Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Did Jared Kushner Throw Trump Jr. Under the Bus?

Human nature - especially when immoral and unethical individuals are involved - is such that when the issue comes down to saving one's own ass versus throwing under the bus, many will opt to save themselves and allow purported friends and even family members to go down in flames.  In his prepared statement and testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jared Kushner seemed to perhaps signaled that if it came down to him or Donald Trump, Jr., and perhaps even Der Trumpenführer himself, Kushner would look out for himself first and foremost.  Of course, given Kushner's past lies and convenient memory losses, all of Kushner's song and dance may yet to prove to be false and could backfire and lead to criminal prosecution - something he seemingly is trying desperately to avoid.   A column in the Washington Post looks at Kushner's apparent willingness to throw  Donald Trump, Jr., under the bus.  Here are excerpts:  
Presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee this morning, and what is striking about his extensive opening statement is the degree to which it seeks to insulate Kushner himself from any culpability or responsibility for the problematic known facts about the Russia affair — particularly the known facts that concern Donald Trump Jr.
Kushner’s statement takes exceptional care to separate him, with scalpel-like precision, from the now-notorious meeting that Trump Jr. arranged with a Russian lawyer — a meeting that Trump Jr. had been informed would furnish the Trump campaign with information about Hillary Clinton supplied by the Russian government. Here is what Kushner’s statement says about the meeting (emphasis added):
 In June 2016, my brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr. asked if I was free to stop by a meeting on June 9 at 3:00 p.m. . . . . He eventually sent me his own email changing the time of the meeting to 4:00 p.m. That email was on top of a long back and forth that I did not read at the time. . . . . I arrived at the meeting a little late. When I got there, the person who has since been identified as a Russian attorney was talking about the issue of a ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children. I had no idea why that topic was being raised and quickly determined that my time was not well-spent at this meeting.
 [I]n looking for a polite way to leave and get back to my work, I actually emailed an assistant from the meeting after I had been there for ten or so minutes and wrote “Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting.” . . . . No part of the meeting I attended included anything about the campaign, there was no follow up to the meeting that I am aware of, I do not recall how many people were there (or their names), and I have no knowledge of any documents being offered or accepted. 

 It’s not entirely clear that the “long back and forth” that Kushner claims he “did not read at the time” is the email chain that Trump Jr. released, under duress, which demonstrated that the meeting was taken with the express purpose of getting information advertised as coming from the Russian government. But it seems clear that this is what he is referring to. Note that Kushner does not say one way or the other whether he had been sent this email chain before. What we do know, however, is that Kushner says he never read it. And if Kushner is to be believed, he agreed to, and showed up at, this meeting without having any idea why it was being held. This, even though Trump Jr. was quite excited about what this meeting might yield (“I love it,” Trump Jr. exulted in the email chain), and even though Trump’s then-campaign chair Paul Manafort was also present. Also note the exceptional care that went into Kushner’s characterization of the meeting. He claims he arrived just late enough to miss the incriminating part of the meeting. Trump Jr. admitted in his second statement that the Russian lawyer brought up the campaign. . . .
 Kushner’s statement does not deny outright either that the meeting did address the campaign or that any documents had been offered to the Trump camp, which the email chainappears to confirm. All it does is insulate Kushner from those facts. [W]hatever the truth turns out to be on those fronts, what Kushner’s statement does not do is contest any of the known facts about that meeting — known facts that are deeply problematic for Trump Jr. and even for Trump himself. The meeting, at a minimum, shows that Trump Jr. was eager to collude with the Russian government, which, he had been told, was trying to get his father elected president.  Kushner’s statement denies any collusion on his own part, and claims no awareness of any other collusion . . . .
 President Trump himself reportedly signed off on that initial false statement
, which means the president actively participated in an effort to mislead the country about his own campaign’s eagerness to collude with Russia to help him win. Kushner’s statement offers nothing to challenge these underlying facts. It just separates him from them.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Monday, July 24, 2017

Monday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Don't Cry for Sean Spicer

Last week Sean Spicer resigned as the press secretary for Der Trumpenführer.  Some have congratulated him for finally saying he would no longer prostitute himself for Trump.  Others have, in my view, rightly condemned him for every taking the position in the first place and put himself in the position of having to repeated Trump's lies and untruths on virtually a daily basis.  To me, Spicer embodies the larger problem with countless Republicans today: they are amoral - if not outright immoral - and will do anything to further themselves and/or hang onto power.   Each of us has to make decisions daily as to whether we put morality first or perceived self-advantage.  Perhaps I can't let go of my Catholic upbringing where somethings were simply wrong and immoral, but when in doubt I side on the side of morality.  Would that more Republicans, especially those in Congress did so.  A piece in Politico lays out what Spicer deserves no sympathy.  Read the piece and apply it to Trump supporting Republicans in general.  Here are highlights:
The White House attracts all manner of toadies, suckups and flatterers seeking the president's favor, but never did any staffer demean, degrade and humble himself to the chief executive the way outgoing press secretary Sean Spicer did. Abandoning the arts of both persuasion and elision that have served previous prevaricating press secretaries so well, Spicer flung barb-tongued lies in the service of President Donald Trump.
Starting with Trump’s inauguration weekend, which Spicer declared “was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period,” through last week, when he lied that Donald Trump Jr.’s Russian meeting was about “adoptions,” Spicer never failed to fib when a fib would serve the president. Had Spicer’s White House Briefing Room comments been sworn testimony, he would face so many years in prison for perjury that a dozen Trump pardons couldn’t secure his freedom. Had his nose grown with every Pinocchio he uttered, it would have reached the moon.
What thanks did Spicer earn for his months of debasement in service to Trump? The early and steady drumbeat from the Oval Office that the president was “disappointed” in his performance, as CNN’s Jim Acosta reported in early February, and never-ending whispers that he would soon be sacked, which finally came true today. He gave Trump the red blood of his undying loyalty. Trump gave him the pink slip.
Reviewing Spicer’s tenure as press secretary, we find no Trump transgression so foul that Spicer would not grovel before it.
When Trump made the baseless allegation that millions voted illegally in the presidential election, Spicer defended him. He slammed the media in general for a “default narrative“ that was “always negative” . . . The one thing that kept Spicer from lying for Trump full-time was poor access to the Oval Office. The Washington Examiner and others have tallied the times Spicer couldn’t answer a reporter’s press briefing question because he hadn’t talked to Trump about the subject.
Professing ignorance became the safest of safe harbors for Press Secretary Know Nothing. It was probably the only time he wasn’t lying.
Spicer wasn’t born a liar. In an oddly predictive utterance, he volunteered in January as he boarded the Trump White House that he never lied because, among other things, lying destroyed credibility and rendered a spokesman useless. If he was being honest about not being a liar, his streak ended with that first press briefing, . . . And he lied so, so willingly.
By the end of his active tenure as press secretary—which we can date to June when the administration started platooning in Sarah Huckabee Sanders for on-camera briefings—Spicer had become the Lord Haw-Haw of the Trump administration. That’s a mighty harsh appraisal. Lord Haw-Haw was, after all, a British citizen who broadcast German propaganda into the UK from Hamburg during World War II.
Lord Haw Haw’s willingness to say everything and anything that would serve his masters finds its parallel, albeit cleansed of the unspeakable Nazi taint, in Spicer’s peacetime opportunism. Nobody took Lord Haw-Haw seriously. Like Spicer, he was just noise on the margins of the signal, a continuing joke that wasn’t very funny considering the stakes involved.

The Real "Gay Agenda"

One hears ad nausea from the Christofascists - who ARE seeking special rights to discriminate and be above the law - about the so-called "gay agenda."  These "godly folk" who are motivated mostly by hatred of others and a fear of modernity itself - science and knowledge that raise questions as to the truth of the myth based world view must be stamped out - project on gays what they themselves are guilty of.  For gays, all we want is (i) to have the same rights as others, and (ii) to enjoy the same level of safety from violence and bigotry that Christians have enjoyed for over two centuries in America.  There truly is no other "gay agenda."   A column in the New York Times by a transgender author looks at the aspects of this gay agenda as Christian zealots in Texas seek to enact a special anti-transgender law through a special session of the Texas legislature.  Read the piece and decide who is really seeking special rights.  It's not the LGBT community.  Here are excerpts:
My wife and I spent the morning riding our bicycles to the beach. It was a beautiful day. Seals dived in the surf, a couple played Kadima with their grandchildren, and Deirdre and I lay in the sun.
We celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary this summer. Our sons are in their 20s now. One is working as an actor. The other is an engineering student, researching the effects of lasers on glass. Both of them called us that day, to say hi, and that they loved us.
Meanwhile, in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott opened a special session of the Legislature, during which Republicans will attempt to portray me, and transgender people like me, as sexual predators. The legislature is expected to vote once again on a bill to restrict which bathrooms transgender Texans can use.
Somehow, during my time in the ladies room, the republic had failed to collapse.
I hear a lot about the “gay agenda” in my work as an advocate for L.G.B.T. people. Sometimes I hear that we are agitating for “special rights.”
Which — let’s be honest — is true. I do want special rights.
I want the special right, for instance, to not be beaten or murdered by ignorant bigots. At least 15 transgender women have been killed so far this year for the crime of being themselves.
I want the special right not to be fired from my job. In 28 states, it’s perfectly legal to terminate an employee because you don’t like the gender of the person that he or she is in love with. In others, gay employees are protected, but trans ones aren’t. In some states, it is even illegal for local governments to pass or enforce anti-discrimination laws.
I want the special right to not be homeless. In this country, an estimated 1.6 million young people experience homelessness each year; 40 percent of them are L.G.B.T. A third of the homeless queer young people ran away from home because they faced physical, emotional or sexual abuse.
I want the special right to be able to turn on the television, or go to the movies, and see, maybe just once, a person like myself on the screen. I mean someone other than a murder victim in a crime show, or a straight, cisgender actor getting a trophy honoring his bravery for pretending — ineptly — to be someone like me, or trans people being interviewed on talk shows as if gender transition is something as distant as the moon . . . .
I want the special right to open up the newspaper and not have to read one more clever “think piece” in which the humanity of people like me is held up for public debate.
What I want above all, is the special right to be left alone, and to be considered half of just one more unextraordinary American couple — just as the two of us were as we sat at the bar watching the ocean and drinking our beers.
You’d think that most of this would be common sense — that protecting American citizens from violence and unemployment and homelessness would be something we’d all agree upon. You’d think that respecting the privacy and humanity of some of the country’s most vulnerable souls would be a common goal.
But then, maybe you didn’t know that in the last six months the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services have already withdrawn or revised policies or proposals meant to protect L.G.B.T. Americans. Maybe you didn’t know that the governor and lieutenant governor of Texas feel that the state is so endangered by the prospect of leaving transgender people alone that they felt it necessary to call a special session of the Legislature to enshrine discrimination against us into state law. Maybe you didn’t know that Vice President Mike Pence has said that gay parents like me bring about “societal collapse” and the “deterioration of marriage and family.”
But you should.
The number of Americans who continue to have no idea that 28 states allow gays to be fired at will simply for being LGBT is staggering.  Here in Virginia, the vast majority support unemployment non-discrimination protections yet every year bills that would add such protections are defeated by Republicans yielding to the demands of The Family Foundation, Virginia's largest hate group which masquerades as a "Christian" "family values" organization.  Are hatred of others and the desire to have the freedom to mistreat others "family values"?  When you hear the bleating of Christofascists about special rights, please remember that it is they, not the gays, who are demanding them. 

Monday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Trump's Mobilization for War Against the Rule of Law

Many Trump supporters say they voted for Trump because they wanted him to "blow up the system." They believed that part of that agenda would be punishing "those people" - blacks, Hispanics, gays, non-Christians, and non-whites generally - so that they could regain the privilege they saw themselves losing.  Never mind that some of their lost privilege tied directly to their own bad choices and lack of initiative and personal responsibility.  Never factored into the mix was the reality that Trump wanted to destroy the legal system and the checks and balances written into the United States Constitution and make himself above the rule of law.  One need only look to Nazi Germany, Chile under Pinocet, or Putin's Russia to see where that will lead.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at Trump's coming attempt to destroy the rule of law:
The legal conflict between Donald Trump and Special Counsel Robert Mueller is escalating rapidly. New reports in the Washington Post and New York Times are clear signals that Trump is contemplating steps — firing Mueller or issuing mass pardons — that would seem to go beyond the pale. Except: Trump’s entire career is beyond the pale and, in his time on the political stage, the unthinkable has become thinkable with regularity.
Trump’s actions are best understood in the context of the overwhelming likelihood he, his family members, and at least some of his associates are guilty of serious crimes. The investigation might not produce proof of criminal collusion with Russia’s illegal hacking of Democratic emails. (Though reasonable grounds for suspicion already exists in abundance.)
Where Mueller seems to be creating special pain for Trump is in his investigation of financial links between Russia, Trump, and other members of the president’s inner circle. . . . Trump is “especially disturbed” that Mueller will access his tax returns. Trump’s lawyers have stated explicitly what Trump hinted at in the interview: He regards an expanding of the probe as a red line that might cause him to fire Mueller. . . . . They are specifically holding up Trump’s financial dealings with Russians as out of bounds: “They’re talking about real estate transactions in Palm Beach several years ago,” Sekulow tells the Post. “In our view, this is far outside the scope of a legitimate investigation.”
The Palm Beach transaction is a source of longtime suspicion. Trump purchased a property for $41 million and then, after improving it, sold it just two years later to a Russian oligarch for more than twice as much. This is a completely natural area for investigation. If the Kremlin wanted to finance Trump, overpaying for a property would be an obvious way to do so.
Why has Trump adamantly refused to disclose his tax returns, even at a significant cost to himself? And why does he appear to be so terrified at Mueller looking under these rocks? The simplest explanation is that he is probably hiding something deeply incriminating.
Trump has shown himself immune to widespread warnings that certain steps are simply not done. His hiding of tax returns, firing of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara (who was investigating Russian financial crimes when he was let go), and ousting of FBI director James Comey were all steps that would seem to immolate his career. Ordering the Department of Justice to fire Mueller, or pardoning the targets of his investigations, would be an open announcement that Trump considers his financial ties to the Russian underworld and state to be beyond any legal accountability. The ominous threats emanating from the White House are that of an administration mobilizing for war against the rule of law.
Of course, once the rule of law is dead, many Trump supporters could well find themselves losing rights along with the people they view as "those people."  Trump's only real concern is for himself and to a lesser extent his family.  The rest of us - including those stupid and/or bigoted enough to have voted for Trump - simply do not matter.

Donald Trump’s Napoleon Complex

Donald Trump may have a Napoleon complex, although he is certainly no Napoleon, with nowhere near the intellectual brilliance or leadership skills.  Likewise, Trump is not diminutive in height, although he has small hands and so have alleged small other parts.  The only true parallels is that Russia may be a shared undoing of both.  In Napoleon's case it was the Russian winter that destroyed the Army.  With Trump, it will more likely be money laundering, endless lying about Russian ties and collusion with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign.  New intelligence releases for example confirm that Jeff Sessions lied about not communicating with any Russian but in fact was inn communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.  A piece in Politico looks at Trump's endless Russia problem which, with luck will be his undoing and that of Mike Pence as well.  The only constant with the Trump regime is that everyone in it seems to be a pathological liar.  Here are article excerpts:
You could say that President Donald Trump dropped his guard to the New York Times while speaking to three of its top reporters at midweek. Restrained only by White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks—which amounted to no restraint at all—he riffed about his exasperation with Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from all Russia matters, and came inches from accusing former FBI Director James Comey of blackmail.
But the big reveal came when Trump’s subconscious coughed up the subject of Napoleon as he unloaded about his recent Paris trip. Emptying his gullet of what might be his greatest living fear, he recounted the story of Napoleon stranded in Russia, cut off from reinforcements, frozen in by winter, and fighting to retreat.
The Times interviewers were mute on whether Trump shuddered when mentioning frigid Russia, but the prospect of an icy entombment of his own making can’t be far from his mind, especially with the Washington Post’s breaking news on Friday night that Sessions did talk about the Trump campaign with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, despite his previous denials.
Manacled to Russian money, Russian financiers, Russian lobbyists, Russian condo clients, Russian lawyers, former Russian spooks, a Russian diplomat, Russian oligarchs, and Russian hangers-on, Trump dreams of escape from the Land of Putin. Pinned down by special counsel Robert Mueller, who employs lawyers seasoned in prosecuting money launderers, Trump lashed out in the interview, affirming that he would sack the special counsel if the investigation explored his family’s finances exclusive of Russian meddling in the election. Rather than going down with Emperor Donald, his officers and infantry have started to desert. First to peel off was Marc Kasowitz, his personal attorney, and legal team spokesman Mark Corallo. Then, on Friday, press secretary Sean Spicer called it quits after Trump appointed Anthony Scaramucci White House communications director. The desertions aren’t likely to end there. An anonymous White House source told Politico that Scaramucci’s hiring “was a murdering of Reince [Priebus] and [Steve] Bannon” who had vowed “the Mooch” would get the “job over their dead bodies,” so the hire makes Priebus and Bannon short-timers. If Sessions had any self-respect, he would have surrendered his stripes weeks ago. Now, that intelligence intercepts indicate that he may have lied about his contacts with the Russian ambassador, the gentleman from Alabama is likely to find his stripes ripped from his uniform. Trapped by all things Russia, sheltered by only by his family and closest associates, Trump suffers from more guilt-by-association relationships than you can count without taking off your shoes and socks. In recent weeks the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, POLITICO, Bloomberg News, the New Republic, the Daily Beast, the Washington Post and other outlets have tried to diagram the cat’s cradle of Russian entanglements. So many names inside the Trump camp connect to Russia or Russian moneymen. As Mueller’s lawyers use subpoena power to track Trump’s paper trails and Junior, Kushner and Manafort make scheduled appearances for questioning on Capitol Hill next week, the same Moscow cold that defeated Napoleon may seep into Trump’s bones. What story will history write for him? Impeachment? Pardon? Or, like Napoleon, exile?

Sunday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1