Saturday, July 30, 2016

Sunday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

How the DNC Did Religious Liberty Right

One thing that became clear from the two national party conventions is that Democrats understand the concept of religious freedom envisioned by the Founders while in contrast the Republican view is more like one would have found under the Puritans in early Massachusetts or the Spanish Inquisition. Under the Republican view, only one religion is acceptable - i.e., conservative/fundamentalist Christianity - and it and its adherents should enjoy special rights.  Both parties' views were on open display at their respective conventions.  A piece in Slate looks at how the DNC got the concept right. Here are highlights:
Khizr Khan, a Muslim immigrant whose son was killed while serving in Iraq, brought the Democratic National Convention to tears and raucous applause on Thursday when he held up his pocket Constitution and admonished Donald Trump: “Have you even read the United States Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy.” Khan’s rebuke was, of course, a profoundly moving and very necessary rejoinder to Trump’s rampant Islamophobia. But that powerful moment, as well as Khan’s entire address, also revealed that after years of surrendering the issue to the GOP, Democrats have finally learned how to talk about and present a progressive vision of religious liberty.
Indeed, that very phrase—religious liberty—has become so freighted with discriminatory overtones that I hesitate to use it. The fight for “religious liberty” has come to dominate the Republican Party in recent years, through a series of campaigns that aim to promote prejudiced Christians’ freedom over everybody else’s. . . . We’ve even seen laws that, under the banner of religious freedom, give mental health counselors and medical doctors the right to refuse to treat gay and trans patients.
In a clever act of doublespeak, Republicans have branded these measures “religious liberty”—but, as a federal judge recently pointed out, they really amount of Christian supremacy. (Or, more accurately, conservative Christian supremacy.) This attempt to legally elevate certain Christian beliefs above all others flatly contradicts the spirit and letter of the First Amendment.
Khan’s address didn’t just throw this hypocrisy into stark relief; it demonstrated exactly how Democrats can seize true religious liberty as a winning issue for progressives. Consider Khan’s precise phrasing. “In this document,” he said, holding up his pocket Constitution, “look for the words liberty and equal protection of law.” Liberty and equality: Two constitutional guarantees that are intertwined and interdependent, each building on the other, each a critical component of freedom in a democracy. “Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery?” Khan continued. “Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending America. You will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities.”
An entire cemetery of soldiers—Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists—who devoted their lives to protecting a country that dispenses justice evenhandedly, with preference for none and tolerance for all. Khan might as well have been paraphrasing U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves, who blocked Mississippi’s anti-LGBTQ “religious liberty” law on both Establishment Clause and Equal Protection grounds, holding that it violated both “the guarantee of religious neutrality and the promise of equal protection of the laws.” In America, Reeves explained, religious freedom does not, cannot mean limiting the freedom of those who don’t share your beliefs.
Muslims’ best hope for liberty lies in this preservation of equality—the continued insistence that the government can neither discriminate against certain religions (as Trump would) nor license certain religions to discriminate against others (as Mississippi would). That is the Constitution’s vision of liberty as well, and it is precisely how Democrats should explain their own conception of religious freedom.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 3

Anti-Gay Republican Called to Resign Over Sexually Explicit Video of Himself

As I have noted so often before, with a few exceptions, it is ALWAYS conservative Republicans - typically the most anti-LGBT and homophobic - who get caught up in sex scandals.   To the list we can now add GOP State Senator Kintner of Nebraska who an investigation found had a sexually explicit video on his state owned computer which starred himself.  Given Kintner's photo above, it must have been beyond grotesque!!  And true to form, Kintner in typical GOP style wore his feigned religiosity on his sleeve.  The Lincoln Journal-Star has details:
Gov. Pete Ricketts has urged state Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion to resign if allegations are proven true that Kintner exchanged sexually explicit video of himself using his state computer.
Kintner, who was attending an American Legislative Exchange Council meeting in Indianapolis, didn't return calls to his cellphone Friday afternoon.  He told The Associated Press he wouldn't comment "until there is some finding, if any," by the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission, which handles ethics complaints against public officials.
The patrol says it turned over its investigation to the commission in November after consulting with the state attorney general's office. Accountability and Disclosure Commission Director Frank Daley declined to comment Friday, but the commission is expected to weigh in during a meeting Aug. 5.
In a statement issued Friday, Ricketts said he had phoned Kintner last summer and urged him to resign "if the allegations were true." "Due to the ongoing investigation of this issue, I have been unable to say anything publicly," Ricketts said Friday. "If the allegations are true, Senator Kintner needs to resign.”
Nebraska law forbids public officials from using their state computers for nonessential personal activity.
Democrats quickly chided the Republican governor for his handling of the situation.  "It is not enough for Sen. Kintner to resign in shame. Anyone that knew this information and continued to let him sit in office must also resign," said Jane Kleeb, chairwoman-elect of the Nebraska Democratic Party, in a text message. "Did Gov. Ricketts or his staff look the other way so they had (Kintner's) vote in the Unicameral?" 
Investigators haven't described the video or said whether a permanent copy or other evidence was ever obtained.
But another senator said he contacted the State Patrol last fall after a woman offered to sell what she called a sexually explicit video of Kintner.
Considered one of the Legislature's most conservative senators, Bill Kintner once told the Journal Star that his parents "taught me the moral absolutes of Christianity, and I just applied those to everything."

Hypocrisy is one of the most enduring traits of today's Republicans.

Will Trump's Overt Racism Drive Away Moderate Whites?

Donald Trump may have locked up the white Christofascists and white supremacist (in my view, the two are nearly synonymous) vote through blatant racism, but some research suggests that moderate whites may be turned off by Trump's odious racism.  True, what voters do in the secrecy of the voting booth may differ from research results, but the findings are encouraging and suggest that whites as a whole are less racist than Trump believes.  Salon has a piece that looks at this issue.  Here are excerpts: 
Over the past few weeks, there has been been renewed discussion about Donald Trump’s past racism and the racism that has persisted throughout his campaign. Trump and his father were sued twice by the Department of Justice for refusing to rent apartments to black people. He has said, in private, that he believes, “Laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is; I believe that.” He also publicly called for the execution of the Central Park Five, all of whom were later declared innocent (afterwards, he said they were “no angels.” During his campaign, Trump has regularly engaged in racist rhetoric. He engaged in a racist attack on Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the judge overseeing the lawsuit against Trump University. Trump has retweeted racists and accounts connected to the “white genocide” hashtag (a white supremacist hashtag). He has frequently referred to Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas.”
[M]any have dismissed the idea that Trump’s racism will do anything other than help him among whites. However, my analysis of ANES 2016 suggests that Trump’s racism may be extreme enough to alienate not just voters of color, but also moderate whites.
Many commentators have correctly noted that Trump’s racist comments hurt him among people of color. Latinos and Asian Americans have widely rejected Trump, and in one Ohio poll, Trump had 0% support among African-Americans. Among harder-to-poll Spanish-speaking Latinos, Trump’s support is less than 11 percent. Trump may well win an even smaller share of the non-white vote than Republicans normally win (Romney won just 17% of the non-white vote). However, there are several reasons to believe that some whites who would happily cast a vote for a Reagan, Romney or McCain would hesitate to vote for Trump. Why? Because Americans are very aware of more glaring forms of racism, like racial stereotyping. As legal scholar Ian Haney Lopez argues, the Republicans have had electoral success by using dog-whistles, rather than explicit racial appeals.  We find that Trump support among white Independents is very low among respondents with racial resentment of .5 or less (the scale goes from 0 to 1 and the mean resentment for whites is slightly above .6). Trump support among white Independents and white Republicans is indistinguishable at both low and high levels of resentment, but at the levels of resentment towards the middle (.4 to .8), white Independents are significantly less likely to support Trump than white Republicans. At around average (middle) levels of resentment, there is a higher probability of Clinton support among Independents, compared to Trump.
While the results are significant, there is a good deal of uncertainty regarding the magnitude of the effect. However, the results do suggest that Trump’s racism could alienate some white and racially liberal Independents. It’s also likely he will be hurt more when his past racism is more widely discussed in the media.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Hillary's nephew, Tyler Clinton 

The "Smoking Gun" Confirming the Racist Intent of NC's Voter ID Law

Racist homophobe, GOP Gov. Pat McCrory
As noted in a piece last evening, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down North Carolina's racially motivated voter ID law - a similar GOP backed voter ID law in Wisconsin was also struck down by a different court).  A piece in the Washington Post gives further analysis of the 4th Circuit's ruling and the blatant motivation of the North Carolina GOP in passing the measure.  Increasingly, the GOP cannot win elections except through gerrymandered districts and restricting likely Democrat voters from voting.  Rational individuals would get the message that they need a new message and agenda, but not in today's Christofascist and white supremacist controlled Republican Party.  Here are highlights from the Post article:
In addition to requiring residents to show identification before they can cast a ballot, the law also eliminated same-day voter registration, eliminated seven days of early voting and put an end to out-of-precinct voting. The federal court ruling reinstates these provisions, for now.
Supporters of the law, like North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, have long maintained that requirements like these were necessary to prevent voter fraud. But time and time again, scholars and legal experts have found that the type of fraud these laws are meant to combat is largely nonexistent.
One of the most comprehensive studies on the subject found only 31 individual cases of voter impersonation out of more than 1 billion votes cast in the United States since the year 2000. Researchers have found that reports of voter fraud are roughly as common as reports of alien abduction.
The federal court in Richmond found that the primary purpose of North Carolina's wasn't to stop voter fraud, but rather to disenfranchise minority voters. The judges found that the provisions "target African Americans with almost surgical precision."
[T]he court found that North Carolina lawmakers requested data on racial differences in voting behaviors in the state. "This data showed that African Americans disproportionately lacked the most common kind of photo ID, those issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)," the judges wrote.
So the legislators made it so that the only acceptable forms of voter identification were the ones disproportionately used by white people. "With race data in hand, the legislature amended the bill to exclude many of the alternative photo IDs used by African Americans," the judges wrote. "The bill retained only the kinds of IDs that white North Carolinians were more likely to possess."
The data also showed that black voters were more likely to make use of early voting — particularly the first seven days out of North Carolina's 17-day voting period. So lawmakers eliminated these seven days of voting. "After receipt of this racial data, the General Assembly amended the bill to eliminate the first week of early voting, shortening the total early voting period from seventeen to ten days," the court found.
Most strikingly, the judges point to a "smoking gun" in North Carolina's justification for the law, proving discriminatory intent. The state argued in court that "counties with Sunday voting in 2014 were disproportionately black" and "disproportionately Democratic," and said it did away with Sunday voting as a result.
This is about as clear-cut an indictment of the discriminatory underpinnings of voter-ID laws as you'll find anywhere. Studies have already shown a significant link between support for voter ID and racial discrimination, among both lawmakers and white voters in general.
"Faced with this record," the federal court concludes, "we can only conclude that the North Carolina General Assembly enacted the challenged provisions of the law with discriminatory intent."
The take away?  When you hear Republicans blathering about the GOP being the party that supports the constitution, supports morality and decency, know that it is a lie.  The GOP has become the enemy of constitutional government, morality and decency.  

Republicans Block Military's Effort to Plan For Rising Sea Levels

USS Harry S. Truman docking in Norfolk

Donald Trump may be the most hideous and frightening aspect of the Republican Party at the moment, but the sickness that has taken over the party is so widespread that it is at times almost unfathomable.  Take the issue of rising sea levels, something that is objectively occurring.  Here in Hampton Roads, the region is full of critical military bases ranging from the Norfolk Naval Base - the world's largest naval base, to Langley Air Base in Hampton, to Ft. Eustis in York County.  All, along with lesser bases, are threatened by rising sea levels.  Military leaders, being responsible and recognizing the need to be prepared for the future seek to make plans on how the bases will be protected as sea levels rise.  There's one problem: Congressional Republicans are blocking funding for the plans?  Why?  Because denying the reality of climate change and rising sea levels is a litmus test among the ignorance embracing Christofascists who no wield so much power within the GOP.   Rather than offend the knuckle draggers of the party base, these Republicans - who claim to support a strong military - would rather cripple critical bases in the future.  A piece in the Virginian Pilot looks at the idiocy (the Daily Press carried a similar piece that looked at the threats to Langley and ft. Eustis).  Here are highlights: 
The latest scientific conclusion echoes others: It’s likely that sea level rise will eventually swallow huge swaths of Hampton Roads’ military installations, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists in a report scheduled for release today.
But if congressional Republicans have their way, the military will be blocked from doing anything about it.
Tacked on to defense spending bills passed by the House of Representatives: amendments forbidding the Pentagon from using federal dollars to study climate change or plan for its impacts.
Supporters say they want the military focused on enemies such as the Islamic State group, not rising seas.  Critics say flooding is a formidable foe as well.
“It’s kind of hard to attack the enemy when your base is underwater,” said Rep. Bobby Scott, a Southeast Virginia Democrat who voted against the ban.
[T]he Union of Concerned Scientists looked at 18 East and Gulf coast bases, concluding that the high tide line will creep inland in the decades ahead, stealing training and testing grounds, infrastructure and housing. Storms will intensify the troubles.
“By 2050, most of these sites will see more than 10 times the number of floods they experience today,” said Kristy Dahl, a co-author of the report. “In 2070, all but a few are projected to see flooding once or twice every day.”
Subsidence – a sinking-land phenomenon occurring in Hampton Roads – will speed things up around at least two local bases: The Dam Neck Annex to Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach and Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton could lose up to 95 percent of their land this century.
Norfolk Naval Station will flood roughly 280 times a year by 2050 instead of the current 10, if sea level rise reaches the midrange of predictions.
[T]he Defense Department created its own climate change adaption plan. Dam Neck built a one-mile rock-core dune to protect the main part of the installation from storm surge. Langley Air Force Base built a shoreline seawall and door dams, and installed a pump system.
Colorado Republican Rep. Ken Buck sponsored one of the amendments that would put a halt to such preparations.  Scott hopes the amendments will die in the Senate.

Christofascists and their political whores in the GOP are a clear and present danger to America.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday, July 29, 2016

4th Circuit Rules North Carolina Voter ID Law Intended To Discriminate

Over the last decade, Republican legislators across the country have focused on two tools to remain in poer as the country's demographics have changed: (i) shockingly gerrymandered districts, and (ii) voter ID laws to disenfranchise as many minority voters as possible.   The voter ID law effort, of course, was hidden behind the smoke screen of protecting against "voter fraud" - fraud that has been documented to not exist. Among the more egregious voter ID laws was the one enacted in North Carolina after the GOP take over of the state legislature.  Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit saw the reality of the North Carolina GOP's agenda and struck down the heinous statute.  Talking Points Memo looks at the 4th Circuit's ruling (the full ruling can be found here).  Here are are highlights:
A three-judge panel of the U.S Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit has found North Carolina's controversial GOP-backed voting restrictions were intended to discriminate against African American voters.
The Friday ruling is a huge win for voting rights activists in a closely watched case in a potential 2016 swing state. The appeals court reversed the ruling of a district court siding with the state.
"In holding that the legislature did not enact the challenged provisions with
discriminatory intent, the [district] court seems to have missed the forest in carefully surveying the many trees," the opinion said. It permanently blocked provisions in a 2013 North Carolina law that required certain photo IDs to vote, limited early voting, eliminated same day registration, ended out-of-precinct voting and prohibited pre-registration of young voters.
In the opinion, the panel of judges said that the law restricted voting in ways that "disproportionately affected African Americans" and that its provisions targeted "African Americans with almost surgical precision." It said the state's defense of the law was "meager."
"Thus the asserted justifications cannot and do not conceal the state’s true motivation," the opinion said.
It noted that the legislation was passed as African American voter turnout had expanded to almost the rates of whites, and that the legislature enacted the legislation after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, which had required North Carolina to seek federal approval for changes to its voting policies.  . . . . 
The appeals court -- citing a lower court's findings -- pointed out that state lawmakers sought data breaking down voting practices by race. The judges said that the law's provisions singled out the practices disproportionately popular among African Americans, such as preregisteration and provisional voting 
[T]he appeals court opinion said. "We recognize that elections have consequences, but winning an election does not empower anyone in any party to engage in purposeful racial discrimination."
The case was a consolidation of a number of lawsuits challenging the legislation, brought by various civil rights organizations and voter advocacy groups, on behalf of voters. The Department of Justice also participated in the litigation, siding with the challengers.

 Sadly, today's GOP's main motivations are racism, religious extremism and misogyny. 

Friday Male Beauty - Pt 3

Russia and Trump - The Real Plot Against America

As numerous news outlets are reporting, the latest target of Russian military hackers was the Hillary Clinton campaign.  First the DNC, next the Congressional Democrats and now the Hillary Clinton campaign.  All seemingly to harm those opposed to the Donald Trump's frightening effort to commandeer America and take it down a road toward fascism and tyranny.  My question is this: when will far too many Americans get their heads out of their asses and see the menace that  Trump and today's GOP pose to the nation.  A column in the New York Times looks at the plot against against America.  Here are excerpts:
In retrospect, it worked out much better than planned. Who’d have thought a pariah nation, run by an authoritarian who makes his political opponents disappear, could so easily hijack a great democracy? It didn’t take much. A talented nerd can bring down a minnow of a nation. But this level of political crime requires more refined mechanics — you need everyone to play their assigned roles.
You start with a stooge, a fugitive holed up in London, releasing stolen emails on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, in the name of “transparency.” Cyberburglars rely on a partner in crime to pick up stolen goods. And WikiLeaks has always been there for Russia, a nation with no transparency.
To make the plot work, reporters have to take the bait. On cue, they decry the fact that politics is going on inside a major political party. The horror — Democratic hacks saying nasty things about Senator Bernie Sanders.
Next, lefty extremists have to act like lefty extremists — that is, myopic to the greater good, guided by a Trumpian sense that they alone know how to solve the world’s problems, and everyone else is a sellout.
But Russia still has to seal the deal. Some work remains. If enough angered lefties won’t go for the Democratic nominee, a longtime foe of Vladimir Putin, it will be just enough to put a Putin puppet in the White House. And it would also usher in the term that drove the right wing crazy when George H.W. Bush used it — a New World Order.
What’s in it for Russia? Well, everything. Territory. Hegemony. Its takeover of the Crimean Peninsula has brought sanctions and condemnation from the West. What stands between Putin and further aggression in, say, the Baltic States, is a NATO pact that has kept Europe safe for nearly 70 years. And if you thought Trump stiffed the poor suckers who signed up for his “university,” wait till you see how he treats some of our oldest allies.
Putin despises Hillary Clinton. Like Trump, his skin is rice-paper-thin, albeit a paler shade of orange; and, like Trump, he never forgets a slight. He still hasn’t gotten over Clinton’s comment on George W. Bush’s infamous look into Putin’s soul. As a former K.G.B agent, said Clinton, “he doesn’t have a soul.”
What’s in it for Trump? Help at winning the ultimate throne of his gilded dreams. And maybe some investment money from Russian oligarchs close to Putin, one of many things Trump may be hiding in his tax returns. The two narcissists share a love of torture, authoritarian rule, and women on runways in bathing suits.
But then, a wild card, something unplanned. Putin didn’t expect Trump to be so all-in with his collusion. He knows Trump is a fool, world class in only one thing — ignorance. He doesn’t need spies for that. He knows Trump is a man who will say anything, and deny in the same breath that he ever said it. The Talented Mr. Trump.
So there was the Republican Party nominee for president inviting an American adversary to wage cyberwar against the country he wants to lead. If that wasn’t Trump’s shoot-somebody-on-Fifth-Avenue moment, nothing will be. What’s more, he was way too obvious about the role of the other pawns in the scheme. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press,” he said to Mother Russia.
Also, he’s getting carried away with his dictator-philia. On Thursday, he said Putin was a better leader than President Obama. D’oh! In public, at least, you’re supposed to root for the home team.
But it unfolds, still, if not according to Russia’s design, then according to Russia’s will. Trump is now a national security risk, actively rooting for a foreign adversary to tamper with an American election. And very soon, he will start receiving classified briefings on that adversary.

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Democrats Win the Convention Contest

Perhaps I am biased, but having followed both the GOP and the Democrat conventions, I believe the Democrats hit a home run - especially when their convention is compared to the hate fest and extremism that defined the GOP convention and the GOP nominee, Donald Trump.  Even New York Times columnist David Brooks - who for far too long acted as a GOP apologist even as hate-filled Christofascists and white supremacists hijacked the party - concedes this reality.  The issue will be whether sane, decent and rational Americans can see the existential threat that Trump and his party now represent to the nation and democracy and stir themselves to vote in November. A vote for Hillary is a vote to preserve what is best about America.  A vote for Trump is an invitation to take the nation down the road towards fascism.  The choice is really that simple.  Here are highlights from Brooks' column:
Donald Trump has found an ingenious way to save the Democratic Party. Basically, he’s abandoned the great patriotic themes that used to fire up the G.O.P. and he’s allowed the Democrats to seize that ground. If you visited the two conventions this year you would have come away thinking that the Democrats are the more patriotic of the two parties — and the more culturally conservative.
Trump has abandoned the Judeo-Christian aspirations that have always represented America’s highest moral ideals: toward love, charity, humility, goodness, faith, temperance and gentleness.
He left the ground open for Joe Biden to remind us that decent people don’t enjoy firing other human beings.
Trump has abandoned the basic modesty code that has always ennobled the American middle class: Don’t brag, don’t let your life be defined by gilded luxuries.
He left the ground open for the Democrats to seize middle-class values with one quick passage in a Tim Kaine video — about a guy who goes to the same church where he was married, who taught carpentry as a Christian missionary in Honduras, who has lived in the same house for the last 24 years.
Trump has also abandoned the American ideal of popular self-rule.
He left the ground open for Barack Obama to remind us that our founders wanted active engaged citizens, not a government run by a solipsistic and self-appointed savior who wants everything his way.
For decades the Republican Party has embraced America’s open, future-oriented nationalism. But when you nominate a Silvio Berlusconi you give up a piece of that. When you nominate a blood-and-soil nationalist you’re no longer speaking in the voice of Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and every Republican nominee from Reagan to McCain to Romney.
Democrats have often been ambivalent about that ardent nationalistic voice, but this week they were happy to accept Trump’s unintentional gift. There were an unusually high number of great speeches at the Democratic convention this year: the Obamas, Biden, Booker, Clinton, the Mothers of the Movement and so on.
These speakers found their eloquence in staving off this demagogue. They effectively separated Trump from America. They separated him from conservatism. They made full use of the deep nationalist chords that touch American hearts.
[T]the extremist fringe that threatens to take over the Democratic Party seems less menacing than the lunatic fringe that has already taken over the Republican one.
This week I left the arena here each night burning with indignation at Mike Pence. I almost don’t blame Trump. He is a morally untethered, spiritually vacuous man who appears haunted by multiple personality disorders. It is the “sane” and “reasonable” Republicans who deserve the shame — the ones who stood silently by, or worse, while Donald Trump gave away their party’s sacred inheritance.
The Democrats had by far the better of the conventions.
It could be that in this moment of fear, cynicism, anxiety and extreme pessimism, many voters may have decided that civility is a surrender to a rigged system, that optimism is the opiate of the idiots and that humility and gentleness are simply surrendering to the butchers of ISIS. If that’s the case then the throes of a completely new birth are upon us and Trump is a man from the future.
If that’s true it’s not just politics that has changed, but the country.

Russian Hackers Attack Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

While Putin loving Donald Trump tries to walk back his invitation to Russian government hackers to attack Hillary Clinton and Democrat organizations - one of Trump's stooges tied to say Trump's statements were a "joke" - word comes that Russian Hackers have attacked the computer systems of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.  To me, the fact that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin seemingly desperately wants to see Trump elected ought to send shivers down the backs of every American.  The Washington Post looks at this latest hacking which is being investigated by the FBI.  Here are article highlights:
Russian government hackers have breached the computers of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, according to individuals familiar with the matter.
The intrusion appeared to be carried out by the same Russian intelligence service that hacked the Democratic National Committee earlier this year, the individuals said.
The FBI is investigating this breach as part of a broader probe into hacking of political organizations.
The revelation, first reported by Reuters, comes on the same evening that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was making her acceptance speech at the party’s national convention in Philadelphia.
“It’s definitely part of a much, much broader campaign that is yet to fully be publicly revealed,” said one of the sources, a cybersecurity expert familiar with the matter.
Hackers working for Russia’s military intelligence service, the GRU, were traced to the DCCC intrusion, the sources said. Also known as APT 28 or Fancy Bear, they are the group the FBI believes took a cache of DNC emails. The bureau is trying to determine whether those emails are the ones that appeared on the website of the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks on Friday, setting off a firestorm that roiled the party in the lead-up to the convention.
The FBI also will try to determine whether APT 28 or an affiliated group passed those emails to WikiLeaks, law enforcement sources said.
The concern is that Moscow may be attempting to meddle in the U.S. election, which would be an unprecedented and highly troubling turn of events. . . . The DCCC intrusion apparently is part of a much broader campaign of political espionage by the Russians. The FBI is also investigating targeting and potential compromises of the Clinton campaign, . . .
The full scope of the intrusions has yet to be revealed. News of the latest hack is sure to add to the already significant level of concern in the White House about potential Russian interference in the U.S. electoral process.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Final Thursday Male Beauty

Trump and the Russian Oligarchs

Donald Trump continues to disingenuously claim that he has no ties to Vladimir Putin and his cirvle of cronies and oligarchs. Like so much o the drivel that comes out of Trump's mouth, these denials are lies.  Lies - something that are the norm with Donald trump.  A piece in Politico looks at the lie of such denials and protestations are in fact.  The reality is that Donald Trump is desperately dependent on Russian money - money that doesn't leave Russia without the blessing of Russian dictator Vladimir Puti - to keep his empire afloatn.  Here are article highlights: 
The house wasn’t built for a Russian oligarch, although it looked the part. The 62,000-square-foot, 17-bedroom mansion is a palace of new-money flash, featuring Greek fountains, tennis courts, trompe l’oeil murals, underground parking for dozens of cars, and a 100-foot swimming pool and hot tub overlooking the ocean. It even had a faux-aristocratic name: “Maison de l’Amitie,” or the House of Friendship. It was the trophy of a Boston-area nursing home magnate, until he lost his fortune in 2004. That’s when Donald Trump scooped it up.
After paying $41 million for the place in November 2004, Trump called it “the finest piece of land in Florida, and probably the U.S.” He vowed to upgrade the structure into “the second-greatest house in America.” (Second, of course, to his nearby Mar-a-Lago resort.) But Trump had no intention of living there. He intended to flip it for a quick—and huge—profit. His initial asking price, less than two years after buying it, was $125 million. By the time Trump listed the property, in early 2006, the real estate market was already cooling off. The property sat on the market for about two years as a frustrated Trump churned through real estate brokers and slashed his price 20 percent. It wasn’t at all clear who might pay Trump three times his buying price for a neoclassical palace amid a looming recession.
In the summer of 2008, Trump found a solution to his problem in the form of one of the world’s hundred richest men: a 41-year-old Russian billionaire named Dmitry Rybolovlev. Then with a net worth that Forbesestimated at $13 billion, Rybolovlev had made his fortune in the wild west of 1990s post-Soviet Russia. He’d spent a year in prison on murder charges (he was later cleared) and wore a bulletproof vest when his own life was threatened. He would pay Trump $95 million for Maison L’Amitie in what was widely described as the most expensive U.S. residential property sale ever.
The nature of Trump’s connection to Russia has exploded recently as a campaign issue, thanks to his friendly comments about Russian President Vladimir Putin; the ties that several of his advisers have to Moscow; his contrarian views on NATO and Ukraine, which happen to echo Putin’s; and his startling call on Wednesday for Moscow to find and release Hillary Clinton’s deleted private emails.
But the connection isn’t just political. Trump has repeatedly explored business ventures in Russia, partnered with Russians on projects elsewhere, and benefited from Russian largesse in his business ventures. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Donald Trump Jr. said at a real estate conference in 2008.
Why did a Russian billionaire pay Trump so much money for a house the new owner is believed never to have set foot in, which he has denied owning, and which he now intends to tear down? The answer offers an important window into Trump’s kinship with Russia’s oligarchs, and what he likely sees in them as business allies. It is also a story of a classic Trump deal: a lucrative flip, figures on both sides that don’t really add up, and at the center, a house that may not have been what either party claimed.
In an interview, Trump shrugged off the Maison de l’Amitie sale as a “small deal,” compared to his other ventures, the way some people might refer to a summer cabin in the woods. “That was a house I bought for fun,” Trump said. He also downplayed his personal investment in the place, saying that he only made minor improvements to the property. “I cleaned it up a little bit, but not too much,” Trump told POLITICO. “The primary thing was, I painted it.” The implication, of course, would be that the price differential between his purchase and sale was almost entirely profit.
Back when Trump was trying to flip the house at a dizzying price, however, he claimed to have done far more. “I bought the land and gutted the house,” Trump told a reporter in late 2005. After the property went on the market, Shawn McCabe, vice president of Trump Properties in Florida, told Forbes that Trump had put in at least $25 million of his own money.
Documents submitted in March to Palm Beach’s architectural commission by a private firm retained by the buyer suggest that the actual work was modest. They say Trump had the main house’s interior “remodeled, updating with a new kitchen and dividing a large room to create additional bedrooms and bathrooms,” along with “some minor interior alterations of doors, frames & windows.”
Perhaps Trump understood that the payoff he was demanding would have to come from outside the U.S. A new generation of ultra-wealthy foreigners had emerged in the previous decade, many of them Russians who had reaped mind-boggling wealth as formerly state-controlled industries were privatized, the spoils mostly shared among political cronies. By then, Trump had pursued or completed multiple deals with Russian partners. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia,” Donald Jr., said at that 2008 real estate conference.
Enter Dmitry Rybolovlev. Barely over 40 and worth a Forbes-estimated $12.5 billion in 2008, Rybolovlev was not exactly a familiar name on the Palm Beach social circuit. A former medical student who became a stock broker as the country transitioned from socialism to a market economy in the 1990s, he invested in heavy industry. In 1995, then just 29 years old, he was chairman of the Russian fertilizer giant Uralkali. Dubbed “the fertilizer king,” he would become one of the world’s wealthiest men, peaking at No. 59 on the Forbes 500 list.
Today, Rybolovlev is better known for other things. There was his record-setting purchase of an $88 million Manhattan apartment for his 22-year-old daughter; his ownership of Monaco’s pro soccer team; and recent accounts in the New York Times and The New Yorker of claims that an art broker who helped him purchase works by the likes of Picasso and da Vinci overcharged him by hundreds of millions of dollars.
Trump has much in common with Russia’s oligarchs—billions in wealth, supreme self-confidence, a taste for trophies and a love of flaunting riches—and in recent years, he has gravitated toward them. In 2013, he partnered with the Russian real estate mogul Aras Agalarov to bring the Miss Universe pageant, which Trump owned at the time, to Moscow. Trump later boasted that “all the oligarchs” had attended the event. While in Moscow, Trump discussed plans for real estate projects there.
It is hard to verify the claim Trump made this week that he has no investments in Russia and that his dealings with Russians are very limited. His company is private and is not required to disclose its finances. In a break from modern presidential norms, Trump refuses to release his personal tax returns.
“The big question is whether any hard evidence comes out about whether Trump has any financial interests linked to Russia,” says Democratic consultant Jeremy Rosner, who served on Bill Clinton’s national security council staff. “And that’s why it’s so important that he release his tax records. Otherwise, we could have a Manchurian Candidate with the keys to the Oval Office who is under the control of a foreign power. And voters deserve very clear evidence that that is not the case.”

Criminal Charges Against Cardinal George Pell Still a Possibility

Taking a brief break from political coverage, a piece in the Australian newspaper The Age brings back the reality that the Catholic Church hierarchy remains very much in favor of protecting sexual predator priests and throwing the victims of clergy sex abuse under the bus.  Personally, I would love to see Pell, the highest ranking member of the Catholic Church hierarchy in Australia, hit with criminal charges.  Here are story highlights:
Mr Ashton appeared on radio on Thursday morning responding to explosive allegations aired on ABC 7.30, as well as subsequent claims by Cardinal Pell of a "conspiracy" to pervert the course of justice.
Mr Ashton confirmed Cardinal Pell was the subject of an investigation by the Sano Taskforce that involved multiple allegations over a long period of time.
On Wednesday night, 7.30 aired detailed allegations made by former students of St Alipius primary school in Ballarat, who alleged Cardinal Pell would play with them in the swimming pool and molest them by touching their genitals under water. 
Mr Ashton said charges against the Cardinal were still a possibility and that detectives were waiting on an opinion from the Office of Public Prosecution on whether the inquiry should continue.
"It's been a long investigation ... there are a lot of leads that have to be followed up," he said.
Cardinal Pell has rejected the allegations, claiming that Victoria Police leaked the information to the ABC and compromised the judicial process.
The ABC obtained eight police statements from complainants, witnesses and family members who are reportedly helping the taskforce with its investigation. 
One complainant, Darren Mooney, spoke publicly: "He'd throw us off his shoulders ... he would grab you from – have his hands on your backside and then he'd push you off," Mr Mooney said.
Another alleged victim, Lyndon Monument, described the abuse as: "his hand touching your genitals and stuff on the outside of your bathers or shorts. And then that slowly became hand down the front of the pants or your bathers or whatever you call them."
[He would] grab you ... around the testes, around the anus ... very forceful around the anus," a third complainant,  Damian Dignan, told the program.
Other allegations aired on the program included:
·                      that Cardinal Pell would touch the genitals of children while swimming in a public pool in Ballarat in the late '70s.
·                      that he was naked in the change rooms on a regular basis in front of children.
·                      that he exposed himself to three young children in another change room, at the Torquay Surf Club in 1986 or 1987.
Cardinal Pell's office issued a furious statement and said he rejected all the allegations aired by the program.
Charges could still be laid against Cardinal George Pell over a string of allegations of child sex abuse going back decades, says Victoria Police chief commissioner Graham Ashton. 

Thursday Male Beauty - Pt 3.

Quote of the Day: Andrew Sullivan on Clinton Must be Supported

Writer and former blogger, Andrew Sullivan is no fan of the Clintons.  However, he neatly makes the case of why anyone who cares about America and American democracy must support Hillary Clinton to insure that Donald trump and his fear and hate based vision of America is stillborn.  Here's the quote from Sullivan's live-blogging at the Democrat National Convention last night:
"Readers know how I feel about the Clintons. But this is not about them or me. It’s about an idea of America that is under siege and under attack from a foul, divisive, dangerous demagogue. If you backed Obama, there is no choice in this election but Clinton. This is not a election to seek refuge in a third party or to preen in purist disdain from the messy, often unsatisfying duties of politics. It is an election to keep the America that Obama has helped bring into being, and the core democratic values that have defined this experiment from the very beginning: self-government, not rule by a strongman; pluralism and compassion rather than nativism and fear; an open embrace of the world, and not a terrified flight from it." . . . This is essentially a defense of democracy against tyranny. Which is the choice in this election.
He is 100% correct that a vote for a third party or purist disdain so evident in some Sanders supporters will only serve to elect Trump and take the nation down a very dangerous road. 

Trump’s Call for Russia to Hack the U.S. Might Be a Felony

If it wasn't clear before now, it should be obvious that Donald Trump thinks he is above the law and above the moral code that most Americans live by.  He lies incessantly, he cheats and screws people over in business, and now he thinks he can invite a foreign enemy to engage in cyber attacks on America, both to hurt his political rival and to keep himself in the news cycle - something his narcissism demands.  However, as a piece in The Daily Beast notes, Trump may have just committed a felony by inviting such a cyber attack.  The man is a menace and must be defeated in November. Here are article highlights:
Did Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump just call for a felony to be committed? On Wednesday, he urged a foreign government to hack an American citizen and release personal emails.
“Russia, if you're listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing” from emails that Hillary Clinton turned over to the State Department, Trump said in a lengthy press conference in Doral, Fla. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens. That will be next. Yes, sir.”
Trump himself has had financial interests in Russia.  He has also praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and has said that if Russia were to invade NATO members, the United States might not come to their defense. 
Trump’s incendiary comments came on the heels of the theft and leak of emails from the Democratic National Committee, an operation that, as The Daily Beast first reported, U.S. official believe was carried out by the Russian government and may have been designed to help Trump in the polls.
Trump appeared to urge a U.S. adversary suspected of criminal activity essentially to go further and attack his opponent. The comments drew ire from  across the national security community.
Trump allies were at pains to explain the nominee’s plea for Russian intervention. Newt Gingrich said Trump had simply made a  “joke.”
A top Clinton adviser quickly condemned Trump’s comments. “This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent,” aide Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “That’s not hyperbole, those are just the facts. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”
The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, added that the call for illegal hacking “shows staggeringly poor judgment even for him.” 
“With so many unanswered questions about Trump’s ties to the Kremlin, it’s imperative that Trump immediately release his tax returns and disclose his financial ties to Russia,” Schiff added.
“It’s probably the most egregiously stupid thing I’ve ever heard a party nominee say ever,” said Bradley Moss, a lawyer specializing in national security law. 
Moss believes that there’s a legal case to charge Trump for his comments, because he was calling for Russia to take “imminent lawless action,” which is speech not covered by the First Amendment.
Moss added that Trump could theoretically be charged as a conspirator under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
“You could argue what Trump was urging Russia to do was hack Hillary’s server and release the contents to the media—conspiring with them to hack into a private server and release confidential information to the public,” Moss explained.
However, it’s unlikely, Moss continued, because the Department of Justice and FBI are unlikely to want to be “diving into a political nightmare.”
Now that Trump is the GOP presidential nominee, he will be eligible to receive classified intelligence briefings, something that top intelligence officials are sweating over, given Trump’s penchant for talking extemporaneously.
Not knowing his intent, such statements could limit the amount of classified information U.S. officials give to Trump, which he is entitled to as a presidential nominee, an official familiar with the process explained to The Daily Beast. Trump and Clinton will reportedly begin receiving classified briefings after this week’s convention.
As Trump called for Russia to infiltrate Clinton’s servers, some of his fellow Republicans were torching the Kremlin for the DNC hack.
"Every American, without regard to political party, must face this grim reality: While the Obama Administration idles with empty platitudes and fantasy resets, Mr. Putin’s Soviet-style aggression has escalated to levels that were unimaginable just a week ago,” Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse said in a statement. “America is digitally exposed. The United States must take serious offensive and defensive actions now. Russia must face real consequences."
Trump’s cozyness with Putin and his advisers’ ties to Russia highlight a growing chasm within the Republican Party, which for the last 35 years has lionized Ronald Reagan’ as the ultimate cold warrior who stood up to Soviet expansionism and aggression.
Skepticism of authoritarian governments—and Putin in particular—has been a key feature among conservative foreign policy thinkers. Trump appears to be trying to drag the party toward Putin almost on his own, and traditional forces are pulling back.
The party of Lincoln and Reagan is dead.  Something nightmarish has replaced it.