Saturday, August 06, 2022

More Saturday Male Beauty - Pt 2


Message to Democrats: Seize the Mantle of Defending Individual Rights

In follow up to the previous post, the Rpublican Party has long claimed to be the party of "freedom" and "personal rights."  Now, with an extremist majority on the Supreme Court threatening a host of individual rights and Republican legislatures enacting legislation stripping women of control of their own bodies, it is becoming clear that the "freedom" Republicans support is the right of far right extremists to impose their beliefs on all Americans.  That there are concerns the right of married couples to use contraception could be threatened underscores the extreme overreach of the ugliest elements of the GOP base and the GOP elected officials who prostitute themselves to them.  A column in The New Yorker argues that Democrats need to cast themselves as the guardians of individual rights that Republicans seek to strip away as they push a theocratic agenda that would strip away the right to privcy in one's life nd in one's relationships. The vote on Tuesday in Kansas underscores who this could be a winning message, especially with ket constituencies that need to be motivated to go to the polls in November.   Here are article exccerpts:

Of all the reactions to Kansans’ rejection of an effort to overturn the abortion rights contained in their state constitution, the one that stood out to me most came from Senator Chris Murphy, of Connecticut. Murphy, a Democrat, isn’t up for reĆ«lection this November, but, writing on Twitter, he offered some advice for colleagues in his party who will be on the ballot. “Run on personal freedom. Run on keeping the government out of your private life. Run on getting your rights back. This is where the energy is. This is where the 2022 election will be won.”

Murphy’s comments reminded me of a conversation I had, back in 2005, with Grover Norquist, the veteran Republican anti-tax campaigner . . . . Norquist told me. “They all want the government to go away. That is what holds together the conservative movement.”

Until now, it seems. In a state that already places strict limits on abortions after twenty-two weeks of pregnancy but allows terminations in other circumstances, the Kansas ballot initiative was an effort by conservative activists to open the way to a total ban. As my colleague Peter Slevin reported, opponents of the initiative portrayed it as an intrusive effort to extend government control into the private lives of Kansans—and this message hit home.

To be sure, it’s a huge leap to extrapolate from a state referendum, in which fewer than a million people voted, that Democrats have found a recipe for turning around the midterms. As a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation has confirmed, most voters still consider the economy and inflation to be the most important issues, with abortion a secondary one, albeit one that is particularly salient for some key voting groups, particularly women between the ages of eighteen and forty-nine.

Nonetheless, it’s evident that the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade lobbed a grenade into this year’s elections, giving fresh hope to Democrats, who have also been buoyed by the sight of Republican primary voters selecting some candidates in key races who are extremist, inexperienced, or both. (“The quality of candidates on the Republican side is such an issue that we think the race for the Senate majority is basically a Toss-up,” the election analyst Kyle Kondik, of the political newsletter Sabato’s Crystal Ball, wrote on Thursday.)

In Michigan and other states, liberal groups are rushing to put measures on the ballot that would codify abortion rights. And in all eight states that are holding key Senate races—Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—from now until Election Day, Republican candidates will face questions about their stance on abortion rights, and just how far they would go in restricting them. Will the backlash against the overturn of Roe help tip any of these races? It’s too early to say, but in Arizona the liberal Senate Majority PAC is already running an abortion-focussed ad targeting Blake Masters, the Peter Thiel acolyte and 2020 election denier who won the G.O.P. primary on Tuesday.

In Georgia, where the G.O.P. candidate Herschel Walker, the former N.F.L. player, has said that he supports an abortion ban with no exceptions, Democrats are also working hard to exploit voter anger, especially among suburban women.

Whatever happens in November, the long-term consequences of the Roe decision could be highly consequential. For decades, the Republican Party has largely owned and exploited the language of individual liberty and freedom, even as many of its policies have favored the rich and powerful— from gunmakers to Big Pharma and Wall Street—over individual middle-class Americans. This cynical strategy has paid big dividends for the G.O.P., but Senator Murphy is right. With the overturn of Roe, and efforts to ban any transgressions against fundamentalist views, the zealots of the Supreme Court and the conservative base are presenting Democrats with an opportunity to seize the mantle as the defenders of long-established individual rights.

The freedom to make one’s own decisions about reproduction and health. The freedom to vote. The freedom to choose one’s dating and life partners. The freedom to hold elections without worrying about an authoritarian putsch. The freedom to send one’s kids to school without fear of a madman armed with an AR-15. These are all rights that the vast majority of Americans cherish, and the radicalized G.O.P. of Alito, Thomas, Trump, and Masters is threatening them. Freedom is a many-sided thing, and no political party has a monopoly on it. Democrats should stake their claim now.

More Saturday Male Beauty


Are Democrats Poised to Put Republicans on the Defensive?

For years now I have critizied the Repubican Party for having no long term plan to attract more voters in the rapidly changing population of America.   Rather than changing the party's agenda, the party leadership and candidates have doubled down in pandering to a shrinking base of white voters with constant catering to right wing Christian extremists and white supremacists.  Instead of expanding the party base, the sole effort has been to gerrymander districts and make it more difficult for non-white and younger voters to vote.  Stacking the U.S. Supreme Court with a majority of religious zealots to end abortions rights - other rights to privacy are also likely to be rescinded - has been part of this agenda to appeal to the extreme right seemingly with no thought as to the potential consequences that might flow from repeatedly ignoring the will of the majority of Americans. The strong vote in Kansas to protect abortion rights may be the first of a series of wake up calls the GOP may be about to receive confirming that appealing to an extreme ignorance embracing minority may not be a good long terms strategy.  In addition, Republicans continue to oppose facing the reality of climate change and the need for a new approach to the nation's infrastructure and clean energy initiatives. A piece in the Washington Post looks at how Democrats are poised to put Republicans on the defensive in terms of the latter.  Here are article highlights:

Now that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema appears supportive of the climate and health care bill that Democrats have unveiled, this fact mustn’t get lost: Democrats are set to unilaterally launch the country’s biggest effort yet to combat our planetary climate emergency — without the participation of a single Republican.

All 50 Senate Democrats are close to uniting behind legislation, fully endorsed by President Biden, that would direct hundreds of billions of dollars toward spurring our transition to a cleaner energy future, while Republicans sit the whole thing out.

The deal contains $369 billion to combat climate change. That includes tens of billions for incentivizing the production, manufacture and consumption of renewable energy sources and their technologies. Studies say this will help reduce emissions to 40 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2030.

At its core, the bill constitutes industrial policy that would invest in the creation of clean-energy manufacturing jobs, including in former coal communities. As I’ve argued, this would allow Democrats to shift the debate: Rebuilding jobs in the industrial and Appalachian heartlands requires accepting realities of global warming and technological change — and harnessing them to our advantage — rather than remaining mired in backward-looking nostalgic fantasies.

The opening to shift that paradigm may have actually grown.

So far, Republicans have struggled to attack the bill’s tax provisions. They include funding to bolster IRS enforcement toward high-income tax manipulators, and a minimum tax on huge corporations that currently game down their tax rate. (Sinema wants to tweak the latter.)

As Paul Krugman notes, the usual GOP attacks look particularly absurd: The result of targeting such provisions is to “defend the interests of tax evaders and avoiders,” many of whom are extraordinarily wealthy.

The buyback tax in the package makes those attacks even sillier. The provision would reportedly place a 1 percent tax on stock buybacks, in which corporations repurchase stocks to enrich shareholders. . . . . taxing buybacks would also “encourage corporations to invest in America rather than buy back stocks from foreign owners tax-free.”

Will “America First” Republicans really attack that?

All this gives Democrats an opening to seize the populist mantle from the Trumpist wannabe types. And here’s a tell: Rep. Tim Ryan, the Democrat challenging self-proclaimed populist J.D. Vance for a U.S. Senate seat in Ohio, supports the bill expressly because it would create good jobs.

The bill will “set us on the path to dominate the clean energy industry by creating millions of good-paying jobs here at home,” Ryan told me in a statement, calling it “a major win for working people in Ohio.”

This is the paradigm Democrats can shift. University of Massachusetts professor Robert Pollin, who has modeled the bill’s economic impact, says it could have just that impact.

“There’s no question that the job creation generated by clean energy investments is going to be far in excess of job losses resulting from the phaseout of fossil fuels,” Pollin told me. “Current energy-intensive regions of the country should, in my view, receive a disproportionate amount of those investment funds.”

[I]f this bill passes, Democrats will have an opportunity to show democracy can work, by reorienting our national trajectory away from climate catastrophe while helping revitalize areas that are easy prey for Vance-like populist demagogues. They should seize it.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Friday, August 05, 2022

More Friday Male Beauty


Josh Hawley’s Toxic View of Masculinity

Given his Ivy League education I suspect Senator Josh Hawley doesn't believe even a fraction of the sound bites and batshitery he promotes.  One and only one thing seemingly motivates Hawley: blind ambition and the pursuit of political advantage with the ever more toxic base of the Republican Party and uneducated white males who he hopes to court.  A perfect example is Hawley's lament about masculinity in America which not coincidentally dishes up a large dose of white supremacy and patriarchy and does little to encourage his target audience to be their better selves.  Like so many Republicans Hawley hopes to use fear, hate and grievance to attached uneducated white males.  Also, Hawley - like the majority of Republicans nowadays - is amoral like Donald Trump, just a bit slicker in how he packages his message of hate, division and discrimination. A column in the Washington Post looks at Hawley's dangerous messaging and challenges men to be better than what Hawley is hawking..  Here are column highlights:

Ever since the Jan. 6 committee showed that video of Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) running from the insurrectionist mob he’d earlier encouraged with a fist in the air, we’ve all had a good laugh at his expense. I mean, who doesn’t like a manhood-obsessed hypocrite getting a well-deserved public comeuppance?

But as clownish as Hawley comes across, we dismiss him at our own risk. He is selling a vision of masculinity to White America that has much more to do with prejudice than manliness. It’s an old story — but a successful one, and one that’s poised to catch on. Stopping that from happening will require offering an alternative, with better examples of what being a man really means.

During a recent interview, Jason Kander, an Afghanistan War veteran who in 2018 stepped away from rising success in the Democratic Party to tend to his mental health, broke down his fellow Missourian’s plan. Hawley, he said, “is positioning himself, and therefore his movement — his far-right, White-guy movement — as, ‘If you’re a man, then you believe in these things.’” These things, you could probably guess, are archconservative values such as the patriarchy, opposition to women’s bodily autonomy, support exclusively for heterosexual marriage, an aversion to labor organizing.

The pitch holds natural appeal for older White men who already hew to traditional morals. But what about the younger White men who, as Kander says, watch Ultimate Fighting but still like their LGBTQ co-workers and have friends who have had abortions? Hawley figures he can woo them too, so long as they share one potent trait with the older group: racial resentment. This vision of masculinity is as much about being White as it is about being a man.

Jonathan Metzl, author of “Dying of Whiteness,” says Hawley’s harping on masculinity is a new version of an old game. “There has been a crisis of White masculinity since the ’50s, and every decade it gets rearticulated through similar themes. This crisis casts White men as victims against competition by women and non-White men in the labor market,” Metzl wrote in an email. . . . And, of course, casting yourself as a victim then obviates recognition of how you are in many cases the aggressor.”

At the beginning of his own book, “Invisible Storm: A Soldier’s Memoir of Politics and PTSD,” Kander also touches on manhood. . . . Kander knew his parents “didn’t want their sons to commit to the leathery Clint Eastwood archetype. I knew that being a man meant being dependable, taking care of your people, and going where you’re needed.”

Kander’s memoir isn’t meant to be a manhood manual. Yet . . . . Kander incidentally presents a refreshing version of masculinity, one that views vulnerability as a virtue on the endless journey to being the best man one can be for one’s family and community.

This is the opposite of what Hawley hawks. He has bemoaned what he calls “the left’s assault on the masculine virtues” and how this “crisis for men … [is] a crisis for the republic.” These wrongheaded themes will no doubt be the foundation of his forthcoming book, “Manhood: The Masculine Virtues America Needs.”

Hawley may be a clown, but he’s clever, too. He knows White men feel they’re facing a crisis, and he plans to give them an answer. Coincidentally, that answer just so happens to serve Hawley’s own interests, ambitions and even 2024 presidential run.

Masculinity should never be about exclusion or intolerance, nor displays of unyielding strength. Some of the best men I’ve known have had generous hearts that reinforced firm values and high expectations. Through their examples, I’ve learned more about what it means to be a man than anything Hawley could possibly present in a few hundred pages. Every man deserves a similar model. Because if you’re turning to Hawley for a how-to on manhood, you’re doing it all wrong.

Friday Morning Male Beauty


Thursday, August 04, 2022

More Thursday Male Beauty


The Paranoid Fringe Has Become the GOP Establishment

Once upon a time the Republican Party valued science, intelligence and education - back in the days when the know nothings of the far right Christian extremist set were treated as lepers within the party and open white supremacy would assure that one was an outcast.  Fast forward to today, and the Republican Party has flipped 180 degrees and idiocy and ignorance, along with the embrace of insane conspiracy theories, is celebrated.  It's little wonder that sane college educated voters are fleeing the GOP as if it were the Titanic.   Their exodus from the party, leaves ever more insane and unhindged voters to dominate GOP primary elections which in turn has resulted in the truly unfit and demented in winning primaries.  Sane, thoughtful and intelligent people - along with minorities, gays, non-Christians or the non-religious - are no simply longer welcome in the Republican Party.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the shit show in Arizona where the crazies now truly control the GOP.  One can only hope enough people flee the insanity to hand Democrats victories in November.  Here are column excerpts:

Earlier this week, Arizona’s attorney general tried to lay to rest the Trump-fueled fiction that hundreds of dead people voted in the 2020 election.

Mark Brnovich reported that, of the 282 deceased voters alleged by Cyber Ninjas, the clownish firm Republicans enlisted to do an election “audit,” only one was actually dead on Election Day. “Our agents investigated all individuals that Cyber Ninjas reported as dead, and many were very surprised to learn they were allegedly deceased,” he wrote, calling such allegations “insufficient and not corroborated.”

But Brnovich was only half right. While the dead might not be voting in large numbers in Arizona, the brain-dead are. Evidently, such voters are now a majority of the Republican primary electorate.

The day after the attorney general’s attempted debunking of the dead-voter fallacy, Brnovich lost Arizona’s Republican Senate primary to an election denier, Blake Masters. Another election denier, Kari Lake, who calls President Biden “illegitimate,” was leading in her bid for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. An election denier prevailed in the attorney general primary, too.  And Arizona Republicans, by a large margin, chose as their nominee for secretary of state — the person in charge of elections — one Mark Finchem, a man who:

  Was at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 (he says he didn’t go inside) and is a self-proclaimed member of the Oath Keepers, the extremist militia group whose leaders are facing charges of seditious conspiracy in the coup attempt.

  Is a QAnon conventiongoer who called the coronavirus vaccine a “crime against humanity” and the pandemic itself a “manufactured illusion.”

  Touted his endorsement by the antisemitic head of far-right social media site Gab, and claimed that the violent, neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville in 2017 had “Deep State PSYOP written all over it.” Played a key role in the Trump campaign’s fake-elector scheme in Arizona, attempted to decertify the election results, wants to outlaw voting machines and empower state legislators to overturn elections, and has called for the arrests of the current secretary of state and of his Democratic opponent.

It was bound to happen sooner or later. After several years in which the Republican establishment admitted more and more extremists into the mainstream, the lunatic fringe has now become the establishment.

And this isn’t just happening in Arizona. Even before Tuesday’s primaries, six election deniers had already prevailed in gubernatorial primaries this year, according to a tally by the States United Democracy Center. . . . The Republican National Committee is working with prominent election conspiracy theorist Cleta Mitchell to coach thousands of poll workers in battleground states, Heidi Przybyla reports in Politico.

Meanwhile, the state’s Republican chairwoman, Kelli Ward, has been subpoenaed by the Justice Department over her role in the fake-electors scheme. Finchem and another election denier were polling a combined 60 percent; Finchem was 16 points ahead of his nearest competitor.

That’s quite a margin for a guy who urged people to join the Oath Keepers, who claimed that satanic Marxists infiltrated government, and who alleged “a whole lot of elected officials” are “involved in a pedophile network.”

The New York Times detailed yet more madness: Jan. 6 was “a setup,” Hezbollah runs camps with Mexican drug cartels, election software “flips votes." The Arizona Mirror reported that, at a QAnon convention in October, Finchem likened cancel culture to the Holocaust. He has already talked about contesting the results of future elections, saying there should be no concession speeches.

And this is the person Arizona Republicans think should run the state’s elections. What could possibly go wrong?

Thursday Morning Male Beauty


Kansas Resoundingly Rejects Restrictions on Abortion Rights

In the first test of whether or not the religious extremist majority on the U.S. Supreme Court has handed Democrats and progressive a winning issue to motivate voters to go to the polls by overturning Roe v. Wade, the vote in Kansas suggests the answer is "yes" after twice the normal voter turn out went to the polls to vote against efforts to further restrict abortion access in that state. Not surprisingly, abortion opponents and Republicans seeking further restriction did what they always do: lied and sought to mis-lead voters into supporting more restrictions and/or a ban.  Thankfully, the strategy failed and voters sent a message to Justice Alito and the other American Taliban on the Court that they rejected the effort to inflict one set of religious beliefs on all citizens.  It will be telling if Democrats can channel this anger at the Court and anti-abortion Republicans into a large anti-Republican turnout in November.  As one piece noted, it is as if Republicans have ignored the reality that women still have the right to vote and may demand control over their own bodies.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the Kansas results:

In a major victory for abortion rights, Kansas voters on Tuesday rejected an effort to strip away their state’s abortion protections, sending a decisive message about the issue’s popularity in the first political test since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

The overwhelming support for abortion rights in a traditionally conservative state bolsters Democrats’ hopes that the historic Supreme Court ruling will animate their voters in an otherwise difficult election year for their party. The Kansas vote signals that abortion is an energizing issue that could affect turnout in the November midterms.

The question presented to voters here was whether abortion protections should be stripped from the state constitution. A “yes” vote would allow Kansas’s Republican-led legislature to pass future limits on abortion — or ban it altogether — in its coming session in January. A “no” vote would leave those protections in place.

With 90 percent of the vote counted, 60 percent of voters [perhaps 62% in one piece] wanted to maintain those abortion protections compared with 40 percent who wanted to remove them from the state constitution. Turnout for Tuesday’s primary election far exceeded other contests in recent years . . . nearly twice as many as the 473,438 who turned out in the 2018 primary election.

Abortion rights advocates pointed to their resounding win here as evidence that Americans are angry about the efforts to roll back women’s rights.

“At a time when reproductive freedom is under unprecedented threat across the country, Kansans said loud and clear at the ballot box: ‘We’ve had enough’,”  . . . “In the heartland of the United States, protecting abortion access is galvanizing voters like never before.”

Rachel Sweet, the campaign director for the Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, told the crowd that the vote was “truly an historic day for Kansas and an historic day for America” to cheers. “Kansans have spoken loud and clear: We will not tolerate extreme bans on abortion in our state,” Sweet said.

The antiabortion movement believes “women are meant to be child-makers,” Angermuller continued. “They want us to be barefoot and pregnant all the time. Not to have aspirations.

Since the Supreme Court ruling, more than a dozen Republican-led states have moved to ban or further restrict abortion. Abortion is currently legal in Kansas in the first 22 weeks of pregnancy, and the state has become a refuge for pregnant patients seeking procedures who are from states with stricter laws, including Texas and Oklahoma.

As voters went to the polls, The Washington Post reported that a Republican-backed group had sent voters intentionally misleading text messages about the ballot language.

Proponents of abortion rights say that the Republican legislature has stacked the deck in its favor, passing tighter restrictions that have made it harder to register new voters, choosing to hold the vote on a primary day rather than during the general election and selecting a ballot question with convoluted wording that has confused many voters.

The lesson is clear: women who want to control their own bodies - and men with wives, daughters and granddaughters - need to register to vote and vote out as many Republicans at all levels of government in November and all future elections.

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

More Wednesday Male Beauty


The Pillars of Today's GOP: Fear, Hate, and Grievance

With several Trump backed candidates winning Republican primaries yesterday it is clear that the madness and cancer gripping the Republican Party has not been abated.  Toxic extremism marks these candidates and others within the Republican Party which is now motivated by three things: fear, hatred, and endless grievance.  These poisonous themes play the best among white supremacists who fear losing power and privilege based on their skin color and "Christian" extremists - who utterly ignore Christ's gospel message - who suffer from a persecution complex and seek to inflict their toxic religious beliefs on all Americans.  These currents always flowed within the GOP but it was Donald Trump who perfected appeals to them to win in 2016.  Others, notably Florida's Ron DeSantis emulate Trump's appeals to the ugliest elements in the party base and seek to continually identify enemies - gays, blacks, progressives - that they claim must be defeated to protect America from "enemies from within." Whether the general elections in November will see some of these perveyors of hate and fear defeated remains to be seen.  A piece in The Atlantic looks at the pillars of today's Republican Party.  It is not a pretty picture.  Here are excerpts:

For all the defects Donald Trump has as a politician, he does possess certain skills, among them an almost preternatural ability to tap into the sensibilities—the id—of the American right.

Returning to Washington, D.C., for the first time since he left the White House in the aftermath of the violent assault on the Capitol, Trump gave a speech last Tuesday to the America First Policy Institute (AFPI). It was billed as a policy address on public safety. But everyone knows that policy doesn’t interest Trump in the least. What he cares about is the performative part of politics, inflaming people’s passions, creating chaos and conflict. Politics is a stage on which his disordered personality plays itself out.

Despite the speech’s unruliness, certain themes in it are worth examining, because they signal what a Trump campaign might look like. And even if he doesn’t run, they reveal the mindset of the American right. These are the pillars of the GOP.

FEAR: If the hallmarks of Ronald Reagan’s speeches were optimism, hope, and a sense of limitless possibilities, Trump’s speeches are the antithesis. Trump is a genius at tapping into fear. In his AFPI speech, for example, he portrayed America not as a great nation facing significant challenges, but as a dystopia, hellish and desolate, a “cesspool of crime” on the edge of extinction.

Trump spoke about streets “riddled with needles and soaked with the blood of innocent victims,” a nation being terrorized by “drugged out lunatics” and “sadists who prey on children.” He invoked violent gangs “laughing as they bludgeoned the life from their helpless victims” . . . He claimed that America’s largest cities are “literal war zones.”

This grim narrative is one Trump has used for many years, and last Tuesday’s speech echoed his “American carnage” inaugural address. But this speech was bleaker, its portrait of America more terrifying.

[H]is description of America also resonates with many on the right who believe that America is caught in a spiral of doom. It reinforces the core belief among Trump supporters that things are so desperate, embracing Trump’s corruption and lawlessness is necessary to defeat the barbarians at the gates (Democrats).

In the world according to Trump, the choice is a stark one: Support him, and you defend civilization; oppose him, and you invite savagery.

GRIEVANCES: One of the things Trump understood from the moment he ran for president in 2016 was that the Republican Party’s base was roiling with resentments and grievances. Its members felt patronized, disrespected, dishonored, and persecuted by the elite culture. They were sick of it, they were enraged by it, and they weren’t going to take it anymore.

Trump has spent half a dozen years not only validating those feelings but amplifying them. Time and again he signaled to his supporters that they were being viciously and unjustly attacked, that the game was rigged against them. He would be their merciless defender, their avenging angel. This created a powerful visceral attachment to the former president.

This time around, Trump has added something new to the narrative, representing himself as persecuted for the sake of his people.

Trump then said this: “Never forget, everything this corrupt establishment is doing to me is all about preserving their power and control over the American people. They want to damage you in any form, but they really want to damage me, so I can no longer go back to work for you. And I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

Trump is telling his supporters that he is all that stands between them and those who want to inflict great pain and grave harm on them.

HATE: Trump used his speech to portray his opponents as not just misguided but wicked and therefore suitable objects of hate. America’s 45th president said, “Despite great outside dangers, our biggest threat in this country remains the sick, sinister, and evil people from within.” . . . . The January 6 committee, he said, is made up of “hacks and thugs.” He then made this move: “But no matter how big or powerful the corrupt radicals that we’re fighting against may be, no matter how menacing they appear, we must never forget this nation does not belong to them. This nation belongs to you, the American people.”

What Trump has done in the eyes of his supporters is to set up a clash of epic, almost biblical proportions: the children of light versus the children of darkness, patriots versus traitors, the decent versus the depraved. In an existential conflict such as this, everything is permissible; nothing is off limits. This is a fight to the death.

Trump might not run for president in 2024—and if he runs, he might not win. Much of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire is turning against Trump. And as Sarah Longwell wrote in The Atlantic on Thursday, focus groups of Trump 2020 voters indicate that “the accumulating drama of the January 6 hearings—which they can’t avoid in social-media feeds—seems to be facilitating not a wholesale collapse of support, but a soft permission to move on.” He may be just a bit too mad even for a MAGA party.

Whether Trump wins or not, he has left an imprint on the Republican Party. In 2016, Trump was the outlier, a political freak. Today his inclinations, his enmities, his style of politics define the GOP. Even the person widely seen right now as the most formidable challenger to Trump, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, is “diet Trump,” in the words of one political strategist.

Wednesady Morning Male Beauty


Monday, August 01, 2022

More Monday Male Beauty


Why Trump Must Be Prosecuted

Some in the news media and, of course, among the multitude of spineless Republicans are wringing their hands and having vapors about a possible criminal prosection of Donald Trump for his coup attempt and effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election.  Of course some of these same members of the media have for years engaged in false equivalency when comparing Democrat positions and Republican lies and played no small part in allowing Donald Trump to be elected in 2016 in the first place.  Now, these faint of heart delicate flowers are whining that prosecuting Trump for his wilful crimes would set a bad precedent and make America akin to a "banana republic."  In reality, failing to prosecute Trump would hasten the decline of America's democracy and edge us ever closer to a banana republic status and/or make America like Putin's Russia where Putin's many crimes go unpunished and merely encourage a further tightening of his dictatorship.  A column in the Washington Post (by a former Republican) makes the case why Trump must be criminally prosecuted.  Here are column highlights:

Nervous pundits warn that for the good of the country, the Justice Department ought not to indict Donald Trump, since prosecuting a former president is the sort of thing “banana republics” do. That’s wrong on two grounds.

First, it is not up to Attorney General Merrick Garland to decide what’s in the country’s long-term democratic interests. The decision to “spare the country” of the turmoil surrounding a past president’s criminal trial rests with the chief executive, as was the case under President Gerald Ford.

The closest the Justice Department’s prosecutorial guidelines come to that concept is the requirement that a prosecution serve a “substantial federal interest.” But that factor, as properly understood, weighs in favor of prosecution. As the guidelines note:

In determining whether a substantial federal interest exists that requires prosecution, the attorney for the government should consider the nature and seriousness of the offense involved. A number of factors may be relevant to this consideration. One factor that is obviously of primary importance is the actual or potential impact of the offense on the community and on the victim(s). The nature and seriousness of the offense may also include a consideration of national security interests.

Well, there could hardly be a more substantial interest than punishing the leader of an attempt to overthrow a democratic election to deter future coups.

Second, prosecuting a former political leader is not what will turn the United States into a “banana republic.” Indeed, I have some unfortunate news for the nervous Nellies: Our country is already on its way to becoming a failed democracy. The question is now what we intend to do about it.

How do you know democracy is unraveling? It is when an incumbent does these sorts of things:

    • Refuses to acknowledge he lost an election.
    • Uses captive media outlets to undermine the sanctity of elections and lie about election “fraud.”
    • Ignores mounds of evidence showing the election was legitimate.
    • Attempts to use the Justice Department to throw doubt on the legitimacy of an election.
    • Pressures state officials to “find” just enough votes to change the result of a key state.
    • Pressures state officials to retract voting certificates and create fraudulent documents to override the will of the people.
    • Cooks up a scheme to retain power that his own counsel understands would be illegal.
    • Pressures his vice president to disregard his oath and help facilitate the coup plot.
    • Calls angry people to show up at the nation’s capital just when the legislature is counting electoral votes and promises the gathering will be “wild!”
    • Invites an armed, unhinged mob to march on Congress and promises to join them in confronting the elected leaders carrying out their constitutional duties.
    • Incites the crowd to hold his vice president responsible for not having the “courage” to overturn an election, even as the violent mob moves in on him.
    • Refuses to use law enforcement or national security personnel to put down his supporters’ violent insurrection.

By now, Americans should realize that this was the stuff of tin-pot dictatorships, not mature constitutional democracies. They should understand that the Republican Party, filled with small individuals hiding behind phony claims of privilege to avoid testifying, has become the bullying apparatus that dictators have historically used to amplify their lies and cloak their actions in legitimacy.

If Americans don’t want our presidents to resemble the thugs of South American or Eastern Europe and don’t want violence to become a standard political weapon, they should demand that Garland keep his word.

This is not the call to “lock him up.” This is the call of a citizenry demanding that the Justice Department follow the legal process to hold responsible anyone involved in arguably the worst crime against democracy in our history. Only a “banana republic” would give the guy behind the coup attempt a get-out-of-jail card.

Monday Morning Male Beauty


Sunday, July 31, 2022

More Sunday Male Beauty - Pt 2


Jen Kiggans: Too Extreme for Hampton Roads

One of the closely watched Congressional races in the upcoming 2022 mid-term elections is that for Virginia's 2nd District that pits Democrat Elaine Luria (at left) against Republican Jen Kiggans (on the right).  While Kiggans may try to depict herself as somewhat moderate, her voting record and embrace of Donald Trump's "Big Lie" reveal a far different story.  Once the smoke screens are stripped away, Kiggans is a hard core Trumpist with all of the extreme baggage that label entails. In her primary campaign Kiggans bragged about her anti-gay bona fides and railed against "critical race theory" - something that has never be taught in Virginia's schools - in an effort to prevent an accurate teaching of Virginia and American history so as to appeal to white supremacists.  During the 2022 session of the General Assembly Kiggins introduced two bills to promote this extremism (thankfully, they failed to pass). The first sought to ban the teaching of “inherently divisive concepts” in public schools.  Translated, this bill sought to ban any teaching of racism in America and by extension any reference to LGBT individuals.   The second bill sought to ban transgender students from participating in school sports.  At the time the Washington Post note:

Breanna Diaz of the ACLU of Virginia charged that the bill targeting transgender athletes “strips trans athletes of their identity and dignity,” and warned that the “vague and overbroad” language in Kiggans’s “divisive concepts” bill would restrict teachers’ ability to teach about slavery, racism and LGBTQ issues if those topics were to be interpreted as “divisive.”

It goes without saying that the white supremacists and Christian extremists in the Vrginia GOP base will claim any teaching of accurate history and mention of LGBT individuals is "divisive."  Moreover, with marriage equality - and even interracial marriage - at potential risk in the face of the far right ideologue majority on the Supreme Court, Kiggans is ducking where she stands on these issues.  Once critic has noted: 

“Jen Kiggans is in hiding. She refuses to state where she stands on gay and interracial marriage – and Coastal Virginians deserve to know,” . . . . . “This isn’t the 1950s, it's 2022. Jen Kiggans will turn back the clock to a time when women were second-class citizens and it was illegal to marry the person you love. Her silence on same-sex and interracial marriage is unacceptable.

But extremism on social issues isn't Kiggans' only problem. Among other issues are the following:

Kiggans embraced the Big Lie, joining a tiny fringe group of lawmakers to push a dangerous “forensic audit” of the 2020 election that would cost Virginia taxpayers $70 million and threaten to toss out the votes of Virginia votersOn January 6, rioters attempted to overturn the results of the 2020 election by force. Jen Kiggans tried to achieve the same goal in Virginia by joining a group of just four extremist Senate Republicans to vote for a “full forensic audit” of the 2020 election, which would have been presented to “a jury of local residents who have [the] power to declare the election valid or invalid.” Even though a previous audit already proved there was no voter fraud in Virginia’s 2020 general election and verified Biden’s victory, Kiggans did not directly answer when asked if she believed Trump won the 2020 election, instead saying she was focused on “restoring election integrity.”

Kiggans has used her official position to benefit industries that have funded her campaigns or lined her pockets... Kiggans accepted a contribution from GEO Group, a private prison management company, then voted in committee to kill a bill that would’ve abolished for-profit prison management  n Virginia. GEO Group was a Florida-based prison contractor and had been fined nearly $800,000 for breach of contract with the commonwealth. Kiggans voted against the Virginia Fairness in Lending Act, which fought predatory lending, after receiving $17,500 in campaign contributions and a gift worth $200 from GOPAC, a Republican PAC that received “substantial financial backing” from the payday loan industry. As a landlord who made up to $50,000 in rental income, Kiggans should be especially wary of conflicts of interest when it comes to her votes on tenants’ interests. But among her repeated votes against renters, Kiggans voted against helping tenants hold landlords accountable for unsafe housing conditions and opposed protecting tenants from eviction during the governor’s COVID emergency declaration, even as her state campaign accepted at least $6,000 from the rental property management industry.

Hampton Roads residents do not need someone like Kiggans in Congress.  Vote for Elaine Luria in November.

More Sunday Male Beauty


The Backlash to Christianity: Republicans Are to Blame

To say today's Republican Party has become the home of extremists and racists is an understatement.  Other than inflicting the beliefs of far right "Christians" on the whole of society and coddling and mainstreaming white supremacists, the party has no real agenda and in Congress all one sees from Republicans is obstruction and hypocrisy. GOP members of Congress bloviate about supporting America's troops and veterans yet the bill that would bring aid to those suffering the consequences of exposure to burn pits has been blocked by Republicans.  As a piece in the Washington Post reports some GOP officials are belatedly beginning to worry that the party's extreme positions on social issues dear to Christofascists may be harming the party's viability in key states (Ron DeSantis has no such concerns):

Uncompromising positions and loaded rhetoric on key social issues are escalating concerns within GOP circles that the party is moving too far out of sync with popular opinion, projecting new hostility to gay people and potentially alienating women voters in high-stakes races. The Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade and ending a nationwide right to abortion last month has spawned strict new bans and stirred fears that gay rights and access to contraception could be next — shifting the focus from other culture-war battles where Republicans felt they had a winning message.

Personally, I hope the GOP - which more and more lives in its own echo chamber - doesn't wake up to this reality and suffers at the polls accordingly. The Christofacsists know no compromise and the white supremacists' opposition to teaching accurate American history likewise shows no sign of moderating.  Perhaps the biggest loser in all of this is Christianity itself which more and more is identified as being one and the same as the "Christian" extremists who (i) hate everyone and (ii) want to police everyone's bedroom, including those of married heterosexual couples.  The result is what hopefully will become a growing backlash by the majority of Americans.  A oiece in Salon looks at the situation:

There can be no doubt about it: Religion, especially Christianity — while still powerful in American culture — is in decline. Fewer than half of Americans even belong to a church or other house of worship. Rates of church attendance are in a freefall, as younger Americans would rather do anything with their precious free time than go to church. As religion researcher Ryan Burge recently tweeted, "Among those born in the early 1930s, 60% attend church weekly. 17% never attend. Among those born in the early 1950s, 32% attend weekly. 29% never attend. Among those born in the early 1990s, 18% attend weekly. 42% never attend."

In response to Americans losing interest in faith, Republicans are in a full-blown panic, lashing out and accusing everyone else — liberals, schools, immigrants, pop culture, you name it — for this shift in religious sentiment. Worse, more are advocating the use of force to counter this decline. If people don't want religion, well, too bad. More Republicans are arguing that Christianity should not be optional — First Amendment be damned. 

"There's also growing hostility to religion," Justice Samuel Alito recently whined, in response to criticism of recent Supreme Court decisions meant to foist fundamentalist beliefs on non-believers, particularly the overturn of Roe v. Wade

[I]ncreasing numbers of Republicans are ignoring the plain text of the First Amendment — which says the government shall "make no law respecting an establishment of religion" — in favor of the tortured myth that there's no separation of church and state. Former Ohio treasurer and failed Senate candidate Josh Mandel, Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado and, most troublingly, Justice Neil Gorsuch have all dismissed the idea that such a separation is mandated by the Constitution. 

Christian nationalism, the idea both that the U.S. should be an explicitly Christian nation and that the laws should enforce fundamentalist Christian beliefs, used to be an unthinkable idea in American politics. Now it's normal among the Trumpist branch of the GOP. . . . And, of course, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia has made this crystal clear, recently declaring: "We should be Christian nationalists." 

This term, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a high school football coach who wants to lead Christian prayers from the 50-yard line during games, which is a direct reversal of decades of jurisprudence against coerced religious displays in public schools. . . . . right-wing groups understand fully that the ruling was meant as an open invitation to forced Christian prayer in schools. As the Washington Post reported this week, "activists are preparing to push religious worship into public schools nationwide." Your kid may be Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist or otherwise non-Christian, but too bad. They better recite the Lord's Prayer in class or risk being punished or ostracized.

Mandated faith is morally reprehensible and in direct violation of human rights. But it's also wrong to pin this decline in religious fervor to laws and customs protecting religious minorities from such coercion. On the contrary, if Republicans want to know who is to blame for young people abandoning the church in droves, they should look in the mirror. 

[T]here's "a culture clash between particularly conservative white churches and denominations and younger Americans" over issues like science, education, and gender equality. Younger people brought up in these churches increasingly reject the sexism, homophobia, and anti-science views of their elders. Since the churches won't reform to be more egalitarian and pro-science, they find that these younger people are walking away altogether. 

These trends will likely only accelerate in the wake of the Roe overturn, especially as Republicans grow more fanatical in their efforts to punish Americans for having sex. All but eight Republicans in the House voted against the legal right to use contraception. Fewer than a quarter of them voted to support same-sex marriage rights. Both of these rights are wildly popular. Eighty-four percent of Americans believe in the right to use contraception (and over 99% of those who have had heterosexual sex have used it). Over 70% of Americans believe in the right to same-sex marriage. 

The more both Republicans and the Christian establishment reject these basic rights, the more they can expect to be rejected themselves, especially by younger people.

"[T]hese days it seems the people most likely to identify themselves as Christians tend to be Republicans as well the most vicious, hateful, un-Christian sons of bitches you'd ever want to meet," Edroso writes. Sure, some people respond by seeking liberal churches. But it's simpler and easier to just give up on being a Christian altogether, to drop all that baggage.

[I]f Republicans don't like people losing faith, well, they need to admit they did this to themselves. If they'd moderated their views and made their churches more tolerant and welcoming places, more people would be interested in attending. And all this talk of forced prayer and Christian nationalism isn't going to help matters, but will instead make ordinary people hate them even more. . . . Republican attempts to foist their beliefs on others only causes more backlash against Christianity itself.