Saturday, February 11, 2017

Kathleen Parker: Trump’s Two-Year Presidency

Conservative columnist - and at this point perhaps former Republican - Kathleen Parker is off the GOP reservation again and has a column in the Washington Post that I hope becomes predictive of what the Republican Party will face in two years if not sooner if it does not stop being a doormat for Der Trumpenführer.  It the Tea Party helped to give the GOP control of Congress in 2012, the growing resistance to the lies, conflicts of interest and attacks on civil rights of Der Trumpenführer could presage disaster for the GOP in 2018.  What I have found remarkable is the number of previously apolitical individuals belatedly waking to the reality that one must be politically involved to be a true patriot and to protect American democracy from those who would subvert it.   Here are column excerpts:
Good news: In two years, we’ll have a new president. Bad news: If we make it that long.
My “good” prediction is based on the Law of the Pendulum. Enough Americans, including most independent voters, will be so ready to shed Donald Trump and his little shop of horrors that the 2018 midterm elections are all but certain to be a landslide — no, make that a mudslide — sweep of the House and Senate. If Republicans took both houses in a groundswellof the people’s rejection of Obamacare, Democrats will take them back in a tsunami of protest.
Once ensconced, it would take a Democratic majority approximately 30 seconds to begin impeachment proceedings selecting from an accumulating pile of lies, overreach and just plain sloppiness. That is, assuming Trump hasn’t already been shown the exit.
With luck, and Cabinet-level courage that is not much in evidence, there’s a chance we won’t have to wait two long years, during which, let’s face it, anything could happen. In anticipation of circumstances warranting a speedier presidential replacement, wiser minds added Section 4 to the 25th Amendment, which removes the president if a majority of the Cabinet and the vice president think it necessary, i.e., if the president is injured or falls too ill to serve. Or, by extension, by being so incompetent — or not-quite-right — that he or she poses a threat to the nation and must be removed immediately and replaced by the vice president.
Thus far, Trump and his henchmen have conducted a full frontal assault on civil liberties, open government and religious freedom, as well as instigating or condoning a cascade of ethics violations ranging from the serious (business conflicts of interest) to the absurd (attacking a department store for dropping his daughter’s fashion line). And, no, it’s not just a father defending his daughter. It’s the president of the United States bullying a particular business and, more generally, making a public case against free enterprise.
To an objective observer, it would seem impossible to defend the perilous absurdities emanating from the White House . . .
In a hopeful note, a few Republicans are speaking out, but the list is short.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz recently got a taste of what’s ahead for Republican incumbents. Facing an unruly crowd at a town hallmeeting in Utah, the House Oversight Committee chairman was booed nearly every time he mentioned Trump. Even if many in the crowd were members of opposition groups, the evening provided a glimpse of the next two years. From 2010’s tea party to 2018’s resistance, the pendulum barely had time to pause before beginning its leftward trek.
While we wait for it to someday find the nation’s center, where so many wait impatiently, it seems clear that the president, who swore an oath to defend the U.S. Constitution, has never read it. Nor, apparently, has he ever even watched a Hollywood rendering of the presidency. A single episode of “The West Wing” would have taught Trump more about his new job than he seems to know — or care.
Trump’s childish and petulant manner, meanwhile, further reinforces long-held concerns that this man can’t be trusted to lead a dog-and-pony act, much less the nation. Most worrisome is how long Trump can tolerate the protests, criticisms, humiliations, rebuttals and defeats — and what price he’ll try to exact from those who refused to look away.

More Saturday Male Beauty

The War Against Same-Sex Marriage is Just Getting Started

For obvious reasons, the husband and I are concerned about the growing efforts of Christofascists to push through so-called "religious freedom" laws which would grant homophobes and gay haters carte blanche to discriminate against same sex couples - and many others who fail to subscribe to their fear and hate based beliefs.  Under such laws, all that one would need do is claim that one's religious beliefs were in essence offended by same sex couples, cohabitation heterosexual couples and even women on contraception.  Here in Virginia, the Republican controlled Virginia General Assembly has passed a license to discriminate bill that fortunately will be vetoed by Democrat Gov. Terry McAuliffe.  Should Republicans win the governorship in November, such a law could be passed a year from now. But the effort to destroy the rights of same sex married couples isn't confined to Virginia.  At the federal level a pernicious anti-LGBT GOP sponsored bill is pending in Congress.  Hundreds of bills will likely be introduced in state legislatures this year.   I am worried about my own rights, but I am just as concerned about the poisonous impact these special rights for Christofascists would work on younger LGBT Americans who deserve full equality under the law.  A column in the Los Angeles Times looks at the coming war on gays.  Here are excerpts:
An executive order leaked to the media last week revealed plans to use the Oval Office to legalize broad discrimination against the LGBT community in the name of religion. A draft of the order, first published in The Nation, would allow “any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations” to refuse services to LGBT people, whether in housing, employment, education or healthcare. In the media uproar that followed, Donald Trump said that he would not sign the order at this time.
But the president did not rule out doing so in the future.
The document is a reminder that while Trump has claimed he won’t overturn marriage equality in the White House, he doesn’t have to repeal Obergefell v. Hodges — the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage — to strip the rights of gay and lesbian couples. The order is specifically designed to allow anyone who has a religious objection to same-sex marriage to discriminate in the name of faith — and would prevent the government from taking action against any individual who acts on those views.
Trump, who said his personal view on same-sex marriage is “irrelevant,” claimed the case “was already settled.” . . . What makes this claim rather disingenuous is that Trump doesn’t need the court system to neuter the protections allowed by Obergefell v. Hodges, which offer the full legal rights of marriage to all couples.
Same-sex partners may get to keep their marriages under the Trump administration, but those unions will mean little if the federal government erodes the rights and benefits afforded to that status.
In essence, the leaked document is an executive version of the First Amendment Defense Act — or HR 2802 — a national version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act laws introduced in states like Indiana and Louisiana.

The bill — which also could be used to fire a gay employee for having a picture of his legally wedded partner on his desk, or to deny housing to a lesbian couple — will be debated by Congress later this year. On his campaign website, Trump vowed to sign it.
Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch, would appear to confirm the administration’s commitment to so-called religious liberty over the rights of same-sex couples.
It remains to be seen how a SCOTUS with Gorsuch on the bench would rule if many of the central tenets of marriage equality — the equal protection of same-sex couples under the law — are disputed by religious liberty advocates.
The impending challenges to same-sex marriage, though, may take place sooner rather than later. The Texas Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this year on a case out of Houston, a trial that will decide whether same-sex couples in the Lone Star State are entitled to the same marriage benefits as heterosexual couples.  Although the court passed on it in September, the case has been a favorite of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who repeatedly lobbied for the judges to reconsider hearing it. Patrick, who famously suggested that the LGBT victims of the Pulse massacre deserved to be murdered, served as Trump’s campaign chairman in Texas.
Justice John Devine, the most far-right member of the Texas Supreme Court, already has stated his opposition to providing spousal benefits to same-sex couples, which he believes are not guaranteed under existing law.
Over 200 bills targeting the rights of the community were heard by state legislatures last year, a figure that more than doubled over the prior year. A majority of these cases were over the very religious objections that will take center stage this year.
The LGBT community would appear to have won an important victory with Trump’s momentary decision to put his executive order on hold — after many claimed it was already a done deal. But be warned: The war against same-sex marriage is just getting started.
Will "friends" who voted for Trump raise their voices and condemn such efforts to harm LGBT Americans?  I am not holding my breath.  Like Germans during the early 1930's, since they are not directly impacted, I expect most will do nothing. Be afraid. 

Coal Country's Embrace of Fantasy

Coal producing areas of the country, including the increasing backward Southwest Virginia, embraced Der Trumpenführer and his lies about the "war on coal" for many reasons, not the least of which was the desire of voters to return to "the god old days" in the coal industry.  Never mind that (i) there was no "war on coal" and (ii) domestic and global demand for coal is headed in a downward spiral never to return to past levels.  Rather than admit economic reality and to face the task of accepting change - and modern thinking - it was far easier to embrace Trump/GOP lies.  Wanting something to be true, however, doesn't make it true as a piece in Think Progress underscores.  These fantasy embracing voters are going to be most disappointed and Democrats need to find a way to turn their disappointment against the Republicans who played them for fools.  Here are article highlights:
Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) has a message for the new president: You are not going to bring coal back.
Donald Trump won the presidency with claims that he is a brilliant businessman who will create jobs. He railed against a political “war on coal” supposedly waged by President Obama, one Trump claimed was “killing American jobs.” On his first day in office, Trump deleted all the climate change references on the White House website, replacing it with an “energy plan” that asserts he is “committed to… reviving America’s coal industry.
In a new analysis, leading independent energy experts at BNEF dismantle these claims. “Whatever President Trump may say, U.S. coal’s main problem has been cheap natural gas and renewable power, not a politically driven war on coal,’” explain BNEF chair Michael Liebreich and chief editor Angus McCrone. Therefore “it will continue being pushed out of the generating mix.”
They note global electricity demand has grown much less than expected (thanks in part to energy efficiency).  . . . .  In a world of flat demand, the electricity market is a ruthless game of musical chairs — where the slowest and most unwieldy power sources keep losing their seat.
Coal power is just too costly and inflexible, explains BNEF: “Super-low-cost renewable power — what we are now calling ‘base-cost renewables’ — is going to force a revolution in the way power grids are designed, and the way they are regulated.”
When you add the revolution in cheap fracked gas — which Trump has pledged to double down on — it’s no surprise the country shut down over 40 gigawatts of coal-fired power stations since 2000. “These will not reopen whatever anything President Trump does,” explains BNEF, “nor do we see much appetite among investors for ploughing money into U.S. coal extraction — stranded asset risk will trump rhetoric.”
[C]oal’s woes are not merely being driven by a collapse in the economic case here. It’s also being driven by a collapse in the export market, as countries from Europe to Asia also move away from coal because of its economic and human cost. Coal pollution is killing people and destroying the climate.
“Peak coal is coming sooner than expected,” Goldman Sachs told clients in a September research note. BNEF agrees.
So Trump won’t be bringing back the domestic coal industry. And even if he could, he can’t bring back the jobs because it’s the coal industry itself that wiped out most of those jobs through productivity gains from “strip mines and machinery,” as Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman explained in 2014.
The fact is clean energy jobs are the only major new source of sustainable high-wage employment in the coming decades. Tragically, Trump’s misguided policies — his war on clean energy — mean the U.S. may not benefit from this exploding $50-trillion industry.

Andrew Sullivan - The Madness of King Donald

Former blogger Andrew Sullivan - who I had the opportunity meet several years ago - is back with a piece in New York Magazine which lays out his critical, and in my view, accurate summation of the nightmare currently gripping America in the person of Der Trumpenführer.  I don't always agree with Sullivan - especially on matters of religion and Catholicism - but he sums up matters well in his latest "conversation."   The bottom line is that the current occupant of the White House is mentally ill and this reality is what is unsettling if not down right frightening to the major it of Americans who did not and never will support the current president and all of the toxicity that he represents.  Here are some highlights:
I want to start with Trump’s lies. It’s now a commonplace that Trump and his underlings tell whoppers. Fact-checkers have never had it so good. But all politicians lie. Bill Clinton could barely go a day without some shading or parsing of the truth. Richard Nixon was famously tricky. But all the traditional political fibbers nonetheless paid some deference to the truth — even as they were dodging it. They acknowledged a shared reality and bowed to it. They acknowledged the need for a common set of facts in order for a liberal democracy to function at all. Trump’s lies are different. They are direct refutations of reality — and their propagation and repetition is about enforcing his power rather than wriggling out of a political conundrum. They are attacks on the very possibility of a reasoned discourse, the kind of bald-faced lies that authoritarians issue as a way to test loyalty and force their subjects into submission. That first press conference when Sean Spicer was sent out to lie and fulminate to the press about the inauguration crowd reminded me of some Soviet apparatchik having his loyalty tested to see if he could repeat in public what he knew to be false. It was comical, but also faintly chilling.
What do I mean by denial of empirical reality? Take one of the most recent. On Wednesday, Senator Richard Blumenthal related the news that Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee for the long-vacant Supreme Court seat, had told him that the president’s unprecedented, personal attacks on federal judges were “disheartening” and “demoralizing.” Within half an hour, this was confirmed by Gorsuch’s White House–appointed spokesman, who was present for the conversation. CNN also reported that Senator Ben Sasse had heard Gorsuch say exactly the same thing, with feeling, as did former senator Kelly Ayotte.
The president nonetheless insisted twice yesterday that Blumenthal had misrepresented his conversation with Gorsuch — first in an early morning tweet and then, once again, yesterday afternoon, in front of the television cameras. To add to the insanity, he also tweeted that in a morning interview, Chris Cuomo had never challenged Blumenthal on his lies about his service in Vietnam — when the tape clearly shows it was the first thing Cuomo brought up.
What are we supposed to do with this? How are we to respond to a president who in the same week declared that the “murder rate in our country is the highest it’s been in 45 to 47 years,” when, of course, despite some recent, troubling spikes in cities, it’s nationally near a low not seen since the late 1960s, and half what it was in 1980. What are we supposed to do when a president says that two people were shot dead in Chicago during President Obama’s farewell address — when this is directly contradicted by the Chicago police? None of this, moreover, is ever corrected. No error is ever admitted. Any lie is usually doubled down by another lie — along with an ad hominem attack.
Here is what we are supposed to do: rebut every single lie. Insist moreover that each lie is retracted — and journalists in press conferences should back up their colleagues with repeated follow-ups if Spicer tries to duck the plain truth. Do not allow them to move on to another question. Interviews with the president himself should not leave a lie alone; the interviewer should press and press and press until the lie is conceded. The press must not be afraid of even calling the president a liar to his face if he persists. This requires no particular courage. I think, in contrast, of those dissidents whose critical insistence on simple truth in plain language kept reality alive in the Kafkaesque world of totalitarianism. As the Polish dissident Adam Michnik once said: “In the life of every honorable man comes a difficult moment … when the simple statement that this is black and that is white requires paying a high price.” The price Michnik paid was years in prison. American journalists cannot risk a little access or a nasty tweet for the same essential civic duty?
Then there is the obvious question of the president’s mental and psychological health. I know we’re not supposed to bring this up — but it is staring us brutally in the face. I keep asking myself this simple question: If you came across someone in your everyday life who repeatedly said fantastically and demonstrably untrue things, what would you think of him? If you showed up at a neighbor’s, say, and your host showed you his newly painted living room, which was a deep blue, and then insisted repeatedly — manically — that it was a lovely shade of scarlet, what would your reaction be? If he then dragged out a member of his family and insisted she repeat this obvious untruth in front of you, how would you respond? If the next time you dropped by, he was still raving about his gorgeous new red walls, what would you think? Here’s what I’d think: This man is off his rocker. He’s deranged; he’s bizarrely living in an alternative universe; he’s delusional. If he kept this up, at some point you’d excuse yourself and edge slowly out of the room and the house and never return. You’d warn your other neighbors. You’d keep your distance. If you saw him, you’d be polite but keep your distance.
I think this is a fundamental reason why so many of us have been so unsettled, anxious, and near panic these past few months. It is not so much this president’s agenda. That always changes from administration to administration. It is that when the linchpin of an entire country is literally delusional, clinically deceptive, and responds to any attempt to correct the record with rage and vengeance, everyone is always on edge.
There is no anchor any more. At the core of the administration of the most powerful country on earth, there is, instead, madness. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday, February 10, 2017

More Friday Morning Male Beauty

9th Circuit Deals Blow to Imperial — and Incompetent — President

Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin - although, I suspect Der Trumpenführer would describe her as an enemy of American security - continues on her quest to atone for years of apologizing from GOP misrule and misconduct that set the stage for the 2016 election results.  In a column she looks at the stinging rebuke dealt to the Trump/Pence regime by the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.  Not only did the court refuse to reverse the stay of Der Trumpenführer's Muslim ban, but it did so in strong language and made it clear that the president is not above judicial review or Constitutional limits.   Rubin's column looks at not only the incompetence of the regime but the dangerous mindset of Der Trumpenführer who views himself above the law.  Here are column excerpts:
A federal appeals court panel has maintained the freeze on President Trump’s controversial immigration order, meaning previously barred refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries can continue entering the United States.
In a unanimous, 29-page opinion, three judges with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit flatly rejected the government’s argument that the suspension of the order should be lifted immediately for national security reasons and forcefully asserted their ability to serve as a check on the president’s power.
The opinion tells us much about the hubris and sheer incompetence of the new administration as the court rebuked it at every turn, pointing to errors in law and lawyering.
The administration made the argument that the case was not even reviewable, despite ample precedent from the George W. Bush years. In its most memorable line of the opinion the judges held, “There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy.” . . . . Given the president’s recent public hectoring and threats to hold the court responsible for any terror attacks if it upheld the lower court’s order, the court had every reason to eviscerate the claim of what amounts to executive supremacy. 
The executive order — drafted, we are told, during the campaign — was so sweeping and egregiously dismissive of constitutional niceties that the court made easy work of it. The most fatal flaw was the inclusion of green card holders, which the Department of Homeland Security apparently warned the White House not to include. This gave the court a significant group of people with due process rights who would be subject to presidential whim without any procedural recourse. Both green card holders here in the U.S. and those seeking to come back into the country were affected.
The court found that “the States have offered evidence of numerous statements by the President about his intent to implement a ‘Muslim ban.'” On this, Trump dug his own legal grave.
In then weighing the “irreparable injury” that might be done by staying the ban, the court observed that the administration provided “no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the Order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States.” In biting criticism the court found, “Rather than present evidence to explain the need for the Executive Order, the Government has taken the position that we must not review its decision at all.” This too was a complete failure of lawyering. 
The White House seemed to believe that issuing an executive order was no different than putting out a campaign white paper. The court to its credited reminded the administration that presidents have ample, but not unlimited power. Constitutional restraints still apply to the president, even on national security.
A more rational president who actually believed national security was at risk would heed the court’s directions, issue a narrower ban that would pass muster and roll that out with proper coordination. But Trump must “win” and can never accept error — even if his aides deserve some of the blame. He’ll persist, he says, to the Supreme Court (or perhaps first to an en banc review). If he truly believes that we are in peril, it is he who is endangering the country by choosing to leave the country with no travel ban whatsoever. And of course, with regard to real risks — radicalized Americans, lone wolves, etc. — the president is doing nothing, thereby leaving the country no safer than it was under his predecessor.
This is a humiliating defeat for the White House, revealing just how amateurish the president and his advisers are. The frightful part is that if they cannot handle a simple executive order, what makes anyone think they can handle far more difficult challenges?

Despite Denials, Flynn Discussed Sanctions with Russian Ambassador

Thankfully, a discussion of Trump/Pence collusion with Russia is back in the news and perhaps the media will get back on the scent of finding out (i) how much the Trump campaign interacted with Russia to interfere with the 2016 election, and (ii) what dirt/blackmail materials Putin has on Trump or secret business dealings Trump has in Russia.  The vehicle of this renewed interest?  Nutcase national security adviser Michael Flynn who, despite repeated denials, did in fact talk to Russia before Trump took office about reducing sanctions against Russia.  If there is one constant theme with the Trump/Pence regime, it is constant lying.  Trump's dishonesty should surprise no one.  The same holds for Pence, a dyed in the wool Christofascist.  From 20 years of monitoring Christofascists, no group in America lies more often or more consistently.  The Washington Post looks at the revelations.  Here are highlights:
National security adviser Michael Flynn privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials, current and former U.S. officials said.
Flynn’s communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were interpreted by some senior U.S. officials as an inappropriate and potentially illegal signal to the Kremlin that it could expect a reprieve from sanctions that were being imposed by the Obama administration in late December to punish Russia for its alleged interference in the 2016 election.
Flynn on Wednesday denied that he had discussed sanctions with Kislyak. Asked in an interview whether he had ever done so, he twice said, “No.”
Officials said this week that the FBI is continuing to examine Flynn’s communications with Kislyak. Several officials emphasized that while sanctions were discussed, they did not see evidence that Flynn had an intent to convey an explicit promise to take action after the inauguration. The talks were part of a series of contacts between Flynn and Kislyak that began before the Nov. 8 election and continued during the transition, officials said. In a recent interview, Kislyak confirmed that he had communicated with Flynn by text message, by phone and in person, but declined to say whether they had discussed sanctions.
The emerging details contradict public statements by incoming senior administration officials including Mike Pence, then the vice president-elect. They acknowledged only a handful of text messages and calls exchanged between Flynn and Kislyak late last year and denied that either ever raised the subject of sanctions.
“They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia,” Pence said in an interview with CBS News last month, noting that he had spoken with Flynn about the matter. Pence also made a more sweeping assertion, saying there had been no contact between members of Trump’s team and Russia during the campaign. Neither of those assertions is consistent with the fuller account of Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak provided by officials who had access to reports from U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies that routinely monitor the communications of Russian diplomats. Nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.
All of those officials said ­Flynn’s references to the election-related sanctions were explicit. Two of those officials went further, saying that Flynn urged Russia not to overreact to the penalties being imposed by President Barack Obama, making clear that the two sides would be in position to review the matter after Trump was sworn in as president.
“Kislyak was left with the impression that the sanctions would be revisited at a later time,” said a former official.
Kislyak said that he had been in contact with Flynn since before the election, but declined to answer questions about the subjects they discussed. Kislyak is known for his assiduous cultivation of high-level officials in Washington and was seated in the front row of then-GOP candidate Trump’s first major foreign policy speech in April of last year. The ambassador would not discuss the origin of his relationship with Flynn. Putin’s muted response — which took White House officials by surprise — raised some officials’ suspicions that Moscow may have been promised a reprieve, and triggered a search by U.S. spy agencies for clues.
“Something happened in those 24 hours” between Obama’s announcement and Putin’s response, a former senior U.S. official said. Officials began poring over intelligence reports, intercepted communications and diplomatic cables, and saw evidence that Flynn and Kislyak had communicated by text and telephone around the time of the announcement.
 When Pence faced questions on television that weekend, he said “those conversations that happened to occur around the time that the United States took action to expel diplomats had nothing whatsoever to do with those sanctions.”
Current and former U.S. officials said that assertion was not true.
Like Trump, Flynn has shown an affinity for Russia that is at odds with the views of most of his military and intelligence peers.
U.S. intelligence agencies say they have tied the GRU to Russia’s theft of troves of email messages from Democratic Party computer networks and accuse Moscow of then delivering those materials to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, which published them in phases during the campaign to hurt Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic rival.

My gut continues to tell me that we are looking at likely acts of treason.  I just hope they can be exposed and that the guilty parties, including Trump, Pence and their henchmen get prosecuted, convicted and sentenced accordingly.  

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, February 09, 2017

New PPP Poll: Two Weeks Since Inauguration, Voters Yearn For Obama

A new PPP Poll ought to be sending alarm bells off among Congressional Republicans, not to mention among Der Trumpenführer's inner circle. Taken just two (2) weeks after Trump's inauguration, the poll results are damning with in many instances a majority of Americans being firmly against Trump's polices and his conduct.  By a very wide margin, Americans want Der Trumpenführer to obey the rulings of the federal courts even as childish brat like tweets continue to spew from The Orange One.  Perhaps most interesting is the fact that except within the ranks of Trump supporters, the opposition to Trump - and by extension Congressional Republicans - is growing.  Here are highlights from the poll findings:
Less than 2 weeks into Donald Trump's tenure as President, 40%  of voters already want to impeach him. That's up from 35% of voters who wanted to impeach him a week ago. 
Beyond a significant percentage of voters already thinking that Trump should be removed from office, it hasn't taken long for voters to miss the good old days of Barack Obama...52% say they'd rather Obama was President, to only 43% who are glad Trump is.
 Why so much unhappiness with Trump? Voters think basically everything he's doing is wrong:
 -Overall voters are pretty evenly split on Trump's executive order on immigration from last week, with 47% supporting it to 49% who are opposed. But when you get beyond the overall package, the pieces of the executive order become more clearly unpopular. 52% of voters think that the order was intended to be a Muslim ban, to only 41% who don't think that was the intent. And the idea of a Muslim ban is extremely unpopular with the American people- only 26% are in favor of it, to 65% who are against it. . . . Finally voters see a basic competence issue with Trump's handling of the executive order- only 39% of voters think it was well executed, to 55% who believe it was poorly executed.
-It hasn't taken long for voters to develop a pretty dim view of Trump advisor Steve Bannon, and become wary of the extent to which he's being given power within the administration. Only 19% of voters see Bannon favorably, to 40% who have a negative opinion of him. Only 34% of voters approve of his being given a seat on the principals committee of the National Security Council, to 44% who are opposed to that. What's particularly telling is that only 19% of voters think Bannon belongs in that seat on the National Security Council more than the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff  the Director of National Intelligence, to 59% who believe those folks are more deserving of that place at the table. Even Trump voters think he's gone too far on that front- by a 40/35 margin they think the more traditional members should have that position rather than Bannon.
 -Very few voters go along with Trump when it comes to his voter fraud paranoia.  Only 26% of voters think millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 Presidential election, to 55% who believe that's not a real thing. This is another issue where even a significant number of Trump voters become wary of his claim- 47% believe it but 27% don't and another 26% aren't sure. It's been unusual to find things where a majority of Trump's voters don't go along with him.
 -Obamacare continues to become more popular the more talk there is about repealing it. 46% of voters now say they support it to just 41% who are opposed. And only 33% of voters think the best course of action is for Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act and start over, to 62% who think it would be better to keep it and fix the parts that need fixing.  
Another aspect of Trump's unpopularity is that he's losing all of his fights. In the last week he's gone on the attack on Twitter against John McCain, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and CNN and in each case we find voters siding with Trump's adversary:
 -By a 51/37 spread voters say John McCain has more credibility than Trump.
 -By a 52/41 spread voters say the Washington Post has more credibility than
 -By a 51/42 spread voters say the New York Times has more credibility than
 -By a 50/42 spread voters say CNN has more credibility than Trump.
 -Only 13% of voters approve of the job Congress is doing, to 68% who disapprove.  Paul Ryan has a 35/43 approval rating, and Mitch McConnell's is 17/55.  Democrats lead the generic Congressional ballot 45/42. 

Going back to Obamacare, one of my favorite poll result is this:
Q16 Which of the following would you most like to see the Congress do about the Affordable Care Act, given the choices of keeping what works and fixing what doesn’t, or repealing it and starting over with a new healthcare law?
 62% Would most like the Congress to keep what works in the Affordable Care Act and fix what doesn’t 33% Would most like the Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act and start over with a new
healthcare law 5% Not sure


More Thursday Morning Male Beauty

McAuliffe Promises to Veto GOP License to Discriminate Bill

As with Republicans at the national level, the Virginia Republican Party is forever prostituting itself to Christofascists - led in Virginia by The Family Foundation, a hate group in all but formal designation - and seeking to legalize anti-LGBT discrimination.  True, Bob Marshall's "bath room bill" was killed by Republicans in committee, but that was more over concern for the economic backlash that might occur given the experience of neighboring North Carolina.  But true to form, a falsely named and unnecessary "religious freedom" bill has passed the Virginia General Assembly on a party line vote that would allow legalized discrimination against LGBT Virginians.  Thankfully, Gov. Terry McAuliffe has vowed to veto the bill.  GayRVA has details.  Here are highlights: 
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe vowed to veto any bill that discriminates against LGBTQ people at a reception hosted Tuesday night by Equality Virginia.
McAuliffe has vetoed 71 bills during his two years as governor, none of which have been overturned.
“It’s not about doing the most vetoes of any governor in Virginia history,” McAuliffe said. “We’re stopping people from doing things that discriminate against people’s basic rights.”
Democrats criticized Republicans for approving SB 1324, which passed the Senate on a 21-19 party-line vote Tuesday.
The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Charles Carrico, R-Grayson. Supporters describe it as a “religious freedom” bill, saying it would protect people and organizations that oppose same-sex marriages. However, Democrats and advocates say the measure would give people and organizations the right to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples.
“Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity has absolutely no place in the commonwealth, and I am disappointed that a Republican-majority in the Senate approved SB 1324 today,” said Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor this year.
“I recently took a seven-city tour across the commonwealth that ended in Salem, where I was proud to welcome the NCAA soccer tournament. That championship was relocated from North Carolina, as was the NBA All-Star game and major businesses. To be economically competitive, we have to be open and welcoming to all. I will continue to advocate for equality for all.”
“It’s not just about the rare lawsuit,” Levine said. “It’s about having people be confident enough that if they do choose to come out, they’re not going to be kicked out in the street, they’re not going to lose their employment, they’re not going to lose their job.”
“The only way we’re going to get fair treatment, gay and lesbian people, is to let the people speak out. And it’s not going to be through this gerrymandering system that we have here. The system is rigged – it truly is,” Sickles said.

Gerrymandering has allowed Republicans to maintain a disproportionate number of seats in the General Assembly and has allowed backward rural areas to have far too much say in public policy in Virginia.  Both gerrymandering and LGBT discrimination need to end.

Mitch McConnell's Effort to Muzzle Coretta Scott King.

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As I have noted before on this blog, I lived in the Mobile, Alabama area from 1977 to 1981.  Back in that time period, Jeff Sessions was Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama and was considered reactionary even by many wealthy conservatives. Things did not get better with time with Sessions. While I was still living in Mobile, a 19 year old black man named Michael Donald was murdered in what was the last recorded lynching in the United States. Several Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members beat and killed Michael Donald, and hanged his body from a tree.  Session's office did not prosecute the case, but both men were arrested and convicted.  Subsequently, due to the efforts of Thomas Figures, the Assistant U.S. Attorney in Mobile, FBI agent James Bodman, and Michael Figures, a state senator and civil rights activist, the killers were ultimately arrested over two and a half years after the murder and were prosecuted, with one receiving the death penalty.After dropping the ball on the Donald case, Sessions prosecuted three black community organizers in the Black belt of Alabama, including Martin Luther King Jr.'s former aide Albert Turner, for voter fraud, alleging tampering with 14 absentee ballots. The prosecution stirred charges of selective prosecution of black voter registration. The defendants, known as the Marion Three, were acquitted of all charges by a jury.

Fast forward to this week and hearings on the nomination of Sessions to the office of Attorney General of the United States are taking place (sadly, Senate Republicans confirmed him). During the hearings Senator Elizabeth Warren sought to read into the Senate record a 1986 letter written by Coretta Scott King (see the image above) who, based on the facts recited above, held Sessions in low regard.  Mitch McConnell, among the most despicable and hypocrisy filled members of the Senate invoked an arcane Senate rule to silence Warren.  A piece in Slate makes the case that McConnell - who clearly hates Warren - was most motivated by his desire to muzzle the words of Coretta Scott King.  Here are article highlights:
By design, the U.S. Senate is a deliberative body in which members have every opportunity to speak their minds on the subject at hand. There are exceptions tied to decorum: Attack or impugn a colleague and the chamber reserves the right to strip speaking privileges from the offending member. On Tuesday night, it did just that to Elizabeth Warren. . . . This extraordinary step was initiated by Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate majority leader. What did Elizabeth Warren say? How did she “impugn the motives and conduct” of the senator from Alabama? She read a letter. Specifically, Warren read from a 1986 letter by Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on the subject of then–federal prosecutor Jeff Sessions, submitted in opposition to his nomination for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama. It was because of the letter that McConnell sought to silence Warren. And it’s in revisiting that letter that we can see how McConnell was right to be shook. Not because King was mistaken, but because her 30-year-old indictment of Jeff Sessions is now an indictment of the entire Republican Party. In Sessions, King saw a throwback to the Jim Crow officials who fought to disenfranchise black Americans throughout the South. “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge," wrote King in her 10-page statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which ultimately rejected Sessions in a 10–8 vote with two Republicans joining eight Democrats in voting against Ronald Reagan’s nominee. “Mr. Sessions’ conduct as U.S. Attorney, from his politically-motivated voting fraud prosecutions to his indifference toward criminal violations of civil rights law, indicates that he lacks the temperament, fairness and judgment to be a federal judge.” King went on to describe Sessions’ role in pursuing and prosecuting a trio of black voting rights activists in Perry County, Alabama:
“Mr. Sessions sought to punish older black civil rights activists ... who had been key figures in the civil rights movement in the 1960’s. These were persons who, realizing the potential of the absentee vote among Blacks, had learned to use the process within the bounds of legality and had taught others to do the same. The only sin they committed was being too successful in gaining votes.”
King detailed clear abuses of authority, from selective prosecution—ignoring allegations of similar behavior by whites—to pressuring and intimidating witnesses. “Many elderly blacks were visited multiple times by the FBI who then hauled them over 180 miles by bus to a grand jury in Mobile when they could more easily have testified at a grand jury twenty miles away in Selma. These voters, and others, have announced they are now never going to vote again,” King wrote.
For McConnell and his Republican colleagues, King’s critique of Sessions’ work was a personal attack. He saw this well-grounded accusation of racism as worse than the actions it described. And so he called for silence.
Despite the pivotal role the letter played in Sessions’ confirmation hearing in 1986, the then-chair of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, never entered it into the congressional record. Now that we have the letter, however, we can see how relevant it is not just to Sessions’ bid for the attorney general’s office but as a judgment on the Republican Party as a whole.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

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Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Are Congressional Republicans Aiding Trump in Building an Autocracy?

The batshit craziness continues to flow out of the White House with Der Trumpenführer lashing out at retailers that have either stop carrying his daughter's fashion line or relegating it to being relegated to being mixed in with other lines.  Meanwhile, the lies continue to flow from the lips of Der Trumpenführer and his minister of propaganda and so-called press secretary.  Do Congressional Republicans lift a finger to rein in a seemingly mentally ill head of their party?  Of course not. A very lengthy piece in Vox makes the case that Trump cannot become a dictator solely under his own power but rather needs the assistance of Congressional Republicans.  Since before Barack Obama assumed the office of president, Congressional Republicans have been derelict in performing their constitutional duties.  During Obama's turn, they obstructed the function of the federal government.  Now, they are sitting by as Trump wreaks havoc on a daily, if not hourly basis.   Here are article highlights:
So why, then, are we surrounded by articles worrying over America’s descent into fascism or autocracy? There are two reasons, and Trump is, by far, the less dangerous of them.
Trump has shown himself unconcerned with the norms of American democracy. He routinely proclaims elections rigged, facts false, the media crooked, and his opponents corrupt. During the campaign, he flouted basic traditions of transparency and threatened to jail his opponent. His tendencies toward nepotism, crony capitalism, and vengeance unnerve. His oft-stated admiration for authoritarians in other countries — including, but not limited to, Vladimir Putin — speaks to his yearning for power.
The picture resonates because it combines two forces many sense at work — Trump’s will to power and the fecklessness of the institutions meant to stop him — into one future everyone fears: autocracy in America.
[It] is not an autocracy. It is what we might call a partyocracy — a quasi-strongman leader empowered only because the independently elected legislators from his party empower him.
The judiciary, however, is not the branch of government with the most power or the most responsibility to curb Trump’s worst instincts. That designation belongs to the US Congress.
The president can do little without Congress’s express permission. He cannot raise money. He cannot declare war. He cannot even staff his government. If Congress, tomorrow, wanted to compel Trump to release his tax returns, they could. If Congress, tomorrow, wanted to impeach Trump unless he agreed to turn his assets over to a blind trust, they could. If Congress, tomorrow, wanted to take Trump’s power to choose who can and cannot enter the country, they could. As [David] Frum writes, “Congress can protect the American system from an overbearing president.” He just thinks they won’t.
But I want to make the argument that there is nothing inevitable about that: it is not the system envisioned by the Constitution and it is not the system we would have if voters took Congress’s enormous power seriously and were as interested in who ran it as in who ran the presidency.
And I want to shift the locus of responsibility a bit: if Trump builds an autocracy, his congressional enablers will, if anything, be more responsible than him. After all, in amassing power and breaking troublesome norms, Trump will be doing what the Founders expected. But in letting any president do that, Congress will be violating the role they were built to play. We need to stop talking so much about what Trump will do and begin speaking in terms of what Congress lets him do.
It is, at this point, expected that they will confirm Trump’s unqualified nominees, ignore his obvious conflicts of interest, overlook his dangerous comments, and rationalize his worst behavior.
That expectation — and the cowardice it permits — is the real danger to American democracy.
These are not normal times. Congressional Republicans find themselves, or at least feel themselves, yoked to Donald Trump — an abnormal president who hijacked their primary system and mounted a hostile takeover of their party. Trump now holds them hostage: Their legislation requires his signature, their reelection requires his popularity, and he is willing to withhold both.
And so the institution meant to check the president now finds itself protecting him.
Trump does not, himself, have the power to reinforce his rule with a web of corruption. Trump does not, himself, have the power to launch fraudulent investigations of nonexistent voter fraud and then use the results to disenfranchise voters. Trump does not, himself, have the power to confirm his Cabinet while refusing to put his assets into a blind trust. In these cases, and others, Trump’s power exists at the pleasure of Congress. He can only do what they let him do.
That Congress is not using its power is Congress’s fault, not Trump’s. Whatever danger Trump poses to the system is their fault as much or more than his — it is their job, after all, to check an out-of-control president.
To put it differently, Trump deserves a bit less attention, and Rep. Jason Chaffetz deserves a lot more. . . . So here, then, is Chaffetz after the 2016 election: planning investigations into those raising the alarm over Trump’s conflicts of interest, rather than actually investigating Trump’s conflicts of interest.
There are obvious reasons for this. The danger for a House Republican in investigating Trump is that he’ll find something, and that something will be used by Democrats to win back Congress and, ultimately, the White House.  . . . It is Chaffetz’s job, more than it is anyone else’s, to hold Trump accountable, to demand that he govern in a transparent and ethical manner. And he has the power to do it. He can subpoena administration officials and Trump’s business associates. He can make sure the media and the public have much of the information Trump refuses to release, and he can make it costly for Trump to abandon longstanding norms around transparency, divestment, and governance. The American political system is prepared for the sort of challenge Trump represents, and there are corrective powers in place.
But the wielder of those corrective powers must want to use them. And Chaffetz doesn’t. His identity as a Republican supersedes his identity as chair of the House Oversight Committee, or even as congressman from Utah’s third district.
This, and not Trump, is what poses a threat to American democracy. Here, in miniature, you can see the problem we face: not a president who can’t be checked, but a president whose co-partisans don’t want to check him.
Partyocracy, not autocracy, is the danger. It is the danger now, and it is the danger in the future, when the presidency might be held by a would-be strongman smoother and cleverer than Trump.
The problem America faces right now isn’t what Donald Trump will do, but what Republicans in Congress will let him do. That is an unintuitive way to think in a polity that obsesses over the president’s every tweet but barely shows up to vote in midterm elections. But it’s the reality.
[I]f Republicans in Congress abandon their constitutional role to protect their partisan interests, then they must be held no less accountable than Trump.
There is much talk of the resistance to the Trump administration, and many protests happening outside the White House. But it is in Congress members’ districts — at their town halls, in their offices, at their coffee shops — where this fight will be won or lost.
But for now, the crucial question — the question on which much of American democracy hinges — is not what Trump does. It is what Congress does. The danger posed by Trump is one that America’s political system is built to protect against. But the officials charged with its protection need to take their role seriously.
In the end, it is as simple as this: The way to stop an autocracy is to have Congress do its damn job.