Saturday, November 02, 2019

More Saturday Male Beauty

Biden Confronts a Growing Threat: Pete Buttigieg

Like many former Republicans who have become Democrats by default - being an Independent leaves one with no ability to influence party politics and/or candidate selection - to me the most important aspect of 2020 is seeing Trump removed from office either through impeachment (not likely give the morally bankrupt Senate Republicans) or electoral defeat.  Thus, the overriding concern becomes one of which Democrat primary candidate can inspire voters and get them to turn out and vote Democrat.  Some friends want Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren to be the standard bearer, while I fear they are too liberal and could cause another Electoral College victory for Trump even as they won the popular vote. Others want Joe Biden who is seemingly popular with black voters but but totally uninspiring to younger voters. Then there's Pete Buttigieg, the other somewhat moderate Democrat who has a message of the need for generational change in leadership yet has in the view of some the albatross of being gay hanging over him - polls show 36% would never vote for him, yet this is probably the same 36% that would vote for Trump even if he molested a woman on video. Yet, in Iowa, Buttigieg seems to be rising.  Here are excepts from a piece in Politico
Joe Biden dropped to fourth place in Iowa, according to a new poll released Friday, his worst showing to date in the pivotal early state.  A few hours later, at the largest gathering to date for any 2020 event, it was clear why.
While Biden delivered a solid performance on stage before a crowd of 13,500 Democrats at the state party’s Liberty & Justice dinner, he was overshadowed and outshined by the candidate who just passed him in the polls — Pete Buttigieg.
At the massive state party event known for its catalytic effect on campaigns — it’s widely remembered as a turning point for Barack Obama’s Iowa fortunes in 2007 — Buttigieg captured the audience’s imagination, articulating a case for generational change.
“I didn’t just come here to end the era of Donald Trump,” Buttigieg said to a roaring crowd of supporters. “I’m here to launch the era that must come next.”
The South Bend, Ind., mayor’s speech offered an insight into his recent surge here, and why he is threatening to eclipse the former vice president in a state where Biden has been steadily losing ground since summer.
Ann Selzer, who heads the respected Iowa Poll, said her most recent poll showed 75 percent of those surveyed wanted a nominee who could inspire new voters to show up.
“Something I think is rather telling is those who want someone who represents a new generation of leadership,” Selzer said, noting that 57 percent of potential caucus-goers wanted new leadership versus 28 percent who wanted someone who had a long history of serving in government. “Who is that if it’s not Joe Biden?”
According to the New York Times/Siena College poll that placed Biden in fourth place in Iowa, the former vice president was showing little appeal among younger voters — only 2 percent of those under 45 years old said they planned to caucus for him.
Buttigieg, by contrast, has muscled his way into contention in the first-in-the-nation caucus state by steadily building crowds and rapidly expanding his presence in the state. In the last month alone, Buttigieg has doubled his staff presence while opening 20 offices across Iowa.
[T]he Indiana mayor is also swamping his opponents in digital advertising, something that’s been hard to miss in Iowa.
“I cannot overstate how many Buttigieg ads I see,” said Sinovic, pointing to data showing Buttigieg’s national digital spending numbers surpassing Biden almost five-to-one. “It’s just a massive outspending right now.”
Through his spending and organizing efforts, Buttigieg has managed to reshape the top tier into a 4-way contest that also includes Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.
“You might expect that a frontrunner is going to lose some ground as other candidates become more visible,” said Selzer. “It’s not just that there’s not enough numbers to go around. It’s that he’s not wearing well. It’s the trend, it’s the decline.”
For her part, Warren, who had perhaps the largest display of support in the Wells Fargo Arena, seemed to take a swipe at Biden, with whom she had tangled earlier Friday after he criticized her plans to fund Medicare for All. “If the most we can promise is business as usual after Donald Trump then Democrats will lose,” Warren said. “Fear and complacency does not win elections. Hope and courage wins elections.”
Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa governor and ex-Dept. of Agriculture secretary, shrugged off Warren and Buttigieg’s rising poll numbers in the state, saying neither have truly been tested just yet.
“She hasn’t had a worst day yet — none of these campaigns have except for Vice President Biden,” said Vilsack, who served with Biden in the Obama administration and hosted a house party for him in July. “And the thing about Biden is he’s still standing. The question is will the rest of them still be standing after they’ve taken a punch? We’ll see.”

I continue to have a bad gut feeling that Biden is not the strongest candidate that some would have one believe. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

The Vindication of Never Trumpers

Recently I saw a Facebook post that had a simple message: good people do not support bad people. I'd expand that a bit further and say that decent, moral people do not support immoral people.   By and large, the Republican Party ignored this simple test of morality that shows much more about one's true moral compass than feigning piety, sitting in church pews on Sundays, and hating gays - the hallmarks of today's evangelicals whose loyalty to Donald Trump is steadily killing the Christian brand among the millennial generations only 49% of which now view themselves as Christian. Even as the majority of Republicans - especially its white supremacist, evangelical base - demonstrated total moral bankruptcy by its embrace of Trump, there were some Republicans (most now are former Republicans) who said "no" and became labeled as never Trumpers, a group that Trump has called "human scum" suggesting that he must have been looking in the mirror when he uttered the statement. A column in the New York Times looks at these never Trumpers and the manner in which they have been vindicated even as their former colleagues have proven their lack of true morality.  Here are column highlights:
Even by Donald Trump’s standards, his tweet of Oct. 23 — the one that called NeverTrumpers “human scum” — plumbed new depths in the debasement of presidential speech.
But what else has changed? If Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck of the Titanic, were given the job of finding Trump’s moral bottom, he’d fail.
Far more revealing in Trump’s tweet was its first sentence. “The Never Trumper Republicans, though on respirators with not many left, are in certain ways worse and more dangerous for our Country than the Do Nothing Democrats,” [Trump] the president wrote, before warning of their scummy natures.
If the few remaining NeverTrump conservatives can still be that dangerous while we’re on respirators, we must be powerful indeed. Somewhere in eternity’s permanent exile, Leon Trotsky is smiling. . . . As a movement, NeverTrumpism is on life support. And [Trump] the president has greater reasons than ever to fear it.
Three years ago, on the eve of the election, the NeverTrump coalition was a wide one, ranging from hard-core conservatives like Erick Erickson and Ted Cruz to somewhat squishier ones like Michael Gerson, John Podhoretz, and, well, me.
Then Trump won. The guy who was supposed to lead his party to a catastrophic defeat became the man who, in the eyes of the right, uniquely figured out how to save the country from Hillary Clinton. The coarseness of speech and crudeness of character that were supposed to be his central flaws became evidence of his gutsy indifference to liberal reproach.
There were also those conservative policy and political victories. Regulatory rollback. Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and all the lower court judges. Increased military spending. The tax cut. Withdrawal from the Iran deal. An expanded G.O.P. majority in the Senate.
The NeverTrumpers scattered. Some became ex-conservatives. Others, full-on Trumpers. Still others, anti-anti-Trumpers — which only meant they were smart enough to see [Trump] the president for what he is and churlish enough to be angry at those who wouldn’t join them in capitulating to it.
Yet the NeverTrumpers never scattered entirely, and thank heavens for that. Every political system will always have a conservative faction, and every healthy democracy needs that faction to be rooted in some combination of classical liberalism and moral traditionalism. Trump’s G.O.P., whatever its political fortunes, is the opposite: a nativist party led by a libertine.
At some level, conservatives know this. Trump knows they know it. Which explains why he has turned his sights on Never Trumpers: What despots and demagogues fear most is their followers developing a conscience.
No wonder [Trump] the president chose to lambaste Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman as a “Never Trumper.” The combat veteran had the simple decency of being scandalized by what he heard from the president on the Ukraine phone call, and by what he knew of the discrepancies between what he heard on the call and the account of it released by the White House.
The decency of being scandalized is what being NeverTrump is centrally about, and why the movement remains important. It’s the opposite of the opportunism required to go along with [Trump] the president because you might get something out of him.
It’s the same sense of scandal that led to the first significant G.O.P. revolt against Trump since John McCain turned his thumb down on Obamacare repeal in 2017: The suppurating disgust even pliant conservatives like Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham feel at Trump’s cavalier betrayal of the Kurds.
And it helps explain why [Trump's] the president’s support with his base is slipping at last. A new poll finds Trump’s support among Republicans at 74 percent — an eight-point decline since September and the lowest since he was elected. Nearly one in five Republicans support impeachment and removal. So do 47 percent of independents. These numbers will not move in Trump’s favor if the truth about his “drug deals” (to borrow Bolton’s phrase) continues to come to light.
I doubt any of this will be sufficient to get at least 20 Republican senators to vote for Trump’s removal from office. But Trump knows that the number needed to spell his moral defeat on impeachment is four. If Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and one other Republican join the Democrats to convict, the political humiliation will be thunderous. And, as my colleague David Leonhardt has convinced me, it could devastate his re-election chances. If the administration thinks impeachment is such a political winner, they wouldn’t be fighting it this hard.
In the meantime, someone ought to print “Human Scum” on a limited-edition T-shirt. Given who said it about whom, it turns out to be a badge of honor. 
The real human scum are those who continue to support Trump either out of racism, homophobia and religious extremism, or simple greed and a focus solely on tax cuts. Any of those reasons for supporting Trump underscore a serious moral deficiency that feigned piety, condemnation of gays, avoidance of alcohol, and other evangelical forms of wearing religion on their sleeves will not wash away.   

Friday, November 01, 2019

Friday Morning Male Beauty

The Democrat Blitz in Virginia

In 2017 blog readers from around the country followed the Virginia elections, many seeking a ray of hope in an otherwise demoralized political world disgusted by the foul and corrupt individual in the White House.  Fortunately, Democrats created a political earthquake, won the governorship and both other state wide offices and came within a name drawing from taking control of the House of Delegates.  Next Tuesday, Democrats hope to finish the work left from 2017 and take control of both the Virginia Senate and Virginia House of Delegates.  Should this happen, not only would decades of Republican obstructionism and efforts at voter disenfranchisement fall away, but the Democrats would also control the 2020 redistricting maps. In addition, for LGBT Virginians we might at last see state law non-discrimination protections and see a statutory ban on voodoo like "conversion therapy" which should more properly be called a form of torture.  A piece in Politico looks at the Democrat effort in Virginia which many hope can be a precursor to a 2020 rout for self-prostituting Trump boot lickers.   Here are article excerpts:
National Democratic groups are spending unprecedented sums in the race for control of Virginia’s state legislature — the first test in a yearlong campaign to maximize the party’s influence in the states before the next round of redistricting begins in 2021.
After winning the governor's mansion in 2017, Democrats are shooting for total control in Richmond. And they see next week's elections as an early chance at redemption after a 2010 drubbing that left them boxed out of the map-making process in nearly every key state.
“I was in New York yesterday for a pitch to national donors — everybody wants to play in Virginia. They understand the significance,” former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a long-time national party power-broker, said last week. “Virginia’s future for the next decade is going to be determined this November.”
Cash-flush Democratic power players have flooded the commonwealth with upwards of $10 million, according to an analysis of outside spending. Among the top spenders: Everytown for Gun Safety, a Michael Bloomberg-aligned group, with $2.5 million; the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, the party's state-level campaign arm, with $1.3 million; the League of Conservation Voters with $1.5 million; and EMILY’s List with $2.1 million, its single largest investment ever in a state’s legislative races.
Virginia’s unique campaign-finance laws allow these groups, and major liberal donors like George Soros, to contribute unlimited amounts directly to individual campaigns, giving Democrats a formidable financial advantage.
Democratic candidates raised a collective $31.8 million by the end of last month, according to the analysis of financial filings by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project. That's more than twice as much as they raised in 2015, the last time both chambers of the legislature were on the ballot.
In comparison, Republican candidates have raised a collective $21 million so far this cycle, trailing their Democratic counterparts by over $10 million.
Over the next 12 months, Democrats are seeking to make major inroads in state legislatures, which have the power to affect policy at the state level, in addition to election rules like district lines and ballot access. Republicans control the legislatures of 30 states, . . . 
In Virginia, Democrats have not had majorities in either chamber since before 2012, when Republicans took control of the map-drawing process — but they have a strong chance next week to flip both, particularly the state Senate. In 2017, control of the state House memorably came down to one race in Newport News when the Republican incumbent kept his seat after a tiebreaker in which his name was drawn from a bowl. The impact of the Democratic cash influx is abundantly clear in a northern Virginia state delegate district where Democrat Hala Ayala, a cybersecurity specialist who is one of the first two Hispanic women elected to the state’s lower chamber, faces a rematch with Rich Anderson, the Republican she beat in 2017.
Anderson pulled in over $280,000 by late October. Ayala, buoyed by a six-figure donation from EMILY’s List, has raised over $1.2 million so far. That investment has allowed her to spread her message wide.
Her ads have become so prominent on cable and digital platforms that Ayala said neighborhood children have referred to her as "that lady on my Twitter." Some approach her to recite the script of her spot that details her time working at a gas station while on Medicaid. "I'm ready to be a meme," she joked.
"Never before have Democrats had this kind of money," Ayala said. "Republicans have been well-funded, mostly by the NRA and all of these special interest groups that never served us any positive benefit."
Democratic presidential candidates have also shown interest in the Virginia elections. . . . And there's some indication that the grass-roots have also taken an increased interest in Virgina. ActBlue reported that donors in the third quarter of 2019 doubled their contributions compared to the third quarter of 2017.
Virginia is the only state with competitive off-year state legislative elections. Democratic strategists will have to likely work harder to keep a focus on down-ballot races in 2020, when the party will attempt to take the White House and Senate while defending its House majority.
In the past few years, some of the biggest names in Democratic politics have waged a nationwide campaign to prevent a 2010 redux.
Ahead of the post-2020 redistricting, Democrats are eager to break GOP trifectas in Florida, Texas, Ohio and Georgia. Another top target this cycle is North Carolina — where Republicans control both chambers, and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper would have no veto power over the map if he wins reelection next year.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Trump Continues to Appoint Unqualified Ideologues to the Federal Courts

At the state level, judges are either elected or appointed by the state legislature and serve for set terms before they have to either seek re-election or re-appointment. Virginia follows the appointment system and the Virginia Supreme Court conducts regular sworn surveys of practicing attorneys as to the competence, demeanor and knowledge of state court judges at all levels. If a judge receives consistently bad survey results, that judge may likely not be reappointed.  The system seeks to protect both the courts and the public from incompetent and/or unqualified judges.  The federal courts have no counterpart system of judicial review and judicial appointments are for life.  The only chance given to weed out unqualified or biased judges is at the judicial confirmation hearing level where supporters and opponents of the appointment get to be heard.  One of the voices heard is that of the American Bar Association which, based on extensive surveys, provides documentation as to whether an individual is qualified for a life time appointment.  The Trump/Pence regime has consistently been nominating a number of unqualified individuals and sadly the GOP controlled Senate has been rubber stamping such nominees to the long term detriment of the judicial system and public.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at one such unqualified nominee who has a documented history of being stridently anti-LGBT.  Here are highlights:
The American Bar Association had no shortage of criticism in its assessment of the Trump administration’s new judicial nominee.
Colleagues found Lawrence VanDyke to be “arrogant, lazy, an ideologue, and lacking in knowledge of the day-to-day practice,” the chair of an ABA committee wrote in the scathing letter, the result of 60 interviews with lawyers, judges and others who worked with the Justice Department attorney. Acquaintances also alleged a lack of humility, an “’entitlement’ temperament,” a closed mind and an inconsistent “commitment to being candid,” the letter said. It deemed VanDyke “not qualified” for a spot on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
The strongly worded review drew equally strong reactions at a Wednesday hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee — from Democrats who called the ABA findings unusual and troubling as well as from Republicans who called it a low attack from a group they’ve long accused of bias against conservatives. But one charge was particularly upsetting to VanDyke himself: The ABA’s report that he “would not say affirmatively that he would be fair to any litigant before him, notably members of the LGBTQ community.”
Asked if that was correct, the nominee struggled almost 15 seconds to find his words. He started to cry.
The emotional response came an hour and a half into a hearing for the latest judicial nominee to draw Democrats’ scrutiny as the Trump administration installs a record number of new, conservative judges. VanDyke quickly came under fire Wednesday for his past positions on issues such as gun control, environmental protections and abortion — as well as LGBTQ rights. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Wednesday noted VanDyke’s support for a same-sex marriage ban in Nevada, where he served as solicitor general. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) raised an op-ed VanDyke wrote in 2004 while attending law school, in which he argued that same-sex marriage would “hurt families, and consequentially children and society.” “Fairly damning,” Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) called it. “Some pretty darned serious concerns,” echoed Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), saying the litany of colleagues’ reservations could not be brushed aside. Leahy said he’d never encountered a letter like the VanDyke assessment in his 45 years in Congress.
Republican lawmakers have long called the ABA unfair. . . . But such complaints aren’t universal among Republicans. Amid the fight over Pitlyk, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) pointed out that Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) had also received money from an ABA leader. Graham, in his response, called the organization a “fine group” whose staff he trusts despite what he described as a liberal bias.
While Hawley and other senators charged the ABA with playing politics, Whitehouse said he saw partisan maneuvering in all the criticism.
“The evaluations are narrowly focused, nonpartisan, and structured to assure a fair and impartial process,” William Hubbard, chair of the ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, wrote in a statement.
The ABA has deemed 97 percent of the 264 Trump administration nominees it has evaluated to be either “well qualified” or “qualified,” he said.
Hubbard added that the “committee’s work is insulated from, and independent of, all other activities of the ABA and its leadership.”

A full review of Van Dyke's extreme anti-LGBT history can be found on blogger friend Joe Jervis' blog here.  Van Dyke is a right wing Christian extremist whose extreme views would harm non-white, non-Christian, and non-heterosexual litigants who might come before him.  His nomination needs to be rejected. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Threat of Rising Sea Levels Could Be three Times Worse

Street scene as Hurricane Irma hits the Miami area Sept. 10, 2017.
Living in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia - like many areas on the East and Gulf coasts - where tidal water is everywhere, causes most residents (other than perhaps Trump supporters on slowly drowning Tangier Island) to grasp that climate change and the attendant sea level rise is a real threat to the region's way of live, not to mention property values.  Meanwhile, the Trump/Pence regime continues to roll back regulations aimed at slowing climate change - as well as clean air and clean water protections - to the cheers of much of the Republican Party.  As new studies reveal, while the GOP and its ignorance embracing party base deny that climate change is real, the problems facing mankind are likely far worse than previously estimated.  Here are highlights from a piece in the Washington Post:
Rising seas will be much worse and more expensive to deal with than previously thought, new research finds, not because of faster changes in sea levels but because of an increase in estimates of the number of people living on low ground.
The upshot of the study is that 110 million people worldwide live below the high-tide level — including many partly protected by sea walls or other infrastructure, as in New Orleans. Even under a scenario of very modest climate change, that number will rise to 150 million in 2050 and 190 million by 2100.
If climate change and sea level rise follow a worse path, as many as 340 million people living below the high-tide level could be in peril, to say nothing of how many could be affected by floods and extreme events.
Such figures are three times — or more — higher than earlier estimates.
The reason for the big change is that prior research has relied on data about coastal elevations that comes from radar measurements from the 2000 space shuttle Endeavor mission. But that data set has problems. The instrument detected the height not only of the coastal land surface but anything else that was on it, such as houses and trees. This introduced errors in land-elevation estimates averaging about 6½ feet globally, the new study says.
The new study uses the more accurate U.S. measurements as a guide, training an algorithm to apply similar adjustments to the global data set from the space shuttle. This is where the much higher numbers for exposed populations come from, with the biggest changes in exposure coming for countries in Asia. . . . “We are talking about hundreds of millions of people who will be directly exposed.”
The changes are certainly very large. The study estimates that 110 million people live below the current high-tide level vs. an estimated 28 million for the older data set. About 250 million people would fall below the level of the worst yearly flood, the study says, up from the previous estimate of 65 million.
If key instabilities kick in in Antarctica, 480 million people would be exposed to an annual flood in 2100.
The findings are worst for Asia, notably in China, Bangladesh and India. In the worst-case scenario, 87 million, 50 million and 38 million people in these countries, respectively, would fall below the high-tide level in 2100.
The situation is, if anything, more ominous than these figures suggest, according to the World Bank’s Hallegatte. That’s because in addition to high-tide and annual worst-case flood events, there are major floods from hurricanes and other storms and disasters to consider, even if they do not occur every year. The impact of these severe events will be worsened and affect larger populations as seas continue to rise.
“Most dikes and protection systems have been built for the sea level of 50 years ago or more, and will be increasingly ill-designed to protect people against floods, leading to rapidly increasing coastal flood losses in the absence of large upgrades,” Hallegatte said. “Upgrading those systems will be expensive but is unavoidable if one wants to avoid unacceptable economic losses in large cities.”
“This new study suggests that a lot of the assessments published on climate change risks are underestimated and would need to be revised,” Hallegatte said.

How does one act to make a difference?  The first step is voting a straight Democrat ticket here in Virginia on November 5, 2019.   Virginia can send a shock wave through the GOP - and perhaps be a precursor to 2020 - by putting Virginia Republicans in minority status across the board. 

Remembering My Parents and a Scholarship in Their Honor

Marion Phelps Hamar on her wedding day.

Today would be my mother's 92 birthday.  Unfortunately, my family and I lost her back in 2011 - my dad left us in 2006 - but hopefully both of them will live on in people's memories at least in some small part through the George D. and Marion Phelps Hamar/HRBOR Scholarship that I endowed with the Hampton Roads Community Foundation.  Unlike so many parents reference in this blog who reject their children when they come out as LGBT, my parents embraced me and supported me in every way possible.  So many LGBT youth are not as lucky and often they find themselves disowned and unable to pursue a higher education. The Hampton Roads Community Foundation diligently administers the scholarship and has created a special direct link for donations which is here.  On the link page, the following statement appears:
Thank you for donating to the George D. and Marion Phelps Hamar HRBOR Scholarship. The endowed scholarship fund was started in 2011 at the Hampton Roads Community Foundation by Michael Hamar in memory of his parents and in honor of Hampton Roads Business OutReach (HRBOR), an LGBT chamber of commerce. The permanent scholarship fund helps self-identifying lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) students attend college. Scholarship recipients must be from high schools in Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk or Virginia Beach. Donations to the scholarship fund will help it grow so it can help even more students go to college. 
I believe my parents would be proud of the scholarship, especially my father who was orphaned at age 3 and benefited from the GI bill following WWII and thereby secured his college education.   I wish my mother a "Happy birthday" and hope that, if readers are so moved, they will make a donation.  The endowed fund is steadily growing and my hope is that more and more students can benefit from the scholarship as the years go by,  Happy Birthday Mom!

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Pete Buttigieg: The Benefits and Burdens of Being Gay

There was a time when I viewed being gay as a curse, tried to "pray away the gay" and even tried to end my own life because of the vicious fallout I experienced.  Now, to no doubt the surprise of some, I see being gay as a gift.  True, life might be easier in someways if I was straight, but in so many ways being a part of an often oppressed - even hated - minority has given me a much wider perspective when it comes to empathy towards others, understanding the importance of minority rights and even being better able to view those who are different as fellow humans. This is not to say that all gays experience or benefit from these expanded perspectives (in my view, these benefits are utterly lost on white, gay Republicans, many of whom seemingly believe their skin color and socioeconomic status protect them from the woes of other gays and other minorities).  All of this brings me in a very round about way to Pete Buttigieg and how his sexual orientation brings both pluses and minuses to his presidential campaign effort.  A piece in the New York Times - by a gay columnist - looks at Buttigieg and also speculates as to whether America might once again surprise and elect someone whom some say is not electable by virtue of who he is.  Here are excerpts: 
Pete Buttigieg vaulted into the top four of a crowded Democratic presidential field because he has an agile intellect, is fiercely articulate and both espouses and embodies a fresh perspective that many voters of all stripes crave.
He also got there because he’s gay.
He’d be the first to acknowledge that. In fact he did acknowledge it when we spoke last June about the state of L.G.B.T.Q. rights in America. Referring to his sexual orientation and his marriage to another man, he told me, “It’s safe to say that it led to there being more interest and attention early on.” He stood out among the dozens of Democratic aspirants, each desperate to do precisely that.
But there’s a big difference between winning over enough Americans to land in his current position — he placed second, behind Elizabeth Warren, in one survey of Iowa voters last week — and having an appeal broad enough to nab the party’s nomination, let alone the White House. Is being gay an insurmountable obstacle on the path to those prizes?
Anyone who answers with an unequivocal yes or no is just guessing.
The question is now being asked more urgently than before, as the primary contests draw closer and many Democrats simultaneously assess the risks of the two front-runners, Warren and Joe Biden, and survey the field anew, wondering if anyone in the tier of candidates just below them might be a better opponent for Donald Trump. Their gazes invariably fall on Buttigieg, but their apprehensions include whether America could really elect a gay president.
Obama’s candidacy always held the promise of extraordinary support from a crucial Democratic constituency that has thus far been cool to Buttigieg — and could well remain so.
“Among a significant segment of African-American voters who are socially conservative, he’s not polling well,” Axelrod said, noting a frustration of Buttigieg’s campaign that my colleague Trip Gabriel explored in a recent article in The Times.
It’s complicated. While there’s a history of resistance to gay marriage at many black churches, other factors could explain Buttigieg’s lack of success with African-Americans, some of whom surely look at him and see what many white critics of his also do: a charmed 37-year-old on the kind of glide path to greatness (Harvard, a Rhodes scholarship, a stint as a consultant with McKinsey) that defines privilege.
In a Gallup poll published in May, 83 percent of Democrats — and 82 percent of independents — said that they’d be willing to vote for a gay presidential candidate. That leaves a significant percentage who wouldn’t. A Reuters/Ipsos poll published the following month showed that among all voters, 34 percent were less likely to vote for a gay candidate. But that figure was lower than the 48 percent who said they were less likely to support a candidate over 70 — as Trump, Biden, Warren and Bernie Sanders will all be in November 2020.
Buttigieg’s fund-raising haul of more than $51 million through Sept. 30 places him behind only Sanders and Warren.
And while being gay obviously disqualifies him for a sizable group of Americans — 36 percent of whom, according to Gallup, still oppose the legal recognition of same-sex marriage — what fraction of them were likely to vote for a Democrat, anyway? Besides, didn’t Trump’s election prove that many voters could and would overlook elements of a candidate’s personal life if he gave voice to matters they cared about?
Could the ranks of the Buttigieg-resistant be offset by Americans eager to send the kind of message about their values and their desire for change that a vote for Buttigieg would? Obama benefited from that impulse. When a candidacy seeks to make history — as Buttigieg’s does and Obama’s did — it can stir extra excitement.
Buttigieg told me that when fans approach him at campaign events, “it’s not unusual for someone to be in tears just because the fact of our candidacy is so unbelievable to them as something they would see in their lifetimes.”
For all its potential drawbacks, Buttigieg’s sexual orientation can be woven into his personal narrative to powerful effect, humanizing him, making him more approachable rather than less, forging a bridge to other minorities, establishing a familiarity with struggle and thus a capacity for empathy. All of that hinges on how deftly he integrates it into his remarks.
His sexual orientation is indisputably a challenge, but one that’s surmountable if opponents stumble, if voters’ mood is just so, if his personality sparkles, if his message sparks. We’re a country of deeply ingrained prejudices. But we can also be open-minded and openhearted, and our need for a savior outweighs any interest in what he or she does in bed.
Having heard Buttigieg speak in person, he is an amazing speaker and perhaps the closest to Obama of any of the Democrat field of candidates.   Should he win the nomination and defeat Trump, it would be a huge f*ck you to Christofascists and evangelicals - just the thought of their shrieks and lamentation brings a smile to my face. . 

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Trump's Ludicrous Claim That Impeachment is Unconstitutional

At times it seems there is no limit to the lies and disinformation that Trump's cult followers and much of the GOP base will willingly swallow.  Just as they reject modern knowledge on a range of issues that varies from climate change to the immutability of sexual orientation, so too, they reject even a semblance of a knowledge of accurate history.  How else to explain their embrace of Trump's claim that impeachment is "unconstitutional" despite the fact that it derives directly from the provisions of the U. S. Constitution. As a column in the New York Times lays out, the same falsity applies to Trump's claim that his impeachment and removal from office would "reverse the 2016 election."  If Trump is removed, Mike Pence, a Republican, would rise to the office of president - unless, of course, Pence is shown to have engaged in "high crimes and misdemeanors" like Trump. The column looks at how we got to today's presidential elections and the dishonesty of Trump's claims - ditto for his bootlickers like Lindsey Graham. Here are column excerpts:

As House Democrats ramp up their impeachment investigation into President Trump, an increasingly vocal charge from the president’s supporters (and the White House) is that the House is attempting to “overturn” the results of the 2016 election.
The charge is that impeaching and removing an elected president is illegitimate because it is anti-democratic — because the person the voters (or, at least in this case, the Electoral College) chose ends up out of office. This argument is silly — impeachment is in the Constitution as a way of dealing with the abuse of executive power.
But to fully understand why the charge is ludicrous, it may help to go back 219 years — to the origins of a constitutional provision that receives virtually no attention in contemporary discourse, the 12th Amendment.
Congress responded with the 12th Amendment, proposed in December 1803 and ratified by the states, by the standards of constitutional amendments, practically overnight. That provision gave us the presidential elections we have today, in which electors cast one vote apiece for president and vice president. And so long as the current two-party system prevails, the 12th Amendment thereby all but guarantees that an elected vice president will be, if not from the same party as the elected president, at least the nominee of the same party.
[E]ven if the House ultimately impeaches Mr. Trump and the Senate removes him, the result would simply be to elevate to the presidency Mr. Trump’s own handpicked running mate, Vice President Mike Pence — who could then nominate his own vice president under the 25th Amendment.
Against that backdrop, it’s difficult to see how removing Mr. Trump would “overturn” the results of the election, since the same party that won would remain in control of the White House. But there’s a deeper and more important point here: The founders wrote the impeachment and removal power into the Constitution at a time when that wasn’t true — when there was no 12th Amendment, and so it was entirely possible that removing the president from office would hand power over to one of his rivals.
That’s exactly what would have happened, for instance, if the Democratic-Republicans had taken over Congress in the 1798 midterm elections instead of in 1800, and then removed Adams in favor of Jefferson. But even in the face of that possibility, the founders still gave the House the power to impeach and the Senate the power to remove — because it was more important that the legislature should have a check on the executive.
Checks and balances run in both directions. To that end, the Constitution’s drafters took away the vice president’s power to preside over presidential removal trials in the Senate (and gave it to the chief justice). And although a bare majority of the House has the power to impeach, the founders required a two-thirds vote of the Senate for removal — to ensure that a geographically representative supermajority agreed with the House’s determination that the president had engaged in misconduct that should disqualify him from office.
This is why impeachment and removal remain extraordinary remedies for extraordinary misconduct by the president of the United States. But the founders would have been appalled at the suggestion that such measures are illegitimate solely because their result would be that the president is no longer the president. If that didn’t faze them even when the result could have been to hand the presidency to the president’s rival, it certainly wouldn’t faze them today, when it would hand the presidency to the president’s own handpicked running mate.
Just as science is the enemy of today's GOP base, so too is an accurate knowledge of history and the nation's founding documents.  This deliberate embrace of ignorance sets the state for demagogues and would be authoritarians. 

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

Monday, October 28, 2019

More Monday Male Beauty

Republicans Escalate Voter Suppression Efforts

What do you do when you belong to a political party that finds its message and policies rejected by the majority of voters?  You try to limit those who can vote to those who are buying your agenda of exclusion, racism, homophobia and economic war on the poor, the non-white and anyone your base deems "other."  This is precisely what the Republican party is seeking to do across the country, especially in states where Republicans still control state legislatures.  As a column in the Washington Post notes, Texas - where the growing urban areas are increasingly voting Democrat and are nearing a point of being able to out vote the backward rural regions of the state - is a prime example.  Rather than change their agenda, Republicans simply want fewer and fewer people to be able to vote if they might not be buying the GOP's toxic agenda.  To be totally candid, the GOP no longer believes in democracy. Here are column highlights on the GOP voter suppression effort:
MOBILE POLLING places that popped up on college campuses and other population-dense areas were “the most effective program we had,” Dana DeBeauvoir, the chief elections official in Travis County, Tex., told the New York Times. That would explain why Texas Republicans shut them down.
The Times reported last week that, as Texans head to the polls, it will be substantially harder for college students to vote. A new state law required all polling places to remain open for the state’s full 12-day early-voting period. Localities could not afford to keep the pop-up sites open that long, so colleges in Austin, Brownsville, Fort Worth and elsewhere have had to close them. That guarantees lower turnout among people whom Republicans do no want voting: Democratic-leaning students.
Early voting is meant to enable more people to vote: Shift workers, for example, who cannot wait in line at a polling place on a Tuesday can still have a voice. Texas’s law turns that vote-enabling system into a vote-suppressing weapon. Republicans throughout the country have embraced voter suppression as a strategy for party survival, and this is one more sad example.
In Florida, Republicans have tried repeatedly to end early voting on state campuses. They also tried to circumscribe the reach of a law that allows former felons to vote, even after voters overwhelmingly approved the law in a referendum. Republicans in New Hampshire, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin have made voting difficult for students in various ways; Republicans often use voter identification laws to exclude student voters, rejecting forms of ID that college students are likely to have. Typically, the pretext is the need to block in-person voter fraud — a practically nonexistent problem in the United States.
Citizens are citizens, whether they are 18 or 88. All should be encouraged to vote. But year in, year out, even jurisdictions not run by people seeking to discourage voting have trouble keeping lines reasonable, equipment functional and the experience less than excruciating. As 171 George Mason University students who recently had their registrations rejected can tell you, as The Post reported, registering from a campus address can be particularly difficult.
States should be trying to fix such problems, starting with competent staff and convenient polling locations and hours, rather than removing opportunities for eligible voters. Congress should require states to register people automatically when local government authorities have the information needed to do so — DMV records, for example. And the Republican Party should stake its future on offering policies and candidates that can attract voters — not on keeping potential voters away from the polls.

The GOP in its present incarnation needs to die - the sooner, the better.  This from a former Republican. 

Monday Morning Male Beauty

Sunday, October 27, 2019

51% of Millennials Do Not Consider Themselves Christian

For roughly two decades I have argued that right wing evangelical Christians - particularly the hate mongers and scamvangelists they continue to support such as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Jr., Franklin Graham, Tony Perkins, James Dobson, et. al. - and the Catholic Church hierarchy would be the death of the Christian brand. Under the helm of these factions, a religion that is supposed to be focused on love, good works, and caring for and about others has become synonymous with hatred of others and staggering hypocrisy not to mention indifference about the sexual abuse of children and youths.  A new Pew Research report suggests that my prediction is perhaps close to coming true as a only 49% of Millennials identify as Christian, with survey respondents finding themselves repulsed by all the hatred, the embrace of ignorance, and the lock step with the Republican Party and Donald Trump who pursue an agenda that is the antithesis of the Christian social gospel. While the right wingers blame the plummeting data on "war on Christianity," for the real cause it would seem they need only look in the mirror.   A  column in the New York Times looks at these new report findings:

Perhaps for the first time since the United States was established, a majority of young adults here do not identify as Christian.
Only 49 percent of millennials consider themselves Christian, compared with 84 percent of Americans in their mid-70s or older, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.
[S]something significant seems to be happening. The share of American adults who regard themselves as Christian has fallen by 12 percentage points in just the last decade.
“The U.S. is steadily becoming less Christian and less religiously observant,” the Pew study concluded.
Some on the religious right will thunder that this as a result of a secular “war on Christianity.” . . . . But a far bigger threat to the “brand” of Christianity comes, I think, from religious blowhards who have entangled faith with bigotry, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia. For some young people, Christianity is associated less with love than with hate.
“Pompous right-wing political chest-thumping, and an unwillingness to listen on matters like climate change or racism, has contributed to a perception by millions that Christianity is irrelevant, or worse yet, a threat to progress,” the Rev. Richard Cizik, the leader of a group of self-described “new evangelicals” with moderate views, told me.
Christianity’s reputation suffers from backward views on women’s issues and from the unwavering support among evangelical hard-liners for President Trump.
It would be difficult to imagine a president more at odds with Jesus’ message than Trump, a serial philanderer and liar who has persecuted refugees, divided families, exploited the poor and allegedly committed sexual assaults.
That is the opposite of the Christianity whose heroic side I’ve often praised: A Catholic doctor in Sudan’s Nuba mountains … a missionary doctor in Angola … nuns everywhere. If they were the face of Christianity, its reputation would be golden.
Pew’s latest report found that nonbelievers are gaining ground fast. “Nones” — those with no particular religion — now account for more than one-quarter of the American population. There are substantially more nones than Catholics.
The decline in religion is particularly evident among young people. Those born between 1928 and 1945 are only two percentage points less likely to identify as Christian than they were a decade ago, while millennials are 16 percentage points less likely to call themselves Christians.
[T]he data seem consistent with the argument made by leading scholars that young adults have turned away from organized religion because they are repulsed by its entanglements with conservative politics. “Nones,” for example, are solidly Democratic.
The central issue is that faith is supposed to provide moral guidance — and many moralizing figures on the evangelical right don’t impress young people as moral at all. Senator Jesse Helms said in 1995 that AIDS funding should be cut because gay men get the disease. The Rev. Jerry Falwell and the Rev. Pat Robertson initially suggested that God organized the 9/11 terror attacks to punish feminists, gays and lesbians.
God should have sued Falwell and Robertson for defamation. But, in some sign of karma, a survey found that gays and lesbians have higher public approval than evangelicals do.
 I love the last part: gays and lesbians have higher public approval than evangelicals do.

More Sunday Male Beauty

Republican Impeachment Panic Sets In

Being of an age where I vividly recall the Watergate hearings of the 1970's, it is easy to compare the impeachment buzz of that era to that which is unfolding now with Trump's more or less acknowledged improper efforts to bribe Ukraine to do his personal politically motivated smear effort.  In the 1970's, the Republican Party still contained many honorable individuals who put country over political party.  Fast forward to today where the GOP has sold its soul and now focuses almost exclusively on pandering to the party white supremacist/evangelical extremist base while engaging in political fellatio to Trump. While increasing GOP panic appears to be setting in and increasingly disingenuous lies and ploys are being wielded to try to protect Trump, one still wonders if at some point a tipping point will be reached where self-interest will finally push Republicans to throw Trump overboard. A column in New York Magazine looks at the speculation and growing GOP panic.  Here are excerpts:

Congressional testimony this week by William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, laid out an explicit quid pro quo linking U.S. military aid for Ukraine to a Biden investigation, and detailing the rogue “diplomacy” driven by Rudy Giuliani. Is this the “smoking gun” Democrats have been waiting for?

When Richard Nixon finally was forced to concede in August 1974, that a 1972 White House tape implicated him in the Watergate cover-up, the conservative columnist George F. Will called the revelation a “smoking howitzer.” Nixon was gone four days later. Some have been recycling Will’s locution this week, with good reason given the damning evidence provided by Taylor and so many others (including Trump himself) that the president of the United States committed an unambiguous criminal act. But Trump isn’t going anywhere so fast.
Yet over the past week there have been repeated signs that he and his party are more panicked than ever. The first indication of desperation was the White House trashing of Taylor, a Vietnam combat veteran with a bipartisan 30-year-plus career in public service, as a “radical unelected bureaucrat” and “human scum” despite the fact that it was Trump’s own secretary of State and Ukraine shakedown co-conspirator, Mike Pompeo, who put Taylor in his current diplomatic post. Then came the farcical and failed effort of a congressional flash mob, approved by the president, to physically disrupt the impeachment inquiry on the spurious grounds that Republicans are being shut out of the proceedings. (Forty-eight GOP representatives are permitted to attend the hearings on impeachment.) These protesting clowns, among them the racist Iowa congressman Steve King, not only violated national security by bringing cell phones into the room but thought it was a hilarious idea to order in pizza to further dramatize their ostensibly serious act of civil disobedience.
Another sign of Trump panic was his reversal of his decision to host the G7 at his own Miami hotel — a very rare about-face, prompted by complaining GOP congressmen fearful of 2020 blowback in their own reelection campaigns. You’ll notice, too, that Trump seems to be retreating from his claim to be a “lynching” victim. This may have something to do with an unexpected editorial that ran Wednesday in Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal . . . the paper’s editorial page condemned Trump for using “self-indulgent” and “reckless” and “indefensible” language that exacerbates the “political trouble” he’s in.
Now comes the pièce de résistance, reported yesterday: In response to congressional Republicans’ complaints that the White House has no coordinated impeachment battle plan, Mick Mulvaney has been tasked with “working on getting a messaging team together.” To put Mick (“Who do you believe, me or your own ears?”) Mulvaney in charge of White House messaging can only mean that either that Trump can no longer recruit new political operatives to join him in his bunker or that Baghdad Bob was not available.
As new polling puts national support for an impeachment inquiry at an all-time high, Republicans who had previously been staunch Trump defenders are showing signs of indecision. Are we seeing cracks in the wall of Trump’s GOP support?
At the moment, polling averages show that Americans support impeachment by a plurality of roughly 49 to 43 percent. For a little perspective, the authoritative Harris Poll of the Nixon era found a similar 49 to 41 percent split in May of 1974. By a July 17, 1974, Harris survey, the pro-impeachment percentage had risen to 53 percent, with only 34 percent opposed. . . . . It took another two weeks for Nixon’s GOP support in the Capitol to collapse, prompting his August 9 resignation before the House conducted a full impeachment vote.
In the case of Trump, there’s no reason to expect that Senate Republicans will turn on him incrementally. Mitt Romney and retiring House members like Francis Rooney of Florida aside, they’ll mostly remain loyal — or in the case of Susan Collins and her Vichy ilk, in hiding — until the dam breaks. As to what might break the dam, it’s worth recalling the experience of H.R. Haldeman, the Nixon chief of staff who served 18 months in prison for Watergate crimes. In his 1978 memoir, The Ends of Power, he wrote: “The cover-up collapsed because it was doomed from the start. Morally and legally it was the wrong thing to do — so it should have failed. Tactically, too many people knew too much. Too many foolish risks were taken. Too little judgement was used at every stage to evaluate the potential risk vs. the gains. And when the crunch came, too many people decided to save their own skins at whatever cost to the president or anyone else.”
Just one small but conspicuous sign of such a crunch: It’s not out of a newfound press-shyness that Giuliani has vanished from cable news and is lawyering up.
Another factor will be the public impeachment hearings that Republicans have been demanding. The concept of Be Careful for What You Wish For will be ratified once again when those hearings do arrive in as soon as three weeks.