Friday, March 13, 2020

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Key West 2020 - Day One

Blog posting will be reduced through next Tuesday as the husband and I enjoy our annual trip to Key West.  We traveled down yesterday - we began with a 5:20 am flight after American Airlines cancelled our 7:00 am flight and stuck us on the crack of dawn flight.  As usual, we are staying at The Equator resort along with a contingent of friends from Virginia.  We lounged by the pool and then had dinner at Blue Heaven before going to La Te Da for more cocktails. Our friend Jenny is house sitting/dog sitting for us.  Today we are doing the historic homes tour and will see the Waterfront Playhouse presentation of Priscilla Queen of the Desert this evening. We LOVE Key West!!

PS True to form, I have already had to work on multiple client matters.  I truly never get fully away.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Sanders Plays the Blame Game for His Decline

As the returns stand currently from "Super Tuesday 2.0" it appears that Joe Biden is going to subject Bernie Sanders to near across the board defeats.  It will be interesting to see if the youth vote and new voter surge that Sanders has continually predicted failed to materialize yet again. As noted in a prior post, Sanders is Trump-like in that his misfortunes are never of his own making and a group of conspirators is supposedly lurking in the shadows to cause his demise. A column in the New York Times (which is a must read) looks at this phenomenon while another Times column looks at how Sanders has missed key aspects of the Nordic economies that he says he would emulate.  Here are excerpts from the first piece:

To Senator Bernie Sanders, there is plenty of blame to go around when it comes to his recent reversal of fortune. For everyone but him and his campaign.
The “corporate media” didn’t pay attention to his agenda.  The Democratic Party establishment aligned to block him from winning its presidential nomination.
And the young voters he counted on to power his campaign didn’t come through for him.
Political candidates are not generally given to self-criticism. And as Mr. Sanders has seen his fortunes slide after a 30-point South Carolina loss to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., followed by Mr. Biden’s unexpected strength across Super Tuesday, he has cited a number of factors that portray him as an aggrieved outsider.
It comes at a time of particular weakness for Mr. Sanders. Through 18 states, his theory of the election has not proven true. The surge of new voters in the Democratic primaries has featured mostly older people, moderate suburbanites and African-Americans disinclined to support his campaign.
Mr. Sanders, his team and his supporters have come up with explanations for his loss of momentum that deflect the responsibility onto others.
So when Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar dropped out of the race and endorsed Mr. Biden, to the Sanders camp it wasn’t because they’d won next to no support from black voters and run out of money, it was part of an establishment plot. And Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris were simply joining the effort to block Mr. Sanders when they backed Mr. Biden this week.
The 2016 campaign established Mr. Sanders as the Democratic Party’s foremost practitioner of grievance politics. Like Donald Trump in that year’s Republican primary, Mr. Sanders tapped into populist anger to upend a major political party.
Now the Sanders campaign says the policies he’s pitching as a democratic socialist — “Medicare for all,” free public college tuition and other proposals — represent an existential threat to powerful operators that have prompted an unusually coordinated effort to block his rise.
Even among those ideologically inclined to back Mr. Sanders, he has engendered little sympathy in recent days. Adam Jentleson, a close ally of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s campaign — who has not been shy about expressing his own grievances about perceived outside forces that limited her campaign — said Mr. Sanders does himself little good in arguing others are responsible for his shortcomings.
“Blame-shifting is pointless because nobody swoops in and hands you the nomination; you have to win it,” Mr. Jentleson said. “The nominee needs to be the leader of the whole party and Bernie’s job was to convince people he could be that.”
An even more telling column is the second one in the Times that looks at how Sanders' ideology and agenda is not at all in keeping with the economics of Nordic nations like Denmark which are highly capitalistic while having a generous social safety net (paid for by strong capitalism and high taxes).  Here are column highlights:

Bernie Sanders often cites Denmark as the kind of country he would like America to be under his ideology of “democratic socialism.” Well, here’s a news flash: Bernie Sanders, with his hostile attitudes toward free trade, free markets and multinational corporations, probably couldn’t get elected to a municipal council in Denmark today. Ironically, Joe Biden, with his more balanced views on trade, corporations and unions, probably could. And therein lies a column.
I can explain this best by starting with a few questions that I’d love to ask Sanders about his democratic socialism, beginning with the most basic one: Senator Sanders, where do you think jobs come from?
To listen to him (and his surrogates) is to listen to someone who seems to believe that the American economic pie just miraculously appeared and exists on its own. He never discusses where that pie came from, how to bake it or how to enlarge it. His only interest is how to redivide it.
Third, Senator Sanders, do you believe the free enterprise system is the best means for growing jobs, the economy and opportunity — or do you believe in more socialist central planning? I ask because I have often heard you praise Scandinavian countries, like Denmark, as exemplars of democratic socialism. Have you ever been to Denmark? It’s democratic but not socialist.
Denmark is actually a hypercompetitive, wide-open, market economy devoted to free trade and expanding globalization, since trade — exports and imports — makes up roughly half of Denmark’s G.D.P.
Indeed, Denmark’s 5.8 million people have produced some of the most globally competitive multinationals in the world, by the names of A.P. Moller-Maersk, Danske Bank, Novo Nordisk, Carlsberg Group, Vestas, Coloplast, the Lego Group and Novozymes. These are the very giant multinationals Sanders constantly rails against.
The Nordic model is an expanded welfare state, which provides a high level of security for its citizens, but it is also a successful market economy with much freedom to pursue your dreams and live your life as you wish.”
It is through these engines of capitalism, free trade, economic openness and globalization that Denmark has managed to become wealthy enough to afford the social safety net that Sanders rightly admires — as do I: access for all to child care, medical and parental leave from work, tuition-free college, a living stipend, universal health care and generous pensions.
But there is nothing free about these services. According to Investopedia, Denmark’s progressive income tax tops out at 55.8 percent, and the average individual pays 45 percent.
In short, Sanders cherry-picks Denmark. He stresses what he loves — all that the Danish state provides — and then he ignores two things: one obvious and important and one less obvious and even more important.
The obvious and important one is the relentlessly entrepreneurial capitalism that generates Denmark’s prosperity and that is celebrated there. The less obvious, but more important, feature of Denmark’s success is the high-trust social compact among its business community, labor unions, social entrepreneurs and government. That’s the real secret of Denmark’s sauce.
Obviously, in a small, largely homogeneous country of 5.8 million people, it is a lot easier to generate that kind of social trust than in a diverse nation of 327 million. But the point is, no one was demonizing others as “corrupt” by the very fact of who they were — whether labor organizer or corporate titan or someone of wealth.
They understood that it was the balancing of all their interests that made Denmark’s economic growth and generous social safety net possible.
This reality is lost on Sanders and his followers.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

Sanders Gets More Trump-Like as Never Trump Republicans Back Biden

As Democrats appear to be strongly shifting to support Joe Biden and to be rejecting Bernie Sanders form of populism, Sanders is becoming more Trump-like as he blames "the establishment" and others of conspiring against him rather than admit that just maybe people do not like what Sanders is peddling politically. At the same time, Never Trump Republicans are demonstrating that they are willing to vote for Biden even as they continue to find Sanders toxic and hostile to anyone with differing views and opinions.  A column in the Washington Post looks at Sanders' Trump like behavior.  Here are excerpts:
Populist leaders present themselves as the only authentic voice of the “people.” Therefore, critics in the media are enemies of the people, for to take on the leader is to attack the people. When the leader is rejected at the polls, it cannot be an authentic expression of the people. The system must be rigged; the establishment must be out to get the candidates and, by extension, the people.
We have seen this for the three years President Trump has been in office, and previously in his 2016 campaign. The deep state, the fake news and the elites (not “real” Americans) are out to get him, he says. He insists that all these forces do not respect the people, his followers and the only real Americans.
We are reminded in watching Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), as his presidential campaign fizzles, this mind-set is not limited to the right. Sanders had this exchange on ABC’s “This Week”:
SANDERS: Well, one of the things that I was kind of not surprised by is the power of establishment to force Amy Klobuchar, who had worked so hard, Pete Buttigieg, who, you know, really worked extremely hard as well, out of the race. . . . . We’re taking on the political establishment. And what you are seeing now just in the last few weeks is Wall Street, the health-care industry, the billionaire class putting a lot of money into Joe’s campaign.
This is bonkers. Other Democrats got out of the race because voters across the country did not vote for them. Sanders sneers at them as if they are puppets on a string, yanked out of the race by nefarious forces. They actually looked at the facts, saw they could not win and decided Biden had a better chance to unify the country and beat Trump than did a self-proclaimed socialist who cannot resist the urge to pick fights with his own party.
Sanders’s complaint about billionaires giving to Biden’s campaign (they would be limited to $2,800 per person like all other donors) is part of the fixation with attributing opponents’ success to something other than popular opinion.
Sanders keeps insisting he is “winning the support of grass-roots America.” That simply is not so. Biden won 10 of 14 states, driving turnout sky-high in states he won, like Virginia. Sanders’s promised onslaught of new voters has never shown up.
Perhaps he and his snarling online supporters should confront an unpleasant truth: Sanders’s problem is not the establishment or corporate Democrats or billionaires. It is the voters.

Meanwhile, Biden is showing that he can pull in support of independents and Never Trump Republicans - something that might tip the scales in crucial Mid-West states where Sanders' mythical wave of new voters will likely fizzle as it has in state after state.  A piece in the New York Times looks at this phenomenon.  Here are article highlights:
As more data emerge to explain former Vice President Joe Biden’s stunning victory on Super Tuesday, there are two clear demographics that propelled him: African-American voters and suburban voters with college degrees.
It’s a coalition that helped moderate Democrats flip seven governorships, two Senate seats and about 40 House districts (the newly Democratic suburbs alone would have secured a House majority) from red to blue in 2018. African-Americans have long made up a core of the Democratic voting base, but many of Mr. Biden’s college-educated, suburban supporters are right-leaning independents or moderate Republicans who supported candidates like John McCain and Mitt Romney. They don’t want to re-elect Donald Trump. And they’re willing to cross over to vote for a Democrat — a moderate and mainstream Democrat.
These voters might not identify with the “Never Trump” group of conservatives who vociferously oppose the president. But in practice, that’s who they are.
These voters can create winning margins for Democrats in swing states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona and North Carolina in the general election.
Their numerical strength was on full display on Super Tuesday in the Virginia and Texas suburbs, which saw 74 percent and 87 percent higher voter turnout, respectively, than four years ago.
The responses to our outreach made clear that these voters are looking not for the democratic socialist revolution that Senator Bernie Sanders would offer as the nominee, but simply for a Democrat they could trust to govern responsibly and end the chaos of Mr. Trump’s presidency. For many lapsed and former Republicans, voting for Mr. Biden is the least-bad option. He’s considerably more moderate than Mr. Sanders and doesn’t pose the threats to the rule of law and constitutional norms that Mr. Trump does. He’s a backstop against the political insanity of the right and the left.
College-educated suburban voters often feel politically homeless, trapped between Mr. Trump’s erratic and divisive nature and a fear of Democrats’ leftward march. Mr. Biden may not offer these voters a galvanizing vision for the future. But to those exhausted by the past three years of political upheaval and nastiness, he offers something even better: basic human decency.
Especially in the focus groups in which Trump voters rate his performance as “somewhat bad” or “very bad,” these right-of-center voters are generally open to voting for Mr. Biden — though not for Mr. Sanders.
It has always been a possibility that Mr. Trump could drive a permanent political realignment in which college-educated suburban voters abandon the Republican Party for good. It remains an open question whether that will come to pass in 2020 and beyond, but the warning signs from Super Tuesday are clear.

The goal in 2020 is to defeat Trump - not force a political revolution that a majority of voters do not want.  It's a reality that Sanders seemingly cannot or will not grasp. 

Monday, March 09, 2020

Monday Morning Male Beauty

click to enlarge

Message to Republicans: You Can’t Gaslight a Virus

Donald Trump and his supporters live in a bizarre alternate universe where facts do not matter and lies are offered as truth.  In right wing politics this has worked to a large extent as Trump denies climate change and invents lies against hi political opponents,  This alternate universe appears poised to crash head on with objective reality as the coronavirus continues to spread in the USA (there are now cases in Virginia, but so far only in Northern Virginia) and the Trump/Pence regime increasingly demonstrates that it is not up to the task of dealing with the outbreak. Meanwhile, the world's stock markets continue to drop and trade and travel become increasingly disrupted. A column in the New York Times looks at the fact that gaslighting the public as Trump has done for so long may have met its match and that Trump himself is now a public health threat.  Here are column highlights:
In the Donald Trump era, Democrats and Republicans generally live with two completely different concepts of reality. Their views of Trump, his competence and character, could hardly be more different.
The Pew Research Center last week released the results of a poll that found that an overwhelming majority of Republicans and independents who lean Republican viewed Trump as intelligent.
But, they are largely alone on that island. Only 19 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents view Trump as intelligent.
Furthermore, 71 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaners believe that Trump is honest, even though he has single-handedly provided a jolt of energy and a shield of job security to fact-checkers.
Trump has made more than 16,200 false or misleading claims — a milestone that would have been unthinkable when we first created the Fact Checker’s database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement he has uttered.”
Trump is a lying machine. It is pathological. It is compulsive. It is unrepentant.
Sixty-two percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents see Trump as morally upstanding. This is a thrice married man whom multiple women have accused of sexual misconduct, and at least one has accused of rape. This is a man who bragged about sexually assaulting women, who was outed for paying off women who claimed to have had extramarital affairs with him, and who has appeared (clothed, thankfully) in at least three soft-core pornographic films.
Again, precious few Democrats and their leaners agreed with this assessment of Trump’s morality.
But, there were a couple of areas of general agreement among Democrats and Republicans, one of which was that overwhelming majorities of both groups viewed Trump as self-centered.
That self-centered sensibility has been on full display since the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Trump sees this budding pandemic through the lens of how it will affect him and his re-election prospects. The fact that the people infected and those fearful of becoming so are real people who desperately need the steady hand of a steady leader is lost on him.
Instead of being the president that the country needs in a time of crisis, he has chosen to employ his worn political strategy: lying. Rather than addressing the issue straightforwardly, he has told lie after lie, and in some cases contradicted the scientists trying to manage this issue.
This has real-world consequences for people’s health and the management of the virus’s spread. As a Reuters/Ipsos poll last week found, “Democrats are about twice as likely as Republicans to say the coronavirus poses an imminent threat to the United States,” and “More Democrats than Republicans say they are taking steps to be prepared, . . . . .
Furthermore, when asked last week if he would consider canceling some of his large political rallies to avoid the risk of spreading the virus, Trump responded, “It doesn’t bother me and it doesn’t bother them at all.”
Trump could be making his most ardent supporters a petri dish of disease.
But in his mind, it’s not really about them, and certainly not about the rest of us. This is about him, only, always.
Whereas his supporters can be lied to and gaslighted, a virus cannot. A virus is going to do what a virus does. Viruses are not thinking and aware. Technically, they’re not even living things. They are like an army of androids, multiplying as they attack and infect living things.
So none of the tricks that Trump has learned and deployed will work against this virus. Only science, honesty, prudence and genuine concern for public safety will work now.
And precisely for those reasons, this virus exposes Trump’s enormous weaknesses as the chief executive officer of this country.
The public needs to be assured that we have a real leader at the helm, but we are being shown that just the opposite is true. The fact that he wants to spin media coverage of the virus as politically motivated, the fact that he keeps lowballing the number of people infected, and the fact that he has said that the virus may miraculously disappear, all show that Trump is as much a public health threat as the virus itself.
One has to wonder how bad the virus' spread must become before some of Trump's mindless followers - and educated Republicans who ought to know better - belatedly realize that they have been played for fools - yet again?

Sunday, March 08, 2020

Sunday Morning Male Beauty

Pete Buttigieg Changed the Game for LGBT Americans

Growing up as a closeted gay child and then youth I - and so many others - had no role model of what a successful and accepted gay person could be.  I was raised in a Church which - hypocritically as it turned out - condemned homosexuality even as larger society ostracized gays and fears for one's career and physical safety were common.  My coming out journey was extremely difficult and included two suicide attempts.  Fast forward to 2020 and Pete Buttigieg has provided a role model and a sense of what is possible for countless LGBT youth, particularly those growing up in backward red states.  In some cases they may need to wait and flee once they reach the age of legal majority to follow their dreams, but Buttigieg has shown them that it can be done - even in a place like South Bend. The irony is that some far left gays continue to whine that Buttigieg "isn't gay enough" or isn't "the right kind of gay," but Mayor Pete has done what many of these preening self-styled "leaders" of the LGBT community have failed to do: set a role model and provide a sense of hope.  A piece in CNN looks at Mayor Pete's contribution.  Here are article highlights:
As Pete Buttigieg's husband addressed an audience of campaign supporters, family and friends gathered here in South Bend late Monday night, he told those gathered that, when his husband, their mayor, first asked what he thought about a presidential run, he laughed. And then he reflected on their still-young marriage.
"Pete got me to fall in love with myself again," Chasten Buttigieg reflected. "And I told Pete to run, because I knew there were other kids sitting out there in this country, who needed to believe in themselves too."
"You changed lives!" a supporter shouted.
"Yes, we did," Buttigieg replied, getting choked up. "Together."
And then, for the first time in American history, a presidential candidate took the stage, kissed his husband and ended his campaign. The moment was a fitting coda to Pete Buttigieg's historic campaign, one that both tested the nation's still evolving acceptance of LGBTQ Americans and represented a giant leap forward in the eyes of scores of those inspired by Buttigieg's candidacy.
[F]or LGBTQ Americans, who only nationally gained the right to marry in 2015 and still face the threat of workplace discrimination for their sexual orientation or gender identity, Buttigieg was more than a longshot candidate from a mid-level midwestern city -- he was a presidential contender of their very own.
From the start, Buttigieg's sexual orientation and faith set him apart from the standard Democratic presidential hopeful -- and especially his ability to square the two seemingly contradictory aspects of his identity.
At a CNN town hall in March 2019, he addressed both, creating a national moment largely credited with catapulting the mayor from obscurity to ubiquity.
During the town hall, Buttigieg, an Episcopalian, tore into Vice President Mike Pence for tying his conservative views on same-sex marriage to his faith.
"His interpretation of Scripture is pretty different from mine," Buttigieg said. "His has a lot more to do with sexuality and, I don't know, a certain view of rectitude. Even if you buy into that, how could he allow himself to become the cheerleader of the porn star presidency?" . . . . "Is it that he stopped believing in Scripture when he started believing in Donald Trump?"
That answer, and the rest of his town hall performance, caught fire, earning him praise from across the political spectrum . . . . . But Buttigieg's momentum surprised gay voters the most -- voters like Robert Moore of Dallas, Texas.
"Remember, marriage equality came pretty recently, you know, and it's a big jump from we can get married and be private citizens and be on our own, to being president of the United States," Moore told CNN in February. "And this is somebody that they are wanting to embrace, and not just embrace, but put up to lead them? That's a whole different game."
Perhaps more significantly, it signaled a new way to counter arguments against LGBTQ equality from the religious right -- with an appeal equally grounded in religion from the left. But Buttigieg's appeal to moderates on religion would prove representative of a larger theme throughout his campaign.
In attempting to expand the Democratic Party tent to independents and Republicans fleeing Trump, Buttigieg enraged a vocal, progressive wing of the Democratic base, who accused the mayor of compromising party ideals for votes in purple states. The anti-Buttigieg sentiment in the LGBTQ community also rankled Buttigieg's gay supporters.
"They're demanding too much," said Jerry Birdwell, a Texas voter who traveled to New Hampshire to observe the primary process there last month. "I personally think that if they make a comment like that, he's not gay enough, so to speak -- that's absurd...we're looking for a man that's going to represent the country, and he is the type of person who, his sexuality has nothing to do with his ability to run a campaign and to serve." Before thousands of Iowa Democrats, he drew a direct line between the case for a Buttigieg presidency and his own LGBTQ experience.
"I have seen what America can do, and so have you. After all, you're looking at someone who, as a young man growing up, wondered if something deep inside of him meant that he would forever be an outsider, would never wear the uniform, never be accepted, never know love," Buttigieg said. "And now you are looking at that same young man, a veteran, a mayor, happily married, asking for you to vote for president of the United States."
On the trail, Buttigieg took care to always note that while the LGBTQ community has made strides, there remained a great deal of work left to do. And he didn't gloss over that truth either, especially in Iowa, where, a week before the caucuses, he confessed that while he was "obviously thrilled by the progress that brought me the right to marry," the idea that marriage equality "meant the struggle for equality was, you know, done" is "just not true." Former US Rep Barney Frank, the first member of Congress in a same-sex marriage, agrees with Buttigieg's view, but thinks history will view Buttigieg's unsuccessful bid for president as historic in its own right.
"It's one of the most important moments in American history, not just of the LGBT issues," Frank told CNN in an interview after Buttigieg ended his campaign. "It is a sign that the prejudice against sexual minorities has diminished even more than we had thought. ... It further advances the fight against prejudice, because he was so good at it, being so articulate and doing as well as he did." "I never thought we'd have a gay candidate for president in our lifetime, no," said Paul King, who attended Buttigieg's rally in Raleigh, North Carolina with his husband, J.D. Brickhouse, just one day before Buttigieg would drop out of the race. "But I never thought we'd have civil rights in our lifetime either. It means a lot. Nobody who hasn't experienced growing up gay in America would understand how much that means."
What does it mean? I'm having the chance to vote for a gay man for president," Brickhouse chimed in bluntly.
For Annise Parker of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which seeks to elect LGBTQ candidates up and down the ballot, Buttigieg's candidacy filled a more urgent need."I believe that he literally saved lives," Parker, president and CEO of the group, told CNN Thursday.
"We still have a horrible problem with internalized homophobia and suicide, leading to suicide within our community, and by seeing Pete there doing so well and speaking directly to disenfranchised young people, I know he had an outsized impact for them. I know what all of our candidates and elected officials do for younger LGBT people and how they provide hope, how they provide inspiration. He did that on steroids."
Buttigieg's run also afforded LGBTQ Americans a once unimaginable national visibility. And 9-year-old Zachary Ro of Lone Tree, Colorado, used his one chance to ask Buttigieg a question to enlist the former mayor's help in coming out to the world. "Thank you for being so brave," Ro wrote in a submitted question before a Denver rally in February. "Would you help me tell the world I'm gay too? I want to be brave like you."Later at the rally, as Ro approached the stage, the crowd of hundreds whipped themselves into a frenzy of cheers and encouragement, high-fiving the boy and chanting, "Love is love!"
"You will never know who's taking their lead from you, who's watching you and deciding that they can be a little braver, because you have been brave," Buttigieg told the 9-year old, visibly moved. "When I was trying to figure out who I was, I was afraid that who I was might mean that I could never make a difference. And what wound up happening instead, is that it's a huge part of the difference I get to make." "You'll never know whose life you might be affecting right now, just by standing here," he said. "There's a lot of power in that."