Saturday, September 21, 2019

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

George Conway: Ukraine Allegations Warrant Trump's Impeachment

Trump claiming he can do whatever he wants
as sycophant Pence looks on.
Other than perhaps his poor choice when it comes to who he married, New York attorney George Conway is on the mark when he and a constitutional law professor argue that the latest Donald Trump scandal - there are so many they are hard to count - may be the one to warrant Trump's removal from office. No doubt Trump cultist followers who seemingly are motivated only by their racism and religious extremism will care less.  All they want is someone who hates the same people they do and who will speak loudly in ways that in the putrid minds legitimize their own hate and bigotry. Sadly, most Americans nowadays know little of how America's federal government is designed to work and that the office of the presidency is not akin to a monarchy with no limits to presidential power - something Trump has claimed as reported in Roll Call.  Of course, anyone who has followed Trump's real estate career could have foretold that Trump has always seen himself above the law (one reason New Yorkers despise him so vehemently).  Conway's latest column, this time in the Washington Post, looks at Trump's latest transgression and makes the case that true American patriots - which excludes his hypocrisy filled and hatred driven base - should be demanding that Congress act to remove this cancerous force from power.  Here are column excerpts:
Among the most delicate choices the framers made in drafting the Constitution was how to deal with a president who puts himself above the law. To address that problem, they chose the mechanism of impeachment and removal from office. And they provided that this remedy could be used when a president commits “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
That last phrase — “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” — was a historical term of art, derived from impeachments in the British Parliament. When the framers put it into the Constitution, they didn’t discuss it much, because no doubt they knew what it meant. It meant, as Alexander Hamilton later phrased it, “the abuse or violation of some public trust.” 
Simply put, the framers viewed the president as a fiduciary, the government of the United States as a sacred trust and the people of the United States as the beneficiaries of that trust. Through the Constitution, the framers imposed upon the president the duty and obligation to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed” and made him swear an oath that he would fulfill that duty of faithful execution. They believed that a president would break his oath if he engaged in self-dealing — if he used his powers to put his own interests above the nation’s. That would be the paradigmatic case for impeachment.
That’s exactly what appears to be at issue today. A whistleblower in U.S. intelligence lodged a complaint with the intelligence community’s inspector general so alarming that he labeled it of “urgent concern” and alerted the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Though the details remain secret, apparently this much can be gleaned: The complaint is against the president. It concerns a “promise” that the president made, in at least one phone call, with a foreign leader. And it involves Ukraine and possible interference with the next presidential election. The complaint is being brazenly suppressed by the Justice Department — in defiance of a whistleblower law that says, without exception, the complaint “shall” be turned over to Congress. 
We also know this: As he admitted Thursday night on CNN, the president’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, has been trying to persuade the Ukrainian government to investigate, among other things, one of Trump’s potential Democratic opponents, former vice president Joe Biden, and Biden’s son Hunter about the latter’s involvement with a Ukrainian gas company.
Trump held up the delivery of $250 million in military assistance to Ukraine, which is under constant threat from neighboring Russia. He had a phone conversation on July 25 with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. According to the Ukrainian government, the call included a discussion of Ukraine’s need to “complete investigation of corruption cases, which inhibited the interaction between Ukraine and the USA.”
So it appears that the president might have used his official powers — in particular, perhaps the threat of withholding a quarter-billion dollars in military aid — to leverage a foreign government into helping him defeat a potential political opponent in the United States.
If Trump did that, it would be the ultimate impeachable act. Trump has already done more than enough to warrant impeachment and removal with his relentless attempts, on multiple fronts, to sabotage the counterintelligence and criminal investigation by then-special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and to conceal evidence of those attempts. The president’s efforts were impeachable because, in committing those obstructive acts, he put his personal interests above the nation’s: He tried to stop an investigation into whether a hostile foreign power, Russia, tried to interfere with our democracy — simply because he seemed to find it personally embarrassing. Trump breached his duty of faithful execution to the nation not only because he likely broke the law but also because, through his disregard for the law, he put his self-interest first.
The current whistleblowing allegations, however, are even worse. Unlike the allegations of conspiracy with Russia before the 2016 election, these concern Trump’s actions as president, not as a private citizen, and his exercise of presidential powers over foreign policy with Ukraine. Moreover, with Russia, at least there was an attempt to get the facts through the Mueller investigation; here the White House is trying to shut down the entire inquiry from the start — depriving not just the American people, but even congressional intelligence committees, of necessary information.
It is high time for Congress to do its duty, in the manner the framers intended. Given how Trump seems ever bent on putting himself above the law, something like what might have happened between him and Ukraine — abusing presidential authority for personal benefit — was almost inevitable. Yet if that is what occurred, part of the responsibility lies with Congress, which has failed to act on the blatant obstruction that Mueller detailed months ago. 
Congressional procrastination has probably emboldened Trump, and it risks emboldening future presidents who might turn out to be of his sorry ilk. To borrow John Dean’s haunting Watergate-era metaphor once again, there is a cancer on the presidency, and cancers, if not removed, only grow.
Congress bears the duty to use the tools provided by the Constitution to remove that cancer now, before it’s too late. As Elbridge Gerry put it at the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, “A good magistrate will not fear [impeachments]. A bad one ought to be kept in fear of them.” By now, Congress should know which one Trump is.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Sanders Is Only Major Candidate to Sit Out Both LGBT Forums

When it comes to LGBT issues, Bernie Sanders has never left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling. Indeed, the man comes across as perpetually angry and not the empathetic type. Now, Sanders is seemingly avoiding two candidate forums on LGBT issues - the only major candidate to do so.  His claims of "scheduling conflicts" sadly simply do not seem to ring true and one has to wonder why he is snubbing the LGBT community, a reliable segment of the Democrat Party base. Personally, I do not believe Sanders is electable for three reasons: (i) he is too far to the left on issues, (ii) he is too strident and appears unwilling to work with others, and (iii) he is simply not likable. All issues that could prove harmful in the 2020 general election. A piece in The Advocate looks at Sanders' slight to LGBT voters.  Here are highlights:
Progressive presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is the only frontrunner who will miss both events aimed at discussing LGBTQ equality and rights.
The rest of the frontrunners will be on hand Friday for an LGBTQ Presidential Forum, cosponsored by The Advocate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. And, according to CNN's schedule for the event, all of the heavy-hitters other than Sanders will also attend the Human Rights Campaign/CNN’s LGBTQ Town Hall slated for October 10 in Los Angeles. The senator from Vermont’s team has cited “scheduling conflicts” for both events.
Among those attending the LGBTQ Forum cosponsored by The Advocate and GLAAD are Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Amy Klobuchar, Tulsi Gabbard, Joe Sestak, and Marianne Williamson. Pose star Angelica Ross will host the event that features columnist Lyz Lenz of eastern Iowa newspaper The Gazette, One Iowa Policy Director Keenan Crow, and Advocate Editor-in-chief Zach Stafford as moderators.
Since taking office, the Trump administration has made over 100 actions to roll back rights and safety for LGBTQ people, including the trans military ban and his administration's support of allowing businesses to discriminate on the basis of sexual and gender identity.  
The candidates slated to attend the HRC/CNN Town Hall are Harris, Warren, Biden, Klobuchar, Buttigieg, Booker, Tom Steyer, Beto O’Rourke, and Castro.
There have been three major Democratic debates in the past few months but moderators have not posed a single question regarding LGBTQ equality to the candidates.
A recent report highlighted how coverage of LGBTQ issues has "essentially vanished" from mainstream media outlets "after Trump was elected and have remained largely absent from coverage for the past three years."

Is Sanders taking LGBT voters for granted or does he simply not like us? Those are questions Sanders needs to answer.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Dedicated to Jerry Falwell, Jr., and Mike Pence.

Christian Activist Group Demands Criminal Probe of Jerry Falwell Jr.

This blog has previously noted stories concerning Jerry Falwell, Jr.'s possible use of Liberty University's assets to enrich himself, his family and friends - especially two young and very attractive young men - who have received sweetheart deals worth millions of dollars. Now, Falwell finds himself with a liberal Christian activist organization calling on the IRS - which polices non-profits spinning off wealth to corporate board members and officers - and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring to investigate Falwell and the potential misuse and misappropriation of Liberty University assets. In the process, the organization also accuses Falwell of un-Christian conduct and perverting the Christian message.  Frankly, Falwell business transactions involving Liberty assets would seem to deserve a thorough investigation. NBC News looks at the continuing scandal following Falwell.  Here are story excerpts:

An activist Christian group has launched a petition drive to get the Virginia Attorney General’s office and the IRS to open criminal investigations into Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr.
So far Faithful America has collected 10,875 signatures and hopes to reach their goal of 15,000 by this weekend.
“The response has been great so far, more than we expected,” said Rev. Nathan Empsall, the organization’s Campaigns Director. “But that shouldn't come as a surprise given how fed up so many Christians are with the way Falwell and others have hijacked the Gospel to represent their hypocritical own self-interests rather than Christ's teachings of love and justice.”
The drive comes in the wake of exposés by Politico, The Miami Herald and other news outlets which have accused Falwell of, among other things, using the influential and ultra-conservative Christian college to enrich himself and his cronies.
Falwell is also alleged to have engaged in activities that run counter to the Christian college’s ethos like sharing photos of his wife, Becki, in French maid costume with employees, graphically describing their sex life, and drinking and dancing in Miami Beach nightspots.
Empsall, who is also a priest associate at the Episcopal Church of St. Paul & St. James in New Haven, Connecticut, said Faithful America has been critical of Falwell before “when he’s made, for example, anti-Islamic statements.”
“The difference is now we are calling for a criminal investigation because there has been this snowball of stories that point out that there is a potential pattern of criminal self-dealing at Liberty University,” he said. “We’ve always known this guy is an extremist and a hypocrite and he should face social consequences for that. This is the first time we’re calling for legal consequences.”
NBC News has reached out to Liberty University spokesman Scott Lamb and Liberty University Board of Trustees chairman Dr. Jerry Prevo for a response.
Faithful America is a left-of-center group that was founded in 2004 and affiliated with the National Council of Churches of Christ.
Previously, it launched a petition drive demanding the resignation of Franklin Graham from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for “preaching hatred and Trumpism” and another urging publisher HarperCollins to drop Focus on the Family founder James Dobson “for his discrimination against women, immigrants, and the LGBT community.”

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

It Is Time for Saudi Arabia - a False Ally - to Defend Itself

Amnesty International says Saudi Arabia ranks
 after China and Iran for the number of executions.
Over the last three-quarters of a century America has squandered trillions of dollars protecting Saudi Arabia - one of the world's worse human rights violators - and other theocratic regimes in the Middle East not to mention the squandering of the lives of thousands of American military personnel.  Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is the third largest spender on military equipment and arms in the world - only America and China spend more- even as it continues to fund radical Islam which preaches hate against the West and America in particular (15 of the 9-11 hijackers subscribed to this toxic dogma).  Despite all this, America is supposed to respect Saudi culture - an oxymoron, in my view - and ignore the abuse of women, gays, and the jailing and murder of political opponents and human rights activists.  Now, the Saudis want America to go to war with Iran, an equal menace to human rights that has a competing form of toxic Islam.  It's time for Americans to say "no" in unmistakable terms to being played to act as Saudi Arabia mercenary. Hopefully, enough public opposition will force the narcissistic moron in the White House from squandering more American treasure and lives protecting a nation whose "values" are an insult to what America is supposed to represent.  A column in the New York Times argues that it is time for the Saudis and similar corrupt and despotic regimes to go it alone.  Here are highlights:

The missiles that struck last weekend in Saudi Arabia did not just destroy oil tanks. They also dealt the final blow to a doctrine that has been fading for years: the belief that the United States maintains a security umbrella able to protect the oil-rich Persian Gulf states from their enemies — and, especially, from Iran.
President Trump’s miscalculations helped get us here. But the current Gulf crisis is not just about this administration and the pitfalls of its “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran. The United States has been disengaging from the Middle East since the catastrophe of the 2003 Iraq invasion. Now that shale has made America so much less dependent on the Middle East’s oil, it is hard to imagine any American president risking significant blood and treasure to defend Saudi Arabia.
For decades, the leaders of the Gulf seemed to believe their close ties with the United States (and the billions of dollars spent on American weapons) made them almost invulnerable. But the faith in American power always blinked away some inconvenient facts. Iran’s population and military strength dwarf those of the Gulf countries, and the United States is nearly 10,000 miles away. In any conceivable war, the Gulf’s cities would be among the first targets. And unlike Iran, those cities are intensely vulnerable: A single bomb could shatter the status of Dubai as a safe hub for trade, transport and tourism. Now the nightmare appears to be coming true. On Saturday, several volleys of Iranian missiles eluded the Saudis’ expensive American-supplied defenses, neatly puncturing oil storage tanks and facilities at two of the kingdom’s most important sites and causing global oil prices to spike. The damage was limited, but its message was not: Iran could strike the Gulf’s economic lifeline at any time.
The political follow-up has been equally chilling to Riyadh. Mr. Trump, reluctant to be drawn into a war that could damage his election prospects, responded with his usual blend of bluster and bargaining.
It is still too early to say what will come of all this. If the provocations do not spin into open war — which would almost surely force the United States to get involved — Iran is likely to emerge stronger in any subsequent diplomacy, whether with the Trump administration or its neighbors across the Gulf.
The American commitment to protect the Gulf monarchies has its roots in 1945, when Franklin D. Roosevelt met with Saudi Arabia’s first king, Abdelaziz ibn Saud. It grew stronger during the Cold War, when presidents from Harry Truman through George Bush believed protecting Saudi Arabia’s oil fields was essential to fighting Communism.
The relationship has been tested — first by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in which 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, then by the belief among Gulf leaders that President Barack Obama abandoned them during the Arab uprisings of 2011.
The Saudis and Emiratis initially believed he would be a tougher guardian than Mr. Obama. They were delighted when he [Trump] withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed heavy sanctions.
More recently, though, Gulf leaders have become uneasy about the mismatch between Mr. Trump’s rhetoric and his actions.  . . . .  His decision to fire John Bolton, his hawkish national security adviser, has strengthened a belief that Mr. Trump does not want war. But many feared he would stumble into one.
The Emiratis now appear to be wondering if they can rely on this president. After a series of attacks on tankers in the Persian Gulf, they pointedly refused to blame Tehran, and then quietly sent a diplomatic delegation to Iran. They also pulled most of their troops out of the war in Yemen.
Will the Saudis respond in the same way? They have been waging a ruinous proxy war in Yemen since 2015, with the goal of teaching Iran a lesson. The lesson now seems to be flowing in the other direction. The Houthi militia in Yemen,  which is allied with Iran, took responsibility for the missiles that struck Saudi Arabia last week. No one seems to take that claim seriously, but the Houthis have been firing drones and missiles at Saudi Arabia with rising frequency. The Saudis may have to recognize that only diplomacy will bring that war to an end.
[A]t this point, it seems more likely that his [Trump's] fecklessness will provide them with a very different, and perhaps more enduring legacy: the recognition that they must learn to manage Iran without American help.

With the trillions of dollars wasted in the Middle East, America's infrastructure could have been rebuilt and murderous regimes might well have destroyed themselves.  No more American lives or money should be spent protecting a false ally. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Former G.W. Bush Staffer: Latinos Must Vote Trump Out

Decent,moral Republicans for the most part have left the Republican party in the age of Trump.  Those who remain are (i) delusional and pretending the GOP is the party it once was several generations ago, or (ii) totally subscribe to the racism, misogyny and xenophobia Trump uses as his stock in trade. Either way, there truly is no excuse for remaining in the GOP, a party I once served more than a generation ago.  The Trump/GOP tax cuts for the wealthy - which created a huge surge in the federal deficit - destroyed any fig leaf for the pretense that one votes Republican "supports fiscal responsibility."  Likewise, the Trump/Christofascist effort to inflict right wing religious beliefs on all shows the falsity of the pretense that the GOP stands for smaller government.  Now, in an op-ed in the Washington Post, an apparent former Republican who served as associate director of public liaison in the George W. Bush White House from 2001-2004 is urging Hispanic Americans to register to vote and go to the polls in 2020 to voted Donald Trump out of office.  Here are excerpts:
Sept. 15 was the start of Hispanic Heritage Month — a time that celebrates a community built on faith, family and a strong work ethic. We are teachers, doctors, lawyers, judges, members of the military, police officers and even astronauts. All contribute greatly to the United States.
The feeling is not reciprocated by today’s Republican Party. It is no place for Latinos. We don’t feel welcome in a party that condones racism and looks away while the president degrades our community and destroys America. The once-proud party of Lincoln, established to abolish slavery, has been transformed into a comatose crew brainwashed by white identity politics and narrow-minded nationalist nostalgia.
I know a little about this. I am a Republican. I worked in the George W. Bush White House. And I say to my fellow Latinos: I’m not asking you to become a Democrat. But I am asking you to vote President Trump out of office.
Some of us have already left the GOP, of course, disgusted by Trump and his accomplices. Others among us remain alienated and aloof, waiting out the Trump tornado.
But the wait-him-out approach is no longer viable. Republicans have lost control of the monster they helped create. Trump hasn’t changed. From day one, Trump spewed his white-supremacist views, promising to halt the invasion of immigrants and spurring a rhetoric of resentment and retaliation against the “other.” No matter our background, we have been vilified as invaders, marked as illegal and degraded as subhuman. The silence from prominent Republicans is deafening. They have allowed Trump to normalize bigotry and use it as a winning strategy for their benefit. They enabled him to turn racist rhetoric into racial conflict, dividing our nation.
Worse than saying nothing or tolerating his tantrums, some even protect Trump, colluding with the devil for fear of political demise.
And now, they have blood on their hands. The Walmart shooting in El Paso on Aug. 3 was the inevitable outcome of 30 straight months of hate speech coming from the White House. Fueled by the president’s vitriol, a killer sought out immigrants to slaughter. The shooting isn’t just a tragedy; it’s a massacre, a direct hit against our community.
Republicans will pay a price for this situation and for their silence. By the 2020 election, Hispanics will be the largest racial or ethnic minority group in the electorate — 32 million will be eligible to vote. At the same time, 1 in 10 eligible voters will be Generation Z, those between the ages 18 and 23, who are socially liberal and more racially and ethnically diverse. A vote against Trump is a stand for human freedom and a future where America is again known for its ideals and not ignorance.
Republicans need to dust off their moral compass and remember what they stand for — and what they stand against. If they do not, they will lose Latinos forever and relegate themselves once more to minority status, likely unable to regain control of Congress or the White House again. If countering racism is not motivation enough for the GOP to act, perhaps its looming political demise will be.
The United States is a great country. Hispanic Heritage Month honors the contributions the community has made — and will keep making — to keep it that way. And without Trump, the United States will be even better.

I urge all decent and moral Americans eligible to vote to register and cast votes against Trump and the GOP in 2020.  We are no longer talking about political differences.  The choice is between morality and decency and immorality and hate.    If you live in Virginia, strike a blow for decency and morality this November: vote a straight Democrat ticket and send the GOP a strong message.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Ken Cuccinelli Defends Trump's Anti-Refugee Bigotry

Racist - and homophobe - Ken "Kookinelli" Cuccinelli.
Decent and moral Virginians have long known that Ken "Kookinelli" Cuccinelli is a miserable excuse for a human being who feigns supposed Catholic religiosity while engaging in the types of hatred and bigotry decried not only by the Gospel message but also the Catholic Church's social gospel. Before losing his gubernatorial bid in 2013, Cuccinelli pushed every right wing Christian message of division and hate - ironically, the man is in my view a self-loathing closeted gay - while embracing an agenda that sought to disenfranchise anyone with non-white skin color.  Now, as Trump's acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director, Cuccinelli is vigorously pursuing the Trump/Pence regime's anti-refugee against not only Hispanic refugees at the nation's southern border but also in the context of Bahamians seeking entry to the U.S. A. in the wake of Hurricane Dorian's almost unimaginable devastation of the northern Bahamas.  A piece in Crooks and Liars - an apt title for Kookinelli - looks at Cuccinelli's despicable conduct.  Here are article highlights:
Acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Ken Cuccinelli insisted on Sunday that Bahamians should help themselves instead of fleeing to the United States after thousands were left homeless by Hurricane Dorian.
During an interview with CBS host Margaret Brennan, Cuccinelli was asked why the Trump administration is making it "harder to flee to this country" for Bahamians who were left homeless by the hurricane.
Cuccinelli, however, argued that the Trump administration is "making it easier" for Bahamians to travel to the U.S.
"The Bahamas is a perfectly legitimate country capable of taking care of their own," the USCIS chief said. "We rushed resources in, whether it was from USAID or the Coast Guard, who were downright heroic."
"I've got to leave it there," Brennan said, concluding the interview, without pointing out that Cuccinelli's orders actually forced Customs agents to refuse entry to Bahamians who were made homeless by the hurricane for not having the proper travel visas.

A piece in Time noted why the Trump/Cuccinelli visa requirements were so discriminatory against Bahamian refugees, the majority of who - you guessed it - are not white:
U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott [both Republicans] wrote an open letter to Trump asking the president’s administration to “waive, or otherwise suspend, certain visa requirements” for Bahamian citizens who have relatives in the U.S. as the country recovered from Hurricane Dorian. Rubio also noted that many lost — or lost access to — their identification and other relevant documents during the hurricane.

Cuccinelli personifies why so many of the under 30 generations want nothing to do with Catholicism and Christianity itself. The  man is simple horrible and a hypocrite.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

Iran Might Be America’s Enemy, But Saudi Arabia Is No Friend

Will Trump sell out America's true interest for the sake of the Saudis?

It is beyond frustrating that in general, America never learns from past mistakes or history.  This problem is multiplied ten fold with the Trump/Pence with a cretin when it comes to knowledge of history in the White House whose twin motivations are thrilling his toxic, knuckle dragging base and satiating his ego, when not engaging in corruption to enrich himself at public expense. Nowhere at the moment is this more evident that bellicose talk of war with Iran at the ultimate behest of the nation that furnished the vast majority of the 9-11 hijackers and which has done more to fund Islamic extremism than any other nation.  I refer, of course, to Saudi Arabia, America's false ally.  Making the situation even more disturbing is Trump's boast that the American military - which was unable to fully subdue and create lasting regime change in Iraq, a much smaller and poorer country - is ready to take on Iran.  A column in the New York Times looks at this dangerous case of amnesia and flawed analysis.  Here are excerpts: 
In 1987, an Iraqi warplane attacked an American Navy frigate, the Stark, on patrol in the Persian Gulf. Accepting Saddam Hussein’s explanation that the attack, which killed 37 sailors, had been an accident, American officials promptly used the episode, which came at the height of the Iran-Iraq war, to ratchet up pressure on Tehran. The incident provided the impetus for what became a brief, and all but forgotten, maritime war between the United States and Iran.
Last week, someone — precisely who remains to be determined — attacked two oil refineries in Saudi Arabia. American authorities have been quick to blame Iran, and the possibility of a violent confrontation between the two countries is once again growing. Before making a decision on whether to pull the trigger, President Trump would do well to reflect on that 1987 episode and its legacy.
Back then, the United States had become involved in the very bloody and seemingly interminable Iran-Iraq war, which Hussein had instigated in 1980 by invading Iran. As that war turned into a brutal stalemate, President Ronald Reagan and his advisers persuaded themselves that it was in America’s interests to come to Iraq’s aid. Iran was the “enemy,” so Iraq became America’s “friend.”
 The principal beneficiary was Hussein, who wasted no time in repaying Washington by invading and annexing Kuwait soon after his war with Iran ground to a halt. Thus did America’s “friend” become America’s “enemy.”
The encounter with Iran became a precedent-setting event and a font of illusions. Since then, a series of administrations have indulged the fantasy that the direct or indirect application of military power can somehow restore stability to the gulf.
In fact, just the reverse has occurred. Instability has become chronic, with the relationship between military policy and actual American interests in the region becoming ever more difficult to discern.
In 2019, this now well-established penchant for armed intervention finds the United States once more involved in a proxy conflict, this time a civil war that has ravaged Yemen since 2015. Saudi Arabia supports one side in this bloody and interminable conflict, and Iran the other.
 [T]he United States has thrown in its lot with Saudi Arabia, providing support comparable to what the Reagan administration gave Saddam Hussein back in the 1980s. But American-assisted Saudi forces have exhibited no more competence today than did American-assisted Iraqi forces back then. So the war in Yemen drags on.
 Concrete American interests in this conflict, which has already claimed an estimated 70,000 lives while confronting as many as 18 million with the prospect of starvation, are negligible. Once more, as in the 1980s, the demonization of Iran has contributed to a policy that is ill advised and arguably immoral.
[N]either side deserves support. Iran may well qualify as America’s “enemy.” But Saudi Arabia is not a “friend,” regardless of how many billions Riyadh spends purchasing American-manufactured weaponry and how much effort Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman invests in courting President Trump and members of his family.
The conviction, apparently widespread in American policy circles, that in the Persian Gulf (and elsewhere) the United States is compelled to take sides, has been a source of recurring mischief. No doubt the escalating rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran poses a danger of further destabilizing the gulf. But the United States is under no obligation to underwrite the folly of one side or the other.
Power confers choice, and the United States should exercise it. We can begin to do so by recognizing that Saudi Arabia’s folly need not be our problem.

Monday, September 16, 2019

More Monday Male Beauty

click image to enlarge.

Right Wing Extremist Challenges Delegate Danica Roem

Delegate Danica Roem.
In 2017 Danica Roem made history when she defeated long time incumbent, anti-gay zealot and overall Neanderthal Bob Marshal, a man who regularly brought Virginia ridicule and mocking on both a national and international scale through his the extremist bills that he introduce year after year. Roem also made history by being the first transgender candidate to win election to the Virginia General Assembly.  While I still have not forgotten Roem's precipitous rush to judgment last February when she recklessly threw Ralph Northam under the bus without doing her homework, she deserves re-election.  Especially when looks at her extremist Republican opponent, Kelly McGinn, who has an extensive history of anti-LGBT bigotry, opposition to public education and women's rights in general.   Her endorsement by Eagle Forum - which has endorsed another extremist in the race for the 91st District - speaks volumes about McGinn's extremism and the huge step backwards her election would constitute for Virginia.  A piece in The Advocate argues why it is important to re-elect Danica Roem.  Donations to Danica's campaign can be made here. Here are excerpts:
With the presidential primary campaigns in full swing — and the first openly LGBTQ major-party presidential candidate very much in the mix — it’s tempting to think the most momentous political fights of our lives lie ahead in 2020. But there is an enormously consequential off-year fight going on right now in Virginia, and it’s one we all need to get behind.
It’s happening in Virginia House District 13, where Danica Roem is fighting hard to hold on to her seat against a well-funded right wing challenger. Her race is one of the most competitive in the state this cycle. Danica made history and headlines in 2017 when she won her election to the Virginia House of Delegates and became the first openly transgender person to serve on any state legislature. She won by taking out an incumbent who described himself as Virginia’s “chief homophobe.” The right wing wants revenge and will spend what it takes to get it.
Danica’s 2017 campaign inspired the first rainbow wave in the 2018 midterms. Meanwhile at the state level, her win was part of a broader shift in political power in which full control of the legislature hinged upon a single vote. Republican control of the Virginia legislature is hanging by a thread this year. A win by Danica is not only a key element of flipping the Virginia House and the entire state legislature from red to blue, it’s a key part of setting the stage for 2020 — just like the victories of diverse and progressive candidates in Virginia two years ago were curtain-raisers for big wins in the historic 2018 election.
By any measure Danica has earned reelection. She is a dedicated public servant with a laser focus on serving her constituents. She has campaigned on a platform to fix the region’s infrastructure. She cares about her constituents and the things that matter in their lives; she played a major role in the Virginia Medicaid expansion that provides vital coverage to hundreds of thousands of residents. But none of this insulates her from the transphobic hostility that motivates her opponent and many of that opponent’s deep-pocketed financial backers. 
Danica’s opponent Kelly McGinn has a long record of anti-LGBTQ extremism. She has compared marriage equality to “morally repugnant practices” such as slavery, described LGBTQ parenthood as “absurd” and “harmful to children,” and even tried to justify her transphobia as a rationale for opposing the Equal Rights Amendment’s ratification in the state. Kelly McGinn is every bit the bigot that Marshall was. McGinn’s campaign website is slickly designed to appeal to voters who may not know much about her, describing her as a political moderate who is dedicated to family values. But she continues to accept financial contributions from far-right groups and donors that traffic either overtly or covertly in anti-LGBTQ hate . . . . Anti-LGBTQ forces in the state know exactly who McGinn is. And they are all in.  When a candidate like McGinn emerges and espouses similar views and rhetoric, it’s paramount that we do all we can to make sure such candidates are defeated. This is especially true when defeating that candidate will send a strong message beyond a single district and a single year — as the outcome of this race, in this critical run-up to 2020, most certainly will.
Our community rose to the occasion for her historic candidacy in 2017, and in this important election year, we can’t sit this one out. The organization I lead, People For the American Way, was deeply involved in supporting Danica two years ago, and we are doing it again because Danica is far more than a symbol, she is a proven progressive leader who is making Virginia a progressive state.
It’s an opportunity to make history once again and to rebuke hate in our politics, to stand up for Danica Roem at a pivotal moment for our community and our country. This is one we have to win.

Monday Morning Male Beauty

Dedicated to Mike Pence.

New Kavanaugh Revelations: Why the Supreme Court is Broken

Two corrupt sexual predators.
Over the weekend, new revelations about past sexual improprieties by Bret Kavanaugh were reported by the New York Times.  Just as disturbingly, the coverage also indicated that the FBI seemingly deliberately failed to follow up on credible sources that would have corroborated allegations against Kavanaugh. One can well imagine where that directive came from.  The overall picture is one of utter corruption on the part of Senate Republicans who sought to ram Kavanaugh's nomination through no matter what.  The second conclusion is that a sitting justice of the Supreme Court is unfit to hold that position.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the corrupt Republican agenda - Senator Susan Collins seeming was a willing part of it - and the institutional damage being done to the Court and to constitutional government.  Here are column excerpts:
We focus, rightly, on the damage President Trump is doing to our institutions. But the wreckage goes beyond Trump and involves the other two branches of government as well. The right wing’s determination to control the Supreme Court is undermining its legitimacy as well as confidence in the U.S. Senate’s approach to confirming nominees.
For the GOP, nothing will be allowed to derail its effort to create a generation-long conservative majority on the court. And that helps to explain why Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh was railroaded through his confirmation hearings last year after what amounted to a pretend inquiry into the various charges against him.
The costs of this approach were underscored this weekend by a New York Times report that offers new corroboration for charges by Deborah Ramirez that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her when both were undergraduates at Yale. In denying the charge, Kavanaugh told the Senate that had it been true, the incident would have been “the talk of the campus.” Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly — drawing on their new book, “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation” — write tellingly: “Our reporting suggests that it was.”
More than that, they report on an entirely separate incident involving Kavanaugh that Max Stier, a classmate of Ramirez’s, brought to the attention of the Senate and the FBI at the time of the hearings. It involved, they write, “a different drunken dorm party” where, according to the allegation, Kavanaugh had a different inappropriate encounter with a female student. Stier is president of the thoroughly bipartisan and widely respected Partnership for Public Service. From my experience, he is the last person who would want to get into the middle of an ideological fight — unless his conscience required him to.
Ramirez’s legal team gave the FBI a list of “at least 25 individuals who may have had corroborating evidence” of her story. The bureau, the authors report, “interviewed none of them.” Nor did the FBI look into Stier’s account.
Now let’s take a step back: If Senate Republicans had declared Kavanaugh’s behavior as a high school and college student off-limits, they would have risked a firestorm, but at least they would have been honest about what they were up to.
However, they could not take this route once they agreed to hear psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford’s four hours of testimony about her charge that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her in the early 1980s when both were in high school. Ford’s testimony was so credible — Republican after Republican praised her — that the GOP was forced to agree to a brief FBI investigation.
But it was such a sharply constrained investigation that neither Kavanaugh nor Ford was questioned, and the other allegations against Kavanaugh were ignored. “The process was a sham,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), a member of the Judiciary Committee who is seeking her party’s presidential nomination, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” She was not being hyperbolic. In the wake of the new revelations, three other Democratic contenders quickly called for Kavanaugh’s impeachment.
This leaves it to journalists to keep exploring questions the Senate refused to settle. And it leaves the court and the country in a terrible place.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had already signaled that court packing took priority over due process . . . . The administration seems eager to flaunt the right’s new judicial power. . . . And the administration is developing the habit of skipping the normal appeals process to advance cases to a Supreme Court it has shaped to its liking. This drew a sharp rebuke from Justice Sonia Sotomayor in her dissent last week when the court overturned a lower court’s national injunction against the administration’s asylum policy. She said colleagues’ “precipitous” ruling “sidesteps the ordinary judicial process to allow the Government to implement a rule that bypassed the ordinary rulemaking ­process.”
It was Kavanaugh who said in his opening statement to the Judiciary Committee at his 2018 hearing: “The Supreme Court must never, never be viewed as a partisan institution.” But it’s impossible not to view the court in exactly that way, thanks to a GOP determined to control it by any means at its disposal. It’s why questions — about Kavanaugh and the court itself — will continue to haunt us.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Sunday Morning Male Beauty

America's Self-Destructive Pursuit of Global Dominance.

A carrier battle group.

One of the books that I am currently reading - I typically read several at a time and rotate what I read based on mood and available time - is "Mortal Republic" which traces the gradual fall of the Roman Republic into a autocracy under emperors.  Some of the political parallels to what is happening in America currently are chilling such as the refusal of some factions to compromise (mostly Republicans) and the increasing attacks on political and social policy opponents and efforts to stir hatred and even potential violence against political opponents.  The other stark parallel is America's pursuit of global dominance that directed disproportionate funding and resources to never ending wars. Yes, Rome brought back treasure from conquests (often shared only by the wealthy), but over time, the financial drain took a severe toll and pushed the common Roman to no longer feel that the empire offered them anything worthwhile to support.  A column in the New York Times looks at America's current financial mismanagement that neglects domestic spending and infrastructure while seeking to maintain a defacto modern day empire (note the amount of Middle East war costs and then think what $6 trillion invested in America's infrastructure and citizens could have done).  Here are highlights:
“We have got to put an end to endless war,” declared Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., during the Democratic presidential primary debate on Thursday. It was a surefire applause line: Many people consider “endless war” to be the central problem for American foreign policy.
But vowing to end America’s interminable military adventures doesn’t make it so. Four years ago, President Barack Obama denounced “the idea of endless war” even as he announced that ground troops would remain in Afghanistan. In his last year in office, the United States dropped an estimated 26,172 bombs on seven countries.
President Trump, despite criticizing Middle East wars, has intensified existing interventions and threatened to start new ones. He has abetted the Saudi-led war in Yemen, in defiance of Congress. He has put America perpetually on the brink with Iran. And he has lavished billions extra on a Pentagon that already outspends the world’s seven next largest militaries combined.
What would it mean to actually bring endless war to a close?
Like the demand to tame the 1 percent, or the insistence that black lives matter, ending endless war sounds commonsensical but its implications are transformational. It requires more than bringing ground troops home from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. American war-making will persist so long as the United States continues to seek military dominance across the globe. Dominance, assumed to ensure peace, in fact guarantees war. To get serious about stopping endless war, American leaders must do what they most resist: end America’s commitment to armed supremacy and embrace a world of pluralism and peace.
In theory, armed supremacy could foster peace. Facing overwhelming force, who would dare to defy American wishes? That was the hope of Pentagon planners in 1992; they reacted to the collapse of America’s Cold War adversary not by pulling back but by pursuing even greater military pre-eminence. But the quarter-century that followed showed the opposite to prevail in practice. Freed from one big enemy, the United States found many smaller enemies: It has launched far more military interventions since the Cold War than during the “twilight struggle” itself. Of all its interventions since 1946, roughly 80 percent have taken place after 1991.
The basic cause is America’s infatuation with military force. Its political class imagines that force will advance any aim, limiting debate to what that aim should be. Continued gains by the Taliban, 18 years after the United States initially toppled it, suggest a different principle: The profligate deployment of force creates new and unnecessary objectives more than it realizes existing and worthy ones.
In the Middle East, endless war began when the United States first stationed troops permanently in the region after winning the Persian Gulf war in 1991. A circular logic took hold. The United States created its own dependence on allies that hosted and assisted American forces. It provoked states, terrorists and militias that opposed its presence. Among the results: The United States has bombed Iraq almost every year since 1991 and spent an estimated $6 trillion on post-9/11 wars.
An even deadlier phase may be dawning. Because the United States pursues armed dominance as a self-evident good, the establishment feels threatened by a rising China and an assertive Russia. . . . China’s rise invalidates primacy’s rationale of deterrence, and shows that other powers have ambitions of their own. Addressing the rise of China responsibly will require abandoning nostalgia for the pre-eminence that America enjoyed during the 1990s.
Despite Mr. Trump’s rhetoric about ending endless wars, the president insists that “our military dominance must be unquestioned” — even though no one believes he has a strategy to use power or a theory to bring peace. Armed domination has become an end in itself.
In the 21st century, finally rid of colonial empires and Cold War antagonism, America has the opportunity to practice responsible statecraft, directed toward the promotion of peace. Responsible statecraft will oppose the war-making of others, but it will make sure, first and foremost, that America is not fueling violence.
On its own initiative, the United States can proudly bring home many of its soldiers currently serving in 800 bases ringing the globe, leaving small forces to protect commercial sea lanes. It can reorient its military, prioritizing deterrence and defense over power projection. It can stop the obscenity that America sends more weapons into the world than does any other country. It can reserve armed intervention, and warlike sanctions, for purposes that are essential, legal and rare.
Shrinking the military’s footprint will deprive presidents of the temptation to answer every problem with a violent solution. It will enable genuine engagement in the world, making diplomacy more effective, not less.
Hawks will retort that lowering America’s military profile will plunge the world into a hostile power’s arms. They are projecting, assuming that one rival will covet and attain the kind of armed domination that has served America poorly. Russia, with an economy the size of Italy’s, cannot rule Europe, whatever it desires. China bears watching but has so far focused its military on denying access to its coasts and mainland. It is a long way from undertaking a costly bid for primacy in East Asia, let alone the world.
In any case, local states are likely to step up if the American military pulls back. The world conjured by the Washington establishment is an empty space, a “power vacuum,” waiting passively to be led. The real world is full of people ready to safeguard their freedom. Today a world with less American militarism is likely to have less militarism in general.
After decades of unilateral actions, crowned by the aggressive invasion of Iraq, it is U.S. military power that threatens international law and order. Rules should strengthen through cooperation, not wither through imposition.
In truth, the largest obstacle to ending endless war is self-imposed. Long told that the United States is the world’s “indispensable nation,” the American people have been denied a choice and have almost stopped demanding one. A global superpower — waging endless war — is just “who we are.”
America “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy,” Secretary of State John Quincy Adams said in 1821. “She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.”
Two centuries later, in the age of Trump, endless war has come home. Cease this folly, and America can begin to take responsibility in the world and reclaim its civic peace.
John Quincy Adams was far more prescient than he perhaps ever realized.