Saturday, December 08, 2018

West Point, Virginia School Systems Fires Anti-Transgender Teacher.

Anti-trans bigot, Peter Vlaming who was fired by the West Point School Board
for repeated insubordination.
In sharp contrast to the Gloucester County School Board which went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to fight for the right to mistreat a transgender student, the West Point, Virginia School Board fired a teacher who refused to address a transgender student by the correct pronouns despite being ordered by the school principal to cease the offending behavior.  The teacher is not surprisingly being represented by someone from scamvagelist Pat Robertson's Regent University.  Not surprisingly, the usual hate groups, such as The Family Foundation - which has white supremacist antecedents - have their panties in a wad and are shrieking that the teacher is being "persecuted" and punished for his anti-LGBT beliefs.  The School Board denied the allegation and described the firing on insubordination in the face of clear directives as to how students are to be treated.  Equality Virginia summed up the situation well:
Transgender students, like all students, deserve the opportunity to do well in school and that means classrooms should be spaces where students feel safe, supported, and respected. But, transgender students are too often targeted for bullying, harassment, or mistreatment. Families expect teachers to support their children, not target them as different. 
Yesterday, the West Point School Board made it clear that transgender students should not be singled out because of who they are. We stand behind their unanimous vote. Research has shown that when transgender youth are allowed to use their chosen name at work, school, and home, their risk of depression and suicide drops. We know that taking steps to help young people affirm their gender identity is not only the respectful thing to do, but also developmentally appropriate. A public school teacher should know that, too. 
Whether the teacher - no doubt with encouragement from Christofascist groups - will contest the firing remains to be seen.  Increasingly, "Christian" hate groups are financing the legal costs of anti-LGBT teachers/professors who think they are above the rules and have a license to abuse LGBT students. Christianity is supposedly about love, but nowadays the Christofascists have made it all about hating others based on their race, national origin, religious belief and/or sexual orientation. Think Progress has more on this welcomed firing of a bigot.  Here are excerpts:
In a fairly open-and-shut case, a Virginia school district has terminated a teacher who refused to respect a transgender student’s identity in accordance with the school’s policies.
After a four-hour public hearing Thursday, the West Point School Board voted 5-0 to terminate French teacher Peter Vlaming. Vlaming had previously been placed on administrative leave after refusing to use the proper pronouns for a transgender student, even after administrators repeatedly instructed him to do so.
Following the vote to terminate, Superintendent Laura Abel released a statement explaining that Vlaming’s actions were clearly in violation of the school’s policies:
The School Board has policies that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity. As detailed during the course of the public hearing, Mr. Vlaming was recommended for termination due to his insubordination and repeated refusal to comply with directives made to him by multiple WPPS administrators. As superintendent, it is my responsibility to enforce board policy, and due to Mr. Vlaming’s non-compliance I therefore recommended termination.
Vlaming, however, argued that “a specific worldview is being imposed upon me.” He had agreed to use the student’s new name, but tried to avoid using any pronouns to address him directly, which made him feel singled out. The teacher continued used the incorrect female pronouns to refer to him to others, and still also used those incorrect pronouns in his presence.
Vlaming’s attorney, Shawn Voyles — an adjunct professor at Pat Robertson’s Regent University — likewise claimed that Vlaming should be “free from being compelled to speak something that violates your conscience.” He insisted that the school’s gender identity policy was too vague and could not be enforced.
During Thursday’s hearing, Voyles identified the student by name in violation of the privacy agreement set forth beforehand. ThinkProgress reached out to Voyles for comment about this error, and he explained that it was inadvertent and that he had made an effort to redact the student’s name from his exhibits.
Vlaming said he has not yet decided whether he plans to take legal action to challenge the termination. “I have to research how we would do that, what that would entail,” Vlaming said. “I do think it’s a serious question of First Amendment rights.”
Conservative groups are very upset by the termination. The Family Foundation, an anti-LGBTQ organization in Virginia, responded by framing nondiscrimination policies as “being used to punish anyone who does not agree with the ideology of the day and to coerce good people to speak a message they fundamentally disagree with at the threat of their livelihood.”
The Family Research Council, an anti-LGBTQ hate group, went so far as to claim that affirming transgender kids constitutes “child abuse” — relying on junk science from another anti-LGBTQ hate group. The situation closely mirrors a case recently brought by a professor at Shawnee State University. Like Vlaming, philosophy professor Nicholas Meriwether refused to use a transgender student’s preferred pronouns. He was disciplined with a letter in his personnel file, and has since sued the university, claiming that the discipline infringed upon his freedoms of speech and religion.
Earlier this year, Indiana orchestra teacher John Kluge also resigned rather than comply with his school district’s policy of respecting transgender students. He tried to reverse that resignation, but the school did not accept it. Kluge has since filed a tort claim against the district, demanding he be reinstated and allowed to call students only by their last names.
A recent study found that 87 percent of LGBTQ students experienced some kind of direct harassment or assault related to their identity, and that anti-trans remarks from staff have actually increased since 2013. Conversely, it found that LGBTQ students feel safer when staff are supportive and comprehensive nondiscrimination policies are in place.

Saturday Male Beauty

Friday, December 07, 2018

More Friday Male Beauty

Trump Taps Former Fox News Ideologue As UN Ambassador

The totally unqualified Heather Nauert.

As if proof of the premise of the previous post - i.e., that today's GOP is the party of the witless - were needed, Der Trumpenführer has selected someone utterly unqualified to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.  Rather than select someone with knowledge and experience, Trump picked a former Fox News ideologue who has a total of 16 months in government and no foreign policy experience.  It's reminiscent of Hitler's placement of  the unqualified in positions as long as they were loyal to him and would parrot his sick agenda. Bloomberg looks at this idiotic choice that is all too predictable given the Trump/Pence regimes recruitment of stooges to date.  Here are article highlights:
Donald Trump has settled on State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert to replace departing United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Nauert, 48, is an unusual choice for the UN role given that she had little experience in government or foreign policy before joining the administration in April 2017 after several years as an anchor and correspondent for Fox News, including on the “Fox and Friends” show watched by Trump. Haley also lacked foreign policy experience when she took the UN posting, but she had twice been elected governor of South Carolina.
Nevertheless, Nauert’s candidacy had the strong support of Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who came to trust her as a reliable voice and advocate for Trump’s agenda. It was a stark turnaround from the era of Pompeo’s predecessor, Rex Tillerson, who shut her out from his inner circle. She had threatened to quit several times under Tillerson but, thanks partly to her alliance with Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband Jared Kushner, she ended up outlasting her former boss.
“Nauert is a very good public operator, and should do a professional job presenting U.S. policy at the UN,” Richard Gowan, a senior fellow at the United Nations University’s Center for Policy Research, said in an email. “It is less clear that she has the experience to hammer out hard deals with China and Russia over problems like Iran and North Korea.”
Aides believe Nauert’s key assets include strong communications skills and a fluency with the Trump White House, particularly in understanding the thinking of the president and secretary of state.
Nauert won’t face an easy confirmation battle given her lack of experience and the likelihood that she’ll be asked to answer for the Trump administration’s scorn for international bodies, including the UN. In a speech in Brussels this week, Pompeo made his doubts about the organization clear, asking, “Does it continue to serve its mission faithfully?”
“In the absence of any actual diplomatic experience I suppose it’s reassuring to UN supporters that she will arrive with no particular personal agenda,” said Loren DeJonge Schulman, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. But in a reference to Nauert’s background as a spokeswoman, she added, “It’s not a role for merely reading talking points.”

Today's GOP - The Party of the Witless

Former Republican columnist Michael Gerson has a lament in the Washington Post that rings true to me.  The thrust of the piece is the dumbing down and growing extreme racism of the GOP.  The truly talented want nothing to do with top positions in the Trump/Pence regime, a regime filled with right wing extremists and those who proudly embrace ignorance - or who are grifters out to enrich themselves.The base of the GOP is even uglier and here in Virginia nominated neo-Confederate Corey Stewart (who thankfully lost by a large margin).  How does it end?  Personally, I believe the GOP needs to die and go the way of the Whigs.  The lone positive is that the core GOP base is dying off  only to be replaced by younger generations who are more racially diverse and less readily duped by toxic Christianity.  Here are column highlights:
They wander the halls of public buildings and haunt receptions like the ghosts of the GOP past — the cohort of Republican senators and House members who will be leaving office with the arrival of the new Congress. Some chose retirement because they did not want to do what is necessary to keep office in President Trump’s party. Others were forcibly retired by the Democratic wave in the midterm elections.
The class of departing Republicans includes a few who won’t be missed. (Hint: One has a last name that begins with “Rohrabache-”.) But many of the House losses came in suburban districts that required outreach beyond the Trump-intoxicated base. . . . . This process is the reverse of natural selection — call it the survival of the witless.
Under typical circumstances, departing Republican officeholders would be obvious recruits for administration jobs. . . . . But as Trump’s party purifies itself, true talent becomes a waste product.
In an incomplete, unrepresentative survey, conducted at think-tank events and in buffet lines, departing members have told me a few things. They uniformly wonder why a president presiding over a lower than 4 percent unemployment rate made immigration — specifically, brown people invading the country who needed to be stopped by a deployment of the U.S. military — the substance of his midterm appeal. This strategy did nothing to answer the flood of Democratic attack ads on health care.
Departing GOP congressmen and senators also wonder why Trump nationalized a midterm election that could have been better fought on local issues and conditions.
It was once said of Theodore Roosevelt that he wanted to be “the bride at every wedding.” Trump seems compelled to be bride, groom, minister, wedding singer and drunken guy giving the off-color champagne toast.
And departing members report that the most active Republican partisans in their state believe there is nothing — absolutely nothing — wrong with a political party that lost 40 House seats in a time of relative peace and unprecedented prosperity. . . . the Republican base believes its party lost ground because it wasn’t true enough to Trump’s agenda. In this parallel political reality, building the border wall would have stopped the Democratic wave.
So where does this leave American politics headed into the 2020 presidential election? Trump’s party — predominantly based in rural, small-town and smaller-city America, as well as disproportionately older, male, less educated and white — is genuinely enthusiastic about its disruptive leader. Urban and (increasingly) suburban Americans — disproportionately younger, female, more educated and multicultural — are finally getting the picture that they are Trumpism’s foils. And measured by Democratic donations and turnout, they aren’t happy about it.
Trump is a politician famous for following his “gut” to some odd and sketchy places. But the political question of the 2020 election is quite practical: Can Trump keep Michigan, Wisconsin or Pennsylvania (he doesn’t need them all) while avoiding any defections in Sun Belt states such as Arizona? The answer: With a flawed enough Democratic candidate, yes he can.
Given the social and demographic trends of the country, it will soon be impossible to win a presidential election with an ethnonationalist appeal. But we aren’t there yet. Meanwhile, Trump commits political vampirism — sucking the last remaining life from a dying coalition.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Reflections Ten Years Later on The First LGBTQ Bloggers & Citizen Journalists National Summit

Yours truly at the LGBT Blogger Summit in 2008.
I first began blogging at the suggestion of my therapist who suggested I write a book for those coming out in "mid-life" since so many of the existing materials at the time were aimed at teens and young adults.  There was little available for those in their 40's or 50's.  Once I started the endeavor of gathering materials through blog posts something happened.  This blog became a needed form of therapy and slowly took on a life of its own.  A major transformation took place in December, 2008, when I was privileged to be selected to participate n the LGBTQ Bloggers & Citizen Journalists National Summit in December 2008.  I won a spot among those invited to the all expense paid gathering in no small part due to my role in helping Mike Rogers "out" then Virginia 2nd District Congressman, Ed Schrock, a closeted Republican with the second most anti-gay voting record in Congress.  I had also assisted activist Wayne Besen expose "ex-gay" fraud Michel Johnston, a former poster boy for so-called conversion therapy. Despite these efforts, this blog still had a small readership back in 2008 yet was a labor of love. At the blogger Summit, I was in the big league and eventually when on to also be a contributor to The Bilerico Project which the Washington Post once referred to as a "must read" blog (it later became a part of LGBTQ Nation). 

Ten years later I am still in contact with many of the summit attendees via Facebook, following each other's blogs and writings, and a listserv through which we can quickly spread stories and information to hundreds of activists and journalists across the country. Fellow attendee Sue Kerr has a post on her blog that pulls together great memories of the experience. Like Sue, I'd love to see another summit! My husband also has found memories of the experience.  Here are highlights from Sue's post (go to Sue's post for the links to participating blogs - many of which are still ongoing -  and a video where I can be seen standing near Sue):
[T]he first LGBTQ Bloggers and Citizens Journalists National Summit. It was December 5-7, 2008. I met a lot of folx there and my mind was awhirl with new possibilities for blogging.
More than 60 organizations and blogs were represented. I’m trying to remember how I was invited – I think I had been interacting with Mike Rogers (formerly of BlogActive, now know with Raw Story) online after he wrote about Rick Santorum. This gathering was a prelude to the Netroots Connection preconferences that began in 2009 (in Pittsburgh)
Rather than wax eloquently about my memories, let me share a few links.
Here are my original blog posts summaries My Preview  Day One Summary Post
Pam Spaulding’s write up of the weekend (Pam’s House Blend)
More from PamThere was great coverage of the framing used by the right wing to demonize and restrict expanding LGBT rights and how the LGBT movement can counter that framing going forward with different political strategies.
Tony from Perge Modo has a post
Today, in the revolution that has now begun for ownership of individual rights, bloggers are the new Paul Revere, but there are hundreds of thousands of them and they are not all shouting the same thing about the British coming. They are shouting huge heaps of overlapping static. Sometimes they pull together suddenly like a school of fish responding to the force of the current. There is no skill to this. There is only speed. You almost need to be out of the water to see, let alone control this. Nevertheless, the political bloggers feel that coalescence is within their grasp.
Read the takeaway of a filmmaker at Working Films
Let’s get meta – a post about a media article about the gathering with links to other bloggers reactions (whew!)  What LGBT bloggers do when they write about blogging conventions
From Blabbeando, a list of blogs in attendance in alphabetical order (probably not a complete list): Back to the present  – are you reading any of the above blogs or their spin-offs? When you have some time, I urge you to dive back into this glorious archive of LGBTQ activism and politics during the latter half of the 2000’s and reacquaint yourself. I hope someone, somewhere, takes the time to create an actual archive.
I interact with some of these folks via email and all sorts of social media. I’ve been to two follow up events associated with Netroots Nation since then. And I’ve continued to blog. During that first year, Laura and I met with media expert Cathy Renna for advice on my blog. She told us we were doing a good job and basically to keep on with what we had accomplished. Thanks to the wonders of a former webhost, you can see the original blog format from that very day.
A lot has happened in ten years. Netroots Nation will be in Philadelphia in July 2019 so I hope we’ll attend. One thing that has not changed is the lack of revenue in blogging – to get this lesbian voice and others to these events, there has to be scholarships and fellowships and other supports. It might interesting if someone crunched the numbers about the state of the blogosphere in 2008 versus now, including revenue data.
I miss having a chance for blogger connection. I’d like to see events that bring people together, old and new. I’d like to harness the power of experience to the energy and new ideas of today’s leaders.
Here’s a snip of video via Tony Adams survering the crowd. You can see me in the right hand margin wearing a black sweater and having very short hair.
I will always treasure the experience and the brilliant and interesting friends I made (the now husband was there for the weekend too and enjoyed the experience).  I'd love to do a reunion summit where we could work on strategies for the coming 10 years.  Kudos to Sue for putting together her excellent post.  Thanks also to Progressive Insurance and Microsoft for their underwriting of the 2008 event. 

More Thursday Male Beauty

As the Mueller Fire Nears, Trump Ponders Jettisoning Pence

As the Mueller investigation appears to be nearing its end and creeping ever closer to exposing Donald Trump as a traitor, money launderer and lord knows what else, Mike Pence is likely salivating over Trump's possible fall and his own elevation to the White House - something he in his delusions thinks god has preordained.  For the sake of the nation, one can only hope that Pence gets caught up in the Russiagate snares and goes down with Der Trumpenführer.  Meanwhile, Trump is deliciously considering ditching Pence if he survives Mueller and runs for re-election in 2020.  Either fate would be well deserved by Pence.  A piece in Vanity Fair looks at Trump's calculations in possibly throwing Pence overboard.  Here are excerpts:
After Michael Cohen’s surprise plea agreement last week and Robert Mueller’s latest disclosure that Michael Flynn sat for 19 interviews with the special counsel’s office, the West Wing walls can feel like they’re closing in. “They’re freaking out,” a former White House official told me, reflecting an emerging consensus that Mueller’s investigation is entering the endgame. Even allies raised their eyebrows at Trump’s tweet praising Roger Stone for not cooperating with Mueller. “Wow, that’s actually obstruction of justice,” a former West Wing official told me.
But the ominous signs of Mueller’s progress have not completely overwhelmed other subplots. On Monday, Trump hosted a 2020 strategy meeting with a group of advisers. Among the topics discussed was whether Mike Pence should remain on the ticket, given the hurricane-force political headwinds Trump will face, as demonstrated by the midterms, a source briefed on the session told me. “They’re beginning to think about whether Mike Pence should be running again,” the source said, adding that the advisers presented Trump with new polling that shows Pence doesn’t expand Trump’s coalition. “He doesn’t detract from it, but he doesn’t add anything either,” the source said. Last month, The New York Times reported that Trump had been privately asking advisers if Pence could be trusted, and that outside advisers have been pushing Nikki Haley to replace Pence. One veteran of Trump’s 2016 campaign who’s still advising Trump told me the president hasn’t been focused enough on 2020. “What he needs to do is consider his team for 2020 and make sure it’s in place,” the adviser said. “He has to have people on his team that are loyal to his agenda.”
Part of what’s driving the debate over Pence’s political value is Trump’s stalled search for a chief of staff to replace John Kelly. According to a source, Kelly has recently been telling Trump that Pence doesn’t help him politically. The theory is that Kelly is unhappy that Pence’s 36-year-old chief of staff, Nick Ayers, has been openly campaigning for Kelly’s job. “Kelly has started to get more political and he’s whispering to Trump that Trump needs a running mate who can help him more politically,” the source said.

In some ways, Trump and Pence deserve each other.  Time will tell which one stabs the other in the back first.

Virginia Needs to Ban Conversion Therapy in 2019

The movie "Boy Erased" starring Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, and Lucas Hedges now playing in theaters will hopefully bring a much needed on the fraudulent practice known as "ex-gay therapy" or "conversion therapy."  Long condemned by legitimate medical and mental health associations and admitted to be fraudulent by some prominent former proponents, the practice unfortunately remains legal in Virginia even for minors despite the fact that it ultimately constitutes a horrible form of psychological child abuse.  Its supporters laughably call it a form of "free speech" that should not be regulated by the state always underplaying, of course, (i) the cash cows these farcical "ministries" are to their operators - e.g., Michelle Bachmann's husband's "Christian counseling center" - and (ii) the manner the myth that sexual orientation is a choice that has been used by Christofascists for decades to block LGBT non-discrimination laws.  The "free speech" argument is particularly specious since most LGBT teens are forced into such "ministries" by their parents who place Bronze Age stories above the well-being of their children.  A piece at WTVR out of Richmond looks at the effort of one victim of the conversion therapy fraud to make the practice illegal in the 2019 session of the Virginia General Assembly.  Here are excerpts:
PRINCE GEORGE COUNTY, Va.-- Is homosexuality a choice? That's what 29-year-old Adam Trimmer was taught  while growing up in Prince George and attending a Southern Baptist church.  At the age of 17 Trimmer revealed to his mother, Paulette, a closely held secret.  "We were sitting at a stoplight and he said, 'Mom, I have something to tell you,'" Paulette recalled. Adam told his mother he was gay.
"I looked at him and said, 'Adam, a man shall not lay with another man," she responded. "When he came out to me I quote scripture to him. I did not hug him and I did not tell him I love him."  A year later in college, Adam attempted suicide feeling rejected by his parents and his first love.
While in the hospital recovering, a youth pastor recommended Adam seek help through reparative or conversion therapy. "Healing from homosexuality, that was the verbiage that was presented to me," Adam explained. "I believed [the pastor] and I was ready to change. He recommended Exodus International."
Since the 1970's, the American Psychiatric Association established homosexuality wasn't a mental disorder.  However, since then multiple religious organizations, like Exodus International, offer conversion therapy to individuals who aim to move from a homosexual to a heterosexual lifestyle.
James Parrish, the executive director of the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Virginia in Richmond, has lobbied the General Assembly to ban the controversial practice for years. "It is fraudulent and it is junk science," Parrish stated. "It is operating under the assumption that there’s something wrong with being gay and there’s nothing wrong with being gay. Unfortunately, some of these parents think they are helping their children, but they’re actually putting kids in harms way."
A bill that would prohibit licensed professionals from performing the therapy on minors was voted down in the Virginia Senate Education and Health Committee back in January. State Sen. Amanda Chase (R-District 11), who represents parts of Chesterfield County, all of Colonial Heights and Amelia County, was one of eight republicans who voted against the bill.
"I don’t think the government should be in the business of restricting free speech and that’s what we are talking about here," Chase said. "If the pastor is also a licensed counselor he should not be afraid of losing his license. We want freedom for all of our constituents we don’t want to shut down that opportunity for help if they want do that."
Multiple medical associations warn against the practice explaining it does more harm than good and research shows children who undergo conversion therapy are more likely to commit suicide.
Equality Virginia's Parrish considers all forms of conversion therapy as abuse, which can be harmful to an individual.  "We’ve stood in front of them year in year out and showed the science and the data that this puts kids in danger," he stated.
 Adam became distant from his parents. "They had brainwashed Adam thinking it was my fault that I was a bad mother and his dad was a bad father," Paulette said. "Exodus all about destroyed our relationship. He came home hating me hating, his dad and being so upset with himself."
A new movie out in theaters called Boy Erased depicts classes to teach boys how to act more straight.
"All that was happening was I was entering a life of suppression," Adam explained. Exodus International's owner shut down his organization saying he's never seen it work. He also issued a public apology.
However, the practice of conversion therapy is still occurring in Central Virginia. One organization that Adam sought help through was the Christian ministry, Set Free Richmond, which currently lists its address on Monument Avenue.
Paulette Trimmer regrets helping her son attend conversion therapy sessions. "It’s misleading and conversion therapy can destroy families. That’s not good, that’s not good," she said.
Adam left conversion therapy on his own and is now openly gay. He created the support group Love Actually Won RVA for survivors of conversion therapy.  His mother wishes she told her son that she loved him when he came out to her nearly 10 years ago.
Contact your members of the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates and make it clear you want the practice banned in the 2019 session of the Virginia General Assembly and that they have more to fear from constituents like you than The Family Foundation, Virginia's leading anti-gay hate group.  As for State Senator Amanda Chase, she needs to be openly targeted for defeat in November, 2019. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday Male Morning Beauty

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

More Wednesday Male Beauty

European Union Voted To Ban Single-Use Plastics By 2021

littered beach scene.

floating plastic debris.

Go to any beach and one of the things you will find is plastic debris that has been either thrown to the ground by beach goers or thrown into the water by irresponsible boaters.   Far worse are the large areas of the ocean where currents have collected huge masses of plastic debris - debris that is unceasingly harming sea life and marine birds.  Some parts of the world are more responsible than others in terms of not littering - from my experience, many parts of Europe are far more litter free than much of America.  Living on a tidal creek, the amount of trash that washes in with the tide or worse yet washes down stream is ridiculous and leaves one thinking Americans are pigs.  The European Union wants to reduce plastic debris even more and just voted for a ban on "single use" plastic and will impose stiff recycling requirements on other plastics such as plastic bottles.  A piece in Forbes looks at the move which, in my view should be followed by the USA, Canada and western hemisphere nations.  Here are excerpts (note that the USA under Trump/Pence is one of the countries undermining needed action):

[T]he European Parliament has voted to ban single-use plastics across the board in an attempt to stop the unending stream of plastic pollution making its way into the oceans.
Such plastic products are, as the name suggests, used just once and then thrown away. They include things like straws, plates, cups and cotton buds, and can take several centuries to degrade in the oceans where they are increasingly observed to be consumed by marine life. According to the European Commission, such plastics make up 70 percent of all marine litter.
A ban was proposed in May after the public outcry and awareness over the issue reached a new zenith. A vote at the European Parliament was held earlier this week, with a huge majority of MEPs – 571 yays to 53 nays, with 34 abstentions – agreeing to enforce the ban by 2021.
The ban is, at a glance, comprehensive. Aside from the 2021 complete ban on plenty of singleuse products, the use of plastics for which no alternatives currently exist – mostly food packaging – will have to be cut down by 25 percent by 2025. Beverage bottles will also required to be collected and recycled at a rate of 90 percent by 2025. Cigarette butts, remarkably resilient components of plastic pollution, will have to be reduced by 50 percent by 2025, and 80 percent by 2030.
[D]espite the persistent Brexit nightmare looming on the horizon, it’s possible – although not certain – that this rule will go into effect and apply to the UK too before the end of the transition period and the country’s grim divorce from the EU is complete.
“It is essential in order to protect the marine environment and reduce the costs of environmental damage attributed to plastic pollution in Europe, estimated at 22 billion euros by 2030.” . . . Garbage patches reaching ludicrous areas can be found pretty much anywhere, from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans right up to the especially fragile Arctic.
Things clearly can’t stay the same, and an increasingly multidisciplinary approach to dealing with the problem is at least appearing to gain steam. There are, in crude terms, three major prongs to this: engineering, political action, and public awareness.
This latest move seems to be a rare political action that might end up making a difference. Although plenty of national governments appear to want to do something, what usually happens is dissenting, powerful voices manage to weaken proposals that otherwise might provide an effective, united front.
Back in December 2017, for example, a UN resolution was tabled that aimed to prevent any plastic from entering the waterways of the world. Originally legally enforceable, protestations from the US rendered it non-mandatory and far less sweeping in its scope.
At the G7 summit in Quebec this summer, a similar agreement was put forward. Although it focused on the wider issue of ocean health, it also made a point about the importance of scaling back the use of plastics that inevitably end up in the sea. The US and Japan, sadly, failed to sign on to that section of the blueprint.
Lest we forget, the plastic manufacturing industry is a colossus that has a huge influence over countries’ various decisions over plastic. Certainly, public awareness of the problem is a good thing – even if things like bans on plastic straws are probably misleading the public as to the true scale (and causes) of the crisis – but individual action will only go so far. Unless there’s an industry-wide change, vast quantities plastic will still make it into the oceans.
That’s where engineering comes into the story. There are research groups all over the world currently working on ways to rid ourselves of single-use plastics once and for all, with some projects showing more promise than others. There are some that suspect that making plastic 100 percent recyclable is the way forwards, and proof-of-concept, low-energy intensive plastics that can achieve this have been invented. Others suspect that biodegradable plastics, those that break down quickly after use and can’t pollute, may be our best bet.
It must be stressed that such projects are still very much early days endeavors, so right now, it seems clear that stopping plastic getting into the oceans in the first place is of the utmost importance.
Without enforceable, coordinated, international action on the issue, plastic pollution will wreak increasing havok across the planet, damaging environments and ecologies for generatios to come.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Will the Trump/GOP Alienation of Young Voters Be Fatal in 2020

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, one of the things that has most baffled me is the GOP - and Trump's - almost deliberate alienation of younger voters as they prostitute themselves in favor of aging, conservative white voters who are literally dying off (albeit, not fast enough to have reversed the 2016 presidential and 2018 Senate election results).  The goal of a political party is to elect candidates not just in the election cycle at hand, but also in the future. As a piece at CNN that looks at younger voter turn out and the growing percentage of the electorate that they comprise, it is hard to see the GOP long term having anything less than a political death wish much as what has happened to the GOP in California (something I would love to see come to pass).  Pandering to Christian extremists while near 40% of younger voters have walked away from religion is simply insane.  The same goes for the GOP's increasingly open racism in the face of an increasingly racial diverse cadre of younger voters.  Here are article highlights:
The sharp turn against the Republican Party by young people in the 2018 election may be only the overture to an even greater political risk for the GOP in 2020.
Both historical voting patterns and underlying demographic trends suggest that the biggest difference in the electorate between this election and the next one is that relatively younger voters will cast a greater share of the votes in the presidential year -- perhaps a much larger share. Even with much higher than usual turnout among young voters this year, voters 45 and below are likely to increase their proportion of the total vote from just under three-in-ten this year to something closer to four-in-ten by 2020, historical trends suggest.
A rising participation level could threaten Republicans at a moment when younger voters, who have consistently expressed preponderant opposition to President Donald Trump in polls, provided Democrats their largest margins in decades during last month's election.
"Voters under 45 moved decisively and overwhelmingly toward Democrats, and I don't know how you take it as anything other than a total rebuke of Trump and what's he done," says Democratic pollster Andrew Baumann, who has extensively studied younger voters.
Despite Democrats' emphatic gains among younger voters, Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson, author of The Selfie Vote, a book on the Millennial Generation, says the GOP shows no signs of grappling with the shift.
Several states with Democratic campaigns that particularly targeted young people saw bigger increases, according to previously unpublished Catalist data. In Arizona, the share of the vote cast by those under 45 spiked from 21% in 2014 to 29% this year; in Georgia, the numbers jumped from 29% to 36% ; Texas increased from 26% to 33%.
That raises the clear red flag for Republicans that the young people who broke decisively against the party last month are likely to comprise a measurably larger share of voters in 2020.
The most basic reason younger voters loom even larger in 2020 is that the millennial Generation and Generation X, joined for the first time by the post-millennials born after 2000, will comprise a larger share of the eligible voter pool than in 2016. (Those three generations represented about 55% of all eligible voters in 2016, and are expected to rise to about 63% in 2020, according to forecasts by the non-partisan States of Change project.)
Heightened turnout in 2020 would raise the price for the losses Republicans suffered among younger voters this year. In the exit polls, Democrats carried fully 67% of voters aged 18-29 in House elections. That represented their best performance among adults under 30 in any House election since at least 1986; it even exceeded their modern high points of around three-fifths in the 2006 midterm election and the 2008 and 2012 presidential years, when former President Barack Obama was on the ballot.
Similarly, exit polls this year found House Democrats captured 58% among voters aged 30-44. That's also the highest share of the vote Democrats have won in that age group since 1986.
These results were remarkably consistent across regional lines. Democrats carried voters aged 18-29 in all 22 Senate races in which an exit poll was conducted, except for Indiana, where the two candidates tied. Many of their margins among these youngest voters were enormous. In the US Senate race in Texas, Democrat Beto O'Rourke, despite losing the race, carried 71% of voters younger than 30, the exit polls found. Gavin Newsom won 69% of voters younger than 30 in winning the California governor's race, and Stacey Abrams carried just under two-thirds of them in her losing Georgia gubernatorial bid.
"When you look at these crosstabs, and you see just how poorly Republicans did among thirty-somethings, not just kids just out of college, it's a problem," she says. "They have kids, they bought houses, they pay taxes, they are doing all of those things that were supposed to make them Republicans, and they didn't become Republicans."
 To Anderson, the GOP's weakness with voters now in their thirties is evidence that the party's problem extends beyond Trump: as she notes, the roughly three-fifths of voters 30-44 that Democrats won in 2018 almost exactly equaled their showing among voters in their twenties during their sweep in the 2006 mid-term election. "The problem now for Republicans is you are not just talking about we need to do better with younger voters, now it has spread so far up the age scale as these voters have gotten older and not become more conservative in the process," she said.
[W]hile the GOP's difficulties with the Millennial Generation predate Trump, there seems little doubt that he has compounded them. From the outset, many millennials viewed Trump's belligerent language on race and immigration, and his belittling comments about women, as an explicit counterrevolution against the ideal of a more inclusive and tolerant America that most of them say they support. In a summer 2016 ABC/Washington Post survey, two thirds of voters under 40 said they considered Trump biased against women and minorities. But doubts about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton blocked the full expression of those doubts . . . 
In this [2018] election, Trump faced a withering verdict from younger voters. In the exit polls, 66% of voters aged 18-29 and 62% of those aged 30-44 said they disapproved of his performance in office. In each group, just over half said they strongly disapproved of Trump's performance, significantly more than the share of older voters (just over two-fifths) who said they were so strongly disenchanted with him.
But Trump is still committing the GOP to a strategy of squeezing more advantage from groups that are shrinking. All of the major data sources on the electorate's composition -- from the Census Bureau to the exit polls to Catalist -- agree that the share of the vote cast by Trump's core group of whites without a college education has been declining by about two percentage points over each four-year presidential cycle. With turnout among minorities and college-educated whites surging, Catalist's preliminary analysis found those working-class whites, while still the electorate's largest single group, dropped fully five points as a share of the vote this year, compared to the last mid-term in 2014.
One thing no political strategy can reverse is the tide of generational replacement. As not only the World War II and Silent Generations, but also more baby boomers pass out of the electorate, the share of the eligible voting pool comprised of Generation X, millennials and Post-millennials is inexorably rising. The States of Change project forecasts those three generations -- which are much more racially diverse and college-educated than the generations they are replacing -- will continue growing to about two-thirds of eligible voters by 2024 and nearly three-fourths by 2028. More voters mean more consequences if Republicans can't soften the recoil from the party that younger voters displayed last month.

As I said, the GOP is suffering from a long term death wish or suicide pact.