Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Are American Voters Actually Just Plain Stupid?

The title of this post tracks that of a piece at Salon that reacts to a new ABC News poll that shows that far too many Americans remain enamored with Donald Trump, a/k/a Der  Trumpenführer, despite the lack of any accomplishments in his first 100 days in office and his continued lining of his own pockets with taxpayer funds.  Just ending his weekly travel to the "Florida White House" over the course of a year could fund many items he seeks to cut from the federal budget.  Sadly, the take away from the poll findings is that yes, many American voters are just plain stupid and utterly uninformed, especially those who limit their news sources to scandal plagued Fox News.  Just as frightening, Trump's and the GOP's calls to racism explain much of the continued Republican support for policies that are in actuality directly against their own financial interest.  Legitimizing these people's prejudices seeming matters more than policies that would improve their economic lot. Highlights from a piece in Salon look at this disturbing picture.  Here are highlights:  
Are tens of millions of Americans really this stupid? If the findings from a new poll are any indication, then the answer is yes:
There’s no honeymoon for Donald Trump in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll but also no regrets: He approaches his 100th day in office with the lowest approval rating at this point of any other president in polls since 1945 — yet 96 percent of those who supported him in November say they’d do so again today …
Among those who report having voted for [Trump] in November, 96 percent today say it was the right thing to do; a mere 2 percent regret it. And if a rerun of the election were held today, the poll indicates even the possibility of a Trump victory in the popular vote among 2016 voters.
This is despite all the lies Donald Trump has told and all the campaign promises he has betrayed: He has not “drained the swamp” of lobbyists and corporate fat cats, has not built his “huge” and “amazing” wall along the Mexican-American border, has not returned jobs to the United States and has not repealed the Affordable Care Act. Indeed, as of day 100 of his presidency Trump has fulfilled few of his main campaign promises.
Moreover, that 96 percent of Trump’s voters would make the same decision again despite overwhelming evidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin interfered in  the 2016 presidential election with the goal of installing Trump as a puppet candidate raises many troubling questions about how tens of millions of American voters were “flipped” by a foreign power to act against their own country.
The findings from this new poll are troubling. But they should not come as a surprise.
Political scientists and other researchers have repeatedly documented that the American public does not have a sophisticated knowledge of political matters. The average American also does not use a coherent and consistent political ideology to make voting decisions. As Larry Bartels and Christopher Achen demonstrate in their new book “Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government,” Americans have identities and values that elites manipulate, which voters in turn use to process information — however incorrectly.
American voters en masse are not rational actors who seriously consider the available information, develop knowledge and expertise about their own specific political concerns, and then make political choices that would maximize those goals.
These matters are further complicated when considering right-wing voters. While Trump may have failed in most of his policy goals, he has succeeded symbolically in terms of his racist and nativist crusade against people of color and Muslims. Given the centrality of racism and white supremacy in today’s Republican Party specifically, and movement conservatism more generally, Trump’s hostility to people of color can be counted as a type of “success” by his racially resentful white voters.
American conservatives and right-leaning independents are also ensconced in an alternative news media universe that rejects empirical reality. A combination of disinformation and outright lies from the right-wing media, in combination with “fake news” circulated online by Russian operatives and others, has conditioned Trump voters and other Republicans to make decisions with no basis in fact. American conservatives do however possess a surplus of incorrect information. In that context, their political decisions may actually make sense to them: This is a version of “garbage in, garbage out.”
This is a crisis of civic literacy that threatens the foundations of American democracy. . . . This is but one more reminder that Donald Trump’s victory was not a sudden crisis or unexpected surprise. The neofascist movement that Trump represents was an iceberg of sorts — one that was a long time in the making. If this new poll is correct, many millions of Americans would make choices that would steer the ship of state into that same iceberg all over again. Such an outcome is ominous. The thought process that would rationalize such a decision is deranged.
Yale historian Timothy Snyder has argued that a democracy has approximately one year to reverse course if it has succumbed to fascism and authoritarianism. America’s civic literacy crisis may mean that the country has even less time than Snyder’s prediction suggests.

Politico: Flynn's Lobbying Payments May Have Come From Russia

Trump and Flynn - laugh over all the Russian money?
Even as the White House is refusing to turn over requested documents to Congressional investigators Politico has broken a story that suggests that payments received by former Trump BFF, Mike Flynn, ostensibly from Turkey may have in fact come from Russia.  Flynn received these payments while involved in the Trump campaign and failed to register as a foreign agent of Turkey, much less Russia. Indeed, the smoke is becoming thicker and thicker and suggesting that there indeed is a fire that could take Mike Flynn,  Der Trumpenführer, and many others down, if not put them in prison.  No wonder Flynn is seeking immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony about the Trump campaign's ties to Russia.   Here are excerpts from Politico (there is much more and the rule to remember is "follow the money back to its source"):
The Turkish man who gave Mike Flynn a $600,000 lobbying deal just before President Donald Trump picked him to be national security adviser has business ties to Russia, including a 2009 aviation financing deal negotiated with Vladimir Putin, according to court records.
The man, Ekim Alptekin, has in recent years helped to coordinate Turkish lobbying in Washington with Dmitri “David” Zaikin, a Soviet-born former executive in Russian energy and mining companies who also has had dealings with Putin’s government, according to three people with direct knowledge of the activities.
This unusual arrangement, in which Alptekin and Zaikin have helped steer Turkish lobbying through various groups since at least 2015, raises questions about both the agenda of the two men and the source of the funds used to pay the lobbyists.
the hiring of Flynn by Alptekin came at a time when Flynn was working for Trump’s campaign and Putin’s government was under investigation for interfering with the U.S. election.
Flynn’s lawyer, Robert Kelner, declined to comment. In a filing with the Justice Department, Flynn said he relied on assurances from Alptekin that he was not directly or indirectly funded by a foreign government. But shifting explanations and a web of business ties raise questions about the arrangement.
Flynn has offered evolving accounts of his lobbying work for Alptekin. In September, Flynn reported his client as a Dutch shell company owned by Alptekin. After being forced to leave the White House — reportedly because he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations during the transition with the Russian ambassador — Flynn filed new paperwork in March acknowledging that his lobbying work “principally benefitted” the Turkish government.
The revelation of Russian business ties to the man who hired Flynn threatens to complicate the White House’s struggle to escape the shadow of the FBI investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian agents.
His original White House ethics disclosure failed to include payments from Kremlin propaganda network RT and two other Russian companies. The RT payment was for a paid speech Flynn gave at a Moscow gala where he sat at the same table as Putin.
A White House spokesman declined to comment.
Alptekin, in an interview, said he hired Flynn with his own money and did not coordinate any lobbying for the Turkish government.
Siberian Energy Group’s dealings under Zaikin were characteristic of the equity trades, offshore financing schemes and consulting agreements that Putin’s allies have used to protect and hide assets.

Trump Refuses to Give Key Flynn Documents to Congressional Investigators

Der Trumpenführer seemingly has never heard of the saying that if you don't have anything to hide, then don't act as if you do.   With Russiagate continuing to haunt him - and rightfully so - Trump increasingly has Congressional Republicans beginning to protest obstruction efforts by the White House.  A case in point is the White House refusal to turn over requested documents relating to former Trump BFF Mike Flynn and payments made to Flynn by Russia. Marco Rubio and Jason Chaffez have joined the chorus of those criticizing Flynn and/or the White House.  I continue to believe that there is more than just smoke surrounding the evidence suggesting possible collusion between the Russian intelligence officials and the Trump campaign.  Of course, the release of Trump's tax returns could also shed light on the role of Russian money in Trump's financial situation. Mother Jones looks at the White House's attempt to strong arm Congressional investigators.  Here are excerpts:
The White House is refusing to provide congressional investigators with some of the documents they're requesting as part of an investigation into potential Trump campaign connections to Russia, and whether former national security adviser Mike Flynn disclosed payments from Russian companies when applying for his security clearance.
The news comes as Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) announced Tuesday that Flynn might have broken the law by failing to disclose the foreign payments on official documents filed as part of the security clearance review process. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is conducting one of two congressional investigations into links between the Trump campaign and Russia. (The Senate intel committee is conducting the other.)
"I see no data to support the notion that Gen. Flynn complied with the law," Chaffetz, the chair of the committee, told reporters Tuesday.
Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said the White House is refusing to provide documents related to Flynn.
"Despite all of these very troubling developments…we received a response from the White House refusing to provide any of the documents we requested," Cummings told reporters Tuesday. "So we received no internal documents relating to what Gen. Flynn reported to the White House when they vetted him to become national security adviser, and we received no documents relating to his termination as national security adviser for concealing his discussion with the Russian ambassador."
CNN reported Tuesday morning that White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short told the House committee in a letter that some of the documents originated with other agencies and therefore would have to be provided by them. He added that concerning the relevant White House documents, "we are unable to accommodate" the request.
The White House didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from Mother Jones.
I am of an age where I remember the Watergate hearings.  As now, Nixon's unraveling and eventual resignation from office likewise began with acts like these now taking place.  If Trump has nothing to hide, he should release the requested documents and his tax returns as well.  The longer he fails to do so, the more many will believe he is guilty of collusion with Russia, if not outright treason. 

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

More Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

Are Perriello, Sanders and Warren Giving the GOP the Governor's Mansion?

With Ralph Northam, the right Democrat candidate for Virginia

As noted in a prior post, nearly 60% of Tom Perriello's campaign funds raised to date has come form sources outside of Virginia.  So have his major endorsements, including Senator Elizabeth Warren who frankly just lost my vote should she run for national office.  Virtually all of Virginia's major domestic Democrats have endorsed Lt. Governor Ralph Northam in the coming Democrat primary. Why? Several reasons, in my view.  First, because Northam is a steady candidate with years of experience unlike Perriello, a two year flash in the pan, despite Warren's efforts to fluff his resume.  Second, Northam has been in the trenches for years and has helped other Democrat candidates and worked with the party's grassroots, if you will.  The husband and I have been in those trenches, have been on host committees and given money over and over again.  Perriello has been nowhere to be seen.  Third, Northam is right on the issues - including LGBT rights which Perriello barely mentions - and brings the much needed perspective of a physician into play.  

Perriello's entrance into that contest is serving only three purposes: (i) to divide the party in Democrat Virginia - much as Bernie Sanders did in the 2016 presidential race, (ii) to divert funds that would be better spent on the general election against the eventual Republican opponent, and (ii) fan the vanities of Perriello and his out of state endorsers.  If the Republicans should win the governor's mansion in November, 2017, the consequences for many Virginians will be horrific.  LGBT rights, women's rights and minority rights will have to firewall to stop the ugliest efforts of the currently Republican controlled house.  Look no farther than North Carolina to see what GOP control of the governor's mansion could mean. All so that Perriello, Sanders and Warren can satisfy their egos?

While Virginia has "gone blue" in the last three presidential race, many Virginia Democrats continue to be somewhat conservative by national standards.  A so-called ulta-progressive candidate - which is what Perriello labels himself as despite no efforts to attract involved LGBT supporters - will likely not fare as well as one who is a bit more traditional.  Let's not forget that Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders by 228,404 votes in the 2016 Democrat primary.  She went on to beat Donald Trump in Virginia by 212,030 votes in the general election.  "Traditional" candidates who have evolved on key issues win in Virginia.  Bernie Sanders himself proved this.  I do not believe that Perriello can win against someone like the heavily funded Ed Gillespie and, if that happens, the outcome will harm Virginians and Virginia's economy for years to come.   

Please vote for Ralph Northam on June  13, 2017.  Don't be fooled by out of state endorsements driven by other agendas.

Republicans Sound Alarm on Trump's Failures Ahead of 2018

When Der Trumpenführer won the presidency due to the failure of Electoral College electors to adhere to the intent of the Founding Fathers and protect the nation from a dangerous demagogue, the one consolation that I clung to was that perhaps Trump would go down in failure - and hopefully, impeachment - and in the process destroy the Republican Party.  Much can change between now and November, 2018, but Congressional Republicans sounding alarm bells warning that the GOP could pay dearly for Trump's failure and his dysfunctional regime.  Republicans at all levels sold out their principles and morals (at least what was left of them) to support Trump and they need to pay for their betrayal of decency and integrity.  Personally, I hope that the alarm bells greatly understate the damage being done and that 2018 is a true massacre for the GOP.  Politico looks at the grow hysteria across the GOP.  Here are excerpts:
Republicans say President Donald Trump needs to turn things around fast — or the GOP could pay dearly in 2018.
With the party preparing to defend its congressional majorities in next year’s midterms, senior Republicans are expressing early concern about Trump’s lack of legislative accomplishments, his record-low approval ratings, and the overall dysfunction that’s gripped his administration.
The stumbles have drawn the attention of everyone from GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson, who funneled tens of millions of dollars into Trump’s election and is relied on to help bankroll the party’s House and Senate campaigns, to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Adelson hasn’t contributed to pro-Trump outside groups since the inauguration, a move that’s drawn notice within the party, and McConnell is warning associates that Trump’s unpopularity could weigh down the GOP in the election.
Potential GOP candidates whom party leaders want to recruit are afraid of walking into a buzz saw, uncertain about what kind of political environment they’ll be facing by the time the midterms come around — and what Trump’s record will look like.
[I]nterviews with more than a dozen top Republican operatives, donors and officials reveal a growing trepidation about how the initial days of the new political season are unfolding. And they underscore a deep anxiety about how the party will position itself in 2018 as it grapples with the leadership of an unpredictable president still acclimating to Washington.

I have absolutely no sympathy for these immoral, self-aggrandizing at any cost people.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Monday, April 24, 2017

Congressional Republicans Push for "Religious Liberty" Executive Order

With no legislative accomplishments in the first almost 100 days of the Trump/Pence regime despite Republican control of Congress and the White House, a move is again afoot to push through a falsely described "religious freedom" executive order which would, in effect, allow right wing Christians to ignore non-discrimination laws and target members of the LGBT community and perhaps cohabitating unmarried couples, women on contraception and even non-Christians for discrimination. The movement underscores the bankruptcy of Trump/the GOP that a rushed executive order to legalize discrimination - at least until a court strikes it down - would be viewed as an "accomplishment" by  Christofascists and the core of the GOP Base.  A piece in USA Today looks at this latest foul effort:
Dozens of Republican lawmakers are asking President Trump to scale back Obama-era protections for gays and lesbians in order to make good on a campaign promise to protect religious liberty.
In early February, Trump was reportedly considering an executive order that would reverse former president Barack Obama's orders prohibiting discrimination against gays and lesbians in the federal workforce or by federal contractors. But the order was never signed.
A group of 51 members of the House wrote to Trump this month to "request that you sign the draft executive order on religious liberty, as reported by numerous outlets on February 2, 2017, in order to protect millions of Americans whose religious freedom has been attacked or threatened over the last eight years." The letter has not been publicly released but was obtained by USA TODAY.
[O]n Monday, a senior White House official told USA TODAY that some sort of policy to protect religious liberty is still in the works, but that the president is trying to find middle ground. The official did not want to publicly discuss a policy that is still under development.
Beyond the workforce protections, the widely circulated draft order would have eliminated the contraceptive mandate that requires religious institutions to provide health insurance for birth control. Republicans lawmakers are also pushing for the order to allow for doctors to refuse to perform abortions based on religion. They also want to see protections for religious non-profits to be able to express political opinions without losing their tax-exempt status.
The letters signatories, all men except for Missouri Rep. Vicky Hartzler, include some of the Republican caucus’ most conservative members.  A similar letter was sent by Senate Republicans earlier this month.
[N]ot everyone sees religious liberty protections as necessary or even positive. Laura Durso of the progressive Center for American Progress told USA TODAY that freedom of religion is already protected by the First Amendment and any efforts to get additional protections will create "a license to discriminate across a wide range of federal programs."
JoDee Winterhof,  senior vice president for policy and political affairs at the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, said if Trump went forward with the leaked order it would “allow an unprecedented expansion of tax-payer funded discrimination.”

As I have sad before, if one is LGBT and votes Republicans, it's akin to a early 1920's German Jew voting for the Nazi Party.  It is insanity and self-destructive.  If I am hurting feelings, I am not sorry. It is far past time for "gay Republicans" to stop deluding themselves and focus their votes and money on defeating every Republican elected official.