Saturday, May 16, 2020

More Saturday Male Beauty


New Reporting Increases Doubts on Tara Reade’s Allegations

If Tara Reade wanted to be viewed as credible, one big mistake is that she is represented by a lawyer who is a big Trump donor. Given Trump's willingness to pay off people and engage in crime boss-like activities, the link to Trump frankly makes me suspicious.  Then again, I remember the sexual assault story that Rolling Stone did about a University of Virginia fraternity that turned out to be false and seemingly the product of a disturbed mind.  That is not to say I am prone to disbelieve victims of assault.  Simply that one must carefully look at all angles of allegations.  A piece in New York Magazine does exactly that and while not conclusive, raises more reasons to distrust Reade's changing allegations which, if untrue, do nothing to help the cause of women who are true victims of assault. Note in the piece how a friend of Reade's admits to lying and how the supposed venue of the assault doesn't fit the actual physical layout of the alleged location. Here are article highlights:

When Tara Reade first made her assault allegation against Joe Biden, I thought the charge was more likely to be true than false. To be clear, I had no intention of changing my vote. The allegation came too late to reopen the nominating process without doing violence to the expressed will of the electorate.
Since then, however, three detailed reports — by Vox’s Laura McGann, PBS NewsHour, and Politico’s Natasha Korecki — have delved into Reade’s allegations. Neither reaches a definitive conclusion. But all of them on balance add a lot of grounds for skepticism. At this point, Reade’s allegation seems to me to be more likely to be false than true.
McGann’s story recounts her yearlong effort to report on and corroborate Reade’s claims. The main problem she describes is that Reade dramatically changed her allegation. Reporters knew that Reade had previously described a culture of harassment without sexual assault, and then, in March, suddenly added a specific account of sexual assault.
McGann, by revisiting the two accounts and trying to understand the reason Reade changed them, zeroes in on two specific problems.
1. Reade’s account of why she changed her story seems not to be true. McGann describes her lengthy, and sympathetic, efforts to prove out Reade’s charge of sexual harassment. She was surprised when Reade claimed she had decided not to share the full story because reporters were shutting her down . . . . If you follow the entire account of McGann’s contact with Reade, this is a little hard to swallow.
2. Reade’s friend admitted to lying to a reporter to fit Reade’s narrative. McGann spoke with one Reade friend, who told her last year that Biden had harassed Reade but had definitely not sexually assaulted her: . . .  After Reade changed her allegation, McGann circled back to the friend, who explained that she had said something the friend knew to be false because Reade “wanted to leave a layer there” . . . .Omitting a relevant detail to protect your friend is one thing. Adding false detail is another.
PBS NewsHour’s report turns up several more problems.
3. All 74 Biden staffers NewsHour contacted did not know of any sexual assault. Of the 74 former Biden staffers NewsHour spoke with, 62 were female. “None of the people interviewed said that they had experienced sexual harassment, assault, or misconduct by Biden,” it reported, “All said they never heard any rumors or allegations of Biden engaging in sexual misconduct, until the recent assault allegation made by Tara Reade.”
4. The physical geography does not line up with Reade’s claim. Her lawyer described the scene of the alleged assault as “a semiprivate area like an alcove” between the Russell building and the Capitol. NewsHour walked the route between those buildings and found “no out-of-view areas, like an alcove.” There are stairwells, which is not so different from an alcove that it’s impossible Reade mistook it for one. But NewsHour describes the route as a “main thoroughfare,” making it at least a somewhat unlikely location for a sexual assault.
5. The fundraiser claim sounds shaky. Reade has said she was told to serve drinks at a fundraiser in Washington. However, several former staffers recalled Biden avoided events in Washington and rushed to catch a train back to Delaware every night (a fact about Biden that is widely known). Others recalled an office policy forbidding his Senate staff from doing campaign work.
None of these sources could conclusively state that Reade was never assigned to serve drinks at a Washington fundraiser. But that claim is deeply at odds with the general practices they observed.
6. One colleague recalls she was fired for cause. The most explosive detail in NewsHour’s report comes from Ben Savage, a former co-worker who sat next to Reade in the mailroom: . . . told the NewsHour that Reade was fired for her poor performance on the job, which he witnessed — not as retaliation for her complaints about sexual harassment. . . . . . Savage’s recollection calls into question not only Reade’s explosive second allegation of sexual assault, but also her first allegation. And it would supply a motive for her to have lied to friends in the 1990s: If she was embarrassed for having been fired, she had a reason to have concocted a false account of what ended her employment.
7. Many people who know Reade do not trust her. Korecki’s reporting for Politico does not address the Biden allegations directly, except insofar as it recounts the way she discussed Biden over the years (often very positively.) The main takeaway is that Reade seems to lie to people frequently. In particular, she preys upon their sympathy to take advantage of their good nature. She has abused the goodwill of landlords and neighbors in this way, repeatedly, leaving them to see her as a dishonest person. It’s possible a person with these qualities could have been sexually assaulted, but the pattern certainly has bearing on her credibility.
Again, none of this constitutes proof. It is possible more evidence will be found to either strengthen or weaken the basis of her claim. But the reporting by McGann and NewsHour collectively adds a fair amount of weight to the scale. Wherever you stood beforehand, there has to be at least somewhat more doubt now.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Never Trumpers Will Host Their Own "Republican Convention"

In some ways I respect the "Never Trump" Republicans and former Republicans in that they have put principle and I would argue basic decency ahead of party unlike those in the GOP who have shamelessly prostituted themselves to Trump, Lindsey Graham being but one of many examples.  On the other hand, had these same Never Trump Republicans ceased being apologists for horrid GOP policies and a take from the poor to give to the rich agenda with a heavy dose of Christian nationalism years earlier, perhaps the GOP could have been saved from a Trump takeover. I left the GOP decades ago now because I saw where the party was headed and in good conscience simply could not be part of it. Am I now a Democrat?  Yes, but by default at first and now because of the national emergency of sending Trump - and those who sold their souls to him and to Christofascists and white supremacists - into forced retirement.    Anything that weakens GOP unity and can peel off votes from Trump and Trump Republicans (a term that is the opposite of what the GOP elected officials once stood for) is to be applauded.  And yes, I have donated to the Lincoln Project because its anti-Trump ads are first class. Now, the anti-Trump movement is going to have its own convention to run concurrent with the Trump/GOP gathering in Charlotte which will likely be part religious crusade and KKK rally.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at this development.  Here are highlights:

Conservative critics of President Trump will hold a convention of their own during the Republican National Convention, with plans to craft their own statement of principles and offer it to a post-Trump electorate.
“The Trump administration has failed, and that’s provided us with an opportunity to offer an alternative vision,” said Evan McMullin, who ran against Trump as an independent in 2016 and has been part of multiple anti-Trump efforts since then. “We’ll be ready in the wake of what we see as a coming Trump defeat.”
The Convention on Founding Principles is scheduled to run from Aug. 24 to Aug. 27 in Charlotte, the city hosting this year’s RNC. The Republicans for a New President campaign, the chief organizer of the event, is planning an online component and a backup plan for a virtual convention if the RNC is canceled. Asked about the plans on Friday morning, the president’s campaign brushed them off.
“These Trump haters are sad, pathetic, and irrelevant,” said Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtagh.
The Convention on Founding Principles grew out of an event Trump critics held at the National Press Club this year, concurrent with the Conservative Political Action Conference. Organizers were pleasantly surprised when more than 300 people attended their counter-conference, prompting a move to a larger room.
The August event, said McMullin, would more closely resemble an actual political convention. There will be debates and voting on a statement of the attendees’ principles, and a vote on whether they supported a particular candidate for president — presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, or a “well-known third-party candidate.”
“After Trump’s expected loss to a cross-partisan coalition of voters in 2020, principled conservatives will continue to pursue a new direction for the party through a range of activities, intellectual, electoral and otherwise,” McMullin said. ‘Since 2016, principled conservatives have become more organized and more effective and this convention and campaign represent the next steps in the development of this strengthening movement.”



Friday, May 15, 2020

Friday Morning Male Beauty


Why America Resists Learning From Other Countries


One of the aspects of the United States that I find most annoying and arrogant and at times down right dangerous is the myth of American exceptionalism and a refusal to learn from the experiences of other countries, many of which have existed for centuries longer than America (e.g., the Romanov family ruled Russia for 60 years longer than America has existed; the Byzantine Empire lasted over 1000 years).  Sadly, both political parties cite this myth, but it is most popular on the right where Europe - which now has more upward social mobility than in America - is derided and the mindset is that American do everything better and has nothing to learn from others.  Time and time again, factual reality proves this myth wrong and now, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, if anything, America is showing that it is exceptional in its bungling of its response to the pandemic.  A piece in The Atlantic looks at America's continued refusal to learn from other countries, often to its own detriment.  Here are article highlights:
Americans have long considered their nation a shining “city upon a hill,” with the “eyes of all people … upon us,” as the Puritan lawyer John Winthrop put it almost 400 years ago. Now those eyes are riveted on the United States for all the wrong reasons. The country is consumed by the worst COVID-19 outbreak on the planet, and the beacons of light are popping up elsewhere in the world.
R. Daniel Kelemen, a political scientist at Rutgers University who has studied what the United States could learn from European public policies, told me that those who subscribe to the ideology of American exceptionalism, or as he described it, “the notion that the United States is fundamentally different from and superior to other nations,” have traditionally resisted seeking out lessons from other countries’ experiences. At the very least, “this view leads many to think that the U.S. is simply so different that policies that might work in other countries could simply never work here,” he wrote in an email.
American exceptionalism has been pronounced dead numerous times, from the Vietnam War through the global War on Terror, and nevertheless managed to stick around through those difficult periods. But the coronavirus crisis may pose the greatest threat yet to the belief that America has little to learn from the rest of the world.
American politicians typically resist engaging with ideas from abroad. Most U.S. public-policy debates, on matters including education reform and social mobility, occur in a bizarre vacuum, as if the encounters (good and bad) of the large majority of humankind with these same challenges yield no useful insights for the United States. On the rare occasions that politicians do invoke the policies of other governments, they often wield them as political props during highly polarized debates over issues such as health care and gun control.
And many American politicians, especially those on the right, have in recent years paradoxically doubled down on American exceptionalism (we have a president who ran on an “America first” platform, after all) even as American power has declined relative to other countries’.
This kind of insularity might have been “relatively harmless when America bestrode the world like a colossus, but it’s dangerous when the country faces a raft of global challenges from China, to climate, to COVID-19,” Dominic Tierney, a political-science professor at Swarthmore College (and a former contributing editor at The Atlantic), told me by email.
Today, in the case of COVID-19, “all states face the same essential threat, and each government’s response is a kind of laboratory experiment,” Tierney said.
“The United States had the advantage of being struck relatively late by the virus, and this gave [us] a priceless chance to copy best practices and avoid the mistakes of others,” he noted.
Instead, the United States squandered that advantage on many fronts. The Obama administration had developed a playbook for pandemic response that drew in part on lessons from other countries’ experiences, but the Trump administration disregarded it. When China began confining millions of people to their homes in January, the U.S. government should have gotten the message that the Chinese were grappling with a grave threat to the wider world, the Yale sociologist and physician Nicholas Christakis told me in March. “We lost six weeks” in the United States to prepare—“to build ventilators, get protective equipment, organize our ICUs, get tests ready, prepare the public for what was going to happen so that our economy didn’t tank as badly. None of this was done adequately by our leaders.” By one estimate, from the epidemiologists Britta L. Jewell and Nicholas P. Jewell, if social-distancing policies had been implemented just two weeks earlier in March, 90 percent of the cumulative coronavirus deaths in the United States during the first wave of the pandemic might have been prevented.
Even now, as a number of countries have swum feverishly toward safer ground, the United States has spent the past couple of months of near-nationwide lockdown merely treading water. It has yet to roll out robust testing across the country, despite Donald Trump’s assertions since March that anybody who wants a test can get one. It has also failed to develop proper contact-tracing systems, as other nations have, and to meaningfully flatten the curve outside New York.
Amid all this, Trump has exhibited more hubris than humility. . . . . He has stated, referring to America’s coronavirus response, that German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and “so many” other world leaders, “almost all of them—I would say all of them; not everybody would want to admit it—but they all view us as the world leader, and they're following us.” Even after he has asked the South Korean government to send tests and medical equipment to the United States to help combat the coronavirus, Trump is insisting that the country cough up much more money for the privilege of stationing U.S. troops there. It’s a measure of traditional American hard power that seems obsolete these days, relative to South Korea’s newfound clout as a world leader in addressing COVID-19. My colleague Anne Applebaum has argued that Trump’s proposal in April that people inject themselves with disinfectant, to the horror of scientists and laughter of people at home and abroad, marked an “acceleration point” for a “post-American, post-coronavirus world … in which American opinions will count less.”
A number of countries that have had more success against the coronavirus have demonstrated greater open-mindedness about learning from their peers. Taiwanese officials are watching Iceland’s mass-testing efforts, while the German government is explicitly modeling its response after South Korea’s “trace, test, and treat” campaign.
In the United States too, even before the virus hit, attitudes toward learning from other countries were beginning to change. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton critiqued Bernie Sanders’s proclivity to look to other countries for policy insights and innovations (“We are not Denmark. I love Denmark. We are the United States of America,” Clinton said), but many of Sanders’s fellow candidates during the 2020 Democratic primary echoed his admiration for other countries’ achievements. “The No. 1 place to live out the American Dream right now is Denmark,” Pete Buttigieg stated during one debate.
The United States, of course, still has tremendous capacity to teach. But it also may need to emerge from this crisis recognizing that it has equal capacity to learn. To learn is to admit room for improvement, and thus to improve, especially in dealing with modern-day threats such as pandemics, which America doesn’t have much experience contending with as a superpower. The United States could, for example, easily seize on the momentum among many of its allies to pool lessons learned and coordinate policies to combat the virus and reopen economies.
I will not hold my breath waiting for Americans - especially those who support the GOP and its growing embrace of ignorance and white nationalism to learn from others anytime soon.  Meanwhile, people will literally dies because of the belief in American exceptionalism. 


Thursday, May 14, 2020

More Thursday Male Beauty


Pandemic and Economic Collapse Slam Trump Across Rust Belt


Some Donald Trump supporters are so invested in their racism and hatred of "liberals" that they will likely never open their eyes to the reality that Trump's tariff wars and tax cuts for the very wealthy and regulation cuts to big business are the real source of their worsening personal financial situations.  Then there are evangelicals so obsessed with Trump's promises of special rights that place them above the law and grant them a license to discriminate that they seem unable to grasp the financial ruin Trump has ushered in for them.  Now, however, the covid-19 pandemic and the related economic collapse may wake some of them up, especially in hard hit rust belt states that collectively gave Trump a 70,000 vote margin and an Electoral College victory.  A piece in Politico looks at Trump's adverse current situation in these same rust belt states and how November will be a referendum on Trump's policies and failures to handle the pandemic crisis.  Here are highlights:

The Industrial Midwest was always going to be a battleground in November.
The region is now becoming a new frontline for Americans’ lives and livelihoods as coronavirus hotspots proliferate and jobless rates spiral. The confluence of a ferocious pandemic, deepening economic turmoil and rising political tensions is more pronounced here than anywhere else in the country. And it sets the stage for a combustible campaign season that is testing President Donald Trump’s efforts to move on and insulate himself from the crisis—and Joe Biden’s ability to blame him for the fallout.
On Thursday, Trump ventured to a swing county in Pennsylvania, stopping off at a Lehigh Valley medical equipment distributor where he used an official speech to mock “Sleepy Joe,” chastise governors for moving too slowly to reopen and assail the news media as a “disaster” while touting American workers.
“I say it’s the ‘transition to greatness.’ The transition is the third quarter," Trump said. "The fourth quarter is going to do very well. And next year is going to be through the roof.”
The numbers and interviews, however, paint a much grimmer picture. The virus has moved from urban centers like Detroit and Chicago into suburbs and more sparsely populated counties, a trend seen from western Pennsylvania to Minnesota and Iowa. In Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania—Democrats’ so-called “Blue Wall”—19 counties report coronavirus cases doubling in less than 14 days. Trump won all but one of those counties, by an average of 65 percent.
Democrats are working to ensure that doesn’t happen again by casting his stewardship over the virus and economy as a betrayal.
“There are so many things Trump has done to attack the labor movement to undermine and betray workers,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) told POLITICO. “And since the coronavirus, he’s done nothing to help the essential workers.”
The region has been devastated by job losses amid pandemic-induced economic shutdowns, in some cases far outpacing the national average in terms of the proportion of their workforces that have applied for unemployment benefits since mid-March.
In Michigan, more than 3 in 10 workers have sought aid in the past two months, according to a POLITICO analysis of Labor Department data. Layoffs and furloughs are also piling up in Pennsylvania, where more than one-fourth of the workforce — or 29.6 percent — has filed an unemployment claim.
The double shock of the virus and financial meltdown has further sharpened partisan divides in the states. Wisconsin and Michigan were home to the highest percentage of people saying their state governments were overreacting to the crisis, according to a survey conducted by researchers at Harvard, Northeastern and Rutgers Universities last month.
Overall, however, the public has remained solidly behind governors who are urging caution, giving them high marks for their performances while their assessments of Trump’s handling of the outbreak sag.
And private surveys conducted by both parties and described to POLITICO show concerns about the virus and health care running ahead of worries over the economy.
Personal protective equipment also remains a problem in many jurisdictions, health officials say, and there are fears of how rural areas with rising caseloads and fewer hospitals will manage future outbreaks, particularly in Michigan, where health officials are starting to see spikes in rural counties.
The economic fallout is expected to be even more long-lasting, casting a shadow over the presidential election. Biden has maintained polling leads over Trump in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, while public polling of Ohio has been scarce.
The emerging economic downturn has also further undermined [Trump's] the president’s promises of reviving American manufacturing, particularly the steel industry.
In some industries — construction and building trades, for example — workers are used to long breaks between jobs, and many have filed for unemployment in the past. But the abrupt nature of the country’s shutdown threw many out of work with little warning, leaving them without time to prepare.
Democrats maintain that the region’s long standing financial difficulties were already being exacerbated by the Trump administration in the three years before the coronavirus struck. They point to tariffs and renewable fuel-standard waivers that impacted corn farmers. Manufacturing, too, has taken big hits. Last year, Pennsylvania saw a drop of 5,700 factory positions, while Michigan was down 5,300 and Wisconsin lost 4,100 jobs.
In her conversations with constituents, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) says they now recognize Trump’s role in a string of earlier economic setbacks, which have been compounded by the virus.  “They are very clear about what those missteps are and, frankly, they are angry," Baldwin said.
Trump aides and allies are primarily focused on changing the subject from the pandemic and ensuing economic devastation — highlighting Biden’s vulnerabilities in the region rather than defending the administration’s response.
Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf last month vetoed a GOP-backed bill to reopen more businesses. He's issued stern warnings in recent days that county leaders who defy current state orders will lose out on funding.
“Even though we are seeing a positive trend in our Covid-19 cases, we know that we’re far from done with this,” said Benjamin Weston, director of medical services for the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management, who added that the county will continue dealing with the coronavirus and continued outbreaks and surges until a vaccine is, hopefully, available sometime next year.
Democrats need to relentlessly hammer Trump for his trade wars, war against unions and the working class and utter malfeasance in the federal government covid-19 response.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

click image to enlarge

Beach Closures Could Spell Trouble for Virginia Beach’s Merchants

Virginia Beach boardwalk.
Memorial Day weekend marks the traditional beginning of the summer tourism season in Virginia Beach which is critical to the economic survival of many hotels, restaurants, and tourism related businesses, many of which even have the loan repayment and/or rent schedules loaded into the summer months since revenues fall so sharply once fall and winter arrive.  With a number of businesses reopening tomorrow under restrictions (the husband's salon will reopen on Tuesday with major restrictions on operations), Virginia's beaches remain closed and Virginia Beach tourism  related businesses are frantic about the impact.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the situation and the pressure on Governor Northam to allow the beaches to open - I have had client calls since it is known that the husband and I know the governor - in what may be a catch-22 situation.  While the City and business owners want to open with restrictions, the big questions are (i) whether or not tourists would comply with social distancing - probably not, in my view - and (ii) will tourists from outside the region visit and bring the virus to Virginia Beach which so far has had far less cases that parts of the state from which tourists will likely come.  Here are article highlights:
Electricians wearing masks bustled around developer Bruce Thompson on the 23rd floor of his new hotel, its multimillion-dollar views of the oceanfront marred by one flaw: no people on the beach.
The coronavirus pandemic is wreaking havoc on businesses everywhere, but as most of the state prepares to start loosening restrictions on Friday, merchants in Virginia Beach are feeling left out.
Gov. Ralph Northam decided not to include beaches in his first phase of reopening, keeping the sand closed to everything but solitary exercise and fishing. With Memorial Day less than two weeks away, that spells trouble for all resort-city businesses, from hotels to the three-for-$10 T-shirt shops, henna tattoo parlors andpirate-themed minigolf courses on Atlantic and Pacific avenues.
“We’re in a really bad situation,” said Thompson, a major political donor who served on a panel of business leaders advising Northam (D) about ways to reopen the state’s economy. He said he was outraged when the beach wasn’t part of the reopening plan unveiled last week.
“I talked to the governor almost every day until last Friday,” Thompson said this week. “On Friday night, I asked him what the hell happened, and we haven’t had a lot of conversation since then.”
City officials are working with the state to put together a plan to get people back onto the sand by Memorial Day weekend. They feel caught in the middle, literally, as Ocean City, Md., partially reopened earlier this month and the Outer Banks of North Carolina prepares to welcome visitors this weekend.
Memorial Day is not off the table to have a phased-in reopening, but it’s got to be driven by the health data,” Northam’s chief of staff, Clark Mercer, said in an interview.
The pandemic has not hit Virginia Beach as severely as some other parts of the state, illustrating the challenge Northam faces as he tries to chart a consistent path out of the crisis. The city had reported 519 cases and 18 deaths as of Wednesday — a fraction of the toll in Prince William County in Northern Virginia, which has a similar population but 3,181 cases and 65 fatalities.
Yet the economic impact of the shutdown has hammered oceanfront tourism. Virginia Beach has canceled more than 500 licensed events in the past two months, officials said, from weddings to sports tournaments to Pharrell Williams’s “Something in the Water” music festival that was expected to draw 65,000 attendees.
The city has submitted a plan to the state for managing a reopened oceanfront, including a staff of “safety ambassadors” to break up large groups (in a friendly way), massive cleaning protocols and law enforcement patrols that would include drones and all-terrain vehicles.
Deputy City Manager Ronald H. Williams Jr. said employees are being hired and trained and could have been ready to go by this weekend.
“That was definitely a goal for the city,” Williams said. Now he’s working daily with state officials to find “what would give them the comfort level for a safe operating environment” by Memorial Day weekend, he said.
Virginia Beach is also a potential political flash point, a wealthy area with a large population of active-duty and retired military members that traditionally leaned red. Democrats have made gains there since President Trump was elected in 2016 but by extremely thin margins.
Northam has insisted that he won’t be swayed by political or economic arguments in deciding the state’s timetable. But Virginia Beach business owners say the damage there is becoming too great to ignore.
“It’s just kind of ghostly,” said Russell Lyons, walking past an empty hotel swimming pool, waterfalls silent and artificial rocks streaked and bare. Lyons’s family owns seven hotels in Virginia Beach, and he serves as president of the local hotels association.
The scariest part, he said, is the timing of the shutdown. Tourism is highly cyclical in Virginia Beach; most hotels operate in the red during winter months, taking out lines of credit to cover expenses, he said. They pay off loans as business ramps up during spring, then bank profits between June and mid-September.
But this year, occupancy has cratered since the state of emergency went into effect in mid-March. His family’s hotels are averaging less than 20 percent capacity. At times over the past few weeks, some got as low as a single occupant.
“We’ve had more staff than guests,” he said.
Trouble might hit in the fall, when owners can’t pay their debt and have to sell out. “It’s terrifying,” Lyons said.
Restaurants face a similar predicament. Rockafeller’s has been in business for 31 years in a waterfront neighborhood south of the oceanfront, fishing and pleasure boats lining the creek outside its plate-glass windows. Owner B.J. Baumann said she had to furlough employees who have been with her from the beginning.
With Northam expected to roll back some restrictions on Friday, Baumann has brought back half the staff to freshen up paint and stain the floors in anticipation of reopening for half-capacity, outdoor-only dining. But until the beaches reopen and tourists come back, she has no idea whether the restaurant will survive.
Farther north, no one has more at stake than Thompson, who had planned to open his $125 million Marriott a month ago. With its $7.5 million, 23rd-floor restaurant modeled after venues in Miami and Los Angeles, the tower anchors a vast beachfront complex that includes homes and condos and is only partly complete.
Now, Thompson said, he has had to lay off 400 workers, had more than 80 weddings cancel and watched condo buyers back out.
“We’re in a really bad situation. We don’t have our beach,” he said, noting that the mortgage payment on the new tower is $625,000 per month. If retailers are allowed to reopen, he said, the 28-mile-long, 100-foot-wide beach at the foot of his hotel should be able to do the same.


Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


The Insanity and Danger of Trump's Base

I have been lucky enough to be able to work through the ongoing pandemic and keep at least one of our incomes flowing.  In doing so I have taken precautions: wearing a mask when meeting clients, washing my hands constantly, constantly sanitizing the conference room, door handles and the shared copier.  What has surprised me is the number of people - including some clients - who are not taking precautions and in the process endangering not only themselves but others as well.  Yet these people are nothing compared to Donald Trump's vicious base some of who have assaulted and even killed those who have asked them to wear masks or social distance - this morning CNN is reporting a Target worker received a broken arm from one such belligerent individual. It goes without saying that Trump is urging these "good people" and "freedom fighters" to protest restrictions and view those who seek to follow them as enemies of "real Americans."  Meanwhile, far right groups are fanning the myth that the pandemic is a hoax.   One cannot help but wonder how these people became so horrible, easily manipulated, and so utterly contemptuous of the safety of others.  A column in the New York Times looks at this frightening element in America.  Here are excerpts:
I’ve heard of Muslim women in America being taunted for wearing hijabs, I’ve heard of Jewish men being mocked for wearing yarmulkes and now I’ve heard it all: A friend of mine was cursed by a passing stranger the other day for wearing a protective mask.
There is, of course, a rather nasty virus going around, and one way to lessen the chance of its spread, especially from you to someone else, is to cover your nose and mouth. Call it civic responsibility. Call it science.
But science is no match for tribalism in this dysfunctional country. Truth is whatever validates your prejudices, feeds your sense of grievance and fuels your antipathy toward the people you’ve decided are on some other side.
And protective masks, God help us, are tribal totems. With soul-crushing inevitably, these common-sense precautions morphed into controversial declarations of identity.
“Wearing a mask is for smug liberals. Refusing to is for reckless Republicans.” That was the headline on a recent article in Politico by Ryan Lizza and Daniel Lippman that noted that “in a deeply polarized America, almost anything can be politicized.”
On Monday the White House belatedly introduced a policy of mask-wearing in the West Wing — but it exempted President Trump. See what I mean about mask as metaphor? Trump demands protection from everybody around him, but nobody is protected from Trump. Story of America.
My friend was standing on a street corner in the center of a small town in New York. The state has decreed that people wear face coverings if they’re in public settings where they can’t be sure to stay six feet or more away from others. So my friend was following the rules, as were her two companions. All three of them were masked.
And a man driving by shouted a profanity at them.
Just two words. Just two syllables. You can probably guess which.
How did she know their masks were the trigger? She said that nothing else about the three of them could possibly have drawn any particular notice and judgment and that she’d encountered other evidence of objection to lockdowns, social distancing and masks in this relatively rural and relatively conservative area.
One man, she said, has been standing outside the local post office, yelling about government oppression and handing out fliers.
It’s not just her town. “Mask haters causing problems at retail establishments,” read a recent headline in the Illinois political newsletter Capitol Fax, which presented a compendium of reports from merchants around the state, including one in Dekalb who said that a customer wearing what looked like a hunting knife refused to follow Illinois directives and wear a mask. Priorities.
When [Trump] the president visited Phoenix a week ago, some residents who’d turned out to see him harangued journalists in masks, “saying how we’re only wearing masks to instill fear,” . . .
Outside the State Capitol in Sacramento two days later, a woman held a sign that said: “Do you know who Dr. Judy Mikovits is? Then don’t tell me I need a silly mask.”
Mikovits is a discredited scientist whose wild assertions and scaremongering regarding vaccines have made her a hero to conspiracy theorists and a social media and YouTube star. Naturally, masks factor into her repertoire.
And masks are emblems, maybe the best ones, of the Trump administration’s disregard for, and degradation of, experts and expertise. Last month, when Trump announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was recommending the use of masks, he went out of his way to make clear that he wouldn’t be wearing one and that no one else was obliged.
Those of us with masks on our faces or masks in our pockets, at the ready, are definitely doing what’s right, but we’re also making our own statements. . . . . I take my own tiny role in vanquishing this pandemic seriously. Rugged individualism ends where dying on this breathtaking scale begins. There’s liberty and then there’s death.
I’ve often heard that this once-in-a-generation crisis will bring us together, making us realize how much we need one another.
But it may well be driving us farther apart. Income inequality hasn’t been writ this large and gruesomely in decades. Red state vs. blue state and rural vs. urban tensions steer politicians’ and the public’s actions and words.
And a potentially lifesaving accommodation is a badge of so much — of too much — more. Masks have unmasked immeasurable distrust in America. Who’s working on the vaccine for that?









Tuesday, May 12, 2020

More Tuesday Male Beauty


Trump’s Racism Will Bring the GOP Down with Him

The title of this post states what hopefully - and deservedly - will happen to the GOP.  By extension, it hopefully applies to white evangelical Christians - 49% of who attend church weekly or more frequently say Trump was "anointed by God" according to the Christian Post - as well since their racism strongly overlaps with that o the GOP and the white supremacists key to Trump's base of support.  In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman, explains why Trump and his racism (against all non-whites) should be the Republican Party's undoing.  Especially when combined with Trump's massive failure on the Covid-19 pandemic which is alienation older voters some of who rightly believe the GOP is willing to allow them to die in exchange for reopening the economy.  Here are column highlights:   
President Trump can’t help himself. The former reality-TV host was warned by White House staff, his campaign team, financial contributors and Republicans on Capitol Hill that his afternoon news conferences were causing political damage. But after a weekend of tweeting out conspiracy theories about former presidents and insults aimed at cable-news pundits, the president was at it again Monday.
And, true to form, Trump burned himself.
His coronavirus “update” ended abruptly after he hurled a bigoted remark toward an American journalist who grew up in West Virginia. When CBS News’s Weijia Jiang asked Trump about his misleading testing comments, the president blurted out: “You should ask China.” Jiang’s family emigrated from China when she was 2. For what it’s worth, Trump’s own mother immigrated to the United States when she was 18, and his wife, Melania, gained an “Einstein Visa,” reserved for those of “extraordinary ability,” in 2001. After Trump’s snarling China comment, CNN’s Kaitlan Collins pressed Trump until he abruptly retreated from the presidential podium.
As he stumbled away, one couldn’t help but be reminded of Trump’s racist 2016 attacks aimed at Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel. The then-candidate said he couldn’t trust Curiel because he was “Mexican,” but Curiel is an Indiana native; his parents immigrated there from Mexico before he was born.
Four years later, Trump’s Republican Party has become numbed to its party leader’s daily outrages — the racist attacks, the 18,000 lies (and counting), the petty insults, the breaches of constitutional norms, and the gross incompetence that has worsened the covid-19 crisis in the United States and has driven America to the edge of a depression. These GOP politicians have long believed that ignoring Trump’s unfitness for office is their best political play, but the Democratic Party’s historic landslide in 2018 along with their Southern gubernatorial victories last year suggest just the opposite. Public and private polls are looking worse for Republicans than they have since 2008.
If Democrats win back the White House and control of the Senate in 2020, much of that will be because black and Hispanic voters continue to reject Republican candidates. But Monday’s ugly display also brought into sharp relief another glaring problem for the Party of Trump: Asian Americans. . . . By 2014, Democrats were winning 49 percent of Asian Americans, and after two years of Trump in the White House, that number jumped to 77 percent. With outbursts such as Monday’s, one wonders how much worse things will be for Trump’s Grand Old Party this fall.
Republican incumbent senators in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Maine and North Carolina face serious threats from their Democratic opponents in recent polls. Once-safe states such as Kansas and Georgia are in play, and Trump himself is losing head-to-head matchups with presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida. Recent polls show the two are even tied in traditionally Republican strongholds like Georgia and Texas.
With the prospects of a historic Democratic landslide building with every Trump news conference, every deranged tweet, every racist remark, wouldn’t now be the time for Republican candidates to stand up, speak out and finally stop following a man so ill-equipped for the presidency?
To quote Trump himself, with control of Congress and the White House slipping away: “What the hell do they have to lose?”

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


Biden Is Planning an FDR-Size Presidency

Photo: Mark Peterson/Redux.
Driving from work this evening I heard part of an interview with  the director of a manufacturing association who discussed the harsh assessment of manufacturing CEO's who saw little demand - and therefore, hiring increases - through the end of 2020.  The other possible dead weight on the economy is that many pre-pandemic jobs may not come back or, if they do, will come back very slowly.  One of the things these CEO's thought would boost demand and employment was a major infrastructure initiative by the federal government, something Trump has bloviated about but which the Congressional Republicans have done nothing.  Now, with America's economy upended and the political game plan for November, 2020, similarly turned upside down, presumptive Democrat nominee, Joe Biden, has radically altered what he believes his presidency must do if he defeats Der Trumpenf├╝hrer,  Rather than status quo ante, back to normal, restore the soul of the nation, administration, Biden - correctly, in my view - believes that a FDR style presidency and policies and programs are needed to put America back on a solid economic footing. A very long piece in New York Magazine looks at Biden's evolution on what will need to be done.  Here are highlights:
[S]ometimes looking at the small lake abutting his backyard that bulges out from Little Mill Creek, {Joe Biden} the self-conscious man in the Democratic middle — mocked by the activist left throughout the primary campaign as hopelessly retrograde — considers the present calamity and plots a presidency that, by awful necessity, he believes must be more ambitious than FDR’s.
 The former vice-president carried the Democratic primary by relying on perceptions that he was an older, whiter, less world-historical (and less inspiring) Barack Obama — a steady hand who seemed more electable against a monstrous president than any of his competitors did. The heart of his pitch, when he delivered it clearly, was status quo ante, back to normal, restore the soul of the nation.
 But in the space of just a few months, COVID-19 and the disastrous White House response appeared to have dramatically widened Biden’s pathway to the presidency,
making the matter of moderation and electability seem, at least for the time being, almost moot. They also changed his perception of what the country would need from a president in January 2021 — after not just four years of Trump but almost a full year of death and suffering. The pandemic is breaking the country much more deeply than the Great Recession did, Biden believes, and will require a much bigger response. No miraculous rebound is coming in the next six months.  Long before the pandemic, he described a range of actions he’d take on day one, from rejoining the Paris climate agreement to signing executive orders on ethics, and he cited other matters, like passing the Equality Act for LGBTQ protections, as top priorities. Already his recovery ambitions have grown to include plans that would flex the muscles of big government harder than any program in recent history. To date, the federal government has spent more than $2 trillion on the coronavirus stimulus — nearly three times what it approved in 2009. Biden wants more spending. “A hell of a lot bigger,” he’s said, “whatever it takes.” He has argued that, even if you’re inclined to worry about the deficit, massive public investment is the only thing capable of growing the economy enough “so the deficit doesn’t eat you alive.” He has talked about funding immense green enterprises and larger backstop proposals from cities and states and sending more relief checks to families. He has urged immediate increases in virus and serology testing, proposing the implementation of a Pandemic Testing Board in the style of FDR’s War Production Board and has called for investments in an “Apollo-like moonshot” for a vaccine and treatment. This is all only what he believes should be done now before he even ascends to the presidency; by then, he thinks, the country could be in a much darker hole than it is today, presumably requiring even more federal investment and intervention. David Kessler, who led the Food and Drug Administration under both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton and has been speaking with Biden regularly about the crisis, recently told me the former vice-president “understands that until we have a vaccine or a therapeutic entity that can be used as a preventative, the virus is still going to be with us and that we’re going to constantly be putting out mini-epidemics.” [W]hile 2009 shows that spending unprecedented amounts of money alone doesn’t necessarily make a presidency transformational, the pandemic and the economic collapse it has produced have expanded Biden’s sense of not just how much relief will be required but what will be possible to accomplish as part of that recovery. Trump accomplished one big-ticket priority: tax cuts. Obama managed two: the stimulus, with a filibusterproof 60-vote Senate majority, and, barely, Obama-care. While it’s impossible to tell where the country is headed, Biden’s camp is in the disorienting position of scaling up its laundry list of proposals to match the ambition, and the political appetite, he thinks the American people — desperate for relief — will have in January. Biden’s long platform has grown in recent months as the crisis has deepened. . . . Once he began talking about a coronavirus recovery, he also started signaling more immediate ambitions on climate, including in his multiple conversations with Washington governor Jay Inslee. “He’s totally understood the centrality of a clean-energy plan,” said Inslee. [O]ne morning in late April. . . . he said into the phone, it was time they expanded their thinking. Sure, massive gobs of federal financial help have already been approved — unlike in 2008, he pointed out — but that still won’t be enough. Not while the magnitude of this crisis dwarfs the last one. His advisers agreed: If they were going to talk about lessons from history, their future calls might as well dive into the Great Depression and World War II. Biden is also a lifelong Democrat who likes the view from the center of the party, enough to move rapidly to accommodate when it shifts, as it is doing now very quickly. He may look like a milquetoast moderate to the activist left and maybe even to you, but the party — and world — has changed so fast that even his primary platform puts him well to the left of Obama in 2008 and, in many ways, left of Hillary Clinton in 2016. Those close to him say he sees in the crisis an obvious window for action. “There is no denying that the challenges a President Biden would face in 2021 are different than anyone could have imagined six months ago given the economic and health consequences of the coronavirus,” Feldman, who has worked with Biden for nearly a decade, told me. “What I’ve heard the vice-president say over and over again is this crisis is shining a bright, bright light on so many systemic problems in our country, and so many inequities. It is exacerbating and shining a light on environmental-justice issues, racial inequalities, so many other problems. Publicly, Biden has made no secret of his displeasure with Trump’s handling of the disaster, from his personal conduct — Biden has said the delay in distributing relief checks in order to print Trump’s name on them “bothered me the most” — to the administration’s failure to ensure small businesses access to relief funds while state unemployment systems were overwhelmed. The crisis, Biden believes, has expanded “the state of what is possible, now that the American people have seen both the role of government and the role of frontline workers,” said Sullivan. “He believes he has a more compelling case to make that this is the agenda that needs to get passed.” Outwardly, at least, Biden appears sensitive to the concerns of progressives. “He has said this is the second time in 12 years that the American taxpayers have bailed out American business,” Sullivan told me. The implication is that Biden has run out of patience. “That’s fine, we should do it and protect our economy — but he believes we have to ask our private sector to take on greater responsibility and accountability.”
Biden has talked openly, and seriously, about the notion of rolling out certain Cabinet picks before he is elected as a way of giving voters a sense of what to expect and to hit the ground running when he takes office. And he has already begun early-stage thoughts about not just top appointments but sub-Cabinet posts and the broader shape of his government. [H]e’s spent plenty of his time out of the spotlight weighing his vice-presidential options, conscious that he may effectively be picking his replacement and therefore sending an important signal about his wishes for Democrats’ future. His list of top contenders has long been thought to include Harris, Klobuchar, Whitmer, and Warren, as well as Nevada senator Catherine Cortez Masto and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. As the lockdown has dragged on, Biden has insisted his pick be ideologically “simpatico” (once thought to be a point against Warren, though less so amid this crisis), and he has hardened his belief that she must be prepared to take over from their first day in office. That point — which Obama has echoed in their conversations — is read by some in Biden’s circles as a potential knock against Abrams, who has never held statewide elected office, and some members of Congress who’ve been floated.


With the pandemic likely lingering through the end of the year, the prospect of four more years of Trump's mismanagement and the GOP effort to restore the Gilded Age ought to terrify most Americans - or at least those not totally blinded by racism and religious extremism. 

Monday, May 11, 2020

Biden: Trump Gives Americans A False Choice

Donald Trump and much of the GOP is frantic to reopen the U.S. economy in the hope that a return to normal will save their re-election prospects come November.  In doing so, Americans are being offered a false choice: (i) economic recovery combined with rising infections and deaths or (ii) continued economic disaster combined with fewer fatalities.  Some Republicans have insanely suggested that increased deaths among the elderly is an acceptable trade off for a revived economy. In a column in the Washington Post, Joe Biden calls out Trump - and indirectly the GOP - for foisting a false choice on Americans and lays out how and economic reopening could be combined with health safety.  Of course, it requires what the Trump regime has failed to provide: widespread testing to identify those with the virus and preventing them from spreading it to others.  Access to testing remains difficult and shows little sign of improving to the scale needed thanks in no part to an incompetent White House regime.  Here are column highlights:

The coronavirus, to date, has taken the lives of more than 79,000 Americans. One of every 5 U.S. workers has filed for unemployment — with the unemployment rate now the highest since the Great Depression. It is an extraordinary moment — the kind that begs for urgent, steady, empathetic, unifying leadership.
But instead of unifying the country to accelerate our public health response and get economic relief to those who need it, President Trump is reverting to a familiar strategy of deflecting blame and dividing Americans. His goal is as obvious as it is craven: He hopes to split the country into dueling camps, casting Democrats as doomsayers hoping to keep America grounded and Republicans as freedom fighters trying to liberate the economy.
It’s a childish tactic — and a false choice that none of us should fall for.
The truth is that everyone wants America to reopen as soon as possible — claiming otherwise is completely absurd. Governors from both parties are doing their best to make that happen, but their efforts have been slowed and hampered because they haven’t gotten the tools, resources and guidance they need from the federal government to reopen safely and sustainably. That responsibility falls on Trump’s shoulders — but he isn’t up to the task.
It’s been more than two months since Trump claimed that “anybody that wants a test can get a test.” It was a baldfaced lie when he said it, and it still isn’t remotely true. If we’re going to have thriving workplaces, restaurants, stores and parks, we need widespread testing.
In addition to forgetting the tests, he seems to have forgotten that ours is a demand-driven economy — you can shout from the rooftops that we’re open for business, but the economy will not get back to full strength if the number of new cases is still rising or plateauing and people don’t believe that it’s safe to return to normal activities. Without measures in place to prevent the spread of the virus, many Americans won’t want to shop in stores, eat in restaurants or travel; small-business owners know that a nervous public won’t provide enough customers to ensure they thrive.
States and cities that have attempted to reopen are discovering that the economy isn’t a light switch you can simply flip on — people need confidence to make it run, and that confidence must be earned by credible leadership and demonstrable safety.
Again, the solution isn’t a mystery. The Trump administration could focus on producing and distributing adequate testing and protocols that conform with the guidance of public health experts; doing so would speed up the reopening process considerably and make it a whole lot more effective.
If Trump and his team understand how critical testing is to their safety — and they seem to, given their own behavior — why are they insisting that it’s unnecessary for the American people?
And why does the president insist on trying to turn this into yet another line of division, pitting strained, grieving Americans against one another across manufactured battle lines of “health” and “the economy”? Everybody knows that we can’t revive the latter unless we safeguard the former — and pretending otherwise is the most transparent of political ploys.
Trump should be working to get Americans the same necessary protections he has gotten for himself.  It’s the right thing to do, and the only path to truly getting the economy back on track.