Saturday, September 05, 2020

More Saturday Male Beauty


All the Corroboration for the Atlantic Story on Trump Attacking Troops

You know Trump has really stepped in it when even Fox News - a/k/a Faux News on this blog - confirms a story that Trump denigrated service members who died for the country.  As is the norm, Trump lied and denied the story and one has to imagine his rage when even Fox showed him to be a liar. But even without the Fox News corroboration, there is a plethora of events and statements that corroborate that Trump views members of the military as little more than props for his photos and has no concept whatsoever of the "duty, honor country" mindset that motivates so many in the armed forces. To Trump only two things matter: himself and satiating his ego.  No one and nothing else exists on his radar. A piece in New York Magazine looks at all the corroboration that Trump's foul comments did in fact happen.  Here are excerpts:

Whenever a new report with an inside account of President Trump’s immorality or ignorance appears in the press, it includes a paragraph for official White House spokespeople to issue an indignant denial calling the media and its dozen or two sources liars. Jeffrey Goldberg’s blockbuster revelation in The Atlantic followed the ritual in form, though not in degree. The scope and intensity of the pushback was nuclear: Virtually every White House press official, past and present, denounced the story.

Trump seemed to believe, correctly or otherwise, that the contempt for military service described in this report would be particularly damaging, given the emphasis he has placed on his standing as friend and protector of the troops.

[T]raditional journalistic practice grants more credence to on-the-record sources than anonymous ones, because sources who put their name behind a claim are risking reputational embarrassment if it is falsified. That method would lend more credence to the named sources denying Goldberg’s account than to the unnamed ones endorsing it.

However, that principle obviously does not apply to this administration. Lying is not only common in the Trump administration, it is the cultural glue that holds the president’s coalition together. A willingness to endorse his lies is the most common method Trump uses to identify his loyalists.

While it’s impossible to directly prove any of these allegations, there is an impressive amount of corroborating evidence. Almost all of it supports Goldberg’s reporting.

One piece of evidence works against The Atlantic: John Bolton’s memoir emphasizes different reasons Trump canceled a visit to an American military cemetery in France in 2018. Goldberg’s four sources say Trump worried about the effect of rain on his hair, and commented, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.”

Bolton says the visit was canceled because the rain complicated helicopter travel, and the drive would have taken too long. Of course this does not directly contradict Goldberg’s reporting.

On the other side, however, there are many pieces of supporting evidence. The Associated Press, New York Times, Fox News (!) and Washington Post quickly confirmed Goldberg’s reporting. The Post added several related details, in addition to Trump describing fallen soldiers as “losers.” “In one account, the president told senior advisers that he didn’t understand why the U.S. government placed such value on finding soldiers missing in action because they had performed poorly and gotten caught and deserved what they got, according to a person familiar with the discussion.”

What’s more, other sources have claimed that Trump dismisses the value of military service. Michael Cohen testified in 2018 that Trump admitted faking bone spurs to avoid serving in Vietnam and told him, “You think I’m stupid? I wasn’t going to Vietnam.” Mary Trump, in a previously recorded interview, said Trump threatened to disown one of her sons if he enlisted in the military.

(It’s significant that she offered this account before Goldberg’s story, and thus could not have crafted it to fit a narrative created by Goldberg.)

Trump’s denial itself contains provable falsehoods:

First, Trump did call McCain a “loser.” It’s on video. Trump even tweeted the video of himself saying it . . . . .

Trump also made a version of the same attack in a 1999 interview, when he said of McCain, “He was captured,. Does being captured make you a hero? I don’t know. I’m not sure.”

Second, while Trump claims he lowered the White House flag to half-mast to honor McCain’s death “without hesitation or complaint,” four sources told the Times in 2018 that Trump stubbornly refused until finally and belatedly submitting. Former Homeland Security chief of staff Miles Taylor confirmed the account today, on the record.

And finally there is the obvious fact that Trump, in 2015, disparaged John McCain for being captured. That is to say, the private comments Trump is fervently denying are merely grosser versions of his publicly explicated view, that being captured because his plane was shot down makes McCain a loser and not a hero.

This is the most remarkable fact about the defenses of Trump pouring in from the right. Trump is obviously a massive liar. He has already made clear that he does not respect military service. They are throwing what’s left of their reputations on the line to deny nothing more than an incrementally worse version of a reality that Trump has already revealed.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


DHS Draft Document: White Supremacists are Greatest Terror Threat

Since launching his campaign in 2015 Donald Trump has always played to the far right and white supremacists in particular.  After the events in Charlottesville in 2017 Trump described the largely out of state Neo-Nazi's and white supremacists who invade this Virginia city as "very fine people."  To this day, the vast majority of residents of Charlottesville - I have family that lives there - will vehemently tell you otherwise.   Now, while Trump is fabricating stories of plane loads of agitators being behind unrest in some American cities, drafts of Home Land Security reports on domestic terror threats suggests that if there are any agitators seeking to ignite violence, they are likely Trump supporting white supremacists groups and heavily armed "militias" not aggrieved protesters in the streets.  None of this is new news even though much of the media has not given the domestic terror threat sufficient coverage.  An article in Politico looks at drafts of the DHS report.  Note the disinterest of the White House in countering the threat.  Why?  Because this is a key part of Trump's base. Here are story highlights:

White supremacists present the gravest terror threat to the United States, according to a draft report from the Department of Homeland Security.

Two later draft versions of the same document — all of which were reviewed by POLITICO — describe the threat from white supremacists in slightly different language. But all three drafts describe the threat from white supremacists as the deadliest domestic terror threat facing the U.S., listed above the immediate danger from foreign terrorist groups.

“Foreign terrorist organizations will continue to call for Homeland attacks but probably will remain constrained in their ability to direct such plots over the next year,” all three documents say.

Russia “probably will be the primary covert foreign influence actor and purveyor of disinformation and misinformation in the Homeland,” the documents also say.

Former acting DHS Sec. Kevin McAleenan last year directed the department to start producing annual homeland threat assessments. POLITICO reviewed three drafts of this year’s report — titled DHS’s State of the Homeland Threat Assessment 2020 — all of which were produced in August. Ben Wittes, the editor in chief of the national security site Lawfare, obtained the documents and shared them with POLITICO. The first such assessment has not been released publicly, and a DHS spokesperson declined to comment on “allegedly leaked documents,” and on when the document will be made public.

None of the drafts POLITICO reviewed referred to a threat from Antifa, the loose cohort of militant left-leaning agitators who senior Trump administration officials have described as domestic terrorists. Two of the drafts refer to extremists trying to exploit the “social grievances” driving lawful protests.

John Cohen, who oversaw DHS’s counterterrorism portfolio from 2011 to 2014, said the drafts’ conclusion isn’t surprising.

“This draft document seems to be consistent with earlier intelligence reports from DHS, the FBI, and other law enforcement sources: that the most significant terror-related threat facing the US today comes from violent extremists who are motivated by white supremacy and other far-right ideological causes,” he said.

“Among these groups, we assess that white supremacist extremists – who increasingly are networking with likeminded persons abroad – will pose the most persistent and lethal threat.”

“We judge that ideologically-motivated lone offenders and small groups will pose the greatest terrorist threat to the Homeland through 2021, with white supremacist extremists presenting the most lethal threat,” it reads.

“Among DVE [domestic violent extremist] actors, WSEs [white supremacist extremists] conducted half of all lethal attacks (8 of 16), resulting in the majority of deaths (39 of 48),” the drafts read.

The assessment comes as DHS has faced scrutiny for its response to increasingly violent domestic extremism during the Trump era. Top DHS officials have spent years grappling with how to do more to combat the threat, and long chafed at what they called disinterest from the White House. Two former top DHS political appointees told POLITICO last month that White House national security officials shied away from addressing the problem and didn’t want to refer to killings by right-wing extremists as domestic terrorism.

Current DHS leaders also have acknowledged the lethality of white supremacist extremists.

“I have no qualms criticizing the white supremacy threat,” said Ken Cuccinelli, DHS’s second-in-command, in a recent interview on MSNBC. “Neither does the secretary, neither does the Department of Homeland Security. We recognize when those people act out violently, that they show the highest level of lethality, meaning if you compare the number of violent incidents to the numbers of deaths, the numbers of deaths relative to the incidents is very high compared to other types of threats."

That even Cuccinelli - a/k/a Kookinelli here in Virginia - admits the reality of the threat speaks volumes as to its seriousness.

Friday, September 04, 2020

Friday Morning Male Beauty


Trump: Americans Who Died in War Are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers’

The narcissist-in-chief, Donald Trump, a/k/a corporal Bone Spurs, has gotten himself in another tempest through his disparaging comments about American soldiers who died in wartime or who suffered capture by the enemy.  As is always the case, Trump now denies having ever made the comments, but they are consistent with his personality where only he himself matters and anyone else is immaterial.  He has no concept of service for others or valor in the line of duty since he serves only one god and one agenda: self-promotion and self-enrichment. One can only hope that in an area like Hampton Roads Virginia with a huge military personnel population, Trump's insults are remembered on election day.  The man is simply horrible and I remain dumbfounded by those - including some I know - who continue to gulp down his Kool-Aid.  A piece in The Atlantic looks at Trump's disrespect for service members who paid the ultimate price for their country.  Here are excerpts:  

When President Donald Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018, he blamed rain for the last-minute decision, saying that “the helicopter couldn’t fly” and that the Secret Service wouldn’t drive him there. Neither claim was true.

Trump rejected the idea of the visit because he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain, and because he did not believe it important to honor American war dead, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day. In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.

Belleau Wood is a consequential battle in American history, and the ground on which it was fought is venerated by the Marine Corps. America and its allies stopped the German advance toward Paris there in the spring of 1918. But Trump, on that same trip, asked aides, “Who were the good guys in this war?” He also said that he didn’t understand why the United States would intervene on the side of the Allies.

Trump’s understanding of concepts such as patriotism, service, and sacrifice has interested me since he expressed contempt for the war record of the late Senator John McCain, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese. “He’s not a war hero,” Trump said in 2015 while running for the Republican nomination for president. “I like people who weren’t captured.”

Trump remained fixated on McCain, one of the few prominent Republicans to continue criticizing him after he won the nomination. When McCain died, in August 2018, Trump told his senior staff, according to three sources with direct knowledge of this event, “We’re not going to support that loser’s funeral,” and he became furious, according to witnesses, when he saw flags lowered to half-staff. “What the fuck are we doing that for? Guy was a fucking loser,” the president told aides. Trump was not invited to McCain’s funeral.

Trump’s understanding of heroism has not evolved since he became president. According to sources with knowledge of the president’s views, he seems to genuinely not understand why Americans treat former prisoners of war with respect. Nor does he understand why pilots who are shot down in combat are honored by the military. On at least two occasions since becoming president, according to three sources with direct knowledge of his views, Trump referred to former President George H. W. Bush as a “loser” for being shot down by the Japanese as a Navy pilot in World War II. (Bush escaped capture, but eight other men shot down during the same mission were caught, tortured, and executed by Japanese soldiers.)

When lashing out at critics, Trump often reaches for illogical and corrosive insults, and members of the Bush family have publicly opposed him. But his cynicism about service and heroism extends even to the World War I dead buried outside Paris—people who were killed more than a quarter century before he was born. Trump finds the notion of military service difficult to understand, and the idea of volunteering to serve especially incomprehensible.

On Memorial Day 2017, Trump visited Arlington National Cemetery, a short drive from the White House. He was accompanied on this visit by John Kelly, who was then the secretary of homeland security, and who would, a short time later, be named the White House chief of staff. The two men were set to visit Section 60, the 14-acre area of the cemetery that is the burial ground for those killed in America’s most recent wars. Kelly’s son Robert is buried in Section 60. A first lieutenant in the Marine Corps, Robert Kelly was killed in 2010 in Afghanistan. He was 29. Trump was meant, on this visit, to join John Kelly in paying respects at his son’s grave, and to comfort the families of other fallen service members. But according to sources with knowledge of this visit, Trump, while standing by Robert Kelly’s grave, turned directly to his father and said, “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?” Kelly (who declined to comment for this story) initially believed, people close to him said, that Trump was making a ham-handed reference to the selflessness of America’s all-volunteer force. But later he came to realize that Trump simply does not understand non-transactional life choices.

“He can’t fathom the idea of doing something for someone other than himself,” one of Kelly’s friends, a retired four-star general, told me. “He just thinks that anyone who does anything when there’s no direct personal gain to be had is a sucker. There’s no money in serving the nation.” Kelly’s friend went on to say, “Trump can’t imagine anyone else’s pain. That’s why he would say this to the father of a fallen marine on Memorial Day in the cemetery where he’s buried.”

Trump, unlike previous presidents, tends to believe that the military, like other departments of the federal government, is beholden only to him, and not the Constitution. Many senior officers have expressed worry about Trump’s understanding of the rules governing the use of the armed forces. This issue came to a head in early June, during demonstrations in Washington, D.C., in response to police killings of Black people. James Mattis, the retired Marine general and former secretary of defense, lambasted Trump at the time for ordering law-enforcement officers to forcibly clear protesters from Lafayette Square, and for using soldiers as props: . . . .

[Trump] The president believes that nothing is worth doing without the promise of monetary payback, and that talented people who don’t pursue riches are “losers.” (According to eyewitnesses, after a White House briefing given by the then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joe Dunford, Trump turned to aides and said, “That guy is smart. Why did he join the military?”)

Yet another, related, explanation concerns what appears to be Trump’s pathological fear of appearing to look like a “sucker” himself. His capacious definition of sucker includes those who lose their lives in service to their country, as well as those who are taken prisoner, or are wounded in battle. “He has a lot of fear,” one officer with firsthand knowledge of Trump’s views said. “He doesn’t see the heroism in fighting.”

Trump is utterly unfit for office and MUST be defeated in November.

Thursday, September 03, 2020

More Thursday Male Beauty


Not Just Trump, All Republicans Must Go

After leaving the Republican Party close to two decades ago as the Christofascist (and by extension, the white supremacists) rose in the party, I concluded that the only way the Republican Party could be saved was to work for its defeat in every election possible. I came to this conclusion after holding a seat on the City Committee of the Republican Party of Virginia Beach and serving as a precinct captain and campaign worker for eight years and seeing the party being taken over by the far right. Other moderates slowly exited the GOP as the distemper and insanity spread with the rise of Donald Trump exemplifying what a moral and racist cesspool the party had become. With the election of Trump, the so-called Republican intelligentsia finally came to the conclusion that I reached many years earlier: all of the Republicans needed to be defeated in order to either see a new GOP arise from the ashes or a replacement center right party come into being.  Sadly, had more of them ceased being apologists for the GOP earlier, perhaps Trump might never have been elected.  A column in the Washington Post by a former Republican makes the case for throwing all Republicans up for election out of office.  Here are column highlights:

The argument for keeping House and Senate Republicans rests on the premise they somehow lack the disqualifying characteristics (e.g., congenital lying, racism, constitutional illiteracy, conspiracy-mongering) that addle President Trump. Think again.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) used to be considered a middle-of-the-road Republican — before she exonerated Trump for plainly impeachable conduct. Now, she sounds just like him. Iowa Starting Line reports that Ernst now seems to embrace "a thoroughly-discredited QAnon conspiracy theory about U.S. deaths from covid-19 being a mere fraction of what has been reported.” Without any factual support — and with massive data to the contrary — the senator insists it’s all a plot

Meanwhile, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) has followed Trump’s lead in espousing racist gibberish. This week, he put up a Facebook post (later removed by the social media platform) that included a photo of armed Black men and protesters and declared, “If this shows up, we’ll consider the armed presence a real threat. We being, We the People, of Louisiana. One way ticket fellas. Have your affairs in order.” By deploying the word “this,” Higgins dehumanized the individuals depicted, reducing them to mere objects. The response? No rebuke. No censure. No expulsion from Congress. Is it any surprise? A party that welcomes two QAnon-embracing congressional nominees has become a cesspool of hate and conspiracies.

Beyond expressions of overt racism and ongoing support for totems of the Confederacy, denial of systemic racism is now the default setting for virtually all Republicans, including the president, attorney general and members of Congress. Statistical data (not only in the criminal justice system), the series of unjustified police killings of African Americans, the disproportionate number of Black people afflicted by covid-19, and nearly every other social or economic indicator (from life span to wealth) reveal that the tentacles of racism still have a stranglehold on the country. The notion that everything is fine and that no institutional racism exists is the defense mechanism of a party invested in white supremacy.

A party that willfully denies the painful reality of endemic racial inequity — and, therefore, lacks the desire to remedy it — cannot responsibly govern in a multiracial society.

All of that is in addition to other atrocities from the GOP. Republicans routinely amplified Russian propaganda; repeated outright lies (e.g., that President Barack Obama illegally spied on Trump or that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III found no evidence of obstruction of justice); went along with Trump for months in his anti-mask sneering; echoed baseless claims of widespread voter fraud; and joined Trump’s hunt for the identity of the whistleblower in the Ukraine scandal . . . They willingly took part in the assault on truth and contributed to remaking the party into a cult of personality.

House and Senate Republicans are not helpless bystanders in the Trump travesty. They protected him from criticism, enabled his antics and amplified his most egregious lies. Once you determine Trump is unfit to serve, it really is not possible to give the rest of the party a clean bill of health.

Vote them all out.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty


Trump's Shift Toward Herd Immunity Is Not a Strategy

Donald Trump is desperate to convince the public that the Covid-19 pandemic is waning so that the economy can full reopen and, in Trump's mind, spare him from defeat in November.  Trump, who has flirted with numerous insane approaches since February - taking a malaria drug, taking disinfectants, ending testing so that the number of confirmed cases would drop - is now flirting with the idea of allowing the virus to run through the American population until so-called herd immunity is achieved. The cost of doing this in terms of lost lives could be staggering (not that Trump cares) and ignores the reality that even Sweden which flirted with such an approach ended that effort and even now has in place the types of restrictions Trump seemingly wants to end.  A piece in The Atlantic looks at this dangerous and desperate practice that the Trump/Pence regime seems to want to pursue.  If you care about your own life and that of your loved ones, vote Trump out of office in November.  Here are article excerpts:

One of the pandemic’s most insidious misconceptions is getting closer to explicit national policy. On Monday, The Washington Post reported that a top Trump medical adviser, Scott Atlas, has been “urging the White House to embrace a controversial ‘herd immunity’ strategy.” Atlas subsequently denied the report, though during his time as a Fox News commentator he consistently argued in favor of fringe approaches that go hand in hand with the idea: namely that city and state shutdowns are deadlier than the coronavirus itself.

The idea of abandoning preventive measures and letting the virus infect people has already gotten traction in the administration. Just last week, Atlas moved to ease up on the most important strategy to fight the virus—widespread testing—by telling the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to change their guidelines to advise against testing asymptomatic people.

But “herd-immunity strategy” is a contradiction in terms, in that herd immunity is the absence of a strategy. Herd immunity is an important public-health concept, developed and used to guide vaccination policy. It involves a calculation of the percentage of people in a population who would need to achieve immunity in order to prevent an outbreak. The same concept offers little such guidance during an ongoing pandemic without a vaccine. If it were a military strategy, it would mean letting the enemy tear through you until they stop because there’s no one left to attack.

We may hear even more talk of herd immunity as the election nears, since Trump has an incentive to claim that the pandemic is almost over even if it’s not. So now is a good time to revisit exactly what herd immunity means and, perhaps more important, what it doesn’t. I talked with Howard Forman, a health-policy professor at Yale University who has followed the data on how “herd-immunity strategies” have gone in various countries.

In a situation like this where we’ve already lost 180,000 lives, we shouldn’t be flippant about things. We should be thinking about how to avoid as much death as possible, and resume life as well as possible.

Whenever people talk about herd immunity, whenever they talk about ‘ripping the Band-Aid off’ or any of those things, it is an absolutely dangerous idea. Now, I think there are lessons to be learned from Sweden, and no one should be flippant about saying Sweden was horrific or the worst thing that could have happened. But Sweden ultimately did not pursue the policy that we seem to be pursuing right now.

It started off with Sweden and the United Kingdom talking about pursuing herd immunity. Then England got cold feet and Sweden supposedly proceeded with this, but they didn’t. Sweden did a lot of things to curtail the spread. What people seem to not understand is that we do things in our country, even in some areas that are “still shut down” that would not be tolerated in Sweden. They still have a ban on gatherings of 50 people or more.

For the most part, they are without masks. But they still have a complete ban on visiting retirement homes. They still have a ban on public gatherings of 50 people. Gatherings for religious practice? Banned. Theatrical and cinema performances? Banned. Concerts? Banned. And this is what bothers me. [Trump] Our president did a rally in Tulsa. That would have been banned in Sweden.

And we should mention, just always keeping in mind that herd immunity, while maybe a relief now, would have come at the cost of many lives.

[W]e have no idea what the long-term effects [of having Covid-19] will turn out to be and so we don't want to mess around with infecting anyone who doesn’t need to be infected.

We know how much testing alone could do to help us here. Combine massive testing with things like masking and social distancing, and then you have to ask yourself: Why would you allow people to just die in such large numbers when you have these alternatives that are readily available to us? And that, quite frankly, could allow us to get much closer to a normal life than we are right now.

I’m hoping, by the end of November, the entrepreneurs who have been developing these cheap tests are going to allow us to test at such a massive scale at such a low cost that we’ll be able to substantially impact this in a way that we haven’t so far. But I’m also 100 percent convinced that if our federal government had thought about this back in February and March and decided that they were going to commit even one tenth of the amount of money that they have committed to a vaccine to a cheap testing initiative, that we would have already saved tens of thousands of lives and certainly would have saved tens of thousands more going forward.

Now we’re talking about $1 to $5 for these tests. This is the way out until we have a vaccine.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


The Pro-Trump Russian Internet Trolls are Back

In the final days of the 2020 presidential election, Russian interference to benefit Donald Trump is on the rise, especially through online disinformation campaigns.  As a CNN piece reports, the efforts are more sophisticated than what was seen in 2016 and, sadly, I am certain that some Republican "friends" and acquaintances will be sharing bogus stories without ever fact checking them.  When you see a piece by a supposed news outlet you've never heard of, odds are good that the story is false and or originates with foreign actors or even the GOP - Republicans have floated a raft of doctored images in just the last week. On the good news front, Facebook in particular seems to be making slightly more of an effort to ferret out the Russian operations, but much more needs to be done.  Here are excerpts from the CNN piece:

People associated with the infamous St. Petersburg troll group that was part of Russia's attempt to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election are trying to target Americans again, Facebook announced Tuesday -- citing a tip from the FBI.

As CNN's Donie O'Sullivan reports: The disrupted operation used fake personas including realistic-looking computer-generated photos of people, a network of Facebook accounts and pages that had only a small amount of engagement and influence at the time it was taken down, and a website that was set up to look and operate like a left-wing news outlet. 

The good news is this particular operation seemed to be in its infancy and had a small following. It was just trying to get off the ground. The bad news is there's probably a lot more of this happening that hasn't been detected. And even though this was small, they still managed to convince unwitting real freelance writers, including Americans, to write for them.

Facebook and the US intel community were caught totally off-guard in 2016. There were some fake Russian Black Lives Matter Facebook pages, for instance, that had more than 300,000 followers. So Facebook and USG has more resources dedicated to rooting out this stuff now and I think that means that it would be a lot harder for a covert operation to gain such a huge following. 

But, no doubt, the trolls are evolving. The campaign that was uncovered Tuesday showed signs of greater sophistication at covering its tracks and trying to conceal who was behind it than some previous attempts. We also saw them use "deepfake," computer-generated images as profile photos on fake accounts -- literally pictures of people that do not exist. 

The companies [Facebook and Twitter] say they are sharing information with each other, and a few weeks ago companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and others met with officials from FBI, DHS and DNI (one company that wasn't there was TikTok!). So there is collaboration happening, but I know from speaking to people at the companies there are tensions, too. The companies have very different approaches in how they handle misinformation -- even from [Trump] the President.

I think how this year's election plays out online (and we are all online a lot more right now) will be characterized by misinformation from domestic actors and what tech companies do or don't do about it. ... Look at how many deceptive and misleading videos top Republicans shared over two days earlier this week!

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Tuesday Male Beauty


Anti-Gay GOP House Candidate Resorts to "Racist Dog Whistle"

Despite the Virginia Republican Party not having won a statewide election in over a decade and seeing Republican efforts of promoting homophobia and racism fail to put their candidates over the finish line, Virginia Republican Bob Good - a protege of Jerry Falwell, Jr. - who is running for the 5th congressional district is nonetheless pulling out the stops in resorting to the GOP's ugliest tactics.  Having already engaged in gay bashing, Good is now resorting to outright racism against his opponent Democrat Cameron Webb (pictured at right) , a practicing physician (who also holds a law degree) and a member of the University of Virginia School of Medicine faculty.  Good's credentials - or lack thereof: a degree from Liberty University and serving as former associate athletics director/"Flames Club" executive director at Liberty University.  With little to recommend him, Good's first ad superimposes a photo of Democrat Cameron Webb - who is black - over video of fires and looting, and tells voters to "look past [Webb's] smooth presentation." Yes, the ad is disgusting and racist, but then so is today's Republican Party both in Virginia and nationally. A piece in the Washington Post looks at Good's racist ad.  If you are disgusted and offended, donate to Webb's campaign here. Here are story highlights:

Virginia Republican Bob Good dropped his first congressional campaign ad Monday, showing Cameron Webb, his Democratic opponent, against images of rioting in an unidentified location and trying to paint Webb as a “radical” who supports forced government health care and defunding the police.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee condemned the ad as a “racist dog whistle.” Webb, who if elected would be the first Black doctor ever to serve in Congress, called it a “gross distortion” of his positions.

“The imagery certainly was meant to be provocative,” Webb said, adding that he hoped people would realize that the ad didn’t match his platform. "Even though [Good] attempted in this ad to avoid talking about himself at all, I think he’s just told everybody a lot about himself. ... He’s telling us about his approach to politics.”

Good, who describes himself as a biblical conservative, unexpectedly defeated Rep. Denver Riggleman at a bitter GOP nominating convention in June. Webb has since sought to siphon votes from moderate Republicans in the mostly rural central Virginia district by stressing his background as a physician, his criminal justice reform platform and, when it comes to health care, his support for a public option.

Chris Taylor, deputy national press secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, accused Good of “using tired tricks and racist dog whistles to smear Dr. Webb."

[The Good] campaign “categorically denies” that there is anything racist about the ad and questioned how Democrats could arrive at that conclusion. Smith declined to answer questions about the ad’s production, including where the images of rioting were taken from.

Webb supports addressing racial disparities in criminal justice reform, specifically through sentencing reform and ensuring that formerly incarcerated people have opportunities for progress when reentering communities. He said he also supports law enforcement reform, including adequately funding community policing and better training for officers — a position he said was shaped by his father, who chaired the Federal Law Enforcement Training Accreditation Board and worked for the Drug Enforcement Administration. But he said he does not support “defunding” police.

Rhetoric trying to paint Democrats as extremists in both health-care and police reform featured heavily at the Republican National Convention last week. And [Trump] president has waged similar attacks against Biden, repeatedly trying to link him to riots, looting and lawlessness in American cities and describing him as soft on crime.

Biden pushed back on that rhetoric in a speech Monday in Pittsburgh, saying Trump is the one who has been encouraging violence through inflammatory rhetoric. “Ask yourself: Do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?” Biden said.

Good has focused part of his campaign efforts on shoring up support from conservative pastors, whom he invited to August meetings that were billed in part as focusing on a new anti-discrimination law protecting LGBTQ people in Virginia; the law, Good said, could infringe on the First Amendment rights of religious individuals and groups.

Monday, August 31, 2020

More Monday Male Beauty


Support for Trump Is Slipping in the Military

The Republican Party likes to claim that it has a monopoly on patriotism and somewhat blindly expects members of the nation's military to blindly follow the GOP and occupant of the White House forgetting that each member of the military is sworn to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution, not the president.  To the extent that members of the military have fallen for the GOP's false claims, Donald Trump appears to be making it clear to service members that he  holds no such allegiance to U.S. Constitution and most certainly holds no allegiance to those who wear the nation's uniform.  Instead, Trump views them as props for photo ops and his personal servants to further his self-absorbed personal agenda. Indeed, Trump seemingly care little about Russian bounties placed on Americans in Afghanistan as he bowed and scraped to Vladimir Putin.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at Trump's slipping support among service members.  Living in an area with a huge population of military members and their families, I believe the author is on the mark.  Here are article excerpts: 

The weekend warriors in their Army surplus battle rattle, their paintball weapons and gun show specials are getting lots of love from this clown show’s commander in chief.

GREAT PATRIOTS!” President Trump tweeted, along with a video of the vigilantes flouting the law and causing disorder while cruising the streets of an American city.

Meanwhile, the real defenders of freedom — the men and women of the U.S. military — aren’t getting love from Trump. And they’re sure not giving it.

Unsurprising, given the way Trump didn’t even blink at reports that Russia was paying bounties to Afghan troops for American kills. Or that he was impeached for withholding military aid to Ukraine, putting global trust in America’s military at risk. Or that he keeps trying to take millions in military funding — gutting plenty of military projects right here in the D.C. region, including a day care for military kids — to build his wall.

There has been waning support for Trump in the military over his four years. Some of it began with his bone-spur excuse to avoid the draft and his bravado at equating his private, military school cosplay with true military service.

Social media is full of veterans explaining why they aren’t voting for Trump. Like Dave, a Marine Corps veteran from Wisconsin who served alongside Muslim Americans and was taken aback by Trump’s early anti-Muslim stances. Dave, who didn’t give his last name in the video he posted with Republicans Against Trump, generated a string of responses from other veterans on Twitter with similar fear for our Constitution.

“We’re tired of the GOP chokehold on patriotism, and tired of hearing that Democrats hate America,” George Wright stated as the reason he founded the Kentucky Democratic Veterans Council.

“We don’t seek members from the active-duty ranks,” Wright explained, after I asked about his retirement project. “But I’m pleased to see what appears to be increasing disenchantment with a president who’s an undignified con man.”

But none of these insults matches the slow simmer we have seen among top military officials over Trump’s latest bluster about moving troops around American soil like his personal toy soldiers.

Having been to dangerous places around the globe, having put their own lives on the line while seeing the way other nations treat their people, the great patriots of the military understand how dangerous the surplus-store vigilantes are.

When Trump used federal officers against civilians in the June 1 clash outside the White House — when they cleared the way for him to stand in front of St. John’s Church holding a Bible — 89 former Defense officials wrote a chilling op-ed in The Washington Post about the danger he is trying to unleash.

What have been largely peaceful protests across the nation — between 13 and 26 million people have taken part in a social justice protest following the police killing of George Floyd — are starting to include ugly clashes, thanks in large part to Trump and the way he fuels the chaos. He is threatening to send troops to more American cities, and he ordains the gun-show vigilantes as his personal army each time he praises their actions and demeans protesters.

[F]olks in the military are again nervous about being called into politics.

Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), who used to fly helicopters for the Navy, had to ask the Pentagon whether it would stand down come Election Day.

She and another lawmaker, former CIA analyst Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), wrote a letter to Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper asking them for their assurances in November.

This is not normal. And it’s not American. It’s time to support our troops, America, by listening to them.

Trump must be defeated in November.

Monday Morning Male Beauty


Police Face Complaints of Tolerating White Vigilantes

I have long maintained that there are many individuals on police forces who should not have a badge and a gun given their temperament and bigotry.  Yes, my view remains colored perhaps by gay bashing I received years ago at the hands of Norfolk police officers which was followed by extensive efforts by the department's internal affairs to protect the misbehaving officers. Compounding the problem is the relative lack of training of many police compared to that of other advanced nations. Now, an added concern has arisen as some police seem to be coddling if not protecting right wing militia members compared to other protesters despite the fact that statistics show the far right to be the biggest cause of violence. My view is that no one - leftist or far right - should be allowed to have guns in public.  Period, end of discussion.  Yet recent events show that those bearing arms are predominantly white self-styled militias and that they receive preferential treatment from police.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the disturbing problem.  Here are highlights:

In a video recorded shortly before two people were fatally shot last week in Kenosha, Wis., the accused gunman — Kyle Rittenhouse, 17 — circulates among a group of gun-wielding men who claim to be guarding a service station amid protests against police brutality.

Although it is well past curfew, police passing in an armored vehicle offer the group bottles of water and some friendly encouragement, saying over a loudspeaker: “We appreciate you guys. We really do.”

As protesters march against racism and police violence in cities and towns across the nation, they are being confronted by groups of armed civilians who claim to be assisting and showing support for police battered and overwhelmed by the protests. The confrontations have left at least three people dead in recent days: In addition to the two protesters killed Tuesday in Kenosha, a man thought to be associated with a far-right group called Patriot Prayer was fatally shot late Saturday in Portland, Ore.

Both incidents have drawn complaints that local authorities abetted the violence by tolerating the presence of these self-appointed enforcers with no uniforms, varied training and limited accountability. The stated motives of these vigilante actors, who are virtually indistinguishable from one another once massed on the streets, range from protecting storefronts and free speech to furthering White supremacy and fomenting civil war.

Many sheriffs and police chiefs, including in Kenosha, have disavowed these armed civilians, saying police don’t want their help.

But elsewhere, local authorities have at times appeared to support people who took up arms against protests that have occasionally turned violent and provided cover for vandals and looters. In Snohomish, Wash., the police chief was ousted in June after welcoming dozens of armed men, including one waving a Confederate flag, who responded to false Internet rumors that “antifa” looters planned to ransack the town, referring to a loosely knit movement of far-left activists.

In Hood County, Tex., a constable in May encouraged the Oath Keepers — an armed group that claims to have thousands of members of current and former law enforcement and military members — to defend a Dallas hair salon after rumors of possible looting. And in Salem, Ore., a police officer was captured on video in June advising armed men to “discreetly” stay inside while police began arresting protesters for violating curfew.

On other occasions, police officers have been photographed smiling or fist-bumping with members of far-right armed groups. Even in Kenosha, individual police officers seemed to welcome the help of armed civilians, including Rittenhouse . . . .

In a letter last week to Kenosha officials, Mary B. McCord, legal director at Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, said “the bloodshed . . . throws into sharp relief the danger posed when private and unaccountable militia groups take the law into their own hands.”

McCord has called on police and prosecutors to enforce laws that prohibit private militias from usurping law enforcement functions. In her letter, she noted that “several provisions of Wisconsin law prohibit private paramilitary and unauthorized law enforcement activity.”

“Police officers, district attorneys, leaders in law enforcement here and across the country have to make it unambiguously clear to anyone that it is not their job — it is the role of law enforcement — to” defend property, Torrez [district attorney in Bernalillo County, N.M] said. Militia groups are “not hearing that message from enough leadership in law enforcement. And this takes us down a very, very dangerous path.”

In Portland and other places, law enforcement has been accused of treating far-right groups more leniently than leftist protesters.

Ross has compiled a database of 497 public appearances of militias and far-right groups in about 300 U.S. counties since May, including 56 that he says suggest collaboration with police.

This summer, for instance, a commissioner in Bonner County, Idaho, called on residents to mobilize against a Black Lives Matter protest planned for Sandpoint, the county seat. His Facebook post asked people to “help counter anything that might get out of hand,” drawing a rebuke from Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad, who called it “grossly irresponsible.”

Elsewhere, local officials have advised civilians to be prepared to use violence to defend themselves. At a June news conference responding to rumors on social media of possible riots, the sheriff in Polk County, Fla., warned would-be lawbreakers that local residents “have guns. I encourage them to own guns. And they’re going to be in their homes tonight, with their guns loaded.”

This month, a complaint was filed with the city of Cottonwood Heights, Utah, by a resident who said he and his wife were “followed, harassed and intimidated by five heavily armed individuals in a White Dodge pickup” after protesting racial discrimination. The man, who spoke on the condition of anonymity citing fears for his safety, said he and his wife showed video of the encounter to police — including evidence that the truck lacked license plates.

[A] video suggests that police handled Rittenhouse differently from the typical murder suspect. That recording shows him in the middle of the street, assault rifle dangling, hands up in surrender. A man can be heard shouting that Rittenhouse had just shot several people.

But instead of taking the teen into custody, police drive right past him. According to his attorneys, Rittenhouse turned himself in to police later that night.

Something is seriously wrong.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

More Sunday Male Beauty


Sadism is Still the Point for Most White Evangelicals

Over the course of years that I have been writing this blog I have often argued that white evangelical Christians are not only hypocrites - modern day Pharisees if you will - but also  selfish, self-centered individuals who care nothing about others who have thrown Christ's message and the so-called Golden Rule down the toilet.  The only things that matter to them is maintaining their dominance over others - by their definition, "others" means blacks, Hispanics, gays, non-Christians and anyone who does not subscribe to their sick, self-centered world of faked piety. When one recognizes this reality about evangelicals, their allegiance to Donald Trump becomes totally understandable. Like Trump, the revel in the mistreatment of those they perceive as "other" and are only too happy to overlook brutality and inhumane treatment of those they believe would lessen their power and influence.   The end of upholding their power and superiority justifies everything from putting children in cages to having peaceful protesters harmed or killed by police.  A piece in Religion Dispatches looks at the sadism and brutality that are only too welcomed in evangelical circles.  Here are article highlights:

There’s still too much confusion over the president’s bond with white evangelical Protestants (WEPs). I suppose there will always be as long as outsiders presume that Donald Trump’s strongest supporters believe in loving thy neighbor as thyself. Once you see that WEPs do not apply the Golden Rule universally and unconditionally, things become clearer. Once this Christian concept is removed from the discussion, “paradoxes” melt into the air. What’s left is a natural alignment of political interests.

How do I know WEPs don’t truly believe in the Golden Rule? From life experience. I know what I’m talking about. All you have to do is listen carefully, however, and know what to listen for. Elizabeth Dias wrote a big piece in the Times last week trying to clear up the “contradiction” of WEPs standing by Trump “when he shut out Muslim refugees. When he separated children from their parents at the border. When he issued brash insults over social media. When he uttered falsehoods as if they were true. When he was impeached.” A source explains helpfully that there’s no contradiction at all.

“The years of the Obama presidency were confusing to her,” Dias wrote of her source. “She said she heard talk of giving freedoms to gay people and members of minority groups. But to her it felt like her freedoms were being taken away.

This makes no sense to outsiders. Freedom for “gay people and members of minority groups” is not taking anything away from anybody. This makes no sense, because outsiders do not generally accept a worldview in which power is ordered. First God, then man, then woman, then child. White over nonwhite. Heterosexual over LGBTQ. Christian over non-Christian. When you believe with your whole being that power is ordered according to God’s will, “giving freedoms to gay people and members of minority groups” is not political equality, as outsiders often see it. It’s knocking you out of the order of power. It’s taking something away. Equality is literally theft.

The Golden Rule demands white people share power with nonwhite people. It demands husbands share power with their wives. Neither can ever be done. A wife, according to the same source in Dias’ reporting, must “submit” to her husband in accordance with God’s law. If she does not, she’s trying “to rule over him.” Same for whites and nonwhites. If white people are not at the top of the order, they are being ruled over. This is why Dias’ source says that, “Caucasian-Americans are becoming a minority. Rapidly.” The more for “them,” the less for “us.” They believe Trump prevents that from happening.

They believe Trump is “restoring their freedom.” Utter nonsense. What they’re really saying is that the president will prevent people lower down the order of power from achieving more freedom and equality, “violating” their “freedom.” He must do that by any means, even if he confiscates kids from their mothers, bans a world religion, or commits treason. None of that matters as much as maintaining the supremacy of a religious identity built on sand. And make no mistake: this is a religious identity.

If WEPs believed in the Golden Rule, they’d never tolerate other people’s pain. They do tolerate it, however. Indeed, they like it. It feels good to see the president “restoring their freedom.” When WEPs say they want to “live out our faith,” what they mean is that sadism is and should be a natural consequence of the natural order of things in which God’s people are chosen to rule in God’s name. “Evangelicals did not support Mr. Trump in spite of who he is,” Dias wrote. “They supported him because of who he is, and because of who they are.”

That’s correct, but take that to its logical conclusion. His enemies are their enemies. His pleasures, their pleasures. Their bond is far from a contradiction. It’s an alignment of political interests in which sadism is the point.

In truth, despite their posture to the contrary and false piety, white evangelicals are morally bankrupt if any standard of decency and the Golden Rule are applied.  They are not nice people. 

Sunday Morning Male Beauty


Trump Thinks Racism Is His Best Chance

Still lagging in the polls, Donald Trump is about to intensify the racism and fear mongering that marked his 2016 campaign.  One can only hope that apathetic blacks and Hispanics - and younger voters too - who failed to vote in 2016 belatedly understand that Trump must be defeated in 2020 or else their futures may be far worse than their current circumstances. Frighteningly, a substantial minority of whites seem completely accepting of Trump's racism and seemingly would bring back segregation if they could do so. By all appearances, Trump hopes to fear monger enough additional whites to pull the lever for him in 2020 in order to eek out another Electoral College win while losing the popular vote by millions of votes  (showing again why the Electoral College needs to be abolished).  Disturbingly, protesters in numerous cities fail to grasp that they are playing directly into Trump's game plan every time violence breaks out even if the violence is sparked by right wing Trump supporters. The best form of protest is to get registered to vote and vote en mass like never before against Trump and every Republican up and down the ballot.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at Trump's cynical and morally bankrupt default to open racism in the ongoing campaign.  Here are highlights:

It was on what Democrats and even Republicans might agree was the most tedious night of this outrageous convention — Wednesday, . . . . that I started to see how Trump could win reelection in spite of everything. And to fear that if he didn’t, he would stop at nothing to take an already teetering country down with him. Next to that commanding reality, the usual morning-after questions we ask about political conventions seem almost quaint and beside the point.

Sure, the convention was designed to energize the party’s base, but I dare say that any voter who was motivated to watch all or large chunks of this convention is already motivated to show up to vote. And sure, the entire spectacle was a monument to Trump’s ego

As for those coveted undecided voters in battleground states, how many were actually tuned in? Harry Enten, the poll guru at CNN, says that “maybe 15 percent of voters” are watching either convention, “most of whom are hardcore partisans.”

As Trump would define it in a rare moment of focus during his endless drone of an acceptance speech, a vote for Joe Biden is a vote to “give free rein to violent anarchists and agitators and criminals who threaten our citizens.” The corollary, stated directly by Carlson and repeatedly embraced by Trump, is that arms-bearing white Americans can’t be faulted for wanting to take the law into their own hands.

For “anarchists and agitators and criminals,” read “Black people.” This racially tinged “law and order” message is nothing new either for Trump or a GOP that has been pursuing a “Southern strategy” since Richard Nixon codified it half a century ago.

[W]hat grabbed my attention on the convention’s sleepy third night was how Trump, on the ropes in summer polling, is nonetheless determined to take that message to a new and even more dangerous level by fomenting racial violence if need be. He will not only continue to boost arms-bearing white vigilantes as he has from Charlottesville to Portland, but, when all else fails, unabashedly pin white criminality on Black Lives Matter protesters.

Literally so. While the unrest in Kenosha was referenced repeatedly on Wednesday night, no one mentioned that the violence was all committed by white men: Rittenhouse, and Rusten Sheskey, the police officer who shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back while his three young sons looked on.

Next to this incendiary strategy, the other manifest sins of the week, though appalling, seem less consequential as we approach the crucial post–Labor Day campaign.

But aside from the 42 percent or so who consistently approve of Trump no matter what he or those around him do, most other Americans will see for themselves whether COVID-19 has evaporated or their economic security has improved this fall. Those are realities that Trump, for all his subterfuge, cannot alter. But racial animus is a less tangible and more enduring factor in America’s political fortunes, and it has been a toxic wild card in every modern election.

In that sense, the most predictable alternative reality spun by the convention was the recruitment of seemingly every black Republican official in the country to testify on camera that Trump and his party love what he calls “the Black people.” This gambit is a GOP staple. At George W. Bush’s 2000 convention in Philadelphia, there were more African-Americans onstage

Then as now, this effort was not so much intended to woo unattainable Black voters as to “give permission” to white voters to put aside any guilt they might feel about casting votes for a party that habitually plays the race card.

But 2020 is not 2016. Bush was not widely seen as a racist. Trump is, and, unlike Bush, he commands a party that doesn’t even bother to hide its alliances with white supremacists. The suburban white women that pollsters tell us Trump has lost since 2016 know this about Trump and the GOP, and I imagine that the Trump campaign knows they know it. . . . . it’s time for Plan B, a fear campaign with no boundaries that might yet push defecting 2016 Trump voters back into the camp.

Biden had it exactly right when he characterized this plan on Thursday by calling out Trump for “pouring gasoline on the fire” and “rooting for more violence, not less.” That was true from day one of the convention, when the gun-toting St. Louis couple, the McCloskeys, were given a prominent spot in the festivities

But it’s not enough for Biden to identify the strategy that is being unleashed to derail him, and it shouldn’t have taken him most of the week to get to the point. He’s in a fight for his and the country’s life. A Democratic campaign that was pitched most of all on targeting Trump’s criminally negligent response to the pandemic must now pivot to combat the most lethal of all American viruses, racism, in its most weaponized strain.