Saturday, June 11, 2022

More Saturday Male Beauty


Dishonor: Trump and The Republican Party

Perhaps its because of my Catholic upbrining and the sense of right and wrong and the need for honor drilled into me by the nuns or perhaps it was my parents strong sense of right and wrong - especially my often tough and demanding father who was the product of an orphanage (founded by Alexander Hamilton's widow) that stressed personal responsibility and honorable behavior - that are part of the reason I could never be a Republican nowadays.  The Party leadership and the vast majority of the Party's members have jettisoned honor, the truth, and even basic morality in a quest to cling to power at any cost and in servile self-prostitution to Donald Trump, an individual who is the poster boy of amorality.  They have also thrown away any connection to objective reality.  During the House Committee on January 6th hearing on Thursday night one of the rioters made a remark that "after all Donald Trump has done for us" he felt compelled to join the sacking of the Capitol. I was struck by the comment since, if one looks at the Trump presidency, NOTHING was really done for average Americans.  A huge give away of wealth was given to the wealthy through tax cuts, the federal deficit exploded, several hundred thousand Americans needlessly died because of the mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic, and America's standing in the world was frayed and battered. The only thing individuals like this rioter actually received was pandering to their hatreds and bigotry, a mainstreaming of white supremacy and three religious zealots on the U.S. Supreme Court.  All honor has been abandoned with few exceptions, one being Liz Cheney who was remarkable on her delivery of the facts indicting Donald Trump for his seditious activities.  A piece in The New Yorker looks at Thursday night and Cheney.  Here are excepts:

There were many memorable lines, and even a few revelations, in the long-awaited House select committee prime-time hearing on the harrowing events of January 6, 2021. Viewers on Thursday night learned that Donald Trump’s own Attorney General, Bill Barr, had dismissed his “rigged election” claims as “bullshit.” They learned that Trump’s own daughter Ivanka agreed with Barr. And they learned that Trump’s White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, had been informed of the complete and utter emptiness of Trump’s false election claims by one of Trump’s own campaign lawyers. “There’s no there there?” Meadows asked the lawyer.

But the most unforgettable words were those of Liz Cheney, the Wyoming Republican who, in defiance of her party, is helping to lead the investigation by the House panel. Speaking directly to her fellow-Republicans in Congress, the vast majority of whom have continued to support and promote Trump even after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol and sent them fleeing for their lives, she concluded her presentation with a warning: “There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”

In the course of a searing forty minutes, Cheney was given the starring role in laying out the select committee’s case against Trump. She marshalled the evidence—much of it new, much of it devastating—to show how the former President knew that his claims about the election were a lie but used them to inflame his followers and summon them to the Capitol anyway. She nailed it.

At the end of her presentation, Cheney showed what might have been the night’s most revealing witness statement—a short clip of Jared Kushner. In it, Kushner was asked about the repeated threats to resign made by Trump’s White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, and his staff, as they sought to stop Trump from unconstitutionally seeking to overturn the election. Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, who served as one of the former President’s close advisers throughout his four disruptive years in the White House, said that he did not take Cipollone’s threats to resign seriously. He thought that Cipollone was just “whining.”

It was a brutal moment. Kushner did not believe Trump’s false claims about the election. But he, like so many others surrounding Trump, like so many of Cheney’s Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill, who knew full well that everything Trump said about the election was a lie, chose to wash his hands of the matter. Instead of trying to stop the President, he and Ivanka purchased a 32.2-million-dollar lot on an exclusive private island near Miami, in December, 2020, and he started writing his memoir. Whining, indeed.

The hearing began and ended, as it should have, with Trump himself. “President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” Cheney said, consciously echoing an interview that she gave to Fox News on the afternoon of January 6th, while she and her colleagues were still in hiding from the pro-Trump mob. It said everything about where American politics are today that on Thursday night, a year and a half after the events in question, Fox News did not dare to broadcast Liz Cheney’s remarks—or to air the full hearing live, as the other networks did.

There is a moment, often replayed in the various January 6th retrospectives, that always hits me like a gut punch. It is the frantic call over a police radio at around 2:30 P.M. on January 6th. “We lost the line! We’ve lost the line,” an officer screams. It was the moment when the Capitol was overrun, ransacked, and occupied by a hostile force for the first time since the War of 1812. I wanted to cry listening to it again on Thursday night.

The January 6th committee hearings will continue throughout June and have been a year and a half in the making. . . . Cheney declared it a “sophisticated seven-part plan,” and future hearings will dive deeper into its components: Trump’s spreading of election misinformation; his plot to fire the acting Attorney General in order to get the Justice Department to further his false claims; his pressure on Vice-President Mike Pence to block the counting of the electoral votes; his pressure on Republican-led state legislatures to switch their electoral votes and scheme to send fake electoral certificates to Congress; his summoning of the mob to the Capitol on January 6th; and his refusal to do anything to stop them once they were there, rampaging.

Thursday’s hearing suggested that there is still much to be learned from the investigation, as the evening offered only a glimpse of what the testimony has uncovered. . . . .Another came when she noted that multiple Republican members of Congress who had participated in Trump’s plotting had unsuccessfully sought Presidential pardons for their roles.

After less than two hours, it was clear that much of the most damaging information from the committee’s probe will come from Trump’s aides, advisers, and even family members.

Before the hearings began, committee members had promised stunning revelations. . . . Already it is clear that the information gathered by this remarkable investigation will keep historians busy for years, sifting through the wreckage of an American political system battered by the former President’s unprecedented and unpresidential actions. But, unfortunately, the true scandal of January 6th had always been apparent, long before the House select committee made it clear once again on Thursday night: the mob never would have been there had Donald Trump not lied about the election he lost.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Thursday, June 09, 2022

Liz Cheney Will Not Tolerate Trump’s Lies

If one looks back through this blog back in the Bush/Cheney years, it clear that I held Dick Cheney in contempt and routinely referred to him as "Emperor Palpatine."  Thus, never in a million years did I see myself as ever cheering on his daughter, Rep. Liz Cheney as she doggedly strives to expose the lies of Donald Trump and force Americans to understand the threat he and those within the Republican Party who continue to prostitute themselves to him pose to the nation and American democracy itself.  Tonight, as the House Committee investigating the January 6, 2021, insurrection and coup attempt holds its first televised hearing (yes, I will be watching) Liz Cheney will likely be front and center.  Like or dislike her politics, when it comes to insisting Trump - and those who aided him - be held accoutable, she is either on a suicide mission politically or she has more courage than most of the congressional Republicans combined. Her insistence that loyalty to the U.S. Constitution and siding with the truth and morality should always come before personal advantage is inspiring and reminds me of what the Republican Party once was.  A column in the New York Times looks at her courage and fortitude that gives her claim to the title "iron lady" once given the Margaret Thatcher.  Here are column excerpts:

I keep waiting for Liz Cheney to flinch. I keep looking for some sign that her nerve is faltering, that the attacks are getting to her and that the loneliness of her situation — unconditionally contemptuous of Donald Trump, emphatically committed to a Republican Party beyond him — has become unbearable.

But no. She’s all in and she’s all steel. It could well be the political death of her. Or it could give her a kind of immortality more meaningful than any office.

Cheney, who represents Wyoming in the House, is front and center this week, with a starring role as the vice chair of the House committee whose investigation into the Jan. 6 riot has reached a dramatic culmination in prime-time television hearings.

Cheney is in the middle of a furiously contested primary battle against a prominent Wyoming Republican official who has welded herself to Trump. Just two weeks ago, Trump traveled to the deep red state, which he won by more than 40 percentage points in 2020, to command his supporters to oust Cheney when they vote on Aug. 16. He said that she had “thrown in her lot with the radical left.”

That statement, like so much of his blather, was ludicrous. And it didn’t cow Cheney in the least.

In a subsequent interview with Robert Costa of CBS News, she called Republicans’ subservience to Trump “a cult of personality.” She said that the committee’s investigation had cemented her horror over the events of Jan. 6, which reflected a coordinated movement. “It’s extremely broad,” she said. “It’s extremely well organized. It’s really chilling.”

And when asked to analyze the obsequious comportment of the House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, she said that it’s driven by “craven political calculation.” And she let him have it.

“He is embracing those in our party who are antisemitic,” she said. “He is embracing those in our party who are white nationalists. He is lying about what happened on Jan. 6. And he’s turned his back on the Constitution.” There wasn’t a wobble or a waver in those words. Not a lie, either.

That’s what makes Cheney so important. Whatever you think of her father, her past or the rest of her ideology, she has, for the past year and a half, been an unstinting, unflagging and — frankly — inspiring model of principle above partisanship, of truth over tribalism. While nearly all the other Republicans in Congress keep changing their tunes to harmonize with Trump, she refuses to sing along.

It’s certainly possible that she relishes all the attention — and, from some quarters, applause — that her rebellion attracts. There may be moral vanity in the mix of her motives. And she’s no doubt playing a long game, with its own wager: that somewhere downfield, Republicans will rediscover a semblance of sanity, and she’ll be rewarded for not having lost her marbles.

But that doesn’t diminish the rightness of what she’s doing. Nor does it undercut how unusually independent-minded she is. To wit: She’s not only isolated within the Republican Party. She’s also unlike many other Never Trumpers, whose revulsion at Republicans’ coddling of the former president has led them to insult and attack the party on all sorts of fronts and effectively turned them into provisional, situational Democrats. Cheney, in contrast, votes with the party, holding tight and proudly to her conservative bona fides.

Don’t take it from me. Take it from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the wackadoodle Georgia Republican. “Let me remind everyone, while Democrats are being fooled by Liz Cheney right now, they should remember that she is not a Democrat,” Greene said . . .

Greene was prompted by reports that Democrats in Wyoming might cross over into the Republican primary to back Cheney, and she added: “Democrats, while you think it’s fun because Liz Cheney is totally dishing on Trump and trying to do everything she can to destroy us and Trump and Ivanka now and all these people, you’re getting tricked. So while you’re going to go vote for her in the Republican primary in Wyoming, you’re voting for a snake that’s going to bite you, too.”

Such venom! And such bunk, inasmuch as Cheney openly disagrees with Democrats. . . She has made only limited cause with them. She’s clear about that — and about her passion for that cause, which is to hold Trump accountable once and for all.

I’d say she’s a woman without a country, except she has this country — our country — foremost in her thoughts. She knows what makes it special, and she recognizes what her Republican colleagues in Congress choose to ignore, which is that the “sacred obligation to defend the peaceful transfer of power has been honored by every American president — except one,” as she observed when she received a 2022 Profile in Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston in April.

“The question for every one of us is, in this time of testing, will we do our duty?” she said, articulating the stakes in a precise and irrefutable manner that will surely stand the test of time. “Or will we look away from danger, ignore the threat, embrace the lies?”

I look forward to tonight's hearing kick off.  I hope she wins her primary contest because we need her in Congress - even if I disagree with many of her views and policies.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty


Wednesday, June 08, 2022

More Wednesday Male Beauty


Republicans Downplay White Supremacist Attacks

One of the favorite scare tactics of Republicans is to depict white Americans as under attack and persecution by non-whites and the "liberal elite." From Donald Trump's attack on Hispanics as he launched his presidential campaign to Tucker Carlson's over 400 references to the so-called "great replacement" demonizing non-whites - and to a lesser extent, LGBT people who are depicted as a threat to white "Christian" values - the drumbeat is constant.  Never mind that the statistics show that the greatest domestic threat for violence comes from far right and white supremacist groups whose attacks and violence counts for four times the number of incidents and resulting deaths.  In the wake of the white supremacy inspired mass shooting in Buffalo, the Senate Judiciary Committee has held hearings during which some of the usual liars within the GOP - e.g., think Ted Cruz - have sought to reverse the storyline and again depict whites, not minorities, as the biggest victims.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the GOP lies and effort to avoid measures that would stop violence and hold the far right accountable.  Here are highlights:

Garnell Whitfield was testifying about his 86-year-old mother, Ruth, shot dead last month along with nine other Black people in a Buffalo, N.Y., supermarket, allegedly by a white supremacist motivated by the racist “great replacement” conspiracy theory.

“What are you doing?” Whitfield demanded of the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee at their hearing on Tuesday. “Is there nothing that you personally are willing to do to stop the cancer of white supremacy and the domestic terrorism it inspires?” With breaking voice and sniffles, he added: “My mother’s life mattered. Your actions here today will tell us how much it matters to you.”

Then, Republicans on the panel answered — with accounts of violence committed by Black people and antifa. . . . [Sen. Ted] Cruz went on, about “the violence of the antifa riots and the Black Lives Matter riots.” . . . Extremism, [Sen. Chuck] Grassley said, “includes Black racism and antifa ideology.”

Their illustrations served to build a case that the focus on white supremacy is “diminishing” violence against others, as Cruz put it, including “violence directed at White people” — and that, as Grassley asserted, “even though many in the press only focus on far-right attacks, the most deadly ideology often changes year to year.”

But that’s just not true. Since 2015, when the recent upsurge in political violence began, the brutality has been overwhelmingly perpetrated by the far right. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, right-wing extremists (generally either white supremacist or anti-government) were involved in 267 plots or attacks and 91 fatalities from 2015 through 2020. Far-left extremists (anarchists, anti-fascists) were involved in 66 incidents and 19 deaths. . . . right-wing attacks remained far deadlier, accounting for 28 of 30 political-violence fatalities in 2021.

Senate Republicans used similar arguments a couple of weeks ago to block consideration of the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, which would have created dedicated government offices to track domestic terrorism, including white-supremacist violence. That modest bill, with no added surveillance powers or criminal offenses, had passed the House and originally had Republican support. But at a time when Fox News’s Tucker Carlson and Republican officials including House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) have given voice to the “great replacement” conspiracy, Republicans have apparently lost interest in challenging white supremacy.

Instead, they brought in their favorite all-purpose witness on Tuesday, law professor Jonathan Turley, who argued against the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act and claimed that the Jan. 6 insurrection was not an act of domestic terrorism. But mostly, Turley testified about himself: “I have received hundreds of threats against myself . . . .

Committee chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), noting that Fox News’s Carlson alone has amplified the “great replacement” theory (in which White people are supposedly targeted for marginalization) on more than 400 episodes of his show, urged his colleagues to “speak in one voice and repudiate this incendiary rhetoric, along with any individual or extremist group that resorts to violence.”

But Republican senators declined that invitation, instead turning repeatedly to Turley and to their other witness, former U.S. attorney Justin Herdman, to support their desire not to focus on white supremacists . . . .

In his poignant opening statement, Whitfield spoke of the man who allegedly killed his mother: “He did not act alone. He was radicalized by white supremacists. His anger and hatred were metastasized like a cancer by people with big microphones screaming that Black people were going to take away their jobs and opportunities.”

Repeatedly, Whitfield asked the lawmakers what they would do about his mother’s death. Republicans, in their refusal to acknowledge the unique harm being done by Carlson, party leaders and white supremacists, gave their answer: not a thing.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


Tuesday, June 07, 2022

More Tuesday Male Beauty


The Revelations From the January 6 Committee

Being of a certain age, I clearly recall watching the congressional Watergate hearings which exposed the crimes of Richard Nixon and his henchmen and ultimately lead Nixon to resign.  Of course, back then a majority of Republicans put support of the U.S. Constitution ahead of loyalty to Nixon who had loyalty to no one.   Fast forward to the present and in two days the House Committee investigationg the January 6, 2021, coup attempt will begin its televised hearings during evening prime time hours.  Watching the hearings should be mandatory for responsible and patriotic Americans - which of course by definition excludes much of the MAGA base of the Republican Party which bears no resmblance to the GOP of the 1970's.  Hopefully, the hearings will be well done and present a clear narrative of how Trump, a malignant narcissist and his acolytes sought to overthrow American democracy so that Trump could remain in power, likely in part because he believed continuing in office would protect him from much deserved criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits. A piece in New York Magazine looks at some of the Committee's relvelations todate which I hope turn out to be tame in comparison to what is to come.  Here are strory highlights: 

After conducting more than 1,000 interviews, collecting thousands of documents, and tangling with uncooperative Donald Trump allies, this week the House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot will shift into a new phase, kicking off a series of eight primetime televised hearings.

For the first hearing on Thursday, June 9, the panel has promised new witness testimony, “previously unseen material,” and a summary of what it’s learned about the “coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and prevent the transfer of power.” There will undoubtedly be some fireworks; while preparing its presentation the panel sought out top writers “to build a narrative thriller that compels audiences,” the Washington Post reported

Here are the wildest revelations so far.

Ginni Thomas repeatedly urged the White House to overturn the election.

From November 3, 2020 to January 6, 2021, just about every Republican official or operative with kooky ideas about thwarting the will of American voters was texting then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Everyone from Ivanka Trump to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell to Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene makes an appearance in the thousands of messages Meadows turned over to the January 6 committee, many of which were subsequently published by various outlets.

The most shocking Meadows texts came from Ginni Thomas, the longtime conservative activist who also happens to be the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. . . . The messages contain references to various false election fraud conspiracy theories, including some popular in QAnon circles.

Thomas also referenced a “conversation with my best friend just now” that soothed her fears that Trump’s election plot would fail. Ginni and Clarence Thomas are known to refer to each other as their “best friend,” but surely the justice would’ve recused himself from 2020-election-related cases if he knew his wife was advising Team Trump.

Don Jr. shared a plan for declaring dad the winner while votes were still being counted.

Two days after the 2020 election Donald Trump Jr. sent Meadows a text laying out strategies to ensure his father stayed in office regardless of who actually won, according to CNN. Team Trump went on to pursue the tactics he referenced, including filing lawsuits to challenge election results, demanding recounts, promoting bogus “alternate electors,” and blocking Congress’s certification of a Biden win on January 6, 2021.

It was fairly clear at this point that Trump intended to steal the election, as he’d been sowing the seeds for years and prematurely declared victory on Election Night. But the Don Jr. text is more evidence that this wasn’t just loose talk from the president; Trump’s inner circle had multi-pronged plan that they were working to implement before the election was called.

Sean Hannity literally took orders from the White House.

File under inconsequential but still highly embarrassing: on Election Day the Fox News host — who insists he’s an independent journalist not just a Trump stooge — asked Meadows for messaging instructions and responded with “yes sir.”

Trump was ready to seize voting machines.

Earlier this year, Representative Bennie Thompson, chairman of the January 6 committee, confirmed reports that Trump and his advisers pursued plans to seize voting machines after Election Day.

On December 18, 2020, four conspiracy theorists including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and lawyer Sidney Powell met with Trump, according to Axios. They urged him to have the Pentagon seize voting machines and appoint Powell as special counsel to investigate voter fraud. . . . In January, Politico published a never-issued draft executive order consistent with the Powell-Flynn plan.

Trump said maybe Pence should be hanged.

At least one witness told the House committee that Trump said he was in favor of the January 6 mob murdering his vice president, as the New York Times reported on May 25, 2022:

Shortly after hundreds of rioters at the Capitol started chanting “Hang Mike Pence!” on Jan. 6, 2021, the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, left the dining room off the Oval Office, walked into his own office and told colleagues that President Donald J. Trump was complaining that the vice president was being whisked to safety. Mr. Meadows, according to an account provided to the House committee investigating Jan. 6, then told the colleagues that Mr. Trump had said something to the effect of, maybe Mr. Pence should be hanged.

Fox News hosts sent Meadows panicked texts during the Capitol riot.

Ahead of the January 6 panel’s unanimous vote to hold Meadows in contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena to appear before the committee, Representative Liz Cheney read off some texts Fox News hosts sent to the chief of staff on January 6, 2021. Though the network’s stars later downplayed the insurrection on-air, as the Capitol riot was unfolding they were pleading with Meadows to make Trump put a stop to it.

“Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home,” Laura Ingraham texted. “This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy.”

Meadows burned sensitive documents in a White House fireplace.

Though it was overshadowed by Trump’s alleged endorsement of the “Hang Mike Pence!” chant, the same Times report said witnesses told the House panel that Mark Meadows “used the fireplace in his office to burn documents.” A few days later, Politico offered some more detail on the White House chief-of-staff’s (alleged) old-school evidence destruction method:

Then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows burned papers in his office after meeting with a House Republican who was working to challenge the 2020 election, according to testimony the Jan. 6 select committee has heard from one of his former aides.

Trump flushed sensitive documents down a White House toilet.

During his presidency, Trump demonstrated time and again that he has a true gift for doing weird stuff with paper. Thanks to the January 6 committee, in winter 2022 we got some more detail on his penchant for paper ripping. First, the Washington Post revealed that a good number of documents only made it to the January 6 committee thanks to the magic of Scotch tape:

Trump may have engaged in a “criminal conspiracy.”

In a March 2022 court filing, the January 6 committee argued that it should be able to enforce a subpoena against Trump’s lawyer John Eastman because the documents in question amount to notes on a criminal conspiracy.

“The Select Committee … has a good-faith basis for concluding that the President and members of his Campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States,” the panel wrote in in a legal brief.

Several weeks later, California federal district court judge David Carter ruled that Trump “more likely than not … corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021,” and that Trump and Eastman “more likely than not … dishonestly conspired to obstruct” the joint session. Eastman was ordered to turn over more than 100 emails to the panel. He complied, but is still fighting other committee requests in court.

[P]erhaps once the panel releases its full findings all the pre-hearing leaks will look tame by comparison.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


Monday, June 06, 2022

More Monday Male Beauty


Must Watch TV: House Jan.6th Hearings

Americans who pay attention to history and international news have seen coups in other nations over the years and likely thought to themselves that such an event could never happen in America.   Then January 6, 2021, happened and we all witnessed the Trump incited crowd of predominately Christofacists and white supremacist sack the U.S. Capitol and seek to overthrow the 2020 presidential election.   Frightening, a majority of Republicans believe Trump's "Big Lie" and only a few brave Republicans have put loyalty to the U.S. Connstitution over fealty to Trump and self prostitution to the MAGA base of today's Republican Party.   Starting this coming Thursday the House Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection attempt will begin public hearings which hopefully will sheck a majority of Americans to their senses and make Trump supporting Republicans toxic to a majority of voters across the country.  A piece at CNN looks at Liz Cheney's statements over the weekend.  Here are excerpts:

Rep. Liz Cheney, one of just two Republicans on the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection, has asserted that the attack was part of an "extremely well-organized" conspiracy.

The Wyoming lawmaker's comments to CBS "Sunday Morning" come before the panel is set to hold its first public hearing on June 9 at 8 p.m. ET. The prime-time presentation will be an overview of the committee's 10-month investigation and set the stage for subsequent hearings, which are expected to cover certain topics or themes, sources previously told CNN.

"It is extremely broad. It's extremely well organized. It's really chilling," Cheney told the outlet when asked if the attack amounted to a conspiracy, adding: "I have not learned anything that has made me less concerned."

A piece at Salon looks further at the coming public hearings which have Trump and his acolytes sufficiently concerned that they have planned "alternate programming" in the hope of keeping sane Republicans - to the extent they still exist from tuning into the hearings.  Here are highlights:

The long-awaited public hearings for the House select committee on the Jan. 6 insurrection have finally been scheduled. The first one is set for next Thursday, June 9, in prime time. The committee previewed its plans this week, announcing on Thursday that it will "present previously unseen material documenting January 6th, receive witness testimony, preview additional hearings, and provide the American people a summary of its findings about the coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and prevent the transfer of power." Committee leaders seem to be carefully choreographing the event, even drawing out the suspense by not naming the witnesses until next week.

The hearings, said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., will "tell a story that will blow the roof off the House." We can only hope that is not unjustified hyperbole. These hearings will be the most important public record of an attempted coup, and the whole country should be watching.

What we have already seen is a lot, such as the voluminous text messages from various Republicans and journalists to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows during the insurrection itself. There has been leaked testimony from major players inside the Department of Justice and Donald Trump's White House, as well as information from Trump's legal advisers and various state officials.

Donald Trump and his allies tried to overturn a legal election with a series of plots that culminated in the violent insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021. But no one has put together the whole story for the American people such that they can understand just how unprecedented and dangerous these schemes were — and how close we came to a serious constitutional crisis.

The committee is promising previously unseen material, and one hopes it will add something new to the narrative. It also seems that the committee has put together a professional multimedia presentation, since in this day and age you can't bore the TV audience. But the most important element of these hearings will be witness testimony.

Expert testimony is always important in hearings like this, where you're trying to educate the public about complex issues. Axios reported this week that the committee plans to call former federal judge J. Michael Luttig, a conservative Republican who was shortlisted more than once for a Supreme Court seat. Luttig advised Vice President Mike Pence on the legality or illegality of overturning the 2020 electoral results.

Luttig went much further in his analysis of the situation, and this something the greater public needs to understand:

Trump's and the Republicans' far more ambitious objective is to execute successfully in 2024 the very same plan they failed in executing in 2020 and to overturn the 2024 election if Trump or his anointed successor loses again in the next quadrennial contest. The last presidential election was a dry run for the next.

Luttig is not a liberal or a Democrat. But he also isn't delusional and isn't a coward, which makes him something of a unicorn in Republican circles. His testimony should be very compelling.

And apparently, as former Republican congressman Denver Riggleman, now an investigator for the select committee, told Anderson Cooper, the text messages during the post-election period prior to that day were downright chilling:

Riggleman calls Meadows the "MVP" for all the information he provided and one of Meadows' aides, Cassidy Hutchinson, testified several times before the committee and appears to have shared other vitally important information. It's not clear whether Hutchinson will testify in the televised hearings but if she does, it's clear she has a story to tell.

Whatever happens in these hearings, we can be sure that they will be different than other such congressional spectacles you may have watched in recent years, and not just because of the extraordinary subject matter. For the first time in recent memory, we will see a Capitol Hill hearing without even one obnoxious Republican grandstander seeking to derail the whole thing. We can expect that this committee will be serious and focused, which is something we have not seen in this kind of setting for a long time.

Republican leaders are obviously worried that some of their troops might tune in and see something that will shake their faith in the Big Lie so they are plotting to "counter-program" the hearings. Axios reported on Thursday that the GOP will deploy everyone from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to — maybe — Donald Trump himself across Fox News, Steve Bannon's "War Room," "Real America's Voice," Facebook and Trump's own Truth Social platform to ensure the base doesn't lose their religion.

They plan to portray the Democrats as out of touch with average Americans, with one aide telling Axios, "We've got to be rigid and responsible, but a lot of Republicans think if Dems want to just talk about Jan. 6 between now and the midterm election — good luck." If that's what they think, they might want to have a chat with their Dear Leader, who can't shut up about the Big Lie that's at the heart of this entire crisis. If any one individual in America is keeping Jan. 6 alive as a political issue, it's Donald Trump. 

Monday Morning Male Beauty


Sunday, June 05, 2022

More Sunday Male Beauty


How Evangelicals Became Massive Hypocrites

Over the life of this blog I have frequently described white evangelicals in America as "modern day Pharisees", the "American Taliban" and other names in an effort to expose their hypocrisy and utter perversion of Christianity.  While feigning piety and wearing their religioscity on their sleeves, their true agenda is one of hate, division, the mistreatment of others and a bold pursuit of political power,  Indeed, the evangelical agenda is the antithesis of Christ's gospel message and dispite lip service to being followers of Christ, the only part of the Bible they follow are cherry picked Old Testiment passages used to harm, condemn, and demonize those they deem "other" - namely gays, blacks, non-Christians, immigrants  and  the religiously non-affiliated.  In a piece at Salon, an ordained Baptist minister looks at this hypocrisy and hate and pronounces evangelicals as enemies of America. Theyare most certainly enemies of Christ's social gospel.  Here are column highlights:

I would say that most Americans are frustrated at the disproportionate influence and political power that evangelical Christians hold. For some the frustration is more personal because of how they've been treated by the church types. Either way, this mysterious species — the evangelicals — seem to be a major problem in American society. As a trained evangelical, and an ordained minister, I would have to say I completely agree.  

Who are these evangelicals? First off, their true ancestors are the Pharisees of the New Testament, whom Jesus describes as being obsessed with legalistic questions but neglecting "the more important matters of the law — justice, mercy and faithfulness." This is the primary group that had Jesus killed. Much like the Pharisees, today's American evangelicals do not represent the faith in any genuine way. They have done more damage to the name of Christianity than any group I can think of. Their misuse of the Christian faith as a political weapon against anyone they see as an enemy is driven primarily by greed and a thirst for power.  

The sheep who follow the most prominent evangelicals are also guilty of refusing to question these so-called leaders of the Christian faith. They should be measuring their pastor's words and deeds against the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Attending church does not mean we check our brains at the door.

What are these evangelicals? Currently and historically, they are nothing more than a political action committee. They have nothing to do with the foundations of the Christian faith. Their political agenda is based on hate, rejection, condemnation and self-righteousness. The biblical Pharisees, who were the enemies of Jesus, used their political connections to have him killed. In our own time, these new Pharisees use their enormous political influence to reject foreigners, deny health insurance to millions, judge the poor as lazy, refuse any and all regulation of deadly firearms and stand in opposition to equality of opportunity. In short, they stand side by side with the oppressors on virtually every issue.

As with the Pharisees of the time of Jesus, these evangelical leaders formed a group because their version of the faith was being pushed aside. The Pharisee movement arose during a time of perceived or actual moral decadence in the Roman Empire, which the evangelicals also believe is occurring today in America. Evangelicals panicked at the rise of the "social gospel" when it became the driving force behind the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and panicked further with the largely secular feminist movement and LGBTQ Pride movement. Evangelicals could see their power and influence waning and immediately went into action. 

In the '90s, evangelicals became obsessed with Bill Clinton's various scandals, TV shows that depicted gay characters or women who had abortions, and still more rap music (and video games). In the 20 years since then, evangelicals have fought a long battle to re-criminalize abortion (which they are winning), along with brand new issues like public bathrooms, health care for trans teenagers and how we teach about America's racial history or issues of sexuality in school. And then came their savior, in the form of Donald Trump, to solidify their hypocritical faith.  

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!" says Jesus in Matthew 23. "On the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness."

How are the evangelicals? As a believer myself in the Invisible Man in the Sky who is keeping score, I must admit that the church doesn't tend to draw in people who like to question things. As a result, when thousands of evangelical preachers push forward a message that has no basis in the most fundamental elements of the Christian faith, the sheep sometimes just say baaa. I believe that the most influential and most political pastors within the evangelical community, like Franklin Graham and Robert Jeffress, deliberate pursue this misleading approach. They are enemies to the true message of Jesus — and to America.  

Evangelical leaders are focused on making their followers feel righteous and good by pointing out others who they claim are  visible and measurable enemies of God. In targeting abortion providers, the LGBTQ population and other unacceptable or "radical" forces, evangelical leaders have made billions of dollars, acquired political power out of all proportion to their numbers, and built massive churches with televised services and parking lots the size of football stadiums. None of these issues are actually based on the Christian faith or the Bible — indeed, many are directly contrary to it — but who cares about small details like that? 

[I]n the wake of its unholy union with Donald Trump, I'm afraid that it is too late to save the evangelical church. Their leaders have sold what remained of their souls for one last shot at political power. Among the few who do not support Trump publicly, most would probably still vote for him if he runs for president again. 

History teaches me that in time, these people will lose. I remind myself of the millions among the faithful who still believe in welcoming the foreigner, healing the sick, serving the poor and fighting the oppressors. I am mostly grateful that I am not alone in my faith and philosophy. It's just that most of my brothers and sisters who share my most important views don't go to church anymore. Many don't believe in God. I'm all right with that. Those have always been my favorite people anyway — and as Jesus says, those are not the most important "matters of the law." 

Sunday Morning Male Beauty