Tuesday, April 25, 2017
|With Ralph Northam, the right Democrat candidate for Virginia|
As noted in a prior post, nearly 60% of Tom Perriello's campaign funds raised to date has come form sources outside of Virginia. So have his major endorsements, including Senator Elizabeth Warren who frankly just lost my vote should she run for national office. Virtually all of Virginia's major domestic Democrats have endorsed Lt. Governor Ralph Northam in the coming Democrat primary. Why? Several reasons, in my view. First, because Northam is a steady candidate with years of experience unlike Perriello, a two year flash in the pan, despite Warren's efforts to fluff his resume. Second, Northam has been in the trenches for years and has helped other Democrat candidates and worked with the party's grassroots, if you will. The husband and I have been in those trenches, have been on host committees and given money over and over again. Perriello has been nowhere to be seen. Third, Northam is right on the issues - including LGBT rights which Perriello barely mentions - and brings the much needed perspective of a physician into play.
Perriello's entrance into that contest is serving only three purposes: (i) to divide the party in Democrat Virginia - much as Bernie Sanders did in the 2016 presidential race, (ii) to divert funds that would be better spent on the general election against the eventual Republican opponent, and (ii) fan the vanities of Perriello and his out of state endorsers. If the Republicans should win the governor's mansion in November, 2017, the consequences for many Virginians will be horrific. LGBT rights, women's rights and minority rights will have to firewall to stop the ugliest efforts of the currently Republican controlled house. Look no farther than North Carolina to see what GOP control of the governor's mansion could mean. All so that Perriello, Sanders and Warren can satisfy their egos?
While Virginia has "gone blue" in the last three presidential race, many Virginia Democrats continue to be somewhat conservative by national standards. A so-called ulta-progressive candidate - which is what Perriello labels himself as despite no efforts to attract involved LGBT supporters - will likely not fare as well as one who is a bit more traditional. Let's not forget that Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders by 228,404 votes in the 2016 Democrat primary. She went on to beat Donald Trump in Virginia by 212,030 votes in the general election. "Traditional" candidates who have evolved on key issues win in Virginia. Bernie Sanders himself proved this. I do not believe that Perriello can win against someone like the heavily funded Ed Gillespie and, if that happens, the outcome will harm Virginians and Virginia's economy for years to come.
Please vote for Ralph Northam on June 13, 2017. Don't be fooled by out of state endorsements driven by other agendas.
When Der Trumpenführer won the presidency due to the failure of Electoral College electors to adhere to the intent of the Founding Fathers and protect the nation from a dangerous demagogue, the one consolation that I clung to was that perhaps Trump would go down in failure - and hopefully, impeachment - and in the process destroy the Republican Party. Much can change between now and November, 2018, but Congressional Republicans sounding alarm bells warning that the GOP could pay dearly for Trump's failure and his dysfunctional regime. Republicans at all levels sold out their principles and morals (at least what was left of them) to support Trump and they need to pay for their betrayal of decency and integrity. Personally, I hope that the alarm bells greatly understate the damage being done and that 2018 is a true massacre for the GOP. Politico looks at the grow hysteria across the GOP. Here are excerpts:
Republicans say President Donald Trump needs to turn things around fast — or the GOP could pay dearly in 2018.
With the party preparing to defend its congressional majorities in next year’s midterms, senior Republicans are expressing early concern about Trump’s lack of legislative accomplishments, his record-low approval ratings, and the overall dysfunction that’s gripped his administration.
The stumbles have drawn the attention of everyone from GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson, who funneled tens of millions of dollars into Trump’s election and is relied on to help bankroll the party’s House and Senate campaigns, to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Adelson hasn’t contributed to pro-Trump outside groups since the inauguration, a move that’s drawn notice within the party, and McConnell is warning associates that Trump’s unpopularity could weigh down the GOP in the election.
Potential GOP candidates whom party leaders want to recruit are afraid of walking into a buzz saw, uncertain about what kind of political environment they’ll be facing by the time the midterms come around — and what Trump’s record will look like.
[I]nterviews with more than a dozen top Republican operatives, donors and officials reveal a growing trepidation about how the initial days of the new political season are unfolding. And they underscore a deep anxiety about how the party will position itself in 2018 as it grapples with the leadership of an unpredictable president still acclimating to Washington.
I have absolutely no sympathy for these immoral, self-aggrandizing at any cost people.
Monday, April 24, 2017
With no legislative accomplishments in the first almost 100 days of the Trump/Pence regime despite Republican control of Congress and the White House, a move is again afoot to push through a falsely described "religious freedom" executive order which would, in effect, allow right wing Christians to ignore non-discrimination laws and target members of the LGBT community and perhaps cohabitating unmarried couples, women on contraception and even non-Christians for discrimination. The movement underscores the bankruptcy of Trump/the GOP that a rushed executive order to legalize discrimination - at least until a court strikes it down - would be viewed as an "accomplishment" by Christofascists and the core of the GOP Base. A piece in USA Today looks at this latest foul effort:
Dozens of Republican lawmakers are asking President Trump to scale back Obama-era protections for gays and lesbians in order to make good on a campaign promise to protect religious liberty.
In early February, Trump was reportedly considering an executive order that would reverse former president Barack Obama's orders prohibiting discrimination against gays and lesbians in the federal workforce or by federal contractors. But the order was never signed.
A group of 51 members of the House wrote to Trump this month to "request that you sign the draft executive order on religious liberty, as reported by numerous outlets on February 2, 2017, in order to protect millions of Americans whose religious freedom has been attacked or threatened over the last eight years." The letter has not been publicly released but was obtained by USA TODAY.
[O]n Monday, a senior White House official told USA TODAY that some sort of policy to protect religious liberty is still in the works, but that the president is trying to find middle ground. The official did not want to publicly discuss a policy that is still under development.
Beyond the workforce protections, the widely circulated draft order would have eliminated the contraceptive mandate that requires religious institutions to provide health insurance for birth control. Republicans lawmakers are also pushing for the order to allow for doctors to refuse to perform abortions based on religion. They also want to see protections for religious non-profits to be able to express political opinions without losing their tax-exempt status.
The letters signatories, all men except for Missouri Rep. Vicky Hartzler, include some of the Republican caucus’ most conservative members. A similar letter was sent by Senate Republicans earlier this month.
[N]ot everyone sees religious liberty protections as necessary or even positive. Laura Durso of the progressive Center for American Progress told USA TODAY that freedom of religion is already protected by the First Amendment and any efforts to get additional protections will create "a license to discriminate across a wide range of federal programs."
JoDee Winterhof, senior vice president for policy and political affairs at the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, said if Trump went forward with the leaked order it would “allow an unprecedented expansion of tax-payer funded discrimination.”
As I have sad before, if one is LGBT and votes Republicans, it's akin to a early 1920's German Jew voting for the Nazi Party. It is insanity and self-destructive. If I am hurting feelings, I am not sorry. It is far past time for "gay Republicans" to stop deluding themselves and focus their votes and money on defeating every Republican elected official.
Donald Trump is sticking with his "build the wall" con which his ignorant voters fell for during the election. Missing, of course, from the carnival barker's calls is any serious recognition of (i) the true cost, or (ii) just how long any construction would take given the need to first go through lengthy and time consuming condemnation proceeds to acquire the needed land in many border areas. Seemingly, even some Republican members of Congress recognize the impracticality, true cost and time line of Der Trumpenführer's wall along the Mexico border even if his cretinous supporters do not. Now, signs are that a federal government shut down may occur if Trump continues to demand funding for his exercise in placating racists. A piece in the Washington Post looks at the possible show down. Here are highlights (don't believe Trump's 3.5 year construction schedule since condemnation cases, if appealed, alone could take longer):
President Trump and White House officials pressed congressional Republicans on Sunday to use the looming threat of a government shutdown to win funding for a wall along the border between the United States and Mexico, a top priority for the administration as it nears the symbolic 100-day mark.
Trump wants funding to be included in a spending measure that would keep the government open past April 28, a determined effort that has prompted a possible standoff with lawmakers in both parties, who hope to avert a federal closure next weekend.
Trump’s push for fast action on his pledge to build the border wall is part of a mounting and, at times, tense scramble inside the administration to kick-start the president’s agenda, even if it risks dire political consequences.
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said in an interview Sunday with The Washington Post that the president and his advisers remain “strong” in their commitment to securing funding for border security and a wall.
“This is what the president ran on,” Priebus said. “We want to get to a place this week where border-security money is being directed to the Department of Homeland Security so that we can begin surveillance and preliminary work, and then we will keep working on getting DHS what it needs for the structure.”
The Senate returns Monday night, and the House returns Tuesday from a two-week recess, leaving just three days when both chambers will be in session to wrangle out a funding agreement. Negotiators worked throughout the break, but thus far a deal has not been struck.
The wall, which experts say would cost $21.6 billion and take 3½ years to construct, has emerged as a crucial sticking point for the White House, with the president insisting privately and publicly that progress toward its funding and eventual construction must be showcased this week.
It remained unclear Sunday whether moderates within the GOP could persuade the White House to avoid a shutdown. Democrats have insisted that they will not vote for any spending bill that gives the White House money or flexibility to begin construction of a border barrier. They believe that the GOP will have to either abandon Trump’s demand or assume political responsibility if a shutdown occurs.
“The burden to keep it open is on the Republicans,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Building a wall is not an answer.
The tweets did little to assuage concerns created earlier in the day when White House budget director Mick Mulvaney suggested that Trump might not sign a spending bill that does not meet his demands.
Democrats believe that voters will blame Trump for a shutdown, particularly if congressional leaders omit wall funding from a spending deal. Democrats and GOP leaders appeared to be nearing a spending agreement last week before Trump ramped up his demands.
Democrats and Republicans maintained common ground. One clear area of agreement was not to include border funding in the stopgap budget. Democrats agreed to include other border-security measures, including money for new drones to patrol the border, but it was agreed that the wall itself should be debated separately, after the government is kept open.
Mulvaney’s hard-line stance is also odds with a White House faction convinced that a government shutdown would be cataclysmic for an administration already struggling to prove its ability to govern, according to GOP aides in the White House and Congress who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing talks.
Republican leaders have signaled that they will concentrate this week on keeping the government open, even if that means ignoring White House calls for action on other major priorities, such as rewriting the tax code and overhauling the ACA.
If federal workers end up staying home next week, the blame will be on Trump and the GOP. The GOP controls all branches of the federal government and still cannot get anything done. Mexico may be laughing loudly this time next week.
Other than his use of executive orders to reverse Obama era regulations that will make the nation a more polluted, less safe and more discriminatory place for Americans and their children, Donald Trump has accomplished little during his almost 100 days in office. Of, yes, he claims that he has done much, but would one seriously expect anything less from a man who suffers from narcissistic personality disorder? Objective facts mean nothing to the man. And in terms of the economic miracle that he promised to angry white voters in the rust belt and the backwaters of the Bible Belt, little or nothing has happened and likely never will. At least for the non-wealthy. As a column in the New York Times lays out, Trump's economic plans will bear a striking resemblance to that of Republican presidents from Reagan on forward: tax cuts for the wealthy and trickle down economics - voodoo economics, if you will, that have not worked once during the last 37 years. Here are column highlights:
It’s important to note just how little the tweeter-in-chief has managed to achieve; but we also need to focus on what, exactly, it is that he hasn’t achieved.
For Mr. Trump sold himself to voters as unorthodox as well as effective. He was going to be a different kind of president, a consummate deal-maker who would transcend the usual ideological divide. His supporters should therefore be dismayed, not just by his failure to actually close any deals, but by the fact that he evidently has no new ideas to offer, just the same old snake oil the right has been peddling for decades.
We saw that on Trumpcare, where the administration outsourced its policy to Paul Ryan, who produced exactly the kind of plan you might have expected: take insurance away from millions, make it worse for the rest, and use the money to cut taxes on the wealthy. Populism!
And now we’re seeing it on taxes. Mr. Trump has promised to unveil a “massive” tax cut plan next week. This announcement apparently came as a surprise to his own Treasury officials, who obviously don’t have a plan ready. Still, one thing is clear: Whatever the details, Trumptax will be a big exercise in fantasy economics.
Last week Stephen Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, told a financial industry audience that “the plan will pay for itself with growth.” And we all know what that means.
Back in 1980 George H. W. Bush famously described supply-side economics — the claim that cutting taxes on rich people will conjure up an economic miracle, so much so that revenues will actually rise — as “voodoo economic policy.” Yet it soon became the official doctrine of the Republican Party, and still is. That shows an impressive level of commitment. But what makes this commitment even more impressive is that it’s a doctrine that has been tested again and again — and has failed every time.
Bill Clinton provided a clear test, by raising taxes on the rich. Republicans predicted disaster, but instead the economy boomed, creating more jobs than under Reagan.
Then George W. Bush cut taxes again, with the usual suspects predicting a “Bush boom”; what we actually got was lackluster growth followed by a severe financial crisis. Barack Obama reversed many of the Bush tax cuts and added new taxes to pay for Obamacare — and oversaw a far better jobs record, at least in the private sector, than his predecessor.
[A]nd let’s not forget recent experiences at the state level. Sam Brownback, governor of Kansas, slashed taxes in what he called a “real live experiment” in conservative fiscal policy. But the growth he promised never came, while a fiscal crisis did. At the same time, Jerry Brown’s California raised taxes, leading to proclamations from the right that the state was committing “economic suicide”; in fact, the state has experienced impressive employment and economic growth.
Donald Trump was supposed to be different. Guess what: he isn’t. . . . . We might also note that a man who insists that he won the popular vote he lost, who insists that crime is at a record high when it’s at a record low, doesn’t need a fancy doctrine to claim that his budget adds up when it doesn’t.
Still, the fact is that the Trump agenda so far is absolutely indistinguishable from what one might have expected from, say, Ted Cruz. It’s just voodoo with extra bad math. Was that what his supporters expected?
The self-satisfaction derived from being emboldened to discriminate others and indulge in open racism will not pay the bills or put money in the bank. Once again, Trump and the GOP have pandered to baser instincts to get people to vote against their own economic interests. Those who fall for this time and time again deserve the economic calamity that will and has over take them.
Sunday, April 23, 2017
In the wake of the Pulse night club massacre last June, Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, lied and said that he would be an ally to LGBT Americans and would defend them from anti-gay Islamic extremists (in France, Marine Le Pen is making similar false claims). That same month, of course, he sold the LGBT community out when he promised an anti-gay jihad to a gathering of Christofascist in New York City. Then there is the treatment of gays by Trump's BFF, Vladimir Putin of Russia who has sponsored the equivalent to anti-gay pogroms and legislation that criminalizes sexual orientation as a means to gain support from the historically anti-gay Russian Orthodox Church. Add to this poisonous mix, Trump's reversal of LGBT protections and was on transgender Americans and it becomes clear to all but the willingly blind, that Trump is menace to LGBT Americans. All of it represents an assault of liberal democratic values. It bodes ill for the future and not just for members of the LGBT community. A piece in Huffington Post makes this argument. Here are excerpts:
“The beatings begin as soon as you’re brought in. The electric shocks, being beaten with plastic pipes. They said that we were ‘dogs who have no right to life.’” This is a firsthand account of the torture being suffered by gay men in Chechnya, a conservative Muslim republic in Russia’s Caucasus region. Reports of Chechen authorities launching a violent crackdown on suspected gay men have circulated widely in recent weeks. Men as young as 19 are reportedly being abducted, and shoved into overcrowded cells in secret prisons where they are brutally tortured, and sometimes beaten to death.
In a virulently homophobic society such as Chechnya’s, where persecution of homosexuals is policy, gay men go to extraordinary lengths to keep their sexual orientation hidden. One dangerous consequence of being detained on suspicion of homosexuality in such homophobic societies is that your orientation is revealed to your family. In one case, a gay man in his early twenties was returned by Chechen officers to his family, only to be killed by his uncle.
Chechen authorities often set up traps for men they suspect of being gay, and abduct them without releasing any information on their whereabouts. Those detained are then tortured until they release names of gay friends and acquaintances.
But none of this appears to have moved Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who made no public remark on the matter during his visit to Moscow last week, ignoring a letter signed by 50 members of Congress to do so. In fact, there appears to be no indication that Tillerson even raised the abuses in Chechnya in his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite a message of condemnation from the State Department prior to Tillerson’s Russia trip.
Regardless of the disdain for LGBT rights openly displayed by the Trump administration, it is a grave error to allow Russia to get away with flagrant human rights abuses on its own soil. What is at stake here is the very notion of universal human rights, in the specific context of how citizens are treated within their national borders.
What Russia does to its own citizens resonates in the rest of the world. As one of the world’s major powers, Russia enjoys a privileged status in the international hierarchy of states – see, for example, its veto-wielding permanent membership of the UN Security Council. Allowing Russia to lower those standards provides a carte blanche for smaller countries to follow suit. If Russia can get away with torturing and killing LGBT persons, why can’t Uganda? Or Saudi Arabia? Or Iran? If Russia can get away with persecuting LGBT persons today, who will they persecute tomorrow?
As part of its effort to undermine American power (both hard and soft), Russia aims to present an alternative for the world’s nations. That alternative includes tolerance for kleptocracy, the assassination of political opponents, the intimidation of journalists, and the persecution of “unwanted” minorities. Russian authorities have continuously targeted the LGBT community for over a decade (and not only in Chechnya). Chechnya’s abuses are not an isolated blemish. They are a symptom of the neo-fascist Russia that Putin has systematically cultivated.
When Moscow allows one of its local cutthroats to go on a killing spree of vulnerable minorities, it is effectively advertising to the world that countries no longer need follow the liberal democratic model of the United States. . . . . We should think long and carefully about the risks of giving up support for such values. The price for abandoning them will be high.
Internalized homophobia is a horrible thing. It impacts individuals in varying ways: (i) it causes some individuals to be overwhelmed with self-hate and resort to suicide, (ii) others lash out against others in the LGBT community by embracing anti-gay politics and religion, and (iii) others take desperate steps to conceal their "secret." New reports indicate that former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who hung himself in his solitary jail cell, took deadly action and killed a one time friend to prevent being "outed." A sad end to a sad story and life. Tainted because of religious fueled homophobia and the internalized self-hate that it causes in so many LGBT individuals. Science tells us that sexual orientation is not a choice, is set before we are born, and is a normal aspect of biology. Yet, ignorance embracing religion demonizes same sex attraction and continues to destroy lives across the world. The Advocate looks at Hernandez' disturbing tale. Here are excepts:
Newsweek confirmed that Hernandez, 27, left a suicide note for his female fiancee, his daughter, and the boyfriend he met at the Souza Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Mass, where he was serving a life sentence for murder. Hernandez's boyfriend, who has not been named by the media, is under suicide watch.
Hernandez was convicted for the murder of his one-time friend, Odin Lloyd. A motive for the 2013 killing was never clear, but Newsweek and other outlets reported that Lloyd was aware Hernandez was bisexual and had carried on a long-time affair with a male friend from high school. At the time of his death, Lloyd was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee; it's believed Hernandez was fearful word of his bisexuality would reach his fiancee.
Lloyd also allegedly called Hernandez a "smoocher," which the football star believed was an antigay slur. Later, a man accused of helping Hernandez attempt to conceal Lloyd's murder told his girlfriend he would not have helped him had he known he was a "limp wrist."
Hernandez, born in Bristol, Conn., in 1989, lost his father at the age of 16. Even with a promising football future at the University of Florida, Hernandez could not escape a life of crime and violence. He was accused of taking part in a 2007 double-shooting that left two men injured in Gainseville, Fla.; he was not convicted. Five years later, he was connected to a shooting in Boston that left two men dead, but was found not guilty of that crime five days before he committed suicide.
When Hernandez's body was discovered this week — the same day his former teammates traveled to the White House to celebrate their Super Bowl win in February — he had a Bible verse scrawled on his forehead and red ink on his hands and feet, imitating the stigmata.
With a new Washington Post/ABC News poll showing him to be the least popular president in modern history and no legislative accomplishments as he nears the first hundred day benchmark, Der Trumpenführer is doing what he does most: lying and engaging in fact free claims as his fragile ego grapples with the fact that a majority of Americans hate him. This reality should come to little surprise given that less than 30% of registered voters supported him and that Hillary Clinton garnered nearly 3 million more votes in the past presidential election. But Trump lives in a fact free world dominated by his own narcissism and egomania. Here are some highlights from the poll findings from the Washington Post:
President Trump nears the 100-day mark of his administration as the least popular chief executive in modern times, a president whose voters remain largely satisfied with his performance, but one whose base of support has not expanded since he took the oath of office, . . .But the president’s balance sheet overall tilts toward the negative. Majorities of Americans say Trump has not accomplished much during his first months as president. Meanwhile, he shows little improvement on his temperament and honesty, and while he’s gained ground on empathy, over 6 in 10 still say he does not understand the problems of people like them.
Trump and others in his administration have attacked the courts, accusing them of overreach, but nearly 6 in 10 people see their actions as a legitimate role for the judicial branch.
The president’s approval rating stands at 42 percent, the lowest recorded at this stage of a presidency dating to Dwight Eisenhower. Trump’s 53 percent disapproval rating is 14 percentage points higher than Bill Clinton’s 39 percent disapproval in April 1993, the worst before Trump. Eight years ago, then-president Barack Obama’s approval was 69 percent, his disapproval 26 percent.
The Post-ABC poll finds 43 percent of Americans said they strongly disapprove of Trump’s performance. That’s also the worst by far of any president since George H.W. Bush by more than double.
Of those who say Trump has not accomplished much, 47 percent pin the blame on him while about a quarter blame congressional Republicans. Only 7 percent say Democrats are to blame.
One of Trump’s biggest deficiencies compared with other presidents is whether he is honest and trustworthy. Fewer than 4 in 10 (38 percent) say he is. At this point in their presidencies, 74 percent said Obama was honest, 62 percent said George W. Bush was honest and a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll showed 61 percent said Clinton was honest.
Another gap is on the question of whether Trump can be trusted in a crisis. The poll finds that 43 percent — about the same as Trump’s approval rating — say he can be trusted; 73 percent said so for Obama and 65 percent for George W. Bush at this point in their presidencies.
Not exactly supportive findings for a man who likes to claim his own magnificence. A piece in Talking Points Memo looks at the public tantrum on display. Here are excerpts:
We know that President is undergoing a major, public ego injury tantrum because he has failed to manage any major legislative accomplishments in his first 100 days in office. The scale of the failure is so total one would almost need a Kelvin Scale of fail to capture its full extent. But in addition to all the other panicked flailing, there’s this gambit that seems to have gotten fairly little notice.
President Trump has now at least opened the door to denying he’s not even at 100 days, that people are miscounting and that is in fact at only just over 60 days.
When asked about the situation with Obamacare Repeal and tax reform Trump told the Associated Press this (emphasis added) …
I’ve been here 92 days, but I’ve only been working on the health care, you know, I had to get like a little bit of grounding, right? Health care started after 30 day(s), so I’ve been working on health care for 60 days. … we’re very close. And it’s a great plan … we have to get it approved.
In this exchange Trump doesn’t go the whole way to demanding a comprehensive new day score. For the moment he’s only creating a new carve out 60 count for repealing Obamacare since “health care started after 30 day”. But clearly he’s preparing a broader sort of 100 day truth movement to claim the measure should be taken from February 21st, 2017 rather than January 21st, 2017.
The same day as the interview, Trump initially claimed that the entire 100 day metric is artificial and stupid.
But Trump more than anyone has made it more central by insisting it was the metric against which he wanted to be judged. The new effort to demand a different count or the “30 day reset/handicap” proposed to the AP is likely a sign that he knows he’s shackled himself to the 100 day mast.
Not tears or sympathy for this horrible, amoral bastard from me.
Saturday, April 22, 2017
Try as he might, Der Trumpenführer cannot escape Russiagate. Yesterday, CNN reported that intelligence sources indicated that Russia tried to use Trump's advisers to infiltrate the Trump/Pence campaign. Some, of course believe that the Russian efforts were successful. Most glaring in the CNN story is the following: "Intelligence analysts and FBI investigators who analyzed various strands of intelligence from human sources to electronic and financial records have found signs of possible collusion between the campaign and Russian officials." Personally, I suspect that collusion did take place. It would have been totally in keeping with Trump's history of ignoring laws he found inconvenient and involvement with Mafia and Russian mob figures to further his own interests. We are not talking about a man with ethical and moral standards. Here are highlights from CNN:
The FBI gathered intelligence last summer that suggests Russian operatives tried to use Trump advisers, including Carter Page, to infiltrate the Trump campaign, according to US officials.
The new information adds to the emerging picture of how the Russians tried to influence the 2016 election, not only through email hacks and propaganda but also by trying to infiltrate the Trump orbit. The intelligence led to an investigation into the coordination of Trump's campaign associates and the Russians.
These officials made clear they don't know whether Page was aware the Russians may have been using him. Because of the way Russian spy services operate, Page could have unknowingly talked with Russian agents.
Page disputes the idea he has ever collected intelligence for the Russians, saying he helped the US intelligence community. "My assumption throughout the last 26 years I've been going there has always been that any Russian person might share information with the Russian government ... as I have similarly done with the CIA, the FBI and other government agencies in the past."
But the intelligence suggests Russia tried to infiltrate the inner-workings of the Trump campaign by using backdoor channels to communicate with people in the Trump orbit, US officials say.
Page is one of several Trump advisers US and European intelligence found to be in contact with Russian officials and other Russians known to Western intelligence during the campaign, according to multiple US officials. The scope and frequency of those contacts raised the interest of US intelligence agencies.
Carter Page's speech critical of US policy against Russia in July 2016 at a prominent Moscow university drew the attention of the FBI and raised concerns he had been compromised by Russian intelligence, according to US officials. They also feared that Russian operatives maintained contact with him both in the United States and Russia, US officials say.
His conversations with suspected Russian operatives are being examined as part of a large intelligence-gathering operation by the FBI and other US agencies that was set up to probe Russia's interference in the election. The officials would not say what the conversations were about.
The FBI had Page on their radar for at least four years, according to court documents and US officials.
The bureau also knew about Page from its 2013 investigation into a Russian spy ring in New York. One of the spies was taped saying he tried to recruit Page, and Page admitted meeting him. But Page says he didn't share anything sensitive and didn't know he was talking to a spy.
He also traveled to Russia frequently and interacted with officials that the FBI was concerned were acting on behalf of the government. His trip to Russia in July 2016 revived the FBI's interest, when he delivered a lecture at a graduation ceremony for the New Economic School. The university opened after the fall of the Soviet Union and is ranked as one of the best universities for economics in Russia. . . . . Page's lecture sounded different than what would be expected from most Americans. He parroted Kremlin talking points by chastising the West for prolonging "Cold War tendencies."
Shortly after Page returned to the US, he and other Trump advisers headed to Cleveland for the Republican National Convention. On the sidelines of a convention-related event, Page and other Trump advisers, including JD Gordon and Jeff Sessions, met with Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak.
Two months after Page's trip, the FBI sought and received a warrant from the secret court that oversees the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to monitor Page's communications.
When he returned to Moscow in December 2016, after Trump won the election, Russian state-run media widely covered and promoted his trip, including RT and Sputnik, which have been identified by the US intelligence community as tools for the Kremlin's propaganda. . . . Not only did Russian state-run media cover the trip, but a prominent government-run think tank involved in election-meddling efforts put out a press release heralding Page's visit.
The FBI and other US agencies have been combing through information obtained through that FISA as part of its ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign's links to Russia.
Intelligence analysts and FBI investigators who analyzed various strands of intelligence from human sources to electronic and financial records have found signs of possible collusion between the campaign and Russian officials. But there is not enough evidence to show that crimes were committed, US officials say.
Part of the problem for investigators has been that they lost their opportunity to conduct the investigation in secret after several leaks last year revealed FBI was looking at people close to the Trump campaign. After those reports, people that the US was monitoring changed their behavior, which made it more difficult for US officials to monitor them.Let's hope the investigations dig deeper and document crimes and collusion. Treason, in short. Let's also hope it implicates Pence and perhaps other high ranking Republicans.
Some will immediately that offense with the title of this post and immediately mount an argument of why I am wrong in my point of view. But in my view, there are three traits common to Christian extremists and Islamic extremists: (i) hatred of others who are different, (ii) an unfounded sense of self-righteousness and piousness, and (iii) a fear, if not hatred, of modernity and modern knowledge. The only difference that in current times, Christian extremists have not been willing to resort to wholesale murder and violence. Such, however, was not always the case and one need only look at the genocide committed by white Christians against Native Americans, both in North and South America, the Crusades, Europe's wars of religion, the massacre of "Old Believers" in Russia, the murder of Muslims in Nigeria at the directive of an Anglican archbishop, or the relatively recent murder and destruction of Catholic versus Protestant in Northern Ireland to realize that the relative peacefulness (at least compared to past atrocities) of Christians is not the historic norm. In modern times, of course, gays are a favored group for attack by both Christofascists and Islamic Extremists. A piece in Patheos sums up what Christofascists think of LGBT individuals:
Baptist Church Senior Pastor Robby Gallaty told his large congregation that Christians should never stop discriminating against homosexuals, claiming that gays could choose to be straight if they only accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Gallaty explained why gays should be put to death:
God said that the sins of the people had infected the very land in which they live. So what happens to people who engage in this activity, this sexual immoral activity? Go to Leviticus 20, God gives us the punishment for engaging in these sins… ‘If a man sleeps with a man as with a woman, they have both committed a detestable thing. They must be put to death. And their blood is on their own hands.’
Pastor Gallaty tried to justify his Biblically inspired hatred for gays and lesbians by repeatedly trying to argue that being gay is a choice, and some sort of rebellion against his imaginary God’s divine plan.
And let's not forget that a number of the Republican presidential candidates last year attended a rally hosted by another "man of god" who supports the murder of gays.
Now, travel half way around the world to the Islamic Russian Republic of Chechnya where a pogrom to kill gays is underway. Like Pastor Gallaty, pro-Kremlin leader, Ramzan A. Kadyrov, views gays as an affront to Allah that need to be eliminated. Indeed, he has declared that gays will be eliminated from the republic by May 26, 2017, for the start of Ramadan. The New York Times looks at the horrors taking place. Here are excerpts:
GROZNY, Russia — It was supposed to be a night out. But for the young man who calls himself Maksim, as for scores of other gay men arrested in a pogrom this month in Russia’s Chechnya region, it pivoted into nearly two weeks of beatings and torture.
Maksim said it had started with a chat room conversation with “a very good old friend who is also gay,” and who suggested that they meet at an apartment. When Maksim arrived, however, he was greeted not by his friend but by agents who beat him. Later, they strapped him to a chair, attached electrical wires to his hands with alligator clips and began an interrogation.
“They yelled, ‘Who else do you know?’” Maksim said, and zapped him with current from time to time. “It was unbearably painful; I was hanging on with my last strength,” he added. “But I didn’t tell them anything.”
Gay men have never had an easy life in Chechnya. But the targeted, collective punishment of gays that began last month under its pro-Kremlin leader, Ramzan A. Kadyrov, is a new turn in the region’s long history of rights abuses.
The sweep has been widely condemned by Western governments, the United Nations and rights groups. Activists in Russia have set up an underground network to spirit the victims out of Chechnya and to protect them from potentially violent reprisals from their families and others. The victims use assumed names in their everyday dealings. Homosexuality is taboo in Chechnya and the mostly Muslim surrounding areas of the Caucasus region in southern Russia. “This society is highly homophobic,” said Ekaterina L. Sokiryanskaya, Russia project director for the International Crisis Group and an authority on Chechnya. “Homosexuality is condemned. It is believed Islam considers it a great sin.” Among the fatalities documented by the organization were one man who succumbed during torture and two others who died in “honor killings” by relatives after the police released them. In a televised meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Wednesday, Mr. Kadyrov characterized as “libelous” news reports that the security services in Chechnya had been persecuting gay men.
Two different religions, yet the same mindset. It should come as little surprise that Vladimir Putin is looking the other way in Chechnya since his anti-LGBT laws were enacted as part of his effort to win support from the vitriolically anti-gay Russian Orthodox Church.
Christofascists point to Leviticus as justification, even though it was written by ignorant, uneducated authors of over 2500 years ago and most of its other prohibitions are completely ignored by the "godly folk." In the case of Islam, the Koran was largely authored by an individual who in modern society would be placed in a mental institution. Religion is truly a curse on mankind.
Friday, April 21, 2017
Talk in Washington, DC, is abuzz that congressional Republicans - and, of course, Der Trumpenführer - are about to make a second attempt to destroy Obamacare rather than fix it. In the process, of course, they will throw millions of Americans off of healthcare coverage so that a huge tax cut can be delivered to the wealthiest Americans. The last effort deservedly went down to defeat after setting off hostile town hall meetings where some Republican members of Congress fled from their own constituents. Given that the true goal of "repeal and replacement" of Obamacare is a trillion dollar tax cut for the wealthy, there is no way in which the new, warmed over effort will bode well for a majority of Americans, especially the poor, those with serious illnesses and the elderly. Paul Ryan, perhaps one of the most dishonest man in Congress and his allies truly wish these folks would simply roll into the gutter and die. A column in the New York Times looks at the next GOP attack on average Americans for the sake of helping the few who already have so much. Here are excerpts:
Republicans have spent many years denouncing Obamacare as a terrible, horrible, no good law and insisting that they can do much better. They successfully convinced many voters that they could preserve the good stuff — the dramatic expansion of coverage that has brought the percentage of Americans without health insurance to a record low — while reducing premiums, shrinking deductibles and, of course, doing away with the taxes on high incomes that pay for the program.
But health care costs money. In particular, if you want to make care available to Americans who have pre-existing medical conditions — including the condition of being not rich and being relatively old, but not yet eligible for Medicare — you have to find some way to subsidize them.
Obamacare provides those subsidies in part with direct public funding, in part with regulations that implicitly use premiums paid by the healthy to cover the cost of caring for the less healthy.
There are other possible ways to achieve the same goal, but the money has to come from somewhere.
Now you understand why there’s a predictable, repetitive rhythm to the health care story.
Again and again, we read news reports to the effect that Republicans are closing in on a plan that will break the political deadlock. They’ll repeal the Obamacare taxes and block-grant Medicaid! No, they’ll make insurance cheaper by eliminating the coverage requirements! Or, the latest idea being floated, they’ll let insurance companies raise premiums on people with pre-existing conditions and compensate by creating special high-risk pools!
And each time the plan turns out to have a fatal flaw. Millions will lose coverage; or they’ll keep coverage, but it will become so threadbare it’s almost worthless; or premiums will skyrocket for the most needy unless vast sums — hundreds of billions of dollars — are devoted to those high-risk pools.
The important thing to remember is that these problems don’t keep popping up because the people devising the plans are careless, and keep forgetting crucial issues. . . . . the task Republicans have set for themselves is basically impossible, their ongoing debacle over health care isn’t about political tactics or leadership. Even if Donald Trump were the great deal maker he claims to be, or Paul Ryan the policy wonk he poses as, this thing just can’t work.
The only way Republicans might have been able to do what they promised would be if they had some way to make health care much cheaper.
The truth is that while Republicans have portrayed Obamacare as a crazy, inefficient scheme, it has in fact been much more successful at containing costs than even its proponents expected.
There are some things we could do that would probably make it even cheaper, but they would all involve moving left — say, introducing a public option, or going all the way to single-payer. The G.O.P., which is determined to move right instead, reducing the public sector’s role, has offered no reason for anyone to believe that it could do better.
All of this raises the obvious question: If Republicans never had a plausible alternative to Obamacare, if this debacle was so inevitable, what was the constant refrain of “repeal and replace” all about?
The answer, surely, is that it began as a cynical ploy; at first, the Republicans hoped to kill health reform before it really got started. And now they’ve trapped themselves: They can’t admit that they have no ideas without, in effect, admitting that they were lying all along.
In June, 2017, Virginia voters will decide who will be the Democrat candidate for governor of Virginia. Given the toxic atmosphere in Washington,DC, and the Trump/Pence regime's attacks on LGBT civil rights it is critical that a Democrat be elected to the governor's mansion in November. Minorities and LGBT Virginians should be particularly concerned about the regressive and backward policies that a Republican governor would unleash on the Commonwealth. But so too should employers seeking to attract the best and brightest and most talented employees to their businesses. in the past the Republican controlled Virginia General Assembly has passed toxic anti-LGBT bills that would have granted special rights to Christian extremists. Thankfully, Governor McAuliffe vetoed the bills that made it through the legislature. It is important that his successor recognize the economic damage legalizing hate would have on Virginia. Ralph Northam - unlike his challenger for the gubernatorial nomination who gives LGBT rights only passing mention on his campaign website - understands this as he laid out in a op-ed in the Virginian Pilot. Here are column highlights that remind us why we need Ralph Northam in the governor's mansion:
A governor’s priorities and values make an enormous difference in the direction of a state. Recent events have shown us that having the right governor can make all the difference.
Last month, Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed Senate Bill 41. The bill would discriminate against thousands of Virginians and send the absolute wrong message to current and prospective employers who want their employees and their families to live in a welcoming and inclusive commonwealth.
Why does this matter in Virginia? As a member of McAuliffe’s Economic Development Partnership and the Virginia Tourism Corporation, I work hard to make sure that Virginia is business-friendly and welcoming to all. The passage of SB41 through our General Assembly sends a signal to major companies, CEOs, and talented workers that Virginia could be the next North Carolina if we’re not careful.
In recent commentary for CNBC, Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson said “As a global hospitality leader and multistate employer, these legislative skirmishes can be frustrating and costly. We still see a patchwork of gaps in state and local nondiscrimination laws that add complications and uncertainty for our people and local managers. It dismays many of us that, in 29 states, people are still at risk of losing their job just for being gay or transgender. Predictability in nondiscrimination laws would be welcome.”
I am a cofounder and now co-owner of our Norfolk-based pediatric neurology practice, and as a small business owner I know that stability and predictability are attractive traits when planning the growth of your organization. Businesses should be interested in serving the most customers the best product possible, not figuring out the gender or relationship status of people who walk in the door. When Virginia offers a pro-business, all-are-welcome environment, we are better able to compete with other states.
Especially in light of federal budget cuts and sequestration, we have to continue to be innovative and forward thinking to grow our economy. This type of legislation hurts our efforts to attract new businesses and increase jobs, and that is why inclusion will continue to be one of my top priorities.
In my role as lieutenant governor and working with McAuliffe, my priority is to create an environment that best serves all Virginians. That means recruiting new businesses and supporting current businesses in order to bring good-paying jobs and top talent. That means providing basic services that every citizen needs in order to contribute to our common good. And that means ensuring that every Virginian has a fair shot to reach their full potential.
I will fight to keep Virginia focused on these priorities.
Be assured that more discriminatory bills will be introduced in coming years by Republican legislators seeking to prostitute themselves to Christian extremists who hold undue influence over the GOP (this effort to infuse of religious based hate into the civil laws is one of the reasons I left the GOP a number of years ago as did most of my extended family). We need a man like Ralph Northam in the governor's mansion to stop attacks of equality and openness in Virginia's economy.