appears to allow for the possibility that ambulance drivers, or EMT personnel, could refuse care in certain situations.
Others feared the rule would be used as cover for discrimination. “The administration’s decision puts LGBTQ people at greater risk of being denied necessary and appropriate health care solely based on their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said David Stacy, government affairs director for Human Rights Campaign . . . 
Expect more preventable deaths and more disease thanks to anti-vaccine extremists and other religious nutcases. 

A release by Fenway Health that condemns the rule also has a handy recap of the Trump/Pence regimes anti-LGBT actions.  Here are highlights:
“This latest attack on the right of everyone, regardless of their religious beliefs, to access health care is extremely alarming and disconcerting. This rule takes the concept of religious freedom and turns it on its head. True religious freedom protects an individual’s right to worship—or not—and harms no one. But this rule is designed so that government employees and healthcare providers can deny service or treatment to LGBT people by claiming that providing such service or treatment would violate their religious beliefs or sincerely held principles,” said Sean Cahill, Director of Health Policy Research at the Fenway Institute at Fenway Health. “Health care is both a human and a civil right. Every law that governs access to health care should put patients first. This new rule does not do that.”
“It is important to view this latest move in the context of a series of attacks on the rights of LGBT patients that have taken place over the last two and a half years,” said Cahill. “Research shows that anti-LGBT discrimination in health care correlates with poorer health outcomes and constitutes a barrier to LGBT people’s ability to access health care.”
Other anti-LGBT policies enacted by the Trump administration that are harming LGBT people include:
  • Dismissing Peace Corps volunteers and Air Force service members who tested positive for HIV, and refusing to provide pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV prevention (PrEP) to at-risk Peace Corps volunteers;
  • Filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that gender identity is outside of the scope of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex and national origin;”
  • Filing a brief in the Masterpiece Cake Shop case before the U.S. Supreme Court supporting discrimination against a gay male couple and stating that there is no compelling federal government interest in prohibiting anti-gay discrimination;
  • Placing transgender inmates of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, especially transgender women, at much higher risk of rape by incarcerating them according to their biological sex at birth instead of their gender identity;
  • Prohibiting transgender people from serving in the U.S. military;
  • Removing sexual orientation and gender identity questions from federal surveys of older adults, people with disabilities, and victims of crime.
  • Attempting to repeal or weaken the ACA, which has cut the uninsured rate in half for LGBT people.

More Thursday Male Beauty

The Pitfalls of Assessing Candidate Electability

Poll after poll has shown that the main concerning of Democrats is picking a presidential nominee who can defeat Donald Trump.  Depending on one's ideology, who that individual might be ends up with an array of candidates all over the map. In my personal view, a candidate too far to the left - e.g., Sanders, Warren, etc. - will end up with Trump being re-elected and the nation being condemned to four more years of moral and political nightmare (more Americans self-identify as "conservative" than "liberal"). In the final analysis, who will prove to electable or not will not be known until the day after the 2020 election. A piece in Sabato's Crystal Ball looks at the issue of electablility (read the entire piece since it shows historically how off some prognostications have proven to be).  Here are excerpts:
We’re not exactly sure when the awkward word “electability” really entered the national lexicon, but the concept — voters and party bigwigs making a pre-election assessment about who is likeliest to win — is surely as old as democracy itself.
“Electability” is clearly on the minds of Democrats as they determine who gets the nod to challenge President Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee seeking a second term in the White House.
A few weeks ago, the Huffington Post’s Kevin Robillard and Amanda Terkel explored the idea of electability in the Democratic Party primary. It’s something everyone seems to care about, but few can persuasively define or determine:
The perception of which candidates stand the best chance of toppling Trump will play a major role in deciding who ultimately wins the Democratic Party’s nomination, according to polling and interviews with campaigns, operatives and rank-and-file voters across the early primary states.
But many of those perceptions and theories — Joe Biden can win back the Rust Belt! Isn’t Elizabeth Warren a bit like Hillary Clinton? Bernie Sanders can win West Virginia! — are based on flimsy evidence. And unlike the simple question of whom voters like the most, the question of electability involves evaluating what other people might like. And that’s something voters — and even political operatives — aren’t great at.
Certainly Trump’s victory is a great argument against the idea that so-called electability can be discerned in advance. For much of the campaign cycle it didn’t seem like Trump was capable of winning, but then he did. This was a vindication for Conway, obviously, but also for many conservatives who believed in the wake of John McCain and Mitt Romney’s losses to Barack Obama that the rank and file had bowed to party leaders concerned about “electability” and nominated candidates many GOP base voters didn’t like only to see them lose anyway. As Laura Reston of the New Republic put it in a 2016 piece from the late stages of the GOP primary about Ted Cruz and John Kasich arguing they were more electable than Trump, “The way rank-and-file conservatives see it, the party acceded to its most ‘electable’ candidates in the last two cycles… For many, if not most, Republicans, ‘electability’ has come to look like a way to both compromise the party’s principles and lose general elections.”
 There are some problems with this argument from conservatives. Politics is often about timing, and the political conditions in 2016 for Trump
(an open-seat election coming off two terms of a Democratic president with relatively mediocre approval ratings) were better than those for McCain in 2008 and Romney in 2012. The former had to deal with the weight of George W. Bush’s unpopular presidency and the latter faced the unenviable task of running against an incumbent president. Obama, it now seems very fair to say, was also a superior campaigner than Hillary Clinton and had better favorability numbers.
One could argue that because of extenuating circumstances, McCain and Romney, who lost, were more “electable” than Trump, who won, but on its face it’s kind of a silly argument because of what actually happened. Yes, perhaps Romney and McCain both would have won in 2016, and Trump would have lost in both 2008 and 2012. But ultimately, how can one say for sure?
The bottom line here is that there are a lot of candidates who seem unelectable until, that is, they are actually elected.
Polls almost universally show Joe Biden running better against Donald Trump in a hypothetical 2020 matchup than his rivals for the Democratic nomination. Similar polls during 2015 after Donald Trump took the lead in the GOP primary generally showed him performing poorly against Hillary Clinton compared to other Republican contenders.
Does that mean that any GOP nominee was destined to win in 2016 against Clinton? Perhaps. But then one looks at the granular election results, and the immense improvements Trump made on recent Republican performances in the electorally vital rural areas and small cities of Big Ten Country. It is reasonable to wonder: Could Jeb Bush have done that? Or Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio? Perhaps so, but perhaps not.
It would be tempting for Democrats to look at Trump and argue that if Trump could fly in the face of conventional wisdom and run hard to the right and still win, then they could beat him by doing the same thing themselves and running to the left.
That may end up being the case, but there are a few factors Democrats should consider before coming to that conclusion. For one thing, self-identified conservatives still outnumber liberals in the general public. It may be that the general electorate would be more open to a far-right candidate than a far-left one because of the nation’s ideological orientation.
Additionally, the reality of Trump’s 2016 candidacy may be more complicated than just saying he was and is a far-right conservative.
Certainly on immigration he is. But Trump also subverted usual GOP messaging on other issues.
Logically, the most “electable” Democrat would be able to claw back some Trump voters who reside in that populist ideological portion of the electorate. We already mentioned Biden’s strength in general election polls against Trump compared to other Democrats, although we don’t think such polls are all that predictive at this point. Still, a polling edge combined with Biden’s support from the more moderate elements of the Democratic Party and his coolness to some of the more progressive policy proposals that have been discussed during the Democratic primary so far, like Medicare for all, might lead one to believe Biden is the most electable.
That said, Bernie Sanders is already going after Biden for his votes to authorize the Iraq war and in support of NAFTA. Couldn’t Trump do the same, effectively getting to the left of Biden on international issues and holding his populist support in the key heartland states as a result?
At the same time, could it also be possible that a Democrat who did emphasize racial justice issues could generate better turnout among nonwhite voters, thus improving on Clinton’s margins enough in big, diverse, and electorally important cities like Detroit, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia to overcome Trump’s huge margins in the countrysides of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania? Alternately, could such a Democratic candidate reshape the electoral map altogether by competing better in the diverse, growing Sun Belt than the whiter Midwest?
Different people will evaluate these different “electability” arguments in different ways. Our only point is to say that the uncertainty associated with each, and many other such arguments that will emerge, demonstrates how tricky assessing who is likeliest to win actually is.  

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Mueller Complained that Barr’s Letter Misrepresented Report Findings

For those inside and outside of the halls of Congress who have suspected Attorney General William Barr to be more concerned about protecting Der Trumpenführer than allowing the American people to know the truth, new ammunition to support that view now exists in the form of a letter from Robert Mueller to Barr complaining about Barr's mis-characterization of the Mueller Report's findings. Indeed, one Democrat has already called for Barr's resignation and Barr's appearance before Congress today will likely be stormy.  Like so many other Republicans, Barr has seemed only too willing to destroy his own reputation and how he will be viewed by history in a quest to prostitute himself to Trump.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at Mueller's complaint and why anything Barr claims now must be independently established.  Here are excerpts:
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III wrote a letter in late March complaining to Attorney General William P. Barr that a four-page memo to Congress describing the principal conclusions of the investigation into President Trump “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of Mueller’s work, according to a copy of the letter reviewed Tuesday by The Washington Post.
The letter and a subsequent phone call between the two men reveal the degree to which the longtime colleagues and friends disagreed as they handled the legally and politically fraught task of investigating the president. Democrats in Congress are likely to scrutinize Mueller’s complaints to Barr as they contemplate the prospect of opening impeachment proceedings and mull how hard to press for Mueller himself to testify publicly.
Mueller wrote the previously undisclosed private letter to the Justice Department, laying out his concerns in stark terms that shocked senior Justice Department officials, according to people familiar with the discussions.
 The summary letter the Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions,” Mueller wrote. “There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.”
 The letter made a key request: that Barr release the 448-page report’s introductions and executive summaries, and it made initial suggested redactions for doing so, according to Justice Department officials.
 Barr has testified to Congress previously that Mueller declined the opportunity to review his four-page memo to lawmakers that distilled the essence of the special counsel’s findings.
 Mueller said he was concerned that media coverage of the obstruction investigation was misguided and creating public misunderstandings about the office’s work, according to Justice Department officials. Mueller did not express similar concerns about the public discussion of the investigation of Russia’s election interference, the officials said. Barr has testified previously he did not know whether Mueller supported his conclusion on obstruction.
 Throughout the conversation, Mueller’s main worry was that the public was not getting an accurate understanding of the obstruction investigation, officials said.
 In some team members’ view, the evidence they had gathered — especially on obstruction — was far more alarming and significant than how Barr had described it.
 Democrats have accused Barr of downplaying the seriousness of the evidence against the president.
Mueller’s report described 10 significant episodes of possible obstruction of justice but said that because of long-standing Justice Department policy that says a sitting president cannot be indicted and because of Justice Department practice regarding fairness toward those under investigation, his team did not reach a conclusion about whether the president had committed a crime.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Gay Donors Provide Buttigieg a Donor Foundation

The LGBT community - contrary to stereotypes - is in no way monolithic and contains a complex cross section of socioeconomic groups and political ideologies.  While the vast majority of the LGBT community votes Democrat in no small part due to the GOP - and Trump's - continued jihad against our basic civil rights , there is anything but unanimity in opinion on political candidates or important agenda items. Some push for far left agendas while others, like myself, believe more moderate platforms are  the key to actually electing candidates who can then push progressive policies. All of that said, the candidacy of Pete Buttigieg has struck a nerve with many in the LGBT community and many of its members are rallying to his support never having previously believed that an LGBT candidate had the potential of being a viable presidential candidate. A piece in the New York Times looks at the LGBT fundraising that has provided Buttigieg with a sizable portion of his campaign's seed money.  Here are highlights:
Barely two months ago, when Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., was rating no higher than 1 or 2 percent in national polls, he had a well-worn punchline he used as he pitched himself in living rooms and conference rooms where many of the guests were, like him, young, male and gay.  “I’m not asking for monogamy,” he would say.
It was fine to give to the bigger names in the race like Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker or former Representative Beto O’Rourke. He asked only that they save some for his historic candidacy, too.  Now, Mr. Buttigieg is looking for commitment.
After vaulting into the top tier of presidential candidates vying for the 2020 Democratic nomination — going from “adorable” to “plausible,” in his own words — Mr. Buttigieg is building on the fly a nationwide network of donors that is anchored by many wealthy and well-connected figures in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political circles.
Top L.G.B.T. donors face no shortage of loyal allies among the 20 Democratic candidates. But Mr. Buttigieg’s candidacy has struck an especially powerful chord with many of them. Though many said they believed they would see a gay man or lesbian become a serious contender for the White House one day, most of them had never considered it beyond the abstract. Mr. Buttigieg’s ascent has made a sudden and unexpected reality of something they thought was still years away, if not decades.
“There is absolutely no way to be cavalier about this candidacy — it is extraordinary,” said the television producer Richie Jackson, who with his husband, the Broadway producer Jordan Roth, hosted a fund-raiser for Mr. Buttigieg at their New York City home this month.
The L.G.B.T. support provided Mr. Buttigieg a crucial early financial foothold before his candidacy began to surge after a CNN town-hall-style event in March, and now is poised to power a campaign staffing up nationally and in the early-primary states. His rise has threatened the donor allegiances that other candidates, led by former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., have established over many years in the L.G.B.T. world.
And the flood of money does not come without risk. Though Mr. Buttigieg’s campaign announced last week that it would no longer accept contributions from federal lobbyists, and also said it was refunding $30,250 from lobbyists who had already donated, many of his gay donors have ties to the kinds of elite businesses that could tarnish his image as the poster boy of small-town, Midwestern America.
 Mr. Buttigieg’s sexual orientation is not central to how he has sold himself to the voting public — as a veteran, a Rhodes scholar and a government executive with the thoughtfulness and temperament needed to bridge the country’s bitter partisan divide.
But his sexuality became a much larger part of his political identity after he spoke this month to the Victory Fund, a group that supports L.G.B.T. candidates. In that speech, he described his struggle with coming out of the closet and challenged Vice President Mike Pence, an opponent of gay rights.
Now he rarely goes more than a few days between private events hosted by prominent gay donors. Through mid-May, he has nearly two dozen fund-raisers planned, including one in New York hosted by Andy Cohen, the Bravo host, and Michael Stipe, the former lead singer of R.E.M.
This week, he will be in Boston for back-to-back fund-raisers with other prominent L.G.B.T. guests. The first will feature Mr. Buttigieg in conversation with Brandon Victor Dixon, the Broadway actor who confronted Mr. Pence from the stage of “Hamilton.” The second is being hosted by Bryan Rafanelli and Mark Walsh, longtime confidants of the Clintons.
But the L.G.B.T. community is no monolith. And Mr. Buttigieg’s candidacy is exposing tensions that have been papered over during the period of relative unity and common purpose that has taken hold since President Trump took office. The political priorities of gay men — especially the affluent white gay men who have mostly filled Mr. Buttigieg’s coffers — often differ from those of lesbians and transgender people. And the enthusiasm for his campaign is not universal.
 In interviews, more than a dozen people who have helped the Buttigieg campaign raise money described an effort that has taken off with unexpected speed, at times overwhelming the campaign’s finance staff and volunteers. Small fund-raisers organized with a few dozen guests ballooned to banquet-size events with hundreds of R.S.V.P.s and host committees so large the names could not all fit on the invitations.
The mayor’s strength in the polls — he is rising quickly in early-voting states like New Hampshire and Iowa — suggests he is far more than just a niche L.G.B.T. candidate.
Though the L.G.B.T. donor base is one of the deepest and most reliable wellsprings of money for Democratic candidates, it is not large enough on its own to sustain a campaign.
 “L.G.B.T. money has been the equivalent of seed money or angel investment,” said Alex Slater, a Washington public relations consultant who is helping to organize fund-raising events for Mr. Buttigieg.
In the interests of full disclosure, I have made a modest donation to Mayor Pete's campaign if for no other reason than to keep an LGBT Candidate viable for a longer period in the primary contest.  And yes, we have offered our home as a fundraising venue. 

Far-Right Tries to Slime Pete Buttigieg with False Sex Assault Claim

Jacob Wohl, one of the sleaze masters in the plot against Buttigieg.
I guess in some ways it was to be expected given the far rights hatred of gays, willingness to engage in personal destruction of opponents, and relentless willingness to lie, yet the brazenness of some of the sleaziest elements of the far right right to fabricate false claims of sexual assault against Pete Buttigieg is nonetheless stunning.  It s also instructive that among the "news outlets" that sought to quickly disseminate the lie was Big League Politics which played a leading role on the attacks on state wide Democrat office holders here in Virginia back in early February (others involved were crackpot conspiracy sites: Infowars and Gateway Pundit). The thankfully, unsuccessful effort is ironic for two reasons: (i) it is Republicans elected officials and right wing preachers that seemingly are the assault perpetrators in 99 out of 100 cases, and (ii) Buttigieg seeming is everything Trump - and most Republican congressional figures is not  - a military veteran, academically brilliant, versed in foreign languages, and has a guiding morality and decency.  In any event, the plot fell apart because when right wing sleaze masters Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman tried to recruit young men to falsely claim they were sexually assaulted by Buttigieg, one of them recorded their conversation and  and gave it to The Daily Beast.  Here is more from The Daily Beast:
A pair of right-wing provocateurs are being accused of attempting to recruit young Republican men to level false allegations of sexual assault against Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg.
The details of the operatives’ attempt emerged as one man suddenly surfaced with a vague and uncorroborated allegation that Buttigieg had assaulted him. The claim was retracted hours later on a Facebook page appearing to belong to the man. A Republican source told The Daily Beast that lobbyist Jack Burkman and internet troll Jacob Wohl approached him last week to try to convince him to falsely accuse Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, of engaging him sexually while he was too drunk to consent.
The source who spoke to The Daily Beast said Burkman and Wohl made clear that their goal was to kneecap Buttigieg’s momentum in the 2020 presidential race. The man asked to remain anonymous out of a concern that the resulting publicity might imperil his employment, and because he said Wohl and Burkman have a reputation for vindictiveness.

[T]he source provided The Daily Beast with a surreptitious audio recording of the meeting, which corroborates his account. In it, Wohl appears to refer to Buttigieg as a “terminal threat” to President Donald Trump’s reelection next year.
Neither Burkman nor Wohl responded to repeated requests for comment on this story.  But after The Daily Beast contacted them last week, traces of the scheme disappeared from the web and social media.
On Monday, a separate individual using the name of Hunter Kelly published a post on the site Medium in which he alleged that Buttigieg sexually assaulted him in February. That post was tweeted out by David Wohl, Jacob’s father, and quickly re-written by the site Big League Politics, which is known as a landing ground for right wing conspiracy theories.
Kelly’s supposed Medium and Twitter accounts both say they were created this month. His Facebook page includes several posts lauding Trump and criticizing Hillary Clinton.
The Daily Beast reached out to Kelly on a cell phone listed to him in the student directory at his  Michigan college. Told we were reporting on apparent efforts by Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman to drum up false sexual assault allegations against Buttigieg, Kelly replied, “I was unaware this was happening. But yes it is true.”
Kelly wrote that he did not control the newly-created Medium and Twitter accounts that posted the allegations under his name. When asked if he could verify his identity, he texted the Daily Beast a selfie that matched the photo seen on Medium and on Kelly’s longstanding Facebook accounts.
“Here is a selfie of me, sorry I have been crying,” he wrote. “Today and the promises made didn’t go as planned.”
Kelly declined to provide more details. But two hours later he posted a message to his Facebook timeline headed, “I WAS NOT SEXUALLY ASSAULTED.”
Again, it is ironic that the Christofascist and right wing trolls like Wohl and Burkman see Buttigieg as some sort of existential threat - most likely because he shines a light on their rank hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy, as well as that of Trump. 

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

Monday, April 29, 2019

Lindsey Graham’s Shamelessness

Lindsey Graham, a/k/a the Palmetto Queen - a study in hypocrisy.
One of the things that has been illuminating about Donald Trump and his candidacy and toxic and pathologically lying regime is just how morally bankrupt so many Republicans have proven to be.  For reasons I still cannot grasp - other than fear of the increasingly ugly GOP base - those who once pretended to have some basic understanding of both decency and constitutional and legal norms have shown themselves only too eager to prostitute themselves for Trump.  Among the worse is Senator Lindsey Graham who flatly stated the standard for removal of a president from office during the Clinton impeachment debacle.  Indeed, under Graham's own enunciated standard an indictable crime was not a prerequisite for use of impeachment to "cleanse the office" and "restore honor and integrity to the office [of the presidency]."  Now, faced with far more egregious conduct by Trump, Graham has thrown aside his own standard and is only too willing to look the other way and whine a far different song.  A column in the Washington Post looks at Graham's shameless hypocrisy.  Here are highlights: 
One difficulty about a career in politics is that the longer you’re in the business, the longer a track record of quotes and video your opponents can scour to undercut you. It’s something former vice president Joe Biden is contending with as he enters the Democratic primary, and it’s an obstacle his old Senate colleague Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) has run into in the wake of the Mueller report.
On CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Graham spoke to host Margaret Brennan; naturally, much of the interview focused on Attorney General William P. Barr’s planned testimony to Congress this week. As the new chair of the Judiciary Committee, Graham has shown enthusiasm for thoroughly investigating some scandals through to the end, such as the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server. He showed the same enthusiasm during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, when he was one of the House’s prosecutors during Clinton’s trial in the Senate.
But Graham’s doggedness has disappeared when it comes to a Republican White House, replaced by a deliberate ignorance. “From my point of view, I’ve heard all I need to really know,” he told Brennan. He reiterated the sentiment again and again, especially regarding Trump’s ordering then-White House counsel Donald McGahn to fire Mueller. “It doesn’t matter,” he told Brennan. “I don’t care what he said to Don McGahn. … I don’t care what happened between him and Don McGahn. … No, I’m — I’m done.”
 Asked what he wants the Barr hearings to focus on, Graham replied, “Does the report support his summary? Does the report actually indicate there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians?” Graham left out, of course, that Mueller made no finding regarding the nonlegal concept of “collusion,” only one regarding the higher standard of criminal conspiracy. And he left out that there was significant evidence that individuals associated with the Trump campaign conspired with WikiLeaks over the release of stolen Democratic emails.
Democrats are suggesting that a president who orders his staff to obstruct an independent investigation maybe shouldn’t be president — hardly a crazy standard.
Then Graham had to face his past, as Brennan played his words from the Clinton impeachment trial:
The point I am trying to make is you don’t even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job in this constitutional republic, if this body determines that your conduct as a public official is clearly out of bounds in your role. Thank God you did that, because impeachment is not about punishment. Impeachment is about cleansing the office. Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office.
Graham tried to reconcile his hypocrisy. “What President Clinton did was interfere in a lawsuit against him by Paula Jones and others, hide the evidence, encourage people to lie. So, to me, he took the legal system and turned it upside down.”
Note the words “encourage people to lie.” Note that Graham didn’t say, “People lied with his encouragement.” That Clinton allegedly told people to lie was enough for Graham (then and now), regardless of whether the Democratic president’s entreaties were successful. But this president is a Republican, so Graham’s standard changes.
Graham is far from the first hypocritical politician. But the South Carolina senator particularly prides himself on being no-nonsense and on his legal experience. That he has opted for such an obvious double standard is especially shameless.