Friday, October 09, 2015

Friday Morning Male Beauty

The GOP's Self-Created Chaos

Reactions to Kevin McCarthy's surprise removal of himself from consideration to be the next Speaker of the House continue.  The biggest issues and reflections are (i) who can possibly restore order, if not sanity, to the Republican Party, and (ii) how did the GOP become so insane and out of ouch with reality.  It seems that there is some consensus - at least outside of the GOP - that the party establishment bears responsibility.  Most however, refrain from getting at the real root cause: the empowerment of the Christofascists and evangelical Christians in the Republican Party.  When I resigned from the Virginia Beach City Committee, I stated that until the party once again honored the concept of the separation of church and state, I could not be a member of the GOP.  In the intervening years, things have only gotten worse.  With the rise of white evangelicals and Christian extremists, we have seen the attendant rise and acceptance of racism and white supremacy within the GOP (the "Tea Party" is merely a label to hide the real nature of the insane party base).   What is frightening is that there seems to be no way to stop the metastasizing cancer that these people represent.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the GOP's self-destruction as a serious political party.  Here are excerpts:

At this point, I worry we’re going to start finding members of the Republican establishment curled up in their beds, eyes clenched shut and ears covered with trembling hands, moaning “make it stop, make it stop, make it stop.” 

Pity their suffering, but remember that they brought it on themselves.

The insurrection that propelled billionaire Donald Trump into the lead for the GOP nomination and ultimately made House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) surrender his gavel in frustration rages on unabated. This was no mere summer skirmish. If anything, the rebellion is gaining strength.
It is dawning on the party grandees that their most recent predictions of Trump’s demise, like earlier ones, were wrong.

And there is a reason for Trump’s success that goes beyond his skill at burnishing his personal brand: He is saying what much of the GOP base wants to hear. 

The party establishment has only itself to blame. From the moment President Obama took office, Republicans in Congress have been selling the base a bill of goods. They demonized Obamacare and cynically swore to repeal it, knowing they could not. They balked at sensible immigration reform, deciding instead to do nothing. They engaged in Pyrrhic brinkmanship over the budget and the debt ceiling, fully aware that in the end they would have to back down.

Promising to do the impossible was an effective short-term strategy for raising money and winning midterm elections. But if you keep firing up your supporters and letting them down, they become disillusioned. They begin to think the problem might not be Obama and the Democrats. It might be you.

That same dynamic is happening in the House, where Boehner’s decision to walk away has emboldened, not chastened, the ultraconservative revolutionaries in the GOP ranks.

In the Democratic Party, the conflict is ideological — left vs. center-left. In the GOP, the struggle looks existential. 

Put another way, it’s not hard to imagine a party in which there’s room for both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and you can easily imagine one supporting the other as standard-bearer. But a tent that can hold, say, both Trump’s view on undocumented immigrants — hunt them down and kick them out — and Bush’s support for compassionate reform? That’s not a political party, it’s a food fight.

The Republican establishment may ultimately find some way to drag one of its presidential candidates through the primaries. But chaos, Trump has shown, is the GOP’s new normal.

Vladamir Putin's Imperial Adventure

Vladimir Putin is, in my view, a megalomaniac.  He also thinks of himself as the new tsar of Russian in all but formal name with all the delusions of grandeur that fantasy engenders - he's in his own mind perhaps Peter the Great, Catherine the Great and Alexander I all rolled into one.  Given his short stature, he also seems to suffer from a Napoleon complex. And while he has routinely utilized agendas and excuses modeled on Adolph Hitler's tactics, in the final analysis, he still is pushing for international goals akin to what he sees as his imperial predecessors.  As a piece in the New York Times explains, this includes Putin's adventure into Syria.  While Putin remembers the goals and fleeting success of Russia's imperial past, he seems to have forgotten some of the disasters of the past, including Russia's Afghanistan debacle and wars that could have been avoided.  Here are column highlights:
IN June 1772, Russian forces bombarded, stormed and captured Beirut, a fortress on the coast of Ottoman Syria. The Russians were backing their ally, a ruthless Arab despot. When they returned the next year, they occupied Beirut for almost six months. Then as now, they found Syrian politics a boiling cauldron of factional-ethnic strife, which they tried to simplify with cannonades and gunpowder.

Today, President Vladimir V. Putin has many motives in Syria, but we should keep in mind Russia’s vision of its traditional mission in the Middle East, and how it informs the Kremlin’s thinking. And not just the Kremlin: Russia’s Orthodox Church spokesman said that Mr. Putin’s intervention was part of “the special role our country has always played in the Middle East.”

Russia’s ties to the region are rooted in its self-assigned role as the defender of Orthodox Christianity, which it claimed to inherit from the Byzantine Caesars after the fall of Constantinople in 1453 — hence “czars.” The czars presented Moscow not just as a Third Rome, but also as a New Jerusalem, and protector of Christians in the Balkans and the Arab world, which, including the Holy Places of Jerusalem, were ruled by the Ottomans after 1517.

They left in 1774, when Russia dropped its Syrian allies in return for Ottoman concessions over Ukraine and Crimea. Yet a Russian Mediterranean base was now a strategic aim: Catherine and her partner Prince Potemkin annexed Crimea, where they founded a Black Sea fleet, then tried to negotiate a base on Minorca.

Catherine’s successors saw themselves as crusaders, with Russia destined to rule Constantinople and Jerusalem.

[D]uring World War I Russian forces occupied northern Persia and invaded Ottoman Iraq, nearly taking Baghdad. In 1916, Nicholas II’s foreign minister, Sergei Sazonov, negotiated the Sykes-Picot-Sazonov Treaty, which promised Russia Istanbul, sections of Turkey and Kurdistan, and a share of Jerusalem — a Near Eastern empire foiled by the Bolshevik Revolution.

Until the recent intervention, the closest Russia came to fighting was the Israeli-Egyptian War of Attrition from 1967 to 1970, during which Soviet pilots dueled with Israelis. When Nasser’s successor, Anwar Sadat, expelled the Russians, they cultivated a trio of dictators, Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya, Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Hafez al-Assad in Syria. All three, running merciless, dynastic-Mafia regimes behind the facade of socialistic parties, central planning and Stalinesque cults of personality, took quickly to their new benefactors . . .

After the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russian influence collapsed and Moscow came to bitterly resent the Western interventions that destroyed Mr. Hussein and Colonel Qaddafi. American retreat from the region grants Mr. Putin, who sees himself in an unbroken tradition of Russian personal leadership and imperial-national power from the czars to today, the opportunity to diminish American prestige and project Russia as indispensable world arbiter. The rescue of Mr. Assad’s son Bashir while fighting the opposition and Islamic State dovetails with Russia’s struggle against Chechen jihadis who flock to the black caliphal banners — and success will bring leverage in Iran and Turkey, where Russia once had muscle.

That said, Mr. Putin may end up channeling Catherine and trade Syrian influence to end Western sanctions and secure annexed Crimea — for this military showmanship concerns Mr. Putin’s political survival. In some ways, his defense of Syria’s autocrat is a defense of his own authority against rebellion. 

The power formula in Russia is this: autocracy in the Kremlin in return for security and prosperity at home, glory abroad — and for now at least, there’s glamour in the excitement of this Oriental adventure, a televised “Beau Geste” with Sukhoi bombers.

When Alexander II launched exotic Asian wars, one of his ministers, Count Valuev, wrote, “there’s something erotic about all things on distant frontiers.” Moscow lacks the resources to replace America and will find in Syria a quagmire, but Russians feel that a great imperial Russia has always been a player in the Middle East — and boldness counts for much in this wild world.

Putin is very dangerous, but his latest venture has strong historical precedents.  One needs to understand history and Russia's long inferiority complex versus the west and the longing for real or imagined past glories.   Sadly, the Russian people continue to be betrayed by their failed leaders - something that has plagued Russia for centuries.  

Thursday, October 08, 2015

More Thursday Male Beauty

Study Pinpoits Genome Markers that Predicts Male Sexual Orientation

A study at the School of Medicine of the University of California, Los Angeles, provides more bad news for the Christofascists and the bitter, closet old men at the Vatican.  These knuckle draggers - and in the case of the Vatican, proponents of 13th century knowledge - continue to whine and state that sexual orientation is a choice and make spittle flecked rants that there is "no gay gene."  Thus, being gay and having gay relationships is a "sin" in their ignorance embracing views.  The new study found that just  nine regions of the human genome predict the sexual orientation of males with up to 70 percent accuracy.  Obviously, none of us "chose" to change are DNA.  A press release outlines the findings that underscore that sexual orientation is NOT a choice.  Here are highlights:

An algorithm using epigenetic information from just nine regions of the human genome can predict the sexual orientation of males with up to 70 percent accuracy, according to research presented at the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) 2015 Annual Meeting in Baltimore.

"To our knowledge, this is the first example of a predictive model for sexual orientation based on molecular markers," said Tuck C. Ngun, PhD, first author on the study and a postdoctoral researcher at the David Geffen School of Medicine of the University of California, Los Angeles.

Beyond the genetic information contained in DNA, the researchers examined patterns of DNA methylation - a molecular modification to DNA that affects when and how strongly a gene is expressed - across the genome in pairs of identical male twins.

They found that methylation patterns in nine small regions, scattered across the genome, could be used to predict study participants' sexual orientation with 70 percent accuracy.

"Previous studies had identified broader regions of chromosomes that were involved in sexual orientation, but we were able to define these areas down to the base pair level with our approach," Dr. Ngun said. He noted that it will take additional research to explain how DNA methylation in those regions may be related to sexual orientation. The researchers are currently testing the algorithm's accuracy in a more general population of men.

"Sexual attraction is such a fundamental part of life, but it's not something we know a lot about at the genetic and molecular level. I hope that this research helps us understand ourselves better and why we are the way we are," Dr. Ngun said.
Ask any gay - or at least those not afflicted by religious brainwashing and associated guilt - and they will tell you that they never chose their sexual orientation.  To the extent there is any choice involved, it is merely the choice of how long one is willing to lie to themselves and others. 

The GOP Sinks Deeper into Chaos

As I have said before, the Republican Party has become an insane asylum under the control of the patients, many of who suffer from severe delusions and detachment from objective reality.  With John Boehner's unexpected announcement last month that he was resigning as Speaker of the House of Representatives, many thought that Kevin McCarthy - not one of my favorite people - would succeed Boehner.  Now, McCarthy has thrown the GOP into chaos by his sudden announcement that he would be withdrawing his name from consideration.  Whether McCarthy changed his mind after realizing that he's suffer the same difficulties as Boehner, feeling that his honesty about the true nature of the House Benghazi committee was toxic, or knew that some other bombshell might be forthcoming, his withdrawal has left the lunatic right rejoicing and less insane Republicans fearful of what may yet be to come.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the batshitery reigning supreme in the GOP.  Here are highlights:
Less than a year after a sweeping electoral triumph, Republicans are on the verge of ceasing to function as a national political party.

The most powerful and crippling force at work in the ­once-hierarchical GOP is anger, directed as much at its own leaders as anywhere else.

First, a contingent of several dozen conservative House members effectively forced Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) to resign rather than face a possibly losing battle to hold on to his job. Now they have claimed House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), who had been considered the favorite to replace Boehner until he announced Thursday that he is dropping out of the race.

With no obvious replacement for Boehner in sight, “it is total confusion — a banana republic,” said Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.). “Any plan, anything you anticipate — who knows what’ll happen? People are crying, they don’t have any idea how this will unfold, at all.”

Parallel currents of rage and chaos have been roiling the 2016 presidential race, diminishing hopes that an eventual nominee can bring order and direction to the increasingly dysfunctional party.

But government experience has become a liability for Republicans, rather than a credential. Celebrity billionaire Donald Trump, the leader in every poll, has rallied the conservative base by mocking the entire GOP establishment as weak and feckless. Many of the other candidates have followed his lead.

The forces that have made the House ungovernable are coming from the same wellspring of insurgency, beginning with the tea party movement, that propelled the Republicans back into control of Congress.

Battalions of conservative ground troops have come to Capitol Hill in the past five years with expectations that were not in line with what could actually be achieved while there is still a Democrat in the White House.

Disappointed in their ability to follow through on their campaign promises to turn back President Obama’s policies, they trained their fire on their own commanders.

For all their gains on the state and local level, Republicans are deepening the problems that have cost them the popular vote in all but one of the last six presidential elections. The divisive and exclusionary rhetoric of their 2016 contenders has hit a chord with primary voters . . . .
but threatens to further alienate key groups of voters in an increasingly diverse country.

Their contempt for compromise has also undermined the Republicans’ drive to prove that they can actually govern.  

Junior members of Congress no longer have to seek the favor of more senior ones to rise through the ranks. Modern media has given them the power to play to a national audience — as presidential contender and first-term senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) has demonstrated in the Senate.

In July, Cruz went so far as to call Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) a liar on the floor of the Senate. Such a breach of decorum would have been unthinkable in earlier times, but it has burnished Cruz’s image with the conservative base.

At the Obama White House, officials were not gloating at the Republican turmoil — in part, because it could pose problems for carrying out their own agenda. For instance, the president is going to have to rely on a large number of GOP votes to pass a Pacific Rim free-trade deal that is drawing opposition from Obama’s own party.

Candidly, I do not know how the Christofascists and Tea Party (a euphemism in my view for Christofascists and white supremacists) can be brought under control .  They are simply crazy and logic and reason - and objective reality - get nowhere with them.  The GOP establishment allowed them to hijack the party base and now the price may be the ultimate death of the GOP.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Florida's Unnecessary "Pastor Protection Act"

GOP political whore, Scott Plakon
The Christofascists remain insistent on securing passage of legislation that underscores their special rights, even when the legislation is unnecessary.  And Republican political whores are only too willing to bow and genuflect to Christofascist demands.   It's all about making religious extremists and gay haters feel special. A case in point is Florida's absurd and wholly unnecessary "Pastor Protection Act."  The Advocate looks at this ridiculous legislation.  Here are excerpts:
The U.S. Constitution assures that clergy members won’t be forced to perform any marriage they don’t endorse, but that’s not good enough for some Florida lawmakers, who today advanced a piece of state legislation that does the same thing.

The Pastor Protection Act, approved by the Florida House Civil Justice Subcommittee, would provide an “extra layer of protection” for clergy who oppose same-sex marriage, said its sponsor, Republican Rep. Scott Plakon, according to The Palm Beach Post.

The subcommittee approved the measure by a vote of 9-4, Republicans in favor, Democrats against. It now goes to the Judiciary Committee, which will consider whether to move it on to the full House. The Senate has yet to take it up.

The vote came after the subcommittee heard impassioned testimony both for and against the bill.
Plakon acknowledged that the Constitution’s First Amendment, guaranteeing freedom of religion, already assures that clergy members have discretion over who they’ll marry. But because of “numerous changes in the law and culture,” the state law needs to make clear that they’re free to decline to perform ceremonies that conflict with their beliefs, he said.

Some clergy members, from LGBT-friendly denominations such as the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the United Church of Christ, said the bill is rooted in homophobia. “It’s that somehow an LGBT person who is looking to get married is a threat to other people of faith,” said Rev. Brant Copeland of the First Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee. “I urge you not to adopt this unnecessary and, I think, basically homophobic bill.”

Texas and Oklahoma have passed similar laws this year, and the idea has been floated in some other states, including Georgia and Tennessee.
The cynic in me wonders how long it will be before we hear about Plakon being involved in a gay sex scandal!

America's Toxic Masculinity Crisis

Being gay, one is often only too aware of the toxicity of "real man" Masculinity in Virginia.  Gays by definition pose a threat to the sensibilities and self-esteem of those whose sense of self-worth depends on their macho self-image and desperate need to be a "real man."  In the wake of the recent Oregon mass shooting, it appears that the killer,  Christopher Harper-Mercer may have been one such psychologically unbalanced American male who held a grudge against women and clung to the trappings of supposed masculinity, including an obsession with guns.  A piece in Salon looks at the shooter and the frightening online world that he seeming lived in.  Here are excerpts:
In the wake of any tragedy, there’s a natural impulse to wonder: How did this happen? Who was to blame for this? In the week since Christopher Harper-Mercer’s execution of nine students at an Oregon community college, the question has become the same: Who is at fault here? 

Wedged among the proliferation of dank memes, choruses of copycat threats, violent Pepe .gifs, and cries of “Beta Uprising,” the 4chan forum /r9k/ might be closest to actually having an answer. According to the users, women were to blame for this rampage: If “the sluts” had just given it up to Mercer, he might never have gone on to murder innocent people. As horrible as 4chan may be, this claim is seemingly backed up by Mercer’s own words. In the days leading up to the attack, he posted complaints on a number of online forums about being chaste against his wishes. In his rambling manifesto left at the scene of the crime, he reportedly wrote: “I am going to die friendless, girlfriendless, and a virgin.”

Mercer’s frustration and rage at being a virgin likely contributed to his lashing out at innocent bystanders. But the real issue wasn’t that Mercer was a virgin and that this whole thing could have been avoided with a pity-fuck. The problem is that Mercer—like the community that it seems he was a part of—felt that he wasn’t a “real” man because of it.

The state of being a man is a compilation of external influences that ultimately define whether someone is a “real” man or not. Guns, sex, and money serve as a sort of holy trinity for traditional masculinity, the tropes by which a supposedly true man is known. When it’s stripped down to its toxic core, “what is a man” ends up being defined by how many chicks he can bang, how much ass he can kick, and how much money and “status” he has. 

Of course, for all the swaggering machismo and bravado of these would-be alphas, their concept of masculinity is so fragile that a trending Twitter hashtag can threaten it. When we define so many aspects of “manhood” as being external to just existing, it means that manhood is something that can be taken away from you at any time.

[P]art of being “a man” in the traditional, hyper-masculine sense means being a virile sex machine. A (male) virgin is, thus, an aberration, a mistake, and a pretender who doesn’t deserve his penis. The incel boards and forums are full of young men complaining about how they’re subhuman, genetic refuse that mistakenly made it off the production line. They live in deep pain and resentment over the fact that they are not men the way they feel like they should be.

The more than men believe in the tropes of traditional masculinity and gender roles, the more they feel the pressure to live up to them, and the more pain they feel when they believe they fall short. But they can’t express that pain. After all, the traditional masculine man isn’t allowed to express pain, weakness, fear, or insecurity. They’re expected to be stoic, a silent pillar of strength. Their only acceptable emotion is anger. 

Violence is somethinganyone can do. When you’re feeling powerless, then you take that power back—preferably from someone else.

In fact, a study published in the medical journal Injury Prevention documents this phenomenon quite clearly: Men who feel the most male discrepancy stress (that is, who feel the worst about not being manly enough) are also the most likely to have committed violent assaults on others, as well as committing assaults with a weapon.
Gun manufacturers post advertisements featuring loving images of big, erect rifles with the caption: “Consider your man-card reissued.” The message is clear: You may not measure up, but you can buy a substitute to make up for it, chock full of copper-jacketed death sperm.

Charles Harper-Mercer felt he couldn’t measure up as a man by being a lover, so he decided to show the world just how big his semi-automatic murder penis was.

Mercer was someone who was obsessed with the trappings of masculinity that he felt he couldn’t measure up to and lashed out, as statistics show that so many do.

We need to recognize just how damaging it is to sell the idea of men at their worst—brutish, violent and barely in control of themselves—is the only way to be a “real” man. We’ve stuck ourselves with a toxic idea of masculinity where you continually have to prove you’re a man—being willing to hurt others in order to do so—instead of manhood being something inherent.

The defenders of toxic masculinity love to portray those who don’t conform as being unmanly or beta white-knight manginas—sexual quislings who seek to betray their gender because they can’t measure up. It’s a way of derailing the conversation, to pit people against one another rather than to accept the truth: This form of masculinity has failed us. It doesn’t produce men; it produces anger, rage, and pain. It teaches us that the only way to be a man is to aspire to be the worst in us. We can do better. We can be better.
Obviously, I hold these "real man" types in low regard.  They hold gays in low regard if not contempt, but it's really only because they hold themselves in such low regard and because gays threaten their sense of masculinity.   Behind most "real man" types you will find a homophobe worried about his own lack of masculinity regardless of the outward bravado.