Saturday, July 04, 2020

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Revulsion Towards Trump’s Racist Politics is Building

Donald Trump is the antithesis to decency and morality and, as previous posts have focused upon, his sole reelection plan is to double down on racism and hatred in the hope of turning out more of the GOP's shrinking base to the polls come November.   Almost everything the GOP once stood for - fiscal responsibility, support for science and education, and true basic morality (as opposed to Christofascist false piety and hypocrisy) - has been jettisoned as the Party has sold its soul to Trump and the white supremacists and religious extremist who now make up the core party base.  Meanwhile, younger voters who see both Trump and Christofascists as repulsive and educated suburban voters are fleeing the GOP.  As a column in the Washington Post notes, support for the GOP now boils down to racism more than any other factor. The party once identified with so-called country club Republicans now finds its image tied to red neck racists. Some surveys suggest that a wave is building against Trump and the soulless GOP.  Here are column highlights:
Four years ago, Christopher Parker, an African American political scientist at the University of Washington, made the provocative argument that Donald Trump’s candidacy could “do more to advance racial understanding than the election of Barack Obama.”
“Trump’s clear bigotry,” Parker wrote in the American Prospect, a liberal journal, “makes it impossible for whites to deny the existence of racism in America. . . . His success clashes with many white Americans’ vision of the United States as a fair and just place.”
Those words seem prescient today, after four years of President Trump’s racism, from the “very fine people” marching with neo-Nazis in Charlottesville to, in just the past week, a “white power” retweet and a threat to veto defense spending to protect the names of Confederate generals; after a pandemic disproportionately ravaged African American communities while an indifferent president tried to move on; after Trump-allied demonstrators, some carrying firearms and Confederate flags, tried to “liberate” themselves from public health restrictions; after the video of George Floyd’s killing showed the world blatant police brutality; after Trump used federal firepower against peaceful civil rights demonstrators of all colors.
The reckoning Parker foresaw is now upon us. White women, disgusted by Trump’s cruelty, are abandoning him in large number. White liberals, stunned by the brazen racism, have taken to the streets. And signs point to African American turnout in November that will rival the record level of 2012, when Obama was on the ballot. This, by itself, would flip Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to Democrats, an analysis by the liberal Center for American Progress shows.
Surprisingly high Democratic turnout in recent contests in Wisconsin, Georgia, Kentucky and Colorado points to the possibility of a building wave. The various measures of Democratic enthusiasm suggest “turnout beyond anything we’ve seen since 1960,” University of North Carolina political scientist Marc Hetherington predicts. If so, that would mean a historic repudiation of Trump, who knows his hope of reelection depends on low turnout. He has warned that mail-in ballots and other attempts to encourage more voting would mean “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”
That may not be wrong. Trump has accelerated a decades-old trend toward parties redefining themselves by race and racial attitudes. Racial resentment is now the single most important factor driving Republicans and Republican-leaning movers, according to extensive research, most recently by Nicholas Valentino and Kirill Zhirkov at the University of Michigan — more than religion, culture, class or ideology. An ongoing study by University of North Carolina researchers finds that racial resentment even drives hostility toward mask-wearing and social distancing. Conversely, racial liberalism now drives Democrats of all colors more than any other factor.
Consider just one yardstick, a standard question of racial attitudes in which people are asked to agree or disagree with this statement: “It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites.”
In 2012, 56 percent of white Republicans agreed with that statement, according to the American National Election Studies. The number grew in 2016 with Trump’s rise, to 59 percent. Last month, an astonishing 71 percent of white Republicans agreed, according to a YouGov poll written by Parker and conducted by GQR (where my wife is a partner).
The opposite movement among white Democrats is even more striking. In 2012, 38 percent agreed that African Americans didn’t try hard enough. In 2016, that dropped to 27 percent. And now? Just 13 percent.
To the extent Trump’s racist provocation is a strategy (rather than simply an instinct), it is a miscalculation. The electorate was more than 90 percent white when Richard Nixon deployed his Southern strategy; the proportion is now 70 percent white and shrinking. But more than that, Trump’s racism has alienated a large number of white people.
“For many white Americans, the things Trump is saying and getting away with, they just didn’t think they lived in a world where that could happen,” says Vincent Hutchings, a political scientist specializing in public opinion at the University of Michigan. Racist appeals in particular alienate white, college-educated women, and even some women without college degrees, he has found: “One of the best ways to exacerbate the gender gap isn’t to talk about gender but to talk about race.”
This is what Parker had in mind when he wrote in 2016 that Trump could be “good for the United States.” The backlash Trump provoked among whites and nonwhites alike “could kick off a second Reconstruction,” Parker now thinks. “I know it sounds crazy, especially coming from a black man,” he says, but “I think Trump actually is one of the best things that’s happened in this country.”

Friday, July 03, 2020

More Friday Male Beauty

Trump’s Re-election Message: Inflame White Racism

A column in the New York Times lays out what appears to be Donald Trump's reelection strategy  and in the process explains, in my view, white evangelical support for Trump: white racism.  Of course, evangelicals are not the only ones onboard Trump's racism train although evangelicals are perhaps the ones who are still the most angry over desegregation and an end of the Jim Crow laws. Given the economy's collapse and the seemingly out of control Covid-19 pandemic (especially in GOP led states that followed Trump's demands for "reopening"), Trump has little else to run on and has re-embraced what got him elected in 2016: white grievance and white racial animosity toward non-whites. Congressional Republicans and my Republican "friends" who refuse to admit that they fully realize what Trump's all about are lying to themselves and to others.  One can only hope that this renewed shameless pandering to white supremacists and evangelicals (the two go hand in hand) fails in 2020, especially among suburban voters.  Here are column highlights:

A lot of Republicans are acting puzzled about Donald Trump’s re-election pitch. “He has no message,” one Republican source told Reuters. “He needs to articulate why he wants a second term,” said another. Some have expressed hope that Trump would find a way to become less polarizing, as if polarization were not the raison d’être of his presidency.
It’s hard to know if Republicans like this are truly naïve or if they’re just pretending so they don’t have to admit what a foul enterprise they’re part of. Because Trump does indeed have a re-election message, a stark and obvious one. It is “white power.”
[Trump] The president started this week by tweeting out a video that encapsulates the soul of his movement. In it, a man in The Villages, an affluent Florida retirement community, shouts, “White power!” at protesters from a golf cart bedecked with Trump signs. “Thank you to the great people of The Villages,” wrote Trump. Only after several hours and a panic among White House staffers did the president delete the tweet.
Republicans might act as if they don’t know why Trump’s fans are so unfailingly loyal. Some commentators spent the first year or two of his presidency dancing around the reason he was elected, spending so much time probing the “economic anxiety” of his base that the phrase came to stand for a type of willful political blindness.
But Trump understands that he became a significant political figure by spreading the racist lie that Barack Obama was really born in Kenya. He launched his history-making presidential bid with a speech calling Mexican immigrants rapists and adopted a slogan, “America First,” previously associated with the raging anti-Semite Charles Lindbergh. Throughout the 2016 campaign, he won the invaluable prize of earned media with escalating racist provocations, which his supporters relished and which captivated cable news.
Trump, however, seems to grasp that racism is what put him over the top. It’s what made his campaign seem wild and transgressive and hard to look away from.
Now Trump’s poll numbers are cratering, we have double-digit unemployment and our pandemic-ravaged nation has been rendered an international pariah. America is faring exactly as well under Trump’s leadership as his casinos, airline and scam university did. It’s not surprising that he’s returning to what he knows, and what seemed to work for him before.
In fact, Trump appears to think his problem is that he hasn’t been racist enough. . . . . “He truly believes there is a silent majority out there that’s going to come out in droves in November,” a source told Swan.
And so last week, as if to prod that silent majority, Trump tweeted out videos of Black people assaulting white people. . . . . He said he’d veto a $741 billion defense bill over a provision, written by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, requiring that military bases honoring Confederates be renamed. Apoplectic over New York City’s plans to paint the words “Black Lives Matter” on Fifth Avenue in front of Trump Tower, he called the slogan “a symbol of hate.”
On Tuesday, Trump tweeted that he was considering scrapping an Obama-era housing regulation that required localities to address illegal patterns of residential segregation. . . . . The message to his white supporters seemed clear enough: Trump is going to fight to stop people of color from coming to your neighborhood.
The Times reported on the president’s rationale: “Mr. Trump and his campaign team, already concerned about his weakness in battleground states, have become increasingly alarmed by internal polling showing a softening of support among suburban voters.” Trump sees clearly — more clearly than most of his party — that racism is the main thing he has to offer.
There’s good reason to think that he’s misjudging these suburban voters. Polls show that a growing number of them, particularly women, are repelled by Trump’s race-baiting and divisiveness. But Republicans who complain that the president is undisciplined, that he can’t adhere to a strategy, miss the point: Bigotry has always been the strategy.
The Republicans who support him are yoked to that strategy. Their real frustration isn’t that it’s ugly but that it’s no longer working.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

82% of Evangelicals Continue to Embrace Immorality

The results of a new Pew Research Center survey has been released and they again confirm that white evangelicals are the worse hypocrites and modern day Pharisees of any religious group as they continue to support the most immoral individual to ever occupy the White House.  Eighty two percent say they will vote for Trump in November.  The survey take away is that decent, moral people should not be fooled by the false piety and claims of religiosity from evangelicals given that Trump is the antithesis of Christian conduct and Christ's social gospel message. White evangelicals are not the only ones whose claims of being "Christian" should be questioned.  Majorities of white "Christians' also support Trump although not at the levels of evangelicals who, in my view, lead the nation in moral bankruptcy and hypocrisy.   One cannot be a moral person if they support a man who is the embodiment of immorality.   Here are highlights from the survey:
Amid rising coronavirus cases and widespread protests over racial injustice, President Donald Trump’s approval rating has dropped among a wide range of religious groups, including white evangelical Protestants – though they remain strongly supportive.
The same survey finds that if the 2020 presidential election were held today, 82% of white evangelical Protestant registered voters would vote for Trump or lean toward voting for him, while 17% say they would back the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee, Joe Biden. By comparison, a Pew Research Center survey that was conducted just after the 2016 presidential election among those who were identified as having voted found that 77% of white evangelical Protestant voters backed Trump, while 16% voted for Hillary Clinton.
The June survey was conducted after Trump’s controversial visit to St. John’s Episcopal Church on June 1, and in the immediate wake of the Supreme Court’s landmark LGBTQ ruling on June 15.
Trump’s continued support among white evangelical Protestants – a group that is highly religious and overwhelmingly Republican – is matched by their dislike of Biden.
While no other religious group is as supportive of Trump as white evangelical Protestants – and his rating has slipped among most Christian groups in this analysis in recent months – [Trump] the president continues to garner support from half or more of other white Christians. More than half of white Protestants who do not identify as evangelical (56%) say they approve of the job Trump is doing, as do 54% of white Catholics – and roughly six-in-ten voters in these groups say they would vote for him if the election were held today.
On the other hand, large majorities of Black Protestants (83%), Hispanic Catholics (74%) and religiously unaffiliated Americans (74%) say they disapprove of Trump. Among Black Protestants, levels of disapproval have increased to 83% from 74% in April, but are roughly similar to where they stood in January, when 10% approved of Trump and 87% disapproved. And among Black Protestant voters, just 8% say they would vote for Trump if the election were held today, while 88% would vote for Biden.
Black Protestants, who overwhelmingly identify as Democrats or as Democratic-leaning independents, are the religious group with by far the most positive views toward Biden.
Among religiously unaffiliated Americans, another strongly Democratic constituency, opinions on a possible Biden presidency are more tepid. (The religiously unaffiliated, also known as “nones,” are those who describe their religion as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.”) Fewer than a third of “nones” (27%) say Biden would be a good or great president, while 39% say he would be average and 33% say he would do a poor or terrible job. Nevertheless, this group’s views toward Biden are much more positive than toward Trump: Seven-in-ten “nones” say Trump has been a poor (13%) or terrible (56%) president, and a similar share of unaffiliated voters (72%) say they would vote for Biden if the election was today.
It's telling that the so-called "Nones" are more moral than evangelicals as evidenced by their stron rejection of Trump.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

A Second Blue Wave in the Suburbs?

An exodus of suburban voters from the GOP fueled Democrat wins in 2018 and handed control of the U.S. House of Representatives to Democrats.  As things currently stand, Trump is even more disliked than in 2018 and his botched handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and the battered economy may underscore that dislike.  A piece in Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball looks at possible problems for the congressional Republicans in suburban districts if Trump loses or barely edges out wins far smaller than in 2016.  In deed, Trump may have negative coattails even in states like Texas where the rural/suburban divide is growing rapidly.  In heavy military areas like Hampton Roads, Virginia, the Russian bounties for dead Americans and Trump's claim it is all a hoax could harm Trump and those in the GOP pandering to him even further.  Here are article highlights:

Well-educated suburban districts, particularly ones that also were diverse, were a major part of the Democrats’ victory in the House in 2018. Democrats captured many formerly Republican districts where Donald Trump performed significantly worse in 2016 than Mitt Romney had in 2012. Democratic victories in and around places like Northern Virginia, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit, the Twin Cities, Atlanta, Orange County, CA, parts of New Jersey, and elsewhere came in seats that meet this broad definition.
And then there’s Texas. Democrats picked up two districts there, one in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex (TX-32) and another in suburban Houston (TX-7). But Democrats put scares into several other Republican incumbents, and the closeness of presidential polling in Texas could lead to unexpected opportunities for Democrats there this November.
Tellingly, of 18 Texas polls in the RealClearPolitics database matching Biden against Trump dating back to early last year, Trump has never led by more than seven points — in a state he won by nine in 2016. It seems reasonable to assume that Trump is going to do worse in Texas than four years ago, particularly if his currently gloomy numbers in national surveys and state-level polls elsewhere do not improve.
In an average of the most recent polls, Trump leads by two points in Texas. In 2018, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) won reelection over then-Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D, TX-16) by 2.6 points. If Trump were to win Texas by a similar margin this November, the congressional district-level results probably would look a lot like the Cruz-O’Rourke race.
Cruz won the remaining districts, but several of them were close: TX-2, TX-3, TX-6, TX-21, TX-22, TX-25, and TX-31 all voted for Cruz by margins ranging from 0.1 points (TX-21) to 5.1 (TX-25). These districts all have at least average and often significantly higher-than-average levels of four-year college attainment, and they all are racially diverse.
In other words, these districts share some characteristics of those that have moved toward the Democrats recently, even though they remain right of center.
This is all a long preamble to an alarming possibility for Republicans: If Biden were to actually carry Texas, he might carry many or even all of these districts in the process. In a time when ticket-splitting is less common than in previous eras of American politics (though hardly extinct), that could exert some real pressure on Republicans in these districts.
Trump’s Texas sag in 2016 didn’t immediately imperil any Texas Republican U.S. House members, except for retiring Rep. Will Hurd (R) in the perpetually swingy TX-23; it took the 2018 midterm, when Trump’s unpopularity led to big House losses for Republicans, to make many of these districts much more competitive. So it’s possible that Biden could do really well, but not have strong-enough coattails in these and other similar kinds of districts. We also still like Trump’s chances in Texas, despite the close polls.
However, if that changes — and if Biden wins the state without much ticket-splitting — there could be some unpleasant surprises down the ballot for Republicans in Texas. That could also include control of the Texas state House of Representatives, which might be in play if things get bad enough for Republicans this November.
Redistricting looms for 2021 — at the very least, Republicans who currently control state government in Texas may have to dramatically re-draw the map to shore up incumbents whose safe seats have eroded over the course of the decade while also accommodating a few new House seats because of Texas’ explosive growth. For Republicans, their gerrymander after the last census (albeit blunted a little by judicial intervention) made practical political sense, but demographic changes and coalition shifts pushed 20 of the 36 districts to vote more Democratic than the state in the 2018 Senate race. And if Democrats somehow win the state House, they will have a formal seat at the table in the redistricting process next year.
Overall, our ratings now show 227 House seats at least leaning to the Democrats, 194 at least leaning to the Republicans, and 14 Toss-ups. Splitting the Toss-ups down the middle would mean a 234-201 House, a one-seat GOP improvement on 2018.
That said, as we scan the Leans Republican and Leans Democratic columns, there may be more GOP seats than Democratic ones that are closer to drifting into the Toss-up column. Second-quarter fundraising reports, which will be trickling out over the next couple of weeks, may provide some additional clues as to the state of these competitive races.
All in all, the Democrats’ grip on the House majority remains strong.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Norfolk Modern Day Pharisee Sues Virginia Over LGBT Protections

Today was the first day that Virginia's new LGBT non-discrimination protections became effective and sure enough a Norfolk Christofascist who believes he should be above the law has sued the Commonwealth of Virginia, claiming that the ban on discrimination against other citizens, namely those who are LGBT, tramples on his "religious beliefs." Also not surprisingly, the virulent hate group Alliance Defending Freedom - the organization's name truly ought to include the words to be "to be a bigot and hate monger" - is representing Chris Herring, the Norfolk photographer who claims his religious freedoms are being trampled upon.  Seemingly missing from Herring's complaint is any evidence that any LGBT clients actually sought to force him to provide wedding photo services under the newly effective Virginia Laws.  Frankly, in my view, Herring is but another example of the self-centered and hate driven individuals of today's "conservative Christians" who show themselves to be anything but true Christians.  A piece in the Virginian Pilot looks at the lawsuit and Herring's demand for special rights to discriminate against other Virginians.  The irony, of course, is that Herring and those like him would scream bloody murder if decent, moral people discriminated against him based on their religious beliefs and Christ's condemnation of Pharisees. Hopefully, decent, moral Virginians will boycott Herring's business.  Here are article excerpts:
A Norfolk wedding photographer is suing Virginia, arguing a new [LGBT] anti-discrimination law that took effect Wednesday violates his First Amendment rights. The photographer, Chris Herring, believes the Virginia Values Act forces him to promote same-sex marriage against his religious beliefs.
Herring “faces an impossible choice: violate the law and risk bankruptcy, promote views against his faith, or close down,” his attorneys wrote in the suit, filed Tuesday in federal court. “And this was exactly what Virginia officials wanted for those who hold Chris’ religious beliefs about marriage. Legislators who passed Virginia’s law called views like Chris’ ‘bigotry’ and sought to punish them with ‘unlimited punitive damages’ to remove them from the public square.”
The new law prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation in housing, public and private employment, public accommodations and access to credit.
Herring, who [falsely claims he] is Christian, already serves LGBT clients for brand and adventure shoots, said Kate Anderson, senior legal counsel with the conservative Christian nonprofit [certified hate group] Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing him. But he does not photograph same-sex weddings and feels that doing so would be creating art and sending a message against his beliefs, Anderson said.
Anderson said Herring wants to post a belief statement on his business website, but is concerned that Virginia could levy enough fines to drive him into bankruptcy.
“Because of my faith, I can only photograph consistent with who I am and what I believe. I can only photograph what celebrates God’s creation and design for the world,” reads the proposed statement. “I won’t photograph ceremonies that contradict God’s design for marriage as something between one man and one woman.”
The attorneys say in court documents the language of the law would force the photographer “to create and convey photographs and blogs celebrating same-sex weddings because he does so for weddings between a man and a woman.”
Anderson noted in that and a similar case in Minnesota, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring “filed briefs supporting the government compelling artists to speak messages that violate their core convictions. So there’s no doubt that’s how (he) will interpret this law.”
The attorney general [Mark Herring] , who is not related to the plaintiff, is named as a defendant in the lawsuit. Spokeswoman Charlotte Gomer said in an email Wednesday that his office is reviewing the complaint and will respond in court.
“Attorney General Herring believes that every Virginian has the right to be safe and free from discrimination no matter what they look like, where they come from, or who they love,” Gomer said. “LGBT Virginians are finally protected from housing and employment discrimination under Virginia law and Attorney General Herring looks forward to defending the Virginia Values Act in court against these attacks.”
Filed the day before the law went into effect, the freedom alliance said the Norfolk case is what’s known as a “pre-enforcement challenge,” allowing citizens to challenge a law before it’s enforced against them.
According to court documents, Chris Herring started his company in 2017 and operates mostly in Norfolk and Chesapeake. After initially doing only adventure photography, he expanded to weddings aiming to promote “God’s design for marriage which reflects Jesus’ sacrificial relationship to his Church.”
Again, decent, fair minded individuals and businesses need to boycott Chris Herring and his business and with luck, it will wither and die. Chris Herring is no different than "Christians" of old who cited the Bible to support slavery.  Hate and bigotry is still hate and bigotry even when wrapped in the smoke screen of religion.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Why Does Trump Put Russia First?

Since before the 2016 election, Donald Trump has shown that time and time again he puts the interest of Vladimir Putin's Russia ahead of the interests of America and its NATO allies.  The constant question has been why.  Is it because Russian election interference put him in the White House?  Is it because laundered Russian money has kept his real estate ventures afloat given his in ability to secure loans from and U.S. banks?  Is it because he longs to rule America as a dictator as Putin rules Russia, supported by corrupt politicians and sycophants?  Now that it has become clear - despite Trump's lies and denials - that Russia paid bounties for the killing of American troops in Afghanistan and that Trump did nothing, the question becomes all the more relevant.  Former national Security Advisor Susan Rice has an op-ed in the New York Times that is an indictment of Trump and those in his regime who did nothing to punish Putin.  Indeed, Trump did Putin favors and helped Russia's objectives even after knowing Putin was paying for the murder of Americans.  As the 2020 election nears, Trump's betrayal of American military members is yet another reason he needs to be defeated - and thoroughly investigated once he is out of office.  Here are column excerpts (as disclaimer, I have a son-in-law who served in Afghanistan who was badly wounded in that fool's errand war):
Since at least February, and possibly as early as March 2019, the United States has had compelling intelligence that a committed adversary, Russia, paid bounties to Taliban-linked fighters to kill American troops in Afghanistan. American service members were reportedly killed as a result.
To this day, the president of the United States has done nothing about it.  Instead, President Trump dismissed the intelligence as not “credible” and “possibly another fabricated Russia hoax, maybe by the Fake News” that is “wanting to make Republicans look bad!!!”
Mr. Trump also claimed that neither he nor Vice President Mike Pence was ever told about this critical intelligence before it was first reported in The New York Times. Setting aside for a moment the credulity of that claim, whenever [Trump] the president learned of this deeply troubling intelligence, why did he not publicly condemn any Russian efforts to kill American soldiers and explore options for a swift and significant U.S. response?
None of this adds up.  As a former national security adviser, I find it exceedingly difficult to believe that no one told Mr. Trump about this intelligence.
It was reportedly contained in the president’s daily briefing, which is provided to all top-level national security officials. Even if Mr. Trump does not bother regularly to read the daily briefing, we must assume others do. If the president’s senior advisers — Robert O’Brien, the national security adviser; Richard Grenell, who stepped down in May as acting director of national intelligence; and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, among others — thought it was unnecessary to inform the commander in chief of this life-or- death matter, then they are not worthy of service.
[T[he administration reportedly informed the British government, and the National Security Council convened an interagency meeting in March to discuss the intelligence and its implications.
Here’s what should have happened. Had I, as national security adviser, received even “raw” reporting that Russia was paying to kill U.S. service members, I would have walked straight into the Oval Office to brief the president.
Contrary to the spin-masters in the White House today, I would not have waited until we had absolute certainty. I would have said, “Mr. President, I want to make sure you are aware that we have troubling reporting that Russia is paying the Taliban to kill our forces in Afghanistan. . . . I will convene the national security team to get you some options for how to respond to this apparent major escalation in Russia’s hostile actions.”
If later the president decided, as Mr. Trump did, that he wanted to talk with President Vladimir Putin of Russia at least six times over the next several weeks and invite him to join the Group of 7 summit over the objections of our allies, I would have thrown a red flag: “Mr. President, I want to remind you that we believe the Russians are killing American soldiers. This is not the time to hand Putin an olive branch. It’s the time to punish him.”
If Mr. Trump was told about Russian actions, why did he not respond? If he was not told, why not? Are his top advisers utterly incompetent? Are they too scared to deliver bad news to Mr. Trump, particularly about Russia? Is Mr. Trump running a rogue foreign policy utterly divorced from U.S. national interests? If so, why?
A perilous pattern persists that underscores Mr. Trump’s strange propensity to serve Russian interests above America’s. Recall that, during his 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump publicly urged Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails and praised WikiLeaks for publishing stolen documents.
He denied and dismissed Russian interference in the 2016 election, then took Mr. Putin at his word at a Helsinki meeting while undercutting the U.S. intelligence community, and obstructed the Mueller investigation and distorted its findings. Mr. Trump recklessly removed U.S. troops from northern Syria and allowed Russian forces to take over American bases.
Next, Mr. Trump unilaterally invited Mr. Putin to attend the Group of 7 meeting, a move that apparently upended the organization’s annual summit. Subsequently, without any consultation, Mr. Trump announced his decision to remove nearly a third of U.S. troops from Germany — a sudden and inexplicable withdrawal that weakens the U.S.-German relationship and harms NATO, while benefiting Russia.
Most recently, we have learned that even Russian efforts to slaughter American troops in cold blood do not faze this president. . . . . . Now Mr. Putin knows he can kill Americans with impunity.
At best, our commander in chief is utterly derelict in his duties, presiding over a dangerously dysfunctional national security process that is putting our country and those who wear its uniform at great risk. At worst, the White House is being run by liars and wimps catering to a tyrannical president who is actively advancing our arch adversary’s nefarious interests.
Vote a straight Democrat ticket in November at all levels of government.  Republicans must be severely punished for their betrayal of America through their pandering to Trump.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Democrats Are on Pace for a Down-Ballot Blowout

Much can change in the months between today and election day in November, 2020, but if current trends hold, not only will Trump likely be ejected from the White House but so too will many down ballot Republicans. While some Republicans try to pretend they are distanced from Trump, increasingly - and I would argue, correctly - voters see no line of separation between down ballot Republicans and Trump.  Truth be told, all of the GOP is now complicit in the nightmare that is the Trump/Pence regime and need to be punished at the polls accordingly.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at what may prove to be a decimation of down ballot Republicans.  Let's keep fingers crossed that Trump's woes worsen and that the GOP goes down with his sinking ship.  Here are article excerpts:

By now, you are probably aware that Donald Trump’s poll numbers have seen better days. [Trump] The president trails Joe Biden by an average of 9.6 percent in RealClearPolitics’s poll of polls. On Tuesday, USA Today/Suffolk’s poll — which had Trump leading Biden last December — showed the Democratic nominee ahead by 12. No incumbent president has ever trailed by this much at this point in an election cycle. Trump’s numbers have been so uniformly and egregiously bad, even the poll-unskewer-in-chief admitted last week that he was losing telling Sean Hannity that Joe Biden is “gonna be your president because some people don’t love me, maybe.”
The GOP’s abysmal polling in the congressional generic ballot has garnered less attention. In today’s Suffolk poll, voters favored a Democratic Congress over a Republican one by 14 points. In 538’s polling average, Democrats boast a nine-point lead on the question of which party’s congressional candidates voters intend to support. In 2018, Democrats won the House “popular vote” by roughly eight points, the party’s best showing since the Watergate scandal, and a margin large enough to turn more than 40 districts blue. Thus, current national polling suggests Democrats are poised to consolidate their midterm gains and make further inroads into Republican territory this fall. And as the New York Times’s Nate Cohn notes, surveys of discrete swing-district House races are consistent with that story: We've got three Dem polls this morning, all generally apocalyptic for the GOP Even in TX-06 (and GOP+4 in the House race) Biden+10 in IN-05 (and D+6 in the House) Biden+2 in MO
Republicans can lose the popular vote in a rout this November and still retain their Senate Majority. But if Biden beats Trump by ten points — while Democratic House candidates outpace GOP ones by nine — Chuck Schumer will probably be a Majority Leader come January.
Notably, a 2020 down-ballot landslide would represent a marked departure from events four years ago. Even as Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016, Republican congressional candidates won 1.1 percentage points more ballots than their Democratic adversaries. This was partly attributable to the (then) GOP House majority’s incumbency advantages. But it also ostensibly reflected a widespread perception that congressional Republicans — and Donald J. Trump — were very different political entities.
Four years later, swing voters no longer recognize much distinction between [Trump] the president and his party. The GOP’s loudest Trump skeptics have either been evicted from Congress or converted to the faith. On impeachment, coronavirus, and just about everything in between, congressional Republicans have made [Trump's] the president’s cause their own. And the public has taken note.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

Trump’s Only Campaign Promise: Make Bigotry Safe Again

Recently Donald Trump gave a rambling comment about his agenda for a second term if, god help us all, he were reelected to a second term.  What was striking was that he had no agenda other than being reelected and continuing his vanity show from the White House.  Meanwhile, Sunbelt states that foolishly reopened at his bidding are reeling from huge rises in Covid-19 cases and we have learned that Trump's BFF, Vladimir Putin was paying bounties for the murder of American soldiers in Afghanistan. So what is Trump response?  Pandering to white racism - something he has harbored himself for years going all the way back to racial discrimination in housing the Norfolk, Virginia area almost 50 years ago and his demands for a judicial lynching of innocent young blacks falsely accused of crime in Central Park.  Along with his narcissism, racism appears to be the one constant with Trump.  A column in the Washington Post looks at his apparent decision to use racism and fear to gain reelection.  Here are highlights:
“White power!” shouted the elderly man, raising his fist as he drove his golf cart past a group of demonstrators advocating racial justice. On Sunday, President Trump offered an “amen.”
A white couple stood outside their St. Louis mansion aiming deadly firearms — the man wielding a semiautomatic rifle, the woman waving a handgun — at Black Lives Matter protesters who were peacefully marching past. On Monday, Trump joined that hallelujah chorus, too.
In both cases, Trump offered his encouragement to white tribal fear and anger in the form of retweets on his Twitter feed. There’s plenty of bad news the president might want to overshadow: the explosion in covid-19 cases in Sun Belt states he pushed to reopen prematurely, for example, or the reports that Russia offered bounties for killing U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan. But why choose “white power” as the bright, shiny object he wants everyone to focus on? Why not some other, less incendiary bit of nonsense?
The logical conclusion is that, in his desperate campaign to win reelection, Trump has decided to position himself even more explicitly as the defender of whiteness and all its privileges. Certainly, in his ideologically flexible career, maintaining the primacy of whiteness is a rare constant.
The “white power” incident took place earlier this month at The Villages, a sprawling retirement community near Orlando. . . . . Trump retweeted a video of the incident, appending the comment, “Thank you to the great people of The Villages.” The tweet was deleted a couple of hours later, with the White House claiming that Trump hadn’t heard the “white power” rallying cry. That is likely a lie, since the shouted slogan comes right at the beginning of the two-minute video clip. You can’t miss it — unless you’re just retweeting things you haven’t bothered to watch.
And if Trump didn’t mean to amplify the “white power” message, then why — one day later — would he retweet a video of the St. Louis incident? You don’t have to be a semiotician to understand the message of that video, which reinforces a message Trump has repeated over and over again: White people, when you see a diverse crowd of protesters coming down your street, be afraid. Go get your guns. Be ready to shoot.
With Trump’s hope of reelection fading, I fear this is the gambit he has chosen: using this moment to exacerbate racial animus — rather than lessen it, as any responsible leader would try to do — by heightening white fear and loathing of the nation’s growing diversity.
“Black lives matter” does not imply some sort of zero-sum game. The whole nation will benefit if we can curb the kind of police violence that led to the deaths of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Elijah McClain and so many others. The whole nation will benefit if we finally acknowledge and then address systemic racism. What makes this moment of upheaval and protest different is that so many white Americans see how racism is a ball and chain that holds all of us back — and see what a braver, fairer, stronger nation we can be if we confront our original sin with honesty and determination.
As a political strategy, this can work only if Trump motivates enough older, white, non-college-educated voters in the Sun Belt and rural Midwest to see the coming election as a matter of us vs. them — while the Republican Party simultaneously uses various techniques of voter suppression to limit Democratic turnout. Polls suggest that all of this is unlikely to work, and that Trump may be dragging the GOP’s Senate majority down with him.
As presidential leadership, Trump’s “white power” strategy is tragically irresponsible. His narcissism leads him unerringly to adopt any course of action he sees as beneficial to himself, no matter what the potential impact on the nation might be.
His focus is on a despicable effort to make white people angry and frightened enough to give him a second term. If he sincerely wants anything beyond his own glorification, it is to make America safe again for bigotry.
As for Republican "friends" who continue to support Trump, perhaps they need to be honest and join the KKK since they are supporting the Klan's de facto leader.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Monday Morning Male Beauty

Will Revulsion Toward Trump Create a Political Realignment?

The election of Barack Obama  in 2008 was hailed as proof that a political realignment was taking place.  The prediction proved premature as the existence of a black president cause the forces of hate and bigotry on the right to rally, first in the form of the Tea Party and then in the form of Donald Trump base of support made up of racists and Christian extremist. Nearly four years later revulsion towards Trump - and most of what his base stands for - may be the fuse needed to make the missed realignment of 2008 become a reality.  Several factors are at play: (i) the shrinking of the pool of older white voters, (ii) the much enlarged pool of younger voters, (iii)the revulsion of moral conservatives - this does not include evangelicals - and (iv) growing numbers of older voters waking to the reality that Trump's/the GOP's response to the Covid-19 pandemic represents a threat to their very lives.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the dynamic.  Here are highlights:

You might fairly conclude that political analysts predicting realignments are not much different from stock market touts whose absolute — and mistaken — certainties about coming bull or bear markets lose a lot of people a lot of money. Since the rise of Ronald Reagan in 1980, many more realignments have been forecast than actually materialized.
But there is another way to look at those 2008 predictions: They were not wrong, they were just premature. As a result, a 77-year-old Democratic presidential nominee may be the unlikely instrument of a new generational alignment.
Why now and not in 2008? The most important reason is the obvious one: The backlash against Trump is the driving factor in this election so far — and there could be no better representative of the politics of the past than the current occupant in the White House. He is stubbornly out of touch with the country’s attitudes on many questions, and especially so on racial justice.
Far from adjusting to different times, Trump is betting — as he did in 2016 and as the tea party did in the Obama years — that the leftover right-wing slogans from the 1960s (see: “LAW AND ORDER!”) and a defense of Confederate “heritage” will win him the overwhelming majorities among older white voters that he needs to carry battleground states.
But this isn’t working, and not only because former vice president Joe Biden is an older white guy who is rather hard to tar as an agent of the revolutionary left. It’s also failing because many older voters are petrified of what Trump’s astonishingly inept handling of the coronavirus pandemic means for their health and their very lives.
But more importantly for the long run, the 2020 electorate is not the electorate of the tea party wave, or even of 2016. The new generations that Obama realignment enthusiasts acclaimed 12 years ago are, at long last, the dominant groups in the electorate.
As a Pew Research Center study showed, members of Gen Z (born after 1996) couldn’t even vote in 2012 and made up just 4 percent of the 2016 potential electorate. But they will account for 1 in 10 eligible voters this year. Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) will constitute 27 percent of this year’s eligible voters. In combination with Gen Xers (born 1965 to 1980), more than 6 in 10 of this year’s electorate will be younger than 55.
Three things are true: (1.) The post-boomer generations are more diverse than the rest of the electorate. (2.) Younger whites are more liberal than their elders on matters of racial justice — as a Washington Post-Schar School poll showed this month — and on social issues. (3.) The share of millennials who vote will be higher than in Obama’s elections simply because they are older than they were in 2008 or 2012.
The 14-point lead Biden enjoyed over Trump in the New York Times-Siena College poll released last week reflects all these factors. Biden is splitting voters over 50 roughly evenly with Trump and then overwhelming the president among registered voters under 35 (59 to 25 percent) and those 35 to 49 (53 to 30 percent).
Nor did Biden’s margins depend solely on the diversity of the younger cohorts. Among whites under 45, Biden led Trump 52 to 30 percent.
Thus could a president who rose to power by exploiting the fears and anxieties of the aging part of the country find himself brought down by the rising generations who have had enough of the past. The United States of Trump’s imagination may simply no longer exist.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

More Sunday Male Beauty

The Decline of the American World

If one surveys the so-called great powers over the course of history, all eventually fade and give way to successor powers - e.g, the Persian Empire, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, Spain. France, the British Empire,  Some have fallen due to military might of other nations, yet most have also declined due to internal problems and a failure/refusal to address the problems.  Of course, there is also the issue of failed leadership that has served to exacerbate internal and external threats and problems. A very long piece The Atlantic looks at America as it seemingly finds itself a such a cross roads with a totally unfit occupant in the White House who serves only to worsen external and internal threats. Compounding the situation is America's long history of refusing to be honest about its history and its moral failings that are all too often swept under the myth of American exceptionalism.  Another four more years of Trump in the White House would only serve to further accelerate America;s decline.  Already, the damage done has been incalculable.  Here are article highlights:

“He hated America very deeply,” John le Carré wrote of his fictional Soviet mole, Bill Haydon, in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Haydon had just been unmasked as a double agent at the heart of Britain’s secret service, one whose treachery was motivated by animus, not so much to England but to America. “It’s an aesthetic judgment as much as anything,” Haydon explained, before hastily adding: “Partly a moral one, of course.”
I thought of this as I watched the scenes of protest and violence over the killing of George Floyd spread across the United States and then here in Europe and beyond. . . . . The beauty of America seemed to have gone, the optimism and charm and easy informality that entrances so many of us from abroad.
At one level, the ugliness of the moment seems a trite observation to make. And yet it gets to the core of the complicated relationship the rest of the world has with America.
Le Carré’s reflection on the motivations of anti-Americanism—bound up, as they are, with his own ambivalent feelings about the United States—are as relevant today as they were in 1974, when the novel was first published. Where there was then Richard Nixon, there is now Donald Trump, a caricature of what the Haydons of this world already despise: brash, grasping, rich, and in charge. In the president and first lady, the burning cities and race divides, the police brutality and poverty, an image of America is beamed out, confirming the prejudices that much of the world already have—while also serving as a useful device to obscure its own injustices, hypocrisies, racism, and ugliness.
It is hard to escape the feeling that this is a uniquely humiliating moment for America. As citizens of the world the United States created, we are accustomed to listening to those who loathe America, admire America, and fear America (sometimes all at the same time). But feeling pity for America? That one is new, even if the schadenfreude is painfully myopic. If it’s the aesthetic that matters, the U.S. today simply doesn’t look like the country that the rest of us should aspire to, envy, or replicate.
Even in previous moments of American vulnerability, Washington reigned supreme. Whatever moral or strategic challenge it faced, there was a sense that its political vibrancy matched its economic and military might, that its system and democratic culture were so deeply rooted that it could always regenerate itself. It was as if the very idea of America mattered . . . Now, something appears to be changing. America seems mired, its very ability to rebound in question. A new power has emerged on the world stage to challenge American supremacy—China—with a weapon the Soviet Union never possessed: mutually assured economic destruction.
For the United States, this cultural dominance is both an enormous strength and a subtle weakness. It draws in talented outsiders to study, build businesses, and rejuvenate itself, molding and dragging the world with it as it does, influencing and distorting those unable to escape its pull. Yet this dominance comes with a cost: The world can see into America, but America cannot look back. And today, the ugliness that is on display is amplified, not calmed, by the American president.
America’s closest allies are looking on with a kind of stunned incomprehension, unsure of what will happen, what it means, and what they should do, largely bound together with angst and a shared sense, as one influential adviser told me, that America and the West are approaching something of a fin de siècle.
[T]he confluence of recent events and modern forces has made the present challenge particularly dangerous. The street protests, violence, and racism of the past few weeks have erupted at the very moment the country’s institutional failings have been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, reinforced by its apparently unbridgeable partisan divide, which is now even infecting parts of the American machine that have so far been untouched: its federal agencies, diplomatic service, and the long-standing norms underpinning the relationship between civilians and the military. All of this is happening in the final year of the first term of the most chaotic, loathed, and disrespected president in modern American history.
Most of those I spoke to were, however, clear that Trump’s leadership has brought these currents—in tandem with the pressure of relative economic decline, the rise of China, the reemergence of great-power politics, and the decline of the West as a spiritual union—to a head in a manner and speed previously unimaginable.
[T]he nadir of American prestige has, until now, been the revelations of torture and abuse inside the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad in 2004. “Today, it is much worse,” he said. What makes things different now, according to Duclos, is the extent of division within the United States and the lack of leadership in the White House. “We live with the idea that the U.S. has an ability to rebound that is almost unlimited,” Duclos said. “For the first time, I’m starting to have some doubts.”
Put bluntly, Trump is unique. At the most basic level, Bush never recoiled from the core idea that there was a Western song, and that the lyrics should be composed in Washington. Trump today hears no unifying music—only the dull beat of self-interest.
One senior adviser to a European leader, who did not want to be named relating private deliberations, told me that Continental snobbery at the notion of American leadership of the free world, of the “American Dream” and other clichés dismissed until now as hopelessly naive, has suddenly been exposed by Trump’s cynicism.
Those that I spoke to divided their concerns, implicitly or explicitly, into those caused by Trump and those exacerbated by him—between the specific problems of his presidency that, in their view, can be rectified, and those that are structural and much more difficult to solve. Almost everyone I spoke to agreed that the Trump presidency has been a watershed not just for the U.S. but for the world itself: It is something that cannot be undone. Words once said cannot be unsaid; images that are seen are unable to be unseen.
The immediate concern for many of those I interviewed was the apparent hollowing out of American capacity. Lawrence Freedman, a professor of war studies at King’s College London, told me the institutions of American power themselves have been “battered.” The health system is struggling, the municipalities are financially broke, and, beyond the police and the military, little attention is being paid to the health of the state itself. Worst of all, he said, “they don’t know how to fix it.”
A European ambassador told me Trump himself is an expression of American decline. “Choosing Trump is a way of not very successfully adapting to the globalized world,” the diplomat, who asked for anonymity, said. It is a sign of the United States following other great powers downward, . . . . “The Netherlands were the dominant global power in the 18th century. Today they are a successful country, but they have simply lost their power. To some extent the U.K. and France are on the journey to become the Netherlands, and the U.S. is on the journey to be Britain and France.” . . . “The collapse of the American Empire is a given; we are just trying to figure out what will replace it.”
America’s problem is that the rest of the world can see when it has fallen below its achievements. In moments such as the current one, it is hard to dispute some of the criticisms leveled by the country’s most vociferous critics from abroad: that it is irredeemably racist or overly ambivalent to poverty and violence, police brutality and guns. The rights and wrongs don’t appear particularly complicated in this dilemma, even if the country itself is.

Sunday Morning Male Beauty

Trump Faces Mounting Defections From Older White Voters

With the Covid-19 pandemic worsening in the USA - hence why Americans are banned from traveling to European nations - one wants to find something positive in the news.  The above headline caught my eye since Donald Trump and America's horrifically botched response to the pandemic are irreversibly linked to one another.  Between lies and denials and the total failure of any coordinated federal response Trump made a terrible situation far, far worse as did his boot-licking supporters in the Republican Party such as the governors of Florida and Texas who rushed to reopen their states' businesses over the advice of medical experts in the hope of reviving the economy and Trump's chances of reelection.  Both states now face a crisis thanks to such failed leadership. The irony is that the GOP's most staunch suppers - older white voters - are among those most at risk from the pandemic.  Thankfully, many of this demographic have been paying attention and belatedly realized that neither Trump nor the GOP are their friends. Indeed, fear of death from the virus has - no pun intended - trumped the groups' all too prevalent racism and religious extremism.  The welcome result is that Trump is seeing his support hemorrhaging within this demographic.  A piece in the New York Times looks ate the situation.  What I find remarkable is that none of these voters should have been surprised by Trump's failure of leadership or moral bankruptcy when they pulled the lever for him in 2016.  As for those still supporting Trump, I suspect that if they were honest with themselves and others, it's racism and/or Christofascist leanings that are keeping them loyal to Trump.  This election is truly a choice between morality and immorality. Here are excerpts:
Clifford Wagner, an 80-year-old Republican in Tucson, Ariz., never cared for President Trump.
He supported Jeb Bush in the 2016 presidential primary race and cast a protest vote in the general election for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian nominee. An Air Force veteran, Mr. Wagner described the Trump presidency as a mortifying experience: His friends in Europe and Japan tell him the United States has become “the laughingstock of the world.”
This year, Mr. Wagner said he would register his opposition to Mr. Trump more emphatically than he did in 2016. He plans to vote for Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic nominee, and hopes the election is a ruinous one for the Republican Party.
“I’m a Christian, and I do not believe in the hateful, racist, bigoted speech that the president uses,” Mr. Wagner said, adding, “As much as I never thought I’d say this, I hope we get a Democratic president, a Democratic-controlled Senate and maintain a Democratic-controlled House.”
Mr. Wagner is part of one of the most important maverick voting groups in the 2020 general election: conservative-leaning seniors who have soured on the Republican Party over the past four years.
Republican presidential candidates typically carry older voters by solid margins . . . . Today, Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden are tied among seniors, according to a poll of registered voters conducted by The New York Times and Siena College. And in the six most important battleground states, Mr. Biden has established a clear upper hand, leading Mr. Trump by six percentage points among the oldest voters and nearly matching the president’s support among whites in that age group.
Mr. Trump’s presidency has been a trying experience for many of these voters, some of whom are now so frustrated and disillusioned that they are preparing to take the drastic step of supporting a Democrat.
The grievances of these defecting seniors are familiar, most or all of them shared by their younger peers. But these voters often express themselves with a particularly sharp kind of dismay and disappointment. They see Mr. Trump as coarse and disrespectful, divisive to his core and failing persistently to comport himself with the dignity of the other presidents that they have observed for more than half a century. The Times poll also found that most seniors disapproved of Mr. Trump’s handling of race relations and of the protests after the death of George Floyd.
And as the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep the country, putting older Americans at particular risk, these voters feel a special kind of frustration and betrayal with Mr. Trump’s ineffective leadership and often-blasé public comments about the crisis.
In The Times poll, seniors in the battleground states disapproved of Mr. Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic by seven points, 52 percent to 45 percent. By a 26-point margin, this group said the federal government should prioritize containing the pandemic over reopening the economy.
Former Representative Carlos Curbelo of Florida, a 40-year-old Republican deeply versed in the politics of the retiree-rich swing state, said many seniors were disturbed by important aspects of Mr. Trump’s record and found Mr. Biden a mild and respectable alternative who did not inspire the same antipathy on the right that Mrs. Clinton did in 2016.
Mr. Trump’s ineffective response to the coronavirus weighed on the thinking of many older voters surveyed in the poll, including Patrick Mallon, 73, a retired information technology specialist in Battle Creek, Mich.
The pandemic set Mr. Mallon firmly against Mr. Trump’s re-election. “The main reason is Donald Trump saying, ‘Don’t wear a mask, this thing is going to go away, we can have large gatherings,’” he said. “Everything he says is incorrect and dangerous to the country.”
Nonwhite seniors in the battleground states currently support Mr. Biden over Mr. Trump by a huge margin, 65 percent to 25 percent. Even among some seniors supportive of Mr. Trump, however, there is an undercurrent of unease about the way he approaches the presidency.
At the moment, Mr. Trump’s unpopularity with older voters appears to be hindering other Republicans in states including Arizona and Michigan.
Gayle Craven, 80, of High Point, N.C., said that while she was a registered Republican, she had not voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 and would reject him again this year. She said she saw Mr. Biden as an “honest man.”
Again, no one should be surprised by Trump's failures in leadership or his grotesque immorality. It was all on open display prior to the 2016 election.  The Access Hollywood tape made Trump's immorality all to visible to anyone who wasn't a racist first and foremost.