Saturday, July 22, 2017

Ralph Northam Correctly Slams Gillespie on Trump/GOP Ties

In many ways, Virginia's 2017 gubernatorial election may prove to be a litmus test on Donald Trump's toxicity outside of knuckle dragging, Christofascist dominated red states. While the GOP candidate, Ed Gillespie, is trying to walk a tight rope and not directly attack Donald Trump while bloviating the same platitudes and snake oil promises that have been the hallmark of the GOP since 1980, the reality is that he is inseparably married to Trump.  This is especially so in light of Corey Stewart's near win in the June GOP primary during which Stewart campaigned on the same lies promises as Trump and openly courted and embraced white supremacists and bigots.  My July, 2017, VEER Magazine column described the face off between Democrat Ralph Northam and Gillespie in part as follows:
Northam and Gillespie are polar opposites on numerous issues ranging from women's reproductive rights, access to healthcare, LGBT issues, climate change, to rising sea levels, the later being something Hampton Roads residents are increasing concerned about.  To me,  it is difficult to adequately stress just how critical it is for a Democrat to succeed Terry McAuliffe as Virginia's next governor.  With a Democrat as governor,  there is at least some basic firewall against the most egregious initiatives of the Republican Party of Virginia - such as Del. Bob Marshall's 2017 horrific anti-LGBT HB 1612 that sought to outdo North Carolina's infamous HB2 - and Congressional Republicans' efforts to throw millions of Americans off of health insurance coverage (so as to give a $700 billion tax cut to the wealthiest Americans). Ralph Northam supports equal pay for equal work, paid family leave, quality and affordable healthcare for women and medically necessary abortions (as decided by a woman and her physician, not mostly aging men), Medicaid expansion, and an "economy for everyone" that makes Virginia a welcoming place for new businesses and all citizens, be they gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, Hindu or Jew. As a veteran himself, Northam supports programs that will assist returning military veterans in securing jobs in the private sector while also assuring that quality medical care is available to those who need it.  He also believes in common sense gun control measures and (i) cast a tie-breaking vote as lieutenant governor to block legislation that would have allowed Virginians to carry concealed weapons without permits, and (ii) fought legislation to allow people to bring guns into bars and other places where alcohol was served.  Simply put, guns and alcohol are a deadly combination.  To view all of Northam's positions, visit his campaign webpage at Ed Gillespie's campaign webpage contains many generalities that may sound good at first blush if one isn't familiar with the Republican Party 2016 platform. But on further examination, there are few details and little to show how Gillespie would deliver on his campaign promises.  Then there is the fact that he's never held elected office in Virginia or anywhere else - look to the White House to see how well placing someone with no experience has played out to date. Most troubling is Gillespie's pledge to reinstitute "conservative principles" which translates to banning abortion, pushing for even more lax gun control laws, slashing taxes for the wealthy, and most likely slavishly bowing to the dictates of The Family Foundation, Virginia's leading hate group that parades as a "Christian values" organization while pressing for license to discriminate laws and disseminating untruths about LGBT citizens and racial and religious minorities. 
Also of great concern is Gillespie's razor thin victory over far right extremist, Corey Stewart, in the Republican primary last month. Stewart's campaign focused on everything that Donald Trump has championed which decent, moral people find abhorrent: religious extremism, unlimited gun rights, propping up the moribund coal industry, and personhood status for fetuses, thereby banning most forms of contraception. . . . .  Gillespie will be under immense pressure to court Stewart supporters (and The Family Foundation) in the run up to the November election by making similar promises to far right voters. 

A piece in the New York Times has picked up this narrative and looks at Gillespie's effort to sell himself as something different from what he truly is and to distance himself from Donald Trump's poisonous agenda and persona.  Here are highlights:
HOT SPRINGS, Va. — Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam of Virginia on Saturday used the first debate of the state’s race for governor to assail President Trump as a liar and a “dangerous man,” wagering that the growing backlash against the president will overwhelm Ed Gillespie, the Republican nominee, in a state drifting to the political left.
Mr. Gillespie, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee with deep roots in the party’s establishment, sought to strike a delicate balance when pressed about Mr. Trump, who is highly unpopular here. He refused to say Mr. Trump’s name, but warned that Mr. Northam, a Democrat, risked hurting Virginia’s economy — which relies greatly on the federal government — by attacking the president so fiercely.
“If the shoe fits, wear it,” Mr. Northam, a neurosurgeon, shot back, adding that his assessment “comes quite close to an accurate diagnosis.”
The Virginia governor’s race is the country’s marquee election this fall, and it is already drawing millions of dollars from both national parties.
Mr. Northam, a low-key Army veteran who twice voted for President George W. Bush before entering politics, is hardly the picture of the so-called liberal “resistance” to the president. But as he attempts to succeed Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a fellow Democrat who, by law, cannot seek consecutive terms, Mr. Northam is using strikingly caustic language to galvanize Virginia voters who are appalled by the president, but may be reluctant to vote in an off-year governor’s race.
“As we say on the Eastern Shore, he lies like a rug,” Mr. Northam, who grew up across the Chesapeake Bay, said of Mr. Trump in his thick Tidewater drawl.
Targeting the president on the health care proposal of congressional Republicans — which he called “Trumpcare” — and on climate policy and abortion rights, the lieutenant governor said his rival, Mr. Gillespie, had “stood there and said nothing.” Mr. Gillespie is in something of a political vise. On one side are the more centrist voters in and around Virginia’s cities. On the other is the president’s loyal rural base, voters who overwhelmingly supported Corey Stewart, a surprisingly strong rival in last month’s Republican primary. Mr. Stewart has refused to enthusiastically back Mr. Gillespie, . . . . Mr. Gillespie’s challenge, beyond the specter of Mr. Trump and the state’s increasingly blue tint, was made clear in the headlines that greeted Virginians on the morning of the debate: The state’s unemployment rate is now 3.7 percent, the lowest it has been in more than nine years.
Mr. Northam sought to link himself to Mr. McAuliffe, the popular governor, by trumpeting the “new Virginia economy,” while criticizing Mr. Gillespie for talking down the state’s progress since the Great Recession.
Mr. Gillespie [falsely] repeatedly claimed that Virginia ranked 39th of 50 states in economic growth and was on the verge of becoming closer to the “rusty” states of the northeast than it was other Sun Belt dynamos.

I have one word to categorize Gillespie: LIAR.  When it comes to truth and veracity, I place Gillespie in the same league as Trump: if his lips are moving, then he is most likely lying.  As with the Christofascists, Republican candidates to lie in whatever ways that are helpful to their reverse Robin Hood agenda.  As a former GOP national chair, Gillespie is a consummate liar.  His smooth talking should not be confused for honesty and truthfulness. If you want to know what Gillespie really stands for, look no farther than Trump and Corey Stewart.  Gillespie must be defeated in November. 

Oh, and as for Gillespie's negative comments about Virginia's economy, check out the following articles that underscore Gillespie's dishonest:  Here Where Virginia is ranked 13th), or here where increases in states GDP are compared, or here where increases in personal income are noted, or here where states' economic outlooks are ranked (Virginia is 11th).

Are There Three Republicans Who Put Country Ahead of Party?

U.S. Senate
The last post looked at the impeding constitutional crisis that Donald Trump is likely to trigger if he tries to fire Special Prosecutor, Robert Mueller, who it seems increasingly is focusing in on the root cause of the Trump campaign's willingness to collude with Russia: illegal financial transactions with Russians and likely money laundering. Trump and his family are all most likely involved as is Jared Kushner and a number of Trump cronies. As conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin notes in a column, "Why would he [Trump] do those things unless there was something really, really bad to find?"  You simply do not slander and undermine a special prosecutor and consider pardon powers if there is nothing to be found. In this situation, it will take three Republican senators to join with Democrat senators to stop Trump's demolition of the rule of law.  A piece in The Atlantic ponders whether and who those senators could be.  Will they put the nation ahead of their political party.  Here are article excerpts:
By midnight on July 20, 2017, it seemed increasingly likely that Donald Trump will fire the special counsel, Robert Mueller.
Mueller embodies what is admirable in U.S. public service: a wounded and decorated Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam, longtime prosecutor and U.S. Attorney under both Republican and Democratic presidents, 12-year director of the FBI under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, unconnected to scandal or partisan suspicions at any point.
Donald Trump embodies the reverse.
Yet for now Trump has the legal power, directly or indirectly, to dismiss Mueller, if the investigation gets too close to Trump’s obviously sensitive financial concerns. And Trump himself, unaware of history and oblivious to rules, norms, and constraints, has given every indication that this will be his next step.
What happens then? Brian Beutler, of the New Republic, has just put up a bleak scenario, arguing that there really are no guardrails—or, as we observed in Mitch McConnell’s unprecedented stonewalling of a Supreme Court nomination, that the constitutional system’s real protections have been norms rather than formal rules. Someone unconcerned by those norms—McConnell last year, Trump now—can in fact blast right through them. “At the moment there are no reliable sources of accountability,” Beutler writes. “None.”
There are 52 Americans who have it within their power to prove that dark assessment wrong. Really, it would take a subset of just three of those 52. With the 52-48 current party lineup in the U.S. Senate, a switch of three votes of conscience is all it would take to have this branch of government fulfill its checks-and-balances function.
With three votes, a Senate majority could issue subpoenas and compel sworn testimony from Administration officials. It could empower its own thorough investigation, even re-hiring Robert Mueller to lead it. It could compel Donald Trump to release the tax returns about which he is so evidently nervous. It could act as if America in fact possessed a system of rule-of-law, rather than whim-of-one-man.

Ben Sasse could be one of those three, if he were willing to back up his lectures and essays about ethical public life. Lindsey Graham could, since he and John McCain have kept making the case about Trump’s recklessness. Chuck Grassley, who would be 89 years old the next time he’d have to face the voters. Dean Heller, who is in trouble anyway in a state Hillary Clinton carried, and whom Trump demeans and insults. Rob Portman, who has served in “normal” Republican administrations and could ally himself with his state’s governor, John Kasich, as forces for a principled future GOP. Jeff Flake, who in speeches has positioned himself with appeals to a more moderate politics, and who could take up the Maverick mantle of his colleague John McCain. Of course, McCain himself. Lisa Murkowski, who originally won without Republican Party support. Susan Collins, who drew a line at the rushed health-care bill. Richard Burr, who has made more-or-less common cause with his Democratic colleague Mark Warner on the Senate intelligence committee. Ron Johnson, who has just won re-election  and appears to be mad at Trump. Rand Paul, also just elected, if he believed his radical limited-government pitch. Ted Cruz, if he had the courage of his anti-Trump stand at last year’s GOP convention. Even—let’s imagine here—the likes of Tom Cotton, if he were willing to roll the dice and elevate himself as a national figure, for the post-Trump leadership contest against the likes of Sasse, Cruz, and the rest. There are half a dozen other conceivable candidates.
It would take only three. Some—Grassley? Heller? McCain if he is able to vote?—might think: What do they have to lose? They might as well wind up with dignity. Others—Paul, Burr, Johnson, Murkowski—are so far away from re-election that a lot will happen in the meantime. And all of them are senators, part of a body self-consciously proud of its independence, its individual judgment, its role in defending the long-term principles of governance.
A country of 300-plus million people, with the world’s largest economy and most powerful military, should not rely for its orderly stability on the decisions-of-conscience of just three people. But the United States may soon be in that situation. These names will go down in history, depending on the choices they make.  
Sadly, the morality of Republican senators is not what it was back in the Watergate era. Be very afraid.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Is America on the Brink of a Constitutional Crisis?

In the first six months of his regime, Donald Trump and his Sergeant Schultz aping Vice President, Mike Pence (younger voters can Goggle "Hogan's Heroes" if they don't get the meaning), have more than lived up to my worse fears.  It is difficult to decide which is worse, the criminality, incompetence or corruption of this foul regime. Despite all of the frightening developments, evangelical Christians are standing by their führer and confirming for all to see that they are morally bankrupt and place their racism, hatred of others, and desire for special rights under the smoke screen of "religious liberty" above the demands of the Gospels' social ministry message.  Now, they have delivered America where we are on the brink of a constitutional crisis which could well determine the fate of American democracy.  A piece in The New Republic looks at the danger point that we are rapidly reaching.  Here are highlights:
With President Donald Trump reportedly contemplating radical measures to defend his beleaguered administration from investigation, the United States stands on the brink of a constitutional crisis. According to The New York Times, Trump’s staff is trying to dredge up opposition research to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s legal team on the investigation into the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia in last election’s election interference. The Washington Post reports that Trump has inquired as to whether he can pardon associates, family members, and himself. And firing Mueller is a real possibility. As the New Republic’s Brian Beutler argued last night, there’s every indication that the Republican-controlled Congress will give a pass to these abuses of power, edging the American republic closer to authoritarianism. Bob Bauer, former White House Counsel to President Barack Obama, wrote Thursday on the blog Lawfare that Trump’s gambit would end the investigation and leave only impeachment as a remedy, with Trump counting on Republicans in the House and the Senate to support him no matter what. This could pay off if the Republicans stay in line ahead of the 2018 midterm elections: at worst, if the Democrats took back the House, Trump would be impeached, but would remain in power since Democrats won’t have the two-thirds votes necessary in the Senate to remove him. Last night, Emma Loop of BuzzFeed interviewed four Republican senators about whether firing Mueller would be a mistake. Only one, Marco Rubio of Florida, unequivocally said yes. All of this suggests that the constitutional crisis is also a political crisis. Democrats and the larger resistance needs to make Mueller the next big political battle. Defending the special counsel goes beyond defending one single investigation; it would be a proxy for a larger effort to guard the rule of law from a president with authoritarian aspirations. It would also be aimed at the Republican Party, letting them know that if they refuse to stand up to Trump’s thrashing of the rule of law, they will be held accountable at the election booth. It is time to make saving Mueller’s job the focus of a nationwide campaign. . . . If Trump fires Mueller before the Democrats can make it a national issue, then the public will be playing catch-up with the story. The better known Mueller is, the more costly his firing would be to Trump. Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, is also thinking along these lines, suggesting that high-level Department of Justice officials be prepared to resign if Mueller is fired . . . Democratic representatives and senators can raise a fuss in the halls of Congress, forcing their Republican counterparts to defend Mueller’s job. If Republican lawmakers don’t take a stand, and Mueller is fired, they’ll be tainted as enablers in the next election.
Trump’s recklessness is raising the stakes, such that the only eventual remedy may be impeachment. The claims that Trump and his legal team are putting forward are already radical: that Trump can’t be charged with obstruction of justice because it’s in his power to terminate an investigation at any time.
Trump, if this account is accurate, is preparing to drive the political system over the cliff. Democrats must try to be the brakes, and they need to slam on them right now.

One historic parallel is the end of the Roman Republic when the Roman Senate allowed Octavian, who adopted the title Augustus Caesar, to  place himself above the law and become the first emperor. Frighteningly, most Congressional Republicans seem prepared to allow something similar to happen to America.  Yes, the trappings of the Congress and Senate would remain - just as they did under Augustus' take over of power - but true democracy will be dead.  

How Trump and GOP Can Still Sabotage Health Care for Millions

Moral bankruptcy: Republicans laughing it up when millions would be harmed.  

One can hope that Trumpcare is finally dead, but even if Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan - in my view two of the most horrible, amoral men in America after Der Trumpenführer - admit that they cannot summon the votes to pass a bill mostly motivated by a desire to give huge tax breaks to the wealthy, there remain numerous ways in which they can, and likely will sabotage the Affordable Health Care Act damaging access to health care for millions of Americans.  Why would they do this?  In my view, two main reasons: (i) they have lied about Obamacare for 8 years and they will want to make their lies become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and (ii) if they can cause the ACA to fail, they open a back door route to kill it and give those ever sought at tax cuts to the wealthy.  That millions will be harmed simply doesn't matter because many of those to be harmed are viewed  rightly or wrongly as as "those people" - blacks, Hispanics, people in big cities - and the rest don't matter in the GOP quest for a new Gilded Age.  Paul Krugman looks at the insidious means of sabotage that may be employed.  Here are highlights:
Is Trumpcare finally dead? Even now, it’s hard to be sure, especially given Republican moderates’ long track record of caving in to extremists at crucial moments. But it does look as if the frontal assault on the Affordable Care Act has failed.
And let’s be clear: The reason this assault failed wasn’t that Donald Trump did a poor selling job, or that Mitch McConnell mishandled the legislative strategy. Obamacare survived because it has worked — because it brought about a dramatic reduction in the number of Americans without health insurance, and voters didn’t and don’t want to lose those gains.
Unfortunately, some of those gains will probably be lost all the same: The number of uninsured Americans is likely to tick up over the next few years. So it’s important to say clearly, in advance, why this is about to happen. It won’t be because the Affordable Care Act is failing; it will be the result of Trump administration sabotage.
Notably, [under the ACA] people aren’t automatically signed up for coverage, so it matters a lot whether the officials running the system try to make it work, reaching out to potential beneficiaries to ensure that they know what’s available, while reminding currently healthy Americans that they are still legally required to sign up for coverage. You can see this dependence on good intentions by looking at how health reform has played out at the state level. States that embraced the law fully, like California and Kentucky, made great progress in reducing the number of the uninsured; states that dragged their feet, like Tennessee, benefited far less. Or consider the problem of counties served by only one insurer; as a recent study noted, this problem is almost entirely limited to states with Republican governors.
But now the federal government itself is run by people who couldn’t repeal Obamacare, but would clearly still like to see it fail — if only to justify the repeated, dishonest claims, especially by the tweeter in chief himself, that it was already failing. Or to put it a bit differently, when Trump threatens to “let Obamacare fail,” what he’s really threatening is to make it fail.
On Wednesday The Times reported on three ways the Trump administration is, in effect, sabotaging the A.C.A. (my term, not The Times’s). First, the administration is weakening enforcement of the requirement that healthy people buy coverage. Second, it’s letting states impose onerous rules like work requirements on people seeking Medicaid. Third, it has backed off on advertising and outreach designed to let people know about options for coverage.
Actually, it has done more than back off. As reported by The Daily Beast, the Department of Health and Human Services has diverted funds appropriated by law for “consumer information and outreach” and used them instead to finance a social media propaganda campaign against the law that H.H.S. is supposed to be administering — a move, by the way, of dubious legality. Meanwhile, the department’s website, which used to offer helpful links for people seeking insurance, now sends viewers to denunciations of the A.C.A.
And there may be worse to come: Insurance companies, which are required by law to limit out-of-pocket expenses of low-income customers, are already raising premiums sharply because they’re worried about a possible cutoff of the crucial federal “cost-sharing reduction” subsidies that help them meet that requirement.
[T]his isn’t about policy, or even politics in the normal sense. It’s basically about spite: Trump and his allies may have suffered a humiliating political defeat, but at least they can make millions of other people suffer.
Can anything be done to protect Americans from this temper tantrum? In some cases, I believe, state governments can insulate their citizens from malfeasance at H.H.S. But the most important thing, surely, is to place the blame where it belongs. No, Mr. Trump, Obamacare isn’t failing; you are.
I'm sorry if I offend my Republican "friends," but Trump is basically human excrement.  The man is foul and toxic and he is harming the nation - perhaps at Vladimir Putin's bidding - and will harm millions of Americans before his reign of terror is over. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Trump Voters and the Fear of Change and Downward Mobility

Try as I might, I cannot get inside the heads of Trump voters, especially evangelical Christians who is the antithesis of the Gospel message that they purportedly respect.  I was at a family funeral yesterday at a church I once attended many years ago and one of the readings struck me since it put in such sharp contrast what Christians should be doing versus the agenda of Donald Trump and the Republican Party in general:
Matthew 25:35-40
35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Unless it impacts them themselves, Trump supporters are all too happy to support the trashing of the social safety net, bear a hatred towards those who are different, and flocked to support a rich man who throughout his life has done none of what the foregoing passages call for.   

A column in the New York Times suggests that the answer to the question of why those who claim to be decent people voted for someone who clearly is not and who appears to be considering admitting guilt of crimes against America by trying to pardon himself and his family:  a fear of downward social mobility and desire to blame anyone else for their predicament except themselves.  I have written about the fear of loss of white privilege that I continue to believe motivated many Trump voters.  But also at play is a refusal to adjust to economic change and modernity and discontent with the consequences of one's own bad choices, e.g., dropping out of high school, refusing to relocate for better jobs, drug and alcohol abuse, etc.   One might call it a mindset of victim-hood even though a good portion of the circumstances they hate stem from their own actions.  Here are some column highlights:
I have written before about the fear of falling down the socioeconomic ladder, the fear of an irremediable loss of status, authority and prestige — and the desperate need to be rescued from this fate. But the topic bears further exploration because it has been such a prime motivation for one slice of the electorate, the swing voters who made President Trump’s unexpected triumph possible.
The question that persists six months after Mr. Trump’s inauguration is why six key states — Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, along with 220 counties nationwide — flipped from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016. Why did these voters change their minds? These are men and women who are, in the main, still working, still attending church, still members of functioning families, but who often live in communities where neighbors, relatives, friends and children have been caught up in disordered lives. The worry that this disorder has become contagious — that decent working or middle class lives can unravel quickly — stalks many voters, particularly in communities where jobs, industries and a whole way of life have slowly receded, the culminating effect of which can feel like a sudden blow.
One suggestive line of thinking comes from Arlie Hochschild, the author of “Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right” and professor emerita of sociology at Berkeley. Hochschild has studied Americans whom she calls “the elite of the left-behind.” Her findings shed light, I think, on the concerns of some of the voters who tipped the balance for Trump last year. Hochschild wrote to me that common refrains among these voters were “America’s heading downhill” and “I think our kids are headed for hard times.” In these conversations, she said,
it wouldn’t take long before another topic spontaneously came up, blacks, their problems, their call on government help. At the bottom of the imagined slide was the situation of blacks — teen single moms, kids out in the street at night, slacking off in school, drugs, drink. So, yes, the feeling was, “if we don’t turn this thing around, that could be us.”
Nancy Isenberg, a history professor at Louisiana State University and the author of “White Trash: The 400 Year Untold History of Class in America,” responded to my inquiry about Americans anxious about losing their place:
Yes, the fear was about rearranging the “pecking order.” But many working-class and middle-class whites without college educations also hate poor whites, who they see as lazy and worthless. Historically, poor whites have shared the same stereotypes applied to poor blacks: lazy, uncouth, living on handouts, and not just having too many children, but practicing “inbreeding.”
The 2016 campaign:
tapped into anxieties of all who resented the government for handing over the country to supposedly less deserving classes: new immigrants, protesting African Americans, lazy welfare freeloaders, and Obamacare recipients asking for handouts. Angry Trump voters were convinced that these classes, the “takers,” were not playing by the rules (i.e., working their way up the ladder) and that government entitlement programs were allowing some to advance past the more deserving (white, native born) Americans. This is how many came to feel “disinherited.”
There is no question that the communities where Trump received crucial backing — rural to small-city America — are, in many ways, on a downward trajectory.
From 1990 to 2009, the percentage of births to single mothers among whites without high school diplomas grew from 21 to 51 percent; among those who completed high school, the percentage rose from 11 to 34 percent.
Along parallel lines, the percentage of intact marriages among white adults 25 to 60 years old without high school degrees fell from 70 percent in the 1970s to 36 percent in the 2000s. For those who finished, the percentage fell from 76 to 46 percent.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2014 that the number of opioid prescriptions outnumbered the number of people in 12 states. All 12 of these states voted for Donald Trump: Arkansas, Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia. . . . . the overdose death rates in 2015 for opioids, including heroin, were far higher for whites, 13.9 per 100,000, than for blacks, 6.6 per 100,000, and Hispanics, 4.6 per 100,000.
While whites without bachelor’s degrees flocked to Trump in the belief that he was their savior, the reality is that the many Americans are caught in a vicious cycle that Trump is in no way equipped to address.
As these processes continue and accelerate, many Trump voters — the neighbors, relatives, friends, parents and children of those who have become mired in this “geography of desperation” — are deeply apprehensive about what might happen if Trump fails to fulfill his promise to make America great again.
Trump will fail to change this cycle because dropping out of school, not marrying, unwed motherhood, and drug use are all things that track back to personal responsibility - something the GOP claims to laud and even demand of individuals.  In addition, globalization and economic and societal change will march on and many Trump voters will face a bleak fate if they do not let go of their fear of modernity and take steps to change their fate, steps that may include moving away from backward and/or economically depressed areas (the two usually go hand in hand).

Trump Exploring Pardon Powers - An Admission of Guilt?

Once again I find myself feeling either as I am reliving some of the high drama days of Watergate or, worse yet, Hitler's seizing of power in Germany in 1933.  As the Washington Post reports, Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, is exploring his powers to pardon himself, or his children, staff and other possible co-conspirators as the Russiagate investigations roll forward.  Clearly, Trump increasingly sees himself as above the law and looks to utterly subvert the law and cover up criminal offenses.  Obviously, a pardon is not necessary unless one is guilty of a crime against the United States. Moreover, accepting a presidential pardon is tantamount to an admission of guilt.  If Trump and his children - who seem to be garish modern day versions of Marie Antoinette - have commuted no crimes as claimed, why the need for pardons?  I suspect that the truth is that they are guilty of many crimes - a reality that special prosecutor Robert Mueller may be getting closer to proving - and know that they are guilty.   Here are article highlights: 
Some of President Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president’s authority to grant pardons, according to people familiar with the effort.
Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves.
Trump’s legal team declined to comment on the issue. But one adviser said the president has simply expressed a curiosity in understanding the reach of his pardoning authority, as well as the limits of Mueller’s investigation.
With the Russia investigation continuing to widen, Trump’s lawyers are working to corral the probe and question the propriety of the special counsel’s work. They are actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work, according to several of Trump’s legal advisers.
The president is also irritated by the notion that Mueller’s probe could reach into his and his family’s finances, advisers said.
Trump has been fuming about the probe in recent weeks as he has been informed about the legal questions that he and his family could face. His primary frustration centers on why allegations that his campaign coordinated with Russia should spread into scrutinizing many years of Trump dealmaking. He has told aides he was especially disturbed after learning Mueller would be able to access several years of his tax returns.
Further adding to the challenges facing Trump’s outside lawyers, the team’s spokesman, Mark Corallo, resigned on Thursday, according to two people familiar with his departure. Corallo did not respond to immediate requests for comment.
Trump is coming face-to-face with a powerful investigative team that is able to study evidence of any crime it encounters in the probe — including tax fraud, lying to federal agents and interference in the investigation.
“This is Ken Starr times 1,000,” said one lawyer involved in the case, referring to the independent counsel who oversaw an investigation that eventually led to House impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton. “Of course, it’s going to go into his finances.” 
Some Republicans in frequent touch with the White House said they viewed the president’s decision to publicly air his disappointment with Sessions as a warning sign that the attorney general’s days were numbered. Several senior aides were described as “stunned” when Sessions announced Thursday morning he would stay on at the Justice Department.
Another Republican in touch with the administration described the public steps as part of a broader effort aimed at “laying the groundwork to fire” Mueller. . . . .  “Who attacks their entire Justice Department?” this person said. “It’s insane.”
[I]f Trump pardoned himself in the face of the ongoing Mueller investigation, it would set off a legal and political firestorm, first around the question of whether a president can use the constitutional pardon power in that way.
The power to pardon is granted to the president in Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, which gives the commander in chief the power to “grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” That means pardon authority extends to federal criminal prosecution but not to state level or impeachment inquiries.
No president has sought to pardon himself, so no courts have reviewed it. Although Kalt says the weight of the law argues against a president pardoning himself, he says the question is open and predicts such an action would move through the courts all the way to the Supreme Court.
I have always maintained that if Trump had nothing to hide, he would not have refused to release his tax returns or continually lied and attempted to undermine investigations.    Only someone guilty of crimes behaves in such a manner. Trump and his entire regime, including Mike Pence, need to be forced to resign and, if appropriate, criminally prosecuted.  

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1