Saturday, September 12, 2020

More Saturday Male Beauty


Exposing Right Wing Lies About Antifa

As part of his effort to save his re-election chances Donald Trump is resorting to his default position: lying to the public and trying to frighten voters - especially women - into voting for him as the "law and order" candidate despite Trump's lawlessness and non-stop assaults of constitutional government.  Trump has many others on the far right who are joining this disingenuous chorus, including the usual liars on Fox News.  In addition to targeting black protesters, the far right is spinning lies about Antifa, an anti-fascist movement that rightly sees the fascism Trump and his sycophants represent. A piece in the Washington Post looks at the myths - again, I prefer to call them what they are, namely lies - and provides the true facts about Antifa.  Here are highlights:

Short for “anti-fascist,” the label “antifa” gained notoriety in 2017 over the course of several high-profile conflicts between left-wing protesters and the far right in Berkeley, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; Charlottesville; and elsewhere. But antifa has been a staple of radical politics across Europe, Latin America and beyond for decades. Even in the United States, this tradition of militant antifascism has a long history under the banner of the Anti-Racist Action network. Despite this history, and a litany of journalistic “explainers” over the past three years, antifa remains largely misunderstood. Here are some of the most popular myths.

Myth No. 1 Antifa is a single organization.

On May 31, President Trump tweeted, “The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization.” Attorney General William P. Barr echoed his sentiments by arguing that antifa is “a revolutionary group that is interested in some form of socialism.” . . . But Trump cannot designate “ANTIFA” as a terrorist organization because antifa is not an organization. Rather, it is a politics of revolutionary opposition to the far right. That’s not to say that antifa doesn’t exist, of course.

Myth No. 2 Antifa masterminds violence at Black Lives Matter protests.

Police stations were burned, squad cars were destroyed, and property was damaged across the country after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. Days later, Trump was quick to blame the violence on “ANTIFA and the Radical Left.”

But neither the Justice Department, the FBI nor the press have found evidence to corroborate the grandiose allegation that the most widespread and significant political upheaval this country has seen in half a century was masterminded by one shadowy organization. Not even in Portland. Antifa groups are simply not numerous enough, nor their memberships large enough, nor their politics influential enough to have achieved such massive destruction.

Myth No. 3 Antifa is affiliated with the Democratic Party.

In August, a fake antifa website began to redirect users to Joe Biden’s campaign site. Though it was clearly a ploy to associate the Democratic Party with antifa, right wingers seized upon the apparent conspiracy. Speaking about the Democrats that same day, Trump claimed that “in my book, it’s virtually part of their campaign, antifa.”

Not only is there no evidence to support such allegations — which are more of an effort to associate liberalism with lawlessness than anything else — but Democratic leaders have routinely condemned antifa and political violence more broadly. For example, in 2017 Nancy Pelosi denounced “the violent actions of people calling themselves antifa” after destructive protests against right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos in Berkeley. When a reporter recently asked Joe Biden, “Do you condemn antifa?,” he responded, “Yes, I do.”

Nor is there any antifa love affair with the Democrats. The vast majority of antifa militants are radical anti-capitalists who oppose the Democratic Party. Some may hold their noses and vote for Biden in November, but many are anarchists who don’t vote at all.

Myth No. 4 Antifa is funded by liberal financiers like George Soros.

Right-wing conspiracy theorists have alleged that egalitarian protest movements, such as Occupy Wall Street or the women’s marches, have been secretly funded for many years by liberal financiers like George Soros. Trump is among those who have accused Soros of funding antifa, while other conservatives, such as Rep. Ken Buck, have dog-whistled this anti-Semitic trope by asking in more general terms “who is funding these violent riots.”

There is no evidence that Soros or any other 1 percenter is bankrolling antifa groups. Receiving financial support from a billionaire would be anathema to their anti-capitalist politics. . . . The International Anti-Fascist Defense Fund collects small donations primarily for legal and medical support, but that hardly constitutes the moneyed boogeyman that Republicans have conjured.

Myth No. 5 Antifascists are the 'real fascists.'

Recently Barr described antifa as deploying “fascistic” tactics, and Donald Trump Jr. characterized the movement as having moved “to the book burning phase.” . . . . After Charlottesville, Trump called antifascists the “alt-left,” a term that did not stick.

Indeed, antifascists and fascists have one thing in common: an illiberal disdain for the confines of mainstream politics. In every other way they are worlds apart. As opposed to their far-right adversaries, antifascists are feminist, anti-racist, anti-capitalists who seek to abolish prisons and police. Comparing antifascists to fascists only makes a bit of sense if one divorces the tactics from the underlying views that animate them. . . . . But fascists are the real fascists because they pursue a fascist political agenda.

Sadly, these truths will be lost on many of my Republican "friends" who continue to drink the Trump/Fox News Kool-Aid.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Republican Failures Then and Now

Yesterday was the 19th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks that resulted in 2,977 fatalities, over 25,000 injuries, and left many suffering long term health consequences.   Also killed were 343 fire fighters and 72 law enforcement officers. That the attacks were allowed to occur traces to bungled national security failures of the George W. Bush administration.  On the positive side, in the aftermath Bush sought to unite Americans and specifically asked that law Americans' wrath.  Fast forward 19 years and America is suffering from another national security failure under the Trump/Pence regime.  So far the death toll is far higher than that on 9/11 - currently 197,435 Americans have died due to the Trump/Pence regimes catastrophic failure to address the pandemic. Unlike Bush, Trump has sought to divide Americans and has sought to engender hatred against racial and religious minorities. Just as troubling, Trump has knowingly lied to the American public about the pandemic while putting his own interests ahead of the lives of American citizens. Many of us knew that Trump, a malignant narcissist would be a threat to the nation and those predictions have been borne out. A column at NBC News by a former Bush administration official looks at the contrasts in leadership and why responsible Republicans are pledging to vote for Joe Biden in November.  Here are column excerpts:

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was a junior communications aide in George W. Bush's White House. It was my first full-time job; I was barely old enough to buy a beer.

That morning, with America under attack, my colleagues and I were evacuated from the White House. We ran through Lafayette Square, across Pennsylvania Avenue. In the afternoon, after rallying in a makeshift office downtown, my roommate and I were sent walking through the empty streets of downtown Washington to FBI headquarters to assist with a media briefing. We rode with our boss back to an eerily quiet White House and worked with a news crew to set up the Oval Office for the president's address to the nation.

The nation needed to see strength but also needed reassurance that we would be OK, that we would make it through the crisis and build back better.

In the coming days, Bush would bring the nation together in prayer at the National Cathedral and visit a mosque in solidarity with Muslim Americans. Believing a second-wave attack on the White House to be imminent, the Secret Service would take the president down to the White House "bunker" multiple times.

This year, on Sept. 11, 2020, our nation faces multiple crises simultaneously. But behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, we have a man incapable of resolve, incapable of focus, incapable of strength, incapable of reassurance.

In Lafayette Square, the same place we were evacuated to 19 years ago, armed agents were sent to attack American civilians with gas and rubber bullets. With that gas still hanging in the air, President Donald Trump emerged from the White House to march through the park to another national church — not for prayer or to urge national unity but for a photo op.

Around the time I walked to the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building on this fateful day in 2001, Donald Trump bragged in a live interview that with the Twin Towers in smoldering ruins, he was now the owner of the tallest building in lower Manhattan. He lamented the loss of the skyline but spared little sympathy for the loss of human life.

Today, after millions of Americans have fallen ill and almost 200,000 people have died, Trump again seems more focused on damage control and his personal finances than helping regular people. We now know that Trump knew the danger we faced with COVID-19 but intentionally played it down. More than 55 million Americans have sought unemployment benefits, and countless small businesses are failing, yet Trump spent valuable time trying to push through $1.75 billion in relief funds for a gleaming new FBI building across the street from his Trump International Hotel.

Americans don't expect our presidents to be perfect; we know they will make mistakes. But they do expect our leaders to work to ease tensions and calm fears and to be honest about the challenges we face. Instead of bringing us together, addressing racial injustice and presenting a national strategy to stop the spread of the virus, Trump has intentionally sowed division, encouraged white nationalists and vigilantes while downplaying the threats they pose to society, stoked fear and spread misinformation with dangerous consequences.

Around 1,000 are dying every single day from COVID-19 in the U.S. That means every three days, this nation is experiencing a 9/11-level loss of life under Trump's "reign."

9/11 wasn't just an attack on American citizens; it was an attack on the very idea of American democracy. That democracy is under attack again today, not just from a foreign adversary (Russia) or a foreign-born virus (COVID-19) but from behind the very desk where presidents since Rutherford B. Hayes have made life-and-death decisions.

Donald Trump represents an existential threat to our Constitution, our security and our health. That's why hundreds of my fellow former Bush administration officials have openly pledged to support his Democratic opponent in November.

Despite George W. Bush's massive failures, Trump makes him look like a fairly decent president in comparison. 

Friday, September 11, 2020

Friday Morning Male Beauty


Today's Republican Party Is Not Worth Saving

I have friends who in some form of denial or delusion (in my view) continue to pretend that the Republican Party is still what it was forty years ago or more.  That party - which my parents and grandparents supported and for which I worked for years - is dead and gone.  Indeed, it has been gone for close to two decades as Christofascists and science denying evangelicals were cynically and stupidly welcomed into the tent with the foolish belief that they could be controlled by the so-called GOP establishment. Now, much of that former establishment is endorsing Joe Biden and/or funding the Lincoln Projects attack ads on Donald Trump.  Trump, a man who is amoral, totally corrupt and a lying carnival barker - not to mention wanton racist - is the ultimate outgrowth of allowing religious fanatics and those who deny science and knowledge to take over the party base. The Republican Party is beyond saving at this point and must die in order that a new center right party can rise from the ashes. A piece in The Atlantic makes this argument spot on.  Here are excerpts:

I was a Republican for most of my adult life. I came of political age in 1980, and although I grew up in a working-class Democratic stronghold in Massachusetts, I found a home in Ronald Reagan’s GOP. Back then, the Republicans were a confident “party of ideas” (a compliment bestowed on them by one of their foes, Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York), optimistic boosters of the American dream at home, and fierce opponents of the Soviet Union overseas. While the Democrats were the party of recrimination and retreat, the Republicans were the party of the future.

I understand the attachment to that GOP, even among those who have sworn to defeat Donald Trump, but the time for sentimentality is over. That party is long gone. Today the Republicans are the party of “American carnage” and Russian collusion, of scams, plots, and weapons-grade contempt for the rule of law. The only decent, sensible, and conservative position is to vote against this Republican Party at every level, and bring the sad final days of a once-great political institution to an end. Then build the party back up again—from scratch.

I’m not advocating for voting against the GOP merely to punish Republicans for Trump’s existence in their party. Rather, conservatives must finally accept that at this point Trump and the Republican Party are indistinguishable. Trump and his circle have gutted the old GOP and stuffed its empty husk with the Trump family’s paranoia and corruption.

Indeed, the transformation of the GOP into a cult of personality is so complete that the Republicans didn’t even bother presenting a platform at their own convention. Like a group of ciphers at a meeting of SPECTRE, they nodded at whatever Number One told them to do, each of them fearing an extended pinkie finger pressing the button that would electrocute them into political oblivion.

Some Republicans, even while they grant that Trump is a sociopath and an idiot—and how unsettling that so many of them will stipulate to that—are willing to continue voting for Republican candidates because the GOP is nominally pro-life or because the administration’s judicial appointments show that the people around the president are doing what conservatives should want done.

But Trump’s few conservative achievements are meaningless when compared with his war on American democracy, a rampage that few Republicans have lifted a finger to stop. Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr have turned the constitutional order and the rule of law into a joke.

GOP representatives in the people’s house sneer at concepts such as oversight and the separation of powers. Rather than demand accountability from the executive branch on COVID-19, on the Hatch Act, on the Postal Service—on anything, really—they either repose in sullen silence or they take up the lance for the president and overwhelm committee hearings with Trumpian word salad.

Meanwhile, senators who swore to be “impartial” jurors refused to hear actual evidence during an impeachment trial. They confirmed a rogue’s gallery of incompetent henchmen and cronies to important positions. They continue to downplay Russian attacks on the U.S. political system and are now outfoxed by the likes of John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, a nonentity who has ruled that none of them, Republican or Democrat, should be allowed to ask any pesky questions about election security in person.

“But Gorsuch,” Republicans chirp when pressed about their party’s demise, as if Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh will saddle up and save us when elected Republicans refuse to stop Trump from finally turning the FBI into his private police force or Barr from using the Department of Homeland Security as the White House’s own Belarusian interior ministry.

Conservatives must also let go of fantasies about saving the “good” Republicans, a list that is virtually nonexistent. . . . . The few, like Romney, who have dared grasp at moments of sanity have been pilloried by Trump and other Republicans.

Would-be Madisonians among the Republicans warn that no party should have untrammeled access to the levers of power—and especially not the Democrats. . . . . This faux constitutionalism is naked hypocrisy: I do not recall, during my days in the GOP, anyone on the right ever pleading that Americans should leave at least a few Democrats in office so that we Republicans would not go crazy and start force-feeding Ayn Rand or Friedrich Hayek to impressionable schoolchildren.

America needs two healthy political parties. So if the Republicans suffer a full-spectrum defeat in 2020, what comes next? At the least, a shattering loss should result in a wholesale purge of the Republican National Committee. Even donors who like what they got from Trump will not pour money into a losing proposition.

In the long term, sensible conservatives—who believe in limited government and the prudent, constitutional stewardship of national power and resources—might feel safe to run for national office as Republicans again. Those at the local level who were bullied into silence by their state organizations might be able to come out of hiding and challenge the people who led them to disaster.

Reconstructing the GOP—or any center-right party that might one day replace it—will take a long time, and the process will be painful. The remaining opportunists in the GOP will try to avert any kind of reform by making a last-ditch lunge to the right to fill the vacuum left by Trump’s culture warring and race-baiting. In the short term, the party might become smaller and more extreme, even as it loses seats. So be it. The hardening of the GOP into a toxic conglomeration of hucksters, quislings, racists, theocrats, and cultists is already happening. . . . . Conservatives must learn that the only way out of “the wilderness” is first to vanquish those who led them there.

No person should ever get a second chance to destroy the Constitution. Trump has brought the United States to the brink of civil catastrophe, and the Republican Party has protected him from the consequences of all his immoral and illegal actions more ably than even Fred Trump did. Conservatives need to put the current Republican Party out of its—and our—misery. 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

More Thursday Male Beauty


Are Some Evangelicals Poised to Embrace Morality and Reject Trump?


In June 2016 Donald Trump promised the moon to so-called leaders of white evangelical Christians and some right wing Catholics.  One promise involved Supreme Court nominees and another was exemptions from non-discrimination laws. A third promise, at least in the minds of some evangelicals was that if elected, Trump would act presidential.  Trump delivered conservative Court nominees but to the horror of many evangelicals one of them, Neil Gorsuch, delivered one of the most pro-LGBT rulings ever in terms of bans on discrimination. Of course, there is also the issue of Trump failing to change his behavior and cease his endless lies, cruelty, immorality and corruption.   While a majority of evangelicals appear ready to continue to overlook Trump's shocking immorality, a new survey suggests that more than a few may be poised to embrace Joe Biden given that they (i) see him as less cruel than Trump and (ii) may realize that Trump supporting Christians are destroying the Christian brand, if you will.  A piece in Politico looks at the survey findings which could proved disastrous for Trump's re-election effort.  Here are story highlights:

Months after worries first exploded inside the Trump campaign over his eroding support among white evangelicals and Roman Catholics, some of [Trump's] the president’s top religious allies are now in a panic — concerned that Joe Biden’s attentiveness to Christian voters, whom Democrats largely ignored in 2016, is having an impact where the president can least afford it.

One prominent evangelical leader close to the White House said Biden’s policy positions on abortion and religious freedom, which would normally spoil how some religious voters view the Democratic presidential nominee, have been overshadowed by the contrast between the former vice president’s palpable faith and Trump’s transactional view of religion. Another chided Trump for his “cold response” to the nationwide reckoning over systemic racism, claiming the president’s law-and-order messaging has given Biden an opening to connect with churchgoing Americans who are accustomed to calls for courage and justice.

Their concerns may be registering, according to a new study of Catholic and evangelical voters that suggests Trump is poised to lose a sizable chunk of his Christian voters in November, raising questions about his path to reelection and the potential value in religious outreach that Biden’s predecessor Hillary Clinton largely eschewed.

The online survey, which was commissioned by the left-leaning group Vote Common Good and conducted by a team of academic pollsters from the University of Southern California, Duke University, University of Maryland College Park and University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, predicts an 11 percentage point swing toward Biden among evangelicals and Catholics who backed Trump in 2016, based on input from both demographics across five major 2020 battleground states: Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Other polls have captured similar gains in Biden’s religious support, including an August survey by Fox News that showed the former vice president at 28 percent support among white evangelicals — up 12 percentage points from 2016 exit polls for the Democratic nominee.

While Biden’s campaign “hasn’t done everything they could” to reach people of faith, according to Wear, he said Trump’s blunt messaging on coronavirus and race has created an opportunity for the Democratic nominee to “overturn the who-shares-your-values debate that Republicans have been winning.”

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

According to the study, evangelical voters are split over which presidential candidate is more virtuous, while Catholic voters selected Biden over Trump by a 21-point margin. The largest gaps in voter perceptions of Biden and Trump emerged when respondents were asked to weigh each candidate against commonly recognized Christian virtues, including generosity, diligence, chastity, kindness, patience, modesty and humility. Only 22 percent of respondents gave the president a higher rating on his displays of humility and modesty versus Biden’s, while the pollsters cited Trump’s perceived lack of kindness — 44 percent of respondents said Biden is more kind than Trump, while 30 percent said Trump is kinder — as the leading cause of defections among Catholics and evangelicals who supported him in 2016.

“While it was baked in back in 2016 that Donald Trump was bombastic and crude, he always hinted that he would be presidential when he needed to be presidential,” said Doug Pagitt, a Minnesota-based pastor and an executive director of Vote Common Good, adding that some 2016 religious Trump voters have since “woken up to the fact that [Trump] has not changed one bit.”

“People of faith who didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton saw her as more corrupt and less kind than Donald Trump, and now some of those same voters see Donald Trump as more corrupt and less kind than Biden,” Pagitt said.

A new book by Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen claims the thrice-married New York businessman once remarked to aides after meeting with evangelical leaders in 2016, “Can you believe people believe that bull----?” The president was also roundly criticized earlier this summer for waving a Bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church near the White House minutes after law enforcement officials tear-gassed protesters to clear the area for his arrival.

“This is a different election for several reasons, but one of them is that the sheer disgust most religious voters felt for Hillary Clinton in 2016 doesn’t exist with Joe Biden,” said the Trump adviser.

While it’s unlikely Biden will pull in a majority of Catholic or evangelical voters on Election Day, Trump could find himself in serious jeopardy if the Democratic nominee shaves off even a couple of percentage points in the president’s support among white evangelicals and Catholics. A central question of the president’s reelection strategy is whether he can marginally improve his 2016 levels of support among religious Americans, and black and Hispanic voters, to offset anticipated declines in his support among white women and suburban voters.

Pagitt believes the current environment — with a Covid-19 death toll nearing 200,000 in the U.S. and recent police-involved shootings igniting a nationwide conversation about racism — will preclude Trump from expanding his appeal among religious Americans before the Nov. 3 election, in addition to making it more difficult for him to maintain his grasp on the evangelical and Catholic voters who backed him four years ago.

There’s an enormous amount of religious Americans who didn’t think there were good options in 2016 and voted for Trump, but now see Biden as the superior option.”

Thursday Morning Male Beauty


America is No. 28 in Quality of Life and Dropping

The Republican Party's reverse Robin Hood agenda and efforts to create a new Gilded Age where America is of immense concentrated wealth and vast numbers of those barely surviving is bearing toxic fruit.  While most advanced nations have expanded access to health care for all, Donald Trump and the GOP continue to strive to kill the Affordable Health Care Act - a move that would leave tens of millions with no health care - and constantly seek to slash the social safety net. Meanwhile, the rich get ever richer.  As a consequence, America has fallen on the index of quality of life and now is on a par with Estonia, Czech Republic, Cyprus and Greece.  In terms of public education, over all, American children as a whole get an education roughly on par with what children get in Uzbekistan and Mongolia.  Trump's MAGA agenda has made things worse without even counting the impact of America's disastrous response to the Covid-19 pandemic.  How do we stop America's fall?  A good start is defeating Trump and Republicans in November and ending a mindset that views a majority of Americans as disposable trash.  A piece in the New York Times looks at this sad state of affairs.  Here are highlights:

This should be a wake-up call: New data suggest that the United States is one of just a few countries worldwide that is slipping backward.

The newest Social Progress Index, shared with me before its official release Thursday morning, finds that out of 163 countries assessed worldwide, the United States, Brazil and Hungary are the only ones in which people are worse off than when the index began in 2011. And the declines in Brazil and Hungary were smaller than America’s. . . . “It’s like we’re a developing country.”

The index, inspiredconsequence, America is falling  by research of Nobel-winning economists, collects 50 metrics of well-being — nutrition, safety, freedom, the environment, health, education and more — to measure quality of life. Norway comes out on top in the 2020 edition, followed by Denmark, Finland and New Zealand. South Sudan is at the bottom, with Chad, Central African Republic and Eritrea just behind.

The United States, despite its immense wealth, military power and cultural influence, ranks 28th — having slipped from 19th in 2011. The index now puts the United States behind significantly poorer countries, including Estonia, Czech Republic, Cyprus and Greece.

“We are no longer the country we like to think we are,” said Porter.

The United States ranks No. 1 in the world in quality of universities, but No. 91 in access to quality basic education. The U.S. leads the world in medical technology, yet we are No. 97 in access to quality health care.

Americans have health statistics similar to those of people in Chile, Jordan and Albania, while kids in the United States get an education roughly on par with what children get in Uzbekistan and Mongolia. A majority of countries have lower homicide rates, and most other advanced countries have lower traffic fatality rates and better sanitation and internet access.

The United States has high levels of early marriage — most states still allow child marriage in some circumstances — and lags in sharing political power equally among all citizens. America ranks a shameful No. 100 in discrimination against minorities.

The data for the latest index predates Covid-19, which has had a disproportionate impact on the United States and seems likely to exacerbate the slide in America’s standing. One new study suggests that in the United States, symptoms of depression have risen threefold since the pandemic began — and poor mental health is associated with other risk factors for well-being.

The decline of the United States over the last decade in this index — more than any country in the world — is a reminder that we Americans face structural problems . . . . Trump is a symptom of this larger malaise, and also a cause of its acceleration.

David G. Blanchflower, a Dartmouth economist, has new research showing that the share of Americans reporting in effect that every day is a bad mental health day has doubled over 25 years. “Rising distress and despair are largely American phenomenon not observed in other advanced countries,” Blanchflower told me.

[T]his is an election like that of 1932. That was the year American voters decisively rejected Herbert Hoover’s passivity and gave Franklin Roosevelt an electoral mandate — including a flipped Senate — that laid the groundwork for the New Deal and the modern middle class. But first we need to acknowledge the reality that we are on the wrong track.

We Americans like to say “We’re No. 1.” But the new data suggest that we should be chanting, “We’re No. 28! And dropping!” Let’s wake up, for we are no longer the country we think we are.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

More Wednesday Male Beauty


Bob Woodward's Bomb Shell Book

Investigative reporter and author Bob Woodward gained fame when he teamed up with Carl Bernstein to do news reporting on the Watergate scandal. This reporting ultimately led to numerous government investigations, criminal indictments and the eventual resignation of President Richard Nixon. Now, Woodward has a new book - backed by 18 hours of recorded interviews with Donald Trump - that drops some major bomb shells, perhaps the most notable of which is Trump's admission that he intentionally mislead the Americans public about the danger of the coronavirus.  Worse yet, as one commentator noted, he politicized the response to the pandemic and took it out of the realm of following medical advice and put it into the realm of "being a good MAGA" vs capitulating to the left.   Most baffling to anyone sane, is why Trump ever allowed Woodward to record the interviews, thus making it difficult to claim he never made the statements (not that this matters to his cult followers). Hubris, intense narcissism and a joy of hearing himself seem to be the only explanations.  A column in the Washington Post looks at some of the bomb shell admissions.  Here are excerpts: 

That President Trump lied to the American people about the danger of the novel coronavirus may not be shocking. More shocking is that he was willing to admit this to Bob Woodward, whose new book “Rage” includes damning new evidence of Trump’s contempt for the truth and American lives.

“This is deadly stuff,” the president repeated for emphasis. … Trump admitted to Woodward on March 19 that he deliberately minimized the danger. “I wanted to always play it down,” the president said.

“Play it down,” in this case, means lie. He promised Americans the virus would disappear like magic. He argued covid-19 is akin to the flu. He insisted it was safe for governors to reopen their economies despite unacceptably high rates of infection and the absence of mask mandates. These claims were false, and worse, he knew they were false.

When the president deliberately lies to the American people — as multiple presidents during the Vietnam War did (as we learned from the Pentagon Papers) — and many Americans die as a result, even loyal members of his own party must condemn him and demand he step away. His actions cost critical time, prevented earlier lockdowns and provided a false sense of security to vulnerable people. In all likelihood, tens of thousands of dead Americans would be alive today if he had acted with minimal competence and honesty.

This situation is not unlike Trump’s impeachment hearings. . . . . Now, we have similar malfeasance — precisely the sort of noncriminal but impeachable behavior that the impeachment clause is designed to uncover. Once again, Republicans will claim up is down and night is day. They will refuse to accept Trump’s own words confessing to a deception that cost thousands of American lives. They will not call for his resignation or call for him to withdraw from the election. They would rather continue to support a president demonstrably unfit than risk the wrath of Trump and his cult . . .

This remains true, even though in this case the victims have been Americans, and that thousands — multiples of the death count from 9/11 — have died even though simple precautions could have spared them. Imagine a president fully aware of a Category 5 hurricane near certain to hit a seaside community but who tells the residents, “No big deal. Don’t listen to the experts telling you to evacuate.” Surely, one would find him morally if not legally culpable for the deaths of anyone who made the mistake of listening to him. Covid-19 should be no different.

In his memorable summation at the impeachment trial, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) declared, “History will not be kind to Donald Trump. If you find that the House has proved its case, and still vote to acquit, your name will be tied to his with a cord of steel and for all of history.” Republicans did not care. Now that Americans’ lives have been sacrificed at the altar of Trump’s ego, Republicans face another hinge moment: say nothing and join Trump in the dumpster of history, or speak up, call for his resignation and recapture a modicum of respect. Sadly, there is little doubt they will choose the former.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


The Electoral College Will Destroy America

There's a problem when a supposed democracy can be ruled by the minority.  Yet America, with its Senate comprised of two senators from each state - even a state with a smaller population than many cities - has half of its legislature controlled by states with less than a majority of the nation's citizens.  And then there is the Electoral College that further intensifies the problem and which has allowed those losing the popular vote to win the highest office in the land. Even some of the Founding Fathers were concerned with this potential problem which was realized most strikingly in 2016 when an utterly unfit individual lost the popular vote by millions of votes yet took the White House due to this antiquated mechanism.  Most frighteningly, in could happen again even if Donald Trump loses the popular vote by even a larger margin. At some point, the majority will no longer stand for such a travesty.  Reform or abolition of the Electoral College is desperately needed.  A column in the New York Times looks at the problem and possible solutions.  Here are excerpts: 

Last week, Nate Silver, the polling analyst, tweeted a chart illustrating the chances that Joe Biden would become president if he wins the most votes in November.

The “if” is probably unnecessary. It’s hard to find anyone who disputes that Mr. Biden will win the most votes. This isn’t a liberal’s fantasy. In a recent panel discussion among four veteran Republican campaign managers, one acknowledged, “We’re going to lose the popular vote.” Another responded, “Oh, that’s a given.” The real question is will Mr. Biden win enough more votes than President Trump to overcome this year’s bias in the Electoral College?

Mr. Silver’s analysis is bracing. If Mr. Biden wins by five percentage points or more — if he beats Donald Trump by more than seven million votes — he’s a virtual shoo-in. If he wins 4.5 million more votes than the president? He’s still got a three-in-four chance to be president.

Anything less, however, and Mr. Biden’s odds drop like a rock. A mere three million-vote Biden victory? A second Trump term suddenly becomes more likely than not.

Yes, I am aware that the United States has never elected its president by a direct popular vote; I wrote a whole book about it. I still cannot fathom why, in a representative democracy based on the principle that all votes are equal, the person who wins the most votes can — and does, repeatedly — lose the most consequential election in the land.

It happened in 2016 to Hillary Clinton, who won nearly three million more votes than Donald Trump — a margin of more than two percentage points — but lost because of fewer than 80,000 votes in three states. Two months away from Election Day, the odds of something like this happening again are disconcertingly high. That’s a bad thing. The presidency is the only office whose occupant must represent all Americans equally, no matter where they live. The person who holds that office should have to win the most votes from all Americans, everywhere.

The Electoral College as it functions today is the most glaring reminder of many that our democracy is not fair, not equal and not representative. No other advanced democracy in the world uses anything like it, and for good reason. The election, as Mr. Trump would say — though not for the right reasons — is rigged.

The main problem with the Electoral College today is not, as both its supporters and detractors believe, the disproportionate power it gives smaller states. Those states do get a boost from their two Senate-based electoral votes, but that benefit pales in comparison to the real culprit: statewide winner-take-all laws.

The effect is to erase all the voters in that state who didn’t vote for the top candidate.

Today, 48 states use winner-take-all. As a result, most are considered “safe,” that is, comfortably in hand for one party or the other. No amount of campaigning will change that. The only states that matter to either party are the “battleground” states — especially bigger ones like Florida and Pennsylvania, where a swing of a few thousand or even a few hundred votes can shift the entire pot of electors from one candidate to the other.

James Madison, known as the father of the Constitution, was very disturbed by the state winner-take-all rule, which he considered one of the central flaws of the Electoral College as it took shape in the early 19th century. . . . . He disliked the practice so much he called for a constitutional amendment barring it.

Two hundred years after James Madison’s letter, the state winner-take-all rule is still crippling our politics and artificially dividing us. Every four years, tens of millions of Americans’ votes magically disappear before the real election for president happens — about six weeks after Election Day, when 538 electors convene in state capitals across the country to cast their votes for president. “Blue” states give all their electors to the Democrat, no matter how many Republicans voted for their candidate; vice versa in the “red” states.

Given that abolishing the Electoral College is not on the table at the moment, for a number of reasons, the best solution would be to do what Madison tried to do more than two centuries ago: get rid of statewide winner-take-all laws

That can be achieved through the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, an agreement among states to award their electors to the candidate who wins the most votes in the whole country, not just within their borders. When states representing a majority of electoral votes join, the compact takes effect, making all Americans’ votes relevant, and all of them equal to one another. The popular-vote winner then automatically becomes president.

If you think this is a plot by bitter Democrats who just want to win, consider this: Texas is going to turn blue. Maybe not this year, maybe not even in 2024. But it’s headed in that direction, and when it gets there, Republicans will be in for an unpleasant surprise. In 2016, Donald Trump won about 4.5 million votes in Texas. The moment the Democratic nominee wins more, all those Republican voters suddenly disappear, along with any realistic shot at winning the White House.

Every time a new national poll on the presidential election is released, it’s followed by a chorus of responses along the lines of, Who cares? The national popular vote is meaningless. Well, I care. So do tens of millions of other Americans.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


Why Trump Supporters Can’t Admit Who He Really Is


Other than open racists - who I am beginning to believe are much more numerous than I once believed - and the wealthy who care only about their money and low taxes it is difficult to grasp why otherwise seemingly (perhaps that's the operative word) decent and moral people continue to defend and support Donald Trump, a man who is the walking embodiment of immorality.  I know people who are wonderful in many ways yet continue to engage in moral contortions to avoid admitting they are supporting and/or acting as apologists for a man who is pure evil. A piece in The Atlantic looks at the phenomenon.  What I find hard to understand is what the Trump supporters so desperately fear that drives them to such lengths to support immorality.  Are a few more neighbors with different skin color that terrifying? Here are article highlights:

To understand the corruption, chaos, and general insanity that is continuing to engulf the Trump campaign and much of the Republican Party right now, it helps to understand the predicate embraced by many Trump supporters: If Joseph R. Biden Jr. wins the presidency, America dies.

During last week’s Republican National Convention, speaker after speaker insisted that life under a Biden presidency would be dystopian. Charlie Kirk, the young Trump acolyte who opened the proceedings, declared, “I am here tonight to tell you—to warn you—that this election is a decision between preserving America as we know it and eliminating everything that we love.”

One does not have to be a champion of the Democratic Party to know this chthonic portrait is absurd. But it is also essential, because it allows Trump and his followers to tolerate and justify pretty much anything in order to win. And “anything” turns out to be quite a lot.

In just the past two weeks, [Trump] the president has praised supporters of the right-wing conspiracy theory QAnon, which contends, as The Guardian recently summarized it, that “a cabal of Satan-worshipping Democrats, Hollywood celebrities and billionaires runs the world while engaging in pedophilia, human trafficking and the harvesting of a supposedly life-extending chemical from the blood of abused children.”

Trump touted a conspiracy theory that the national death toll from COVID-19 is about 9,000, a fraction of the official figure of nearly 185,000; promoted a program on the One America News Network accusing demonstrators of secretly plotting Trump’s downfall; encouraged his own supporters to commit voter fraud; and claimed Biden is controlled by “people that are in the dark shadows” who are wearing “dark uniforms.”

This is just the latest installment in a four-year record of shame, indecency, incompetence, and malfeasance. And yet, for tens of millions of Trump’s supporters, none of it matters. None of it even breaks through. At this point, it appears, Donald Trump really could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose his voters.

This phenomenon has no shortage of explanations, but perhaps the most convincing is the terror [Trup's] the president’s backers feel. Time and again, I’ve had conversations with Trump supporters who believe the president is all that stands between them and cultural revolution. Trump and his advisers know it, which is why the through line of the RNC was portraying Joe Biden as a Jacobin.

Republicans chose that theme despite the fact that during his almost 50 years in politics, Biden hasn’t left any discernible ideological imprint on either the nation or his own party. Indeed, Biden is notable for his success over the course of his political career in forging alliances with many Republicans. . . . . There will be no remaking of the calendar if Joe Biden becomes president.

Still, in the minds of Trump’s supporters lingers the belief that a Biden presidency would usher in a reign of terror. Many of them simply have to believe that. Justifying their fealty to a man who is so obviously a moral wreck requires them to turn Joe Biden and the Democratic Party into an existential threat. The narrative is set; the actual identity of the nominee is almost incidental.

A powerful tribal identity bonds the president to his supporters. As Amy Chua, the author of Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations, has argued, the tribal instinct is not just to belong, but also to exclude and to attack. “When groups feel threatened,” Chua writes, “they retreat into tribalism. They close ranks and become more insular, more defensive, more punitive, more us-versus-them.”

That works both ways. Fear strengthens tribalistic instincts, and tribalistic instincts amplify fear. Nothing bonds a group more tightly than a common enemy that is perceived as a mortal threat.

The danger of this mindset—in which the means, however unethical, justify the ends of survival—is obvious. And so in this case, Trump supporters will tolerate everything he does, from making hush-money payments to porn stars and engaging in sexually predatory behavior, to inviting America’s adversaries to intervene in our elections, to pressuring American allies to dig up dirt on the president’s opponent, to cozying up to some of the worst dictators in the world, to peddling crazed conspiracy theories, to mishandling a pandemic at the cost of untold lives, to countless other ethical and governing transgressions. Trump is given carte blanche by his supporters because they perceive him as their protector, transforming his ruthlessness from a vice into a virtue.

[I]f you do succeed in keeping the topic on Trump, they often twist themselves into knots in order to defend him, and in some cases they simply deny reality. . . . Very few Trump supporters I know are able to offer an honest appraisal of the man. To do so creates too much cognitive dissonance.

That they are defending a person who is fundamentally malicious, even if he makes judicial appointments of which they approve, is too painful for them to admit. They are similarly unable to admit they are defending an ethic that is at odds with what they have long championed. They have accepted, excused, and applauded Trump’s behavior and tactics, allowing his ends to justify his means.

[W]hat’s different in this case is that Trump, because of the corruption that seems to pervade every area of his life and his damaged psychological and emotional state, has shown us just how much people will accept in their leaders as a result of “negative partisanship,” the force that binds parties together less in common purpose than in opposition to a shared opponent. . . . His ideology is almost entirely beside the point, according to French: “His identity matters more, and his identity is clear—the Republican champion against the hated Democratic foe.”

[I]f there is a line Donald Trump could cross that would forfeit the loyalty of his core supporters—including, and in some respects especially, white evangelical Christians—I can’t imagine what it would be. And that is a rather depressing thing to admit.

Polarization and political tribalism are not new to America . . . . But this moment is different because Donald Trump is different, and because Donald Trump is president. His relentless assault on truth and the institutions of democracy—his provocations and abuse of power, his psychological instability and his emotional volatility, his delusions and his incompetence—are unlike anything we’ve seen before. He needs to be stopped. And his supporters can’t say, as they did in 2016, that they just didn’t know. Now we know. It’s not too late—it’s never too late—to do the right thing.

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Sunday Morning Male Beauty


Trump to To Federal Agencies: Cancel All Racial Sensitivity Training

In a continuing effort to rally his racist base, Donald Trump has demanded that all federal agencies cancel all racial/diversity sensitivity training. While initially aimed at training that focuses on racial minorities, the LGBT community should brace itself to be targeted as well given Trump's relentless efforts to roll back Obama administration policies that benefited gays and his efforts to allow health care workers to discriminate against LGBT individuals. Both the Washington Post and Forbes look at this blatant effort to win support of white supremacists and white evangelicals, the vast majority of whom, in my view are racists. I truly believe Trump would bring back the Jim Crow laws if he could. The man is pure evil.  Forbes said the following about this development:

What is deeply problematic about this new ban is that the U.S. has a habit of avoiding the country’s dark and racist past. Evading the issue will not make it go away. It will grow more insidious and resilient as each year passes. In June of 2020, America was finally willing to look in the mirror, acknowledge the past and start the long process to make amends in order to move to a point of racial reconciliation and healing. The momentum was building and setting the stage for progress to be made. But with the Trump administration’s recent announcement, the racial equity that the country has been striving for will be stalled.

Here's more from the Post:

President Trump is moving to revamp federal agencies’ racial sensitivity trainings, casting some of them as “divisive” and “un-American,” according to a memo by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

In the two-page memo, OMB Director Russell Vought says Trump has asked him to prevent federal agencies from spending millions in taxpayer dollars on these training sessions. Vought says OMB will instruct federal agencies to come up with a list of all contracts related to training sessions involving “white privilege” or “critical race theory,” and do everything possible within the law to cancel those contracts, the memo states.

“The President has directed me to ensure that federal agencies cease and desist from using taxpayer dollars to fund these divisive, un-American propaganda training sessions,” the memo states.

Trump responded “Not any more!” to one person’s tweet, which read “critical race theory is the greatest threat to western civilization and it’s made its way into the US federal government, the military, and the justice system.”

Recent Fox News segments have heavily criticized “diversity and inclusion” efforts in the federal government started under the Obama administration.

[E]xperts say racial and diversity awareness trainings are essential steps in helping rectify the pervasive racial inequities in American society, including those perpetuated by the federal government. Several studies have found federal contracts are disproportionately awarded to white-owned businesses. In 2017, a study by the Minority Business Development Agency found a dwindling over two decades in contracts for minority-owned businesses, according to NPR.

An administration official said the order has already gone into effect: Such a training on “class biases” scheduled for Friday was postponed. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details about a postponed session.

Racial awareness trainings can help officials realize unconscious bias in the awarding of contracts from the federal government, the country’s largest employer, said M.E. Hart, an attorney who has given hundreds of diversity training sessions for businesses and the federal government for more than 20 years.

The racial sensitivity trainings can improve morale and cooperation in the workplace, and by increasing the diversity of perspectives, ultimately improve overall efficiency, Hart said.

“If we are going to live up to this nation’s promise — ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’ — we have to see each other as human beings, and we have to do whatever it takes, including taking whatever classes make that possible,” Hart said. “These classes have been very powerful in allowing people to do that, and we need them more than ever. There’s danger here.”

The memo comes after Trump has put himself at the center of intense national debates about race, police tactics, the Civil War and the Confederate flag. Democrats have long taken aim at Trump’s comments about race, including his false assertion that former president Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

And this year, as numerous Black Lives Matter protests occurred around the country after police officers killed or shot Black Americans, Trump has sharply criticized social justice protesters and called for law enforcement to crack down.