Saturday, November 16, 2019

Medicare for All: A Vote Loser

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and their respective rabid supporters are adamant about nothing less than Medicare for all in contrast to others, including Pete Buttigieg who want a more moderate, blended approach to expanding health care coverage.  Personally, I view Medicare for all as a laudatory goal, but in order to get to full coverage implemented, candidates need to get elected.  Results from the 2018 mid-term elections suggest that Medicare for all is a vote loser and could be kryptonite to getting elected.   Thus, I support a more moderate approach such as Buttigieg's which would not sweep away employer based plans and potentially alienate moderate voters and Republicans - few as they may be - who are sickened by Donald Trump.  A piece at Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball looks at the cautionary message from what happened to Democrats running on Medicare for all in the 2018 midterms.  Here are excerpts:
“Medicare for All” has emerged as a key issue in the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination campaign. Two of the leading candidates, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), have made Medicare for All a central issue in their campaigns. Warren’s and Sanders’ proposals would abolish private health insurance in the U.S. within a few years and move all Americans into a government health plan based on the current Medicare program but with no copayments or deductibles.
Several Democratic candidates, including former Vice President Joe Biden, who has led in most national polls, have been highly critical of this idea. These candidates, along with a number of health policy experts and pundits, have attacked Sanders’ and Warren’s Medicare for All proposal as prohibitively expensive and politically unrealistic. They have also argued that embracing Medicare for All would alienate many independents and moderate Democrats and risk costing Democrats the electoral votes of several key swing states.
But 2020 is not the first election in which Medicare for All was an important campaign issue. It was also debated extensively during the 2018 midterm elections. By examining the impact of Medicare for All on the results of the 2018 U.S. House elections, we may gain some insights into how this issue could affect the 2020 presidential election.
Democratic candidates supporting Medicare for All did substantially worse than those who did not — winning only 45% of their races compared with 72% for the non-supporters. Their average vote margin of 0.5 percentage points was also somewhat worse than the average vote margin of 3.5 points for the non-supporters. This was true despite the fact that in terms of 2016 presidential vote margin, the districts of supporters were somewhat more Democratic (average Clinton margin of -0.2 points) than the districts of non-supporters (average Clinton margin of -2.7 points).
[A]fter controlling for all of the other variables affecting the outcomes of these contests, Democratic candidates who endorsed Medicare for All did significantly worse than those who did not. The estimated coefficient of -4.6 indicates that support for Medicare for All cost Democratic candidates in these competitive districts almost five points of vote margin — a substantial effect in a close election.
An analysis of the impact of Medicare for All on the 2018 House elections indicates that Democratic challengers and open seat candidates in competitive districts who endorsed a version of Medicare for All similar to that proposed by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren did significantly worse than those who did not. This negative effect, close to five points of margin after controlling for a variety of other factors, was clearly large enough to affect the outcomes of some House contests.
It is possible that the estimated effect of Medicare for All was a byproduct of other differences between supporters and non-supporters. For example, supporters might have taken more liberal positions on a variety of other issues as well as Medicare for All. Even if that is the case, however, these findings are not encouraging to supporters of Medicare for All. They indicate that candidates in competitive races who take positions to the left of the median voter could get punished at the polls. Democratic presidential candidates would do well to take heed of these results, particularly as the eventual nominee determines what he or she wishes to emphasize in the general election.
Yes, Sanders and Warren supporters will be livid with this post, but elections are about WINNING, not ideological purity.

More Saturday Male Beauty

Trump Pardons Three Guilty of War Crimes

Donald Trump continues to destroy American morality as he pardons three U.S. Military members convicted of war crimes.  The pardons came over the protests of the military who said the moves undermined the military justice system.  Sadly, to me, it is representative of Trump's view that if victims are non-white, then it really doesn't matter. Of course, there are also parallels with Nazi Germany where Hitler protected and rewarded those guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Meanwhile, Trump's support among morally bankrupt evangelicals remains firm.  The Washington Post looks at Trump's actions which undermine both military justice and what moral authority America purports to hold in the Middle East and elsewhere.   Here are highlights: 
Trump intervened in three cases involving war crimes accusations on Friday, issuing full pardons to two soldiers and reversing disciplinary action against a Navy SEAL despite opposition raised by military justice experts and some senior Pentagon officials. 
The service members were notified by Trump over the phone late Friday afternoon, according to lawyers for Army Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn and former Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, the SEAL. Golsteyn faced a murder trial scheduled for next year, while Gallagher recently was acquitted of murder and convicted of posing with the corpse of an Islamic State fighter in Iraq.
The third service member, former Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, was expected to be released Friday night from prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. He was convicted of second-degree murder in 2013 and sentenced to 19 years for ordering his soldiers to open fire on three men in Afghanistan.
Golsteyn and Lorance received full pardons, while the president will direct the Navy to restore Gallagher to his previous rank before he retires, the White House said. His demotion marked the only significant penalty he received following his acquittal on the murder charge.
[S]ome senior Pentagon officials [tried] to change Trump’s mind, according to three U.S. officials. The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said some commanders have raised concerns that Trump’s move will undermine the military justice system. Their cases have been featured frequently on conservative media, as advocates prepared cases for the president behind the scenes.
The military, he said, has “worked for decades to lay the ghosts” of the Vietnam War and war crimes committed during it to rest, and Trump’s decision risks undermining that.
“Executive clemency like this introduces doubt into the chain of command, and creates uncertainty about accountability for breaches of military rules,” said Carter
The facts of the three cases vary.
In Golsteyn’s, the Special Forces officer went from being regarded as one of the Army’s heroes in the Afghanistan war to under investigation in the 2010 death of an unarmed man in a combat zone.
The case first emerged after Golsteyn, who had been awarded a Silver Star for valor on the same deployment, said during a polygraph test while applying for a job with the CIA that he had killed the man and burned his body. . . . He set an ambush for the man, whom he believed to be responsible for the recent death of two Marines, he said. He reasoned that if the man came in his direction, he was returning to activities with the Taliban.
In Gallagher’s case, the Navy SEAL faced a court-martial this summer after he was accused of mortally stabbing a wounded Islamic State detainee in the neck and obstruction of justice for allegedly threatening other SEALs who reported him.
In Lorance’s case, nine members of his unit testified against him, including some under immunity. They said under oath that Lorance, as their new platoon leader, had ordered them to open fire on three Afghan men riding motorcycles even though their intent was not clear, after issuing death threats to local leaders.
The action follows Trump pardoning another veteran, former 1st Lt. Michael Behenna, in May in the 2008 murder of an Iraqi prisoner suspected of being a member of al-Qaeda.  Behenna was convicted of unpremeditated murder and sentenced to 25 years after stripping a detainee naked, interrogating him without authorization and shooting him twice.
And we wonder why America is hated by so many in the Middle East.

Trump Is Surrounded by Criminals

Not since Richard Nixon has an occupant of the White House proven to have surrounded himself with criminals than Donald Trump.  This, of course, should come as no surprise if one has followed Trump's mob boss like business conduct over the years in New York City and elsewhere where many believe Trump facilitated money laundering by the Russian mob and other undesirables. Criminals tend to surround themselves with other criminals.  With yesterday's conviction on all counts of long time Trump confident Roger Stone, we now have a half dozen convicted criminals who made up part of the Trump/Pence campaign and/or regime.  A piece in Politico looks at Stone's conviction (note the references to Trump lying to Mueller as well): 
A federal jury on Friday found the longtime Republican provocateur guilty on all charges for thwarting a House investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference, opening up a political pandora’s box for a president already facing pressure from his conservative base to issue a pardon.
Stone’s fate was sealed after a trial that spanned just over a week, which concluded with unanimous guilty verdicts against Stone on five felony counts of lying to investigators, one count of obstructing a congressional probe and one count of witness tampering.
Friday’s guilty verdicts represent the biggest victory for prosecutors in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe since former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted on eight felony charges at a trial in Northern Virginia over a year ago. In the courtroom for Stone’s trial, there were ample signs of the case’s origins.
Trump told Mueller’s investigators they spoke from “time to time during the campaign.” Prosecutors introduced evidence collected from phone records during Stone’s trial showing about 60 separate communications between the two men from February to November 2016.
A second piece in New York Magazine looks at Trump's larger circle of criminal associates.  Here are highlights:  

The legal ring surrounding him [Trump] is collectively producing a historic indictment of his endemic corruption and criminality.
Day two of the House impeachment hearings, featuring Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, may have appeared on the surface to focus on a sideshow. Yovanovitch was not directly involved in Trump’s efforts to extort Ukraine for political advantage, the main charge he faces. What her testimony instead accomplished was to put the lie to Trump’s ludicrous defense that he was pursuing an anti-corruption agenda in Ukraine — that his demands that Kiev investigate his rivals were simply about cleaning the country up.
Her testimony was devoted to proving the hypocrisy of Trump’s claim. She testified how she had worked in Ukraine to promote reform, how her efforts to do so alienated corrupt oligarchs there, and how those oligarchs then worked in tandem with Rudy Giuliani to foment a backlash against her. She explained that the fired Ukrainian prosecutor that Trump praised to Ukraine’s president in a July phone call was in fact totally corrupt.
Trump fired Yovanovitch because she stood in the way of the corruption he and his allies were promoting. To the extent corruption motivated Trump’s diplomatic posture in Ukraine, it was that he wanted to encourage more of it.
During Yovanovitch’s testimony, a federal court registered a guilty verdict on all seven counts for Trump’s adviser Roger Stone. Stone’s crimes involved lying and covering up Trump’s awareness of Democratic emails stolen by Russians. Rick Gates, Mr. Trump’s deputy campaign chairman, told investigators that he personally witnessed a July 31, 2016, phone call between Trump and Stone shortly after WikiLeaks published a tranche of stolen emails. After hanging up with Stone, Trump announced more information was on its way.
The two figures in his campaign who most directly colluded with Russia, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, both refused to cooperate with Mueller. Whatever they know about Trump’s full collusion with Russia’s campaign hacking will remain secret, probably forever.

And yet, even if he pardons Manafort and Stone, and all his other loyalists, the plain fact will remain that his inner circle is marked by endemic criminality. In addition to his close adviser Stone, his campaign manager (Manafort), his deputy campaign manager (Gates), his lawyer (Michael Cohen), and his national security adviser (Michael Flynn) have all been convicted of felonies. Trump may have persuaded his hard-core base that all these convictions represent a fraudulent witch hunt. But outside the Trump cult, which is not by itself large enough to win the election, being surrounded by criminals is not an admired quality.
In all probability, the parade of charges is probably not over. Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is reportedly being investigated for a number of alleged federal crimes, including bribing foreign officials, conspiracy, violating federal campaign-finance laws, and failing to register as a foreign agent. The Wall Street Journal reports today that federal prosecutors are investigating whether Giuliani personally stood to profit from a natural-gas shakedown run by his partners, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.
Parnas and Fruman, two figures linked to the Russian mob who have been arrested, were helping Giuliani run his off-the-books diplomatic work in Ukraine. 
If Rudy himself was involved in the gas shakedown, as the Journal story suggests, it would be an even deeper form of corruption. Trump’s lawyer and personal representative would have sent gangsters to extort Ukraine for Trump’s political gain and his own profit. The false accusations Trump has hurled against Biden are pale versions of the very real crimes Trump’s cronies have tried to carry out.
[T]he full scale of his betrayal is staggering. Trump will probably not become the first president to be impeached and removed from office, but he will go down in history as the most criminal president in American history.
One can only hope that indictments against Giuliani come soon. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Oleksandr Kalinovskyi 

Friday, November 15, 2019

Honor and Morality vs. Trump

One way to think about what we are witnessing as the public impeachment hears unfold is to think of a mix between the movie "The Godfather" and sleazy real estate investors/developers who skirt the laws and often rely on bribes and treats to push their projects along.  Donald Trump - and sadly most of those who have signed on to his administration - embody this combination of criminality and moral haziness, if not out right moral bankruptcy.  As the hearings unfold in contrast to this corruption and lawlessness, one is witnessing individuals cut from the cloth of old school career diplomats who, unlike Trump, put honor, professionalism, and country ahead of squalid personal gain.  An op-ed in the Washington Post co-authored by a law school classmate, Evan Thomas, who has written numerous historical works looks at this stark contrast between Trump world and what ought to be the standard for government service.  If Trump avoids removal from office, it will be a sad day for America.  It will also be a sign that morality has been kicked into the gutter by someone little better than a mob boss and that immorality is now the hallmark of the Republican Party.  Here are column highlights: 
Geography, Napoleon is reputed to have remarked, is destiny, and this axiom came to our minds this week as we watched two very different but neighboring universes collide before the House Intelligence Committee. The ramrod-straight William B. Taylor Jr. and the bow-tied George Kent, two diplomats from the largely WASP ethos of the post-World War II foreign policy establishment, one headquartered at places such as the Council on Foreign Relations’ imposing Harold Pratt House at 68th Street and Park Avenue, found themselves bearing noble witness amid an impeachment imbroglio that may be best understood by an appreciation of the wilder mores of midtown Manhattan. 
Only a few blocks away from the portrait-lined walls and genteel cocktails of the Council lies the real center of gravity in the politics of 2019: the gilded Trump Tower, built on the fluid morals and cutthroat deal-making of New York real estate. The Tower sits cheek-by-jowl (the image is chosen purposely) with the Grand Havana Room, a cigar club frequented by Rudy Giuliani, atop a Fifth Avenue building owned by the family of Jared Kushner. Walk a bit farther south — you don’t even need a Town Car — and you reach Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., home of Fox News and the New York Post.
To Trump supporters, the testimony Wednesday was the “deep state” surfacing briefly from the depths of white papers, institutional knowledge and a facility with U.S. military and diplomatic history. (Kent’s evocation of von Steuben and Lafayette was straight out of a Ward Just novel.)
To Trump’s critics and defenders of constitutional norms, the Republican narrative that the president’s threats to deny security assistance to Ukraine was just the kind of thing tough guys do (and, after getting caught, he didn’t do it!), suggested that tabloid hyperbole, Fox News arcana and New York hardball had replaced the real world.
The story of upended conventions and of a president who careens between self-parody and serious lawlessness is by now familiar, as old as the Age of Trump itself. The distinction is that the impeachment hearings have given us perhaps the clearest example yet of the triumph of political demimonde wise guys such as Trump, Giuliani and the Rogers Stone and Ailes over the latter-day Robert Lovetts and Dean Achesons. And it’s not just Wise Men, of course: Jeane Kirkpatrick, Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice hailed from the establishment world, as do Marie Yovanovitch and Fiona Hill. The moment of decision between the Wise Men and the wise guys on Wednesday was subtle but nevertheless clear. It came when Rep. Michael R. Turner, a Republican, noted that diplomats such as Taylor and Kent “deal in words of understanding. Words of beliefs and feelings, because in your profession, that’s what you work with to try to pull together policy.” Theirs, the lawmaker was implying, was almost a touchingly naive way of life in which one trusted what one was told, assumed the fundamental truthfulness of, say, a presidentially appointed ambassador, and believed that a president himself meant what he said.
No longer: The midtown game of wheeling and dealing, often done over a cigar at the Grand Havana or perhaps an overpriced steak at 21, has now gone global as the denizens of Trump’s neighborhood run shadow foreign policy ops seeking 2020 election help and good paydays.
Had any other president, Taylor was asked, linked official aid in the American interest to private or political benefit? With a stoicism and brevity that would’ve made George Marshall quietly proud, Taylor replied, “No.”
To be sure, the establishment has been far from perfect, its fall from preeminence more than partly self-inflicted. Elite education and conventional expertise don’t guarantee good results, and America has been shaped by the battle between the privileged and the populist since long before Andrew Jackson. Such establishment condescension also fueled the rise of Joe McCarthy and of McCarthy’s chief counsel, Roy Cohn, who served as lawyer and mentor in the 1970s and ’80s to a young developer from Queens who was looking to make it big in Manhattan. And Donald Trump never forgot a thing Cohn taught him. In midtown Manhattan, Trump learned to dominate the news — in his rise, that meant the New York Post, with its screaming, one-sourced stories, an early harbinger of the presidential Twitter strategy. He learned the power of TV. And he learned that tough guys — or “killers,” in a favorite approbation of Trump’s — like Ailes, who presided over this stew of often-abusive power, money and misinformation, were the kinds of guys he could count on.
For one thing was certain: The Wise Men of 68th Street or the United Nations or any of the traditional institutions of expertise weren’t his guys. The question America now faces in impeachment and, should Trump prevail, in the 2020 election, is whose New York will serve us best in the long run — the wise guys’ or the Wise Men’s?
Be very, very afraid.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Red and Blue Economies Are Heading in Sharply Different Directions

I have long maintained that part of the economic problems facing "red states" and red rural areas is that their social reactionary nature and hostility towards non-whites, non-straights and non-Christians makes them unattractive to the business of the 21st century and the future.  Here in Virginia, Southwest Virginia is a prime example.  That region continues to demand that state monies be used to turn around the region economically yet the residents (and, yes, there are exceptions) continue to embrace social, religious and political views that are anathema to the economic change they claim to want.  Now a study, as reported in the New York Times looks at the diverging paths of so-called blue economies associated with rising urban areas and those of red economies associated with rural and reactionary regions.  And yes, the red areas tend to be far more white and perhaps more racist.  Here are article highlights:

At a quick glance, red and blue metropolitan areas are performing equally well on average in the most watched indicators of labor market health. . . . Silicon Valley (blue) is booming. So is Provo, Utah (red).
But below the surface, red and blue local economies are worlds apart on enduring, fundamental measures that determine their future prospects and their biggest economic challenges.
The correlations between deeper economic measures and how the contrasting metro areas voted in 2016 are striking.
In bluer metros, more residents have college degrees: The 10 large metros with the highest educational attainment each voted for Hillary Clinton by at least a 10-point margin. Median household incomes are higher in bluer metros even after adjusting for the cost of living, which is higher in bluer metros as well. (Metro area is a better measure for a local labor market than a neighborhood, city, county or state.)
And bluer metros have a more favorable job mix for the future, with fewer manufacturing jobs, a higher share of harder-to-automate “non-routine” jobs, and a higher share of jobs in occupations projected to grow faster.
These measures — education, household income, cost of living, non-routine jobs and projected job growth — are highly correlated with one another, and with voting Democratic.
Other economic measures are less strongly correlated with partisanship but still show a pattern. Bluer metros have less year-to-year volatility of job growth. In part that’s because goods-related sectors like manufacturing and mining are more volatile and are clustered in Republican-leaning areas.
Home values have risen more in bluer metros than in redder ones. And blue metros have a higher prime-age employment-population ratio, even though the unemployment rate varies little by partisanship. That’s because red metros have a higher share of prime-age adults who are not in the labor force and therefore aren’t counted in the unemployment rate.
But there are a few places that vote differently than you’d expect from their local economic fundamentals. Colorado Springs and the Provo-Orem area, for instance, have education levels and an occupation mix more typical of blue metros but voted for Donald J. Trump in 2016 by a wide margin. On the flip side, Stockton, Calif., and El Paso look more like red metros economically but voted for Mrs. Clinton.
Why do some metros vote differently than their economics might suggest they would? Race, ethnicity and religion. Metros that vote Democratic despite having lower education and a job mix more typical of redder metros tend to have large Hispanic populations, including many in inland California and on the Texas border. Metros that vote more Republican despite having higher education and a blue-metro job mix tend to be whiter.
[I]ncome inequality — and all the social and political challenges that come with it — tends to be lower in redder metros. And while cost-of-living-adjusted household incomes are higher in bluer metros, cost-of-living-adjusted salaries for a given occupation are typically higher in redder metros.
There’s a reason for this difference: Bluer metros tend to have higher-paying occupations and fewer prime-age adults out of the labor force, which increases household incomes. But if you move from a bluer to a redder metro and find a job in the same occupation, you’re likely to get an increase in salary after taking living costs into account.
The economic challenges of blue metros — unaffordability and inequality — are different than those of red metros, which face lower living standards and greater risks of job loss. Even if the economy takes a back seat in the 2020 election to health care, immigration and President Trump’s record, these economic differences won’t be far from the surface. And if national economic conditions soften, these differences will become more reason for partisan disagreement on urgent policy priorities.
If the places that moved left between 2012 and 2016 continue getting bluer — and the places that swung Obama-to-Trump keep getting redder — the local economies of red and blue America will keep growing further apart.

Innovation and progressive thinking gravitates to blue regions while "conservatism," closed mindedness and an unwelcoming atmosphere toward those who are different concentrates in red regions. Both bring economic consequences. 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Leaked Emails Show Trump’s Minion Promoted White Nationalism

Many Republican "friends" take offense when confronted with the reality that one of the Trump/Pence policies that attracted swing voters that allowed Trump to eek out a narrow Electoral College win is the active promotion of white nationalism.  Perhaps that truth hits a bit to close to home for their consciences. In any event, newly leaked emails underscore how Trump point man on immigration, Stephen Miller, the Joseph Goebbels of the Trump/Pence regime, actively promoted white nationalism to pander to the ugliest elements of the GOP base.  As noted previously, good people do not support bad people and cruel and vicious policies based on hatred. Republican "friends" need to decide whether or not they are indeed good people and cease their support of Trump/Pence and white nationalist policies or, instead, admit to themselves and the world that they are not good people and are cut from the same cloth as Stephen Miller and the overt racist policies he espouses. They do not get to have it both ways. The Washington Post reports on the cache of Miller emails. Here are excepts:
In the lead-up to the 2016 election, White House senior adviser Stephen Miller sought to promote white nationalism, far-right extremist ideas and anti-immigrant rhetoric through the conservative site Breitbart, according to a report released Tuesday by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The report is the first installment in a series that draws on more than 900 emails that Miller sent to a Breitbart writer over a 15-month period between 2015 and 2016 and were given to the SPLC. The report describes Miller’s emails as overwhelmingly focused on race and immigration and characterizes him as obsessed with ideas such as “white genocide” (a conspiracy theory associated with white supremacists) and sharply curbing nonwhite immigration.
In the wake of the news Tuesday, at least one member of Congress, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), called for Miller to resign.
Among the more damning email exchanges highlighted in the SPLC report is one that shows Miller directing a Breitbart reporter to aggregate stories from the white-supremacist journal American Renaissance, or “AmRen,” for stories that emphasize crimes committed by immigrants and nonwhites. In another, Miller is apparently upset that Amazon removed Confederate battle flag merchandise from its marketplace in the wake of the 2015 Charleston church massacre; others reportedly show him promoting “The Camp of the Saints,” a racist French novel popular among white nationalists.
SPLC’s report indicates Miller was widely successful in molding the race- and immigration-focused stories that appeared on Breitbart. It repeatedly details how an email from Miller corresponded to a related article later appearing on the site.
The emails were provided to the SPLC by Katie McHugh, a former Breitbart writer and editor who exchanged scores of messages with Miller during his time transitioning from a press aide for then-U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to a senior adviser with then-candidate Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. . . . McHugh has since denounced her association with white nationalism and the far right.
“[McHugh] is well aware of the risks she took in giving us the material and confirming information,” said SPLC investigative reporter Michael Edison Hayden, who wrote the report. “I think that’s incredibly brave.”
Hayden told The Post that he made contact with McHugh earlier this year as she was formerly on the periphery of several extremist groups he was following. McHugh was familiar with his work, Hayden said, and mentioned having materials she wanted to show him. After allowing him to view the emails on what Hayden recalled was “a very old computer,” McHugh ultimately decided to release the emails to him.
“What Stephen Miller sent to me in those emails has become policy at the Trump administration,” McHugh said to the SPLC.
Several years on from the email exchanges, Miller is probably at the height of his power within the West Wing. As The Post previously reported, Miller is one of Trump’s longest-tenured advisers — along with Kellyanne Conway and Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner — and the most influential adviser shaping the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
Excerpted emails shared with The Post show Miller drawing on stories from outlets such as the anti-immigration white-nationalist site VDARE and the conspiracy theory website Infowars and sending them to McHugh. Miller appears to urge McHugh to write about the stories and discusses how to frame them and push them to prominence on Breitbart’s site.
Hayden said. “The most important takeaway for me is that Stephen Miller found the basis for his ideas on websites that traffic in hate, and made it clear in his emails."

Miller is a thoroughly foul individual who has even been condemned by his own family members for his racism and advocacy for inhumane policies. He is a modern day Goebbels.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Trump Regime's War on Public Health

Science and fact based policy decisions pose a problem for the Trump/Pence regime in its effort to roll back public health protections and destroy clean air and clean water regulations.  Why?  Because they support the regulations that Trump/Pence seeks to gut to aid big business, especially the fossil fuel industry. What's the solution when one wants to aid polluters and industry dangerous to public health?  One limits the use of science in setting regulatory policies. While the results may line corporate pockets, it will not be a win for the public and long term safety standards.   Between universal health care and an embrace, rather than a rejection of science, are among the reasons Europeans increasingly enjoy longer life spans than Americans, not that any of this matters to Trump and the vulture capitalists he champions.   The latest assault on public health care policy comes in efforts to limit the role of science in the EPA's policy making process.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at this aspect of the Trump/Pence regimes effort to restore the worse aspects of the Gilded Age.  Here are excerpts which also suggests that opposing these efforts should be part of the Democrats' 2020 agenda:
There are essentially two fronts in the Trump administration’s long battle to dismantle EPA protections and deregulate industry to allow increased pollution in the pursuit of short-term profit: the rolling back of specific laws that ensure access to clean air and water, and an attack on the science that informs the Environmental Protection Agency’s policy decisions.
On that second front, the White House has undermined individual targets, like the 2017 establishment of veto power over scientific studies produced by the EPA, and the recent massaging of information to suggest pollution from coal plants kill less Americans every year than is the case. But a new draft of an EPA proposal published Monday suggests that the Trump administration is preparing a comprehensive assault on the ability for scientists funded by the agency to suggest policy with accurate data. Under the guise of transparency, the proposal will allow the EPA to reject any academic findings unless all raw data from the study — including confidential medical records — is handed over.
As the New York Times notes, the inclusion of confidential records will severely hinder the ability of researchers to propose new clean air and water legislation, as “many studies detailing the links between pollution and disease rely on personal health information gathered under confidentiality agreements.” The proposal would also apply retroactively, meaning that a practice that has been built into public health research could nullify current policies built off of established studies — including findings proving that mercury discharge from power plants affects brain development, and that lead in paint dust is associated with childhood behavioral disorders. “This means the E.P.A. can justify rolling back rules or failing to update rules based on the best information to protect public health and the environment, which means more dirty air and more premature deaths,” Paul Billings, a senior vice president at the American Lung Association, told the Times. Other advocacy groups to condemn a previous draft of the proposal — which was less exacting than the current one — include the Michael J. Fox Foundation, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Medical Library Association, the Association of Academic Health Science Libraries, and the National Center for Science Education, which claimed that the policy “would send a deeply misleading message, ignoring the thoughtful processes that scientists use to ensure that all relevant evidence is considered.” [I]t’s strange that 2020 Democrats have yet to push Trump’s failure to ensure Americans’ access to clean air and water — concerns that are broadly supported across the political spectrum. In a recent analysis on the popularity of strong anti-pollution enforcement, New York’s Eric Levitz argued that “it would be in the Democratic Party’s interest to increase the salience of environmental issues even if Trump hadn’t spent the past two years letting Big Coal and Dow Chemical run the EPA.”
Put another way, if Democrats aren’t able to leverage the popularity of environmental protections, Trump could be able to undermine the research underpinning the EPA for close to a decade.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

Monday, November 11, 2019

What Thomas Jefferson Could Not Teach at UVA

A view of Thomas Jefferson's "Academical Village."

As a double graduate of the University of Virginia (both as an undergraduate and law school) I have a strong allegiance to what Thomas Jefferson envisioned as his "academical village" - a village that on the 200th anniversary of its founding has grown beyond Jefferson's wildest dreams and gained the stature that he had so hoped for.  Thus, it was with great interest that I read a long article in The Atlantic that looks at Jefferson's efforts to found the University of Virginia ("UVA") and how in the shorter term it failed to achieve his goals of equaling the North's leading universities and educating a future generation that would do what Jefferson's generation had failed to do: end slavery. There are a number of ironies, not the least of which is that it was slave labor that built UVA - and most colleges in the South - and that many of the university's graduates took up the cause of the Confederacy to protect the institution of slavery.  Nonetheless, the article is an interesting read (okay, perhaps not for some Virginia Tech alumni such as one "RL" who knows who he is and seemingly resents UVA with a passion - my reply: an inferiority complex can be such sad thing to witness) and give further insights to the always intriguing and very contradictory Jefferson.  Here are article highlights:
Thomas Jefferson had a severe case of New England envy. Though that region had formed the most consistent bloc of opposition to him and his political party, almost from the beginning of his time on the national stage, he admired many things about the place. First and foremost, he looked with longing toward New England’s system of town meetings, which gathered citizens together to discuss and make decisions about their local communities. Jefferson considered this form of participatory democracy crucial to building and maintaining a healthy republican society.
 And then there was the region’s profusion of educational institutions. Jefferson admired those as well—even if he did not always agree with what was being taught there. The hard work of democracy, including well-ordered community decision making, required an educated populace. That is why he waged a campaign for a system of publicly supported education in Virginia for many years. The Revolution and the creation of the United States of America broadened Jefferson’s vision in many ways, and by his mid-40s, he had taken to insisting that the job of reforming Virginia—above all, ending slavery, a system in which he participated—would fall to “the rising generation.” He and his fellows in the revolutionary generation had done their service by founding a new country. It was now up to the young people who inherited that legacy to carry the torch and continue the advancement of what he considered Enlightenment values. But Jefferson could not totally bow out of the quest to transform the place he was born and had long thought of as his “country.” Improving Virginia’s system of education, Jefferson believed, was the foundation upon which progress would be built, and the foundation had to be laid properly. If publicly supported primary and secondary schooling was not possible, he would shift his focus. He filled his time in retirement writing and answering letters, and playing host to the hordes of visitors who came up the mountain to see him. But his main mission was planning for a university that would rival the great universities in the North. In Thomas Jefferson’s Education, Alan Taylor—the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor of History at the University of Virginia—probes that ambitious mission in clear prose and with great insight and erudition. He explains why Jefferson found those educational choices so intolerable, what he planned to do about the situation, and how his concerns and plans mapped onto a growing sectional conflict that would eventually lead to the breakup of the Union that Jefferson had helped create. Taylor demonstrates that Jefferson, who had begged to enroll at “the College” at age 16, nurtured an ambivalence about William & Mary that eventually hardened into distaste. His late-in-life accounts of his time there almost invariably cast the school in a negative light. The campus was full of rowdy and haughty young men who looked down on the townspeople of Williamsburg and were given to drink, debauchery, and violence. Jefferson, elected governor of Virginia in 1779, included improving William & Mary in his plans for reform. At first, he was optimistic that the college could “train a new generation of young men better than their elders, who had grown up under British rule,” Taylor writes. Animated by the new spirit of republicanism and by Enlightenment values, the young men would see the importance of science, question orthodoxies—even religious ones—and work for greater participation by white men of all classes in the governance of Virginia.  . . . When his law teacher and friend, George Wythe, resigned from his post at the college in 1789, Jefferson declared the place dead to him: “It is over with the college.” Only a new university could carry out the plans he had for Virginia. Taylor suggests that Jefferson may have wanted not simply to replace William & Mary, but to destroy it. Jefferson’s sense of urgency about creating a progressive institution of higher education in Virginia—one free from religious orthodoxy and steeped in republican principles—grew stronger as a deep political divide in the country formed along regional lines in the 1790s. The Federalists, who endorsed a strong central government, were largely from the North. Jefferson’s Republicans, defenders of states’ rights and yeoman farmers against what they saw as monarchical centralizers and predatory banking practices, were largely from the South. Northern universities, in Jefferson’s view, were hotbeds of Federalist influence. He wanted Virginia in the vanguard of the new American nation.
 Jefferson’s pursuit of his educational vision was intensified and complicated by the heightening tensions over western expansion in the first two decades of the 19th century. Northerners, in the main, thought that any new states entering the Union should be free states, while Southerners fully expected to move west with their system of plantation-based slavery fully intact. This conflict posed a dilemma for Jefferson, whose self-identity and reputation included being ardently antislavery. . . . Northerners’ charge that Southerners were “hypocrites who preached democracy, while keeping slaves,” hit the author of the Declaration of Independence and the master of Monticello particularly hard. The volatile topic had to be left to some point in the future when the bulk of the white population could muster the will to do away with it. That outsiders would deign to tell Virginians what to do about this “domestic” institution was a bridge too far, even for a well-known critic of slavery. The young men trained at his university would help prepare their fellow Virginians to do what needed to be done.
Fearing that a dynamic North would eventually overtake his home state, which had been the most populous and powerful in the Union but began to slip in the 19th century, Jefferson was convinced that he was the perfect model for the new-age republican citizen needed to preserve its ascendancy.
What he believed, one day every enlightened person would believe: that republicanism was inherently good, that organized religion should be viewed with skepticism, that Jesus was not divine, that slavery was wrong. Given access to education, people could learn to embrace all these views, thanks to their powers of rationality and openness to new discoveries. As he explained to a correspondent, his university would “be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind, for here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.” It was a Jeffersonian project all the way. He designed the buildings of what he called the “Academical Village” and determined the curriculum. The idea was audacious—that a great university could be built in a rural location, drawing professors from across the United States and Europe. “Mine, after all, may be an Utopian dream,” he wrote, but it was one that he would “indulge in till I go to the land of dreams, and sleep there with the dreamers of all past and future times.” The University of Virginia, which celebrates its 200th anniversary this year, was controversial from the start. Was it really needed? Should the state pay money for what was, at base, an elitist enterprise? Many were also upset that the university embodied what they saw as Jefferson’s hostility to religion. It employed no professor of religion or divinity. Where a chapel would normally stand was a rotunda, a showcase of classical architecture, leading some to refer to the school as Jefferson’s “infidel” university.
 There was a problem. A revolution had taken place since he had attended college, but the students who came to Jefferson’s new university were just as violent, lazy, and contemptuous of their supposed inferiors as his college peers had been. Jefferson said that the institution would be based on the “illimitable freedom of the human mind,” but his everyone-should-be-like-me approach did not take into account the upbringings of the young men who would attend the university. In Notes on the State of Virginia, he had written of slavery as a school for “despotism” for white people, and he later blamed slavery for the social and intellectual backwardness of Virginia. But the Revolution had left slavery in place. It remained a training ground for despots. Jefferson apparently believed that taking these young men out of their homes and placing them away from a town or city, with professors as mentors, would turn them into open-minded citizens—just what he thought had happened to him in his college days. In reality, gathering a group of young despots in one place brought a predictable outcome: They became obstreperous and used their power to hurt the most vulnerable people in their midst. Taylor is superb on the mistreatment of the enslaved who worked at the university. Enslaved people had helped build the school. Once it opened, they maintained the physical structures—repairing and cleaning them—and served the professors, some of whom bought or hired their own slaves from local slave owners. Jefferson forbade the students to do so. But the young men had internalized the idea that they were “masters” and should be able to hit or punish black people at will, whether or not those people “belonged” to them. In the end, the elite among the generation on which Jefferson pinned so much hope were as impervious to their professors’ teachings as many of Jefferson’s classmates had been. The lack of a chapel did not make them religious skeptics. . . . . nstead of viewing slavery as a necessary evil that would die out, they came to openly espouse the belief that slavery was a positive good, as the prices of slaves rose with the nascent increase in cotton production in the South. In these and other ways, the young men deviated far from the direction in which Jefferson was certain “progress” inevitably would take them. Only after many years, and much struggle, did the institution Jefferson created take its place among the great universities of the nation and of the world. Much had to be broken to get there: the slaveholders’ Union that existed before 1865; the institution of slavery; the regime of Jim Crow, which kept black students out of the school; and the principle of sex-segregated education. Ironically, given Jefferson’s hopes for a regional resurgence, the transformation of the nation at large was what helped his state-based dream of educational excellence come true.

200 years after the University's founding, Virginia is again ascendant; it is once again among the wealthier states; and as of last week, it went "blue" and embraced progressive government and leadership and rejected the racism and religious extremism (in the form of the Virginia GOP) Jefferson so disliked.  As for the University itself, it has made much progress in facing its past history entwined with slavery and then Jim Crow and is making sure this less than flattering legacy is not swept under the rug.  Jefferson would likely be pleased. As for myself, I count myself lucky to have experienced UVA.  Thus I quote - to the horror of Hokie friends such as RL the last part of the 1903 poem, The Honor Men:
If you live a long time and, keeping the faith in all these things hours by hour, still see that the sun gilds your path with real gold and that the moon floats in dream silver; Then…Remembering the purple shadows of the lawn, the majesty of the colonnades, and the dream of your youth, you may say in your reverence and thankfulness:  “I have worn the honors of Honors. I graduated from Virginia.” 

Trump Cranks Religion to 11 As Impeachment Looms

No segment of American society has been more loyal to the morally bankrupt Donald Trump than evangelical Christians.  Having followed the so-called "Christian Right" - which is neither Christian nor right about anything - it's of little surprise.  Among evangelical leaders - I refer to them as "professional Christians" - it has never been about spreading the gospel message, especially how one is to care for the less fortunate, but rather all about self-enrichment and worldly power.  Their followers are similarly toxic inasmuch as their main motivations are based on animus to others rather than an embrace of Christ's message. In may ways, they and Donald Trump were made for each other: they, like Trump are frauds and their leaders little more than snake oil merchants and con-artists.  Trump seemingly saw these folks for what they are and has used promises of special rights and policies harmful to those they dislike to cement an unholy alliance.  Now, with the impeachment process intensifying, Trump has turned up his shameless courting of these morally deficit individuals.  A piece in Rewire looks at Trump's actions which are reminiscent of those of Richard Nixon when faced with the specter of impeachment.  Here are excerpts:

As Trump’s impeachment fears intensify and the House formalizes its impeachment process, the White House has cranked the religion up to eleven. On Tuesday, twenty-five evangelical megachurch leaders prayed for and with Trump in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, in a grand spectacle. So much for Jesus’s condemnation of public prayer as hypocrisy in his Sermon on the Mount. 
Then, on Thursday night, the White House announced that one of those preachers, Paula White, a televangelist, is joining the White House staff on the Faith and Opportunity Initiative. Earlier in October, Mike Pompeo and Bill Barr delivered now infamous speeches tying the administration to Christian nationalism.
This religious revival is all about impeachment. The hour-long prayer session included a standing ovation and was widely covered by Fox News and other conservative outlets, who explicitly characterized the prayers as a pushback against impeachment.
Nixon turned to religion as the Watergate wave broke over his administration. His first address to the nation about “the Watergate affair” announced the resignations of three senior staffers and the firing of White House Counsel John Dean. It was the first time a president ended a speech with the phrase “God bless America.” The phrase was not merely an offhand religious remark, but part of an overt appeal to Chrisitans all over the nation, a reminder that Nixon was one of them: “I ask for your prayers to help me in everything that I do throughout the days of my presidency. God bless America and God bless each and every one of you.” Nixon also managed to mention “Christmas”—in April—and work in the phrase “God-given rights.”
Eleven months after the first Watergate/’God Bless America’ address, Nixon’s popularity plummeted and the noose of impeachment tightened, so he set off on a public relations tour to woo southern members of the House committee in charge of that impeachment. His first stop was the Grand Ole Opry, where he closed the evening by playing “God Bless America” on the piano so that the crowd would sing along.
Nixon used religion as a political tool throughout his career. Scholars credit him with bringing evangelicals into the GOP. He and Billy Graham used each other in a toxic relationship of religion, politics, and, as tapes later showed, anti-Semitism. Like Trump, Nixon invited evangelicals into the White House and the halls of power in ways previously unseen in a country that adopted the separation of state and church as a founding principle. However, even with that baseline piety, Nixon’s public displays of religion seemed to get more ostentatious as impeachment heated up.
But why? First, there’s a realpolitik element. Trump, like Nixon, is shoring up his base of evangelical support. “Don’t worry. Your leaders still support me. I even gave one a White House salary,” he seems to be saying. This is both un-American and irreligious. When religion is used as a political weapon, it becomes weakened and tainted
The separation of state and church is regularly used to keep religion out of government. But it’s also meant to allow religion to remain free of the taint of the day-to-day political power struggle. This is why Madison wrote that “religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.” Politicians taint religion by using it as a political tool. Indeed, Madison’s writing is a prescient warning about Donald Trump. 
The second reason Trump is cranking up the religion is, as I explain in The Founding Myth, to distract the masses and cloak a criminal in the mantle of religion. Religion can be simple shorthand for tribal allegiance, but it also has the power to distract from important issues that actually affect governance and to serve as a rhetorical substitute for genuine morality.
Nixon asked people to pray for him and ended with “God bless America” to remind the nation that he was religious and therefore moral, and thus either innocent or deserving of forgiveness. Trump is doing the same with his gaggle of evangelical bootlickers. The only difference is that with Trump, evangelicals seem content to concede that he is not moral, but an “imperfect vessel” doing their god’s will. We’ll have to wait and see, as Trump continues his campaign of religious pandering, whether he’s done enough to earn the “deserving of forgiveness” label. One thing is certain, more public piety is in our future.

Monday Morning Male Beauty

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Sunday Morning Male Beauty

The Demographic Revolution in Virginia

The husband and I spent part of yesterday morning at the Executive Mansion in Richmond where a celebratory air reigned in the wake of last week's Virginia elections and where the governor said it was time to be bold and move Virginia forward with the passage of progressive legislation long blocked by Republican control of the General Assembly.  It was part of a mindset that embraces Virginia's demographic changes and a much more diverse population that is increasingly highly educated and is powering Virginia to new levels of wealth not seen since before the Civil War when Virginia ranked among the wealthiest states,  In sharp contrast to this embrace of change and diversity, nothing is more frightening to the Republican Party of Virginia and its base that educated and non-white voters - two groups in particular who find Donald Trump and today's GOP's agenda of division repulsive. Nowhere is this sharp contrast more pronounced than in Virginia's booming suburban areas where those new to the state or who fled rural areas of the state - causing a significant brain drain and driving up the average age of residents in rural regions - have settled.  A lengthy piece in the New York Times looks at the demographic revolution in Virginia that is also occurring in some other Southern states  and even Texas.   The take away is that until the Virginia GOP ceases to be a party of tacit white supremacists and right wing Christian zealots, ts future prospects in Virginia are bleak.  Here are article highlights:

Once the heart of the confederacy, Virginia is now the land of Indian grocery stores, Korean churches and Diwali festivals. The state population has boomed — up by 38 percent since 1990, with the biggest growth in densely settled suburban areas like South Riding. One in 10 people eligible to vote in the state were born outside the United States, up from one in 28 in 1990. It is also significantly less white. In 1990, the census tracts that make up Mr. Katkuri’s Senate district were home to about 35,000 people — 91 percent of them white. Today, its population of 225,000 is just 64 percent white.
“It’s a totally different world,” said Charles Poland, 85, a retired history professor whose family has lived in Loudoun County for four generations. His family farm is now dotted with subdivisions filled with four and five-bedroom homes that sell for $750,000. The family legacy is a road named Poland. “If my parents came back today, they wouldn’t recognize the place. The changes came like a tidal wave.”
It’s not just Virginia. From Atlanta to Houston, this pattern is repeating itself — a new kind of suburbanization that is sweeping through politics. The densely populated inner ring suburbs are turning blue, while the mostly white exurban outer ring is redder than ever. Elections are won and lost along that suburban line, and in some places — like Atlanta, Denver, and Riverside County, Calif. — Democrats have begun to breach Republicans’ firewalls.
Democrats took control of the House and elevated Nancy Pelosi to speaker in 2018 because of victories in these fast-changing parts of America, and both parties are preparing for battle over these voters in 2020.
“What was interesting about 2018 was not just that Democrats succeeded in places where they didn’t in 2006, but also that they did as well in places that 10 years ago we never would have considered competitive,” said Amy Walter, national editor of The Cook Political Report, which provides analysis of elections and races.
In Virginia, the political pendulum has swung several times in the statehouse over the past decade. Large swaths of Virginia are still very conservative and Mr. Trump is popular in those places. In 2016, he won 93 of Virginia’s 133 counties, but it wasn’t enough to take the state.
The influx of immigrants and their U.S.-born children, the spread of high-density suburbia and the growth of higher education all tilt the field toward the Democrats. Still, that doesn’t give them a lock on the state, said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
As Virginia’s population has grown it has also gotten wealthier. Households earning at least $150,000 have grown at three times the rate of the population over all.
But when he got his citizenship in March and started talking with his friends about whom to vote for in the first election of his life, he realized it had to be Democrats. Mr. Trump helped him decide.  “The way he speaks, you get the feeling that you are separate,” Mr. Katkuri said. “This is not what we signed up for in America.”
Of the 10 metro areas that had the largest South Asian growth, five are in the South, said Ms. Sridaran, who was born in Atlanta, after her father took a teaching job at Morehouse School of Medicine in the early 1980s.  One of them was Richmond.
In Centreville on Thursday — smack in the middle of House District 40, where the nonwhite population has jumped by more than fivefold since 1990, driven by immigrants from South Korea — several people said Mr. Trump was the reason they voted this week.
“People are just sick and appalled at this president,” said Dr. Charles Huh, a gastroenterologist, as he waited for takeout at the food court in Lotte Plaza Market, a Korean grocery store. “He’s the best thing Republicans have done for Democrats in a long time.”
“It is literally a new day in Virginia,” he said, a table of snacks set up in the back. He explained that demographic changes meant the people in the room were now in a position to help shape policy. “Come to Richmond,” he said. “This is really our chance.”
Thank goodness it is a new day in Virginia and, for the LGBT community the next legislative session will see passage of non-discrimination protections long blocked by Virginia Republicans.   A more welcoming state may, in fact further accelerate the demographic changes that have brought Virginia to this point.