Sunday, November 19, 2017

A Disturbing Guide to Trump-Russia Collusion

The New Yorker has a convenient and disturbing overview of the cooperation between the Trump campaign, Russia, and Wikileaks, the preferred Russian outlet for disseminating information stolen by Russian operatives and military intelligence.  What is stunning is how, when viewed with the benefit of hindsight, Trump and his sycophants have lied to the American people from the beginning with the lies merely shifting as drips of information have leaked out exposing the previous version of the lie of the day. What is also revealing is the manner in which Trump - and the larger Republican Party - are hoping that the slow release of more and more damaging information will have an anticlimactic impact and perhaps save Trump from collusion, if not treason, with a hostile foreign power. If nothing else Trump has severely damaged America's prestige and influence across the globe and ripped apart the social fabric domestically - all of which is precisely what Vladimir Putin wants.  Here are article excerpts:
According to a recent accounting by the Washington Post, “the Trump campaign interacted with Russians at least thirty-one times throughout the campaign” and there were at “at least 19 known meetings.” If the full scope of the Trump-Russia story had been known all at once—Paul Manafort’s work for a pro-Putin party in Ukraine, Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner’s back channels to Russian officials, Carter Page and George Papadopoulos’s machinations, Donald Trump, Jr.,’s eager embrace of a Russian lawyer with alleged dirt on Hillary Clinton, the F.B.I.’s investigation, the intelligence community’s warnings—it would have been akin to North Korea going nuclear overnight. The audacity of the Trump campaign’s lies would have been shocking. It helps to take a step back and remember how politically explosive it would have been, a year ago, to know that the Trump campaign was colluding with WikiLeaks. Consider the timeline we can now piece together. On September 21, 2016, the WikiLeaks Twitter account sent a direct message to Trump, Jr., who quickly notified four top Trump campaign officials (Jared Kushner, Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon, and Brad Parscale). The highest levels of the campaign knew that WikiLeaks was in touch with the candidate’s son and close adviser. On October 3, 2016, Trump, Jr., asked WikiLeaks, “What’s behind this Wednesday leak I keep hearing about?”
Four days later, on October 7th, two important events occurred. First, the U.S. intelligence community formally announced that “the Russian Government directed” the theft of e-mails from the Democrats and named WikiLeaks as one of the entities used by the Russians to distribute the stolen material. Second, shortly after the announcement, WikiLeaks began releasing the e-mails stolen from Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.
Trump praised the organization in a speech—“I love WikiLeaks”—on October 10th. He tweeted about WikiLeaks on October 11th. The next day, WikiLeaks, seemingly encouraged by the coördination, sent another private message to Trump, Jr.: “Hey Donald, great to see your dad talking about our publications. Strongly suggest your dad tweet this link if he mentions us.” Fifteen minutes later, Donald Trump tweeted, “Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by Wikileaks. So dishonest! Rigged system!” Two days later, on October 14th, Trump, Jr., tweeted the link that WikiLeaks had provided.
The entire political world wanted to know whether the Trump campaign was actively coördinating with WikiLeaks, an organization that Trump’s own C.I.A. director would later call “a nonstate hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.” On October 14th, Mike Pence was asked, on Fox News, if the Trump campaign was “in cahoots” with WikiLeaks. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.
After Pence’s comment, several Trump officials issued their own blanket denials of any contacts with foreign entities during the campaign. As all of these general denials have collapsed, the White House has retreated to making more tailored denials. First, there was no contact at all. When numerous contacts were revealed, the White House shifted to arguing there was no coördination (or “collusion”). Now that clear coördination between WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign has been uncovered, the new line is that it wasn’t illegal. Trump and his Republican allies are betting that each disclosure, on its own, can seem innocuous or defensible, as the public becomes confused by the complicated timeline and tedious details. The Trump camp’s original broad denials start to be forgotten, and the bar for what is considered truly inappropriate coördination gets higher. It can take a long time before anyone realizes that the frog is dead.
The Russia investigation is occurring mostly behind closed doors in Congress and by the special counsel, somewhat muting the impact of revelations that regularly leak out. Will this slow and confusing release of damaging information soften the blow to Trump? It’s too soon to tell, of course, but what he and his team are banking on is that, while a year ago the public might not have tolerated the full truth about his campaign’s links to Russia, the scandal goes down a lot easier when the details are delivered in small bites.  
The Republican Party has indeed become the party of betrayal and perhaps treason itself.  With Trump at its head, the GOP's moral bankruptcy is indeed complete.

Blue States Practice the Family Values Red States Pretend to Preach

One of the ironies - and signs of the sick hypocrisy of the evangelical and fundamentalist Christians who dominate politics in so-called  red states - is that red states have some of the highest levels of societal dysfunction in the country: highest teen pregnancies, the most child marriages, highest divorce rate, highest poverty levels, etc.  Meanwhile, red states also have the highest Internet porn usage and levels of prostitution.  In contrast, the blue states - godless states controlled by Satan if one believes the rants of Christofascist - have nowhere near the levels of societal dysfunction.  Stated another way, the majority of residents of blue states practice the family values the evangelicals claim to support while it is the evangelicals and fundamentalist Christians who most frequently trash true family values.  A column in the New York Times looks at the role reversal of who actually puts so-called family values into practice.  Here are excerpts:
As we watch Roy Moore thumping his Bible to defend himself from accusations of child molestation, let me toss out a verbal hand grenade: To some degree, liberals practice the values that conservatives preach.
This is complicated terrain with lots of exceptions, and the recent scandals involving Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K. and Al Franken underscore that liberals can be skunks as much as anyone else. Yet if one looks at blue and red state populations as a whole, it’s striking that conservatives champion “family values” even as red states have high rates of teenage births, divorce and prostitution. In contrast, people in blue states don’t trumpet these family values but often seem to do a better job living them.
[O]f 32 states, those with the highest percentage of high school students who say they have had sex are Mississippi, Delaware, West Virginia, Alabama and Arkansas. All but Delaware voted Republican in the last presidential election.
Meanwhile, the five states with the lowest proportion of high school students who have had sex were New York, California, Maryland, Nebraska and Connecticut. All but Nebraska voted Democratic.
When evangelical kids have sex, they’re less likely to use birth control — and that may be a reason (along with lower abortion rates) that red states have high teen birthrates. Nine of the 10 states with the highest teen birthrates voted Republican in 2016. And nine of the 10 states with the lowest teen birthrates voted Democratic.
“Red regions of the country have higher teen pregnancy rates, more shotgun marriages and lower average ages at marriage and first birth,” Naomi Cahn and June Carbone wrote in their important 2010 book, “Red Families v. Blue Families.”
“Blue family values bristle at restrictions on sexuality, insistence on marriage or the stigmatization of single parents. Their secret, however, is that they encourage their children to simultaneously combine public tolerance with private discipline, and their children then overwhelmingly choose to raise their own children within two-parent families.”
Liberals, in other words, may be wary of strict moral codes, but they want to make damn sure that their own kids don’t have babies while in high school. It helps that they believe in comprehensive sex education and reliable birth control.
[T]he dozen states with the highest rates of child marriage, all voted Republican in 2016.  “Child marriage is happening at an alarming rate across the U.S., but available marriage-license data show more parents, judges and clerks in red states than in blue states seem comfortable with this human-rights abuse,” said Fraidy Reiss, founder of Unchained at Last, a nonprofit that fights child marriage.
Divorce rates show a similar pattern: They tend to be higher in red states than in blue states, with Arkansas highest of all. “Individual religious conservatism is positively related to individual divorce risk,” according to a 50-state study reported in the American Journal of Sociology.
Then there’s adultery and prostitution. One large international survey found that the largest group of customers on Ashley Madison, the dating website for married people, were evangelical Christians. And a major 2013 study found that men in the Houston and Kansas City metro areas were the most likely to call sex ads, while men in San Francisco and Baltimore were the least likely to.
[S]tatistical analysis suggests that religious conservatives end up divorcing partly because they marry early, are less likely to go to college and are disproportionately poor.
So the deeper problem seems to be the political choices that conservatives make, underinvesting in public education and social services (including contraception). This underinvestment leaves red states poorer and less educated — and thus prone to a fraying of the social fabric.
Liberals and conservatives alike don’t want kids pregnant at 16, and we almost all seek committed marriages that last. It’s worth noting that Bible-thumping blowhards like Roy Moore don’t help achieve those values, while investments in education and family planning do.

Here in Virginia, if one contrasts the conservative Christian/Republican areas of Southwest Virginia with the much more liberal so-called urban crescent, similar finds result.  The areas whining about family values practice them the least and are the most socially dysfunction.  Pretend piety in the pews does not translate into practice in everyday life.

Sunday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Saturday, November 18, 2017

More Saturday Male Beauty

Oklahoma Tried the GOP’s Tax Plan. Now, It’s Electing Democrats.

Congressional Republicans are strive to pass on a national level what Oklahoma Republicans tried a few years ago with disastrous results (Kansas likewise used this template with equally horrific results).  Here in Virginia Ed Gillespie's attempt to do the same thing as in Oklahoma and Kansas went down in flames when he lost by 9% to Democrat Ralph Northam.  Apparently, Virginians are smarter than their countrymen/women in the Mid-West. What is telling about Congressional Republicans is that they care nothing about how the Oklahoma and Oklahoma tax cuts for the rich combined with slashing spending on education and social programs (i) nearly bankrupted the states and (ii) seems to have Oklahomans now electing Democrats.  It would seem that the only thing that counts with Republicans is giving huge tax cuts to the very wealthy and large corporations while they can.  The long term consequences be damned.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at the Oklahoma example.  Here are highlights:
The backlash to the Republican tax agenda is already getting Democrats elected — in Oklahoma. On Tuesday night, 26-year-old mental-health counselor Allison Ikley-Freeman won election to the Sooner State’s Senate, in a district that backed Donald Trump by 40 points last November.
Ikley-Freeman did not win on the strength of her fundraising or political experience. She boasted little of the former and none of the latter. But like the three other Oklahoma Democrats who have evicted Republicans from state-house seats this year, Ikley-Freeman enjoyed one decisive advantage: She bore no responsibility for the regressive tax policies that had left the state in fiscal ruin.
Oklahoma was a low-tax state even before the 2010 GOP wave crashed over it. But tea-party Republican governor Mary Fallin and her conservative allies weren’t content with the low baseline they’d inherited. Like President Trump and congressional Republicans, Fallin believed that cutting taxes on wealthy individuals and businesses was the way to grow an economy, no matter what level those taxes were currently at, or how novel circumstances might change the government’s budgetary needs.
So, when global oil prices crashed in 2014, and took Oklahoma’s budget down with them, Fallin was unfazed. Faced with giant, annual revenue shortfalls, the governor didn’t just refuse to raise taxes — she cut them even further. Last year, the Sooner State found itself with a $1.3 billion budget gap — and Fallin responded by implementing a $147 million tax cut for Oklahoma’s highest earners, and preserving a $470 million tax break for oil companies that start new horizontal wells.
Instead of asking wealthy citizens and businesses to pay a bit more (or, in the former case, to pay as much as they had been previously), Fallin decided to strip resources from the state’s beleaguered public-school system. Between 2008 and 2015, Oklahoma had slashed its per-student education spending by 23.6 percent, more than any other state in the country. But Republicans felt there was still more fat to cut: While rich Sooners collected their tax breaks, Oklahoma schools suffered a 16.5 percent funding cut in the latter half of 2016. Many of the state’s school districts now make due with four-day weeks. Others struggle to find competent teachers, as the state’s refusal to pay competitive salaries has chased talented educators out of state or into other professions. Oklahoma’s health-care and criminal-justice systems are plagued by similarly draconian cuts. Bridges in the state are literally crumbling. Potholes litter roads.
But even this austerity has not been nearly enough to plug the state’s budget holes. Fallin and the GOP have become reliant on raiding emergency reserves to make up the rest. This has left Oklahoma profoundly vulnerable to the next recession.
This week, Republicans in Oklahoma’s House of Representatives passed an emergency budget bill in a special session. The legislation does increase taxes on oil production. But instead of raising taxes on the wealthy, or ending the state’s exemption for capital gains — as Oklahoma Democrats had proposed — Republicans opted to cut $60 million from state agencies, and drain another few million dollars from the state’s rainy-day funds.
Oklahoma’s overwhelmingly Republican voters do not like this idea. As polling by the (left-leaning) Oklahoma Policy Institute demonstrates, there is no majoritarian support for gutting public schools, so as to let rich people pay low taxes, even in the heart of red America.
That poll also found 74 percent of Oklahomans saying that increasing teacher pay should be a major priority for their government — and 64 percent saying that expanding health-care access should be one — compared to just 38 percent who said the same about “lowering taxes.” This goes a ways toward explaining why Democrats keep winning special elections in the state. . . . Now, the discrepancy between the GOP’s fiscal priorities, and its voters’ material needs, has become stark enough to challenge partisan loyalties.
In Washington, Republicans are working hard to make Oklahoma’s experience a national one. On Thursday, the House passed multitrillion-dollar tax cuts on corporations and the wealthy, even as exigent circumstances — among them, increasingly frequent hurricanes, the decay of long-neglected infrastructure, a drug-overdose epidemic, and the retirement of the baby-boomers — are making it more expensive for the federal government to meet its basic obligations to the American people.
[L]ike Kansas and Louisiana before it, Oklahoma has demonstrated that the Republican Party’s prescription for prosperity is a snake-oil tonic with life-threatening side effects.
And when “conservative” voters see what the trade-offs of small government actually are — bigger McMansions for the elite, four-day school weeks for the rabble — they start longing for a new deal.
Congressional Republicans don’t seem the least bit concerned by the abject failure of their economic model in these states.  A Quinnipiac poll released this week found that only 16 percent of Americans believe President Trump’s tax plan will lower their taxes, while 59 percent say the plan will favor the wealthy over the middle class. These are shocking figures given how much money Republicans and conservative outside groups have devoted to propaganda for their bill.
Republican voters in deep-red states like Oklahoma may cling to their partisan identities tighter than most. But they also know the true costs of the GOP’s economic orthodoxy on a more visceral level than other Americans do. On Tuesday, that knowledge helped a 26-year-old, lesbian Democrat win a seat in the Oklahoma Senate. Someday, it just might turn large swathes of the American heartland purple — if Democratic donors decide to spend a bit less on pointless, pro-impeachment ad campaigns, and a lot more on liberating red states from reactionary rule.

How FRC Dealt with a Sexual Misconduct Charge Against a Rising GOP Star

A piece in the Washington Post provides a good demonstration of how evangelicals have sold their souls and thrown aside morality in their quest for political power - and money among leadership circles.  Perhaps one of the foulest "family values" organizations, in my opinion, is Family Research Counsel ("FRC") which hosts the "Values Voter Summit" each year to which Republican office holders and candidates flock to genuflect to the group's leader Tony Perkins.  Perkins has documented ties to white supremacist groups and disseminates an endless stream of lies about LGBT citizens, blacks, Muslims, Hispanics and others that savages the gospel message literally daily.  Yet despite this, in 2016 he was allowed to author a portion of the GOP national platform.  Now, in the wake of the resignation of Ohio state Rep. Wesley Goodman who was caught having sex with a man in his office, we learn how Perkins and FRC turned a blind eye toward sexual misconduct by Goodman with a teenager at a FRC sponsored event.  It goes without saying that Perkins and FRC have been silent in the Roy Moore sex scandal.  Here are article highlights:

On a fall evening two years ago, donors gathered during a conference at a Ritz-Carlton hotel near Washington to raise funds for a 31-year-old candidate for the Ohio legislature who was a rising star in evangelical politics.

Hours later, upstairs in a hotel guest room, an 18-year-old college student who had come to the event with his parents said the candidate unzipped his pants and fondled him in the middle of the night. The frightened teenager fled the room and told his mother and stepfather, who demanded action from the head of the organization hosting the conference.

“If we endorse these types of individuals, then it would seem our whole weekend together was nothing more than a charade,” the stepfather wrote to Tony Perkins, president of the Council for National Policy.
“Trust me . . . this will not be ignored nor swept aside,” replied Perkins, who also heads the Family Research Council, a prominent evangelical activist group. “It will be dealt with swiftly, but with prudence.”

The incident, described in emails and documents obtained by The Washington Post, never became public, nor did unspecified prior “similar incidents” Perkins referred to in a letter to candidate Wesley Goodman. The correspondence shows Perkins privately asked Goodman to drop out of the race and suspended him from the council, but Goodman continued his campaign and went on to defeat two fellow Republicans in a hotly contested primary before winning his seat last November.

Goodman, 33, abruptly resigned this week after state legislative leaders learned of what the House speaker called “inappropriate behavior related to his state office.” Local media outlets have reported the behavior involved a consensual sexual encounter with a male visitor in his legislative office.

Emails and documents show a small circle of people discussed the complaints about Goodman before he went on to later misconduct at the statehouse.

In Ohio, supporters of Goodman’s campaign wondered why they were not alerted to his past behavior. “We are so sick of people knowing and doing nothing. If someone knew, they had an obligation to say something. That’s what you do. That’s how you hold society together,” said Thomas R. Zawistowski, president of Ohio Citizens PAC, a conservative group that endorsed Goodman.

Perkins did not respond to emails, phone calls or a message left at the office of the Family Research Council. Goodman declined to comment as did the stepfather, a member of the council who referred questions about the incident to Perkins. 

The Oct. 18, 2015 incident involving Goodman was discreetly handled by Perkins, the council’s president and a prominent leader on the religious right. Goodman at the time was campaigning for office after an impressive run in Washington as a congressional aide who rose to managing director of a conservative coalition Perkins oversees. He worked for the Perkins-run network from February 2013 to March 2015.
Perkins’s CNP raised money for Goodman at an Oct. 18 event that brought in donations from GOP stalwarts like former attorney general Edwin Meese and Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the antiabortion Susan B. Anthony List, according to Goodman’s campaign finance reports.

Goodman was close to the CNP as managing director of the Conservative Action Project, a group formed by CNP to counter President Obama’s agenda, including the Affordable Care Act.

As president of the Family Research Council, which opposes same-sex marriage and abortion and calls homosexuality “unnatural,” Perkins supports traditional values in U.S. politics and wields considerable clout in his political endorsements. His endorsement of Trump in July 2016 helped evangelicals overcome doubts about the GOP nominee.

The CNP is a tax-exempt 501(c)3 group founded in the early 1980s, and its membership has included prominent figures in the conservative movement such as Breitbart News chairman and former White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and embattled Senate candidate Moore.

 Note the Roy Moore connection. Thankfully, the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated FRC as a hate group.  Unfortunately, it remains a king maker in evangelical and Republican circles despite, in my view, Perkins' nasty history and total willingness to put his quest for power (and his lucrative income) ahead of morality and honesty.

With Trump, Christians are Facing a Spiritual Reckoning

Trump with evangelical "leaders"
I have a confession:  in general, I am no fan of religion, especially Christianity and Islam which claim to be positive forces for humanity but have a history of causing death and mayhem.  And that doesn't even factor in the spiritual harm done to countless millions over the centuries. Then, of course, there is the present cancer of fundamentalist Christianity and fundamentalist Islam.  The later is actively causing death and destruction at this very moment in the Middle East, parts of Africa and elsewhere.  The former, while not engaging in the actual murder of others,  continues to disseminate a virulent hatred of others and seemingly is becoming fused with white nationalism across America and many parts of Europe (e.g., recently in Poland).  And, yes, I hold bitterness from the emotional and psychological harm my Catholic upbringing inflicted on me and which Christian fundamentalists seek to inflict on society as a whole through an endless campaign of lies - no one lies more than evangelical and fundamentalist Christians from my experience save perhaps Donald Trump and/or the Catholic Church hierarchy when it claims to be serious about rooting out and punishing sexual predator priests and their enablers.  Now, in the age of Trumpism, American Christians face a choice: will they support Christ's gospel message or will they rally to the banner of Trumpism and the Republican Party's steal from the poor to give to the rich agenda.  Evangelicals appear to have chosen to reject the gospel message.  The remaining Christians are running out of time and need to either cease acting like the "good Germans" of the Nazi era and begin to forcefully and vocally say "no" to Trumpism and the worship of money, sex and power or surrender what little moral authority Christianity has left.  A column in the Washington Post looks at this choice.  Here are excerpts:
Many traditions in the history of Christianity have attempted to combat and correct the worship of three things: money, sex and power. Catholic orders have for centuries required “poverty, chastity, and obedience” as disciplines to counter these three idols. Other traditions, especially among Anabaptists in the Reformation, Pentecostals and revival movements down through the years have spoken the language of simplicity in living, integrity in relationships and servanthood in leadership. All of our church renewal traditions have tried to provide authentic and more life-giving alternatives to the worship of money, sex and power . . . .
President Trump is an ultimate and consummate worshiper of money, sex and power. American Christians have not really reckoned with the climate he has created in our country and the spiritual obligation we have to repair it. As a result, the soul of our nation and the integrity of the Christian faith are at risk.
As Abraham Lincoln, a politician with a deep knowledge of Christianity, stated in his first inaugural address, political action can, undertaken rightly, appeal to the “better angels of our nature.” But political action undertaken badly, and reckless inaction, can mislead and dispirit us — and appeal to our worst demons, such as greed, fear, bigotry and resentment, which are never far below the surface.
Trump’s adulation of money and his love for lavish ostentation (he covers everything in gold) are the literal worship of wealth by someone who believes that his possessions belong only to himself, instead of that everything belongs to God and we are its stewards.
Lately, faith leaders have spoken out against the proposed Republican budgets and tax plans. The Circle of Protection , a group of leaders from all the major branches of Christianity, of which I am a part, said in a letter to Congress: “We care deeply about many issues facing our country and world, but ending persistent hunger and poverty is a top priority that we all share. These are biblical and gospel issues for us, not just political or partisan concerns. In Matthew 25, Jesus identified himself with those who are immigrants, poor, sick, homeless and imprisoned, and challenged his followers to welcome and care for them as we would care for Jesus himself.” . . . . And yet, much Christian support for Trump and his administration continues.
Then there’s sex. Before Trump, Republicans liked to suggest that theirs was a fairly Puritanical party of family values with high standards for its candidates (despite many embarrassing exceptions). But Trump’s boastful treatment of women . . . and his serial infidelity and adultery are clear evidence of his idolatrous worship of sex. And it no longer seems like his is a unique case.
[T]he polls showing that evangelical Christians in Alabama express the most support for Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore — even after seven women have accused him of unwanted advances when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s — may be the most damning testimony as to the politicized moral hypocrisy of white evangelicals. Or as Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore warned his fellow religionists this past week, “Christian, if you cannot say definitively, no matter what, that adults creeping on teenage girls is wrong, do not tell me how you stand against moral relativism.” And yet, according to a new poll, 72 percent of evangelicals now say that “an elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life,” though only 30 percent thought so a mere six years ago .
Other responses to Roy Moore’s alleged behavior have been even worse than silence. . . . Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler even used a biblical story to legitimize Moore’s alleged offenses. “Take Joseph and Mary,” he said. “Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”
When it comes to worshiping power, Republican Christians most obviously stray from scripture in their attitudes on race. When 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump despite his blatant and constant use of racial bigotry for his own political interest, it showed that the operative word in the phrase “white Christian” is “white” and not “Christian.”
Week after week, Trump reveals that his leadership is always and only about himself; not the people, the country or even his party — and certainly not about godliness. . . . . The conflicts between his money, power and governing are always resolved in the same way — by his selfishness; by whatever happens to appeal to him, and only him, in that moment. 
Christians, rightly enough, have never expected perfect leaders — just those who can keep up their end of the moral struggle. But for Trump, there is no moral struggle. He is not immoral — knowing what is right and wrong, and choosing the wrong — he rather seems amoral: lacking any kind of moral compass for his personal or professional life. That’s why the Christian compromise with Trump and his ilk has put faithful Americans at such serious risk.
Central to the health of our society is for American Christians to rescue an authentic, compassionate and justice-oriented faith from the clutches of partisan abuse, and from the idolatry of money, sex and power. . . . . it also means “turning around” to equity and healing personally, and systemically in our institutions of policing and criminal justice, education, economics, voting rights, immigration and refugees, racial geography, housing, and more.

I suspect that most "good Christians" will not rise to the challenge.  They will remain engaged in their churches and parishes which in ways more resemble social clubs than forces pushing for the application of the gospel message in society.  Meanwhile, the hate and hypocrisy of evangelicals will be allowed to define Christianity and the exodus of the younger generations from religion will accelerate further.   I will let readers decide if they view the death of Christianity as a good thing or not. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday, November 17, 2017

More Friday Morning Male Beauty

The Russia Investigation’s Spectacular Accumulation of Lies

Several news outlets have scrutinized Donald Trump's statements for truth and veracity and over 3/4th are untrue or largely untrue.  Stated more directly, Trump lies roughly three quarters of the time. As the Russiagate investigation continues, it is quickly becoming apparent that most of those in the Trump campaign and now the Trump/Pence regime have similar problems with telling the truth be it Jeff Sessions who is either a complete liar or so wracked with dementia that he is unfit for office to Sarah Huckabee Sanders who lies daily at White House Press conferences (being raised by a Baptist preacher, she learned to lie from a master).   Conservative columnist Michael Gerson - who was a member of the George W. Bush White House staff - looks at the huge accumulation of lies that the Russiagate investigation has exposed to date.  There is every expectation that even more will follow.  Here are column highlights which also contain an indictment of evangelical Christians supporting Trump (and Roy Moore):
I spent part of my convalescence from a recent illness reading some of the comprehensive timelines of the Russia investigation (which indicates, I suppose, a sickness of another sort). One, compiled by Politico, runs to nearly 12,000 words — an almost book-length account of stupidity, cynicism, hubris and corruption at the highest levels of American politics.
The cumulative effect on the reader is a kind of nausea no pill can cure. Most recently, we learned about Donald Trump Jr.’s direct communications with WikiLeaks — which CIA Director Mike Pompeo has called “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia” — during its efforts to produce incriminating material on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election. But this is one sentence in an epic of corruption. There is the narrative of a campaign in which high-level operatives believed that Russian espionage could help secure the American presidency, and acted on that belief. There is the narrative of deception to conceal the nature and extent of Russian ties. And there is the narrative of a president attempting to prevent or shut down the investigation of those ties and soliciting others for help in that task.
In all of this, there is a spectacular accumulation of lies. Lies on disclosure forms. Lies at confirmation hearings. Lies on Twitter. Lies in the White House briefing room. Lies to the FBI. Self-protective lies by the attorney general. Blocking and tackling lies by Vice President Pence. This is, with a few exceptions, a group of people for whom truth, political honor, ethics and integrity mean nothing.
What are the implications? President Trump and others in his administration are about to be hit by a legal tidal wave. We look at the Russia scandal and see lies. A skilled prosecutor sees leverage. People caught in criminal violations make more cooperative witnesses. Robert S. Mueller III and his A-team of investigators have plenty of stupidity and venality to work with. They are investigating an administration riven by internal hatreds — also the prosecutor’s friend. And Trump has already alienated many potential allies in a public contest between himself and Mueller. 
But the implications of all this are not only legal and political. We are witnessing what happens when right-wing politics becomes untethered from morality . . . . What does public life look like without the constraining internal force of character — without the firm ethical commitments.
It looks like a presidential campaign unable to determine right from wrong and loyalty from disloyalty. It looks like an administration engaged in a daily assault on truth and convinced that might makes right. It looks like the residual scum left from retreating political principle — the worship of money, power and self-promoted fame. The Trumpian trinity.
It looks like Breitbart News’s racial transgressiveness, providing permission and legitimacy to the alt-right. It looks like the cruelty and dehumanization practiced by Dinesh D’Souza, dismissing the tears and trauma of one Roy Moore accuser as a “performance.” And it looks like the Christian defense of Moore, which has ceased to be recognizably Christian.
This may be the greatest shame of a shameful time. . . . . A hint: It is the institution that is currently — in some visible expressions — overlooking, for political reasons, credible accusations of child molestation. Some religious leaders are willing to call good evil, and evil good, in service to a different faith — a faith defined by their political identity. This is heresy at best; idolatry at worst.
Many of the people who should be supplying the moral values required by self-government have corrupted themselves. The Trump administration will be remembered for many things. The widespread, infectious corruption of institutions and individuals may be its most damning legacy.
Perhaps the biggest loser in all of this - assuming Trump doesn't trigger a nuclear war that kills countless millions - is Christianity which through the actions of evangelicals and fundamentalist Christians have shown the faith to be morally bankrupt.  They have, of course, had plenty of assistance from the Roman Catholic Church which still has not been honest about its worldwide sex abuse scandal. Combined, the net effect is that fewer and fewer want any connection to organized Christianity.  Hence why one-third of those under 30 years of age have walked away.  Expect the trend to accelerate and spread to older generations.