Saturday, September 10, 2022

More Saturday Male Beauty - Pt 2


Republican Judges Mount New Assaults on Privacy and LGBT Rights

The clear implication of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs is that no right to privacy was expressly written into the U.S. Constitution and that, therefore, the extremist majority is free to over rule past decisions based on a right of privacy in personal relationships and autonomy.  Indeed, Clarence Thomas' concurring opinion made it clear that same sex marriage. samesex relationships, and the use of contraception by married couples all could be stripped away (ironically, Thomas is too stupid to grasp that Loving v. Virginia could also be reversed on the same basis).  Similarly, the same majority on the Court believes that religious belief under the fals flag of "religious freedom" trumps - no pun intended - all other rights.  As the mid-tems approach two court actions are reminders of just how extreme and out of step today's Republicans are in terms of the views and beliefs the majority of Americans.  The first reminder is a GOP appointed federal judge's ruling out of Texas (the same judge previously tried to strike down the Affordable Health Care Act).  The ruling targeted LGBT rights to access to medication and is a reminder that contraception also remains vulnerable to GOP extremism.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the disturbing ruling:

Jonathan Mitchell is at it again. Mitchell is the conservative lawyer behind S.B. 8, the Texas law that ended most abortions in the state in 2021, even before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Now, Mitchell is going after the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that private employers’ insurance policies cover preventive medical services. In a case brought by Mitchell, a federal judge on Wednesday ruled that a Texas company can’t be forced to provide coverage for drugs that prevent HIV infection because its Christian owner says such medication “facilitates and encourages homosexual behavior” in violation of his religious beliefs.

That wasn’t all. Mitchell, pressing an array of arguments that conservatives have deployed to dismantle the modern administrative state, argued that the mandates for free contraception and other preventive services were unconstitutional because the entities imposing the rules weren’t subject to enough presidential control or congressional oversight.

He lost on the contraception claim, but the judge, Reed O’Connor, found that the panel that determines what other services should be covered is unconstitutional because its members aren’t appointed by the president or confirmed by the Senate — threatening guaranteed no-cost coverage for everything from cancer screening to vaccines.

[T]he Biden Justice Department noted in urging O’Connor to dismiss the case, Braidwood didn’t claim it was being asked to cover the medication — just that there was a “hypothetical possibility that it may one day have to make” such a payment. As the department’s brief said, “It is difficult to imagine that individuals eligible to be prescribed PrEP medications would choose to work for Braidwood,” given the company’s anti-gay stance. This is not the stuff on which strong federal cases are made.

Yet, here we go again — pushed by conservative lawyers, a conservative judge (O’Connor was nominated by George W. Bush) bends over backward to accommodate strained claims of religious liberties. . . . . as this dispute demonstrates, things have gotten entirely out of whack and, in this era of conservative-dominated courts, now tilt too far in the direction of religious rights.

Antiviral PrEP medications — short for pre-exposure prophylaxis — reduce the risk of contracting HIV from sex by 99 percent. As a result, a government advisory committee recommended in 2019 that the drugs be made part of the mandatory package of fully subsidized preventive care.

This is a development that everyone should cheer, including people who call themselves Christians: It prevents needless death. But Mitchell’s lawsuit claims the requirement forces religious employers “to choose between subsidizing lifestyles that violate their religious beliefs” and not providing insurance to their employees — and makes them “complicit in these behaviors.” Complicit?

More such clashes are coming. Two years ago, in Bostock v. Clayton County, the court ruled that federal anti-discrimination law covers gay and transgender workers. But by Mitchell’s — and O’Connor’s — reasoning, it would be a violation of an employer’s religious rights to apply that ruling to any employer whose anti-gay discrimination had a religious basis: If it’s subsidizing gay conduct to cover anti-HIV medication, then isn’t it subsidizing gay conduct to pay gay employees?

The court in Bostock said religious rights might “supersede” anti-discrimination law “in appropriate cases” and put off the issue for another day. The Mitchell-O’Connor approach would carve a gaping loophole in that protection. Which might suit this conservative court just fine.

Action at the Supreme Court likewise reminds everyone that claims of restrictions on "religious freedom" threat the rights of both the majority of Americans and minority groups groups in particular.  As NBC News reports, the Court blocked a lower court ruling that would require a "conservative" Jweish university to recognize a LGBT student orgaization.  Here are higlights:

The Supreme Court on Friday temporarily allowed an Orthodox Jewish university in New York to deny official recognition to an LGBTQ student group, the latest in a series of decisions in favor of religious rights. . . . Yeshiva University, which claims that recognizing the group would be contrary to its sincere religious beliefs.

The dispute is the latest clash between religious rights and LGBTQ rights to reach the high court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority.

Friday's decision puts on hold a decision by a New York state judge, who ruled in June that the university was bound by the New York City Human Rights Law, which bars discrimination based on sexual orientation. The university argues that it is a religious institution and therefore should be exempted from the law. Requiring it to endorse the group would be a “clear violation” of its rights under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which protects the free exercise of religion, the university argues.

The Pride Alliance group, which first sought recognition in 2019, sued in April 2021, saying the university was required to grant its request because it is a place of public accommodation that is covered by the anti-discrimination law.

Katherine Rosenfeld, a lawyer for Pride Alliance, said Friday that the group "remains committed to creating a space space for LGBTQ students" on campus and would await final action from the Supreme Court.

Americans need to wake up to the threat claims of "religious freedom" pose to many rights currently enjoyed by citizens.

More Saturday Male Beauty


Democrats Are Gaining the Advantage on "God, Guns and Gays"

For years Republicans used "god, guns and gays" to successfully mobilize their Christofascist and gun fanatic base and turn them out at the polls.   Too often Democrats failed to challenge this line of propoganda and yielded the field to Republican candidates on the issues.  Now, there is a sea change happing where the majority of Americans are equally mobilized on these issues and oppose the never ending demands of the GOP base that their relious beliefs be imposed on all and that gun rights be allowed to override the right of the rest of society to be safe from gun violence.   As the 2022 mid-terms aproach, Republicans are on the defensive, especially after the Dobbs ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade and inflicted Christofascist extremist views on abortion on millions of American women.  Seventy percent or more of Americans support same sex marriage and the marriage bill now before the U.S. Senate will force Republicans to either vote to appease their shrinking base or put on open display how out of step they are on marriage equality. Likewise, Dobbs continues to enrage millions of women who have registered to vote and likely take revenge on Republicans.  A piece in Politico looks at the sea change:

It’s already the consensus that abortion is going to be a good issue for Democrats in November.

What’s only now becoming clear — as Republicans scrub their campaign websites of prior positions on abortion and labor to turn the focus of the midterms back to President Joe Biden and the economy — is just how much the issue is altering the GOP’s standard playbook.

For the first time in years, Republican and Democratic political professionals are preparing for a general election campaign in which Democrats — not Republicans — may be winning the culture wars, a wholesale reversal of the traditional political landscape that is poised to reshape the midterms and the run-up to 2024.

“The environment is upside down,” said Michael Brodkorb, a former deputy chair of the Minnesota Republican Party. “The intensity has been reversed.”

It isn’t just abortion. Less than 20 years after conservatives used ballot measures against same-sex marriage to boost voter turnout in 11 states, public sentiment has shifted on the issue so dramatically that Democrats are poised to force a vote on legislation to protect same-sex marriage to try to damage Republican candidates. Following the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Democrats from Georgia and Wisconsin to Illinois and California are running ads supporting gun restrictions, once viewed as a liability for the left, while openly engaging Republicans on crime.

In an advertising campaign shared with POLITICO, the center-left group Third Way said the PAC it launched last year to defend moderate Democrats, Shield PAC, will start spending at least $7 million next week on digital and mail ads in seven competitive House districts to counter Republican attacks on crime, immigration and other culture war issues.

The advertising push follows polling in Rep. Abigail Spanberger’s Virginia district that suggested counter-messaging by Democrats on public safety could blunt the effect of “defund the police” attacks by Republicans. As a result, while Spanberger is airing ads tearing into her Republican opponent on abortion, Shield PAC will be running a digital campaign bolstering Spanberger’s credentials on police funding.

“The story is that things that used to be very dangerous for Democrats – guns and abortion – are now very good for Democrats,” said Third Way’s Matt Bennett. “Those kind of culture issues – [same-sex] marriage, abortion and guns – have flipped. The political impact of them [has] flipped.”

For Republicans, the toxicity of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade was not singularly in the unpopularity of the decision, but in its undercutting of Republican efforts to brand Democrats as extreme. At the base of every non-economic attack Republicans leveled at Democrats — from crime to immigration and education — was the idea that the left was out of touch. But Roe, supported by a majority of Americans — including independents critical in a midterm election — was a reminder that on one of the most salient issues of the midterms, Democrats were in the mainstream.

Democrats need to contially hammer home how out of touch with the mainstream Republicans have become and how they are a threat to the rights and safety of the majority of Americans.  In keeping with this theme. a column in the Washington Post looks at the increasing Democrat momentum going into the mid-terms.  Here are excerpts:

It’s not one chamber of Congress. It’s not one state or region. We are seeing a widespread shift in Democrats’ favor virtually across the board. Whether it will be enough to save Democrats’ majorities in the midterms is far from clear, but the expected red wave looks as if it’s circling the drain.

Generic polling has steadily shifted toward Democrats since July. Meanwhile, President Biden’s approval numbers are also on the rise. Maybe his student loan relief announcement and recent speeches slamming MAGA Republicans are more popular than media pundits thought. While Republicans are still favored to pick up the five seats needed to flip the House, several points deserve mention.

First, polls are providing only a snapshot of the electorate. It may well continue in Democrats’ direction. And while Republicans don’t seem equipped to reverse the momentum, events have a way of catching the electorate’s attention (as we saw with the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision to overturn abortion rights).

Second, so long as defeated former president Donald Trump’s mishandling of classified documents remains the biggest story on the GOP side, Republicans will find it difficult to shift to issues that benefit them. (Remember inflation?) The latest Marist poll shows more than 60 percent of Americans think Trump did something illegal or unethical . . . . Republicans who insist on defending this behavior might find a chilly reception outside the cultish base.

Third, given the utter disarray, extremism and irrationality of so many MAGA House members, there is no telling whether they can actually control the House with a razor-thin majority. The speakership fight alone might take weeks to resolve if the margin is only a few seats.

And it’s not just the House. The latest batch of Florida Senate polls shows Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) within the margin of error against his Democratic opponent, Val Demings. FiveThirtyEight’s polling averages show that Democratic Senate candidates lead in Ohio, Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania while North Carolina is a dead heat.

One additional fact weighing in Democrats’ favor: Their ability to control the agenda. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has vowed to bring codification of gay marriage rights to the floor for a vote. That is going to put right-wing incumbents running in swing states in a tough position.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Friday, September 09, 2022

More Friday Male Beauty


DOJ Appeals Trump's Flunky Judge’s Appalling Order

When Donald Trump sought to have a special master appointed to delay the Justice Department's invesigation of his theft of highly sensitive government documents - including a foreign nation's nuclear capabilities - he did not make the request to the court where the matter had already begun.  No, he went forum shopping and petitioned a judge (pictured above) he had appointed in the waning days of his regime after he had lost the 2020 election who, guess what, did Trump's bidding to the horror of legal experts.  The consensus in the legal community is that the ruling is appalling and perhaps the nicest thing that can be said is that Judge Cannon is beyond her depth and ignorant of national security aspects of the case.  (Many of Trump's judicial appointments were based on the appointee's right wing ideology as opposed to competence).  A column in the Washington Post sums of the reaction of the legal community:  

The sheer volume of criticism on the opinion is remarkable, as is the ideological range of voices expressing it, from Harvard constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe to former attorney general William P. Barr.

And that was before the most recent revelations about how explosive the contents of the snatched documents may be. The Post reports: “A document describing a foreign government’s military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities, was found by FBI agents who searched former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and private club last month.” These are so sensitive that “many senior national security officials are kept in the dark about them.”

Yet Cannon proposes that a special master should paw through these documents to determine if a former president who improperly retained them can keep the executive branch from seeing its own documents.

Moreover, Cannon’s attempt to divide the executive branch in two — allowing the intelligence community to proceed with the urgent national security review but preventing the Justice Department from investigating an explosive national security breach — is as untenable as it is unprecedented. And perhaps most egregiously, she takes the step of enjoining the executive branch from conducting its investigation, a shocking overreach that violates the separation of powers.

As the New York Times is reporting, the Department of Justice has filed a brief with Judge Cannon and politely asked her to amend her frightful order or else an appeal will be filed with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals which legal experts predict will reverse Cannon and perhaps verbally bitch slap her in the process.   Here are highlights from the Times:

The Justice Department asked a federal judge on Thursday to revisit her decision to temporarily stop prosecutors from gaining access to classified documents seized from former President Donald J. Trump’s Florida home, arguing that her ruling was hindering the government’s effort to determine whether national security had been compromised.

In a pair of filings in federal court, lawyers for the department announced their intention to appeal key parts of Judge Aileen M. Cannon’s ruling. They said they would ask an appeals court to block those sections of her order if she does not agree to do so herself by next Thursday.

Judge Cannon’s order, issued on Monday, has prevented the department from using the documents, some marked as highly classified, in its investigation into Mr. Trump’s handling of sensitive government documents.

In the ruling, she said she planned to appoint an independent arbiter, known as a special master, to sift through the more than 11,000 documents and 1,800 other items the F.B.I. seized during a court-authorized search last month . . . .

The department, in forceful and foreboding language, argued that determining the national security implications of Mr. Trump’s retention of the documents was so intertwined with its criminal investigation that carrying out a separate risk assessment was impossible under the conditions imposed by the court.

Justice Department lawyers complained that the judge’s order was impeding efforts to determine whether there may yet be “additional classified records that are not being properly stored” and noted that the search had recovered empty folders marked as classified whose contents “may have been lost or compromised.”

The government and the public, the department added, “are irreparably injured when a criminal investigation of matters involving risks to national security” is frozen or delayed. . . . . prosecutors asked Judge Cannon to grant them immediate access only to the classified material, arguing that her ruling had been based on concerns about Mr. Trump’s personal materials — including medical and financial records — that were swept up in the search.

“The classification markings establish on the face of the documents that they are government records, not plaintiff’s personal records,” they said. . . . .Prosecutors added that Mr. Trump has no right to have classified government documents returned to him and there is no plausible claim that any are subject to attorney-client privilege.

Trump has claimed that he had declassified everything he removed from the Oval Office to his residence. But his lawyers have not made that same assertion in the courtroom, where there are professional consequences for lying.

Thursday’s filing was an attempt to place the onus back on Judge Cannon.

The submission of the filing, including the declaration that Judge Cannon’s order was creating national security problems, also added to the factual record the government could put before the appeals court.

Friday Morning Male Beauty


Thursday, September 08, 2022

More Thursday Male Beauty


Religious Belief: An Excuse to Discriminate

Christianity - which in theory according to some is supposed to be about love of neighbor and caring for the poor, the sick and the oppressed, etc. - in the hands of evangelicals and far right "Christians" has become the bludgeon with which to harm one's neighbor and justify discrimination against others.   "Religious freedom" is now the smoke screen for all kinds of hatred and bigotry as Americans move increasingly away from religion in not small part because of the hypocrisy and cruelty of Christ's self-annointed followers.  Indeed, now protecting the civil rights of others who do not adhere to the hate, willful ignorance, fear and bigorty that increasingly define evangelicals and religious "conservatives" is depicted as an infringement if not an open assault on "religious freedom" of these hate merchants and bigots.  Everything from same sex marriage to prescription coverage, to contraception is labeled as an assault on the "godly folk" who tend to be white supremacists and selfish and self-centered.  A column in the Washington Post looks at this intensifying problem which has been embraced by the extremist majority on the Supreme Court and Republican candidates prostituting themselves to the uglist elements of the GOP base.   Here are highlights:

Emboldened by the U.S. Supreme Court, today’s religious right is pressing in courts nationwide for what amounts to a sweeping right to discriminate. U.S. courts are flooded with cases brought by institutions claiming their right to religious freedom entitles them to refuse to comply with anti-discrimination laws.

Under the banner of religion, an employer is asserting a right to deny its workers insurance coverage for drugs that prevent HIV— an argument that just Wednesday found favor in federal court. Religiously affiliated schools posit a right to fire unmarried pregnant women. And taxpayer-funded child placement agencies turn away families seeking to foster or adopt because they are Jewish, Catholic or a same-sex couple.

For the past decade, the American Civil Liberties Union has tracked cases invoking a religious right to discriminate, and we’ve never been more alarmed. The sheer number of these cases has exploded. In 2012, the first ACLU report documenting them came in at seven single-spaced pages. The most recent report runs close to 30.

The scope of these claims has also mushroomed. When we began our monitoring, most claimants sought to restrict women’s access to abortion and contraception and deny wedding services to same-sex couples. Now, in the name of religion, businesses assert a right to refuse to hire LGBTQ people, public school teachers a right to misgender students and others a right to discriminate against terminally ill patients exploring end of life options.

These efforts are simply incompatible with a pluralistic constitutional democracy that values both equality and religious freedom. Religious freedom, after all, doesn’t mean a right to hurt others.

Consider an example currently making headlines from Texas. On Wednesday, a U.S. district judge accepted the argument of a for-profit business that it has a right to deny employees insurance coverage for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), pioneering drugs used to prevent the transmission of HIV that can cost as much as $20,000 a year. The employer argued that buying insurance that covers this treatment — as required by federal law — “substantially burdens” its religious freedom because “homosexual behavior” conflicts with its Christian faith. The court accepted the argument, letting the employer’s religious beliefs override the health of its employees.

The PrEP case is no outlier. In Massachusetts, the Salvation Army is arguing that its shelters can discriminate against people with opioid use disorder who rely on medication-assisted therapy, the most effective treatment for addiction. The charity maintains that its objection is religiously based and should therefore trump its obligations under federal civil rights law to serve people with disabilities.

Proponents of religious exemptions portray them as a shield to protect religious people from an increasingly secular United States. In reality, they’ve become a sword wielded to impose religious beliefs on others.

There’s a straightforward explanation for the surge we’re seeing in religious refusals. In recent years, the Supreme Court has found in decision after decision that requiring compliance with anti-discrimination laws injures Christians, even as it blatantly ignores egregious forms of discrimination inflicted on women, racial minorities and LGBTQ people.

Particularly important was the 2014 case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, in which the arts and crafts chain challenged a requirement that employer insurance cover contraception. In that case, the court expressly extended religious exemptions to “the commercial, profit-making world,” to quote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for the first time.

In a recent speech, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., quoting scripture, implored “champions of religious liberty” to “go out as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves” to challenge the “growing hostility to religion” in America. The justice, who penned the Hobby Lobby opinion, now has a solid majority hungry to give these “champions” whatever they want.

This fall, the court will hear a major case asserting a constitutional right to discriminate. A public website design business in Colorado is objecting, on religious grounds, to serving same-sex couples seeking a wedding website. . . . . a ruling in favor of the business could entitle those with religious or any other objections to ignore anti-discrimination laws. The United States could soon see bakeries with “wedding cakes for heterosexuals only” signs next door to shuttered abortion clinics.

We have been here before. In the mid-1960s, a white supremacist who refused to serve Black people at his South Carolina barbecue restaurants argued that he was entitled to a religious exemption from the newly enacted Civil Rights Act. His lawyers told a trial court that the owner believed “as a matter of faith that racial intermixing or any contribution thereto contravenes the will of God,”. . . . The Supreme Court dismissed the argument as “patently frivolous.”

Champions of this “patently frivolous” claim are back before a remade Supreme Court. Half a century ago, the court snuffed out the flame on claims that religious freedom gave institutions the right to violate anti-discrimination laws. This time, it is lighting the match.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty


Tuesday, September 06, 2022

More Tuesday Male Beauty


Why Children Need to Learn Accurate History

Education and knowledge of accurate history - the good, the bad, and the ugly - are essential to having an educated and responsible citizenry.  They are also key to a flourishing democracy and hopefully aid newer generations from avoiding the mistakes and sins of the past.   Hence, it is no surprise that autocrats ranging from Vladimir Putin to the mullahs in Tehran and Saudi Arabia seek to censor the teaching of accurate and complete history which could otherwise cause their subjects to question the dictatorships they live under.   Now in America similar forces - mostly Republicans and "conservatives" - want to likewise erase unflattering aspects of America's history and disfavored groups who have suffered the most discrimination and repression in the past.   These American mullahs, white supremacists and homophobes - which includes the current occupant of the Executive mansion in Richmond - all want a sanitized version of American history.  They complain of "divisive issues" which in fact are any truth about slavery, the Jim Crow era - which many want to bring back - and the mistreatment of LGBT people over the course of the nation's past.  A guest column in the New York Times the case as to why this censoring of history and the truth do children and students a disservice.  Here are excerpts:

Why do we have public schools? To make young people into educated, productive adults, of course. But public schools are also for making Americans. Thus, public education requires lessons about history — the American spirit and its civics — and also contact with and context about other Americans: who we are and what has made us.

That broader purpose is currently under attack. According to PEN America, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting free expression, legislatures in 36 states have proposed 137 bills that would limit teaching about race, gender and American history. Nineteen censorship bills have become law in the past two years. In our increasingly diverse nation, insulating students from lessons about racism will create a generation ill equipped to participate in a multiracial democracy. When partisan politicians ban the teaching of our country’s full history, children are purposely made ignorant of how American society works. And the costs of this ignorance to American democracy will be borne by us all.

Black people in Jim Crow Mississippi lived under racial authoritarianism so strict and violent that it is hard to imagine today. But lies and omissions about history were essential to the program of Jim Crow subjugation. Lost Cause mythology, which downplayed slavery as a cause of the Civil War, replaced factual history. Students, regardless of race, were taught that Black people were inferior. And many white employers thought Black people should learn only enough for proficiency in menial Jim Crow jobs.

That’s why the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee sent volunteers to the Mississippi Delta during the 1964 Freedom Summer, to found schools in poor Black communities that offered a truthful education that was explicit about racial oppression and the denial of political rights.

This multiracial group of volunteers made plain the distance between American reality and its ideals.

The broader civil rights movement helped transform the nation — in ways that even benefited the white Southerners who were so deeply opposed. As Gavin Wright recounts in “Sharing the Prize,” civil rights gains helped create more robust economies and local democracies, benefiting all citizens. These gains were possible precisely because people learned how to confront the nation’s failures.

Every student deserves the kind of myth-shattering and empowering education that the Freedom Schools provided. Such education doesn’t shy away from America’s ugly truths and contradictions. Stories of racial progress should be coupled with data on abiding racial inequalities in employment, life expectancy and incarceration. Discussions of figures such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson should include the contradiction between their hypothetical opposition to slavery and the fact that they both enslaved people.

Honest education isn’t all bad news. In fact, the deeper you go into our history, the more you can find new heroes to celebrate. As Freedom School participants learned by looking at the people who taught them, there is a tradition of American heroism, by people of all races, that is as real as the tradition of oppression and injustice. We can’t understand one without the other.

Teaching age-appropriate but full history today allows white students to ask themselves: Do I want to be like the hundreds of protesters in the black and white photograph, yelling at Ruby Bridges, a 6-year-old Black girl, as she tried to integrate a public school? Or do I want to be like the hundreds of white students who boarded buses for the South to register Black voters during Freedom Summer?

Contemporary attacks on teaching true history are authoritarian attempts to impose a sanitized curriculum. America’s book banners and anti-critical race theory zealots are following a path well worn by authoritarian regimes in Russia and Hungary, which have issued laws targeting the teaching of L.G.B.T.Q. issues.

In the current U.S. debates, both the authoritarians and those people committed to multiracial democracy recognize that education is inherently political, because it enables students to understand, question and change their world.

Despite wails to the contrary from activist groups like Moms for Liberty, who claim accurate teaching of America’s history will harm white children, research shows that all students benefit from reading accurate but critical accounts. Lessons about racism make students more likely to engage and empathize across race. Such cross-racial solidarity is essential for members of our most diverse generation.

Perhaps that’s why many young people are rightfully suspicious of grown-ups who want to keep the truth from them. A white teenager in Nevada spoke out against censorship at her rural county school board meeting.

“Discussions of lessons based around our country and society’s true history are absolutely not making me, as a white person, feel attacked or guilty,” she said. “In fact, being able to talk about hard topics such as racial inequality and slavery allowed me to feel proud of how far our society has come and hopeful that we can continue to progress.”

The people who resist an honest teaching of history have an economic agenda, too. They attack our children’s freedom to learn in order to create “universal public school distrust,” as Christopher Rufo, one of the leading architects of the effort to censor the teaching of race in the classroom and an advocate of school vouchers, put it. When white parents — and the tax dollars that often move with them — abandon public schools out of fear of integrated curriculums, it drains the pool of public resources from our schools. It is no surprise that some recent campaigns to pack school boards, sue districts and spread book bans are reportedly funded by some of the same secret money groups that espouse low-tax, small-government economics, while financially backing the nomination of conservative judges.

If an educated citizenry makes democracy possible, attacking schools becomes a proxy war to limit democracy. This is a battle that our parents and grandparents fought and won. Now the struggle for an honest education — and the democracy it makes possible — must be ours as well.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


Monday, September 05, 2022

More Monday Male Beauty


Trump Walked Into Biden's Trap

Nothing will help Democrats more in the 2022 mid-term elections than (i) the backlash of women in the wake of the Dobbs ruling depriving them of control of their own bodies, and (ii) nationalizing the election and making it all about Donald Trump and reminding voters that a vote for ANY Republican is tantamount to a vote for Trump.  On the latter point, last Thursday Joe Biden gave a speech slamming MAGA Republicans and Trump no doubt realizing it would be more than Trump's huge but ultra-fragile ego could withstand.  Sure enough, Trump reacted with a rally in Pennsylvania (ostensibly about candidates in that state who were barely allowed to speack) and reminded voters - especially Pennsylvania voters - that altough not on the ballot, the 2022 mid-terms are all about Trump and the total domination he continues to hold over the  GOP.  A vote for a Republican - ANY Republican - is a vote for Trump - the ultimate bogeyman to motivate Democrats to folk to the polls.  A piece in The Atlantic looks at how Biden suckered Trump into reminding voters that he is Synonymous with the GOP.  Here are excerpts:

In 2016, Hillary Clinton warned that Donald Trump was a fool who could be baited with a tweet. This past Thursday night, in Philadelphia, Joe Biden upped the ante by asking, in effect: What idiot thing might the former president do if baited with a whole speech? On Saturday night, the world got its answer.

For the 2022 election cycle, smart Republicans had a clear and simple plan: Don’t let the election be about Trump. Make it about gas prices, or crime, or the border, or race, or sex education, or anything—anything but Trump. Trump lost the popular vote in 2016. He lost control of the House in 2018. He lost the presidency in 2020. He lost both Senate seats in Georgia in 2021. Republicans had good reason to dread the havoc he’d create if he joined the fight in 2022.

So they pleaded with Trump to keep out of the 2022 race. A Republican lawmaker in a close contest told CNN on August 19, “I don’t say his name, ever.”

Maybe the pleas were always doomed to fail. Show Trump a spotlight, and he’s going to step into it. But Republicans pinned their hopes on the chance that Trump might muster some self-discipline this one time, some regard for the interests and wishes of his partners and allies.

One of the purposes of Biden’s Philadelphia attack on Trump’s faction within the Republican Party was surely to goad Trump. It worked.

Yesterday, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Trump addressed a rally supposedly in support of Republican candidates in the state: Mehmet Oz for the Senate; the January 6 apologist Doug Mastriano for governor. This was not Trump’s first 2022 rally speech. . . . But this one was different: so extreme, strident, and ugly—and so obviously provoked by Biden’s speech that this was what led local news: “Donald Trump Blasts Philadelphia, . . . Yes, you read that right: Campaigning in Pennsylvania, the ex-president denounced the state’s largest city.

Trump spoke at length about the FBI search of his house for stolen government documents. He lashed out at the FBI, attacking the bureau and the Department of Justice as “vicious monsters.” He complained about the FBI searching his closets for stolen government documents, inadvertently reminding everyone that the FBI had actually found stolen government documents in his closet—and in his bathroom too. Trump called Biden an “enemy of the state.” He abused his party’s leader in the U.S. Senate as someone who “should be ashamed.” He claimed to have won the popular vote in the state of Pennsylvania, which, in fact, he lost by more than 80,000 votes.

The rally format allowed time for only brief remarks by the two candidates actually on the ballot, Oz and Mastriano. Its message was otherwise all Trump, Trump, Trump. A Republican vote is a Trump vote. A Republican vote is a vote to endorse lies about the 2020 presidential election.

On and on it went, in a protracted display of narcissistic injury that was exactly the behavior that Biden’s Philadelphia speech had been designed to elicit.

Republican congressional leaders desperately but hopelessly tried to avert the risk that this next election would become yet another national referendum on Trump’s leadership. Despite Trump’s lying and boasting, politicians who can count to 50 and 218—the respective numbers needed for a majority in the Senate and House—have to reckon with the real-world costs of Trump’s defeats. But Biden understood their man’s psychology too well.

Biden came to Philadelphia to deliver a wound to Trump’s boundless yet fragile ego. Trump obliged with a monstrously self-involved meltdown 48 hours later. And now his party has nowhere to hide. Trump has overwritten his name on every Republican line of every ballot in 2022.

Biden dangled the bait. Trump took it—and put his whole party on the hook with him. Republican leaders are left with little choice but to pretend to like it.

Monday Morning Male Beauty


Sunday, September 04, 2022

More Sunday Male Beauty


Women Are Registering to Vote in Staggering Numbers

Historically, the mid-term elections during a president's first term have been a blood bath for the party holding the White House.  Based on this historical precedent, earlier in the year political pundits and bloviating talking heads had blathered about a "red wave" this November with Democrats likely losing control of both houses of Congress.   But then something in late June: millions of women lost control over their own bodies thanks to Republican extremists on the U.S. Supreme Court the last of which was rushed through by Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans.   Of course, overturning Roe v. Wade is hardly the only attack on women by Republicans in Congress.  They continue to oppose equal pay for equal work, torpedo legislation that would aid working women with children and over all want women subordinate to men.  The huge surge in women registering to vote suggests that just maybe women have finally had enough of Republican mistreatment and may seek to inflict vegeance on their oppressors.  Time will, of course tell, but what is clear is that GOP hopes of a massive "red wave" may be only a fond memory.   If women do inflict vegeance on Republicans, it would truly be divine justice not to mention women giving the SCOTUS extremists the middle finger.  A piece in the New York Times at the surge in women registering to vote:

I’ve watched Americans in recent years acclimate to some very grim realities. Especially since the ascension of Donald Trump, numerous tragedies and extreme policies have been met with little political consequence: schools targeted by mass murderers, immigrants treated as subhuman and autocratic regimes around the globe affirmed as allies. While Mr. Trump did fail in his re-election bid, a swing of just over 20,000 votes in the three states with the narrowest margins would have produced a win for him, and Democrats hold razor-thin majorities in the House and the Senate.

In the weeks following the leak of a draft ruling in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, which all but guaranteed the end of abortion protections under Roe v. Wade, it initially seemed this pattern would hold. About three weeks after the leak, a CNN analyst claimed that “the Republican wave is building fast” heading into the midterm elections.

But once the actual Dobbs decision came down, everything changed. For many Americans, confronting the loss of abortion rights was different from anticipating it. In my 28 years analyzing elections, I’ve never seen anything like what’s happened in the past two months in American politics: Women are registering to vote in numbers I’ve never witnessed. . . . . This is a moment to throw old political assumptions out the window and to consider that Democrats could buck historic trends this cycle.

One of the first big signs that things had changed came from Kansas. After voters there defeated a constitutional amendment that would have removed abortion protections in the state in a landslide, I sought to understand how activists could have accomplished such an astounding upset.

I looked at new voter registrants in the state since the June 24 Dobbs decision. As shocking as the election result was to me, what I found was more striking than any single election statistic I can recall discovering throughout my career. Sixty-nine percent of those new registrants were women. In the six months before Dobbs, women outnumbered men by a three-point margin among new voter registrations. After Dobbs, that gender gap skyrocketed to 40 points. Women were engaged politically in a way that lacked any known precedent.

Repeating the Kansas analysis across several other states, a clear pattern emerged. . . . What my team and I did find was large surges in women registering to vote relative to men, when comparing the period before June 24 and after.

The pattern was clearest in states where abortion access was most at risk, and where the electoral stakes for abortion rights this November were the highest. The states with the biggest surges in women registering post-Dobbs were deep red Kansas and Idaho, with Louisiana emerging among the top five states. Key battleground states also showed large increases, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio, which are all facing statewide races in which the fate of abortion access could be decided in November.

The surge in women registering and voting helped the Democrat Pat Ryan prevail over Marc Molinaro — one of the more credible Republican recruits this cycle — in New York’s fiercely contested 19th Congressional District last month. This is not the type of performance you would see in a red wave election. Among the mail and early votes cast in the district, women outnumbered men by an 18-point margin, despite accounting for about 52 percent of registered voters.

With over two months until Election Day, uncertainty abounds. Election prognostication relies heavily on past precedent. Yet there is no precedent for an election centered around the removal of a constitutional right affirmed a half-century before. Every poll we consume over the closing weeks of this election will rely on a likely voter model for which we have no benchmark.

Already, several Republicans seem to be sensing that they’re in trouble. In Arizona, the Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters, an ardent abortion opponent, recently wiped language advocating extreme abortion restrictions from his website.

Whether the coming elections will be viewed as a red wave, a Roe wave or something in between will be decided by the actions of millions of Americans — especially, it seems, American women. As Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority decision in Dobbs: “Women are not without electoral or political power.” He was right about that. Republicans might soon find out just how much political power they [women] have.

Sunday Morning Male Beauty


The Fragile Egos of Fascists and Seditionists

When this blog first began years ago and I had verbal and email encounters with virulently anti-gay far right "Christians" - the only group from which I have received numerous death threats (i.e., the reason I moderate comments left on the blog so as to not provide them with a platform) - I would tell the falsely pious and self-righteous that I would continue to tell the truth about them as long as they continued to lie about LGBT individuals.   This past Thursday Joe Biden told the truth about the MAGA Republicans and the result of that truth telling has been wailing and shreiks of hurt feelings and claims that Biden "insulted millions of Americans," with apologies demanded.  Sometimes the truth hurts but that pain or perceived insult doesn't make it any less the truth.  Among those whining and claiming insult are Trump, Lindsey Graham (Trumpmust have some really revealing photos or videos of "Lady G" a/k/a the Palmetto Queen), peddlers of the "Big Lie" and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (pictured above) , a man I truly believe would sell his own mother into prostitution for pocket change if he thought it might further his lusting for the House speakership.  A column in the Washington Post takes aim at these liars and hypocrites falling on their fainting sofas (as does one in The Atlantic).  Here are highlights:

Who knew strongmen were so fragile? The insurrectionists of Jan. 6 busted into the Capitol, hit police with fire extinguishers, flagpoles, bats, stun guns and pepper spray; they threatened to kill the vice president and tried to overthrow the 2020 election. And now, they want an apology.

MAGA Republican leaders have fomented violence, attacked the rule of law and deceived tens of millions of people into rejecting the outcome of free and fair elections. And now, they, too, want an apology. . . . . former president Donald Trump called for reparations for those who assaulted democracy on Jan. 6, 2021. Trump told a right-wing radio host that, if he returns to power, he plans “full pardons with an apology to many” who attacked the Capitol.

Kevin McCarthy, in Scranton, Pa., gave a prebuttal of Biden’s democracy speech in which the House Republican leader demanded that Biden apologize to MAGA Republicans for calling their ideology “semi-fascism.” “The first lines out of his mouth should be to apologize for slandering tens of millions of Americans as fascists,” McCarthy said.

Of course, Biden’s semi-fascism remark was directed at MAGA leaders such as Trump and McCarthy — not the masses they’ve hornswoggled with their anti-democratic lies. But McCarthy used a classic fascist tool: casting the powerful in-group as the persecuted.

McCarthy has tried this move before. After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called McCarthy a “moron” last year over his objections to pandemic mask-wearing, he tried to sell T-shirts that said “Moron” in big letters and (falsely) claimed Pelosi had applied the label to all “freedom loving Americans.”

Is there no limit to the authoritarians’ hurt feelings? Insurrectionists are victims. Fascists are victims. Even right-wing fashion victims are victims. A new outlet calling itself “The Conservateur” just published an equine-themed fashion spread of Lara Trump, showing her atop a horse, barefoot, wearing a "gauze gown belted with clustered pearls.” Complains the Conservateur: “Despite her beauty and accomplishments ... Lara was never interviewed by Vanity Fair, Elle, Marie Claire or any of the other fashion and lifestyle magazines.”

[H]ere’s an apology to the semi-fascists, as McCarthy demanded:

I’m so sorry you’ve convinced millions of people to believe the egregious lie that the 2020 election was stolen. I’m sorry you are making heroes of the criminals who attacked our seat of government. I’m sorry you’re currently fomenting violence against the FBI and the IRS. I’m sorry you’re passing laws giving yourselves more power to overthrow the 2024 election results if you lose, and I’m sorry you’re nominating candidates committed to doing so. I’m sorry you don’t like it when the Justice Department enforces the law and protects national security. I’m sorry you’ve lionized Hungarian strongman Viktor Orban, and I’m sorry you say that the Democratic Party, not Vladimir Putin’s Russia, is the real enemy. I regret that you’ve taken away women’s rights. I regret that you’re banning books and censoring history lessons. I regret that you are shunning science, expertise and the truth. Above all, I’m truly sorry that, because of such things, Biden called you semi-fascists. There’s really nothing “semi” about it.

Amen to that apology.