Thursday, March 22, 2018

Insiders See Democrats Retaking the House in 2018 Midterms

In addition to his fears of what special counsel Robert Mueller may expose to the light of day, Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, ought to be worried about what will happen if Democrats retake control of the House - and with luck, the U.S. Senate as well.  The irony, of course, is that Trump's foul behavior and normalization of the despicable is one of the strongest factors driving large Democrat turnouts at elections such as the one in Alabama that saw Doug Jones and the one last week in Pennsylvania.  The more "Trump is Trump," the more repulsed and angrier voters outside of white supremacist and Christofascists circles become thereby guaranteeing more huge Democrat  surges at the voting booths.  A piece in Roll Call looks at the predictions that Democrats will win more than enough seats to retake control of the House of Representatives.  Here are highlights:
Seven and a half months before the midterm elections, the combination of attitudinal and behavioral evidence leads to a single conclusion: The Democrats are very likely to win control of the House in November.
Just as important, Republican and Democratic campaign strategists also agree that an electoral wave has already formed. The attitudinal evidence begins with national polling.
President Donald Trump’s job approval rating has settled into a relatively narrow range, with between 39 percent and 42 percent of registered voters approving of his performance. Only 33 percent to 37 percent of respondents say that the country is headed in the right direction, another bit of evidence that reflects the extent of support for Trump and the Republican Party.
The current congressional generic ballot question suggests that Democrats have an 8- or 9-point advantage, a significant margin even if it is at least a couple of points below what Democrats would ideally want going into the midterms.
Taken together, these numbers paint a dangerous picture for [Trump] the president and his party.
The new March 10-14 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of adults is consistent with other surveys over the past six months. It shows Democrats with a large generic ballot advantage among younger voters, women, whites with at least a college degree and voters age 65 and older.
The GOP’s great strength in the generic ballot is among two pro-Trump groups, men and whites without a college degree. Unfortunately for the party, the survey also shows Democrats, whites with a college degree and older voters as having the greatest interest in the election (and therefore the greatest likelihood of voting). Each of those groups prefers a Democratic Congress.
Moreover, while independents don’t traditionally turn out in big numbers in midterms, one veteran Republican strategist sees them as a huge problem this year. “They are tired of the drama,” he said.
The behavioral part of the equation is just as troubling for Republicans, since it confirms the survey data.
Election results in the Virginia governor’s race last year, the special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th District last week, and other state legislative special elections around the country have shown Democratic energy and turnout, particularly in suburban areas.  Hillary Clinton won Virginia by 5 points in 2016, but Democrat Ralph Northam took the gubernatorial contest last fall by almost 9 points.
Trump carried Pennsylvania’s 18 District by 20 points, but GOP nominee Rick Saccone ran about even with his Democratic opponent last week.  And in a Wisconsin state Senate special election in January, a district Trump carried by 17 points went Democratic by about 10 points.
But the recent trend is clear — Republicans are swimming against a strong current.“It’s baked in now,” one veteran Republican campaign veteran told me, noting the GOP’s problems with women and college-educated voters. “We knew single women hated [the Republican Party]. We couldn’t do anything about that. But married women were different. We figured out how to deal with them by talking about pocketbook issues. But now college-educated women hate us. Even with the current economy. It’s the bullying, the nastiness, the tweeting. It’s all about Trump’s behavior.”
Republican insiders also worry that a chunk of “Trump voters” won’t turn out in November even though they still like the president personally.  . . . .[T]he campaign season is likely to lead to more Trump political rallies, where his freewheeling style and off-the-cuff comments can create more controversies.
So, what is the current trajectory of the 2018 midterms? I interviewed a wide range of campaign professionals, including some sympathetic to the president. All insisted on anonymity, and almost all believe the House will flip.
The veterans generally expect GOP losses in the 30- to 45-seat range, far more than the two-dozen seats House Democrats need for majority control.  The retirement of longtime Republican incumbents from competitive districts is adding to the problem, as is candidate fundraising.
The burden is on Republicans — and [Trump] the president — to change the cycle’s current trajectory. If they don’t, the House will flip.

While I worry about the damage that he may do between now and November, the very best thing for Democrats will be for Trump to continue being his nasty, lying, bullying, incompetent self.  A Democrat controlled House and Senate are the only way to restrain Trump and, if the nation is lucky, remove both Trump and Pence from office.  Yes, I believe Pence is up to his eyeballs in Trump's dirty business despite his vomit inducing efforts to appear priggist and sanctimonious.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Fox News Analyst Quits Network With Nuclear Email Slamming Network

I have long viewed Fox News as little more than a right wing propaganda outlet that disseminates lies and untruths.  Its viewers, which past studies have found to be the least informed, seemingly only too willing and motivated to embrace ignorance and watch the network to satiate their own racial, religious and ethnic bigotries.   If one is looking for serious and reliable news, Fox News is about as far from that goal as one can get.  Now, long time Fox News analyst Lt. Col. Ralph Peters has resigned from Fox News via an email that excoriates the network as a propaganda machine that disregards objective facts and the truth.  Here are highlights from Mediaite on the stunning email:

Fox News Strategic Analyst Ralph Peters — a longtime contributor to the network who frequently appeared across various programs to discuss matters of national security — sent an email announcing his departure from the network.
And in it, he absolutely scorched the earth.
As reported by Buzzfeed, Peters railed against the network — calling it a “propaganda machine” for President Donald Trump‘s “ethically ruinous” administration.
“I feel that Fox News is assaulting our constitutional order and the rule of law, while fostering corrosive and unjustified paranoia among viewers,” Peters wrote. “Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association. Now I am ashamed.”
He added, “In my view, Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration.”
Peters, who before the Trump administration was known for his harsh criticisms of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, proceeded to unload on Fox News’s primetime hosts — Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham — for “scaremongering” and “wittingly harming our system of government”:
When prime-time hosts–who have never served our country in any capacity–dismiss facts and empirical reality to launch profoundly dishonest assaults on the FBI, the Justice Department, the courts, the intelligence community (in which I served) and, not least, a model public servant and genuine war hero such as Robert Mueller–all the while scaremongering with lurid warnings of “deep-state” machinations– I cannot be part of the same organization, even at a remove. To me, Fox News is now wittingly harming our system of government for profit.
He does make a point of saying, “I do not apply the above criticisms in full to Fox Business, where numerous hosts retain a respect for facts and maintain a measure of integrity.”
The complete email is truly stunning to read and can be found at Buzzfeed News.

Part of that email aptly describes what the Republican Party is doing as well:

I feel compelled to explain why I have to leave. Four decades ago, I took an oath as a newly commissioned officer. I swore to "support and defend the Constitution," and that oath did not expire when I took off my uniform. Today, I feel that Fox News is assaulting our constitutional order and the rule of law, while fostering corrosive and unjustified paranoia among viewers. Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association. Now I am ashamed.

Bannon Oversaw Cambridge Analytica’s Collection of Facebook Data

With a seemingly growing drumbeat of stories that about the Trump/Pence campaign and efforts by Trump to kill the Russiagate investigation, new information has broken about Steve Bannon's and later Jared Kushner's involvement with collection data on American citizens which would aid in targeting false and anti-Hillary Clinton propaganda information.  This data would also have been most helpful to Russian bots in their efforts to damage Hillary Clinton.  With questions growing, Cambridge Analytica has announced that it has suspended it's chief executive officer who has bragged about aiding the Trump campaign.  Obviously, if the information that Steve Bannon helped collect made it into Russian hands, the link between the Trump campaign and Vladimir Putin's intelligence agencies may be finally confirmed.  Here are excerpts from the Washington Post:

Conservative strategist Stephen K. Bannon oversaw Cambridge Analytica’s early efforts to collect troves of Facebook data as part of an ambitious program to build detailed profiles of millions of American voters, a former employee of the data-science firm said Tuesday.
The 2014 effort was part of a high-tech form of voter persuasion touted by the company, which under Bannon identified and tested the power of anti-establishment messages that later would emerge as central themes in President Trump’s campaign speeches, according to Chris Wylie, who left the company at the end of that year.
Among the messages tested were “drain the swamp” and “deep state,” he said.
Cambridge Analytica, which worked for Trump’s 2016 campaign, is now facing questions about alleged unethical practices, including charges that the firm improperly handled the data of tens of millions of Facebook users. On Tuesday, the company’s board announced that it was suspending its chief executive, Alexander Nix, after British television released secret recordings that appeared to show him talking about entrapping political opponents.
Bannon helped launch Cambridge Analytica with the financial backing of the wealthy Mercer family as part of a broader effort to create a populist power base. Earlier this year, the Mercers cut ties with Bannon after he was quoted making incendiary comments about Trump and his family.
In an interview Tuesday with The Washington Post at his lawyer’s London office, Wylie said that Bannon — while he was a top executive at Cambridge Analytica and head of Breitbart News — was deeply involved in the company’s strategy and approved spending nearly $1 million to acquire data, including Facebook profiles, in 2014.
Bannon, who served on the company’s board, did not respond to a request for comment. He served as vice president and secretary of Cambridge Analytica from June 2014 to August 2016, when he became chief executive of Trump’s campaign, according to his publicly filed financial disclosure. In 2017, he joined Trump in the White House as his chief strategist.
Bannon received more than $125,000 in consulting fees from Cambridge Analytica in 2016 and owned “membership units” in the company worth between $1 million and $5 million, according to his financial disclosure.
Facebook has said that information was improperly shared and that it requested the deletion of the data in 2015. Cambridge Analytica officials said that they had done so, but Facebook said it received reports several days ago that the data was not deleted.
Bannon “approved the data-collection scheme we were proposing,” Wylie said. The Mercers did not respond to a request for comment.
The data and analyses that Cambridge Analytica generated in this time provided discoveries that would later form the emotionally charged core of Trump’s presidential platform, said Wylie, whose disclosures in news reports over the past several days have rocked both his onetime employer and Facebook.
The year before Trump announced his presidential bid, the data firm already had found a high level of alienation among young, white Americans with a conservative bent.
The controversy over Cambridge Analytica’s data collection erupted in recent days amid news reports that an app created by a Cambridge University psychologist, Aleksandr Kogan, accessed extensive personal data of 50 million Facebook users. 
Facebook’s policy, which has since changed, allowed Kogan to also collect data —including names, home towns, religious affiliations and likes — on all of the Facebook “friends” of those users. Kogan shared that data with Cambridge Analytica for its growing database on American voters.
Facebook on Friday banned the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, Kogan and Wylie for improperly sharing that data.
The Federal Trade Commission has opened an investigation into Facebook to determine whether the social media platform violated a 2011 consent decree governing its privacy policies when it allowed the data collection. And Wylie plans to testify to Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee as part of their investigation of Russian interference in the election, including possible ties to the Trump campaign.
Meanwhile, Britain’s Channel 4 News aired a video Tuesday in which Nix was shown boasting about his work for Trump. He seemed to highlight his firm’s secrecy, at one point stressing the need to set up a special email account that self-destructs all messages so that “there’s no evidence, there’s no paper trail, there’s nothing.” 
After Cruz faded, the Mercers switched their allegiance to Trump and pitched their services to Trump’s digital director, Brad Parscale. The company’s hiring was approved by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who was informally helping to manage the campaign with a focus on digital strategy. 
Kushner said in an interview with Forbes magazine that the campaign “found that Facebook and digital targeting were the most effective ways to reach the audiences. . . .We brought in Cambridge Analytica.” Kushner said he “built” a data hub for the campaign “which nobody knew about, until towards the end.” 
Kushner’s spokesman and lawyer both declined to comment Tuesday. 

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

National Review: The Coming GOP Shellacking

As a former Republican, at times I am shocked at all of the values the Republican Party has thrown on the trash heap.  Respect for knowledge and science, separation of church and state, putting nation over political party, basic morality, fiscal conservatism, some measure of honesty, and common decency have all been discarded like refuse.  In their place is a series of endless lies, religious extremism, the embrace of celebration of ignorance, open racism, partisanship seemingly turning a blind eye to treason, and the rejection of any semblance of moral standards.  Leading the charge in the race to depths of dishonesty and depravity is, of course,  Donald Trump.  But Trump has many enablers and sycophants that range from Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to local party committee chairs. What's baffling is how the GOP thinks there will be no consequence for it and/or its candidates, a majority of whom seemingly embrace this rejection of honesty, decency and morality.  A piece in National Review - hardly a hotbed of liberalism - that predicts November, 2018, will be  a bloodbath for the GOP.   Unfortunately, the piece would place all blame on Trump and is blind to the responsibility many other Republicans who knowingly embraced religious extremists, white supremacists, misogynists and now possible treason - bear in what I hope will be an utter nightmare for the GOP.  Here are article highlights:
Two years ago Donald Trump hijacked the Republican party. Now it’s time to think about what steps might have to be taken to regain control of it. 
The tocsin of doom that sounded this week in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District could hardly have been more clear in its meaning: This November the GOP is headed for a mega-shellacking with a side order of drubbing sauce. The fault for this lies almost solely with President Trump. Losing the House looks like a foregone conclusion. Losing the Senate, while unlikely, no longer appears unthinkable. After the Democrats take the House, they will be implacably opposed to making deals, and would we want those anyway? Legislatively, President Trump will be finished. Getting appointments through the Senate won’t be easy.
So what? say the voters in PA-18, a district Trump won by 20 points, where the Republican candidate Rick Saccone had no major defects (and the Democratic winner Conor Lamb can be expected to vote with Nancy Pelosi on nearly all occasions) and where Trump’s economically illiterate faith in tariffs is popular. Saccone lost the district anyway. To borrow language from the anthem of Trump’s hometown, if the GOP can’t make it there, it can’t make it anywhere. It’s because of Trump that the (R) next to Saccone’s name was too great a burden to overcome.
The behavior of the president shouldn’t be all that salient to, say, the candidacies of Democrats who ran and won in the Virginia House of Delegates. But voters can’t be counted on to be rational. There’s essentially only one issue on their minds this year: It’s the personality, stupid. The Chernobyl cloud of noxious presidential behavior is poisoning the party from coast to coast. . . . . he’s supplying the Democrats with a turnout motivator like no other.
You think he sounds erratic, angry, and frustrated now? How will he be when Congress becomes intransigent to his calls? It will almost certainly be the case that the incessant wobble that was 2017 goes down in the books as Trump’s best year.
All presidents face crises. There’s bound to be an oil spill, a stock market crash, a major terrorist attack, a foreign-policy showdown. Is there any figure whose temperament is worse-suited to leading the nation through such a tense moment? As Douthat put it, the Trump Unbound we’re about to see will make it “more likely that we get more extreme and destabilizing outcomes, somewhere.”
After the November debacle, it’ll be smoke-filled-room time for the senior lawmakers and other grandees of Abraham Lincoln’s party.  . . . How much longer can the GOP tolerate having a de facto party leader — much less a president — who recklessly taunts the North Koreans, brazenly makes up facts even when meeting with the leaders of other countries, picks silly fights with celebrities and television personalities and even his own cabinet members, is too impatient to read briefing books, and possesses the moral compass of a crocodile? I could go on, but this column is supposed to be 900 words, not 157,000.
A presidential candidate even marginally better at politics than Hillary Clinton would easily defeat Trump in 2020, which also aligns as an extremely auspicious year for the Democrats in the Senate, presenting a high degree of likelihood that the Democrats will enjoy unchecked power in Washington.
Surely the most vigorous of Trump fans cannot help noticing that he is burning down everything around him. What good is a president who makes it impossible for the rest of his party? Even Tom Brady couldn’t win a game if he looked to his line and discovered there were only three teammates left. Trump has a proven inability to help other Republican candidates get elected, and most will ask him not to try. The president is a cement jumpsuit that is dragging us all to the bottom. 

Yes, Trump is toxic and the best motivation for the Democrat base to get out and vote against every Republican on the ballot.  And, if the Republican Party will not act to restrain or remove him after setting the stage for his rise, then, yes, every Republican needs to be defeated.  Every single Republican is now complicity in this attack on America's democracy and the rule of law. 

More Tuesday Male Beauty

NRA is Threatening Parkland Shooting Survivors

With the Federal Elections Commission launching a probe into whether the National Rifle Association ("NRA") conspired with Russian agents to funnel monies to the Trump/Pence campaign, additional evidence that the NRA is a repulsive organization comes from survivors of the Parkland mass shooting who say the NRA is threatening them because of their efforts to push common sense gun control measures.  Already Florida has enacted new gun control laws over NRA opposition.  Next weekend will see a mass march in Washington, D.C., and cities across the country - a march is occurring even in Newport News, Virginia - and the NRA seems to be ratcheting up its attacks.  As is the norm with the far right's approach to those who oppose their agenda, the students say they have received death threats (something I have received from "godly Christians" for writing this blog and telling the truth about them).  A piece at CBS News looks at the situation.  Here are highlights:
Since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last month, survivors have mobilized the #NeverAgain movement to push for school safety and stronger gun legislation.
Two vocal leaders, David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, spoke with CBSN Monday to discuss the movement and why they believe they can navigate through the partisan divide on gun control and drive real change in policy.
Both Hogg and Gonzalez, who refer to themselves as members of the "mass shooting generation," say they've received death threats in response to their efforts in launching the movement. But they aren't letting threats deter them from making progress.
"There's always been people who are going to want to harm us," Gonzalez said. "I'm not going to pretend that this like opened my eyes to a cruel and harmful world ... When it comes right down to it, we already knew that this world was going to be tough. So getting death threats like that doesn't really faze us."
Asked about the NRA's response to their movement, Hogg responded: "I think it just goes to prove what exactly they are. I don't think NRA members are bad people at all. I think they're responsible gun owners that want to become politically active and make their voices heard in this democracy, and I think that's an excellent thing.
"I think the problem comes in when it's people at the top of this organization that don't listen to their constituents and continue to scare people into buying more guns, creating more violence, so they can scare more people and sell more guns," he continued. "The people at the top of the NRA are no longer working for the people that are in their organization. They're working on behalf of the gun lobby."
Both Hogg and Gonzalez say the NRA has reached out to them, but not in a positive way.  "The way that they've been reaching out to us is basically threatening us," Hogg said.  "They've been instigating things," Gonzalez added. "And then, when we reply, they like shy back away. They can dish it out but they can't take it."
Meanwhile, nearly 500,000 people are preparing to march on the nation's capital this weekend in support of gun control and school safety measures. Many of those marching will be students. The event follows last week's nationwide walkout, when students from nearly 3,000 schools walked out of their classrooms for 17 minutes in memory of the 17 victims.
During a conversation on "CBS This Morning," Hogg said his message to other high school students is: "Make sure you get out and vote, that you're registered to vote so you can vote in the primaries and stay educated for the rest of your life because the seeds of corruption are always being showed."

The students are correct: the NRA is the minion of gun manufacturers and it cares NOTHING about the lives and safety of citizens.  They are about one thing and one thing only: maximizing revenues for gun manufacturers.  It's really that simple.

For Trump, Obstruction of Justice Is Probably Just the Tip of the Iceberg

As Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, becomes more hysterical and launches attacks over Robert Mueller's Russiagate investigation - leaving even some Vichy Republicans wondering why Trump is acting guilty when he claims innocence - a piece in New York Magazine looks at where the investigation may be headed and why Trump's hysteria is on the rise.  It bears remembering that (i) Trump has a long history of dealing with American mobsters and unsavory Russian oligarchs, and (ii) Trump knows what was done by his campaign and some of his former minions who have already entered guilty pleas.  One can only hope that ALL of the dirty and conspiracy efforts come to light and that Trump, Pence and any senior Republicans who may have joined in the effort - think Mitch McConnell and his efforts to delay release about Russian activities - are taken down and, with luck, see time in a federal prison.  Here are article highlights:
One takeaway from Donald Trump’s unhinged Twitter meltdown over the Robert Mueller investigation this past weekend — aside from indications that the president is increasingly isolated, under siege, and out of sorts — is that his legal team is in disarray and can’t seem to put him at ease, despite repeated assurances that he will be vindicated in the end.
Trump has been getting more and more aggressive against the special counsel, and according to the New York Times, he may drop his lawyer Ty Cobb, who’s advocated for cooperating with Mueller.
The Washington Post reported on Monday that his lawyers have turned over to Mueller a report that is the equivalent of a connect-the-dots coloring book: a blueprint of key events under investigation. The purpose of these White House “summaries” is to limit the breadth of Mueller’s questioning should Trump sit down for an interview — a major minefield that, as I have written before, no sensible lawyer would allow a client like Trump to step onto.
This is clearly damage control. As the Post indicates, these written materials zero in on the dismissals of FBI Director James Comey and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, which suggests that the special counsel has an interest in the president’s state of mind during these events — the thing that matters to a prosecutor who is looking at the potential obstruction of an ongoing investigation.
Comey, as you may recall, was fired before the true extent of the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference (which Mueller took over) was publicly known. Andrew McCabe’s dismissal last Friday, on the other hand, happened after “this Russia thing,” as Trump once called it, had already yielded several indictments, guilty pleas, and cooperation agreements with a number of the president’s men. That McCabe was caught in the undertow of Trump’s vindictiveness was only a function of his proximity to Comey. . . .
Besmirching McCabe, in Trump’s mind, serves to besmirch the testimony of Mueller’s star witness on obstruction. This may yet be another miscalculation on Trump’s part, as that public trial will almost certainly never happen.
Mueller’s prospective obstruction case, captivating though it may be to political reporters and those who yearn for the president’s downfall, is still only a tiny slice of the special counsel’s mandate. You can count me among the skeptics who doubt that Mueller will ever make such a case in a court of law — even in the face of reports, like one from Axios on Monday, suggesting the opposite. If Mueller’s probe is to retain its legitimacy, which it has in spades, it will be by charging ahead with what it’s already done so well: uncovering the extent to which Russia worked alone or in tandem with Trump campaign operatives to boost Trump’s chances at the presidency.
The word that’s been used and abused to describe this synergy between the Kremlin and the Trump camp is collusion, but Mueller has given us a better, more legally grounded term: conspiracy. Last month, Rick Gates, Trump’s deputy campaign manager and a longtime associate of Paul Manafort, became the first person in Mueller’s crosshairs to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. This curious, catchall offense also appeared in the February indictment of 13 Russian trolls . . . .
Which brings us to this past weekend’s revelations about the role Cambridge Analytica, the data-analytics firm closely associated with Steve Bannon and the Trump campaign, played during the presidential election. Twin reports in the New York Times and The Guardian shed light on a staggering data-mining operation that resulted in the firm improperly obtaining tens of millions of Facebook profiles, which it then exploited for political micro-targeting.
While the substance of Mr. Mueller’s interest is a closely guarded secret, documents viewed by the Times indicate that the firm’s British affiliate claims to have worked in Russia and Ukraine.” Mueller, for his part, has already asked the firm for the emails of any employees who did work on behalf of the Trump campaign.
[B]ased on the precedent Mueller has already set, it wouldn’t be a stretch to expect his office to bring a fresh round of federal conspiracy charges against actors — whether that be Assange, executives at Cambridge Analytica, or other intermediaries — who attempted to impair the lawful functions of the government by concealing activities that they should’ve disclosed to, say, the Federal Election Commission or the Justice Department. “A method that makes uses of innocent individuals or businesses to reach and defraud the United States is not, for that reason, beyond the scope” of the law of conspiracy, the Supreme Court said some 30 years ago.
Unlike collusion, which makes for good sound bites but not real cases, conspiracy has deep roots in American law. As independent journalist Marcy Wheeler has laid out, even Jared Kushner may be on the hook for it. If the last ten months or so of the Mueller investigation have shown us anything, it is the tangled web of lies and cover-ups the Trump campaign weaved to hide its dealings with Russia. Don’t be surprised if Mueller untangles yet more of this mess and presents us with more indictments against conspirators in the U.S. or abroad.

Likewise, don't be surprised if Trump's hysterical and lashing out increases and perhaps pushes America toward a full blown constitutional crisis.