Saturday, October 31, 2020

More Saturday Male Beauty


Will Catholic Voters Choose Morality and Reject Trump?

American Catholicism has had a rough time over the last twenty years as the clergy sex abuse scandal has often garnered headlines over and over again and younger generations leave religion entirely.  Gallup found that church attendance has dropped more among Catholics than among Protestants and that decline in church membership has been greater among Catholics: twenty years ago, 76% of Catholics belonged to a church; now, 63% do. Part of the exodus of the younger generations has been driven by the Church's anti-gay stances and the perceived hypocrisy of churchgoers.  Now, with the 2020 election Americans have an opportunity to redeem themselves and support Joe Biden and reject the immorality that Donald Trump embodies (don't expect such redemption to be exhibited by evangelicals).  A piece in Politico looks at the potential for Catholics to desert Trump and, with luck, insure that he loses on November 3, 2020.  Here are article excerpts:

Four years after Catholic Americans helped seal Donald Trump’s come-from-behind victory with a flood of support in the industrial Midwest, they could deliver his defeat on Tuesday.

In the closing days of the 2020 race, polls have shown Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with a steady lead among Catholic voters, one of the most consequential voting blocs this presidential cycle and a demographic the Trump campaign is counting on to deliver all-important toss-ups — like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ohio — to their side on Election Day.

[T]he state of the Catholic vote four days before the Nov. 3 election underscores the immense challenge the Trump campaign has faced in its year-long attempt to lock in religious voters who appear inclined to support Biden — despite approving of the president’s job performance — out of sheer frustration with Trump's personality and concerns over the division his presidency has sowed.

A mid-October survey by EWTN and RealClearPolitics showed Trump with a 47 percent approval rating among Catholics, but only 40 percent support when respondents were asked who they would vote for if the election were held today. Ditto for a Marquette Law School poll released last week where Trump’s job approval rating (52 percent) among Wisconsin Catholics exceeded their support for his reelection (48 percent).

“If he loses, it’s because people who otherwise support him are just sick of it all,” said one adviser to the Trump campaign. “It’s because of voters who kind of like Trump, but ‘just can’t take this anymore.’

It’s a concern that is particularly salient among Catholic voters in Pennsylvania and the Great Lakes region, where a cultural kinship with Biden, a practicing Catholic himself, has put the president at a disadvantage. And it’s a conundrum some of Trump’s allies begrudgingly admit could sink his shot at a second term.

“Half of Biden’s advantage right now is the shift among Catholics, who are facing a push-and-pull effect. Trump has pushed them away with his gruffness and extremism, while Biden pulls them in because he’s a white Catholic himself who speaks authentically about their shared faith,” said Ryan Burge, a political scientist at Eastern Illinois University who has been tracking data on Catholic voters in the Trump era.

[T]he polls tell a different story about Catholic voters’ satisfaction with Trump’s policy achievements and his handling of the issues they're prioritizing as the election closes in.

Only 29 percent of non-Protestant/Catholic voters said they somewhat or strongly agree that Trump “keeps his promises,” according to a POLITICO-Morning Consult survey conducted after the final presidential debate in Nashville, Tenn., last Thursday. The same survey also found that Catholic voters trust Biden more on the economy, jobs, health care, the coronavirus, race relations and public safety — suggesting the president’s opposition to coronavirus-related church lockdowns, which he and his campaign have billed as a threat to religious freedom, and his law-and-order message have failed to attract Catholic voters as much as Biden’s approach. In Wisconsin alone, a state where one in four religious adults identify as Catholic, 53 percent of Catholic voters disapprove of his response to the coronavirus outbreak, according to the Marquette Law School poll.

If exit polls show Trump in the low 50s with white Catholics in Pennsylvania, it’s game over for him there and Michigan and Wisconsin,” said Burge.

Part of the reason for Biden’s success in pulling a considerable portion of Catholic voters away from Trump is that his campaign has been more intentional in trying to do so than Clinton was in 2016 and many of his Democratic primary opponents were this cycle. The former vice president has invoked his faith in speeches about the coronavirus pandemic, racism and economic equality, made a point to pursue outreach to religious communities and is widely seen as more virtuous than Trump, particularly among Catholic voters. In September, the Biden campaign unveiled an initiative aimed at driving turnout among progressive Catholic voters and courting cultural Catholics in the Rust Belt who tend to overlap with the blue-collar workers both the former vice president and Trump are after.

On Thursday, Biden published an op-ed in the Christian Post discussing the “abiding principles” that have guided his career in politics — principally the Christian commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

“It has become too easy in recent years to define our neighbors as ‘others‘ rather than children of God and fellow Americans. It has to stop. We have to strive harder to come together, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. That is the work we are all called to by God,” Biden wrote.

But even if Biden carries the Catholic vote on Election Day and chips away at Trump’s grip on white Catholics, there is one group that remains an unknown factor this cycle and could come to the president’s rescue: Hispanic Catholics . . . . “Hispanic Catholics are interesting because they are more culturally conservative than white Catholics on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage and with the Supreme Court, I think that’s a check for Trump with the Hispanic Catholic vote,” said Burge.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Voting Like One's Life Depends on It

Like many I suspect, I find myself filled with anxiety about Tuesday's election and have a dread that if somehow Trump steals the election, the nation's future as a democracy will be on life support. Being gay, I am well aware that my civil rights are in a bull's eye painted by Justices Thomas and Alito and now the utterly unqualified Justice Barrett. The Trump/Pence regime has waged a relentless war on LGBT rights and it's frightening to think what another four years would bring.  Of course, gays are not the only ones worried, minorities and women have good reason to be fearful as well, as do senior citizens who face the prospect of dying of Covid-19 or seeing Trump and the GOP slash Social Security and Medicare as a further effort to enrich the super wealthy.  This anxiety is driving many to vote as if their lives depend upon it, because that may be the case.  How anyone sane and moral can not vote this years - Democrat, of course - is mind numbing.  A piece in the New York Times looks at the phenomenon.  Here are highlights:

An unnerved yet energized America is voting with an urgency never seen before in the approach to a presidential election, as a record 85 million people have cast ballots despite an array of challenges: a pandemic, postal delays, long lines and court rulings that have tested faith in the country’s electoral system.

In Texas and Hawaii, turnout has already exceeded the total vote from 2016, with three days of early voting remaining and more absentee ballots to be returned. Ten other states, including major battlegrounds like Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Arizona and Nevada, have surpassed 80 percent of the turnout from the last presidential election. Over all, the early turnout has set the country on course to surpass 150 million votes for the first time in history.

Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee, is counting on a strong early vote to help him flip states like Florida and Arizona that President Trump carried in 2016. But Republicans are banking on their voters to turn out in bigger numbers on Election Day and deliver battleground wins, as they did in key states in 2016.

Though Democrats have maintained an edge in early turnout in nearly every state that has seen record participation, Republicans have been closing the gap. In Florida, for example, 40 percent of the ballots returned came from registered Democrats, and 37.9 percent from registered Republicans, and in heavily Democratic Miami-Dade County, a higher percentage of registered Republicans have voted than have Democrats. Included in those returns are millions of ballots marked no party affiliation, with no indication whether Mr. Biden or Mr. Trump is leading.

“I’m going to vote like my life depends on it,” Marilyn Crowder, 60, said as she waited in a line a block long at Anna B. Day School in Northwest Philadelphia this week. The school, one of 17 early voting locations open for the first time in Philadelphia, has for weeks drawn lines of voters filing down the street.

For Ms. Crowder, a cancer survivor, the pandemic was a motivating factor, as well what she saw as attempts by Republicans to make it harder to vote. “I personally felt powerless to do anything about it, except what I’m doing now,” she said. “And now I’m making phone calls.”

Any problems with the early vote are also likely to affect Democrats more than Republicans. In almost every state, Democrats have requested absentee ballots at a higher rate than Republicans. In Pennsylvania, nearly two million registered Democrats requested absentee ballots, compared with fewer than 790,000 Republicans. And while 70 percent of those Democratic voters have returned their ballots, roughly 590,000 ballots sent to registered Democratic voters have not yet been returned, along with 360,000 ballots sent to registered Republicans.

Voters in Pennsylvania, one of the most important battleground states, have been increasingly unnerved by the flurry of litigation regarding the deadline for when ballots can be accepted.

Worries about the U.S. Postal Service have added to the anxiety. The agency said in a filing that staffing issues resulting from the pandemic were causing problems in some facilities, including some in central Pennsylvania. Only 78 percent of employees are available, according to the filing.

Perhaps no state has seen a greater surge than Texas, a suddenly competitive state for Mr. Biden. More than nine million voters had cast their ballots there as of Friday, despite restrictions ordered by [Republican] Gov. Greg Abbott that limited ballot drop-off locations to one per county.

In Georgia, where public polls show the two candidates engaged in a tight race, officials expect overall turnout to increase dramatically and to exceed the 4.1 million people who voted in 2016, when the state supported Mr. Trump over Hillary Clinton by five percentage points.

Pointing to record turnout in absentee and early voting, Brad Raffensperger, the secretary of state, said he believed that as many as six million people would vote.

In Michigan, 2.6 million voters have already cast their ballots, and turnout is nearing 60 percent of 2016 levels. The secretary of state has committed to keeping as many polling locations open as possible on Tuesday.

But Kimberly Korona, 38, of Farmington Hills, took a day off from work to drop off her ballot for Mr. Biden earlier this month — “to save Democracy,’’ she said.

I will be a nervous wreck until we know the outcome.  If rump wins, distraught will not begin to describe my feelings - it might truly be time to leave America and figure out a way to have my children and their families join us in fleeing.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Friday Morning Male Beauty


Five Great Things Biden Has Already Done

Donald Trump has done one thing that perhaps no other Republican office holder could have done: he's made members of the so-called conservative intelligentsia open their eyes to the failures of longstanding GOP policies that push social division and a tearing down of Some such individuals have left the GOP, some have joined the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, and others have endorsed Joe Biden.  One of these individuals is New York Times columnist David Brooks, a long time GOP apologist who through his failure to call out moral deficiencies of the GOP agenda and attacks on Democrats and liberals with the help of Fox News helped set the stage for the rise of Trump. Like George Will as noted in a prior post, Brooks now seemingly believes Trump must be defeated and his enablers punished. Indeed, in a column he lauds Joe Biden and his campaign to defeat Trump but also unify the nation.  Here are column highlights: 

Many of our best presidents have been underestimated. Truman was seen as the tool of a corrupt political machine. Eisenhower was supposedly a bumbling middlebrow. Grant was thought a taciturn simpleton. Even F.D.R. was once considered a lightweight feather duster.

I’ve been reading Joe Biden’s speeches and I’m beginning to think even his supporters are underestimating him.

He’s walking across treacherous cultural ground, confronting conflicts that are shredding the nation, and he’s mastering them with ease.

Biden is campaigning in a country that has lost faith in itself. Sixty-six percent of Americans believe our nation is in decline, according to a study from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture.

He’s also running in the middle of a political and cultural civil war. Eighty-two percent of Biden voters believe that “Donald Trump would like to gradually transform our country into a dictatorship,” according to that I.A.S.C. study. Ninety percent of Trump voters believe that the Democrats want to gradually turn America into a socialist country.

Biden is campaigning in a land filled with fear, hatred and apocalyptic thinking. It would be so easy for him to reflect that fear and hate back to voters. That’s what Trump does.

But Biden is not doing that. Never in my life have I seen a candidate so confidently avoid wedge issues. Biden is instead running on the conviction that, despite it all, Americans deeply love their country, and viscerally long for its unity. He’s running with the knowledge that when you ask America about the greatest threats to our future, “political polarization and divisiveness” comes out No. 1.

It’s easy to say you’re for healing division. But here’s what Biden has actually done:

He’s de-ideologized this election. He’s made the campaign mostly about dealing with Covid-19. That’s a practical problem, not an ideological one. Conservatives and moderates don’t have to renounce their whole philosophy to vote for him. They can just say they’re voting for the person who can take care of this.

He’s separated politics from the culture war. Over the past generation, culture war issues have increasingly swallowed our politics. Trump has put this process into overdrive. He barely talks about policies. Instead, his every subject is really about why “our” identity group is better than “their” identity group. . . . Policies are no longer debated discretely; they are just battles in one big, existential fight over who we are.

But Biden goes back to the New Deal, to an era of policymaking when there really wasn’t a polarized culture war. He sidesteps the Kulturkampf issues — which statues to take down — to simply talk about helping the middle class.

Biden has scrambled the upscale/downscale dynamic. The most important fissure in our politics is education levels. The Democratic Party’s greatest long-term challenge is that it might become the party of the highly credentialed college-educated class and let some future Republican rally a multiracial working-class coalition.

Biden has avoided all the little microaggressions that cultural elites use to show they are morally superior. . . . . Unlike, say, Hillary Clinton, Biden has a worldview and a manner that is both educated class and working class and defuses the divide.

Biden has avoided the stupid binaries about race. Donald Trump went to Mount Rushmore and made a speech essentially saying you can either believe in systemic racism or you can love America. Biden went to Gettysburg and argued that you can “honestly face systemic racism” and love America. He argued that you can believe in fighting racism and believe in law and order. His worldview is based on universal categories — the things we share — not identitarian ones — the ways we supposedly can’t understand each other across difference.

He’s done a good job reaching out to white evangelicals. Right now, many of them think he’s a godless socialist who will usher in a reign of anti-religious terror. In his campaign he’s done a pretty good job reaching out to those voters. His campaign has run ads on Christian radio and reached out aggressively to evangelical leaders. If he can allay their cultural fears (by making it clear he will not shut down Christian charitable groups) and win them over with working-class economic policies, he can create a long-term governing majority.

Seventy percent of Americans in that Braver Angels survey say America is facing permanent harm, but 70 percent also say the most important job after the election is to heal our enmity, to do the hard job of working with people whose views we find completely objectionable. This unity impulse is powerful in the populace, but it is deeply hidden.

Joe Biden knew it was there.

Trump in contrast is the divider-in-chief.  I for one would welcome a sense of unity as Americans again. 

Final Thursday Male Beauty


The Coming Decade of Democrat Dominance

George Will, a former Republican and NeverTrump conservative has a column in the Washington Post which will hopefully prove prophetic: He writes about a what hopefully proves to be a bloodbath for the Republican Party as well as Donald Trump and decade of coming Democrat Party dominance.  Ironically, if this comes to pass, it will all because of Trump and his Republican enablers who put retaining personal power first and foremost while alienating the growing segments of the American populace, particularly Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) and Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012) as they pandered to white supremacists and far right Christian extremists.  The other irony is that before the rise of Trump and Will's disavowal of the Trump GOP, Will for too long acted as an apologist for the GOP and its failed policies.  Some of us saw the demographic handwriting on the wall as the GOP focused on shrinking segments of the population and embraced Christofascists.  Better I guess that Will finally saw the light, unlike far too many within the GOP and among my Republican friends.  Here are column excerpts:

By a circuitous route to a predictable destination, the 2020 presidential selection process seems almost certain to end Tuesday with a fumigation election. A presidency that began with dark words about “American carnage” probably will receive what it has earned: repudiation.

After the past four years, Americans know the feeling [of exhaustion], which is why President Trump’s first and final contribution to the nation’s civic health will be to have motivated a voter turnout rate not seen for more than a century — not since the 73.2 percent of 1900, when President William McKinley for a second time defeated the Democratic populist William Jennings Bryan.

His [Trump’s] style has been his substance. His replacement for Obamacare remains as nonexistent as his $1 trillion infrastructure program.

In defeat, Trump probably will resemble another figure from American fiction — Ring Lardner’s “Alibi Ike,” the baseball player whose talent was for making excuses. Trump will probably say that if not for the pandemic, Americans would have voted their pocketbooks, which would have been bulging because of economic growth, and reelected him. Americans, however, are more complicated and civic-minded than one-dimensional economy voters. But about those pocketbooks:

The 4 percent growth Trump promised as a candidate and the 3 percent he promised as president became, pre-pandemic, 2.5 percent during his first three years, a negligible improvement over the 2.4 percent of the last three Barack Obama years. This growth was partly fueled by increased deficit spending . . . . “Recent research suggests that Mr. Trump’s tariffs destroyed more American manufacturing jobs than they created, by making imported parts more expensive and prompting other countries to retaliate by targeting American goods. Manufacturing employment barely grew in 2019. At the same time, tariffs are pushing up consumer prices by perhaps 0.5 percent, enough to reduce average real household income by nearly $1,300.”

Demographic arithmetic is also discouraging for Trump. There are more than 5 million fewer members of his core constituency — Whites without college degrees — than there were four years ago. And there are more than 13 million more minority and college-educated White eligible voters than in 2016.

In Ronald Reagan’s 1984 reelection, voters under 30 were a solidly Republican age cohort; 2020, for the fifth consecutive election, it will be the most Democratic. The Atlantic’s Ronald Brownstein believes this year’s “generational backlash” against Trump presages for Republicans a dismal decade during which two large and diverse cohorts — millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) and Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012) — become, together, the electorate’s largest bloc in an electorate . . . . In 2016, Trump won just 36 percent of adults under 30; Obama averaged 63 percent in two elections. Furthermore, this will be the first presidential election in which the number of millennial and Generation Z eligible voters will outnumber eligible baby boomers. Generation Z is 49 percent people of color.

This nation and its patience are exhausted.

As demographic changes continue to run against the GOP, that Party's efforts at voter suppression in the long run will be like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.  All of these changes have been predicted for years and the GOP and especially Trump consciously chose to ignore them.  Again, I hope next Wednesday is a record breaking bloodbath for the GOP - and of course Trump. It will be so well deserved.

More Thursday Male Beauty


Trump Bet Against Science, Voters Are Now Casting Judgment

Thankfully, Virginia's current level of Covid-19 cases has been remaining fairly stable - perhaps because we have a governor who is a doctor and believes in science - but such is not the case in large swaths of America were the number of cases is soaring, especially in states with science denying GOP governors such as North and South Dakota.  Donald Trump and his sycophants made a deliberate decision back in the spring to put political maneuvering ahead of science and never came up with a coordinated federal plan to control the virus.  Now, despite Trump's claims he  did a great job and would not change much, sane voters are seeing daily evidence that - like almost everything that comes out of Trump's mouth - its all a lie and appear to be seeking revenge against Trump's incompetence and utter lack of concern about American lives.  Even the Wall Street is casting judgment as the stock market drops and the prospect of a Biden presidency is welcomed.  A piece at CNN looks at the situation.  Here are highlights:

The failed bet laid by President Donald Trump to ignore science and prioritize his political goals early in the pandemic, revealed Wednesday in fresh detail by new Jared Kushner tapes, is backfiring in devastating fashion at the critical moment of his reelection bid.

Dark warnings by scientists and new data showing a nationwide explosion in a virus Trump says is going away, crashing stock markets and real-time examples of the White House's delusions about its failed response are consuming [Trump] the President as tens of millions of early voters cast judgment. 

Democratic nominee Joe Biden, leading in the polls with five days of campaigning to go, is accusing the administration of surrendering to the virus and offering to shoulder the nation's grief in the grim months to come. 

The extent to which the country's worsening trajectory has overtaken the final days of the campaign emphasizes how the election has become a personal referendum on Trump and how he mishandled the worst domestic crisis in decades.

"Trump's now back in charge. It's not the doctors," the first son-in-law and White House adviser, Kushner, said back in April in tapes of interviews with Bob Woodward, obtained by CNN.

To win next Tuesday, [Trump] the President will have to convince sufficient Americans to build an Electoral College majority that his populist anti-Washington message, cultural themes, hardline "law and order" rhetoric and claimed expertise in rebuilding the ravaged economy are more important than his botched choices on a pandemic that is getting worse every day. 

While the coronavirus tightened its grip, [Trump] the President tried to change the subject, seizing on violence in Philadelphia after another police shooting to blame Democrats for looting.

But another huge slump on Wall Street showed how the election endgame narrative was slipping out of his control. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, one of [Trump’s] the President's favorite metrics for his own performance, was off more than 900 points Wednesday. 

[Trump] The President insisted he was doing "fantastically" in polls and was in better shape than four years ago. Trump appears, however, to face a complicated scenario on the electoral map that would require him to run the table on a string of Southern and Western battlegrounds before a final showdown with Biden in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. 

With more than 75 million votes already cast -- one-third of registered voters -- the chance for a late change to the race is limited, even as [Trump] the President tried to shore up his far Western power base with rallies in Arizona, a state that could help Biden block his route to 270 electoral votes. 

The new recordings of Kushner's interviews with Woodward for his book "Rage" show in the most intimate detail yet how [Trump] the President and close aides marginalized government scientists earlier this year in a bid to push economic openings at all cost to help his reelection effort.

In a conversation on April 18, [Trump’s] the President's son-in-law told The Washington Post veteran that Trump was "getting the country back from the doctors" and referred to public health officials as if they were adversaries when he talked of a "negotiated settlement" with them. 

At the point of the recordings, more than 40,000 Americans had died from the virus. More than 227,000 have now perished, the death toll is rising and hospitals in many states risk becoming overwhelmed. 

But Trump told his crowd in Bullhead, Arizona -- as usual packed together with little mask wearing -- that "people are getting better." 

Unlike [Trump] the President, who is in charge of stemming the latest spike in infections, Biden had a briefing from public health experts Wednesday. He emerged to tell Americans that mask wearing was patriotic, not political, but warned that if he is elected president he won't be able to end the pandemic by "flipping a switch." And he drew on his own experience of personal tragedies to console bereaved relatives of Covid-19 victims. 

Health experts inside and outside the government made clear that the state of the pandemic was closer to the status report laid out by Biden than [Trump’s] the President's continuing false appraisals.

 Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, "We are not in a good place," and predicted that even with a vaccine, it would be "easily" late 2021 or into the following year before Americans experience any degree of normalcy. 

Trump's push for state openings unleashed a viral surge across the Sun Belt in the summer and the US never returned to the lower levels of infections experienced across the Atlantic. 

Several Trump aides on Wednesday tried to defend Trump's handling of the virus but only served to expose his negligence. Campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley told CNN's "New Day" that "we are moving in the right direction" after a White House document boasted Trump had ended the pandemic. 

The White House went on the offensive Wednesday after Taylor -- who had been chief of staff to then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, revealed he had written the 2018 New York Times op-ed and a book critical of Trump. (He was Nielsen's deputy chief of staff when the op-ed was published.)

But in many ways, [Trump’s] the President's decision to ignore the ramifications of sidelining scientists in favor of minimizing the pandemic and concentrating on his own electoral prospects validates Taylor's critique.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty


America Is About to Choose How Bad the Pandemic Will Get

In the upcoming election Americans will be choosing a new president and numerous other elected office holders.  It will also be choosing how bad the ongoing pandemic will become. Trump has horrifically botched the American response to the pandemic and basically has had no plan to bring it under control and is ignoring - and even ridiculing - health care experts.  In contrast, Joe Biden represents someone who will implement a plan and listen to the experts.  The choice at the presidential level is in short a choice for a worsening pandemic versus attempting to gain control of the pandemic and eventually bringing the nation back to normal. A piece in The Atlantic looks at this stark choice which will literally determine if some Americans live or die.  Here are article excerpts:

[Trump’s] The president’s response to the pandemic should not have been a surprise. In December 2016, a month before Donald Trump was inaugurated, I asked how a pandemic would play out during his term. The question was not idly put: Every recent president before Trump had been challenged by epidemics, and Trump’s actions as both a citizen during the 2014 Ebola outbreak and a candidate on the campaign trail had been troubling. His record suggested that come a pandemic, he would lie, spread misinformation, opt for travel bans in lieu of more effective measures, and heed his own counsel over that of experts.

In the 2020 election, on top of every routine test of character and capability, the candidates must answer the challenge the coronavirus has brought to this country. Trump’s response has been so lax as to effectively cede the country to a virus whose spread is controllable. He has, by his own admission, repeatedly downplayed the threat after he became aware of how dangerous the new coronavirus could be.

Trump is still downplaying the pandemic, urging Americans not to “let it dominate your life” even after 210,000 had already lost theirs. One week ago, when asked if “there was anything that you think you could have done differently,” he said, “Not much.”

As November nears, the coronavirus is surging again, with cases rising to record-breaking heights for the third time. To control the pandemic, changes are necessary, but Trump has proved that he does not learn from his mistakes—perhaps the most costly of his failings. If he is reelected, he will continue on the same path, and so will the coronavirus. More Americans will be sickened, disabled, and killed. Donald Trump is unchanging; the election offers an opportunity for the country to change instead.

The near-term future is already set. Trump has repeated the lie that numbers are spiking because the U.S. tests extensively; in fact, the climbing cases have far outpaced the rise in testing, and are due instead to the rapidly spreading virus.

The workforce of health-care providers is missing more than 1,000 colleagues who have died of COVID-19. And while the two previous surges were concentrated in specific parts of the U.S., allowing health-care workers from more tranquil regions to help colleagues in the hardest-hit ones, the current surge has lit up most of the country. Reinforcements will be scarce.

Death rates always lag behind cases and hospitalizations. During the national death rate’s recent plateau, about 700 people were still dying every day, and that rate has risen by 15 percent in the past two weeks. It will climb further. This is not, as Trump baselessly suggested, because doctors and hospitals are overcounting COVID-19 deaths to “get more money”; in fact, deaths are undercounted. COVID-19 has already become the second leading cause of death in the U.S. this year after heart disease (or the third, if you lump all cancers together).

[T]here is a real risk that Americans will become habituated to this horror, and that COVID-19 will become another unacceptable thing that the U.S. learns to accept. That is all but inevitable if Trump wins a second term. His administration has given no indication that it will dramatically change its strategy. If anything, it has doubled down. It is allowing the virus to freely spread among younger people in the hopes of reaching herd immunity—an unfeasible strategy that has been widely panned by the scientific community. Such a strategy could leave millions dead, and many others with chronic illness.

Vaccines will arrive, but not quickly enough to put a dent in the ongoing surge.

And yet, the pandemic is not impossible to control, . . . . Masks can stop people from transmitting the virus. Shutting down nonessential indoor venues and improving ventilation can limit the number of super-spreading events. Rapid tests and contact tracing can identify clusters of infection, which can be contained if people have the space and financial security to isolate themselves.

The playbook is clear, but it demands something that has thus far been missing—federal coordination. Only the federal government can fund and orchestrate public-health measures at a scale necessary to corral the coronavirus. But Trump has abdicated responsibility, leaving states to fend for themselves. In May, I asked several health experts whether governors and mayors could hold the line on their own. Most were doubtful, and the ensuing months have substantiated their fears.

We do not know how Joe Biden would fare, and if he is elected, the U.S. will still be riddled with systemic weaknesses and inequities that another pathogen could also exploit. But we do know exactly how Trump will react to the next crisis. The U.S. is trapped in a pandemic spiral, and so is Donald Trump.

Science values replication—repeated experiments that verify whether the same outcome occurs. But in this case, that work is unnecessary. The U.S. has now clearly seen what happens when a pandemic occurs under Trump. It is an experiment that no one should ever want to rerun.  

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Beautiful eyes

The Republican Party Must Be Destroyed In Order to Save It

Roughly twenty (20) years ago when I resigned from the Republican Party after the Christofascists began to be cynically welcomed into the Party I concluded that the only way the Republican Party could be reformed and restored was to have it destroyed electorally.  Only sustained election defeats - the more catastrophic, the better - held the prospect of restoring sanity and morality to the GOP.  Over the intervening years, the GOP has become ever more toxic and, yes, evil (don't believe me?  Check the ACLU website and read about the family separation policy).  With luck, next Tuesday will prove to be a bloodbath for the GOP and Trump will go down to ignominious defeat despite his efforts to steal the election with the help of his GOP enablers. Another former Republican has a column in the Washington Post reaches a similar conclusion and makes the case for voting a straight Democrat ticket.  Here are column highlights:

“We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” That famous, if probably apocryphal, quote from the Vietnam War describes how I feel about the Republican Party. We have to destroy the party in order to save it.

As a lifelong Republican until Nov. 9, 2016 — and as a foreign policy adviser to three Republican presidential candidates — it gives me no joy to write those words. It’s true that the party had long-standing problems — conspiracy-mongering, racism, hostility toward science — that Donald Trump was able to exploit. But he has also exacerbated all of those maladies, just as he made the coronavirus outbreak much worse than it needed to be.

I have watched with incredulity the GOP’s descent into collective madness. Many Republicans I know began by holding their noses and voting for Trump because of judges and taxes and their hatred of Hillary Clinton. Now the whole Republican Party seems to inhabit the Fox News Cinematic Universe, an alternative reality where President Barack Obama spied on Trump and Joe Biden is a socialist who will let “anarchists” and “arsonists” run riot.

The party has even become infected by the lunatic QAnon cult, whose followers believe Trump’s opponents are blood-drinking, Satan-worshipping pedophiles. In one recent poll, half of Trump supporters said top Democrats are involved in child sex trafficking.

The same trickle-down craziness is evident in Republican mishandling of the coronavirus. Trump has given up trying to control the pandemic, mocks masks and promotes conspiracy theories such as his claim that death counts are inflated because “doctors get more money and hospitals get more money” if they say people died of covid-19. This specious allegation is faithfully echoed by Republicans such as Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa.

Red states are paying a devastating price for pandemic denialism: North Dakota has the lowest rate of mask-wearing in the country and the highest covid-19 death rate per capita in the world.

Trump has given permission for Republican bigots to come out into the open — to replace dog whistles with wolf whistles. Sen. David Perdue (R.-Ga.) mocked Sen. Kamala Harris’s Indian first name. Madison Cawthorn, a House nominee in North Carolina, proudly visited Hitler’s lair and created a website attacking a journalist for having worked “for non-white males, like Cory Booker, who aims to ruin white males running for office.” Laura Loomer, a Republican candidate for a House seat from Florida, calls herself “a proud Islamophobe” and cheered the deaths of 2,000 refugees crossing the Mediterranean (“Good. 👏 Here’s to 2,000 more”).

The longer Trump stays in office, the more damage he does. . . .

Republicans flatter Trump the way Trump flatters Kim Jong Un. Ken Cuccinelli [known as Kookinelli here in Virginia] , acting deputy secretary of homeland security, just tweeted that Trump is the “greatest SCOTUS [Supreme Court] President since the founding era (at least), and possibly of all time,” . . . .

This is sheer nihilism — and it will get worse if Trump wins reelection. By next year, fewer than 1 in 6 House Republicans will have been in office during George W. Bush’s presidency. Trumpism is their reality now.

The V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden just released a study showing that in four years the GOP has been transformed into an autocratic party that has much in common with the Fidesz Party in Hungary, the Law and Justice party in Poland and the Justice and Development Party in Turkey.

America needs a sane center-right party. It doesn’t need an extremist party that undermines democracy, caters to White grievances, and rejects science and reason. The only way Republicans will come to their senses is if they see that the path they are on leads to electoral oblivion. That’s why, even though I’m not a Democrat, I’m voting straight-ticket Democratic on Nov. 3 — and for as long as necessary to make Republicans come to their senses. The GOP needs to be detoxified and de-Trumpified.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


Obama Trolls Der Trumpenfuhrer


One of the many bizarre things - let's be candid, mentally ill things - about Donald Trump is his hatred for Barrack Obama who is basically everything Trump is not: highly intelligent, moral, concerned about others, not just himself, and made it through eight years in the White House with any major scandals or criminal convictions of members of his campaign/administration.  Also, he is half black which I suspect is the real unpardonable sin in Trump's deeply racist mind, and his is respected by a majority of Americans, unlike Trump.  Thus, there is almost no one better suited to attach Trump's failed regime, especially if the goal is to force Trump to lash out and stray from any semblance of a coordinated campaign effort in the last week of the 2020 campaign.  For his part, I suspect Obama finds Trump immoral and beyond distasteful.  Hence, unlike other past presidents Obama has been campaigning for Joe Biden and reminding Americans of Trump's many failures and moral bankruptcy.  Trump no doubt is seething with rage.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at Obama's attacks which will hopefully create some unforced errors on Trump's part.  Unusual times call for unusual actions by past presidents.  Here are article highlights:

Former presidents generally stay out of the spotlight — particularly when it comes to attacking their successors. No president wants their actions to be second-guessed by those who preceded them. . . . so there’s something of an unwritten rule and a self-reinforcing cycle about how things should be handled.

Barack Obama, though, apparently believes that the moment calls for something else entirely — and he upped the ante significantly Tuesday.

Obama and his wife, former first lady Michelle Obama, have stepped away from this protocol in recent months, particularly at the Democratic National Convention in August, when both went after Trump in very direct ways.

The former president’s speech Tuesday in Orlando moved the ball even farther. Obama seemed to be making a concerted effort to troll the troller-in-chief president. He attacked Trump in very personal ways, his comments often dripping with incredulity. He seemed to want to elicit a reaction from his successor — a reaction he soon got.

What’s his closing argument? That people are too focused on covid. He said this at one of his rallies: ‘Covid, covid, covid,’ he’s complaining,” Obama said, referring to Trump’s regular gripes about the media’s focus on the coronavirus. “He’s jealous of covid’s media coverage.”

“I lived in the White House for a while,” Obama said with a smile. “You know, it’s a controlled environment. You can take some preventive measures in the White House to avoid getting sick. Except this guy can’t seem to do it. He’s turned the White House into a hot zone."

Obama went on, going after Trump for his April comments about whether disinfectants could be injected into people — which Trump maintains were a joke, though at the time his demeanor suggested otherwise.

“Last week, when Trump was asked if he’d do anything differently, you know what he said? He said: Not much, not much. Really?! Not much? You can’t think of anything that you might be doing differently, like maybe you shouldn’t have gone on TV and suggested we might inject bleach to cure covid?” Obama said.

Obama attacked Trump for his recent retweets that suggested a massive conspiracy theory surrounding the killing of Osama bin Laden.

“You’re not going to have to worry about what crazy things they’re going to say, what they’re going to tweet,” Obama said of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.). He added with particular exasperation about the death of the world’s leading terrorist, which occurred on his watch: “I mean, listen, our president of the United States retweeted a post that claimed that the Navy SEALs didn’t actually kill bin Laden. Think about that. And we act like, ‘Well, okay.’ It’s not okay.

“I mean, we’ve gotten so numb to what is bizarre behavior.”

“Donald Trump likes to claim he built this economy,” Obama said. “But I just want to remind you that America created 1.5 million more jobs in the last three years of the Obama-Biden administration than in the first three years of the Trump administration. That’s a fact; look it up. And that was before Trump could blame the pandemic. He, in fact, inherited the longest streak of job growth in American history, but just like everything else he inherited, he screwed it up.”

Obama added: “The economic damage that he inflicted by botching the pandemic response means he will be the first president since Herbert Hoover to actually lose jobsfirst president since Herbert Hoover back in the ’30s. That’s a long time, people. That’s almost 100 years ago.”

Obama’s numbers on both claims check out. More than 8 million jobs were created from 2014 to 2016, vs. more than 6.5 million from 2017 to 2019. And while many jobs have returned in recent months, Trump is still a few million short of where he started.

It was a good distillation of the apparent recognition, by Obama and others, that fire must be fought with fire. When Trump fails to acknowledge or deal with such nuance and attacks his opponents in such personal terms, you can either “go high,” as Michelle Obama once said, or you can try to play the game as it’s been set up. Her husband didn’t go full Trump in these attacks, by any means, but it seemed a concerted effort to needle the incumbent president and — perhaps most strikingly — hold him up as a laughingstock. The latter is a strategy regularly employed by groups such as the Lincoln Project, which has regularly seemed as interested in getting Trump’s goat as in defeating him.

And as with the Lincoln Project, the message seemed to be consumed by one particularly attentive cable news viewer.

“Now @FoxNews is playing Obama’s no crowd, fake speech for Biden . . . But Fox News’s programming decision was easy to understand: It was good TV, something that could elicit visceral and newsworthy reactions — including from the man whose reaction it seemed to beg for.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


New Hampshire Union Leader Endorses First Democrat in Over 100 Years

The New Hampshire Union Leader, a conservative, pro-Republican has endorsed Joe Biden for president, despite its century-long history of backing Republicans. In backing Biden, the newspaper endorsed its first Democratic candidate in over 100 years finding Trump "100 percent wrong for America" and stated "America faces many challenges and needs a president to build this country up. This appears to be outside of Mr. Trump’s skill set."  It went further and noted that Trump "is the antithesis of thoughtful and pragmatic."  One can only hope other true conservatives will come to the same conclusion as the Union Leader's editorial board.  Here are editorial highlights:

Up and down the ticket we are faced with choices in political ideologies, personalities, backgrounds and governing styles.

Some choices are easy. We can wholeheartedly recommend Chris Sununu be elected to another term as governor. He has proven himself a capable leader when faced with an extreme and occasionally hostile legislature. During the COVID-19 crisis, he has deftly handled a situation that left many leaders flustered and swinging from one extreme reaction to the next.

In the race that has dominated political discourse for the past four years the choice is murkier. There is no love lost between this newspaper and President Donald J. Trump.

We were hopeful with Trump’s win that he might change, that the weight and responsibility of the Oval Office might mold a more respectful and presidential man. We have watched with the rest of the world as the mantle of the presidency has done very little to change Trump while the country and world have changed significantly.

President Trump is not always 100 percent wrong, but he is 100 percent wrong for America. Trump has many admirable accomplishments from his first term in office. We can find much common ground with Trump supporters, including judicial appointments, tax policy, support for gun rights, even inroads to Middle East peace.

Since Trump took over, the national debt has exploded by more than 7 TRILLION dollars. While the last several trillion was in response to the COVID-19 economic crisis, at least the first three trillion was on the books well before the pandemic, while Trump was presiding over “...the best economy we’ve ever had in the history of our country.” (Trump’s words.)

The layman would expect that the best economy in history would be a time to get the fiscal house in order, pay down debt and prepare for a rainy day (or perhaps a worldwide pandemic). The real tragedy of this scenario is that the runaway spending under the Trump administration has flashed dollar signs in the eyes of Capitol Hill Democrats. Trillions in unchecked spending has them clamoring to birth the social programs of their dreams.

Federal spending is on an unsustainable path. The fact that it has continued under an allegedly conservative president is unbelievable.

Mr. Trump rightly points out that the COVID-19 crisis isn’t his fault, but a true leader must own any situation that happens on their watch. We may be turning a corner with this virus, but the corner we turned is down a dark alley of record infections and deaths. . . . . when pushed on basic topics he doesn’t want to discuss, he very quickly feigns ignorance.

Donald Trump did not create the social-media-driven political landscape we now live in, but he has weaponized it. . . . . . America faces many challenges and needs a president to build this country up. This appears to be outside of Mr. Trump’s skill set.

Building this country up sits squarely within the skill set of Joseph Biden. We have found Mr. Biden to be a caring, compassionate and professional public servant. He has repeatedly expressed his desire to be a president for all of America, and we take him at his word. Joe Biden may not be the president we want, but in 2020 he is the president we desperately need. He will be a president to bring people together and right the ship of state.

Despite our endorsement of his candidacy, we expect to spend a significant portion of the next four years disagreeing with the Biden administration on our editorial pages.

Biden was among the most moderate in the crowded 2020 Democratic primary field, proposing some of the lowest new spending among that increasingly left-leaning group. We are hopeful that this is a sign of the thoughtful and pragmatic public servant President Joe Biden will be. Sadly, President Trump has proven himself to be the antithesis of thoughtful and pragmatic; he has failed to earn a second term.

Our endorsement for President of these United States goes to Joe Biden.

Monday, October 26, 2020

More Monday Male Beauty


Can Chief Justice John Roberts Save His Court

This evening Senate Republicans rammed through the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett - someone likely 85% of Catholics would view as a severe nutcase and religious extremist - to a lifetime position on the United States Supreme Court.  In the process, the Senate Republicans made a mockery of their feign convictions for blocking Barack Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, and defied the will of a majority of Americans.  Worse yet, they have likely destroyed popular support of the Court and rendered any rulings it hereafter hands down illegitimate in the eyes of a majority of Americans. Sadly, it is just one more horrific example of how Donald Trump and his Republican enablers have destroyed so many American institutions and government bodies. Unless and until Joe Biden wins the White House and Democrats win control of the U.S. Senate and expand the size of the Court, Chief Justice John Roberts is perhaps the only individual who may be able to save the legitimacy of the Court.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the situation.  Here are excerpts:

Monday’s Senate confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, preceded by a pell-mell scramble to seat her before next week’s election and scheduled to be followed by an unseemly campaign-style celebration at the White House, shreds whatever remained of the high court’s integrity and independence.

Whether the court regains its independence or cements itself as a third partisan branch of government is now largely up to Chief Justice John Roberts. If he does not act, and fast, to mitigate the court’s politicization, Democrats will be fully justified in expanding the court’s membership to restore balance — and indeed will face a public outcry if they don’t.

The Barrett spectacle could not have been uglier. It began with a superspreader event at the White House after which a dozen people, including President Trump, contracted covid-19. Trump insisted on naming a replacement even before Ruth Bader Ginsburg was in her grave, and he belittled the late justice’s granddaughter for conveying the women’s rights icon’s dying wish that Trump not replace her.

Senate Republicans rammed through Barrett eight days before an election Trump seems likely to lose, and even though Trump has made clear he’s counting on the Supreme Court to overturn the result. They did this in an extraordinary public display of hypocrisy, four years after refusing to seat an Obama nominee to the high court because, they said then, that doing so more than eight months before an election was too soon. And they did this after abolishing the minority’s right to filibuster.

Barrett, in her confirmation hearing, made a mockery of the supposed “originalism” and “textualism” she professes to practice. She conspicuously refused to say whether a president could unilaterally postpone an election and whether voter intimidation is illegal — matters unarguable under the clear words of the Constitution and statutes.

[F]ew even pretended they were engaged in some historic or noble tradition. The debate sounded more like a medical conference as Democrats warned about the many conditions that might not be covered if Barrett strikes down the Affordable Care Act after it comes before the court in two weeks.

If the chief justice wishes to restore dignity to the Roberts Court, it’s clear enough what needs to be done:

He can lean heavily on Barrett to recuse herself from any case arising from the presidential election next week.

He can use his influence to make sure the court upholds the Affordable Care Act after it hears arguments next month — not a legalistic punt on technical matters of “severability” but a ruling that puts an end to the constant assaults on Obamacare.

He can persuade his conservative colleagues to join him in upholding the rights of LGBTQ Americans as established in the 2015 Obergefell case, by rejecting a challenge to it by Catholic Social Services that will be argued the morning after the election next week.

He can forge a majority to reject Trump’s latest tired attempt to use the Supreme Court to further delay handing over his financial records to New York prosecutors.

And he and his colleagues can agree to hear one of the many challenges to Roe v. Wade now making their way through lower courts — and vote to uphold Roe for now. That would be the surest sign that the Roberts Court is not going to turn (immediately at least) into the reactionary caricature that most expect.

If Roberts and his conservative allies on the court don’t do at least some of this in the next few months, they can count on being joined next year by a whole batch of new colleagues.