Saturday, July 10, 2021

More Saturday Male Beauty


Companies Backslide on Promise to Not Fund GOP Insurrectionists

In the immediate aftermath of the January 6, 2021, Trump/GOP effort to overthrow the 2020 presidential election, numerous corporations vowed that they would not lend financial support to GOP insurrectionist members of Congress.  In some cases that corporate vow to support democracy and to oppose GOP fascism is proving short-lived and underscores the need for true American patriots and supporters of democracy to redouble efforts to pressure corporate America to refuse to make political donations to those who sought to overthrow the U.S. Constitution.   A piece in The Hill looks at looks at those corporations that continue to side with democracy and those who put buying political favors ahead of supporting American democracy.  Among the worse offenders are defense contractors but the list also includes companies like Home Depot - I will be driving farther to Lowes rather than patronize Home Depot - and Walmart (a company I have long avoided) who support PAC's that can fund the GOP insurrectionists.  Here are article highlights:

Six months after the Capitol attack, only a small number of powerful corporations have made good on their pledge to suspend PAC donations to the 147 Republican lawmakers who voted against certifying the 2020 election results.

Among the 10 biggest corporate PAC donors that pledged to pause their contributions to election objectors, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Verizon have followed through on their promises, according to the most recent Federal Election Commission filings.

Other top PACs that vowed to withhold contributions, such as AT&T, Comcast, General Electric, Home Depot, Pfizer and Walmart, have been bankrolling party committees or leadership PACs that can easily funnel campaign cash to election objectors. Those company PACs have not made direct donations to the lawmakers’ campaigns.

Together, the 10 company PACs gave millions of dollars to many of the 147 Republicans in the 2020 election cycle before turning off the spigot in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack, shining a spotlight on political spending that largely went under the radar in previous years. For many corporations, the decision earlier this year was driven in part by potential consumer and employee backlash.

“Criticism of a company can go viral,” said Bruce Freed, president of the Center for Political Accountability, which pushes companies to disclose their political activity. “And when it goes viral, that can threaten the bottom line, because you’re seeing consumers shifting their buying.” Some companies are responding to that growing pressure.

Japanese automaker Toyota on Thursday said it would no longer support lawmakers who objected to the election results after its PAC donations to 37 of those Republicans sparked intense criticism from shareholders and the public.

Celebrities and activists with huge social media followings vowed to boycott Toyota unless it changed course. The company’s announcement came shortly after the Lincoln Project super PAC — created by a group of Republicans opposed to former President Trumplaunched an ad campaign Thursday criticizing the company over its campaign contributions.

“If they don’t reconsider where they send their money, Americans will reconsider where we send ours,” the ad said.

But many companies that are focused more on government funding, and not consumer dollars, have resumed PAC donations to election objectors after a brief pause. In recent months, defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman contributed to GOP objectors serving on key committees that control defense spending.

Companies are balancing the risk of public backlash with the prospect of enraging Republicans, who are increasingly confident that they will retake the House and Senate in next year’s midterm elections.

For decades, corporate PACs avoided scrutiny while regularly donating to incumbents on both sides of the aisle. PACs can only give $5,000 per election cycle to lawmakers’ campaign accounts, but lobbyists have credited those donations with helping them get their message across to members of Congress.

AT&T and Comcast each gave roughly $2.7 million to federal candidates and groups in the 2020 cycle, ranking among the top PAC donors, according to

They’re part of the small group of corporations that pledged to pause donations to election objectors but never ruled out funding closely tied GOP groups. Following the Jan. 6 attack, AT&T donated $5,000 to the House Conservatives Fund, a leadership PAC affiliated with Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), who backed the effort to overturn the 2020 election based on Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud.

Comcast gave $15,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is run by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), and $15,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is closely affiliated with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Both lawmakers voted against certifying the 2020 election results.

Pfizer, Walmart and Home Depot also donated to one or both of the GOP party committees, which are working to reelect Republican election objectors.

Corporations are more closely scrutinizing their political spending amid pressure from the public and their own shareholders and employees. According to a recent survey conducted by the Public Affairs Council, 51 percent of corporate and trade association PACs made changes to their contribution criteria following the Jan. 6 attack.

Douglas Chia, a corporate governance consultant, said he is advising corporate boards to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of their PACs and even consider shutting them down entirely in some cases. He cited Charles Schwab’s decision to discontinue its PAC this year.

“Companies should really look at the return on investment of their PAC, and whether their PAC actually gets them something they can’t get any other way,” he said. “If you do that calculation, it might not be worth it to have the PAC in the first place.”

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


The "Christian Right" Is Destroying America

Perhaps nowhere in America is white rage and grievance stronger than among white evangelicals and Christofascists who are shrinking in number - largely, in my view due to their hypocrisy, denial of science and hatred of others which is driving younger generations away - and increasingly agitated that their ability to impose their beliefs on others is slipping from their grasp.  As a column in the New York Times notes, the current situation of the so-called "Christian Right" - which is neither Christian in its conduct nor morally right - is a huge turn around from the triumphal atmosphere the early 2000's  when anti-gay laws were pasted all across the nation and evangelicals swept George W. Bush to reelection or even 2016 when evangelicals put Donald Trump in the White House (perhaps the most stunning example of their hypocrisy) based on his promises of special rights from Christian extremists.  Now, with power slipping from their grasp and a growing realization that their vision of America as a white "Christian nation" is a dying myth, the Christian Right is only too willing to destroy American democracy rather than cede power.  They need to be defeated on this front and sent to the trash heap of history,  Here are column highlights:

The presidency of George W. Bush may have been the high point of the modern Christian right’s influence in America. White evangelicals were the largest religious faction in the country. “They had a president who claimed to be one of their own, he had a testimony, talked in evangelical terms,” said Robert P. Jones, chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute and author of the 2016 book “The End of White Christian America.”

Back then, much of the public sided with the religious right on the key culture war issue of gay marriage. “In 2004, if you had said, ‘We’re the majority, we oppose gay rights, we oppose marriage equality, and the majority of Americans is with us,’ that would have been true,” Jones told me.

Activists imagined a glorious future. “Home-schoolers will be inordinately represented in the highest levels of leadership and power in the next generation,” Ned Ryun, a former Bush speechwriter, said at a 2005 Christian home-schooling convention.

But the evangelicals who thought they were about to take over America were destined for disappointment. On Thursday, P.R.R.I. released startling new polling data showing just how much ground the religious right has lost. P.R.R.I.’s 2020 Census of American Religion, based on a survey of nearly half a million people, shows a precipitous decline in the share of the population identifying as white evangelical, from 23 percent in 2006 to 14.5 percent last year. . . . In 2020, as in every year since 2013, the largest religious group in the United States was the religiously unaffiliated.

One of P.R.R.I.’s most surprising findings was that in 2020, there were more white mainline Protestants than white evangelicals. . . . It is, nevertheless, a striking turnabout after years when mainline Protestantism was considered moribund and evangelical Christianity full of dynamism.

In addition to shrinking as a share of the population, white evangelicals were also the oldest religious group in the United States, with a median age of 56. “It’s not just that they are dying off, but it is that they’re losing younger members,” Jones told me. As the group has become older and smaller, Jones said, “a real visceral sense of loss of cultural dominance” has set in.

White evangelicals once saw themselves “as the owners of mainstream American culture and morality and values,” said Jones. Now they are just another subculture.

From this fact derives much of our country’s cultural conflict. It helps explain not just the rise of Donald Trump, but also the growth of QAnon and even the escalating conflagration over critical race theory. “It’s hard to overstate the strength of this feeling, among white evangelicals in particular, of America being a white Christian country,” said Jones. . . . The feeling that it’s slipping away has created an atmosphere of rage, resentment and paranoia.

QAnon is essentially a millenarian movement, with Trump taking the place of Jesus. Adherents dream of the coming of what they call the storm, when the enemies of the MAGA movement will be rounded up and executed, and Trump restored to his rightful place of leadership.

The fight over critical race theory seems, on the surface, further from theological concerns. There are, obviously, plenty of people who aren’t evangelical who are anti-C.R.T., as well as evangelicals who oppose C.R.T. bans. But the idea that public schools are corrupting children by leading them away from a providential understanding of American history has deep roots in white evangelical culture. And it was the Christian right that pioneered the tactic of trying to take over school boards in response to teachings seen as morally objectionable, whether that meant sex education, “secular humanism” or evolution.

Jones points out that last year, after Trump issued an executive order targeting critical race theory, the presidents of all six seminaries of the Southern Baptist Convention came together to declare C.R.T. “incompatible” with the Baptist faith.

As Jones notes, the Southern Baptist Convention was formed in 1845 after splitting with abolitionist Northern Baptists. He described it as a “remarkable arc”: a denomination founded on the defense of slavery “denouncing a critical read of history that might put a spotlight on that story.”

Then again, white evangelicals probably aren’t wrong to fear that their children are getting away from them. As their numbers have shrunk and as they’ve grown more at odds with younger Americans, said Jones, “that has led to this bigger sense of being under attack, a kind of visceral defensive posture, that we saw President Trump really leveraging.”

I was frightened by the religious right in its triumphant phase. But it turns out that the movement is just as dangerous in decline. Maybe more so. It didn’t take long for the cocky optimism of Generation Joshua to give way to the nihilism of the Jan. 6 insurrectionists. If they can’t own the country, they’re ready to defile it.

Right wing Christians remain a clear and present danger to the nation and constitutional democracy.

Friday, July 09, 2021

Friday Morning Male Beauty


White Christians Dwindle in Numbers While "Nones" Increase

Yet another survey confirms that white Christians are dwindling as a percentage of American population and that the non-religiously affiliated, the so-called "Nones" are now among the largest demographics in the nation.  One may argue as to why the numbers of Nones has grown while white Christians have fallen in numbers, but I maintain that "conservative" Christians have severely damaged the Christian brand by (i) linking Christianity to right wing Republican politics and especially Donald Trump including open racism, and (ii) defining Christianity as a religion of hatred of others and hypocrisy.   Sadly, neither of these phenomenon appear likely to diminish in the short term and more flight from religion may occur, particularly among younger generations.  In my own family which was staunchly Catholic 50 to 60 years ago, no one now identifies as Catholic or regularly attends mass.  The hypocrisy of the Church hierarchy, the Church's anti-gay stance, and the sex abuse scandal simply made Catholicism something one wants no part of.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the new survey findings.  Here are highlights:

A new sweeping religion survey of nearly half a million Americans shows some regions of the country remain religiously homogenous — especially the Southeast — and charts the growing political influence of the religiously unaffiliated, whose presence has more than doubled in both major parties in recent years.

Public Religion Research Institute analyzed data on interviews with more than 500,000 Americans from 2013 to 2019, and combined it with data from the U.S. Census Bureau on 3,142 counties across the country. The project offers a picture of the religious demographics of every county, including Maryland’s Montgomery and Howard counties, which rank in the top 10 most-diverse.

Dramatic change in the past 20 years, especially the shrinking of the White Christian population and the growth of religiously unaffiliated Americans. PRRI says those two trends appear to be slowing in the last couple years , but CEO Robert Jones says it is too early to know if it’s more like a pause.

White Christians have gone, as a proportion of the U.S. population, from 65 percent in 1996 to 42 percent in 2018. PRRI found that the number ticked up in 2019 and 2020 to 44 percent. Other major pollsters found slightly different numbers, with Pew Research saying it was 40 percent in 2020.

Looking at young Americans, some trend lines appear to be moving in one direction. Last year, 36 percent of Americans aged 18-29 told PRRI they have no religious affiliation, compared with 23 percent of that same age group in 2006 and 10 percent in 1986.

Twenty-three percent of all Americans say they are unaffiliated, PRRI found. . . . . The PRRI survey found the unaffiliated are becoming a much larger part of both parties, the Democrats in particular. Between 2006 and 2020, the percent of Republicans who say they are unaffiliated went from 4 to 13 percent. The percent of Democrats went from 9 to 23 percent.

A book out this year by three well-known political scientists called “The Secular Surge” seeks to advance the years-long discussion about the non-religious and their growing political influence. The book, by John Green, Geoffrey Layman and David Campbell, identifies the boom in Americans who are decidedly secular in their outlook, not just unaffiliated. These are people who are “guided by their understanding of the observable, natural world,” and committed to “science and objective evidence.”

One in four Americans are secularists, the authors’ research finds, and the movement is growing among the young. . . . The book argues that the core divides in the Democratic Party — between progressives and centrists, highly evident in the 2020 presidential race — has secularism “at the very heart of such battles for the soul of the Democratic Party.”

In other words, unaffiliated and secular Americans are growing in both parties, but especially so on the Democratic side, creating an important fault line, the authors argue, with core Black and Latino constituencies. Secular voters generally are more progressive, including on issues like defense spending, the desire for free college education and exemptions from anti-discrimination laws for religious people and businesses.

The map shows increased overall diversity in the West, Midwest, Northeast and in various spots across the country, especially in and around cities. The Southeast quadrant is especially light on diversity.

“What’s remarkable is you can see the cultural history of the country in these maps,” said Jones, noting religious settlement patterns that endure. “You can still see the history of the Civil War, with White evangelicals still concentrated in the Southeast, White non-evangelicals in the Upper Midwest and Northeast. You can still see that North-South divide.”

Thursday, July 08, 2021

The Pentagon Continues to Push Back At Racist GOP Lawmakers

With the economy improving under Joe Biden and America - at least outside of some Trump supporting states - exceeding most developed nations in Covid-19 vaccinations thanks to the efforts of the Biden administration, the GOP is left with (i) slavish self-prostitution to Trump, (ii) pandering to Christofascists - think Glenn Youngkin here in Virginia - and (iii) fanning the flames of racist white grievance. A key part of the last element of the GOP's default platform involves shrieking about and spreading misinformation about so-called "critical race theory" - a totally academic term - and attacking anyone and any institution that admits that America has a ugly history when it comes to race.  One of the latest targets of GOP wrath and lies, as noted in previous post has been the U.S. Military.  A piece in Politico looks at the Pentagon's continued push back against racist members of Congress (such as Sen. Cotton pictured above) who care zero about the truth or an honest approach to U.S. history.  It goes without saying that among Republicans, anything that fosters a full analysis of the nation's history and/or which questions white supremacy is labeled "divisive." Here are article excerpts:

The Pentagon is defending comments made by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin after GOP lawmakers claimed the military chief misrepresented the department's stance on the teaching of critical race theory.

On Wednesday, an Air Force Academy professor wrote an op-ed in defense of discussing the subject with cadets, which prompted the lawmakers to criticize Austin, who said last month that the military does not teach critical race theory.

"There is no contradiction here. The Secretary’s comments stand," Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told POLITICO Thursday. "That a professor at an academic institution such as the Air Force Academy teaches a given theory as part of an elective course does not in the slightest way signify some larger effort by the Department to teach, espouse or embrace said theory.

"We expect our professors to challenge the minds of future leaders, and we respect their academic independence," he added.

The comments are the latest development in an escalating spat between conservatives and the Pentagon over the military’s efforts to combat racism and extremism in the ranks, which also drew in the military's top officer, Gen. Mark Milley, last week.

“Cadets, like all military members, take an oath to defend the Constitution with their lives — so it is crucial they have a sensitive understanding of that Constitution,” Garcia wrote.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Wednesday said that Garcia, based on her op-ed, has "no business" teaching the Constitution or political science to Air Force cadets, and called on her to start looking for a new job.

One GOP lawmaker called on the Air Force to fire Garcia. Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.), a West Point graduate and former President Donald Trump’s one-time choice for Army secretary, demanded her firing in a Thursday letter to acting Air Force Secretary John Roth.

“Professor GarcĂ­a’s comments on Critical Race Theory are utterly unacceptable and incompatible with the mission of our United States Military Service Academies,” Green wrote. “Disparaging the United States as a racist country should disqualify anyone from teaching at one of our country’s most prestigious institutions.”

Speaking alongside Austin in June before Congress, Milley dismissed as “offensive” GOP lawmakers’ characterization of military leaders as “woke” for studying the origins of racism, prompting outrage from the right. Trump later waded into the fray, calling on Milley to resign.

The reaction to Garcia’s comments comes just weeks after lawmakers demanded that another military school, the U.S. Military Academy West Point, stop teaching critical race theory. In a letter to West Point Superintendent Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, Waltz called the teachings “divisive” and “unacceptable” for future military leaders.

Thursday Male Beauty


Wednesday, July 07, 2021

More Wednesday Male Beauty


Trump Sues Google, Facebook and YouTube in Ridiculous Lawsuits

In his various court challenges to the results of the 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenfuhrer, encountered the serious problem of his attorneys, when pressed by judges in open court, refusing to make the false and unfounded arguments set forth in their complaints filed with the courts.  Most recanted or refused to press the arguments when faced with the prospect of disbarment and/or court imposed sanctions.  The few who persisted in the lies have either been disbarred - think Rudi Giuliani - or have faced paying court costs and legal fees of the defendants in the frivolous lawsuits.  Now, Trump, has sued Facebook, Google and YouTube for banning him from their platforms, bans that were based on the falsity of Trump's claims and/or the calls to violence they embodied. The suits are ridiculous since the First Amendment guaranty of free speech (which does have limits) applies to GOVERNMENT censorship, not private companies which are free to set guidelines and policies governing the use of their social media platforms. One can only hope that Trump's current attorneys are quickly faced with bar complaints and/or court sanctions for having violated their oaths to not attempt to perpetrate a fraud on or to lie to the courts. One has to wonder how long it will be before the actual law firms involved seek to withdraw from the cases rather than seek action by the state bars or a backlash from legitimate, sane clients.  A piece in Wonkette looks at the ridiculous lawsuits.  Here are article excerpts:

"The First Amendment says Facebook can't block me" is a take you might expect to hear from a kid arguing with their parents. It's not, generally, something you would expect to hear from a former president, who should surely know by now that the First Amendment only applies to the government.

Well, apparently that's yet another thing that Trump and his lawyers simply can't comprehend.

Today was a big day for the whiny crybaby former president. He got to have a completely unhinged press conference AND file three of the dumbest lawsuits I have ever seen.

Honestly, the complaints are works of art — that is, until you realize they aren't satire.

If you're looking for a quick anecdote from the suits that gives an accurate preview of just how ridiculous they are, at one point, the Twitter suit says it's a violation of the First Amendment that the American Conservative Union and CPAC have lost Twitter followers.

By paragraph three of each complaint, the FORMER PRESIDENT (that cannot be emphasized enough) declares that Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are the government. And, as "the government," these private companies are violating his First Amendment rights. Because Section 230. (Section 230 primer available here.)

Yes, seriously.

[W]hat these lawsuits are trying to do is what actually violates the First Amendment. As private companies, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have a First Amendment right to choose what kind of speech is permitted on their platforms.

I think — though, to be honest, I had trouble understanding vast swaths of the complaints' ramblings — Trump also declares that he unilaterally made social media companies "the government" by using their platforms?

Trump isn't just fighting this fight for himself, either. He is fighting for ALL the people who have had their social media accounts "censored" since June 2018. And it's not only for people who got banned; Trump wants to include everyone who had a post "flagged, removed, or shadow banned" during that time.

The complaints, which are identical except for short sections specific to each platform, name Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, as well as each company's CEO (Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, and Sundar Pichai, respectively). The CEOs are being sued in both their individual capacity and also their "official capacity" as, I guess, government actors? 

You can tell right away that these lawsuits are going to be good, from the not one, but two lawyers who use email addresses in their signature blocks. 

Almost every word in these complaints is dumb and bad and wrong. I mean, they are, unfortunately, correct that Trump managed to be such a psychopath that he got banned from social media while he was the sitting US president, but that's pretty much where any resemblance to reality ends.

There's also an entire section about how the companies worked with the CDC to "curb the spread of vaccine misinformation." That, I guess, makes social media companies "the government"? And the grifter-in-chief must still be getting some kind of kickbacks from Big Hydroxychloroquine And Also Big Bleach, because he's still sad he can't use social media to push ineffective and even dangerous "cures" for the "China virus."

One of the most telling parts comes when the complaints actually say the Trump social media bans are leading to discourse being "one-sided on race."

By banning Plaintiff, Defendants made it more difficult for Plaintiff to communicate directly with the American public. Our national discourse is becoming immeasurably more altered and one-sided on race, medicine, the election process, the economy, immigration, etc.

And what, precisely, is the "side" you take on race, Mr. Trump?

Actually, you know what? You're right. What Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube really need are more white supremacists.

I am just SURE that the white supremacist former president's YouTube comments were full of intelligent political debate.

All three suits were filed in the Southern District of Florida and should be quickly dismissed, even if assigned to a Trump-appointed, unqualified stooge judge. Normally, I wouldn't put entirely ignoring the law and precedent past Trump's judicial picks, but that's just how bad these lawsuits are.

Florida has an anti-SLAPP law, so fingers crossed for some serious sanctions against both the plaintiffs and the lawyers who they managed to get to file these absolute monstrosities.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


The DOJ Will Prosecute Violent Acts Against a Free Press

One of the bulwarks against autocracy and dictatorship is the free press that bears the responsibility to “prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people” to quote the late Supreme Court justice Hugo.   It's no coincidence that one of the first things would be dictators do is to threaten and intimidate a free press and falsely label accurate, albeit unflattering reporting as "fake news."  Adolph Hitler and other 20th century and now 21st century dictators have widely slandered the press - just as Donald Trump did and continues to do.  Worse yet, they have sought to use violence to silence a free press and leave propaganda outlets such as Fox News to distort the truth and mislead the citizenry.  Now, the U.S. Department of Justice will be prosecuting those who use violence and threats of violence against journalists and responsible news outlets.   A column in the Washington Post looks at this development and reminds why a free press is critical to democracy's survival.. Here are highlights:

The Justice Department has begun arresting those who assaulted journalists during the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol — a series of actions whose importance to our democracy is hard to overstate.

Newspeople are front-line defenders of our republic, much as the Capitol Police and other law enforcement officials were on Jan. 6. While all who attacked the Capitol six months ago should be held accountable, prioritizing prosecution of individuals who assault the press or police is paramount. Without the work of both, our security and democracy are at existential risk.

The authors of our Constitution, having declared independence from an imperial king who supposedly could do no wrong, knew in their bones the primacy of a free press. As Thomas Jefferson wrote from Paris in a 1786 letter, “Our liberty depends on freedom of the press and that cannot be limited without being lost.”

In the Pentagon Papers case 50 years ago, Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black elaborated on Jefferson’s thought: “In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy.”

“The press was protected so that it could . . . inform the people,” Black wrote, and “prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people.”

Autocrats take the opposite approach. That is why attacks on truth and journalists are always among their first plays. Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Brazil’s strongman, Jair Bolsonaro, are standout contemporary practitioners.

Twentieth-century communist dictators Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong branded the press and other critics as “enemies of the people,” treating unfriendly media reports as “fake news.” (Sound familiar?) Benito Mussolini suppressed Italy’s free press in his first months in power.

Adolf Hitler did not wait that long. Within weeks of becoming Germany’s chancellor in 1933, he had stormtroopers ransack the offices of the Munich Post, his most vocal press critic. Notably, the road leading to the Munich Post attack was paved by private vigilantes. “Brownshirts” were deployed by the Nazi Party, before it gained power, to intimidate journalists and attack newspaper publishers.

History shows what can happen when such atrocities go unchecked. It also shows that verbal attacks against journalists can escalate, as we have all seen in this country and abroad.

Attorney General Merrick Garland evidently recognizes that the country cannot afford to tolerate press intimidation by vigilante assault. President Donald Trump frequently derided factual information as “fake news,” which helped disinformation to spread. His verbal assaults against the media and years of aggressive speech, including threatening journalists, plainly fueled the Jan. 6 rioters’ physical attacks against reporters.

The Justice Department is putting a needed roadblock on the treacherous path toward autocracy — prosecuting violent acts against a free press. This is not related to whether Trump runs again for president. Indictment and conviction are the surest deterrents in accountability’s tool kit. Felony convictions, usually followed by prison time, cut down to size even the high and mighty.

[P]rosecutions for using violence against journalists during the events of Jan. 6 will help squelch any notion that it is open season on reporters. Extremists who might otherwise consider physical assaults against newsmen and newswomen will see that they ought to think twice. FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and the attorney general are giving journalists the protection that they, and our nation, require and deserve.

It’s also essential for the Justice Department to investigate and, if the evidence warrants, prosecute under the federal anti-insurrection statute (18 U.S. Code Sec. 2383), all who gave “aid and comfort” to those who violently attacked our democracy and its central institutions for passing power to those who won free and fair elections. Without those institutions, freedom of the press would be but an illusion.

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

More Tuesday Male Beauty


The Economy is Surging Inspite of Republican Obstruction

The American Rescue Plan which was passed without Republican support has to date done what it was supposed to do: set the stage for a surge in the U.S. economy.  An expansive infrastructure bill - currently being obstructed by Republicans whose sole goal is to harm Democrat prospects in 2022 no matter what harm is done to average Americans - would further strengthen the economic outlook.  Fortunately, despite these Republican efforts to shackle the economy, as a column in the New York Times points out, the nation's economy is surging.   One of the biggest threats to economic growth is a resurgence of Covid-19 in red states/Trump loving states where vaccination rates are pathetically low compared to those in blue states and where the rate of new Covid infections is increasing..   It is imperative that Americans not succumb to the GOP's lies and misinformation campaign.  Here are column excerpts:

Last Tuesday President Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers published a blog post warning everyone not to make too much of any one month’s employment report. It presumably released this in advance of Friday’s report to fend off possible accusations that it was just trying to make excuses for a weak number. As it happened, however, the report came in strong: The economy added an impressive 850,000 jobs.

The job gain was especially impressive given widespread claims that businesses couldn’t expand because generous unemployment benefits were discouraging workers from taking jobs. . . . so much for Donald Trump’s warnings that there would be a “Biden depression” if he weren’t re-elected.

At this point, however, we have enough data in hand to declare that the economy is booming. In fact, it’s booming so strongly that Republicans have pivoted from claiming (falsely) that we’re experiencing the worst job performance in decades to lauding the employment numbers and giving credit to … Trump’s 2017 tax cut.

[T]he economy is running hotter than it did during the “Morning in America” boom that gave Ronald Reagan a landslide victory in the 1984 presidential election.

We’ve gained three million jobs since Biden took office, or 600,000 jobs a month. This compares with gains of 340,000 a month in the year leading up to the 1984 election.

So it’s a boom. What’s behind it?

The Republican determination to attribute everything good that happens to tax cuts is almost beyond parody. Some of us still remember how practically everyone in the G.O.P. predicted disaster after Bill Clinton raised taxes, then, when he presided over prosperity instead, declared that the boom of the late 1990s was a result of Reagan’s tax cuts in the early 1980s. Of course, they’re now insisting that good news in mid-2021 is somehow a vindication of stuff Trump did almost four years earlier.

The truth is that Reagan doesn’t even deserve much credit for the boom of 1983-84; most of the credit should go instead to the Federal Reserve, which slashed interest rates in 1982.

But how much credit should Biden get for job growth in 2021? Not all of it, certainly, but quite a lot.

The American Rescue Plan, which greatly increased the purchasing power of American consumers, has surely been an important driver of growth. Even more important, however, has been the rapid rise in vaccination rates, which has led to a plunge in the infection and death rates. Some of us predicted long ago that the U.S. would experience a rapid, “V-shaped” recovery once the pandemic subsided and the economy could reopen; well, the success of the vaccination drive has brought us to that moment.

And political leadership has had a lot to do with rapid vaccination. . . .  the Trump administration had ordered millions of doses. But the Biden administration took much stronger steps than its predecessor had to coordinate vaccine distribution and get shots into arms.

More generally, anyone who doubts the importance of political leadership in progress against Covid-19 should look at the differences in vaccination rates across states, which have a stunning correlation with partisanship: States that voted for Biden have been much more successful than Trump states in getting their residents vaccinated.

So yes, we are having another morning in America, and Biden deserves more credit for his good morning than Reagan ever did for his. . . . Obviously things could still go wrong. Vaccination rates have slowed down, in part because of resistance in red states, and the large number of still-unvaccinated Americans makes a wave of new outbreaks possible. Also, while I’m in the camp that sees the current inflation as a transitory problem, we could be wrong.

But right now the economic news is good. And Joe Biden has every right to crow about it.

Tuesday Male Beauty


Monday, July 05, 2021

More Monday Male Beauty


The Disturbing Republican Attacks on the U.S. Military

In years past the Republican Party branded itself as pro-U.S. military and it would be unthinkable to trash not only top generals and admirals but also most of the rank and file members of the military.  Along came the Trump/Pence regime which sought to use members of the military as props for photo shoots but collided with the military's refusal to ignore inconvenient facts, objective reality and efforts to ban discrimination and weed out white supremacists.  Now, in the post-Trump world with Republicans in a contest as to who can most prostitute themselves to the Trump base and facts and objective reality never being allowed to interfere with GOP ideology, the U.S. military finds itself further on the firing line and under Republican attack.  A column - which includes input by the former Secretary of the Army - looks at the deplorable Republican behavior.  Here are excerpts:

This week, under questioning from Matt Gaetz, perhaps the least ethical member of Congress right now (and wow, that is a hard title to get!), the Joint Chiefs Chairman, Army General Mark Milley, fought back at the pervy congressman’s whine about the military being woke. 

"And I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our commissioned, noncommissioned officers of being, quote, 'woke' or something else, because we're studying some theories that are out there."

Later, Gaetz had the gall to tweet about Milley: "With Generals like this it’s no wonder we’ve fought considerably more wars than we’ve won." Gaetz wouldn't last 10 minutes at West Point.

Never in American history has a political party gone after the U.S. military. The military is sacrosanct. It is revered. It protects our freedom, our democracy. It is the envy of the world.

Gaetz and his bigoted lot are trying to ignite shitstorms over being "woke" and the teaching of critical race theory. These are attempts to score political points with the racist Trump base, and they are using the venerable U.S. military as the whipping post for their lies and slander.

The old Grand Old Party, now renamed as the Grotesquely Obnoxious Perjurers, are falsely accusing the military of being weak and disgustingly lambasting it for supporting equality.

Gaetz tried the same line of "woke" questioning about critical race theory earlier in this hearing on yet another army officer, former general and now Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who like Miley, set Gaetz straight in no uncertain terms.

"We do not teach critical race theory. We don't embrace critical race theory, and I think that's a spurious conversation," he said. "We are focused on extremist behaviors and not ideology — not people's thoughts, not people's political orientation. Behaviors is what we're focused on."

The Far Right went nuts over the testimonies of Milley and Austin, and their defense of the army and U.S. military that they love with a passion. The anti-American tandem of Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham cheered on the despicable Gaetz on Fox News, the network now known as the most vocal supporters of The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.

These are just the latest in a continuing series of salvos by Republicans attempting to debase the army. Recently, you had Senator Ted Cruz implying that our army isn’t as masculine and strong as the Russian Army. What is that perilous statement supposed to accomplish for U.S. security? He and Carlson should just Zoom in from Moscow.

Similarly, you had a retired Army General, Mike Flynn, who basically worked for the Russians during Trump’s 2016 campaign, and briefly in Trump’s White House, recently calling for a military coup in the U.S.

I reached out to former Secretary Fanning and get his take on these awful takes by Gaetz, Flynn, and Cruz.

Fanning was quick to rebut the ill-fitting and grossly outdated reference. “We have unquestionably the strongest fighting force in the world. Add to that, that we make sure to recruit the very best, which is so critical in maintaining our strong force. And we have taken steps to strive for a more diverse force because that’s what’s best for the country. Not only do recruits and personnel need to be strong, but they need to be smart. We need a smarter force. And why? Because the military isn’t fighting a lot of hand to hand combat, and there’s more technology involved. We need to be strong and smart.”

What did Fanning think when he heard Flynn’s traitorous comments? “He is an anomaly, and he’s always been one, even when he was still serving, he was not well liked. . . . .“I’m assuming he doesn’t have a security clearance anymore,” Fanning added. 

Fanning was quick to say that the army, and the rest of the military, aren’t affected by these well-reported comments, and that they will continue to do their best to help each other and defend our country. 

“All of the military branches deserve credit. They strive to do their very best. The leadership understands that it needs a diverse community, with different skill sets, and soldiers dedicated to the Constitution of the United States. Persons in uniform take care of one another and learn from each other, and that’s really what’s most important to remember.”

Monday Morning Male Beauty


McAuliffe Seeks to Improve Schools While Youngkin Courts Christofascists and White Supremacists

Anyone who truly cares about public education should pray that Glenn Youngkin never darkens the door of Virginia's Executive Mansion. While Democrat Terry McAuliffe has expansive plans to improve Virginia's public schools, Republican Glenn Youngkin is pushing a playbook that appears written by The Family Foundation, a hate group with segregationist antecedents that hides behind the cloak of religion, and outright white supremacists.  While the Chamber of Commerce ranks Virginia 18th in wealth, the Commonwealth ranks 31st in teacher pay and (more than $5,250 below the national average).  McAuliffe believes this makes Virginia non-competitive and also seeks to address aging infrastructure issues.  All Youngkin has to offer is whining about "critical race theory" - which is NOT part of Virginia's school curriculum - and promises to "protect the Pledge of Allegiance" - which is not threatened - and to attack transgender students and make them invisible.  As I said, it's as if The Family Foundation drafted Youngkin's education platform.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the starkly different agendas of the two candidates.

RICHMOND — Parents and teachers, already exercised about public schools amid raging K-12 culture wars and the aftermath of pandemic-era shutdowns, are proving attractive targets this year for Virginia gubernatorial candidates — in strikingly different ways.

Terry McAuliffe (D), a former governor attempting a comeback, launched his campaign in December in front of a Richmond elementary school then shuttered by the pandemic.

He released a detailed plan that day to invest a record $2 billion a year to raise teacher pay above the national average, get every student online, expand preschool to 3- and 4-year-olds in need and eliminate racial disparities in education. He has broadened his pitch since then, churning out position papers on 14 other issues, although his schools plan still gets top billing on his campaign website.

Glenn Youngkin (R), while far lighter on details, has leaned heavily into cultural issues consuming some school boards, ­especially in vote-rich Northern Virginia. He has promised to ban critical race theory, an intellectual movement that examines the way policies and laws perpetuate systemic racism; opposed certain transgender rights policies; and accused the state — falsely, education officials say — of planning to eliminate accelerated math, the Pledge of Allegiance and Independence Day from school curriculums.

Farnsworth says it makes sense that McAuliffe would offer practical, nuts-and-bolts plans for schools as just one part of an expansive set of policy goals, while Youngkin would zero in on a more limited set of highly animating issues.

“McAuliffe doesn’t need to hit the long ball to win. A series of issues that get him on base — improve teacher salaries, improve broadband access, additional resources . . . [for] schools recovering from covid education troubles — these are effective,” he said. “Republicans, given the bluish tint of the Virginia electorate, have to swing for the long ball.”

As a former governor, McAuliffe has a background on education that he can point to, such as a record $1 billion investment in K-12 schools, as well as plans for a second term. His schools policy — laid out in a six-page document studded with footnotes to meaty educational research — ranges from lofty promises to address “modern-day segregation in schools” to in-the-weeds plans to train and retain more teachers.

She said McAuliffe has the right idea, not only with his promised infrastructure investments, but also with his plans to provide broadband and create virtual internships for students in areas such as hers, where job prospects are limited.

“He’s going to be our champion,” she said. “He’s going to do as much as he possibly can for school infrastructure, small and rural schools, economically disadvantaged children.”

Critical race theory, or CRT, is a once-obscure academic theory that looks at racism not as individual acts, but as a systemic phenomenon baked into the structure of society.

“Defining it might be like nailing Jell-O to a wall, but this is a familiar type of argument,” said Kyle D. Kondik, who analyzes elections at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “It’s a different version of the same argument that cultural conservatives have made for years, that higher education . . . [is] too liberal, they’re indoctrinating students with left-wing ideas, they’re too critical of the history of the country.”

[Youngkin] has opposed transgender girls’ participation in girls’ sports and has championed the cause of a teacher who was recently suspended — and later reinstated by a judge — for saying he would not address transgender students by the pronouns they use.

Virginia does not need to turn into Mississippi or Alabama culturally if it hopes to remain a prosperous and leading state.  Youngkin would take Virginia backwards and pander to Christofascidsts and white supremacists who want both gays and blacks "put in their place" along with anyone else who opposes a Christian dominionist agenda.