Saturday, August 20, 2022

More Saturday Male Beauty


Republicans Tell Us Who They Are By Their Votes

Growing up in a Republican family in the late 1950's, 1960's and early 1970's, members of the GOP came across as being a mix of so-called country club Republicans, the religiously moderate and those supportive of fiscal restraint and smaller, more efficient government.  Things began to change with the election of Ronald Reagan who first invited the evangelicals and scamvangelists into the GOP "big tent."  George W. Bush courted these individuals by his cynical campaign opposing gay marriage and over time, these extremists, many of whom were also white supremacists (remember why the Southern Baptist Convention came to be) infiltrated the GOP base and tragically were elected to county and city committees across the country.  Some Republican "friends" cling to the fantasy that the GOP is still the party of my youth and young adulthood.  In truth, nothing could be farther from the truth and this fantasy results in such people voting with people they'd never, ever allow into their homes or into their county clubs and yacht clubs.  Yet, by their votes for Republican candidates, these individuals are telling the world who they really are.  It's not pretty. Indeed, its down right ugly which explains why so many college educated suburban voters have fled the GOP.  Two columns, one in the New York Times and one in the Washington Post look at what these GOP voters are telling the world about themselves.  First, these excerpts from the Post: 

In November 1991, I stood in the packed, smoke-filled American Legion hall in the nearly all-White New Orleans suburb of Metairie. A day later in Baton Rouge, I watched a chilling development unfold on election night.

In Metairie, White men and women in their 20s, 30s and 40s, some decked out in campaign T-shirts and hats, whooped up a storm for the demagogic, ex-Klansman Republican David Duke, who was then running for governor. In Baton Rouge, coiffured senior citizens in suits and ties and cocktail dresses mingled with people clad in jeans and cowboy boots to cheer on the same racist bigot and antisemite. But those things weren’t the shocker.

The searing takeaway was not Duke himself, but nearly 700,000 Louisianans who, knowing what he stood for, voted for him anyway.

On Sept. 30, 2016, after closely watching nearly two years of Donald Trump’s primary and general election campaigns, I wrote about the dangers of his winning. He had been revealed as an ignorant, undisciplined, ranting bully who exaggerated and lied without shame. His tough-guy masculinity was fakery. Trump was a coward, I said at the time, who picks on women, demeans people of color and is thoroughly lacking in human decency.

“What does sicken and alarm, and what ought to concentrate African American minds, is the thought of Trump with the powers of the presidency in his hands. Therein lies the danger.”

On Election Day 2016, nearly 63 million Americans voted for Trump, giving him more than 300 electoral votes and the White House. The takeaway? They, too, knew where he stood and voted for him anyway.

Four years later, the impeached, scandal-scarred president went before the American people once again. By then, Trump was known all too well. In his losing bid for reelection, Trump attracted 74.2 million votes.

So, it comes as no surprise — deep disappointment, yes; a jolt, no — that Trump’s foremost Republican critic, Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), would get a thrashing at the polls in 2022, losing renomination by 37 points to Trump devotee Harriet Hageman. Wyoming Republicans knew where Trump stood on Cheney.

The story is the same in Arizona, where Kari Lake narrowly won the Republican primary for governor, Blake Masters prevailed in the Senate GOP primary and Mark Finchem took the Republican nomination for secretary of state.  Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers went down in flames in a state Senate primary for the same reason. Voters knew where Trump stood on all four . . . . This is not a recital of complaints about Donald Trump. It’s about people by the millions who know where Trump stands and slavishly side with him anyway.

Trump holds cultlike control over Republican voters. They aren’t blank slates. They know what the struggle for economic and racial justice is about. They know, too, what Democrats are talking about when they go on about expanding access to health care and reducing prescription drug prices, or confronting the climate crisis, or advancing racial and gender equity, or treating immigrants with dignity and decency

So, when it comes to elections, bear in mind what’s really at stake. Donald Trump’s name will not appear on any midterm election ballot.

The challenge is to turn out more voters who want the country to keep moving forward and upward than voters bent on empowering candidates to stand in for Trump and all he represents.

That kind of test was there with Duke in Louisiana. Also in 2020, when Trumpism was met head-on and taken down. . . . . The alternative is almost too dreadful to imagine.

The column in the Times likewise looks at what Republican voters are saying about themselves and the threat they pose to the nation.  Here are highlights:

Tuesday’s primary in Wyoming delivered Liz Cheney a resounding defeat. She is one of the few Republicans in Congress willing to resist Donald Trump’s election lies, and Republican voters punished her for it. . . . She mainstreamed a political principle that many liberals had held all along.

[H]er loss does crystallize something for us that many had already known: that the bar to clear in the modern Republican Party isn’t being sufficiently conservative but rather being sufficiently obedient to Donald Trump and his quest to deny and destroy democracy.

We must stop thinking it hyperbolic to say that the Republican Party itself is now a threat to our democracy. I understand the queasiness about labeling many of our fellow Americans in that way. I understand that it sounds extreme and overreaching. But how else are we to describe what we are seeing?

[A] Washington Post-University of Maryland poll published in January found that the percentage of Republicans who say that violence against the government can sometimes be justified had climbed to 40 percent, compared with just 23 percent of Democrats. It should also be noted that 40 percent of white people said that violence could be justified compared with just 18 percent of Black people.

We have to stop saying that all these people are duped and led astray, that they are somehow under the spell of Trump and programmed by Fox News.

Propaganda and disinformation are real and insidious, but I believe that to a large degree, Republicans’ radicalization is willful.

Republicans have searched for multiple election cycles for the right vehicle and packaging for their white nationalism, religious nationalism, nativism, craven capitalism and sexism.

There was a time when they believed that it would need to be packaged in politeness — compassionate conservatism — and the party would eventually recommend a more moderate approach intended to branch out and broaden its appeal — in its autopsy after Mitt Romney’s 2012 loss.

But Trump offered them an alternative, and they took it: Instead of running away from their bigotries, intolerances and oppression, they would run headlong into them. They would unapologetically embrace them.

This, to many Republicans, felt good. They no longer needed to hide. They could live their truths, no matter how reprehensible. They could come out of the closet, wrapped in their cruelty.

But the only way to make this strategy work and viable, since neither party dominates American life, was to back a strategy of minority rule and to disavow democracy.

Republicans are the threat to our democracy because their own preferred form of democracy — one that excludes and suppresses, giving Republicans a fighting chance of maintaining control — is in danger.

For modern Republicans, democracy only works — and is only worth it — when and if they win.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Friday, August 19, 2022

More Friday Male Beauty


The Sins of the Supreme Court's Catholics

Having been raised relatively concervative Roamn Catholic, I am all too aware of the way the Church's religious indoctrination can warp one emotionally and psychologically.  A wrathful and judgmental god are touch stones of the religion and far outweigh the Christ of the Gospels.  Guilt and self-hate and an embrace of a rigid dogma all too often are the result of the Church's indoctrination.  So too is an obsession with all things sexual and a schizophrenic approach to women: the Virgin is worshipped and adored, but the rest of womanhood is viewed with suspicion as evil temptresses seeking to destroy men.  The Adam and Eve story - who science has confirmed never existed in any literal sense - and Eve's succumbing to temptation haunts women to this day.  Frighteningly, the Catholic majority on the U.S. Supreme Court embraces the worse aspects of Catholicism and, like the Inquisition of old, seek to impose their religious beliefs on all Americans.  The result is the Dobbs ruling and the effort to erase the separation of church and state.  Given the Vatican's continued opposition to birth control, there is every reason to fear the right to use contraception may yet be eliminated by the extremist majority.  A lengthy piece in The New Yorker looks at the scary situation.  Here are higlights:

As part of the Vatican’s war on “modernism” in 1899, Pope Leo XIII condemned as heresy the set of principles known as “Americanism.” But, by 1965, at the Second Vatican Council, the Church had begun to embrace such supposedly odious ideas: pluralism, the separation of church and state, the primacy of conscience, the preference of experience over dogma, and—for that matter—freedom of the press. This was a historic reversal of the Church’s panicked nineteenth-century repudiation of, in Pope Leo’s words, “modern popular theories and methods.”

Now five Catholic Justices on the Supreme Court are reversing the Church’s reversal. (Neil Gorsuch, who is now an Episcopalian but was raised and educated as a Catholic, joined his five colleagues in overturning Roe v. Wade.) These Justices are undermining not only basic elements of American democracy, such as the “wall of separation,” but also the essential spirit of Catholicism’s great twentieth-century renewal. It’s no secret, of course, that the Second Vatican Council, or Vatican II, which had been summoned by the renewal-minded Pope John XXIII, generated a powerful pushback from traditionalists within the Church. . . . Vatican II took a step away from monarchy and toward democracy.

An ultra-conservative blowback ensued, defining the papacies of Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI, and it proved to be obsessed, above all, with issues related to sexuality and the place of women. This focus emerged even before Vatican II ended, when a nervous Paul VI, who had succeeded Pope John after his death, in 1963, made an extraordinary intervention in the proceedings by forbidding the Council from taking on the question of contraception. Paul’s dictum signalled what was to come when, in 1968, he defied a consensus that was emerging among Catholics—even among the bishops—to accept birth control, and formally condemned it in his encyclical “Humanae Vitae” (“Of Human Life”).

Cardinal Leo Joseph Suenens, of Belgium, protested the Pope’s intervention by rising in St. Peter’s and saying, “I beg you, my brother bishops, let us avoid a new Galileo affair. One is enough for the Church.”

But a new Galileo affair is what the Church got. This one, though, is about the relationship not of the Earth to the Sun but of women to men. Moving from condemnation of birth control to a new absolutism on the question of abortion, a backpedalling succession of increasingly reactionary prelates ignored the Belgian cardinal’s warning. Over the last several decades, the Church hierarchy effectively turned the female body into a bulwark against the changes that the Vatican II generation had embraced.

The elevation of the issue of abortion as the be-all and end-all of Catholic orthodoxy echoes the anti-modern battles that the nineteenth-century Church fought. A pair of dates tells the story. In 1859, Charles Darwin published “On the Origin of Species,” and the idea of biological evolution began to grip the Western imagination. In 1869, Pope Pius IX, in his pronouncement “Apostolicae Sedis,” forbade the abortion of a pregnancy from the moment of conception forward—an effective locating of human “ensoulment” at the joining of the ovum and sperm, an all but explicit rejection of evolutionary theory.

Traditional ways of reading the Genesis story, of course, posed an immediate obstacle to any substantial overturning of assumptions about human origins. But, with Darwin as a starting point, many religious believers, including Catholics, proved capable of viewing Genesis and its seven-day creation calendar as metaphor, and of seeing that God’s creative act had, in fact, unfolded across many eons. Still, the idea that people had been created in a single moment of miraculous divine intervention proved tenacious.

However, despite Pius IX’s nineteenth-century rejection of Darwin’s evolutionary theory, the idea that ensoulment unfolds during the process of fetal development, at some indeterminate point weeks or months after conception, more or less meshes with long-held understandings—expressed by writers including Aristotle and St. Jerome, in the ancient world, and St. Thomas Aquinas, in the Middle Ages. But the great purpose of the Genesis story is not necessarily to explain life but to account for human suffering: . . . It was Eve who supposedly yielded to the devil’s temptation, and, in turn, tempted Adam, thereby dooming both themselves and all their progeny.

This story gives us the concept of “original sin”—a phrase that does not appear in the Bible—and represents the ultimate form of fraudulent originalism. To read the Book of Genesis as a literal account of how the world and human life began is pure fundamentalism, and it poses a danger to the rule of reason on which the common good depends. So, too, do ahistorical readings of the U.S. Constitution. . . . . such historical fundamentalism, she argues, also applies to attitudes toward the creation of the individual: “The reduction of a dynamic, metamorphosing conceptus to a single abstract entity—‘the unborn’—denies both time and change.” And that denial has led to the legal, medical, economic, and personal calamities facing a post-Dobbs America, with women experiencing the brunt of the threat.

The Catholic experience of such fundamentalism is a warning. Back in the fourth century, St. Augustine, whose influence on theology surpasses even that of Aquinas, centered the Adam and Eve narrative on sex. The forbidden fruit, he believed, was the pleasure that the first couple took in sexual arousal. From then on, the sanctioned Catholic imagination was radically corrupted by fear of and contempt for autonomous female sexuality. The Church’s unfettered campaign against women (elevating virginity, requiring female subservience in marriage and at the altar, restricting women’s ability to control their own bodies) was launched. Now it has been joined by the Supreme Court’s Catholic majority.

For decades, that campaign has been faltering among Catholics in the United States. Shortly after Pope Paul VI’s condemnation of birth control, in 1968, a group of ten priests and theologians at the Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C., resoundingly denounced that papal teaching. . . . And most American Catholics agreed, demonstrating that a transformation of attitudes about sex and women had already taken root among them; in the years since, polls have shown that a large majority of Catholic women use birth control. Declining birth rates among Catholics, mirroring those of the broader U.S. population, confirm what the faithful thought of that papal pronouncement.

Now that the Supreme Court, with an extreme originalist misreading of the Constitution, has revoked the constitutional right to obtain an abortion, the renewed political and religious tensions surrounding the issue can be clarifying, perhaps especially for Catholics. . . . . They may cloak that affirmation in language about not wanting to impose their own religious views on others, but this really amounts to an implicit rejection of the idea that human life—and human rights—begins at conception. That rejection should be made explicit.

Freedom of conscience, historical consciousness, the rights of other people to be other people, the idea that sacredness is everywhere, not just in religion—such are aspects of the onetime heresy, Americanism. Catholics in the United States can finally and openly affirm these views.

With the threat to the Church’s unfinished renewal now coming from Catholic Justices, that renewal, with its underlying American ideals, is worth retrieving and advancing, especially as a way to challenge the anti-abortion Catholic legislators who are taking what they perceive as moral instruction from a throwback Supreme Court. Indeed, the defiance by legions of Catholic women of Pope Paul VI’s condemnation of birth control can itself be a model of conscientious objection. Birth control and abortion are not the same thing, but the autonomy of women, the primacy of conscience, and the rejection of overreaching male-supremacist authority add up to an American refusal to obey draconian new laws that claim to defend human life yet do the opposite.

Friday Morning Male Beauty


Thursday, August 18, 2022

More Thursday Male Beauty


Trump is Back "On the Ballot" to the Detriment of Republicans

Although not yet a candidate himself - hopefully growing legal problems will prevent this from happening - through his endorsements of lunatic candidates, the actions of Supreme Court justices he appointed, and the never ending swirl of media coverage and scandals, Donald Trump in many ways has put himself on the 2022 mid-term ballot.  While this may energize his base within the GOP, it also is energizing the revulsion an even larger number of Americans hold for Trump. Here in Virginia, Trump remains extremely unpopular and candidates who expose his "Big Lie" and the extreme positions of today's GOP on abortion and other issues may find themselves facing a strong head wind. Glenn Youngkin won the Virginia governor's mansion by peeling off suburban voters and pretending he wasn't an extremist - his subsequent actions have shown he was lying - and those same voters may again flee an extremist GOP.  A piece in The Atlantic by a former Republican looks at how Trump is likely harming Republican prospects.  Here are column highlights:

Put two things together.

The first is the surge of Republican support for Donald Trump since the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago residence.

The second is this summer’s flow of good news for the Democrats as the 2022 midterms approach. Democratic candidates are leading in Senate races in Arizona, Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. As Politico observes, all-party primaries in Washington State show Democratic candidates running well ahead of their performance in 2010 and 2014, the last big Republican years. Democratic standing is rising in generic polling. Across the nation, indications are gathering that Republicans could pay an immediate political price for the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. Above all, the August economic news has turned good: gasoline prices declining, general inflation abating, job growth surging.

The first fact—the rallying to Trump—reminds us that his narrative of personal grievance still deeply moves Republican voters.

The second fact—the Democrats’ improving congressional prospects—reminds us how little Trump’s grievances resonate with the larger voting public. GOP leaders have made a lot of noise about the Democratic obsession with pronouns. But the Trump Republicans have a pronoun problem of their own: Trump demands, and they agree, to talk about “me, me, me” when the electorate has other, real, bread-and-butter concerns.

Big-money Republicans hoped that 2022 would be the year the GOP quietly sidelined Trump. Those hopes have been fading all year, as extreme and unstable pro-Trump candidates have triumphed in primary after primary. Their last best hope was that the reelection of Ron DeSantis as governor of Florida would painlessly shoulder Trump out of contention for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Now that hope, too, is dying.

He [DeSantis] had four years to become his own man. He battled culture wars—even turning against his former backers at Disney—all to prove himself the snarling alpha-male bully that Republican primary voters reward. But since the Mar-a-Lago search, DeSantis has dropped back into the beta-male role, sidekick and cheering section for Trump.

Trump specializes in creating dominance-and-submission rituals. His Republican base is both the audience for them and the instrument of them. But to those outside the subculture excited by these rituals, they look demeaning and ridiculous. Everybody else wants jobs, homes, cheaper prescription drugs, and bridges that do not collapse—not public performances in Trump’s theater of humiliation.

Midterm elections are usually referendums on the pressing issues of the day. Voters treat them, in effect, as their answer to the implied question: “Got any complaints?” And because voters usually do have complaints, the president’s party tends to take losses. But this time, the loudest complaints of the “out” party are becoming very far removed from most people’s lives.

Historically, conservatives spoke the language of stability; progressives, the language of change. This summer, however, the Trump Republicans are speaking the language of confrontation, of threat, of violence. Five days ago, Peter Wehner described here at The Atlantic the angry shouts on right-wing message boards and websites. That language of menace is now being used by the former president himself. Allow me impunity or else face more armed violence from my supporters is the implicit Trump warning.

That’s a hell of a message to carry into a midterm election. And it’s a message that is incidentally amending the 2022 ballot question from “Got any complaints?” to “How do you react to bullies making threats?”

Let's hope Frum's analysis proves correct.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty


Wednesday, August 17, 2022

More Wednesday Male Beauty


In Defeat Liz Cheney Leads the Anti-Trump Movement

As predicted by polls, Liz Cheney lost her primary election in Wyoming yeterday - making it very clear that's a state I have no desire to visit - to a Trump embracing cultist endorsed by Der Trumpenfuhrer.  Hopefully, her loss will only further fuel Cheney's efforts to do all she can to destroy Donald Trump and perhaps roil the 2024 presidential election by running for president., not necessarily with a chance of winning but instead guaranteeing a Republican loss. The cancer within the GOP must be stopped at whatever cost necessary if American democracy is to survive.  I disagree with Cheney on almost every issue save one: she puts the U.S. Constitution and democracy above personal advantage - a virtually unknown concept to most of today's Republicans who are ready to sell their souls at  the drop of a hat or the wave of Trump's finger.  As a former Republican I remain aghast at the moral bankruptcy that has consumed the GOP.   Personally, I continue to believe the rise of evangelicals - who I view as among the most morally bankrupt in America other than Trump himself - is what spelled the death knell of morality in the GOP.   A piece in the Washington Post looks at Cheney's loss and possible future.  Here are highlights:

 Rep. Liz Cheney had it all two years ago.

She won her 2020 primary with 73 percent of the vote, she was already the No. 3 ranking House GOP leader, and she was well on her way to becoming the first female Republican speaker.

All the Wyoming Republican had to do was keep quiet, like almost all her male GOP colleagues had decided to do.

“I could easily have done the same again, the path was clear, but it would have required that I go along with President Trump’s lie about the 2020 election,” Cheney told a crowd of about 100 supporters gathered in a valley inside the Teton mountain range. “It would have required that I enable his ongoing efforts to unravel our democratic system and attack the foundations of our republic. “That was a path I could not and would not take.”

Cheney used her defiant concession speech Tuesday night, after losing badly in the GOP primary to Trump’s handpicked candidate, to promise a sustained campaign against the ex-president and his allies. She surrendered her rising-star status in Congress in a sacrificial manner toward a higher calling to take on the most powerful figure in her increasingly conspiratorial political party.

Cynics back in Washington discounted this race long ago as lacking importance, given that it was trading one deeply conservative Republican for another. . . . But congressional historians say that’s missing the point: What Cheney has done, in sacrificing her seat and yet fighting to the finish without wavering, is just not common in this era.

“I cannot recall anyone who compares to Liz Cheney’s ‘full force’ confrontation with Trump and company, especially post-World War II,” Donald R. Wolfensberger, a scholar at the Wilson Center, said Tuesday.

Cheney laid out the terms of how she will judge the success of her effort. “We must be very clear-eyed about the threat we face and about what is required to defeat it. I have said since January 6, that I will do whatever it takes to ensure Donald Trump is never again anywhere near the Oval Office. And I mean this,” she said, drawing cheers from a crowd that featured a few newfound admirers among local liberals but was largely made up of old-time hands from Wyoming Republican politics.

It will be more difficult for the younger Cheney to garner the same level of attention next year, when she is out of office, after just six years and at the politically young age of 56. . . . . But she has gained a level of attention that now dwarfs almost every other member of Congress, commanding a platform that all but a handful of other Republicans in the Capitol have attempted.

And she has become a prolific fundraiser, where in the past she would raise the minimum necessary to win in this small-population state where only the GOP primary matters.

Many supporters want her to run for president in 2024, some a bit naive in thinking she would be a top-tier contender. Cheney did little to tamp that down in Tuesday night’s speech.

The speech’s timing had less to do with the results of the primary for the at-large seat — she conceded before she spoke — and more about hitting the precise image of the mountain range behind her as the sun set, creating the perfect golden-hour glow.

Not to mention, taking the stage before 10:30 p.m. Eastern time, Cheney reached a few million viewers back East who watched as cable networks covered the speech live. From the stage, Cheney looked straight up a mountain range that, on the other side, is home to the Spring Creek Ranch, where a longtime family supporter hosted a fundraiser last year for Trump’s truest believers in the House.

Cheney rejected input from advisers and traditional conservative Republicans here. They wanted her to run a campaign about all the work she had done on Wyoming issues, . . . . Instead, after some early positive advertisements that discussed those matters, Cheney focused her final weeks almost singularly on prosecuting the case against Trump and those local Republicans who tout his fallacies about the 2020 election. Right down to running a 60-second ad featuring her father calling Trump a “coward.”

“I have no regrets,” she told a few reporters, expressing pride in the work she has done on Wyoming issues but explaining bigger issues were at play. “There is nothing more important than the defense of our Constitution. And so I’m going to continue to work and ensure that we’re doing that in a way that is nonpartisan.”

Liz Cheney is no longer just her father’s daughter. She has taken a role and an image unto herself, something the former vice president is now appreciative of, as he demonstrated Tuesday when he stood away from the cameras to let Liz be the focus of interviews at the polling place.

Cheney now joins other lawmakers who have demonstrated a political conscience in maintaining their positions even as they know it’s unpopular with voters in their party.

Cheney is now a figure for history, whose final two years in the House will certainly be more fondly recalled than the decades of tenure those other Republicans reach.

Charles Thompson, a retired newspaper reporter from Philadelphia who has been active in Democratic politics here for 20 years, recalled this week how he waited in line to ask her about the choice she made to break so sharply against Trump and other party leaders.

“Was it,” Thompson asked, “a difficult choice?”

“No,” Cheney replied. “It was the only choice. It was the right thing.” 

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


Tuesday, August 16, 2022

More Tuesday Male Beauty


Secrecy Surrounds Glenn Youngkin’s Toxic School "Tip Line"

During the last gubernatorial campaign here in Virginia, when it quickly became clear that Glenn Youngkin was the darling of The Family Foundation, one of Virginia's most insidious hate groups which has a white Christian nationalist agenda, I and others knew that Youngkin would not be good for Virginia and most certainly not good for a quality public school system.  Taking advantage of a gaffe by his opponent and fanning the flames of racism which is never far beneath the surface in this state, especially outside of urban areas, Youngkin managed to win the governor's mansion. He immediately signed an executive order banning the teaching of "critical race theory" - which was not ever taught in Virginia's public schools - and "divisive" topics in Virginia's public schools and suggested teachers "out" LGBT students to their parents.  If one knows The Family Foundation and its agenda, anything that involves an accurate teaching of Virginia's and America's history is deemed divisive as in any reference to the existence and equal rights and common humanity of LGBT individuals.  Despite Youngkin's lip service, Virginia has gone from "welcoming for all" to something very different.  Indeed, Virginia has lost its top ranking as best state in which to do business and the "tip line" Youngkin has established to allow a vigliante style policing of "divisive" issues in public schools is like something out of Putin's Russia. Meanwhile, Younkin refuses to allow the public to know what his secret police style tip line is generating. As an editorial in the Washington Post lays out, Youngkin is facing two lawsuits to force disclosure of what he is doing with his "tip line."  Here are editorial excerpts:

Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) took office this year with a double message for his fellow Virginians, encouraging them to “love your neighbor” while also urging them to use a new tip line to complain about “divisive” school teaching.

In fact, announced just days after his inauguration, Mr. Youngkin’s email tip line itself turned out to be divisive. He asked “folks to send us reports and observations” on objectionable material being taught at schools, adding that the state would “catalogue it all.” The “divisive” material he had in mind, as he made clear in his first executive order, dealt with race, although he defined his terms so gauzily that they could mean almost anything.

The tip line triggered criticism, anger and mockery in Virginia and beyond. The association representing all 133 of Virginia’s local school superintendents wrote to Mr. Youngkin, pointing out that the tip line “impedes positive relationships,” and pleading with him to scrap it. He refused.

If Mr. Youngkin’s tip line has sent any message to teachers, it is: Big Brother is watching, and he won’t tell you what he’s found out.

A dozen news organizations, including The Post, filed a lawsuit in April seeking access to the tip line’s submissions. Those submissions — rendered through a public channel, at the behest of a public official, with the ostensible purpose of modifying the material taught at public schools — should be public. American Oversight, an ethics watchdog organization, and the law firm Ballard Spahr filed a second lawsuit this month. It seeks similar information, including how the Youngkin administration has responded to tip line submissions.

Heather Sawyer, American Oversight’s executive director, said in a statement. “What is it about this program that they don’t want the public to see?”

In response, the Youngkin administration so far has stonewalled, with officials saying, preposterously, that tip line submissions should be regarded as the governor’s “working papers and correspondence” and therefore somehow beyond the reach of the public domain.

The tip line could intimidate teachers, sending the message that they should tread carefully, particularly on instruction involving race, or avoid such topics altogether. That was the unmistakable gist of Mr. Youngkin’s first executive order, “on ending the use of inherently divisive concepts, including critical race theory” — which is not taught in the state’s public schools.

Students should learn how to be engaged, thoughtful citizens. By setting out an ambiguous taboo and inviting Virginians to report secretly on those who might run afoul of it, Mr. Youngkin has risked making it harder for teachers to promote this sort of learning. He should be required to disclose the results.

Come the next legislative session, expect Youngkin to add a "don't say gay bill" to his agenda of turning back public education to the 1950's. 

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


Monday, August 15, 2022

More Monday Male Beauty


Trump’s Scandals Are Never Done

It is no coincidence that Donald Trump is most disliked in his native New York City where residents are long familiar with Trump's skirting - if not open violation - of the law and mob boss style of doing business.  It's the same reason that old New York society has never embraced Trump who is viewed as a gauche neveau riche boor.   Once Trump moved into politics nothing changed and it has been one scandal after another.  Tellingly, despite being a moral cesspool, Trump remains the darling of evangelicals motivated by a mix of hatred of others and white supremacy.  With Trump, it never gets better and the scandals simply keep on coming, seemingly worsening each time they unfold.  Meanwhile, Trump's number one tactic - lying - remains a constant. Sadly, most Republicans remain so afraid of the ugly base of their party that they time and time again close their eyes to the truth and willingly act as Trump's whores simply to avoid a primary challenge.  A piece at The Atlantic looks at the never ending cascade of Trump scandals:

Although there are many rivals for the title, this week’s FBI search at Mar-a-Lago, the apparent mishandling of classified information that led to it, and the political fallout since is close to the paradigmatic Donald Trump scandal.

The story is at once totally new and unexpected and yet entirely of a piece with everything we know and have seen from Trump. Both Trump and his most bitter opponents have noted that the search of a former president’s home is unprecedented—Trump to claim it was unjust, his critics to highlight his misdeeds—but it shares three important characteristics with previous Trump scandals. First, Trump is singularly terrible at keeping secrets. Second, Trump always says that what Democrats, especially Barack Obama, did was worse or caused it. Third, there are always more developments yet to come, and it always gets worse.

Documents about Tuesday’s search released on today don’t offer many details, but they indicate that agents seized “miscellaneous top secret documents.” The warrant also cites three federal laws: the Espionage Act, which involves information about national defense; a second that involves obstruction of investigations by destroying or hiding documents; and a third related to unlawful removal of records.

None of these documents describe the specific contents of what was seized, but The Washington Post reports that FBI agents were seeking “classified documents relating to nuclear weapons” when they executed their warrant. The New York Times says simply that documents involved “related to some of the most highly classified programs run by the United States.” The Wall Street Journal adds that agents seized 11 sets of classified documents, “including some marked as top secret and meant to be only available in special government facilities.”

In statements responding to the stories, Trump didn’t bother to deny the claims about nuclear information. . . . . In a second statement this afternoon, he added, “Number one, it was all declassified. . . . . even the president can’t declassify nuclear secrets); and the Department of Justice seems to have sought the warrant only after Trump failed to turn over all documents that the government requested.

The idea that a former president would be investigated for absconding with sensitive nuclear secrets is almost unbelievable. Speaking on CNN on Tuesday, the longtime Republican operative Alice Stewart set a hyperbolically high bar for the search.

In fairness to Stewart, how could she have known? And yet, how could she have been so naive? He’s been here before. Trump is both an inveterate braggart and a terrible secret-keeper. In May 2017, the same week he fired FBI Director James Comey for refusing to protect him personally, Trump disclosed classified information (reportedly obtained from Israel) to the Russian foreign secretary and ambassador during a White House meeting. In April 2019, he posted a photo of an explosion at an Iranian facility, over the objections of intelligence officials, who worried it would undermine future American spying. Later that year, he blabbed about nuclear systems to the reporter Bob Woodward.

[T]he U.S. intelligence community became consistently worried about sharing secret information with Trump, for fear he’d spread it, as Mark Mazzetti of The New York Times notes.

Trump has sought to blame Obama whenever he gets into a scrape. When he was criticized for sycophancy to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, he accurately pointed out that Russia seized Crimea during Obama’s presidency. When his former national-security adviser Michael Flynn was accused of lying to the FBI, Trump insisted without evidence that this was a conspiracy by the Obama administration. Now he’s turning to whataboutism to defend himself in the document fiasco.

His political allies are ready to buy this argument. The Mar-a-Lago search has, at least initially, rallied the Republican Party around him after months of attenuation. That could change based on new information, but in the past the pattern has been for Republicans to first recoil from Trump and then regroup around him. They haven’t even bothered with the first step here.

Yet the warrant serves as a reminder of a lesson of the Trump administration that could otherwise be forgotten with time: The story always gets worse. After Trump attempted to steal the 2020 election and then incited a violent mob to attack the Capitol to disrupt Congress, one might have imagined Trump had just about reached his nadir. Once you’ve disrupted the peaceful transfer of power, what other depths are there to plumb? And yet the investigations into the paperwork coup and January 6 insurrection have continued to turn up disturbing details, revealing Trump’s role in the whole nightmare to have been one not of passive acceptance but active instigator.

One can never take comfort in the idea that surely the worst has already come to pass with Trump. Who could have imagined things getting worse than the Access Hollywood video? Or than the week of the Comey firing? Or than the coddling of neo-Nazis marchers in Charlottesville, Virginia? Or than attempted blackmail of the Ukrainian government for electoral gain? Every time, Trump manages to find a new way to shock and appall, and every story gets worse.

Monday Morning Male Beauty


Sunday, August 14, 2022

Texas Realtor Helps LGBT Homeowners Flee Texas

Members of the LGBT community have long been key participants in the renewal of neighborhoods across America - think DuPont Circle in Washington, D.C., sections of Houston, New Orleans, Charleston and locally the Ghent neighborhood of Norfolk - and now states like Texas and Florida are enacting big "Gays Not Welcomed" signs (Virginia will follow suit if Glenn Youngkin and the Christian Taliban of the Republican Party of Virginia have their way).  Not surprisingly, many in the LGBT community are rethinking remaining in states that are increasingly hostile to their civil rights if not their very existence.  With red states with draconian anti-abortion laws finding it difficult to recruit medical doctors the flight of talent and money in the gay community may be the next phenomenon (hopefully, large corporations will likewise rethink expanding in states like Texas and Florida and much of fly over country in the Mid-West.  A piece in The Advocate looks at how one realtor - part of a growing trend - is aiding those seeking to flee Texas.  Here are article highlights:

A man in Texas is offering to help at-risk LGBTQ+ homeowners flee the Lone Star state.

Flee Texas is the brainchild of gay Dallas realtor Bob McCranie, who runs Texas Pride Realty. He set up Flee Texas to help other LGBTQ+ homeowners in the state not just sell their homes, but also connect them with LGBTQ+ or affirming realtors in other states to help them purchase a new home.

“I’ve been in Texas since 1987 and I have seen this state transform into a juggernaut of right-wing conservatism,” McCranie tells The Advocate. In response, he created Flee Texas to help LGBTQ+ Texans who feel threatened by the current political and cultural environment find a safe space to live outside his state.

“As LGBTQIA+ citizens of Texas, many of us feel at risk,” the Flee Texas website reads. “If you feel the need to leave the jurisdiction of Texas, let us help you sell your property here and connect you with an LGBTQIA or ally agent in a better location of your choice.”

The Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, earlier this year used a legal opinion from the state’s attorney general to declare that gender-affirming care for trans children is child abuse.

The family of Kai Shappley, a trans girl who testified against the transphobic bills in the state legislature last year, has sold their home along with most of their belongings and is planning to move elsewhere.

McCranie said he’s trying to help families like Shappley’s, and says those detractors who say he is doing it for the money “don’t understand.” He and others fear the state is returning to its homophobic and extremist past.

“A lot of people don’t remember what it’s like to be an illegal person,” he says, noting the state once had harsh sodomy laws that outlawed same-sex sexual relations. “According to the state, affirming transness is now considered child abuse. So families with trans kids need to get out of this jurisdiction now.”

Sadly, he fears the worst about his state. He knows of many LGBTQ+ folks who have moved to more tolerant areas like California, Colorado, and even Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It's a trend he expects to continue.

“I think that you will see a migration out of the red states,” he says. “I have realtors in other states who are setting up the same services there.”

More Sunday Male Beauty


DOJ Investigates Southern Baptist Convention Over Sex Abuse

For years the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC") sought to pretend that there was no sex abuse problem within the denomination - smugly acting as if sex abuse was uniquely a Catholic Church problem - or cited the denomination's lack of a strict hierachy to dismiss responsibility for what was happening in Baptist churches across the country.  Then came a SBC funded report that showed wide spread mishandling and/or cover ups of sexual abuse sometimes by those in the highest levels of the SBC leadership.   It turned out that the SBC like the Catholic Church hierarchy had long known of problems and put the public image of the denomination over the safety of children and women.  Another less charitable but more accurate description of what occurred could also be to say that power, control and money was more important than the wellbeing of countless sex abuse victims.  Both the SBC scandal and the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal make a mockery of the blind deference to religion being pushed by the extremist majority on the U. S. Supreme Court.  Religion, especially institutional religion, continues to cause horrors in the world.   A piece in the Washington Post looks at the Justice Department's investigationof the SBC.  Here are excerpts:

The Southern Baptist Convention, the second-largest faith group in the country, said Friday that the Justice Department is investigating multiple arms of the denomination following an internal report that showed mishandling of sexual abuse cases.

The investigation is related to a recent bombshell third-party report commissioned by the SBC, a spokesman said late Friday. The report concluded that sex abuse survivors were often ignored, minimized and “even vilified” by top clergy in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

“The SBC Executive Committee recently became aware that the Department of Justice has initiated an investigation into the Southern Baptist Convention, and that the investigation will include multiple SBC entities,” the statement issued Friday by 14 SBC leaders from multiple top entities said. “Individually and collectively each SBC entity is resolved to fully and completely cooperate with the investigation.”

The third-party report, which involved an examination of the period from 2000 to 2021, focused on actions by the executive committee, which handles financial and administrative duties. Southern Baptist churches operate independently from one another, but the Nashville-based Executive Committee distributes more than $190 million through its cooperative program in its annual budget that funds its missions, seminaries and ministries.

The 300-page report, the first of its kind in a massive Protestant denomination like the SBC, showed how denominational leaders for decades actively resisted calls for abuse prevention and reform. Evidence in the report suggests leaders also told Southern Baptists they could not maintain a database of offenders to prevent more abuse while secretly keeping such a list for years.

The Justice Department declined to comment.

For years, survivors of sexual assault in church settings have been calling on churches to admit the extent of abuse. It helped to generate a movement called #ChurchToo, a spinoff of the wider #MeToo movement, calling out not just sexual predators but also religious leaders involved in coverups or other mishandling of abuse claims.

Lawyers for the SBC Executive Committee said in a Friday night statement that the committee has received a subpoena, but “no individuals have been subpoenaed at this point.”

The statement announcing the Justice Department probe was signed by leaders including SBC seminary heads, the top official at its huge missionary body and newly elected President Bart Barber.

“While so many things in the world are uncertain, we can be certain that we serve a mighty God. Nothing, including this investigation, takes Him by surprise,” the statement said. “We take comfort in that and humbly ask you be in prayer in the days and weeks ahead. Specifically, we ask God to grant wisdom and discernment to each person dealing with the investigation.”

Expect much more dirt and scandal to come out.

Sunday Morning Male Beauty