Saturday, January 02, 2021

Cowards Are Destroying the GOP

If one disregards Donald Trump who in some ways is symptom rather than a cause of the moral decline of the Republican Party, two currents are at work destroying the GOP.  The first is the ever coarser, more ignorant, more openly racist and religiously extreme base of the party.  There is a reason educated suburban whites have been fleeing from the GOP: they want nothing to do with the base or Trump who is the embodiment of today's ugly GOP base.  The second is the growing cowardice of Republican elected officials, especially those in Congress who willing throw their oath of office in the toilet rather than stand up to Trump and his cultists. Unlike during the 2012 campaign when John McCain corrected a woman who accused Obama of being a Muslim, few in todays GOP congressional caucuses has the courage to (i) call Trump out as a liar, or (ii) tell the party base that they are wrong and played for fools by shameless opportunists.  As January 6th and the certification of the Electoral College approaches the future of the nation hangs on the hope that some principled Republicans - a dying breed - will stand with Democrats and end the Trump insanity.  A column in The Atlantic looks at the cowards destroying the GOP.  Here are highlights:

Those hoping for a quick snapback to sanity for the Republican Party once Donald Trump is no longer president should temper those hopes.  

The latest piece of evidence to suggest the enduring power of Trumpian unreality is yesterday’s announcement by Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri that he will object next week when Congress convenes to certify the Electoral College vote.

Hawley knows this effort will fail, just as every other effort to undo the results of the lawful presidential election will fail. (A brief reminder for those with faulty short-term memories: Joe Biden defeated Trump by more than 7 million popular votes and 74 Electoral College votes.) Every single attempt to prove that the election was marked by fraud or that President-elect Biden’s win is illegitimate—an effort that now includes about 60 lawsuits—has flopped. In fact, what we’ve discovered since the November 3 election is that it was “the most secure in American history,” as election experts in Trump’s own administration have declared. But this immutable, eminently provable fact doesn’t deter Trump and many of his allies from trying to overturn the election; perversely, it seems to embolden them.  

One such Trump ally is Tommy Tuberville, the newly elected senator from Alabama, . . . But what makes Hawley’s declaration ominously noteworthy is that unlike Tuberville—a former college football coach who owes his political career in a deep-red state to Trump’s endorsement in the GOP primary against Jeff Sessions—Hawley is a man who clearly knows better. . . .A former state attorney general, Hawley has litigated before the Supreme Court. He graduated from Stanford University in 2002 and Yale Law School in 2006. He has clerked for Chief Justice John Roberts; he taught at one of London’s elite private schools, St. Paul’s; and he served as an appellate litigator at one of the world’s biggest law firms.

“He surely knows this isn’t true,” this acquaintance continued, “and that the legal arguments don’t hold water. And yet clearly the incentives he confronts—as someone who wants to speak for those voters, and as someone with ambitions beyond the Senate—lead him to conclude he should pretend the lie is true. This is obviously a very bad sign about the direction of the GOP in the coming years.”  

Think about this statement for a moment: The incentives Josh Hawley and many of his fellow Republicans officeholders confront lead them to conclude that they should pretend the lie is true.

Those who have hoped that Republicans like Senator Hawley would begin to break free from Trump once he lost the election have not understood the nature of the change that has come over the party’s base.

Trump was the product of deep, disturbing currents on the American right; he was not the creator of them. Those currents have existed for many decades; we saw them manifested in the popularity of figures such as Sarah Palin, Patrick J. Buchanan, Newt Gingrich, Oliver North, and many others.

In 2016, Trump tapped into these currents and, as president and leader of the Republican Party, he channeled those populist passions destructively, rather than in the constructive ways that other Republicans before him, such as Ronald Reagan, had done. (Even if you’re a progressive who loathed Reagan, the notion that he was a pernicious and malicious force in American politics in the style of Trump is simply not credible.)  

What is happening in the GOP is that figures such as Hawley, along with many of his Senate and House colleagues, and important Republican players, including the former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, are all trying to position themselves as the heirs of Trump. None of them possesses the same sociopathic qualities as Trump, and their efforts will be less impulsive and presumably less clownish, more calculated and probably less conspiracy-minded. . . . But these figures are seismographers; they are determined to act in ways that win the approval of the Republican Party’s base. And this goes to the heart of the danger.

The problem with the Republican “establishment” and with elected officials such as Josh Hawley is not that they are crazy, or that they don’t know any better; it is that they are cowards, and that they are weak. They are far more ambitious than they are principled, and they are willing to damage American politics and society rather than be criticized by their own tribe.

The single most worrisome political fact in America right now is that a significant portion of the Republican Party lives in a fantasy world, a place where facts and truth don’t hold sway, where “owning the libs” is an end in itself, and where seceding from reality is a symbol of tribal loyalty, rather than a sign of mental illness. This is leading the party, and America itself, to places we’ve never been before, including the spectacle of a defeated president and his supporters engaging in a sustained effort to steal an election.

The tactics of Hawley and his many partisan confreres, if they aren’t checked and challenged, will put at risk what the scholar Stephen L. Carter calls “the entire project of Enlightenment democracy.” This doesn’t seem to bother Hawley and many in his party. But what he should know—and, one hopes, does know, somewhere in the recesses of his heart—is that he has moved very far away from conservatism.

Whether the Republican Party can be salvaged is very much an open question. I don’t know the answer. But here is what I do know: Patriotic Republicans and conservatives need to fight for the soul of the Republican Party, for its sake and for the sake of the nation.

Trump’s departure on January 20 should open up space for at least a few brave and responsible figures to arise, to help ground the GOP in truth rather than falsehoods, reality instead of fantasy, and to use the instruments of power for the pursuit of justice.  

Their task won’t be easy; right now the political winds are in their face rather than at their back. Trump’s hold on the GOP remains firm, and separating from Trump and Trumpism will trigger hostility in an often angry and radicalized base. The right-wing ecosystem is in a mood to find and (figuratively) hang traitors, whom it defines as anyone in the Republican Party who doesn’t acquiesce to Trump’s indecency and paranoia.

Our collective hope should be that principled Republicans will find their voice and prevail—one courageous step at a time, one act of decency at a time, one year at a time.  

More Saturday Male Beauty


The Case for Optimism in 2021

For many we'd like to wipe the year pandemic 2020 for our memories.  On the plus side, Trump was not reelected.  On the negative side of the ledger, Republican political whores and sycophants continue to attempt to overthrow the election results and, if they hold control of the U.S. Senate will likely engage in economic sabotage against the Biden administration under the guise of being "fiscally conservative" after they and Trump blithely added $8 trillion to the national debt.  Despite these likely evil GOP machinations, one economist is optimistic that 2021 will be the beginning of a strong economic recovery that should improve the situation for many Americans, especially those who engage in personal responsibility, stay in school and reject the embrace of ignorance which is now a major requirement to be a modern day Republican. A column in the New York Times looks at the bumpy start of 2021 which hopefully then unfolds on a more positive note.  Here are highlights:

The next few months will be hell in terms of politics, epidemiology and economics. But at some point in 2021 things will start getting better. And there’s good reason to believe that once the good news starts, the improvement in our condition will be much faster and continue much longer than many people expect.

OK, one thing that probably won’t get better is the political scene. Day after day, Republicans — it’s not just Donald Trump — keep demonstrating that they’re worse than you could possibly have imagined, even when you tried to take into account the fact that they’re worse than you could possibly have imagined. One of our two major political parties no longer accepts the legitimacy of elections it loses, which bodes ill for the fate of the Republic.

But on other fronts there’s a clear case for optimism. Science has come to our rescue, big time, with the miraculously fast development of vaccines against the coronavirus. True, the United States is botching the initial rollout, which should surprise nobody. But this is probably just a temporary hitch, especially because in less than three weeks we’ll have a president actually interested in doing his job.

And once we’ve achieved widespread vaccination, the economy will bounce back. The question is, how big will the bounce be?

Our last economic crisis was followed by a sluggish recovery. Employment didn’t return to 2007 levels until 2014; real median household income didn’t regain the lost ground until 2016. And many observers expect a replay of that story, especially if Republicans retain control of the Senate and engage, once again, in economic sabotage under the pretense of being fiscally responsible.

This 2020 crisis, by contrast, was brought on by a headwind out of nowhere, in the form of the coronavirus. The private sector doesn’t seem to have been particularly overextended before the pandemic. And while we shouldn’t minimize the hardships faced by millions of families, on average Americans have been saving like crazy, and will emerge from the pandemic with stronger balance sheets than they had before.

So I’m in the camp that expects rapid growth once people feel safe going out and spending money. Mitch McConnell and company will, no doubt, do what they always do when a Democrat occupies the White House, and try to sabotage the recovery. But this time the economy won’t need support as badly as it did during the Obama years.

And I suspect, although with less confidence, that the boom will go on for a long time. Why? Because like a number of other people, I’m getting optimistic about the future of technology.

Lately, however, I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz around new physical technologies that reminds me of the buzz about information technology in the early 1990s, which presaged the productivity surge from 1995 to 2005. Biotechnology finally seems to be coming into its own — hence those miraculous vaccines. There has been incredible progress in renewable energy; I’m old enough to remember when solar power was considered a hippie fantasy, and now it’s cheaper than fossil fuels.

This new wave of innovation doesn’t have much to do with policy, although progress in renewables can be partly attributed to the Obama administration’s promotion of green energy. But the Biden administration, unlike its predecessor, won’t be anti-science and won’t try desperately to preserve the coal-burning past. That will help us take advantage of progress.

I’m less confident in my techno-optimism than I am in my expectations for a rapid employment recovery once we’ve been vaccinated. But all in all, there’s a pretty good chance that Joe Biden will preside over an economy that surprises many people on the upside. Happy New Year.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Study: Fifty Years of GOP Trickle Down Economics Has Only Benefitted the Rich

Thinking people - a category that increasingly excludes most Republicans - long ago figured out the past fifty years of Republican tax cuts for the rich labeled as trickle down economics would do little or nothing for anyone but the rich receiving the tax cuts. Now a new study by David Hope of the London School of Economics and Julian Limberg of King's College London, that examined 18 developed countries and their tax policies confirms this reality.  All that has happened is that the rich are richer and wealthy disparities have increased in nations that have followed the Republican formula proving once and for all that voodoo economics is too kind of a label for this failed approach and that it has constituted nothing more than taking from the poor to give to the rich. Stated another way, it's clear that the only justification for the failed agenda is greed among the wealthy and a disregard for the majority of Americans.  Sadly, many working and middle class voters continue to either fall for the lie or allow themselves  to be coopted by the GOP's calls to racism, right wing religious extremism or simple animus for others.  CBS News looks at the study findings.  Here are highlights:

Tax cuts for the wealthy have long drawn support from conservative lawmakers and economists who argue that such measures will "trickle down" and eventually boost jobs and incomes for everyone else. But a new study from the London School of Economics says 50 years of such tax cuts have only helped one group — the rich.

The new paper, by David Hope of the London School of Economics and Julian Limberg of King's College London, examines 18 developed countries — from Australia to the United States — over a 50-year period from 1965 to 2015. The study compared countries that passed tax cuts in a specific year, such as the U.S. in 1982 when President Ronald Reagan slashed taxes on the wealthy, with those that didn't, and then examined their economic outcomes. 

Per capita gross domestic product and unemployment rates were nearly identical after five years in countries that slashed taxes on the rich and in those that didn't, the study found. 

[T]he analysis discovered one major change: The incomes of the rich grew much faster in countries where tax rates were lowered. Instead of trickling down to the middle class, tax cuts for the rich may not accomplish much more than help the rich keep more of their riches and exacerbate income inequality, the research indicates.

"Based on our research, we would argue that the economic rationale for keeping taxes on the rich low is weak," Julian Limberg, a co-author of the study and a lecturer in public policy at King's College London, said in an email to CBS MoneyWatch. "In fact, if we look back into history, the period with the highest taxes on the rich — the postwar period — was also a period with high economic growth and low unemployment."

[T]he research doesn't include President Donald Trump's massive tax overhaul, which he signed into law in late 2017 and which slashed taxes for the rich and corporations while providing a moderate cut for the middle class. But Limberg, who co-authored the study with David Hope, a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics' International Inequalities Institute, said that he wouldn't expect the results of that tax cut to be much different.

Already, Mr. Trump's tax cuts have lifted the fortunes of the ultra-rich, according to 2019 research from two prominent economists, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman of the University of California at Berkeley. For the first time in a century, the 400 richest American families paid lower taxes in 2018 than people in the middle class, the economists found. 

 The "careful" new research from the London School Economics "suggests indeed that tax increases on the wealthy should be considered post-COVID," Berkeley's Zucman said in an email to CBS MoneyWatch.

To be sure, the economy was humming along before the pandemic struck the nation in March . . . Yet even so, millions of American families struggled to find jobs that paid living wages, while the cost of essentials such as health care, housing and education increased at far faster rates than the typical income. Even before the pandemic, income inequality had reached its highest point in 50 years, according to Census data.

Since the pandemic began, the combined wealth of America's 651 billionaires has jumped by more than $1 trillion, reaching $4 trillion in early December, Americans for Tax Fairness said earlier this month. 

Meanwhile, almost 8 million Americans have fallen into poverty since the start of the pandemic through November, according to new data released by the University of Chicago and the University of Notre Dame.

Rebuilding the economy and household wealth for low- and middle-class families are among the issues facing President-elect Joe Biden after he's inaugurated next month. Raising taxes on the rich and corporations could provide trillions of dollars in resources for helping the economic recovery, Zucman told CBS MoneyWatch.

"This is not only a viable option, but also a fair option, because some of the wealthiest taxpayers have benefited from the pandemic — for instance large corporations such as Amazon and their shareholders," he noted.

Friday, January 01, 2021

More New Year's Male Beauty


2020 Shattered the Myth of American Exceptionalism

Throughout history various nations and their populations have viewed themselves as exceptional and superior to other nations: e.g., the Persian empire, ancient Athens at the height of the Delian League, the Roman Republic, France under Louis XIV and Napoleon, Tsarist Russia, the British Empire at the turn of the 20th century - the list goes on.  All ultimately lost their dominance either from defeat in war, internal strife and revolution, or a failure to see shortcomings that ultimately eroded national strength and unity.  Like nations before it, America and far too many Americans have drunk the myth of American exceptionalism and those on the right now threaten American democracy.  Unfortunately, this myth too often prevents much needed self-assessment, an honest view of history and needed problem solving.  If there is any positive from the year 2020 it may be that this myth - which can have positive aspects at times - has been shattered, particularly in the face of the nation's spectacular failure in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. A piece in Politico looks at this phenomenon with a focus on Minnesota, but that state's history and experience parallels that of other states, merely the details vary.  This coming year, Americans need to strive to make the myth reality. Here are article excerpts:

In a non-pandemic year, a combination of vacation and personal commitments would take me to the state [Minnesota] perhaps four or five times in a year. People here are solid, sensible, a bit stoical, emphatically decent — the Minnesota of myth.

As it happens, this year I did don my mask for a daylong work trip to the Minnesota of reality. That’s the state with Derek Chauvin’s knee on George Floyd’s neck. I spent 12 hours on the ground for an interview with Gov. Tim Walz about how he was managing the twin traumas of racial unrest and the coronavirus. Walz, an earnest and amiable fellow who is the first governor in 40 years not to come from the Twin Cities metropolitan area, is trying to lead a once-placid state that now vividly highlights the raw, pus-seeping, I-can’t-stand-you-either sores of the Trump Era.

Before we delve into that reality, let’s linger a bit longer on myth. A myth is not synonymous with fiction. Those loons on the lake, and those nice people I encounter, actually exist. A myth is more like a distillation of reality, with the uncomfortable and unattractive parts filtered out. This leaves the pleasing and affirming parts in pure form, to lodge deeply in imagination and memory.

Most people, in my experience, hold close some mythical destination that is similar to what Minnesota is to me. . . . . This is about the crossroads of physical place with internal values, where it is possible to conceive and experience some better version of ourselves.

The great national story of 2020, wherever one lives, was the collision of myth and reality. The American mythology is of an exceptional leader among nations. This year’s reality was exceptionalism of the wrong kind, leading in absolute terms in coronavirus infections and deaths, and with a deplorable record even in relative terms as a percent of population. Our shared story, taught to children and commonly embraced by adults, is that we are on the surface a nation of ornery individualists but underneath are the kind of people who put differences aside and pull together when it really matters. Hmm ... Do you think so?

This points to what one hopes will be the great story of 2021. That is to prove that our national myths, while plainly not fully real, are at least not fully fraudulent. How does a country recover from lost innocence? A good place to start is to recall that innocence was never really there to be lost.

It is on this point that Minnesota is a fine case study. This is true in part because — unlike many Southern states, which were stained from the start by slavery — it is not immediately obvious that this Northern state, with a reputation for Scandinavian-influenced progressivism and civic virtue, might have historic stains of its own.

In 1973, Time Magazine immortalized the state’s romantic conception of itself with a cover that proclaimed, “The Good Life in Minnesota.” It featured the ruddy-faced Democratic governor, Wendell Anderson, in a flannel shirt, holding a freshly caught northern pike. Time’s writer declared, “Some of the nation's more agreeable qualities are evident there: courtesy and fairness, honesty, a capacity for innovation, hard work, intellectual adventure and responsibility.”

How does one go from this version of Minnesota to the version of 2020, when Floyd’s killing on May 25 produced spasms of protests and rioting that left large swaths of Minneapolis boarded up for months after? The answer is with far more continuity in the threads of history than one might suppose.

The state, like most places in the United States, was built in part on a foundation of violence and racial animus. My cousins grew up in the small southern Minnesota town of Mankato — where in 1862, the federal government carried out the largest single-day mass execution in American history. The hangings of 38 Native Americans were approved by none other than President Abraham Lincoln, as part of the conflict between the U.S. Army and the Dakota tribe in the state, then four years into statehood.

In Northfield, the town celebrates its brave 1876 defeat of the Jesse James Gang with a campy festival and reenactment. But as my college classmate, historian T.J. Stiles, illuminated in an acclaimed biography of James, the story of the James-Younger gang shouldn’t be understood through a prism of Old West romanticism. Though sometimes sentimentalized as a plucky American Robin Hood, James was motivated not just by greed but also by racial hatred and fury over the North’s victory in the Civil War.

Nor would the Minnesotans who engaged in, or helped suppress, violent labor unrest in Minneapolis in the 1930s, or racial unrest in the 1960s. These people may not have recognized Donald Trump as a political type— his personality is a product of modern media — but they would not have been shocked by what now is called “polarization,” or the reality of pervasive malice, identity politics or contempt for the established order that now often defines public life.

There are times, as in 2020, when events shine a glaring light on the gap between professed ideals and life as it is really lived. One response to this exposure is to conclude that the ideals were always a fraud and the mythologies that sustained them are a part of the problem. Another response is to accept paradox as part of our national character, and try anew to narrow the gap between aspiration and achievement. In Minnesota, as in America, myths can serve a useful purpose.

New Year's Morning Male Beauty


Josh Hawley’s Ambition is a Threat to the Republic

Over the last four years, but the last year in particular we seen the damage done to the nation and democracy when a totally self-centered individual who literally cares nothing about others occupies the White House.  Now, GOP Senator Josh Hawley is demonstrating that he is cut out a similar mold except that he knows exactly what he is doing and doesn't have the flimsy excuse of mental illness.  How else to view Hawley's announced attempt to undue the results of the 2020 election in a bid to endear himself to Donald Trump's ignorance and conspiracy embracing, cultist base of support.  That Hawley would destroy the nation's democracy and disenfranchise millions of Americans simply to further his own ambition indicates that he is unfit for any high office and, indeed, should resign his Senate seat. He needs to be understood as a threat and thoroughly repudiated.  We don't need a younger, prettier, even more cynical and equally immoral version of Donald Trump. A column in the Washington Post calls out Hawley for what he is: a treat to the republic.  Here are excerpts:

The announced intention of Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) to object to certification of Joe Biden’s electoral college victory is a particularly bad omen for the GOP’s future. Unlike, say, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — who has an ideological commitment to public chaos and the humiliation of the U.S. government — Hawley has often tried to offer a constructive vision of conservative populism. As a former clerk to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Hawley surely possesses a serious understanding of the constitutional order. He is, on personal acquaintance, a talented, knowledgeable, ambitious young man.

The problem with political decadence is not what it does to those who are already disordered. The primary problem is what it does to talented, knowledgeable, ambitious young leaders who can be warped toward a destructive influence.

Ambition can lead men and women to say things they don’t believe, to the detriment of their character. The worse problem comes when it leads politicians outside the boundaries of democracy, which is where Hawley now finds himself. In the cause of his own advancement, the senator from Missouri is willing to endorse the disenfranchisement of millions of Americans — particularly voters of color — and justify the attempted theft of an election. He is willing to credit malicious lies that will poison our democracy for generations. The fulfillment of Hawley’s intention — the ultimate overturning of the election — would be the collapse of U.S. self-government. The attempt should be a source of shame.

The ultimate responsibility lies with Hawley himself. But his temptation also represents the more general triumph of a dangerous type of politics — the politics of delegitimization. We have seen hints of this over the years. Jerry Falwell Sr. hawked videotapes on television accusing President Bill Clinton of murder. Some on the far left charged President George W. Bush with complicity in the 9/11 attacks.

Yet the greatest practitioner and innovator of political cancel culture has been Donald J. Trump. This may be his largest influence on the practice of U.S. politics. He rose to prominence in the GOP by spreading racist lies about President Barack Obama’s birthplace. Now, he is making the acceptance of conspiratorial myths about Biden’s legitimacy into a test of GOP fidelity. And Trump has made room in his party for even more extreme versions of his method, involving the accusations that Democratic leaders are pedophiles: “Stop the steal” and QAnon are on the same spectrum of vile lunacy.

This is the type of politics that Hawley is enabling — a form of politics that abolishes politics. A contest of policy visions can result in compromise. The attempt to delegitimize your opponent requires their political annihilation. And a fight to the political death is always conducted in the shadow of possible violence.

Trump has brought these trends into a dangerous new phase. As president, he is attempting to deconstruct American institutions from the top down. He intuitively grasps — like many authoritarians before him — that the biggest lies motivate the most abject servility.

What can be done? We can refuse to inhabit the lie. We can praise and support Republican politicians such as Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), and Govs. Larry Hogan (Maryland) and Brian Kemp (Georgia) who are standing in the gap. And we must ensure that the aspirations of people such as Hawley — who has made the madness more mainstream — come to nothing. This begins with a simple and sad recognition: The ambitions of this knowledgeable, talented young man are now a threat to the republic.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

More New Year's Eve Male Beauty


Right Wing Extremist Groups Are Plotting DC Violence On Jan. 6th

The malignant narcissist-in-chief, Der Trumpenfuhrer is calling on the nastiest elements of the basket of deplorables who comprise the hard core of his base - particularly the wrongly named "Proud Boys" - to descend on Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021, hold "demonstrations" to call for the overthrow of November, 2020's legitimate election.  Frighteningly, these thugs are reminiscent of Hitler's brown shirts (also confirmed racists) and their sole agenda will likely be mayhem and violence.  Stated another way, Trump appears to be seeking to incite a riot which is likely a criminal offense under the laws of the District of Columbia.  I hope my Republican "friends" will take a look at the photo above and realize these are the racists and human refuse with whom they have aligned themselves by supporting Trump. If they would not invite these scary individuals into their homes and/or country clubs, perhaps they need to reconsider their allegiance to Trump.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at what will be a riot and violence waiting to happen.  Here are excepts: 

Protests planned in support of President Trump on Jan. 6 are multiplying by the week.

Four seemingly competing rallies to demand that Congress overturn the results of the presidential election, which their participants falsely view as illegitimate, are scheduled on the day Congress is set to convene to certify electoral college votes, declaring President-elect Joe Biden the winner.

The events will be headlined by Trump’s most ardent supporters, including recently pardoned George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during its Russia investigation, and longtime ally Roger Stone, whose sentence for seeking to impede a congressional probe into Russian election interference was commuted by Trump in July before being upgraded to a full pardon.
Formal rallies are planned most of the day and will draw pro-Trump demonstrators to the Washington Monument, Freedom Plaza and the Capitol. But online forums and encrypted chat messages among far-right groups indicate a number of demonstrators might be planning more than chanting and waving signs.

Threats of violence, ploys to smuggle guns into the District and calls to set up an “armed encampment” on the Mall have proliferated in online chats about the Jan. 6 day of protest. The Proud Boys, members of armed right-wing groups, conspiracy theorists and white supremacists have pledged to attend.

Incoming D.C. police chief Robert J. Contee III, who will take over the department Saturday, said police are prepared to facilitate peaceful protests but that “violence will not be tolerated.”

Earlier this month, a day of largely peaceful demonstrations descended into violent chaos as night fell and small bands of Proud Boys dressed in the group’s signature black and gold garb roamed downtown looking for a fight. Several people, including passersby who said they did not know about planned protests that day, were injured.

Four people, who according to Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio are members of the group, were stabbed in a chaotic melee outside Harry’s Bar, a favorite downtown hangout of the group. Prosecutors declined to pursue charges against the man accused in the stabbing, who in a video of the incident is seen drawing a knife after he was pushed and punched and had his face mask grabbed by members of a churning crowd.

Anti-Trump and anti-fascist protesters for weeks have called on D.C. officials and businesses to do more to crack down on Trump supporters who largely flout coronavirus restrictions, such as mask mandates. A campaign to urge downtown hotels to shut their doors during next week’s events is ongoing, although largely unsuccessful.

Several hotels, including the Holiday Inn Alexandria at Carlisle, Holiday Inn Capitol and the Hyatt Place White House on K Street, said they are sold out on the nights around Jan. 6, although managers noted it is not atypical for area hotels to be full this time of year.

The Hotel Harrington — where Proud Boys and other far-right groups have gathered over the past two months, unnerving some guests and workers — announced after a Washington Post report on its growing reputation as the Proud Boys’ go-to hotel that it would close on Jan. 4, 5 and 6. . . . The hotel said it would offer refunds for prepaid reservations.

In the past three months, the hotel’s in-house bar, Harry’s, has been cited three times for violating social distancing and mask regulations. The violations occurred on weekends when large numbers of Proud Boys and other pro-Trump supporters, in town for demonstrations, were in the bar.

No counterdemonstrations have been announced for Jan. 6, although D.C. activists have issued repeated warnings this week about the likelihood of violence.

Earlier this month, city leaders expressed concerns about the continued presence of Proud Boys at D.C. demonstrations.

“These Proud Boys are avowed white nationalists and have been called to stand up against a fair and legal election,” D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said. D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) added that a beautiful weekend “was ruined by white supremacists who came to our city seeking violence.”

It's time to stop the pretense that Trump's base is made up of disaffected working Americans.  They are racists, Christian right extremists and the dredges of society.  Be very afraid of these people and their would be dictator leader.

New Year's Eve Morning Male Beauty


Republicans' Feigned Populism is a Fraud

Today's Republican Party stands for few things other than tax cuts for the very wealthy and large corporations, right wing judges who will rule against the wishes of a majority of Americans, slashing safety regulations that protect the public from corporate greed and irresponsibility, and empowering far right Christian extremists who comprise a small minority of the nation's population. Nothing in this mix comprises populism or even a modicum of care for working class and average Americans - other than Trump base deplorables - despite Republican pretense to the contrary.  The fight over the latest round of pandemic relief has underscored this reality in stark terms as the GOP feigns populism in the hope of winning the Georgia runoff elections even though until now the two Republican candidates strongly and publicly embraced the GOP's reverse Robin Hood agenda.  Georgians and the rest of the nation need to recognize the GOP's dishonesty.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the  GOP's false claim of populism.  Here are highlights:

It’s fitting that President Trump’s final days in office are offering a full display of the contradictions, follies, deceptions and plain uselessness of Trumpian Republicanism.

And to make sure that even the ending of the Trump Era is turned into a circus, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who hopes to inherit Trump’s constituency for a 2024 presidential run, announced on Wednesday he’ll object to the counting of the electoral college votes next week. Hawley won’t stop President-elect Joe Biden from winning; he seeks only to give Trump’s lies about election rigging one more run.

We are seeing the many layers of Republican hypocrisy. The GOP was unwilling to buck the most scandalous aspects of his presidency as long as he delivered on the core conservative agenda of tax cuts and right-wing judges.

But when the normally fake-populist president became, momentarily, a semi-real one and endorsed upping Americans’ pandemic relief checks from $600 to $2,000, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) got the vapors.

Wanting more, Trump threatened to veto the $900 billion relief and stimulus bill,. . . . But Trump’s threat turned out to be one of those attention-grabbing but ultimately empty gestures that have been his stock in trade. In effect he said, “Never mind,” and signed the bill on Sunday.

To maintain their Senate majority, Republicans need to hold the two seats at stake in next Tuesday’s Georgia runoff. Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler were no friends of a big economic relief package, and Perdue said he opposed stimulus checks on at least three different occasions.

Conversions are a wonderful thing to behold, especially when they are motivated by pure political panic. On the stimulus issue, Perdue and Loeffler were being hammered by their Democratic opponents, Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock. Ossoff saw no need for subtlety. “You send me and Reverend Warnock to the Senate,” he declared, “and we will put money in your pocket.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) swiftly moved a bill for $2,000 checks through the House (in a win for acronyms, it’s called the Cash Act, as in “Caring for Americans with Supplemental Help”) and picked up 44 Republican votes in the process.

Thus McConnell’s bind: He doesn’t want to approve the checks. But he doesn’t want Perdue and Loeffler to lose. And, to that end, he doesn’t want a big fight with Trump before next Tuesday.

McConnell’s solution: Write a bill that makes it look as though you’re giving $2,000 a chance while killing the idea by making it impossible for Democrats to vote for it. McConnell thus proposed rolling the checks in with two other Trumpian ideas.

He’d repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides immunity for website publishers from liability for third-party material, while also setting up a commission to investigate allegations of voter fraud.

There’s a case that some of the money spent on checks could be more carefully targeted to the unemployed and the poor. But that option is not on the table. Because the compromise stimulus bill was kept far smaller than it should have been by McConnell and his conservative allies (including Perdue and Loeffler), . . . .

What can we learn from this episode? For starters: If Georgia’s voters want serious legislating next year about the crisis we face, they need to elect Ossoff and Warnock. Biden’s decision to make another campaign visit on their behalf shows that, however much he hopes he can work with Republicans, he knows he’ll be far better off with a Senate not in the hands of the Grim Reaper, as McConnell has proudly called himself.

That’s because Republicans were only willing to embrace Trump’s “populism” as long as it was fake — or of a right-wing sort that elevated the politics of race and immigration. The moment Trump started talking about real money for non-elites, the GOP leadership threw its hands up in horror.

McConnell’s maneuvers this week are the last gasp of his party’s hypocrisy, rooted in a burning desire for working-class votes unmatched by a will to do anything to earn them.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

More Wednesday Male Beauty


What Sen. Josh Hawley's Planned Electoral College Objection Really Means

Every court which has considered Donald Trump's claims of election fraud and similar Trump lies at the state and federal level, including the U.S. Supreme Court, has found the claims to be without merit. Indeed, in some of the lawsuits when Trump attorneys were faced with harsh questioning from the court, fearing potential disbarment, they conceded they had no proof to support the wild claims of the lawsuits.  Thus, Stanford University and Yale Law School educated Senator Josh Hawley knows full well that the only real fraud is Trump's false claims and those of his self-prostituting sycophants. Why then is Hawley saying he will challenge the Electoral College certification on January 6, 2020?  There are two reasons that interrelate. The first is that Hawley is ambitious on a dangerous level and wants to run for the Republican 2024 nomination.  The second is that he wants to win the allegiance of the deplorables and conspiracy theory nutcases who comprise Trump's base of support. Simply put, to Hawley, the truth and the rule of law don't matter if they interfere with his ambitions, thus indicating he's as morally bankrupt as Trump but without Trump's mental illness. Pieces at CNN and the Washington Post look at Hawley's shameless and false statements.  Here are highlights from the Post piece: 

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) — Yale Law School, Supreme Court clerk, Missouri attorney general and, according to the first line of his Twitter bio, “constitutional lawyer” — surely knows better.

His plan to challenge the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral college victory when Congress convenes for that purpose on Jan. 6 has no basis in the facts or the law. That is putting it too charitably, actually. It is, if anything, anti-constitutional — inconsistent with the Constitution’s vision of the ceremonial role of Congress in ratifying the election results.

It is doomed to fail — except, perhaps, at its scarcely disguised purpose of winning Hawley favor in the eyes of the Trumpian base. Think of it as the first act of Hawley’s all-but-inevitable 2024 presidential campaign. Think of it as what it is: a stunt.

It forces a vote that will have the salutary effect of requiring his Republican colleagues to decide — and to put on the record —whether their loyalty is to President Trump or to the Constitution. Better to know than to guess. Better to inflict some accountability rather than to enable dodging.

Put another way: Any vote that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fervently wishes to avoid is one I’m for. Put every member of the House and Senate on the record, and let them reap the consequences, for good and for ill, in the short term of political fallout and in the long view of history. Those who vote against certifying Biden’s victory can explain it to their grandchildren.

To back up, here’s what’s supposed to happen on Jan. 6, as set out in the 12th Amendment and the 1887 Electoral Count Act. Congress convenes in a joint session, presided over by Vice President Pence, in his role as Senate president. According to the Constitution, states submit their electoral votes to Congress. On Jan. 6, the date specified by the Electoral Count Act, “The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted.”

“I cannot vote to certify the electoral college results on January 6 without raising the fact that some states, particularly Pennsylvania, failed to follow their own state election laws,” Hawley harrumphed. “And I cannot vote to certify without pointing out the unprecedented effort of mega corporations, including Facebook and Twitter, to interfere in this election, in support of Joe Biden.” Um, Senator, there is no vote requiring you to certify. A vote only happens if someone like you insists on a challenge.

The place to decide whether Pennsylvania complied with Pennsylvania’s election laws is in the courts of Pennsylvania — which, guess what, did just that, at Trump’s behest. He lost. Pennsylvania certified in timely fashion that its electors cast the state’s votes for Biden. Case closed. Hawley’s objection on the ground of alleged corporate interference is even dumber. Hold a hearing, Senator. Draft a bill. In the joint session, your role is to accept the votes of the electors. Period.

As Hawley well knows, it is over for Trump this time. All his intervention will do is to gum up the works, temporarily. If he persists, the House and Senate will debate separately for two hours — and even if Republicans retain their majority, there appear to be well enough Republicans willing to join in rejecting the challenge. This is literally political theater.

Put Republicans to the uncomfortable test. During the four years of Trump’s presidency, they have too often been able to evade accountability. If Hawley wants to put them to the test, let us watch and see if they choose to fail.

If Hawley goes through with his objection based on falsehoods, he will demonstrate two things: (i) a tawdry whore has more integrity than he does, and (ii) he is morally unfit to ever hold the office of the presidency.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


The Final, Desperate Days of the Psychopath in Chief

I suspect a majority of Americans are counting down the days until Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president and the the psychopath currently occupying that office is sent on his way. The count down is tempered by fear of what the increasingly deranged Donald Trump may attempt in order to prevent his much desired exit from power.  The situation raises the larger issue that Trump should never have been elected but for the failure of the media and mental health professionals to expose Trump's unfitness for office.  Between the media's ridiculous false equivalency posture and the so-called "Goldwater rule" that muzzled mental health experts, an unfit psychopath might never have been elected to the great harm of the nation.  A piece in Salon looks at these failures and reminds us just how unfit Trump is for any elected office.  Here are article excerpts:

We must face the alarming truth. Our irrational and reckless president will spend his last 23 days in office harboring the hope that a military coup in our country will allow him to remain in power. Or that Congress will overthrow the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6. Donald Trump is totally preoccupied with his existential survival as the walls of reality are closing in on him. He has been repudiated in the election. His psyche cannot comprehend how he could have lost to such an ordinary, mortal man. He is beside himself with embarrassment and humiliation. He is driven by revenge. He wants to settle scores. His thin veneer of greatness and superiority is crumbling away. He is desperate and flailing.

Trump is a psychopath. He has all the defining characteristics in spades: narcissistic, sadistic, antisocial, paranoid. This is malignant psychopathology in the embodiment of our president. He has the kind of personality pathology that should be unacceptable in our top public servant. Trump should have been rooted out in 2016. A psychopath should never have been elected to the highest office in the land. We have been suffering for it ever since: division, tribalism, hostility, racism, xenophobia, terrorism and more.

Some mental health professionals voiced concern about Trump's mental health after his election in 2016. In late 2017, 37 mental health professionals described Trump's dangerousness and unfitness in a bestselling book, "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump." But the publication of that book did not open the floodgates for mental health experts to voice their opinions in the media. In fact, there was considerable pushback from concerned colleagues. Plus, the mainstream media showed a rather strong allegiance to the antiquated "Goldwater rule" advanced by the American Psychiatric Association. Mental health experts were largely rebuffed by the media. As a result, the public was ill-informed and Donald Trump was elected.

Four years later, Trump was defeated by Vice President Joe Biden in November 2020, but not with the help of the mainstream media. Once again, the media buckled under the smothering influence of the Goldwater rule. Journalists' descriptions of Trump's pathology were published in the media, but experts themselves were muzzled.

So here we are. Twenty-three days to go, and we are all sitting on the edge of our seats waiting for the next dreadful and unimaginable act from this disordered man. Our Constitution states that we are to have a peaceful and orderly transition of power to the next president. But we should not be surprised by Trump's desperate attempts to save himself by throwing democracy under the bus. Once and for all, we should be convinced that our psychopath in chief does not give a damn about the preciousness of our democratic way of life.

Trump is now totally consumed with his survival, his self-preservation. He cares about nothing else. He has totally abdicated his role as president. He is preoccupied with his anger, his grievances, his conspiracy theories and his conniving plans. He is a man on a mission to save his power and his pride simultaneously. It is a mission borne out of utter contempt for the will of the people.

He does not understand why the guardrails of democracy are deterring him. He cannot fathom why the U.S. Supreme Court has not come to his rescue, especially after he has appointed three "Trump" associate justices. He does not treasure democracy. If anything, he sees it as an annoying obstacle to his goal of establishing a family dynasty. He wants to be a dictator or, better yet, a king.

He has turned his back on the thousands of Americans who are dying each week from the coronavirus. He has not mentioned the pandemic in weeks. He has not listened to a public health expert in months. . . . He is pretending that the coronavirus is gone, much as he pretends that he is smart and great and strong. He seems to derive a kind of sadistic pleasure from watching Americans die under his direction.

His paranoia is raging as his desperation mounts. Trump is lashing out against even his most ardent apologists. He is accusing others of disloyalty and abandonment. He asked for Joe Biden to be arrested weeks before the election. He always sees himself as the victim when he is exposed or challenged or cornered. To be sure, his victimhood is both inaccurate and disingenuous. He is never the victim. He is always the one who is aggressive, cruel and reckless. His victimhood is a cynical psychological ploy to garner sympathy from his supporters and to try to wriggle out of a jam. But this jam is too much for him: He has lost the election fair and square, he has been abysmal in his handling of the pandemic and the economy is in dire shape. This trifecta cannot be overcome.

Trump has always been aligned with criminal friends and associates. Psychopaths are attracted to other psychopaths. They have a shared lack of conscience and an obvious absence of shame. This is the president who put young children in cages at the border and now has pardoned murderers — a glimpse inside the hollow heart and soul of Donald Trump.

Trump still finds time to play golf on weekends and holidays. Nothing will stop that — not even a car bombing in downtown Nashville on Christmas Day. He would never let responsibility or care for others interfere with his pleasure at taxpayer expense ($151 million and counting). He has no understanding of how pathetic he looks on the golf course while thousands of Americans are struggling to take their last breaths or standing in food bank lines because they have been unemployed since March. A chance to cheat at golf while the country is not looking is way too much fun for him to pass up.

Trump is on a collision course with self-destruction. He is the Titanic and everyone around him is beginning to jump ship. Former Attorney General Bill Barr has jumped ship. Evangelist Pat Robertson has jumped ship. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has jumped ship. Even Vice President Mike Pence has one foot in the water. It is just a matter of time before Trump wakes up in an empty room of silence and gold toilets.

Historians will be extremely unkind to Trump. He will be seared by presidential scholars. He will deserve all their harshness and condemnation. He will likely be remembered as the worst president in U.S. history. His legacy will be one of incompetence, cruelty and corruption. If he thinks he is humiliated now, wait until his supporters wake up and finally reject him for being such a failed, miserable and treasonous leader.

Hopefully, Donald Trump will be our one and only psychopath as president. We must not put ourselves through this national anguish and darkness again. Above all else, we must make sure the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans teach us an unforgettable lesson.

Lesson learned. Never again.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

More Tuesday Male Beauty


WSJ Board: Trump Is Sabotaging GA Senate Runoffs

Donald Trump is yet again proving that there is no true upside for the Republican Party's self-prostitution to Trump.  It's all about Trump 24/7 and now the Wall Street Editorial board has called Trump out for sabotaging the Georgia Senate runoff elections by splitting the party in the Senate or forcing the embattled GOP incumbents to vote for paltry relief for financially suffering constituents. My personal view is that it is wonderful that these spineless Republicans are now caught in the bonfire of Trump's petulant self-absorbed rants and fantasy world where he did not decisively lose the 2020 election. These Republicans jettisoned morality and what few principles the GOP had left when the jumped on the Trump clown car. A piece in Axios looks at the Wall Street Journal's summation of the situation:

The Wall Street Journal published an editorial on Monday effectively accusing President Trump of sabotaging Republicans' chances of winning the Georgia Senate runoffs with his push for $2,000 stimulus checks, calling it an "in-kind contribution to Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden."

Why it matters: It's another sharp criticism from a newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch — co-chair of Fox Corp. and executive chair of News Corp — that comes one day after the New York Post said Trump is "cheering for an undemocratic coup" with his efforts to overturn the election he lost.

What they're saying: "Senate Republicans oppose the $2,000 for these sound reasons, but Mr. Trump has put them in a political spot. Democrats immediately joined Mr. Trump’s call for the $2,000, and on Monday they passed the larger amount through the House, 275-134," the WSJ editorial board wrote.

    • "That leaves Mr. McConnell with a tough call of barring a vote as Democrats bang away in TV ads in Georgia against GOP incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. Or he can hold a vote, which would split the GOP caucus and upset fiscally conservative voters."
    • "By all accounts Mr. Trump is angry about his election defeat, and he is lashing out at anyone who won’t indulge his hopeless campaign to overturn it. ... Mr. Trump’s narcissism isn’t news. But if Republicans lose the two Georgia seats and their majority, Republicans across the country should know to thank Mr. Trump for their 2021 tax increase."

The big picture: The Journal has not endorsed a presidential candidate since 1928, but the newspaper's editorial board — along with other Murdoch-owned media outlets such as Fox News and the New York Post — has traditionally been favorable to Trump.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


The Worsening Plight of Homeless LGBT Youths

Most charities and non-profits are suffering from funding shortfalls as fundraising events get cancelled due to the continuing pandemic even as demands for their services increase due to job losses across the employment spectrum, especially in lower paying and the restaurant and hospitality industries.  LGBT youth already make up a disproportionate part of homeless youths thanks to "Christian" and other "religious" parents who disown them and throw them on the streets.  Now, the agencies and non-profits that serve them are caught in a financial crunch - many because localities are suffering from plummeting revenues - which leaves these vulnerable members of society at even higher risk and at higher levels of desperation.  Perhaps most sad is the fact that but for religious based bigotry and parents' willing embrace of ignorance and the words of charlatans and scamvangelists, many would not be homeless.  Religion too often is the source of evil. A piece in the Washington Post looks at this sad and tragic situation.  (If this sickens you, Goggle some of the organizations named in the article and see if they take online donations)  Here are article highlights:

At the Wanda Alston Foundation, a transitional housing program for LGBTQ young adults in D.C., every single resident lost a job at the start of the pandemic.

The 20 people in the program, all ages 18 to 24, have been applying for jobs daily, but none of them have been able to return to work, said June Crenshaw, the organization’s executive director. With the youths staying in the facilities at all hours of the day, the shelter’s food expenses have skyrocketed.

Even as the pandemic has dealt a major blow to the organization’s usual fundraising, the staff has seen an uptick in calls for help from homeless LGBTQ youths in the community — young queer and transgender people sleeping in cars or train stations. “People are desperate,” Crenshaw said. “They are compromised and vulnerable, and they will make tough choices.”

[F]or some organizations serving LGBTQ youths, the cuts could be painful.  SMYAL, which provides housing for 26 young LGBTQ adults in D.C., the funding reductions could amount to as much as $50,000. The organization is already experiencing a significant decline in revenue in part because a major fundraiser of the year, a fall brunch, was forced to go virtual because of the pandemic, said Sultan Shakir, SMYAL’s executive director. Meanwhile, they’ve had to take on greater expenses to provide youths with devices for telehealth and Zoom calls. Almost all of the youths that previously had jobs are now unemployed.

For Casa Ruby, which provides shelter, food and emergency services to about 200 young LGBTQ people every day, the cuts could amount to more than $170,000, said founder and executive director Ruby Corado. The organization has seen a 60 percent increase in people coming to its drop-in center, but it has also seen its financial support from restaurants and other local businesses plummet.

The looming budget cuts are coming at the worst possible time for the communities they serve, advocates say. Crenshaw worries about the mental health of the youths in her program, as many of them have struggled to adapt to the shift to telehealth for counseling services. She worries about the residents who have lost the jobs they depended on to “stabilize their circumstances.” The majority of the youths in her program had used underground economies to support themselves in the past, Crenshaw says, including sex work.

Crenshaw and other advocates fear the high rates of unemployment, coupled with a mental health crisis, might force homeless LGBTQ youths — particularly transgender women of color — to turn to sex work at a particularly dangerous time.

“When LGBTQ youth experience homelessness, then they more often than not turn to sex work," said Cyndee Clay, executive director of HIPS, a D.C. organization that supports and advocates for sex workers. “When people are feeling more at risk and people are worried about money, they take greater risks.”

While HIPS has not yet heard about any cuts to its grants from the District, “we expect them to be coming,” Clay said. She also worries that if other organizations supporting the LGBTQ homeless population have to cut back on programs, HIPS will see an even greater demand for its services. Budget cuts to LGBTQ housing, Clay said, “is literally the worst thing that we could be doing.”

Sex workers had already struggled to find clients online before the pandemic, after federal measures shuttered websites like Backpage and Craigslist’s personals. The regulations made it harder for sex workers to control what clients they accepted, and instead forced many of them to walk the streets to find work. . . . . But clients are fewer and are not willing to spend as much, meaning sex workers are willing to accept lower rates. “It’s become very competitive, and that in and of itself can create a violent atmosphere,” Spellman said. . . . . Many of those who previously relied on sex work for income were also not eligible for federal covid-relief funds or unemployment insurance.

Others in the community are turning to sex work for the first time to pay the bills, Moten said.