Saturday, August 14, 2021

More Saturday Male Beauty


Getting Vaccinated is NOT a "Personal Choice"

Having followed the wrongly named "Christian Right" - these individuals are neither truly Christian nor right in their beliefs - I determined early that few groups of people are more selfish and self-centered than evangelicals who thing (i) they can do whatever they want and (ii) to hell with the rest of society which must put up with their selfishness, hatreds and bigorty.  That mindset has now spread to much of the Republican Party base and what's left of the so-called conservative movement. It's all about individuals and their prejudices and, too often, outright stupidity.  The common good of society means nothing to these people and society as a whole must suffer so as to endulge their claimed "religious freedom" or more broadly "freedom" to do whatever they want regardless of the harm done to others. With the Covid-19 pandemic again increasing its grip on America all because far too many - a majority being Republicans - have refused to get vaccinated.  Those becoming infected and dying now - sadly, including children - did not need to undergood this suffering had everyone been responsible and gotten vaccinated at the earliest date possible (the only silver lining is that the brunt of the suffering is falling on the unvaccinated and the GOP base).  Given the consequences, getting vaccinated is NOT a personal choice as laid out in a column in the New York Times,  Here are highlights:

When asked if he had gotten a Covid-19 vaccine, Lamar Jackson, a quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens, declined to answer. “I feel it’s a personal decision,” he said. “I’m just going to keep my feelings to my family and myself.”

Jackson echoed another N.F.L. quarterback, Cam Newton of the New England Patriots, who said much the same a few days earlier. “It’s too personal to discuss,” Newton replied, when asked if he was vaccinated. “I’ll just keep it at that.”

Jackson and Newton are not the only prominent people to say hey, it’s personal when asked about the vaccine. It is a common dodge for public-facing vaccine skeptics or those using vaccine skepticism for their own ends. “I don’t think it’s anybody’s damn business whether I’m vaccinated or not,” Representative Chip Roy, Republican of Texas, told CNN last month. Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, wrote similarly  . . . .

Johnson and all the others are wrong. Wearing a helmet while bike riding, strapping on your seatbelt in a car — these are personal decisions, at least as far as your own injuries are concerned. Vaccination is different. In the context of a deadly and often debilitating contagion, in which the unchecked spread of infection has consequences for the entire society, vaccination is not a personal decision. And inasmuch as the United States has struggled to achieve herd immunity against Covid-19 through vaccination, it is because we refuse to treat the pandemic for what it is: a social problem to solve through collective action.

From the jump, the federal government devolved its response to the pandemic, foisting responsibility onto states and localities, which, in turn, left individual Americans and their communities to navigate conflicting rules and information.

This approach continued with the arrival of vaccines. Until recently, in the face of a vaccination plateau, there was not even a mandate for federal employees to be vaccinated. States and employers have been left to their own devices, and individuals face a patchwork of rules and mandates, depending on where they live and where they work.

Is it any surprise that millions of Americans treat this fundamentally social problem — how do we vaccinate enough people to prevent the spread of a deadly disease — as a personal one? Or that many people have refused to get a shot, citing the privacy of their decision as well as their freedom to do as they choose?

Consider, too, the larger cultural and political context of the United States. We still live in the shadow of the Reagan revolution and its successful attack on America’s traditions of republican solidarity and social responsibility. . . . .If American society has been reshaped in the image of capital, then Americans themselves have been pushed to relate to one another and our institutions as market creatures in search of utility, as opposed to citizens bound together by rights and obligations.

Not because they are lazy, of course, but because this is the society we have built, where individuals are left to carry the burdens of life into the market and hope that they survive. This so-called freedom is ill suited to human flourishing. It is practically maladaptive in the face of a pandemic.

That’s why families and communities were left to fend for themselves in the face of disease, why so many people treat the question of exposure and contagion as a personal choice made privately and why our institutions have made vaccination a choice when it should have been mandated from the start.

Recently, much has been made of the anger and frustration many people feel toward vaccine holdouts. “Vaccinated America Has Had Enough,” declared the former Republican speechwriter David Frum in The Atlantic, writing that “the unvaccinated person himself or herself has decided to inflict a preventable and unjustifiable harm upon family, friends, neighbors, community, country and planet.”

If we want a country that takes solidarity seriously, we will actually have to build one.

The selfishness of the unvaccinated is criminal and one can only hope that more and more businesses - large supermarket chains would be a great start - will bar the unvaccinated and force these horrid, selfish people to do what they should have done months ago.  Meanwhile, people needlessly continue to sicken and die.

Satuday Morning Male Beauty


Friday, August 13, 2021

Virginia's Green Energy Opportunity

While Republicans like gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin have yet to admit climate change is real and continue to run on a warmed over version of a platform from 2009 (with an added element of fealty to Donald Trump), with climate change and so-called green energy, Virginia stands at the threshhold of an economic opportunity.  As a cloumn in the Virginian Pilot lays out, this is especially true for the Hampton Roads area which likewise faces challenges from climate change, especially rising sea levels.  The region needs to prepare for the opportunity at hand and the Commonwealth needs forward looking, not backward looking, leadership in the governor's mansion.  For too long the region has relied on the military and tourism  to fuel it economy.  Now is the time to pursue a lucrative opportunity to expand the region's economic base.  Here are column highlights:

The wind energy project taking shape off Virginia’s coast may be more than a game-changer for how the commonwealth generates electricity. If projections are accurate, it might also mean an employment boom for the region.

Building, operating and maintaining wind turbines is incredibly technical work requiring highly skilled workers. Many are also high-paying jobs that can be lucrative careers for the men and women who fill them.

As Hampton Roads looks to expand its employment base beyond its three traditional sectors — defense, tourism and the Port of Virginia — the expansion of wind energy, along with other green-energy projects, could be just what the region needs to grow the regional economy.

Climate change presents an array of serious challenges to the future viability of the region. Encroaching water caused by rising seas will cause more frequent flooding, putting homes, businesses and critical infrastructure at risk. Resilience must drive many of the choices made by the public and private sectors.

Amid those challenges, however, is opportunity. A greater emphasis on coastal protection and environmental stewardship will mean large-scale construction projects and public spending. And a growing emphasis on green energy development will mean employment in a host of areas.

Dominion Energy’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project is a perfect example.

The two 6-megawatt offshore wind turbines located 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach represent the beginning of a wind farm that the company says will grow to include about 200 turbines producing 2.6 gigawatts of energy, enough to power about 660,000 homes.

A 2020 study paid for by the Hampton Roads Alliance predicts that project could ultimately support about 5,200 jobs and $270 million in pay and benefits. The report estimates $740 million in economic output once the project is complete.

That would be a huge, pardon the pun, windfall for the region. But the report notes that realizing those benefits is contingent on Hampton Roads serving as a hub for the supply chain and being integral to the production of these enormous machines. Think turbine blade manufacturing and the construction of offshore substations.

But it’s more than that. Virginian-Pilot reporting in July about area universities, community colleges and trade schools emphasizing these new employment opportunities points out that each turbine will need electricians, welders, climbers, maritime workers and even elevator technicians to operate.

Hampton Roads schools are already training students for these jobs. It helps that the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated in 2019 that the average annual wage for wind turbine service technicians is $56,700. Other skills may earn more lucrative paychecks, especially with workers in high demand these days.

[I]f Hampton Roads can build that sector of the economy and become a hub for wind turbine construction and green energy jobs, the future looks very bright indeed. Demand for this machinery will only increase as more wind projects win approval, and the region could well be known for this work as much as shipbuilding or our beaches.

At least one major company is considering a $200 million turbine blade manufacturing facility in Hampton Roads, what could be the first of many employers who view the region as ideally situated for the coming green energy boom.

Climate change will force some difficult choices on our communities. There’s no denying that now. But the region can do its part to reduce the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels while also expanding our employment base and economy if we can establish this as the place for wind energy manufacturing.

What is a crisis could well be an opportunity, and that would change the landscape of Coastal Virginia in more ways than one.

Friday Morning Male Beauty


Wednesday, August 11, 2021

The Anger At Vaccine Refusers Grows

As one watches the news of the soaring number of Covid cases and more and more children becoming infected one thought that springs to mind is that none of this needed to be happening if only everyone eligible for vaccination had gone ahead and gotten vaccinated.  Things would have been so different and many parnts would not be terrified at the prospect of sending their children back to school.  Even more maddening is that some polls show that up to 90% of unvaccinated Republicans have no intention to get vaccinated, thus demonstrating a total disregard for others they put at risk.  Hopefully, more and more employers will require vaccination as a requirement of continued employment.  Locally, the members of the military will now be required to be vaccinated and thus help move Hampton Roads out of a "high risk"  category.  As a piece in The Atlantic explores, some of those most furious with vaccine refusers are medical personnel who have to treat the mindless morons when they fall ill with Covid.  Here are article excerpts:

On social media, I’ve been seeing sentiments that I never thought I’d see anyone express in a public forum. People who choose to be unvaccinated should not be offered lung transplants. What if people with COVID-19 who didn’t get the vaccine have to wait in the Emergency Department until everyone else is seen? Should unvaccinated patients just be turned away?

These are harsh, angry feelings. And some of the people giving voice to them are doctors.

I am an obstetrician in New York. I have been working with pregnant COVID-19 patients from the very beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, in a medical institution and city that have cared for thousands of patients with the disease. Health-care workers have suffered through a terrible year and a half—a period first defined by a lack of masks and gloves, and throughout by the very real fear of personal sickness and death. We have been afraid of bringing the disease home, of infecting our spouses, of leaving our children parentless. For about three months, I didn’t kiss my children.

Every day, my colleagues and I trudged past the temporary morgues in our hospital parking lots and the ICUs set up in the auditoriums and operating rooms and hallways; we signed too many death certificates; we washed our hands until they blistered before we let our families near us. We did that, every day, because we were trained to care for humans who needed us.

A lot of us went to work every day because the world needs to keep turning, and in that time, we were the ones turning it. Many others left medicine. One reason I didn’t was that humans needed help and I could provide it. But I also kept working because I needed to believe that, if I was ever in danger, other humans would come help me

Finally, in the depths of winter, during the week of my birthday, I received my first vaccine shot. Science had brought us a solution, and we could finally see the end of all those months of fear, exhaustion, and sacrifice.

But that’s not what happened. COVID-19 hasn’t ended. Instead, infection rates are going up. The Delta variant has taken hold, and hospitals are filling up again. But this time the suffering seems different, because it is avoidable. Optional. A choice.

The main reason the pandemic in the United States is not over is because people are not getting vaccinated. Some people may have good reasons for not getting a shot, but most people who refuse vaccination do not seem to be acting based on data or evidence. The refusals that we read every day seem more rooted in a general mistrust of government, or in a strong identity as “not that kind of people.” And those vaccine refusals mean people are getting sick, and will need care, and may die needlessly.

[T]he population-level rejection of COVID-19 vaccines is a different phenomenon—and one that’s much more personally threatening to my colleagues and me. By refusing the most effective intervention, people are risking not only their own life but the lives of many around them. That includes those who cannot get vaccinated—my children among them. Because of the choice that vaccine refusers are making, my job may again force me to avoid embracing my children.

“What makes me the maddest,” one of my doctor friends told me, “is that these people will reject science right until the second they need everything I have to keep them alive, and then they feel that they can come to our door and be entitled to that help and that hard work.” This friend is characterizing the inconsistency in the behavior she sees in people declining a vaccine but then demanding medical care based on the same science. That inconsistency feels, to her and to other dedicated medical professionals trying to survive this pandemic, very much like dishonesty.

Unlike during the pre-vaccine phase of the pandemic, the current upsurge of suffering isn’t one that humanity has to go through. People are choosing it. And intent matters. Intent is the difference between a child who goes hungry because their parent can’t afford dinner and the one who goes hungry because their parent won’t buy them dinner. Having the ability to provide relief but not do so is cruel.

[T]he rejection of lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines feels like a giant “Fuck you” from 29 percent of American adults. We will keep providing the best care possible, but they are making our job much harder.

The pandemic has taken away so much: millions of jobs, more than a year of education for tens of millions of children, more than 600,000 American lives. Amid this new, largely preventable wave of infections, some health-care providers are losing something else: the belief that all of us can come together as a people to solve a problem. Doing the work of curing human bodies is harder when some of one’s faith in humanity is lost.

What comes next? Future waves of COVID-19, probably; a widespread return to masking, perhaps; vaccine mandates in some limited settings, eventually. With time and common sense, the United States may get to a point at which infections subside. But it may not. I would argue that even if we do, Americans will have wasted time, energy, and lives.

Harsh as it may sound, I like the concept of turning away those who have deliberately and intentionally refused to get vaccinated.   They made a conscious choice and should have to live with the consequences of their own stupidity.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


Tuesday, August 10, 2021

The Rebellion Against Pro-Trump, Anti-Mask GOP Governors Is Growing

In Texas, hospitals are running out of ICU beds and elective procedures are being cancelled due to the exploding number of Covid-19 case and even that state's idiot in chief, Gov. Greg Abbott has called for help from resources outside of the state.  In Florida, things are not much better and the federal government has been requested to supply hundreds of additional ventilators.  The two states account for nearly a third of all new Covid cases in America.  Yet both Gov. Abbott and his cretin Florida counterpart, Gov. Ron Desantis continue to push bans on local mask requirements and business vaccination requirements.  Belatedly, rebellions appear to be breaking out against GOP idiocy that is putting lives at risk and literally killing people.   If there is any bright spot to be found, it is that the deaths are disproportionately killing members of the right wing GOP base.  A column in the Washington Post looks at what will hopefully become a wide spread rebellion combined with court rulings invalidating mask bans and other GOP mandates putting the public at risk.  Here are column highlights:

Let’s state this up front: GOP governors are not required by some higher Trumpian law to use official powers to actively thwart efforts to fight the spread of the coronavirus. Some are choosing not to do that: In South Dakota, the governor left decisions about mask mandates to local officials, and in Arkansas the governor admitted that an earlier ban on them was an “error.”

But the Republican governors of Texas and Florida — Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis — are in a class by themselves. Their states are seeing some of the worst surges of covid in the nation, yet they are continuing to hamstring local officials from acting to protect their constituents.

Which is why these governors are facing a rebellion of sorts. In both states, ABC News reports, officials are defying limits on mask mandates, setting up direct conflicts with those governors.

This will flush out into the open the truly twisted nature of what DeSantis and Abbott are doing. They piously claim to be defending their constituents’ freedom from government mandates. But they are using their power to prevent local officials from implementing basic public health measures in a highly selective way that is plainly molded around the obsessions of former president Donald Trump and his movement, not anchored in any genuine public interest rationale.

The derangement of this position is particularly clear in Texas. On Monday, Abbott announced that he is seeking the help of outside medical professionals to deal with the state’s covid surge. He is also asking hospitals to postpone all elective medical procedures as hospitals fill up.

Amid all this, the Dallas schools superintendent has reasonably announced that students, visitors and staff will have to wear masks in schools. He noted that the decision is an “urgent” matter of “protecting” children, teachers and workers.

To be clear, Abbott’s own actions amount to a stark admission that the state is in serious trouble — yet he continues to ban localities from taking measures to protect public health.

The absurd result, as the New York Times reports, is that local officials are scouring legal codes to find ways to get around Abbott’s blockade on implementing public health measures. This isn’t how officials should have to spend time and resources during a public health emergency.

In Austin, where cases are surging, local officials have recommended masking, but cannot require it, which has led the mayor of Austin to declare the situation “dire.” The Austin school district just announced a mask requirement, defying Abbott.

Meanwhile, in Florida, the superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools is moving ahead with mandatory masking. This is in defiance of DeSantis’s recent executive order empowering the state to withhold funds to punish school boards who implement mask mandates.

A handful of Florida parents are now suing DeSantis. One mom told CNN that she “never envisioned” that the governor “would actively be trying to harm my child,” and lamented correctly that limits on mask mandates are interfering with her son’s ability to get educated safely.

Abbott and DeSantis love to proclaim that they are defending the liberty of their states’ residents to proceed free of public health mandates, and that they should merely exercise “personal responsibility” in dealing with covid. But it’s hard to discern any genuine ideological vision here, since they have no apparent objection to all manner of other public health mandates.

“We have plenty of mandates,” Steve Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told me. “We require elementary school students to get various vaccinations. We require drivers to wear seat belts. We require adults to wear clothes.”

All of which suggests that the real working ideology here is something you might call “covid exceptionalism.”. . . . everyone knows the real reason DeSantis and Abbott are suddenly concerned with protecting people from public health mandates on covid in particular is that government officials eager to battle covid this way have become associated with assorted enemies of Trump and his following.

Because Trump and his movement have required this adherence to covid exceptionalism, local officials are being hamstrung from carrying out their own official responsibilities to act in defense of public health. It’s hard to find the right language to describe the seething contempt for public service and the public good that’s truly on display here.

The longer term solution is to vote both of these GOP lunatics out of office.  Indeed, if Texans and Floridians were smart, they vote a straigh Democrat ballot in the next election and send a message to the GOP that it is far past time to dump Trump and those eagerly prostituting themselves to him.

More Tuesday Male Beauty


Anti-Immigrant Policies Are Harming Red States

Donald Trump and his racist acolytes in the Republican Party have ramped up anti-immigrant bigotry and imposed restrictions on legal immigration which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants rescinded and/or revised.  The ultimate irony is that these restrictions on legal immigrants are harming growing areas of red states which need immigrants to grow eceonomically given their otherwise declining populations and difficulty in enticing educated workers from other parts of the country to move to what they view as a social backwater. Candidly, it is another instance of GOP policiues ultimately harming their own base.  A piece in the New York Times looks at one case in point: Northwest Arkansas.  Here are article excepts:

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Northwest Arkansas, where the Ozark Mountains rise, used to be a sleepy corner of the state, its only claim to fame that Sam Walton opened a five-and-dime in Bentonville and the first Walmart store in nearby Rogers — outposts that became the seeds of a global retail empire. The founders of Tyson Foods and J.B. Hunt got their start in the same region, and a network of software companies moved in later to meet big business’s insatiable appetite for new technology.

But there were not enough locals to build the burgeoning economy. Answering the call to work in poultry production, trucking, construction and computer programming were legions of immigrants from El Salvador, the Marshall Islands, Mexico, India and elsewhere.

With tens of thousands of immigrants helping to catalyze its development, Northwest Arkansas has emerged as one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolitan areas. Brimming with optimism, it is wooing newcomers with cheaper housing, a world-class art museum, upscale restaurants and forested bike trails.

But as much of the U.S. economy comes back from the coronavirus pandemic, the decades-long influx of immigrants that fueled such enormous expansion in places like Arkansas has begun to stall, posing challenges to the region and the country at large.

The United States over the past 10 years experienced the slowest population growth rate in eight decades, according to the 2020 census, because of plunging fertility rates and shrinking immigration. . . . And the flow of legal immigrants, whom Northwest Arkansas companies also heavily rely on, has fallen precipitously since the Trump administration clamped down on all kinds of immigration with the belief that it was displacing American workers.

Now, business leaders are hoping that President Biden will make good on his pledge to overhaul the immigration system and establish a legal pipeline for foreign workers to take jobs in Northwest Arkansas and other places that depend on them.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has called on Congress and the White House to double the number of visas for high-skilled temporary workers under the H-1B program and also for seasonal workers in sectors like agriculture and meat production, another economic mainstay in this part of the country.

“In addition to securing the border, we should be focusing on how to secure avenues for more legal immigration,” said Neil Bradley, chief policy officer for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “For a whole host of communities all across the United States, immigration will determine whether the local economy will continue to grow for those moving there and the residents who have called that place home for decades.”

The decline in immigration is an important factor in the long-term decline in population growth that demographers are forecasting in the United States.

Areas such as Northwest Arkansas can “forget about” continued growth, Mr. Chamie said, without the steady arrival of new immigrants. . . . . In Northwest Arkansas, 1,750 foreign newcomers arrived in 2016, accounting for more than 14 percent of all new residents, according to the census. In 2019, only 750 new immigrants settled in the area.

The drop comes as employers in the region — like many across the country — are also facing an intense labor shortage from the pandemic. Home builders, hospitals and technology companies are all struggling to find workers. Poultry processors have been offering higher hourly rates as well as attendance, referral and sign-on bonuses.

Jared Smith, the chief executive of Kitestring, a boutique technology company that serves retailers, has been trying for months to fill 30 jobs. . . . About 35 percent of his 175 employees are on H-1B visas. “If I were to depend exclusively on U.S. citizens, it’s hard to imagine I would grow,” he said.

Immigrants have transformed the area not just culturally, but politically as well.

As of the 1990 census, Northwest Arkansas was 95 percent white. But by 2019, that figure had dropped to 72 percent, thanks to immigration. In Bentonville, 15.5 percent of the population was foreign born by then, and in Springdale, the state’s poultry center, 37.6 percent of the population was Hispanic.

Even in the state’s Republican-majority legislature, there has been recognition of the role of immigrant labor. This year the General Assembly passed a bill to enable undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children, often known as “Dreamers,” to obtain any professional or occupational license, one of the most liberal such laws in the country.

“We have a fast-growing economy, and we are concerned about a labor shortage,” said Nelson Peacock, who heads the Northwest Arkansas Council, founded by major employers in the region to promote economic development. “We need workers of all skill levels, and immigrants are an important part of the equation.”

“The makeup of Northwest Arkansas has changed dramatically thanks to immigrants, and we are much better off because of them,” said Mr. Flores, 33, who arrived in the United States when he was 3 years old. “To keep flourishing, the region will need immigrants to continue moving here.”

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


Monday, August 09, 2021

More Monday Male Beauty


The Chances Allen Weisselberg Will Flip Have Gone Way Up

With all the disturbing news of the soaring number of covid-19 cases and the release of a nightmarish report by the United Nations on climate change, one feels pressured to look for good news.  And on the good news front, a story in Vanity Fair suggests that pressure is building on Allen Weisselberg, Der Trumpenfuhrer's long time CFO, to flip on Trump and show prosecutors where all the bodies are buried if you will.  Given Trump's malignant narcissism, at some level Weisselberg must know in his heart that Trump cares nothing for him and would throw him under the bus if roles were reversed.  This, plus new information that suggests Weisselberg's son may be potentially facing very serious indictments might just be the lever needed to cause Weisselberg to flip and throw Trump under the bus first.  Nothing would damage Trump's ability to launch a 2024 campaign more than pending criminal indictments that would require huge amounts of time and money to defend.  Indeed, criminal indictments combined with information coming out of the House select committee hears could aborhorent to even some Republicans.  Here are highlights from the Vanity Fair piece:

Since the Trump Organization and its longtime CFO, Allen Weisselberg, were charged with numerous crimes last month—including conspiracy, grand larceny, and multiple counts of tax fraud and falsifying business records—it’s been suggested that Weisselberg has remained loyal to Donald Trump and has continued to refuse to flip and cooperate against him. That’s obviously the kind of news that Trump likes to hear, given that Weisselberg, who has worked for the company for decades, presumably knows where all the bodies are buried and could play a crucial part in helping send the ex-president to prison.

Less-than-great news, from the perspective of a guy hoping to avoid spending his twilight years behind bars? The fact that, according to a new report, prosecutors have evidence that Weisselberg’s son also dodged taxes with the help of the Trump Organization, raising the prospect that the elder Weisselberg will feel compelled to cooperate against Trump to save his kid.

The Daily Beast reports that while the indictment against the Trump Organization and its CFO only mentioned that a “family member” of Weisselberg received a free corporate apartment which the company “intentionally failed” to pay the associated taxes on, and that the lodging “constituted income to that family member,” it’s clear that the unnamed individual is Barry Weisselberg, Allen’s son who works for the company.

[W]hile Barry described the setup as an innocent-sounding “corporate apartment that [he] was given temporarily” during an August 2018 divorce deposition, prosecutors view it in a much more negative light, describing it in the indictment against Barry’s dad as a “scheme to defraud.” And that‘s not the only dirt the Manhattan District Attorney’s office reportedly has on the younger Weisselberg.

As for why Barry has not yet been indicted, the Daily Beast notes that when it comes to the apartment, which could add up to more than $400,000 in additional income that Barry allegedly didn’t pay taxes on, the statute of limitations has passed on a potential felony charge, as Weisselberg has not lived in the space since 2012. (In a civil case, Barry Weisselberg could still be sued, according to Daniel Feldman, a professor at the City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice.)

Still, other perks prosecutors are looking into could still land Barry in hot water, the kind his father would probably want to help him avoid, a turn of events that would not go over well at Trump Tower. As Weisselberg’s ex-daughter-in-law told AirMail in April, “Trump doesn’t care about Allen, but Allen knows every bad thing he ever did.”

The Manhattan D.A. declined the Daily Beast’s request for comment; Barry Weisselberg did not respond to the Daily Beast’s text messages and emails.

Let's hope that Weisselberg flips and that he reveals lots of very damaging information that can be used to lock up Trump (and with luck, his children as well).

Monday Morning Male Beauty


The Anti-Vax Insanity

In Virginia the number of Covid cases is increasing - but nowhere near at the levels of states like Florida - and the first report of a minor dying of Covid in the eastern part of the state is now being reported. The Hampton Rpads area has been identified as a "high risk area" due to many younger individuals who have not gotten vaccinated.  I and many others are masking up again at work and when going into stores and public spaces.  As a column in the New York Times lays out, none of this had to be happening.  If one looks at a map of where Covid is surging, there is a direct correlation to the politics of states with GOP lead states largely leading the surge all because political ideology and "owning the libs" has taken precedence over medical science and sane public health policy.  Short of soaring deaths - if even that - it is hard to see what will change closed minds, especially on the right.  Here are column highlights:

Nothing better exemplifies the gaping political divide in this country than our embarrassing and asinine vaccine response. Donald Trump’s scorched earth political strategy has fooled millions of Americans into flirting with death. And now thousands are once again dying for it.

Almost from the beginning, efforts to combat the virus were met with disdain from a president who felt the crisis made him look bad. The science was denied. We came to live in a world where masking was mocked and ingesting disinfectant was offered up as a possible cure.

All the while, the patients on ventilators gasped for breath, and refrigerated trailers filled with bodies. Death is one of the ultimate truths of life, and yet not even it could dissuade the headstrong from casting doubt on the science.

And then, a miracle. In response to this raging, deadly virus, scientists developed multiple, highly effective vaccines with breathtaking speed. It was like a prayer had been answered. An antidote to the plague had arrived.

We should all have been celebrating in the streets and running to a lifesaving serum with our sleeves rolled up and a smile on our face. But not enough of us were.

The public had been poisoned by partisanship. Masking was a political statement. Social distancing was a political statement. Receiving the vaccine, for far too many, was a political statement.

They hated that businesses were forced to close, and being asked to wear masks inside when they reopened. They hated their children having to stay home from school and being made to wear masks when they returned.

But, the simple truth is that all of this could have been avoided if all Americans eligible for the vaccine — and that’s pretty much every adult at this point — had simply chosen to be vaccinated. But they didn’t. They haven’t.

The vaccine is safe, incredibly safe. There are no microchips or magnets in it. It does not cause Covid and it is not more dangerous than Covid.

Believing all these lies is a luxury of people who have not sat by a hospital bedside, or watched from behind glass, because Covid regulations prevented them from comforting a relative or friend as they drew their last breath, struggling against a virus that choked that breath off.

It is a luxury to be irresponsible in a society where others will be responsible for you, where you simply assume that you are safer because others take the appropriate precautions to be safe: You do not need to get the shot because others have.

But the Delta variant is testing that faith.

As the Delta variant surges there is an uptick in the pace of vaccinations in the country. It’s almost like religion: Many disbelievers will call out to whatever God there may be when the reaper is at the door. Fear of ideological defeat is no match for the fear of imminent death. And yet, it shouldn’t have taken another surge of sickness and death for good sense to set in.

Why were Americans turning away a vaccine that many people in other parts of the world were literally dying for? Many did so because of their fidelity to the lie and their fidelity to the liar. They did it because they were — and still are — slavishly devoted to Trump, and because many politicians and conservative commentators helped Trump propagate his lies.

A recent Monmouth University poll found that “among those who admit they will not get the vaccine if they can avoid it, 70 percent either identify with or lean toward the Republican Party while just 6 percent align with the Democrats.”

It was all lunacy. It is all lunacy. This should never have happened. There are people dead today — a lot of them! — who should still be alive and who would be if people in the heights of government and the heights of the media had not fed them lies about the virus.

So, we have a situation in America where people are dying and will continue to die of ignorance and stubbornness. They are determined to prove that they are right even if it puts them on the wrong side of a eulogy. This is like watching millions of people playing in traffic.

Sunday, August 08, 2021

Sunday Morning Male Beauty


Regent University Sued for Anti-LGBT Discrimination

In what will hopefully turn out to be a major financial blow to Regent University and other discriminatory colleges and university in terms of loss of federal funding, Regent and the U.S. Department of Education are being sued as part of a class action for violating Title IX, a 1972 law prohibiting sex-based discrimination against students at schools that receive federal funds. If the plaintiffs are successful, Regent and similar schools where anti-LGBT bigotry are official policy, could lose millions of dollars in federal funds (Liberty University should likewise lose all federal funds).  If the court follows last years Supreme Court ruling that Title VII ban on se based discrimination in the employment realm applies to LGBT individuals, the case should be a slam dunk for the plaintiffs.  No doubt Regent will shed crocodile tears and claim its religious beliefs are under attack, but there is an easy solution if Regent wants to continue its anti-LGBT bigotry: stop accepting federal taxpayer derived funds.  A piece in the Virginian Pilot looks at this long overdue lawsuit.  Here are article highlights (note how Regent apparently pushes totally discredited "conversion therapy'):

Jamie Lord was told she was going to hell. She was told gay people were pedophiles and child molesters.

And she was told if she brought her girlfriend on campus at Regent University, where Lord is a law student, she could be kicked out of school.

Lord is one of 40 current and former students at Christian colleges and universities named as plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education.

At issue is the religious exemption to Title IX, the 1972 law prohibiting sex-based discrimination against students at schools that receive federal funds. The Religious Exemption Accountability Project (REAP), the nonprofit that filed the suit, claims that the religious exemption has allowed schools to continue with discriminatory practices.

The suit aims to “put an end to the U.S. Department of Education’s complicity in the abuses and unsafe conditions thousands of LGBTQ+ students endure at hundreds of taxpayer-funded, religious colleges and universities.”

A spokesperson for Regent declined to comment on Lord’s claims, citing federal privacy laws.

“Regent University upholds Biblical values and teaches traditional Christian principles,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “... as followers of Christ, Regent staff and faculty are committed to treating every student with love, dignity, and respect.”

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Oregon in March with 33 initial plaintiffs. In June, seven more — including Lord — joined.

In court documents, students and alums described being forced into conversion therapy, facing expulsion, sexual and physical abuse, “as well as the less visible, but no less damaging, consequences of institutionalized shame, fear, anxiety and loneliness.”

Lord, 23, grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, with dreams of becoming a detective. She graduated from University of South Carolina with a bachelor’s degree in criminology and decided law school would be a good fit. Her family wasn’t particularly religious but she said she was excited to attend Regent University, lured by its high bar exam pass rate and the sizable scholarship offered.

At an event for accepted students in the spring of 2019, Lord said she pulled a professor aside, informed him she was a lesbian and asked if that would hinder her ability to fit in at Regent.

“He said that they loved diversity, that they have great conversations in the classroom and that the love all sorts of different people,” Lord said in a recent interview near her home in Virginia Beach. “Of course, I took his word on it.”

Instead, Lord said she has endured years of discrimination at the hands of Regent staff because of her sexuality. She said she was routinely berated in and outside of class, and her mental health suffered.

She said she informed a dean that a professor was harassing her because of her sexual orientation, but nothing changed. And the dean told Lord that, per the school’s policy, she could be kicked out of the school for having “premarital sex,” even though they could not give her an answer as to what they defined premarital sex as in a lesbian relationship, according to the complaint.

“If he had just told me the truth right then and there I wouldn’t have come,” Lord says now, remembering the reassurance she received at the event for accepted students.

According to REAP, there are about 600 four-year, degree-granting nonprofit Christian colleges in the United States, about one-third of which have policies against LGBTQ+ students in their student code of conduct policies.

The Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, of which Regent is a member, contends the lawsuit is “frivolous” and a threat to religious freedom. The organization asserts that if the suit succeeds, low-income students who wish to attend Christian colleges will lose access to federal aid.

According to a U.S. Treasury Department website that calculates federal aid, Regent received $116 million in 2018, the last year for which data is available.

Lord will soon enter her third and final year of law school, taking all her classes online — a mutual agreement with the school, she said. She and her girlfriend are now engaged.

Her experiences at the school, however, have cast doubts on her desire to practice law. And she said she’s never felt further from God.

If bigoted institutions like Regent (and Liberty University) cannot survive without federal funds, they need to either end the bigotryor go out of business.