Saturday, September 03, 2022

More Satirday Male Beauty - Pt 2


Trump Stole Secret Government Documents. The Big Question Is Why

As Donald Trump's theft of national security documents and the subsequent FBI raid on his Florida residence continues to dominat the news cycles, the one issue not directly addreesed is why Trump stole the documents.  Meanwhile speculation as to Trump's motives has been all over the board with some thoughts being that Trump acted with malicious and dangerous objectives - e.g., selling secrets to foreign enemies.   The one thing that is clear is that Trump's motives likely had nothing to do with the good of the nation but instead - as with all things involving Trump - centered on self-interest above all else.  A piece at Mother Jones looks at some of these possible motives.  Hopefully, in time the motivation for the theft of top secret documents will come to light.  All that is clear is that Trump deliberately took the documents and refused to return them as legally required.  Here are highights from Mother Jones

We know what Donald Trump did: He absconded from the White House with classified and top secret documents that belonged to the US government; he mishandled these highly sensitive records in his Mar-a-Largo lair (see this photo); he resisted the efforts of the government to retrieve these records; he employed a legal team that falsely certified that all classified material had been returned; and his actions prompted the Justice Department to investigate whether he and his crew obstructed justice or violated other federal laws, including the Espionage Act. 

The big question is why. Why did FPOTUS, as he has been dubbed in Justice of Department court filings, run off with the most classified of documents, including records based on confidential human sources? It seems clear that this was no accident. Had it been inadvertent, Trump and his aides would have quickly responded to requests from the National Archives to return the goods . . . .

[T]he known evidence suggests Trump really, really wanted to keep these papers. In its legal filings following the FBI raid on Trump’s club, though, the Justice Department has not presented its view of Trump’s motives. But that hasn’t stopped a frenzy of speculation on the internet. Nor should it. . . . . this scandal is yet the latest sign of the brazen hypocrisy and blatant corruption at the root of his MAGA demagoguery and its embrace by the Republican Party. This affair warrants full examination, and that includes the reasons for Trump’s apparent flouting of the law. So let’s look at a few possible explanations. 

The Double-Agent Theory. The most outlandish notion is that Trump hung on to these papers because he wanted to sell or give these secrets to another government. The Russians? The Saudis? He’s either an operative in cahoots with a foreign power or an operator who wants to cash in. Though Trump has a record of slipping classified information to Moscow, it’s difficult to imagine him plotting to sell secrets. That would entail a fair bit of organizing and hard work. . . . Trump may want to share top US government secrets with certain overseas governments because he feels an affinity for them or their leaders. (See Vladimir Putin.) But assuming he read these documents—or was briefed on them and paid attention—he could pass along the information without having to possess the records themselves. 

They’re Mine! Throughout his presidency, Trump demonstrated that he’s a big believer in that old French saying, l’etat est moi. He was not the custodian of the US government and the servant of the national interest; he was the government and his interests were the government’s interests. In this warped view, all these records belong to him and exist for his benefit. . . . Spite is a large part of Trump’s psychological algorithm. It’s not a stretch to envision Trump, scorned by the voters and fired from the presidency, defiantly hanging on to documents he was not allowed to keep and shooting the bird at the (Deep State!) bureaucrats and intelligence community he despised. Mine, mine, mine.

Gimme Ammo. Did Trump have a use in mind for these documents when he grabbed them on his way out of the White House? Could this material somehow be leveraged or weaponized? Did it contain ammunition to be deployed against his political enemies? . . . If there was anything in these boxes that Trump could one day exploit to undercut or destroy an opponent, he would likely have a tough time parting with it. . . . . Trump harbors a deep resentment of the US intelligence community—to such an extent he might want to do it harm. Were there secrets in these boxes that he could use or reveal to achieve that aim? As I’ve written several times, one of Trump’s great motivators is revenge—which is a cousin of spite. . . . Undoubtedly, Trump left the White House with a tremendous thirst for revenge. These documents could possibly help him seek vengeance.

We Can’t Let Anyone Know This! The public court filings in this case do not indicate if these documents are a hodgepodge of records or focus on particular issues. But one possibility is that Trump did not pilfer them to exploit them but that he purloined them because he didn’t want anyone else to see them. Might they chronicle decisions or episodes that occurred during his presidency that he wishes remain unexposed? It’s possible that copies of this material may be retained in government files. Still, Trump might have swiped records that he believed would be embarrassing or dangerous for him. (Imagine a transcript of one of his private talks with Putin.)

The Justice Department filings suggest Trump’s actions were intentional. He nicked these records and held on to them—in the face of pleas from the government for their return—for a reason. In most criminal investigations, motivation is a key element. . . . . If the Justice Department does pursue an indictment against Trump or his minions, it will have to address the issue of motive. Should that occur, Trump will not be able to plead ignorance. His statements from the 2016 campaign demonstrate he was well aware of the possible criminality of mishandling classified information. And there’s nothing surprising about how he has disregarded the law in this episode. What needs to be revealed is why Trump acted so recklessly. Considering how ineptly Trump’s legal response has been so far and how strong the Justice Department case appears at this point, Trump’s motive might eventually get its day in court.

More Saturday Male Beauty


Evangelicals' Love of Trump Displays Their Moral Rot

When one weighs all the good versus all the evil that religion has brought to mankind, the balance, in my view, is that religion has been a net negative given the hatreds, discrimination, wars, death and destruction it has brought to the world.  Indeed, it continues to be a blight on mankind and continues to fan hatreds, cruelty and misogyny or worse.  Then too, there is the hypocrisy of typically the loudest adherents of Christianity who live their lives and treat others in a manner diametrically opposed to the faith their claim to follow.  It is almost impossible to distinguish between the Pharisees of the Bible and today's evangelicals and "conservative" Christians who in America have rallied to support Donald Trump, a man who is the antithesis of the Christ depicted in the gospels. With America's democracy under threat, among those most responsible are evangelicals who are now perhaps the best argument for not being a Christian.  A very long column in the Washington Post written by a former Republican raised in the evangelical tradion laments those who have embraced Trump, white nationalism and fascism and who in the process sullied Christianity itself.  Here are column excerpts:

In many American places on a pleasant Sunday afternoon it is possible, as I recently did, to have coffee in the city at a bohemian cafe draped with rainbow banners, then to drive 30 or 45 minutes into the country to find small towns where Confederate and Trump flags are flown. The United States sometimes feels like two nations, divided by adornments defiantly affirming their political and cultural affinities.

Much of cosmopolitan America holds to a progressive framework of bodily autonomy, boundless tolerance and group rights — a largely post-religious morality applied with near-religious intensity. But as a religious person (on my better days), what concerns me are the perverse and dangerous liberties many believers have taken with their own faith. Much of what considers itself Christian America has assumed the symbols and identity of white authoritarian populism — an alliance that is a serious, unfolding threat to liberal democracy.

The disorienting flux of American ethical norms and the condescension of progressive elites have incited a defensive reaction among many conservative religious people — a belief that they are outsiders in their own land. . . . . Leaders in the Republican Party have fed, justified and exploited conservative Christians’ defensiveness in service to an aggressive, reactionary politics. This has included deadly mask and vaccine resistance, the discrediting of fair elections, baseless accusations of gay “grooming” in schools, the silencing of teaching about the United States’ history of racism, and (for some) a patently false belief that Godless conspiracies have taken hold of political institutions.

Some religious leaders have fueled the urgency of this agenda with apocalyptic rhetoric, in which the Christian church is under Neronian persecution by elites displaying Caligulan values. But the credibility of religious conservatives is undermined by the friends they have chosen to keep. Their political alignment with MAGA activists has given exposure and greater legitimacy to once-fringe ideas, including Confederate nostalgia, white nationalism, antisemitism, replacement theory and QAnon accusations of satanic child sacrifice by liberal politicians.

Surveying the transgressive malevolence of the radical right, one is forced to conclude: If this is not moral ruin, then there are no moral rules.

Islands of urban, liberal blue dot a vast sea of rural, conservative red. And because the mechanisms that produce U.S. senators and electoral college electors skew in favor of geography over population, rural and small-town America starts with a distinct political advantage — the ability to transform fewer votes into better outcomes.

All this leaves portions of the nation boiling with righteous resentment. Many progressives feel cheated by a political system rigged by the Founders against them. Many religious conservatives feel despised by the broader culture and in need of political protection. In the United States, grievance is structural and is becoming supreme.

Anxious evangelicals have taken to voting for right-wing authoritarians who promise to fight their fights — not only Donald Trump, but increasingly, his many imitators. It has been said that when you choose your community, you choose your character. Strangely, evangelicals have broadly chosen the company of Trump supporters who deny any role for character in politics and define any useful villainy as virtue.

This is inconsistent with Christianity by any orthodox measure. Yet the discontent, prejudices and delusions of religious conservatives helped swell the populist wave that lapped up on the steps of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. During that assault, Christian banners mixed with the iconography of white supremacy, in a manner that should have choked Christian participants with rage. But it didn’t.

Conservative Christians’ beliefs on the nature of politics, and the content of their cultural nightmares, are directly relevant to the future of our whole society, for a simple reason: The destinies of rural and urban America are inextricably connected. It matters greatly if evangelicals in the wide, scarlet spaces are desensitized to extremism, diminished in decency and badly distorting the meaning of Christianity itself — as I believe many are.

In the present day, the frightening fervor of our politics makes it resemble, and sometimes supplant, the role of religion. And a good portion of Americans have a fatal attraction to the oddest of political messiahs — one whose deception, brutality, lawlessness and bullying were rewarded with the presidency. But so it is, to some extent, with all political messiahs who make their gains by imposing losses on others and measure their influence in increments of domination.

In both public perception and evident reality, many White, conservative Christians find themselves on the wrong side of the most cutting indictments delivered by Jesus of Nazareth.

Christ’s revolt against the elites could hardly be more different from the one we see today. Conservative evangelicalism has, in many ways, become the kind of religious tradition against which followers of Jesus were initially called to rebel. And because of the pivotal role of conservative Christians in our politics, this irony is a matter of urgency.

Many who identify with Jesus most loudly and publicly are doing the most to discredit his cause. The main danger to conservative churches does not come from bad laws — it comes from Christians who don’t understand the distinctives, the demands and the ultimate appeal of their own faith.

This development deserves some woes of its own:

Woe to evangelical hypocrisy. Given the evidence of sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention, the corruption and sexual scandal at Liberty University, the sex scandal in the Hillsong ministry, the sexual exploitation revealed in Ravi Zacharias’s ministry, and the years of sexual predation at the (Christian) Kanakuk summer camps, Americans increasingly identify the word “evangelical” with pretense, scandal and duplicity.

Woe to evangelical exclusion. In their overwhelming, uncritical support of Trump and other nationalist Republicans — leaders who could never win elections without evangelical votes — White religious conservatives have joined a political movement defined by an attitude of “us” vs. “them,” and dedicated to the rejection and humiliation of social outsiders and outcasts.

And woe, therefore, to Christian nationalism. Evangelicals broadly confuse the Kingdom of God with a Christian America, preserved by thuggish politicians who promise to prefer their version of Christian rights and enforce Christian values. The political calculation of conservative Christians is simple, and simply wrong.

This view of politics is closer to “Game of Thrones” than to the Beatitudes. Nowhere did Jesus demand political passivity from his followers. But his teachings are entirely inconsistent with an approach to public engagement that says: “This Christian country is mine. You are defiling it. And I will take it back by any means necessary.”

By assaulting democratic and religious pluralism, this agenda is at war with the constitutional order. By asserting self-interested rights, secured by lawless means, this approach has lost all resemblance to the teachings of Christ. A Christianity that does not humanize the life of this world is not Christianity.

The theological roots of this error run deep. Evangelicals often think that being a Christian means the individualistic acceptance of Jesus as their personal Savior. But this is quite different from following the example of Jesus we find in the Gospels. . . . Christians seeking social influence should do so not by joining interest groups that fight for their narrow rights — and certainly not those animated by hatred, fear, phobias, vengeance or violence. Rather, they should seek to be ambassadors of a kingdom of hope, mercy, justice and grace.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Biden Calls Out the GOP Threat to Democracy

Too often Democrats are hesitant to call out today's Republican Party for what it has become: a neo-fascist party with a narcisistic leader who wants to make himself a dictator or king.  Likewise, too often much of the media - obsessed with drawing a false rquivalency between the parties so as to appear "balanced" - has aided and abetted the GOP's lies and disinformation by failing to call them what they are: lies, plain and simple.  It's not a difference of opinion, it is matter of contrasting GOP lies with fact based Democrat positions and policies.  Yes, a few moral and sane Republicans still exist (as do those in a fantasy world that refuses to recognize the cancer that has overwhelmed the party), but they are drowned out by the hate and grievance motivated party base and the amoral office holders and GOP candidates who have become ever more extreme.  The bottom line is that the Republican Party of 2022 is a clear and present danger to American democracy and it must be defeated at the polls in November at every level possible.  Thursday night, Joe Biden called a spade a spade and sought to rally those who still care about democracy and freeedom for all to oppose the forces of fascism that now define the GOP.  Politico looks at this much needed spounding of alarm:

With a stern warning about the future of the nation’s democracy, President Joe Biden commanded a prime-time stage Thursday in Philadelphia and singled out his predecessor as an example of the extremism that he believes “threatens the very republic.”

“As I stand here tonight, equality and democracy are under assault. We do no favor to pretend otherwise,” Biden declared. “We have to be honest with each other and ourselves: Too much of what is happening in our country today is not normal.”

“Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very republic,” Biden said in a rare moment of calling out his predecessor by his name. “Democracy cannot survive when one side believes there are only two outcomes to an election: either they win or they were cheated.”

Biden took square aim at the so-called MAGA Republicans who do not recognize the results of the 2020 election and who have espoused violence as a legitimate means of political discourse.

The moment created a stunning split screen with that movement’s leader. Just hours earlier, the latest hearing played out in a Florida courtroom over the boxes of classified documents found in Trump’s Palm Beach estate. A federal judge indicated she would consider temporarily barring Justice Department investigators from reviewing seized materials. Hours before Biden forcefully addressed election deniers and the rise in political violence, his predecessor was defending Jan. 6 rioters. He vowed, should he run and be re-elected, to offer “full pardons” and a formal apology to those who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 . . .

A senior White House official earlier had cautioned the night was not about any particular politician, including Trump, but Biden wasted no time repeatedly calling him out by name — something he was once loathe to do. He noted that not every Republican is a “MAGA Republican,” but said “there’s no question the Republican Party today is dominated, driven and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans, and that is a threat to democracy.”

Standing in front of Independence Hall, the cradle of American democracy, Biden told the crowd: “MAGA forces are determined to take this country backwards. Backwards to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry who you love.”

“For a long time, we’ve reassured ourselves that American democracy is guaranteed. But it is not. We have to defend it. Protect it. Stand up for it. Each and every one of us,” Biden said.

[I]t was difficult to read it as anything other than Biden’s attempt to frame the stakes of an election once again dominated by Trump after an FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago home turned up classified information and intensified talk of possible criminal charges for the former president.

Biden made clear that he believes some mainstream Republicans reject Trump’s ideology, those like Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who lost a GOP primary after serving on the House Jan. 6 select committee. And the president urged others in the GOP to finally turn their backs on Trump.

Biden, currently basking in the glow of a series of significant legislative wins, has ratcheted up his attacks on Republicans in recent weeks. He has denounced Republican support for the Jan. 6 rioters, deemed some in the GOP as “semi-fascists” and on Thursday roared that “there is no place for political violence in America. Period. None ever.”

Biden called the current moment “an inflection point” that could determine the nation’s future, and the speech’s backdrop — alarm red lighting surrounding a president flanked by two U.S. Marines — matched his urgent tone.

Terry Kelly, a Biden supporter and retired Union carpenter from King of Prussia, Pa., who came to hear the president speak, said Trump has tried to “overthrow this government. He tried to act like a king.”

“Washington is probably rolling in his grave,” Kelly said. “I say you gotta get the message out and get the truth out, as much as Trump tells lies, you need to get the truth out. That is a tough job.” The speech comes at a moment of surprising political promise for Biden.

In recent weeks, gas prices have fallen, the Covid crisis grew less urgent and his domestic agenda was gradually passed. And his winning streak culminated with the resurrection of a $740 billion reconciliation bill that fulfilled longtime Democratic priorities such as climate change, drug pricing and taxes on corporations.

Friday, September 02, 2022

More Friday Male Beauty


More Indications Virginia “Ginni” Thomas Is Guilty of Sedition

In his concurring opinion, Clarence Thomas joined the majority on the Supreme Court in the Dobbs ruling which overturned Roe v. Wade and stripped American women of the right to control their own bodies.  As if this was not extreme enough, in his opinion, Thomas indicated that he wanted the Court to recriminalize intimate relationship between memberrs of the same sex, eliminate same sex marriage and rescind the right of married heterosexual couples to usebirth control.   Thomas - who has never be fit to be on the Court in my view - is clearly a threat to the civil rights of millions of Americans.  Now, more evidence has been revealed that further shows that his lunatic wife, Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, was deeply involved in efforts to over throw the 2020 presidential election.  Any other judge would at minimum recuse themself from hearing any cases involving the 2020 election or, better yet, resign from the Court.  But not Thomas, the arrogant dullard of the Court.  One can only hope that as more information is unearthed about his wife's seditious activities Thomas at some point will be forced to resign.  The Washington Post looks at the new information on Ginni Thomas' activities to overthrow the 2020 election and end American democracy:

Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, pressed lawmakers to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 victory not only in Arizona, as previously reported, but also in a second battleground state, Wisconsin, according to emails obtained under state public-records law.

The Washington Post reported this year that Ginni Thomas emailed 29 Arizona state lawmakers, some of them twice, in November and December 2020. She urged them to set aside Biden’s popular-vote victory and “choose” their own presidential electors, despite the fact that the responsibility for choosing electors rests with voters under Arizona state law.

The new emails show that Thomas also messaged two Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin: state Sen. Kathy Bernier, then chair of the Senate elections committee, and state Rep. Gary Tauchen. Bernier and Tauchen received the email at 10:47 a.m. on Nov. 9, virtually the same time the Arizona lawmakers received a verbatim copy of the message from Thomas.

“Please stand strong in the face of media and political pressure,” read the emails sent Nov. 9, just days after major media organizations called the presidency for Biden. “Please reflect on the awesome authority granted to you by our Constitution. And then please take action to ensure that a clean slate of Electors is chosen for our state.”

Neither Thomas nor her lawyer, Mark Paoletta, responded to requests for comment. A Supreme Court spokeswoman did not respond to a message seeking comment from Clarence Thomas.

Ginni Thomas’s political activism is highly unusual for the spouse of a Supreme Court justice, and for years it has raised questions about potential conflicts of interest for her husband. She has said that the two of them keep their professional lives separate.

But scrutiny of the Thomases intensified this year after The Post and CBS News obtained copies of text messages that Ginni Thomas exchanged with Mark Meadows, then President Donald Trump’s White House chief of staff, in the weeks following the 2020 election. Thomas repeatedly urged Meadows to keep fighting to overturn the election results.

Thomas was also in touch during the post-election period with John Eastman, the pro-Trump lawyer who once clerked for her husband, and whose role in the effort to overturn Biden’s win has drawn scrutiny from both the Justice Department and the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot. In early December 2020, Thomas invited Eastman to speak at a meeting of Frontliners for Liberty, . . . . the agenda shows Eastman discussed “State legislative actions that can reverse the media-called election for Joe Biden.” U.S. District Judge David O. Carter ordered Eastman to give congressional investigators emails related to Thomas and meetings of her Frontliners group, finding that the meetings “furthered a critical objective of the January 6 plan: to have contested states certify alternate slates of electors for President Trump.”

The House committee asked Thomas to sit for a voluntary interview in June. The committee also sought a broad range of documents from her,

At the time, Thomas indicated she would comply. . . . Less than two weeks later, on June 28, Paoletta told the committee that while Thomas remained willing to sit for an interview, he did not believe there was “sufficient basis” for her to do so.

In an interview, Bernier, the Wisconsin lawmaker, said it would have been appropriate for the state legislature to consider decertifying the 2020 results in the weeks following the election if evidence had emerged of significant voter fraud. “But as we went through the process and the legal challenges were made and discounted by the judicial system, there was nothing proven as far as actual voter fraud,” she said.

The fact that Thomas sent one of the FreeRoots emails to Bernier has not been previously reported. “Please do your Constitutional duty!” read the subject line of the message she sent.

According to the records disclosed by Bernier’s office to The Post, Thomas was the fourth of more than 30 people who sent that particular form email Nov. 9 and 10. The first sender of that email, three hours before Thomas, was a person named Stephanie Coleman, according to the records.

A woman named Stephanie Miller Coleman is the widow of one of Clarence Thomas’s former clerks. She was listed as the co-administrator, with Ginni Thomas, of a private Facebook group for Frontliners. The page listing the group’s administrators is no longer publicly visible.

Thomas’s communications with key players in the effort to overturn the election have led to calls for her husband to recuse himself from cases related to the 2020 election and attempts to subvert it. Clarence Thomas has given no indication that he intends to do so.

This year, eight Supreme Court justices declined Trump’s request to block congressional investigators from gaining access to White House records that might shed light on the events of Jan. 6, 2021. Thomas was the only justice to dissent, siding with Trump.

Ginni Thomas needs to be compelled to testify both before the House select committee and the federal grand jury investigating Trump's coup attempt.  Here husband needs to be forced from the Court.

Friday Morning Male Beauty


Thursday, September 01, 2022

More Thursday Male Beauty


Trump GOP’s Crazy Quotient Is Increasing Rapidly

Frighteningly, the Republican Party has become the party of the certifiably crazy and amoral liars who will embrace any lie no matter how outlandish they believe will further their own personal interests. Yes, there is a sprinkling - seemingly mostly older women - who continue to engage in the fantasy that the GOP is still their youth, but ingeneral the insanity and dishonesty of the party base and candidates has grown exponetially with no signs of slowing.  Actually, the phenomeno should come as no surprise given that the GOP is now the party of Donald Trump - a man who seemingly is incapable of ever uttering a truthful statement on any topic or issue - who stokes lies and conspiracy theories literally daily.   Joe Biden and other Democrats are arguing that the 2022 mid-terms represent a battle for the soul of America and they are correct.  The elections are also a battle for standing for the truth and objective reality over the batshit insanity that now defines the Republican Party.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the growing crazy quotient of the GOP.  Here are highlights: 

Donald Trump and his post-truth pioneers have expanded the frontiers of fakery this week.

The former president used his Truth Social site on Monday to demand that he be declared “the rightful winner” of the 2020 election, and he followed that by posting and sharing on Tuesday a barrage of QAnon slogans and themes, doctored photos and false conspiracy notions, including a claim that the “FBI colluded with Antifa” in the Jan. 6 insurrection, and a forged tweet falsely purporting to be from Ivanka Trump calling covid vaccines “useless.”

Later Tuesday, a court filing by the Justice Department included a sworn certification from Trump’s office that flagrantly misrepresented the status of classified documents hoarded at Mar-a-Lago. Trump’s “custodian of records,” Christina Bobb, certified “on behalf of the Office of Donald J. Trump” on June 3 that after “a diligent search,” it had turned over “any and all” classified documents taken to Trump’s residence. But the FBI later seized at Mar-a-Lago more than 100 documents with (often colorful) classification markings. “That the FBI, in a matter of hours, recovered twice as many documents with classification markings as the ‘diligent search’ that the former President’s counsel and other representatives had weeks to perform calls into serious question the representations made” by Trump’s team, the filing said.

Also late Tuesday, The Post’s Colby Itkowitz reported that at least nine Republican congressional candidates had “scrubbed or amended” references to Trump, the 2020 election, or abortion from their websites or online profiles. A shift in emphasis after primaries is common; a Soviet-style airbrushing that makes positions disappear entirely is not.

If it appears the volume of deception coming from MAGA Republicans is increasing, that’s because it is. Two academics from New York University set about documenting the proliferation of rubbish in a study they described this week for The Post’s Monkey Cage feature. They found that 36 percent of the news that Republican congressional candidates shared on social media came from unreliable sources on an average day . . . .

The most ominous finding is where the crescendo of crazy is coming from. Incumbent Republican members of Congress were relatively truthful: Only 6 percent of the news they shared came from unreliable sources. Among Republican challengers, fully 45 percent came from unreliable outlets.

This makes sense. The way to get ahead in Trump’s GOP — the way to win an open-seat primary or to oust a Republican incumbent — is to push the boundaries of flimflam ever further. . . . . It’s disinformation Darwinism: Falsify more, or fade away; become more outrageous, or perish. The ceiling of crazy in one cycle becomes the floor in the next.

Trump, for his part, now appears to be hoping to monetize the QAnon conspiracy movement, whose sometimes violent followers hold that a network of pedophiles secretly controls the government. His Truth Social media venture has struggled — losing money, gaining few users, squabbling with a vendor and seeing its stock price fall nearly 75 percent since March. 

So Truth Social is wooing the QAnon crowd, banished from more reputable sites. . . . Trump and current and former Truth Social executives have shared QAnon graphics and messages and promoted the QAnon accounts. Trump had done so 65 times, the report said — and that was before his QAnon extravaganza Tuesday.

That day, Trump reposted QAnon slogans “Where we go one we go all” and “I am the storm”; a message from reputed QAnon founder “Q”; allegations that Democrats, not Russia, are the “enemy”; false claims about law enforcement and a voting-machine maker . . . .

There were five dozen such posts and reposts in Trump’s QAnon spree — a whole lot of fakery for one morning. But — who knows? — maybe tomorrow the Office of Donald J. Trump will issue a sworn certification attesting that, after a “diligent search,” it could not find a single QAnon post Trump had shared, ever.

Once you’ve disqualified the truth, your only means of advancement is an ever bolder lie.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty


Wednesday, August 31, 2022

More Wednesday Male Beauty


Rising GOP Anger At Trump Shows a Schizophrenic Party

Many Americans - likely a majority - are suffering from Donald Trump exhaustion.  The man simply cannot stay out of the news cycles and not because of the positive things - are there any? - that he has done.  For Republicans who would like to move on and try to campaign on economic issues and other matters, Trump's constant negative media coverage outside of fake news outlets like Fox News combined with his never ending demands that Republicans demonstrate their undivided fealty to him literally sucks the oxygen out of the atmosphere.   Worse yet, with his theft of higly classified and top secret documents, even some luke warm Trump supporters may be finally realizing the the man is toxic both to the GOP and the nation.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the schizophrenic behavior of Republicans as their dreams of a "red wave" in 2022 seemingly evaporate even as Trump's core base becomes more fanatical ( a piece in The Atlantic here also looks at the cost Trump is inflicting on the GOP).  Here are excerpts:

As Donald Trump’s legal travails deepen, a strange split-screen effect has taken hold throughout the GOP. On one screen, Republicans are increasingly anxious about revelations involving Trump, while concocting ever more inventive ways to achieve distance from them.

On the other, GOP candidates in crucial midterm contests are, if anything, getting more Trumpy. They’re not just aggressively defending Trump; they’re also enthusiastically embracing the many pathologies he brought to our politics, and even imitating his mannerisms.

This captures an essential tension about this moment. Many Republicans apparently remain deeply convinced that Trump and his preoccupations are an indispensable source of political energy for their 2022 campaigns. Yet coming revelations about Trump might keep rendering that energy more toxic in swing states and districts.

Two useful reports — one in Politico, the other in the New York Times — provide new information that illuminates that tension. Politico details “growing angst and concern” among Republicans about Trump’s ever-ballooning role in news cycles.

Some Republicans are urging the party to pivot away from defending Trump, Politico notes, to change the subject back to issues such as inflation. One GOP fundraiser describes the party’s mood about Trump as “enormous frustration.”

Republicans have adopted several strategies after the release of the redacted affidavit for the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago search, which deepened our understanding of Trump’s misconduct and potential crimes associated with hoarding highly classified documents.

Some Republicans are blaming the media for hyping the revelations, per Politico. Others insist there’s something vaguely amiss about the timing of the search. Still others say the documents aren’t harboring serious secrets, which is contradicted by already-known facts.

Among those Republicans, at least, gone is the full-throated rage that initially treated Trump as uniformly a victim and the search as wholly illegitimate.

Why? Well, as the Times piece documents, Trump is again a big story on terms unfavorable to Republicans. The political dynamic has shifted amid numerous factors: Trump-appointed Supreme Court justices overturning Roe v. Wade, revelations about Trump’s effort to destroy our democracy and, now, the drumbeat of devastating facts about his harboring of state secrets.

While holding the House will still be tough for Democrats, it’s now in play, and keeping the Senate is very plausible. As Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg tells the Times, the combination of Republicans initially running “toward MAGA” and Trump’s reemergence with a vengeance have given Democrats “more ammunition to label their candidates as extreme.”

Many of the aforementioned “frustrated” Republicans appear to agree. But here’s the rub: Some GOP candidates have a different theory of the case. They genuinely appear to see Trump and Trumpism as key sources of political energy and inspiration.

Take Blake Masters, the GOP nominee for Senate in Arizona. Masters is under fire for blaming racial diversity at the Federal Reserve for economic woes. Now, Masters has responded with a video that seems designed to capture a kind of unadulterated Trumpism . . . {by blaming Joe Biden’s affirmative action in appointees]

And Masters attacks Vice President Harris with the ugly claim that she is “so incompetent she can’t even get a sentence out.”

That’s gutter trolling, but it’s of interest. While Masters has tried to selectively sanitize his positions on abortion and the 2020 election, here he’s working overtime to capture the spirit and essence of Trump’s sheer abusiveness. It’s as though going all-in on such unapologetic derangement is itself a selling point that displays resolve and fight against, well, whoever gets triggered by it. . . . Masters is crafting a brand of Trumpism that’s nerdy and hyper-intellectualized but retains its dark hatreds of all manner of leftist enemies. In that video Masters attempts this to particularly ill effect.

Or take Doug Mastriano, the GOP candidate for governor in Pennsylvania. He continues to embrace insurrectionist lies about 2020 and talks only to right-wing media sources. When an old Army War College faculty photo surfaced of him in a Confederate uniform, his adviser was brashly unapologetic and blamed the left for trying to “erase history.” Mastriano is set to campaign with Trump.

And Kari Lake, the Republican candidate for governor of Arizona, is still running down rabbit holes in a never-ending chase after crackpot conspiracy theories about 2020. Lake depicted the Mar-a-Lago search as a sign the country has succumbed to totalitarianism and jackbooted tyranny.

Many GOP politicians, Donovan continued, grasp the true essence of Trump’s most important innovation. “Trump realized that having the right enemies is perhaps the most important thing to the GOP base,” Donovan told me. These candidates are seeking to “emulate” those tendencies, “even if it’s sort of a pale imitation.”

It remains to be seen how heavy an albatross Trump will prove to be for Republicans. But one thing is clear: Many GOP candidates appear committed to requiring the party to find out.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


Tuesday, August 30, 2022

More Tuesday Male Beauty


Republicans Bob, Weave and Lie on Abortion

If Republicans' outcoming in the coming mid-term elections proves to be something other than a "red wave" - one piece predicted a red puddle - much of the blame will fall upon the religious extremist majority on the U.S. Supreme Court and the fanatics of the party base who want to dictate to women what they can do with their own bodies (their desire to erase the right of privacy as hinted by Clarence Thomas doesn't help the GOP's plight either).  Mitch McConnell who engineered the packing of the Court with liars and extremists now cautions that the Court's handiwork combined with a number of horrendous MAGA candidates might make it difficult for the GOP to retake control of the U.S. Senate.  All of these problems are self-inflicted and on the abortion front the contortions and lies the Republican candidates are engaging in is stunning.  Some are trying to pretend they did not say things caught on video, sometimes in their own primary campaign materials - locally Elaine Luria's opponent is hoping women forget her own primary ads.  Another example is Blake Masters in Arizona pictured above who is lying incessantly on the issue.  A piece in Politico looks at the Republican bobbing, weaving and, of courseoutright lying now in full force.  Here are excerpts:

Democrats have been hammering GOP candidates on abortion since the fall of Roe v. Wade. That’s left some Republicans scrambling to try to figure out how to soften the blow.

A number of Republicans are trying to avoid political fallout from the Dobbs decision by quietly deemphasizing their past position on abortion on campaign websites and on the trail. Another handful of GOP candidates — especially those in contests in states that are more of a reach for the party — have gone up with TV ads looking to counter Democrats’ attacks on abortion.

Among the earliest Republicans pushing back on the issue on TV was Mark Ronchetti, a one-time TV meteorologist who is challenging Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in New Mexico this year, after losing a close race for the state’s open Senate seat two years ago.

“I’m personally pro-life, but I believe we can all come together on a policy that reflects our shared values,” Ronchetti says in the ad, saying that Lujan Grisham was “extreme” on abortion. “We can end late-term abortion, while protecting access to contraception and health care.”

Still, Democrats continue to hammer away at him, saying he is not being honest. A recent ad from Planned Parenthood Votes says “the real Ronchetti would take away a women’s right to control her own body,” tying him to strident anti-abortion groups like Right To Life that supported his Senate campaign last cycle, during which Ronchetti’s website described him as “strongly pro-life” and said that “life should be protected — at all stages.”

Some other Republicans have moved to decentralize opposing abortion in other parts of their campaign. Republican Blake Masters pushed out a Twitter video last week attacking Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) as extreme on abortion . . . . But Masters’ own website once read that he supported a “federal personhood law” and declared him “100 percent pro-life” — lines which have since been scrubbed from his site, NBC News first reported. His campaign website, under the subhead “protect babies, don’t let them be killed,” now reads that the “Democrats lie about my views on abortion” . . . .

Masters had previously told the Arizona Republic that he believes a “personhood law” would provide the foundation to ban third-trimester abortions, while some proponents of that idea say it would ban all abortion.

Another prominent example of website-scrubbing was uncovered recently in Michigan by The Detroit News. State Sen. Tom Barrett, the GOP nominee challenging Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin in a top swing district, removed a section of his campaign site that touted his opposition to abortion.

Barrett told the Detroit News that he didn’t know why the website was updated but that his position had not changed: he still supports a ban on abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest.

Republican Christian Castelli removed his anti-abortion rights position from his site after winning a May primary to take on Rep. Kathy Manning (D-N.C.). In his second run against Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.), Republican Tyler Kistner makes no mention of abortion access on his website — though his 2020 site described him as “100% Pro-Life”.

In a newly created Colorado battleground district, Republican Barb Kirkmeyer listed defending “the Sanctity of Life” on an issue page of her website, according to a July 5 archived version of the page. An old version also included a video of her speech at the 2022 March for Life event. Both references now appear to be gone.

Still, the issue has become so big in some Republicans’ campaigns that they’re cutting ads responding to Democrats on abortion. . . . . And some Republicans who have not moderated on abortion have still downplayed it on the trail.

Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, the GOP gubernatorial nominee there, has championed efforts to ban abortion throughout the state, taking the most strident positions among the Republican primary field. But since then, Pennsylvania-based press has repeatedly noted that the candidate does not bring up the topic as much.

Hopefully, voters will recognize Republicans for the liars that they are - just like the Supreme Court justices who lied during their confirmation interviews - and vote for Democrat candidates. 

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


Monday, August 29, 2022

More Monday Male Beauty


The Right's War on Education and Learning

Modern science, knowledge and by extension secular public education are among the biggest threats to the fairy tale and fantasy based world of evangelicals and war right "Christians" - I use quotation marks because they people are not actually followes of Christ's gospel.  Hence the current efforts to rid schools and public libraries of any books and information that might cause little Johnny or Susie to realize they have been taught a lot of bunk at home and in the churches they are compelled to attend.  Eager to turnout the vote of this ignorance embracing demographic, Republican candidates and the GOP as a whole have been only too happy to jump on the culture war bandwagon and push a form of neo-fascism - think Florida's "don't say gay law" as but one example.  In today's Internet and easy access to information age, this effort to erase unwanted information - and people - is ultimately going to prove to be a losing rear guard action.  That said, in the interim, expect the right wing/evangelical hysteria to only intensify.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the right's assault on education and knowledge.  Here are highlights:

The conservative campaign against education is many things. As a political matter, it’s about intensifying the culture war so moral panic drives Republican votes. As a policy matter, its long-term goals include dismantling public education. As a personal matter, it’s often motivated by fear that the American system of education is a threat to people’s children — that the wrong ideas, even ideas themselves, are impossibly dangerous.

On that last point, conservatives are absolutely right: Education is indeed a threat to many things they believe.

Consider some recent news from the front. In a Texas school district, police officers showed up to a high school library to “investigate” a graphic novel about a bullied gay teen. In Oklahoma, a teacher was investigated for responding to a draconian school censorship law by covering up her classroom library with a sign saying, “Books the state doesn’t want you to read”; she then resigned.

It’s not just teachers. Librarians have come under attack, too. In a Michigan town, librarians were targeted with a torrent of abuse after residents learned that the library contained books on LGBTQ themes; the town then decided to defund its only library. Problem solved!

Meanwhile, Fox News has been on a tear, vilifying school teachers as lazy, stupid, anti-White Marxists trying to “groom” children for sexual abuse.

In some red states, teenagers have taken it upon themselves to organize sex-education classes. Conservatives who dominate in those places are terrified that if the teens learn how their bodies work and what sex is, they might develop ideas that undermine the “traditional” view of sex.

And once again, the conservatives are right. If you teach a girl that she has the right to make her own choices about sex, that having sex doesn’t turn her into chewed-up gum no one would want to touch, or that she ought to question why society labels men who have sex “players” but women who have sex “sluts,” she might begin to free herself from the shame and fear that perpetuates certain hierarchies of power.

[A]re school teachers more likely to be liberals, even in conservative areas? You bet they are. Think about the kind of person who goes into teaching. You have to be committed to the welfare of children, be skilled at providing care, and believe in the institution of schools (most of which are public). You have to care about equality, because it’s inherent in the practice. You have to love books and learning. And you have to be willing to work incredibly hard for low pay.

There are some conservatives who meet all those requirements, but most of the people who do — who are disproportionately women — are going to be liberals. That makes conservatives suspicious of the entire profession, regardless of what is actually being taught.

If you’re going to teach science, you have to teach about evolution and climate change, even if some people would prefer to tell themselves both are sinister hoaxes.

And even if you train teachers to say the slaveholders who signed the Constitution actually hated slavery, or pass laws forbidding any mention of “gender fluidity,” what if your kids go on to college? Then they’ll be exposed to all manner of new ideas as they cultivate their capacity for critical thinking. They’ll probably meet people from different parts of the country and different backgrounds. They very well could decide that their parents are small-minded, and arrive at a set of beliefs that alienates them from the people who raised them.

These fears are intensified because we now live in an interconnected culture where shielding your children from ideas you don’t like has become almost impossible. . . . . if your kids have an internet connection, they have all kinds of exposure to different people and different ideas.

And the more conservative you are, the more likely it is that education will lead your kids toward experiences and beliefs that differ from yours — not because your kids are being victimized by propaganda, but just because of the nature of becoming educated.

The threat is real. Conservatives can’t keep their kids from having their minds opened forever. And they know it.

Monday Morning Male Beauty


Sunday, August 28, 2022

More Sunday Male Beauty


The GOP's Other Strong 2022 Head Wind: Trump

One thing is apparent as we approach the 2022 mid-term elections: people either love Donald Trump or they hate and detest him, and far more hate and detest him than those who love him.   With his endorsement of trulu horrendus candidates in a number of races, especially for U.S. Senante seats, and his theft of top secret government documents, Trump has inserted himself into the 2022 mid-terms and produced second strong head wind - the other is the Dobbs ruling over turning Roe v. Wage - against Republicans hoping to reclaim control of Congress.  Of course, with Trump it is first and foremoost always about himself, how he can make money (selling top secret information?), his one true god, and stroking his malignant ego.  Historically, mid-term elections have been a blood bath for the party holding the White House, but as the Washington Post and numerous other outlets are reporting, Democrat fortunes seem to be moving toward possible survival despite inflation and low job approvals for Joe Biden.  For this, if it materializes, Democrats can largely thank Trump who (i) appointed three of the Supreme Court extremists who overturned Roe, and (ii) constantly reminds the larger public that today's GOP is synonymous with Trump. The GOP and Trump simply cannot be separated and for millions that is a motivation to vote against the GOP, preferably at all levels.  A piece in the Post looks at how Trump is not helping the GOP's prospects despite the continued loyalty of the cultists in the MAGA base.  Here are excerpts:

It’s long been said that midterm elections are all about the current occupant of the White House — a referendum on the incumbent and his party. But do the old rules and assumptions apply as they once did? Because of Donald Trump, they may not this year.

American politics can be divided crudely into two eras: BDT and SDT, or Before Donald Trump and Since Donald Trump. What was true before he came on the scene isn’t necessarily true now. Trump broke rules and assumptions on his way to winning the White House, broke more in office and is still breaking them. And that could haunt the Republicans in November.

This November’s election will still be a reckoning for President Biden and the Democrats, given inflationary pressures and disapproval with the incumbent’s job performance. But Republicans cannot escape the reality that Trump and his Make America Great Again, or MAGA, movement are also part of the reckoning that will take place.

Since Trump came on the scene, elections are louder and angrier and, notably, they have drawn millions more Americans to the polls. . . . Biden got 15.4 million more votes than Hillary Clinton got in 2016, and Trump drew 11.2 million more in 2020 than he got in his first campaign. The Democrats’ popular vote margin rose from nearly 3 million in 2016 to 7 million in 2020.

The presidential races were not isolated examples of the Trump factor. Just as startling was what happened in 2018. For decades, midterm election turnout, which is always lower than in presidential years, . . . . Then came 2018, when overall turnout was the biggest in roughly a century, registering an 11-point increase over 2014, according to census data.

This too was the Trump factor — in this case a revolt against him led by women voters that reshaped the contours of an election. By one calculation from the Democratic firm Catalist, Democrats gained 23 million more votes than in 2014 and Republicans added about 11 million. Trump wasn’t on the ballot, but he was the biggest motivating force.

Though no one can predict whether turnout this fall will even come close to what happened in 2018, there are signs all around that this will be another SDT (Since Donald Trump) election and not necessarily one that conforms to what was the norm previously.

Republicans began the year with lofty expectations, built on traditional assumptions: Biden’s approval ratings were deeply underwater and the inflation rate was rising to its highest levels in 40 years, even as the economy continued to add jobs at a healthy clip. Republican leaders talked expansively about playing offense in 70 or more congressional districts. . . . Even many Democrats lamented how bad the climate seemed for their party.

Earlier in the year, White House officials concluded that the “MAGA” label was toxic to many voters and that, if it was broadly and effectively applied to the Republican Party, it could change the midterm election from a pure referendum on Biden to a choice between two philosophies and, presumably, two leaders, both unpopular.

On Thursday, Biden delivered a slashing speech in the Maryland suburbs that highlighted the White House’s plan to employ this strategy over the next two-plus months. He described the Trump-led Republican Party as having taken a turn toward “semi-fascism” and said: “The MAGA Republicans don’t just threaten our personal rights and economic security. They’re a threat to our very democracy.”

Biden alone cannot change the midterm from a referendum on his presidency to a choice election. But he has an unexpected partner in this effort: Trump and the Republicans themselves. Trump remains in the forefront of this election year, continuing his baseless claims about a stolen election, caught up in twin Justice Department investigations over his retention of classified documents and the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, and demonstrating that the Republican Party is now very much the Trump Party through the power of his endorsements to prop up questionable candidates. . . . Those nominations have added ammunition to Biden’s and the Democrats’ charge that the Republicans have become a MAGA-dominated political party.

The [January 6th] hearings have shown the efforts to which Trump and those close to him went to overturn the results of the 2020 election — and the degree to which the 2024 election could be put at risk if Trump acolytes control the administration of elections.

Meanwhile, the ongoing investigation by the Justice Department into Trump’s retention of highly classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida has kept the former president in the forefront of the news. The search of the premises has touched off what is now a weeks-long story that is likely to continue for weeks more. Trump not only broke rules of politics, he may have broken the law.

The other factor that has changed the landscape — the Supreme Court’s ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade — also has Trump’s fingerprints on it. The three justices he nominated — Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — provided the clear margin for the ruling written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

The decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has produced a surge in registration among female voters in a number of states and has become a motivating force for many women and men this fall, especially independent voters. . . . . the recent Democratic victory in a House special election in New York state, where abortion was a central issue, provided another indication of the power of the issue to redraw assumptions about November and has spooked Republicans.

But weak [Biden] approval ratings might not be as definitive an indicator of these midterm elections as those in the past. Democratic strategists have seen approval ratings of some candidates rise, even as Biden’s were falling, suggesting that the candidates’ fates may be somewhat decoupled from the president’s ratings.

This is still a tough year for Democrats. But the polarizing effect of an ever-present and controversial former president means this midterm election may not conform to the norms of the past.

If Republicans do poorly in November they will have largely themselves to blame and their shameless and morally bankrupt self-prostitution to Trump and his Christofascist/white suprmacists followers.