Saturday, June 25, 2022

More Saturday Male Beauty - Pt 2


The Majority’s Damage to the Supreme Court Cannot be Undone

With only 25% of Americans having expressed confidence in the U.S. Supreme Court in Gallup's latest survery, the Court is at an all time low in public approval.  And that survey predated yesterday's elimination of a constitutional right that had existed for 50 years.  Worse yet, yesterday's ruling suggests that any right that the extremist majority views as not having existed in the 1860's - or 13th century in the mind of Justice Alito - may be eliminated in future rulings.  The American Taliban - all that's missing are scraggly beards and head scarves - now controls the Court and short of congressional legislation securing rights, no one's rights are safe.  The questions now before us become (i) whether compacent voters will seek vengence on the Republican Party that is responsible for placing extremists on the Court, and (ii) will citizens ignore the Court's ruling in every manner possible.  The prestige and respect for the Court is likely irreversibly destroyed for at least a generation or until the Court is enlarged and the extremist put into a minority position.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the damage the extremist majority has brought upon the Court.  Here are highlights:

The Supreme Court’s decision to eliminate the constitutional right to abortion is an unfolding tragedy for American women and an indelible stain on the court itself. The harm to women is immense but can be ameliorated with efforts in the public and private spheres to safeguard access to abortion. The damage to the court cannot be undone.

This radical conservative [extremist] majority — unheeding in this case even of the conservative chief justice — has proven itself unmoored from the rule of law, and therefore unworthy of the public esteem that can be its only source of enduring authority.

With the vote of five justices to overrule Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, American women have lost a right that was guaranteed them for a half-century, an unprecedented elimination of an individual freedom.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the majority in Dobbs. v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, trumpeted the overruling as a way to “return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.” That is precisely the problem. Deciding whether to continue with an unwanted pregnancy is an intimate moral choice — one that should be left to the individual who would be forced to carry the pregnancy to term, not to the whims of the government in whatever state they happen to live.

The three liberal justices, in a joint dissent, powerfully underscored the implications of the court’s action. “Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens,” they wrote. “Yesterday, the Constitution guaranteed that a woman confronted with an unplanned pregnancy could (within reasonable limits) make her own decision about whether to bear a child, with all the life-transforming consequences that act involves. … But no longer. As of today, this Court holds, a State can always force a woman to give birth . . . .

[T]he emergence of medication abortions — the method in 54 percent of cases — means the risks to women’s lives and health will be less than they were in the years before Roe. The mailbox will become the new back alley. With educational outreach and funding, many women would be able to obtain these drugs.

None of that is to diminish the outrage of the court’s action and the ugly underlying reality: The critical thing that has changed is the composition of the court itself. “The majority has overruled Roe and Casey for one and only one reason: because it has always despised them, and now it has the votes to discard them,” the dissenters assert. “The majority thereby substitutes a rule by judges for the rule of law.” That is an astonishing indictment of their conservative colleagues, but it is fully justified.

Will they stop at abortion? The majority forswears any interest in going after other rights similarly grounded in the right to privacy. “Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion,” it insists, arguing that abortion presents a distinct case because of the “destruction” of “potential life.”

This would be more convincing if Alito, the author of the opinion, hadn’t joined Thomas in a statement just two years ago lamenting that the same-sex marriage ruling, Obergefell v. Hodges, had supplanted states’ ability to address the issue, much as he says about abortion. And the court’s insistence that the Constitution only protects rights that are “deeply rooted in history” would apply with equal force to contraception or same-sex marriage. “Either the mass of the majority’s opinion is hypocrisy or additional constitutional rights are under threat,” the dissent says. “It is one or the other.”

My guess is hypocrisy. But who knows what this majority is capable of. Every day its radicalism reveals itself.

More Saturday Male Beauty

 Dedicated to Clarence Thoms

If the Supreme Court Can Reverse Roe, It Can Reverse Anything

The reactions to yesterday's Supreme Court ruling reversing Roe v. Wade and stating that the U.S. Constitution affords no right to personal privacy have been across the board from outrage and sadness to jubilation on the part of Christofascists who view the ruling as but the first step in imposing a Handmaid's Tale like form of extremist religion on the nation. Some reactions have been almost comical such as Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) who can't believe she was played for a fool by Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh who lied to her when interviewed for their appointment to the Court.  Of course they lied to her.  That's what right wing religious extremists do without compunction.  I have witnessed it for decades and they view it as the ends - in this case imposing a theocracy on America - as justifying the means. Lying is the least of what they will do to achieve their goals  Frighteningly, Clarence Thomas - the mental midget of the Court - has signaled in his concurring opinion (see pp 118-119) the next rulings to be reversed and rights eliminated if the majority on the Court gets its way: Griswold v. Connecticut (the right of married couples to use contraception), Lawrence v. Texas (the right to private, consensual sexual acts), and Obergefell v. Hodges (same sex marriage).  Yesterday's ruling and the ones to come all are the result of one thing: the failure of Democrats and younger voters to get off their ass and vote in the 2016 presidential election and again in 2018 and 2020 when Republicans could have been removed from the U.S. Senate.  Here in Virginia, Glenn Youngkin who played surbaban voters for fools by lying and pretending to be a moderate has already announced he wants to change Virginia's laws on abortion to erode women's rights. As a piece in The Atlantic by a law professor notes, if Roe can be so arrogantly reversed, none of our rights are safe from the tyranical majority on the Court.  Here are excerpts:

For months and even years I have seen this coming, and yet the reality of the Supreme Court’s decision is still a shock. How can it be that people had a constitutional right for nearly half a century, and now no more? How can it not matter that Americans consistently signaled that they did not want this to happen, and even so this has happened?

The Court’s answer is that Roe is different. Roe, the Court suggests, was uniquely, egregiously wrong from the beginning—a badly reasoned decision criticized by even the most ardent supporters of abortion rights, including the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The majority suggests that the best comparison to Roe (and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the decision that saved abortion rights in 1992) is Plessy v. Ferguson, the 19th-century decision that held racial segregation to be constitutional.

If this decision signals anything bigger than its direct consequences, it is this: No one should get used to their rights. Predicting with certainty which ones, if any, will go, or when, is impossible. But Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is a stark reminder that this can happen. Rights can vanish. The majority wants us to think otherwise. They tell us that a right to abortion is unlike other privacy rights, such as the right to marry whom you wish or to use whatever contraception you choose.

Emphasizing that no other rights will be lost—convincingly or not—suggests that there is no problem if this right disappears with the stroke of a pen. The majority opinion spends precious little time on the damage that reversing Roe will do.

Often, when the Court considers whether to reverse a past decision, the justices ask whether anyone has relied on the status quo—and whether unsettling it will devastate those people. The majority in Dobbs says almost nothing about the kind of disruption that is likely to come now that Roe is gone—and ignores the possibility that people have thought differently about intimate relationships, career decisions, and even how to make ends meet based partly on the idea that abortion is available. . . . The justices seem to simply not care if this decision breaks the country in two.

But if the Court can so blithely reverse Roe—when all that has changed is that conservatives finally had the votes—we should wonder whether this is just about abortion.

[T]his decision did not come about solely because Roe was a weakly reasoned decision. This opinion did not come down because Roe launched our culture wars (a comforting but completely ahistorical lie). This decision reflects decades of organizing by a passionate and savvy social movement that argues that fetuses have fundamental rights—and that, in fact, the Constitution does have a view on abortion, and that view is that abortion is unconstitutional. This movement has been brilliantly successful in its efforts to control the Supreme Court, influence the rules of campaign spending, and remake the GOP.

Dobbs is a product of a deeply divided country. The laws emerging from conservative states would have once seemed politically toxic, but now the gap between red and blue states has widened to the point that once-unthinkable laws are the new normal. Dobbs shows that the Supreme Court reflects and reinforces the dysfunction and ugliness of our politics—and does so at a time when faith in democratic institutions is already fraying.

[U]ntil recently, there were limits on what the Court would do. Historically, the justices seemed reluctant to do anything too radical, lest they cause a backlash that damaged the power and prestige of the institution. . . . The Dobbs decision makes plain that those limits are gone. In their place is a kind of constitutional partisanship, dictated by the interpretive philosophies and political priors of whoever currently has a majority on the Court and nothing more.

Roe v. Wade is gone, but Dobbs is not the end of the story of abortion rights in America. If anything, the past five decades have demonstrated that the Supreme Court alone cannot forever put to rest the idea of a constitutional right to abortion. The Court has a lot of power, but so do the American people, and they still have a lot more to say.

How can the majority on the Court be stopped?  Very simple.  Vote.  Vote Democrat in EVERY election.  Do not allow Republicans to control either house of Congress or here in Virginia, the General Assembly.  As for those who don't vote historicly, get off your ass and vote, especially younger voters who will have to live with the wreckage caused by the Court for far longer than the older generations.  Likewise, never forget the evil of religion when it takes over politics and the rights of citizens. If one needs but one example of what evils religion controling politics has wrought, consider the Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day in France when Catholics murdered 70,000 Huguenots for daring to not subscribe to Catholic dogma.  Then remember that most of the right wing majority on the Court are far right Catholics.  Be very afraid - and vote Democrat in EVERY election at every level of elections.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Friday, June 24, 2022

More Friday Male Beauty


Pride Must Find Its Politics Again

This weekend marks the culmination of Pride activities in Hampton Roads with a block party at Norfolk's Scope this evening, Pridefest in Norfolk's Town Point Park - the largest such event in Virginia - and Pride at the Beach in Virginia Beach on Sunday.  All three will be wonderful party events and the husband and I will be at Pridefest.  But in a Virginia where the current governor is lukewarm on LGBT rights at best and where many Republicans in the General Assembly want to roll back LGBT protections, as an op-ed in the New York Times argues, Pride needs to be about much more than a party.  Yes, it can be a happy celebration, but the LGBT community must embrace the political element of Pride that has won rights and protections - and increased social acceptance - in America and which is still needed to counter the hate and stigma the right still projects towards LGBT people and the reality that many on the right want to strip away rights and actively harm those who don't conform to their view of "tradional values" - values centered on the oppression of those deemed different or "other" due to their sexual orientation, skin color or religious belief.  The forces of illiberalism are alive and well and Pride is one method to counter would be oppressors.  Here are column highlights: 

Last Saturday, toward the end of the Riga-Kyiv Pride March for Freedom in Latvia, I saw a burly man in a unicorn head lean out of a second-floor window and wave grandly at the parade below. His yellow and blue shirt had “Kyiv” emblazoned across it. March participants had been leading the 5,000-strong crowd in the chant “Make love, not war,” artfully linking the right to love, everywhere, with the right to self-determination and peace in Ukraine.

There can, of course, be no Pride marches in Ukraine this year. Instead, Kyiv Pride, which has been organizing marches in the Ukrainian capital since 2012, has been invited to participate in a series of joint events across Eastern Europe, such as last week’s in Riga. The largest of these will happen on Saturday in Warsaw . . . . Kyiv Pride’s 2022 manifesto calls on everyone — from governments to people on the street — “to imprint on their memory the geographical line of border between Ukraine on the one side and Russia and Belarus on the other, because it is not just a separation line between the states but also a boundary between the territory of freedom and a zone of oppression.”

In Riga several marchers made signs bearing a line written by the poet Emma Lazarus: “Until we are all free, none of us are free.” In this part of the world, what with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the official homophobia of Poland’s and Hungary’s right-wing governments, such sentiment is not metaphorical. But too often, in other places where Pride has become pro forma, we forget that it holds such significance. This year, in every country, we must remember that Pride’s power comes from its politics of struggle.

American Pride celebrants have taken to the streets in a country where, this year, more than 300 anti-L.G.B.T.Q. bills have been introduced in state legislatures. Given this climate, Pride cannot be just a gay party or a corporate branding opportunity. It must once more find its role as an emblematic struggle against the gathering of illiberal forces — from the United States’ Donald Trump to Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Hungary’s Viktor Orban — who would shut down personal autonomy, ostensibly in the name of traditional values or faith, in order to reassert patriarchal control over a population that, increasingly, makes its own decisions.

In Poland, the country’s ruling Law and Justice party won the 2020 presidential election, in part by threatening that what was called a “rainbow plague” worse than the “red plague” of communism by the archbishop of Krakow would engulf the country if pro-E.U. liberals were to govern. About 100 municipalities have declared themselves L.G.B.T.-free zones.

But tens of thousands of people have attended recent Warsaw equality marches, likely in direct response to Law and Justice’s politics of hate. . . . “The parade is a celebration of the L.G.B.T.+ community,” he [the mayor of Warsaw] said, “but it is also a celebration of all who are tolerant, all who are smiling, all who look to the future, all who want Warsaw to be for everyone.”

The Russian invasion of Ukraine threatens the pluralism that has been growing, if slowly, in Eastern Europe since the fall of Communism. In March, the Russian Orthodox Church’s Patriarch Kirill, a Putin ally, said explicitly that one of the objectives of the Ukraine invasion was to save ethnic Russians from the horrors of Gay Pride parades.

[L]ast year, 7,000 people marched peacefully through the Ukrainian capital, led and protected by the police. The country’s hate crimes law would likely have been expanded this year to protect L.G.B.T.Q. people, too. This, of course, has been postponed indefinitely.

If Ukraine joins the European Union, this will have a significant effect on L.G.B.T.Q. rights in the country: New members would be party to the E.U. Charter of Fundamental Rights, which guarantees equality on the basis of sexual orientation. But there was a strong risk, Emson said, that an E.U.-affiliated Ukraine could go the route of Poland or Hungary — where, even as they receive E.U. subsidies, right-wing leaders campaign against what they call L.G.B.T.Q. ideology as a way of maintaining church support and defining a nationalist agenda against the perceived onslaught of Western Europe.

The playbook for this strategy was invented in the West, specifically in the United States, by the generation of anti-L.G.B.T.Q. laws touched off by Anita Bryant’s Save Our Children campaign in the 1970s. In the gathering culture wars, Republican political operatives used homophobia to mobilize voters, in the name of traditional values and individual freedom, against what they saw as a secular liberal hegemony. Such moral panic is being rekindled in the United States — most prominently in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis signed “Don’t Say Gay” legislation — after being used over the past decade in Eastern Europe, most prominently by Putin.

Pride is about visibility, and visibility has a double edge. The Harvey Milk maxim that is at the root of Pride politics — “Gay brothers and sisters, you must come out!” — has been proved, time and again, as the best corrective to the canards that queer people are dangerous or possessed by demons or are foreign agents. But what if it’s forbidden or simply too dangerous to come out? There are, for example, very few Pride events in Africa outside my home country, South Africa. In much the way Eastern European nationalists use the American culture wars playbook to assert their cultural sovereignty against the West, some African nationalists use the sodomy laws inherited from Britain, a former colonizer, to insist that homosexuality is un-African.

The party, of course, is also important: It is a way of claiming the street. Even at Stonewall in 1969, there was a performative element to the protest. The engagement in Pride by corporations is important, too. In countries like India and Mexico, the diversity and inclusion policies of multinational corporations have created space not just for their employees but also in society more broadly as they or their products become emblems of a cosmopolitan modernity that embraces pluralism and diversity.

But when such branding dominates, Pride becomes just a branding exercise. Against this, we need to hold to heart this year’s Kyiv Pride manifesto, to understand how, wherever and however we are participating in Pride events, we are working to expand the “territory of freedom” against that “zone of oppression.” We need to remember that even if it carries little risk for those of us on the streets of New York or Amsterdam, it is a matter of life and death for so many others.

In Riga, at a rally after the march, Lenny Emson spoke about Roman Tkachenko, a member of Kyiv’s L.G.B.T.Q. community who was killed in battle last month near Kharkiv. Tkachenko was a 21-year-old university graduate passionate about mosaic restoration and eco-activism. “We often say we march for those who are not able to march themselves,” Emson said — because of fear or discrimination or danger. “But these days we are also marching for those who cannot, and will never be able to, because they are no longer on this earth.”

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Friday Morning Male Beauty


More Thursday Male Beauty - Pt 2


The Media Must Confront Trump Enablers of the Coup Attempt

This blog is often very critical of the mainstream media for its failure to do its job and investigate political wrongdoings by Republicans and its near constant false equivalence between Republican lies and Democrat talking points and positions. Indeed, the mainstream media too often calls GOP and Trump lies as hyperbole instead of what they really are: blatant and deliberate lies.  Indeed, had the media done its job during the 2016 presidential election, Trump may not have ever been elected.  Had the media likewise done its job during the 2020 election, Trump migh have lost by a landslide, making his lies about a "stolen election" utterly unbelieveable.  Now, with the House Select Committee on January 6th producing more and more evidence of Trump's unlawful coup attempt - often using Republican witnesses and Trump administration personnel providing the damning testimony - the same media is belatedly calling Trump's statements out as lies, but to date, his congressional enablers are still being handled with kid gloves.  This needs to stop immediately and these enablers need to be confronted repeatedly and forced to either repent of their self-prostitution of Trump or be forever labeled as liars and enemies of the U.S. Constitution.  A column in the Washington Post pushes this argument (Note: in the interest of disclosure, Sen. John Kennedy pictured above was a law school classmate who I saw at a recent class reunion):

With the exception of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Senate Republicans on the ballot this year have much to answer for concerning the Jan. 6 coup attempt and the perpetuation of the “big lie.” Yet the mainstream media, which boast of their efforts to cover democracy, have so far failed to put forward basic questions to these senators.

For example: Did Donald Trump lose in 2020? If so, why did you not call out his specious claims of voter fraud? How can you defend a former president who targeted election officials despite passionate warnings from people such as Gabriel Sterling in Georgia that he was putting lives at risk?

Each Republican senator running for reelection should be asked if they approved of the scheme to procure fake electors or if they would object to a Democratic presidential winner in 2024. They should explain why they (with the exception of Murkowski) opposed an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Here are several questions for a few key Republicans, to help the media out:

Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.):

    • You said you “had no involvement” in the reported efforts by your chief of staff to pass along fake electoral votes to Vice President Mike Pence’s office on Jan. 6, 2021. As The Post’s Aaron Blake pointed out, if your version of events — in which you essentially said your office was just a go-between — is true, your office “was happy to serve as a conduit between a House intern and Pence’s staff, offering to deliver documents to no less than the vice president’s office without really reviewing the contents or their implications.” Is it standard procedure to pass along unvetted, unexamined material to the vice president? Are you blaming your staff for enabling the coup attempt? Why did you not come forward with this information previously?
    • Were the Jan. 6 rioters violent? Why did you say you would have been afraid of them if they were Black Lives Matter protesters or antifa, but were not alarmed by those hunting down Pence, assaulting police and attempting to halt the counting of electoral votes?
    • Last year at a Republican event in Wisconsin, you admitted there was no evidence for the “big lie.” Did you ever implore Trump to accept the results?

Sen. John Neely Kennedy (La.):

    • Why did you vote to object to electoral votes? What evidence did you have that they were fraudulent?
    • Now that the House Jan. 6 committee has demonstrated no evidence of fraud, do you regret your vote?
    • How can voters trust you not to be duped by Trump in the future?

Sen. Mike Lee (Utah):

    • You never received actual evidence of widespread fraud. Why did you nevertheless assist Trump in trying to overturn the election, as your messages with then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows show? How do you justify that?
    • Were you aware that Trump’s own attorneys — including chief coup-plotter John Eastman — essentially acknowledged there was no viable case to pursue after the last lawsuit was dismissed? If Eastman didn’t believe his own theory, how could you?
    • Ultimately, you did not object to the electoral vote. Did you realize your efforts had been misplaced? Why did you not alert the FBI or the public that an attempt to procure alternate electors in violation of the will of the people was underway?

Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.):

    • In a recent interview, you said you would of course support Trump if he were the Republican nominee in 2024. Given his role in spreading the “big lie,” pressuring state officials to come up with fake ballots, cajoling Justice Department lawyers to help cast doubt on the election, endangering former vice president Mike Pence’s life and targeting ordinary election workers such as Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, how can you say that?
    • What would you say to Freeman and Moss about the harm they suffered based on the utterly false allegations that Trump and his team had spread?

It is frankly inconceivable that these senators — who by acts of commission or omission enabled Trump’s illegal and antidemocratic actions — should be presenting themselves for reelection. It’s even more shocking that they have yet to be interrogated about their conduct.

The mainstream media might pat themselves on the backs for their newfound interest in democracy, but their failure to hold accountable those who had a hand in nearly overthrowing our election suggests they have much to learn.

I did not confront Sen. Kennedy at our class reunion, but found it very, very difficult to bite my tongue so as to not create a scene at the reunion dinner.

More Thursday Male Beauty


The GOP Seeks to Build a New Gay Ghetto

Like many in the LGBT community, with the advent of gay marriage and growing social acceptance of LBGT people and growing percentages of the younger generations "coming out," I was lulled into a breif false sense of security that the hatreds and stigmas we once facedwere a ting of the past. Sadly, now with the base of the Republican Party controlled by far right evangelicals and white supremacists (in my view, the two are one and the same) and an extremist majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, America's LGBT community is facing a renewed effort to stigmatize us and to strip us of legal protections.  Most Republican office holders care nothing about the fact that a majority of Americans supprt same sex marriage and LGBT nondiscrimination protections and instead pander to the ugly base of their party with zero concern about who they harm.  All that matters to them is avoiding a primary challenge from the far right.  That LGBT youths may be driven to homelessness or suicide simply does not matter as long as the Christofascists and evangelicals are appeased. A column in the New York Times looks at this disturbing and potentially deadly trend that shows no sign of relenting any time soon.  One can only hope that moderates and decent people will open their eyes and stop voting for Republicans.  Here are column excerpts:

This past weekend, the Republican Party in Texas voted on an outrageous platform that not only denies the results of the 2020 presidential election, but also rejects gay marriage and seeks to “protect” minors until they turn 17 against “predatory sexual behaviors,” such as drag queens reading stories aloud to children.

Drag queens are predators, trans women are a threat and gay marriage is a violation of the “natural order”: This is all part of the widening and re-energized attack by Republicans on L.G.B.T.Q. people and culture in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges guaranteeing a right to same-sex marriage.

The ruling was heralded as a major civil rights victory by its proponents, but many opponents of gay rights saw it as a lost battle in a war, not the loss of the war. For them, gay marriage is too big a development to simply accept.

Dennis Prager, writing in National Review, argued that the ruling completed “the secularization of America” and sealed “the end of America as the Founders envisioned it.”

Mitch McConnell, then the Senate majority leader, was a staunch opponent of gay marriage. He was one of six Republican senators to sign an amicus brief trying to convince the court to reject it. But after the ruling, even he acknowledged that there was little more that Congress could do. “The courts have pretty well spoken,” he said.

But opponents of gay rights wouldn’t stop there. There were other avenues of oppression: the presidency, the states and the composition of the court itself.

In 2016, Donald Trump was elected. Although he had disavowed the violence at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando . . . . . he would go on to take unprecedented steps “to undermine and eliminate rights protecting L.G.B.T.Q. people,” as Alphonso David, then the president of the Human Rights Campaign, put it in 2020.

Among Trump’s exhaustive list of transgressions against gay people were his administration’s attempts to literally erase them by trying to block new questions about sexual orientation from the census and trying to define transgender people out of existence, proposing to “define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with,”. . . .

Then, there was the Supreme Court itself. Shortly after it sanctioned gay marriage, Mike Huckabee, a presidential candidate in 2016, fumed that the “Supreme Court can no more repeal the laws of nature and nature’s God on marriage than it can the law of gravity.” . . . . It was clear that the fight was just getting underway.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, put it this way: “The idea of the Constitution ‘was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts,’ ”

Opponents of gay rights saw that as judicial overreach. And now, Kennedy has been replaced by Brett Kavanaugh, who refused during his confirmation hearing to say whether he thought the gay marriage case was correctly decided. Amy Coney Barrett has also joined the court, replacing another justice who was in the gay marriage majority: Ruth Bader Ginsburg. During a 2016 lecture, Barrett seemed to defend the justices who dissented in the gay marriage case and questioned whether it was up to the court to decide issues like which bathroom transgender people should be allowed to use.

Around that time, Republican state legislators were introducing a number of bathroom bills, an early step in their push to oppress queer people. . . . These attacks were never going to remain focused only on trans people. (Even if they did, it would still be a horrific attack on human rights.) Now, we are witnessing the inevitable result, as Republican legislators widen the attacks to queerness itself.

Just this year, we saw Florida pass its “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Make no mistake, this is all part of a renewed, broad-based attack on gay rights and gay culture, to stanch the rise of young people who are coming out. And if you think a right once established by the court can’t be rescinded by the court, look no further than the expected ruling coming from the court on abortion.

There is no finality in the battle for civil rights. Wins don’t stay won. They must be defended and can sometimes be reversed.

Republicans may not be able to push people back into the closet, but they can try to re-establish some stigma to prevent them from coming out in the first place and build them — us — cultural gay ghettos if we do.

Be very afraid for the future if the GOP and its ugly base are not stopped.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty


Wednesday, June 22, 2022

More Wednesday Male Beauty - Pt 2


The Supreme Court Majority Seeks to End Separation of Church and State

The extremist majority on the U.S. Supreme Court holds the concept of the separation of church and state in contempt.   This contempt was made obvious in the Court's ruling that compels the state of Maine to fund tuition for parents seeking to enroll their children in right wing Christian" schools.  To the majority, anything that restricts right wing Christian parents from using taxpayer funds to indoctrinate their children is "discrimination against religion."  Of course, one has to wonder if the outcome would have been different had the parents bringing the lawsuit against the state had been Muslim and had been seeking to enroll their children in fundamentalist Muslin schools (personally, I supect the result would have been different).  Sadly, the current majority on the Court wants to have an established religion notwithstanding the Constitution's prohibition and steadily the favoritism to one brand of Christianity is inching toward a defacto estatblished religion.  The rights of tthose of other faiths or no faith simply do not matter and the Court's majority wants all taxpayers to be forced to fund one toxic form of religion.  I suspect, things will only get worse.  A piece in The Economist looks at the Court's ominous ruling:

In 1785 James Madison warned against taxing Virginians to pay salaries for teachers of Christianity. Requiring citizens to hand over just “three pence” to fund religious instruction, he admonished, is a dangerous “experiment on our liberties”. On June 21st, 237 years later, the Supreme Court has come out against the chief author of the Bill of Rights—and Thomas Jefferson’s vision of a “wall of separation between church and state”—in a dispute over a tuition-assistance programme in Maine.

The result in Carson v Makin is no surprise. The writing has been on the wall since 2017, when the Supreme Court ruled that public grants for cushier playgrounds must be open to secular and church-based preschools alike. Three years later, the justices said states may not exclude schools from an aid programme just because they have a religious affiliation. But in Carson, the court took a further, significant step.  . . . . the state offers tuition assistance to parents who wish to educate their children in private—but not sectarian—schools. Carson requires Maine to scrap that caveat and extend the offer to schools with explicitly religious missions and curriculums.

Justice Stephen Breyer’s dissent, joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, lamented the imbalance in the majority’s treatment of the First Amendment’s twin religion clauses. Free exercise and nonestablishment exert “conflicting pressures” on states seeking to respect individual belief while not unduly merging religion and state, Justice Breyer wrote. But the Carson majority “pays almost no attention” to the latter while “giving almost exclusive attention” to the former.

“The Court today”, Justice Breyer wrote, “nowhere mentions, and I fear effectively abandons”, the “long-standing doctrine” that states may erect a taller church-state wall than the constitution requires.

Justice Sotomayor’s solo dissent added a touch of “I told you so.” The court “should not have started down this path five years ago”, she wrote, reflecting on her dissenting vote, along with the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in the 2017 case. The ensuing “rapid transformation” of religious liberty, she concluded, has led America to a point where “separation of church and state becomes a constitutional violation”.

I continue to believe religion - and the hatred, violence and discrimination it causes - is one of the great evils of the world. 

More Wednesday Male Beauty


What Are Trump Supporters So Afraid Of?

Numerous studies have shown that racial fears and a fears of lost white privilege were a prime motivation for many whites who voted for Donald Trump in 2016.   Trump's misogynistic administration continued to appeal to such voters by normalizing racial hatred and even calling neo-Nazis who invaded and terrorized Charlottesville, Virginia, "very fine people."  Now, with the January 6th Select Committee presenting more and more damning evidence of Trump's culpability in the January 6th coup attempt - which we now know was much more elaborate than just the assault on the U.S. Capitol - Trump cultist continue to cling to their allegiance to a man who cares for absolutely no one but himself.   It makes it difficult to not ask one's self "what is wrong with these people" as more and more damning relevations come out and it has become obvious that Trump scammed his supporters to the tune of $250 million for his non-existent election defense fund.   A piece in The Atlantic posits that much of the rage and hatred the cultist display arises from their fear of admitting they were wrong and played - and continue to be played - for fools.  How one breaks through this kind of close mindedness and embrace of a false reality is uncertain.  Here are article excerpts:

As more truths about Donald Trump and his attempted coup come out, I fear there will be more irrational anger and threats from people who cannot bear the truth.

As the January 6 hearings restarted today after the long weekend, I was thinking about the weird, psychotic fear that has overtaken millions of Americans. I include in those millions people who are near and dear to me, friends I have known for years who now seem to speak a different language, a kind of Fox-infused, Gish Galloping, “what-about” patois that makes no sense even if you slow it down or add punctuation.

Such conversations are just part of life in divided America now. We live in a democracy, and there’s no law (nor should there be) against the willing suffocation of one’s own brain cells with television and the internet. But living in an alternate reality is unhealthy—and dangerous, as I realized yet again while watching the January 6 committee hearings and listening to the stories of Republicans, such as Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers and others, describing the threats and harassment they have received for doing their duty to the Constitution.

And the threats don’t stop with political figures; families are now in the crosshairs. Representative Adam Kinzinger, for example, tweeted Monday about a letter he received in which the writer threatened not only to kill him, but to kill his wife and infant son.

The more I think about it—and I spent years researching such problems while writing a book about democracythe more I think that such people are less angry than they are terrified.

Many of you will respond: Of course they’re terrified. They’re scared of demographic change, of cultural shifts, of being looked down upon for being older and uneducated in an increasingly young and educated world.

All true. But I think there’s more to it.

I think the Trump superfans are terrified of being wrong. I suspect they know that for many years they’ve made a terrible mistake—that Trump and his coterie took them to the cleaners and the cognitive dissonance is now rising to ear-splitting, chest-constricting levels. And so they will literally threaten to kill people like Kinzinger (among others) if that’s what it takes to silence the last feeble voice of reason inside themselves.

We know from studies (and from experience as human beings) that being wrong makes us feel uncomfortable. It’s an actual physiological sensation, and when compounded by humiliation, it becomes intolerable. The ego cries out for either silence or assent. In the modern media environment, this fear expresses itself as a demand for the comfort of massive doses of self-justifying rage delivered through the Fox or Newsmax or OAN electronic EpiPen that stills the allergic reaction to truth and reason.

These outlets are eager to oblige. It’s not you, the hosts assure the viewers. It’s them. You made the right decisions years ago and no matter how much it now seems that you were fooled and conned, you are on the side of right and justice.

This therapy works for as long as the patient is glued to the television or computer screen. The moment someone like Bowers or Kinzinger or Liz Cheney appears and attacks the lie, the anxiety and embarrassment rise like reflux in the throat, and it must be stopped, even if it means threatening to kill the messenger.

No one who truly believes they are right threatens to hurt anyone for expressing a contrary view. The snarling threat of violence never comes from people who calmly believe they are in the right. It is always the instant resort of the bully who feels the hot flush of shame rising in the cheeks and the cold rock of fear dropping in the pit of the stomach.

What this means, I regret to say, is that there will be more threats, and more violence, because there will be more truth. It’s going to be a long summer.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

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Texas Republicans Reject Democracy, Embrace Religious Extremism

Years ago the late Barry Goldwater - who many thought to be far right at the time - warned of the meance the country would face if far right "Christians" ever captured control of the Republican Party.  That warning has seemingly come true in Texas where the Texas Republican Party convention adopted positions that reject democracy and legitimate elections and would put in place Christian Taliban religious beliefs by enshrining them into law.    The convention also showed the ridiculousness of Log Cabin Republicans ever believing they could be accepted in today's Republican Party by (i) banning them from having a booth at the convention and (ii) passing a statement that homosexuality is “an abnormal lifestyle choice.” I have long believed that being gay and supporting today's GOP is like a 1930's German Jew joining the Nazi party.  On virtually every issue ranging from gun control to public education to repealing the 1965 Voting Rights Act the convention adopted positions that ought to terrify sane and rational people.   One can only hope Texans are paying attention to the reality that the Republican Party now is a clear and present danger to democracy in both Texas and the nation at large.  A column at CNN looks at the insanity and extremism that defines today's GOP.  Here are highlights:

Disturbing video from the Texas Republican Convention this weekend shows convention-goers mocking GOP Rep. Dan Crenshaw – a Navy SEAL veteran who lost his right eye to a bomb in Afghanistan – with the term “eye patch McCain.”

Fox News’ Tucker Carlson coined the derisive nickname after the Texas lawmaker dared to express support for beleaguered Ukraine following Russia’s barbaric attack on it.

But apparently even more heinous in the eyes of some attendees is that Crenshaw rejected former President Donald Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen. One man wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat can be seen yelling in an online video, “Dan Crenshaw is a traitor!” and “He needs to be hung for treason!”

As despicable as the behavior toward Crenshaw was, even more alarming were the actions taken by the Texas GOP and the convention’s 5,000-plus delegates.

The gathering rejected the outcome of a democratic election, supported bigotry toward the LGBTQ community and imposed far-right religious beliefs on others by seeking to have them enshrined into law. And that wasn’t half of it.

Texas Republicans are no longer hiding their extremism. Instead, they are openly embracing it. Even before the opening gavel, they gave us a glimpse of the party’s extremism in the Lone Star State by banning the Log Cabin Republicans from setting up a booth at the convention.

Texas Republican Party Chairman Matt Rinaldi cast the deciding vote on the move to bar the group that has advocated for LGBTQ Republicans for decades. “I think it’s inappropriate given the state of our nation right now for us to play sexual identity politics,” Rinaldi told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Once it formally got underway, the convention took a number of appalling and un-American actions. First, delegates approved a measure declaring that President Joe Biden “was not legitimately elected.”

Republican delegates also booed John Cornyn, the senior US senator from Texas, at the convention Friday because of the Republican lawmaker’s role leading negotiations to reach a Senate deal on a bill to stem gun violence. . . . . The platform, set to be approved, called for repealing or nullifying gun laws already in place, such as the Gun Control Act of 1968, which prevents felons and other dangerous people from being able to purchase a gun legally. Apparently, the Texas GOP believes that even dangerous people should have a constitutionally protected right to buy a gun.

The Texas GOP platform also embraced ramping up anti-abortion rhetoric in public schools. For example, the platform states that “Texas students should learn about the Humanity of the Preborn Child, including … that life begins at fertilization.” It even seeks to force students to watch “a live ultrasound” and for high-schoolers to read an anti-abortion booklet that critics say “includes scientifically unsupported claims . . . .

The Texas GOP platform also does its best to demonize those in the transgender community. It describes transgender people as suffering from “a genuine and extremely rare mental health condition.” And it sees sexual reassignment surgery as a form of medical malpractice.

The platform takes aim at gay Americans as well with the statement that homosexuality is “an abnormal lifestyle choice.” Instructively, the Texas GOP platform did not include such language in 2018 and 2020.

This platform gives us a glimpse into the views of the Republican base on key issues that in turn will pressure GOP elected officials in Texas – and possibly beyond the state – to adopt similarly extreme positions or run the risk of a primary challenge from an even more extreme Republican.

What caused this move to the far right? Brandon Rottinghaus, a political scientist at the University of Houston, told The Texas Tribune about the state GOP’s new extreme platform, “Donald Trump radicalized the party and accelerated the demands from the base.” He added alarmingly, “There simply aren’t limits now on what the base might ask for.”

I don’t think Trump radicalized the base – rather he simply gave people permission to be who they always wanted to be.

But I agree with Rottinghaus that there are now no limits for what the GOP base might seek – be it rejecting election results it doesn’t agree with to enacting more laws based on extreme religious beliefs. And that should deeply alarm every American who wants to live in a democratic republic.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


Monday, June 20, 2022

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"Faith and Freedom" Conference: Evangelical Hypocrisy on Display

Having fpllowed the so-called "Christian Right" for decades I have long realized that few groups lie more incessantly or spread more hatred towards others - even as they prance around feigning false piety religiousity.  To call them hypocrites is perhaps too kind.  Vipers might be a more apt description.  With their embrace of Donald Trump, the majority of evangelicals showed that their supposed concerns for "family values', the "sanctity of marriage" and basic moral decency were a sham as they embraced a man who is morally bankrupt and the living embodiment of the seven deadly sins.  At this years "Faith & Freedom Coalition" annual gathering in Nashville, the hypocrisy of this demographic was again on display as they embraced and applauded Herschel Walker, a man who fathered three children with multiple women outside of marriage.    The same crowd that goes into fainting fits if they see a gay couple holding hands - or god forbid kiss - has no problem with a man who cannot keep his pants zipped up when around women who are not his wife.   A piece in Politico looks at the rank hypocrisy on display by a group of people who should be shunned by truly decent and moral people.  Here are article excerpts:

Herschel Walker received resounding applause from evangelical Christian activists on Saturday, following revelations he had fathered three children he had not previously discussed publicly.

The half-full room of conference-goers at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s annual gathering in Nashville went wild for Walker — perhaps the most high-profile Republican Senate candidate this cycle running in one of the most contested races.

In an onstage interview with Walker, Faith & Freedom founder Ralph Reed addressed the recent barrage of news stories by saying “Democrats and the media” were “firing artillery” at the candidate. Walker, in turn, said he loves and has never “denied” any of his children, before accusing unnamed forces of trying to mislead his family members.

The reception Walker received at the conference is an early indication that self-identified religious conservatives will give him a pass for a biographical detail at odds with their stated mission.

The former Heisman winner stands accused of hiding from the public three children that he had with multiple women outside of marriage. And both Walker and his oldest son, Christian Walker, have been critical of absent fathers. The Daily Beast reported that at least one of the mothers of Walker’s unacknowledged children had to take legal action to receive child support payments.

Paulina Macfoy, an Atlanta resident attending the conference, said “Jesus Christ will answer” the question of how Walker’s parenting decisions square with his faith and his repeated criticism of absent fathers. Macfoy maintained that she believes Walker is a “good candidate” because he “stands for family,” and said it was a “waste of time” to report on his personal life.

Walker is a hero among Georgia football fans. He’s been a public figure in the state since retiring from professional football. His popularity was confirmed when he dominated the state’s GOP primary election in May. His celebrity persona, along with a national political climate expected to benefit Republicans this year, may mean Walker can absorb the negative attention.

But inconsistencies and controversies not only around his children, but also surrounding his business record, could turn off swing voters in a state that has seen a growing number of Democrats in recent election cycles. Walker has also been called out for lying about graduating from the University of Georgia. He left after his junior year. He also said that he was a member of law enforcement in Cobb County and trained with the FBI. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found no evidence this was true. The Cobb County Police Department, a county neighboring Atlanta, also said it “had no record of involvement with Walker,” the newspaper reported.

Walker has also asserted that Trump never said that the election was stolen, in an interview with FOX 5 Atlanta. . . . . Trump has repeatedly said the 2020 election was stolen, including a week ago in his endorsement of Alabama Senate candidate Katie Britt.

Walker avoided debates during the primary and has so far limited interviews with media outlets that aren’t conservative. His appearance at the Faith & Freedom conference consisted of a conversation with Reed, rather than a speech like most of the other candidates and office-holders who took the stage.

Of course, this same audience welcomed Trump to thunderous applause.  Again, their moral bankruptcy is complete.