Saturday, July 11, 2020

More Saturday Male Beauty


Evangelicals Sold Their Souls and Have Little to Show for It

The vast majority of white evangelicals sold their souls and have backed Donald Trump, thus bear a large responsibility for putting the most immoral and incompetent individual ever in the White House.  In the process, evangelicals have shown their hypocrisy and own moral bankruptcy writ large and have helped drive the younger generations away from religion entirely and have thoroughly discredited the Christian brand.  Now, when I hear someone who supports Trump espousing their claimed religious beliefs, I immediately think of two words: liar and hypocrite.  the term modern day Pharisee also springs to mind.  I am hardly alone in this reaction.  So what have evangelicals received in return for prostituting themselves and destroying the Christian brand?  As a piece in The Atlantic lays out, not so much.  The ultimate irony is that their man Neil Gorsuch wrote the Supreme Court decision that extended non-discrimination protections to LGBT Americans.  Talk about a kick in the ass. Here are article highlights that lay out the little received in exchange for the moral degradation that evangelicals embraced:  
The closest thing social conservatives and evangelical supporters of President Donald Trump had to a conversation stopper, when pressed about their support for a president who is so manifestly corrupt, cruel, mendacious, and psychologically unwell, was a simple phrase: “But Gorsuch.”
Those two words were shorthand for their belief that their reverential devotion to Trump would result in great advances for their priorities and their policy agenda, and no priority was more important than the Supreme Court.
Donald Trump may be a flawed character, they argued, but at least he appointed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
And then came Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia. That is the case decided in mid-June in which the majority opinion, written by Justice Gorsuch, protected gay and transgender individuals from workplace discrimination, handing the LGBTQ movement a historic victory.
It was a crushing blow for the religious right, and it must have dawned on more than a few of Trump’s evangelical supporters that if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency, the outcome of the case would have been the same; the only difference is that the margin probably would have been 7–2.
The Bostock case was not the only major legal setback for social conservatives and evangelical Christians. By a 5–4 margin, the Court—in June Medical Services v. Russo—delivered a significant defeat to the pro-life movement, striking down as unconstitutional a Louisiana law that could have left the state with only a single abortion clinic. This dashed the hopes of those who were counting on Trump’s appointees to lead the Court in overturning Roe v. Wade. (Both of Trump’s Supreme Court choices were in the minority.)
Social conservatives can point to some important religious-liberty victories. But overall, this term was a judicial gut punch for the president’s evangelical supporters. The “but Gorsuch” argument has not been destroyed, but it has been substantially weakened.
Legislatively, Trump, compared with other presidents, has not achieved all that much for the pro-life cause and religious-liberties protection. . . . . Elsewhere, Trump has engaged in a bromance with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, the worst persecutor of Christians in the world, and established more intimate and admiring relationships with many of the world’s despots than with leaders of America’s traditional allies. And on issues that have traditionally concerned conservative evangelicals, such as fiscal responsibility and limited government, Trump has been awful: The deficit and the debt exploded under his watch, even pre-pandemic.
Based strictly on the standard of advancing causes that conservative evangelicals most care about, a fair-minded assessment of the Trump record is that some important things were achieved, especially in appointing federal judges. That clearly would not have happened in a Hillary Clinton presidency. But in virtually every other area, including the outcome of several key Supreme Court decisions, Trump has fallen short of the promises and expectations.
Now think about what the cost has been of the uncritical support given to Trump by evangelical Christians. For now, focus just on this: Christians who are supporters of the president have braided themselves to a man who in just the past few days and weeks tweeted a video of a supporter shouting “white power” (he later deleted it but has yet to denounce it); attacked NASCAR’s only Black driver, Bubba Wallace, while also criticizing the decision by NASCAR to ban Confederate flags from its races; threatened to veto this year’s annual defense bill if an amendment is included that would require the Pentagon to change the names of bases honoring Confederate military leaders; referred to COVID-19 as “kung flu” during a speech at a church in Phoenix; and blasted two sports teams, the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians, for considering name changes because of concerns by supporters of those franchises that those team names give undue offense.
The white supremacist Richard Spencer, describing the neo-Nazi and white-supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, told The Atlantic, “There is no question that Charlottesville wouldn’t have occurred without Trump.
For his whole life, before and since becoming president, Trump has exploited racial divisions and appealed to racial resentments. The president is now doing so more, not less, than in the past, despite the fact—and probably because of the fact—that America is in the grips of a pandemic that he and his administration have badly bungled and that has claimed more than 130,000 American lives.
As The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman pointed out on July 6, “Almost every day in the last two weeks, Mr. Trump has sought to stoke white fear and resentment.”
White evangelicals are the core of Trump’s political support, and while the overwhelming number of the president’s evangelical supporters may not be racist, they are willing to back a man who openly attempts to divide people by race. That would be enough of an indictment, but the situation is actually a good deal worse than that, since Trump’s eagerness to inflame ugly passions is only one thread in his depraved moral tapestry.
My hunch is that at the beginning of this Faustian bargain, most evangelicals didn’t imagine it would come to this, with them defending the indefensible, tarnishing their reputations, and doing incalculable damage to their causes.
The Trump presidency, which has produced few significant legislative or governing achievements, has inflicted gaping wounds on the Republican Party, conservative causes, and the evangelical movement. . . . . Much of the evangelical movement, in aligning itself with Donald Trump, has shown itself to be graceless and joyless, seized by fear, hypocritical, censorious, and filled with grievances.
One pastor of a large church on the Pacific Coast told me: “There are many reasons why young people are turning away from the Church, but my observation is, Trump has vastly accelerated that trend. He’s put it into hyperdrive.” . . . . Hollywood and the media created a decidedly unattractive stereotype of Christians. And Donald Trump fits it perfectly. Made it all seem true. And sadly, I now realize that stereotype is more true than I ever knew. It breaks my heart. In volleyball terms, Hollywood did the set, but Trump was the spike that drove the ball home. He’s everything I’ve been trying to say isn’t what the church is all about. But sadly, maybe it is.”
In the midst of the wreckage, Trump’s evangelical supporters will undoubtedly comfort themselves with this thought: They got Gorsuch.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Coronavirus Will Be the Real Swing Voter in November

Less than four months before the 2020 presidential election, America is the laughing stock of the world and the Trump/Pence regime has demonstrated its incompetence in dealing with the pandemic. "Old Europe" so demeaned by many of the right, has done a far better job and is reopening on a much sounder and safer basis.  Meanwhile GOP led states - especially Texas, Florida and Arizona where governors heeded Trumps demands to reopen to save the economy and Trump's reelection chances - things are dire.  In Texas the GOP dolt in the governor's mansion has indicated that perhaps a new lock down will be needed and belatedly officials are pleading for Texans to wear masks.   Ignoring the recommendations of health care experts to satisfy Trump' narcissism and self-centered focus is having deadly consequences.  In this nightmare situation, Andrew Sullivan suggests where things are with the virus come November will be the real swing determinant in the presidential election.  The choice will be between the horrifically incompetent Trump/Pence regime and Joe Biden and whoever his VP choice turns out to be.  Many will feel, if nothing else, Biden - who actually will listen to medical experts - is the safer choice.  Here are highlights from Sullivan's column:

If you want to see the appeal of Joe Biden, I urge you to watch a recent appearance on ABC News. It was tweeted out, in a doozy of a self-own, by Sean Hannity no less. Grandpa Joe is in front of a window that looks out on a calming, summery garden. His speech just a little bit slurry, he says the following to the camera: “All the talk in the last 20 years about driving down the rationale for unions, all of a sudden, this phrase ‘Everybody’s been woked,’ well, guess what, the rest of the working-class people in America have been awakened and realized, ‘Whoa, why, because I work at a fast-food restaurant that I have to sign an agreement that I will not compete, a non-compete agreement, that I will not go across town to another fast-food restaurant to try to get a raise?’ What in the hell is that about?”
He somewhat inartfully makes a good point about the weak leverage workers have at the bottom end of the income scale, he speaks in simple language, and, rather wonderfully, he proves he doesn’t really have a very good idea what being “woke” is. He appears completely normal, unthreatening and reassuring.
[T]he decision largely to get out of the way of Trump’s constant bouts of self-destruction has so far seemed a smart one. Trump is currently losing this election, and there’s no reason to intervene in any major way. And if the election really is a referendum on Trump, then it is very hard to see how the president can win at this point. The only word for this administration’s handling of a dangerous epidemic is catastrophic. The first wave is becoming a tsunami in the South and Southwest.
The economy, already cratered, could very well falter again in the next few months if new shutdowns are forced upon us, and even if they’re not, workers and consumers are simply not going to have sufficient confidence to rebound when the virus still lurks. The comparison with Europe is devastating. Even those countries that have done poorly, like the U.K., now look like success stories compared with America. The only mildly good news is that the death rates have not yet reflected the soaring infection rate. . . . All one can say politically is that a new jump in death rates would render Trump’s reelection even less likely than today. How does he win an election with a 200,000 death record looming?
So what could go wrong? The press went apeshit over Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech, decrying its divisiveness, bigotry, base-pandering, and so on. But when I read the transcript (forgive me, but my mental health couldn’t endure actually watching the speech itself), I could see what he was trying to do, and it isn’t strategically crazy.  In the surge of emotion after the murder of George Floyd, rhetoric on the left kept upping the ante.
I don’t believe for a second that this loathing of the Founders is felt much in the broader Democratic Party — but that doesn’t mean some protesters and media figures haven’t already given the GOP plenty of ammunition. And although the public has been generally supportive of police reforms, there’s always a point at which attacks on law enforcement can backfire.
The culture war is always there, and Trump is an expert in igniting it.
But a few things defuse this, I think. One is that the electorate of 2020 is nothing like that of, say, 1968 — and these core law-and-order and cultural appeals have less traction than they once did. Trump’s main achievement in immigration policy has been to permanently stigmatize the whole idea of lowering immigration to help the working poor, thus actually moving the U.S. to the left on the issue. Voters are also a bit more sophisticated than they may have been: Polling suggests that many Americans understand, for example, that “Defund the Police” is shorthand for reforming them.
Another reason Biden might avoid a culture-war election is that every issue has now been subsumed into or dwarfed by the pandemic and unemployment crisis and a fight over trans rights, say, seems peripheral in contrast. And then there’s simply Joe Biden’s affect, record, and faith. It’s hard to see this lifelong Catholic really conniving with neo-Marxist atheists pledging to “dismantle whiteness.” He’s clearly not in favor of allowing crime to run rampant in the streets. He has made a critical distinction between Confederate statues and those of the Founders, and he has insisted that any removal of monuments be done peacefully and democratically. It’s just hard to paint him as a stalking horse for Ilhan Omar, as some on the right hope to. It doesn’t work.
I suspect, the veep choice will be more important than usual. No men need apply, Biden has told us. No white women either, perhaps, if Amy Klobuchar’s withdrawal from consideration turns out to be dispositive. And the nonwhite woman who will therefore be nominated will have yet another burden: Because of Biden’s advanced age, and the likelihood of his serving only one term, she will be deemed the future leader-in-waiting. The GOP media-industrial-complex will define her pretty quickly as the person who is really in charge and try to run against her, rather than against Biden.
I hope Biden is figuring out how to counter this obvious strategy and doesn’t walk into a trap. Kamala Harris? Susan Rice? To be honest, I don’t know. But if the Trump narrative is that Biden’s surface centrism disguises a resurgent far left, and that he’ll be a puppet of the woke, the veep choice may matter more than it otherwise might.
Trump’s last gambit will be the debates. Tom Friedman is obviously a bit worried that Biden might stumble in a mud fight with the one-man clown car he’ll be up against. And I see his point.
But the virus will be the real swing voter in this election. The sheer scale of the health crisis, and its current trajectory, obviously sweeps every other issue before it, as it should. It sure hasn’t ended the culture war, which at the elite level is arguably more intense than ever, but it is in the driving seat of the economy, and that is almost always dispositive. If we enter November closing in on 200,000 deaths, with the toll rising, and in a virally caused economic slump, I just can’t see how any incumbent can get elected, and I’m usually pretty good at seeing the worst.
The only way Trump can win is to ignore the pandemic or lie about it. He is trying both right now, and neither tactic is working. And as it becomes clearer and clearer that the U.S. is now a disgraced and humiliated outlier in the developed world in its tackling of the virus, Trump’s ultimate responsibility for this dismal response and thereby our struggling economy will be harder and harder to deny. . . . Which suggests to me a Biden and Democratic landslide is no longer out of the question.
The world is laughing at us, when they are not crying at what we have become. And if that isn’t the Trumpiest reason to vote against Trump, I don’t know what could be.

Friday, July 10, 2020

More Friday Male Beauty


Trump Gambled With the Lives of Senior Citizens and Now Wants to Gamble With the Lives of School Children

Part of the reason for Donald Trump's decline in the polls has been due to white senior citizens waking to the reality that Trump puts reopening the economy - and his reelection chances - ahead of the very lives of older voters. Trump truly doesn't give a rat's ass about anyone but himself and being reelected so as not to be remembered by history as a "loser." Now Trump and his anti-public school maven Betsy DeVos - perhaps the worse Secretary of Education ever - want to gamble with the lives of school children and teachers through a push to reopen schools no matter the risk involved.  It is ONLY about Trump and his reelection hopes.  The irony is that the push to reopen schools comes even as Texas' governor - a Trump bootlicker of the highest magnitude - suggests that Texas may need to consider locking down again after is premature reopening to appease Trump's demands.   Sadly, Trump is a narcissistic sociopath who represents a clear and present danger to the lives of A column in the New York Times looks at Trump's efforts to endanger school children and school faculty members alike.  Here are column highlights:
Two weeks ago, I asked Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, what a functioning Department of Education would be doing to prepare the country to reopen schools in the fall.
“A functioning Department of Education would have been getting groups of superintendents and principals and unions and others together from the middle of March,” she told me. It would have created a clearinghouse of best practices for maintaining grab-and-go lunch programs and online education. By mid-April it would have convened experts to figure out how to reopen schools safely, and offered grants to schools trying different models.
“None of that has happened,” said Weingarten. “Zero.”
Instead, Donald Trump has approached the extraordinarily complex challenge of educating children during a pandemic just as he’s approached most other matters of governing: with bullying, bluster and propaganda.
While doing nothing to curb the wildfire spread of the coronavirus, he has demanded that schools reopen and threatened to cut off funding for those that don’t. On Wednesday, he tweeted that the guidelines for reopening schools from his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were “very tough & expensive,” adding, “I will be meeting with them!!!” Mike Pence then suggested that the guidelines would be revised. On Thursday the agency’s director, Dr. Robert Redfield, said they wouldn’t be, but later, seeming to give into pressure, said the guidelines should be seen as recommendations, not requirements.
Also on Thursday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos gestured toward a plan of coronavirus-inspired school choice that would punish public schools that don’t fully reopen. Without offering details, she said families could take the federal money spent at these schools and use it elsewhere. She’s long wanted to give public money to private schools; perhaps she thinks this coronavirus has given her the chance.
When I spoke to Weingarten again on Thursday, she wasn’t worried that Trump and DeVos would be able to follow through on their threats; they can’t redirect the funds without Congress. But with their crude attempts at coercion, they’ve politicized school reopening just as Trump politicized mask-wearing and hydroxychloroquine.
At the end of June, the American Federation of Teachers surveyed its members and found a broad willingness to return to the classroom. Two-thirds of respondents said school buildings should reopen in some capacity, and 76 percent said they’d be comfortable being in school with the proper safeguards. But after Trump began ranting about schools, Weingarten started hearing from teachers who were scared that reopening would be done rashly.
So as Trump tries to turn school reopenings into part of his culture war, Weingarten fears “a huge brain drain of people not willing to be in schools anymore.”
[H]ybrid schedules are being adopted all over the country — and grim as they are, they might turn out to be too optimistic, because they depend on the virus being somewhat contained. Palm Beach, Fla., just announced that schools there won’t open at all. Other districts in hard-hit areas will likely follow suit.
So far, the results of so-called “remote learning” — a term I dislike, since it presumes that learning is happening — have been terrible for students, especially disadvantaged ones. The fallout for many parents’ financial prospects and mental health is catastrophic. And part-time schooling is likely to significantly amplify educational inequalities that are already enormous.
This is almost certainly not why Trump is eager to have school resume. Rather, school closures and staggered schedules are a crushing weight on the economy. To millions of parents, they’re an intimate daily reminder that the president’s incompetence has ruined our lives. But to open schools in a reasonable way, the government needs to do two things: control the pandemic, as most other developed countries have done, and give schools money to adapt. This administration has so far failed to do either.
And now the president’s interference with the C.D.C. has made things worse.
The hybrid model that many large school districts are adopting is meant to limit the number of people whom teachers and students are exposed to. But Elliot Haspel, author of “Crawling Behind: America’s Childcare Crisis and How to Fix It,” points out that if kids disperse to various kinds of child care when they aren’t in school, they could end up being exposed to more people than they would be in a regular classroom.
“It’s a nightmare,” he told me. “I think we’re going to have significantly more harm to children and to families pursuing a staggered schedule approach, particularly to elementary school students.”
But Trump’s interference means that now no departure from the current C.D.C. guidelines will be seen as credible outside of MAGAland. “The recklessness has made people distrust anything that they say because they have downplayed the virus from the beginning,” said Weingarten.
This [Trump] is a president with negative credibility. The more Trump demands that schools open, the more people who’ve paid close attention to him will fear they all must remain closed. 
Sadly, the current occupant of the White House cares nothing about anyone but himself.  Whites - especially evangelicals - who support him are equally selfish yet fail to grasps that Trump's appeals to their racism and/or religious based hate and extremism masks the reality that Trump doesn't care if they - or their children - live or die. 

Mary Trump's Tell All Book

While the public may not know the details of Donald Trump's tax returns until after the November, 2020, election, the Supreme Court rulings yesterday mean that eventually the New York prosecutors will have access to them and they could well help lay a basis for prosecutions against Trump and/or his businesses. Meanwhile, Trump's niece's  book will hit the shelves a week ahead of schedule and will give a further look into the soulless man who currently occupies the White House.  Some of what is revealed is already known, but the family details and the malignant picture of Trump are telling and come just as Trump is already sinking in the polls - largely do to his own incompetence and dishonesty. A column in the Washington Post by Trump's nemesis, George Conway looks at the convergence of the book's details and the Supreme Court ruling.  Here are highlights:
What do a gripping family tell-all book and a momentous Supreme Court decision have in common? Quite a lot, it turns out.
The book, to be published next week, comes from Mary L. Trump, a clinical psychologist who happens also to be niece of Donald Trump, the president of the United States. It describes how Donald Trump has been protected by institutions his entire life.
Trump v. Vance, the Supreme Court case decided Thursday, illustrates how the president has pushed those protections to the limit — and how they’re about to end.
Mary Trump’s ”Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man” tells a remarkable story, the broad strokes of which many already knew. Mary Trump offers a tale of what she calls “malignant” family dysfunction, and how it produced a malignantly dysfunctional president.
It’s an unsparing and relentlessly detailed account. Her professional judgments about the president’s indisputable narcissism and, perhaps, sociopathy dovetail with those that other experts have reached before. Yet it’s not the possible diagnoses that give Mary Trump’s book its punch. It’s the factual detail — detail that only a family member could provide.
According to the book, Donald Trump paid someone to take the SAT for him. He also tried to trick his mentally declining father into signing a codicil that would have stripped his siblings of their inheritances. Her specifics all lead to the same brutal conclusions: “the sum total of who my uncle is,” she says, consists of “lies, misrepresentations, and fabrications.” He’s “incapable of growing, learning, or evolving.” He lacks true competence, his “real skills” being “self-aggrandizement, lying, and sleight of hand.” His own sister, a former federal appellate judge, thinks of her brother as a “clown,” unsuited for office. (Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, called ”Too Much and Never Enough” “a book of falsehoods.”)
Above all, Mary Trump’s point is that her uncle has spent his life being protected from the consequences of his actions and shortcomings. It’s as though “Donald has been institutionalized for most of his adult life,” she writes, “so there is no way to know how he would thrive, or even survive, on his own in the real world.” Far from being the virtually self-made man he has always pretended to be, Donald Trump was the “vanity project” of his father, whose money he used “to prop up an illusion” of success. When sales of assets of his father’s estate weren’t enough to clean up his finances, a television producer, through artful editing and image-making, “presented him as a legitimately successful tycoon” — something he never managed to be.
[Trump] has sought the ultimate institutional protection by invoking the presidency to serve his ends. For Donald Trump, the office has served as a bully pulpit from which he could lie and self-promote, with aides to solve, deflect or cover up his self-inflicted problems. In Vance, Trump tried to leverage the presidency for his personal benefit to an unprecedented extreme: His lawyers argued that the presidency should protect not just him from the legal consequences of his conduct — but his businesses, too.
The case, ironically, came about partly because of Mary Trump. As her book explains, she became a principal confidential source for a New York Times exposĂ© that described how the Trump Organization, over many years, may have dodged taxes. Those allegations became part of the predicate for a New York state criminal investigation that the president sued to curtail. Trump argued that, because he’s president, not even his accountants had to respond to the district attorney’s subpoena.
The Supreme Court would have none of it. Its decision rejected Trump’s narcissistic vision of the presidency. “In our judicial system,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the court, “the public has a right to every man’s evidence.” And that includes a president’s evidence. Just as other presidents have “uniformly” given evidence when required of them, the court held, so, too will Donald Trump and his businesses and accountants. . . . . As Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s concurring opinion aptly put, “no one is above the law.”
[F]or Donald Trump personally, his niece’s book and the Supreme Court’s decision may someday be remembered as the beginning of the end of his institutional protections. And not just in a legal sense. Much of the power of the presidency comes from the perception of it, and that perception is now waning as the president bleeds out in the polls. As that power ebbs, more Mary Trumps and John Boltons will tell their stories, or give their evidence to investigators, with ever less fear.
As Mary Trump puts it in her book, “the walls” of her uncle’s “very expensive and well-guarded padded cell are starting to disintegrate.” Come January, they should be gone for good.

Friday Morning Male Beauty


Thursday, July 09, 2020

More Thursday Male Beauty


Will Trump Trigger a Democratic Tsunami

I have noted often that in my view the 2020 presidential election is a choice between morality and immorality, with Donald Trump clearly representing immorality.  Increasingly, political strategists suggest that Trump has alienated enough swing voters that his reelection is not only in doubt, but he might drag down other Republican candidates as voters seek to punish Trump's enablers and political prostitutes - think Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell to name but two.  The Republican Party of today has lost any credibility when it comes to supporting moral values given it is now lead by a man who embodies immorality - not to mention mental illness. The same holds for evangelicals who younger voters correctly see as modern day Pharisees and hypocrites of the highest order. A piece at CNN looks at what will hopefully be a much deserved reckoning for the GOP.  As for my Republican "friends," election day will be a moment of truth.  If they vote for Trump, I don't want to hear another word about their religious faith of support of morality because they will have shown their own moral bankruptcy by their vote for Trump.  Here are article highlights:
The debate among smart political handicappers is no longer whether former Vice President Joe Biden is a clear favorite over President Donald Trump to win the White House in the fall.
It's now whether Trump might lose big enough to drag down all Republicans on the ballot in November, creating a hole that it could take years for the GOP to dig out of. "This election is looking more like a Democratic tsunami than simply a Blue wave," wrote The Cook Political Report's Amy Walter on Wednesday. "Republican strategists we've spoken with this week think Trump is close to the point of no return. A couple of others wondered if Trump had reached his 'Katrina' moment: a permanent loss of trust and faith of the majority of voters."
Backing up that prediction, The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan campaign tip sheet, moved a series of states in Biden's direction: Wisconsin and Pennsylvania moved from "Toss Up" to "Lean Democrat" and Georgia was moved from "Lean Republican" to "Toss Up." Those moves -- as well as a few others in Maine and Nebraska congressional districts -- bring Biden to 279 electoral votes in Cook's tabulation, nine more than he needs to be elected president.
 But again, it's more than just that Trump looks like a major underdog for the White House. It's that his numbers are now in an area where he could cost Republicans the Senate and a number of House seats. The problem for Republicans is that even as they see this potential electoral tsunami forming, they don't have many options to change their fates. As Stu Rothenberg wrote recently, any attempt by congressional Republicans to argue to voters that they are a necessary balance to a Democrat in the White House (as Republicans did to Bob Dole's losing effort in the late stages of 1996) would fail. "There is widespread agreement that the party, voters, and national politics have changed so dramatically over the past two decades that such a strategy would be unthinkable in an era of polarization and anger," Stu concluded. The Point: The only thing worse than watching a political tsunami build is standing on the beach and knowing you are hopeless to stop it. That's where Republicans find themselves at the moment.

  I hope these predictions come true.  The GOP needs to be severely punished for its embrace of immorality and racism and policies that harm the majority of Americans.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty


Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Trump is - Thankfully - Driving Away Suburban Voters

Across America - Virginia is a perfect example - suburban area voters are rejecting the racism, far right religious extremism, and reactionary policies that now define the Republican Party under Donald Trump.  Neither Trump nor the base of the GOP - white supremacists and Christofascists - seem to have gotten the message.  Hence, the primary defeat in Virginia's 5th congressional district of a Republican likely to have won reelection by an extremist with ties to Liberty University who may well lose to his Democrat opponent in November.  At the national level Trump is doubling down on precisely the things that alienate suburban voters in the effort to retain the loyalty of his knuckle dragging, Klan supporting base.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the situation which hopefully proves fatal to Trump's reelection hopes.  Here are excerpts:
In 2016, Trump won the overall suburban vote by five percentage points, and those votes were largely responsible for his narrow victory in states such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. The campaign sent surrogates including Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, who became a top aide in his White House, and Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, to connect with suburban voters such as white women and working moms who were uncomfortable with Hillary Clinton, his Democratic rival.
But Trump’s responses to several of today’s most significant issues in the past week are making the already unpopular president less popular with these voters.
1. Despite increases in reported coronavirus cases — so severe in some states that their leaders have ordered some shutdowns again — Trump is pressuring schools to reopen this fall.
2. While most Americans believe that monuments honoring Confederate soldiers who fought to keep black people enslaved should be removed, Trump does not — and has even used racist slurs to attack his political opponents on the issue.
3. Days after speaking near Mount Rushmore — a monument to presidents carved on a mountain that some Native American tribes consider sacred — Trump criticized athletic teams that are changing their names and mascots from those deemed racist toward Native Americans.
[Trump’s] eagerness to send students back to school as soon as possible seems more rooted in his desire to give the impression that the pandemic is under control as opposed to data supporting that things are actually improving. That could hurt him with suburban voters — and particularly the women and mothers who supported him in the past.
And while Trump opposes removing Confederate memorials — a position he also took in August 2017 when he defended white nationalists who marched to preserve the monuments — most Americans do not. I previously reported that most voters — 52 percent — support removing Confederate statues from public spaces around the country, according to a June Quinnipiac University poll, a significant increase in support since August 2017, when fewer than 40 percent of voters supported removing such statues.
Among the Americans who feel uncomfortable with Trump’s position on racial issues are suburban voters — and that can have real ramifications for November. Marc Thiessen, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a right-leaning think tank, and the former chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush, wrote in The Washington Post last week:
In the wake of recent racial unrest, Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has opened a commanding 25-point lead over Trump in the suburbs. Two-thirds of Americans say the president has made racial tensions worse since the killing of Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. Trump’s uncompromising rhetoric and retweets are driving away swing voters who don’t want to be associated with a senior citizen shouting “white power!”
The latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll shows the president receiving about a third of the suburban vote — a significant decline from the nearly 50 percent of support he received in 2016. With several months left before the election, that number could drop more, and perhaps is likely to if Trump continues to address these issues in the same way. And all indicators suggest that he will. . . . . it will be very difficult for him to win the election if he continues to take stances on issues that suburban voters oppose.



One can only hope Trump continues to drive away suburban voters.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Will Trump Dump Pence in a Last-Minute Game Changer Attempt?

Is Pence about to be thrown under the bus?
I dislike Mike Pence just as much as I dislike Donald Trump.  Indeed, in some ways Pence may be the more despicable of the two since, unlike Trump, he can't plead mental health issues as the cause of his lack of morals and sky high hypocrisy.  Faced with a likely loss if he had run for reelection as governor of Indiana, Pence sold his soul to Trump for two reasons: (i) joining the Trump ticket gave him a plausible reason to not seek reelection and an embarrassing loss, and (ii) it played to Pence's delusional belief that god wants him to be president. Having sold his soul, Pence has participated in every horror Trump has unleashed on the nation, including the disastrous response to the Covid-19 pandemic. With Trump seemingly increasingly desperate as poll after poll suggests he will lose to Joe Biden in November, he needs something to change the conversation if you will.  Dumping Pence and selecting a new VP candidate for the 2020 ticket might be something Trump might grasp at.  Should that happen, the irony would be that the self-loathing, seemingly closeted Pence would have sold his soul for nothing long term.  That prospect is delicious to contemplate.  Trump's big problem will be finding someone as willing as Pence to sell their soul and face the possibility of being on a ticket that goes down to a horrific defeat.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at this possibility.  Here are highlights:

On two previous occasions I have addressed and dismissed rumors that [Trump] the president wanted to dump his intensely loyal vice-president, Mike Pence, before voters go to the polls this year. In November 2018, we heard reports that Trump was having his own misgivings about the stolid veep. In August 2019, the person incessantly mentioned to be a possible replacement for Pence, former South Carolina Governor and Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, conspicuously pledged her allegiance to Trump-Pence 2020, making it certain that everyone heard the rumors she denied.
On both occasions I figured that Pence was just too valuable to Trump as his ambassador to white conservative evangelicals to be discarded, despite some reports that Trump thinks he has forged sufficient bonds with that constituency to no longer need help.
So what might have altered that calculation in the last year? Two things: First, Trump is in very serious danger of not being reelected. He needs a game-changer to reset the race, and a fresh veep is a time-honored way to do that, even if it involves (to quote the words said to John McCain in 2008 about choosing Sarah Palin ) “high risk [and potentially] high reward.” Indeed, if, like Trump, you have no real second-term agenda to tout and no capacity to “pivot to the center” and pursue swing voters via messaging or policies, it’s one of the few cards in the deck.
In a podcast at FiveThirtyEight in which Nate Silver, Claire Malone, and Perry Bacon Jr. batted around various emergency steps Team Trump could take to turn it all around, a switch in running-mates was the one that made the most sense to them.
Second, Trump could perhaps try to blame Pence for his administration’s deadliest and most politically damaging error, its mishandling of COVID-19 from the get-go. The veep is, after all, the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, even though he has consistently given up the spotlight to Trump and to public health advisers like Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx. In an administration with constant personnel changes and little sense of reciprocal loyalty, it wouldn’t be that out of the ordinary for the Sycophant-in-Chief to be asked to step aside as one last act of service to the Warrior-King: taking the fall for a public health disaster.
In the FiveThirtyEight discussion, Haley was regarded as the most likely Pence replacement. As a woman of color who took down her state’s Confederate flags, she could obviously help address the perception that the president’s reelection effort is one long exercise in white male reactionary culture war politics.
Another name you occasionally hear as a substitute veep is Haley’s own 2016 candidate, Marco Rubio, a Latino pol whose presence on the ticket could arguably be worth a couple of points in must-win Florida. Like Haley’s, his positions on cultural issues would minimize conservative evangelical heartburn over Pence’s defenestration. If and when the trap door drops on the Hoosier incumbent, all sort of possibilities might open up.
A final reason it could actually happen now is the strong possibility that the Republican convention in Charlotte and Jacksonville will turn out to be a logistical and public health fiasco. The GOP will need some counter-programming to distract media from the mess, and an unexpected ticket is probably the most newsworthy thing Trump can offer. He would, however, have a lot of Trump-Pence posters and merch to liquidate.
If Pence gets dumped, it could not happen to a more self-prostituting hypocrite than Pence.  Keep your fingers crossed.

More Tuesday Male Beauty


Do Americans Understand How Badly They’re Doing?

The 4th of July holiday is just past us and many Americans remain  lost in the myth of American exceptionalism as the much of the nation remains in the grip of a pandemic that other nations appear to have brought under control.  Yes, America is exceptional alright, but not in a good way.  Meanwhile I see some Facebook friends struggle to continue close their eyes to the reality that the occupant of the White House has failed them miserably - as have boot-licking Republican governors.  These individuals seemingly refuse to believe that their leaders are not acting in the interests of citizens, but rather out of narcissism in the case of Trump, and fear in the case of self-prostituting Republicans.  One friend posted recently about how great powers have fallen over the centuries and then wondered if the United States was following this path. My response back would be, yes it is and that Trump, rather than "making America great again" has accelerated the nation's decline.  One has to wonder when the majority of Americans will open their eyes to this unpleasant reality.  A piece in The Atlantic by an American living in France looks at this question.  Here are article excerpts:

I returned to Paris with my family three months after President Emmanuel Macron had ordered one of the world’s most aggressive national quarantines, and one month after France had begun to ease itself out of it. When we exited the Gare Montparnasse into the late-spring glare, after a season tucked away in a rural village with more cows than people as neighbors, it was jarring to be thrust back into the world as we’d previously known it, to see those cafĂ© terraces overflowing again with smiling faces.
The city had been culled of its tourists, though it was bustling with inhabitants basking in their reclaimed freedom. Half at most wore masks; the other half evinced indifference. We were in the midst of a crisis, I complained to my wife. Why were so many people unable to maintain even minimal discipline?
Glued as I am to the news from the U.S.—where I was born and grew up and travel frequently— I couldn’t shake the feeling that France was also opening up recklessly early. But I was wrong to worry. As Donald Trump’s America continues to shatter records for daily infections, France, like most other developed nations and even some undeveloped ones, seems to have beat back the virus.
The numbers are not ambiguous. From a peak of 7,581 new cases across the country on March 31, and with a death toll now just below 30,000—at one point the world’s fourth highest—there were just 526 new cases on June 13, the day we masked ourselves and took the train back to Paris. The caseload continues to be small and manageable.
America, however, is an utter disaster. Texas, Florida, and Arizona are the newest hubs of contagion, having apparently learned nothing from the other countries and states that previously experienced surges in cases. I stared at my phone in disbelief when the musician Rosanne Cash wrote on Twitter that her daughter had been called a “liberal pussy!” in Nashville for wearing a mask to buy groceries.
That insult succinctly conveys the crux of the problem. American leadership has politicized the pandemic instead of trying to fight it. I see no preparedness, no coordinated top-down leadership of the sort we’ve enjoyed in Europe. I see only empty posturing, the sad spectacle of the president refusing to wear a mask, just to own the libs. What an astonishing self-inflicted wound.
On June 26, a day when the U.S. notched some 45,000 new cases—how’s that for “American carnage”?—the European Union announced that it would loosen some travel restrictions but extend its ban on visitors from the United States and other hot-spot nations. On Tuesday, it confirmed that remarkable and deeply humiliating decision, a clear message that in pandemic management, the EU believes that the United States is no better than Russia and Brazil—autocrat-run public-health disasters—and that American tourists would pose a dire threat to the hard-won stability our lockdown has earned us. So much for the myth that the American political system and way of life are a model for the world.
We didn’t stay long in the city. Although the chance of contagion in Paris is minimal, the thought of unnecessary risk unnerved me, and so we left again for another round of self-imposed confinement. But this was a choice. I think of my mother and father trapped in New Jersey, in their 70s and 80s, respectively, and at the mercy of a society that is failing extravagantly to protect them. And it is failing to protect them not from some omnipotent enemy—as we believed in March and perhaps even as late as April—but from a tough and dangerous foe that many other societies have wrestled into submission.
I am infuriated. I am also reminded once again of the degree to which so many other countries deliver what is, in real terms, a palpably higher quality of life by any number of self-evident measures.
America is my home, and I have not emigrated. I have always found the truest expression of my situation in James Baldwin’s label of “transatlantic commuter.” I have lived in France off and on since the early 2000s, and it has been instructive over the decades to glimpse America’s stature reflected back to me through the eyes of a quasi-foreigner. If the country sparked fear and intense resentment under George W. Bush and mild resentment mixed with vicarious pride under Barack Obama, what it provokes under Trump has been something entirely new: pity and indifference. We are the pariah state now, but do we even see it?

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


Monday, July 06, 2020

Anti-Trump Lincoln Project Catch Democrats’ Attention - and Donations

I left the Republican Party as a matter of conscience many years ago at this point, so I do understand that many one time Republicans have now reached that point, especially since the GOP embraced Donald Trump, the most immoral and unfit individual to ever occupy the White House. Thus, I applaud everyone who has abandoned the GOP when faced with the choice of morality and true patriotism versus immorality and the destruction of America's image in the world and ongoing harm to average Americans.  In the case of the Lincoln Project, these former Republicans have put their talents in action and have not only left the GOP but are in attack mode against Trump and now many of his Republican enablers.  The slick ads and go for the jugular nature of the Lincoln Projects ads has gotten the attention of Democrats some of whom - myself included - have donated to their anti-Trump mission. A piece at MSN.com looks at the Lincoln Project and its ambitious agenda, part of which includes driving Trump crazy (sorry, but Trump's misery is my pleasure).  Here are article highlights:

George Conway, a prominent conservative critic of President Trump and the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, had a wild theory that he could singlehandedly get Donald Trump to “trash” Jesus Christ.
His plan? Run an ad on cable news networks in Washington, D.C., that said, “‘Jesus says love thy neighbor, but Donald Trump doesn’t.”  “You could see Trump coming out and saying, ‘Well, Jesus never had to put up with the abuse I have!’” Conway joked in a recent podcast interview with the other founders of his super PAC.
It was out of this instinct to troll the president — and Conway’s knowledge that Trump, as an eager consumer of cable news, would be tantalizingly easy to reach — that the Lincoln Project was born. The super PAC, which was founded in December by Conway and prominent “NeverTrump” current and former Republican political strategists including Rick Wilson, Steve Schmidt, and Jennifer Horn, didn’t take long to hit its mark.
“They’re all LOSERS” Trump responded a little before 1 a.m. on Twitter in May after seeing one of the group’s ads unfavorably compare his coronavirus response to Ronald Reagan. “RINO losers … I BEAT THEM ALL!” he followed up the next day, using the acronym for Republicans In Name Only.
Now, Democrats have also begun paying attention to the Lincoln Project’s relentlessly negative election-year assault on [Trump] the president, and the way in which the super PAC rapidly creates ads that are designed to enrage and distract Trump and hyper-targets them onto his TV screen.
“These are the best ads on television. They’re absolutely devastating,” said former presidential candidate and Vermont governor Howard Dean, who complimented the group’s founders on the “controlled rage” that fuels their spots.
The Lincoln Project hasn’t pursued the Jesus ad prank. But whether they’re making fun of Trump for (allegedly) being ripped off by his campaign manager, for looking shaky while walking down a ramp, for bungling the nation’s coronavirus response, or even for the size of his hands and the crowd at his recent Tulsa rally, the Lincoln Project is willing to go places that Democratic groups haven’t. And that is drawing attention — and even money — from liberals.
“I am thrilled by the Lincoln Project’s impact, their substance and also their messaging, which is so compelling,” said Robert Zimmerman, a Democratic National Committee member and fund-raiser, who said he’s heard other Democrats say they’re donating to the group. “Quite frankly, Democrats, activists, and patriots should be grateful for their involvement and there shouldn’t be any competition.
The Lincoln Project’s “Mourning in America” ad, which prompted Trump’s angry tweets, featured images of worried-looking Americans in hospital wards or waiting in long lines paired with somber violin music. A narrator warns that Trump has made America “weaker and sicker and poorer” as the slickly produced ad contrasts Trump’s performance on coronavirus to Ronald Reagan’s hopeful “Morning in America” reelection slogan.
More recently, the group has bought ads that stalk Trump as he travels around the country. One that aired in Tulsa before his June rally compared Trump’s rhetoric to the segregationist George Wallace, splicing Trump’s image with that of Wallace and tiki torch-toting white supremacist protesters. Another airing in South Dakota, where Trump visited on Friday, features the somber words of the nation’s presidents who are carved into Mount Rushmore. Trump’s image then pops up and a narrator warns, “America’s worst president will neither be remembered nor revered.”
The Lincoln Project is the most high-profile of several Republican anti-Trump groups vowing to spend money to defeat him. Its founders, who also include Reed Galen, Ron Steslow, Mike Madrid, and John Weaver, bring extensive political pedigrees to the task.
The group’s founders have their share of critics: Republican operatives who see them as traitors, the president who has ranted about them, and Democrats who question whether their trolling of Trump and thus-far limited budget will really influence voters in the handful of swing states that decide elections.
But the Lincoln Project’s relatively modest output so far, including some ads that seemed solely aimed at an audience of one, is racking up millions of views on social media, their reach amplified by the subsequent response from the president and related news coverage.
“When he started going after us directly, it highlighted and magnified his incompetence,” said Horn. “A president who is awake at 1 o’clock in the morning using a teenager’s medium to go after political operatives for saying something that he perceived to be mean about him? It is such a reflection of him being weak.”
There’s also an aspect of psychological warfare at play, as the strategists hope the more the president engages with their ads, the less he has time to focus on a reelection message. Wilson has a running gag on Twitter that he and Conway are living “rent free” in Trump’s head.
“It throws him off the message that he should have been on … and it also shows how nuts he is,” Conway said on the podcast.
The Lincoln Project has made other enemies in the Republican Party. Galen said on the group’s podcast that the GOP had “fundamentally changed” and that Trump’s “enablers” in the Senate need to be “washed out of the system as well.”
This kind of talk — and the super PAC’s spending against vulnerable Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and Cory Gardner of Colorado — have caused great animus among other Republican operatives, even those who have been critical of Trump.
“They’re not just going after Trump, they’re going after Republican senators,” said Ryan Williams, a former top aide to Mitt Romney during his 2012 presidential run. “These aren’t Republicans disaffected with the president. They’re just Democrats now.”
Privately, Democratic strategists and donors have wondered what’s driving the Lincoln Project to campaign against Republicans more broadly. Are they planning on rebranding as centrist Democratic operatives if presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden wins the White House, given some of the founders, including Schmidt, have already left the party?
But the Lincoln Project’s founders say they were driven by conscience to do whatever they can to deny Trump a second term, after witnessing what they said is his disrespect for the rule of law. At the group’s launch event in February, Wilson said he’d watched former colleagues and bosses “abase themselves and abandon their principles” and could not stand by any longer.
The Lincoln Project recently released a pro-Biden ad that will be airing in Midwestern swing states. It portrayed Biden speaking inspirationally along with clips of other presidents comforting the nation at times of crisis, juxtaposed with Trump’s comments showing a lack of empathy for people protesting racism and police brutality. Barack Obama’s former campaign manager David Plouffe called the ad “stirring.” Future spots will focus on persuading Republicans to abandon Trump, the strategists say.
“I appreciate the success that we’ve achieved so far, but honestly we have barely begun,” said Horn. “Donald Trump should not expect a good night’s sleep in the White House ever again. If he was upset with us at 1 a.m. — then just wait.”

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Trump and Republican Governors: How America Lost the War on Covid-19

Much of America is facing a growing crisis as the Covid-19 pandemic worsens in many states, but particularly states with Republican governors such as Florida, South Carolina, Texas and Arizona.  The a piece in the Washington Post notes the situation as follows:
The pandemic map of the United States burned bright red Monday, with the number of new coronavirus infections during the first six days of July nearing 300,000 as more states and cities moved to reimpose shutdown orders. . . . . The United States is “still knee deep in the first wave” of the pandemic, Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Monday. Fauci noted that while Europe managed to drive infections down — and now is dealing with little blips as it reopens — U.S. communities “never came down to baseline and now are surging back up, . . . .

The obvious question is how did Europe - and even a number of what Americans view as third world countries - get its pandemic under control while much of the United States is an unmitigated disaster?  A column in the New York Times lays blame where it belongs, namely on the failed leadership in the White House and in GOP held governors' mansions across the nation.  Ironically, the column references Donald Trump attacking Virginia and its physician governor and tweeting "liberate Virginia."   Here in Virginia, the infection curve has flattened and the number of cases remains stable or falling, thus suggesting that had other states heeded science and medical experts, America's situation might have been very different.  One can only hope that older voters realize that Trump and the GOP governors gambled with their lives for economic improvement which now will not materialize as states shut down again. They need to punish these failed leaders at the polls in November.  Here are column excerpts:

When did America start losing its war against the coronavirus? How did we find ourselves international pariahs, not even allowed to travel to Europe?
I’d suggest that the turning point was way back on April 17, the day that Donald Trump tweeted “LIBERATE MINNESOTA,” followed by “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” and “LIBERATE VIRGINIA.” In so doing, he effectively declared White House support for protesters demanding an end to the lockdowns governors had instituted to bring Covid-19 under control.
As it happens, the Democratic governors Trump was targeting in those tweets stood firm. But Republican governors in Arizona, Florida, Texas and elsewhere soon lifted stay-at-home orders and ended many restrictions on business operations. They also, following Trump’s lead, refused to require that people wear masks, and Texas and Arizona denied local governments the right to impose such requirements. They waved away warnings from health experts that premature and careless reopening could lead to a new wave of infections.
And the virus came.
But neither Republican politicians nor the Trump administration was willing to heed that lesson [form New York City].  By the second week of June new Covid-19 cases were surging in Arizona and clearly on the rise in Texas. Yet the governors of both states dismissed calls for a pause in reopening, insisting that things were under control.
And on June 16, of course, The Wall Street Journal published an opinion article by Vice President Mike Pence declaring that there wasn’t and wouldn’t be a coronavirus second wave. Given the Trump administration’s track record, this virtually guaranteed that the wave was about to hit. And so it was.
Over the past three weeks things have quickly gotten very grim. Hospitals in Arizona and Texas are in crisis. And, yes, it was premature reopening that did it, both directly and by sending a signal to individuals that the risk was past.
But why did America bungle Covid-19 so badly?
There has been a fair bit of commentary to the effect that our failed pandemic response was deeply rooted in American culture. We are, the argument goes, too libertarian, too distrustful of government, too unwilling to accept even slight inconveniences to protect others.
I don’t think any other advanced country (but are we still an advanced country?) has a comparable number of people who respond with rage when asked to wear a mask in a supermarket. There definitely isn’t any other advanced country where demonstrators against public health measures would wave guns around and invade state capitols. And the Republican Party is more or less unique among major Western political parties in its hostility to science in general.
But what strikes me, when looking at America’s extraordinary pandemic failure, is how top-down it all was.
Those anti-lockdown demonstrations weren’t spontaneous, grass-roots affairs. Many were organized and coordinated by conservative political activists, some with close ties to the Trump campaign, and financed in part by right-wing billionaires.
And the rush to reopen in Sunbelt states was less a response to popular demand than a case of Republican governors following Trump’s lead.
The main driving force behind reopening, as far as I can tell, was the administration’s desire to have big job gains leading into November, so that it could do what it knew how to do — boast about economic success. Actually dealing with the pandemic just wasn’t Trump’s kind of thing.
Trump’s vanity — his belief that wearing a mask would make him look silly, or mess up his makeup, or something — has surely played a role. But it’s also true that masks remind people that we haven’t controlled the coronavirus — and Trump wants people to forget that awkward fact.
The irony is that Trump’s willingness to trade deaths for jobs and political gain has backfired. . . . Trump’s job approval and electoral prospects just kept sliding.
And even in purely economic terms the rush to reopen is probably failing. The last official employment number was a snapshot from the second week of June; a variety of short-term indicators suggest that growth slowed or even went into reverse soon afterward, especially in states where Covid-19 cases are spiking.
In any case, the point is that America’s defeat at the hands of the coronavirus didn’t happen because victory was impossible. Nor was it because we as a nation were incapable of responding. No, we lost because Trump and those around him decided that it was in their political interests to let the virus run wild.