Saturday, July 18, 2020

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

The American Political Right Descends into Insanity

Protesters listen during a rally against face
masks being required in schools (Rick Egan/AP).
Once upon a time, certainly while I was growing up and during my period as a Republican city committee member, the Republican Party valued education, respected science and knowledge and was epitomized by "country club Republicans."  Now, it is the party of  ignorance, insane conspiracy theories, and where scientific and medical experts are trashed and undermined if the inconveniently undermine the agenda of far right extremists and, of course, the dangerous buffoon who inhabits the White House.  In the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, this transformation of the GOP is not just disturbing, it is literally life threatening and shows the extremes of the self-centered nature of so-called conservatives who care nothing about those they endanger and may infect with Covid-19. How did this happen?  As I have often stated, in my view, it began with the infiltration of the GOP by evangelicals and other "conservative Christians" - who are anything but true followers of Christ - who deny evolution and claim the earth is less than 10,000 years old and reject any form of science and knowledge that threatens the myths upon which they have based their religion and very small scale world view.  Once these forces grabbed hold of the party base it was only a matter of time before open racists and every kind of crackpot was welcomed into the GOP base.  At the same time, sane, educated people fled the GOP which is why the suburbs have shifted so strongly against the GOP.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the insanity of the GOP and far right.  Here are excerpts:
In 2018, Bob Woodward recounted then-White House chief of staff John Kelly’s view of President Trump. “He’s gone off the rails,” Kelly said. “We’re in Crazytown.”
Two years later, it feels as if the entire country resides in the Greater Crazytown Metropolitan Area.
In Provo, Utah, this week, anti-mask demonstrators, some wearing Trump 2020 paraphernalia, stormed a county commission meeting, forcing its adjournment.
In Tulsa, anti-mask protesters, some in MAGA gear, taunted, threw water and waved money at a black minister reading the Bible through a bullhorn and calling for reparations.
In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) sued to stop Atlanta from enforcing mask-wearing to mitigate the spread of the pandemic.
In Florida, longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone, after the president commuted his sentence, said of his and Trump’s opponents: “They’re satanic.”
And here in Washington, Trump surpassed 20,000 falsehoods uttered as president while his administration temporarily took coronavirus data offline, his daughter posed with a can of beans and his trade adviser published an error-laden attack on the government’s top infectious-disease scientist.
The Great American Crackup is underway.
A week ago, I argued that Trump’s conspiracy theories “are spreading faster than covid-19 among his supporters, inducing mass delusion.” So I asked scholars to put this moment into historical and psychological context.
For the first time in our history, a president and a major political party have weaponized paranoia, to destabilizing effect.
Conservatives are inherently no more conspiratorial than liberals; only low education (and, relatedly, income) predict such tendencies. The difference, Uscinski says, is “we have a president who has built a coalition by reaching out to conspiracy-minded people.”
Dartmouth College political scientist Brendan Nyhan finds that “our political elites are amplifying the fringe more than we’ve seen” in modern times, while a president mounts a “grinding attack on factual evidence.” The result, he says, is “conspiracy theories and misinformation become yoked to partisanship in increasingly powerful ways.”
There has always been what the late historian Richard Hofstadter called the “paranoid style” in U.S. politics: witch hunts, Illuminati, Red Scares. William Jennings Bryan promoted conspiracy theories. Richard Nixon believed in them. But Trump is unique in promoting conspiracy thinking from the bully pulpit, and in building a system in which elites — Republican Party leaders — validate the paranoia.
Americans, by nature, are more distrustful of authority than citizens of other advanced democracies. “You always hear Americans say, ‘I know my rights,’ but you never hear an American say, ‘I know my responsibilities and obligations,’ ” Stanford University public-opinion specialist Morris Fiorina observes. The distrust is compounded by polarization of the political system: the collapse of local media (replaced by coastal national media); the growing tendency to live, work and worship among people of similar beliefs; . . . .
An April study by Uscinski and others found Trump’s supporters were the most likely to believe the covid-19 threat was exaggerated — particularly Trump backers who paid the most attention to politics. This, the researchers said, was “likely a consequence of President Trump and other Republican/conservative elites publicly lending credence to this idea.”
And so strong Trump partisans refuse to wear masks. “The science is very clear: People take cues from political leaders,” Nyhan says. Leaders typically rejected conspiracy theories, and the public followed. Now, Trump embraces them, and his followers concur — some out of partisan solidarity, others out of genuine belief.
“Human psychology has not changed,” Nyhan says. What’s changed is we’re discovering that “democratic systems don’t work well when political elites don’t deal in factual information.”
In other words, it’s not us. It’s him.
Be very afraid as Trump tries to now hide accurate information about the pandemic and his followers are increasingly dangerous loose canons. 

Friday, July 17, 2020

Friday Morning Male Beauty

The Terrifying Next Phase of the Coronavirus Recession

In relative terms, Virginia continues to do well in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, although numbers of cases have risen in the Hampton Roads area, likely due to people ignoring mask wearing and social distancing mandates over the 4th of July weekend.  I say relative terms, since Virginia's new cases are a small fraction of what is happening in other states, especially Florida and Texas.  Yet compared to western European countries Virginia's numbers are terrible. Why?  Several causes, the most significant being the lack of any rational, science based federal response to the pandemic. The Trump/Pence regime first punted and left the heavy lifting to individual states and now is undermining medical experts  Further exacerbating the situation,  a number of GOP lead states rushed to reopen prematurely.  Then there are those who refuse to abide by mask requirements and eschew social distancing, caring nothing about those they may be infecting and putting their self-centered  sense of "liberty" over the lives of others.  The current result?  An economy that may be facing a second shutdown, especially in sunbelt states - the governor of Georgia incredibly ban cities and localities from implementing mask mandates.  A piece in The Atlantic looks at America's failure and what may be in store economically if the failed response to the pandemic continues.  Here are highlights:

Failed businesses and lost loved ones, empty theme parks and socially distanced funerals, a struggling economy and an unmitigated public-health disaster: This is the worst-of-both-worlds equilibrium the United States finds itself in.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump has railed against shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders, tweeting in all caps that “we cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself” and pushing for employees to get back to work and businesses to get back to business. But the country has failed to get the virus under control, through masks, contact tracing, mass testing, or any of the other strategies other countries have tried and found successful. That has kneecapped the nascent recovery, and raised the possibility that the unemployment rate, which eased in May and June after nearly reaching 15 percent in April, could spike again later this year.
The economy seized in unprecedented terms this spring as states and cities mandated lockdowns. Hundreds of thousands of businesses closed, and millions of workers were furloughed or laid off. But instead of setting up a national viral-control strategy during this time, as other rich countries did, the United States did close to nothing. . . .  The Trump administration punted responsibility for public-health management to the states, each tipping into a budgetary crisis. After a springtime peak, caseloads declined only modestly. Outbreaks seeded across the country. States reopened, and counts exploded again.
Now the economy is traveling sideways, as business failures mount and the virus continues to maim and kill. New applications for unemployment insurance, for instance, are leveling off at more than 1 million a week—more than double the highest rate reached during the Great Recession, a sign that more job losses are becoming permanent.
The next, terrifying phase of the coronavirus recession is here: a damaged economy, a virus spreading faster than it was in March. The disease itself continues to take a bloody, direct toll on workers, with more than 60,000 Americans testing positive a day and tens of thousands suffering from extended illness. The statistical value of American lives already lost to the disease is something like $675 billion. The current phase of the pandemic is also taking an enormous secondary toll. States with unmitigated outbreaks have been forced to go back into lockdown, or to pause their reopening, killing weakened businesses and roiling the labor market. Where the virus spreads, the economy stops.
That is not just due to government edicts, either. Some consumers have rushed back to bars and restaurants, and resumed shopping and traveling. Young people, who tend to get less sick from the coronavirus than the elderly, appear to be driving today’s pandemic. But millions more are making it clear that they will not risk their life or the life of others in their community to go out. Avoidance of the virus, more so than shutdown orders, seems to be affecting consumer behavior. Places without official lockdowns have seen similar financial collapses to those with them, and a study by University of Chicago economists showed that decreases in economic activity are closely tied to “fears of infection” and are “highly influenced by the number of COVID deaths reported” in a given county.  
The perception of public transit as unsafe, for example, makes it expensive and tough for commuters to get to their jobs. Schools and day-care centers are struggling to figure out how to reopen safely, meaning millions of parents are facing a fall juggling work and child care. This is a disaster. “The lingering uncertainty about whether in-person education will resume isn’t the result of malfeasance, but utter nonfeasance,” the former Department of Homeland Security official Juliette Kayyem has argued in The Atlantic.
International comparisons are enlightening. Countries that successfully countered the virus seem to have enjoyed better financial recoveries; countries that did not shut down saw major hits to their economy anyway. In Sweden, authorities declined to enact strict public-health measures as the virus took hold. It has seen significantly higher case counts and more deaths than its neighbors, such as Norway, and its economy tanked. Or consider South Korea. With aggressive contact tracing and mass testing, it kept many of its commercial and educational facilities open as it quashed the pandemic. (The country has tallied just 288 deaths from COVID-19, compared with roughly 135,000 in the United States.) The unemployment rate there is 4.2 percent. . . .
In France, one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, families are back to going on vacation, eating in cafés, and visiting loved ones in hospitals. In the United States, outbreaks are shutting everything down yet again.
The country can still flatten the curve and lower the death toll. Simple, low-cost measures like requiring masks in public would preserve as much as 5 percent of GDP, economists have estimated, as well as preventing thousands from getting sick. The supposed trade-off between public health and the economy doesn’t exist. And right now, the country is choosing not to save either.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Three More Signs Republicans Are in Trouble

Close to two decades ago I decided the Republican Party was headed towards moral bankruptcy as Christofascists were foolishly voted onto positions on city and county committees with many existing members foolishly/cynically believing they could control the science denying, religious extremists, many of whom descended from segregationists.  Time proved that the unwashed cavalierly voted onto these committees were beyond control and they cancer they represented has now spread across the Party and, perhaps belatedly, a majority of Americans are seemingly waking up to the reality of the incompetent, morally challenged horror show the GOP has become. I have long said that the GOP cannot be reformed from within - the members of the Lincoln Project seem to have come to a similar conclusion - and that only electoral disaster will force change on the Party. While Donald Trump has no doubt helped showcase the ugliness of today's GOP, the hopefully looming electoral debacle facing the GOP will impact many others in the Party who prostituted themselves to Trump and tossed aside the needs and wishes of the majority of Americans as they have pandered to Trump, white supremacists and religious extremists.  A column in the Washington Post looks at signs the GOP may be about to reap what it has sown.  Here are excerpts:
Republicans are in deep trouble. It is not simply President Trump’s atrocious national and state polling numbers. It is not merely the growing list of incumbent Senate Republicans facing difficult elections. (Five incumbents are in toss-up seats, according to the Cook Political Report; four are in the next-worst category of “Lean Republican.”) There are three new signs suggesting the Republicans’ grip on power is draining like sand out of an hourglass.
First, for all of Trump’s support among Republicans (not 94 percent as he claims, but generally in the high 80s), there is stunning evidence of what we suspected was underway in 2018. It is not so much that Republicans are abandoning Trump but that voters are abandoning the Republican Party, and now adding to the anti-Trump vote. Gallup reports:
Since January, Americans’ party preferences have shifted dramatically in the Democratic Party’s direction. What had been a two-percentage-point Republican advantage in U.S. party identification and leaning has become an 11-point Democratic advantage, . . . In June alone, there was a three-point increase in Democratic identification and leaning, and a corresponding five-point drop in Republican identification and leaning.
The flight from the GOP just in June, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests, suggests millions of Americans may have decided it was unacceptable to identify as Republicans. The implications are ominous for Republicans up and down the ticket. Per Gallup: “Four months before Election Day, Democrats appear to be as strong politically now as they were in 2018 when they reclaimed the majority in the House of Representatives and gained seven governorships they previously did not hold,” . . . . “If the strong current Democratic positioning holds through Election Day, Democrats could build off those 2018 successes to possibly win the presidency and Senate in 2020.”
Second, without directly challenging Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is abandoning Trump’s stances emphatically and quickly. Over the past few weeks, he has become a poster-boy for mask-wearing, bemoaning those who have politicized the issue. He is also caving on the next stimulus bill. . . . She [Nancy Pelosi] also noted that McConnell knows how to read the polls and that he listens to his members. The momentum is with Democrats, and he better hop on board — quickly.
Third, Republicans are panicking over money, as well they should. The Wall Street Journal reports: “Democratic candidates in the 11 most competitive Senate races collectively raised $67.3 million in the second quarter of the year, $20.5 million more than their Republican counterparts, according to fundraising reports filed Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission. The total includes two Republicans who gave almost $6.5 million to their own campaigns.” At least one Republican operative is living in the real world, telling the Journal, “We’re scared to death by what we see.”
The House picture is no brighter. ABC News reports, “House Democrats are outpacing their own previous fundraising records, bringing in nearly $40 million in the second quarter — a signal of both the party’s enthusiasm in the final stretch of the cycle ahead of November and the difficult road ahead for the GOP seeking to take back the majority.” What’s more, reliable third-party groups that normally give big money to Republicans have not been opening their wallets.
Former vice president Joe Biden (never known as a prodigious fundraiser) has been raking it in. The New York Times reports: “Mr. Biden’s campaign announced on Thursday that he entered July with $242 million in the bank, up from less than $60 million at the beginning of April. He still has less money than Mr. Trump, who reported $295 million, but the cash gap is suddenly far less daunting.”
To recap: The GOP is shrinking, Republicans are scrambling to get on the right side of stimulus, and the fundraising numbers indicate donors are figuring out the party will lose big. At some point, all of this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy — and a big blue wave.

Let's hope the trend continues and that the GOP suffers horrific electoral losses in November.  It's the only way there will be a chance for a remaking of the Party that will include jettisoning white supremacists and evangelical extremists.

More Thursday Male Beauty

America Is In a Downward Spiral. Worse is Still to Come

Like many so-called conservatives and Republicans, George Will - one of the deans of reasoned conservative thought - was an apologist for disastrous GOP policies and Republican shenanigans which harmed the country and laid the groundwork for the rise of Donald Trump.  Unlike those in the GOP who continue to prostitute themselves both to Trump and the white supremacist/religious extremists of the GOP base, Will finally opened his eyes and belatedly has come out strong in condemning the moral bankruptcy of Trump and today's Republican Party. In a column in the Washington Post he admits that America is in decline and lays much of the blame at the feet of Trump and the Republican political whores who have enabled him.   Further, he longs for a massive landslide victory by Joe Biden that will be so stark that even Trump's lies and his mindless, soulless followers will not be able to challenge the repudiation of Trump and all he and the GOP which is now a reflection of him stand for.  Here are column highlights:

Never has a U.S. election come at such a moment of national mortification. In April 1970, President Richard M. Nixon told a national television audience that futility in Vietnam would make the United States appear to the world as “a pitiful, helpless giant.” Half a century later, America, for the first time in its history, is pitied.
Not even during the Civil War, when the country was blood-soaked by a conflict involving enormous issues, was it viewed with disdainful condescension as it now is, and not without reason: Last Sunday, Germany (population 80.2 million) had 159 new cases of covid-19; Florida (population 21.5 million) had 15,300.
Under the most frivolous person ever to hold any great nation’s highest office, this nation is in a downward spiral. This spiral has not reached its nadir, but at least it has reached a point where worse is helpful, and worse can be confidently expected.
The nation’s floundering government is now administered by a gangster regime. It is helpful to have this made obvious as voters contemplate renewing the regime’s lease on the executive branch. Roger Stone adopted the argot of B-grade mobster movies when he said he would not “roll on” Donald Trump. By commuting Stone’s sentence, Stone’s beneficiary played his part in this down-market drama, showing gratitude for Stone’s version of omertà (the Mafia code of silence), which involved lots of speaking but much lying. Because the pandemic prevents both presidential candidates from bouncing around the continent like popcorn in a skillet, the electorate can concentrate on other things, including Trump’s selection of friends such as Stone and Paul Manafort, dregs from the bottom of the Republican barrel.
Today, there is a vast longing for respite from the 21st century, which — before the pandemic, two inconclusive wars and the Great Recession — began with a presidential election that turned on 537 Florida votes and was not decided until a Dec. 12, 2000, Supreme Court decision. Given Trump’s reckless lying and the supine nature of most Republican officeholders, it is imperative that the Nov. 3 result be obvious that evening.
[T]he pandemic will be an accelerant of preexisting trends: There will be a surge of early and mail voting. So, an unambiguous decision by midnight Eastern time Nov. 3 will require (in addition to state requirements that mailed ballots be postmarked, say, no later than Oct. 31) a popular-vote tsunami so large against [Trump] the president that there will be a continentwide guffaw when he makes charges, as surely he will, akin to those he made in 2016.
It is scandalous that in many places casting a ballot requires hours of standing in line. Larry Diamond of the conservative-leaning Hoover Institution at Stanford discerns another scandal: “The hard truth is that there has been a rising tide of voter suppression in recent U.S. elections. These actions — such as overeager purging of electoral registers and reducing early voting — have the appearance of enforcing abstract principles of electoral integrity but the clear effect (and apparent intent) of disproportionately disenfranchising racial minorities.
This nation built the Empire State Building, groundbreaking to official opening, in 410 days during the Depression, and the Pentagon in 16 months during wartime. Today’s less serious nation is unable to competently combat a pandemic, or even reliably conduct elections. This is what national decline looks like.
I hate to say it, but Will is 100% on the money.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The Bill is Coming Due for Those Who Sold Their Souls to Trump

 Perhaps it's a result of my Catholic upbringing even though I left the Church years ago in disgust over both the Church's anti-gay virulence and the horrific sex abuse scandal that traced all the way to the Vatican.  The nuns drilled into us the concept that there was good and there was evil and that one did not embrace evil in order to pursue personal power and influence or under some strained concept that the ends justified the means.  This lesson was seemingly lost on countless white evangelicals and the vast majority of Republicans who sold their souls to Trump for varying reasons - most involving person advancement or harming those they deemed "other" and viewed as less than fully human. Sadly, Trump's supporters and his enablers and sycophants have demonstrated that the moral failings and absence for any concern for others that allowed monsters like Hitler to rise to power are alive and well in a significant portion of the American populace (many of whom hypocritically claim to be "Christian") and almost all elected Republicans.  As a column in the Washington Post by a former Republican, hopefully the bill for their moral bankruptcy is fast approaching.  Here are column excerpts:

Between President Trump’s Rose Garden rant on Tuesday (which Mary L. Trump should definitely include in the paperback version of her book delving into her uncle’s erratic behavior) and the White House’s excuse that it never authorized trade representative Peter Navarro to write a screed attacking the world’s leading infectious-disease expert, it has become a wee bit difficult for in-house lackeys, elected Republicans and card-carrying members of the right-wing media to keep up the pretense that Trump and his administration are functioning normally — or even functioning at all.
Increasingly, the White House operates not so much as the head of the executive branch but as a site for Trump’s personal and political breakdowns. It is hard to see that any official business is performed in an administration obsessed with covering Trump’s lies, catering to his ego, attacking his opponents and providing emotional refuge for those whose identity depends on venerating the Confederate flag and excusing systemic racism. There is almost no actual policy happening and no rationale for the administration’s continued existence.
Let’s turn, then, to the Senate Republicans who voted to acquit him (that would be everyone except Utah Sen. Mitt Romney), the House Republicans who mouthed Russian propaganda in his defense and the horde of right-wing pundits and media figures who both financially sustain and humiliate themselves with never-ending rationalizations for a president who struggles to complete a sentence, let alone think through complex policy matters.
The elected Republicans should be confronted at every turn by mainstream media and voters:
  • Do you think President Trump is fit even to complete his term?
  • Do you regret supporting his exoneration in the Ukraine scandal?
  • How can you support a president who clings to the Confederate flag and defends the killing of African Americans by police by saying more white people are killed?
  • How can the administration address the pandemic when members of the administration heap scorn on Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases?
  • Why are you supporting a president who refused to respond to Russian bounties placed on U.S. servicemen and women?
  • Does the self-enrichment and corruption bother you, even a little?
  • Is there anything he could do or say that would cause you to renounce him?
The right-wing media cohort — including both those helplessly corrupted by the money and fame that goes with feeding Trump’s frenzied base and those with pretensions of respectability (the “but Gorsuch” crowd, before Gorsuch disappointed them) — have other concerns. . . . . they will likely become the conspiratorialists and rancid critics of the new administration. No accusation will be too far-fetched, no source of gossip turned away.
The spineless sycophants — who attacked Never Trumpers for their show of integrity, who fashioned disingenuous excuses for Trump and who concoct elaborate rationalizations to oppose voting for former vice president Joe Biden (Socialist!) — will swear up and down that Hillary Clinton would have been worse. (Really — denying a pandemic? Inducing supporters not to wear lifesaving masks? Embracing white nationalists? Staffing the White House with a cohort of incompetents? Giving Vladimir Putin a free pass on targeting U.S. troops?)
What “polite society” (if there is such a thing) must not do is forget their role in sustaining an un-American president whose incompetency has resulted in more than 100,000 unnecessary deaths.
The bill is coming due for those who sold their souls to Trump. The voters may boot out a good number of incumbents. The rest of us, however, will have learned how through silence and collaboration a cadre of well-educated comfortable men and women can rationalize and excuse anything. It has been a frightening lesson in human weakness and propensity to accommodate themselves to evil, which should remind us the only thing that really matters in public life is character.
Trump supporters and Hitler's supporters share a common theme: hatred of others and placing short term self-interest above honesty, decency, and basic morality.  Those who continue to stand by Trump truly need to become unwelcome in polite society. 

More Wednesday Male Beauty

New Study: The Affluent Are in Denial About Their Class Privilege

Race is a continuing problem in America that has no easy solution.  Another growing problem is soar wealth disparity where a small portion of the citizenry owns much more of the nation's wealth than the vast majority of the rest of us combined.  The Republican Party's reverse Robin Hood agenda and efforts to usher in a new Gilded Age with modern day equivalents of the robber barons of old has only served to exacerbate the problem.  Nowadays, one has a far better chance for upward social mobility in Europe than in America and a number of studies have labeled Canada as the new home of the American dream.  What's amazing as the concentration of wealth has intensified and millions of Americans struggle to get by financially is that the wealthy refuse to see their privilege and the advantages it grants to them.  With luck and hard work some will still live the American dream, but many will not no matter their efforts.  A piece in Salon looks at the willful denial of so many of the wealthy.  Here  are excerpts:

Income is correlated with right-wing politics, meaning wealthier people tend to be slightly more conservative. While there is no singular reason for this, both history and observational anecdotes suggest that those with wealth and privilege tend to distort the reason they were so successful, chalking up their success to right-wing ideological canards like "hard work" — rather than admit they were helped by other social factors. (President Trump is a great case study, as he exaggerates the degree to which his father helped him build his empire: during the first 2016 presidential debate, Trump bragged that his father gave him "a very small loan in 1975," which he built "into a company that's worth many, many billions of dollars." That "small loan" was actually $60.7 million.)
Now, a new social psychology study has uncovered the extent to which this tendency appears to be pathological among the moneyed elite. Titled "I ain't no fortunate one: On the motivated denial of class privilege," the new study, which was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that those who were posed questions about their class privilege responded by "increasing their claims of personal hardships and hard work, to cover [their] privilege in a veneer of meritocracy." 
Dr. L. Taylor Phillips, a professor of management and organizations at New York University Business School, and co-author Dr. Brian S. Lowery, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University, wrote in their study"Evidence of class privilege demonstrates that many life outcomes are determined by factors not attributable to individuals' efforts alone, but are caused in part by systemic inequities that privilege some over others."
The authors emphasized that, in the United States, people are conditioned to believe that we live in a meritocracy and to attribute success or failure primarily to one's talent and hard work. When members of the upper-middle or upper class are confronted with evidence that class privilege plays a major role in determining socioeconomic status, their self-regard is challenged. To maintain their sense of self-worth, they will exaggerate their own hardships or focus on the amount of work they do — even though class privilege does not preclude the reality of non-class related hardships and many people work very hard without achieving socioeconomic mobility.
All of the studies found that, when participants who came from class privilege were confronted with that fact, they tended to focus on their personal hardships and work ethic in order to protect their self-regard from facing the reality that much of what they owned was given to them through luck and systems of oppression rather than individual merit.
She said that the individuals studied will specifically claim that they work harder at their jobs and will point to struggles from their lives to make the claim, "'Oh, you say I have this privilege and that's unfair, but actually look at these other things in my life, they kind of counteract or they kind of balance it out. It's all a wash.'"
Dr. Phillips also connected this mindset to a tendency toward classist and racist beliefs. . . . Dr. Phillips explained, summarizing the mentality as arguing that "'I'm here in this position, someone else's in this different position. Rather than because the system is unfair or because I've benefited from something unfair, which would then threaten my self regard, instead it's easier for me to claim that there's actually some sort of difference between us that makes this all fair. . . . It's actually because this group is worse in some way, or this individual person is worse in some way.'"
In the study, Phillips and Lowery emphasize the importance of the meritocracy myth in creating these delusions.
"The ideology of meritocracy is woven deeply into the cultural fabric of American society," the authors write. "The very 'American dream' that attracts and attaches so many to America suggests that if one works hard enough, they can succeed, no matter their class or background. As a result, systemic inequity is a tricky subject for American psyches: while most Americans subscribe to meritocratic ideologies that abhor such inequity, many also benefit from inequities. To resolve this tension, we find that the class privileged specifically claim hardship and effort because these are symbols of merit: they help cover privilege in a cloak of meritocracy."
Until one admits they system is stacked in favor of the wealthy, real solutions will be difficult to achieve.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Donald Trump Has Been a Mirror, Held Up to Us Americans

Several friends posted about an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer  by a former career member of the U.S. military who comes from a military family.  At first glance given its headline the piece is upsetting since it appears to be a thank you to Donald Trump.  However, reading the column,  the piece is in reality a condemnation of Trump and those who created the pathway for his election.  Put simply, Trump embodies what is wrong with America and has made the nation's shortcomings painfully obvious to anyone not living under a rock or who is not a white supremacist and/or evangelical extremist.  Thus, the piece thanks Trump for making it clear what needs to be done to undo the stain he and principally the Republican Party have done to harm so many Americans and to usher in a national decline.  Between the GOP efforts to bring about a new Gilded Age and and its and Trump's attacks on science and objective facts, America faces not only racial strife but also a class struggle against the greed driven very wealthy.  Here are column highlights:

Of my 57 years drawing breath, I’ve spent 51 of them directly or indirectly serving this once great nation. So, as you might imagine, I found myself on Nov. 8, 2016, more than a little dismayed at the news we had elevated Donald J. Trump to the nation’s highest office — a man so clearly unfit to lead America.
But over time I’ve come to appreciate Trump in ways I did not expect. Now, I am thankful that we elected Trump. Because Donald Trump is exactly what America needed. Trump is a mirror, a warning, and ultimately a catalyst for change. Reflected in Trump is all that is wrong with the United States: the injustice of our broken social contract, the crassness of our politics, and the cruelty of our economy. Trump is also the shock that a mature democracy needs for action. To use a timely metaphor, Trump and his supporters are a virus, and they have activated our democratic antibodies. What we are seeing in the streets is the body fighting the infection.
What we are seeing in our current moment is not only a race war but a class war. America must confront systemic racism to move forward, but it also must acknowledge that we have created a permanent underclass of all colors (though mostly Black and brown). We are a society where your melanin content and your zip code determine your future.
Beginning with Newt Gingrich in 1994, Republicans stopped trying to govern and instead began accumulating power. McKay Coppins writes in his profile of Gingrich in the Atlantic, “… few figures in modern history have done more than Gingrich to lay the groundwork for Trump’s rise.” Effective governance requires compromise, trust, and mutual respect. Gingrich’s new version of Republican had no interest in that. He destroyed the bipartisan structures for governing and even resorted to name-calling and conspiracy theories — over the line at the time, but in hindsight presaging Trumpism.
A straight line can be drawn from Gingrich’s “Contract with America” to the tea party in 2009. Another outsider movement characterized by distrust of government, expertise, and experience, the tea party helped elect a rogues’ gallery of loathsome lawmakers — I’m looking at you, Rand Paul (Ky.) and Ted Cruz (Texas). Trump’s dystopian vision of America is the ultimate flowering of the outsider, populist, anti-government thinking that has metastasized in the Republican Party over the past decades.
Under both political parties, America has rolled back regulatory guardrails and created a volatile economy that values the wrong things. . . . Over the same period, we dismantled the meager social safety net we had. We have reduced access to food aid, job training, and unemployment insurance. Meanwhile, the cost of health care and higher education has skyrocketed, placing both out of reach for many Americans.
Now for the good news.
Everything wrong with America is manifested in Trump. The hunger for power, the vile derision of people who don’t look like you, the cruelty, the privilege, the gleeful ignorance, and mendacious narcissism. Our revulsion at Trump is causing Americans to ask: How did we get to this place? And how do we get out? That will take time and hard work by well-intentioned people from every corner of American society.
What is happening in our streets is how open, progressive societies improve — fitfully, imperfectly, frustratingly, sometimes tragically. But we do improve. So, thank you, President Trump. Thank you for showing us what we were becoming and helping us find the courage to confront it. We are going to be OK.
Col. Curtis Milam served 26 years on active duty and has over 4,000 flight hours in the C-130. He has served tours at the Pentagon, NATO HQ, and the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, Hungary.

The Trump virus must be exterminated and his supporters must be marginalized to the point where they can do no more damage..

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Is Donald Trump Beginning to Implode?

As Donald Trump continues to double down on rhetoric that thrills his core base of racists and Christian extremists in the hope of turning out his base in November, the opposite effect is happening with the rest of the population.  Indeed, the more ugly Trump's rhetoric becomes, the more voters he appears to be driving away.  A piece in Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball even shows Trump's lead in reliably red states dwindling and has caused GOP stalwart states like Alaska, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, and Utah from "safe Republican" to "likely Republican."  One can only hope that Trump's hemorrhaging of support continues and that the presidential election becomes a rout with Biden winning by a landslide.  Personally, I want this to happen because it would restore some shred of faith in the American public as a whole and because it would devastate Trump's ego - Trump's pain is my pleasure, if you will.  Here are highlights from the Crystal Ball:

We are now about six weeks into a downturn in Donald Trump’s polling numbers. It’s worth thinking about the ramifications of this change if it endures.
In the RealClearPolitics average of national approval polling, Trump went from about early December to late May without ever dipping below -10 in net approval (approval minus disapproval). He has spent every day since June 1 at or below -10 net approval, and he’s currently at about -15.
Joe Biden’s national polling lead over Trump through May was in the four-to-six-point range. That is a decent lead, but not one that suggested Biden was a towering favorite . . . . But since early June, Biden’s lead has ballooned to the eight-to-10-point range. He has also enjoyed healthy leads in many polls of the most important swing states, like Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
The bottom line here is that the nation is in a state of terrible crisis, and the public has, at least for now, judged the president’s responses to both coronavirus and protests of racial inequalities in policing to be lacking.
In an ABC News/Ipsos poll released Friday, 67% of respondents disapproved of Trump’s handling of coronavirus and of race relations. . . . . It is not the kind of year when one wants to be an incumbent running for reelection, and a majority of the public appears to believe that this president is not meeting the moment.
A few weeks into the public health crisis, we explored the possibility of Trump being the second iteration of Jimmy Carter, whose reelection bid fell apart among myriad crises in 1980. Since then, the Trump-as-Carter scenario has grown even more plausible.
There is time for the situation to change — as we wrote a few weeks ago, we want to see where things stand after the conventions, around Labor Day. But Trump is extremely unlikely to win if the polls continue to look the way they do now. And if these numbers represent a new normal, we need to account for the possibility that this election won’t be particularly close, and that new states may come into play. In other words, if the national picture remains bleak for Trump, then the slippage he’s seen from earlier this year wouldn’t just be limited to a handful of swing states.
The very well-sourced New York Times trio of Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Martin, and Alexander Burns recently reported that internal Republican data showed Trump with only a small lead in Montana and trailing in Kansas, two states that Trump carried by about 20 points apiece in 2016 (both have competitive Senate races, too).
Trump’s position is weak enough in mid-July that we have to concede there are some signs of competitiveness in states that were not competitive in 2016. This sort of thing can happen when the overall election is tilted toward one side over the other, which is the state of play at the moment and the advantage Biden currently holds.
[W]e continue to rate states like Colorado, New Mexico, and Virginia as Likely, not Safe, Democratic. That’s despite it being hard to imagine Trump carrying any of them, even if his position dramatically improves.
So we’re moving seven Safe Republican states to Likely Republican: Alaska, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, and Utah. . . . In all likelihood, these red states are going to vote for Trump, and not just by a few points.
But could one or more flip if Biden wins decisively in November? Possibly. Let’s remember: A “Likely” rating still means we see one side — in this case, the Republicans — clearly favored in a state. We just don’t feel 100% certain about these states in the event of a lopsided election.
We think we’ll get more clarity about which scenario is more likely following the conventions — whatever the conventions actually look like. Even with 2020’s scaled down, undramatic, and overshadowed conventions, voters and media see them as departure points into the general election. Casting a ballot is no longer just on the distant horizon. It’s a reality that will firm up people’s choices — and our ratings.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

Monday, July 13, 2020

America's Stolen Years Thanks to Trump

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to worsen in America even as other parts of the world appear to have contained and defeated the virus.  Yes, there are pockets of positive news - New York is continuing to show huge improvement and while Virginia's numbers have ticked upward they are nothing like those in red states like Florida and Texas.  But overall, some predictions are very grim: it will be summer 2022 before normalcy is achieved across the nation.  Meanwhile, rather than follow the advice of health care experts like countries that have beat the virus, the Trump/Pence regime is attacking medical experts and accusing them - and, of course, the media - being liars. Had America had a science based national response early on, today's grim figures could have been avoided and possibly two lost years could have been saved.  One can only hope that save for Trump cultists, Americans will wake up to the horrific damage done to the nation by Der  Trumpenführer, a/k/a the liar-in-chief.  A column in the New York Times looks at what might have been versus what Trump has wrought on America.  Here are column excerpts:

If you’re lucky enough to live in New Zealand, the coronavirus nightmare has been mostly over since June. After more than two weeks with no new cases, the government lifted almost all restrictions that month. The borders are still shut, but inside the country, normal life returned.
It’s coming back elsewhere too. Taiwan, where most days this month no new cases have been reported, just held the Taipei Film Festival, and a recent baseball game drew 10,000 spectators. Italy was once the epicenter of Europe’s outbreak and remains in a state of emergency, but with just a few hundred new cases a day in the whole country, bars are open and tourists have started returning, though of course Americans remain banned. According to The New York Times’s figures, there were 321 new cases in all of Canada last Friday.
And America? We had 68,241. As of last week, the worst per capita outbreak on the planet was in Arizona, followed by Florida. . . . Lawrence O. Gostin, professor of global health law at Georgetown, told me he doesn’t expect American life to feel truly normal before summer 2022. Two years of our lives, stolen by Donald Trump.
As our country plunges into a black hole of unchecked illness, death and pariahdom, the administration is waging a PR war on its own top disease expert, Anthony Fauci, trying to convince news outlets that he can’t be trusted. “The move to treat Dr. Fauci as if he were a warring political rival comes as he has grown increasingly vocal in his concerns about the national surge in coronavirus cases,” reported The Times.
Trump has also undercut the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, retweeting the conspiratorial ramblings of the former game show host Chuck Woolery: “The most outrageous lies are the ones about Covid-19. Everyone is lying. The C.D.C., media, Democrats, our doctors, not all but most, that we are told to trust.” There are now so many stories of Trump fans dying after blithely exposing themselves to the virus that they’ve become a macabre cliché.
[T]he coronavirus, he said, has shown us that “health system capacity alone is almost useless unless you have a government that can unleash that capacity promptly and consistently.”  America has long fancied itself a swaggering colossus. It will likely emerge from this calamity humbled and decrepit.
[W]e know that the C.D.C. forecasts total deaths from Covid-19 to rise to as many as 160,000 just by the end of the month. Many times that number will have long-term medical complications, and a record 5.4 million people lost their health insurance between February and May. A generation of American kids will have their educations derailed, and many parents who don’t lose their jobs due to the economic crisis will see their careers ruined by the demands of child care.
The country’s international humiliation is total; historians may argue about when the American century began, but I doubt they’ll disagree about when it ended.
The psychological fallout alone will be incalculable. Even before the coronavirus, researchers spoke of loneliness as its own epidemic in America. A March article in the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry attributed 162,000 deaths a year to the fallout of social isolation.
Yet somehow there’s no drumbeat of calls for [Trump's] the president’s resignation. People seem to feel too helpless. Protesters can make demands of governors and mayors, especially Democratic ones, because at the local level small-d democratic accountability still exists. Nationally such responsiveness is gone; no one expects the president to do his job, or to be held to account when he doesn’t. That’s how you know the country was broken before coronavirus ever arrived.
This suffering, your suffering, wasn’t inevitable. The coronavirus is a natural disaster. The Republican Party’s death-cult fealty to Trump is wholly man-made.
Vote a straigh Democrat ticket in November and punish Trump and the GOP for the harm done to the nation and the thousands of lives needlessly lost.

More Monday Male Beauty

Dedicated to my dear friend Douglas.

Can the GOP Save Its U.S. Senate Majority?

If one looks ate the legislation that has passed the U.S. Senate over the last year, the bills enacted are paltry in number.  Meanwhile, hundreds of bill passed by the House of Representatives have piled up on Mitch McConnell's desk and have been denied debate much less a vote.  Instead of doing its job, the Republican majority has done little and served basically as an enabler for Donald Trump's misrule with Republican senators most focused on licking Trump's feet and ducking any action that might enrage the knuckle dragging, racist, religiously extreme party base. A piece in The Hill by a Republican argues what needs to be done if the GOP is to avoid a increasingly likely loss of the majority in the Senate.  Don't expect any of these suggestions to be implemented by today's worthless Republican Senators.  Here are excerpts:
There is the old, rather worn, but still applicable adage of “when you are in a hole, stop digging." This could definitely be applied to the Republican Senate.
The Republicans in the Senate have been supplicants to President Trump.
They have marched behind him as he has marginalized himself more and more with his weak and divisive leadership on almost all issues of significance, from the coronavirus crisis to the more general goal of giving the nation a purposeful direction.
It is well past time for Senate Republicans to stand up for themselves. At least seven and maybe more Republican Senate members who are running for reelection may not be returning if the president, who seems to be oblivious to his stylistic and substantive disconnect with the majority of Americans, meets a defeat in November of Barry Goldwater proportions.
Trump has yet to give any meaningful reason why he should be reelected other then his dislike of the mainstream media (which is well-founded) and his own narcissistic self-importance.
Neither of these idiosyncrasies helps build an agenda that attracts more then a minority of electoral support.
There is no there, there with this president. There is only a “me” there.
Republican senators, like most elected officials, are a risk-averse group. They have chosen to be background to the Trump presidency. This is no longer a viable path for those up for reelection in competitive states. This, in turn, imperils the party’s hopes of retaining the Senate majority.
[I]t is difficult to see how Republican members can hold onto the Senate if they keep inextricably tying themselves to the misanthropic style of Trump.
Rather then being the “very stable genius” that the president has proclaimed himself, he appears more often to be an unguided political missile who might well lead those who follow him to a defeat of historic proportions.
It is late, maybe later than they think, but the Republican Senate, as the last rational group standing in the Republican Party now milling around Washington, should present its own largely positive argument for why it should continue to run the Senate.
It needs a name and set of goals that make sense.
Set out a course to protect us not only from this pandemic but from the next one that may come, by setting up a systematic, massive commitment to develop vaccines and prevention.
Relatedly, stop the trial bar from using this pandemic as a piggy bank with lawsuits that disable small businesses’ ability to recover.
Address the pressing issue of healthcare reform with policies that promote the marketplace of ideas for better care and individual choice.
Address immigration reform not as a threat, but rather a way to make our nation stronger — as immigrants always have — and more competitive in this global economy.
Return to a course that rebuilds our strategic alliances. NATO especially has been essential in protecting both our security and freedom across the world.
Senate Republican need to define themselves and their reasons for being there.
It is time to step out of the narrowing shadow of the president and to speak for all the people in this country who are wondering what has happened in Washington.

Monday Morning Male Beauty

Sunday, July 12, 2020

New Polls: Texas is a Swing State in 2020

With luck historians will write that Donald Trump was one of the worse things to happen to an already moribund Republican Party, a party that placed all of its future on shrinking elements of the US population  - e.g., aging white voters - while going out of its way to alienate growing segments of the national population - e.g., younger voters and the growing numbers of mixed or non-white voters.  Between peddling openly racist dog whistle sound bites and the utter incompetence of the Trump/Pence response to the Covid-19 pandemic, polls increasingly suggest the even red states like Texas and Georgia may end up in Joe Biden's column.  Of course if these polls prove prophetic, the most delicious aspect of it all will be that Trump loses by a landslide and his fragile, self-centered ego is devastated.  May he forever be branded as an incredible loser and the worse president in America's history. A piece at CNN looks at some of the latest polling.  Here are excerpts:
New CBS News/YouGov polls show President Donald Trump is in trouble in three states he won in 2016. He's tied with former Vice President Joe Biden in Arizona (46% to 46%), a state he won by four points in 2016. Trump's down 48% to 42% in Florida, a state he took by a point in 2016.
But it's the third state, Texas, where the eye popping result comes from. It's Trump 46% to Biden's 45%, a result well within any margin of error.
It's pretty clear looking at the data that Texas is a swing state in the 2020 election. The 2020 campaign could be the first time Democrats captured the Lone Star State in a presidential election since 1976. The CBS News/YouGov poll is not an outlier over the last month. There have been eight polls released publicly since the beginning of June. The result is that Biden and Trump are basically tied, with Biden up by a mere 0.3 points in Texas.
Importantly, and unlike in other states, the polls in Texas have not overestimated Democrats over the last few cycles. If anything Democrats actually slightly outperformed their final polls in the 2016 presidential race and 2018 Senate races.
Things may change the closer we get to the election, but Texas really is competitive at this point.
Texas has gotten progressively more competitive during Trump's time as a candidate and officeholder. A big statewide victory has eluded Democrats, though many races have come within single digits for the first time in a generation. In fact, the state seemed, if anything, to move to the left in 2018, as Democrats were able to achieve wins in some key congressional races. A Biden win would be a manifestation of that trend on the statewide level.
 As I noted last year, the reason the Democrats are doing so well in Texas is a shift among college educated white voters. You see this best in the suburbs of Austin, Dallas and Houston, where O'Rourke did disproportionately better than the Democratic Senate did six years prior.
Indeed, Texas' white voter population is very well educated. One calculation by the New York Times' Nate Cohn reveals that a little more than 42% of the 2020 likely white voters in Texas have a college degree. That's 13th highest in the nation and the most of any state Trump carried in 2016.
 I would expect the trend in the college educated areas of Texas to carry over to 2020. Much of Biden's gains over Clinton nationally have occurred among whites with a college degree. In national June polls, Biden was up 22 points among this group compared to Clinton's 12 point lead with them in the final 2016 polls of registered voters.  One problem for Biden is he does seem to be struggling among Hispanic voters nationally, and there are a lot of Hispanic voters in Texas. Although Biden is winning them by around 30 points nationally, he's not putting up the same margins as Clinton did in 2016.
Further, I wouldn't expect Texas to be the tipping state in the electoral college (i.e. state containing the median electoral vote plus one). Biden is certainly in a stronger position in the core six battleground states (Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) where the averages have him up anywhere from three to 10 points.
Still, the state has 38 electoral votes and a load of down ballot races that could prove to be alluring for Biden.
 Up to six Republican held House seats could realistically fall to the Democrats in 2020. Many of them are in the aforementioned suburbs.
 Finally, Democrats have a real chance to flip the Texas state House. They need a pickup of less than 10 seats, and race raters give them a decent shot of doing so. If Democrats did flip the chamber, then they'd have a hand in redistricting for the first time since the beginning of the 2000s.
 That's big for state and national politics given that Texas has more House members than any state except California.
 The bottom line is Texas is fertile ground for Democrats in 2020. Biden has to decide whether he truly wants to compete. Either way, he has a real shot of winning, and a chance to rewrite the political map for this year and for the generation to come.