Saturday, February 13, 2021

Final Saturday Male Beauty


Only Seven Senate Republicans Cared About Trump's Guilt

Fifty seven senators including seven Republicans - Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, And Ben Sasse of Nebraska who are pictured above - voted to convict Donald Trump for inciting an insurrection.  The other forty three Republicans  chose to pander to the basket of deplorables that comprises the GOP base and even ignored the fact that Trump had endangered their own lies.  The cowardice and moral bankruptcy of these forty three spineless individuals will haunt them in the long view of history and confirms that they have no basis to ever lecture anyone on morality or decency. I have little use for Susan Collins of Maine, but at least she chose not to prostitute herself to Trump one last time. Don't be fooled by those who will bloviate about Trump being out of office so a guilty vote wasn't required.  They sent a clear message that attempting overthrow the U.S. government is perfectly fine in their foul and craven view.  A column in the Washington Post excoriates these senators who gave treason a pass.  Here are highlights:

This is damning — and utterly believable — evidence of Trump’s culpability not just in inciting the attack but in failing to try to stop it after it had begun. This goes straight to the biggest weakness in Trump’s generally pathetic defense. His attorneys at least had some things to say in defense of Trump’s actions before the riot. Their arguments may have been unconvincing and deceptive, but at least they had arguments: They said that Trump didn’t intend his supporters to violently attack the Capitol when he told them to “fight much harder” — he only wanted them to fight within legal and political channels.

But the Trump attorneys literally had nothing to say about Trump’s actions after the attack began. In his closing argument, lead impeachment manager Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.) asked defense attorneys: Why didn’t Trump tell his supporters to stop the attack as soon as he learned of it? Why did he do nothing for at least two hours? And why did Trump fail to condemn the rioters? The defense attorneys had no response.

It’s obvious why Trump’s lawyers couldn’t defend his conduct after the attack began. It was indefensible and inexcusable. [Trump] The president was clearly rooting for the mob, at least initially. The conversation between McCarthy and Trump confirms that. So, too, does the fact that even after then-Vice President Mike Pence had to be evacuated from the Senate chamber at 2:13 p.m., Trump still inflamed the mob, which was now inside the Capitol, with a tweet critical of his vice president.

Trump’s attorney Michael van der Veen said on Friday, “At no point was the president informed the vice president was in any danger.” That is clearly false. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) reports that Trump called him around 2:26 p.m. to urge him to delay the electoral vote certification. Tuberville says he told [Trump] the president that Pence had been hustled out and that the whole Senate was evacuating. Yet Trump still did next to nothing to attempt to rein in the rioters. Even after all the horrors of the day, Trump still said that he “loved” the mob and that they were “very special.”

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), the arch Trump lickspittle, sought to cast doubt on the new evidence by tweeting: "The source of these stories is the liberal media with an agenda.” Nope. The source of these stories is Graham’s fellow Republicans. Imagine how damaging it would have been to Trump’s defense if Herrera Beutler and Tuberville had testified under oath for the whole world to see  . . . .

Trump’s attorneys were so eager on Saturday to avoid witnesses that they agreed to stipulate that Herrera Beutler’s testimony was accurately reported by CNN (while falsely claiming that McCarthy had denied her account). The surprise is that Democrats took the Trump team up on its offer even after the Senate had voted to hear witnesses. It would not have been difficult to depose Herrera Beutler and other witnesses while the Senate continued with other business.

No amount of testimony, admittedly, would change most Republican votes, because most GOP senators are too terrified of Trump to convict him. Only seven dared to vote for conviction — and that’s more than expected. . . . When American democracy has faced an unprecedented assault from an American president, it behooves the Senate to at least pretend to care.

[E]ven without hearing from witnesses, the House impeachment managers still presented conclusive evidence of Trump’s guilt. Eighty-six percent of the Senate Republicans just didn’t care. The smoking gun was right in front of them, and they said, “What gun? What smoke?”

One can only hope that prosecutors in New York State and New York City and perhaps Georgia have the moral courage to pursue Trump and put him behind bars.  Trump is human refuse.

More Saturday Male Beauty


Republicans Resist Repeal of Unconstitutional Gay Marriage Bans

In the past at social occasions former Republican colleagues have asked me when I will return to the Republican Party.  Now that the GOP is the Trump party - a Senate acquittal of Trump will irreversibly confirm this - my answer is "never,"  But there's another reason I cannot be a Republican even if Trump and the deplorables who comprise his base were rejected, the GOP as a whole remains committed to depriving me and others in the LGBT community of basic civil rights.  The GOP national platform continues to oppose same sex marriage (the husband and I were married in Washington, DC, just shy of seven years ago) and a majority of Virginia Republican members of the General Assembly likewise remain opposed to marriage equality and oppose the repeal of Virginia's unconstitutional Marshall-Newman Amendment to the Virginia Constitution that sought to bar any recognition of same sex relationships. A piece at NBC News looks at the effort to repeal this toxic constitutional amendment.  Here are highlights:

Even though it’s been more than five years since the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex couples have the right to marry “on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples,” dozens of states still have constitutional amendments on the books that ban gay marriage.

Virginia is one of those states, and its first openly LGBTQ legislator is leading the charge to ax the outdated law.

Democratic state Sen. Adam Ebbin is sponsoring SJ 270, which would replace language in the state Constitution defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman with an affirmative statement that the right to marry is fundamental “regardless of the sex or gender of the parties to the marriage.”

On Feb. 5, SJ 270 cleared the Senate by a margin of 24 to 12. One day earlier, HJ 582, the House version, passed 60 to 33.

In Virginia, though, overturning a constitutional amendment is a two-year process — one that requires two separate General Assembly sessions separated by a general election to pass identical bills before a measure is put on the ballot for a public vote.

Since the landmark Obergefell ruling, at least eight states have tried to remove similarly unenforceable marriage bans, according to the Equality Federation. In November, Nevada became the first to do so, with 62 percent of voters backing the measure.

But 30 states still have such prohibitions written into their constitutions, according to the Movement Advancement Project. Sixteen of them also ban civil unions, and two, including Virginia’s, prohibit any legal recognition of gay relationships.

But homophobic laws can have a long shelf life in Virginia. Although the Supreme Court ruled that sodomy bans were unconstitutional in 2003’s Lawrence vs. Texas decision, it took a full decade for Virginia’s to be struck down — and even then it was by a federal appeals court, not by legislators.

[T]he Marshall-Newman Amendment, the measure further barred any recognition of unmarried couples “that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage.”Civil rights advocates argued its broad language could be used to invalidate living wills, powers of attorney and even property agreements between same-sex partners.  . . . . In an opinion piece in The Washington Post, gay conservative Jonathan Rauch branded the amendment a “Jim Crow” law for the 21st century.

In January 2014, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced his office would not defend the amendment in federal court.

[I]in June 2015, the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges guaranteed the freedom to marry on the federal level.

Last March, the Virginia General Assembly repealed two laws banning same-sex marriage. But neither that nor the Obergefell ruling can remove what Ebbin calls “a stain” on the Virginia Constitution.

Democrats in Virginia have moved quickly to advance LGBTQ rights since gaining control of the General Assembly in 2019: Last year, the Legislature banned so-called conversion therapy on minors and passed the Virginia Values Act, making it the first Southern state to pass anti-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community.

There’s also support among voters: In 2014, 50 percent of Virginians supported same-sex marriage, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. By 2017, the last year the group polled on the question, that had jumped to 60 percent.

In 2020, a national polI by the group found a record 70 percent of Americans supported same-sex marriage, including about half of Republicans.

“They realize gay people can get married and the sky won’t fall,” Ebbin said. “So unless the Legislature goes through some drastic change, I predict that we’ll pass it.”

State Sen. Amanda Chase, a Trump loyalist running for governor, told the Virginia Mercury she voted against Ebbin’s measure to take “a stand for traditional values.”

Delegate Kirk Cox, the other Republican lawmaker running for governor, opposed Sickle’s bill in the House. Though the proposal includes a provision allowing clergy to refuse to perform any wedding, a spokesperson for the lawmaker told the Mercury that “Delegate Cox’s faith informs his views of the nature of marriage.”

“In the competition to demonstrate who is the most extreme and out of touch, Cox and Chase are neck and neck,” Anna Scholl, executive director of Progress Virginia, said in a statement. “This vote against marriage equality is just the latest example.”

On the national level, the Republican Party’s national platform — which hasn’t changed since 2016 — defends “natural marriage, the union of one man and one woman” as the cornerstone of the American family, and affirms that “every child deserves a married mom and dad.”

The GOP headquarters did not respond to a request for comment about Virginia’s proposals.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Friday, February 12, 2021

Trump's Attorneys Ignored the Evidence and Resorted to Lying


A prior post bemoaned the complicity of far too many attorneys in the misrule of the Trump/Pence regime and ultimately the failed insurrection on January 6, 2021. Two such attorneys took the stage today, if you will, as they offered up a deceptive defense of Trump and, in my opinion lied sufficiently to deserve disbarment. Hopefully, they got their pieces of silver upfront given Trump's reputation for failing to pay creditors and attorneys.  One has to wonder, assuming they received payment, how much it took to have these individuals prostitute themselves in the eyes of history as they, in my opinion, lied and sought to divert from the evidence all of us witnessed on January 6th and immediately thereafter and again during the impeachment managers presentation. A op-ed in the Washington Post by George Conway, a Trump nemesis looks at this showcase of attorney self-debasement.  Here are highlights:

What former president Donald Trump’s lawyers offered on the floor of the U.S. Senate on Friday was an attack — a misleading, distortive, gaslighting, repetitive, irrelevant and, at times, absurd although mercifully brief — attack. It was an attack on the House impeachment managers, on Democrats, on the impeachment process. It was an attack on everything but the evidence against Trump.

It was a disgrace, like the man it failed to defend.

It was a political screed, fit for One America News, and certainly welcomed by the audience of one in Palm Beach. The impeachment article “slanderously” attacked Trump. The impeachment was another “politically motivated witch hunt” that “divides our nation,” stands in the way of “unity and healing,” “cool temperatures” and “calm passions,” and renders the nation unable to “rise above partisan lines.”

This from the lawyers whose client has to this day never conceded an election he lost by 7,060,115 votes, and who mendaciously claimed on Jan. 6 that his “election victory” had been “stolen by emboldened radical left Democrats.”

The “defense,” such as it was, rested on a single principal factual assertion: that Trump had spoken, exactly once, of “peaceful and patriotic protest” — during an 11,000-word speech. Never mind the rest of the speech. Never mind the weeks of “Stop the Steal” incitement that preceded it. Never mind Trump’s summoning his followers to the capital for a “wild” time on Jan. 6. Never mind the years-long record of Trump’s incendiary rhetoric.

There were falsehoods, befitting the client they represented. What happened on Jan. 6 actually wasn’t an insurrection, said one Trump lawyer who apparently lacks a dictionary, which defines the word as “an act or instance of revolting against civil authority or an established government.”

False equivalences? There were almost too many to count. Others have used over-the-top rhetoric in the past, trumpeted Trump’s lawyers . . . The same whataboutist clips were played, over and over again, to the point of tedium and farce. They might as well have been Sean Hannity mixtapes, as Jake Tapper aptly put it on CNN. Black Lives Matter protests! Antifa! The president’s lawyers decried the managers’ supposedly misleading video-editing; then they spliced individual words together, dozens upon dozens, all out of context.

To any thinking person, the Trump lawyers didn’t make a dent in the managers’ case. And they couldn’t. Because the managers presented three overwhelming cases in one. The first is the pre-Jan. 6 case: How Trump relentlessly peddled the Big Lie: that he won the election, by a lot. How he tried to pressure election officials to manufacture votes for him. Those, by themselves, could have sufficed as impeachable offenses, given the president’s sworn duty to uphold the law and the Constitution.

The second is Trump’s Jan. 6 speech. Viewed in the context of all that preceded and surrounded it, this likewise warrants conviction beyond any doubt.

The third, equally damning, is Trump’s dereliction of duty later that day. Instead of vigorously condemning the violence the way he condemned the supposed “steal,” Trump enjoyed the televised spectacle, trashed his vice president, issued half-hearted tweets, expressed “love” for the insurrectionists, and exclaimed, “Remember this day forever!”

And as to each of these offenses, Trump’s lawyers ignored the law. Yes, it’s the Constitution that applies here, but not the First Amendment, as they repeatedly asserted. It’s the president’s constitutional duty under Article II, which first and foremost is to sustain democracy, not destroy it. As Raskin put it on Thursday, “What is impeachable conduct, if not this?”

The Trump lawyers offered no answer, because there is none.

More Friday Male Beauty


The Legal Profession Must Reckon With its Complicity in Trump’s Attack on Democracy

I have been a licensed attorney for almost 44 years, holding licenses in Virginia, Alabama and Texas.  The law can be a noble profession if attorneys uphold ethical standards, reject retaining malignant clients,  and assist businesses and individuals in achieving goals.  Sadly, it can be a dangerous and unscrupulous profession when the truth no longer matters and the all mighty dollars is the only god of members of the bar. There is blame to share when the latter condition prevails with some of the blame falling on sleazy and unprincipled attorneys who all too often find state bars to be reluctant to disciple and disbar morally deficient attorneys.  Rather than pursue dangerous bad actors, state bars prefer to obsess over minor and some times unintentional infractions while the huge threats to the profession go un disciplined for years.  The downside of all of this is that the profession as a whole suffers and is saddled with a bad reputation thanks to the actions of the few.  Which brings me to Donald Trump and his legal enablers.  Yes, some of Trump's attorneys withdrew as counsel rather than lie to tribunals but too many of Trump's assaults on decency, the rule of law and America's democracy have found willing accomplices within the legal community - think Trump's defense counsel in the current impeachment proceedings - who think nothing of lying for the right price and care nothing of their duty to the larger society. In my personal view, such attorneys need to be disbarred and make the most tawdry whore look virtuous. An op-ed in the New York Times looks at the soul searching the legal profession needs to undertake given the complicity of too many attorneys in Trump's assaults on decency and democracy itself.  Here are excerpts:

Every day, we learn more about the concerted attack on American democracy perpetuated to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. But the violent storming of the Capitol was only its most visible and ugly climax. What has become disturbingly and abundantly clear is that whether through former President Donald Trump’s relentless and meritless lawsuits, the plot in the Department of Justice to remove the acting attorney general, or a congressional plan in which members — including two former Supreme Court clerks — perpetuated false unsubstantiated claims of massive voter fraud, lawyers played a central role in enabling the most dangerous assault on American democracy in more than a century.

The appalling conduct of the lawyers at the highest levels of government who behaved so shamelessly in seeking to maintain Trump in office was not an aberration, but a continuation. Throughout Trump’s presidency, lawyers were centrally involved in perpetuating some of its most repugnant excesses. Attorney General Jeff Sessions helped develop the concept of family separation as a migration deterrent. His deputy, Rod Rosenstein, reportedly signed off on applying the policy no matter the age of the child. Sessions’s successor, Bill Barr, misrepresented the Mueller team’s findings and interfered with the sentencing of the Trump advisers Paul Manafort and Roger Stone.

Despite this, there was little condemnation from the leadership institutions of our profession. The American Law Institute invited Mr. Barr to speak just months after his hijacking of the Mueller report, and ensured that there was no opportunity for questions from the audience. And neither judicial nor prosecutors’ associations ever issued condemnatory statements when Mr. Trump incited threats against the Black jury forewoman in Mr. Stone’s case.

The upending of norms and standards carried into the legislative and judicial branches as well. Many cabinet and judicial nominees, beginning with Mr. Sessions himself, made a mockery of the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation process by providing misleading information on their confirmation questionnaires — which are submitted under penalty of perjury. Neither Mr. Sessions nor other nominees were held accountable for these misrepresentations. Instead, almost all were confirmed.

The Judiciary Committee — principally made up of lawyers — split along party lines, with many Republican lawyer members recommending the confirmation of Federal District Court nominees who had no discernible litigation experience, and of appellate court and District Court nominees who received rare “not qualified” ratings by the American Bar Association.

During their confirmation hearings, over two dozen Trump administration nominees to the federal bench refused to say that the landmark school desegregation case, Brown v. Board of Education, was correctly decided — despite universal acceptance that Brown is fundamental to the rule of law itself.

Just as the president, members of Congress, and insurrectionists must be held accountable for their actions, the legal profession must urgently take collective stock of why so many prominent legal institutions and leaders were embroiled in supporting one of the most corrupt and destructive presidencies in our history.

Rather than a government-created tribunal, though, our profession should be prepared to examine its own conduct in this period that has brought us to the brink of democratic collapse — and make bold changes to strengthen the legal profession’s foundations.

This begins with a recognition that in a world in which raw power has come to transcend the unspoken code of civility and integrity among political lawyers, more is needed than the mere expectation that lawyers in government will behave honorably. The tenure of Bill Barr makes clear that the presumption that the Department of Justice will maintain an appropriate measure of independence from the White House can simply no longer be left to the personal ethics of individual attorneys general. We need a revision of the rules that govern recusal by lawyers in the Department of Justice. An independent nonpartisan tribunal of ethics experts should be empaneled to issue recusal advisories and orders for the department’s leadership.

The Model Rules of Professional Conduct bar lawyers from abusing the legal process, and yet for weeks on end a cohort of lawyers — including attorneys general from 17 states who supported the Texas lawsuit seeking to delay the election certification — did just that on the president’s behalf following his electoral loss in November. Is it enough that nearly every judge they faced booted out their cases unceremoniously? Is that sufficient deterrence to other lawyers to refrain from the egregious conduct that unnecessarily expended court resources but that also kept alive a fraudulent narrative advanced by the president that the election had been “stolen,” which ultimately led to the violent attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6? Obviously not.

Lawyers must face professional censure for such conduct, and the law firms where these lawyers serve as partners should be compelled to review their own standards for leadership.

Without question, these changes will be difficult and controversial. But we must have a full accounting and examination of our profession’s role in contributing to the erosion of our democracy. Even now, the outcome of Mr. Trump’s second impeachment trial will depend on the integrity and courage of lawyers, who make up a majority of the United States Senate. As a profession we must confront ourselves if lawyers are to be worthy of the mantle of leadership that is so routinely and unquestioningly conferred upon us, and if we are to protect the rule of law in our democracy.

The author is 100% correct.  Something needs to be done and a goodly number of attorneys need to lose their licenses.

Friday Morning Male Beauty


Former Republicans in Talks to Form Anti-Trump Third Party

With almost half of Congressional Republicans having refused to vote for the certification of Joe Biden's victory and now with Senate Republicans likely set to refuse to convict Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial even after the damning presentation by the House impeachment managers, the Republican Party needs to die.  Or should I say the Trump Party needs to die.  This feeling has motivated dozens of former Republican office holders and officials to enter into talks to form a new third party that would take up conservative policies and positions once held by the GOP before it became a white supremacist sectarian party.  Launching a new national political party is a daunting challenge, but the effort could lead to defeats for Trump Republicans and accelerate the demise of the GOP as it panders to a shrinking uneducated, racist and religiously extreme white population and sees suppression of non-white votes as its only route to power given the exodus on educated suburban whites from the party.  I wish them luck in their much needed endeavor.  Reuters has highlights:

Dozens of former Republican officials, who view the party as unwilling to stand up to former President Donald Trump and his attempts to undermine U.S. democracy, are in talks to form a center-right breakaway party, four people involved in the discussions told Reuters.

The early stage discussions include former elected Republicans, former officials in the Republican administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Trump, ex-Republican ambassadors and Republican strategists, the people involved say.

More than 120 of them held a Zoom call last Friday to discuss the breakaway group, which would run on a platform of “principled conservatism,” including adherence to the Constitution and the rule of law - ideas those involved say have been trashed by Trump.

The plan would be to run candidates in some races but also to endorse center-right candidates in others, be they Republicans, independents or Democrats, the people say.

Evan McMullin, who was chief policy director for the House Republican Conference and ran as an independent in the 2016 presidential election, told Reuters that he co-hosted the Zoom call with former officials concerned about Trump’s grip on Republicans and the nativist turn the party has taken.

Among the call participants were John Mitnick, general counsel for the Department of Homeland Security under Trump; former Republican congressman Charlie Dent; Elizabeth Neumann, deputy chief of staff in the Homeland Security Department under Trump; and Miles Taylor, another former Trump homeland security official.

The talks highlight the wide intraparty rift over Trump’s false claims of election fraud and the deadly Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol. Most Republicans remain fiercely loyal to the former president, but others seek a new direction for the party.

Call participants said they were particularly dismayed by the fact that more than half of the Republicans in Congress - eight senators and 139 House representatives - voted to block certification of Biden’s election victory just hours after the Capitol siege.

Most Republican senators have also indicated they will not support the conviction of Trump in this week’s Senate impeachment trial.

“Large portions of the Republican Party are radicalizing and threatening American democracy,” McMullin told Reuters. “The party needs to recommit to truth, reason and founding ideals or there clearly needs to be something new.”

McMullin said just over 40% of those on last week’s Zoom call backed the idea of a breakaway, national third party. Another option under discussion is to form a “faction” that would operate either inside the current Republican Party or outside it.

Names under consideration for a new party include the Integrity Party and the Center Right Party. If it is decided instead to form a faction, one name under discussion is the Center Right Republicans.

Members are aware that the U.S. political landscape is littered with the remains of previous failed attempts at national third parties.

“But there is a far greater hunger for a new political party out there than I have ever experienced in my lifetime,” one participant said.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

More Thursday Male Beautyphil


The Impeachment Trial Is Bigger Than Trump

Ostensibly the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump is focused on Trump's role and guilt in inciting the insurrection against Congress on January 6, 2021, and the sacking of the U.S. Capitol by traitors and insurrectionist allied with Der Trumpenfuhrer.  But the trial has a wider scope inasmuch as it by extension is a trial of Republicans, particularly Congressional Republicans who aided, abetted and served as apologists for Trump over four years of  horrific behavior that foreshadowed the events on January 6, 2021.  Think Trump's racist language when he launched his campaign in 2015, think of Trump's kind words r neo-Nazis and white supremacists following the domestic terror events in Charlottesville in August, 2017, and, of course, Trump's words at the "rally" immediately prior to the assault on the U.S. Capitol. The track record of demagoguery, calls for violence, and the sowing of lies and hates is in plain view.  Yet, as CNN is reporting, three GOP Senators - Mike Lee, Lindsey Graham, a/k/a Lady G, and Ted Cruz - met with Trump's defense team even as they are cast as jurors who must judge Trump.  In the regular legal realm, such behavior would lead to disqualification or disbarment (something that needs to happen to Cruz).  A column in the Washington Post by a former Republican looks at this wider scope of the trial.  Here are highlights:

The impeachment case against Donald Trump is difficult to answer because its essence is unanswerable. Trump’s main problem is not incompetent counsel; it is damning reality.

The Capitol attackers were not only motivated by the big lie of a stolen election. They were also told by then-President Trump that Jan. 6 was the day to gather and intimidate Vice President Mike Pence and elected Republicans into taking unconstitutional action to overturn the November election’s outcome. The prosecution has pressed an element of its case with righteous tenacity: If Trump did not intend the assault, why did he wait for hours to respond to it? Why did he continue to incite the crowd against Pence after the attack began? Why did he refuse to criticize the attackers in any way? Why did he celebrate their lawless accomplishment afterward?

Republican senators are running out of fig leaves. Many still cling to the weak procedural argument that former presidents can escape justice because they have left office. But history does not offer an out this easy. A vote on jurisdiction has already been taken. A vote for acquittal will properly be regarded as “not guilty.”

So what are we to make of the intransigence of Republican senators in the face of compelling evidence?

A few (see Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz) seek to surf the wave of anger Trump has created. In a choice between their ambition and the health of the republic, the republic doesn’t stand a chance.

But this category does not cover most Senate Republicans. They simply want to avoid being political piƱatas. Why become a MAGA target to punish a political figure who has already left office?

We can’t expect routine heroism from public officials. But this time, heroism is the only honorable response.

Above all else, senators are determining the role of threats and intimidation in American politics. Trump gathered his misfit army to try to scare members of Congress into obedience. Now he threatens retribution against any elected Republican who calls him to account. His language often has overtones of violence, as it did in his speech on Jan. 6. His followers accurately interpreted his words, which repeatedly urged them to “fight,” to show “strength” and to intimidate disloyal members of Congress. This is politics as organized thuggery.

There is a stage of democratic decline in which political movements become attached to gangs and militias, and physical threats begin to replace civil discourse. Trump has brought American politics to this point. . . . The attack of Jan. 6 was the culmination of his strategic brutality.

The impeachment trial is not a useless or irrelevant exercise for a simple reason: Trump remains the single largest threat to the health of American democracy. A second Trump administration would be liberated from even establishment Republican constraints. During his last months in office, Trump was getting the knack of placing cronies in strategic positions at the Departments of Justice and Defense. He was attempting to use his power to target enemies. He has allied his movement to armed radicals. He has shown the ability to turn the fanaticism of his supporters into a tool of political and physical intimidation. And his bitterness and sense of grievance are bottomless.

In this circumstance, a failure of duty is not understandable. It would be the evidence of moral cowardice at a consequential moment of national testing.

Everyone strives to be the hero of his or her own story. Who really wants to play a bit part in the deterioration of the constitutional order? Republican senators who refuse to hold Trump to account would be complicit in the advance of political violence. If they wilt under Trump’s continuing promises of political retribution, they would be pitiful custodians of the American ideal.

But the opposite is also true. A well-timed act of political courage can be the most valued possession of a political lifetime. In this case, it would honor an oath, inspire others, and push our politics toward peace and sanity. This is entirely unlikely, but completely necessary.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty


The GOP Has Lost All Sense of "Right" and "Wrong"

Perhaps it was my Catholic upbringing and the principles that my parents raised their children by, but certain things were right and others were wrong and one did not embrace and engage in things that were wrong, especially if they were harmful to others. Once upon a time, a majority of Republicans appeared to follow such standards but not those in today's GOP, especially the party base. Ironically, this discarding of a sense of right and wrong began in earnest, in my view, when the party leadership began to allow Christofascists to infiltrate the party.  Most Christofascists wanted (i) to impose their religious beliefs and all, and (ii) raw political power.  Christ's gospel message was absent from their agenda.  Moreover, objective facts and science were the enemy since they threatened  challenged  the Christofascists' myth based beliefs and world view. Once the Christofascists held sway in the GOP, it was a small step to welcome white supremacists and neo-Nazis into the GOP. Donald Trump sensed this reality and promised these people the moon while disseminating endless lies, especially the "big lie" that the 2020 election was stolen from him.  Faced with an ugly party base, Republican elected officials had to decide if they would stand for what was right or side with Trump and what was wrong. As the impeachment trial unfolds, it is obvious that the vast majority of Republican senators will opt for the latter.  A column in the New York Times looks at this sad reality.  Here are highlights:

The first rule of politics is survival. This is a sad but pervading truth. We like to think that politicians are driven above all else by a sense of public service, a fundamental belief in the efficacy of government and in the defense of democracy.

Surely that is true of some. But we are ever reminded that too many elected officials’ primary impulse is the pursuit, acquisition and maintenance of power. . . . . So just like a pack of animals, they willingly, gleefully subjugate themselves to the one among them with the most power.

We see that playing out before our eyes in the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump for inciting an insurrection, a high crime of which he is clearly guilty.

All but six Republican senators voted that the trial itself was unconstitutional, even though constitutional scholars overwhelmingly disagree.

These politicians are still bowing to their alpha — Trump. In the early days of Trump’s presidency, Republicans in Congress either cozied up to him or sat in silence as his demagogy ensnared and entranced the Republican base.

For years — decades even — the conservative elite had alternately tolerated, recruited or activated racists, white nationalists and white supremacists. The elite have their own versions of these biases, but they thought themselves more erudite and tactical, not brash and brazen. They would use surgical tools of voter suppression, states’ rights campaigns and defense of marriage and the unborn to advance their goals in a way they saw as honorable.

But Trump saw the voters that the elites kept under the stairs, the ones they want to excite only around election time. He saw the resentment and rage in them. He saw that their voices had been muted and their tongues chastened.

He drew them out. He let them vent. He allowed them to see they were indeed the majority of the party. . . . . They grew loud and strong and he fed them red meat. They rampaged and he basked in the glow of the blaze.

Leader and followers had found each other. Now the traditional Republicans were on the run or on the ropes. Rather than become victims of the mob, they yielded to it. They tried to tap into it. They tried to grab the reins of it.

But this mob had only one leader: Trump. It was a cult of personality. It was a religion with one god. And that god is a jealous god. And vindictive. And mean.

Anyone who would dare forsake Trump runs the risk of being smote by him, and targeted by his minions. To diverge from Trump is essentially to abdicate power, and for a career politician that is a fate worse than death.

So, we watch the impeachment trial, with the impressive and clear presentation by the House impeachment managers of evidence that we already knew and some that we didn’t. We are reminded of just how heinous an episode that attempted insurrection was, that people were killed and injured.

[I]n the end, you have to ask yourself only one question to convict Trump: Would this attempted insurrection have happened without him? The answer is no.

For months Trump lied about the election and pumped into his followers the fallacy that something had been stolen from them and that they needed to fight with all they had to reclaim it. Then there are all the things he said on the eve of the assault on the Capitol, during it and even after it.

Trump refused to accept that his white power presidency was coming to an end, in part because of Black and brown voters in some key states, so he asked his white power patriots to come to his defense, to help overturn a fair election.

The Republicans in Congress are still afraid of their own base, their own constituencies in their own districts and states, because the Trump rot reaches down to the root. Their voters belong to Trump, therefore their futures are in Trump’s hands.

Trump is essentially running a defection minority government from political exile.

Republicans dare not cross him, even if they know that he is wrong, even if they know that what he did to incite the insurgency is wrong, even if they know that voting to convict him is right.

Right and wrong have taken on new meanings in this Republican Party: to be right is to side with Trump, unwaveringly, while the only wrong is to do the opposite.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


Trump’s Lawyers Lost the Day

By all accounts the orange malignant narcissist formerly residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is none too pleased by the performance of his lawyers hired at the last minute - his previous lawyers quit - during day one of Donald Trump's second impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate.  True, the attorneys had little to work with and strategically, they seemingly tried to utterly ignore what few precedents exist that argued against their claims that Trump could not be tried now that he had left office.  But the attempted defense was hollow and came across ill-prepared and likely unconvincing to viewers watching the proceeding.  Worse of all for Republican senators desperate not to have to vote to convict out of fear of a primary challenge come their next reelection effort was that Trump's attorneys gave them little cover from how the long view of history will judge them.  Many are not eager for one more case of self-abasement and self-prostitution to perhaps the most disliked occupant of the White House in the nation's history.   A piece in The Atlantic looks at the failure of Trump's attorneys.  Here are excerpts: 

“The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like.”

That’s what Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell had to say on January 21. McConnell did not rise to the leadership of the Senate Republicans by speaking idly. If he feels that Donald Trump incited a riot with the specific purpose of thwarting the 2020 election, so do many other Republican senators as well.

That belief is the danger facing Trump at this impeachment trial. Here is his opportunity: Those same Republican senators who know Trump is guilty also desperately wish to avoid convicting him. They are looking for an escape route—and that’s what today’s proceedings were intended to provide those queasy senators.

The intended escape route was the argument advanced by Trump’s lawyers in their briefs: that the Constitution does not authorize the Senate to hear impeachments of former officials. Once an official resigns or once that official’s term expires, they say, impeachment expires too. . . . Today, on the first day of the formal proceedings, Trump’s lawyers were supposed to organize the exit.

Only Trump’s lawyers messed up. Trump’s lawyers badly, badly messed up, humiliatingly messed up, world-historically messed up. They delivered two of the worst speeches ever delivered on the Senate floor—one vapid and meandering, the other belligerent and self-contradictory.

The quality of the speeches won’t make any difference to the outcome of the trial. The senators who will vote to acquit Trump are not voting because they are convinced of his innocence. They are voting because they are scared. And it will take more than an ill-prepared and ill-mannered legal team to unscare them.

But the quality of the speeches makes a difference in another respect. It’s not just Trump—and not even primarily Trump—who is on trial in the Senate this week. The partisans who enabled Trump are facing a trial of their own. What they desperately crave is a face-saving excuse for one final round of enabling.

The stupid slovenliness of the Trump legal team today, though, threatened to deprive senators of that face-saving excuse. As he so often has, Trump is making Republicans in Congress eat dirt, and eat their dirt without even the seasoning of plausible believability. It’s raw, dry dirt—pure in all its dirtiness.

Trump’s lawyers needed to hammer home the argument that when Trump’s presidency expired, so did the House impeachment. They needed to argue that the Senate cannot try—much less convict—an ex-president.

On their way to that argument, Trump’s legal team faced a number of bumps. The bumpiest bump of them all is a precedent from the Ulysses S. Grant administration. Grant’s secretary of war, William Belknap, was accused of corruption. Belknap resigned; the House impeached him anyway. . . . . the precedent established in 1876 would seem to apply to Trump in 2020, and to apply all the more strongly, given that Belknap had resigned before the House impeached him, whereas Trump was still in office when he was impeached this second time.

The Trump team’s approach to the Belknap precedent can be summed up as: “Belknap? Bel-who?” His name and case went unmentioned by either of Trump’s lawyers on the very day designated for dealing with the precedent Belknap bequeathed them.

Schoen insisted again and again that a post-term impeachment trial was illegal, unconstitutional, immoral, unprofessional, ultra vires, and possibly even ultraviolet—and yet never once mentioned that one such trial had already happened and been accepted by the Senate at the time as valid.

Meanwhile, the House managers presented a learned case, based in history, establishing that the authors of the state and federal constitutions of the 1780s agreed that an impeachment begun when an official held office could be continued if it was not yet finished before that official left. The House managers quoted the debate over Belknap, and other precedents,

When today’s passions subside, and the law professors of the future review the record, the decision will be unanimous that the House managers easily won the day—especially because the Trump team acted as if it did not know what day it was.

From the point of view of vote counting, the Trump team’s ineptitude will not much matter. Most Republicans in the Senate will vote for anything to protect Trump; only one, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, switched his vote to affirm that a former president could be tried, joining the five other Republican senators who had voted that way on the earlier measure.

From other points of view, however, the Trump team’s ineptitude will matter very much. Almost no matter what happens in the trial, at least 34 Republicans will vote to acquit Trump, but most would prefer not to look like utter hacks and fools in the process. Give us something to make our votes look decent, they must wish—but their wish today was refused.

In humiliating themselves, Trump’s lawyers humiliated the senators who will ultimately have to approve of their work and adopt it as their own point of view.

The goal of McConnell and the other less Trump-y Senate Republicans is to begin at once to put maximum distance between themselves and the least popular one-term president in the history of polling. Trump cost his party its majority in the House in 2018, its hold on the presidency in November 2020, and its majority in the Senate in January 2021.

But Trump won’t allow himself to be distanced. His team’s sorry defense at the impeachment trial binds Republican senators more closely to Trump. The constitutional argument promised by Trump’s advocates was smashed to pieces by the superior argument and evidence of the House managers.

Having lost that round, Trump’s lawyers and the Republican senators must now confront the actual damning proof of Trump’s culpability for the attack on the Capitol January 6. They will try to close their eyes to that too. But the 56 percent majority that wants Trump convicted—that majority of the country will see it all.

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


Why the Conviction of Trump by the Senate Is Necessary

Donald Trump's trial in the U.S. Senate begins today.  Frighteningly, most if not all Republican Senators may vote to acquit Trump and in so doing send a loud message that grave crimes and behavior that harms millions carry no consequences.  The irony, of course, is that had a Democrat president behaved even remotely as Trump has over four years of madness, he/she would have been impeached and convicted years ago already.  If the Republican Senators refuse to vote to convict, the nation will be one step closer to the day that an equally malignant, but more disciplined would be autocrat may overthrow America's democracy where Trump failed. It will also signal that the Republican Party is utterly morally bankrupt and deserves to die. Fear of a hideous party base can never justify embracing immorality and lawlessness.  Republican Adam Kinzinger makes this case in a column in the Washington Post.  Here are column highlights:

Winston Churchill famously said, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” All Americans, but especially my fellow Republicans, should remember this wisdom during the Senate’s trial of former president Donald Trump.

I say this as a lifelong Republican who voted to impeach Trump last month. Virtually all my colleagues on the right side of the aisle took the opposite path. Most felt it was a waste of time — political theater that distracted from bigger issues. The overwhelming majority of Senate Republicans appear to feel the same way about conviction.

But this isn’t a waste of time. It’s a matter of accountability. If the GOP doesn’t take a stand, the chaos of the past few months, and the past four years, could quickly return. The future of our party and our country depends on confronting what happened — so it doesn’t happen again.

The immediate cause for Trump’s impeachment was Jan. 6. But the president’s rally and resulting riot on Capitol Hill didn’t come out of nowhere. They were the result of four-plus years of anger, outrage and outright lies. Perhaps the most dangerous lie — or at least the most recent — was that the election was stolen. Of course it wasn’t, but a huge number of Republican leaders encouraged the belief that it was. Every time that lie was repeated, the riots of Jan. 6 became more likely.

Even now, many Republicans refuse to admit what happened.

Impeachment offers a chance to say enough is enough. It ought to force every American, regardless of party affiliation, to remember not only what happened on Jan. 6, but also the path that led there. After all, the situation could get much, much worse — with more violence and more division that cannot be overcome. The further down this road we go, the closer we come to the end of America as we know it.

The Republican Party I joined as a young man would never take that road. The GOP that inspired me to serve in uniform and then run for public office believed a brighter future was just around the bend. We stood for equal opportunity, firm in our conviction that a poor kid from the South Side of Chicago deserves the same shot as a privileged kid from Highland Park. We knew that if we brought everyone into America’s promise, we would unleash a new era of American progress and prosperity.

When leaders such as Donald Trump changed that dynamic, many of my fellow Republicans went along without question. Many are still there because they believe the rank-and-file Republican voter is there, too. But I think that’s an illusion. The anger and outrage are drowning out the much larger group of people who reject that approach.

Since my vote to impeach Trump, I’ve heard from tens of thousands of my constituents. Their reaction has been overwhelmingly supportive. Republicans of all backgrounds and outlooks have told me they appreciate my efforts to return the GOP to a foundation of principle, not personality.

I firmly believe the majority of Americans — Republican, Democrat, independent, you name it — reject the madness of the past four years. But we’ll never move forward by ignoring what happened or refusing to hold accountable those responsible. That will embolden the few who led us here and dishearten the many who know America is better than this. It will make it more likely that we see more anger, violence and chaos in the years ahead.

The better path is to learn the lessons of the recent past. Convicting Donald Trump is necessary to save America from going further down a sad, dangerous road.

Monday, February 08, 2021

More Monday Male Beauty


House Seeks to Investigate Parler’s Ties To Trump and Russia, Its Finances

As Facebook Twitter, and other social media giants belatedly began curtail the dissemination of to right wing extremist speech and disinformation (outright lies and falsehoods in common parlance) on their platforms, many of the "militia" crowd, white supremacists and anti-government extremists migrated to Parler which did little in the way of moderation to prevent hate speech and the fomenting of violence.  As noted by CNN, one of the founders and likely financial backers of Parler was Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of Robert Mercer, a hedge fund manager and the co-founder of the now-defunct political data-analysis firm Cambridge Analytica that was involved in the Russiagate scandal. The billionaire Mercers have been prominent supporters of Donald Trump and a host of extreme far right causes, including virulently anti-gay and Christofascist organizations. After the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Parler was largely shut down when Amazon Web Services kicked Parler off its platform only to be partial picked up by a Russian hosting platform.  Given Parler's role in providing a refuge for hate speech and extremism, House Democrats now want an investigation of Parler's finances and its ties to Trump, Russia.  Forbes looks at this development.  Here are article highlights:

House Democrats are looking into Parler’s finances and foreign ties as the suspended social media network comes under increased scrutiny following the attack on the U.S. Capitol building, with House Oversight Committee chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) sending a letter to the company Monday demanding it turn over documents regarding its associations with Russia and former President Donald Trump.


·         After being deplatformed by Amazon Web Services following the Jan. 6 riots, Parler came back online in a limited capacity with the help of Russian hosting provider DDoS-Guard.

·         Russian disinformation was also reportedly “allowed to flourish” on Parler despite being removed on other social networks, Maloney noted.

·         The lawmaker referenced a BuzzFeed News report that Trump was in talks to receive a 40% ownership stake in Parler in exchange for using it as his primary social platform, though negotiations broke down after the Capitol attack.

·         Maloney also noted the apparent link between Parler and the events at the Capitol building as reasons to investigate the company, and a USA Today analysis that found “calls for civil war intensified” on the platform as Trump spoke during the rally that preceded the Capitol attack.

·         Maloney asked Parler to turn over information about anyone with a financial ownership interest in Parler, including the company’s creditors, as well as any agreements or “financing, gifts, or investment” involving Russian entities and all documents regarding its proposal to have Trump join the company.

Parler has not yet responded to a request for comment.

“Since the attacks, numerous Parler users have been arrested and charged for their roles, with the Department of Justice citing in several instances the threats that individuals made through Parler in the days leading up to and following the attack,” Maloney wrote.  “Individuals with ties to the January 6 assault should not—and must not—be allowed to hide behind the veil of anonymity provided by shell companies.”

Former Parler CEO John Matze told Axios that he did not actually want Trump to make a deal with Parler, saying he “didn't like the idea of working with Trump, because he might have bullied people inside the company to do what he wanted.” Matze, who was fired from the company last week, said he feared retaliation from Trump if the company didn’t take the deal.

Maloney’s letter to Parler comes after the lawmaker previously wrote to the FBI and encouraged them to investigate the company’s role in the Capitol riots. Parler became a haven for the far right before it was deplatformed, as users flocked to the platform due to its lax content moderation policies that allowed extremist content blocked by major networks like Facebook and Twitter. Apple, Google and Amazon all terminated their agreements with Parler following the Jan. 6 attack, citing posts on the platform that incited violence. Parler’s website currently says the platform will “resolve any challenge before us and plan[s] to welcome all of you back soon.” It is unclear how that will happen, however: a judge recently denied Parler’s request for a temporary restraining order that would force Amazon to put the site back online as legal proceedings move forward, and the company said in its lawsuit against Amazon that “without AWS, Parler is finished as it has no way to get online.”

In the CNN piece, Mercer bloviated about wanting to support "free speech" but the platform seems to have allowed out right sedition and possibly planning of the insurrection.  As is always the case with anything involving Trump, not the Russian connection.