Saturday, June 19, 2021

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


The GOP Remains in Deep Trouble in the Suburbs

The Republican Party is busy across America striving to disenfranchise minority voters yet, as a very long piece in Politico Magazine describes by way of looking at a one time GOP bastion in Michigan, the GOP is in crisis in America's suburbs.  Indeed, as the GOP increases its embrace of ignorance and open racism - prerequisites of appealing to the Trump base - more and more suburban voters look at the GOP with revulsion. America's suburbs are increasingly populated by college educated residents and are increasingly racially mixed with minority doctors, attorneys, and other professionals. The GOP's devotion to and promotion of of far right Christian extremism and white supremacy is anathema to such individuals.  Its noteworthy that former Republicans in the piece describe what happened to me: "I didn't leave the GOP, the GOP left me."  I was raised in a mostly Republican family and now few, if any of us, vote Republican.  Here are article excerpts:

In the aftermath of the 2020 election, the Republican National Committee opted not to order an autopsy into what exactly led to the party’s decline in suburban communities that were, until recently, considered deep red.

But if RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel wanted to understand what happened, she could do worse than to look back at the place she was raised: Oakland County, Michigan.

“Oakland County was kind of the quintessential suburban Republican stronghold over the postwar period,” says Jeff Timmer, a longtime GOP strategist who was executive director of the state party from 2005-2009. . . . . “When I ran the Michigan Republican Party, we always pointed to Oakland: ‘These guys have got their shit together,’” says Timmer. To put it bluntly, the shit is no longer together.

Ten years ago, Republicans held two of the four GOP-drawn U.S. House seats in Oakland (the other two were safe Democratic); now, all four are in Democratic hands. Democratic women now represent the Romney family’s hometown in the state House, state Senate and U.S. House (Rep. Haley Stevens). Ten years ago, Brooks Patterson, the silver-tongued sun-God around whom all local politics orbited, was county executive, and Republicans held four of the six countywide elected posts; Democrats now hold five of them, including the executive. After GOP-controlled redistricting in 2012, Republicans had a 14-7 majority on the Oakland County Board of Commissioners; now, Democrats have an 11-10 edge and will control the county-level redistricting process for the first time in a half-century.

The change is happening in lush, sylvan communities like Birmingham and Bloomfield—a place at least three generations of Romneys, McDaniel included, have called home. Here, generations of families with auto-baron surnames set roots.

This was “‘Romney Republican’ territory, but the Republican Party has gone so far away from that,” says Mallory McMorrow, the Democrat who represents the area in the state Senate. “Even looking at the types of things Mitt Romney is proposing on the federal level right now, I think if he were still at home, he’d be a Democrat. The party has shifted so much.”

To the casual observer, this change happened overnight. But the change is less the flip of a switch than a stovetop dial cranked on high—it took a while to heat up but the pot is boiling now.

Between Barack Obama’s campaign in 2012 and Joe Biden’s in 2020, the margin of victory for Democratic presidential candidates in Oakland grew by roughly 55,000 votes. Few have noticed it, but Oakland’s share of the statewide Democratic vote now exceeds that of the city of Detroit. . . . That’s a problem for Republicans in a state that has played a pivotal role in the last two presidential elections. But Oakland is also a national warning light for the Republicans at the highest levels of the party.

Oakland County “represents the dominant trend in the country because it combines the most affluent and college graduates in increasingly diverse suburbs becoming increasingly and emphatically Democratic,”. . . . And there are Oakland Counties all around the nation—affluent, longtime Republican suburbs that have been trending Democratic for a long time, but where the Trump years marked a tipping point. “Look at why the Republicans are so obsessed with reversing Maricopa [County, Arizona]—but also Gwinnett [County, Georgia]—both key to Biden and Democrats winning the states and Senate,” says Greenberg.

These key suburban populations are mostly white but increasingly diverse, highly educated and relatively affluent. They aren’t scared by immigration; they support it in their own communities—especially with highly skilled immigrants, attracted to work at businesses lured to these suburbs, in many cases, by business-minded Republican politicians. They are repelled by white-grievance politics and culture-war clashes, and concerned about the rise of violent right-wing anti-government plots, like the Jan. 6 insurrection and the thwarted plan to kidnap and execute Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. They used to think of themselves as Republicans, but nowadays the GOP seems disconnected from the things they care about; it talks less about affordable child care or student debt than banning transgender student athletes or making it harder to vote. It’s the inverse of what President Ronald Reagan said in Macomb County all those years ago: They didn’t leave the Republican Party; the Republican Party left them.

[T]he Biden Republicans didn’t spontaneously sprout up in 2020; their emergence is part of a longer story—or, more precisely, several interlocking stories.

It’s the story of how demographic trends are changing America’s suburbs, not simply in making them more diverse, but in making them more highly educated at the same time educational attainment has become a defining predictor of how Americans vote. It’s the story of how the GOP playbook—which often defaults to the tactic of demonizing cities as bastions of out-of-touch liberal elites—has missed an important shift: Suburbs aren’t at war with their cities any longer, and claiming they are has alienated potential Republican voters.

And, critically, it’s a warning of what happens when a political party is associated with one charismatic figurehead and doesn’t invest in candidates with their own identities; and of the strategic blunder of responding to a tidal shift of demographic change by rewriting voting rules instead of fixing a tone-deaf message.

This is the story of how Oakland County went blue—and what that tells us about the Republican Party’s continuing collapse in America’s suburbs.

Between 1990 and 2010, the portion of Oakland’s population comprised by people of color had more than doubled; almost 55 percent of its residents had at least an associate’s degree. By 2014, more than 1 in 10 of Oakland’s 1.2 million residents were foreign-born. For Republicans, it was a demographic time bomb.

And it ticked down just as the Republican Party—nationally and locally—was about to be taken over by someone whose politics were uniquely tailored to turn off people with college degrees, people in diverse and well-to-do suburbs, people who had immigrated to the country; someone who would make it radically easier for Democrats to recruit donors, volunteers and voters from those same groups; someone who would replace Brooks Patterson as the Republican Party’s indispensable man—just as he did with local Republican power-brokers throughout the country: Donald J. Trump.

But it’s not simply that diversity brought in new voters, diluting the strength of the Republican electorate. The new diversity actually affected the political preferences of the mostly white residents who already lived there. Republicans became less Republican. . . . . even if you are a straight, white, Christian person who lives in Oakland County, you don’t want to demonize somebody who’s an immigrant, because they live next door to you and you work with them. … I think that’s the difference: I don’t think my constituents see diversity as a threat.”

In places like Oakland, the Republican Party’s continuing focus on culture-war issues even puzzles former Republican officeholders.

“It’s the opposite of a big-tent party right now,” says Martin Howrylak, a Republican who represented Troy in the state House from 2012-2018. “That was really the game plan of Trump: to create lines: ‘You’re either with me or against me. And if you’re not with me, you might as well—politically speaking—die.’ And that ‘take no prisoners’ approach is the antithesis of what’s needed here. As long as the party continues to embrace the former president, it’s going to have trouble in Oakland County.”

That ‘Biden Republican’ exists, and they call themselves that—out here, they do,” Markham says. “They were pretty comfortable … but they kind of woke up and went, ‘Holy crap, this is not the future that I want for my kids.’ A lot of these new folks—doctors, lawyers, young people—[are] coming to us and saying, ‘The Republican Party doesn’t represent us.’ That's how I ended up being a Democrat.”

Friday, June 18, 2021

Friday Morning Male Beauty


The Handmaid’s Tale: How the Unthinkable Can Become Ordinary


While by most standards Joe Biden's European trip was a success and Biden and other's stated that "America is Back," meaning the country will again work with long time allies and slavish pandering to Vladimir Putin is over.   But on another front, America is anything but back.  Specifically, American democracy remains under steady attack by the Republican Party and its base dominated by white supremacists, Christofascists and conspiracy theory devotees.  As a  column in the Washington Post notes, America's image remains damaged and we are no longer seen as a premier example of democracy.   Here are highlights:

One aspect of the United States’ power remains substantially diminished: its role as a beacon of democracy. Among countries surveyed, 57 percent of people said the United States is no longer the model for democracy it used to be. Young people worldwide are even more skeptical about America’s democratic institutions.


In one fundamental way, things look worse now than in prior periods of crisis. After Watergate, many were surprised that the world looked up to the United States for facing and fixing its democratic failures. It was a sign of the country’s capacity to course-correct. But imagine if after that scandal, the Republican Party, instead of condemning Nixon, had embraced him slavishly, insisted that he did absolutely nothing wrong, settled into denial and obstructionism and proposed new laws to endorse Nixon’s most egregious conduct? Imagine if the only people purged by the party had been those who criticized Nixon?


The decay of American democracy is real. It’s not a messaging or image problem. Until we can repair that, I’m not sure we can truly say America is back.

Along this line, a piece in The Atlantic looks at how democracy is eroding and what was once unthinkable is slowly being normalized much in the way that a slide toward dictatorship was shown in the book and TV show The Handmaiden's Tale.  Frighteningly, too many people - perhaps out of shear exhaustion - think that with Trump out of office the threat is over.  It is anything but over and people need to wake up before it is too late.  Here are column excerpts:

When the TV version of The Handmaid’s Tale premiered in 2017, the show was a textbook piece of Trump-era resistance art—a direct reply to the preening misogynies of the newly elected president. Both the book and the show were timely parables of gendered violence, reminders that history can also move backwards. And they retain that power today: The Trump administration may have concluded, but its encroaching cruelties have not. State leaders are currently attempting to legislate away the rights of, among many others, trans people, of other LGBTQ people, of women. But The Handmaid’s Tale is urgent again for another reason as well. Lawmakers in several states, empowered by the nearly friction-free spread of Trump’s Big Lie, are attempting to limit people’s ability to vote—and building the power to cast as “fraudulent” those electoral outcomes they find politically inconvenient. They are doing much of this in a way that might be familiar to Atwood’s readers: They are treating these elemental threats to democracy as if they were business as usual.

“This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time, it will,” Aunt Lydia, whose job is to indoctrinate young women into the ways of Gilead, assures her charges. “It will become ordinary.” She means this as a promise, but in truth, it is a threat. Gilead, like many of the real-world regimes that inspired it, uses ordinariness as a tactic of oppression. Much of its propaganda is aimed not at angering people, but at soothing them. Its invented language is strategically casual. In this world, ritualized rapes are known as “ceremonies”; murders of dissidents are dismissed as “salvagings”; violence is made so routine that it becomes unremarkable. In a story full of villains, ordinariness is its own kind of enemy.

The regime that has conquered much of America in The Handmaid’s Tale takes advantage of the fact that, in times of crisis, people’s desire for normalcy can be so deep that it can easily edge over into complacency. “The new normal,” in this universe, is not a cliché. It is a concession.

“There was little that was truly original about Gilead,” the coda to the novel, a retrospective academic presentation about the workings of Gilead, observes. “Its genius was synthesis.” You might say something similar about the novel itself. It is powerful in part because its fictions flow from the hard facts of history: Atwood’s story blends lessons from Iran’s theocratic revolution, from Nazi propaganda, from the perfunctory playbook of 20th-century autocrats. But some of the book’s deepest insights are human-scaled. Atwood pays a lot of attention to the fact that Offred spends much of her time as a victim of Gilead merely … bored. “There’s time to spare,” Offred notes. “This is one of the things I wasn’t prepared for—the amount of unfilled time, the long parentheses of nothing.”

“Shocking but not surprising” was one of the truisms of the Trump era, a means of conveying how readily his aberrant—and often abhorrent—behavior had been normalized. Trump proved that shamelessness can work as a smoke screen. Other politicians have learned that lesson. Earlier this month, a group of democracy scholars produced a joint statement of concern about threats facing the American electoral system. As of this writing, nearly 200 experts have signed it. “We … have watched the recent deterioration of U.S. elections and liberal democracy with growing alarm,” they wrote. They cited in particular Republican-led efforts to pass laws that could enable some state legislatures or partisan election officials to do what they failed to do in 2020: reverse the outcome of a free and fair election. Further, these laws could entrench extended minority rule, violating the basic and longstanding democratic principle that parties that get the most votes should win elections.

Many of these affronts to election integrity are being enacted, in the name of preserving election integrity. They are extensions of Trump’s Big Lie. They are systematic. “We did it quickly and we did it quietly,” Jessica Anderson, the executive director of Heritage Action for America, a sister organization of the Heritage Foundation, told donors about voter-suppression measures that the Iowa legislature had passed in February. She described the template the firm had produced that served as a model for Iowa’s and other state-sponsored voting restrictions. The overall effort, she suggested, had been remarkably straightforward. “Honestly, nobody even noticed,” she said. “My team looked at each other and we’re like, ‘It can’t be that easy.’”

It can be that easy. It should not be that easy. One of the paradoxes of this moment of democratic emergency is that the threat, strictly speaking, doesn’t always look like the crisis it is. Laws being passed by lawmakers: This would seem to be business as usual. The whole thing is, for the most part, very orderly. Part of the challenge, for the public, will be to see the emergency for what it is—even if the encroachments are bureaucratic rather than outwardly violent, and even if the changes come slowly before they come suddenly. There are many ways to attempt a coup. And there are many ways for the unthinkable to become, finally, banal.

Be very afraid for the future.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

More Wednesday Male Beauty


Moderates Score a Win for Now in the Southern Baptist Convention

In a surprise result, the meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville yesterday saw the election of a moderate as the new SBC president.  Seemingly, younger members who turned out in larger numbers than anticipated swayed the vote and rejected for now the machinations of "conservatives" - those who want to turn a blind eye to sex abuse and racism within too many SBC churches - at least for now.  Having seen what reactionary elements in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Methodist Church did in the wake of not getting their way in those denominations, it's a foregone conclusion that the SBC will continue to experience division and a possible exodus of far right churches.  Moreover, the pollicization of religion by and allegiance to Trump among the right wing elements will likely continue to fuel the exodus of younger members from the SBC.  The SBC remains no friend to LGBT Americans.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at what could be a short term victory for moderates - a decidedly relative term - within the SBC. Here are article excerpts:

The Southern Baptist Convention elected Ed Litton as their president on Tuesday, signaling a defeat for the hard right within the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

Litton narrowly defeated Mike Stone, the favored candidate of the far-right. For the past few years, the convention has been mired in debates over racism, politics and sexual misconduct that mirror many of the same debates in the Republican Party. The election took place at the convention’s annual meeting in Nashville.

In recent weeks, as leaked letters and backroom deals dominated conversations among Southern Baptists, Litton, pastor of First Baptist Church North Mobile in Alabama, pitched himself as someone who would lead the convention toward more racial reconciliation.

In a runoff, Litton received 52 percent of the vote, while Stone received 47.81 percent.

Stone had the support of a group called the Conservative Baptist Network that formed in 2020 to try to steer the convention in a hard-right direction. The CBN hosted its own gathering Tuesday at a nearby hotel featuring speakers who lamented the direction of the country and convention, including the state of public schools, how young people are leaving churches, and “woke” ideologies.

Ahead of the meeting, there was concern that there would be a backlash against some of the racial reconciliation of Southern Baptist leaders, said Ed Stetzer, who used to head the SBC’s LifeWay Research, its research arm. Instead, the convention voted for a president known for his efforts on race relations.

“The crowd was younger and more diverse then most expected, and that crowd carried the day,” Stetzer said.

The election result is unlikely to end the divisiveness within the convention or satisfy attendees like Judd Saul, a filmmaker from Cedar Falls, Iowa, traveled to Nashville because he wanted to warn Southern Baptists of the “drastic slide” into the political left and into CRT and was distributing pamphlets about the “woke SBC.” He said he was kicked out of his Southern Baptist church three years ago for promoting conspiracy theories and now attends a non-denominational church.

Another key issued raised at the meeting was how Southern Baptists have handled sex abuse both in their churches and at the highest levels of leadership. Because churches operate independently from one another, they have struggled to know how to prevent people who have been credibly accused of sex abuse from moving to other churches.

The convention, which is known for adopting resolutions on all kinds of political and cultural issues, also adopted resolutions opposing tax-payer funding for abortion and opposing an LGBT rights measure called the Equality Act.

In his speech, outgoing president Greear warned against getting too closely aligned with partisan politics.

“God hasn’t called us primarily to save America politically; he’s called us to make the gospel known to all," Greear said. "Whenever the church gets in bed with politics, it gets pregnant. And the offspring does not look like our Father in heaven.

From my perspective, a weakened SBC is a net positive.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


Saudi Arabia Helps Its Citizens Escape Criminal Justice in America

This issue has appeared on this blog in the past and sadly the problem continues as America's false ally, Saudi Arabia aids and abets its citizens facing criminal charges - even murder charges - in fleeing the country and returning to Saudi Arabia which has no extradition treaty with the United States.  In short, a Saudi citizen can commit murder and mayhem and the Saudi embassy will provide funds and diplomatic protection to whisk them away so to avoid all consequences.  It is, in my view, one more example of America being played for a fool by a false ally - an "ally" that provided the majority of the 9-11 hijackers who killed thousands of Americans after being radicalized by Saudi funded madrassas.   The Saudi's must laugh at Americans as they protect criminals and engage in human rights abuses and outright murder at home.  I for one can't wait for electric cars to greatly reduce America's need for oil so that false allies like Saudi Arabia can be kicked to the curb. A piece in the Washington Post again looks at how Saudi citizens literally get away with murder.  Here are highlights:

On the night of Oct. 13, 2018, Raekwon Moore was stabbed during a street fight with two strangers in the popular Uptown district of Greenville, N.C. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he died. Police quickly apprehended and questioned Abdullah Hariri and Sultan Alsuhaymi, both citizens of Saudi Arabia, whom eyewitnesses and surveillance camera footage placed at the scene of the Saturday night brawl.

Initially, police thought the men may have acted in self-defense and released them from custody. After further investigation, prosecutors charged both with first-degree murder.

But Hariri and Alsuhaymi will probably never stand trial, because days after their alleged crime and before they were charged, they left the country and returned to Saudi Arabia, which has no extradition treaty with the United States.

The murder charges against Hariri and Alsuhaymi are the most serious known against dozens of Saudi citizens, many of them students, who are wanted in the United States; their alleged offenses include first-degree manslaughter, vehicular hit-and-run, rape and possession of child pornography. Many fled to their homeland with the assistance of Saudi officials, and for some, their path out of the United States was eased by the negligence of prosecutors or police who failed to consider flight risk.

Travel records obtained by The Washington Post show that Alsuhaymi flew out of Dulles International Airport on Oct. 17, 2018, four days after he allegedly stabbed and killed Moore. It’s not clear whether Hariri was on the same flight.

The Saudi government’s assistance to its citizens who are accused of violent crimes has drawn scrutiny from federal law enforcement and condemnation from members of Congress.

The FBI has concluded that Saudi government officials “almost certainly assist US-based Saudi citizens in fleeing the United States to avoid legal issues, undermining the US judicial process,” according to an intelligence bulletin issued in August 2019, which was declassified following legislation written by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to extract more information on the Saudi government’s role.

At the Saudi Embassy in Washington, that assistance has been overseen by a mid-level official who has managed a network of American criminal defense lawyers and self-described “fixers” paid to keep Saudis charged with crimes out of prison, an investigation by The Post has found.

This network has provided traditional consular services such as arranging for bail, interpreters and legal representation for people accused of violent crimes. But it has also gone far beyond the traditional role of embassies and helped the accused evade court-ordered probation, and arranged for travel and flights out of the United States when Saudi nationals have absconded from justice, . . .

In Virginia, Hussam Aleidi, who had been enrolled as a student at Radford University, is wanted for violating the terms of his probation after he was convicted on charges including assault in 2018. People familiar with his case said he returned to Saudi Arabia with the embassy’s help.

There is currently a warrant for Aleidi’s arrest, according to court records and a prosecutor in Prince Edward County.

It is a federal crime to flee the United States to avoid criminal prosecution, including under state law.

Saudi officials, the FBI said in its bulletin, “perceive the embarrassment of Saudi citizens enduring the US judicial process is greater than the embarrassment of the United States learning the [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] surreptitiously removes citizens with legal problems from the United States.”

A December 2019 advisory from the Justice Department’s criminal division warned about foreign governments “providing monetary aid to enable the posting of bail, help in obtaining or replacing travel documents, or arranging undetected travel outside the United States. Such assistance could occur at any time: in anticipation of arrest, while pending trial, or even after conviction.”

For years, U.S. officials have declined to confront Saudi Arabia, a close ally and partner in counterterrorism operations, according to articles in the Oregonian, which identified Saudis who have fled justice in Oregon and at least seven other states, as well as Canada.

But recently, the Biden administration has demanded that the kingdom stop helping accused criminals flee.

In meetings with their Saudi counterparts, senior State Department officials have “made clear that such individuals must face proceedings in the United States and that any Saudi government interference with the integrity of the U.S. criminal justice system is unacceptable,” Naz Durakoglu, the acting assistant secretary in the Bureau of Legislative Affairs, wrote in a letter to Wyden in March.

Wyden, who is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and has worked closely with Schiff and House lawmakers, called on the Biden administration not to take the Saudis “at their word” that they will stop their citizens from fleeing.

“You’ve got to hold the country accountable,” Wyden said. “I am going to press the Biden administration at every single opportunity to make sure justice is done here.”

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


Glenn Youngkin Won't Say Gay Marriage is Legal

While pretending to be a moderate and running ads that are full of platitudes, GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin is anything but moderate.  On the actual campaign trail he bashes transgender Virginians, says that he supports "religious liberty" - the Christofascist code phrase for special rights to discriminate - and will not even concede that the legality of same sex marriage is the law of the land.  Youngkin's idea of "shared values" is far right, Christofascist values (namely, homophobia, the subordination of women, and a strong dose of white supremacy) and, if elected in November, Youngkin would seek to undo years of progress and return Virginia to 2004 or earlier times.  Stated another way, Youngkin is Ken Cuccinelli repackaged in less abrasive and on the surface less scary packaging.  The mindsets and agendas of the two men are one and the same.  Virginians must stop Youngkin from occupying the Executive Mansion.  A piece in LGBT Nation looks at Youngkin's frightening positions on equality.  Here are highlights:

Glenn Youngkin, who just last month became the Republican nominee for Governor in Virginia, must think it’s 2004.

It’s bad enough that Youngkin has made anti-trans attacks part of his campaign schtick. Now he’s dodging and weaving on a long-settled issue: marriage equality.

Asked by the New York Times if he supports marriage equality, Youngkin “declined to say.” Instead, he used a generic “conservative” label to describe himself without actually describing any of his policy proposals.

At this stage of the game, most Republicans acknowledge that, like it or not, marriage equality is the law of the land. Even Donald Trump, who has endorsed Youngkin, has said so. The focus of most Republicans now is to instead carve out broad exemptions to LGBTQ rights under the guise of religious liberty.

Youngkin’s refusal to accept marriage equality provided an easy opportunity for his opponent to criticize him for. Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe, who has previously served as governor, has a long track record of support for LGBTQ rights. He even officiated at a same-sex wedding in 2014.

“While Terry McAuliffe is committed to advancing LGTBQ equality and building a better future for all Virginians, Glenn Youngkin is representing the reprehensible bigotry and exclusion of a bygone era,” Manuel Bonder, spokesman for the Democratic Party of Virginia, told LGBTQ Nation in a statement.

Youngkin said that his support for religious freedom differentiated himself from Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe. When Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) endorsed Youngkin, he specifically called him out as “a defender of religious liberty.”

But by not stating the obvious, Youngkin is clearly appealing to the most extreme elements of the GOP, particularly its hardcore Christian conservative base. He’s also signaling that he’d be happy — or his base would be happy, at least — if the courts somehow reversed marriage equality.

This is Youngkin’s first run for office, having spent his career in finance. He seems intent on ensuring that he doesn’t take any stand beyond basic political platitudes. He’s tried to cloak his support for Trump while McAuliffe has tried to highlight it.

At the same time, Youngkin’s courting Trump voters by, in true Trumpian fashion, going on a tear against transgender people in speeches and social media posts. Trump has cast a long shadow on the Virginia race from his Mar-a-Lago exile, apparently still sore over losing the state in the fall.

Most of all, Youngkin is calculating that there is no political benefit on the state GOP level to say anything that could be remotely interpreted as pro-LGBTQ, and with good reason: the race for the lieutenant governor nomination in the Virginia Republican Party was noteworthy primarily for its anti-LGBTQ attacks.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Monday Morning Male Beauty


Trump's Psychosis Remains an "Enormous Danger" to America


A multitude of mental health experts warned Americans that Donald Trump is mentally ill and that his election to the White House would endanger the nation.  Much of the mainstream media failed to report or inadequately reported on the warnings of these experts and the result was that a sociopath was elected and - contrary to the Founders intentions - certified by the Electoral College.  Now, although thankfully out of office, Trump, his cultist followers, and spineless and/or amoral congressional Republicans remain a severe danger.  Indeed, one can argue that Trump's mental illness is worsening and much of the media continues to educate Americans of the danger Trump poses.  A piece in Salon looks at one expert's continued warning of what might yet come to pass.  Here are article excerpts: 

For at least the past five years, some of America's and the world's foremost mental health experts have attempted to warn the public that Donald Trump was (and is) a dire threat to public safety.

Based on Trump's public behavior and other available information, these experts warned that he appears to be a malignant narcissist, a pathological liar who is obsessed with violence, easily manipulated by praise and other ego-stroking behavior, indifferent to the suffering of other human beings, anti-social and anti-human in his values and behavior, irresponsible and impulsive and in total quite likely a sociopath or perhaps a psychopath.

Collectively, these mental health experts predicted that Trump's many apparent pathologies would lead to destruction and suffering for the American people and the world.

They were almost entirely correct: Donald Trump undermined and destabilized American society and democracy. He made negligent and irresponsible choices, bordering on outright sabotage, in response to the coronavirus pandemic. These choices may have killed hundreds of thousands of Americans and shortened the average lifespan of the American people by several years. He colluded with a hostile foreign power to subvert a presidential election. He attempted a coup which included an attack by his followers on the U.S. Capitol. He very nearly destroyed the American economy and presided over a regime of profound corruption. He inspired and encouraged right-wing terrorism and other political violence. He leads a political cult.

Instead of being publicly praised and rewarded for their truth-telling and their attempts to warn America and the world, many of these mental health professionals have endured death threats and other retaliation. At least one of these truth-tellers, psychiatrist Dr. Bandy X. Lee — editor of "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump" — lost her position at an elite university, in large part because she continued to warn the public about Donald Trump and his movement's escalating danger to public safety.

Many Americans, including the country's political elites, would prefer to throw the Age of Trump down the memory well. But such acts of organized forgetting will not save them from the Trump-controlled Republican Party's escalating assaults on American democracy. Forgetting that mental health professionals predicted the Trump nightmare and all it has wrought is an integral part of this campaign of national amnesia.

Most importantly, Donald Trump is incapable of letting America or the world forget about him. Trump's apparent mental pathologies drive him to seek revenge against his perceived enemies and others he believes have wronged him.

Trump's followers, who comprise at least half of all Republican voters, have been convinced that he is still the legitimate president and that Biden is a usurper. Christian fascists and antisemitic QAnon conspiracy believers (two groups that overlap extensively) are among Trump's most ardent supporters.

Mental health professionals predicted such an outcome as well. They understand that Trumpism was not an acute disease that would magically disappear once Donald Trump was no longer president. Instead, Trumpism is a potentially lethal, chronic and long-lasting disease of the nation's mind, body and spirit.  

In an effort to assess Donald Trump's continuing danger to American society and democracy, I recently spoke with Dr. Lance Dodes, whom I have interviewed on numerous occasions. Dodes is a retired assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a training and supervising analyst emeritus at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. He is among the foremost voices who attempted to warn the American people and the world about Donald Trump's dangerous behavior.

In this conversation, Dodes warns that Donald Trump appears to be a psychopath and that his dangerous behavior will only get worse. He argues that Trump's delusional beliefs fuel the Republican Party's detachment from reality, as shown through the Big Lie, conspiratorial thinking, the right-wing propaganda media and other anti-democratic beliefs and behavior. At the end of this conversation, Dodes once again expresses the view that Donald Trump believes himself to be a type of god, and that if he somehow returns to power may actually try to create an authoritarian police state.

[Dodes] would describe Trump's most extreme devotees as members of a charismatic cult. Such cults unconditionally worship a charismatic leader who is often delusional with a grandiose, psychotic belief in his perfection, like Trump. The followers close themselves off from accurate or rational information in order to protect their connection to the godlike cult leader and to avoid questioning his delusional views, which would cause them to be shunned or expelled from the group.

Trump's followers don't believe they need any help. Having been conned into the leader's delusion of being a god, they believe that so long as they are following his perfect lead they could not possibly be wrong. It's important to be clear, though, that this description of Trump's most rabid followers likely does not apply to the Republicans in Congress who support Trump. Rather than being members of the Trump cult, they likely simply lack a decent conscience, immorally protecting their seats in Congress rather than the country or democracy.

He has been delusional for years, from the start of his presidency, when he claimed he had large crowds at his inauguration. But it's important to add that beside being delusional, Trump's behavior also reflects his deeply severe character disorder, his sociopathy. A person, after all, can be delusional and no danger whatsoever to anyone else. But the fact that Trump is a sociopath, a person without a conscience who is incapable of recognizing the inherent worth of other human beings, makes him the enormous danger he is. Trump has the worst of all worlds, one might say, psychotically grandiose and utterly uncaring about the harm he causes others. He is basically psychologically the same as the many infamous, cruel tyrants we know from recent and remote history.

Trump has already told us what he would do. When he was running against Hillary Clinton, he said that he wanted to "lock her up" in prison. That's what Trump would try to do if he were back in power. He seeks to be the same as the leader of North Korea, imprisoning or killing people if they dare to oppose him. With more power he is only going to get worse — more enraged, more paranoid, more psychotic, more violent and more dangerous. If he could, Donald Trump would turn America into a police state.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

More Sunday Male Beauty


The Myth of a Majority-Minority America

One of the things that most terrifies the Republican Party base is the narrative that within the next few decades that whites will be a minority in America.  The problem with this narrative is that it relies on a calculus from the Old South that if one had a drop of non-white blood ancestry, one is not white.  How you look physically and your skin color or how you self-identify is immaterial under this approach which unfortunately has long been the Census Bureau standard.   As a lengthy piece in The Atlantic lays out, the biggest change in the American population is the rise of racially blended individuals, many of whom see themselves as white or mainstream Americans, not a racial minority.  Moreover, the acceptance of racial blending is growing in acceptance and even among Republicans is far less terrifying than the majority-minority narrative.  Within our extended families, the husband and I have racially blended nieces and nephews.  Some are black/white and others are white/Asian.  All are accepted and embraced as family and as they grow older will likely not identify solely with one-half of the ancestry.  This trend is happening all across America almost akin to what happened decades ago when Americans of Italian, Polish, Irish German and other ancestries intermarried and dispelled the narrative that immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe would wipe out white cultural dominance.  Here are highlights from the article that does much to deflate the racial fearmongering of today's GOP:

In recent years, demographers and pundits have latched on to the idea that, within a generation, the United States will inevitably become a majority-minority nation, with nonwhite people outnumbering white people. In the minds of many Americans, this ethno-racial transition betokens political, cultural, and social upheaval, because a white majority has dominated the nation since its founding. But our research on immigration, public opinion, and racial demography reveals something quite different: By softening and blurring racial and ethnic lines, diversity is bringing Americans together more than it is tearing the country apart.

The majority-minority narrative contributes to our national polarization. Its depiction of a society fractured in two, with one side rising while the other subsides, is inherently divisive because it implies winners and losers. It has bolstered white anxiety and resentment of supposedly ascendant minority groups, and has turned people against democratic institutions that many conservative white Americans and politicians consider complicit in illegitimate minority empowerment. At the extreme, it nurtures conspiratorial beliefs in a racist “replacement” theory, which holds that elites are working to replace white people with minority immigrants in a “stolen America.”

The narrative is also false. By rigidly splitting Americans into two groups, white versus nonwhite, it reinvents the discredited 19th-century “one-drop rule” and applies it to a 21st-century society in which the color line is more fluid than it has ever been.

In reality, racial diversity is increasing not only at a nationwide level but also within American families—indeed within individual Americans. Nearly three in 10 Asian, one in four Latino, and one in five Black newlyweds are married to a member of a different ethnic or racial group. More than three-quarters of these unions are with a white partner. For more and more Americans, racial integration is embedded in their closest relationships.

Multiracial identities are gaining public recognition and approval. Numerous young Americans consider themselves both white and members of a minority racial or ethnic group. One in every nine babies born in the U.S. today will be raised in a mixed minority-and-white family, and this group is steadily growing. These children have kin networks—including grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins—that include both white people and minorities. Among Latinos, identifying as white or as simply “American” is common, and belies the notion that Latinos should be classified monolithically as nonwhite.

Furthermore, most Americans of both white and minority descent are not positioned as minorities in American society. For example, people who identify as Hispanic and white, or Asian and white,  tend to start life in more economically favorable situations than most minority groups, are typically raised in largely white communities, have above-average educational outcomes and adulthood incomes, and frequently marry white people. They have fluid identities that are influenced by both minority and white ancestries. Children with Black and white parents face greater social exclusion and more formidable obstacles to upward mobility. But their social experiences are more integrated than those of Black Americans who identify as monoracial.

These trends expose the flaw lurking behind the headline-grabbing claim that America will soon be a majority-minority society. That narrative depends on the misleading practice of classifying individuals of mixed backgrounds as exclusively nonwhite.

Some Americans now instinctively think of rising diversity as a catalyst of white decline and nonwhite numerical dominance. But as more recent news releases from the bureau have begun to acknowledge, what the data in fact show is that Americans with mixed racial backgrounds are the most rapidly growing racial group in the country. ​

America’s racial groups are blending now more than ever. According to the most detailed of the Census Bureau’s projections, 52 percent of individuals included in the nonwhite majority of 2060 will also identify as white. By the same token, the white group will become much more diverse, because 40 percent of Americans who say they are white also will claim a minority racial or ethnic identity. Speculating about whether America will have a white majority by the mid-21st century makes little sense, because the social meanings of white and nonwhite are rapidly shifting. The sharp distinction between these categories will apply to many fewer Americans.

The public deserves to hear an accurate narrative about rising racial diversity that highlights the likelihood that society’s mainstream will continue to expand to include people of varied backgrounds. Our recent research demonstrates that most white people are not only receptive to such an inclusive narrative but can be powerfully influenced by it. In multiple survey experiments, we asked white Americans to read a news story describing the rise of mixed-race marriages and the growth of a multiracial population. They expressed less anxiety and anger, anticipated less discrimination against white people, and evinced more willingness to invest in public goods, such as education, than others who read a news story predicated on the false narrative of white decline in a majority-minority society by the mid-2040s. Notably, the narrative of racial blending was especially reassuring to white Republicans, who felt most threatened by the conventional majority-minority account.

Moreover, Latino, Black, and Asian participants in these studies expressed overwhelmingly positive reactions to the story of racial blending. Anticipation of equal treatment in the future was as high among minority respondents who read the blending story as among those who read the majority-minority account.

For all the talk about racial polarization in America, the broad consensus is that an expanding and more diverse mainstream portends a better future. Journalists, subject-matter experts, and political leaders have an obligation to tell Americans the full story about rising diversity and racial blending.

Americans need to remember that they have been here before. A century ago, the eugenicist Madison Grant asserted that Nordic Americans were committing “race suicide” by letting in millions of immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe who would out-breed them and destroy their nation’s identity. Swayed by this narrative, the United States Congress enacted drastic, racist restrictions on immigration that lasted for 40 years.

But during the “melting pot” era of the 1950s and ’60s, the descendants of the very immigrants Grant had maligned emphatically refuted his ideas. . . . Interethnic and interreligious marriages among white Americans soared. By the ’90s, only 20 percent of white Americans had chosen partners from the same ethnic background.

While the rising number of multiracial Americans today does not exactly mirror the dynamics of the ’50s and ’60s, the dangers of ignoring ethno-racial blending are the same. The myth of an imminent majority-minority society revives the misconception that American ethnic and racial groups are fixed, bounded, and separate. It breathes new life into old fears that rising diversity must entail white decline. Our ailing democracy needs a narrative now that recognizes how changing demography can unite us rather than divide us. Or, as the slogan goes, “E pluribus unum.”

Sunday Morning Male Beauty


Conservatives Aim to Commandeer Southern Baptists

The upcoming meeting of 16,000 Southern Baptist pastors and leaders in Nashville for their first annual meeting of the post-Trump era could have major consequences for the future of the denomination founded to protect the institution of slavery.  If the Southern Baptist Convention ("SBC") fractures, it could have political consequences - hopefully negative - for the Republican Party since one of the simmering issues is the denomination's politicization of its dogma and much of the leadership's embrace of Donald Trump.  The reactionary, pro-Trump elements hope to seize control of the denomination which could trigger an exodus of churches and members sickened by the racism, sexual abuse cover ups, and general misogyny advocated by the "conservative" factions who seem to long for the 1950's when blacks, women and gays "knew their place."  For a denomination that has done much to push the so-called the culture wars, it is ironic that that same culture was could see the denomination split (a smaller and diminished SBC would be a good thing in my view).  A piece in the New York Times looks at the coming confrontation.  Here are excerpts:

Allen Nelson IV walked to the front of his small church in central Arkansas, stopped in front of the communion table with three large crosses behind him, and unfurled a giant black flag with a white skull and crossed swords.

For several years, the pastor and father of five had felt that too many of his fellow Christians were drifting unmistakably leftward on issues of race, gender and the strict authority of the Bible. The flag was a gift from a friend, energized — like Mr. Nelson — by the idea of heroically reclaiming the faith.

Mr. Nelson is not alone. He is part of an ultraconservative populist uprising of pastors from Louisiana to California threatening to overtake the country’s largest Protestant denomination.

Next week more than 16,000 Southern Baptist pastors and leaders will descend on Nashville for their first annual meeting of the post-Trump era.

It caps months of vicious infighting over every cultural and political division facing the country, particularly after the murder of George Floyd.

The outcome has the potential to permanently split an already divided evangelical America. Like the Trump movement within the Republican Party, a populist groundswell within the already conservative evangelical denomination is trying to install an anti-establishment leader who could wrench the church even further to the right, while opponents contend that the church must broaden its reach to preserve its strength. For three days, thousands of delegates known as “messengers” — most of them white men — will fight over race, sex and ultimately the future of evangelical power in the United States.

An event that has historically been compared to a family reunion may look more like a brawl. In the past several weeks, Baptists have pored over leaked bombshell letters and whistle-blower recordings, and traded accusations of racism, apostasy and sexual abuse cover-ups. Leaders have taken barbed potshots at each other. Others have headed for the door.

Russell Moore, the denomination’s influential head of ethics and public policy, left on June 1. The popular author and speaker Beth Moore, who is not related to Mr. Moore, announced in March that she is no longer a Southern Baptist, citing the “staggering” disorientation of seeing the denomination’s leaders support Donald J. Trump, and lamenting its treatment of women. Some conservatives triumphantly celebrated both departures.

Messengers will confront a series of measures likely including the propriety of women delivering sermons, the handling of sexual abuse and a denunciation of critical race theory, the concept that historical patterns of racism remain ingrained in modern American society and institutions.

The rebellion in the Southern Baptist Convention both reflects and forecasts what is going on in broader society and the Republican Party, said Jemar Tisby, assistant director of narrative and advocacy at the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. . . . there has been “a sifting” going on in the church over race and justice in particular, he said.

“The annual meeting is an opportunity for denominational leaders either to sensitively address the concerns and racism that Black people have experienced or to side with the status quo which favors white people, particularly men,” he said.

The denomination has about 14.5 million members but has been steadily shrinking for the past decade. In 2014, about 85 percent of Southern Baptists were white, 6 percent were Black and 3 percent were Latino, according to the Pew Research Center.

Southern Baptists split from their northern counterparts in 1845 in support of slavery.

One of the denomination’s largest congregations, Saddleback Church in Southern California, quietly ordained three women as staff pastors in May, a move that outraged conservatives.

No matter which side emerges triumphant from the meeting next week, a schism looms.

“A lot of us will know if this convention is for us once it is over,” said Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, who has been leading antiracism efforts in the denomination. If Mr. Mohler or Mr. Stone wins the presidency, or if resolutions are passed that affirm racism, in his view, he will leave. Several other Black pastors have announced their departures within the past year.

Hostility over critical race theory among the Southern Baptists, which came to the foreground after Thanksgiving when seminary presidents denounced it, is interwoven with its weaponization by the G.O.P., he said.

The denomination vowed at its convention two years ago to address sexual abuse in its congregations, but many victims’ advocates have warned that little has changed. Southern Baptist leaders have also not publicly addressed an allegation of abuse at one of its most prominent megachurches, the Village Church in Texas. . . . . an ally of Mr. Moore released audio recordings of meetings that included Mr. Moore, Mr. Stone and others debating how to handle abuse, with another high-placed leader, Ronnie Floyd, saying his priority was not to worry about survivor reactions but rather to “preserve the base.”

Like most organized religion, the leadership's concerns are focused on power, money and the control of others (and condemnation of others).  Preaching Christ's gospel message has little to do with the leadership's agenda.