Saturday, April 27, 2019

More Saturday Male Beauty

Charlottesville Wasn't About Robert E. Lee

In response to Joe Biden's campaign launch video condemning him for describing those among the neo-Nazis who terrorized Charlottesville and the University of Virginia in August, 2017, as "very fine people," Der Trumpenf├╝hrer is now saying he was referring to history buffs who honor Robert E. Lee.  As an op-ed at CNN notes, that excuse is bullshit. In a delicious coincidence, while citing other reasons rather Trump himself, the UVA national champion basketball team will NOT be visiting the White House.  Trump is clueless as to the very high level of anger (fury might be a better word) that still lingers in Charlottesville and among UVA alumni over the desecration of the university grounds  and the city itself by out-of-state white supremacists and neo-Nazi elements.  Here are excepts from the CNN piece:
After former Vice President Joe Biden used the violence in Charlottesville to frame his presidential campaign launch on Thursday, President Trump shot back, defending his controversial claim that there were "very fine people" on both sides of the white-supremacist rally that ended with the death of Heather Heyer and a helicopter crash that killed two police officers.
"I was talking about people that went because they felt very strongly about the monument to Robert E. Lee," Trump said in answer to a reporter's question on Friday. "People there were protesting the taking down of the monument to Robert E. Lee. Everybody knows that." Trump's decision to double-down on his "very fine people" comments, more than a year and a half after the deadly Unite the Right rally, was particularly shocking -- because of everything that has happened since. Investigations have made clear that the rallygoers engaged in coordinated acts of political violence, including the torchlight rally on August 11, 2017, in which they chanted "Jews will not replace us" before attacking anti-racist demonstrators on the grounds of the University of Virginia.
Trump's defense of his comments . . . also ignores the way the statue controversy in Charlottesville was chosen by alt-right leaders as a way to expand and gain legitimacy for their white supremacist movement. The violence in Charlottesville was not, at its heart, about Robert E. Lee or about history at all. The people who gathered in Charlottesville throughout the summer of 2017 did so in an explicit attempt to unite the alt-right with the broader American right around issues of "white rights" and racism.
These speeches, full-throated declarations of white supremacy, did not try to hide or temper their politics. "This is more than just confederate monuments," Enoch declared. "This is images of white people, images of white heroes, images of white warriors that are being torn down to attack and demoralize" the white race, to be replaced by a "mixed, muddy people" Spencer followed with a speech that argued the removal of the Lee statue was the first step toward white genocide.
If that daytime event was about white supremacy, the nighttime event was about white power. A hundred members of the alt-right returned to Lee Park with torches. They circled the statue of Lee and changed "Blood and soil" and "You will not replace us." Two weeks later, Kessler applied for a permit for the Unite the Right rally. The speakers for the planned rally included Spencer, Kessler, Enoch, Ku Klux Klan organizer David Duke and several other neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, and white supremacists. That lineup, plus the May statue rally and torch-burning, put white-power rhetoric and violence at the heart of the planned rally in Charlottesville.
That message was underscored by the torchlight march the evening before the August 12 rally, which began as an act of political intimidation and ended as an act of political violence. Hundreds of white men (and a handful of white women) marched onto the University of Virginia's campus, shouting slogans such as "Jews will not replace us." When they arrived at their intended rallying point, the statue of Thomas Jefferson outside the university's famed Rotunda, they found a small group of anti-racist students and activists circling the statue, whom they began to beat as police looked on nearby (after several minutes, officers finally intervened).
That was the context of the conflagration in Charlottesville the next day that [Trump] the President chooses to ignore: The Unite the Right event was a neo-Nazi rally, and "very fine people" do not attend neo-Nazi rallies.
There has been more than enough time for reflection and apologies. [Trump] The President and his allies continue to provide cover for the racist violence in Charlottesville, and the violent ideology propagated there. There is no more need to debate whether support for racism is a feature of the Trump administration; the question is how much longer Americans will tolerate it.

White Buyers Outnumber Black Buyers in Black Neighborhoods

Some in the LGBT half jokingly note that gays have long been one of the best harbingers of neighborhood change - and some would argue gentrification - given their willingness to move into marginal or historically black neighborhoods due to (i) less concern about neighborhood schools, and (ii) a desire to buy low priced historic homes in need of major upgrades.  Indeed, after coming out, still on a mortgage for the home for my former wife, I was limited in my buying power and attracted to post turn of the 20th century architecture. The solution: buy in a predominately black neighborhood close to Old Dominion University and Norfolk's upscale Ghent neighborhood.  My 1917 arts and craft house needed a thorough redo - new kitchen, bath, removal of old carpet (and thousands of carpet staples) to refinish hardwood floors, repainting inside and out, new roof, etc.  The result was a historic home at far less the cost (much of the work other than plumbing and electrical was done by my ex-boyfriend and me) than in posh and expensive nearby Ghent.  Since I bought the house, new - and much higher priced homes - have been built on vacant lots and many other homes on the street have been extensively remodeled (my youngest daughter and her family live in the house now).  

As a piece in the New York Times notes, the trend that I was part of out of financial necessity is spreading across the country with whites moving into historically black neighborhoods while blacks and other minorities buy in the suburbs. The verdict is out on whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, likely depending on one's perspective.  For cities, it is certainly helping to rebuild their tax base.  One disturbing note: mortgage lenders may be redlining minority buyers in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods.  Here are article highlights:
RALEIGH, N.C. — In the African-American neighborhoods near downtown Raleigh, the playfully painted doors signal what’s coming. Colored in crimson, in coral, in seafoam, the doors accent newly renovated craftsman cottages and boxy modern homes that have replaced vacant lots.
To longtime residents, the doors mean higher home prices ahead, more investors knocking, more white neighbors.
Here, and in the center of cities across the United States, a kind of demographic change most often associated with gentrifying parts of New York and Washington has been accelerating. White residents are increasingly moving into nonwhite neighborhoods, largely African-American ones.
In America, racial diversity has much more often come to white neighborhoods. Between 1980 and 2000, more than 98 percent of census tracts that grew more diverse did so in that way, as Hispanic, Asian-American and African-American families settled in neighborhoods that were once predominantly white.
But since 2000, according to an analysis of demographic and housing data, the arrival of white residents is now changing nonwhite communities in cities of all sizes, affecting about one in six predominantly African-American census tracts. The pattern, though still modest in scope, is playing out with remarkable consistency across the country — in ways that jolt the mortgage market, the architecture, the value of land itself.
In city after city, a map of racial change shows predominantly minority neighborhoods near downtown growing whiter, while suburban neighborhoods that were once largely white are experiencing an increased share of black, Hispanic and Asian-American residents.
At the start of the 21st century, these neighborhoods were relatively poor, and 80 percent of them were majority African-American. But as revived downtowns attract wealthier residents closer to the center city, recent white home buyers are arriving in these neighborhoods with incomes that are on average twice as high as that of their existing neighbors, and two-thirds higher than existing homeowners. And they are getting a majority of the mortgages.
Such disparities in incomes and mortgage access aren't apparent in suburban neighborhoods with a growing share of Hispanic, black and Asian-American residents.
In South Park, a neighborhood with picturesque views of the Raleigh skyline, the white home buyers who have recently moved in have average incomes more than three times that of the typical household already here. Whites, who were largely absent in the neighborhood in 2000, made up 17 percent of the population by 2012. Since then, they’ve gotten nearly nine in 10 of the new mortgages.
In neighborhoods like South Park, white residents are changing not only the racial mix of the community; they are also altering the economics of the real estate beneath everyone. . . . . Some of that change can be positive, she said. This realization was not: “Our black bodies literally have less economic value than the body of a white person,” she said. “As soon as a white body moves into the same space that I occupied, all of a sudden this place is more valuable.”
In the places where white households are moving, reinvestment is possible mainly because of the disinvestment that came before it. Many of these neighborhoods were once segregated by law and redlined by banks. Cities neglected their infrastructure. The federal government built highways that isolated them and housing projects that were concentrated in them. Then banks came peddling predatory loans.
“A single-family detached house with a yard within a mile of downtown in any other part of the world is probably the most expensive place to live,” said Kofi Boone, a professor at North Carolina State University’s College of Design.
Here, because of that history, it’s a bargain. And while that briefly remains true in South Park, the disinvestment and reinvestment are visible side by side on any given street.
African-Americans have remained so segregated in American cities in large part because white people have avoided living in black neighborhoods, and seldom even considered buying a home in one. What changed, then?
How did the first developer to renovate a home know a new market would be waiting for it?  “I guess the answer is I didn’t know,” said Jason Queen, a 39-year-old developer in Raleigh. “But I did know that I wanted to be in downtown.”
Mr. Queen, who had worked in historic preservation, has rehabilitated or built about 100 homes in the historic corridor just east of downtown Raleigh, starting with a house that he and his wife lived in and renovated on the edge of South Park a decade ago. Mr. Queen was his own market: He rejected long car commutes and cul-de-sacs. This part of the city was more affordable than anywhere else near downtown. And he wanted diversity.
“What I didn’t want to do is move to a neighborhood where all the kids look exactly the same as my kids,” said Mr. Queen, who is white. “I didn’t think that was the right thing to do.”
Crime plummeted in the years preceding all this redevelopment. Public housing projects were demolished for mixed-income housing. Cities reinvested in neglected downtowns.
The run-up in home prices in the early 2000s also left middle-class households searching for affordable housing. By then, many working-class white neighborhoods in good locations had already gentrified. Predominantly African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods were what remained.
[I]n the aftermath of the housing bust, mortgage lending tightened, particularly for African-Americans and Hispanics. White buyers got a head start in places like South Park just as they were becoming newly desirable. By the time more lending returned for minorities, these neighborhoods were increasingly priced out of reach.
“The city is always the battleground; when it was failing, that was a problem, and now that it’s succeeding, that’s also a problem,” said Ken Bowers, Raleigh’s planning director. People used to debate whether the city was delivering equal parks or transit service in all neighborhoods. “Now the debate we’re having is ‘Are these parks gentrifying the neighborhood?’ ” he said. “That’s a very dysfunctional place to be.”
In the suburbs, a far different set of processes is driving the demographic change, as middle-class minority families seek more space or better schools, as immigrant communities take root, or as families are increasingly priced out of the city. This kind of increased diversity may bring its own challenges. But at least among the homeowners, there is something stabilizing in the fact that the new households economically resemble their neighbors — whether the communities around them are working class, middle class or wealthy.
“We made some progress by getting to a point where the entry of one black family did not signal that, ‘Oh my god, this is a neighborhood that’s going to fall apart,’ ” Ms. Ellen said. “Maybe we can get to a point where the entry of one white family is not a signal that, ‘This is a neighborhood that’s immediately going to have million-dollar condos.’ ”

My 1917 house after a near total remodel.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

How Republicans Benefit From Losing the White House in 2020

From time to time I encounter former colleagues from my days in the Republican Party who ask what would it take to get me to come back to the GOP. The easiest answer is to simply say that the GOP would have to drop its anti-gay agenda and cease its unholy alliance with anti-gay Christofascists. That response usually ends the line of discussion, especially since most of my former colleagues have always been moderates and don't like the power of the Christofascists in today's GOP.  But beyond that response, much more would have to change in the GOP, including its rejection of an agenda that is the antithesis of Christ's gospel message and, the removal of Trump and his supporters.  I suspect that there are many former Republicans and moderates who hold similar views.  Indeed, a column in New York Magazine argues that the GOP would benefit from a Trump defeat in 2020.  That is certainly true, in my view, if the party wants to regain any shred of moral decency.  Here are article highlights:

While the public ranks of anti-Trump Republicans have shrunk into insignificance by now, it’s still clear — from anecdotal evidence via Republican friends, and from every disclosure of daily business in the White House, whose MAGA warriors regularly mock and thwart POTUS — that while the GOP has solidly lined up behind Trump’s agenda and reelection campaign, there are still serious intraparty misgivings about the Boss. Smart Republicans would have to either laugh or cry or roll their eyes at such astonishing examples of presidential cluelessness as his threat to “head to the U.S. Supreme Court” to stop impeachment proceedings.
Still, in sports and in politics, your team is your team, and to the extent that the GOP’s fate is bound up in Trump’s for the time being, all the eye-rolling is largely kept in private. But you have to figure some Republicans are looking ahead to 2020 and seeing a silver lining in a possible narrow Trump reelection loss, at least so long as the GOP holds onto the Senate.
That’s an entirely plausible scenario, as it happens. Republicans go into 2020 with a 53-47 Senate majority. Only three Republican incumbents are currently rated as vulnerable by the Cook Political Report, and none of them is as endangered as Alabama Democrat Doug Jones. Add in the lively prospect that Joe Manchin may resign his seat to run for governor, almost certainly giving the GOP another Senate seat from Trump-loving West Virginia, and the odds of a GOP Senate in 2021 look quite good, even if Trump again loses the popular vote and doesn’t again pull off the inside straight of an Electoral College victory.
Yes, a Democratic White House would mean the end of any grand schemes of conservative policy revolution, and might put off consolidation of an aggressively right-wing Supreme Court (one willing, say, to flatly reverse Roe v. Wade) for a bit. That last factor alone will keep many conservative Evangelicals praying for a Trump win. But consider the advantages to the GOP of a narrow loss:
· The economy won’t keep growing forever. Losing the White House in 2020 makes it more likely Democrats will get the blame for a turndown or a recession — as they largely did after Barack Obama was elected in 2008.
· If Trump is reelected, the 2022 midterms could be a bloodbath for his party, as second-term midterms often are. Twenty-two of the 34 Senate seats up in 2022 are currently held by Republicans. They could use a wind behind them to maintain control.
· A Trump loss, even if it’s narrow, would likely break the grip of Trumpism on the party, keeping its options open for a future in which demographic change makes his brand of white identity politics increasingly perilous. If Trump wins a second term, Mike Pence becomes the presumptive successor, unless the president decides Ivanka is ready to run.
· Republicans are temperamentally better suited to being the “out party” rather than the governing party, as its paltry legislative accomplishments in 2017–2018 showed, despite total control of the federal government.
Republicans would undoubtedly feel pain at the loss of federal patronage that losing the White House would involve; job prospects in Real America for those young men wearing MAGA hats might not be as robust as they might imagine. And if a Trump loss in 2020 also damages GOP positioning in governorships and state legislatures on the brink of the decennial Census (perhaps offset by the thumb on the scales the administration is trying to administer through a citizenship question on the Census), the costs of defeat might be too high and too lasting.
But if Republicans can thread the needle, any tears they shed on Trump’s behalf on November 3, 2020, might be of the crocodile variety. And for the secret band of suppressed Trump-loathers in the GOP (yes, we know you’re there), it’s a more likely recipe for redemption than some doomed primary challenge by William Weld or Larry Hogan.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Franklin Graham Attacks Pete Buttigieg, Calls Melania Trump "Classiest First Lady"

Blogger friend Joe Jervis calls out Franklin Graham's hypocrisy for attacking Pete Buttigieg while calling Melania Trump "the classiest First Lady our country has ever had."  Even hysterically anti-gay (and closeted) Rick Santorum condemned Graham's hypocrisy for supporting Trump notwithstanding Trump's embodiment of everything a true Christian should eschew.  First, this from Joe's blog:
Earlier this week evangelist Franklin Graham declared that Pete Buttigieg will face eternal damnation if he doesn’t repent from his “flaunting homosexuality.”
Last year Graham shrugged off Donald Trump’s multiple adulterous affairs, telling the Associated Press, “This thing with Stormy Daniels and so forth is nobody’s business.”
And now today Graham is wishing happy birthday to Melania Trump, “the classiest first lady our country has ever had.”
You can be very sure that if Michelle Obama had ever appeared nude in lesbian porn shoots, Graham would have been standing outside the White House day and night with a flaming pitchfork.
As for Santorum's surprising condemnation of Graham, LGBTQ Nation reports as follows:

Out presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg has found an unlikely defender after evangelical leader Franklin Graham called on the candidate to “repent” of his homosexuality.
Rick Santorum, one of the most conservative religious politicians and a former Republican presidential candidate, found himself actually pointing out the hypocrisy of the religious right during an interview with CNN’s New Day.
After host John Berman asked Santorum about the dustup, Santorum first defended Graham’s right to say what he did.
After Berman pointed out the hypocrisy of Graham “calling on Pete Buttigieg to repent for being gay, yet [being] one of the most ardent supporters of the thrice-married President Trump,” Santorum shocked the host by agreeing. Graham has been on the biggest supporters of the decidedly un-Christian president.
“I would say that you have every right to call him out on that. Because if he’s gonna say that about Pete Buttigieg, then he needs to when Donald Trump’s accusations come up about marital infidelity and other things that is equally as sinful,” Santorum said. “He should be equal and vociferous in calling out a similar sin.” 
The British version of GQ has some of Melania's "classy" photos here.  Personally, give me Jackie Kennedy - a truly class act with no borderline porn in her past.

More Friday Male Beauty

Joe Biden is the Hillary Clinton of 2020

With now 20 candidates for the Democrat 2020 presidential nomination, the obsession of Democrats ought to be determining which candidate can beat Donald Trump.  All else should pale in comparison  and Democrats should avoid repeating past mistakes.  They need a candidate that can generate excitement and not just among their fraction of the party base that border on cultist for that 
candidate.  Rightly or wrongly, Trump generated excitement among the white supremacists, Christian extremists, and those who wanted to blow up the system.  Excitement is what gets voters to the polls.  A winning candidate also needs to be free from as much baggage as possible that drag the candidate down or turn off critical elements of the voter base.  A lengthy piece in Vox makes the case that if Joe Biden is the 2020 nominee, Democrats will be making the same mistake they made in 2016 by nominating Hillary Clinton.  This go round, there are more candidates to choose from and Democrats need to think long and hard about the most important question: who can beat Trump. A candidate's perfection on every policy issue matters matters far less since, if the candidate cannot win, their policy issues are meaningless. Here are article highlights which too me, are on point:

To a certain kind of Democratic Party establishmentarian, Hillary Clinton lost in 2016 because she was not “likable” enough — a sentiment that may or may not be thinly veiled code for saying that she’s a woman. Their solution in 2020 is good old Joe Biden.
Biden, on the likability frame, is the opposite of Clinton — a back-slapping pol man who enjoys shooting the breeze with reporters. But the reality is Clinton was plenty likable at key moments in her career. Most notably, one of the main reasons the Democratic Party rallied around her so hard in 2014-’15 is that when she was secretary of state, her approval ratings were far higher than Barack Obama’s, and she was an in-demand midterms surrogate even in states where he was toxic.
Biden, meanwhile, was not especially popular as vice president during Obama’s first six years in office and only saw his numbers rise as he appeared to step out of the electoral arena — swapping places with Clinton as the kind of generic Famous Democrat Who Isn’t Running.
What brought Clinton down was public exposure not to her personality — which was sparkling enough to make her the most admired woman in America for 17 years straight before losing the claim to Michelle Obama in 2018 — but extended public scrutiny of every detail of a decades-long career in public life. This, in turn, is the exact same problem Biden will inevitably face as a presidential candidate. Americans like outsiders and fresh faces, not veteran insiders who bear the scars of every political controversy of the past two generations.
Mainstream Democrats like other mainstream Democrats. But what it means to be a mainstream Democrat has changed significantly since Biden entered the Senate 46 years ago. As Democrats gear up to take on Trump, the party’s best shot is to do anything possible to avoid repeating the 2016 experience of defending decades’ worth of twists and turns on various issues from the Iraq War to LGBTQ rights to banking deregulation.
In 2008, Democrats responded to the evident unpopularity and failure of the 2003 war in Iraq in the sensible way — by nominating someone who'd spoken out against the war when he had a chance. . . . yet Democrats chose to saddle themselves with a nominee who’d been a prominent advocate for it.
[A] well-known Iraq War supporter who, unlike Trump, was actually in the Senate at the time was very poorly positioned to argue against him. And by 2020, there’s simply no reason to do that again. Most of the party’s bench consists of people like Sens. Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker, who are young enough not to have participated in the war debate in Congress.
[W]hat’s Biden’s excuse? He was chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time — the guy with privileged access to top officials in the American government and around the world. The guy who, though he surely couldn’t have stopped Bush’s folly, certainly could have warned about it.
Foreign policy experience theoretically should be a big Biden advantage over his rivals. But in reality, on one of the only foreign policy controversies voters actually paid attention to or remember, Biden got it wrong in a big way.
[S]ince the founding generation passed away, voters have tended not to want to put veteran politicians in the White House. With only a handful of exceptions, the voters choose to elevate an “outsider” who’s going to “fix the mess in Washington” (or drain the swamp) rather than an inside player who’s mastered the system.
Candidates don’t get credit with voters for mastering Washington. Instead, they end up on defense, defending political decisions that don’t look great in hindsight.
Another major problem for Clinton that emerged over the course of the campaign related to her paid speeches for major banks during the brief window between her service as secretary of state and running for president.
Biden is in no better a position. He spent his whole career in the Senate representing Delaware, a major center of the consumer credit side of the banking industry. He was so close to the local banking giant that he was jokingly referred to as “the senator from MBNA” (which has since been bought by Bank of America).
This made him, among other things, a champion of mostly GOP-supported legislation in 2005 whose aim was to make it more difficult for hard-pressed families to discharge their credit card debt in bankruptcy. . . . Clinton was unusually tight with Wall Street for a Democrat because she represented New York in the Senate, and bankers were her dairy farmers and cheesemakers.
But “I just happen to represent a state whose local business interests are unusually evil” is a terrible public-facing argument (which, of course, is why Clinton didn’t make it). The reality is that very little about Biden’s career is extraordinary. But this, again, is precisely why the voters tend not to choose congressional veterans — people hate business as usual in Washington and want to elect leaders who’ll change the game, not play by the rules.
Biden looks bad in hindsight on a lot of issues.  Marriage equality is in some respects the best example. If you trace the long arc of the Democratic Party’s slow, steady embrace of LGBTQ equality as a cause, then Biden is clearly right there on the journey with everyone else. At a critical moment, he actually led the stampede, as the first Obama administration official to openly embrace marriage equality during the great Obama flip-flop of 2012.
But back in 1996, as a senator, he voted for the viciously discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act. This was, at the time, a totally unremarkable vote — virtually everyone in Congress voted for it.
Biden has, in recent years, been a champion of criminal justice reform just like most Democrats. But in earlier years, when most Democrats were “tough on crime” drug warriors, Biden was a “tough on crime” drug warrior who as a senior member of the Judiciary Committee authored a number of harsh anti-drug laws.
It would be a mistake to see him as some kind of carceral maniac, warmonger, or anti-gay bigot — he was a normal Democrat who had normal Democratic Party positions on a variety of issues over time. But while that extreme normality appeals to party regulars, just as Hillary Clinton appealed to them, the sheer duration of normality means you end up flip-flopping or getting behind the curve in a way that a younger politician wouldn't. And then there are some unique home-state issues.
Had Biden not opted to run, he’d have gone down in history as a senator who was very well-liked by his colleagues and the press, and who served as the popular vice president for one of the most influential presidents of all time. . . . But as a candidate, he’s much too big a fish to be ignored by his rivals, and they’ll have to tear him down.
Some of that will be policy-based, but some of it will probably be personal. Biden has followed Clinton’s footsteps in doing paid speaking gigs while also harboring presidential ambitions — an error that proved costly for her and will likely prove costly for him if it ends up under the microscope. , , , especially because Biden himself can’t seem to decide what he thinks about his handling of the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings — alternately apologizing for having mishandled things and griping that it’s unfair for Anita Hill to blame him.
Add it all up and you get a negative portrait of Joe Biden — the buckraker who failed to protect a sexual harassment victim and spent the aughts boosting the Iraq War and bank deregulation after fueling mass incarceration and anti-gay discrimination in the 1980s and ’90s.
Times change, and the 2020 presidential campaign will be waged in this moment. And Democrats deserve a nominee who can either plausibly claim to have been prescient on the big changes that have swept progressive politics or is new enough to elective office to simply be of the current moment.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The GOP Elite Despise the American Heartland

An abandoned gas station in East Lynn, W.Va., a coal mining town (NYT).
While Democrats struggle to determine which of their multitude of presidential nominee candidates can win the American Mid-West and perhaps pinkish red states, Donald Trump continues to play the racism card and panders to evangelicals' extremism even as he and his party continue to push policies that harm working class workers and farmers in these areas of the country. Between the Trump tariffs which have hurt both farming and manufacturing and the Trump/GOP tax cut give away to the extremely wealthy and multi-national corporations.  Then, of course, there is the GOP effort to gut Medicaid and decrease Medicare spending which prove catastrophic to rural areas in so-called flyover country.  The consistent losers under the GOP agenda?  The middle and working classes and farmers, many too blinded by their anti-non-white bigotry and their homophobia to realize that they continued to be played by fools not only by Trump but also the so-called GOP elite who hold them in contempt despite occasional lip service to the contrary.  A column in the New York Times looks at how the GOP really views this element of the party's base.  Here are column highlights: 
“If you live in the Midwest, where else do you want to live besides Chicago? You don’t want to live in Cincinnati or Cleveland or, you know, these armpits of America.” So declared Stephen Moore, the man Donald Trump wants to install on the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors, during a 2014 event held at a think tank called, yes, the Heartland Institute. The crowd laughed.
Moore is an indefensible choice on many grounds. Even if he hadn’t shown himself to be extraordinarily misogynistic and have an ugly personal history, his track record on economics — always wrong, never admitting error or learning from it — is utterly disqualifying.
His remarks about the Midwest, however, highlight more than his unsuitability for the Fed. They also provide an illustration of something I’ve been noticing for a while: The thinly veiled contempt conservative elites feel for the middle-American voters they depend on.
This is not the story you usually hear. On the contrary, we’re inundated with claims that liberals feel disdain for the heartland. . . . what’s the source of that narrative? Look at where the belief that liberals don’t respect the heartland comes from, and it turns out that it has little to do with things Democrats actually say, let alone their policies. It is, instead, a story line pushed relentlessly by Fox News and other propaganda organizations, relying on out-of-context quotes and sheer fabrication.
Conservative contempt, by contrast, is real. Moore’s “armpit” line evidently didn’t shock his audience, probably because disparaging views about middle America are widespread among right-wing intellectuals and, more discreetly, right-wing politicians.
There is a real economic and social crisis in what one recent analysis calls the “Eastern Heartland.” This region suffers from persistently low employment among working-age men and has seen a surge in mortality from alcohol, suicide and opioids — “deaths of despair,” in the phrase of Anne Case and Angus Deaton.
What lies behind this crisis? The view of most liberals, as far as I can tell, is that it reflects declining economic opportunity, changes in the economy that have favored metropolitan areas over rural communities.
Many conservatives, however, blame the victims. They attribute the heartland’s woes to a mysterious collapse in morality and family values that somehow hasn’t affected coastal cities. Moral collapse is the theme of books like Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart: The State of White America,” and of innumerable articles. One widely read essay in National Review went so far as to label the troubled Eastern Heartland “the white ghetto,” whose people are too indolent to move to where the jobs are.
When it comes to politicians, of course, what they say is much less important than what they do. So what do the policy choices of liberal and conservative pols say about how they value the heartland?  Some Democrats, notably Elizabeth Warren, have been offering real proposals to help rural areas.
Meanwhile, all that Republicans have to offer are fantasies about bringing back lost jobs in things like coal mining and manufacturing. In reality, coal mine closures have continued and the manufacturing trade deficit has widened since Trump took office.
More important, think about what will happen to troubled parts of America if Republicans manage to do what they tried to do in 2017, and impose savage cuts on Medicaid and other safety net programs.
I always think about West Virginia, where Medicaid covers almost a third of the nonelderly population. And it’s not just about receiving care, it’s also about jobs. More than 16 percent of West Virginians are employed in health care and social assistance, compared with less than 3 percent in mining. Hospitals are the biggest employers in many parts of rural America. What do you think will happen to those jobs if Medicaid is hollowed out?
[I]f you look at what conservatives say to each other, as opposed to what they pretend to believe, it becomes clear that contempt for middle America is much more prevalent on the right than on the left. And this contempt is reflected in the right’s policy agenda, which would badly hurt the people it claims to consider the only real Americans.
I know that this will be a hard point to get across. Indeed, I’m sure that some people in the heartland will take any effort to convince them that they’re being misled as just another example of liberal disrespect. But all Americans, wherever they live, deserve to be told the truth.

More Thursday Male Beauty

Biden is Running as Obama’s Heir. The Problem: He’s Not Obama

Joe Biden has now formerly thrown his hat into the crowded Democrat nomination race. Personally, like Bernie Sanders, I believe that Biden's time has passed and that it's time for a younger Democrat standard bearer who can lead the party and the country into the future rather than have the 2020 presidential election between two near geriatric candidates.  In Trump we already have an aging, out of touch (and in my view, mentally ill) candidate who frankly only bonds with white supremacists, religious extremists, and vulture capitalists who are driven by hatred and/or greed. Democrats need a counterpoint to that and Biden, is too old and too tide to the past to be an effective counter to Trump despite possible strengths with segments of the black community and union members.  Having seen Obama twice, once at very close range, the other reality is that Biden simply does not have Obama's charisma.  Democrats ran a candidate in 2016 who lacked charisma and we know how that turned out.  Here are highlights from a piece in Politico that looks at Biden's effort to be what he is not:

Joe Biden and Barack Obama got off to a rocky start in 2007, but they found their way to a mutual respect and good working relationship for the next eight years.
Obama showed his appreciation at the end of their second term by rewarding Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award possible.
I'm an Obama-Biden Democrat, man. And I'm proud of it,” Biden told reporters earlier this month.
Yet despite a legitimate claim to be the standard-bearer of President Obama’s legacy, Biden faces a fundamental challenge as he seeks his party’s nomination for the White House: Convincing the diverse and youthful coalition that elected Obama to two terms that a 76-year-old white man is the right person to carry the mantle.
To Biden and his advisers, age and race are inferior to the political realities of his special relationship with Obama. The question is whether primary voters will see it the same way, especially when the former president has indicated he’ll remain neutral in a crowded Democratic field filled with diverse and dynamic candidates.
One thing is certain: Obama’s political apparatus is not united behind Biden, whose campaign announcement comes after more than 20 other candidates launched their bids.
None of Obama’s inner circle of advisers have signed on with any campaign. But other Democratic contenders have snagged top-level Obama campaign talent and tapped its fundraising prowess.
While Biden’s campaign manager, Greg Schultz, led Obama’s campaign efforts in swing-state Ohio, Beto O’Rourke hired Obama’s 2012 deputy campaign manager Jennifer O’Malley Dillon and has enjoyed the support of Paul Tewes, the 2008 Obama campaign’s director in first-in-the-nation Iowa. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren signed Joe Rospars, Obama’s chief digital strategist in 2008 and 2012, and Emily Parcell, political director for Obama’s 2008 Iowa caucus team. Several top former Obama administration officials contributed to Pete Buttigieg.
“I don’t think there’s any one standard bearer for the Obama legacy in this primary. There are multiple candidates who could carry that mantle,” said Ben LaBolt, former spokesman for Obama’s reelection campaign.
“A big question looming over the primary is: is this a moment for the longest record of experience or is this a moment for generational change within the party and a new vision within the party,” LaBolt said, noting that “even President Obama has talked about letting this be a moment for generational change and for others to lead and rise through the party and step up. So I don’t think it will be a completely clean shot if he tries to claim he’s the sole purveyor of his legacy.”
The generational split is clear in a February POLITICO/Morning Consult poll showing Biden is weakest with voters under the age of 30.
An Obama campaign veteran who had discussed working with Biden’s campaign said there’s a divide among former Obama staffers.  “A lot of us don’t want Joe to run. His time has passed and it’s not his moment,” the operative said. “The real Obama legacy is about the future, not the past. And if he runs, it’s going to put that legacy on trial in a Democratic primary where guys like Bernie [Sanders] are going to take shots at it and tarnish that legacy ... We want Joe to ride off into the sunset.”
Looking at the early state calendar, that support from black voters could be a big boost to Biden in South Carolina, where 60 percent of the primary electorate is black. South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn, the highest-ranking African American in Congress, has not endorsed any 2020 candidate but is a Biden ally who speaks favorably of him. . . . “There’s some love for Joe Biden,” he said, “and it’s because of Barack Obama and how he stood by him. People remember.”
Time will tell if Biden is delusional or not. Meanwhile, I have decided so far who I do not like and support but not yet found the candidate that has won my allegiance and who I think can successfully take on Trump. 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Congressman Don Beyer (D-Va.) Endorses Mayor Pete

The political endorsement race has begun and Pete Buttigieg - who will be headlining the Virginia Democrats' Blue Commonwealth Gala in Richmond in June (yes, the husband and I are going) to help raise funds to flip control of the Virginia General Assembly to Democrats - has won the endorsement of Don Beyer, a former two term Virginia Lt. Governor and third term member of Congress from Northern Virginia. As Beyer notes in a piece in the Washington Post, Buttigieg communicates a rational progressive agenda while also displaying attributes that may ring positive with moderates and independents.  Stated another way, Buttigieg is not so far to the left - even though he's gay - as to lose moderates and independents.  Here are article highlights:

Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg won his first endorsement from a member of Congress on Wednesday, as Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) announced that he was backing the young Indiana politician known as “Mayor Pete.”
“Everybody I talk to — even my Republican brother-in-law I had breakfast with — is excited about him,” Beyer said in an interview.
Beyer initially did not know what to make of the millennial mayor of South Bend, Ind., who formally announced his White House bid this month.
“I started off as a huge skeptic,” he said. But he looked into the 37-year-old’s background and liked what he saw: He’s a former Naval intelligence officer who served in Afghanistan, a Rhodes scholar who speaks seven languages, a Midwesterner who does not shy away from religion and a mayor with executive experience that many contenders lack.
What really won Beyer over was a series of interviews he heard Buttigieg give. “The thing that really most impressed me was listening to him,” he said. “I think he’s the most articulate of all the candidates we have. He speaks plainly but very thoughtfully. Politics is about communicating and being able to tell a story well. And I think he does it better than anyone I’ve seen since Barack Obama.”
Beyer endorsed Obama in early 2007 and volunteered on his campaign, knocking on doors for weeks in Iowa ahead of the state caucuses. Beyer, who is serving his third term in Congress, representing a deep-blue Northern Virginia district, plans to do similar work for Buttigieg.
“I endorsed Barack Obama early, having been moved by both his intelligence and his political capability,” Beyer said in a prepared statement. “I am similarly inspired by Mayor Pete. With him, I feel the promise of a new generation, and I see a way out of the darkness.
“In making this choice, I think of the qualities missing from the current occupant of the Oval Office. They are qualities that Pete Buttigieg exudes: decency, a grounding in history, optimism, a sophisticated grasp of the world and of the dangers of bigotry, and a generosity of spirit. The Democratic field is full of people with these traits, but Pete possesses them to an uncommon degree, and, just as importantly, has a gift for communicating them.”
Beyer said he does not think most voters will care that Buttigieg is gay, saying that America “has largely worked through” anti-gay sentiment. That the mayor is “in a stable marriage with somebody he obviously loves tells us good things about him,” he said.
As for his age, Beyer noted that Buttigieg would be 39 by the time he’d take office — “not much younger than Teddy Roosevelt and John Kennedy, and they did quite well.

Democrats Take Note: Bernie Sanders Scares A Lot of People

While in the top tier of candidates in early polls, Bernie Sanders has lots of baggage and is potentially frightening to moderates that must be won over in the 2020 general election if Democrats hope to prevail.  Yes, Bernie's cult like followers - who are, in my opinion, very much akin to Trump's in terms of blind, unreasoning devotion - do not want to hear concerns or criticisms, but with so much on the line in the 2020 election, rational thought is required. A thoughtful piece in the Washington Post does a balance assessments of the liabilities that Sanders could bring to the fore if he were the Democrat nominee.  To Sanders supporters, all I can say is that not wanting to hear valid concerns does not make them any less true.  Here are excerpts:

I asked a group of Democratic and liberal-leaning consultants, pollsters, economists and political scientists what the likelihood of a Sanders’ nomination was, what his prospects would be in the general election, and how Democratic House and Senate candidates might fare with Sanders at the top of the ticket. When necessary, I offered them the opportunity to speak on background — with no direct attribution — to encourage forthcoming responses.
The answers I got from Democrats who make their living in politics revealed considerable wariness toward Sanders — the response many Sanders supporters would expect.
“Point 1, I am very worried about Bernie. Socialism is a problem word,” a Democratic operative with ties to the party establishment said: Sure he has a “stick it to the elites” message that could explain it, but it’s a problem. Point 2, Democrats are doing very well in the suburbs. Bernie could threaten that shift with an economic frame that is just too much for them. He could become a huge problem in the suburbs of Atlanta, Charlotte, Denver, Orange County, etc. where the key Senate and House races will take place.
“Bernie is one Democrat who probably cannot win,” said a second operative:
I worry about his style for swing women voters. His proposals are good and have agenda-setting strength. I think his language of no alternative-no compromise-socialist will spook too many voters.
In the most important election in the lifetime of many Democrats — with Trump poised for a second term — the electability of the Democratic nominee is the top concern.
Democratic primary voters and caucus goers are more liberal than voters in the general election, including the Democratic electorate as a whole. They are more likely to be comfortable with the idea of socialism and more tolerant of what the Daily Mail called Sanders’ “very 1960s love life,” of the content of Sanders’ early writings and of his son born outside of marriage — matters, for better or worse, that are of concern to socially moderate and more conservative voters on whom much is riding in this election.
Sanders and his supporters have argued that his early history is part of a no longer relevant past and that he intends to run on his platform, not on his personality or personal life. Nonetheless, if Sanders wins the nomination, Trump and his Republican Party are certain to try to make the young Bernie Sanders a major issue.
What are the politics of Sanders’ commitment to democratic socialism?
An August 2018 YouGov survey found that 26 percent of voters had a favorable view of socialism (6 percent “very favorable,” 20 percent “somewhat favorable”) while 42 percent had an unfavorable view (31 percent very, 11 percent somewhat).
During the primaries, Sanders is unlikely to face demands for a persuasive response to charges that the domestic spending programs he supports — Medicare for All, a federal job guarantee, a Green New Deal, free tuition at public colleges, universal child care — would cost trillions of dollars. The libertarian-leaning Mercatus Center at George Mason University estimated that Medicare for All alone would cost “$32.6 trillion during its first 10 years of full implementation,” which would require tax hikes on the middle class as well as on the rich and corporations — a sum that would, in fact, be virtually impossible to raise or procure.
Daron Acemoglu, a professor of economics at M.I.T., who has thought deeply about global and domestic inequality, draws a clear distinction between socialism and social democracy. In Acemoglu’s view, which he expressed by email, Sanders’ “economists don’t understand basic economics. They are not just dangerous, they are clueless.” Socialist regimes “from Cuba to the eastern bloc have been disastrous both for economic prosperity and individual freedom.”
Acemoglu questions Sanders’ economic sophistication, arguing that social democracy, when practiced by competent governments, is a phenomenal success. Everywhere in the west is to some degree social democratic, but the extent of this varies. We owe our prosperity and freedom to social democracy.
The trick, though, Acemoglu argues, is that social democracy “did not achieve these things by taxing and redistributing a lot. It achieved them by having labor institutions protecting workers, encouraging job creation and encouraging high wages.”
Jagdish N. Bhagwati, an economist at Columbia and an expert in development economics and international trade, . . . described Sanders’ thinking as “a little bit naive,” displaying little “understanding of the complexity of the issues he raises.” Sanders, Bhagwati says, is in great need of “first-rate people to sort things out.”
In Bhagwati’s view, if Sanders continues to propose solutions to major problems “from the heart and not the head,” he will “not get anywhere other than shadow politics.”
Democrats are banking on making the 2020 election a referendum on Trump. How likely are the more controversial aspects of Sanders’ politics to blunt that strategy and turn the contest into a referendum on both Trump and Sanders?
A March NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 50 percent of all voters described themselves as “very uncomfortable” with Trump’s bid for re-election, and another 9 percent said they have “some reservation.” None of the Democratic candidates were viewed with the same level of discomfort, but Sanders had the highest percentage of voters, at 37 percent, who were “very uncomfortable” with his campaign, along with 21 percent who said they have “some reservations.” . . . In other words, Sanders carries a lot of baggage.
Democratic primaries, as I mentioned earlier, are hardly a proving ground for how well a democratic socialist — and a self-declared social and cultural outsider — will sell in November, something Trump and the Republican Party are already gearing up to turn into a major 2020 issue.
The question extends beyond Sanders. Democratic constituencies competing to pick a candidate to square off against Trump next year face a difficult-to-resolve problem. Will they find themselves flying blind, entangled in a cause more than a campaign as they leave too much of the middle-of-the-road electorate behind 
As I have said before, in a general election, I do not view Sanders as electable.  Democrats need a candidate who can win in November 2020.

More Wednesday Male Beauty

I'm not typically into facial hair, but I might make an exception  . .

The Diminishing Power of Trump's Lies

Outside of Donald Trump's white supremacist and right wing Christian extremist base where the truth and objective facts have never mattered, the Mueller report has helped to do one thing, namely demonstrate just how dishonest Trump and many of his minion - e.g., Sarah Huckabee Sanders who learned to lie from a master liar, her father - have been from day one of the Trump campaign.  Indeed, the volume of lies has only increased. In my view, it is to a point where the press needs to start skipping White House press briefings and cease reporting what are deliberate lies.  Why disseminate Trump's lies for him and a bunch of lies for liars who have proven their credibility to be less than that of a sleazy carnival barker selling snake oil?  Stop amplifying the lies. Thankfully, some in the press seem to be waking up to reality and questioning their actions in broadcasting known lies and untruths. A piece in Politico looks at the growing media reluctance to accept Trump's non-stop lies.  Here are highlights:
President Donald Trump wants New York Times journalists to beg for forgiveness on their knees, and White House aides say they’re ready to accept apologies from the press corps at large. They’re in for a long wait.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s bombshell 448-page report has unleashed a very different kind of reckoning among Washington reporters and media watchdogs.
The report detailed multiple efforts by Trump and his senior aides to mislead journalists and the public, reigniting a long-running media debate about how to cover such an unprecedented presidency — and when, if ever, to accept White House denials at face value.
The repeated public rejections of key aspects of the report in the face of sworn, on-the-record statements from his own advisers have diminished the power of a denial from the president of the United States — something that once carried weight.
“Reporters have to start assuming that this White House is going to continue to lie and manipulate the media,” Columbia Journalism Review editor-in-chief Kyle Pope said in an interview.
Pope even questioned the value of quoting or interviewing Trump’s principal spokesperson, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who admitted to Mueller’s investigators that she made unfounded claims that the ousted FBI director James Comey had lost support among rank-and-file agents. Sanders later tried to defend her statement, saying the “sentiment” was accurate without offering any proof to support her claim.
“I don’t think Sanders has any credibility whatsoever,” he said.  Sanders did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump and his staffers have responded to the Mueller report with nearly simultaneous claims of vindication and frustration. [Trump's] The president’s delight that Mueller was unable to establish that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election has been quickly replaced with rage.
After initially claiming “total exoneration,” [Trump] the president now calls some of the report’s findings “total bulls--t,” and he has bashed ex-staffers who supplied detailed notes about crucial behind-the-scenes moments at the White House. Trump is particularly furious with former White House counsel Don McGahn, who told investigators that Trump repeatedly told him to oust Mueller, a directive he ignored. The president denies McGahn’s assertion, although Mueller found ample evidence to substantiate it.
“Journalists shouldn't take anything said by any president at face value, but the Mueller report reminds us that [Trump] this president in particular says so many things that are flatly untrue that we shouldn't trust anything without checking it,” said veteran New York Times White House reporter Peter Baker.
“And we didn't even need Mueller to tell us that,” Baker added. “Every White House reporter has experienced it over the last couple years. Time after time, he has denied things that were confirmed elsewhere.”
Earlier this month, for example, Trump denied reports that he had offered then-Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan a pardon had he been jailed for illegally blocking migrant from entering the country.
Privately, White House reporters said they felt vindicated by Mueller’s report, noting that it supported much of their reporting about the president over the past two years. They have no plans to apologize for their coverage.
But that hasn’t stopped Trump and his aides from calling for journalists to beg for forgiveness. . . The New York Times has not apologized to the president for its 2016 coverage.
Asked whether reporters’ approach to White House coverage should change in the aftermath of the report, Bob Woodward said, “I don’t think so. I think, by and large, people have maintained their aggressive edge.”
Woodward, in an interview, added that reporters should focus less on allegations of Russian collusion and more on what he called the “governing crisis” created by the internal chaos in the White House. Issues like Trump’s policy toward Iran are deeply consequential and warrant deeper scrutiny from the press, he said.
Trust nothing that Trump and his sycophants say and cease giving him a platform to disseminate lies.  Question everything coming out of his thoroughly dishonest regime.