Saturday, August 05, 2017

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Trump's Transgender Ban Is Becoming Official Policy

Time and time again the only campaign promises Donald Trump is keeping are those made to Christofascists leaders in June, 2016, at a meeting at Trump Tower.  For background, on June 21, 2016, Donald Trump met with a who's who of far right Christian groups - a number of which are certified hate groups - in New York City.  The purpose?  To win the support of these Christian extremists who could then rally their followers to vote for the Trump/Pence ticket through their insidious, under the radar networks.  Among the rallying points promised to these extremists were the appointment of anti-abortion and anti-gay justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, repealing the six decade old Johnson Amendment so that churches could engage in political campaigns, anti-transgender bathroom bills, and license to discriminate laws disguised as efforts to protect the "religious freedom" of Christian extremists.  Trump delivered on the first promise when he placed Neil Gorsuch on the Court, his Justice Department and Department of Education are aggressively rolling back LGBT protections, and now Trump has targeted transgender members of the U.S. military.  As a piece in the Los Angeles Blade written by fellow LGBT blogger, Karen Ocamb, reports, Trump's anti-transgender tweets are becoming official policy. The issue will be whether or not the military leadership complies with Trump's openly discriminatory directives.  Here are article excerpts:
President Donald Trump may be on a 17- day vacation but his White House has been scrambling to hand him a “win” by the time he returns. Trump’s tweets last week announcing a ban on transgender individuals serving openly in the U.S. military was turned into a “guidance” policy for implementation that passed muster with the White House Counsel’s office Friday night. Approved by Trump, the new policy is expected to be now delivered into the hands of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who has been quiet on the issue with approximately 15,000 trans servicemembers under his command.
After his review, Mattis is expected to order a deliberate implementation by the Pentagon, which could take a period of time.
Though the policy—called “A Guidance Policy for Open Transgender Service Phase Out”—has not yet been made public, sources familiar with the planning said it would encourage early retirement, usher out any enlisted personnel after their contract is up, and would fire trans officers up for promotion. Basically, said a source, “the administration want to get rid of transgender servicemembers as fast as they can.”
No one yet knows what will happen to the servicemembers currently fighting in combat. The new policy does allow trans servicemembers to continue serving but apparently does not offer any protection from harassment or other efforts to get them to quit.
Trump said in his tweets that the decision to ban trans military service was made after consultation with his generals and to safeguard the readiness of the armed forces. That flies in the face of a Rand study  commissioned in 2016 by then-Sec. of Defense Ash Carter that said there were “few obstacles” to lifting the existing ban against trans service.
Trump focused his attention on the cost of medical care for trans servicemembers who want to transition on the job. But, the New York Times reported: “Paying for the procedures would cost the Pentagon between $2.9 million to $4.2 million a year, the report said. By comparison, the Pentagon each year spends $6 billion of its $610 billion budget on medical costs for active-duty service members.”
 Last Tuesday, 56 retired generals and admirals came out against Trump’s proposed ban. “This proposed ban, if implemented, would cause significant disruptions, deprive the military of mission-critical talent, and compromise the integrity of transgender troops who would be forced to live a lie, as well as non-transgender peers who would be forced to choose between reporting their comrades or disobeying policy,” the retired officers said in a statement, The Hill reported. Two sources says they have confirmation from their sources at the White House and Pentagon that the “phase out” policy is on its way to the Secretary of Defense.
 Matthew F. Thorn, Executive Director of OutServe-SLDN, released the following statement:
“The President’s order to remove transgender service members from the United States armed forces is nothing less than a purge. He is implementing this purge based on bigotry, motivated by agents of an ideology that has no concern for the national defense, and in blatant disregard of the experience of career officers who spent more than a year developing and implementing the current policy. . . . OutServe-SLDN with our partner Lambda Legal will be immediately filing a lawsuit in federal court to challenge this action.”
As Trump's approval numbers continue to fall it seems clear that he will do anything to appease the Christofascists - along with white supremacists - who put him in office.  My August VEER Magazine piece (which is on the streets around the 15th of the month) covers the intensifying attacks on LGBT Americans.

The GOP IS Now the Party of the Grotesque

I actually did not come up with the caption for this post.  It derives from arch conservative columnist and pundit George Will.  It reflects the reality that increasingly the Republican Party and its agenda have become something hideous.  Between the party's growing - and much more explicit  - racism and religious extremism and its growing desire to harm millions of citizens, I find it dumbfounding that  otherwise seemingly decent people continue to support the GOP.  Especially those who attend "liberal" religious denominations which outwardly support a social gospel message.  Donald Trump and many of his appointees embody the grotesqueness of the party - e.g., Betsy De Vos, Jeff Sessions, the list goes on and on.  Will uses Alabama's senatorial primary as a demonstration of the party's growing moral bankruptcy.  Here are highlights:
Southern Gothic is a literary genre and, occasionally, a political style that, like the genre, blends strangeness and irony. Consider the current primary campaign to pick the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions. It illuminates, however, not a regional peculiarity but a national perversity, that of the Republican Party.
In 1986, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III — the name belongs in a steamy bodice-ripper, beach-read novel about Confederate cavalry — was nominated for a federal judgeship. Democrats blocked him because they considered him racially “insensitive.” In 1996, he got even by getting elected to the Senate. Twenty years later, he was the first senator to endorse Donald Trump, who carried Alabama by 27.7 points. Sessions, the most beloved Alabaman who is not a football coach, became attorney general for Trump, who soon began denouncing Sessions as “beleaguered,” which Sessions was because Trump was ridiculing him as “weakbecause he followed Justice Department policy in recusing himself from the investigation of Russian involvement in Trump’s election.
 On Aug. 15, Alabama’s bewildered and conflicted Republicans will begin
 picking a Senate nominee. (If no one achieves 50 percent, there will be a Sept. 26 runoff between the top two.) Of the nine candidates, only three matter — Luther Strange, Roy Moore and Rep. Mo Brooks. Strange was Alabama’s attorney general until he was appointed by then-Gov. Robert Bentley to Sessions’s seat. Bentley subsequently resigned in the wake of several scandals that Strange’s office was investigating — or so Strange’s successor as attorney general suggests — when Bentley appointed him. The state Ethics Commission, which had scheduled an Aug. 2 hearing into charges of campaign finance violations by Strange, recently postponed the hearing until Aug. 16, the day after the first round of voting. Twice Moore has been removed as chief justice of the state Supreme Court. In 2003, removal was for defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court regarding religious displays in government buildings. Reelected, he was suspended last year for defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision regarding same-sex marriages.
Yet Brooks is the focus of ferocious attacks on behalf of Strange, who ignores Moore. The attacks are financed by a Washington-based political action committee aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). This Washington Republican establishment strenuously tried but fortunately failed to defeat now-Sens. Marco Rubio and Ben Sasse, of Florida and Nebraska, respectively, in their 2010 and 2014 primaries. . . . .  The attacks stress some anti-Trump statements Brooks made while chairman of Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign in Alabama. For example, Brooks criticized Trump’s “serial adultery,” about which Trump has boasted.
Yet the PAC’s theme is that Brooks’s support of Trump is insufficiently ardent. Such ardor is becoming the party’s sovereign litmus test.
A runoff seems certain, and if Moore (sometimes called “the Ayatollah of Alabama”) is in it and wins, a Democrat could win the Dec. 12 general election.
“Anything that comes out of the South,” said writer Flannery O’Connor, a sometime exemplar of Southern Gothic, “is going to be called grotesque by the Northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.” But, realistically, Alabama’s primary says more about Republicans than about this region. A Michigan poll shows rocker-cum-rapper Kid Rock a strong potential Republican Senate candidate against incumbent Debbie Stabenow. 
Is this Northern Gothic? No, it is Republican Gothic, the grotesque becoming normal in a national party whose dishonest and, one hopes, futile assault on Brooks is shredding the remnants of its dignity.
 Alabama is truly more dysfunctional and insane than when I lived there over 30 years ago. The major cities seem to have modernized while the rest of the state has drifted back to the Jim Crow era. 

Evangelical Christians Love Trump Because They Don’t Trust Facts

As regular readers know, I am particularly harsh on evangelical/fundamentalist Christians who go to church every Sunday (if not more often) and act all pious and sanctimonious even as they act in ways that are the antithesis of the Gospel message.  Their hypocrisy and dishonesty is stunning. Thus, it is not surprising that the most loyal supporters of Donald Trump, an amoral, vulgar, sexual predator who equates having money with class, breeding and social standing.   Most importantly, Trump ignores or derides any facts and information that conflicts with his own fantasies and narcissism - just as the evangelical Christians do. A piece in Salon focuses on this denial of fakes and knowledge that motivates both Trump and his evangelical supporters.  It makes the case that the moral bankruptcy of Trump is all too like that of the evangelical Christians. Here are highlights: 
Donald Trump is a man of many notable qualities. He is ignorant and a brute. He has bragged about sexually assaulting women by grabbing them by their genitals. He is a serial womanizer and has been divorced several times. He has also admitted to finding his own daughter sexually attractive. He is a serial liar who adores autocrats and dictators. He may even have gone so far as to collude with Russia and Vladimir Putin to steal the 2016 presidential election. Trump is also violent, moody, vain and impulsive. He does not read and is proudly ignorant.
Why would anyone support such a leader? More specifically, why would any supposed “Christian” support Donald Trump, who appears to represent the antithesis of Christian virtues in so many ways?
Writing at Talking Points Memo, editor Josh Marshall offers the following insights:
I puzzled over this for some time. Eventually I sensed that Trump wasn’t inducing people’s self-destruction so much as he was acting like a divining rod, revealing rot that existed already but was not apparent. … The rot was there but hidden. Trump is the moonlight. Perhaps better to say, to invert our metaphor, Trump is the darkness. …This seems most palpably the case with the political evangelical community with which Trump has maintained, since early in his campaign, a profound and profoundly cynical mutual embrace. Here I use the term advisedly: I don’t mean evangelical Christians or even conservative evangelical Christians but the evangelical right political faction, which is distinct and differentNothing I have seen before has more clearly revealed this group’s moral rot than the adoration of Trump, an unchurched hedonist with the moral compass of a predator who is lauded and almost worshipped purely and entirely because he produces political deliverables.
Marshall does not go far enough. Christian evangelicals (“Dominionists” and Christian nationalists especially) support Trump because he shares their most important values.
Trump and the Republican Party are waging a crusade to take away women’s reproductive rights and freedoms.
Trump and the Republican Party want to remove constitutional and other legal barriers that limit the ability of churches and other religious organizations to engage in overt political lobbying while retaining their tax-exempt status.
Trump and the Republican Party want to destroy the social safety net and believe that wealth and money are indicators of human worth and value. A belief in the “prosperity gospel” and a crude form of Calvinism where money and wealth are signs of being among “the elect” and of God’s blessing has been endorsed by many Christian evangelical leaders.
Trump and the Republican Party embrace racism and white supremacy. Southern Baptists and other white Christian evangelical faith communities have a long and deep history of racism against people of color — especially African-Americans.
There is another factor, rooted in emotion and irrationality, that also helps explain evangelical Christians’ support for Donald Trump.
New research published in the Journal of Religion and Health explains it this way:
The studies, based on surveys of more than 900 people, also found some similarities between religious and non-religious people. In both groups the most dogmatic are less adept at analytical thinking, and also less likely to look at issues from other’s perspectives. … The results showed religious participants as a whole had a higher level of dogmatism, empathetic concern and prosocial intentions, while the nonreligious performed better on the measure of analytic reasoning. Decreasing empathy among the nonreligious corresponded to increasing dogmatism.
Jared Friedman, a co-author of this new research, concludes, “It suggests that religious individuals may cling to certain beliefs, especially those which seem at odds with analytic reasoning, because those beliefs resonate with their moral sentiments.”
Christian evangelicals’ rejection of empirical reality and their habituation into believing the absurd and the fantastical mates perfectly with the zealotry of the broader American right, which views politics as a form of religious fundamentalism.
Faith, after all, is a matter of believing in that which cannot be proven by normal or empirical means. This definition is a perfect description of both movement conservatism and the Christian right.
Ultimately, Christian evangelicals and Donald Trump are united in an imperfect marriage because they share mutual goals. This is an unholy alliance and, as such, a perfect emblem of today’s Republican Party.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday, August 04, 2017

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

The Alternate Universe of Fox News; Buckley on Trump

My firm's office that I principally work out of is located in a business suites complex with numerous other tenants, including close to a half dozen other law firms.  Over all, it is a mixed group of tenants, all of whom share a kitchen/lounge area with a TV in it, as well as the large central printer/copier. During the 2016 election, there was an unspoken battle as to what channel would be on: Fox News, a/k/a Faux News, CNN or MSNBC, with people regularly changing the channel to their preferred channel.  Interestingly, now the TV remains almost always set to CNN or MSNBC.  Fox News, much more rarely.  On the increasingly rare occasions when the TV is tuned to Fox News, the best way to describe the coverage is as an alternate universe where major stories and facts are simply not reported.  Indeed, Fox News might as well be Russian state controlled television insofar as only right wing affirming coverage is aired.  A case in point was yesterday when news was breaking about Robert Mueller's empaneling of a DC based grand jury.  A New York Magazine headline says it all: " CNN: Grand Jury. MSNBC: Grand Jury. Fox News: Literally Anything Else."  The Founding Fathers believed that it was critical that the country have an informed electorate and that citizens had a duty to be well informed on the issues and events of the day.  One does NOT fulfill that duty watching Fox News.  Here are excerpts from the New York Magazine piece:
Earlier on Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury as part of his ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. (The White House, for its part, just keeps reiterating that Donald Trump is not under investigation and plans to fully cooperate with Mueller.) The WSJ called it “a sign that his inquiry is growing in intensity and entering a new phase.” This is, clearly, big news. The kind of news that major networks should be talking about. . . . Frankly, once you’ve read The Wall Street Journal report about the grand jury, you might want to tune into Fox News. Seems like they’re running some very fun segments this evening.

If - or more likely when - indictments come, Fox News viewers will no doubt be in shock and ask "how did this happen."  For racists, religious extremists, and xenophobes, Fox News has become a way to stick one's head in the sand and ignore reality.

Meanwhile, some conservative outlets are reporting on the real Donald Trump.  A case in point is Red State which has a timely piece that reveals what William F. Buckley - an icon to thinking conservatives (admittedly a vanishing species) - thought of Der Trumpenführer, none of it good. Here are highlights:
There has been a lot of discussion in the last several months over whether not several conservative icons would be supporting Donald Trump for President. William F.  Buckley, the founder of National Review and host of Firing Line said during the 1964 GOP primary that his rule was to support the “most rightward viable candidate.” That has often been turned into “the most conservative, electable candidate.” 
Willam F. Buckley wrote something about Donald Trump when he was talking about running for President — in 2000. Buckley, in an essay he wrote for  Cigar Aficionado and said the following about Trump:
Look for the narcissist. The most obvious target in today’s lineup is, of course, Donald Trump. When he looks at a glass, he is mesmerized by its reflection. If Donald Trump were shaped a little differently, he would compete for Miss America. But whatever the depths of self-enchantment, the demagogue has to say something. So what does Trump say? That he is a successful businessman and that that is what America needs in the Oval Office. There is some plausibility in this, though not much. The greatest deeds of American Presidents — midwifing the new republic; freeing the slaves; harnessing the energies and vision needed to win the Cold War — had little to do with a bottom line.
Wow. He wrote this sixteen years ago. And think about it. Some of our most pressing concerns right now have to do with foreign policy and and national security. Trump’s business acumen, however questionable, is worthless in such cases.
And he wasn’t finished:
In the final analysis, just as the king might look down with terminal disdain upon a courtier whose hypocrisy repelled him, so we have no substitute for relying on the voter to exercise a quiet veto when it becomes more necessary to discourage cynical demagogy, than to advance free health for the kids. That can come later, in another venue; the resistance to a corrupting demagogy should take first priority.
Finally, he illuminated Trump’s narcissism by comparing him with Steve Forbes:
So what else can Trump offer us? Well to begin with, a self-financed campaign. Does it follow that all who finance their own campaigns are narcissists? At this writing Steve Forbes has spent $63 million in pursuit of the Republican nomination. Forbes is an evangelist, not an exhibitionist. In his long and sober private career, Steve Forbes never bought a casino, and if he had done so, he would not have called it Forbes’s Funhouse. His motivations are discernibly selfless. . .
Buckley, a New Yorker, had more of an insight into Trump than others. At the time Trump wasn’t known to the rest of the country beyond people knew he was some rich businessman. Buckley however, was privy to the nonsense Trump engaged within NYC and Buckley was just well aware of it. Whatever it was, he had Trump pegged.

Mueller’s Use of Grand Jury Confirms What We Already Knew

Two demagogues, two liars, two mentally unstable men

Tonight Trump was in West Virginia ranting that the entire Russian investigation is a lie and utter fabrication and whined about the FBI's failure to prosecute Hillary Clinton and numerous insane claims.  Indeed, in his remarks, Trump seem to advocate for a dismantling of the rule of law. Meanwhile, word is out today that special prosecutor Robert Mueller has impaneled a second grand jury, in the District of Columbia, to further probe potential witnesses and  to subpoena documents from individuals and institution that would otherwise refuse to produce documents and information.  Having worked with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office on more than one occasion, few things are more intimidating than receiving a subpoena from those offices.  Short of an attorney client privilege situation, you will turn over requested documents.  Just as important, witness will be forced to choose between protecting themselves and avoiding perjury charges or lying for Trump and his sycophants.   Of course, as a column in the Washington Post points out, none of this should come as a surprise.  I have always believed that Trump was dirty - not to mention a pathological liar - and Mueller's investigation is going to find something damning. Here are column excerpts:
Breathless tweets and breaking-news banners notwithstanding, reports that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has empaneled a grand jury in the ongoing investigation of the Trump campaign and potential Russian collusion are entirely unsurprising. This development isn’t a nothing-burger, but it doesn’t suggest anything we didn’t already know.
The grand jury has the subpoena power that prosecutors need to compel reluctant witnesses to testify under oath. Grand jury subpoenas are also how prosecutors gather documents such as bank records, emails and corporate papers from entities or people who might not produce them voluntarily.
If a preliminary inquiry suggests there is nothing to a case, prosecutors might never empanel a grand jury. They and the FBI might conduct voluntary interviews, examine readily available documents and determine that no more formal inquiry is warranted.
It’s been clear for months that the allegations are sufficiently serious to merit a full investigation. And in the world of federal prosecutors, that means using a grand jury. . . . In fact, prosecutors in this probe have been using a grand jury for some time. Grand jury proceedings take place in secret, so there is often not a lot of news about what is happening in the room.
The reality is that any investigation serious enough to warrant the appointment of a special counsel was always likely to involve a grand jury. It was always going to drag on for months. In a case this complex, it takes a long time to investigate the various allegations, subpoena and review relevant documents, and put relevant witnesses before the grand jury. If there are grants of immunity or plea deals to be negotiated, that takes time as well.
Mueller has already hired more than a dozen prosecutors to staff his investigation. Anyone who thought this was going to be over quickly was kidding themselves. The “news” confirms what we already knew.
In the past weeks, there have been a number of startling and significant developments in the Russia probe. News that the special counsel is using a grand jury is not one of them.

I sincerely hope that Mueller finds enough evidence of crimes on Trump's part to drive him from office either via resignation or impeachment.  As for Mike Pence, I continue to believe that he is not the unknowing "Sergeant Schultz" that he claims to be.  He needs to go down with Trump. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Official Specializing In Fraud, Foreign Bribery Joins Mueller Team

As Donald Trump panders to his racist, Christofascist base, his approval rating has fallen to 33% which more or less corresponds to the percentage of Americans who see themselves as evangelical/fundamentalist Christians?  A coincidence?  I think not, especially since the majority of the Trump supporting "family values" hate groups have strong ties to white Supremacy.  Here in Virginia, if one traces back the roots of The Family Foundation, you find the supporters of "Massive Resistance" who closed public schools rather than integrate.  The irony, of course is that these people who feign piety and religiosity are supporting a man devoid of morality and decency.  Worse yet, he may be an outright criminal.  Hopefully, we will soon find out more on this later issue as special prosecutor Robert Mueller adds Greg Andres, who served as deputy assistant attorney general in the criminal division, overseeing the fraud unit and program that targeted illegal foreign bribery, to his staff.   A piece in Talking Points Memo looks at the development:
A former Justice Department official specializing in fraud and illegal foreign bribery cases has become the sixteenth lawyer on the special counsel team investigating into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, Reuters reported Tuesday. 
Josh Stueve, a spokesperson for special counsel Robert Mueller, confirmed the hiring of attorney Greg Andres to Reuters.
During his two-year tenure at the DOJ, Andres served as deputy assistant attorney general in the criminal division, overseeing the fraud unit and program that targeted illegal foreign bribery. Prior to joining to DOJ in 2010, he was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn, where he prosecuted several members of the Bonanno organized crime family.
Andres will add his expertise to a team with years of experience in national security, money laundering, cybercrime, and public corruption cases.
As for Trump's collapsing poll numbers, Talking Points Memo has this:
Just 33 percent of Americans approve of President Donald Trump nationwide, the lowest approval numbers that have been seen since his inauguration, according to a new Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday. Sixty-one percent of American voters disapprove of Trump, according to the poll. White men were the most split on their opinions about the President, with 47 percent approving of Trump and 48 percent disapproving. Republicans are still standing by their party’s pick, though, with 76 percent of those who identify with the GOP saying they’re happy with Trump. Even Trump’s main base of supporters — white people with no college degree — are losing faith in the President. They disapprove of his job performance 50 percent to 43 percent.
The majority of the registered voters surveyed said the President is not levelheaded — 71 to 26 percent — and 54 percent indicated they were embarrassed, not proud, that Trump is President.
Sixty-two percent of those surveyed said he is not honest; 63 percent said he does not have good leadership skills; and 59 percent said he does no care about average Americans. Multiple intelligence agencies have confirmed that Russia interfered with the 2016 election, and 63 percent of those interviewed believe it happened, while 58 percent think the President was involved.

This weekend the husband and I head to London for a week - the Ralph Northam campaign staffer living with us will watch the house and babysit the dogs - and I will be inclined to find a shirt to wear that says "Not My President" or "Don't Blame Me, I voted for Hillary."

Trump/Pence Regime to Attack Affirmative Action

At the same time that he has announced that he wants to cut legal immigration to America in half - most likely meaning a decrease in non-whites admitted to the country - the Trump/Pence regime that it intends to take on affirmative action for minorities at the college level, saying that it discriminates against white students.  It goes without saying that the Trump evangelical Christian and white supremacist base of Trump's support is thrilled by both prospects.  Both moves underscore that Trump's slogan "make America great again" actually means "make America white again."  It also underscores that Trump voters are motivated first and foremost by animus towards those they deem "other" and that while evangelicals continue to pack church pews, they are the antithesis of true followers of the Gospels.  Here are highlights from the Washington Post on the planned attack on minorities:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s internal announcement indicating that the Justice Department is seeking to curb affirmative action in a university admissions case has roused President Trump’s conservative base by seizing on a longtime grievance of the right at a moment when the administration is struggling to fulfill core Republican promises.
Sessions’s apparent intention to prohibit “intentional race-based discrimination” is also a window into the direction he is pulling the department’s Civil Rights Division in his effort to reverse Obama administration policies on a range of issues, including criminal justice, policing and voting rights.
Sessions’s moves signal that the administration is embracing the base during a time of turbulence and tension, with heavy attention being paid to the concerns of the white voters who lifted Trump into the presidency.
When Trump publicly attacked Sessions last week for his decision to recuse himself from the Russia probe, conservative groups and Republican lawmakers swiftly rallied to the attorney general’s defense. They argued Sessions — more than any other Cabinet member — has delivered quickly and concretely on Trump’s priorities. . . . .  Although the president is still unhappy with Sessions, Kelly told him that Trump does not plan to fire him or want him to resign, the person said. Kelly’s call came after a week of criticism in interviews and tweets by Trump of his attorney general.
Some Republican operatives also see the affirmative action initiative as a strategic play by the White House to rally middle-class and upper-middle-class white voters, especially as the Republican agenda on Capitol Hill has stalled.
“This touches a lot of issues and talks right to the folks who look at college admissions and believe slots for their kids are being taken, whether it’s by illegal immigrants or by other groups,” said Brett O’Donnell, a veteran Republican consultant. “It strikes to the heart of how they feel college is increasingly unaffordable and sometimes impossible to get into.”
Polling reflects the unease among Trump voters. A Washington Post-ABC News poll last year showed 44 percent of registered voters who supported Trump saw “whites losing out because of preferences for blacks and Hispanics” as a bigger problem than minorities “losing out.”
[T]wo people familiar with discussions in the Civil Rights Division said the announcement came after career staffers who specialize in education issues refused to work on the investigation out of concerns it was contrary to the division’s long-standing approach to civil rights in education.
Civil rights groups Wednesday lashed out at the initiative and said Sessions may be trying to end college affirmative action programs that allow schools to promote more diversity on campus by considering race in college applications. For generations, up until the mid-1960s, African Americans were systematically denied admission to universities, they said.
In two cases, the Supreme Court has ruled that schools have a compelling interest in creating a diverse student body and may use race as one of multiple factors in admissions decisions. In June 2016, the court ruled 4 to 3 that a race-conscious admissions policy at the University of Texas was constitutional.
Critics of affirmative action say the Supreme Court rulings have left an opening to challenge race-conscious policies, and federal cases are pending against Harvard College and the University of North Carolina.
Sessions has long faced questions about his attitudes and actions regarding racial justice. In 1986, a Republican-led Senate committee rejected his nomination by Reagan for a federal judgeship amid allegations of racism. In January, civil rights groups spoke out against his nomination during a bitter confirmation hearing. For the first time, a sitting senator, Cory Booker (D-N.J.), testified against Sessions, focusing on his civil rights record.
Bannon and Miller echo the president’s instincts about what his base — which Trump calls “my people” — wants from the administration: a mix of grievance-infused politics, populism and hostility toward anything viewed as “politically correct.”
As noted in past posts, Sessions is a racist of long standing dating back to the days when he and I both lived in Mobile, Alabama, when he refused to prosecute KKK members who had lynched a young black man.  As for the media's use of the term "conservative," it should not be applied to racists and people motivated by hatred.  They need to be call what they are - racists and bigots.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Are Wrongheaded U.S. Policies Ceding the Future to China?

HMS Hood steaming to meet Bismark - a  heroic but sad symbol of
a failure to recognize the forces of technological and economic change
A piece in the New York Times has a piece that suggests that Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, may be about to ignite a trade war with China.  The move stems from apparent growing concerns in the United States over a Chinese government-led effort to make the country a global leader in microchips, electric cars and other crucial technologies of the future. Unlike the orthodoxy of the GOP which wants to crush government regulations - including worker and public safety regulations - in China the ideology is to have government work with industry and foster the best possible economic future if for no other reason than the fact that economic success helps the Chinese leadership stay in power.  Thomas Friedman argues that Trump and his isolationist regime where ignorance is embraced and inconvenient facts are ignored or labeled "fake" are taking the wrong course and that the main beneficiary will be China going forward.  In many ways, as explained below, America finds itself where Great Britain was at the end of WWI.  Will American leadership make the same mistakes? Here are column highlights: 
I have a simple view of governing today: We are in the middle of not one but three climate changes at once to which government must help citizens respond — and Donald Trump doesn’t have a clue and China does. 
In the past you could fix any climate/environmental problem later or now. But today later is officially over. Later will be too late. At some point, the deforestation of the Amazon is not reversible.
We are the middle of a change in the “climate” of globalization. We are going from an interconnected world to an interdependent one, and in such a world your friends can hurt you faster than your enemies: Think what happens if Mexico’s economy fails. And your rivals’ falling becomes more dangerous than your rivals’ rising: We will be hurt a lot more by China’s economy tanking than its putting tanks on islands in the South China Sea.
And lastly we’re in the middle of a change in the “climate” of technology. We’re moving into a world where machines and software can analyze (see patterns that were always hidden before); optimize (tell a plane which altitude to fly each mile to get the best fuel efficiency); prophesize (tell you when your elevator will break and fix it before it does); customize (tailor any product or service for you alone) and digitize and automate just about any job. This is transforming every industry.
Governing today is all about how you prepare your society to get the most out of these three climate changes and cushion the worst. Sadly, that’s not our society’s priority right now. In the age of Trump we are treating governing as entertainment. Some conservatives argue that’s fine. The less D.C. does, the better. Let the market rule. I disagree. What actually made America great was a government that prepared the right soil in education, regulation, immigration, research and infrastructure, and a dynamic private sector that grew all kinds of flowers in that soil.
Which brings me to China. China takes governing seriously — in a cruel way and in an impressive way. Its leaders wake up every morning and ask themselves two questions. First, how do we stay in power?
China’s leaders are just as focused on asking a second question: What world are we living in? Which leads to: What are the biggest forces shaping this world? And what kind of national strategy do we need so our people can get the most out of these forces and cushion the worst?
They know we’re in the midst of these three climate changes and have formulated a strategy — “Made in China 2025” — to thrive within it. It’s a plan for building the infrastructure, investments, education and regulations that will enable Chinese companies to lead in supercomputing, new materials, computer-controlled machine tools, industrial robotics, space and aviation equipment — including drones — clean cars, clean energy, biomedicine and next-gen medical devices.
By contrast, Trump hasn’t even named a science adviser. He pulled out of the Paris climate accord without any input from scientists, and he proposed a budget for fiscal 2018 that eliminated the Department of Energy’s innovation lab (the “Advanced Research Projects Agency — Energy”) and slashed funding for all of our key national science and medical labs, which provide the basic research for the very next-gen technologies in which China is now massively investing. He’s spending the money instead on a wall against Mexico. Is there anything more stupid?
And then you watch the health care debate. And then you realize that in addition to the executive branch, one of our two parties has gone nuts. For seven years the G.O.P. made replacing Obamacare, which needs improving, its top goal . . . . it was clear that it had done no homework on a better plan or built any intraparty consensus for it. It was all a fraud.
And then you look at all the knife fights between rival Trump aides and you realize that none of these fights were over how to thrive in a world challenged by these three climate changes. They were all about who could get closest to and flatter our Dear Leader most. But our Dear Leader — as we saw in the health care debate — has done no homework on the future, either. He’s been too busy promising to restore the past.
This is so dangerous. When the pace of change accelerates in climate, technology and globalization all at once, small errors in leadership navigation can have huge consequences. It’s like a 747 pilot who enters the wrong navigational coordinates. You can find yourself so far off course that the pain of getting back will be staggering.
We have such a pilot. It is time for the adult Republicans and Democrats in Congress to come together and take the helm.
Back to Great Britain.  On the eve of WWI, Britain was the most powerful nation on earth with a military, especially its navy, second to none.  It had lead the way in industrialization in the 19th century and had reaped huge economic benefit.  But things were changing.  Germany was rapidly gaining on Britain industrially and economically and science and the technology of the day was changing rapidly.  By the end of WWI, Britain's industrial base had become antiquated and leading industrial strength was moving towards the United States and even Japan.  Britain's leadership turned inward, failed to see the crucial need to modernize with the government leading the way.  By the eve of WWII, while still powerful, Britain had been eclipsed by America, Germany and Japan, the latter two of which had governments that pushed and controlled the modernization of their industrial bases, albeit for militaristic and imperial purposes. Will Trump and the GOP take America on a course akin to Britain's mistaken path?  Right now, I fear the answer is yes.  If this happens, Americans need to get used to the idea of America no longer being the world's leading power and economy.   

Is The GOP Break From Trump Starting?

Driving home this evening I was listening to Steele and Ungaon the Sirius XM POTUS channel. The topic was whether or not Donald Trump was an aberration and whether the GOP would revert back to its historical positions.  At the time, I refrained from calling in, but if I had called in, my remarks would have been that the GOP will never revert back to it's historical self until the Christofascists and white supremacists are exiled from the party.  In my view,  it was the rise of these two groups within the GOP that set the stage for the rise of Trump and the appeal of his calls to racism and religious extremism under the guise of "make America great again" which to these groups translated to "make America white evangelical Christian again." That said, Congressional Republicans are showing signs that they neither fear Trump nor see him as a positive influence on their agenda.  Indeed, between the veto proof legislation on Russian sanctions and now bipartisan talk about health care reform, perhaps Republican members of Congress have realized that they need to proceed on their own without deference to the insane tweets emanating from the White House.  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at this possibility.  Here are highlights:
Congressional Republicans broke dramatically with the White House on Tuesday over the future of health care reform, with lawmakers entertaining bipartisan talks as the president scrambled for a way to salvage Obamacare repeal and replace efforts.
The talks aren’t expected to yield a quick legislative fix to Obamacare. Instead, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, said his committee would simply be hold hearings on possible actions Congress could take to stabilize the health insurance markets.
But the fact that talks were happening at all was a remarkable break from the message that the president and his team were hoping to send. While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) spoke in the past tense during a press conference on Tuesday to discuss his party’s efforts to pass Obamacare repeal—“our problem on health care was not the Democrats; we didn't have 50 Republicans”—the administration was continuing to press Republicans to keep at it.
“There are not the votes in the Senate, as I’ve said repeatedly to the president and to all of you, to change the rules of the Senate. There’s not enough even to require 50 or 51 Republicans to agree to do that. The votes are simply not there,” McConnell told reporters.
Trump held talks on Monday with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, ostensibly to convince him to get his home state senator, John McCain, to drop opposition to the last Senate bill. . . . . But the likelihood of that happening is next to nil. Not only is McCain unlikely to return to Washington D.C. as he undergoes treatment for recently-diagnosed brain cancer; but lawmakers are already plotting negotiations for when they get back after Labor Day.

Alexander’s hearings will take place in September, during which the committee plans to hear from state insurance chiefs, governors, health care experts, and representatives from the insurance industry. In the interim, the senator has asked Trump to authorize a short-term stabilization measure known as cost-sharing-reduction (CRS) payments in order to buy Congress time to come up with a bipartisan solution.
[Alexander]  was joined by several other high-ranking Republicans too. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) also encouraged Trump to make the CSR payments, as did Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Bob Corker (R-TN).
“There would be a lot of poor people that would, obviously, be negatively affected. And when you’re president, you’re president of the whole country. And while you might be dissatisfied with what you inherited, typically it’s best to try to figure out a way to move ahead in a manner that doesn’t harm folks,” Corker told The Daily Beast.
The fissure on health care between Senate Republicans and the White House presented Democrats with a rare political opening, but not one without its own set of complications.
Several Democratic aides told The Daily Beast that the party is eager to craft a modest deal with Republicans both as a means of stabilizing the individual insurance marketplace and removing the possibility that the GOP returns to a broader repeal-and-replace push—since the case or one would be weakened by the modest deal they struck.
Trump is expected to decide as soon as this week on whether to extend the CSR payments, which help offset costs for insurers and poorer Americans. If the president axes those payments, experts and lawmakers have warned that premiums could skyrocket and even more insurers could leave or threaten to leave the exchanges.
For Democrats, a prerequisite to crafting bipartisan reform is for the administration to alleviate that uncertainty.
“The idea that we’re doing this to just help insurance companies is hogwash. We would help the treasury, and frankly, we would be helping a lot of the people who are getting coverage in the exchanges,” Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), a former governor who has helmed talks with Republicans for weeks, told The Daily Beast. Carped added that he hopes new White House Chief of Staff John Kelly “will talk some sense” into Trump.
If Trump sabotages the existing law, Carper said, Obamacare’s success or failure will rest on his shoulders.
“We have an old saying in Delaware: if you break it, you own it,” said Carper. “And if he breaks it, he will own it. And ironically and cruelly, some of the people who will suffer the most are the people who live in those red states that voted for him, including West Virginia and Kentucky and places like that.”

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Republicans Remain in Denial About Donald Trump

To me, it was always obvious with anyone who bothered to really look at Donald Trump's career and personal life that the man was manifestly unfit for the White House.  Only deliberate refusal to see the man as he truly is - or affection for his racist, hate-filled xenophobic messaging - could justify having cast a vote for him.  And now that he is in the White House, Republican friends for the most part don't want to talk about him, much less argue as to why they voted correctly since, in their hearts, many I suspect realize that they made a horrific mistake that is inflicting incalculable harm to America.  Others, however, remain in denial, especially in the South and Mid-Western states where Trump has delivered no new jobs as he promised he would do, yet systemic racism and/or religious extremism continue to appeal those who voted for a morally bankrupt individual in the first place.  A few Republicans, however, are waking to the reality of what they have done to the country.  One is Republican Senator Jeff Flake who unloads on Trump and by extension the GOP in a new book. Politico has some excerpts from the book.  Here are some highlights:
Who could blame the people who felt abandoned and ignored by the major parties for reaching in despair for a candidate who offered oversimplified answers to infinitely complex questions and managed to entertain them in the process? With hindsight, it is clear that we all but ensured the rise of Donald Trump.
I will let the liberals answer for their own sins in this regard. (There are many.) But we conservatives mocked Barack Obama’s failure to deliver on his pledge to change the tone in Washington even as we worked to assist with that failure. It was we conservatives who, upon Obama’s election, stated that our No. 1 priority was not advancing a conservative policy agenda but making Obama a one-term president—the corollary to this binary thinking being that his failure would be our success and the fortunes of the citizenry would presumably be sorted out in the meantime. It was we conservatives who were largely silent when the most egregious and sustained attacks on Obama’s legitimacy were leveled by marginal figures who would later be embraced and legitimized by far too many of us.
To carry on in the spring of 2017 as if what was happening was anything approaching normalcy required a determined suspension of critical faculties. And tremendous powers of denial.
I’ve been sympathetic to this impulse to denial, as one doesn’t ever want to believe that the government of the United States has been made dysfunctional at the highest levels, especially by the actions of one’s own party. Michael Gerson, a con­servative columnist and former senior adviser to President George W. Bush, wrote, four months into the new presidency, “The conservative mind, in some very visible cases, has become diseased,” and conservative institutions “with the blessings of a president … have abandoned the normal constraints of reason and compassion.”
Under our Constitution, there simply are not that many people who are in a position to do something about an executive branch in chaos. As the first branch of government (Article I), the Congress was designed expressly to assert itself at just such moments. It is what we talk about when we talk about “checks and balances.” Too often, we observe the unfolding drama along with the rest of the country, passively, all but saying, “Someone should do something!” without seeming to realize that that someone is us. And so, that unnerving silence in the face of an erratic executive branch is an abdication, and those in positions of leadership bear particular responsibility.
But where does such capitulation take us? If by 2017 the conservative bargain was to go along for the very bumpy ride because with congressional hegemony and the White House we had the numbers to achieve some long-held policy goals—even as we put at risk our institutions and our values—then it was a very real question whether any such policy victories wouldn’t be Pyrrhic ones.  If this was our Faustian bargain, then it was not worth it.
Even as our own government was documenting a con­certed attack against our democratic processes by an enemy foreign power, our own White House was rejecting the authority of its own intelligence agencies, disclaiming their findings as a Democratic ruse and a hoax. Conduct that would have had conservatives up in arms had it been exhibited by our political opponents now had us dumbstruck.
So, where should Republicans go from here? First, we shouldn’t hesitate to speak out if the president “plays to the base” in ways that damage the Republican Party’s ability to grow and speak to a larger audience. Second, Republicans need to take the long view when it comes to issues like free trade: Populist and protectionist policies might play well in the short term, but they handicap the country in the long term. Third, Republicans need to stand up for institutions and prerogatives, like the Senate filibuster, that have served us well for more than two centuries.
We have taken our “institutions conducive to freedom,” as Goldwater put it, for granted as we have engaged in one of the more reckless periods of politics in our history. In 2017, we seem to have lost our appreciation for just how hard won and vulnerable those institutions are.

Flake sounds like he should leave the GOP.  The Republican Party that he calls for has ceased to exist and can only change when the majority of Americans get motivated and vote and send it into electoral exile.  That is the only way to kill the Frankenstein monster in the White House that the GOP has created.

Trump Dictated Son’s Lie About Meeting With Russian Lawyer

Two pathological liars

Things are never dull when it comes to Der Trumpenführer insane, out of control Reich chancellery White House.   First we learn this afternoon that Trump has already fired the foul and toxic Anthony Scaramucci, whom he hired less than two weeks ago to be his director of communications.  Now, the Washington Post is reporting that Trump personally drafted his son's lie misleading statement that sought to explain the meeting between Russian operatives and Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort which had suggested in and email labeled "Private and confidential" that the Russian government had information damaging to Hillary Clinton that it wanted to give to the Trump campaign to foster Trump's electoral victor.  Let's be candid.  It is getting more and more difficult to avoid the conclusion that Trump has actively engaged in the obstruction of justice.  True to form, Trump's mouthpieces are labeling the report as "fake news."  Fake news, of course, being anything that Der Trumpenführer doesn't like or that exposes the falsity of Trump's statements.  Here are highlights from the Washington Post story:
On the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Germany last month, President Trump’s advisers discussed how to respond to a new revelation that Trump’s oldest son had met with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign — a disclosure the advisers knew carried political and potentially legal peril. 
The strategy, the advisers agreed, should be for Donald Trump Jr. to release a statement to get ahead of the story. They wanted to be truthful, so their account couldn’t be repudiated later if the full details emerged.
But within hours, at the president’s direction, the plan changed.
Flying home from Germany on July 8 aboard Air Force One, Trump personally dictated a statement in which Trump Jr. said that he and the Russian lawyer had “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children” when they met in June 2016, according to multiple people with knowledge of the deliberations. 
The claims were later shown to be misleading.
Over the next three days, multiple accounts of the meeting were provided to the news media as public pressure mounted, with Trump Jr. ultimately acknowledging that he had accepted the meeting after receiving an email promising damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign.
The extent of the president’s personal intervention in his son’s response, the details of which have not previously been reported, adds to a series of actions that Trump has taken that some advisers fear could place him and some members of his inner circle in legal jeopardy.
As special counsel Robert S. Mueller III looks into potential obstruction of justice as part of his broader investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, these advisers worry that the president’s direct involvement leaves him needlessly vulnerable to allegations of a coverup.
“This was . . . unnecessary,” said one of the president’s advisers, who like most other people interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal deliberations. “Now someone can claim he’s the one who attempted to mislead. Somebody can argue the president is saying he doesn’t want you to say the whole truth.”
Trump has repeatedly criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from overseeing the FBI’s Russian investigation — a decision that was one factor leading to the appointment of Mueller. And he has privately discussed his power to issue pardons, including for himself, and explored potential avenues for undercutting Mueller’s work.
Although misleading the public or the news media is not a crime, advisers to Trump and his family told The Washington Post that they fear any indication that Trump was seeking to hide information about contacts between his campaign and Russians almost inevitably would draw additional scrutiny from Mueller.
Trump, they say, is increasingly acting as his own lawyer, strategist and publicist, often disregarding the recommendations of the professionals he has hired.
“He refuses to sit still,” the presidential adviser said. “He doesn’t think he’s in any legal jeopardy, so he really views this as a political problem he is going to solve by himself.”
Donald Trump Jr. did not respond to requests for comment. His attorney, Alan Futerfas, told The Post that he and his client “were fully prepared and absolutely prepared to make a fulsome statement” about the meeting, what led up to it and what was discussed.
Peter Zeidenberg, the deputy special prosecutor who investigated the George W. Bush administration’s leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity, said Mueller will have to dig into the crafting of Trump Jr.’s statement aboard Air Force One.
“The thing that really strikes me about this is the stupidity of involving the president,” Zeidenberg said. “They are still treating this like a family-run business and they have a PR problem. . . . What they don’t seem to understand is this is a criminal investigation involving all of them.”

Besides stupidity, let's not overlook Trump's ego and narcissism.  No matter who his chief of staff might be, no one can rein in Trump's lies and efforts to obstruct justice.