Sunday, December 17, 2017

More Sunday Male Beauty


Trump's Gift to Democrats: His Plans to "Help" Republican Candidates in 2018


As numerous news outlets are reporting, Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, has ambitious plans to campaign for Republicans during the 2018 midterm election cycle.  There are few things more likely to aid Democrat candidates than tying their GOP opponents to the widely hated Trump, especially once the realization hits that the GOP tax bill, if enacted, screws most voters over time while heaping huge tax breaks for the obscenely wealthy.  Given Trump's proposed efforts  to "help" GOP candidates and efforts to get Democrats to intensify their get out the vote ground game, 2018 could be a very good year for Democrats. Yesterday afternoon between parties, the husband and I spent some time with Virginia governor elect Ralph Northam and his wife (while the husband cut Ralph's hair in their kitchen) and we spoke of the key role his ground game played in Virginia's blue sweep last month.  I truly hope that Democrats across the country replicate the ground game effort and send many Republicans into forced retirement. Here are highlights from the Washington Post on what hopefully will be Trump's disastrous efforts in 2018:
President Trump is not on the ballot in 2018, but the White House is planning a full-throttle campaign to plunge the president into the midterm elections, according to senior officials and advisers familiar with the planning. 
Trump’s political aides have met with 116 candidates for office in recent months, according to senior White House officials, seeking to become involved in Senate, House and gubernatorial races — and possibly contested Republican primaries as well.
The president  [Trump] has told advisers that he wants to travel extensively and hold rallies and that he is looking forward to spending much of 2018 campaigning. He has also told aides that the elections would largely determine what he can get done — and that he expects he would be blamed for losses, such as last week’s humiliating defeat that handed a Senate seat in Alabama to a Democrat for the first time in 25 years. 
But getting deeply involved in the midterms could be a highly risky strategy for a president with historically low approval ratings, now hovering in the mid- to low-30s in many national polls, and might be particularly disruptive in primary contests pitting establishment candidates against pro-Trump insurgents.
Many Democrats also say they relish the idea of being able to run against Trump.  “He absolutely is turbocharging the opposition. My guess is most of the people running for office in 2018 are not going to want to cleave too closely to him,” said David Axelrod, former president Barack Obama’s chief strategist. “He torques up both sides, but he torques up the opposition more. He is the greatest organizing tool that Democrats could have.”
Jared Leopold, a spokesman for the Democratic Governors’ Association, said “we look forward to everything that comes out of the president’s iPhone.” 
On Saturday, Trump’s campaign sent out a “2018 candidates” survey to supporters on issues including abortion, gun rights and Trump’s call for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
But fundraising has been hurt in some quarters under Trump’s presidency, posing a financial challenge for a party increasingly spread thin in defending potentially vulnerable seats in the House and Senate. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, for example, has raised only about $2 million a month for the last four months and is spending more money than it is taking in.
There are other risks for Trump on the campaign trail. The president [Trump] frequently wanders off topic at rallies and often prefers to talk about himself, sometimes generating new controversies and making the candidate a sideshow at best. But the president can also draw a crowd like few other Republicans can.
Chris Ruddy, a longtime Trump friend, said the president needs to work to broaden his appeal ahead of the midterms. . . . . “He must move to the center. He must be the old Donald Trump — the bipartisan dealmaker who is looking for consensus.”
The president [Trump] is also unpredictable in following his political team’s advice. In Alabama, [White House political director] Stepien warned Trump not to endorse anyone, according to White House officials. He first backed establishment favorite Sen. Luther Strange in the primary, who was trounced by Moore. Then, Stepien and others urged him to shy away from Moore after the candidate faced allegations of sexual misconduct; Trump vocally supported him anyway.
Former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon remains another wild card as he pledges to continue backing anti-establishment candidates like Moore. 
Last week, defeated Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie — who was endorsed by Trump and attempted to reach Trump voters with incendiary positions on immigration and crime — said the political atmosphere was so “poisonous” that he would not recommend that other Republicans run for office. 
Democrats have been watching the Republican infighting from the sidelines with rising hope that Trump’s approach will play into their hands next year.  “They are mixing a very risky cocktail, where they are alienating suburban voters at the same time that they are motivating progressives and people of color,” said Joel Benenson, who served as the top pollster for Obama and continues to work on Democratic campaigns.
With the Republican tax cut package expected to pass in Congress this week, Stepien argued that the administration and Republicans have a marquee issue to sell despite its low approval among the public so far. 
“The president’s base is motivated and strong in every poll we see,” he said. “Off-year elections are all about turnout, and we believe the president’s base will be motivated to turn out.” 
But Steve Israel, who ran the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2012 and 2014, said there are many districts the president can’t touch and that he would be better off quietly raising money.
“Democrats have all the energy. They are on offense,” Israel said. “It’s very difficult for an unpopular president to move the needle in the other direction.” 

Australian Abuse Report: Catholic Church Must End Celibacy Rule


Ever since the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal first exploded in Boston over 15 years ago, the Church hierarchy and Church apologists like blow hard William Donahue of the Catholic League (a largely two person operation) and the cite Church Militant have worked hard to blame gays for the wide spread abuse of children and youths by Catholic priests.   Great efforts have been made to ignore the roles of (i) Church's bizarre 12th century view of sexuality and (ii) the unnatural rule of mandatory celibacy for Western rite priests (no such requirement applies to Eastern rite priests) have played in creating the atmosphere for widespread abuse.  Now, after a years long study, the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has released a report that lays blame squarely on the celibacy rule, a rule first implemented by the Church hierarchy to preserve Church funds and assets from the costs of maintaining priest' families (money has always been the Church leadership's real god).    A piece in DeutscheWelle looks at the report's findings which will not be happily received by the bitter old men in dresses at the Vatican.  Here are some article highlights:
Among the 189 recommendations put forward by the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse are two for the Catholic Church to lift its demand for mandatory celibacy and enforce mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse, even if it is heard during confession.
A five-year study from Melbourne's RMIT University on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church found that mandatory celibacy is the major precipitating risk factor for child sexual abuse.
DW spoke to Professor Des Cahill, who co-authored the report with Dr Peter Wilkinson.
DW: How did you come to the conclusion that mandatory celibacy is a risk factor for child sexual abuse?
Professor Des Cahill: In the [psychological and psychiatric] studies of priest offenders, the key facts were that the offending priest perpetrators were either psychologically immature or psychologically mal-developed and suffering from loneliness, lack of intimacy and sexual deprivation, and they became terrorized with their own sexual desires and sexual thinking. In their sexual deprivation their thinking mutated towards children, and so they began grooming young children and eventually abusing them sexually and emotionally. . . . . I and the Commission in the report make very clear that homosexuality is not the cause of clerical sex abuse.
Does that mean sexual deprivation and lack of physical relationships is the major reason that someone might become a child sex offender?
It's the clericalist incubating culture, and celibacy is part of that. One of the elements is the lack of contact with women. Take the example of the Christian Brothers who are the major teaching order for boys in Australia. Young men who were educated in all-male Catholic schools, went to all-male minor seminaries and then went on to all-male novitiates, perhaps went to university and became teachers, but didn't have much contact with the feminine. Then they lived in all-male communities, teaching in all-male schools.
Eugen Drewermann would argue that is a psycho-spiritual recipe for disaster and that's what happened among the Christian Brothers in Australia. 22 percent offended sexually against the boys they were in charge of, especially in orphanages and farming schools in country areas.
[T]he profile – and the Royal Commission is strong on this – of Catholic clerical offenders is different from the profile of child sex offenders generally. They offend much later in life, they are better educated, and in other aspects of their personality profile they are reasonably normal although, as the Royal Commission points out and as we point out in our report, there is a high degree of narcissism amongst Catholic priests and that also is a factor in the offending. They are totally focused on self and their own sexual identity, their own sexual thoughts etcetera.
Would lifting the ban on mandatory celibacy result in a decrease in child sex abuse in the Catholic Church?
When we looked at Eastern Rite Catholic Churches we found there was virtually no clerical sex abuse because in those eastern churches the priests have a choice between marrying or not marrying. In the Latin Rite Catholic Church, [priests] took on celibacy as part of the priesthood package. This is why the Royal Commission has recommended – and it was based partly on our report – the Australian Catholic Bishops make a request to the Vatican that married persons should be admitted to the Catholic priesthood.
What effect does the seal of confession have on cases of child sexual abuse being reported?
Until now in Australia priests have not been required to report any cases of child sex abuse. The Royal Commission has recommended this should be applied to Catholic priests even when they are hearing confessions. Already there is opposition to that from the two leading archbishops in Australia.
There is a tension between the seal of confession and obligation towards the welfare of vulnerable children. Unfortunately Pope Pius the 10th in 1910 lowered the age of confession from 13-14 to seven, which meant offending priests had access to younger children and were able to begin the process of grooming those children, and that, I think, is one reason why the problem became worse in the 20th century.
It should be noted that celibacy is not the only causation factor.  The Southern Baptist Convention which clings to similar 12th century views of sexuality likewise has a huge sexual abuse problem.  Ridiculous obsessions with all things sexual, rejection of modern knowledge, and the embrace of ignorance all seem to also play a role in setting the stage for sexual abuse.

Sunday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1


Saturday, December 16, 2017

More Saturday Male Beauty


Will Democrats Do What it Takes Claim a New Majority?


An op-ed in the New York Times makes the case that if Democrats will up their ground game and spend more attention and money on getting out minority voters (and by extension, younger voters) who often fail to vote, they have an opportunity to become the new American majority.  The piece cites Doug Jones' victory in Alabama as a shining example.  But a similar phenomenon made the Democrat sweep in Virginia possible as well - the Northam campaign, in coordination with the Herring and Fairfax campaigns, invested a huge effort in the turn out the vote drill, especially with minority and younger voters.  Having a Northam staffer live with us for over 4 months, the husband and I witnessed first hand the intensity of the effort. It is a lesson that Tim Kaine and Virginia congressional candidates in 2018 need to take to heart and replicate.  The same goes for the rest of the country.  If Trump/Pence has done anything, it has shown the dangers that not voting can unleash on minority communities and those not favored by the white, racist, Christofascist base of today's Republican Party.  Yes, you need an on air ad campaign, but the old fashion approach remains crucial.  Here are column highlights:
The Alabama special election for the Senate affirms that the coalition that elected and re-elected an African-American as president of the United States remains a majority of the country’s population. By combining a large and inspired turnout of voters of color with the meaningful minority of whites who consistently vote progressive — even in a state like Alabama — Democrats can win across the country.
A majority of people who voted for Doug Jones in Alabama were black — 56 percent, in fact, according to the exit polls. Mr. Jones’s stunning election victory highlights the path to victory for Democrats. The question is whether they will be smart enough to follow it.
African-American voters were a decisive force in the election, showing up in huge numbers and casting nearly all their votes — 96 percent — for Mr. Jones. They made up a larger percentage of the electorate than they represent in the state as a whole (29 percent versus 27 percent). Overperformance by African-Americans — in an election decided by about 21,000 votes — amounted to 38,000 more Democratic votes than would have been cast had African-Americans been just 27 percent of the that side’s total.
The task should be easier in other states, considering Alabama’s history of supporting racial segregation. . . . . The composition of a progressive multiracial coalition — what I call the New American Majority — in the rest of the country, however, is much more promising.
[W]hat made the difference in Alabama were independent, under-the-radar, grass-roots, on-the-ground voter turnout efforts by black leaders and organizers in black neighborhoods across the state. . . . . Organizations such as BlackPAC blanketed the state with canvassers doing the old-fashioned work of picking people up and escorting them to the polls. These groups and leaders are the “hidden figures” of the Alabama election . . . .
Looking ahead to 2018, can Democrats progress from being lucky to being smart? Being smart means learning the lessons of Alabama and moving money in ways that will continue to chalk up wins. . . . . The outlook for 2018 is hopeful with the right plans. . . . . this formula for victory is more applicable in other states because most white voters outside of Alabama are not as conservative as those inside the state.
By emphasizing turnout in 2018 — especially of voters of color — Democrats can take control of the Senate, the House of Representatives and at least five statehouses. Republicans’ margin in the Senate has now slipped to just a two-seat advantage, and the Senate contests in Arizona, Nevada and Texas are all winnable if there is a robust turnout of voters of color. Texas may be considered as conservative as Alabama, but its actual demographics are much more favorable: Only 53 percent of Texas eligible voters are white (and a quarter of the whites are strong Democrats). Mr. Trump won Texas by 800,000 votes, but there were four million eligible, nonvoting people of color in 2016, three million Latinos alone.
In the 2018 races for governorships, six states could swing from red to blue with the right voter mobilization plan and the proper funding and support. Maryland and Illinois are decisively Democratic, for example, but have Republican governors because Democratic turnout has been abysmal in the off-year elections.
The demographics in other Southern and Southwestern states — Georgia, Florida, New Mexico and Arizona — have brought them within striking distance with a well-funded Sun Belt game plan.
Ultimately priorities are expressed through budgets, and the allocation of political dollars will show whether Democratic strategists have learned the right lessons from the Alabama upset. Which leaders will spend the millions of dollars to win in 2018?
If Democrats want to win, they will elevate and give broad budgetary authority to strategists and organizers with long histories and deep ties in the country’s communities of color. They sent Doug Jones to the United States Senate, and they can bring Democrats back to prominence and power in states and districts across the country.

CDC Lists ‘Fetus,’ ‘Transgender’, "Diversity", "Evidence Based" as Forbidden Words


One of the hallmarks of Nazi propaganda - when not vilifying targeted groups, especially Jews - was to work to erase people and terms from public discourse.  This effort went hand in hand with Adolph Hitler's and Joseph Goebbels' view (now practiced daily by Fox News and Breitbart), that if one lied often enough, the public would come to believe the lies as truth. Reports are now coming out that the Trump/Pence regime has directed the Center for Disease Control ("CDC") to cease using words that conflict with the regime's antiscience, anti-abortion, pro-discrimination agenda.  Two banned phrases sum this up: "evidence based" and "science based" are now verboten.  Along with this, of course, are other terms not popular with evangelical Christians and white supremacists, words like "diversity."  Frighteningly, just like in Germany as Hitler rose to power, much of the public is oblivious to what is happening.  The Daily Beast looks at this propaganda effort.  Here are excerpts:

Policy analysts working at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were told on Thursday about a list of forbidden words being imposed by senior CDC officials, according to a report in The Washington Post. The forbidden words are reportedly “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based,” and “science-based.” Alison Kelly, a senior leader in the agency’s Office of Financial Services, reportedly led the meeting and did not say why the words were being banned.

The cited Washington Post story provides in part as follows:
In some instances, the analysts were given alternative phrases. Instead of "science-based" or ­"evidence-based," the suggested phrase is "CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes," the person said. In other cases, no replacement words were immediately offered.
The question of how to address such issues as sexual orientation, gender identity and abortion rights — all of which received significant visibility under the Obama administration — has surfaced repeatedly in federal agencies since President Trump took office. Several key departments — including Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC, as well as Justice, Education, and Housing and Urban Development — have changed some federal policies and how they collect government information about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.
HHS has also removed information about LGBT Americans from its website. The department's Administration for Children and Families, for example, archived a page that outlined federal services that are available for LGBT people and their families, including how they can adopt and receive help if they are the victims of sex trafficking.
The longtime CDC analyst, whose job includes writing descriptions of the CDC's work for the administration's annual spending blueprint, could not recall a previous time when words were banned from budget documents because they were considered controversial.
The reaction of people in the meeting was "incredulous," the analyst said. "It was very much, 'Are you serious? Are you kidding?' "  In my experience, we've never had any pushback from an ideological standpoint," the analyst said. 
"Community standards and wishes" is a indirect way of saying "Christofascist standards and wishes."  Be very afraid.

Evangelicals Have Only Themselves to Blame for Their "Perception Problem"


Having followed evangelical "Christian" family values groups for over two decades - not to mention some of the batshitery I was exposed to having been raised Catholic - I had a very negative view of conservative Christianity long before the rise of Roy Moore or Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer.  And this negative view had nothing to do with evangelicals' support of a particular candidate.  Rather, it arose from their hypocrisy, desire to impose their beliefs on all of society, their judgmentalism, a total lack of love and compassion for others, and their rejection of science and modernity to name just a few of the undesirable characteristics of this segment of Christianity.  These malignant characteristics seem to have only intensified as evangelicals have been the main supporters of morally foul individuals like Trump and Moore. As a piece in the Washington Post examines, some evangelicals are belatedly waking to the fact that outside their own circles, they are viewed as toxic, especially among Millennials and with good reason.  If they seek to change this "perception problem," a long look in the mirror at themselves is a much needed first step.  Here are article highlights:
After Roy Moore lost Alabama's special Senate election, despite running a campaign on what he called Christian values, some evangelical voters seem to be considering that their label has been co-opted.
There's a growing concern that aligning with people such as Moore and President Trump has hurt evangelicalism in the public eye. But others connected to the movement say evangelicals, particularly white evangelicals, had a perception problem long before Trump and Moore became the faces of the community’s politics.
Moore’s promise to bring Christian values to the nation’s capital helped him win 80 percent of the white evangelical vote, similar to Trump in the 2016 election. But Moore was highly unpopular with people outside of evangelicalism, in part because of his incendiary comments about Muslims, gay people, people of color and people he perceived did not share his Christian faith.
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm, told The Fix: “This did not start with our recent national scene. . . . . evangelicalism has been defined by the market, not by the gospel. Any label that can include both Bible-believing gospel Christians and prosperity gospel heretics is a label that has lost its meaning.”
For years, believers have debated whether Republican politics and culture-war battles have diluted the essence of their label “evangelical” — which means spreading the Gospel.
The term “evangelical” became popular decades ago as a way to tamp down differences, emphasizing that all people under its umbrella, regardless of denomination, agree to embrace the Bible and spread its word. But politicians such as Trump and Moore have shown how elusive shared faith and values are today.
Moore and Trump supporters are the norm within evangelicalism, so attempting to distance them from the movement fails to address the real issues.
“White evangelicals who are now discarding the evangelical label are a day late and a dollar short,” Uwan said. “From its inception, there was an unholy triumvirate of Republicanism, patriotism and nationalism at the core of white evangelicalism. Trump is the very embodiment of white evangelicalism, and they must own him and their complicity. . . . . To reject the label for a new one is nothing more than putting lipstick on a pig.”
From the religious right’s earliest days, stances such as opposing abortion and same-sex marriage have been at the core of the movement. At this point, it's nearly impossible to dissociate the religious values from the politics. . . . . As Jerry Falwell Jr., president of the evangelical Liberty University, previously said, “I think evangelicals have found their dream president.”
White evangelicals are one of the groups that propelled Republicans in national and local elections. And all signs point to evangelicals having to carry the negative implications of the label long after some of these controversial politicians have left the political stage.
Evangelicals want to be above the nation's nondiscrimination laws by citing their "religious beliefs."  If they succeed, then others should be allowed to discriminate against them because, to me, they represent modern day Pharisees, and we all know how Christ treated the Pharisees in the New Testament. There is a reason the ranks of the "Nones" is growing and much of it traces to the toxic hate and nastiness of evangelicals. 

The Right's Desperate Assault on Robert Mueller


When I left the Republican Party years ago I learned how quickly "friends" can turn on you once you suddenly are dreamed "other" or the opposition.  I went from being respected for "doing my homework and never going off half-cocked" to being dragged through the model not the least for the "lifestyle" I had chosen.   It was ugly and save for one of my "friends" in the Virginia Beach delegation to the Virginia General Assembly I never received an apology - not even after Ed Schrock was "outed" by Mike Rogers, something all of them, including Bob McDonnell had been told about in advance.   Now, on a much grander scale it is Robert Mueller's turn to feel the wrath of Republican more concerned about protecting their own or their own ties to power than the best interests of the nation or simply morality and the rule of law.  And what drives such vicious attacks?  Personally, I suspect that many know that Mueller is on the verge of exposing crimes committed by the Trump/Pence campaign  and/or are fearful that their own prior knowledge of such crimes may come to light.  Andrew Sullivan looks at both the data that shows a majority of Americans oppose the GOP backed cancer and the vengeance Mueller is under unjustified attack.  Here are highlights:
I have three sites tucked away to check when I’m having a bad Trump day. There’s the Gallup approval chart, FiveThirtyEight’s poll of polls, and Real Clear Politics’ graphic of Trump polling. They sit there like little squares of visual Xanax whenever the anxiety of living in a country run by a delusional rage-aholic gets a bit too much. And they’re all looking good. Squinting at Nate’s blurry orange and green, it looks to me as if the gulf between approval and disapproval is widening still further. . . . And then Virginia and now Alabama. And the Democratic flood of potential candidates for 2018, especially women.
And yet this still feels like a phony oasis. A huge majority of Republicans stuck with Moore and Trump last Tuesday. And we’ve learned one new and sickening thing this past month: Republican tribalism demands that the Mueller investigation be aggressively smeared in advance, its findings preemptively discredited, and its lawyers smeared for political loyalties, even when there is no evidence that this is affecting the special counsel’s work. In much of Trump media, Mueller’s alleged corruption and bias are fast becoming an article of faith. Night after night on Fox, it’s an endless diatribe against the special counsel, a constant drumbeat of propaganda about a “tainted probe.”
The House Judiciary Committee’s grilling of Rod Rosenstein this week also revealed a near-universal Republican consensus that the investigation is rigged. E.J. Dionne recently noted “the statement of Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, that if every member of Mueller’s team who was ‘anti-Trump’ were kicked off, ‘I don’t know if there’d be anyone left.’” Jordan also declared that “the public trust in this whole thing is gone.” Ben Wittes is rightly worried that the House Republicans “are braying for actions inimical to the very idea of independent law enforcement. They are doing it about someone, Mueller, with whom they have long experience and about whom they know their essential claims to be false.”
The best news from Alabama is that the right’s strategy of constantly upping the ante, of mainlining tribalism so that the completely indefensible becomes a badge of honor, has reached an apparent limit. It took an alleged teen predator with contempt for the Constitution and nostalgia for the Confederacy to get us there, but we now know there is some kind of backstop. And so if Trump decides to wage war against Mueller, and pits his own ego against bedrock principles of the rule of law, there’s a chance he won’t quite get away with it. About a 51–49 chance. Our system of government — whatever today’s polling numbers — is hanging by roughly that margin.  And they say Alabama was a nail-biter.
For now, the majority of Americans seem to recognize the cancer in the GOP and White House.  Let's hope that continues and that November, 2018, sees a historic bloodbath for the GOP.  A blood bath that will set the stage for the removal of Trump and Pence and a decades long permanent minority status for the GOP.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty Pt 1


Friday, December 15, 2017

More Friday Male Beauty


Lindsey Graham: 70% Chance Trump Will Start War with North Korea


As noted in some previous posts, I have not worried as much about the possibility of nuclear war since the 1960's as I do now.  Again, as previously mote, back then we had sane individuals in the White House.  Such is not the case today when we are faced with the daily specter of a petulant, narcissistic, intellectually lazy, ego driven bully in the Oval Office with the nuclear codes.  I fear what madness this madman may unleash on the world.  Now, Senator Lindsey Graham - a sometimes responsible Republican - has noted that he believes there is a 70% chance that Der Trumpenführer may launch a war with North Korea with likely little thought of the extended consequences to allies in the far east or America itself. When will Pence - himself a vile man - and the cabinet move to remove Trump?  All of us are in daily danger from the ill-advised voted of roughly 70,000 individuals in three states. The Atlantic looks at the danger we face.  Here are highlights:  
It’s become a grim ritual in Washington foreign-policy circles to assess the chances that the United States and North Korea stumble into war. But on Wednesday Lindsey Graham did something different: He estimated the odds that the Trump administration deliberately strikes North Korea first, to stop it from acquiring the capability to target the U.S. mainland with a long-range, nuclear-tipped missile. And the senator’s numbers were remarkably high.
“I would say there’s a three in 10 chance we use the military option,” Graham predicted in an interview. If the North Koreans conduct an additional test of a nuclear bomb—their seventh—“I would say 70 percent.”
Graham said that the issue of North Korea came up during a round of golf he played with the president on Sunday. “It comes up all the time,” he said.
“War with North Korea is an all-out war against the regime,” he said. “There is no surgical strike option. Their [nuclear-weapons] program is too redundant, it’s too hardened, and you gotta assume the worst, not the best. So if you ever use the military option, it’s not to just neutralize their nuclear facilities—you gotta be willing to take the regime completely down.”
“We’re not to the tipping point yet,” he noted, but “if they test another [nuclear] weapon, then all bets are off.”
Graham takes the possibility of war seriously enough that, to prevent it, he would support direct talks with the regime “without a whole lot of preconditions.” It was a noteworthy statement coming from one of the foremost North Korea hawks in Congress. He wouldn’t rule out a Kim-Trump summit. “I’m not taking anything off the table to avoid a war. ... When they write the history of the times, I don’t want them to say, ‘Hey, Lindsey Graham wouldn’t even talk to the guy.’”
Graham says Trump “has 100 percent made up his mind that he’s not gonna let Kim Jong Un break out,” which Graham defined as achieving the capacity to “marry up a missile and a nuclear warhead that can hit America effectively.”
Many experts think North Korea has essentially reached this milestone already through its increasingly sophisticated nuclear and missile tests, while others argue that the North is still months or years away from that goal. But Graham bypassed these technical debates to focus on a central tension in the Trump administration’s approach to the issue: The Kim regime is sprinting toward breakout, while the Trump administration’s diplomatic campaign to persuade China and other countries to impose stiffer sanctions and other forms of pressure on North Korea is moving forward, but slowly. It’s a race. And there’s currently a clear frontrunner.
“I don’t know how to say it any more direct: If nothing changes, Trump’s gonna have to use the military option, because time is running out,” Graham said. “I don’t care if North Korea becomes a Chinese protectorate. … I don’t care who [the Chinese] put in charge of North Korea, as long as that person doesn’t want to create a massive nuclear arsenal to threaten America. There are a couple ways for this to end: The Chinese could kill the guy if they wanted to, or they could just stop oil shipments [to North Korea], which would bring [Kim Jong Un’s] economy to [its] knees.” Graham’s scenarios for resolving the crisis short of war, along with his vision for war, notably conclude with regime change in North Korea, which the Trump administration claims to not be pursuing.
Graham walked me through the case he had made for denial—and how he justified the dark calculation it relies on: that it’s worth initiating an actual conflict on the Korean peninsula, placing thousands and maybe even millions of real lives at risk in East Asia, in order to avert the potential deaths of Americans from hypothetical threats. Of the type of “preventive” war Graham has in mind, Dwight Eisenhower once observed, “none has yet explained how war prevents war. Worse than this, no one has been able to explain away the fact that war creates the conditions that beget war.” But Graham has a ready explanation. The veteran lawmaker, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who for years served in the U.S. Air Force Reserves while in Congress, and who once told voters not to support him if they were sick of war, argues that there are times when people’s aversion to conflict creates the conditions that beget war. He seems preoccupied these days with how the history of the present will be written in the future.
North Korea’s outlier behavior in the world, and its history of selling missiles and nuclear-related materials to countries such as Syria and Iran, inform Graham’s belief that more likely than North Korea firing its nuclear weapons at the United States is the North putting them on the black market. The biggest risk to the U.S. homeland and mankind as a whole is weapons of mass destruction making their way to people who wouldn’t hesitate to use them, he argues. And today those people belong to terrorist groups like ISIS or al-Qaeda. “What would be the source of those weapons?” Graham asked. “An unstable regime, cash-starved, controlled by a crazy man, called North Korea. ... I don’t see China selling [terrorist organizations] nuclear weapons. I don’t see Russia selling them nuclear weapons. I think for [terrorists] to build one of their own would be really tough and we’d probably know about it. I think the transfer of technology from North Korea to these groups would be very difficult to monitor.”
He acknowledged that preventive U.S. military action against North Korea could spiral into a conflict involving the use of nuclear weapons—and that any kind of conflict would probably engulf American civilians and U.S. troops in South Korea and Japan. “Fighting the North Korea threat over there protects the homeland,” he said. “That’s what [U.S. soldiers are] paid to do. That’s what they want to do. They sign up for these kind of risks.”
The urgency with which administration officials are imploring China to squeeze its neighbor, and their apparent lowering of the bar for negotiations, reflect a desire “to avoid what would be a catastrophic war for the region and the world.” But paradoxically that urgency also demonstrates that the probability of war is growing, he argued.
It’s certainly possible that this is all calculated bluster—an attempt by Graham to advocate for his preferred policy agenda within the White House, intimidate North Korea, and spook China into doing what it has resisted for decades: Cut its lifeline to the Kim regime. When I asked Graham who he was directing his warnings about time running out to, he responded, “North Korea and Donald Trump.” He said he was “100 percent convinced that China is a rational actor, that they see North Korea as a thorn in our side—a problem for them, but the upside of North Korea is greater than the downside for them. That changes, the day that they believe Donald Trump will blow up the whole place.” . . . . understanding where the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear weapons is headed also requires reckoning with another possibility: that Graham and like-minded U.S. officials are deadly serious.
 I for one do not sleep better at night with our own version of Kim Jong Un in the White House.  The fact that the lives of my grandchildren are daily threatened by Trump's unfitness for office make me seethe.  Be very, very afraid.

Trump Ignores Intelligence, Courts Putin, and Leaves America Vulnerable to Attacks


The Washington Post has a very long article on Donald Trump's maniacal rejection of the findings of America's intelligence agencies on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Frighteningly, the article also looks at Trump's efforts to block meaningful actions to protect America from future Russian attacks. The article relied on interviews with 50 past and present White House and intelligence personnel.  The question raised by the article obviously becomes one of why?  Some point to Trump's narcissism that prevents him from any admission that his election to the White House may have been due to anything other than his own magnificence.  The more sinister explanation is, of course, is that the Trump/Pence campaign did collude with Russia and was fully aware of the extent of subversive efforts of Vladimir Putin's henchmen.  This latter explanation seems all the more likely given Trump's efforts to leave America vulnerable to future Russian attacks.  Here are article highlights (read the entire piece):
In the final days before Donald Trump was sworn in as president, members of his inner circle pleaded with him to acknowledge publicly what U.S. intelligence agencies had already concluded — that Russia’s interference in the 2016 election was real.
Holding impromptu interventions in Trump’s 26th-floor corner office at Trump Tower, advisers — including Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and designated chief of staff, Reince Priebus — prodded the president-elect to accept the findings that the nation’s spy chiefs had personally presented to him on Jan. 6. . . . they said that doing so was the only way to put the matter behind him politically and free him to pursue his goal of closer ties with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin.
But as aides persisted, Trump became agitated. He railed that the intelligence couldn’t be trusted and scoffed at the suggestion that his candidacy had been propelled by forces other than his own strategy, message and charisma. . . . . Admitting that the Kremlin had hacked Democratic Party emails, he said, was a “trap.”
Nearly a year into his presidency, Trump continues to reject the evidence that Russia waged an assault on a pillar of American democracy and supported his run for the White House.
The result is without obvious parallel in U.S. history, a situation in which the personal insecurities of the president — and his refusal to accept what even many in his administration regard as objective reality — have impaired the government’s response to a national security threat. The repercussions radiate across the government.
Rather than search for ways to deter Kremlin attacks or safeguard U.S. elections, Trump has waged his own campaign to discredit the case that Russia poses any threat and he has resisted or attempted to roll back efforts to hold Moscow to account.
His administration has moved to undo at least some of the sanctions the previous administration imposed on Russia for its election interference . . . Although the issue has been discussed at lower levels at the National Security Council, one former high-ranking Trump administration official said there is an unspoken understanding within the NSC that to raise the matter is to acknowledge its validity, which the president would see as an affront.
His position has alienated close American allies and often undercut members of his Cabinet — all against the backdrop of a criminal probe into possible ties between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
This account of the Trump administration’s reaction to Russia’s interference and policies toward Moscow is based on interviews with more than 50 current and former U.S. officials, many of whom had senior roles in the Trump campaign and transition team or have been in high-level positions at the White House or at national security agencies. Most agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the subject.
Michael V. Hayden, who served as CIA director under President George W. Bush, has described the Russian interference as the political equivalent of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, an event that exposed a previously unimagined vulnerability and required a unified American response.
“What the president has to say is, ‘We know the Russians did it, they know they did it, I know they did it, and we will not rest until we learn everything there is to know about how and do everything possible to prevent it from happening again,’ ” Hayden said in an interview. Trump “has never said anything close to that and will never say anything close to that.”
The feeble American response has registered with the Kremlin.  U.S. officials said that a stream of intelligence from sources inside the Russian government indicates that Putin and his lieutenants regard the 2016 “active measures” campaign — as the Russians describe such covert propaganda operations — as a resounding, if incomplete, success.
But overall, U.S. officials said, the Kremlin believes it got a staggering return on an operation that by some estimates cost less than $500,000 to execute and was organized around two main objectives — destabilizing U.S. democracy and preventing Hillary Clinton, who is despised by Putin, from reaching the White House.
The bottom line for Putin, said one U.S. official briefed on the stream of post-election intelligence, is that the operation was “more than worth the effort.”
The Russian operation seemed intended to aggravate political polarization and racial tensions and to diminish U.S. influence abroad. The United States’ closest alliances are frayed, and the Oval Office is occupied by a disruptive politician who frequently praises his counterpart in Russia.
“Putin has to believe this was the most successful intelligence operation in the history of Russian or Soviet intelligence,” said Andrew Weiss, a former adviser on Russia in the George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations who is now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “It has driven the American political system into a crisis that will last years.”
U.S. officials declined to discuss whether the stream of recent intelligence on Russia has been shared with Trump. Current and former officials said that his daily intelligence update — known as the president’s daily brief, or PDB — is often structured to avoid upsetting him.
The CIA continues to stand by its conclusions about the election, for example, even as the agency’s director, Mike Pompeo, frequently makes comments that seem to diminish or distort those findings.
In October, Pompeo declared the intelligence community had concluded that Russia’s meddling “did not affect the outcome of the election.” In fact, spy agencies intentionally steered clear of addressing that question.
The president’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, moved to undermine support for NATO within weeks of arriving at the White House.  . . . . Bannon and his allies also maneuvered to sabotage displays of unity with the alliance. As NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg arrived for an April visit at the White House, McMaster’s team prepared remarks for Trump that included an endorsement of Article 5 — the core NATO provision calling for members to come to one another’s defense.  But the language was stripped out at the last minute by NATO critics inside the administration
On sensitive matters related to Russia, senior advisers have at times adopted what one official described as a policy of “don’t walk that last 5½feet” — meaning to avoid entering the Oval Office and giving Trump a chance to erupt or overrule on issues that can be resolved by subordinates.
“Look at our actions,” a senior administration official said in an interview. “We’re pushing back against the Russians.”  Senior Trump officials have struggled to explain how. In congressional testimony in October, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was pressed on whether the administration had done enough to prevent Russian interference in the future. “Probably not,” Sessions said. “And the matter is so complex that for most of us we are not able to fully grasp the technical dangers that are out there.”

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Quote of the Day: Some Virginia Republicans See a Blue Wave Coming

As noted in a prior post, so far the only announced Republican challengers to Senator Tim Kaine can easily be categorized as "far right," "extremists" and with other adjectives which will likely totally alienate moderate Republicans and independent voters.  The Virginia GOP base - nowadays largely comprised of Christofascists and thinly veiled white supremacists - will likely love these unhinged candidates.  As a post at Bearing Drift (which calls itself the "conservative voice of Virginia") notes, last month's Virginia election results combined with Alabama's shocker on Tuesday ought to have set off alarm bells and sirens within the GOP.  The piece then goes on to predict that the Virginia GOP will not get the message.  Here are the money quote:
[Roy Moore] lost a race in a state that has not elected a Democrat statewide for over 25 years. He had the endorsement of the President of the United States, the off-and-on endorsement of the Republican National Committee, and he handily beat a primary opponent who also had the endorsement of the President and the RNC. Most of all, he had Corey Stewart and Cynthia Dunbar from Virginia in Alabama aggressively campaigning for him. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, what went wrong was that Roy Moore is behind the times.  He didn’t keep up with what is happening in the Deep South:
-Donald Trump is about as popular as loud flatulence in church.
-The Republican Southern Strategy is deader than Jim Crow.
-Democrats have an equal claim on God, guns, and family values in the South.
-You can’t balance the Federal budget by raising taxes on the middle class and cutting entitlements spending.
-Most voters are a lot smarter than the average politician thinks that they are.  That is why 40% of them are Independents and will not blindly vote for the Republican or Democrat without reason.
Yes, Roy Moore is behind the times and his political life is most probably over.  The same thing can be said of the Republican Party of Virginia if they don’t wake up and join the 21st century.
 I particularly like the "loud flatulence in church" comment - even though it is completely true!!

More Thursday Male Beauty

click image to enlarge

Alabama: A Warning to the Virginia GOP

Neo-confederate, would be Trump mini-me, Corey Stewart
One question for the Republican Party of Virginia is whether or not it learned anything from the defeat of extremist nut case Roy Moore in Alabama this past Tuesday.  At present, the two announce GOP primary candidates seeking to challenge Senator Tim Kaine are extremists and whack jobs much akin to Moore.  One is a neo-Confederate would be Trump mini me named Corey Stewart who is popular with the rabid dog Virginia GOP base.  The other is self-styled "bishop" E.W. Jackson who went down to a crushing defeat in 2013 to Ralph Northam in the Lt. Governor race. Jackson is a virulent homophobe and ,in my view, is utterly un-tethered from objective reality - something that makes him the perfect for Virginia Christofascists.  A column in the Virginian Pilot questions whether the Virginia GOP will nonetheless select one of these extremists or someone else far from normalcy to challenge Kaine.  Given the lunacy of the Virginia GOP base, it is very possible Kaine will be given the gift of a lunatic as his opponent in November, 2018.  Here are column highlights:
Roy Moore's defeat in ruby-red Alabama may spell trouble for Virginia Republican Senate hopefuls Corey Stewart and E.W. Jackson, both of whom, like Moore, have pursued platforms far from the party's establishment wing.
Both Virginia hopefuls entered the Republican primary campaigning to the right of fellow GOP candidates: Stewart as a self- professed mini Donald Trump who has voiced support for Confederate statues and Jackson a firebrand preacher who has called gay people ill.
After the results were tallied in Alabama - first-time candidate Doug Jones bested Moore by more than 20,000 votes - Stewart, who had stumped for Moore, sounded off against GOP leaders who he said "colluded" with Republicans to undermine the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.
Jackson, an African-American minister, tweeted: "The black vote did not turn out against Roy Moore because of the sex scandal, but because of alleged racially insensitive remarks & perceived disdain for black voters."
But experts say such attention-grabbing statements don't represent a version of the Republican Party that can topple Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., next year.
"Extremist messaging is problematic in Virginia, but it's even problematic in Alabama," said Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington. Of Virginia, he said: "An evangelical message or a nativist-focused message might get you a nomination, but it'll be toxic in a general election."
The Virginia GOP's craving for a not-so-extreme candidate could be why Del. Nick Freitas, Culpeper, an Army veteran and tea party-style conservative, is picking up early buzz as an alternative to Stewart.
An hour after the results in Alabama came in, Freitas chose to post on Facebook about a youth counseling program and not the election. He did not return messages seeking comment Wednesday.  
In a 2012 interview with the group Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, which has been called a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Jackson called gay people "perverted" and "very sick people psychologically and mentally and emotionally." Later in the same interview he called homosexuality a "horrible sin" that "poisons culture" and "destroys families."  
[E]arlier this week Jackson suggested Stewart had "some dealings" with the Muslim Brotherhood - a jab Stewart labeled vintage Jackson.
"He's a crackpot," Stewart said in a phone interview Wednesday from Alabama. "He's getting even crazier." Stewart said Democrats would not let Jackson off the hook despite his attempts to moderate his comments on gay and transgender people - and neither would he.
Stewart shows no signs of backing off his self-described anti- politically correct soapbox.  In a minute-long video on Facebook shortly after the results came in, Stewart promised to never surrender to the "Republican establishment," which "colluded together with the Democrats to undermine Judge Moore" and will follow suit in his race next year.


Evangelical Christians: the Biggest Losers in Alabama Election


In the wake of yesterday's special election results in Alabama, the back biting, blame game, and back stabbing across various elements of the Republican Party is in full swing and will likely  intensify in the coming days.  While the Republican Party and Der Trumpenführer were the obvious losers, as a piece in Christianity Today makes the case (despite efforts to make apologies for evangelicals) that the biggest loser over all was evangelical Christianity, a segment of Christianity already viewed as repulsive, hate-filled and hypocrisy-filled by ever growing segments of American society.  As previously noted in previous posts, 36 percent of Millennials have walked away from Christianity/organized religion and the percentage of Millennials who see evangelical Christians unfavorably exceeds over 80%.  On top of this already bad situation, evangelical Christians' support of Roy Moore has further underscored that this segment of society is abhorrent and  hopefully will see its political influence plummet as decent, moral people walk away.  Here are article excerpts:
No matter the outcome of today’s special election in Alabama for a coveted US Senate seat, there is already one loser: Christian faith. When it comes to either matters of life and death or personal commitments of the human heart, no one will believe a word we say, perhaps for a generation. Christianity’s integrity is severely tarnished.
[The election of] Doug Jones has only put an exclamation point on a problem that has been festering for a year and a half—ever since a core of strident conservative Christians began to cheer for Donald Trump without qualification and a chorus of other believers decried that support as immoral. The Christian leaders who have excused, ignored, or justified his unscrupulous behavior and his indecent rhetoric have only given credence to their critics who accuse them of hypocrisy.
From moderate and liberal brothers and sisters, conservatives have received swift and decisive condemnation.
This is not to excuse some statements by conservative leaders that cannot be interpreted in any other way than as a slur against gays, Muslims, Mexicans, and others. Some conservatives are fearful beyond reason. Some conservatives clearly worship political power as much as they do Jesus Christ. But too often, we mistake the inarticulate groanings of certain foolish conservative leaders for the actual beliefs and behavior of the mass of evangelicals who vote for Donald Trump or Roy Moore. Our concern here is with a cabal of noisy conservatives, whom the press has apparently (and unjustly) appointed as spokesmen for all conservatives. This group pretends that the choice for someone like Moore represents unalloyed godliness and refuses to unmistakably criticize immorality in other leaders they admire. To justify or ignore the moral failings of a politician because he champions your favored policies—well, that is to step onto the path of self-deception and hypocrisy, which according to Jesus, leads to no less place than hell (Matt. 23:15). As suggested above, some of the critiques by the Left and center (matched by a fair amount of critiques by leading conservatives, by the way), are hard to argue with. Hypocrisy is again the most salient charge.
As recently as 2011, PRRI found that only 30 percent of white evangelicals believed “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.” But by late 2016, when Donald Trump was running for president, that number had risen sharply to 72 percent—the biggest shift of any US religious group.
The logic is then inexorable: “Where does that leave evangelicals? It leaves them with a choice. Do they sacrifice a little bit of that ethical guideline they’ve used in the past in exchange for what they believe is saving the culture?”
Apparently yes. This is precisely why, when serious and substantial allegations of sexual abuse of minors were made against Roy Moore, many doubled down on their support for him.
[M]any conservative Christians simply don’t believe the many news accounts and chalk it up to a secular, liberal, Democratic conspiracy against Moore. Others acknowledge that while the charges may be true, they are minor in nature or happened so long ago they don’t matter today. Some are simply Machiavellian, saying they are not electing Mother Teresa but a man who can look out for the interests of conservative Christians.
The problem with many Christian conservatives is this: They believe they can help the country become godly again by electing people whose godliness is seriously questioned by the very people they want to influence.
They have forgotten that old evangelical idea (and, before that, a Jewish idea) of putting a “hedge around the law.” That refers to behavior that is not wrong in itself but is practiced so as to not give even a hint of wrongdoing.
When combative conservative Christians refuse to suffer patiently in the public square, retaliate when insults are hurled at them, and do not refrain from the appearance of evil, they sabotage not only their political cause but the cause they care about the most: the gospel of Jesus Christ.
What events of the last year and a half have shown once again is that when Christians immerse themselves in politics as Christians, for what they determine are Christian causes, touting their version of biblical morality in the public square—they will sooner or later (and often sooner) begin to compromise the very principles they champion and do so to such a degree that it blemishes the very faith they are most anxious to promote.
And one of the biggest blemishes—for it is an open refutation of Jesus’ prayer that we be one—is when we start divorcing one another over politics. . . . . No wonder few believe much of anything we say anymore.


One can only hope that more and more Americans will realize that evangelical Christians today are the antithesis of what it means to be a true, believing Christian.  Meanwhile, as older evangelicals die off and younger generations walk away in disgust over Christian lies, hypocrisy and homophobia, if America is lucky, the influence of evangelicals will continue to go down the toilet figuratively and literally.