Saturday, October 10, 2020

More Saturday Male Beauty


Are Republicans Finally Ready to Diss Trump

Over the better part of the last four years the self-prostitution by Republican elected officials has been shameless and the moral bankruptcy of these individuals makes a tawdry prostitute look virtuous in comparison.  No moral outrage or attack on governmental institutions or coddling of foreign dictators or dismissing of historic American allies has been enough to prompt even a whisper of protest form these spineless individuals who have cowered in fear of Trump's ire or, perhaps even more, the displeasure of the basket of deplorables who now comprise the Republican Party base: white supremacists, right wing Christian fanatics, and those who proudly embrace ignorance. The Trump GOP bears no resemblance to the party I grew up in or in which I served despite the mindless continuance of Republican Women's' luncheons which are the epitome of self-delusion.  Now, with a potentially catastrophic election bearing down on them, some Republican officeholders have grown a hint of a spine and are whispering criticism in the hope of saving their sorry behinds.  One can only hope it proves to be too little too late and they are washed away in a blue wave. Moral cowardice deserves to be severely punished.  A piece in Politico looks at this belated attempt by some Republicans to save their own asses.    Here are highlights:

For Republicans, fearful of a possible electoral disaster just weeks away, it has become safe at last to diss Donald Trump — or at least to distance themselves from him in unmistakably purposeful ways.

A barrage of barbed comments in recent days shows how markedly the calculus of fear has shifted in the GOP. For much of the past four years, Republican politicians were scared above all about incurring the wrath of the president and his supporters with any stray gesture or remark that he might regard as not sufficiently deferential. Now, several of them are evidently more scared of not being viewed by voters as sufficiently independent.

This is far from an insurrection. Republicans in the main aren’t outright repudiating Trump. But they are effectively rolling their eyes in exasperation with him, and especially his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Among the most vivid recent examples:

* Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas acknowledging in a Friday interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that he’s “worried” about the election, which he warned could be a “bloodbath of Watergate proportions” for his party, depending on how voters view the pandemic and economy on Election Day.

* Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell telling reporters Thursday he has not been to the White House in more than two months, since Aug. 6, because he doesn’t have confidence that Trump and his team are practicing good coronavirus hygiene.

* Sen. Thom Tillis, in a perilous fight for reelection in North Carolina, telling POLITICO in an interview that one reason to vote for him is to help Republicans keep their Senate majority as “the best check on a Biden presidency.”

* Sen. Martha McSally, running behind in her bid to keep her Arizona seat, refusing to say at a debate with challenger Mark Kelly — despite being pressed repeatedly by the moderator — whether she is proud of being a backer of Trump.

* Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican in a historically Democratic-leaning state, said this week that Trump has been “incredibly irresponsible” through words and actions “to ignore the advice of so many of the folks in the public health, epidemiol infectious disease community.”

* After Trump abruptly called off talks on a new economic recovery plan this week, a number of Republicans publicly broke with Trump’s strategy. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, one of the most vulnerable Republicans up for reelection, went so far as to call Trump’s move a “huge mistake.

In the past, Trump has been able to effectively end the careers of people who drew his ire. . . . . One thing that’s changed, operatives in both parties say, is that there is now strength in numbers. A growing roster of Republicans are stepping sideways or ducking from the camera to make sure they are not captured in the same frame as Trump. In addition, Trump is simply too consumed by the resident chaos all around his West Wing in the closing weeks of his own reelection campaign to carry out punitive measures against GOP disloyalists.

Even some of Trump’s top supporters on Capitol Hill recognize that the coronavirus is a huge political unknown for them. Party operatives say the GOP is in a far better position if the election is focused on the Supreme Court battle, as opposed to a referendum on Trump’s leadership during the global health crisis.

Doug Heye, a former Republican National Committee communications director, likened the moves of prominent GOP figures this week to “animals before an earthquake” trying to reposition themselves before what could be “a disastrous election for the Republicans.”

In order to hang on, operatives say Republican candidates need to untether themselves from Trump by building a separate brand and message on the pandemic — without provoking the rage of the president or his supporters.

But “it’s really hard to successfully do that, given the intensity of Trump’s base,” acknowledged Heye. “They allow you to be critical of Trump on [certain] issues, but not on things that are really Trump-centric.”

And so far, there’s little evidence the strategy is working.

The GOP’s fortunes haven’t markedly improved in Maine — where Collins has refused to say whether she will even vote for Trump. The party is facing uphill climbs in Arizona and Colorado, and is in tough shape in Iowa. Meanwhile, Democratic Senate hopefuls now appear competitive in previously safe states such as Kansas and South Carolina. In North Carolina, the party’s political prospects are only looking brighter after a sexting scandal involving Cal Cunningham, the Democrat trying to unseat Tillis.

Texas: How Joe Biden Can End the Drama on Election Night

Early in the year I read a book which in part involved a fictional 2020 Democrat presidential candidate who ends up winning Texas and the election.  Now, various polls show the race between Trump and Biden  neck and neck, a few even showing Biden in the lead. No one would have predicted this a year ago even though Texas is seeing demographic changes similar to those that turned Virginia blue: growing numbers of urban/suburban voters who eventually can out vote the backward rural areas and thereby hand Democrats statewide races. A piece I book marked a few days ago in the Washington Post makes the case that Joe Biden needs to actively campaign and spend money in Texas so he can (i) win Texas and (ii) make Trump's loss crystal clear on election day night.  Without Texas, Trump simply cannot win and with the restrictions on voting in Texas, the outcome will be known election day night.  And as in the fictional election in the book, Harris County - home of Houston - could be key.  Not by coincidence, Jill Biden will be campaigning in Houston this coming week. Here are column highlights that make the case for Biden pursuing Texas:

Joe Biden can end the election on election night. All it takes is an investment in Texas. Texas is the state where big, late money and showing up could put an end to the suspense about whether President Trump will concede defeat Nov. 3. That’s because Texas’s 38 electoral college votes are the most up for grabs of any swing state.

Yes, Texas is a swing state in this election. Biden has consistently polled better in Texas than has any recent Democratic candidate — according to FiveThirtyEight’s polling average, Trump leads Biden in Texas by 1.6 points, a statistical tie — and polls have consistently underestimated the actual results for every recent Democratic candidate on Election Day. It’s a strategic opportunity Biden must seize because if he wins Texas, he wins the election.

Thanks to Republican efforts to suppress voter turnout, Texas did not expand vote by mail in midst of a global pandemic. As a result, we will know the winner of the Texas presidential election on election night. If Texas turns blue that night, and its 38 electoral votes go to Biden, then Trump would have no viable path to victory, and the election would be over that night, before Trump’s lawyers can get through the courtroom doors to stop the vote counts in other states. If Biden wins Texas along with the likely blue states of Colorado, New Mexico, Minnesota and Virginia, he would still win the White House even if he loses all the swing states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, Arizona and Florida. Trump, on the other hand, cannot win without Texas.

[W]hy focus on Texas?” Here’s the answer: Pennsylvanians are going to vote by mail in huge numbers, and it will take days, if not weeks, to certify the results there. Biden may very well win that state, but we might not know for sure until it is too late, after Trump has already had time to create election chaos and doubt about the results. The same could be said about the swing states of Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Florida.

Biden, his campaign and Democrats in general need to make it clear: We are competing in Texas, and we’ll invest whatever it takes to turn out the state’s true electoral majority and flip Texas once and for all. Although winning in Texas, more than any other state, would end Trump’s hopes of holding onto the Oval Office (by hook or by crook), Democrats have historically failed to invest in Texas, despite the size of this prize, . . . . But, like many things in 2020, this year is different — Biden has his foot in the door and needs to kick it open for a quick end to the election.

For months, Biden’s polling average has consistently been within the margin of error in Texas. And the race continues to tighten. But what is important to understand is since the 2008 election, polling of the Texas electorate has significantly underestimated Democratic performance because, unlike demographically declining states, Texas has a growing, dynamic electorate with many new voters who are younger, more likely to have college degrees and more likely to be people of color — and often difficult to poll. As a result of this rapid demographic change, Texas is not only more racially diverse and urban than most other swing states, but also more rapidly trending Democratic.

That gives us reason to believe polling in Texas this cycle masks a potential Biden victory. He has consistently been running better than any Democratic candidate in decades. You would have to look back to 1976 — the last time a Democratic presidential candidate won Texas — for a race this tight.

The repeated failure of polls to accurately predict voters’ actual choices not only reflects pollsters’ difficulty in sampling a rapidly changing electorate, but also the years of organizing by tireless activists on the ground in Texas to turn out less-than-likely voters, particularly Latino, Black, Asian and young voters. That work continues today.

Just since 2016, Texas has added 1,516,349 voters to the registration rolls, nearly double Trump’s margin of victory in 2016 of 807,179 voters. While third party candidates took about 4 percent of the vote, or about 350,000 votes in 2016, they are expected to receive much less of the votes in 2020, improving Biden’s chances.

The power of Texas’s changing electorate has had an impact in the state’s megametros, home to more than 75 percent of Texas voters, with demographically diverse suburbs moving in the Democrats’ direction. Harris County (which encompasses Houston) is the center of this shift, and with more voters than the state of Nevada, the county carries a heavy influence in statewide Texas results. Harris County Democratic officials, who won power in 2018, are now using their executive authority to expand voting rights and increase voter participation. These election officials have created 24-hour polling locations and added an additional week of early voting on top of what the state has already allowed.

That means Biden has an opportunity to make investments that could energize the turnout of a powerful base of voters of color and young people who represent the present and future of not only Texas but also the nation.

Texas is the quickest route to victory in this election. At a minimum, an investment here would force the GOP to continue to spend massive amounts of cash to defend the state, while also supporting Texas Democrats’ effort to flip several suburban House districts and, crucially, gain control of the state House of Representatives in time for redistricting in 2021. With the state projected to get numerous new congressional districts after the 2020 census, it is imperative Democrats get a say in redistricting. That will set the stage for what is possible for Texas Democrats for the next decade and beyond. If we invest in Texas now, it will reverberate up and down the ballot, securing Democratic victories statewide and in federal elections over the long term.

It’s clear Trump is in trouble in Texas. Given the high stakes in the presidential election and strategic opportunity in Texas, Biden has no better investment than turning out voters in the Lone Star State. This is not the cycle for Democrats to wonder if Texas is going to flip. This is the election to make it flip — and end the national nightmare on election night.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

 Dedicated to Mike Pence

Mike Pence's Chilling Complicity

At the moment the nation finds itself with its two top leaders willing to do anything to retain power.  It the case of Donald Trump the driving cause is his megalomania and malignant narcissism.  It the case of Mike Pence it is his overweening - indeed, obsession - with become president, something he thinks god has ordained. To achieve this goal, Pence has proven willing to throw aside everything he claims to hold dear in terms of religious belief, a religious belief I suspect is driven in part by him being a closeted gay.  From all of my experience, no one is as hysterically anti-gay as Pence unless they have their own issues of sexuality.  Sadly, Pence is emblematic of those "conservative Christians" - I see them as anything but Christian - who have entered the political realm not to build god's kingdom on earth but instead in a unquenchable thirst for power. To achieve Pence's goal no amount of self-prostitution to an man who is evil itself is too much.  Caging children and seeking to take away health care coverage for millions are only stepping stones to power that Pence lusts for.  With luck, the Trump/Pence ticket will go down to a horrific defeat and Pence's political goals will go up in flames.  The last thing needs is someone like Pence in the White House.  A column in the New York Times brands Pence as perhaps more evil than Trump.  Here are column excerpts:

Somewhere under the cornfields and backyard hoop courts of Indiana is a small black box holding the conscience of Vice President Mike Pence. He buried it four years ago, when a tape emerged of Donald Trump boasting about sexually assaulting women.

Pence and his wife, Karen, whom he reportedly calls “Mother,” had rushed home to pray during the biggest campaign crisis of 2016. Ever since an evangelical conversion in college, Pence had been a beacon of Hoosier holiness, using his talk radio show and his political perch to preach biblical values in the public sphere.

But, of course, he buried them in a heartland moment. And by 2017, Pence would have this to say about Trump to religious conservatives: “This is somebody who shares our views, shares our values, shares our beliefs.”

As we saw in Wednesday night’s debate, Pence is not just the great enabler of Trump’s awfulness, but the man who puts a godly sheen on it. In that sense, he’s more dangerous, and arguably more evil, than Trump.

You have to think that he knows better, that he knows the man he serves is rotten to the core. But his sycophancy is not all connivance and cunning. No — he’s simply playing his role in God’s plan.

It’s taking potshots at a three-legged moose to note that if God planned to put kids in cages, to destroy much of creation with wildfire and flooding, to send more than 210,000 Americans to an early grave from a pandemic, such a plan would call for some dissent with the master architect.

In the earthly realm, nobody expects the vice president to stand up to his president. Nor, even, to not do his bidding in the dark arts of Trumpism. But it’s putting a moral — and to Pence, religious — gloss on this American nightmare that makes his deep complicity so chilling.

His task on Wednesday was to lie and dodge with civility and aw-shucks earnestness. With his flat Midwestern accent and his silver-haired gladhandedness, Pence is the silk to Trump’s sandpaper. He has the mien of a man trying to sell you dog food laced with Ambien.

Trump is bulldozer blunt about violating norms, decency and the truth. He may not honor election results if they don’t go his way. He wants to put his political rivals in jail. Household disinfectants are good for Covid-19. Pence is the one to say, Gosh and gee willikers, he doesn’t really mean this stuff. He’s cleanup on the aisle of atrocities at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Indiana . . . . for a time in the 1920s, no state had more members of the Ku Klux Klan than Indiana — nearly one in three native-born white males. And this uniquely American domestic terror group was soaked in the rituals and piety of rural conservative values.

Pence doesn’t seem like a hater or a race-baiter, but he certainly makes his boss, who is one, more palatable to those who profess to live by godliness. When Trump gave the neo-Nazis at Charlottesville a pass, Pence was quick to the rescue, saying that under Trump, “We’re going to continue to see more unity in America.”

When the world was appalled at the cruelty of family separation at the border, Pence paid a visit, and said nothing to see here, because “We spoke to cheerful children who were watching television, having snacks.”

And just before the pandemic took a huge swing for the worse, Pence penned an essay in The Wall Street Journal in June saying no second wave was coming, because “the progress we’ve made is remarkable” and was “a cause for celebration.” Since then, another 100,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the United States.

Pence, as head of the White House pandemic task force, should be crawling under a rock in shame. Instead, he’s all bromides and excuses.

On health care, perhaps the biggest of the Big Lies of Trumpism, Pence said, “President Trump and I have a plan.” In fact, they have never unveiled a plan and are currently in court trying to dismantle Obamacare and its protections for pre-existing conditions. As with the pandemic, this is no mere policy difference, but blatant disregard for human life by an administration that professes to be “pro-life.”

As important as it will be in the coming months to purge the country of Trump’s dehumanizing legacy — the hatred of “others,” the normalizing of lying, the rejection of science and reality — it will be equally important to confront the enablers and collaborators.

And when historians go looking for answers as to how this country could go so bad so quickly, they will find all they need in the words of the 45th president’s chief enabler and collaborator.

Friday, October 09, 2020

Friday Morning Male Beauty


Be Very Afraid of An Increasingly Desperate Donald Trump

There have been previous presidents who could politely be said to have had mental health/personality disorder issues - Richard Nixon for one springs to mind - but never before has America had an occupant of the White House so openly mentally disturbed as Donald Trump, a totally self-absorbed malignant narcissist. Now, with polls suggesting that he is headed towards electoral defeat next month, perhaps in a landslide loss, Americans should be very afraid of what Trump might do.  His sick ego may well crack under the judgment of Americans (other than white supremacists and far right Christian extremists) that they do not want him and thoroughly reject him. Throughout his self-absorbed life Trump has been able to lie and cheat his way out of disaster.  He may be about to have to face the reality that he is loathed by millions who want him gone from the political scene, a place he should never have been granted four years ago.  A column in the Washington Post looks at Trump's increasing desperation and the need for decent, moral Americans to take whatever measures are needed to insure Trump loses by a landslide.  Here are excerpts:

Predictions are risky these days, but I make this one confidently: President Trump's frantic desperation at the prospect of losing the election will only get worse. Probably much worse.

I know that seems impossible, given the volume of vitriol now spewing hourly from the president. And I know it makes no political sense for Trump to continue to sound like a deranged end-of-days preacher yelling at random passersby. But nothing in Trump's history suggests he will abandon his reelection "strategy" of unceasing bombast, transparent lies, manufactured grievance, unhinged conspiracy-mongering and an unforgivable attempt to disrupt the electoral process itself.

Another day, another flood of dangerous and offensive nonsense: In a single telephone interview Thursday with Fox Business Network, Trump vowed not to attend a virtual debate next week with his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, complaining that the moderator would actually be able to cut him off; called Biden's running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), a "monster" and a "communist," among other insults; and described himself as a "perfect physical specimen," saying he believed he had been "cured" of covid-19, a disease for which there is no known cure.

Trump also attacked two of his most loyal and obedient Cabinet members, Attorney General William P. Barr and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, for not helping his political prospects by fabricating a criminal investigation of Biden and Hillary Clinton. Yes, he is still ranting about her emails.

Trump has two good reasons to panic. Foremost are the recent polls showing that his political support is clearly eroding. The RealClearPolitics poll average now shows him trailing Biden by 9.7 points nationally, which would be a landslide. Even Rasmussen Reports, usually Trump's most favorable pollster, released a survey this week showing Biden ahead by 12 points. Polls of likely voters in the battleground states also show that his prospects range, from Trump's point of view, between dismal and catastrophic.

The other calamity Trump faces is his own covid-19 diagnosis, one of dozens of cases in a growing cluster centered on the White House. Trump wants voters to believe his administration has done an outstanding job in handling the pandemic, despite the fact that the United States has suffered far more infections and deaths per capita than other wealthy countries.

Trump could have used his own illness to express empathy for the millions of other Americans who have been infected with the novel coronavirus — and sympathy for the 212,000 who have died. Instead, he tried to project defiance and strength.

Any other politician might step back and take a wider view. If Trump's covid-19 diagnosis caused his poll numbers to swoon, they might recover somewhat as his condition — one hopes — improves. If voters disapproved of his obnoxiousness during last week's debate against Biden, he could try a different approach next time. But Trump either hates to change course or doesn't know how. From every indication, he intends to plow straight ahead — never mind the cliff he is rapidly approaching.

The Republican senators Trump is dragging down with him have not yet cut him loose in an attempt to save themselves. But there are rustlings. If and when these endangered incumbents begin to assert their independence, you will know that Trump's collapse in the polls is real.

The fact that he's openly attacking Barr, Pompeo and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray tells me that he doesn't really expect them to concoct a bogus investigation of Biden before the election. But Barr, especially, appears more than willing to help in Trump's attempt to delegitimize any voting process that produces a Biden victory.

The most important thing we can do is vote. Republicans can make it inconvenient for voters to cast their ballots, but they can't make it impossible. Vote early by mail and track your ballot online. Vote early in person, wearing a mask and taking all precautions. Have a plan for Election Day, and follow through. Be patient, be determined, don't give up.

And as for Trump, let him howl at the moon all he wants. He's scared. And he has good reason to be. 

Thursday, October 08, 2020

More Thursday Male Beauty


The Growing Danger of Illegal White "Militias"

Today's announcement that the F.B.I. had thwarted a plot by people associated with an extremist white militia group in Michigan to kidnap Democrat Governor Gretchen Whitmer - some of their communications suggested assassinating her - and overthrow that state's government underscores the threat posed by these illegal groups.  Yes, illegal groups.  The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (one of the Founders' grave errors, in my view) gives ZERO legal authority for the formation of such groups and, indeed, under the laws of a majority of the states they are flat out illegal.  For example, the only militia authorized under the Code of Virginia is the National Guard which is under the command of the Governor.   A column in the New York Times by a constitutional law professor lays out (i) the danger posed by these vigilante groups, and (ii) the reality that they are 100% illegal and need to be closed down by state and federal authorities notwithstanding Donald Trump's encouragement of such extremists to take the law into their own hands. Here are column highlights:

In the swirls of disinformation that now pollute our political discourse, one is particularly dangerous: that private militias are constitutionally protected.

Although these vigilante groups often cite the Second Amendment’s “well regulated militia” for their authority, history and Supreme Court precedent make clear that the phrase was not intended to — and does not — authorize private militias outside of government control.

Indeed, these armed groups have no authority to call themselves forth into militia service; the Second Amendment does not protect such activity; and all 50 states prohibit it.

The danger of these groups was brought home on Thursday with the announcement that the F.B.I. had thwarted a plot by people associated with an extremist group in Michigan to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and overthrow the government.

Court documents say that the group discussed trying the governor for treason and murdering “tyrants.” Six men now face federal kidnapping conspiracy charges, but unauthorized militia activity continues in Michigan and elsewhere.

The unnamed militia involved in the kidnapping plot is part of a growing number of private paramilitary groups mobilizing across the country, wholly outside of lawful authority or governmental accountability.

Sometimes they want to fight against the perceived tyranny of the states, as when they stormed the Capitol in Lansing, Mich., this spring to demand the end of the governor’s pandemic shutdown order, egged on by President Trump’s tweets to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!”

Sometimes they want to usurp the functions of law enforcement, as they’ve done in Kenosha, Wis., and elsewhere, purporting to “protect” property during racial justice protests, often in response to false rumors about leftist violence, rumors stoked by the president’s calls to designate “antifa” as a terrorist organization.

Most alarmingly, some of them are planning their own poll-watching and openly training in preparation for the post-election period.

Whatever their stated purpose, their conduct is unlawful and not constitutionally protected. . . . . “well regulated” meant that the militias were trained, armed and controlled by the state. Indeed, 48 states have provisions in their constitutions that explicitly require the militia to be strictly subordinate to the civil authority.

Likewise, state constitutions and laws then and now generally name the governor as the commander in chief of its armed forces — and only the governor or a designee has the power to call forth the able-bodied residents for militia service.

The federal and state government control of the militia has also been confirmed by the Supreme Court. In 1886, the court upheld the constitutionality of a state criminal law that made it unlawful for “any body of men” outside state or federal governmental authority to “associate themselves together as a military company or organization, or to drill or parade with arms in any city or town of the state.”

This criminal statute and others were enacted after the Civil War and are on the books of 29 states. The Supreme Court said without question that states had authority to control and regulate military bodies and associations as “necessary to the public peace, safety and good order.”

The court’s 1886 decision was reaffirmed in 2008 in Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller. That case established that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms for self-defense, but “does not prevent the prohibition of private paramilitary organizations.” Although there are many gray areas about Second Amendment rights, this is not one of them.

Twenty-five states prohibit teaching, demonstrating or practicing in the use of firearms or “techniques” capable of causing injury or death for use during a civil disorder. Eighteen states prohibit either the false assumption of the duties of public officials, including law-enforcement officials, or the wearing of uniforms similar to military uniforms.

All these laws point to a single conclusion: There is no right in any state for groups of individuals to arm themselves and organize either to oppose or augment the government.

Now, more than ever, state and local officials must enforce these statutes. In battleground states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as other hotbeds of militia activity like Oregon, Idaho, Virginia and Texas, they must ready themselves for unlawful private militias showing up at the polls and on the streets during ballot counting and beyond.

Those groups, like the Three Percenters, Oath Keepers and others that claim to be “patriots” but answer to their own interpretation of the Constitution, are likely to hear [Trump's] the president’s unsupported claims about election fraud as their license to deploy to the polls to “protect” or “patrol” the vote.

State and local leaders, in both parties, must denounce armed militia activity, whether from the right or the left.

These leaders may also have to take swift action to protect public safety and preserve constitutional rights. But the law is on their side — private armed militias find no support in the U.S. or state constitutions or in American history. They must not be tolerated in our society.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty


Pence Failed to Change the Subject


At this moment in time save for the Trump/GOP effort to ram through an extremist onto the Supreme Court every topic/issue slamming average Americans revolves around the coronavirus pandemic: the staggering economy, concerns about health care, unemployment figures, businesses on the verge of closing - the list goes on and on.  And all of these issues ultimately trace to the Trump/Pence regimes failure to be honest with the public about the virus from the outset, its dismantling of government bodies that might have meant the nation would be better prepared, and, of course, its refusal to ever provide a coordinated national plan to address the virus and stop it. If Mike Pence had any mission last night during the vice presidential debate it was to change the subject at dominating the minds of Americans other than extreme Christofascists and white supremacists who are thrilled by Trump's Hitleresque behavior.  As a piece in New York Magazine notes, Pence failed to accomplish this mission,  Here are article excerpts: 

After last week’s disastrous Trump-Biden showdown, watching Wednesday’s vice-presidential debate was a bit disorienting, as Kamala Harris and Mike Pence both spoke in complete sentences and now and then respected the rules of the encounter. Yes, Harris and Pence were mostly delivering predictable partisan talking points, but they delivered them reasonably well. There were no big gaffes and no knockout blows.

However, when you consider the context going into the event, Wednesday’s relatively sedate debate looks like another huge stumble for the Trump campaign. With less than four weeks before Election Day, Joe Biden is holding a steady polling lead that now seems to be growing, and Donald Trump’s COVID-19 infection is dominating the news. Mike Pence had one job, which he failed to accomplish: Change the subject!

Unsurprisingly, moderator Susan Page began the debate with questions about the administration’s record in fighting COVID-19, and Pence didn’t have much to offer other than Trump’s decision to ban travel from China. Harris scored some easy points right off the bat, as Politico reported:

Kamala Harris sharply denounced the White House coronavirus response at the start of Wednesday’s vice presidential debate, repeatedly accusing the Trump administration of covering up the truth about the disease and ineptly addressing the pandemic.

“They knew what was happening, and they didn’t tell you,” Harris said, adding later, “They knew, and they covered it up.”

And in her biggest sure-to-be-on-TV lines of the entire debate, Harris framed the election as a referendum on the administration’s COVID-19 record:

Ms. Harris characterized President Trump’s response to coronavirus as “the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country” and said Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence have “forfeited their right to re-election” because of how they have handled the pandemic.

After that predictable battering, Pence made one significant unforced error by bringing up COVID-19 again when China policy was discussed. And he completely dodged any answer to related questions about health-care policy, including the fraught issue of protections for people with preexisting conditions,

So in an election when health-care policy is an old reliable Democratic advantage and Trump’s record on COVID-19 looms so very large, this debate reinforced the current trajectory of the campaign, which is not good for Donald Trump and Mike Pence. I am sure conservative media will make much hay over Harris’s evasion of the question about potential Democratic court-packing. But court-packing isn’t killing hundreds of thousands of people and doesn’t seem terribly relevant when a plague-stricken White House is obsessed with cramming a third Trump Supreme Court justice through a rushed confirmation process.

It was clear that Pence, who tonight more than ever seemed like the whitest white man in America, clearly ran a big risk by steadily interrupting the two women with whom he shared the stage.

But in the end, this debate was not a game-changer. And at this stage of the contest, that means Kamala Harris won.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Christofascists Challenge Virginia's LGBT Non-discrimination Law

This blog has long maintained that far right Christians who seek to force their beliefs on all of society - the Christofascists, if you will - have never wanted equality under the law for themselves.  No, instead they want special rights that place them above the laws that bind the rest of us and they want a blank check to discriminate and mistreat anyone they choose.  With Virginia's enactment of comprehensive non-discrimination protections during the 2020 session of the General Assembly, these purveyors of hate are outraged that their ability to mistreat other citizens - often while gorging on taxpayer funds like pigs at a trough - are finally being properly curtailed.  Now, two lawsuits have been filed by the misnamed Alliance Defending Freedom, a certified hate group, challenging Virginia's new laws.  An article looks at the lawsuits and the disingenuous claims of the plaintiffs.  Here are highlights:

A wedding photographer and a group of several "Christian" - the parentheticals are mine]  institutions filed two different lawsuits against Virginia officials Monday over a new law that bans discrimination against the LGBT community. 

The lawyers representing the plaintiffs argue that the law violates their First Amendment rights and forces them to “abandon and adjust their convictions or pay crippling fines.” 

The law, titled the Virginia Values Act, went into effect on July 1 and prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in housing, public and private employment, public accommodations and access to credit. It was the first Southern state to adopt these types of protections for the LGBT community. Violations could be met with fines of up to $50,000.

In one lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Loudoun County wedding photographer Bob Updegrove argues that the law forces him to photograph same-sex weddings, even though he is opposed to same-sex marriage because of his faith. 

Jonathan Scruggs, a lawyer with Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBT legal organization representing the plaintiffs in both cases, claims the new policy places the photographer in an impossible position between promoting “views against their faith” and violating the law.

“The government cannot demand that artists create content that violates their deepest convictions,” Scruggs said in a statement posted to the Alliance Defending Freedom’s website. 

In a separate suit filed in Loudoun County Circuit Court, two churches, a religious school and a pregnancy center network claim the law will force them to hire employees who don’t share their beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity. 

The U.S. Supreme Court has previously ruled that no religious organization can be required to hire someone outside their faith and they must be allowed to dismiss or hire their leaders without government interference. 

“Virginia’s new law forces these ministries to abandon and adjust their convictions or pay crippling fines,” Denise Harle, another Alliance Defending Freedom lawyer, said in a statement. “Such government hostility toward people of faith has no place in a free society.”

Charlotte Gomer, a spokesperson for Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, said he was still reviewing the lawsuits and would respond in court.

“Attorney General Herring believes that every Virginian has the right to be safe and free from discrimination no matter what they look like, where they come from, or who they love,” she said in a statement. “LGBT Virginians are finally protected from housing and employment discrimination under Virginia law and Attorney General Herring looks forward to defending the Virginia Values Act in court against these attacks.”

Equality Virginia heavily advocated for the Virginia Values Act. In a statement, Executive Director Vee Lamneck pointed to the support the law garnered from a coalition of more than 140 religious leaders in 2019. 

“Protecting LGBTQ Virginians from discrimination does not threaten [religious] freedom,” Lamneck said in their statement. “That’s why people of faith across the state advocated with us in support of the Virginia Values Act — because of their deep faith — not in spite of it.”

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


Trump Is Losing Among Seniors at a Historic Rate

For pretty much the last 25 years Republicans have had a lock on the senior vote - those over age 65 - which not only allowed Donald Trump to eek out his slim Electoral College win in 2016 but also has helped Republicans in down ballot races.  Now, a massive exodus of senior voters from Trump - some polls show Biden with a lead of 25 points or more among this demographic - and what ought to terrify congressional Republicans is the possibility that this group of voters will punish down ballot GOP candidates for their shameless self-prostitution to Trump.  While Trump's shocking mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic response and now his insane statements that citizens should not worry about the virus may be alienating senior voters most at risk of death from the virus (and who would not receive the extraordinary treatment regime enjoyed by Trump), it is also possible that the older generations are also simply tired of the endless lies and the immorality of Trump and his toxic regime.  A piece in CNN looks at this voter exodus which one can only hope intensifies.  Here are article excerpts: 

Former Vice President Joe Biden has jumped out to an 11-point lead over President Donald Trump in CNN's poll of polls. While Biden is doing better with pretty much all groups compared with 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, one group jumps out: seniors.

Biden's well on his way to doing better with seniors than any Democratic nominee in at least 24 years.  Take a look at our latest CNN/SSRS poll. Biden's up by 21 points among voters 65 and older. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll out over the weekend put him up by 27 points with seniors. 

These are, to put it mildly, massive differences from 2016. In the final average of registered-voter polls, Trump led Clinton by 5 points among seniors. His advantage was 6 points among likely voters. These polls are suggesting something along the lines of 25- to 30-point shifts in Biden's direction.

Importantly, I already have noted how this movement among seniors is being seen on the state level as well. In Florida, for instance, where seniors make up around 30% of voters, Biden's winning with voters 65 and older. Last time around, Clinton lost those voters by nearly 10 points in the final preelection polls. 

But it's not just the comparisons with 2016 that make Biden's performance impressive. It's also comparisons with every Democratic candidate in the last generation. 

No Democrat has really come close to winning with voters 65 and older. The last time the network exit polls had any Democrat winning with seniors was in 2000, with Al Gore. 

You really need to go back to 1996 and Bill Clinton to find any Democrat who was approaching Biden's lead with voters 65 and older. In that cycle, voters 65 and older were mostly made up of the Greatest Generation -- a group that leaned more Democratic than you might expect in later elections as well. 

Indeed, that's what makes what's going on with current seniors all the more interesting. The shift away from the Republicans is happening over one election cycle. We're talking about the same basic group of voters. 

Now, it would be easy to think that seniors' movement away from Trump is because of the coronavirus, which is disproportionately affecting them. They're more likely than any other age group to think the pandemic is an important issue, and they trust Biden over Trump by a 25-point margin on who is best to handle it. 

Coronavirus may be responsible for some of the tremendous advantages Biden got in the CNN and NBC News/Wall Street Journal polls, though I'm not sure it is the root cause. 

As I pointed out previously, Biden's been doing better with seniors than Clinton since before the pandemic hit earlier this year. A year ago, he was up 11 points over Trump in a CNN poll. 

Whatever the root cause, losing seniors is one big reason that Trump is a significant underdog at this point. They're about 25% of the electorate. When you're doing 15 points or more worse with a quarter of voters, you'll likely be in big trouble. And so it is for Trump.

 Senior voters seem to realize that they must vote as if their lives depended on the outcome of the election - because Trump is indeed a threat to their lives.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

More Tuesday Male Beauty


What Thomas and Alito Get Wrong About Same-Sex Marriage

As noted in a recent post, Justices Thomas and Alito issued a statement recently that appeared to signal that they would be willing to overrule the Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges all in conjunction with  their effort to place far right Christians and evangelicals exemptions from non-discrimination laws. Sadly, nothing but special rights for far right Christians will satisfy those like Thomas and Alito who believe that the rights of adherents to certain religious traditions - i.e., Christofascists - should be override the rights of others. A column in the Washington Post lays out the falsity - my we say hypocrisy? - of Thomas' and Alito's reasoning.  Here are column excerpts: 

[I]t was disappointing to read a threadbare statement written by Thomas, joined by Alito, that was appended to a unanimous decision of the court not to hear the appeal of Kim Davis, a Kentucky public official who refused to issue marriage licenses because of her personal religious views against same-sex unions.

It was an odd document, not a dissent; just a four-page grumble about matters that may someday be a problem depending on the facts of unknown future cases. The justices might consider woodworking, because, from the looks of this, they don’t have enough to keep them busy. The statement, which carries no legal weight, is essentially a cry from the heart on behalf of Americans whose religious views condemn same-sex marriage. Fair enough: The freedom to hold beliefs different from those of the mainstream is a cherished aspect of American liberty. But the statement crosses into sophistry by suggesting that religious liberties are somehow infringed if they aren’t privileged above the civil law.

Thomas begins by restating dissents from the 2015 ruling that established the right of two consenting adults to enter a civil marriage irrespective of gender. This opinion was, as Justice Antonin Scalia forecast, the logical result of a 2003 holding that social mores, including religious views, cannot justify discrimination against homosexuals in the administration of government.

As he did in 2015, Thomas notes that same-sex marriage is not mentioned in the Constitution; and once again, it is an empty feint toward originalism. Opposite-sex marriage is not mentioned there, either. At the time of the Constitutional Convention, certain devout Americans, called Shakers, condemned all marriage as “whoredom.” Originalism therefore appears to teach that protection of religious freedom (for example, the right of Shakers to condemn marriage) does not extend to imposing one’s beliefs on the unenumerated rights of other citizens.

Thomas acknowledges — in a footnote — that Davis had no legal leg to stand on. She wasn’t in court because her religious faith teaches that same-sex marriage is wrong, or as part of a church that refused to perform same-sex marriages. She was in court because she refused to do her legal duty, as clerk of Rowan County, to issue lawful marriage licenses. . . . . Nothing that transpired in Kentucky violated any of Davis’s rights, which is why Thomas and Alito agreed that her appeal did not merit a hearing.

But they worry that someone, somewhere, someday might lose his or her religious freedom. By establishing equal rights for homosexuals, Thomas wrote, the Supreme Court “enable[d] courts and governments to brand religious adherents who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman as bigots.” So the problem isn’t law but labeling? Thomas and Alito would prefer that Davis and others like her be called “devout,” rather than bigoted.

One can applaud their civility, I suppose, but not their logic, for this gets the First Amendment entirely backward. By prohibiting establishment of a state religion, the Constitution explicitly bars “courts and governments” from preferring one set of religious views over any other set — or over nonreligious views.

Nor does religious freedom confer immunity from criticism. Religious freedom by its nature implies robust disagreement over strongly held values. Imprecations will be hurled, alas. Names will be called. Devout Christians should appreciate this; indeed, we are called blessed when we’re reviled for the sake of our faith. Furthermore, we’re taught to distinguish between civil and religious authority, and to render due respect to both.

Churches and other religious establishments rightly have certain protections from laws that might compel them to violate their beliefs while conducting their own business. It’s dangerous to confuse that safe zone with a general power to flout the law.

Note: The photo above is from a blogger friend's wedding to his husband which was in Martha Stewart's wedding issue.

The Hypocrisy of Straight "Friends" & Family Who Vote Republican

The husband and I have numerous friends - and yes, some family members - who claim to love us, want us as friends, want the best for us, etc., yet then vote Republican and support the systemic homophobia of the GOP and the outright anti-LGBT hostility of the Trump/Pence regime.  Loving and caring about LGBT individuals and then voting Republican are diametrically opposed to one another.  You simply cannot have it both ways.  To pretend otherwise is the height of hypocrisy and/or self-delusion.  Especially in 2020 where the Trump regime has set the stage for tipping the U.S. Supreme Court and more relentless attacks on LGBT rights.  If you love and/or care about someone, you do not vote for political candidates who have an agenda of stripping away the civil rights of loved ones and legalizing discrimination and mistreatment.  I came across a column that lays this choice out well.  Purported friends and family members must take sides and, if they care about LGBT friends and family members have no option but to vote Democrat.  Here are column highlights:

Yes, my straight friends and family, you do have to choose.

The days of enduring your hypocrisy are over.

I’m exhausted by trying to spare your feelings.

I’m tired of hearing you say you love me. You support me. You love my wife. Then keep voting for people who openly advocate discriminating against me. Your silence in the face of hate crimes and anti-gay slurs.

No, this is not an abstract concept. You do not get to make yourself feel better by telling your friends about your gay sister, your gay brother, your gay son or daughter to prove you are not homophobic.

This is not some lofty conversation about some nameless, faceless, far off minority group trying to undo your safe, tidy, suburban lifestyle. I am your blood. I am your co-worker. I am your neighbor.

No, I will not tolerate you saying “oh, I don’t mean you.” “You’re not radical like them.”

I am them. When you talk about them, you talk about me. When you vote for a bigot, you vote against me. You do not get to pretend that because you have some other issue you care about that the harm done to me or my life is somehow incidental, acceptable collateral damage for which you have no responsibility.

You are responsible for your vote. You are responsible for the attacks on my very existence that are ongoing this very day. You are complicit because you fail to tell those lawmakers not to harm me or make my life harder.

So, let me be clear: This is personal. Your words matter. Your silence matters.

Every time you choose to ignore a public statement or post about my relationship, my fears for my marriage, and my very safety, you are siding against me. You are not standing with me. And if you are not standing with me then I must conclude you are against me.

That is what breaks my heart. Your need to be comfortable instead of your need to show your love for me. Your fear of what others think that overrides your ability to publicly show the world that you love me unconditionally.

Unconditionally. That means no conditions. Unequivocally. Regardless of consequence. Unconditional love is hard. Trust me, it’s painful when your love & support for me is obviously conditional.

I see you when you hesitate, hedge, ignore the post, call me on the phone to say happy anniversary because you can’t risk the public statement. When you can’t acknowledge my marriage the way you do your other children’s. When you tell me privately that you worry I speak out too much. That’s ironic because the best thing you could do to ensure my safety is to tell the world you will not tolerate anything less than equality for me.

Let’s get real. You’re not worried about me; you’re worried about what others will think about you.

The bottom line is this. I do need you to choose. I need you to show me you love me by telling the world exactly that. I need you to care as much about protecting my feelings as you do the rest of your straight friends, family, and co-workers. I need you to love me enough to vote for my equality and the equality and safety of every LGBTQ person in your life.

Yes, it’s time for you to pick a side. We need you to love us enough to take our side.

Tuesday Male Beauty


New York Times Endorses Joe Biden

Today, while acting as a spreader of Covid-19 against the advice of his doctors and medical experts, Donald Trump killed any hope of another stimulus bill until "after he wins" the 2020 presidential election.  This action kicks millions of Americans and countless small businesses into the gutter without needed assistance.  The stock market reacted by plunging 600 points. Meanwhile, Trump is telling American citizens to "not worry" about Covid and that it's less dangerous than the flu even as more of among his  staff and circle of sycophants - including Josef Goebbels wannabe Stephen Miller - test positive to Covid. The White House has become a super spreader venue. In this insane atmosphere, the New York Times has come out with its endorsement of Joe Biden for president. Biden was not my first choice, but now, in light of where the nation finds itself, he may be the best candidate to see Trump defeated - hopefully, ignominiously so - and to restore the rule of law and basic decency which has been utterly shredded under Trump and his power hungry scamvanegilist/evangelical supporters.  This election truly is about saving America's soul and restoring America's role in the world which has been severely harmed by Trump.  Here are excerpts from the Times' endorsement:

Joe Biden has vowed to be a president for all Americans, even those who do not support him. In previous elections, such a promise might have sounded trite or treacly. Today, the idea that the president should have the entire nation’s interests at heart feels almost revolutionary.

Mr. Biden has also vowed to “restore the soul of America.” It is a painful reminder that the country is weaker, angrier, less hopeful and more divided than it was four years ago. With this promise, Mr. Biden is assuring the public that he recognizes the magnitude of what the next president is being called upon to do. Thankfully, he is well suited to the challenge — perhaps particularly so.

In the midst of unrelenting chaos, Mr. Biden is offering an anxious, exhausted nation something beyond policy or ideology. His campaign is rooted in steadiness, experience, compassion and decency.

A President Biden would embrace the rule of law and restore public confidence in democratic institutions. He would return a respect for science and expertise to the government. He would stock his administration with competent, qualified, principled individuals. He would stand with America’s allies and against adversaries that seek to undermine our democracy. He would work to address systemic injustices. He would not court foreign autocrats or give comfort to white supremacists. His focus would be on healing divisions and rallying the nation around shared values. He would understand that his first duty, always, is to the American people.

But Mr. Biden is more than simply a steady hand on the wheel. His message of unity and pragmatism resonated with Democratic voters, who turned out in large numbers to elevate him above a sprawling primary field.

The former vice president is committed to working toward universal health care through measures such as adding a public option to the Affordable Care Act — which he played a significant role in passing — lowering the age for Medicare eligibility to 60 years old and cutting the cost of prescription drugs. He recognizes the fateful threat of climate change and has put forward an ambitious, $2 trillion plan to slash carbon emissions, invest in a green economy and combat environmental racism.

[H]e has acknowledged that the current trifecta of crises — a lethal pandemic, an economic meltdown and racial unrest — calls for an expanded governing vision. His campaign has been reaching out to a wide range of thinkers, including former rivals, to help craft more dynamic solutions. In midsummer, he rolled out an economic recovery plan, dubbed “Build Back Better,” with proposals to bolster American manufacturing, spur innovation, build a “clean-energy economy,” advance racial equity and support caregivers and educators. His plan for fighting the coronavirus includes the creation of a public health jobs corps. Progressives who want even more from him should not be afraid to push. Experience is not the same as stagnation.

He has an unusually rich grasp of and experience in foreign policy, which, as traditionally understood, has not played a central role in the presidential race — though the pandemic, the climate crisis, a more assertive China and disinformation wars against the American public argue strongly that it should. The next president will face the task of repairing the enormous damage inflicted on America’s global reputation.

Mr. Biden has the necessary chops, having spent much of his career focused on global concerns. He not only took on thorny diplomatic missions as vice president, he also served more than three decades on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Aware that an “America First” approach in reality amounts to “America alone,” he would work to revive and refurbish damaged alliances. He has the respect and trust of America’s allies and would not be played for a fool by its adversaries.

He is also offering a glimpse of the Democratic Party’s future in his choice of running mate, Senator Kamala Harris of California. Ms. Harris would become a number of firsts — a woman, a Black person and an Asian-American — as vice president, adding history-making excitement to the ticket. A former prosecutor, she is tough, smart and can dismantle a faulty argument or political opponent. She is progressive, but not radical. In her own presidential campaign, she presented herself as a unifying leader with center-left policy proposals in a mold similar to Mr. Biden, albeit a generation younger. Mr. Biden is aware that he no longer qualifies as a fresh face and has said that he considers himself a bridge to the party’s next generation of leaders. Ms. Harris is a promising step in that direction.

If he wins election, Mr. Biden will need to take his governing agenda to the people — all of the people, not just his party’s loudest or most online voices. This will require persuading Americans that he understands their concerns and can translate that understanding into sound policy.

Mr. Biden knows that there are no easy answers. He has the experience, temperament and character to guide the nation through this valley into a brighter, more hopeful future. He has our endorsement for the presidency.

When they go to the polls this year, voters aren’t just choosing a leader. They’re deciding what America will be. They’re deciding whether they favor the rule of law, how the government will help them weather the greatest economic calamity in generations, whether they want government to enable everyone to have access to health care, whether they consider global warming a serious threat, whether they believe that racism should be treated as a public policy problem.

Mr. Biden isn’t a perfect candidate and he wouldn’t be a perfect president. But politics is not about perfection. It is about the art of the possible and about encouraging America to embrace its better angels.

I encourage readers in America to register to vote and to vote early for Joe Biden. Trump and his followers need to be thrown on the trash heap of history while being remembered as emblematic of what America should never again embrace.