Saturday, February 05, 2022

More Saturday Male Beauty


Congressional Republicans Were in on Trump's Coup Plot

Every time one think's theRepublican Party can't further debase itself, the RNC and Party leaders prove such thoughs wrong.  The take away is that NOTHING is too untrue or even illegal for the GOP to finally say "enough" and cease prostituting itself to Donald Trump and his minions. Indeed, as the Washington Post reports, the RNC censured Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger and said that the murder, mayhem and vandalism on January 6, 2021, was "legitimate political discourse" and left the door open for other violent stormings of legislatures and/or courts:

The censure resolution passed overwhelmingly on a voice vote without debate or discussion, with the whole process taking about one minute. The party said the behavior of Cheney and Kinzinger “has been destructive to the institution of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Republican Party and our republic.”

The resolution accused the two of participating in a “Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens who engaged in legitimate political discourse” as the committee investigates the insurrection in which a mob of Trump supporters stormed the building, injured 140 members of law enforcement and vandalized the Capitol to stop the affirmation of Joe Biden’s electoral college win. The attack led to the deaths of five people.

The real problem for the RNC is the fact that the Committee Cheney and Kinzinger serve on is moving closer and closer to confirming Trump was actively involved in the coup attempt and that he may have been aided by Republican members of Congress - e.g., Rep. Jim Jordan, Sen. Ron Johnson - who at a minimum knew of the coup plot and remained silent.  In the case of Jordan, he's being increasingl shown to be a liar thanks to White House logs that show his communications with Trump both before and during the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. A piece in Salon looks at the issue of Congressional Republican involvement.  Here are excerpts:

Two and a half years ago, Special Counsel Robert Muller submitted his report in which he declared that Donald Trump did not engage in a criminal conspiracy with agents of the Russian government who had interfered in the 2016 election on his behalf. Numerous members of Trump's campaign were indicted on various related and unrelated charges, but the special prosecutors were never able to gather enough evidence of a conspiracy. While Trump had behaved in extremely suspicious ways, investigators simply couldn't prove that he knew what the Russian government was doing.

Trump went on to spend his entire term committing overt acts of corruption, combining his business with his duties and openly defying all ethical restrictions against conflicts of interest. He blatantly obstructed justice many times and was even impeached for abusing his power by attempting to sabotage his political rival's presidential campaign. He broke the law repeatedly and got away with it every time.

So why wouldn't he engage in a conspiracy to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power and overturn the election he lost?

That is exactly what has come into focus this week as one revelation after the other implicating him in such a conspiracy is reported. And it's also become clear that there were many people who were aware of what Trump and his co-conspirators were doing, yet none of them sounded the alarm. I don't know if that makes them accomplices in a legal sense but it certainly makes them shamefully unethical.

All week, I've been writing about the latest developments, from the contemptible comments Trump made at his rally last weekend . . . . to the reports that he had contemplated issuing Executive Orders to seize the voting machines. Every day brings new details, each one more stunning than the last.

To recap the week: We learned that Trump had asked then-Attorney General Bill Barr to have the Department of Justice seize the voting machines in states in which he thought he could overturn the results. Luckily, he was told that would be illegal. It was then revealed that his former national Security Adviser, Gen. Michael Flynn (Ret.), and his lawyer, Sidney Powell,  had tried to persuade him to order the Pentagon to seize the voting machines in those same states and that he directed his lawyer Rudy Giuliani to get the Department of Homeland Security to do it. He was talked out of this each time, but it took a massive effort to get him to back off of these daft plans.

On Thursday the Washington Post reported that there was yet another plot brewing around the same time — and it's just as nuts as the others:

The memo used the banal language of government bureaucracy, but the proposal it advocated was extreme: President Donald Trump should invoke the extraordinary powers of the National Security Agency and Defense Department to sift through raw electronic communications in an attempt to show that foreign powers had intervened in the 2020 election to help Joe Biden win.

The "next steps" were almost certainly the seizing of the voting machines.

This is the same day Flynn and Powell sneaked into the White House to argue that Trump should issue a national security Executive Order that would activate the military to seize the voting machines. . . . suffice to say that there were multiple people involved in trying to get those voting machines and this certainly appears to have been yet another attempt.

This memo arguing to deploy the NSA to sift through electronic communications involved some new people who have not previously been identified, including a former Trump National Security Council member by the name of Rich Higgins. . . . The plot also involved a lawyer for the Army who not very convincingly claimed to the Post that he knew nothing about any of it and a former Republican candidate for Congress from Virginia.

[T]here were other high-level government officials who definitely knew about it. Republicans Sens. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Cynthia M. Lummis of Wyoming were all invited to a meeting at the Trump Hotel by Mr. My Pillow, Mike Lindell, where the conspiracy theory that there was foreign interference in the election and the notion of seizing the machines came up again. After that meeting, Cramer and Johnson were sent a copy of that memo outlining the use of the NSA to search for evidence. Apparently, GOP members of the House were briefed on all of this as well. 

[I]t's fair to assume that most of the GOP members of Congress were aware of the machinations that were happening in and around the White House because it's so crazy that word almost certainly got around. Quite a few were being heavily lobbied by the president and Rudy Giuliani to object to the count on January 6th.

Not one of them spoke up and alerted the public about what was going on. Cramer is the first to go on the record at all and it took him well over a year to do it. They all knew that Donald Trump was plotting a coup and they said nothing. Again, I don't know if it's illegal for an elected official to stand by passively as someone plots to overthrow the government but I know it should be. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Trying to Save Evangelicalism From Itself

Proponents of Christianity claim that the "fruits of the Spirit" include among other things, love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Others will say "Christians" are known for their love. Of course in today's America none of these characteristics apply to the majority of evangelicals and certainly not all when it comes to the hard core Christofasists.   Hatred of others, bigotry and the endless judgment of others are instead the hallmarks of evangelical Christians.  And when you look at the scamvangelists and the Franklin Grahams of the world, it is truly all about the money to be made selling the prosperity gospel and/or a quest for power over and control of others.  It is no coincidence that the Republican Party has turned into something reprehensible where rioting and vandalism and the death of law enforcement officers are labled “legitimate political discourse” given evangelicals' grip on the base of the GOP. A handful of evangelicals are sickened by what they see and are attempting to reform evangelicalism.  Their chances of success are likely on the same level as the prospects of efforts of Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger saving the GOP. A long piece in the New York Times looks at the situation.  Here are highlights:

Think of your 12 closest friends. These are the people you vacation with, talk about your problems with, do life with in the most intimate and meaningful ways. Now imagine if six of those people suddenly took a political or public position you found utterly vile. Now imagine learning that those six people think that your position is utterly vile. You would suddenly realize that the people you thought you knew best and cared about most had actually been total strangers all along. You would feel disoriented, disturbed, unmoored. Your life would change.

This is what has happened over the past six years to millions of American Christians, especially evangelicals. There have been three big issues that have profoundly divided them: the white evangelical embrace of Donald Trump, sex abuse scandals in evangelical churches and parachurch organizations, and attitudes about race relations, especially after the killing of George Floyd.

Thabiti Anyabwile pastors the largely Black Anacostia River Church in Washington, D.C. “It’s been at times agonizing and bewildering,” he says. “My entire relationship landscape has been rearranged. I’ve lost 20-year friendships.

Tim Dalrymple is president of the prominent evangelical magazine Christianity Today, which called for Trump’s removal from office after his first impeachment. “As an evangelical, I’ve found the last five years to be shocking, disorienting and deeply disheartening,”

Kristin Kobes Du Mez is a professor of history at Calvin University, a Christian school in Michigan, and is the author of “Jesus and John Wayne,” about how rugged masculinity pervades the evangelical world. “I’ve had so many moms I don’t know come up to me in the playground,” she tells me, “and whisper, ‘Are you the author of that book?’ They pour out their hearts: ‘This is not my faith. This is not what I was raised to believe in.’ These are 30-something white Christian women. They are in deep crisis, questioning everything.”

Of course there is a lot of division across many parts of American society. But for evangelicals, who have dedicated their lives to Jesus, the problem is deeper. Christians are supposed to believe in the spiritual unity of the church. While differing over politics and other secondary matters, they are in theory supposed to be unified by their shared first love — as brothers and sisters in Christ. Their common devotion is supposed to bring out the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

“And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.” The world envisioned by that song seems very far away right now. The bitter recriminations have caused some believers to wonder if the whole religion is a crock.

Russell Moore resigned from his leadership position in the Southern Baptist Convention last spring over the denomination’s resistance to addressing the racism and sexual abuse scandals in its ranks. He tells me that every day he has conversations with Christians who are losing their faith because of what they see in their churches. . . . . “We now see young evangelicals walking away from evangelicalism not because they do not believe what the church teaches,” he said, “but because they believe that the church itself does not believe what the church teaches.”

The proximate cause of all this disruption is Trump. But that is not the deepest cause. Trump is merely the embodiment of many of the raw wounds that already existed in parts of the white evangelical world: misogyny, racism, racial obliviousness, celebrity worship, resentment and the willingness to sacrifice principle for power.

Over the past decade or so, many of the country’s most celebrated Christian institutions were rocked by a series of horrific scandals. . . .  

Power is the core problem here. First, the corruptions of personal power. Evangelicalism is a populist movement. It has no hierarchy or central authority, so you might think it would have avoided the abuses of power that have afflicted the Roman Catholic Church. But the paradox of decentralization is that it has often led to the concentration of power in the hands of highly charismatic men, who can attract enthusiastic followings. A certain percentage of these macho celebrities inflict their power on the vulnerable and especially on young women.

Then there is the way partisan politics has swamped what is supposed to be a religious movement. Over the past couple of decades evangelical pastors have found that their 20-minute Sunday sermons could not outshine the hours and hours of Fox News their parishioners were mainlining every week. It wasn’t only that the klieg light of Fox was so bright, but also that the flickering candle of Christian formation was so dim.

In 2020, roughly 40 percent of the people who called themselves evangelical attended church once a year or less, according to research by the political scientist Ryan Burge. It’s just a political label for them. This politicization is one reason people have cited to explain why so many are leaving the faith.

In 2006, 23 percent of Americans were white evangelical Protestants, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. By 2020, that share was down to 14.5 percent. In 2020, 22 percent of Americans 65 and older were white evangelical Protestants. Among adults 18 to 29, only 7 percent were.

The turmoil in evangelicalism has not just ruptured relationships; it’s dissolving the structures of many evangelical institutions. Many families, churches, parachurch organizations and even denominations are coming apart. I asked many evangelical leaders who are wary of Trump if they thought their movement would fracture. Most said it already has.

Part of what’s happening amid this turmoil is that people are sorting themselves into like-minded political tribes. “If you had told me that people would switch churches because of masks, I would have been like, ‘That’s ridiculous,’” says David Bailey, whose group Arrabon does reconciliation work across a series of divides.

But it’s happening, and it’s not just normal bickering. What Mindy Belz notices is that there is now a common desire to pummel, shame and ostracize other Christians over disagreements. That suggests to me something more fundamental is going on than a fight over just Donald Trump.

Institutional rot has been exposed. . . . Hints of Christian renewal are becoming visible. . . . They’ve broken from the community they thought they were wed to for life. Except for them it wasn’t God that failed, but the human institutions built in his name. This experience of breaking, rethinking and reorienting a life could be the first stage in renewal.

She didn’t blame evangelicals for voting for Trump in 2016, but their enthusiastic embrace of him and their ability to rationalize his sins were eye opening, she says. Then she saw how rampant the sexual scandals were. She realized that one of the reasons Jerry Falwell Jr. supported Trump was that they both had loose morals.

One source of division could be a force for renewal: generational differences. Christians who are millennial and younger have different views on things like L.G.B.T.Q. issues and are just used to mixing with much more diverse demographics.

Mark Labberton is the president of Fuller Theological Seminary, which engages with students from 110 denominations and 90 nations. He says the average student at Fuller is about 31. Many Fuller students, Labberton says, believe in the central creed of Christianity, but not the institutional shroud it has come wrapped in. That is to say, they love Jesus, but they have had it with many of the institutions their elders have built in his name.

There can probably be no evangelical renewal if the movement does not divorce itself from the lust for partisan political power. Over more than a century, Catholics have established a doctrine of social teaching that helps them understand how the church can be active in civic life without being corrupted by partisan politics. Protestants do not have this kind of doctrine.

Those who are leading the evangelical renewal know they need one.

Thursday, February 03, 2022

More Thursday Male Beauty


Rising LGBT Acceptance and the Right Wing "Parental Rights" Backlash

For generations, especially in the South, being white and heterosexual place one at or near to the top of the societal pecking order.  Even "poor white trash" as my southern belle grandmother might have called them were raised above blacks due to their skin color.  Being church going Christians further solidified that enhanced status.  As for gays, we were expected to be invisible out side of the floral and hair salon industries,  Over the last 20-30 years all of this has dramatically changed and the white evangelical Christian and Christofascist crowd is freaking out at their perceived loss of power and growing in ability to impose their beliefs and agenda on the whole of society.  Look at any news story on the GOP/Christofascist anti-black and anti-LGBT campaign masquerading under the smoke screen of "parental rights" and much of the hysteria is being driven by growing public acceptance of racial minorities (e.g., a black president of the USA and now a black Vice President) and LGBT individuals as noted in the latest Gallup's annual Mood of the Nation poll

Both these trends threaten white heterosexual privilege - at least in the minds of Christofascists and white supremacists (who tend to be one and the same) - and are being cynically used by political whore Republican politicians to whip their base into a frenzy and and siphon off enough suburban voters to achieve upset elections such as what happened in Virginia this past November.   Donald Trump first tapped into this white fear of lost power and Glen Youngkin, after a very deceptive campaign is following the Trump play book, as noted in the Washington Post:

Youngkin is opting for the path that is predictably causing maximal social conflict and discord, in no small part because Trump supporters expect it of him. He seems to be relishing this conflict himself: Just like DeSantis, Youngkin has threatened to use executive power to force school boards into compliance, though he’s kept this vague. . . . for now, Youngkin has thrown in his lot with those who fully expect a politics designed to maximize social antagonisms, and won’t settle for anything less. “Trump in a red vest,” indeed.

As prior posts on this blog have noted, the parental rights organizations involved in Youngkin's campaign in Virginia and across the country are anything but an organic grassroots phenomenon and are, instead well funded by far right groups and very wealthy individuals (most of whom don't even have children in public schools) and are working hand in glove with Christofacist organizations such as The Family Foundation based in Richmond - a group with its antecedents in Virginia's "Massive Resistance.  - that are pushing "parental rights" in public education in order to censor mentions of race, racism, and sexual orientation and sexuality.  The goal of these organizational efforts is to turn uninformed parents into instruments the Christofascists' will and drain public school funding in order to fund charter schools operated, of course, by right wing groups. 

On the issue of LGBT rights, USA Today looks at the growing acceptance of LGBT individuals and the growing view of gays and lesbians as a normal, mainstream group of people in Ameican society, something that is anathema to the Christofascists agenda.  This is nothing less than a horrifying trend to the Christofascists.  Here is what USA Today is reporting:

The percentage of Americans who say they are satisfied with the acceptance of gay and lesbian people in the country has reached a new peak of 62%, according to a poll released Wednesday. 

Gallup's annual Mood of the Nation poll asks people about their satisfaction with aspects of U.S. life and policy areas, ranging from the overall quality of life to the nation’s military strength and environmental issues.

Americans' satisfaction with the acceptance of gay and lesbian people stood out in the 2022 poll because it reached the highest level the nation has seen since Gallup started tracking the trend in 2001, though the peak is statistically similar to 2016 levels. 

Poll respondents also reported a greater level of satisfaction with acceptance of gay and lesbian people than any of the 20 other issues Gallup tracked this year.

And while satisfaction on many of the other issues decreased this year, the numbers on gay and lesbian individuals grew substantially: In 2022, 62% of survey respondents said they were very or somewhat satisfied with the acceptance of gays and lesbians in the nation, up from 55% in 2021 and 56% in 2020.  

Jeff Jones, a senior editor at Gallup, told USA TODAY that the question shows whether gay and lesbian people are "being considered not an outsider group but a normal, mainstream group of people in the U.S." 

He said this data demonstrates a shift from a time "where the public was kind of opposed to treating them the same as everybody else to one where that's definitely the norm." 

"It just speaks to changes in societal norms that we've seen over the past, really, two decades," Jones said. "When we used to ask about same-sex marriage, in the 1990s and even in early 2000s, we would have majorities opposed. And now we have solid majorities that seem to grow at least a little bit every year." 

In the minds of the Christofascists this trend must be stopped, so one can expect the manufactured hysteria over books in school libraries to get worse.  Along side it will be an effort to stiffle any honest history of racism and slavery.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the kind of fantasy world history Youngkin and his supporters would like to reimpose on Virginia.  Read the piece and you will be shocked at the white propaganda that was once openly taught.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty


Wednesday, February 02, 2022

More Wednesday Male Beauty


Is Texas Style Book Banning Coming to Virginia?

For many decades evangelical Christians and Christofascists have sought to erase things from the public schools that they don't like or, more accurately helps to underscore the fairy tale nature of the belief systems.  The Scopes Monkey Trial in Tennessee nearly 100 years ago which involved that state's effort to ban the teaching of the theory of evolution is but one early example.  Many of these efforts were unsuccessful because neither of the two main political parties bought into the embrace of ignorance so popular with these "Christians" who display anything but Christian behavior towards others.  Now, however, the base of the Republican Party is controled by these elements and their close allies, white supremacists (I'd argue the two are largely synonomous) and what would never before been possible is party of the GOP's agenda as signaled by Virginia GOP governor Glenn Youngkin's dictat that nothing "divisive" be taught in public schools.  This, of course, translates into issues of racism, LGBT individuals and non-Christian religions are in the crosshairs of the far right extremists.   

Under Youngkin Virginia is not alone in its newly energized and entitled Christofascists and other states suggest just how bad the censorship and witch hunts against teachers and librarians may get.  In Oklahoma a GOP introduced bill would punish any public school teacher who promotes any position “in opposition to closely held religious beliefs of students . . . . it allows students and parents with irrational religious views to override the curriculum decisions of trained professionals. In Iowa, where infrastructure is collapsing, the legislature is instead focused on drafting a list of books to ban from schools involving race or sex.  And in Texas - no surprise here - an anti-gay extremist has been appointed to review the state's social studies curriculum and the book banning effort is off the charts as reported by NBC News and suggests what Youngkin and his allies at The Family Foundation and Family Research Council will be unleashing here in Virginia.  Here are story excerpts: 

From a secluded spot in her high school library, a 17-year-old girl spoke softly into her cellphone, worried that someone might overhear her say the things she’d hidden from her parents for years. They don’t know she’s queer, the student told a reporter, and given their past comments about homosexuality’s being a sin, she’s long feared they would learn her secret if they saw what she reads in the library.

That space, with its endless rows of books about characters from all sorts of backgrounds, has been her “safe haven,” she said — one of the few places where she feels completely free to be herself.

But books, including one of her recent favorites, have been vanishing from the shelves of Katy Independent School District libraries the past few months. 

“As I’ve struggled with my own identity as a queer person, it’s been really, really important to me that I have access to these books,” said the girl, whom NBC News is not naming to avoid revealing her sexuality. “And I’m sure it’s really important to other queer kids. You should be able to see yourself reflected on the page.”

Her safe haven is now a battleground in an unprecedented effort by parents and conservative politicians in Texas to ban books dealing with race, sexuality and gender from schools, an NBC News investigation has found. Hundreds of titles have been pulled from libraries across the state for review, sometimes over the objections of school librarians, several of whom told NBC News they face increasingly hostile work environments and mounting pressure to pre-emptively pull books that might draw complaints. 

Records requests to nearly 100 school districts in the Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin regions — a small sampling of the state’s 1,250 public school systems — revealed 75 formal requests by parents or community members to ban books from libraries during the first four months of this school year. In comparison, only one library book challenge was filed at those districts during the same time period a year earlier, records show.

All but a few of the challenges this school year targeted books dealing with racism or sexuality, the majority of them featuring LGBTQ characters.

Another parent in Katy, a Houston suburb, asked the district to remove a children’s biography of Michelle Obama, arguing that it promotes “reverse racism” against white people, according to the records obtained by NBC News. A parent in the Dallas suburb of Prosper wanted the school district to ban a children’s picture book about the life of Black Olympian Wilma Rudolph, because it mentions racism that Rudolph faced growing up in Tennessee in the 1940s. In the affluent Eanes Independent School District in Austin, a parent proposed replacing four books about racism, including “How to Be an Antiracist,” by Ibram X. Kendi, with copies of the Bible.

Similar debates are roiling communities across the country, fueled by parents, activists and Republican politicians who have mobilized against school programs and classroom lessons focused on LGBTQ issues and the legacy of racism in America. Last fall, some national groups involved in that effort — including No Left Turn in Education and Moms for Liberty — began circulating lists of school library books that they said were “indoctrinating kids to a dangerous ideology.” 

And during his successful bid for governor in Virginia, Republican Glenn Youngkin made parents’ opposition to explicit books a central theme in the final stretch of his campaign, leading some GOP strategists to flag the issue as a winning strategy heading into the 2022 midterm elections.

The fight is particularly heated in Texas, where Republican state officials, including Gov. Greg Abbott, have gone as far as calling for criminal charges against any school staff member who provides children with access to young adult novels that some conservatives have labeled as “pornography.”

Ten current or recently retired Texas school librarians who spoke to a reporter described growing fears that they could be attacked by parents on social media or threatened with criminal charges. Some said they’ve quietly removed LGBTQ-affirming books from shelves or declined to purchase new ones to avoid public criticism — raising fears about what free-speech advocates call a wave of “soft censorship” in Texas and across the country.

[I]n many instances, parents and GOP politicians have flagged books about racism and LGBTQ issues that don’t include explicit language, including some picture books about Black historical figures and transgender children.

Several queer students, meanwhile, said the arguments by some parents, specifically the idea that it’s inappropriate for teenagers to read about LGBTQ sexual relationships, are making them feel unwelcome in their communities.

“Reading books or consuming any kind of media that has LGBTQ representation, it doesn’t turn people gay or make people turn out a certain way,” said Amber Kaul, a 17-year-old bisexual student in Katy. “I think reading those books helps kids realize that the feelings that they’ve already had are valid and OK, and I think that’s what a lot of these parents are opposed to.”

Be prepared for things to get much worse in Virginia and I hope suburban voters who shifted to the GOP last November quickly begin to realize that they made a huge mistake. I also hope progressive business begin to demand the censorship and embrace of white supremacy by Youngkin and other Republicans cease before decades of progress is reversed..

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


Tuesday, February 01, 2022

More Tuesday Male Beauty


Covid Lies Are Still Costing Lives and Harming Kids

With the ongoing controversy involving Spotify's hosting of vaccine deniers and allowing misinformation to be disseminated it's yet another reminder of the deadly cost Republican and right wing partisanship has inflicted on the nation and most ironically the GOP party base.  Despite all of the scientific and medical evidence supporting getting vaccinated and mask wearing, rejecting these lifesaving measures has become a hallmark of being a Republican or, worse yet, a member of the MAGA cult.  And the result is thousands of avoidable deaths and constant turmoil in our schools (Virginia is now deep in the fray thanks to Glenn "Dumbkin" Youngkin's dictat against masks) rather than a laser focus on saving lies and taking measures to end the pandemic as soon as possible.  A column in The Atlantic by a former Republican looks at how partisanship has blinded people, principally on the political right and caused them to reject facts and data and to believe some of the most ridiculous lies - all at a cost to themselves, their communities and their families.  If Covid deaths are not enough of a wake up call to the political right, one has to wonder what can penetrate the blindness caused by their partisanship.  Here are column excerpts:

One of the most important moments of my life was the day in 2016 when I divorced the Republican Party. I didn’t divorce conservatism. I divorced the GOP. It helped change the way I view the world.

No, that didn’t mean I became a Democrat. I didn’t switch jerseys from red to blue. I just took my jersey off and didn’t put another one on. At the time I mainly felt sad, but it was something I was compelled to do—after spending years arguing that personal character wasn’t just an optional aspect of my political ideology but rather essential to the entire enterprise of conservatism, I just couldn’t in good conscience belong to a party that would nominate a man like Donald Trump.

Since my political divorce, however, I’ve been able to see more clearly the nature of partisanship itself, including the way in which it distorts our view of the world. To use a legal analogy, at a fundamental level, partisanship converts a person from a judge (one who decides among competing arguments, hopefully without bias) to a lawyer (one who steadfastly and relentlessly defends their client, almost regardless of the facts).

It’s the lawyer mentality that often leads to the abject hypocrisy and double standards that so often dominate our discourse. Bill Clinton has an affair in the Oval Office? Well, if he’ll lie to his wife, then he’ll lie to you. Donald Trump has an affair with a porn star and pays hush money to keep it out of the news? Then “this thing with Stormy Daniels and so forth is nobody’s business.” Who said such contradictory things? The same man, Franklin Graham, condemning Clinton and, years later, defending Trump.

The operative rule of partisanship is that once any issue becomes partisan, the lawyer model locks in. The two sides double down on their positions, amplify supporting facts, and deny, minimize, or rationalize negative information.

[T]o understand America’s COVID debate, you have to understand that it is often (not always) far more partisan than it is scientific. Red and blue took competing positions on the coronavirus almost from the very onset of the crisis, and those competing visions have distorted debate ever since.

The division is easy to state and readily observable in the real world. From the moment that Donald Trump said—almost exactly two years ago, on January 22, 2020—–that COVID is “one person coming in from China. We have it under control. It’s going to be just fine,” a pattern was set. Republicans minimized the threat of COVID, and Democrats did the opposite.

I live in Tennessee—in the heart of Red America—and the evidence of Republican risk-benefit analysis is all around me, for good and ill. Despite the reality that one of the most well-documented facts of this pandemic is that vaccines offer profound protection against hospitalization and death, there’s a much higher degree of vaccine refusal here, especially in the rural counties not far from my home.

Vaccine refusal is costing lives. It’s taking a terrible toll, and that toll has hit close to home. It’s cost the lives of people I know, . . . My experience isn’t unusual. I can’t tell you how heartbreaking it is to see person after person fall to a virus when a safe and effective shot would have almost certainly not just saved their life but also likely saved them from even having a serious case of the disease.

The best available evidence demonstrates a dreadful reality: Vaccine reluctance and death rate have correlated with votes for Trump. . . . . People living in counties that went 60% or higher for Trump in November 2020 had 2.73 times the death rates of those that went for Biden. Counties with an even higher share of the vote for Trump saw higher COVID-19 mortality rates."

By underestimating the threat of COVID, right-leaning Americans made no ordinary political mistake. They made a mistake with life-and-death consequences for hundreds of thousands, and the sadness and grief caused by that mistake is crippling families across the land.

The sad reality is that well before the vaccine, masks became a political and cultural marker. In communities like mine where masking was mostly optional, consistently wearing a mask signaled not just that you were a COVID dissenter, but likely a political dissenter as well. No true member of MAGA nation would wear a “face diaper” (yes, that was common language). For much of the pandemic, you could quickly judge the political composition of a community by the presence or absence of masks. That’s how much partisanship warped our pandemic debate.

So where are we now? All too many partisan COVID “lawyers” are still hard at work. For example, the vaccines themselves (not just mandates) are still up for debate. On Tuesday, Tucker Carlson hosted a COVID-vaccine skeptic . . . . This is dangerous nonsense. But aside from a few notable conservative voices, the right-wing world lets Carlson slide. Why? Because partisans by their very nature focus on the excesses of the other side.

There was a time when we knew so little about COVID that it was easy to make mistakes. And while there is of course still more to learn, we know enough to decisively shed the red and blue biases that have distorted our COVID response for far too long.

Yet we can’t seem to turn the page. Why? Because this I know after a long career in law and a long life as a partisan: Lawyers aren’t as cynical as the public tends to believe, and neither are partisans. They’ve identified so fully and completely with their clients and their positions that they’ve absorbed their position down to the very marrow of their bones. And they’re so committed to victory that any concession is viewed as a surrender to the dark forces that want to destroy our country.

But it’s necessary that more Americans pry themselves away from their partisan identity. We can’t go all in for red or blue. We need more judges and fewer lawyers. Make the partisans convince you. But in the case of COVID, the judgment is already clear. It’s way past time to end COVID partisanship. The fundamental facts of the disease are known. They don’t fully conform to either of America’s competing pandemic narratives, and the longer we cling to either of those narratives, the more we’ll harm the nation—and people—we love.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


Monday, January 31, 2022

More Monday Male Beauty


The GOP's Critical Race Theory Lie Revealed

In a joint editorial, the editorial boards of the Virginian Pilot and Daily Press slammed Virginia GOP governor Glenn Youngkin's effort to earase the teaching of anything that offends the prejudices and hatreds of the increasingly ugly base of the GOP in Virginia (and across the country) from Virginia's public school curriculums.  Youngkin through a dictat has established a Stasi-like hotline where right wing extremists can report teachers for mentioning things they don't like: LGBT individuals, the evils of slavery, the dangers of authoritarianism and fascism, and the humanizing of anyone who isn't a white conservative Christian - ussing the "Christian" label loosely because these folks are anything by disciples of Christ.  Combined with Youngkin's dictat on masks in schools, he has plunged Virginia's public schools into chaos.  As a piece in Salon lays out, all of this is the result of a GOP manufactured "crisis" with the sole goal of scaring the ignorant and uninformed into voting for GOP candidates and using the catch phrase of "parental rights" to censor the accurate teaching of history and other subjects.  Here are highlights from Salon:

When Republicans across the nation started storming school board meetings, in full-blown hysterics about something called "critical race theory," the initial reaction of the non-Fox News-watcher was confusion. Very few even know what critical race theory is. It is not being taught to the vast majority of public school children, as it's a high level academic theory used by legal scholars and sociologists, not 8th graders. But soon it became clear that "critical race theory" was being invoked as a scare term, exploiting this multisyllabic academic jargon as cover for what was, in actuality, an effort to censor any curricula or educational materials that taught kids unpleasant truths about the history of fascism, the struggle for civil rights, or the existence of LGBTQ people. 

Republicans, unsurprisingly, faked umbrage at this claim, insisting repeatedly that they had no intention of removing standard classroom lessons on matters like the Holocaust, Brown vs. the Board of Education, or the March on Washington. Instead, their talking points were a jumbled, bad faith explosion of claims that they were actually against racism and just worried about "divisive" lessons. They kept this patter of nonsense up, even as Virginia's successful GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin ran ads celebrating a right-wing mother who tried to keep her son from reading "Beloved" by Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison, a book that was clearly only objectionable because it portrayed slavery in a bad light. 

It turns out that liberal critics were right and conservatives were lying. "Critical race theory" was, in fact, just a scare term the right was using as cover for what is an all-out, nationwide war on teaching very basic lessons to kids about important historical events — including the civil rights movement and the Holocaust. 

A national scandal erupted this week when it was discovered that a Tennessee school board pulled the famous graphic novel "Maus," by Art Spiegelman, from their curriculum. The book is rightly regarded as a classic for its depiction not just of the brutalities of the Holocaust, but the lingering impacts on the survivors and their families. In response to the criticism, right-wing activist Christopher Rufo — who has bragged about inventing the use of "critical race theory" as a scare term for exactly this purpose — tried to deny that the book was being yanked for Holocaust denialism reasons.

Rufo's dishonesty should be apparent to anyone who has read "Maus," as there really is no better book to teach. But reading the minutes of the meeting erases all doubt that the objections to the book were rooted in a belief that the truth of the Holocaust should remain hidden. One board member, Tony Allman, explicitly said educators "don't need to enable or somewhat promote this stuff," because it "shows people hanging, it shows them killing kids," and "it is not wise or healthy." Another member complained that the book showed a suicide caused by survivor's guilt, claiming it somehow undermined efforts to teach "ethics to our kids." 

Needless to say, "Maus" does not "promote" killing kids or suicide. Insofar as it "promotes" anything, it's an understanding of the dangers of fascism, and the inhumanity that racism breeds. And it's those truths that clearly rattled the school board members. That's what they don't want young people exposed to. 

In Florida, the legislature is pushing through a ban of history education that causes "discomfort," and despite claims to the contrary, there's simply no way to teach about the history of lynching or slavery or Jim Crow without said discomfort.

The behavior of Florida's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, makes quite clear that the intent here is to make it too fraught for teachers to discuss any history of race in America at all. He's been pushing for a law that would allow parents to comb over school curricula and sue school districts if they find anything they don't like. . . . giving parents this level of veto power would mean erasing any history but the occasional lesson about George Washington and the cherry tree. (Which didn't actually happen.) 

[A] Missouri school district banned "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison, using the usual bad faith claims that the objections were somehow about graphic sex. But, of course, this fits the larger pattern of white parents throwing fits about books and lessons that tell the truth about racism, and especially about books like Morrison's, which humanize the victims of racism. 

In Williamson County, Tennessee, Moms for Liberty — a laughably false name for this pro-censorship group — tried to ban 31 books. It's not hard to detect the history they're trying to erase. Books that were targeted include "Martin Luther King, Jr. and the March on Washington," "We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball," and "Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation." A couple of books about Greek mythology were also tossed on the list because heaven forbid kids learn about lost religions and start to ask hard questions about existing ones.

So now the truth is out: Republicans weren't upset about "critical race theory" or anything like it. It was a fake panic, propped up to cover for what they really want to do: Erase the history of racism from schools. As a side bonus, they also wish to force extremely rigid gender roles on children. It's not just about attacking LGBTQ kids. This hysteria has reached the point of refusing to admit boys can like poetry or that fathers can care for babies. 

Still, this exposure isn't slowing Republicans down one bit.

Youngkin, who won by pretending to be a moderate who was opposed to fictional leftist extremism, is already showing his true colors as a Virginia governor. He's calling on right-wing parents to report teachers for any lessons they deem "divisive." As these previous reports show, that's an expansive ask, as many parents clearly think it's "divisive" to admit segregation happened, slavery was real, or the Holocaust was horrific. Youngkin's intent is quite clearly to scare teachers into simply not teaching history, . . . Or to scare teachers into not teaching literature that humanizes people of color or LGBTQ people, or men who like poetry for that matter. As usual, despite their denials, Republicans really are behaving like the deplorables their critics say they are

Monday Morning Male Beauty


Sunday, January 30, 2022

Sunday Male Beauty - Pt 3


Using the Ocean to Fight Climate Change

Before leaving office, former Virginia governor Ralph Northam had positioned Virginia to be a potential leader in wind power which would cut harmful carbon emmissions and be a huge boon to Virginia's economy.  Having nominated an individual who worked to trash clean air and clean water regulations under the Trump/Pence regimeto be secretary of natural resources it remains to been seen wherther GOP governor Glenn "Dumpkin" YoungKin - who in his two weeks inoffice has displayed a reverse Midas touch - will sabotage Virginia's advantageous position and pander to the ignorance embracing base of the Virginia GOP.  As underscored by an op-ed in Politico authored by a Democrat and a former Reoubican head of the EPA under George W. Bush, such a move would be a huge mistake and both harmful to Vrginia and the effort to slow climate change and rising sea levels (something I am conscious of as I look out over a tidal creek in my back yard).  Here are op-ed highlights:

When world leaders gathered last fall at COP26, it was billed as the “world’s last best chance” to save the planet from the climate crisis. The conference ended with real uncertainty as to whether comprehensive action will be taken, here and abroad, to avoid catastrophe. Fortunately, one of the best opportunities for progress is all around us: the waves, wind and water along the U.S.’s nearly 100,000 miles of coastline.

As the engine of our planet’s weather and climate systems, the ocean’s potential as a climate solution is as vast as the ocean itself. In fact, ocean-based climate action can provide 20 percent of the emissions reductions needed to achieve global targets to limit climate change and its effects. According to the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, “reductions of this magnitude are equivalent to the annual emissions from all coal-fired power plants worldwide or taking 2.5 billion cars off the road.”

Here are some key opportunities:

Boost Offshore Renewables: Offshore renewables, like wind and wave energy, can help power the nation while cutting emissions. These sources of clean energy can serve as part of a just and equitable transition by providing economic benefits and abundant electricity to the communities that have suffered the most under climate change.

Reduce Emissions from Shipping: We also need to look to the ocean to significantly reduce contributors of greenhouse gas emissions, such as maritime shipping, which generates more emissions than airlines. The administration, working with ports and the shipping industry, can implement strategies that will move us to zero-carbon shipping by 2050 to drastically reduce the climate contributions of cargo ships and freighters at sea. Infrastructure improvements at ports, fleet upgrades and alternative fuels can all be part of the effort.

Rebuild Coastal Ecosystems: By protecting the ocean, we also enable the ocean to protect us through natural climate mitigation. Carbon-rich coastal environments like salt marshes, seagrass meadows and mangrove forests all naturally absorb carbon up to four times more effectively than trees on land. And when we conserve these habitats for their climate benefits, we are also protecting natural coastal infrastructure that will safeguard communities against storms and rising sea levels.

Washington has never before had a comprehensive ocean climate plan that weaves these efforts together. In order to realize the ocean’s potential to curb the climate crisis, the White House must marshal agencies across the government, so they are working in concert toward the same goals. President Joe Biden has taken a series of promising steps throughout his first year in office, but the U.S. still needs a coordinated federal strategy to turn this momentum into lasting results. The White House, to its credit, recently held its first meeting of the congressionally authorized Ocean Policy Committee and made a commitment to develop a new cross-cutting strategy.

It’s true that political disagreement has delayed climate action for far too long. While we come from different parties, we’ve found common cause on ocean policy and see it as a particularly fruitful area of bipartisan cooperation.

After all, our ocean and coastlines are vital to our economic and national security. They are also the foundation for what we call the “Blue Economy,” which acknowledges the wealth of marine resources — from sustainable fishing to aquaculture to shipping to tourism — that must be balanced sustainably to support jobs and economic growth. With the Blue Economy expected to grow at twice the rate of the overall economy, it is hard to imagine a better return on investment than securing the health and future of our ocean.

Now more than ever, we need to be taking every opportunity to avoid climate catastrophe — and the clock is ticking. From Category 5 hurricanes on the East Coast, to wildfires out West, to devastating tornadoes in the Midwest, we’re seeing the effects of climate change every day. Our country is poised like never before to advance bold climate action, and a coordinated ocean climate action plan can help turn that tide.

The ocean makes up over 70 percent of our planet. We believe it can help save the planet itself.

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Fox News Goes All In On Supporting Vladimir Putin

I hope future historians are most unkind to Fox News - both its owners and its saboteur/entertainers who pose as newscaster - and identify it as one of the forces of evil that did much damage to American democracy, lead to thousands and thousands of needless Covid deaths, and did much to fan division and hatred, all in a quest for money and ratings.  Too describe Fox News and its leading talking heads as amoral is likely far too kind.   Now, as much of the western world and even Republican elected officials overwhelmingly support aid to Ukraine in the face of possible Russian agrression, Fox News has gone all in in supporting Putin and his talking points.  It is the latest display of the reality that Fox News supports fascism, dictatorsips, and the erosion of the rule of law.  It is nothing less than a plague on America,  A piece in The Atlantic looks at Fox News support of Vladimir Putin and the hope that just perhaps Fox News has finally gone too far and may experience a strong backlash that makes some of its zombie viewers wake up.  Here are excerpts:

Night after night, the host of the top-rated show on Fox News repeats Vladimir Putin’s talking points justifying aggression against Ukraine and opposing U.S. aid to that threatened sovereign country. Tucker Carlson’s influence is felt across right-wing social media, where it is amplified by figures such as Steve Bannon, Mike Cernovich, Glenn Greenwald, and Mollie Hemingway. A highly visible coterie of socially conservative intellectuals also argues the case against helping Ukraine.

Meanwhile, day after day, Republican officeholders in the House and the Senate urge more support for Ukraine. That list includes not only traditionalists such as Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, but also many legislators who got close to former President Donald Trump, such as Senators Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, and Lindsey Graham.

Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, has backed the Biden administration’s approach, as have the top Republicans on the House Intelligence and Armed Services Committees. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has blasted Joe Biden’s Ukraine policy as too weak on Russia, not too strong.

[S]ome conservative talking heads have embraced the politicians’ pro-Ukraine position. National Review editorialized in favor of aid to Ukraine, for example. The right-leaning Commentary has published important Ukraine statements too. The Wall Street Journal editorial board has also written forcefully for deterrence of Russian aggression.

Russia-Ukraine is becoming a trial of strength, not only between Putin and NATO, but between different parts of the conservative world. Over the past half-dozen years, such intra-conservative disputes have usually ended in abject defeat for Republican elected officials. In New York magazine this week, for example, Jonathan Chait details the long, slow yielding of Republican politicians to anti-vax delusions.

Yet some signs show that with Ukraine and Putin, the conservative entertainment complex may have overstepped. A new poll by the Pew Research Center finds that large majorities of Americans view Russia as an enemy or a competitor. Large majorities regard the Russian buildup against Ukraine as a threat to U.S. interests. Even more interesting, Pew finds—for once—no significant partisan disagreement between Republicans and Democrats over the Russia-Ukraine issue.

As powerful as Fox News messaging is, scenes of violence after Russian aggression sends Ukrainian refugees streaming westward to safety would be powerful too. Americans are never eager to get involved in other people’s fights. But they remain deeply committed to a vision of their country as a force for good in the world. Foreign dictators who counted on American passivity in the face of aggression, and isolationists who hoped to profit politically from that passivity, have again and again been jolted by Americans’ dislike of tyrants and bullies. For all of Americans’ weariness after the 9/11 wars, for all of the polarization and radicalization of U.S. politics, Putin and his friends on American TV and social media may find themselves surprised by another such jolt.

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