Tuesday, January 23, 2018

More Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

FBI Director Threats Resignation in Face of Trump Obstruction Efforts

Seemingly thinking himself akin to some Roman emperor, Donald Trump, a/k/a Der  Trumpenf├╝hrer, continues to ignore the fact that the FBI is designed to be a separate independent agency that does not take orders from the White House.  Instead, Trump believes the agency should do his bidding and that anyone who may want to investigate Trump's wrongdoing needs to be fired. Having fired James Comey who refused to back off of investigating Trump collusion with Russia and/or money laundering by Trump or Kared Kushner, Trump now is gunning for a the agency's deputy director.  The continued efforts to interfere and obstruct have apparently become so bad that the current FBI Director has threatened to resign and cause a media and political firestorm if the improper conduct doesn't stop.  Axios has these details: 
Attorney General Jeff Sessions — at the public urging of President Donald Trump — has been pressuring FBI Director Christopher Wray to fire Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, but Wray threatened to resign if McCabe was removed, according to three sources with direct knowledge.
  • Wray's resignation under those circumstances would have created a media firestorm. The White House — understandably gun-shy after the Comey debacle — didn’t want that scene, so McCabe remains.
  • Sessions told White House Counsel Don McGahn about how upset Wray was about the pressure on him to fire McCabe, and McGahn told Sessions this issue wasn’t worth losing the FBI Director over, according to a source familiar with the situation.
  • Why it matters: Trump started his presidency by pressuring one FBI Director (before canning him), and then began pressuring another (this time wanting his deputy canned). This much meddling with the FBI for this long is not normal.
McGahn has been informed about these ongoing conversations, though he has not spoken with Wray about FBI personnel, according to an administration source briefed on the situation. Trump nominated Wray, previously an assistant attorney general under George W. Bush, last June to replace James Comey as director.
Trump has also tweeted negatively about other senior FBI officials who are allies of Comey, including the former top FBI lawyer James A. Baker who was recently “reassigned” after pressure from Sessions.
Trump and other Republicans have been hammering McCabe  who was selected by the White House as acting director after the Comey firing — for months on Twitter.

The New York Times — and others — reported in December that McCabe "is expected to retire after he becomes eligible for his pension [in] early [2018]." But senior Justice officials are still not sure what McCabe plans to do.
The FBI declined to comment for this story. Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores also declined to comment. 

The Trump Evangelicals Voters Have Lost Their Gag Reflex

Pence and Franklin Graham - two modern day Pharisees.
I try to avoid referencing the same news source more than once in a given day, but I cannot help myself given that a great column by Michael Gerson, a conservative and a former member of the George W. Bush White House appeared this afternoon in the Washington Post.  Like a previous post from yesterday, the column lays the blame for Donald Trump and the damage being done to America squarely at the feet of evangelical Christians who, Gerson says have "lost their gag reflex."  The column focuses on a point I made in the prior post: for the Christofascists the end justifies the means and that, therefore, lying, spreading hate, and embracing the reprehensible is justifiable if it will further the goal of Christian dominionism.  The irony is that, in my view and seemingly that of Gerson, is that in the end, evangelicals will be the losers as they forfeit what little moral authority they have left and once their usefulness to Trump and the Republican Party is finished, they will be cast aside like disposable trash.  In the end, whatever positive influence that Christianity may offer - and I believe it's debatable that there is any positive - will have been diminished and more will walk away in disgust.  Here are column highlights:
The Rev. Billy Graham has been one of the most visible, respected and influential Christians in the world since the 1950s. But he often had a blind spot when it came to politics. Graham was President Richard Nixon’s golfing buddy and spiritual adviser. He was there to pray with Nixon after every victory or loss. . . . . In Graham’s view, Nixon was “a modest and moral man with spiritual sensitivity.” He “held such noble standards of ethicsand morality for the nation.”
Graham was in denial about Watergate until the last. When he finally read through the Watergate tape transcripts — including profanity, political corruption, lying, racism and sexism — Graham remembers becoming physically ill. He said later of Nixon: “I wonder whether I might have exaggerated his spirituality in my own mind.” Graham’s biographer William Martin quoted a close Graham associate who was more blunt: “For the life of me, I honestly believe that after all these years, Billy still has no idea of how badly Nixon snookered him.” Graham had the alibi of self-deception. But his son Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr., Robert Jeffress and President Trump’s other evangelical Christian advocates have no such excuse. They have made their political bargain with open eyes. Trump has made profanity an unavoidable part of our political culture. He is in the midst of a gathering corruption scandal that has left close aides under indictment. He tells repeated and obvious lies. He incites ethnic and racial resentment as a political strategy and was caught on tape bragging about sexual assault. Add to this something that could never be said of Nixon: the credible accusation that Trump paid hush money to a porn star to cover up an affair.
And what is Franklin Graham’s reaction? “We certainly don’t hold him up as the pastor of this nation and he is not. But I appreciate the fact that the president does have a concern for Christian values, he does have a concern to protect Christians whether it’s here at home or around the world, and I appreciate the fact that he protects religious liberty and freedom.”
“A concern for Christian values.” I imagine there is considerable presidential stroking behind such a pronouncement — the current equivalent of remembering birthdays and pineapple tea. But Graham’s argument is as crudely political as it gets. Because Trump has delivered the goods on protecting Christians, evangelicals should give him the benefit of every doubt on moral matters, even when such doubts are absurdly transparent ploys.
The level of cynicism here is startling. Some Christian leaders are surrendering the idea that character matters in public life in direct exchange for political benefits to Christians themselves. It is a political maneuver indistinguishable from those performed by business or union lobbyists every day. Only seedier. You scratch my back, I’ll wink at dehumanization and Stormy Daniels. The gag reflex is entirely gone. [T]he Trump evangelicals are out of their depth. When presented with the binary choice of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, I can understand a certain amount of anguish. But that is not a reason to become sycophants, cheerleaders and enablers. Politics sometimes presents difficult choices. But that is no excuse to be the most easily manipulated group in American politics.
The problem, however, runs deeper. Trump’s court evangelicals have become active participants in the moral deregulation of our political life. Never mind whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is of good repute. Some evangelicals are busy erasing bright lines and destroying moral landmarks. In the process, they are associating evangelicalism with bigotry, selfishness and deception. They are playing a grubby political game for the highest of stakes: the reputation of their faith.
Not long after Watergate broke, a chastened Billy Graham addressed a conference in Switzerland, warning that an evangelist should be careful not “to identify the Gospel with any one particular political program or culture,” and adding, “this has been my own danger.”  The danger endures.
Evangelicals will be the death of Christianity.  Given what Christianity has become under the evangelicals, that death cannot come soon enough.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

Monday, January 22, 2018

More Monday Male Beauty

Will Evangelicals' Support of Trump Be Their Undoing?

I have been following evangelical groups for well over two decades.  My first exposure was during my years as a Republican Party activist and member of the City Committee of the Republican Party of Virginia Beach which I helped incorporate.  Over the years my impression of evangelical leaders and their followers has basically gone down with every passing day, month and year.  Much fanfare is put on to supposedly demonstrate their piety and religiosity, but in the final analysis, as a group, no on lies more often and more insidiously or is more self-centered and oblivious to the Gospel message of loving others and caring for the poor, the sick, homeless and needy in the world. And that's not even counting in the "scamvangelists" who push the prosperity gospel and rake in millions and live lives of conspicuous consumption, huge mansions, private jets, etc.   Indeed, the true mark of far too many evangelicals is hatred of others, racism, rejection of knowledge and science and a mindset that the end justifies the means, no matter how reprehensible.   Their continued support of Donald Trump underscores the moral bankruptcy of these individuals and their self-anointed leaders.  As a piece in the Washington Post suggests, with luck they will lose what little moral authority they have left with the general public.  It's already happened with Millennials.  Now it needs to happen across the board.  Here are article highlights:
Few voting blocs back President Trump as strongly as white evangelicals. Many of them on Friday reminded the world why as they descended upon Washington for the March for Life, one of the nation's largest antiabortion gatherings.
Trump became the first sitting president to address the event and reminded those in attendance that ending legal abortion and protecting religious freedom, issues on which he campaigned, will remain priorities for him throughout his administration.
At the rally, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) credited God for Trump’s election, saying: “Can we just thank God for giving us a pro-life president back in the White House?”
While not specifically a religious event, the annual march on the Mall in Washington attracts evangelicals, Catholics and conservative Christians who share a common goal of overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling on abortion rights.
Before entering the 2016 presidential election, Trump was better known for his “Playboy” tendencies than possessing conservative Christian values, but many evangelicals embraced Trump as he ran for the Republican presidential nomination. Jerry Falwell Jr., the son of the founder of the Moral Majority movement and president of Liberty University, went so far as to call Trump “a dream president.”
 Their support has not wavered much, even after the recent claim by porn star Stormy Daniels that Trump had an affair with her and paid her hush money before the election. For many evangelical voters, moving America forward means continuing to support the most antiabortion candidate regardless of his track record on any other moral issue. A recent testament of that came last month, when white evangelical voters in Alabama overwhelmingly backed Senate candidate Roy Moore, despite his facing allegations of sexually assaulting multiple teenage girls while in his 30s. For a group of people who regularly view themselves as soldiers in a culture war, there is some belief that evangelicals could wind up losing the overall fight for moral authority over the country and the world.
While many white evangelicals are unapologetic about being one-issue voters when it comes to abortion, others within and outside of the Christian faith argue other topics — including character and “loving your neighbor as yourself” — must be of high importance in deciding who will lead the country forward. These voters say a comprehensive conversation about family values has to include issues beyond abortion and are looking for candidates who are willing to do that.
 Trump's recent reported reference to Haiti, El Salvador and countries in Africa as “shitholes” caused conservative blogger Erick Erickson to question if some evangelicals had reached a breaking point with the president and the Republican Party. In an Acts of Faith post, he questioned the impact this would have on the 2018 elections and beyond:
These evangelicals are patriotic Americans, but their Christianity comes first and they realize they cannot separate their vote from their faith. As they see fellow Christians beclowning themselves to defend the indefensible, they want no part of it. So they will wash their hands of it and stay home or they will join African American and Hispanic Christians in voting for those who have spoken loudly against the rise of white nationalism and Trump’s abhorrent behavior.
Winning the White House has always been important to evangelicals. But historically, winning people to the Christian faith has taken higher priority. To some within the tribe, it appears the former has replaced the latter.

White House Staff Undermines Shutdown End

White supremacist/White House adviser Stephen Miller
Reports are coming out from both Republicans and Democrats that a principal obstacle to a resolution of the budget impasse and associated federal government shutdown is White House staff members, specifically white supremacist Stephen Miller who even looks as if he could have been one of Adolph Hitler's unsavory, murderous thugs (to me he is reminiscent of Josef Goebbels).  The Hill reports that Lindsey Graham has stated that as long as Miller is involved in negotiating the immigration portion of the dead lock, "we age going nowhere."  Graham said yesterday that Miller has "been an outlier for years" on the issue of immigration. A piece in the Washington Post looks at Miller's toxic influence in the negotiations.  Here are excerpts:
Stephen Miller, one of the few remaining original advisers to President Trump, invited a small group of writers and editors from Breitbart News to the White House last fall for a conversation on immigration. The conservative news website — headed at the time by one of the former White House advisers, Stephen K. Bannon — has been a steadfast cheerleader for Trump and his nationalist anti-immigration agenda.
But Miller’s goal on this occasion was to sell the group on a compromise: a possible deal offering protections to the young undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers” in exchange for tougher immigration provisions, such as an end to family-sponsored migration. 
Now the 32-year-old former Senate aide is at the center of the fiery Washington battle over what to do about the dreamers, whose protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program will soon be rescinded by Trump and whose cause has been taken up by Democrats. Miller was among those in the Oval Office this month when the president ragedabout accepting immigrants from “shithole countries” 
On Sunday, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) — whose doomed immigration compromise with Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) was the target of that Trump tirade in the Oval Office — blasted Miller as a primary reason for the continuing standoff over border issues.
“As long as Stephen Miller is in charge of negotiating immigration, we are going nowhere. He’s been an outlier for years,” Graham told reporters at the Capitol. . . . . every time we have a proposal, it is only yanked back by staff members.”
Miller’s driving obsession is immigration, an area where he has long pushed hard-line positions . . . . . In Washington, as an aide to then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), he was instrumental in helping to kill a bipartisan effort in 2013 for a broad immigration deal. He and Sessions helped galvanize House conservatives to block the bill passed by the Senate, including distributing a handbook of talking points aimed at undercutting the compromise. 
Some in the administration also view Miller as an opportunist. . . . . Miller frequently reads Breitbart and, early in the administration, was spotted carrying a pile of Breitbart articles into Bannon’s office. White House aides said Miller was a prime supplier of Breitbart clips to Trump. He also takes personal pride in successfully pitching stories to the site, associates say.

Note this photo of Goebbels - there is a resemblance in my opinion that extends beyond physical appearance.  

Monday Morning Male Beauty

Sunday, January 21, 2018

More Sunday Male Beauty

Poll: Half of Americans Question Trump’s Mental Stability

With the federal government in a GOP forced shut down and Donald Trump continuing to be the least popular president in the history of polling, congressional Republicans nonetheless continue to prostitute themselves to Trump.  Meanwhile just shy of half of Americans believe Trump is mentally unstable despite the bizarre press conference by the White House physician which seemingly added to Trump's height, downplayed potentially serious heart attack risks, and would have one believe that Trump is cognitively normal.    ABC News has the details of new poll results which ought to terrify Republicans in advance of the 2018 midterm elections which many see as the only meaningful way to limit Trump's ability to do lasting damage to America.  Here are poll findings that indicate that Trump and Republicans are on the wrong side of virtually every issue:
A year in the presidential spotlight hasn’t been kind to President Donald Trump: His approval rating is the lowest in modern polling for a president at this point, with deep deficits on policy and personal matters alike. Strikingly, the public divides evenly on whether or not he’s mentally stable.
[A] lopsided majority, 73 percent of those polled, rejects Trump’s self-assessed genius.
Seventy percent say he fails to acquit himself in a way that’s fitting and proper for a president.
Two-thirds say he’s harming his presidency with his use of Twitter.
And 52 percent see him as biased against blacks -- soaring to 79 percent of blacks themselves.
Just 36 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s job performance, while 58 percent disapprove, essentially unchanged since midsummer. Next lowest at one year was Gerald Ford’s 45 percent in 1975; average pre-Trump approval -- since Harry Truman’s presidency -- is 63 percent.
Women are especially critical of Trump in this poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates: A mere 29 percent approve of his work, vs. 44 percent of men. And a remarkable 55 percent of women doubt Trump’s mental stability.
Trump’s signature achievement, the new tax law, is unpopular; 60 percent say it favors the wealthy (even most well-off Americans say so), and the public by a 12-point margin, 46 to 34 percent, says it’s a bad thing for the country. At the same time, a majority celebrates his most prominent failure, on Obamacare; 57 percent say the program’s continuation is a good thing.
A vast 87 percent support the DACA immigration program that Trump ended and whose fate in Congress is uncertain -- including two-thirds of strong conservatives, three-quarters of evangelical white Protestants and as many Republicans, core Trump groups.
And 63 percent overall oppose a U.S.-Mexico border wall, essentially unchanged since before the 2016 election.
As reported Friday, Trump -- and his party leaders -- also are at greater risk in the government shutdown, with Americans 20 points more likely to say they’d blame Trump and the Republicans in Congress than the Democrats in Congress.
[H]alf of Americans think members of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign colluded with Russia to try to influence the election. About as many, 49 percent, think Trump himself obstructed justice in the Russia investigation.
Fifty-eight percent say the economy is in good (or even excellent) shape, the most in 17 years. But just 38 percent say the Trump administration deserves credit; many more, 50 percent, credit the Obama administration.

One has to ask why Republicans seem to have a death wish and continue to basically flip a majority of citizens the middle finger.  Let's hope that get a return hand gesture at the polls in November, 2018.