Saturday, January 29, 2022

Youngkin Cares Nothing About Public School Kids in Virginia

A fairly scathing column in the Washington Post gets to the basis of Glen Youngkin's assault on public school education in Virginia (a similar modivation applies to Virginia's horrendous new AG): It is all about pandering to the Virginia GOP's bigoted and ignorance embracing base.  Youngkin cares nothing about the welfare or learning of Virginia's public school children.  Indeed, what he is trying to force on public schools is the exact opposite of what he chose for his own children by sending them to expensive private schools that continue to make mask wearing mandatory and which teach curricula that include the very topics he and his fellow Republicans would ban from public schools. To call him a hypocrite is far too kind. And the result of his pandering - self prostitution is perhaps a more fitting term - has thrown public schools in the Commonwealth into chaos. Here are excerpts from the column which is a must read:

Gov. Glenn Youngkin says he wants the best for his fellow Virginians. He has called for unity and even quoted the Bible in urging folks to love their neighbors — right after setting up a tip line for Virginians to rat out teachers.

And he said his sweeping, pandering executive order on mask mandates — he wants none — isn’t banning masks at schools, no, that’s not it at all. He just wants parents to decide “whether wearing a mask at school is right for their child,” he wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post.

He wants parents to choose — like he did. The Youngkins lived for years in one of the nation’s highest-ranking and most coveted school districts in Northern Virginia. But they chose to send all four of their children across the Potomac to private schools in D.C. and Maryland. Nice choice, if you can make it.

The youngest goes to an elite, all-boys Jesuit high school in Maryland. Where masks are required.

“At this time, Georgetown Prep requires all persons, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks while indoors on campus, except while eating meals or while residents are in their own dorm room,” say the school’s pandemic guidelines.

“Masks must also be worn during any indoor school-sponsored activity off campus, including during transport (e.g. riding buses for a field trip, an away athletic game, and taking the shuttle from the Metro [to] school, etc.)”, continues the mask policy at the $37,000-a-year school that boasts two Supreme Court justices — Brett M. Kavanaugh and the notoriously unmasked Neil M. Gorsuch — as alums.

Youngkin also issued an executive order dropping the vaccine mandate for state employees. The students, staff and faculty at Georgetown Prep are all required to be vaccinated. I reached out to Youngkin’s press secretary twice to ask about the governor’s thoughts on the school’s policy and didn’t hear back.

It’s not race or social status or gender that’s dividing us over the response to the coronavirus. It’s political party, easily found in surveys done by the Kaiser Family Foundation as it tracked who was being vaccinated.

As a wealthy man and as a White man, Youngkin easily identifies with the other rich White folks who send their kids to private schools with strict mandates.

But as a Republican, not a parent, Youngkin decided to take the stand that pleases his voters, many of whom live in school districts that have adopted mask-optional policies in line with his order. Districts home to nearly 2 in 3 Virginia public school children have elected to keep their mandates in place, a Post analysis found.

This isn’t bringing anyone together. Neither are his talking points. . . declaring that parents should decide what’s best for their children.

But what if they don’t have $37,000 a year to send their kids to another state, to a private school that requires masks and vaccination and offers a rigorous, challenging curriculum? What are their choices then?

The hypocrisy continues with the very first executive order he signed after his inauguration this month, a Kabuki theater order against the teaching of critical race theory. He followed it up with a dangerous tip line for parents to report teachers who introduce “divisive” topics in the classroom.

But the content that scares his White voters the most is exactly what Georgetown Prep — and other schools — are tackling, most recently with an exhibit about the school’s connection to slavery.  Endowment of Tears, Hope for Reconciliation: Georgetown Prep and Slavery” is an exhibit that opened in 2018 and is being shown virtually to students today, focusing “on enslaved persons of the same age as current Prep students. It invites the viewer to consider how best to seek reconciliation with the memory of the enslaved and with their descendants.”

The school also condemns “the brutality and racial violence that have cost so many of our brothers and sisters their lives and their hopes.” That’s powerful. And it probably makes some kids uncomfortable.

The same deep dive into our nation’s troubled past is being done at the other private schools the Youngkin children graduated from — National Cathedral School and St. Alban’s, which Dana Milbank highlighted in his column this week.

[W]hy is he fighting a safe pandemic environment and a rigorous curriculum for the public school kids of Virginia?  It’s about the politics, the votes, folks. And not your kids.

Damning, but sadly 100% true.  The man is despicable.

PS: Here's what his son's school is presenting to students:

It explores the pivotal role that slavery played in establishing, maintaining, and, through the 1838 sale of 272 enslaved persons owned by the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, financially rescuing Georgetown College and its largest constituent element, the Preparatory Department.  

Saturday Male Beauty


The Growing GOP/Christofascist Effort to Ban Books

Since even before the Scopes "monkey trial" nearly 100 years ago (Thomas Scopes, a young high school science teacher, was accused of teaching evolution in violation of a Tennessee state law), Christofascists and the politicians who prostitute themselves to those who embrace ignorance and bigotry have been trying to ban any books and knowledge that challenge their primative beliefs from public schools and public libraries.  Now, this forces have merged with racists - studies have shown the two overlap by wide margins - to push for a new round of book banning to prevent students and members of the public from learning accurate and truthful history and the common humanity of racial minorities and LGBT people. God forbid little Johnny and Suzie know the truth about slavery, the Jim Crow laws or sexual orientation because it might cause them to question the whitewashed  propganada preferred by their ignorance embracing parents and pastors. A column in the Washington Post looks at the blitz of book banning efforts underway, almost all pushed by Republicans whose willingness to prostitute themselves to those Hillary Clinton rightly called a basket of deplorables would make a prostitute blush.  Here are excerpts: 

If we see any more snowflakes appear in red states, the National Weather Service is going to have to issue a blizzard warning.

Tennessee made news this week when it was reported that rural McMinn County took the initiative of banning from classrooms the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel “Maus,” by Art Spiegelman, which teaches children about the Holocaust by portraying Jews as mice and Nazis as cats.

So the state once celebrated for Davy Crockett’s bravery now fears a cartoon mouse exposing teens to indecorous language. Can’t get more snowflakey than that.

Spiegelman joins the good company of Nobel-laureate Toni Morrison (whose debut novel, “The Bluest Eye,” was banned in Wentzville, Mo., on Jan. 20), “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah (whose memoir survived a ban attempt in Osseo, Minn., last month) and Margaret Atwood (whose “The Handmaid’s Tale” was targeted in Goddard, Kan., in November) — as well as scores of other books, the vast majority of which have protagonists who are Black, or LGBTQ, or perceived as being anti-police.

The American Library Association tells me that there were 330 “challenges” in the three months between Sept. 1 and Dec. 1, 2021, with December still to be tallied. That compares with just 156 in all of 2020, and 377 in 2019, the last pre-pandemic year. This means book bannings are happening at roughly quadruple the previous pace.

And that’s just the beginning of the thought-police problem. PEN America, a free-speech organization, reports that in the first three weeks of January 2022, 71 “gag-order” bills banning the teaching of certain concepts were introduced or pre-filed in state legislatures across the country. Since January of last year, 12 such bills have become law in 10 GOP-run states, and 88 bills are still working their way through the legislative process. Virtually all of them have been sponsored by Republicans.

Eighty-four of the active bills target K-12 schools, 38 target colleges and universities, 48 include mandatory punishments, and 15 give students, parents or citizens the right to sue schools. So much for the professed Republican devotion to combatting frivolous lawsuits.

Among the 10 states that have adopted gag laws, Iowa prohibits “specific defined concepts” from being in the public school curriculum; North Dakota specifically bans “critical race theory”; New Hampshire and South Carolina make sure schools do not “inculcate” students in certain ways; and Texas bans the “1619 Project.” The other states are Arkansas, Oklahoma, Idaho and, of course, Tennessee. One of Arizona’s laws, struck down in court, banned “instruction that presents any form of blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity or sex.”

Not long ago, those on the right howled about ultrasensitive “snowflakes” and “cancel culture” when woke activists sought to replace racially insensitive texts. 

Suzanne Nossel, the head of PEN America, tells me. “You have legislative bans on ideas, historical perspectives, terminology, books. If you think about the hierarchy of infringements on free speech, there’s just no question that legislative prohibitions on ideology are the top of the list. … It’s an effort to frighten and intimidate teachers and administrators and dictate how they teach at penalty of fines and discipline and ostracism and firings.”

Groups such as “Moms for Liberty” and “No Left Turn” have proposed lists of books to be banned. In Texas, the Republican chairman of the House General Investigating Committee sent schools a list of 850 books related to race, gender and sexuality that could “make students feel discomfort.”

Virginia’s new Republican governor, Glenn Youngkin, created a tip line so informants can report on teachers teaching anything “divisive.” Texas’s Republican governor, Greg Abbott, launched a statewide hunt for “pornography” (that is, books about gender and sexuality) in schools.

Among the works that have been on the chopping block: August Wilson’s “Fences,” an Oscar-nominated PBS documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” about James Baldwin, the bestseller “The Hate U Give” — and a coloring book with African Adinkra symbols.

Canceling a coloring book? Who’s a snowflake now?

More Saturday Male Beauty


Virginia Senate Kills Two Anti-Gay Bills

It was an easy guess that critical race theory - which isn't even taught in Virginia public schools - and any honest  teaching of Virginia and American history would not be the only targets of the Virginia GOP now lead by Glenn "Dumbkin" Youngkin and Attorney General Jason Miyares who seemingly has the "charm" and mindset of Heinrich Himimler.  And sure enough, two GOP anti-gay bills (I'm sure there will be more) were introduced by Republicans to erase hard won LGBT protections and treat our existence as a "divisive" topic in public schools.  Thankfully, the Democrat controlled Virginia Senate is serving as a firewall against Republican/Christofascist hate and intolerance and the bills were killed as reported by the Washington Blade.  Here are details:

Two anti-LGBTQ bills died in the Virginia Senate on Thursday.

A Senate Education subcommittee voted against state Sen. Travis Hackworth (R-Tazewell County)’s Senate Bill 20, which would have eliminated the requirement that school districts must implement the Virginia Department of Education’s transgender and non-binary student guidelines.

The Senate General Laws and Technology Committee in an 8-7 vote tabled state Sen. Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg)’s Senate Bill 177, a religious freedom measure that critics contend would have allowed anti-LGBTQ discrimination in housing.

Virginia’s statewide nondiscrimination law includes sexual orientation and gender identity. Peake’s bill would have removed “the provision of the exemption for religious organizations under the Virginia Fair Housing Law that denies such exemption where the membership in such religion is restricted on account of race, color, national origin, sex, elderliness, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, military status, or disability.”

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office three days later.

Democrats, who maintain a 21-19 majority in the state Senate, have vowed to block any anti-LGBTQ bill.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Friday, January 28, 2022

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Putin and His Obsession With Ukraine

While much of the media blathers on about the new Supreme Court opening, inflation - ignoring steller jobs and economic growth in the process, and any number of distractions (here in Virginia, Glenn "Dumbkin" Youngkin's missteps continue to get much coverage), in eastern Europe a powder kegs exists in the form of Russia's threats to invade Ukraine and America and NATO's efforts to block any such invasion.  Short of WWIII, the west is threatening serious economic sanctions - some argue for kicking Russia out of the interbank system that is essential to money transfers for Russian oil and gas and other exports - and NATO countries are rallying military forces to intimidate Vladimir Putin into backing down.  The situation is frightening and is reminescent of August, 1914, when alliances lead Europe into WWI. Part of the difficulty in lessening tensions is that Putin - a former KGB officer who rose through the ranks based on torture, blackmail and murder - is as vain and self-absorbed as Donald Trump and longs for the glory days of the Soviet Union when Russia was a true super power.  Putin also fearsa successful democracy in Ukraine since it might give Russians the idea that they could have a better life if Putin's dictatorship was overthrown.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the situation.  Here are excerpts:

After it declared independence in 1991, Ukraine was divided between an unabashedly pro-Russia segment of its population and a more nationalistic one. But by annexing Crimea and plunging eastern Ukraine into open conflict, Matthews writes, Putin has energized Ukrainian nationalism and fed a growing anti-Russia sentiment. And the math does not help. Putin took millions of pro-Russia Ukrainians in Crimea and Donbas out of the country’s political calculus. (Those in Donbas don’t vote in Ukrainian elections because the area is too unstable.) As a result, a Ukrainian politician estimated to me that the pro-Russia seats in Ukraine’s parliament have shrunk from a plurality to barely 15 percent of the total.

In retrospect, if Putin’s aim were to keep Ukraine unstable and weak, it would have made far more sense to leave those parts of Ukraine within the country, supporting the pro-Russia forces and politicians in various ways so that they could act as a fifth column within the country, always urging Kyiv to forge closer ties with Moscow. Instead, Ukraine is now composed mainly of a population that is proudly nationalist and that has become much more anti-Russia.

Putin’s aims are probably twofold — to make Ukraine weak and more dependent on Russia but also to divide the West and render NATO less effective. As far as the latter is concerned, the opposite is happening. NATO, long searching for a post-Cold War purpose, has been energized by the Russian threat. Denmark is dispatching a frigate to the Baltic Sea. The Netherlands is moving fighter jets to Bulgaria. France has offered to put troops in Romania under NATO command. Spain has also offered to move warships east. The United States has put 8,500 troops on heightened alert in case they need to be deployed to Eastern Europe. Some in Finland and Sweden are even reconsidering their long-established neutrality.

The most significant success for Putin has been in Germany. The new German ruling coalition has expressed doubts about arming Ukraine, placing Russia under serious sanctions or canceling Nord Stream 2, the pipeline through which Russia could send more natural gas directly to Germany and Europe, bypassing Ukraine. . . . . The Biden administration has been alert to this problem, sending CIA Director William J. Burns to Berlin and inviting Merkel’s successor, Olaf Scholz, to Washington for a meeting with President Biden.

Matthews points out that Putin would not benefit from a war, especially if the sanctions being discussed are put into place against Russia. While Putin has built formidable foreign reserves, constraining Russian gas and oil exports would devastate the Russian economy. Most young adult Russians — those who would be called upon to fight — are not gung-ho for war against Ukraine, which they regard positively. Putin’s approval ratings have fallen considerably.

This doesn’t mean that war is impossible, even unlikely. Wars can happen because of misperceptions, misunderstandings — and even because, backed into a corner, countries can’t find a path to de-escalate. The Russian foreign minister has said that the West’s recent written responses to Russian demands do not address the “main issue,” by which he means Ukrainian membership in NATO. The truth is that Ukraine is unlikely to become a member of NATO anytime soon. NATO runs by consensus, and there is little agreement on the issue. Germany and Hungary have deep reservations about its accession.

And yet, the United States cannot — and should not — forswear the possibility that Ukraine could join NATO at some point in the future. Between those two realities lies a narrow corridor, a space for creative diplomacy to avert a war that could consume the energies of both sides for years.

As for the mindset of Ukranians who find themselves caught in the middle, a piece in the New Yorker looks at the situation.  Here are some highlights: 

In recent weeks, Russia has been building up its military forces on the Ukrainian border, raising fears that Vladimir Putin’s regime will launch a full-scale invasion. Eight years ago, Russia annexed Crimea after protests throughout Ukraine led to the fall of its Russia-backed President. Since then, Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine have engaged in protracted fighting that has killed some fourteen thousand people, while Ukrainian public opinion more broadly has moved closer to the West, despite Ukraine’s not being a member of the European Union or NATO. This week, American diplomats presented proposals to Putin’s government seeking negotiation, while rejecting Russian demands that NATO foreclose the possibility of Ukraine’s joining the alliance.

To help explain how things appear from the perspective of Ukrainians, I recently spoke by phone with Nataliya Gumenyuk, a Ukrainian journalist in Kyiv. She is the author of the book “The Lost Island: Dispatches from the Occupied Crimea.” During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed how Ukrainians are preparing for a possible invasion, why Ukrainian democracy threatens Putin, and Russia’s reasons for potentially escalating the conflict.

[F]or a while, Russia’s foreign policy stood on the shoulders of what [Mikhail] Gorbachev built, and held that, after the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia and other former Soviet countries would, little by little, become part of the West. For that, there were some requirements: democracy, human rights, rule of law, less corruption, and so on. But, at this moment, Russia feels that it doesn’t want that anymore. Putin doesn’t want any conditions. He actually doesn’t want to join this club. He wants to have a world where Russia is strong, and decisions globally are not taken without Russia, including important decisions in the Middle East and in Latin America. So Russia wants to be, again, a global power, not just a nice member of the international liberal order.

Ukraine is just too big to ignore, and Putin himself seems to have an obsession with Ukraine. This summer, he wrote an article about Ukrainian history. Putin usually achieves everything he wants, but Ukraine is a country where he failed twice. In 2004 and in 2014, he backed a pro-Russia, authoritarian candidate, using great effort to cement his rule, and twice, popular uprisings by Ukrainians did something he feared and didn’t want to have happen. The Ukrainian people voted differently. And, with their protest, they kind of mocked Russia. So Putin feels offended and betrayed by Ukraine and by the Ukrainians—not just by the Ukrainian government. So I think for him it’s quite important to prove that no, this democracy is not really genuine, that it’s the West that wants to impose it on the Ukrainians. To admit that societies can do it themselves is to admit that change could be possible in Belarus, in Georgia, and in Russia as well.

It sounds complicated, but we need to think about the international security architecture, where things still are stuck where they were twenty or thirty years ago. Just look at the way that NATO is designed, and how it is misused by Russia to threaten Ukraine. So the way things are now, either the West does not support Ukraine and betrays it and agrees on something with Russia, or there is a full-scale war.

Is the current architecture of NATO resilient enough for players like Russia or China or anybody? What is the leverage? Because today the only policy other than that is sanctions. But a lot of people debate whether they are working. So what could be other ways to deal with countries like Ukraine? I don’t want to say that there should be some special status for Ukraine beyond NATO. I just generally think that the current impasse isn’t working. Neither Ukraine nor Georgia nor quite a lot of other countries feel secure. It shouldn’t just be a new architecture for Ukraine but for all of these countries. Right now, if you didn’t manage to become a member of the alliance years ago, you are out of the security framework.

Friday Morning Male Beauty


Thursday, January 27, 2022

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Glenn Youngkin's Rank Hypocrisy on Display

I first got very actively involved in politics roughly three decades ago due to my concerns over public school education - in Virginia Beach where my children attended public schools - and two of the main issues that motivated me were (i) the need for a full and accurate teaching of history including the good, the bad and the ugly, and (ii) racial equity in the school division's gifted and talented programs.  While progress was made in the latter issue through a program of testing all students rather than relying on teacher referrals.  This was accomplished through intense parental lobbying and combined efforts of the local NAACP and the gifted and talented parents association I lead at the time.  Making progress on improving the the public schools' history cirriculum has been more illusive and now Glenn Youngkin is striving to gut history of any mention of what Christofascists and white supremacists in the Virginia GOPbase deem "divisive."  Indeed, Youngkin appears to want history classes to be based on the "Lost Cause" and a Gone with the Wind version of history.  While references to LGBT individuals and history have not yet been explicitly mention, it's a safe bet that mention of gays will likewise be labeled "divisive." Making all of this worse is Youngkin's rank hypocrisy on education:  his children attend/attended expensive private schools where everything he is seeking to ban in public schools was taught.  Indeed, while on the board of one school, Youngkin approved the approach.  A column in the Washington Post looks at this hypocrisy.  Here are excerpts: 

Not only is Virginia’s new Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin banning the fictional menace of critical race theory from public schools, but he’s also turning the commonwealth into a little Stasi State. He’s setting up a tip line so parents can report to the government any school official they consider to be teaching something “divisive.”

“We’re asking for folks to send us reports,” he told a conservative radio host Monday, The Post reported. “We’re going to make sure we catalogue it all,” he added, “to make sure we’re rooting it out.”

The state’s deputizing of residents to act as informants will have the obvious effect of deterring even mentions of slavery or race [or LGBT history], which means Youngkin has imposed a de facto “memory law” whitewashing Virginia’s, and the country’s, deep and ongoing history of white supremacy [and homophobia].

Virginia’s new thought policing also includes overriding school districts’ decisions on face masks and firing the University of Virginia’s counsel, Tim Heaphy, who was on leave advising the House’s Jan. 6 committee.

Youngkin’s move on critical race theory also comes with an added dollop of hypocrisy. Public schools, including Virginia’s, don’t teach critical race theory, which was a little-known academic school of thought before the Fox News crowd misrepresented it as a threat to American children.

But do you know which schools do teach “divisive” concepts, including something resembling critical race theory? The private D.C. schools Youngkin had his children attend. And you know who was on the board of governors of one of those schools while it was beefing up its anti-racism policies? Glenn Youngkin.

Youngkin, a professed fan of public school parents’ rights, exercised his own parental rights not to send his children to Virginia public schools but rather to National Cathedral School and St. Albans School, twin private all-girl and all-boy schools in D.C. under the auspices of the Episcopal Church.

National Cathedral’s website listed Youngkin as a member of its governing board from 2016 through 2019, and he was chair of its finance committee. To their credit, both National Cathedral and St. Albans were, during that time, leaders in developing anti-racism teachings, even before the murder of George Floyd heightened national awareness of systemic racism.

DEI — Diversity, Equity and Inclusion — has been a priority at National Cathedral for many years. The school has an extensive staff devoted to the initiative, as well as programming that includes affinity groups such as diversity forums, an equity board, an intersectionality council and a student diversity leadership conference. A National Cathedral strategic plan approved by the board in 2018 — during Youngkin’s tenure — “includes the mandate to ‘Advance an Inclusive Educational Environment, . . . . 

Among the other things National Cathedral has done: made time in the school schedule for “critical conversations around topics of race, anti-racism, social justice, and inclusion”; added courses such as “Black Lives in Literature” and “Courageous Dialogues”; developed new hiring protocols “as a result of our anti-bias work” and required diversity training for all staff members; and included in the school’s summer reading list books such as Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism.”

While Youngkin the governor declares that parents should report teachers who discuss “divisive” things, Youngkin the parent favored a place that believes that “as we hold conversations around honoring each student’s identity, history, and experiences, discomfort helps us to stretch and grow. Learning how to engage in difficult conversations, to listen respectfully, and to consider multiple perspectives are vital.” . . . St. Albans has undertaken similar anti-racism initiatives.

Youngkin’s own children were lucky to have attended schools that make its students grapple with uncomfortable and, yes, “divisive” issues. So why is he now using the powers of the state to intimidate teachers who would give Virginia’s public school students the same advantage?

The answer is easy:  Youngkin is a political whore pandering to Christofascists and white supremacists (the two groups are often one and the same).

Thursday Morning Male Beaty


Wednesday, January 26, 2022

More Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


The Deadly Lies of Youngkin and the Anti-Maskers and Anti-Vaxers

In an op-ed in the Washington Post by Glenn Youngkin - which I won't even give dignity to by adding a link - Virginia's answer to Vladimir Putin tries to justify his endangerment of Virginia school children under the guise of "parental rights" and wild claims about overpowering "bureaucrats."  Never mind that (i) a majority(probably the vast majority) of parents support studentd wearing masks, (ii) Virginia law requires compliance with CDC guidelines, and (iii) Youngkin has also set up a Stasi-like "hotline" so parents can report any teacher who is alleged to have taught or discussed "divisive" topics, with divisiveness defined by right wing extremist parents. Under this vigilante regime, kiss good by any honest and factual discussion of Virginia and American history, LGBT rights and individuals and the ugly role of religion, including Christianity over the course of history.   On the mask issue, Younkin's hypocrisy is underscored by the fact that his own children attend private schoos where masks remain mandatory. As another column in the Post accurately notes, Youngkin has shown himself to be "Trump in a red vest" with little concern for those he may harm in the following words:

What’s more, it’s galling for Youngkin to suggest this is only the handiwork of power-mad school boards trampling on parents’ rights. Large majorities in Virginia favor school mask requirements. And given that school boards are by any reasonable assessment acting lawfully, Youngkin himself may be the one abusing his power here.

On top of all this, Youngkin’s own stance on this represented a shift. The Post reports this important nugget involving Fredericks, the conservative talk radio host:

Youngkin’s recent position on masks takes a harder line than he did shortly before and after November’s election, when he said he would leave it up to localities whether to impose mask mandates. Some Trump supporters were unhappy with that position — including Fredericks, who now says he is pleasantly surprised by Youngkin’s firmer stance.

“He’s Trump in a red vest,” Fredericks said in an interview with The Post after he had Youngkin on the air, referring to the governor’s ever-present fleece vest while on the campaign trail. “It’s exceeded everybody’s expectations.”

He’s Trump in a red vest. There you have it: Youngkin might have followed the more judicious path of another GOP governor in a blue area, Larry Hogan of Maryland, who left this up to local officials. That would have been in keeping with the pragmatic center-right approach that Youngkin advertised during the campaign, a sort of conservatism that nominally respects local control.

Instead, Youngkin is following the path of Ron DeSantis. The Republican governor of Florida sought to use state power to punish school officials for protecting kids as they saw fit, to play to a national right wing audience.

All of this is about playing to the Trump base in Virginia and elsewhere.  As a piece in The Atlantic makes clear, it has deadly consequences and directly ties to the Christofascist base of today's Republican Party.  This insanity and/or political cynicism now occupies the Executive Mansion in Richmond.  Here are article highlights: 

In the early phases of the pandemic, as the coronavirus spread in the United States and doctors and pharmacists and supermarket clerks continued to work and risk infection, some commentators made reference—metaphorical reference, fast and loose and over the top—to ritual human sacrifice. The immediate panicky focus on resuming business as usual in order to keep the stock market from crashing was the equivalent of “those who offered human sacrifices to Moloch,” according to the writer Kitanya Harrison. That first summer, as Republicans settled into their anti-testing, anti-lockdown, anti-mask, nothing-to-worry-about orthodoxy, Representative Jamie Raskin, a Democrat, said it was “like a policy of mass human sacrifice.” The anthropology professor Shan-Estelle Brown and the researcher Zoe Pearson wrote that people who continued to do their jobs outside their homes were essentially victims of “involuntary human sacrifice, made to look voluntary.”

Today, however, the economy is no longer in jeopardy; unemployment rates and salaries have returned to pre-pandemic levels; GDP per person is higher than it was at the end of 2019; personal savings are growing, and businesses are starting up faster than ever; corporate profits and stock prices are at record highs. And for more than a year, we’ve had astoundingly effective vaccines that radically reduce the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19. All of which means that for a long time now the right’s ongoing propaganda campaign against and organized political resistance to vaccination, among other public-health protocols, has been killing many, many Americans for no reasonable, ethically justifiable social purpose.

In other words, what we’ve experienced certainly since the middle of 2021 is literally ritual human sacrifice on a mass scale—the real thing, comparable to the innumerable ghastly historical versions.

Anthropologists define ritual sacrifice as societies’ organized killing of people in order to please supernatural beings and—the unspoken real-world part—to fortify the political and economic power of those societies’ elites.

Our current experience with COVID is filled with what historians of human sacrifice have identified as its key features. Let me run through the main ones.

1. Cultural and social complexity

[A]s a regular practice on a grander scale, human sacrifice seems to belong to … larger empires”—“more developed cultures” that “have a strong government” and thus “could happily dispose” of people “without the community suffering a disastrous loss of members.” A groundbreaking 2016 study of scores of socially complex cultures across the Pacific and East Asia found that “sacrificial victims were typically of low status.” In various places around the world, the victims of human sacrifice tended to be elderly, ill, or both.

Today in the U.S.—the world’s most powerful empire and third-most-populous nation, possessor of a strong government and social and political complexity, a culture both advanced and decadent—two-thirds of COVID victims have had incomes below the median. Three-quarters have been 65 or older, with a median age of over 75.

2. Intense social stress

In Inca societies in 15th- and 16th-century South America, according to a 2015 paper, “sacrifices were often conducted in response to natural calamities, such as … epidemics,” “based on their belief that illness and natural disasters were forms of supernatural punishment for sins committed.”

Accompanying the exceptional health crisis of COVID-19 were the immediate economic and social crises: public life shut down, a spike in violent crime, a one-third drop in stock prices, an economic recession, unemployment near 15 percent. . . . . n a different 2020 survey, three in five white evangelicals agreed that the pandemic and its ramifications were “evidence that we are living in what the Bible calls the ‘end times.’” . . . Notably, most believers apparently didn’t judge themselves to be sinners deserving of this punishment: According to the University of Chicago survey at the start of the pandemic, 55 percent thought God would protect them from infection.

3. Politics plus faith

According to the literature, human sacrifice occurred in societies where highly supernatural religion and state governance were deeply intertwined.

For some time in the U.S., evangelicals have made up about a third of Republicans, and 78 percent of all U.S. evangelical voters chose the GOP nominee in 2020. Donald Trump is a conspicuously un-Christian leader for an ultra-Christian party, but he is a showman, like the most successful evangelists throughout American history. . . . Republicanism has been transformed by the merger of religion and partisanship that started before the turn of this century. “If more and more of a political party’s members hold more and more extravagantly supernatural beliefs,” I wrote about the 21st-century GOP’s anti-modern denial of various empirical realities in my 2017 book, Fantasyland, “doesn’t it make sense that the party will be more and more open to make-believe in its politics and policy?”

4. Enormous scale

The human sacrifices carried out in the 15th and 16th centuries by the Aztecs, “a relatively young empire,” killed thousands of people and perhaps tens of thousands annually. For that civilization, according to Science’s Mexico-based archaeology and Latin American correspondent, “political power as well as religious belief is likely key to understanding the scale of the practice.”

Relatively young North American empire? Check. An annual count of victims in the thousands? Check. Driven by religious belief and politically powerful figures seeking to sustain their power? Check.

5. Victims volunteer and “volunteer”

The historian Bremmer writes that in the ritual sacrifices carried out by India’s Kond people into the 1800s, “the victims were always treated with great kindness before being sacrificed” to “the founding goddess of the village” and that, “in turn, the Konds expected them to offer themselves voluntarily.” Not surprisingly, when it comes to human sacrifice, the lines between voluntary and involuntary, suicide and murder, can be blurry.

Millions of Americans in 2021 were tricked by propagandists of the political right into forgoing vaccination and thus volunteering for death by COVID. Fox News hosts have consistently disparaged vaccination. . . . The median age of Fox News viewers is 65. Unvaccinated people from 65 to 79 are now 21 times as likely to die of COVID as vaccinated people the same age, and unvaccinated Americans 50 and older are 44 times likelier to be hospitalized than the vaccinated and boosted.

Last fall, Joy Pullmann, the executive editor of the well-funded right-wing magazine The Federalist, published a remarkable essay there headlined “For Christians, Dying From COVID (Or Anything Else) Is a Good Thing.” She portrays vaccination, along with other pandemic mitigation, as part of an “illusion of human control over death,” because, she insists, “there is nothing we can do to make our days on earth one second longer.” And, according to her, “the Christian faith makes it very clear that death, while sad to those left behind and a tragic consequence of human sin, is now good for all who believe in Christ.”

The fundamentalist Protestant revival that got under way in the U.S. a century ago was specifically anti-science, because adherents’ literal reading of Genesis didn’t jibe with modern geology or astronomy or biology. Starting in the 1960s and ’70s, their next U.S. revival resumed that crusade and extended it to other scientific realms, lately including virology. Not only are white Protestant evangelicals less likely than any other large American religious demographic to be vaccinated, but, according to the Public Religion Research Institute, those “who attend religious services regularly are twice as likely as less frequent attenders to be vaccine refusers.”

There is more, but you get the drift.  This ignorance embracing and suicide embracing base is who Youngkin is playing to.  Virginians need to be very afraid.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


Tuesday, January 25, 2022

More Tuesday Male Beauty


The Now Obvious to All: Virginia Voters Made a Big Mistake

As numerous posts on this blog argued, Glenn Youngkin was never the moderate he pretended to becase that he was running a slick and totally dishonest campaign to dupe Virginia voters into believing his lies.  It ahould have been a blaring alarm to anyone sentient that someone who was the darling of The Family Foundation and endorsed by an extremist group like Family Research Council was no moderate. A week into Youngkin's regime and we now no that his "parental rights" charade meant that the desires - and safety - of the majority would be subordinate to the "rights" of an ignorance embracing minorty of parents.  Now, thanks to their own stupidity, I suspect that amny Northern Virginia soccer moms are distraught that their children face an increased risk of Covid infection as a direct result of their vote.  Most frighteningly, I suspect we have seen the mere tip of the ice berg when it comes to the nightmare policies that will be pushed by the Youngkin/Sears/Miyares triumverate who clear put the desires of white supremacists and Christian extremists above the best interests of the Commonwealth and the majority of Virginians.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the disaster Virginia voters brought on themselves.  Here are excerpts:  

Virginians are discovering — a bit late, unfortunately — that there’s no such thing as Trumpism Lite.

When voters elected Republican Glenn Youngkin as governor, Winsome Earle-Sears as lieutenant governor and Jason S. Miyares as attorney general, many doubtless thought they were following a pattern that had served the state well: The year after one of our major parties wins the White House, they almost always put the other party in power in Richmond. Arguably, that worked to produce balance and moderation — until Donald Trump transformed the GOP from a political party into a cult.

Already, we’re seeing what a mistake Virginia voters made.

This week, we learned that Miyares has fired the University of Virginia’s counsel, Timothy Heaphy, supposedly because Heaphy does not share the new attorney general’s “philosophy and legal approach.” My strong suspicion is that Heaphy’s firing has more to do with the fact that he is presently on leave from his university position, serving as chief investigative counsel for the House select committee probing the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

To the Trump cult, Jan. 6, 2021 was no more than what former vice president Mike Pence has called “one day in January.” To the rest of us, and to future historians, it was an unprecedented violent assault on the citadel of our democracy and an attempt to prevent the peaceful transfer of power.

Surely, Virginia’s chief law enforcement officer should praise a staff member — counsels for the state’s public colleges and universities are technically assistant attorneys general — who uses his time and expertise to learn the full truth of the events of Jan. 6. Republicans who previously held Miyares’s post might have done so. But that was before the GOP lost its mind.

Youngkin, who squeaked into office with a two-point margin of victory, campaigned as an unthreatening, fleece-wearing suburbanite who was the soul of moderation. Political analysts saw his refusal to break with Trump or forthrightly deny the former president’s “big lie” about the “stolen” election as a mere tactic — not an indication of how he would behave as governor.

But Youngkin’s first week in office showed him to be a Trumpian culture-warrior. He immediately issued an executive order banning the teaching of critical race theory or any “inherently divisive concepts” in Virginia schools. Because critical race theory is not actually being taught at K-12 public schools in the commonwealth, the order could only be an attempt to ban the accurate teaching of African American history, which necessarily covers slavery, Jim Crow repression, lynchings, “massive resistance” to school desegregation, systematic discrimination and persistent disparities.

If you teach Black history without bringing up any “divisive concepts,” you’re not teaching it at all.

Youngkin also issued an order banning mask mandates in Virginia’s public schools — although, during the campaign, he said whether to require masks in schools would be left to “localities” to decide. On Monday, seven school boards filed suit in an attempt to block Youngkin’s order, saying that the governor is trying to usurp local control of the schools; parents in Chesapeake have also sued to block the order. According to The Post, at least 58 of the roughly 130 school districts in the state say they will continue requiring that students wear face coverings.

[H]is lieutenant governor, Earle-Sears, offered more definitive words to the Trumpist base. Appearing on Fox News last week, she said Youngkin “could withhold” some state funding from school districts that defy his order and continue to require that students be masked.

Another of Youngkin’s early initiatives was to expand the duties of the state’s chief diversity officer to include acting as an “ambassador for unborn children” — thus ticking the right-to-life box on the list of culture-war issues. And he pledges to seek tougher voter ID requirements in the name of “election integrity,” though he acknowledges there was no “material fraud” in 2020.

Youngkin, Earle-Sears and Miyares might look like something new — fresh-faced and laudably diverse — but so far, at least, they act more like members in good standing within the Cult of Trump. Someday, I hope, the Republican Party will escape the grip of a certain angry pensioner in Florida. Until then, don’t be fooled — and don’t give them your votes.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


Sunday, January 23, 2022

More Sunday Male Beauty


The Jan. 6 Attackers: Isolated White Folks

One of the continuing myths about the 2016 election, Trump supporters during his years of misrule and who showed up during the assault on the U.S. Capitol - which much of the mainstream media continues to parrot - is that support of Trump was due to white working class economic anxiety. Numerous studies have debunked this myth and revealed that white racism and real or percieved fear of lost prestige and privilige and a desire for group identity were the true motivating facotors.  A piece in Salon looks at these studies and also argue that Democrats need to come to grips with this reality and find a way to counter it if the slide toward fascism is to be blunted and democracy protected. Yes, I am sure many Republican "friends" will deny this reality and the baser insticts that may have motivated their votie for and support of the Trump regime. In addition to a revised Democrat strategy some serious soul searching is needed among Republicans who must decide between decency and morality and the rule of law and indulging their prejudices.  Here are article highlights:

The Age of Trump empowered many "zombie ideas," both here in America and around the world. Fascism is the most dangerous of those zombie ideas. There is also the Big Lie that the 2020 Election was rigged or somehow stolen.

The claim that the rise of Trump is primarily a story of "economic anxiety" among the white working class is one of the most powerful zombie ideas in recent memory. It appears highly resistant to facts, evidence or reason. Social scientists and other researchers have clearly established that white racism in its various forms explains why white voters support Trump, the Republican Party and neo-fascism.

It is of course true that questions of class cannot be easily separated from the color line in America. And it's unquestionably true that the working and middle classes in America (white or otherwise) have suffered greatly since the 1960s from deindustrialization and gangster-capitalist attacks on upward mobility, the commons and the overall quality of life. Those shocks to the system have definitely made right-wing authoritarians, demagogues, fake populists and "friendly fascists" like Donald Trump seem more appealing to many disgruntled white voters. 

But it is also true that, in practice, "economic anxiety" among white people has historically manifested itself through white racism and the politics of white supremacy. The evidence also undercuts the claim that Trumpism is primarily a function or corollary to economic suffering or "anxiety."

For example, the average 2016 Trump voter lived in a household with a median income of $72,000, slightly above the national median income at the time. . . . Last January's assault on the U.S. Capitol was a white supremacist attack against America's multiracial democracy. Yet these zombie ideas about the "white working class" still color how too many political observers understand that event.

New research sheds additional light and clarity on the role played by white identity politics in the Jan. 6 attack.

A paper by social scientists Austin Wright (the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy) and David Van Dijcke (the University of Michigan) details how participants in the Capitol assault were more likely to come from areas of the country with comparatively high levels of Trump support. In addition, Wright and Dijcke also show that the likelihood of participating in the attack on the Capitol greatly increased if the participants came from a community that Trump narrowly lost.

Trumpists who participated in the insurrection were also more likely to perceive their communities as being politically isolated, i.e., they live in an area where their neighbors or the surrounding community do not share their affinity for Trump and his movement. This perceived isolation also heightens a sense of threat and vulnerability.

Wright and Van Dijcke's paper, "Profiling Insurrection: Characterizing Collective Action Using Mobile Device Data," also finds that people who participated in the Capitol attack were more likely to come "from Trump-voting 'islands,' where residents are surrounded by neighborhoods with higher numbers of Biden supporters."

Not surprisingly, Trumpists who participated in the insurrection were also more likely to have been radicalized by right-wing social media platforms such as Parler, and to live in close geographic proximity to right-wing extremist paramilitary, terrorist or hate groups.

These new findings complement the much-discussed research by Robert Pape and his colleagues at the University of Chicago Project on Security and Threats, which shows — contrary to stereotypes about rust belt and rural America — that a large percentage of those who attacked the Capitol last January came from white suburban middle- and upper-class communities. . . . Another singular finding is that many people who participated in the insurrection came from formerly white-majority areas that have experienced rapid demographic change.

In keeping with the scholarship on fascism and other forms of radical and extremist movements, there is strong evidence that Trump supporters are driven by a search for belonging, meaning and identity. As an example of that dynamic, people — especially young men — who are attracted to extremist movements are often seeking out a type of family and community that is tied together, generally in opposition to some out-group or "enemy," by what sociologists describe as "bonding" social capital.

When it comes to zombie ideas, white supremacy and racism are among America's oldest examples. In many ways, America was actually founded on them. Donald Trump can be seen as a political necromancer who took those zombie ideas and made them powerful in ways not seen since the era of Jim Crow white supremacy, or perhaps the end of Reconstruction following the American Civil War. To this point, Joe Biden and the Democrats have shown themselves incapable of stopping or reversing these zombie ideas. America's democracy teeters on the edge of disaster as a result.

Political Social scientists Hakeem Jefferson and Victor Ray address this in a recent essay for FiveThirtyEight:

The idea that the racial reckoning of 2020 would last preyed on some of the most pervasive myths about race in America — in particular, optimism about what would come out of the protests and activism of 2020. It required that one believed, as Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, that the "arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." . . . But these moments that hint at a change in the racial hierarchy and a change in the status and social position of Black Americans are never met with uniform support from the American public.

Instead, these moments are often met with violent responses. They are also often met with new laws that attempt to weaken the political power of Black people while strengthening the political power of white people. And, yes, these moments are also often met by attempts to ensure a particular telling of American history that helps to maintain the mythology of racial progress that so many Americans find so deeply attractive.

White supremacy, racism, authoritarianism and fascism are intimately tied together. In fact, Jim and Jane Crow white supremacy was (and is) America's native form of fascism. As such, what today's Republican-fascist movement represent is not something exotic, brought from foreign shores, but something truly American.

[P]olitical scientists Jesse Rhodes, Raymond La Raja, Tatishe Nteta and Alexander Theodoridis have conducted new research showing a clear relationship between white racism and support for Trump's coup and the Capitol attack. They summarize their findings in an essay for the Washington Post:

People who deny White racial advantages and the prevalence of racial inequities also doubt the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election, express more positive attitudes toward the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol and absolve former president Donald Trump of blame for the riot.

In short, Donald Trump, the Jim Crow fascist Republican Party and the larger white right made an offer to the "white working class," which a large proportion of the latter did not refuse. For many reasons, tens of millions of white Americans chose racism, racial resentment and white supremacy. By doing so, those white Americans decided to make the lives of black and brown Americans and other marginalized groups much worse with the hope that somehow it would elevate their own collective feelings of power and self-esteem.

The sooner the Democrats come to grips with that fact, and fully recognize the compelling power of zombie ideas such as racism and white supremacy, the faster they can focus their energy on mobilizing their own base and doing the hard work of preserving, defending and redeeming the country's democracy. Time is running out.