Saturday, November 21, 2020

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


 

Michigan Legislators Spurn Trump’s Coup Effort

 

In true crime boss style, Donald Trump summoned the GOP heads of the Michigan Senate and House to the White House where one can only suspect he made threats and/or offered bribes in an effort to get the Republican controlled state legislature to subvert and overthrow the vote of the state's citizens.  Seemingly - and surprisingly since we are talking about Republicans after all - the threats and/or bribes failed to work and the state legislative leaders departed saying they had been presented with nothing that would cause them to alter the state results or to subvert the vote certification process.  Meanwhile, Georgia certified Biden's victory in that state.  One can only imagine Der Trumpenfuhrer's desperation as a new story on a tax fraud investigation (which also involve Ivanka) circulates. Imagine Trump in prison with no spray tan and no $70,000 in hairstyling and government furnished clothing!  A piece in New York Magazine looks at Trump's failed effort to overthrow the Michigan election results.  Here are highlights:

It was Trump’s last real hope to reverse his election defeat. On Friday, the Republican legislative leaders of Michigan, a state won by Biden in which the Trump campaign has made baseless allegations of massive voter fraud, were summoned to the White House to hear the President Trump’s personal plea for intervention. But then, after an eyeball-to-eyeball meeting with the president, state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield publicly announced that “we have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan, and as legislative leaders we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors, as we have said throughout this election.”

That may seem like a banal statement, but it explodes Trump’s fantasy of overturning his loss to President-elect Biden. Though there have been other efforts by Michigan Republicans to block certification the election outcome, and Shirkey and Chatfield didn’t explicitly affirm Biden’s victory in the state — they made it clear that they would abide by the election results:

Michigan’s certification process should be a deliberate process free from threats and intimidation. Allegations of fraudulent behavior should be taken seriously, thoroughly investigated, and if proven, prosecuted to the full extent of the law. And the candidates who win the most votes win elections and Michigan’s 16 electoral votes. These are simple truths that should provide confidence in our elections.

In other words, they have spurned [Trump's] the president’s hopes that they would usurp the popular vote and state laws and appoint pro-Trump electors themselves. It’s just not happening. And if it’s not happening there, it’s not happening anywhere.

GOP legislative leaders in two other key states have also declined the opportunity to engage in an electoral coup. As law professor Marjorie Cohn noted Thursday, Republican majority leaders in both Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have previously made it clear that they would not override the will of the voters in their states. Another Trump-targeted state for contesting the election, Arizona, would have to convene a special legislative session to steal the election for him, and won’t. Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State and Governor have certified Biden’s victory in that pivotal state.

A direct presidential appeal to Michigan’s Republican legislators was a last desperate avenue. And it seems to be yet another blind alley.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Friday Morning Male Beauty


 

History Will Be Harsh to Trump's Enablers and Accomplices

Comparing Trump to Hitler has risks, but in each case we are looking at a mentally ill malignant narcissist who placed his personal hatreds and delusions over the good of the nation they presided over. Germany ended up paying a horrific price and Hitler ended up committing suicide.  Trump is likely too self-centered to take his own life, but the cancer on the nation he embodies will likely not end as long as he continues to draw breath.  And then there are Trump's enablers and accomplices both in Congress and within his regime who not unlike Hitler's lieutenants and accomplices are motivated by similar hatreds (Stephen Miller is but one example) and/or more often a naked lust for power that has shown that they will countenance any immoral behavior or damage to the lives of Americans if they can cling to power a while longer.  Hitler's enablers and accomplices ultimately paid a high price and are viewed as evil by history and moral people.  One can hope that history will be similarly harsh on Congressional Republicans and members of Trump's base who are frighteningly like Germans who supported Hitler.  A main editorial in the New York Times looks at these people and the damage they are doing.  Here are highlights:

“I WON THE ELECTION!” President Trump lied on Twitter on Sunday — as he has done over and over again since Joe Biden was declared the winner this month.

Voters gave Mr. Biden the highest margin of victory in a two-person race against a sitting president since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. He is on track to win 306 electoral votes and to win the popular vote by around seven million ballots.

“What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time?” a senior Republican official asked The Washington Post last week, referring to Mr. Trump. “No one seriously thinks the results will change.”

The downsides?

Lies have a long half-life, and Mr. Trump’s misinformation campaign will undermine the democratic legitimacy of the Biden administration. About half of all Republicans surveyed by a new Reuters/Ipsos poll said they believed that Mr. Trump had rightfully won the election. A poll from Monmouth University released Wednesday found that 77 percent of Mr. Trump’s supporters believe Mr. Biden won through fraud.

Mr. Trump is doing this with the help of nearly all of the national Republican leaders, who continue to show loyalty to the president at the expense of the nation. It is a pathetic display of cowardice to stand aside and watch as a sitting president salts American soil. Their actions stand in contrast to that of many Republicans at the state level, including the Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, who have shown their courage and patriotism in the conduct of their official election duties.

If you can’t see the con, the saying goes, you’re the mark: In this case, those who donate to Mr. Trump’s legal effort to overturn the election only to have the money go to paying off his outstanding debts, while Mr. Trump’s lawsuits are either dropped or laughed out of court.

[Trump's] The president’s raging against reality also is putting American lives at risk. The nation is in the grips of a generational economic collapse and shot through with a pandemic that has already killed more than a quarter million Americans and is on track to fell another 70,000 by Inauguration Day. Mr. Trump is refusing to allow the Biden transition team to gain access to national security briefings or details on the government’s pandemic response.

That refusal amounts to gross negligence with American lives, piled atop the gross negligence of the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic.

The greatest damage of Mr. Trump’s recent actions, however, may come in future election seasons. Mr. Trump is establishing a vocabulary of denial to election results. He is training politicians to try to overturn outcomes they don’t like — to actively sabotage democracy.

Perhaps that sounds alarmist, but it is not.  . . . . The Times reported that the president offered to fly Republican state lawmakers to the White House on Friday in an attempt to overturn the vote in their state.

When Mr. Trump said the election was rigged, it apparently meant that he was trying to rig it by suppressing votes, preventing them from being counted and now trying to overturn the counts in court. An analysis from The Washington Post found that Mr. Trump and his allies have sought to throw out nearly one in 10 votes cast in states that decided the election.

Mr. Trump already has persuaded millions of people to disregard the dangers of the coronavirus and has made refusing to wear masks a point of pride for his supporters. Imagine what will happen when more Americans share his contempt for democracy.

Trump needs to go - by any means necessary.  The man is pure evil.  Ditto for his GOP accomplices.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

More Thursday Male Beauty


 

Mike Pence Is Showing His Hypocrisy and Moral Bankruptcy

 

It's no secret to regular readers that I despise Mike Pence.  While he is not a toxic malignant narcissist like Der Trumpenfuhrer to whom he has seemingly sworn an oath of loyalty akin to that of Hitler's inner, the reasons to view Pence with utter contempt are numerous. First, there his closeted homosexuality which he seeks to hide by attacking the larger LGBT community and knowingly doing harm to other citizens.  While I was closeted and a GOP activist I never acted to harm others in the LGBT community and when the attacks on gays escalated I resigned and joined the Democrat resistance. Second, there is Pence's sick ambition - he thinks he's destined to be president some day - which causes him to do whatever he thinks further that ambition, to hell with the harm others suffer. Then, of course, there is his insufferable hypocrisy as he feigns being a devout Christian even as he prostitutes himself to and for a man who is the antithesis to true Christian values. Add to this his indifference to the failed Trump/Pence response to the Covid-19 pandemic for which is is nominally responsible.  Finally, there is Pence's silence as Trump seeks to subvert the 2020 presidential election results and more or less mount a coup. In short, Pence lacks a spine and any true moral compass.  He is defined by his fear of Trump and mindless - although I would argue misdirected - ambition. When all is said and done, Pence will find himself forever toxic because of his fealty to Trump and his most likely and only means is to push to use the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. Indeed, it might the only way in which history might view him kindly. A column in the Washington Post looks at Pence's many moral failings.  Here are highlights: 

Where is Vice President Pence?  To be more precise, will the vice president — the one administration official who is absolutely safe from being fired by President Trump — ever acknowledge the reality that he and Trump lost?

Does he think it’s appropriate for Trump to summon leaders of Michigan’s Republican-controlled state legislature to the White House in an attempt to subvert the election results?

Does he believe, as Trump attorney Sidney Powell asserted groundlessly Thursday, that “President Trump won by a landslide, we are going to prove it”? Or, as Rudolph W. Giuliani claimed, “This has been a massive attack on the integrity of the voting system in the greatest democracy on earth. The people who did this have committed one of the worst crimes that I’ve ever seen or observed.”

And even if Pence doesn’t manage a baseline nod in the direction of rationality and small-d, democratic values, will the vice president at least make clear that he will play no role in whatever mischief Trump and his cronies are cooking up to try to deny the presidency to Biden?

No one who has watched Pence’s bobble-headed sycophancy over the past four years should expect much in the way of bravery. That is not the Pence way. The closest he comes to distancing himself from Trump’s excesses is silence. That loyalty is understandable — and under ordinary circumstances, perhaps even commendable — from a vice president, particularly one with presidential ambitions of his own to tend.

These are not ordinary circumstances.  For one thing, there is the pandemic, which grows ever more lethal. Pence, who heads the administration’s coronavirus task force, took to the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal in June to decry “grim predictions of a second wave,” urging people not to “panic” over “overblown” media scare tactics.

Yet Pence remained typically mute as Trump mocked mask-wearing as politically correct weakness. Now a quarter of a million Americans have died. In the face of pleas from public health experts, the Trump administration has refused to cooperate with the Biden transition team, hobbling efforts to plan for vaccine distribution and assess testing capabilities. This is not just hard-knuckle partisan politics — it is dangerous malfeasance in an area of Pence’s core responsibility.

The vice president’s silence, and his capitulation to Trump’s intransigence, carries deadly consequences. More people may die if we don’t coordinate,” Biden warned this week. Such deaths are on Pence’s conscience.

Then there is the threat to democracy itself posed by Trump’s increasingly delusional claims that the election was somehow tainted by massive fraud that wrested victory from him. Pence has not echoed these baseless assertions. His comments have been comparatively anodyne and notably sporadic

In the weeks since, Pence has lent his name to the rotating cast of Trumpian characters who besiege supporters with requests for contributions. “No matter what the media says, this Election is not over,” Pence emailed supporters Thursday morning. “More votes are coming in for the President every single day, and with your help, we’ll secure FOUR MORE YEARS for the American People.”

That’s looking increasingly doubtful to anyone who has a grip on reality. To Trump and his coalition of the crazed, it means grasping at ever more extreme measures to cling to power. Having realized that Trump has no hope of reversing Biden’s wins in key states, these operatives are now trying desperately to delay the final vote certification and perhaps create chaos when Congress convenes in a special joint session on Jan. 6 to count the results and declare the winner

Pence being Pence, which is to say both feckless and ambitious, it’s probably naive to expect that he will take any steps to deter Trump’s salt-the-earth strategy. He is, granted, in a difficult spot — petrified, like other Republican elected officials, of doing anything to incite the president and thereby anger his base; wary, like other potential 2024 contenders, of a Trump re-run in four years. But it might not be too much to expect Pence to distance himself from Trump’s “go to the limit” approach, as exemplified by the Trump lawyers’ bonkers statements and the president’s effort to overturn the Michigan result.

Pence heads to Georgia on Friday to campaign for David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler ahead of the two Senate runoffs early next year. The strongest argument for getting Republicans to the polls on Jan. 5 is that failing to reelect Perdue and Loeffler would result in a 50-50 Senate — with Vice President Kamala D. Harris poised to break a tie. Perhaps it’s an opportune moment for Pence to recognize that reality and, finally, do what’s best for his party instead of what’s best for Trump.

Pence is despicable and hopefully history condemns him.  His silence has made him complicit in all of Trump's crimes and damage to the nation.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty


 

Reaching Out to Trump Supporters Is Pointless

Some continue to say that we Democrats and progressives need to reach out to Trump supporters and Republicans to "understand them" or perhaps even win them over.  Personally, I view it as an exercise in futility.  Anyone who has witnessed the last four years of Trump's non-stop indecencies and actions harmful to America's long term interests and yet still supports the man is simply put beyond reason in my view.  Joe Biden may want to unite Americans, but the task with Trump's supporters will be an uphill fight at best and futile at worse.  Those who willfully embrace ignorance and  draw their "news" from right wing cesspools by choice cannot be educated or reasoned with.  Plus, there is the reality of what motivates most of Trump's/the GOP's base more than anything else despite their protestations to the contrary: racial bigotry if not outright hatred. Throw in the Christofascists - most of who are also motivated by racial animus, and reaching out to such people is pointless.  One needs to know who they are dealing with and watch their back accordingly.  A column in the New York Times makes this argument.  Here are highlights:

73 million Americans voted for Donald Trump. He doubled down on all his worst vices, and he was rewarded for it with 10 million more votes than he received in 2016.

The majority of people of color rejected his cruelty and vulgarity. But along with others who voted for Joe Biden, we are now being lectured by a chorus of voices including Pete Buttigieg and Ian Bremmer, to “reach out” to Trump voters and “empathize” with their pain.

This is the same advice that was given after Trump’s 2016 victory, and for nearly four years, I attempted to take it. Believe me, it’s not worth it.

[I]n late 2016, I told my speaking agency to book me for events in the states where Trump won. I wanted to talk to the people the media calls “real Americans” from the “heartland,” — which is of course America’s synonym for white people, Trump’s most fervent base. Over the next four years I gave more than a dozen talks to universities, companies and a variety of faith-based communities.

My standard speech was about how to “build a multicultural coalition of the willing.” My message was that diverse communities, including white Trump supporters, could work together to create a future where all of our children would have an equal shot at the American dream. I assured the audiences that I was not their enemy.

I reminded them that those who are now considered white, such as Irish Catholics, Eastern European Jews, Greeks and Italians, were once the boogeyman. I warned them that supporting white nationalism and Trump, in particular, would be self destructive, an act of self-immolation, that will neither help their families or America become great again.

And I listened. Those in the audience who supported Trump came up to me and assured me they weren’t racist. They often said they’d enjoyed the talk, if not my politics. Still, not one told me they’d wavered in their support for him. Instead, they repeated conspiracy theories and Fox News talking points about “crooked Hillary.” Others made comments like, “You’re a good, moderate Muslim. How come others aren’t like you?”

I’ve even tried and failed to have productive conversations with Muslims who voted for Trump. Some love him for the tax cuts. Others listen only to Fox News, say “both sides” are the same, or believe he hasn’t bombed Muslim countries. (They’re wrong.) Many believe they are the “good immigrants,” as they chase whiteness and run away from Blackness, all the way to the suburbs. I can’t make people realize they have Black and brown skin and will never be accepted as white.

I did my part. What was my reward? Listening to Trump’s base chant, “Send her back!” in reference to Representative Ilhan Omar, a black Muslim woman, who came to America as a refugee. I saw the Republican Party transform the McCloskeys into victims, even though the wealthy St. Louis couple illegally brandished firearms against peaceful BLM protesters. Their bellicosity was rewarded with a prime time slot at the Republican National Convention where they warned about “chaos” in the suburbs being invaded by people of color. Their speech would have fit well in ”The Birth of a Nation."

We cannot help people who refuse to help themselves. Trump is an extension of their id, their culture, their values, their greed. He is their defender and savior. He is their blunt instrument. He is their destructive drug of choice.

Don’t waste your time reaching out to Trump voters like I did. Instead, invest your time organizing your community, registering new voters and supporting candidates who reflect progressive values that uplift everyone, not just those who wear MAGA hats, in local and state elections. Work also to protect Americans against lies and conspiracy theories churned out by the right wing media and political ecosystem. One step would be to continue pressuring social media giants like Twitter and Facebook to deplatform hatemongers, such as Steve Bannon, and censor disinformation. It’s not enough, but it’s a start.

Just as in 2016, I don’t need Trump supporters to be humiliated to feel great again. I want them to have health insurance, decent paying jobs and security for their family. I do not want them to suffer, but I also refuse to spend any more time trying to understand and help the architects of my oppression.

I will move forward along with the majority who want progress, equality and justice for all Americans. If Trump supporters decide they want the same, they can always reach out to me. They know where to find me. Ahead of them.

As a gay American hated by much of Trump's base simply because of who I am, I 100% agree with this assessment.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

More Wednesday Male Beauty


 

Republicans Continue to Pander to Trump's Inability to Admit Defeat

The vast majority of Republican elected officials have shamelessly debased themselves over the last four years as they have lied, looked the other way and, in too many instances, participated in Donald Trump's efforts to undermine democratic norms and to use the office of the presidency as a means to funnel taxpayer money to his businesses, cronies, and himself.  The conduct of most Republicans who falsely bloviate about supporting "family values" and loving America make the nastiest prostitute look virtuous in comparison.  Now, with Trump's election defeat and the malignant narcissist-in-chief's inability to admit defeat these same Republicans have shown themselves ready to throw out legal ballots and to overthrow democracy itself.  Trump's motivations are easy to see: (i) he's mentally ill, (ii) he fears criminal prosecution once out of office, and (ii) he has over $400 million in debt coming due soon.  For his enablers and accomplices, the motivations are similarly clear: they fear (i) the GOP's hideous base of racists, far right Christian extremists, and conspiracy theory adherents, and (ii)   a loss of power.  A piece in Politico by the editor of National Review looks at the moral failure of most Republicans.  Here are highlights:

No one expected Donald Trump to handle a defeat in the 2020 election well.  It was predictable he’d deny that he really lost and allege the vote was rigged, that he’d tweet wild and misleading things, and that he’d lash out in absurd and sophomoric ways.  All that was inevitable.

What’s been more disturbing is how far he and his allies have been willing to push it, not content only to delegitimize the election, but actively seeking to invalidate it.

This was the vista briefly opened by the refusal of Republican canvassers in Wayne County — which includes Detroit—to certify the county’s election results on Tuesday. The rare 2-2 deadlock on the board was resolved when the two Republicans agreed to certify the election in an exchange for an audit of precincts where there’s a mismatch between the number of ballots recorded as cast and the number of ballots counted.

Trump cheered the brief refusal to certify (“A Republican WIN!”), and reportedly blocking certifications is part of the Trump strategy going forward.

Trump’s central failing as president has been his inability to distinguish between his personal interest and the public interest. No president in memory has made less of an effort to allow the institution of the presidency to shape him and to conform to the constraints it imposes. Instead, he’s acted as if he’s the host of "Celebrity Apprentice," merely relocated to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and with more Twitter followers.

[Trump] successfully branding the election as stolen is second best for Trump's own purposes.

It takes away some of the sting of defeat, and the millions of his supporters who think it was rigged will fortify him in all future endeavors. They will watch his TV interviews, subscribe if there is a Trump digital media property, give him continuing clout in the GOP, and perhaps support him if he runs again in 2024 to avenge the wrong done to him in 2020.

Elected Republicans have been giving Trump lots of running room, on grounds that he should have the chance to ferret out fraud and to have his day in court.

This is fine as far as it goes, so long as results that withstand scrutiny are honored.

In Wayne County, the discrepancies that motivated the Republican canvassers were vanishingly small. According to the Detroit Free Press, the majority of Election Day precincts and absent voter boards with mismatches had discrepancies of three or fewer votes, amounting to roughly 387 votes. Trump lost Michigan by about 150,000 votes — and slightly overperformed in Wayne County. —

According to Robert Costa of the Washington Post, Rudy Giuliani’s endgame is to block enough certifications to get the election into the House. If this is an accurate rendering of the thinking, it makes zero sense.

The House takes up a presidential election if no one gets a majority of the appointed electors; in other words, a candidate can be below 270 electors and still win. . . . . . This means that the Trump team could block the certifications in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona, and Nevada — and still lose to Joe Biden, 233-232.

To go down this route, the Trump team would have to pile another implausibility on top of blocking certifications in multiple states and have the legislatures appoint Trump electors in stark defiance of the election results—precipitating a constitutional crisis that Trump would ultimately lose, and deserve to.

Trump has such a strong hold on the GOP base that Republicans feel the need to play along with his deep-seated inability to admit defeat. The slogan of counting every “legal vote” is a safe harbor that all Republicans can hew to, but it should go without saying that it must mean counting — and certifying— valid votes for Joe Biden. 

It is far past time that moral and decent Republicans - assuming being a Republican nowadays isn't mutually exclusive with such characteristics - throw Trump overboard and allow him to sink into irrelevance.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


 

Virginia’s Governor Supports Legalizing Marijuana

As noted in numerous posts over the years, Virginia's marijuana laws have been used to disproportionately criminalize non-whites, especially young black males even though studies have shown usage rates among blacks and whites are the same.  Yet, blacks are 3.5 times more likely to be convicted and find themselves with a criminal conviction that bars many employment opportunities.  Sadly, the marijuana laws have been part of the Republican Party of Virginia's arsenal of ways to disenfranchise blacks as the party's ability to win votes has diminished over time as it has become increasingly controlled by right wing Christian extremists and white supremacists.  Now, Virginia's governor has announced that he supports legalization of marijuana which could be controlled much like alcohol and add hundreds of millions of dollars to the Commonwealth's revenue while ending the targeting of blacks.  Here are highlights from the Washington Post:

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Monday that he supports the legalization of marijuana, following the release of a study that found Virginia could generate $300 million in taxes from the sale of the substance.

Northam (D) plans to work with the General Assembly on legislation during the regular session that convenes in January, although the process could take two years to play out.

The legislature passed a bill this year that decriminalized possession of marijuana, creating a $25 civil penalty for a first offense. That measure, which passed with bipartisan support and which Northam signed into law, also mandated a study on the issue of legalization by members of Northam’s Cabinet and staff. That group plans to issue its report at the end of the month but supports legalization.

The governor had campaigned on the issue of decriminalization when he ran in 2017 but had not previously expressed support for full legalization. He called a news conference Monday to discuss the topic.

“We are going to move forward with the legalization of marijuana in Virginia,” Northam said. “I support this, and I’m committed to doing it the right way.” He added that “the time is right” and pointed out that Virginia would be the first state in the South to legalize marijuana.

Northam said that he has never personally tried marijuana but that he has come to support legalization after learning about how communities of color are disproportionately affected by its criminalization.

He said studies have shown that minority and White populations use marijuana in similar rates but that people of color are three times as likely to be arrested for it. He also said he has seen the benefits of marijuana-derived substances in treating children with epilepsy and other disorders in his practice as a pediatric neurologist. And he said he has followed public opinion polls that show increasing support for legalization.

Two-thirds of Americans think marijuana should be legal, according to Pew Research Center data.

Sen. Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria), who sponsored a decriminalization bill this year, said he was already working on a legalization measure for next year and was thrilled by Northam’s support.

Northam’s working group of staffers, led by Agriculture Secretary Bettina Ring, has been meeting with stakeholders from Virginia and other states since July. They are looking at ways to regulate the industry and its products, ensure public health and public safety, and oversee taxation.

Northam also said that the marijuana industry in Virginia must be equitable for minorities and small businesses and that there will be an effort to ensure those factors are considered when granting business licenses.

Health Secretary Daniel Carey said the state’s approach will also emphasize the collection of data to understand the impacts of marijuana use. He said Virginia will use lessons learned from other states, as well as from the tobacco and alcohol industries.

A separate study commissioned this year by the state legislature and released Monday found that it would take two years and between $8 million and $20 million to set up a commercial marijuana market in Virginia and that it could ultimately generate $300 million in annual sales tax revenue.

According to the study by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC), over the past decade, law enforcement in Virginia has made between 20,000 and 30,000 marijuana-related arrests. Ninety percent were for possession of a small amount of the substance. Only 7 percent of those arrests resulted in a jail sentence.

Though Black and White Virginians use marijuana at about the same rate, JLARC found, Black Virginians are 3.5 times as likely to be arrested and convicted.

Four states voted to legalize recreational marijuana possession this year, including Republican-dominated South Dakota. Mississippi legalized medicinal cannabis. Across the country, in the past decade, 15 states and D.C. have legalized marijuana possession for any reason; 20 more allow medical use. And possession of small amounts of marijuana is no longer a crime across the border from Virginia in neighboring Maryland.

Expect Republican opposition.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

More Tuesday Male Beauty


 

We Cannot Trust the Current GOP in Power Again

A column in the New York Times raises a pertinent question: how can the current GOP ever be trusted to hold the White House again?  While Trump has been perhaps the moving force attacking America's democracy, trashing our allies and pushing a reverse Robin Hood agenda why enabling big corporations to pollute the air and water, he has had many enablers and accomplices within the GOP ranging from "Moscow Mitch" McConnell to Lindsey Graham, a/k/a Lady G among the male escorts he uses, who sought to pressure the GOP Secretary of State of Georgia to discard legal ballots. Up and down the ranks of the GOP office holders ignored their oaths of office and put party and the party "fuhrer" ahead of the interests of the nation and the majority of its citizens.  Yes, the column has some warnings to Democrats (although it underestimates the racism that motivates far too many Americans), but overall the biggest treat to American democracy remains the Republican Party in its current incarnation.  Here are column highlights:

So how do I feel two weeks after our election? Awed and terrified. I am in awe at the expression of democracy that took place in America. It was our most impressive election since 1864 and maybe our most important since 1800. And yet, I am still terrified that, but for a few thousand votes in key states, how easily it could have been our last election.

Stop for a second and think about how awesome this election was. In the middle of an accelerating pandemic substantially more Americans voted than ever before in our history — Republicans, Democrats and independents. And it was their fellow citizens who operated the polling stations and conducted the count — many of them older Americans who volunteered for that duty knowing they could contract the coronavirus, as some did.

That’s why this was our greatest expression of American democratic vitality since Abraham Lincoln defeated Gen. George B. McClellan in 1864 — in the midst of a civil war. And that’s why Donald Trump’s efforts to soil this election, with his fraudulent claims of voting fraud, are so vile.

If Trump and his enablers had resisted for only a day or two, OK, no big deal. But the fact that they continue to do so, flailing for ways to overturn the will of the people, egged on by their media toadies. . . . How do you trust this version of the Republican Party to ever hold the White House again?

Its members have sat mute while Trump, rather than using the federal bureaucracy to launch a war against our surging pandemic, has launched a war against his perceived enemies inside that federal bureaucracy — including the defense secretary and the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration — weakening it when we need it most.

Engineering Trump’s internal purge is 30-year-old Johnny McEntee, “a former college quarterback who was hustled out of the White House two years ago after a security clearance check turned up a prolific habit for online gambling,” but Trump later welcomed him back and installed him as personnel director for the entire U.S. government, The Washington Post reported.

A political party that will not speak up against such a reckless leader is not a party any longer. It is some kind of populist cult of personality.

That is why we are so very lucky that this election broke for Joe Biden. If this is how this Republican Party behaves when Trump loses, imagine how willing to tolerate his excesses it would have been had he won? Trump wouldn’t have stopped at any red lights ever again.

And the people who understood that best were democrats all over the world — particularly in Europe. Because they’ve watched Trump-like, right-wing populists in Turkey, Hungary, Poland, Russia and Belarus, as well as the Philippines, get themselves elected and then take control of their courts, media, internet and security institutions and use them to try to cripple their opponents and lock themselves into office indefinitely.

Democrats abroad feared that this same political virus would overtake America if Trump were re-elected and have a devastating effect.

Seeing an American president actually try to undermine the results of a free and fair election “is a warning to democrats all over the world: Don’t play lightly with populists, they will not leave power easily the way Adams did when he lost to Jefferson,” the French foreign policy expert Dominique Mo├»si remarked to me.

That is why Biden’s mission — and the mission of all decent conservatives — is not just to repair America. It is to marginalize this Trumpian version of the G.O.P. and help to nurture a healthy conservative party — one that brings conservative approaches to economic growth, infrastructure, social policy, education, regulation and climate change, but also cares about governing and therefore accepts compromises.

Democrats can’t summon a principled conservative party. That requires courageous conservatives. But Democrats do need to ask themselves why Trump remains so strong among white working-class voters without college degrees, and, in this last election, drew greater support from Black, Latino and white women voters.

There is a warning light flashing for Democrats from this election: They can’t rely on demographics. They need to make sure that every voter believes that the Democratic Party is a “both/and” party, not an “either/or” party. And they need to do it before a smarter, less crude Trump comes along to advance Trumpism.

They need every American to believe that Democrats are for BOTH redividing the pie AND growing the pie, for both reforming police departments and strengthening law and order, for both saving lives in a pandemic and saving jobs, for both demanding equity in education and demanding excellence, for both strengthening safety nets and strengthening capitalism, for both celebrating diversity and celebrating patriotism, for both making college cheaper and making the work of noncollege-educated Americans more respected, for both building a high border wall and incorporating a big gate, for both high-fiving the people who start companies and supporting the people who regulate them.

We need our next presidential election to be fought between a principled center-right Republican Party and a “both/and” Democratic Party. Great countries are led from a healthy center. Weak countries don’t have one.

Tuesday Male Beauty


 

Like A Petulant Child, Trump Fires Officials Who Reject His Lies

Anyone sane knew that Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenfuhrer, was not going to take his election loss well especially as he faces ballooning debts and likely criminal prosecution in New York State if not other places. Even Deutsche Bank is reportedly ready to belatedly kick him to the curb. The result is that any appointed official who refuses to buy into Trump's lies and/or refuses to implement his ill-advised orders is finding themselves subject to summary firing be it the Secretary of Defense who ordered military troops to stand down and not confront civilian protestors to now Christopher Krebs, head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at the Department of Homeland Security who rejected Trump's lies about election fraud.  Even more troubling, Trump has reportedly been looking for a way to start a war with Iran that would likely make the Iraq War fiascos look petty ante.  When is Mike Pence and the members of the Cabinet going to invoke the 25th Amendment before Trump does even more lasting harm to the nation? Pence would get to be president, albeit for only about 60 days, and a dangerous malignant narcissist would not be able to harm the nation and the lives of its citizens.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at Trump's growing erratic vindictiveness.  Here are excerpts: 

Trump on Tuesday fired a top Department of Homeland Security official who led the agency’s efforts to help secure the election and was vocal about tamping down unfounded claims of ballot fraud.

In a tweet, Trump fired Christopher Krebs, who headed the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at DHS, and led successful efforts to help state and local election offices protect their systems and to rebut misinformation.

Earlier in the day, Krebs in a tweet refuted allegations that election systems were manipulated, saying that “59 election security experts all agree, ‘in every case of which we are aware, these claims either have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent.’”

Krebs’ statement amounted to a debunking of Trump’s central claim that the November election was stolen.

 Trump's behavior is increasing reminiscent of Hitler's final days in the F├╝hrerbunker as it became more and more difficult for Hitler to cling to his delusions. 

Monday, November 16, 2020

Final Monday Male Beauty


 

GA GOP Secretary of State Accuses Lindsey Graham and Republicans of Election Fraud Effort

Just when you think the recent election aftermath can't get any stranger - Der Trumpenfuhrer still refuses to concede - Georgia's Republican Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger has gone on the warpath and stated that numerous Republicans, including Senator Lindsey Graham, a/k/a Lady G and/or the Palmetto Queen, sought to pressure him (he has received death threats) to discard legal absentee ballots in order to hand Georgia's electoral votes to Trump.  Time and time again we hear Republican bloviating about election fraud, yet the worse perpetrators of would be election fraud are usually Republicans.  Some are now even calling for Lady G - who has shown yet again that there are no limits to his self-prostitution to Trump - to resign his U.S. Senate position.  The Washington Post reports on this shocking and no doubt illegal effort against Raffensperger and election integrity.  Here are highlights:

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Monday that he has come under increasing pressure in recent days from fellow Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), who he said questioned the validity of legally cast absentee ballots, in an effort to reverse President Trump’s narrow loss in the state.

Raffensperger expressed exasperation over a string of baseless allegations coming from Trump and his allies about the integrity of the Georgia results, including claims that Dominion Voting Systems, the Colorado-based manufacturer of Georgia’s voting machines, is a “leftist” company with ties to Venezuela that engineered thousands of Trump votes to be left out of the count.

osThe atmphere has grown so contentious, Raffensperger said, that he and his wife, Tricia, have received death threats in recent days, including a text to him that read: “You better not botch this recount. Your life depends on it.”

He said he reported the threats to state authorities.

The pressure on Raffensperger, who has bucked his party in defending the state’s voting process, comes as Georgia is in the midst of a laborious hand recount of about 5 million ballots. President-elect Joe Biden has a 14,000-vote lead in the initial count.

The normally mild-mannered Raffensperger saved his harshest language for Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R-Ga.), who is leading the president’s efforts in Georgia and whom Raffensperger called a “liar” and a “charlatan.”

Raffensperger has said that every accusation of fraud will be thoroughly investigated, but that there is currently no credible evidence that fraud occurred on a broad enough scale to affect the outcome of the election.

The recount, Raffensperger said in the interview Monday, will “affirm” the results of the initial count. He said the hand-counted audit that began last week will also prove the accuracy of the Dominion machines; some counties have already reported that their hand recounts exactly match the machine tallies previously reported.

“I’m an engineer. We look at numbers. We look at hard data,” Raffensperger said. “I can’t help it that a failed candidate like Collins is running around lying to everyone. He’s a liar.”

In the interview, Raffensperger also said he spoke on Friday to Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who has echoed Trump’s unfounded claims about voting irregularities.

In their conversation, Graham questioned Raffensperger about the state’s signature-matching law and whether political bias could have prompted poll workers to accept ballots with nonmatching signatures, according to Raffensperger. Graham also asked whether Raffensperger had the power to toss all mail ballots in counties found to have higher rates of nonmatching signatures, Raffensperger said.

Raffensperger said he was stunned that Graham appeared to suggest that he find a way to toss legally cast ballots. Absent court intervention, Raffensperger doesn’t have the power to do what Graham suggested because counties administer elections in Georgia.

“It sure looked like he was wanting to go down that road,” Raffensperger said.

“It doesn’t matter what political party or which campaign does that,” Raffensperger said. “The secrecy of the vote is sacred.”

The secretary of state also warned that the Republican attacks on Dominion voting machines could create issues for the state’s Republican U.S. senators, Loeffler and David Perdue, who face runoffs on Jan. 5 that will be administered using the same Dominion machines.

More Monday Male Beauty


 

Christofascist Authoritarianism Is Here to Stay

Having been actively involved in politics - first as a Republican and now as a Democrat - I have long seen the Christofascists, those who advocate for white Christian nationalism, as a dangerous threat to American democracy. To these people, the end justifies the means and no lie is too big nor is any act of cruelty too severe (think Trump's family separation policy) and their focus is always on themselves  and their desire to inflict there beliefs on all of society.  When I saw their influence growing in the Republican Party and the GOP losing sight of the concept of separation of church and state, I left the .  Over the intervening two decades, the toxicity and threat of the Christofascist has only increased. Their support for Donald Trump came down to one thing: he promised to give them special rights and an ability to harm others.  This satisfied both the rank and file of evangelicals but also the scamvangelists who pose as the self-styled leaders of the moment as well as their wealthy donors.  A column in the New York Times looks at why Trump's defeat will not see these self-centered and cruel - evil, if you will - people disapper back into the political wilderness.  Here are excerpts:

Will President-elect Joe Biden’s victory force America’s Christian nationalists to rethink the unholy alliance that powered Donald Trump’s four-year tour as one of the nation’s most dangerous presidents? Don’t count on it.

The 2020 election is proof that religious authoritarianism is here to stay, and the early signs now indicate that the movement seems determined to reinterpret defeat at the top of the ticket as evidence of persecution and of its own righteousness. With or without Mr. Trump, they will remain committed to the illiberal politics that [Trump] the president has so ably embodied.

As it did in 2016, the early analysis of the 2020 election results often circled around the racial, urban-rural, and income and education divides. But the religion divide tells an equally compelling story.  . . . . 28 percent of voters identified as either white evangelical or white born-again Christian, and of these, 76 percent voted for Mr. Trump.

The core of Mr. Trump’s voting bloc, to be clear, does not come from white evangelicals as such, but from an overlapping group of not necessarily evangelical, and not necessarily white, people who identify at least loosely with Christian nationalism: the idea that the United States is and ought to be a Christian nation governed under a reactionary understanding of Christian values.

In their responses to the election outcome, some prominent religious right leaders have enabled or remained true to the false Trumpian line of election fraud. . . . . “What we are witnessing only happens in communist or repressive regimes. We must not allow this fraud to happen in America.”

Even as prominent Republican figures like George W. Bush and Mitt Romney slowly tried to nudge Mr. Trump toward the exit, leaders of the religious right continued to man the barricades.

After processing their disappointment, Christian nationalists may come around to the reality of Joe Biden’s victory. There is no indication, however, that this will temper their apocalyptic vision, according to which one side of the American political divide represents unmitigated evil. During a Nov. 11 virtual prayer gathering organized by the Family Research Council, one of the key speakers cast the election as the consequence of “the whole godless ideology that’s wanted to swallow our homes, destroy our marriages, throw our children into rivers of confusion.”

The comments pouring in from these and other figures may be forgotten when Mr. Biden takes office. But they are worth paying attention to now for what they say about the character of the movement. While many outsiders continue to think of Christian nationalism as a social movement that arises from the ground up, it in fact a political movement that operates mostly from the top down. The rank-and-file of the movement is diverse and comes to its churches with an infinite variety of motivations and concerns, but the leaders are far more unified.

What holds them together is not any centralized command structure, but a radical political ideology that is profoundly hostile to democracy and pluralism, and a certain political style that seeks to provoke moral panic, rewards the paranoid and views every partisan conflict as a conflagration, the end of the world. Partisan politics is the lifeblood of their movement.

The power of the leadership is the function of at least three underlying structural realities in America’s political and economic life, and those realities are not going to change anytime soon.

The first is the growing economic inequality that has produced spectacular fortunes for the few, while too many ordinary families struggle to get by. Leaders of the movement get much of the support for their well-funded operations from a cadre of super-wealthy individuals and extended families who are as committed to free-market fundamentalism as they are to reactionary religion. The donors in turn need the so-called values voters in order to lock down their economic agenda of low taxation for the wealthy and minimal regulation.

The second structural reality to consider is that Christian nationalism is a creation of a uniquely isolated messaging sphere. Many members of the rank and file get their main political information not just from messaging platforms that keep their audiences in a world that is divorced from reality, but also from dedicated religious networks and reactionary faith leaders.

The third critical factor is a political system that gives disproportionate power to an immensely organized, engaged and loyal minority. One of the most reliable strategies for producing that unshakable cohort has been to get them to agree that abortion is the easy answer to every difficult political policy question. Recently, religious right leaders have shifted their focus more to a specious understanding of what they call “religious freedom” or “religious liberty,” but the underlying strategy is the same: make individuals see their partisan vote as the primary way to protect their cultural and religious identity.

Republicans have long known that the judiciary is one of the most effective instruments of minority rule. Mr. Trump’s success in packing the federal judiciary — as of this writing, 220 federal judges, including three Supreme Court justices — will be one of his most devastating legacies. The prospect of further entrenching minority rule in the coming years will keep the alliance between Republicans and the religious right alive.

The point of conspiratorial narratives and apocalyptic rhetoric is to lay the groundwork for a politics of total obstruction, in preparation for the return of a “legitimate” ruler. The best guess is that religious authoritarianism of the next four years will look a lot like it did in the last four years. We ignore the political implications for our democracy at our peril.

Monday Morning Male Beauty


 Pump is actually my favorite brand.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

The Republican Party Has to Choose Between Two Paths Forward

As the date on which the Electoral College results confirming Joe Biden's election gets closer and closer, as a piece in The Atlantic by a former Republican lays out, Republicans are approaching a point where they must decide between two paths going forward if they hope to avoid becoming a permanent minority party over the coming decade in all but the most rural backward states. One approach is more of the same with reliance on gerrymandering, voter disenfranchisement, and the structural defect in the USA's constitutional system that gives even the smallest, thinly populated states two U.S. Senators.  This approach allows minority rule of the majority - or at least until the majority revolts and a systemic change is forced through.  The other is to modernize and seek to appeal to the rapidly changing majority of the county which is increasingly racially diverse, less religious, and better educated than today's GOP base.  A party with a long term plan and desire to thrive would choose the latter.  Sadly, given the deplorables (e.g., white supremacists, right wing Christian fanatics and ever greedy wealthy) who make up the current base of the GOP than approach may be off the table.  Here are column highlights:

Since the election, some of Trump’s supporters have begun to ponder pursuing a “Trumpism without Trump,” crafting a Trumpist ideology severed from Trump’s self-harming personality and grudges.

There are at least two big problems with this concept.

First, it’s not at all clear that such a thing as Trumpism exists, apart from Donald Trump’s own personality and grudges. Subtract Trump’s resentments and the myth of Trump the business genius and what’s left? Are immigration restriction, trade war with China, and blowing up NATO really such compelling concerns? Are those goals what energized 71 million Americans? Would they energize voters to support Tom Cotton, Dan Crenshaw, Josh Hawley, or Marco Rubio? That seems unlikely. And while there are potential contenders for the resentment vote—the cable host Tucker Carlson, Trump’s son Don Jr.—they cannot offer the myth of business success. Worse, they overdo the resentment. That’s fine for carving out a cable-TV or Facebook-based business. But if resentment didn't work politically for George Wallace in 1968, it’s not going to work for George Wallace knockoffs in 2024.

The second problem is that Trump was felled by basic math. He polarized American society in a way that trapped him on the less numerous pole. The anti-Trump vote exceeded the pro-Trump vote by almost 3 million in 2016, by nearly 9 million in 2018, and by 5 million and counting in 2020.

Trump’s ego needs blinded him to that truth. He clutched a fantasy of his superb campaign and triumphant candidacy, and even now, he clings to the delusion that he did not really lose the 2020 election by a decisive margin. But Trumpism without Trump would face the challenge of reality. Trumpism minus Trump is Trumpism minus the excitement that mobilized Trump supporters, but still with many of the issues that repelled Trump opponents. Trumpism minus Trump has no idea how to shrink the gender gap among voters, no idea how to appeal to the college-educated, no message for the suburbs except more and noisier racism, nothing that can speak to the productive centers of the new American economy.

As for the idea of bypassing the college-educated, the suburbs, and the great majority of American women so that the party can reinvent itself as “a multiethnic, multiracial working class coalition,” in Rubio’s words—how can that fantasy come to life? The GOP has no coherent policy on health insurance or college-tuition costs. Trump appealed to less educated voters in part via his seething loathing of experts. But unlike his would-be successors, Trump meant it. He could feel smart only by dismissing everybody else as dumb, and the more expert those other people were, the more he needed to demean them. Some enjoyed that performance, more were appalled, but all could see it was real.

Trumpism is the political equivalent of losing money on every sale but hoping to make up the loss by volume. The harder you try, the worse you do.

All of which leaves Trump’s successors with only two practical strategies to follow. The first alternative is the one at the top of this piece: accept candidly that post-Trump Republicanism is likely to remain a minority party, and then maximize the powers of that minority.

As I write today, it looks like Republicans have actually strengthened their grip on the machinery of redistricting, enabling another decade of minority rule.

In cases from North Carolina and Wisconsin in 2018 and 2019, the Supreme Court greenlit partisan gerrymandering as long as those doing the gerrymandering take care to leave no evidence of racial animus on the record. Since the Court weakened the Voting Rights Act in 2013, enacting measures to suppress votes or to purge voters from the rolls has become easier, and if Republicans retain a majority in the Senate, they can ensure that no new Voting Rights Act supplements the old one.

Since the Senate map is becoming steadily less representative over time, this project of minority rule can be a robust basis of power for many years to come, even without the presidency. Better yet, as in the Obama years, if a Democratic president is nonwhite or female or highly educated or all three, cultural resentment of that president becomes a mighty weapon of partisan recruitment and media engagement.

The Republican future in this scenario replicates the southern-Democratic past. There is another way forward for the party, but it involves more change.  

This way begins with a basic fact: Over the course of the 2010s, the share of adult non-Hispanic whites with a college degree rose from 33 percent to 40 percent. That proportion will continue to rise in the 2020s.

It is education more than immigration that is making formerly red states purple, or even blue. In Texas, for example, the higher the proportion of college-educated adults in a county, the harder that county swung to the Democrats in the Trump era. One result, noted by The Texas Tribune, is that Dallas and Fort Worth are following Austin and Houston into the Democratic column—and in the six fastest-growing Texas suburban counties, Trump won by a cumulative total of a tenth of a percentage point, or 2,515 votes.

Similar stories can be told in Arizona, Georgia, and North Carolina.

To compete, Republicans must adapt to the new American electorate: more secular, more diverse, more accepting of female leadership. And this is possible.

It may take time for Republicans to acknowledge to themselves the truth about the Trump years. But they can act on that truth even if they do not acknowledge it. They can begin by putting an end to Trump’s postelection tantrum and accepting without further weasel talk the reality of Joe Biden’s victory and his presidency. Then they can quit the gerrymandering business and recommit themselves to equal voting rights—competing to win over voters rather than disenfranchising them. Their goal should be creating a modern party of the center-right, redeemed from the squalor of the Trump era, unafraid of elections equally and fairly open to every adult citizen.

Otherwise, America is heading back to the politics of the Jim Crow era, with privileged minorities manipulating antidemocratic state rules to thwart democracy at the national level. This was wrong then, and it’s wrong now.