Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


Obama Trolls Der Trumpenfuhrer


One of the many bizarre things - let's be candid, mentally ill things - about Donald Trump is his hatred for Barrack Obama who is basically everything Trump is not: highly intelligent, moral, concerned about others, not just himself, and made it through eight years in the White House with any major scandals or criminal convictions of members of his campaign/administration.  Also, he is half black which I suspect is the real unpardonable sin in Trump's deeply racist mind, and his is respected by a majority of Americans, unlike Trump.  Thus, there is almost no one better suited to attach Trump's failed regime, especially if the goal is to force Trump to lash out and stray from any semblance of a coordinated campaign effort in the last week of the 2020 campaign.  For his part, I suspect Obama finds Trump immoral and beyond distasteful.  Hence, unlike other past presidents Obama has been campaigning for Joe Biden and reminding Americans of Trump's many failures and moral bankruptcy.  Trump no doubt is seething with rage.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at Obama's attacks which will hopefully create some unforced errors on Trump's part.  Unusual times call for unusual actions by past presidents.  Here are article highlights:

Former presidents generally stay out of the spotlight — particularly when it comes to attacking their successors. No president wants their actions to be second-guessed by those who preceded them. . . . so there’s something of an unwritten rule and a self-reinforcing cycle about how things should be handled.

Barack Obama, though, apparently believes that the moment calls for something else entirely — and he upped the ante significantly Tuesday.

Obama and his wife, former first lady Michelle Obama, have stepped away from this protocol in recent months, particularly at the Democratic National Convention in August, when both went after Trump in very direct ways.

The former president’s speech Tuesday in Orlando moved the ball even farther. Obama seemed to be making a concerted effort to troll the troller-in-chief president. He attacked Trump in very personal ways, his comments often dripping with incredulity. He seemed to want to elicit a reaction from his successor — a reaction he soon got.

What’s his closing argument? That people are too focused on covid. He said this at one of his rallies: ‘Covid, covid, covid,’ he’s complaining,” Obama said, referring to Trump’s regular gripes about the media’s focus on the coronavirus. “He’s jealous of covid’s media coverage.”

“I lived in the White House for a while,” Obama said with a smile. “You know, it’s a controlled environment. You can take some preventive measures in the White House to avoid getting sick. Except this guy can’t seem to do it. He’s turned the White House into a hot zone."

Obama went on, going after Trump for his April comments about whether disinfectants could be injected into people — which Trump maintains were a joke, though at the time his demeanor suggested otherwise.

“Last week, when Trump was asked if he’d do anything differently, you know what he said? He said: Not much, not much. Really?! Not much? You can’t think of anything that you might be doing differently, like maybe you shouldn’t have gone on TV and suggested we might inject bleach to cure covid?” Obama said.

Obama attacked Trump for his recent retweets that suggested a massive conspiracy theory surrounding the killing of Osama bin Laden.

“You’re not going to have to worry about what crazy things they’re going to say, what they’re going to tweet,” Obama said of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.). He added with particular exasperation about the death of the world’s leading terrorist, which occurred on his watch: “I mean, listen, our president of the United States retweeted a post that claimed that the Navy SEALs didn’t actually kill bin Laden. Think about that. And we act like, ‘Well, okay.’ It’s not okay.

“I mean, we’ve gotten so numb to what is bizarre behavior.”

“Donald Trump likes to claim he built this economy,” Obama said. “But I just want to remind you that America created 1.5 million more jobs in the last three years of the Obama-Biden administration than in the first three years of the Trump administration. That’s a fact; look it up. And that was before Trump could blame the pandemic. He, in fact, inherited the longest streak of job growth in American history, but just like everything else he inherited, he screwed it up.”

Obama added: “The economic damage that he inflicted by botching the pandemic response means he will be the first president since Herbert Hoover to actually lose jobsfirst president since Herbert Hoover back in the ’30s. That’s a long time, people. That’s almost 100 years ago.”

Obama’s numbers on both claims check out. More than 8 million jobs were created from 2014 to 2016, vs. more than 6.5 million from 2017 to 2019. And while many jobs have returned in recent months, Trump is still a few million short of where he started.

It was a good distillation of the apparent recognition, by Obama and others, that fire must be fought with fire. When Trump fails to acknowledge or deal with such nuance and attacks his opponents in such personal terms, you can either “go high,” as Michelle Obama once said, or you can try to play the game as it’s been set up. Her husband didn’t go full Trump in these attacks, by any means, but it seemed a concerted effort to needle the incumbent president and — perhaps most strikingly — hold him up as a laughingstock. The latter is a strategy regularly employed by groups such as the Lincoln Project, which has regularly seemed as interested in getting Trump’s goat as in defeating him.

And as with the Lincoln Project, the message seemed to be consumed by one particularly attentive cable news viewer.

“Now @FoxNews is playing Obama’s no crowd, fake speech for Biden . . . But Fox News’s programming decision was easy to understand: It was good TV, something that could elicit visceral and newsworthy reactions — including from the man whose reaction it seemed to beg for.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


New Hampshire Union Leader Endorses First Democrat in Over 100 Years

The New Hampshire Union Leader, a conservative, pro-Republican has endorsed Joe Biden for president, despite its century-long history of backing Republicans. In backing Biden, the newspaper endorsed its first Democratic candidate in over 100 years finding Trump "100 percent wrong for America" and stated "America faces many challenges and needs a president to build this country up. This appears to be outside of Mr. Trump’s skill set."  It went further and noted that Trump "is the antithesis of thoughtful and pragmatic."  One can only hope other true conservatives will come to the same conclusion as the Union Leader's editorial board.  Here are editorial highlights:

Up and down the ticket we are faced with choices in political ideologies, personalities, backgrounds and governing styles.

Some choices are easy. We can wholeheartedly recommend Chris Sununu be elected to another term as governor. He has proven himself a capable leader when faced with an extreme and occasionally hostile legislature. During the COVID-19 crisis, he has deftly handled a situation that left many leaders flustered and swinging from one extreme reaction to the next.

In the race that has dominated political discourse for the past four years the choice is murkier. There is no love lost between this newspaper and President Donald J. Trump.

We were hopeful with Trump’s win that he might change, that the weight and responsibility of the Oval Office might mold a more respectful and presidential man. We have watched with the rest of the world as the mantle of the presidency has done very little to change Trump while the country and world have changed significantly.

President Trump is not always 100 percent wrong, but he is 100 percent wrong for America. Trump has many admirable accomplishments from his first term in office. We can find much common ground with Trump supporters, including judicial appointments, tax policy, support for gun rights, even inroads to Middle East peace.

Since Trump took over, the national debt has exploded by more than 7 TRILLION dollars. While the last several trillion was in response to the COVID-19 economic crisis, at least the first three trillion was on the books well before the pandemic, while Trump was presiding over “...the best economy we’ve ever had in the history of our country.” (Trump’s words.)

The layman would expect that the best economy in history would be a time to get the fiscal house in order, pay down debt and prepare for a rainy day (or perhaps a worldwide pandemic). The real tragedy of this scenario is that the runaway spending under the Trump administration has flashed dollar signs in the eyes of Capitol Hill Democrats. Trillions in unchecked spending has them clamoring to birth the social programs of their dreams.

Federal spending is on an unsustainable path. The fact that it has continued under an allegedly conservative president is unbelievable.

Mr. Trump rightly points out that the COVID-19 crisis isn’t his fault, but a true leader must own any situation that happens on their watch. We may be turning a corner with this virus, but the corner we turned is down a dark alley of record infections and deaths. . . . . when pushed on basic topics he doesn’t want to discuss, he very quickly feigns ignorance.

Donald Trump did not create the social-media-driven political landscape we now live in, but he has weaponized it. . . . . . America faces many challenges and needs a president to build this country up. This appears to be outside of Mr. Trump’s skill set.

Building this country up sits squarely within the skill set of Joseph Biden. We have found Mr. Biden to be a caring, compassionate and professional public servant. He has repeatedly expressed his desire to be a president for all of America, and we take him at his word. Joe Biden may not be the president we want, but in 2020 he is the president we desperately need. He will be a president to bring people together and right the ship of state.

Despite our endorsement of his candidacy, we expect to spend a significant portion of the next four years disagreeing with the Biden administration on our editorial pages.

Biden was among the most moderate in the crowded 2020 Democratic primary field, proposing some of the lowest new spending among that increasingly left-leaning group. We are hopeful that this is a sign of the thoughtful and pragmatic public servant President Joe Biden will be. Sadly, President Trump has proven himself to be the antithesis of thoughtful and pragmatic; he has failed to earn a second term.

Our endorsement for President of these United States goes to Joe Biden.

Monday, October 26, 2020

More Monday Male Beauty


Can Chief Justice John Roberts Save His Court

This evening Senate Republicans rammed through the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett - someone likely 85% of Catholics would view as a severe nutcase and religious extremist - to a lifetime position on the United States Supreme Court.  In the process, the Senate Republicans made a mockery of their feign convictions for blocking Barack Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, and defied the will of a majority of Americans.  Worse yet, they have likely destroyed popular support of the Court and rendered any rulings it hereafter hands down illegitimate in the eyes of a majority of Americans. Sadly, it is just one more horrific example of how Donald Trump and his Republican enablers have destroyed so many American institutions and government bodies. Unless and until Joe Biden wins the White House and Democrats win control of the U.S. Senate and expand the size of the Court, Chief Justice John Roberts is perhaps the only individual who may be able to save the legitimacy of the Court.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the situation.  Here are excerpts:

Monday’s Senate confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, preceded by a pell-mell scramble to seat her before next week’s election and scheduled to be followed by an unseemly campaign-style celebration at the White House, shreds whatever remained of the high court’s integrity and independence.

Whether the court regains its independence or cements itself as a third partisan branch of government is now largely up to Chief Justice John Roberts. If he does not act, and fast, to mitigate the court’s politicization, Democrats will be fully justified in expanding the court’s membership to restore balance — and indeed will face a public outcry if they don’t.

The Barrett spectacle could not have been uglier. It began with a superspreader event at the White House after which a dozen people, including President Trump, contracted covid-19. Trump insisted on naming a replacement even before Ruth Bader Ginsburg was in her grave, and he belittled the late justice’s granddaughter for conveying the women’s rights icon’s dying wish that Trump not replace her.

Senate Republicans rammed through Barrett eight days before an election Trump seems likely to lose, and even though Trump has made clear he’s counting on the Supreme Court to overturn the result. They did this in an extraordinary public display of hypocrisy, four years after refusing to seat an Obama nominee to the high court because, they said then, that doing so more than eight months before an election was too soon. And they did this after abolishing the minority’s right to filibuster.

Barrett, in her confirmation hearing, made a mockery of the supposed “originalism” and “textualism” she professes to practice. She conspicuously refused to say whether a president could unilaterally postpone an election and whether voter intimidation is illegal — matters unarguable under the clear words of the Constitution and statutes.

[F]ew even pretended they were engaged in some historic or noble tradition. The debate sounded more like a medical conference as Democrats warned about the many conditions that might not be covered if Barrett strikes down the Affordable Care Act after it comes before the court in two weeks.

If the chief justice wishes to restore dignity to the Roberts Court, it’s clear enough what needs to be done:

He can lean heavily on Barrett to recuse herself from any case arising from the presidential election next week.

He can use his influence to make sure the court upholds the Affordable Care Act after it hears arguments next month — not a legalistic punt on technical matters of “severability” but a ruling that puts an end to the constant assaults on Obamacare.

He can persuade his conservative colleagues to join him in upholding the rights of LGBTQ Americans as established in the 2015 Obergefell case, by rejecting a challenge to it by Catholic Social Services that will be argued the morning after the election next week.

He can forge a majority to reject Trump’s latest tired attempt to use the Supreme Court to further delay handing over his financial records to New York prosecutors.

And he and his colleagues can agree to hear one of the many challenges to Roe v. Wade now making their way through lower courts — and vote to uphold Roe for now. That would be the surest sign that the Roberts Court is not going to turn (immediately at least) into the reactionary caricature that most expect.

If Roberts and his conservative allies on the court don’t do at least some of this in the next few months, they can count on being joined next year by a whole batch of new colleagues.

Monday Morning Male Beauty


White House Signals Defeat in Pandemic

In a shocking admission - although it's been obvious to anyone not drinking the Trump Kool-Aid - less than a week after Donald Trump lied that he his regime had done "great job" handling the coronavirus pandemic and also stating that "we are learning to live with the virus,  White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows stated that the administration had effectively given up on trying to slow the virus’s spread.  Meanwhile, the virus is surging and, unlike European nations that are imposing new restrictions, America's response remains a hodge podge varying from state to state with no unified national plan. Mike Pence, despite exposure to those infected has refused to curtail his travel schedule or to self-quarantine.  Endless lies and utter incompetence are the hallmarks of the Trump/Pence regime. With luck, undecided voters will find this to be the last straw and push them to vote for Joe Biden on or before November 3, 2020.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at this White House admission of failure.  Here are highlights:

With the election a little over a week away, the new White House outbreak spotlighted the administration’s failure to contain the pandemic as hospitalizations surge across much of the United States and daily new cases hit all-time highs.

The outbreak around Pence, who chairs the White House’s coronavirus task force, undermines the argument Trump has been making to voters that the country is “rounding the turn,” as the president put it at a rally Sunday in New Hampshire.

Further complicating Trump’s campaign-trail pitch was an extraordinary admission Sunday from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that the administration had effectively given up on trying to slow the virus’s spread.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who regularly wears a mask on the campaign trail and strictly adheres to social distancing guidelines, sought to capitalize on the remark.

This wasn’t a slip by Meadows; it was a candid acknowledgment of what President Trump’s strategy has clearly been from the beginning of this crisis: to wave the white flag of defeat and hope that by ignoring it, the virus would simply go away,” Biden said in a statement. “It hasn’t, and it won’t.”

Some in the vice president’s office suggested that White House doctors should release a statement saying that Short was positive and that Pence was still okay to travel. But that idea was scuttled by Meadows and others, officials said.

Officials said the new list of those infected includes the vice president’s chief of staff, Marc Short; his top outside political adviser, Marty Obst; his personal aide Zach Bauer, known as a “body man,” who accompanies him throughout his day; and two other staff members.

Some White House aides said they did not want attention on the outbreak because it would highlight the pandemic in the final week of the campaign and raise questions about the administration’s handling of it.

The vice president continued Sunday with his heavy travel schedule, flying to North Carolina for an evening rally in Kinston. He told aides that he was determined to keep up his appearances through the week despite his potential exposure, irrespective of guidelines, officials said. Some aides said they would have preferred tele-rallies because if the vice president is infected while on the road in the final days of the campaign, it is likely to become a major news story for several days.

On Monday, Pence is expected to visit the Capitol to preside over the Senate vote to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) decried Pence’s plans to continue with his scheduled events. “God help us,” Schumer said in a speech Sunday on the Senate floor.

he Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people stay home for 14 days following possible exposure and to socially distance at all times. The CDC allows an exemption for “critical infrastructure workers” who are not experiencing symptoms so long as they socially distance and cover their faces at all times.

When asked Sunday about Pence’s decision to continue campaigning in person despite the fresh outbreak among his team, Harris told reporters: “He should be following the guidelines. We’re doing it. I think we have modeled the right and good behavior, and they should take our lead.”

The latest outbreak underscored the absence of some basic health safety protocols at the White House and at Trump and Pence’s campaign events, where the two and their aides routinely flout CDC recommendations and state or local health guidelines. They do not wear masks with any regularity, nor do they practice social distancing. Aboard Air Force Two, where Pence and his team have spent considerable time in recent weeks jetting among campaign stops, officials often do not wear masks.

Meadows tried to keep details about the infections within Pence’s orbit under wraps and opposed the vice president’s office releasing such information, according to two officials. It was not until Saturday evening that Short and Obst’s infections were first reported by the media.

New coronavirus cases in the United States reached an all-time high on Friday and hospitalizations have soared, surpassing the mark set during the summer as cases spiked across the Sun Belt in particular.

Campaigning over the weekend, Trump tried to present an alternate reality. At a rally Sunday in Londonderry, N.H., Trump said the pandemic would soon end thanks to a potential vaccine, which he said was “going to be delivered fast.”

Trump also had hoped to divert attention from the pandemic in his final stretch of campaigning, though the new outbreak at the White House could upend that strategy.

At a rally Saturday in North Carolina — where scores of maskless attendees stood shoulder to shoulder — Trump played down the dangers of the virus and predicted that the news media would stop covering the pandemic after Election Day.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

More Sunday Male Beauty


Amy Coney Barrett Is the Least Experienced Supreme Court Nominee in 30 Years

Donald Trump and his Senate Republican enablers - and, of course the talking heads on Fox News - blather about Amy Coney Barrett being "highly qualified" and "experienced," yet the reality is that she is the least qualified individual to be nominated to the Supreme Court since Clarence Thomas, the Court's perennial mental midget, was nominated in 1991 and sadly confirmed.  Like Barrett, Thomas was selected for his ideology, not his experience or previous legal work.  He represented a reactionary black man who allowed the Republicans to nominate a black justice who has since undermined the rights of millions of black Americans.  Barrett is a similar reactionary zealot and when appointed - the GOP cares nothing about her lack of credentials - will undermine the rights of millions of American women, gays, and likely blacks as well (when pressed, she grudgingly said Brown v. Board of Education was rightly decided).  A piece in Mother Jones looks at Barrett's lack of credentials, including the fact that she has never tried a single case - something that I as a office practice based corporate/commercial law attorney have done on a number of occasions, plus I have written numerous appellate briefs, unlike Barrett.  Here are article highlights:

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett took some heat from Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) during her confirmation hearing last week, when he pressed her on her failure to turn over additional relevant documents to the committee, including an anti-abortion newspaper ad she’d signed in 2006. Barrett responded that she had submitted 30 years’ worth of material to the committee, and that she had simply missed the 15-year-old ad. “I produced 1,800 pages of material,” she insisted, implying that this submission was voluminous.

In the world of Supreme Court nominees, however, 1,800 pages of documents barely registers as a footnote. Chief Justice John Roberts rustled up 75,000 pages of records for his 2005 confirmation hearing—just from his time serving in Republican administrations. The Senate reviewed about 170,000 pages of records before confirming Justice Elena Kagan and 180,000 for Justice Neil Gorsuch. No one even comes close to the document dump from Justice Brett Kavanaugh

[T]he relative paucity of Barrett’s is an indication of just how circumscribed her legal experience has been compared with virtually all of her predecessors—and even one nominee who was ultimately denied the position. The permanent record of the 48-year-old former Notre Dame law school professor is in direct proportion with her resume, which is strikingly thin for someone nominated to a lifetime position on the Supreme Court. By almost any objective measure, Barrett is the most inexperienced person nominated to the Supreme Court since 1991, when President George H.W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas, then just 43, to replace the legendary Thurgood Marshall.

Barrett’s limited CV did have an upside: It’s one reason that Republicans have been able to rush her confirmation hearings and vote on her nomination, which the Judiciary Committee did Thursday without a single Democrat in the room. (The full Senate will vote on it Monday.) There’s simply not that much in her record to review.

But Barrett’s insular professional history raises some pertinent questions about her nomination that go beyond how she might rule on hot-button social issues: How did a professor from a second-tier law school with such a shallow reservoir of experience manage to leapfrog to the top of the list of potential Republican Supreme Court nominees? And why were Republicans, who have spent decades obstructing legislation that would help women advance in the workplace, so eager to promote this particular under-credentialed, female candidate?

Barrett has spent virtually all of her professional life in academia. Until President Trump nominated her to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017, she had never been a judge, never worked in the government as a prosecutor, defense lawyer, solicitor general, or attorney general, or served as counsel to any legislative body—the usual professional channels that Supreme Court nominees tend to hail from. A graduate of Notre Dame law school, Barrett has almost no experience practicing law whatsoever—a hole in her resume so glaring that during her 7th Circuit confirmation hearing in 2017, Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee were dismayed that she couldn’t recall more than three cases she’d worked on during her brief two years in private practice. Nominees are asked to provide details on 10.

But by the time Trump picked him [Kavanaugh] to replace Kennedy, he had spent 12 years on the appellate court and written hundreds of opinions. Trump’s other appointee, Justice Neil Gorsuch, had been an appellate court judge for 11 years before Trump nominated him to fill the seat vacated by the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Justice Sonia Sotomayor had been an assistant district attorney in New York City, a solo practitioner, and later a corporate litigator and law firm partner. She had been a federal judge, first at the trial court level, and then on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, for 17 years before Obama tapped her for the Supreme Court.

As for Kagan’s 15 years in academia, she wasn’t just any law professor, teaching three classes a year as Barrett did during her 15 years as a full-time law professor. In 2003, Kagan became the first female dean of Harvard Law School, where she had also studied. At the nation’s largest and most prestigious law school, Kagan oversaw a $400 million capital campaign, an operating budget of $180 million, and 500 employees.

Even Harriet Miers had a more substantial legal background than Barrett. Miers was the last woman a Republican president tried (though failed) to put on the high court. . . . Miers had once been a Democrat and conservatives attacked her credentials, suggesting that while she’d litigated and argued a host of cases in federal and state courts, they weren’t the right kind of cases. (Flash forward to Barrett, who has never litigated anything in federal court.)

Barrett is not the only conservative woman with a shallow CV to benefit from an assist from the Federalist Society. Sarah Pitlyk, a former Kavanaugh clerk who had previously worked at an anti-abortion legal nonprofit, is now a Trump-appointed judge on the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. A unanimous committee of the ABA rated her unqualified for the seat, in part because of “a very substantial gap” in her resume.

Historically, Maxwell says, the conservative movement has made an exception for women like Barrett as long as they are furthering its anti-feminist agenda. She compares her to another Catholic superwoman of the religious right, the late Phyllis Schlafly, mother of six, who worked full time to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment as part of her lifelong campaign to keep mothers out of the workplace.

“She’s clearly very intelligent,” Maxwell says of Barrett, but her nomination is reminiscent of the time when Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was trying to find a woman to put on the 2012 GOP presidential ticket and emerged with Sarah Palin.

Barrett also checks another important box for the religious right: Men who would like to see the Supreme Court overturn the landmark abortion rights case Roe v. Wade have long hoped to have a woman cast the deciding vote. “It washes away the stench of it being sexist if it’s coming from a woman,” Maxwell says. Having not just a woman but one with seven children poised to overturn Roe explains conservatives’ outsize enthusiasm for a nominee whose professional record falls short when compared with most Supreme Court justices. “That is really part of the symbolic strategy,” Maxwell says. “I can still have it all, adopt the babies, have all of the children, cherish life, and still have all the success that every woman wants.”