Friday, September 27, 2019

More Friday Male Beauty

The Frightening Prospect of a Pence Presidency

The Pences - members of the American Taliban.
No one knows where the impeachment train will end up, but one political writer and veteran of the Hill believes Trump has at last met a scandal that he will not be able to survive.  If this proves to be a correct forecast, then the LGBT community will be faced with a true enemy and anti-LGBT fanatic in the White House for what hopefully would be a brief stint. Pence is a darling of the Christofascists and would likely retain their support but many question whether Pence could retain the support of Trump's white supremacist cultists.  Then too, Pence's extreme anti-gay stances and long history of hateful statements - all of which will be dredged up and help depict Pence for the extremist that he is in fact - could prove to help to be his undoing. Here are highlights from a piece in The Advocate:

A prediction from a political veteran and junkie: Trump is going to go sooner than we think. The evidence seems clear and conclusive. Republicans can’t sustain him anymore, and their tepid reaction to impeachment on Tuesday and the Senate’s unanimous consent for the Whistleblower report are forewarnings. The partial transcripts implicate the attorney general; now it seems there was a White House-wide cover-up. It will get worse. Much worse. The Speaker has always maintained that she wouldn’t move on impeachment until the evidence was clear and it could succeed in the Senate. She knows far more than she’s saying. 
It will all come together fast, and the band-aid will be ripped off. Polling numbers for Trump against most of the Democratic field are dismal. He's bringing down the Republican ticket and races across the board. When Trump becomes toxic, people cut ties, and the Republicans will soon, and then we’ll have a new President from Indiana, probably before the year is out.
Back in the late 1980s and early '90s when I worked on the Hill, there was always a legitimate fear that if something happened to President Bush, we would be left with another pseudo President from Indiana, Dan Quayle.  
Quayle was as scary as Pence. He believed homosexuality was wrong. “That is not gay bashing…I’m just saying that from my point of view and from the view of most Americans, they think that lifestyle is wrong. That’s not saying people don’t have the right to make that choice.” 
Sound familiar? Consider who might have uttered this gem around the same time Quayle was lobbing lunacy: “I do not choose whether I am a black American ... the great vast majority of the psychological community says homosexuality at a very minimum is a choice by the individual, and at the maximum, is a learned behavior," said the future vice president we have today.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the Indiana vice presidents’ tree. If Donald Trump is impeached, Mike Pence, the queer-quashing, choice-chastising, trans-trashing vice president will assume the presidency. And, we, as a community, must prepare ourselves for Mike and Karen Pence, the new first couple of straight America. But it won’t be for long.
I don’t feel like bringing you, and myself down by listing all the ways Mike Pence's policy beliefs discriminate, dishearten, and deceive our community..
And that agenda will only come further to light when/if he assumes the presidency. This impeachment scenario is moving at warp speed, and that means Mike and Karen Pence better call a mover or at least start carrying their membership plaques for the Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, Family Research Council, Traditional Values Coalition, and their autographed 8” x10's" of Jerry Falwell, Anita Bryant and the Reverend Fred Phelps from the Naval Observatory to 1600 Pennsylvania.
My guess is that if the impeachment does happen, and the Pences move into the White House, they won’t be there very long. The Pences' beliefs are far removed from those of most Americans, and the main issue that would cost him a longer stay in the White House is ironically their anti-LGBTQ stances.
A spokesman for Pence, told CNN recently in a statement that the vice president "has always opposed discrimination in any form and defends the Constitution's protection of the rights of all Americans regardless of race, sex or religion." A pointed omission of sexual orientation or gender identity was made.
Plus, there will be a stinking stench from, and revolting reaction to, all the criminality of the Trump administration. And, Mike Pence ain’t no Donald Trump, so would the Republicans even nominate him, with other GOPers already pursuing the nomination? Possibly not.
Let’s prepare ourselves because the impeachment stories will get worse, deeper and then theoretical, i.e.,“What would a Pence presidency look like?” And inevitably, how he’s treated our community will be a hot topic, because the Pences have made it that way. We might have to be the whipping boys and girls for a brief Pence presidency, and for the duration of a general election that Pence is at the center of — it that ever happens. However, if it does, it just might help us get a president we want — and one we deserve.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Voters Are Warming to Impeaching Trump

Perhaps Trump fatigue is finally taking hold or perhaps the Ukrainian shakedown and requests for yet another foreign intervention into U.S. elections has awakened the heretofore lethargic, but two polls suggest that a plurality of Americans support seeing Trump impeached and ultimately removed from office.  One can only wonder if support for impeachment will grow if Democrats are smart in how they conduct hearings and properly expose Trump's criminality and abuse of his office for personal gain with no thought about the best interests of the nation (in Trump's narcissistic mind, the two are one and the same much like dictators and despots of the past).  Whatever the cause for growing support for impeachment, it is seemingly a good sign that decency and a thirst for honesty are not totally dead in today's America.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at this shift in voter opinion.  Here are excerpts:
Two new polls suggest that American voters are warming to the idea of impeaching President Trump. According to a Morning Consult poll conducted from September 24 to 26, 43 percent of the public now backs impeachment proceedings. That figure has increased seven points from an earlier Morning Consult poll, carried out from September 20 to 22. Meanwhile, an NPR–PBS NewsHour–Marist poll, conducted the day before the whistle-blower report became public, finds that voters are roughly split on the subject; 49 percent support impeachment, and 46 percent do not.
One possible reason for the increase in public support for impeachment is so obvious it almost doesn’t need an explanation. Trump is not having a very good week: As a call record and now a declassified whistle-blower report attest, Trump asked the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate the son of a political enemy — Hunter Biden — with the assistance of the Justice Department and Rudy Giuliani. Trump later tried to withhold military aid from Ukraine. The unspooling crisis encourages talk of impeachment, and a number of House Democrats have come out in support of beginning the process.
By now throwing her support behind an impeachment inquiry, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has helped shift public opinion in tandem with media coverage of Trump’s misconduct. But she is an extremely late convert to the cause of impeachment, despite the president’s corruption and alleged sexual violence. Her ambivalence provided shelter to more moderate and conservative members of the party, who think an impeachment inquiry would cost them their seats. Whether these members will follow Pelosi’s lead is an open question.
Though no one can say with certainty that voter enthusiasm for impeachment will continue to grow, the president’s handling of the Ukraine scandal has clearly harmed him. A good number of Democrats already seem to realize that the story leaves them with no option but to endorse impeachment proceedings.
But there are still stragglers. Some, like conservative Henry Cuellar of Texas, equivocated even as evidence of presidential misconduct became increasingly difficult to ignore. Cuellar, who is currently locked in a primary battle with progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros, has said that he’ll support proceedings “if investigations prove that impeachment is the necessary course of action,” the Texas Tribune reports.
The events of this month make Tlaib look prescient and underscore the risks of the party’s fearful approach to impeachment. We’ve been here before: Morning Consult says that this month’s poll numbers “nearly match” its findings in August 2018, amid the convictions of Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen. Public opinion is malleable, but Democrats behave too often as if the opposite is true. The window is open, and they can’t afford their old ambivalence.
One can only hope Congressional Democrats are re-watching the tapes from the Watergate investigation and formulating an approach that will convince all but the racists and religious fanatics of Trump's base that it is time for the cancer in the White House to be removed.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

More Thursday Male Beauty

The Process of Impeachment is Now Inevitable

Trump's racist and religious extremist base will likely stand by him no matter what the coming impeachment inquiry reveals. The base's hatred of others and desires for special rights to ignore the law take precedence over all else. Likewise, political prostitutes like Lindsey Graham, a/k/a the Palmetto Queen, will continue their political fellatio of Donald Trump as they look over their shoulders worrying about a potential primary challenge.  Honor, decency, the rule of law, and their oaths of office mean nothing to them. Yet this willful blindness to the truth and conscious decision to stand by a lying - and likely criminal - con-artist  will not stop the impeachment process that Trump has unleashed on himself.  Indeed, as a former Republican columnist notes, Trump has basically plead guilty through his release of a redacted transcript of his shake down/bribery call to the president of Ukraine.  One can only imagine what an un-redacted copy will reveal.  Here are highlights from the column that loos at the now unstoppable impeachment process:
For the first time in American history, the president has pleaded guilty to an impeachable offense.
This is effectively what happened when the White House released the readout from President Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. There is now no question that Trump asked the leader of a foreign country to investigate Joe Biden and his son — a request that was made in the context of a broader discussion of U.S. aid to Ukraine. This was the use of American power and diplomacy, not to serve the interests of the country, but for personal and selfish gain. It constitutes corruption of the first order.
Impeachment may be inadvisable. It may apply a cheese grater to the nation’s partisan wounds. The process may be conducted foolishly. It may feed a Republican thirst for revenge against a future Democratic president. It may motivate Trump’s base to salivating enthusiasm. The broad, American middle may yawn and switch to ESPN.
All of this matters, especially if it increases the chances of Trump’s reelection. But it matters like a fate, not like a choice. In T.S. Eliot’s “Murder in the Cathedral,” a priest says of unfolding events, “Let the wheel turn.” Archbishop Thomas Becket later comments: “The fool, fixed in his folly, may think/ He can turn the wheel on which he turns.”
Trump’s clearly impeachable offense has given the partisan instincts of elected Democrats the added justification of principle. The whistleblower complaint has affirmed those concerns and expanded their scope. This makes the process of impeachment inevitable. Now, the actors are merely choosing what roles they will play.
Trump’s role is to push and push until he meets firm resistance to his abuse of power — something he has rarely experienced.
Note that Trump’s call with Zelensky came during the denouement of the investigation of Russian influence. . . . . Consider this a moment. Trump gloated about beating the charge that he conspired with a foreign government to win an election, during a call in which he proposed to conspire with a foreign government to win reelection. The man is immune to ethical instruction. And further, Trump thought that releasing the readout of the call would somehow be exculpatory. He has spent so many years in the trash heap of corruption that he can no longer recognize the stench.
Republicans who defend or excuse him are providing permission for his radical redesign of public life. This is perhaps the saddest result of Trump’s corruption: turning good men and women into the bodyguards of a petty, cruel, lawless, would-be autocrat.
Because Trump has chosen to be transparently corrupt, congressional Republicans cannot dispute the facts of the case (as they did during special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation). They may still insist: No quid pro quo . But this is more of a rally chant than an argument. Trump’s request for foreign help to win the 2020 election was not like Belgium asking Uruguay for a favor. It was a global superpower asking a country dependent on U.S. military aid — which had just been withheld in a “review” — for favors. Trump pointedly reminded Zelensky that “the United States is doing quite a lot for Ukraine.” Trump’s requests were made in an atmosphere of menace.
The American people will ultimately decide whether this disturbs or bores them. Whatever the outcome, the wheel has begun to turn.
I disagree with the columnist's statement that Trump turned good men and women into bad individuals.  Trump had no role in that transformation.  Every man and woman who decided to side with and protect and apologize for Trump is responsible for their own conscious decision.  They knew right from wrong yet chose to support what was wrong. They deserve no pity or understanding. They deserve to be treated most harshly by the long lens of history - not unlike those who chose to support Hitler, Nixon and other foul individuals. The GOP hypocritically preaches about personal responsibility.  Now, each of these Trump enablers and sycophants needs to be held accountable. 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Impeachment Spotlight Will Snare Trump's Sycophants

Over the last two and a half years it has been amazing to see how willing so many Republicans with one time decent - if not stellar - reputations have been willing to prostitute themselves to Donald Trump and set the stage for history to remember them in a light similar to that of Nixon's Watergate co-conspirators and sycophants. A few in the GOP have refused to destroy their reputations and throw honor and the truth to the wind, but they have been the exception rather than the norm.  Now, some of those willing to make cheap whores look virtuous in their effort to give Trump political fellatio may rue the day they sold their souls for the political equivalent of pieces of silver, both due to the legal expense they will incur and because at the end of the day, their reputations may be destroyed for all time.  Leading this group are Rudi Giuliani and William Barr, each of whom has chose to act akin to Mafia consiglieres rather than defenders of the law.  A piece in Politico looks at the coming storm approaching these shameless Trump sycophants.  Here are highlights: 
Trump has done it again: He’s dragged some of his closest aides and advisers into a scandal packed with potentially devastating personal consequences. That’s good news for white-collar lawyers who charge by the hour.
But an investigation into allegations that Trump pressured his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate Joe Biden is hardly the kind of thing to be embraced by the wider world around Trump, a growing list that includes Vice President Mike Pence; some of his most important Cabinet officials such as secretary of state Mike Pompeo, attorney general Bill Barr and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney; and his own personal attorney at the center of it all, Rudy Giuliani.
They all face a long road ahead with the prospect of hefty legal bills, reputational scars and damaged political prospects hanging over them for years.
Watergate, of course, popularized “All the President’s Men” for the sheer breadth of people swept up in President Richard Nixon’s ultimate downfall.
“While it’s not quite Watergate, which is where Nixon got drawn into it by his senior staff, this is a situation where I think even more offensively [Trump] the president seems to have embroiled his close confidants in his own mischief,” said Philip LaCovara, a former top prosecutor on the special counsel team that examined Nixon’s conduct.
For starters, all of the people in the president’s world with ties to the Ukraine scandal can expect to get hauled up for congressional hearings — where the questioning in a Democratic-led impeachment investigation is sure to be anything but friendly.
Here’s a look at some of the key players surrounding the president who will be among the first to face a punishing spotlight as the impeachment inquiry ensnares Trumpworld.
Mike PenceFew are more important in Trump’s orbit on foreign policy than the the vice president. Pence is Trump’s right hand man when dealing with fellow world leaders. He’s often piped in for phone calls. And the two strategize about it all at their weekly lunches.
It’s with that pedigree that the president dispatched Pence earlier this month to cover for him in Poland on a trip that included a face-to-face meeting with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. In response to a direct question from a reporter whether they’d discussed Joe Biden, Pence acknowledged that the conversation covered U.S. financial support for the eastern Europe country and “corruption.”
During a Wednesday press conference where the threat of impeachment loomed, [Trump] the president pretty much tossed his No. 2 directly to the wolves. “I think you should ask for Vice President Pence's conversations, because he had a couple conversations also,” Trump said.
Bill BarrThe attorney general has seen his reputation savaged since joining the Trump administration at the start of 2019. He ran afoul of his longtime friend Robert Mueller over how he handled the end of the special counsel’s Russia probe. In July, his defiance alongside Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross of congressional subpoenas prompted a House vote to hold them in criminal contempt — the second time in U.S. history that’s happened to a sitting Cabinet member.
Now there’s the Ukraine mess. . . . . A DOJ spokeswoman said Trump never directly asked Barr to begin a Biden probe, though that hardly quelled the concerns from Democrats. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler said Barr needs to recuse himself from the issue. Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Texas Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, called the attorney general a “witness that will be called to testify” in the impeachment investigation.
Mike PompeoPompeo has been careful to always eliminate any perception of daylight with the president. . . . Some of his larger trouble could come via the president’s personal lawyer, Giuliani, who says he was tasked by the State Department to engage with Ukrainian officials. It’s not clear what role Pompeo played in it all, though he has been a willing defender of the president on television. House Democrats are likely to seek clarity about his involvement in the coming months.
Mick MulvaneyThe president’s acting chief of staff has spared himself from the ever-present Trump axe in part by letting Trump be Trump. That could become a problem now.
His role in the West Wing puts him at the center of every major Trump engagement, including with foreign leaders. His continuing role as [Trump's] the president’s budget director puts him at the center of every major spending decision, including the holdup of hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine.
Rudy GiulianiWhere to even begin? The former New York mayor has relished his role on the Trump personal legal team, where he has served as an attack dog tarring the president’s investigators and a point man to go on friendly cable TV shows to uncork bad news in the best light possible. With the Ukraine-Biden matter, Giuliani has celebrated how he’s managed to get global press attention on a story that he hopes will undercut the current 2020 Democratic front-runner.
But Giuliani in the process has also made himself a potential witness, or more, over his months-long campaign — both behind the scenes and very much in the public eye — to get Ukrainian officials to commit to a Biden investigation. Trump in the phone call with Zelensky made it clear his lawyer was acting as his emissary on the issue. . . . . seven Democratic senators on Wednesday re-upped their own call — they first did it a year ago — to have the Justice Department’s National Security Division investigate whether Giuliani is in compliance with foreign lobbying laws.
All deserve a ruinous scrutiny and perhaps criminal charges of their own before all of this ends. I do not wish them even a shred of good luck in the coming days and weeks. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

More Thursday Male Beauty

Trump and Boris Johnson on the Brink

Johnson with Trump - two liars and utterly unfit leaders.
It is somewhat ironic that in the same week Donald Trump and the UK's Boris Johnson - each of whom has political sought power by pandering to the ugliest elements and racist bigotries of their respective country's populace -  have hit a potential brick wall this week.  For Johnson, it was the British Supreme Court's ruling that his suspension of Parliament was illegal and that Johnson had lied to the Queen, and for Trump it was the launching of a formal impeachment inquiry trigger by Trump's apparent withholding of military aid approved by Congress as a lever to extort that nation into launch a bogus investigation of one of Trump's biggest rivals, Democrat 2020 nominee front runner Joe Biden.  Trump's behavior was akin to that of a crime boss making threats a piece at MSN looks ate Trump's willing accomplices - while Johnson's was that of a proliferate liar (a trait Trump shares) which has triggered growing calls for his resignation.  In both cases, the ultimate test is whether the rule of law will prevail or, instead, whether lying bullies prevail and both countries in turn slide towards authoritarianism.  A column in the New York Times looks at this aligning of the stars to see two unfit leaders face serious blow-back.  Here are excerpts:
To see them together in New York, the two charlatans, after all their nationalist-revival shenanigans, encountering the quiet force of the law was an exquisite thing. I am not sure I have ever experienced Schadenfreude in purer form.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying President Trump had “seriously violated the Constitution” and a formal impeachment inquiry would therefore begin. Lady Hale, the president of Britain’s highest court, telling Prime Minister Boris Johnson that his advice to the Queen to prorogue Parliament was “unlawful, void and of no effect.”
That two dignified women delivered the messages on the same day to these brothers in boorishness — men-children who have made a mockery of the special relationship between Britain and the United States — seemed particularly apt.
Trump, according to the reconstructed transcript of a July 25 call, tried to get the Ukrainian president “to do us a favor” by speaking with his lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, along with Attorney General William Barr over potential dirt that might sully Joe Biden, a leading Democratic candidate in the 2020 election. Johnson maneuvered to railroad through a British exit from the European Union on Oct. 31 via the suspension of Parliament for several weeks. The machinations were of a piece with the manipulative habits of the two egos in chief.
The law is not malleable or optional. It is what stands between civilization and barbarism, democracy and despotism. Just ask the youth of Hong Kong, who know what extradition into the lawlessness of dictatorial China would mean.
President Trump’s bluntest expression of his view of the Constitution to which he swore an oath was this: “Article II allows me to do whatever I want.”
It does no such thing. The framers, through checks and balances, were intent on limiting power, not unfettering it. They knew that absolute power corrupts absolutely. America did not go through a revolution to recreate in the new world the monarchical diktat of the old.
Richard Nixon took a similar view of the powers of his office. “When the president does it, that means it’s not illegal,” he said. Things did not end up too well for Dick.
Trump has never understood what his oath of office meant. How could he? This man was the product of two things: his family business, where no constraint on his authority existed, and contractors were there to be stiffed; and a reality TV show that prized outrage, indulged his megalomania, and gave viewers a high by mainlining cruelty. Accordingly, Trump chose to play Chicago politics with Ukraine, as if a sovereign nation at war on its eastern border with Vladimir Putin’s Russia was there mainly to be squeezed for his re-election campaign. He has trashed the press, judges, the Federal Reserve, members of Congress — anyone or anything that stood up to him. He has set up operations at the White House as a shambolic exercise in terror. His cabinet fawns, as Saddam Hussein’s once did, scrambling to find loftier expressions of adulation that might delay execution. I don’t know if the impeachment inquiry serves what must be the fundamental goal of Democrats: to remove Donald Trump from office as soon as possible. . . . It has little chance of leading to his removal because, even if the House charges Trump with high crimes and misdemeanors, the Republican-controlled Senate is highly unlikely to vote to convict him.
All of this worries me, but in the end I don’t care. The balance has been tipped. Nobody can accuse Pelosi of rashness. She has been deliberate. She said, “No one is above the law.” That principle must be cardinal.
Trump’s assault on truth, the press, institutions, civility, and the law has been relentless. His unfitness for office has been so glaring as to be breathtaking. As Stephen Burbank, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, wrote, “There comes a time when strategic political calculations must yield to principle if pragmatism is not to entail complicity.” He continued, “The impeachment process is integral to the architecture our founders created for the preservation of democracy.” For Congress to ignore what Trump has done would be to set a dangerous example for future generations.
On both sides of the Atlantic, we have witnessed two men making audacious claims to power and suffering resounding rebukes from two separate but equal branches of government that made clear the executive is not above the law — in Britain from its highest court applying an unwritten constitution, in the United States from Congress exercising its constitutional prerogatives.
An important lesson is this: It takes independent institutions to make the law meaningful and hold the executive to account. That is why dictatorships, or illiberal systems like Hungary’s, seek to suppress them.
Let's hope that if the House issues articles of impeachment an adequate number of Republicans will put the Constitution and democracy over Trump and their own re-election desires. 

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

It's Time for Congress to Impeach Trump

During his occupancy of the White House, Donald Trump has viewed his position as that of a Mafia Don who uses his office to threaten and harm opponents, enrich himself and his family, and who views the law and norms of behavior as something to be ignored, if not flagrantly violated. For his base, as long as he maintains his racist drumbeat and continues to throw favors and privileges to Christofascists, the fact that the Constitution is being subverted and criminal behavior is being normalized simply doesn't matter.  Hopefully, a majority of Americans feel otherwise and will pay attention to the impeachment inquiry announced yesterday and support members of Congress who take their oaths of office seriously and hold fast to the concept that no one, including the president is above the law.  An op-ed by a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Watergate hearings lays out why Trump needs to be impeached.   Here are highlights:

For those of us who were there during Watergate, the Ukraine scandal is beginning to sound like an echo chamber.
Multiple reports say that President Trump used his office to press Ukraine’s president to investigate Joe Biden and provide damaging information about him, though there is no evidence of wrongdoing on Mr. Biden’s part. This was a bid to affect the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, just as the Democratic National Committee headquarters break-in at the Watergate complex aimed to affect the 1972 presidential election.
Mr. Trump’s reported actions would amount to a Nixonian misuse of presidential power that threatens our democracy and constitutes high crime and misdemeanor. The Constitution is clear: A president who uses presidential powers for purely personal and political reasons, as Mr. Trump appears to have done, commits an impeachable offense.
Mr. Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have already acknowledged much of what has been reported about the Ukraine affair. On July 25, Mr. Trump spoke by phone with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and is said to have mentioned Mr. Biden eight times. It was not casual name dropping. Mr. Giuliani also spoke with Ukrainian officials at Mr. Trump’s direction starting last May, urging them to investigate Mr. Biden. Mr. Trump admits that about a week before the infamous phone call, he put nearly $400 million in congressionally appropriated military aid for Ukraine on hold. It was not released until Sept, 11, after news broke of a whistle-blower complaint about the Zelensky call, a complaint that the inspector general for the intelligence community found “credible” and “of urgent concern.” This strongly suggests there was no legitimate reason for the hold. [A]n unredacted version of the complaint must be released, and since the transcripts Richard Nixon turned over to Congress were doctored, Congress should also demand a backup recording of the call. Assuming Mr. Trump refuses, Ukraine undoubtedly has a transcript and a recording. That recording could well be analogous to the Nixon White House tapes, which showed the president’s personal involvement in the cover-up, and Congress should request it immediately.
Like Mr. Nixon, Mr. Trump appears to have acted for his own personal political interests as opposed to a legitimate national interest. Mr. Nixon used his personal lawyer to pay hush money to the Watergate burglars. Mr. Trump used his personal attorney as the go-between with Mr. Zelensky, urging the Ukrainian president to work with Mr. Giuliani to investigate Mr. Biden.
Going through Mr. Giuliani says it all. If Mr. Trump had a shred of evidence against Mr. Biden or any legitimate governmental objective in view, he would have directed the Justice Department or State Department to work directly with Ukraine.
Holding up military assistance to coerce Ukraine into investigating Mr. Biden is itself a grave, impeachable abuse of power if done for personal and political reasons. The inspector general made a reference to a promise to a foreign leader in the whistle-blower’s complaint, though we don’t yet know what it was. If Mr. Trump promised to reward Ukraine with military aid for finding dirt on Mr. Biden, that could constitute bribery, a separate constitutional ground for impeachment.
It’s a violation of campaign finance law to solicit campaign help from a foreign country, as Mr. Trump knows well from the Russia collusion investigation. It’s also Nixonian.
Although we didn’t know this at the time of his impeachment, Mr. Nixon also secretly sought the help of a foreign government during his 1968 election campaign. Worried that the Vietnam peace treaty President Lyndon B. Johnson was pursuing would cause his defeat, Mr. Nixon sabotaged it by secretly promising South Vietnam it would do better under a Nixon presidency. It worked. The treaty talks failed, voters elected Mr. Nixon, and peace did not come for many more years.
As the legal commentator Benjamin Wittes noted last week on the website Lawfare, in addition to constituting abuse of power, pressuring Ukraine to investigate Mr. Biden and his son for political purposes violates their civil liberties. That also recalls Watergate, because Mr. Nixon violated the civil liberties of Daniel Ellsberg, who was being prosecuted for leaking the Pentagon Papers. Among the grounds for Nixon’s impeachment was his involvement in breaking into Mr. Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office, seeking information to smear him.
Like Mr. Nixon’s, Mr. Trump’s reported actions demand impeachment — the one remedy to protect the rule of law, the rights of Americans and the integrity of our elections from a president bent on violating them. The framers created the impeachment power to safeguard democracy. It is Congress’s urgent responsibility to use it now.

U.N. Climate Report: Expect Extreme Coastal Flooding Every Year

Donald Trump - who has denied the reality of climate change and sought to reduce limits on carbon emissions and to weaken clean water and clean air laws - is now, belatedly, facing a formal impeachment inquiry.  But while this massive political event begins, something that will more directly impact millions of Americans was outlined in a new United Nations Climate Change report. Rising sea levels, increased heat waves, and multiple other adverse impacts are becoming ever more of a reality and coastal cities are looking at annual coastal flooding events in the not too distant future. The report ought to be a clarion call, but one cannot help but fear that all Republicans will be focused on is protecting their toxic and utterly unfit leader - in short, fiddling while Rome burns, if you will.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the disturbing report.  Here are excerpts:  

Climate change is already causing staggering impacts on the oceans and ice-filled regions that encompass 80 percent of the Earth, and future damage from rising seas and melting glaciers is now all but certain, according to a sobering new report from the United Nations.
The warming climate is already killing coral reefs, supercharging monster storms, and fueling deadly marine heat waves and record losses of sea ice. And Wednesday’s report on the world’s oceans, glaciers, polar regions and ice sheets finds that such effects only foreshadow a more catastrophic future as long as greenhouse gas emissions remain unchecked.
Given current emissions levels, a number of serious impacts are essentially unavoidable, says the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Extreme floods that have historically struck some coastal cities and small island nations once every 100 years will become an annual occurrence by 2050, according to the IPCC. In addition, if emissions continue to increase, global sea levels could rise by more than three feet by the end of this century — around 12 percent higher than the group estimated as recently as 2013. . . . “The conclusion is inescapable: The impacts of climate change on the ocean are well underway. Unless we take very serious action very soon, these impacts will get worse — much, much worse.”
More than 100 scientists from around the world contributed to the latest report by the IPCC, which found that profound and potentially devastating consequences lie ahead for marine life, Arctic ecosystems and entire human societies if climate change continues unabated.
The findings also come as world leaders gathered this week at the United Nations for a much-anticipated “climate summit” aimed at injecting new momentum into the flagging effort to persuade countries to do more to move away from fossil fuels and toward cleaner forms of energy. While dozens of smaller nations did unveil plans for coming years, the world’s largest emitters have stopped short of committing to transformational changes.
“The climate emergency is a race we are losing — but it is a race we can win if we change our ways now,” U.N. Secretary General António Guterres told world leaders Tuesday in his latest attempt to spur action.
One of the document’s most striking findings involves the rise in sea level, which is now being driven mainly by the rapid melting of ice in Greenland, Antarctica and the world’s smaller glaciers. Sea level rise is accelerating, and the world could see 3.6 feet in total sea level rise by the year 2100 in a very high-emissions scenario. In 2013, the IPCC had estimated that value at slightly over three feet.
But the truth is that even these estimates may be too small, because when scientists behind the report looked at an alternative method for gauging how much seas could rise — simply canvassing the views of experts — even larger estimates emerged. The group’s findings only highlight “likely” amounts of sea level rise, meaning they do not represent worst-case scenarios.
For some major coastal cities, a historical 100-year flood event will happen annually by the year 2050. That includes large cities such as Jakarta, Manila, Bangkok, Lima, Singapore, Barcelona and Sydney, the report says. In the United States, cities facing fast-moving sea-level danger include Los Angeles, Miami, Savannah, Honolulu, San Juan, Key West and San Diego.
“The world’s coasts provide a home to around 1.9 billion people and over half of the world’s megacities — all of which are in grave danger if we don’t act immediately to prevent rising temperatures and sea levels,” Hildalgo said in a statement. “Extreme high temperatures, coastal flooding, and more frequent natural disasters are becoming the new normal. ... This is what the climate crisis looks like now.”
Ice loss is accelerating in Greenland and Antarctica, scientists found. Permafrost, which contains enormous amounts of carbon that can be released as it thaws, has warmed to “record high levels.” Summer Arctic sea ice extent is now probably lower than at any time in “at least 1,000 years,” and the oldest, thickest ice has already declined by 90 percent.
And then there is the entire world ocean. “Over the 21st century, the ocean is projected to transition to unprecedented conditions,” the report states.
The ocean is losing oxygen, growing more acidic, taking up an increasing amount of heat, and becoming more stratified, with warm water at the surface preventing cooler, nutrient rich waters from rising. All of these changes have profound consequences for marine ecosystems.
Lynn Scarlett, the vice president for policy and government relations at the Nature Conservancy and a top-ranking Interior Department official during the George W. Bush administration, said the grim findings in Wednesday’s report should be a call to action.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

Trump Is Forcing the House Towards Impeachment

Anyone who has followed Donald Trump's real estate career should have known the man is utterly unprincipled and has long viewed himself above the law.  He has long operated more in the mode of a Mafia Don than a normal businessman or entrepreneur. Placing him in the Oval Office was a disaster waiting to happen, and given his malignant narcissism and view of himself as unbound by the law or tradition, t has always been only of question of time until he crossed the line of legal presidential conduct. The man embodies why the Founding Fathers designed the Electoral College system - a system electors failed to honor so as to protect the nation from someone like Trump who seemingly views himself as George III or some other despotic monarch (which explains his love of brutal dictators).  A piece in New York Magazine lays out why Trump is pushing the House of Representatives to begin impeachment.  Increasingly, members of Congress who take their oath of office have no other option than to move to impeach an unfit and dangerous occupant of the White House.  Ultimately, the question for Republicans will be whether they place party over country and value avoiding a primary challenge over their constitution obligations.  Here are article excerpts: 
The anticlimactic denouement of the Mueller report produced a mixture of relief and gloating for Republicans. For President Trump it also produced something else: An almost intoxicating sense of impunity, a realization that his attempts to cultivate Russia as an ally, and largely successful efforts to gain control of the Justice Department, gave him carte blanche to plan his next crime. In June, he announced on television that he would accept dirt on his opponent from a foreign government if offered it again. He dispatched his lawyer to Ukraine to deliver the message that he demanded an investigation of his leading Democratic rival, and that he would use the powers of his office to leverage this end.
It is primarily because Trump is indicating his war on democratic norms will not end that Congress is barreling toward impeachment right now at astonishing speed. On Monday morning, the headline on Politico’s story on House Democrats began, “Reluctant Democrats Weigh Impeachment.” By evening, as more reporting poured in, it had changed to “Dems Moving to Condemn Trump as Impeachment Fever Grows.”
The most important impediment to impeaching Trump has always been the reluctance of the most vulnerable House Democrats to take a vote that they feared would alienate their constituents. But all the signs are now pointing toward those Democrats throwing aside their reluctance. Seven newly-elected freshmen Democrats from vulnerable districts have published an op-ed in the Washington Post demanding Trump hand over the suppressed complaint from an intelligence whistleblower of Trump’s pressure on Ukraine. “If these allegations are true,” they write, “we believe these actions represent an impeachable offense.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has urged restraint out of a desire to insulate those vulnerable members, who she needs to preserve her majority. Pelosi’s behavior, too, has shifted notably. Her close ally, Rosa DeLauro, issued a statement demanding the entire whistleblower’s complaint and opening the door to impeachment. The Post reports Pelosi is sounding out members on impeachment, and “many leadership aides who once thought Trump’s impeachment was unlikely now say they think it’s almost inevitable.”
It is possible Trump could defuse impeachment by releasing his block on the whistleblower complaint. But surrendering his claims of secrecy and almost unbounded executive privilege run counter to his instinct for domination. It could also quite likely supply evidence incriminating enough to lead to his impeachment anyway.
The politics of this maneuver are highly uncertain. Whatever their motive, Democrats are not seeking political advantage, and there is a distinct possibility proceedings would backfire on them. Despite Trump’s unpopularity, strong majorities have opposed impeachment throughout his term.
But there is at least some reason to believe the politics of the Ukraine scandal will play out differently than the politics of the Russia scandal. The Republican phalanx of support has failed to materialize in its usual strength. Normally passive Mitt Romney issued a surprisingly sharp rebuke, demanding Trump “should make available the whistleblower complaint that has been deemed to be credible and urgent, and that if not “it will be up to the House to decide how to proceed.”
Other signs of discomfort in the party are more subtle. The normal mouthpieces of the Party line, while tonally in support, are refusing to outright defend his actions in Ukraine. . . . The Wall Street Journal editorial page scolds, “What we know of the call underscores Mr. Trump’s greatest flaw as President, which is his political narcissism. Every decision boils down to how it affects him or his re-election prospects. Other Presidents have made similar calculations, but Mr. Trump lacks the basic filter to know when he is crossing a line that creates trouble for himself or the country.”
Even more tellingly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to defend Trump’s coercion of Ukraine, or even to repeat his attacks on Biden, but instead made a tepid complaint that Democrats “have chosen to politicize the issue.” It is probably relevant that Trump was defying the wishes of Republicans themselves by refusing to allow the military aid to Ukraine that Congress had passed to go through. Trump personally ordered the aid to be held up, the Washington Post reports, in the latest explosive development. McConnell may or may not care that Trump is abusing his power to smear Biden, but he surely cares that Trump is abrogating laws passed by McConnell.
The House will probably vote soon to make clear its intention to impeach Trump unless he hands over the full whistleblower complaint. Perhaps he will do so, and perhaps it will not incriminate him. What seems more likely now is a prospect that had appeared remote just days ago: The House of Representatives will hold impeachment proceedings for President Donald Trump.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Monday Morning Male Beauty

Trump's Grip on the GOP is Causing Republicans to Flee

The Republican Party began its descent into becoming a moral cesspool long before Donald Trump declared he would run for office in 2015. It began with the slow infiltration of the party by Christofascists - perhaps the most racist and morally bankrupt group I've ever encountered - near the end of my time in the GOP and accelerated as white supremacists (often one and the same as the Christofascists) were also made welcome in the party.  Trump merely was the culmination of a moral rot - a cancer, if you will - that had been spreading and metastasizing for years.  Now, the cancer in the form of Trump and his base of support has a complete grip on the GOP.  The result is that, if one has a shred of morality and decency, it is becoming difficult or impossible to remain a Republican.  Those who have remained to date by deluding themselves that the GO still stands for limited government, fiscal and personal responsibility, and personal freedom (something that, in reality is questionable).  Now, the GOP is all Trump, racism, white supremacy and misogyny 27/7.  As a result, record numbers of the Congressional Republicans in the House are heading for the door.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the growing exodus.  Hopefully, Republican "friends" will begin similar soul searching. Here are highlights: 
Republican Rep. Paul Mitchell’s surprise retirement began with a President Trump tweet. 
Moments after Trump’s July 14 missive telling four U.S. congresswomen of color to “go back” to their countries of origin, the congressman from Michigan phoned a fellow House GOP leader and asked him to get Trump to stop. “It’s the wrong thing for a leader to say,” he told the leader, whom he declined to name. “It’s politically damaging to the party, to the country.”
Three days later, Mitchell was awaiting a prime-time CNN appearance when he saw footage of Trump rallygoers chanting “send her back,” aimed at one of the congresswomen, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). Stunned, Mitchell said he scribbled question marks on a notepad to silently ask an aide: “How do I even respond to this on TV?” 
But one of the final straws was the unwillingness of people in Trump’s orbit to listen. Mitchell implored Vice President Pence, his chief of staff, Marc Short, and “any human being that has any influence in the White House” to arrange a one-on-one conversation between him and the president so he could express his concerns.
It never happened. And 10 days after the Trump tweet, Mitchell — a two-term lawmaker who thought he’d be in Congress for years to come — announced his retirement.
“We’re here for a purpose — and it’s not this petty, childish b------t,” Mitchell, 62, said in an interview in early September.
Pence’s office declined to comment.
Mitchell is among a growing list of House Republicans — 18 to date — who have announced plans to resign, retire or run for another office, part of a snowballing exodus that many Republicans fear is imperiling their chances of regaining control of the House in the 2020 elections.
And the problem for the GOP is bigger than retirements. Since Trump’s inauguration, a Washington Post analysis shows, nearly 40 percent of the 241 Republicans who were in office in January 2017 are gone or leaving because of election losses, retirements including former House speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.), and some, such as Mitchell, who are simply quitting in disgust.
The vast turnover is a reminder of just how much Trump has remade the GOP — and of the purge of those who dare to oppose him. Former congressman Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) lost his June 2018 primary after challenging Trump; he’s now a Republican presidential candidate. Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.), the only Republican to accuse Trump of impeachable acts, quit the GOP in July citing the “partisan death spiral.” His political future is uncertain. The retirement numbers are particularly staggering. All told, 41 House Republicans have left national politics or announced they won’t seek reelection in the nearly three years since Trump took office. That dwarfs the 25 Democrats who retired in the first four years of former president Barack Obama’s tenure — and Republicans privately predict this is only the beginning.
Most of the departing Republicans publicly cite family as the reason for leaving. But behind the scenes, Republicans say the trend highlights a greater pessimism about the direction of the party under Trump — and their ability to win back the House next year. 
[Trump] The president has doubled down on an all-base strategy for his reelection campaign, making some Republicans ask whether Trump has put his own political future ahead of the long-term viability of the party . . . . “If the party doesn’t start looking like America, there will not be a party in America,” said Rep. Will Hurd (R-Tex.), the only black House Republican, who announced his retirement in August.
House Republicans knew Trump was going to be a problem in the suburbs well before they lost 29 incumbents and their majority in the 2018 elections. In a private meeting at Camp David in early 2018, then-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) tried to explain to Trump why the suburbs were key to the GOP keeping the House. 
“He has not been a net positive for suburban House Republicans, I mean, that’s a truism,” said former congressman Ryan Costello (Pa.), a moderate Republican who retired in 2018 rather than face a difficult reelection in the Philadelphia suburbs. “Down ballot, for the Republicans, you are basically judged by whatever [Trump] the president does, and not by what you do.” 
Even in leadership circles, there’s an admission that Trump isn’t helping the party in the suburbs. No one, however, is willing to say it aloud.
The aide said such knowledge has been driving many of the recent retirements: “I think a lot of members are pretty nervous that Trump doesn’t win reelection. And then we’re in the minority and we have a Democrat in the White House. . . . We’re in the wilderness right now, but if you lose the White House, then that is the extreme wilderness.”
“He’s turned [the GOP] into a personal vessel for his brand,” Curbelo said. “[Trump] The president seems to be doubling down on an all-base strategy; perhaps that can work for him . . . but it certainly makes it very difficult for Republicans to win a majority of seats in the House.”
Hurd, a former CIA official who would have faced a difficult reelection in a Democratic-leaning district, has been increasingly vocal about the direction of the party. He told a Republican LGBTQ group in June that the GOP wasn’t expanding in some places because unnamed people weren’t following “real basic things that we should all learn when we’re in kindergarten”: “Don’t be a racist. Don’t be a misogynist, right? Don’t be a homophobe.”
Hurd said in an interview. “It’s women in the suburbs, minorities and young people — those are going to be the key groups and key voters in 2020.”

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Sunday Morning Male Beauty

Why Republicans Fear Democracy

Over the last two decades, Republicans have increasingly resorted to dirty tricks ranging from voter ID laws to disenfranchise voters unlikely to support them to drawing computer gerrymandered districts to make it more difficult for Democrat candidates win - something Virginia certainly witnessed until the federal courts intervened.  Why resort to such tactics?  The answer is easy.  Increasingly, the majority of Americans reject what the GOP is peddling and, without cheating, Republicans fear they are destined to become a permanent minority party.  There simply are not enough racist and religiously extreme voters to assure the GOP's survival.  Thus, the efforts to thwart democracy and limit who can vote.  The only thing the GOP will not do is reject its toxic policies and evolve with the times and the changing demographics of the nation.  A column in the New York Times looks at the phenomenon.  Here are highlights:
The greatest threat to our democracy today is a Republican Party that plays dirty to win.
The party’s abandonment of fair play was showcased spectacularly in 2016, when the United States Senate refused to allow President Barack Obama to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February. While technically constitutional, the act — in effect, stealing a court seat — hadn’t been tried since the 19th century. It would be bad enough on its own, but the Merrick Garland affair is part of a broader pattern.
Republicans across the country seem to have embraced an “any means necessary” strategy to preserve their power. After losing the governorship in North Carolina in 2016 and Wisconsin in 2018, Republicans used lame-duck legislative sessions to push through a flurry of bills stripping power from incoming Democratic governors. Last year, when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down a Republican gerrymandering initiative, conservative legislators attempted to impeach the justices.
Constitutional hardball has accelerated under the Trump administration. President Trump’s declaration of a “national emergency” to divert public money toward a border wall — openly flouting Congress, which voted against building a wall — is a clear example. And the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, manufactured by an earlier act of hardball, may uphold the constitutionality of [Trump's] the president’s autocratic behavior.
Constitutional hardball can damage and even destroy a democracy. Democratic institutions function only when power is exercised with restraint. When parties abandon the spirit of the law and seek to win by any means necessary, politics often descends into institutional warfare.
As the collapse of democracy in Germany and Spain in the 1930s and Chile in the 1970s makes clear, these escalating conflicts can end in tragedy. Why is the Republican Party playing dirty? Republican leaders are not driven by an intrinsic or ideological contempt for democracy. They are driven by fear.
Democracy requires that parties know how to lose. Politicians who fail to win elections must be willing to accept defeat, go home, and get ready to play again the next day. This norm of gracious losing is essential to a healthy democracy.
But for parties to accept losing, two conditions must hold. First, they must feel secure that losing today will not bring ruinous consequences; and second, they must believe they have a reasonable chance of winning again in the future. When party leaders fear that they cannot win future elections, or that defeat poses an existential threat to themselves or their constituents, the stakes rise. . . . In short, desperation leads politicians to play dirty.
Take German conservatives before World War I. They were haunted by the prospect of extending equal voting rights to the working class. They viewed equal (male) suffrage as a menace not only to their own electoral prospects but also to the survival of the aristocratic order. . . . . So German conservatives played dirty, engaging in rampant election manipulation and outright repression in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In the United States, Southern Democrats reacted in a similar manner to the Reconstruction-era enfranchisement of African-Americans. Mandated by the 15th Amendment, which was ratified in 1870, black suffrage not only imperiled Southern Democrats’ political dominance but also challenged longstanding patterns of white supremacy. Since African-Americans represented a majority or near majority in many of the post-Confederate states, Southern Democrats viewed their enfranchisement as an existential threat. So they, too, played dirty.
Between 1885 and 1908, all 11 post-Confederate states passed laws establishing poll taxes, literacy tests, property and residency requirements and other measures aimed at stripping African-Americans of their voting rights . . . . These measures, building on a monstrous campaign of anti-black violence, did precisely what they were intended to do: Black turnout in the South fell to 2 percent in 1912 from 61 percent in 1880. Unwilling to lose, Southern Democrats stripped the right to vote from millions of people, ushering in nearly a century of authoritarian rule in the South.
Republicans appear to be in the grip of a similar panic today. Their medium-term electoral prospects are dim. For one, they remain an overwhelmingly white Christian party in an increasingly diverse society.
Republicans also face a generational challenge: Younger voters are deserting them. In 2018, 18- to 29-year-olds voted for Democrats by more than 2 to 1, and 30-somethings voted nearly 60 percent for Democrats.
Demography is not destiny, but as California Republicans have discovered, it often punishes parties that fail to adapt to changing societies. The growing diversity of the American electorate is making it harder for the Republican Party to win national majorities. Republicans have won the popular vote in presidential elections just once in the last 30 years.
The problem runs deeper than electoral math, however. Much of the Republican base views defeat as catastrophic. White Christians are losing more than an electoral majority; their once-dominant status in American society is eroding. . . . . Many rank-and-file Republicans believe that the country they grew up in is being taken away from them. Slogans like “take our country back” and “make America great again” reflect this sense of peril.
So like the old Southern Democrats, modern-day Republicans have responded to darkening electoral horizons and rank-and-file perceptions of existential threat with a win-at-any-cost mentality. Most reminiscent of the Jim Crow South are Republican efforts to tilt the electoral playing field. Since 2010, a dozen Republican-led states have adopted new laws making it more difficult to register or vote. Republican state and local governments have closed polling places in predominantly African-American neighborhoods, purged voter rolls and created new obstacles to registration and voting.
Although these abuses are certainly less egregious than those committed by post-bellum Southern Democrats, the underlying logic is similar: Parties representing fearful, declining majorities turn, in desperation, to minority rule.
The only way out of this situation is for the Republican Party to become more diverse. A stunning 90 percent of House Republicans are white men, even though white men are a third of the electorate. Only when Republicans can compete seriously for younger, urban and nonwhite voters will their fear of losing — and of a multiracial America — subside.
American democracy faces a Catch-22: Republicans won’t abandon their white identity bunker strategy until they lose, but at the same time that strategy has made them so averse to losing they are willing to bend the rules to avoid this fate. There is no easy exit.
Republican leaders must either stand up to their base and broaden their appeal or they must suffer an electoral thrashing so severe that they are compelled to do so. . . . Until Republicans learn to compete fairly in a diverse society, our democratic institutions will be imperiled.