Saturday, June 15, 2019

2019 Blue Commonwealth Gala

Over the years I have contributed to individual candidates - more recently Democrats - but have not gone to a political party fundraiser in over 20 years since I left the GOP after that party was taken over by Christofascists who turned that party into the equivalent of a rabid dog.  That was until now.  With all 140 seats in the Virginia General Assembly up for election in November, 2019, the husband and I will be traveling to Richmond today to attend the Blue Commonwealth Gala - a Democrat Party fundraiser - in Richmond (thanks to our friend Jenny who will be house/dog sitting for us).  Headlining the event is presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg who will now be joined by rival candidate Amy Klobuchar.  Other speakers include a who's who of Virginia's Democrat congressional officeholders.

For years now, the Virginia GOP's strangle hold on the General Assembly has held Virginia back and blocked an array of legislation that would benefit Virginians ranging from commonsense gun control, to LGBT non-discrimination protections, to ending medical care disparities for minorities and poor Virginians (Governor Northam is currently pushing to end the disparity in maternal deaths for minority mothers).  Indeed, winning Democrat control of the House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate in November, 2019, will be decisive in determining whether Virginia will continue to emerge as a leading modern state or remain part of the southern states backwater that want to turn the clock back to the 1950's or earlier. 

I urge fellow Virginians to get politically involved, make sure you are registered to vote, and go out and vote in both November, 2017, in the Virginia elections, and in November, 2020.  We need to turn Virginia blue and send a message to Donald Trump.  Then, in November, 2020, we need to take back America in 2020 from the Trumpists and extremists who now control the GOP. 

More Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Tennessee Preacher-Cop calls for Execution of LGBT People

Being gay in America remains dangerous - a reality lost on gay Republicans, many of whom falsely believe their white skin and social status will protect them from the raging homophobia being fanned by the Republican Party (the 2016 GOP platform opposes same sex marriage) and the Trump/Pence regime in particular.   The unleashing, indeed encouragement, of homophobia by the current White House regime is emboldening "Christian" extremists.  Just days after the 3rd anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre, a group of anti-gay extremist pastors, some exhorting the execution of LGBT individuals, gathered in Orlando, Florida.  Now, media reports have revealed that one Tennessee police officer who doubles as a pastor of an extremist church, likewise wants gays executed.  One can only imagine the fate a gay stooped by this officer might suffer.  Thankfully, the local District Attorney is reviewing all cases involving this hate monger.   Here are excerpts from a CNN article:
Authorities in Tennessee are reviewing all pending cases involving a Knox County Sheriff's Office detective after he gave a sermon at his church that called for the government to execute members of the LGBTQ community.
"They are worthy of death," Grayson Fritts said in a June 2 sermon at All Scripture Baptist Church, a small church in Knoxville that he leads.
The church posted the sermon online and then removed it, according to The Washington Post. The video was picked up by the Tennessee Holler, an independent liberal news outlet, and edited into a six-minute clip.
"God has instilled the power of civil government to send the police in 2019 out to the LGBT freaks and arrest them and have a trial for them, and if they are convicted, then they are to be put to death," he said in the clip.
Fritts said it would be easy to find people to arrest at events such as gay pride parades."We have a bunch of them we're going to get convicted because they have all their pride junk on, and they're professing what they are, that they're a filthy animal," he said.
Speaking to journalists before giving a sermon last Wednesday, Fritts said his anti-LGBTQ beliefs have not interfered with his work as a law enforcement officer.
Charme Allen, the Knox County district attorney general, issued a statement calling Fritts' comments "personally offensive and reprehensible. Allen said she would review all of Fritts' pending cases and an assistant district attorney will review any complaints about closed cases involving Fritts.
"When any potential witness in a criminal proceeding expresses an opinion of hatred and/or bias towards a class of citizens, I am ethically bound to explore that witness' credibility," Allen said. "Accordingly, I am reviewing all pending cases involving Mr. Fritts to scrutinize them for any potential bias. Although my office has never received a complaint regarding Mr. Fritts prior to this incident, I have assigned an assistant district attorney to receive complaints regarding closed cases, and I will act on those complaints as justice dictates." Knox County Sheriff Tom Spangler said . . . . "I want to be very clear that it is my responsibility to ensure equal protection to ALL citizens of Knox County, Tennessee under the law, my oath and the United States Constitution without discrimination or hesitation. Rest assured that I have and will continue to do so," Spangler said in a statement, according to WATE.
The All Scripture Baptist Church website says it is "an independent, fundamental, King James Bible only, soul-winning church. Don't expect anything liberal, watered down, or contemporary here." The website is clear about the church's stance on the gay community:
"We believe that sodomy (homosexuality) is a sin that is against nature. A person will only burn in their lust toward the same gender if they have been given over to a reprobate or rejected mind. God said homosexuality should be punished with the death penalty, as set forth in Leviticus 20:13. No homosexual will be allowed to attend or join All Scripture Baptist Church." Two Knoxville public officials criticized Fritts' comments.
"I am outraged at the statements by Knox County Sheriff's Detective Grayson Fritts," Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero said in a statement posted on the city's website. "Fritts' statements raise concerns locally and nationally about protecting LGBTQ+ rights and equality. Fritts' statements have cast a negative light on our community making it imperative to share my personal position and the position of the City of Knoxville."
Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs also criticized Fritts, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.
"Mr. Fritts is not my employee so I can only give my personal thoughts on the issue," Jacobs said. "I find his comments to be extremely vile and reprehensible and I strongly condemn threats of or calls for violence."

Some would argue that Fritts is an outlier, yet the Republicans in the Tennessee legislature have continued to push extreme anti-gay legislation. If your are LGBT, Tennessee is likely NOT a place to live.  Just as disturbing is the reality that leaders of extreme "Christian" groups have Trump's ear and are pushing him to implement their agenda, including the appointment of anti-gay judges.

Yet Another Extremist Trump Judicial Nominee

Eighty six years ago Adolph Hitler began his transformation of Germany into something horrible using three means: (i) a constant propaganda campaign of lies that played on Germans' prejudices, (ii) attacks on the free press that sought to expose him for what he was, and (iii) stacking the courts with loyal Nazi judges. Every day Germans and the world ultimately paid a terrible price for the failure of Germans to oppose Hitler when they still had the opportunity to do so.  Fast forward to 2019 America and we see the Trump/Pence regime using the Hitler playbook with too many Americans to complacent to get out and vote - studies show that it was non-voters who elected Trump - or foolishly believing that since they are not among the regime's targets, there is little risk from their doing nothing. History tells us that nothing could be further from the case.  The Trump/Pence regime is busy appointing extremist to the federal courts for lifetime appointments which will harm the rights of many Americans for generations. One of Trump's latest nominees is so extreme that even the spineless Susan Collins will oppose his nomination, even as the rest of Senate Republicans act like Germans who aided Hitler and ultimately destroyed German's democracy.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Christofascist extremist who Trump has nominated for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench.  Here are excerpts:
Sen. Susan Collins said Friday she will oppose one of President Trump’s federal judicial nominees over his record opposing LGBTQ rights.
In a statement, the Republican from Maine, who faces reelection next year, voiced concerns regarding Matthew Kacsmaryk’s “alarming bias against LGBTQ Americans and disregard for Supreme Court precedents.”
“Mr. Kacsmaryk has dismissed proponents of reproductive choice as ‘sexual revolutionaries,’ and disdainfully criticized the legal foundations of Roe v. Wade,” the landmark 1973 decision legalizing abortion, Collins said. “Such extreme statements reflect poorly on Mr. Kacsmaryk’s temperament and suggest an inability to respect precedent and to apply the law fairly and impartially.”
Kacsmaryk, who serves as deputy general counsel to First Liberty Institute [a Christofascist organization] , which defends religious freedom issues, was first nominated for the lifetime appointment by Trump in 2017, and had to be renominated this year when the Senate failed to confirm him before the end of the last congressional session.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Kacsmaryk’s nomination in January on a party-line vote, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has scheduled a procedural vote on the nomination next week.
LGBT and women’s rights groups are vehemently opposed to his nomination, describing him as an “anti-LGBT activist” and pointing to instances in which he defended discrimination against LGBT people, wrote disparagingly about other gay rights such as marriage and called being transgender “a mental disorder.”
“His record reveals that he will be incapable of treating LGBT litigants fairly — no matter what body of law is at issue in the cases over which he may preside — because he does not acknowledge LGBT people as having a right to exist,” wrote a coalition of 75 organizations in a letter Wednesday to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein (Calif.).
In a statement, the Republican from Maine, who faces reelection next year, voiced concerns regarding Matthew Kacsmaryk’s “alarming bias against LGBTQ Americans and disregard for Supreme Court precedents.”
In a 2015 op-ed for the National Catholic Register, he wrote that sexual revolutionaries were demolishing the four pillars of marriage law: permanence, exclusivity, procreation, and finally “sexual difference and complementarity.”
The “Catechism holds that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered,’ ‘contrary to the natural law,’ and ‘do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity,’ ” he wrote. “This view of human sexuality as male and female stands in stark contrast to the opposing definitions of marriage, sexuality and so-called gender identity promulgated by most LGBT scholars and activists.”
He also signed on to a letter that called being transgender a “delusion.”
To me, that is not someone that can be impartial to millions of people in this country who are LGBTQ. That type of demonstrated bias is not ‘he was representing someone’ or ‘he was taken out of context.’ This is his worldview. This is his bias. He has not shied away from it,” said Kristine Lucius, executive vice president for policy and governmental affairs at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which has organized a campaign against Kacsmaryk’s nomination.
Collins, who is a top target for Democrats in 2020, supports same-sex marriage and reproductive rights. But she was criticized by LGBT and women’s rights groups when she became one of the deciding votes that secured Kavanaugh’s place on the Supreme Court.
At the time, Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin encouraged his members to vote out lawmakers who supported Kavanaugh, whose nomination was embroiled by sexual misconduct allegations.
Throughout Trump’s tenure, Republicans have made federal court appointments a top priority. As of Friday, the Senate had confirmed 119 federal judges nominated by Trump.
A number of these nominees have been deemed "unqualified" by the American Bar Association yet Republicans in the Senate have confirmed them as a means to pander to Christofascists and white supremacists who support Trump.  Be very afraid.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, June 14, 2019

ABC Gets Internal Polls Trump Said Don’t Exist

The one constant with Donald Trump is that he lies - all the time and about almost everything.  Thus, when rumors got out that his re-election campaign had done internal polls that were devastating to Trump's 2020 hopes, it is no surprise that Trump lied.  Indeed, he claimed the internal polls did not exist - I head a replay of his lie just this morning.  Now, the lie has been exposed.  ABC News secured the internal polls and they were indeed grim for Trump and his unwashed, knuckle dragging supporters.  Here are highlights from ABC News
Data from President Donald Trump's first internal reelection campaign poll conducted in March, obtained exclusively by ABC News, showed him losing a matchup by wide margins to former Vice President Joe Biden in key battleground states.
Trump has repeatedly denied that such data exists.
The polling data, revealed for the first time by ABC News, showed a double-digit lead for Biden in Pennsylvania 55-39 and Wisconsin 51-41 and had Biden leading by seven points in Florida. In Texas, a Republican stronghold, the numbers showed the president only leading by two points.
ABC News did not obtain the poll’s early matchups against other candidates.  The New York Times was first to report the existence of the internal polls.
When presented by ABC News with these numbers, the Trump campaign confirmed the data saying in a statement that the numbers were old and that they have seen huge swings in Trump’s favor. The Trump campaign did not provide the results of the full 17 state poll, matchups against other candidates nor any updated polling figures. In the recent days [Trump] the president has continued to lash out against reports that his campaign’s internal polling showed him trailing in key battleground states, slamming the numbers as “phony polling information.” Trump has called his internal poll numbers “unbelievable” and that he was “the strongest I’ve ever been.” When Stephanopoulos mentioned reports of polls commissioned by the Trump campaign that showed Biden ahead of him in key states, [Trump] the president said “those polls don't exist.” A day later, the president took to Twitter and again claimed internal polling showing him behind in battleground states didn’t exist.

Liar, liar pants on fire.  Trump is despicable.

More Friday Male Beauty

New York Correctly Bans Religious Exemptions for Vaccines

As long time readers know, I believe that far too much deference is given to religion in the USA despite the reality that (i) it is often divisive, (ii) most churches do little true charity work, certainly not enough to justify tax-exempt status which forces the rest of the citizenry to indirectly subsidize them, and (iii) it often encourages the embrace of ignorance that is harmful towards other citizens.  Nowhere has the latter aspect been more true than in religious exemptions to public health laws requiring children to be vaccinated prior to entering public school.  With the measles outbreak sweeping the USA, but centered in New York State, the danger of indulging the religious based idiocy of religious extremists has been made visible.  Thankfully, New York State has said "enough" and has  banned religious exemptions from vaccination requirements. One's embrace of ignorance should not be allowed to endanger the health - or civil rights - of other citizens. The New York Times looks at New York State's belated move to fight religious beliefs that harm the general public. Note how opponents of the common sense move chanted the usual "religious freedom" bullshit so popular with evangelicals who seek to put their beliefs over the rights of other citizens.  Here are article excerpts:

New York officially ended religious exemptions for school vaccines Thursday as the state grapples with its largest measles outbreak in years.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) signed the legislation into law Thursday evening after it passed in the state’s Senate and Assembly, ending years of gridlock over the issue.
“We’re putting science ahead of misinformation about vaccines and standing up for the rights of immunocompromised children and adults, pregnant women and infants who can’t be vaccinated through no fault of their own,” state Sen. Brad Hoylman (D) said in a statement.
The law gives unvaccinated students up to 30 days to show they’ve started their required immunizations.
All states have laws requiring various vaccines for students and all allow for medical exemptions. Many also grant parents the right to exempt their children from the vaccines for religious reasons, and a smaller number for philosophical reasons. But the tide of public opinion has been changing as measles cases this year have already surged to the highest levels since 1992. The cases have largely stemmed from the ultra-Orthodox Jewish population in Brooklyn, and to a lesser extent, Rockland County, which anti-vaccine groups have had some success at targeting with misinformation. Many of these activists claim that vaccines cause autism, a link disproved repeatedly by scientists and medical experts.
Measles, a highly contagious and potentially life-threatening disease, was thought to have been eliminated in 2000, due to the success of decades-long campaigns to get people vaccinated.
Opponents of the bill protested Thursday outside of New York’s capitol in Albany before the vote, [lying and] claiming the legislation is an assault on religious freedom. “I’m not aware of anything in the Torah, the Bible, the Koran or anything else that suggests you should not get vaccinated,” Bronx Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D), the bill’s sponsor, told reporters. “If you choose to not vaccinate your child, therefore potentially endangering other children … then you’re the one choosing not to send your children to school.” New York joins states such as California, Mississippi, West Virginia and Maine by outlawing nonmedical exemptions for vaccines. Several other states are deliberating whether to eliminate religious waivers for vaccines.
“The science is crystal clear: Vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to keep our children safe,” Cuomo said in a statement. “While I understand and respect freedom of religion, our first job is to protect the public health and by signing this measure into law, we will help prevent further transmissions and stop this outbreak right in its tracks.”
The bill’s passage was coupled with the news that the New York City Health Department has closed two private schools in Williamsburg for failing to comply with a recent emergency health order. . . . The Health Department has closed 11 schools over vaccine-related issues this year.
I'd go further and make the failure to have children vaccinated a form of statutory child abuse justifying the removal of children from parents.   Children are not chattel property of parents - notwithstanding the views of many fundamentalists - and should not be endangered by their parents' embrace of ignorance and superstition. 

A Russian Reporter Beats the Kremlin

In what might be a cautionary tale for Donald Trump - assuming he watched anything but Fox News - in terms with is treatment of the free press can be found in perhaps the most unlikely place: Vladimir Putin's Russia. Putin has long sought to silence the independent press, especially when the press seeks to expose the corruption that defines Putin himself, not to mention his cronies and fellow oligarchs.  For Fox News viewers, an oligarch is a very rich (and often unscrupulous if not criminal) business leader with a great deal of political influence.  In standard Putin form, he had journalist Ivan Golunov arrested in early June on fabricated drugs charges in an effort to silence his reporting on the dirty and likely criminal behavior of Putin cronies.  What Putin likely did not count on is the public backlash to Golunov's arrest which forced the charges to be dropped and Golunov to be released (personally, if I were Golunov, I'd lease the country ASAP before he can be mysteriously murdered on Putin's orders).  Putin's Russia is the image of how Donald Trump sees himself and how he wants to be above the law. Golunov's release suggests that perhaps Trump should consider rethinking his game plan. I believe a majority of Americans are not racist, brain dead Trump supporters.  At some point, they will cease believing his lies.  A piece in Politico looks at Putin's - and by extension, Trump's - miscalculation.  Here are highlights:
MOSCOW—The men who ordered the arrest of Ivan Golunov in early June on fabricated drugs charges can have had no idea how his name would be known to millions within just a few hours and overshadow the speeches of Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum the same weekend.
The reaction was so strong—from street demonstrations in Moscow to three daily newspapers sharing the same front page to protest Golunov’s arrest—that the authorities actually backed down on June 11, just five days after taking him into custody. Charges against Golunov were dropped and the Ministry of Interior announced it was suspending the police officers involved.
Why the big fuss? After all, Golunov is not a celebrity, still less a political heavyweight. He’s a journalist, well-known, before last week, only to a small circle—amongst whom I am proud to include myself, as I have known him for 15 years. The police who seized him surely reckoned he was a nobody they could detain quite brazenly.
That was a big mistake on their part. In fact, it was Golunov’s unassuming modesty that propelled the kind of protests that Russia has not seen for years.
Golunov did his journalistic work with quiet professionalism and did not befriend Russia’s big shots. His work spoke for itself. That is precisely why so many ordinary Russians came out to support him. Seeing what happened to a professional doing his job, they understood with frightening clarity their own defenselessness vis-à-vis the Russian state’s security machine.
Golunov’s work touched on sensitive topics, to be sure. He had investigated state procurements and those dark corners of Russian government business where officials worked with criminals under the protection of the security services: the lucrative cemetery business, the commercial dealings of the Russian Orthodox Church, how the Moscow’s mayor offices procured building materials for street renovation.
Despite the grim information he uncovered, Golunov is not one of Russia’s classic “opposition journalists.” If one of the threads he was pulling at led to Putin, Golunov would name him for sure, but he is not in the business of unmasking the whole of Russia’s ruling regime, as some others are.
This is why his arrest for drug possession on June 6 sent a chill through many ordinary citizens. Not every Russian feels like fighting against the Putin regime. But literally every one of them feels defenseless against the police and intelligence services, knowing how they can use the trick of planting drugs on a person to make him lose his job or business or ruin his life in just a few minutes.
In 2004, 40,000 people were in jail in Russia on various drugs charges. Today that number stands at an immense 140,000, 80 percent of whom have confessed to possessing drugs, often in private and uncontested hearings. Amazingly, the accused always seem to possess just the right amount of narcotics to make them eligible for criminal prosecution.
Alleged drug possession is now a way that officials can extract a bribe, confiscate a business, force someone to emigrate or simply to keep silent. (This is not to say that drug addiction is not a serious problem in Russia—it is).
In other words, Ivan Golunov’s story—with what looks like a happy ending on June 11—should not be read as another tale of Russia’s Westernized liberals fighting the regime. The whole Russian media community rose up to defend him, including journalists from pro-government outlets such as RT.
[T]his issue is bigger than being for or against Putin. It has galvanized everyone, from the businessman to the journalist to the Central Asian guest worker who feels unprotected by the law in today’s Russia.
Now that Golunov is free and several senior policemen are being punished, it’s not just the editors who “want blood,” a large segment of society wants it too. They want to see the higher-ups who dreamed up this abominable episode held to account and arrested.
In Italy, the murder of anti-mafia investigator Giovanni Falcone in 1992 caused such public revulsion that it became a turning point in the fight against the Mafia. The protest against Golunov’s arrest has a similar feeling about it—Russians want to be rid of the mafia-like grip the security services have over their everyday lives. That is on their minds much more than a fight for true democracy. Although winning the battle for one might eventually pave the way to the other.
While has tried nothing like what Putin tried, I suspect he would if he could.  An narcissistic authoritarian in high office is a danger to every law abiding, morally decent citizen. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Sarah Sanders to Leave White House Position

Sarah Huckabee Sander - in my view, less truthful than a tawdry prostitute.
After Donald Trump himself, few among the White House staff has lied more often or more brazenly than Sarah Huckabee Sanders. A tawdry prostitute like has far more credibility when it comes to truth and veracity than Huckabee Sanders. Indeed, the only thing that can be said in her defense is that she was raised in a household where lying and scamming the gullible was part of her father's job description as a Baptist minister/scamvangelist and it obviously warped her ability to tell the truth from a lie.  How else to explain her indifference to objective facts and regular regurgitation of demonstrable falsehoods.  With Sanders leaving her position as press secretary, the only question is whether Trump has found someone even more willing to prostitute themselves and engage in non-stop lies. At the same time, Sanders' statement that she wants to spend more time with her school-age children leaves me wondering what moral harm she will inflict on her children.  With a morally bankrupt ,calculating lying for a grandfather and for their mother cut from the same cloth, one has to worry about these children.  One can only hope that history will be most unkind to Ms. Huckabee Sanders. A piece in Politico looks at Sanders much welcomed departure.  Here are article highlights:   
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, whose fierce loyalty to President Donald Trump and clashes with reporters defined her tenure, is stepping down at the end of the month.
[Trump] The president announced her departure on Twitter Thursday afternoon. Trump said she would be returning to her home state of Arkansas, adding that he hoped she would decide to run for governor.
Speaking to reporters in her office on Thursday, Sanders did not rule out a run for governor, something that her associates have been buzzing about for months. "I learned a long time ago never to rule anything out," she said. Sanders’ father, Mike Huckabee, was governor of the state from 1996 to 2007. She became a lightning rod for some of the Trump administration’s most controversial policies, for which she was called out by both reporters and the public.
Last June, the owner of a rural Virginia restaurant asked Sanders to leave, later citing the administration’s push to ban transgender people from serving in the military as a reason. “I explained that the restaurant has certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty, and compassion, and cooperation,” Sarah Murray, the owner of the Red Hen in Lexington, Va., told The Washington Post.
In recent months, Sanders has refused to hold formal briefings, instead opting to appear on Fox News and brief reporters in the White House driveway, a Trump-approved strategy that has prompted fierce criticism from journalists.
Sanders' critics have repeatedly questioned her credibility, especially in the aftermath of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. The report revealed that Sanders acknowledged to investigators that there was no basis for her 2017 assertion that “countless” rank-and-file FBI agents had lost confidence in James Comey, a claim she used to rationalize Trump’s decision to fire him as the bureau’s director. Sanders told reporters that she hoped to spend more time with her school-age children this summer. She said she informed the president about her decision earlier Thursday. Her press team formally found out about her departure less than an hour before it was announced, in an apparent bid to keep the news from leaking. Sanders got her start in politics working for her father‘s first campaign for governor, and later served as national political director for his presidential campaign. She co-founded a consulting firm in Arkansas and later joined Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign as a senior adviser. She is the latest senior administration official to announce plans to leave the White House. Others recent departures include Shahira Knight, the White House legislative affairs director, and senior White House adviser Johnny DeStefano.

Good riddance and, again, I hope history will be most brutal on Ms. Huckabee Sanders who apparently subscribe to the Josef Goebbels school of propaganda - for Fox News viewers, Goebbels was Hitlers propaganda minister.  Yes, I am harsh, but despite her upbringing, Sanders could have opted for honesty and integrity, but she chose the "dark side." Shame on her.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Trump Throws Open the 2020 Election to Foreign Interference

A post last night referenced a troubling interview that Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, gave to ABC News wherein he basically welcomed interference from foreign governments in the 2020 elections.   CNN looks at the shocking - well, not shocking given who Trump has shown himself to be - statements and indifference towards the legitimacy of American elections.  For Trump, the country doesn't matter, it is all about him.  Daily, Trump is showing the dangers of putting a malignant narcissist in any office much less the presidency.  This is not "fake news," because I heard the interview.  Trump is a clear and present danger to the nation.  Here are highlights from CNN and some of the reactions to what some would call potential treason:

Donald Trump just made a staggering offer to every foreign spy agency and American enemy: Have at the 2020 election -- especially if you have dirt that can help him win.
Even in a presidency that long ago burned through all conceivable superlatives, Trump's statement was a stunner.  This was more than a mere candidate calling on Russia to find Hillary Clinton's emails. It went further than dumping on US intelligence agencies by believing Russian President Vladimir Putin's smirking denials of election interference. Or Trump's claims that the Kremlin's 2016 interference caper is one big Democratic hoax. This was the President of the United States -- the man charged with protecting the Constitution, American democracy and the Western world -- sitting at the Resolute desk in the Oval Office, saying he would accept damaging information from Russia and China on his 2020 opponent. Anchor George Stephanopoulos brought up FBI Director Christopher Wray's warning that anyone who received incriminating information from a foreign power should call the bureau.
"The FBI director is wrong," Trump said, anger hardening his voice. He denied that interfering in American elections -- as Russia did in 2016 to help him win -- is even a problem. The immediate political effect of Trump's interview was to fan more Democratic calls for [Trump's] the President's impeachment -- and to make House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's life more difficult.
"It is past sad. It is past frustration. This is criminal. It is criminal. And we need to hold this president accountable," Democratic Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Michigan, told CNN's Erin Burnett. "The #MuellerReport made it clear: A foreign government attacked our 2016 elections to support Trump, Trump welcomed that help, and Trump obstructed the investigation," Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, tweeted. But the political consequences of Trump's statements on Wednesday may pale in comparison with the intelligence and national security problems they will seed. The President did not just risk the integrity of the 2020 vote, he reinforced the already strong impression that he would do anything it takes -- anything -- to win. Since he has the power of the presidency, that's a troubling thought. Given that reality, any foreign entity that helps him in 2020 might expect all kinds of unspecified accommodations in policy or otherwise -- one reason why Trump's private meetings with Putin so trouble his opponents. While US intelligence agencies -- and even the White House -- say they are doing everything they can to protect the election, the most powerful man in the world is signaling he doesn't care and would be willing to undermine those efforts. And it may not even matter if any dirt gleaned on his opponents is true, since the Russian effort in 2016 showed that rumor and misinformation can be just as powerful as genuine information.
Trump's swipe at Wray will also spark new speculation about the position of the President's second FBI director. On the evidence of past kerfuffles, Republican senators can be expected to dodge and hedge. Conservative pundits will deny he did anything wrong. And his White House may accuse journalists of taking him out of context or deny the evidence on tape that the President said it at all. That is not to say there will not be reverberations from the President's interview. In the real world, there will be political, practical and intelligence implications. After all, he's inviting anyone to play in the process that ultimately underscores American democracy. If elections have no integrity, the public's faith in those to whom it grants power cannot be guaranteed and the system will be in severe jeopardy. Trump's comments represented a particular repudiation of special counsel Robert Mueller, who even in his taciturn way made an impassioned plea for Americans to protect their democracy.

Trump needs to be removed from office by any means necessary.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Reflections on the Pulse Massacre Three Years Later

Today - June 12 - is the third anniversary of the massacre at Pulse, and LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida.  Like so many in the LGBT community, I was stunned and sickened by the huge loss of life - Pulse is the largest deadly attack on LGBT individuals in American history.  Moreover, the massacre was a wake up call to many in the community that it is still dangerous, some times deadly so, to be LGBT in America.  In the intervening three years, things have decidedly not gotten better in many parts of the USA.  The Trump/Pence regime continues to wage war against LGBT rights and anti-gay Christofascist extremists hold sway at the White House.  Shockingly, today in Orlando an anti-gay pastor who condones the murder of gays announced a "make America straight rally" where pastors who cheer the execution of gays will rally in the very same  community where LGBTQ people were massacred three years ago.  Some take umbrage at my use of the term "Christofascists" yet in a telling coincidence, Iran's foreign minister defended that country's execution of gays in language nearly identical to that used by American Christofascists, including those announcing the horrible rally in Orlando: 
“Our society has moral principles,” . . . “And we live according to these principles. These are moral principles concerning the behavior of people in general. And that means that the law is respected and the law is obeyed.”
Make no mistake, the mindset is the same among this Christofascists and Islamic extremists in Iran. Hatred of others and a desperate clinging to antiquated writings by ignorant authors (in the case of the Koran, I would argue a mentally ill author) are the common thread. 

A piece in The Advocate reminds us of the horrors that occurred three years ago.  Here are highlights:
I remember waking up that morning at 7 am and reading the headline “20 DEAD” in a shooting that had ended just one hour and 46 minutes earlier. Regrettably, I remember accepting that 20 deaths was a “normal” number for our world, that 20 was a somehow understandable figure — a calculable loss that tracked with casualty statistics of other shootings at the time. Cold numbers.
But I lost it when the Orlando Police Chief revised his estimation from “not 20 but 50.” Fifty. Could you imagine that? Fifty people just like me.
Many other numbers didn’t make it into mainstream news reports. If these other facts and figures had made national headlines, we might all think about Pulse differently. For example, 90 percent of the victims were Latino, of whom a full 50 percent were Puerto Rican. Four Dominicans and three Mexicans were also murdered, and three Colombians were critically injured in this attack. Where were these numbers when we needed to feel them, when we needed to match them to the images we were seeing?
With 49 murdered in a three-hour timespan, Pulse remains the single deadliest incident of violence against LGBTQ people and their allies ever committed.
And yet, queer people of color are 1.82 times more likely to experience physical violence than queer white people. We make up only about 42 percent of the LGBTQ community, and yet, a full 73 percent of all LGBTQ homicides are committed against us. Ignoring these numbers is killing us.  These are the numbers we needed to see then, and we still do now.
Three years after Pulse, I want to remember the aerial footage of 10,000 Floridians lined up in the sweltering streets of Orlando, fanning off beads of sweat in the scorching summer sun as they waited to offer blood — their own biologies — to the victims of the night before. The temperature that day peaked at 90˚F, with a heat index pushing toward 100˚F, and yet the endless line of blood donors remained in place long after the sun had set. Staff at OneBlood’s main office kept their facility open until 3:00 a.m. and still had to turn donors away. These are the innumerable heroes I choose to remember. I want to remember the numbers that reveal unmatched heroism that night. I recall the story of Akyra Murray, the young woman who initially escaped the chaos but, who, at only 18 years of age, made the courageous decision to reenter the scene in search of her friend. Akyra found her friend, but she never made it out herself. She had just graduated high school ranked third in her class.
I want to remember Imran Yousef, the former Marine who, at 24 years of age, tore open a patio fence and helped an estimated 70 people escape the gunshots. I want to remember the unnamed hero who died blocking bullets from at least two survivors behind him. I want to remember Brenda Marquez McCool, a mother of 11 children who loved her son so much she died saving him.
I want to remember the 5,300 pints of blood donated in central Florida on June 12 alone and the 28,000 pints donated throughout the week. And in one victim’s particular case, rather than hate the individual who caused his pain, I want to remember the surgical team and the 214 donors whose blood helped save his life.
As the piece underscores, there are many, many good Americans.  But, the unifying thread for so many who are evil is racism and religious based homophobia - homophobia that continues to be fanned from pulpits across the nation and from the White House.  Religion - especially fundamentalist religion - remains an evil and curse on humanity.

Trump Just Invited Congress to Begin Impeachment Proceedings

I cannot imagine what int must be like to be in the Conway household.  On one side you have George Conway, a skilled and seemingly principled attorney and on the other you have his wife, Kellyanne Conway, whose principles seemly are lower than those of a tawdry prostitute given the way in which she lies for Donald Trump and her total disregard for the truth, not to mention common decency.  George Conway frequently argues that Trump is unfit for office, is little better than a common criminal, and is out to destroy constitutional government.  Now, he has an-op ed in the Washington Post that makes the case that Congress should begin impeachment proceedings against Trump. The piece went to press before Trump stated in an ABC News interview that  he would accept a foreign government assistance in the form of damaging information about a political rival -- and wouldn't necessarily report the contact to the FBI.  Trump clearly views himself as a monarch or a virtual dictator like Vladimir Putin.  Indeed, he embodies the very type of individual the Founding Fathers feared could one day secure the presidency (which as designed, the Electoral College electors should have refused to certify Trump's election.   Here are highlights from George Conway's piece:

Much ink has been spilled about whether President Trump committed a criminal and impeachable offense by obstructing justice. That question deserves extensive debate, but another critical question — the ultimate question, really — is not whether he committed a crime but whether he is even fit for office in the first place. And that question — the heart of an impeachment inquiry — turns upon whether the president abuses his power and demonstrates an unfitness to serve under the defining principles of our Constitution.
On Tuesday, Trump gave us direct evidence of his contempt toward the most foundational precept of our democracy — that no person, not even the president, is above the law. He filed a brief in the nation’s second-most-important court that takes the position that Congress cannot investigate the president, except possibly in impeachment proceedings. It’s a spectacularly anti-constitutional brief, and anyone who harbors such attitudes toward our Constitution’s architecture is not fit for office. Trump’s brief is nothing if not an invitation to commencing impeachment proceedings that, for reasons set out in the Mueller report, should have already commenced.
The case involves a House committee’s efforts to follow up on the testimony of Trump’s now-incarcerated former attorney, Michael Cohen, that Trump had allegedly committed financial and tax fraud, and allegedly paid off paramours in violation of campaign finance laws. The House Committee on Oversight and Reform subpoenaed Trump’s accountants in mid-April for relevant documents, and Trump tried to block the move, only to be sternly rebuked in mid-May by a federal judge in Washington. The appeals brief filed Monday by Trump attacks that decision. But to describe Trump’s brief is to refute it. He argues that Congress is “trying to prove that the President broke the law” and that that’s something Congress can’t do, because it’s “an exercise of law enforcement authority that the Constitution reserves to the executive branch.” But in fact, Congress investigates lawbreaking, and potential lawbreaking, all the time. Mobsters, fraudsters, government employees, small companies, big companies — like it or not, all types of people and businesses get subpoenaed from time to time so that Congress can figure out whether current laws are effective, whether new laws are needed, whether sufficient governmental resources are being devoted to the task, whether more disclosure to the government or the public is required, or greater penalties, and so on.
Congress’s “power to investigate is deeply rooted in the nation’s history.” Congress, relying on English parliamentary tradition, has performed this function since the founding.
To accept Trump’s argument to the contrary — to say Congress can’t look into matters that might involve crimes — would in many cases gut Congress’s ability to gain information it needs to legislate. And perversely, in Trump’s case, it makes a virtue of the fact that he has been accused of committing crimes.
Which brings us to the main point: England’s King George III was above the law, but the founders of our republic wanted a system that would divide power and have the branches check one another. The idea that only the president can investigate the president is an argument for autocrats, not Americans. Congress could investigate Trump’s finances in an impeachment proceeding, but it can do so without launching the formal process of impeachment.
That said, Trump’s brief can be construed as an invitation to commence impeachment proceedings. In those proceedings, Trump’s attitudes toward our Constitution’s checks and balances, in addition to evidence of obstruction of justice, must play a key role. Indeed, the third article of impeachment against President Richard M. Nixon, adopted by the House Judiciary Committee in 1974, charged him with defying lawful subpoenas issued by the House Judiciary Committee.
Not only has Trump done that, but he has also demonized judges who disagree with him and insulted the press (despite its constitutional status) for calling him to account. Other leaders around the world may behave this way, but these are not proper actions of a president of the United States. What makes the United States exceptional is its commitment to its constitutional architecture, particularly divided powers.
For the past three decades, many constitutional law classes have begun with Nixon’s breathtaking statement to David Frost in May 1977: “Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.” Generations of students have gasped, shocked that a former president could say such a thing. This time, it’s not a former president but a sitting one. Every principle behind the rule of law requires the commencement of a process now to make this president a former one.

Wednesday Male Beauty

Buttigieg Looks to Truman, Not Obama, on Foreign Policy

If one looks at America's foreign policy over the last quarter century, in many ways it has been a disaster - think the Iraq War and the never ending war in Afghanistan as prime examples- that has done little to improve the lives of most Americans.  One could point to the stability of the NATO Alliance as a positive, but now under Donald Trump, everything is plagued with instability and Trump's tariff policies and war on clean energy are taking the nation backwards and in many ways making it less competitive - e.g., if Trump rolls back fuel efficiency standards on cars, American made vehicles will be less competitive in the global market and at home, Americans may switch to more fuel efficient foreign vehicles (I drive a very fuel efficient Mercedes). So far, few of the Democrats have laid out detailed foreign policy positions.  One, Pete Buttigieg, while in the beginning stages, may be headed towards a foreign policy approach that for a change considers impacts on everyday Americans.  He has a long way to go, but perhaps it is a start as a piece in The Atlantic suggests.  Here are excerpts:

“Basically, my entire adult life has been one where it’s a little bit illegible where you’re supposed to be as a Democrat on foreign policy,” Pete Buttigieg told me last weekend. He was preparing to give his first speech on the subject, today at Indiana University. So far, most of the Democratic candidates have avoided the question of how they’d conduct foreign policy, and the voters and the press have made that easy for them.
When candidates decide to say something about global affairs, they tend to quarantine their views in a single all-encompassing speech, as if to get the topic out of the way. Elizabeth Warren gave hers in Washington in November. Bernie Sanders has actually given two, in Missouri in 2017 and last fall at Johns Hopkins. None of the other candidates has given even one.
This silence about America’s role in the world is strange. The quest to replace Donald Trump presents the first chance since the end of the Cold War for Democrats to think fundamentally anew about foreign policy. The liberal internationalist approach of the Bill Clinton years aimed to enlarge the sphere of capitalist democracies, manage the world’s chaos, and extend American influence, through free trade, NATO expansion, diplomatic deal making, and occasional military intervention.
The high-water mark was the American-led peace agreement in 1995 that ended the war in Bosnia and repaired damage to the transatlantic alliance. September 11, the Iraq War, and the financial crisis threw this consensus into confusion. Those were the early years of Buttigieg’s adult life, when Democratic foreign policy became “a little bit illegible.” Still, the approach of the ’90s persisted into Barack Obama’s presidency—free trade, diplomacy, ongoing war—even as Obama himself became more and more skeptical of American overreach.
Hillary Clinton, a holdover from the unipolar moment, was the last of the muscular interventionists.
In his Indiana speech, Buttigieg welcomed “a season for thinking about what comes next with greater urgency and, in certain ways, greater freedom than has been available to a president for some time.”
Most of the energy in the new thinking is on the left. Sanders has called for a foreign policy based on the worldwide struggle against oligarchy and corporate power—a “global progressive movement” for economic equality, democratic rights, and environmental sustainability. In this view, American dominance has been a mixed bag at best, a force for ill as much as good, and it should yield to a transnational movement led by citizens, not just governments.
As Peter Beinart has pointed out, this idea goes back to World War II and the appeal in 1942 by FDR’s Vice President Henry Wallace for a foreign policy of “the common man.”
Where does Buttigieg come down? When I asked him which recent presidents might serve as models for foreign-policy making in his administration, he didn’t single anyone out. “What’s interesting about the period certainly since the Cold War is how hard it is to say there’s been a real alignment that many of us could feel like we’re signed up for,” he said. “Most of what I get out of looking at the past is cautionary tales, and just reminders of how hazardous it is.”
After our interview, he got back to me with the name of an earlier president—Harry S. Truman, the namesake of one of Buttigieg’s dogs. In 1948, Truman defeated Wallace, the Progressive Party candidate, and made liberal anti-communism the doctrine of the postwar Democratic Party.
Buttigieg spent seven months as a Navy intelligence officer in Kabul in 2014, which was supposed to be the last year of the American war in Afghanistan. Five years later, American troops are still there. Buttigieg is a critic of ill-defined military intervention generally. “I believe we should use force when there is a clear and present threat to the U.S.,” he said in his speech, “when it’s necessary to deter and defend against an attack on or imminent threat against the United States, our citizens at home or abroad, or our treaty allies, and when we act as part of a legitimate international coalition to prevent genocide or other atrocities.” Those conditions would have ruled out the war in Iraq, of course, which Buttigieg opposed while he was at Harvard, but also military intervention in the Syrian civil war. When I asked whether he would have ordered missile strikes after the Syrian regime massacred civilians with chemical weapons outside Damascus in the summer of 2013, the answer was no, not without the support of allies and Congress. Both Republican and Democratic presidents since the Cold War have failed to connect events overseas with the lives of ordinary Americans. It wasn’t until his last months in office, just days after the election of Trump, that Obama said, “Globalization needs a course correction.” That failure to see the connection between foreign and domestic policy explains the public’s exhaustion with unexplained commitments and its loss of faith in foreign-policy elites.
Buttigieg is placed by age and experience—a Millennial, a veteran of the forever war, the mayor of a struggling industrial city—to insist on making the connection. “Everything we have to say about foreign policy has to be tied back to what it means at home,” he told me. In other words, every geopolitical move should be evaluated by its effect on American workers, farmers, and citizens.
Ever since the ’90s, for example, America’s relationship with China has generally been more beneficial for elites than for ordinary Americans.
But where Trump sees a merely economic rival, Buttigieg sees a dangerous ideological model (“the perfection of dictatorship”) whose stability and success look more and more attractive to other countries. To prevail against that competition, America has to be true to its own claims about itself. [T]he rising popularity of Chinese-style authoritarianism and Russian-style oligarchy make it all the more important “that American values be vindicated globally … It’s actually a moment that kind of makes me, more than usual, feel patriotically committed to American values, at least American values at our best and what they’re supposed to be.” In framing a picture of the next few decades as a battle of competing ideologies, Buttigieg sounds a bit like Truman at the beginning of the Cold War.
Buttigieg wants to set a generous narrative of national identity against Trump’s cramped and cruel vision, and against the progressive hostility to any national identity at all. It won’t be easy. He speaks of the compassion of his Indiana neighbors toward refugees, their desire to be part of “a greater project” than just America First. But the strongest political emotions of the moment are fear, disillusionment, and hatred. As impressive as he is personally, Buttigieg hasn’t yet found the words, the music, and the policies to make his appeal convincing.