Saturday, September 17, 2022

Youngkin Targets Cruelty on Transgender Students

Adopting the game plan of the cruel and toxic governors of  Florida and Texas - and proving why he is the darling of the Family Foundation, one of Virginia's most vicious hate groups - Glenn Youngkin's regime is targeting transgender public school students to win political points with homophobes and haters in the MAGA base, no doubt seeking to position himself for a potential 2024 presidential run.  The new rules promulgated by Youngkin's regime seeks to make the life hell for transgender students and have the potential to force teachers to "out" students which if they have homophobic/right wing "Christian" parents could have dangerous consequences.  Like his Florida and Texas brethren,  Youngkin does not care.  It's all about self-promoting with the Virginia GOP and national MAGA Base. In the up is down, black is white world of today's GOP one local anti-gay delegate had this to say "This new standard ensures all students have the right to attend school in an environment free from discrimination, harassment, and bullying" when in fact it will do the exact opposite.  The Washington Post looks at Youngkin's cruel new policies:

In a major rollback of LGBTQ rights, the administration of Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) will require that transgender students in Virginia access school facilities and programs that match the sex they were assigned at birth and is making it more difficult for students to change their names and genders at school.

Under new “model policies” for schools’ treatment of transgender students released Friday evening, the Department of Education is requiring that families submit legal documentation to earn their children the right to change names and genders at school. The guidelines also say teachers cannot be compelled to refer to transgender students by their names and genders if it goes against “their constitutionally protected” free speech rights.

And the guidelines say schools cannot “encourage or instruct teachers to conceal material information about a student from the student’s parent, including information related to gender” — raising the prospect that teachers could be forced to out transgender students to their parents.

School districts must adopt the new state guidelines or “policies that are more comprehensive,” after a 30-day comment period that will begin on Sept. 26, the Education Department said. The Board of Education will not have to vote to adopt the policies.

The model policies reverse guidelines published in 2021 by the administration of Gov. Ralph Northam (D). Those guidelines mandated that transgender students be allowed to access restrooms, locker rooms and changing facilities that match their gender identities, stipulated that schools let students participate in sports and programs matching their gender identities and required that school districts and teachers accept and use students’ gender pronouns and identities without question. . . . The Youngkin guidelines state the Northam-era policies are dead: they “have no further force and effect.”

The Northam guidelines were developed in accordance with a 2020 law, proposed by Democratic legislators, that required the Virginia Education Department to develop model policies — and later required all school districts to adopt them — for the protection of transgender students.

[I]n a move that is likely to draw legal challenges — the Youngkin administration has used that same law to issue its own version of the Education Department guidelines. The 20-page document released Friday states it is being issued “as required under” the 2020 legislation.

The reaction from Democratic lawmakers was swift. “These new policies are cruel and not at all evidence based,” tweeted Del. Marcus Simon, who was a co-sponsor of the Northam-era law. “If enacted these policies will harm Virginia children. Stop bullying kids to score political points.”

These policies will encourage abuse and could well lead to student suicides and/or homelessness for students discarded by their "godly Christian" parents.  Youngkin, proving he is amoral, does not care.

More Saturday Male Beauty


 

The Deliberate Cruelty of Ron DeSantis

While the unwashed masses of the MAGA base are taking delight in Ron DeSantis' stunt of sending 50 unsuspected migrant refugees to Martha's Vineyard this past week, decent and moral people - categories that are increasing mutually exclusive of today's Republicans and MAGA loving evangelicals - should and are outraged that these desperate humans merely seeking a better and safer life were callously used to "own the libs" and delight the white supremacist who have been mainstreamed into the GOP.  Worse yet, DeSantis used taxpayer money for his political stunt aimed merely at upping his standing with the MAGA base.  A piec in the San Antonio Report looks at the deception used to "recruit" those flown on chartered jets to Martha's Vineyard:

Emmanuel, . . . . said a woman he knows as “Perla” told him she wanted to send migrants to “sanctuary states” where the government has more resources to help them. . . . He said Perla said she got the money from an “anonymous benefactor” and that the flight was paid for by that person. . . . .NPR and other outlets reported that the migrants now in Martha’s Vineyard said they were told jobs and housing would be waiting for them, echoing what Emmanuel told the San Antonio Report. . . . . Witnesses including Emmanuel described Perla as having blonde hair and driving a white truck.

Sadly, the lies and lying behind the stunt are now the norm within today's GOP where the truth and objective reality simply do not matter.  Migrants, of course, are not DeSantis' only victims as he seeks to promote himself.  Florida's "don't say gay law" is demonizing LGBT students and individuals and seeking to erase them.  DeSantis and other Republicans like him (think Texas' amoral governor and Virginia's Glenn Youngkin who is demonizing transgender students) simply do not care who the harm.  It's all about them and boosting their perceived political prospects.  A piece in The Atlantic looks at DeSantis' disgusting conduct.  Here are highlights: 

Evidence continues to mount that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis would gladly set himself on fire, jump off a tall building, drive a Shelby Mustang off a cliff, ride a barrel over a waterfall, fly a wing-suit through a narrow mountain gap, or dance the yo-yo pole like the stunt men in Mad Max: Fury Road if he senses even a smidgen of political gain in return.

The potential candidate for 2024’s Republican presidential nomination and current candidate for reelection in Florida indulged in another circus act this week by flying to Martha’s Vineyard two planeloads of undocumented immigrants from Texas.

Daring to exploit exhausted and traumatized immigrants — children among them — as human pawns in a political game would terrify a normal politician. No matter your views on immigration policy, imagine being treated as political refuse that’s dumped to own the libs. Pulling a stunt like this required the heart of a reptile and the ambition of a Genghis Khan, although the comparison might be unfair to skinks and geckos, which feed primarily on insects, fruit and the occasional mouse. That DeSantis performed his cruelty on migrants not even residing in his state tells you all you need to gauge his status as a scoundrel. It’s hard to decide which horrifies most, that DeSantis, Yale undergraduate, Harvard law, U.S. Navy, would squat this low or that he thought it would charm his followers.

In previous episodes, stuntman DeSantis has used the power of the state to either punish or threaten punishment against the Special Olympics for requiring vaccination, the Disney Corp. for engaging in free speech about “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, and the Tampa Bay Rays for tweeting against gun violence. In other acts of saber-rattling, DeSantis has threatened a Miami bar’s liquor license for allowing minors to attend “sexually explicit” drag shows, undermined a state referendum that gave formerly incarcerated felons the right to vote and helped ban the state pension fund from considering environmental, social and governance standards (aka, “ESG“) in making investments.

None of DeSantis’ Jackie Chan-esque moves before the news cameras have much to do with the traditional governmental goals of keeping neighborhoods safe, paving the streets, providing potable water and balancing the budget. Like his fellow stuntman Donald Trump, he devises his stunts as political spectacles that arouse the culture-war biases of his base and drive them to the polls.

A governor genuinely interested in curbing corporate power wouldn’t bother with revoking the privilege to run a special taxing district, as DeSantis has with Disney. He would move to tax corporations, regulate them or subject them to anti-trust action. But that’s too much like real governance.

DeSantis’ antics can’t be dismissed as mere political entertainment. As the Cato Institute’s Will Duffield recently wrote, using state power to bully people or corporations for exercising their free speech rights soils the First Amendment.

DeSantis, like the many members of Congress who would dictate social media policies to big tech, performs his stunts with one goal in mind. He wants to instill a deep and pervasive fear of his wrath. You’re Disney, speaking out? He knows how to make it hurt. You want to establish vaccination guidelines for your non-profit, as the Special Olympics did? He’ll threaten to defund you. You believe the undocumented should be treated with dignity?

Some commentators have predicted that the Martha’s Vineyard gambit will backfire on DeSantis for going too far. But it won’t. His fellow member of the stuntman guild —Trump — has already ushered in a new political age that demands greater acts of malice and spite to keep the groundlings’ attention.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


 

Friday, September 16, 2022

More Friday Male Beauty


 

Abortion and Trump Are Boosting Democrat Competitiveness

The outcome of the 2022 mid-term elections continues to be hard to predict, but new polling suggests that the Republican controlled Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs and Donald Trump's near constant domination of the news with scandal after scandal have breathed life into Democrats who back in the spring were predicted to suffer a horrific blood bath in November.   The irony is that the diminished Republican prospects - which continue to be a mixed bag on a number of issues - have been most damaged by self-inflicted wounds: (i) the Dobbs ruling, and (ii) Trump's involvement in the mid-terms and ongoing scandals.  New polling shows that while the MAGA base may love Trump, but for other Americans the man triggers revulsion and a constant reminder of the cancer that has overtaken the GOP.  Among younger voters, the GOP's ratcheting up of its anti-LGBT agenda to please Christofascists likewise is also pushing voters towards Democrats.  A piece in the New York Times looks at the latest polling.  Here are highlights:

Even as they struggle to persuade voters that they should be trusted on the economy, Democrats remain unexpectedly competitive in the battle for Congress as the sprint to November’s midterm election begins, a New York Times/Siena College poll has found.

The surprising Democratic strength has been bolstered by falling gas prices and President Biden’s success at breaking through legislative gridlock in Washington to pass his agenda. That shift in political momentum has helped boost, in just two months, the president’s approval rating by nine percentage points and doubled the share of Americans who believe the country is on the right track.

But Democrats are also benefiting from factors over which they had little control: the public outcry in response to the Supreme Court’s overturning of federal abortion rights and the return of former President Donald J. Trump to an attention-commanding presence on the national stage.

Overall, 46 percent of registered voters say they back the Democratic candidate for Congress in their district, compared with 44 percent for Republicans — a difference well within the survey’s margin of error. The findings are similar to those from the last Times/Siena poll in July, when voters preferred, by just one percentage point, Democratic to Republican control of Congress.

For now, the fury over abortion and the renewed spotlight on Mr. Trump have helped mask deep Democratic vulnerabilities that might ultimately make Republicans favored to retake Congress — if Republicans could refocus the electorate on the economy and inflation. Republicans would lead by six percentage points in the race for Congress, if they could merely win over voters who say they agree with the G.O.P. most on the economy.

Marvin Mirsch, 64, a self-identified independent from suburban Minneapolis, said he agreed with the Republicans on economic issues but still planned to back Democrats in November. A biomedical engineer, he attributed his vote largely to one man: Mr. Trump.

“I think that every person in the nation should work hard to purge Donald Trump from the Republican Party in one way or another,” Mr. Mirsch said. “Because we need a healthy Republican Party, and it’s not right now — it’s sick.”

The survey underscored how Republicans have been weakened by Mr. Trump’s decision to play a vocal role in his party’s primaries. Voters said that the word “extreme” described the Republicans better than the Democrats by a six-point margin, 43 to 37 percent. And, although they deemed economic issues most important more voters said that Democrats were focused on the most important issues than those who said that Republicans were, by 40 to 38 percent.

While the poll did not directly ask voters how Mr. Trump weighed on their midterm vote, it found Mr. Biden leading Mr. Trump by three percentage points, 45 to 42 percent, in a hypothetical 2024 matchup — nearly identical to voter preferences in the race for Congress.

In contrast, voters trust the Republicans more on the economy by a 14-point margin, 52 to 38 percent. And they say that economic issues will matter more to their vote than do societal issues by an 18-point margin.

Yet 9 percent of the voters who trust Republicans more on economic issues and say that those issues are most important are voting for Democrats, anyway.

Jeanine Spanjers, 44, from Racine, Wis., said that rising inflation had caused her to change her lifestyle, including driving less, skipping vacations . . . . Still, Ms. Spanjers said she planned to vote only for Democrats, saying abortion is her top issue. “I had made that choice once, and I have two sons,” she said.

The poll’s findings also suggest that Mr. Biden’s legislative successes have done relatively little to boost his or his party’s credibility on economic issues.

Only 36 percent of voters said they approved of a centerpiece of Mr. Biden’s legislative agenda, the health and climate spending bill passed by Congress last month known as the Inflation Reduction Act. More than a quarter said they had never even heard of it. The country was divided over the administration’s student debt plan, with 49 percent saying they supported the cancellation of up to $20,000 worth of federal student loans, compared with 45 percent who say they opposed it.

Nearly half [of yonger voters] said the president had not made much of a difference either way — including 59 percent of voters younger than 30.

“I’ve been working since I was 16, and I don’t have a high school diploma, so the costs of inflation are really affecting me,” said Mykie Bush, 19, who works at an auto dealership in rural Oregon. “I can barely leave my house right now because of inflation.”

Still, Ms. Bush said she planned to vote Democratic, saying her views on issues like abortion, immigration and L.G.B.T.Q. rights outweighed her economic worries: “At the end of the day, we’re not fighting over politics. We’re fighting over our human rights.”

Democrats held an overwhelming 73-to-18-percent lead among voters who said that “societal issues” like abortion or threats to democracy would be most important in their vote this November, rather than economic issues like jobs and the cost of living.

But on issues like immigration, crime and even gun policy that had appeared likely to dominate the midterm campaign before the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Republicans appear to hold important advantages.

The electorate remains deeply divided along the demographic fault lines of the last election, with Democrats leading among white college graduates, young voters and nonwhite voters; Republicans hold a commanding lead among white voters without a college degree.

Voters continue to believe that abortion should be mostly or always legal by around a two-to-one margin. However, the supporters of legal abortion rights enjoy an even larger enthusiasm edge: 52 percent of voters said they strongly opposed the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade; just 19 percent said they strongly supported it.

“What has taken place is unacceptable to me,” said James Moran, 82, a registered Republican from New Rochelle, N.Y., who said that he planned to vote Democratic this year. “They’ve denied women the ability to control their own bodies. Should there be some limit on that? There’s limits on everything but everything within reason.”

Let's hope Trump remains constantly in the news and that abortion continues to be an anchor around the necks of Republicans.

Friday Morning Male Beauty


 

Thursday, September 15, 2022

More Thursday Male Beauty


 

Lindsey Graham Gives Away the GOP Anti-Abortion End Game

Across the country Republican candidates are scurrying to scrub their campaign websites of any suggestion that they seek a total ban on abortion - many apparently believing the public is too stupid to remember their anti-abortion primary campaign positions (locally, Jen Kiggans who in her primary wanted to ban all abortions is a prime example) or that Democrats won't replay video excerpts of them pandering to anti-abortion extremists.  The motivation for such duplicity is to try to counter surging support for Democrat candidates that is tanking GOP dreams of retaking control of both houses of Congress.  Into this setting Lindsey Graham - a/k/a the Palmetto Queen and "Lady G" among male escorts - has thrown a hand grenade in the form of a proposed federal restriction on abortion that while seeking to obscure the real GOP agenda in fact shows the true GOP goal of a nationwde ban on abortions as the party continues to prositute itelf to Christofascists,  The action underscores the lie of Justice Alito's pretense in the Dobbs ruling that state could continue to freely regulate abortion within their boarders.   The simple take away is that women who want to retain control over thier own bodies - and men who care about them - simply cannot vote for Republican candidates. The reality is that a vote for a Republican translates into two things: (i) a vote to ban abortion, and (ii) a vote for Donald Trump.  A column in the Washingtom Post looks at Graham's unwitting exposure of the GOP end game.  Here are column excerpts:

So much for all that talk about the freedom of states to decide on their own abortion rules. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham on Tuesday unveiled legislation that would ban abortion nationwide at 15 weeks. The South Carolina Republican’s proposal puts the lie to the notion that the Supreme Court, in overruling Roe v. Wade, merely returned the contentious issue of abortion to state control.

It did that, but it also opened the door to proposals such as Graham’s — and even more extreme restrictions — to be imposed nationwide. Anyone who thinks abortion opponents will be content with a state-by-state patchwork of abortion rules isn’t taking the determination of the antiabortion movement seriously enough.

Graham’s move might be politically bone-headed, coming less than two months before a midterm election in which voters already appear angered and energized by the court’s action. But it is just the opening salvo.

The court’s conservative majority doesn’t want you to think so. In his opinion for the court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. painted a post-Dobbs picture of happy federalism, laboratories of democracy free to experiment with different approaches.

How misleading. That was clear from the moment the decision was released. Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, in a concurring opinion, acknowledged that Congress could step in. “The Constitution is neutral and leaves the issue for the people and their elected representatives to resolve through the democratic process in the States or Congress,” he wrote — and then proceeded to echo the majority’s emphasis on state sovereignty.

Graham peddled his proposal — deceptively titled the “Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions Act” — as a reasonable middle ground. Don’t be fooled. This is rigged federalism, skewed in favor of restricting abortion access. Under Graham’s arrangement, even as the federal government draws the line at 15 weeks, states remain free to ban abortion entirely.

Of course, Democrats want their own national abortion law — theirs to write the protections once provided by Roe into law. That makes sense: The whole point of a constitutional right is that its existence shouldn’t depend on your Zip code. It's also different from Graham’s effort to have it both ways, preempting states with permissive abortion laws while empowering those with restrictive rules.

And you know who once thought the issue should be left to states? Lindsey Graham, as recently as last month. “I’ve been consistent. I think states should decide the issue of marriage and states should decide the issue of abortion,” he told CNN.

Graham’s effort to portray the measure as simply aligning U.S. practice with that of Europe is fundamentally disingenuous. . . . Here in the United States, a dozen states now ban almost all abortions: Ten are poised to do so once laws take effect or court challenges are complete, and another two prohibit abortion after six weeks. That is hardly the permissive landscape of Europe.

Moreover, Graham’s 15-week limit includes exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother, but not for maternal health or fetal abnormality — again in contrast to the practice in most of Europe. Many severe fetal abnormalities are not detected until after 15 weeks.

Graham has introduced a similar bill before. But it is telling that Graham felt empowered by the court’s action to up the ante, prohibiting abortion after 15 weeks instead of the 20 he had earlier proposed.

To be clear, Graham’s bill isn’t becoming law anytime soon, with Democrats in control of the House, Senate and White House. Even if Republicans were to retake the House and Senate, they wouldn’t be able to pass such a measure without eliminating the filibuster; in any event, President Biden would veto such a measure.

But it is not hard to imagine a moment when Republicans have the power to proceed, and use it. Graham’s GOP colleagues, rattled by midterm polling, scurried to distance themselves from Graham’s proposal and talk up states’ rights. Forgive me if I don’t feel confident that’s going to last.


Thursday Morning Male Beauty


 

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

American Christianity Is Headed Toward Minority Status

A new Pew Research Center study which can be found here has bad news for Christofascists - i.e., mostly evangelicals and angry far right Catholics like Justice Alito - and projects that Christianity is headed towards minority religion status within the next fifty years.  The driving force is the accelerating number of Americans walking away from religion, especially among the younger generations, who join the "Nones" category which has the potential to become the largest religious group.   The number of adherents of other faiths will grow over the same period but the main changes is between those leaving Christianity to join the "Nones" demographic. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that nearly a third of those raised as Christians are walking away form religion.  While the study does not focus on the cause of the exodus, past reports suggest the biggest factor is the hypocrisy, cruelty, disregard for Christ's social gospel, and general nastiness of the godly folk towards others.  From my perspective, the rise of the Nones is a positive  - yes, Christ's gospel message can provide good, but the loudest "Christians" care nothing about it - and suggests that over time extremists like Alito are fighting a losing real guard action.  Indeed, the growing demands for special rights by evangelicals and other Christofascists may well further acceleratethe exodus.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the study's findings:

The United States has long prided itself on people’s freedom to choose whatever religion they like. The majority has long chosen Christianity.

By 2070, that may no longer be the case, according to the Pew Research Center. If current trends continue, Christians could make up less than half of the population — and as little as a third — in 50 years. Meanwhile, the religiously unaffiliated — or “nones” — could make up close to half the population. And the percentage of Americans who identify as Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and adherents of other non-Christian faiths could double.

Those are among the major findings of a new report from Pew regarding the United States’ religious future, a future in which Christianity, though diminished, persists, while non-Christian faiths grow amid rising secularization.

Researchers projected possible religious futures for the United States using a number of factors, including birthrates, migration patterns, demographics including age and sex, and the current religious landscape. They also looked at how religion is passed from one generation to another and how often people switch religions — in particular Christians who become nones, a number that has been increasing in recent years.

Researchers projected four different scenarios, based on differing rates of religious switching, from a continued increase to no switching at all. The unaffiliated were projected to grow under all four.

Currently, about a third (31 percent) of Christians become disaffiliated before they turn 30, according to Pew Research. Twenty-one percent of nones become Christian as young adults. Should those switching rates remain stable, Christians would make up 46 percent of the population by 2070, while nones would comprise 41 percent.

If disaffiliation rates continue to grow but are capped at 50 percent of Christians leaving the faith, 39 percent of Americans are projected to be Christian by 2070, with 48 percent of Americans identifying as nones. With no limit placed on the percentage of people leaving Christianity and with continued growth in disaffiliation, Christians would be 35 percent of the population, with nones making up a majority of Americans (52 percent).

Non-Christian faiths would rise to 12 to 13 percent of the population, largely because of migration, in each scenario. Migration does affect the percentage of Christians, as most migrants to the United States are Christians, said Conrad Hackett, associate director of research and senior demographer at Pew Research Center. “Still the greatest amount of change in the U.S., we think currently and in the future, will come from switching,” he said.

One reason for the decline in the proportion of Christians and the growth among the nones in the models is age. While Christians have more children than nones, they also skew older. Pew estimates that the average Christian in the United States is 43, which is 10 years older than the average none.

“The unaffiliated are having and raising unaffiliated children while Christians are more likely to be near the end of their lives than others,” Stephanie Kramer, a senior researcher at Pew, wrote in an email.

Researchers also looked at a relatively new trend of disaffiliation among older Americans. Sociologists have long focused on younger people, who are most likely to switch religions. But in the United States and other countries, older people are starting to switch at growing rates themselves.

More Wednesday Male Beauty


 

The Extremist Majority is Destroying SCOTUS's Legitimacy

As previous posts have noted and numerous media outlets have reported, the U. S. Supreme Court now has the lowest public approval rating since polling began - in some cases 75% disapproval.  How this came to be is out in plan sight: the court has reversed long standing precedent, rendered opinions contrary to the vast majority of public opinion, openly ruled based on the personal preferences and beliefs of the extreme majority on the Court, and justices have engaged in arrogant conduct that would have caused lower court judges to be facing ethics sanctions or worse.  Add in the misconduct of Clarence Thomas' wife and only a cretin would be surprised by the public disapproval if not open revulsion.  Yet, according to the right wing majority, including Chief Justice Roberts, the fault lies with the public and not the justices themselves.  Meanwhile, the so-called liberal justices have correctly pointed out the reason for the Court's abysmal level of approval and by extension legitimacy in the eyes of the public.  A piece in Slate sums up the situation.  Here are highlights: 

In the matter of the Supreme Court v. the Supreme Court, it’s safe to say the Supreme Court is most assuredly losing. And as the justices take turns pinning their smelly socks and underwear out on the line for the world to see, the problem only worsens. After a term that featured gross misconduct and impropriety both on the docket (overturning Roe v. Wade, expanding gun rights in a nation drowning in guns, fetishizing religious liberty over basic equality) and off the docket (internal leaks, inappropriate speeches, spouses fomenting insurrection) the briefs have been filed and the court’s own public legitimacy is now being litigated. If you thought last term started off badly, just wait.

In the interim, I would like to just point out that Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Elena Kagan have more in common than you might think. They are both brilliant, personable, and influential, and both of them tend to put the interests of the institution before their own. So while it was already a thing to have Justice Clarence Thomas trash-talking his colleagues, his chief, and his court last spring, it’s quite another when the term opens with Roberts and Kagan prepared to litigate on public stages the matter of who is trashing the court’s reputation.

Chief Justice John Roberts, offering his first public remarks since the Supreme Court’s disastrous 2021 term ended, went with the standard victim blaming opening. At a judicial event in Denver last week, Roberts bemoaned the linking of the court’s continued legitimacy to its abysmal public approval ratings. . . . To hear Roberts tell it, the problem is not a hyperpoliticized court that reversed precedent, ignored its own doctrine, and imperiled many women’s lives. The problem is that people who are angry about those things rather correctly believe that it was the Supreme Court that brought them about. No, Roberts would prefer that the people suffer in silence.

On a stage in Brooklyn Monday night (geography matters people!) and in a conversation with Judge Alison J. Nathan, Justice Elena Kagan offered up her dissent to that point of view. “I think judges create legitimacy problems for themselves—undermine their legitimacy—when they don’t act so much like courts and when they don’t do things that are recognizably law,” she said. To Kagan, this current legitimacy crisis is not the fault of a public that has, you know, eyes and ears. It is the responsibility of justices who, as she put it, “stray into places where it looks like they are an extension of the political process or where they are imposing their own personal preferences.”

As Jennifer Rubin observed Monday, Roberts’ theory of the case is riddled with holes. He himself has done so very much to erode the public legitimacy of the current Supreme Court that he should recuse himself for a conflict of interest. His tireless, decadeslong work of eroding voting rights alone suggests that he cannot pretend he is not all in with the conservative supermajority’s project to replace democracy with juristocracy.

That same idea, that a change in the court’s composition shouldn’t be the basis to change doctrine, was echoed Monday night in Kagan’s remarks: “The public has a right to expect,” Kagan said, “that changes in personnel don’t send the entire legal system up for grabs.” Listen carefully and they are both making precisely the same argument.

Finally, when Roberts lays blame on the public for losing confidence in the court, he fails to recognize that while he couldn’t have done anything to stop a runaway majority from taking away basic freedom, dignity, and equality all year, he did nothing about the things that were ostensibly in his power to control: the grotesque abuse of the court’s emergency “shadow docket” to create new law that is not properly explained or applied; the wildly unethical behavior of his colleagues, ranging from Ginni Thomas’ improper involvement in efforts to bend abortion to the partisan speeches that make the justices sound like partisan hacks and the nonexistent ethics rules that allow his colleagues to do all this with impunity. None of those things concern the win/loss column. They are all very public performances that the court can do anything it wants, without consequences.

The court was handed to wealthy secret donors because of his own jurisprudence. And the court’s problem is now that it happened in plain sight. With all due respect, it is not that the public didn’t like the final score at the end of the term when the lights went out in June. The problem wasn’t just the losses; the problem was that his team moved the game to another field, then stole the ball and replaced it with a time bomb, then changed the rules, then lied about it, and then set the entire field ablaze. Now he wants everyone to shake hands and go home. The public is not so inclined. He is far too smart to believe we are all this stupid, which suggests to me that he knows we are right.

With the arrogant and extreme majority firmly in charge, expect things to get even worse in the coming term of the Court.


Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


 

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

More Tuesday Male Beauty


 

Ukraine Exposes a Major Fallacy of the American Right

Much of MAGA world and the American right is in love with authoritarian, anti-democratic strong men.  Loud macho bombast and the denigraton of "woke" elites sends thrills through the Republican Party base where ignorance, brutishness and misogyny are seemingly celebrated. E.g., Meshawn Maddock, the co-chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, labeled Pete Buttigieg, the U.S. transportation secretary and a gay former officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, a “weak little girl” in a Sunday tweet.  Competence doesn't matter as long as those disliked by the MAGA base are being maligned and denigrated. On the international scene, the American right continues to have a love affair with Hungarian strongman Viktor Orbán who was the star of CPAC along with Trump.  And then there is Vladimir Putin for whom many on the right have been cheerleaders - think Tucker Carlson, a spoiled little rich boy - despite Putin's violation of international law and war crimes agains Ukrainian civilians. While the ultimate outcome of the war in Ukraine remains unknow, the current Ukranian surge suggests the right's celebration of thugish authoritarians is indeed misguided as noted in a column in the New York Times:

On Aug. 29 Tucker Carlson of Fox News attacked President Biden’s policy on Ukraine, asserting among other things: “By any actual reality-based measure, Vladimir Putin is not losing the war in Ukraine. He is winning the war in Ukraine.” Carlson went on, by the way, to assert that Biden is supporting Ukraine only because he wants to destroy the West.

Carlson’s timing was impeccable. Just a few days later, a large section of the Russian front near Kharkiv was overrun by a Ukrainian attack. It’s important to note that Putin’s forces weren’t just pushed back; they appear to have been routed. As the independent Institute for the Study of War reported, the Russians were driven into a “panicked and disorderly retreat,” leaving behind “large amounts of equipment and supplies that Ukrainian forces can use.”

The Russian collapse seemed to validate analyses by defense experts who have been saying for months that Western weapons have been shifting the military balance in Ukraine’s favor, that Putin’s army is desperately short on quality manpower and that it has been degraded by attrition and missile attacks on its rear areas. These analyses suggested that Russian forces might eventually reach a breaking point, although few expected that point to come so soon and so dramatically.

To be fair to Carlson and other right-wing cheerleaders for Putin, they aren’t the only people clinging to delusions of Russian success. There’s a whole school of self-styled “realists” who considered Ukrainian resistance to Russia futile . . . .

But there’s something special about the MAGA embrace of the mystique of Russian might: a worldview that equates tough-guy swagger with effectiveness. This worldview has warped the right’s perception not just of the Russian Army but also of how to deal with many other issues. And it’s worth asking where it comes from.

Many Republicans have admired Putin for a long time — even before Donald Trump took over the G.O.P. Back in 2014, for example, Rudy Giuliani said of Putin, “That’s what you call a leader.” And Trump continued to praise Putin even after he invaded Ukraine.

So it’s not hard to see where the MAGA right’s admiration for Putinism comes from. After all, Putin’s Russia is autocratic, brutal and homophobic, with a personality cult built around its ruler. What’s not to like?

Yet admiring a regime’s values needn’t mean having faith in its military prowess. . . . On the right, however, approval of authoritarian regimes is all bound up with assertions about their military prowess. For example, last year Ted Cruz tweeted about a video comparing scenes of a tough-looking Russian soldier with a shaved head with a U.S. Army recruiting video featuring a female corporal raised by two mothers. “Perhaps a woke, emasculated military is not the best idea,” opined Cruz.

Actually, the U.S. military is sort of woke, in the sense that it is highly diverse and inclusive, encourages independent thinking and initiative on the part of junior officers and is, at the higher levels, quite intellectual.

The Russian Army, on the other hand, definitely isn’t woke. Conscripts face brutal hazing. According to Mark Hertling, a former commander of U.S. forces in Europe, it’s riddled with “mafialike” corruption and its officers are terrible.

The broader point is that modern wars aren’t won by looking tough. Courage — which the Ukrainians have shown in almost inconceivable abundance — is essential; but it doesn’t have much to do with bulging biceps. And bravery must go hand in hand with being smart and flexible, qualities the Russian Army evidently lacks.

The import of all these factors should be obvious. Modern war is like the modern economy (with an additional element of sheer terror, but still): Success depends more on skill, knowledge and openness to ideas than on muscle power. But the MAGA ethos is all bound up with exaltation of tough talk and denigration of expertise. (Prosecute Anthony Fauci!) The American right needed to see Putin as a leader made powerful by his rejection of liberal values; admitting that Russia has proved that it isn’t a great power would call the whole MAGA philosophy into question.

The result is that the war, while it is of course overwhelmingly a fight for Ukrainian freedom, has also, weirdly, become a front in America’s cultural and political wars.

There’s growing speculation about what will happen inside Russia if the invasion of Ukraine ends in outright defeat. But you also have to wonder how the U.S. right will handle the revelation that sometimes tough guys finish last.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


 

Monday, September 12, 2022

Alito’s Crusade Against a Secular America Isn’t Over

Perhaps one of the biggest threats to personal freedom in America - including the right to privacy, control over one's own body and relationships, and freedom from government forced religion  - now comes from the right wing extremist majority on the U.S. Supreme Court. Clarence Thomas - the dullard of the Court in my long time view - has already signaled that he wants to eliminate same sex marriage, recriminalize same sex relations, and ban married couples from being able to use contraception while seemingly not grasping that he would also open the door for once again banning interracial marriage.  But the most frightening member of the Court is Samuel Alito whose temperment and arrogance in the superiority of his beliefs suggests that he would have fit in well with the Spanish Inquisition as it sought to cruelly sought to stamp out supposed heresy.  A very long piece in The New Yorker looks at Alito, his seeming contempt for anyone unlike himself and voting rights - the word racist  springs to mind - and desire to undo modernity.  Having been raised Catholic like Alito, I have seen such types before and like the evangelicals he is the antithesis to a true Christian.  Here are article highlights:

Some baby boomers were permanently shaped by their participation in the countercultural protests and the antiwar activism of the nineteen-sixties and seventies. Others were shaped by their aversion to those movements. Justice Samuel Alito belongs to the latter category. For many years, he lacked the power to do much about that profound distaste . . .

Now, though, Alito is the embodiment of a conservative majority that is ambitious and extreme. (He declined to be interviewed for this article.) With the recent additions of Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett to the Court, the conservative bloc no longer needs Roberts to get results. And Alito has taken a zealous lead in reversing the progressive gains of the sixties and early seventies—from overturning Roe v. Wade to stripping away voting rights.

Alito now seems to be saying whatever he wants in public, often with a snide pugnaciousness that suggests his past decorum was suppressing considerable resentment.

Last term, Alito landed the reputation-defining assignment of writing the majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which eliminated the constitutional right to abortion enshrined by Roe nearly fifty years ago. In May, a draft of his opinion was leaked, and from start to finish it sounded cantankerous and dismissive. “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Alito declared. “Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences.” He likened Roe to Plessy v. Ferguson, the notorious decision upholding segregation; approvingly cited centuries-old common law categorizing a woman who received an abortion after “quickening” as a “murderess”; and used the inflammatory word “personhood” when describing “fetal life.”

After the draft leaked, many Court observers predicted that, though the opinion’s substance wasn’t likely to change, its tone surely would. . . . But the final version was virtually unchanged, save for the addition of a sharp rebuke to the dissent.

“We saw an emboldened Alito this term,” Lazarus said. “Unlike when he first joined the Court, he no longer needs to curry favor from the Chief.” Roberts’s view of Dobbs was characteristic: he has long favored narrowly tailored opinions that foster consensus among the Justices and, perhaps, avert political chaos.

Thomas and Alito have adopted a more combative approach—one that finds no great value in privileging precedent, especially if the precedent emanates from the sixties, when Chief Justice Earl Warren was pushing the Court leftward.

Some Justices, attentive to the immediate human risks of revoking the right to abortion, might have at least put on a show of sober humility. . . . . In July, Alito, who is seventy-two, delivered a speech at the Palazzo Colonna, in Rome, for a gathering hosted by the University of Notre Dame Law School’s Religious Liberty Initiative—a conservative group that has filed amicus briefs before the Court. . . . Though the speech focused on one of his favorite topics—the supposed vulnerability of religious freedom in increasingly secular societies—he couldn’t resist crowing about Dobbs.

Alito’s childhood and adolescence coincided with a social transformation for which the Warren Court provided the legal underpinnings. . . . Alitos were Catholic and belonged to the Our Lady of Sorrows Parish. By the time Alito entered high school, he had developed a keen interest in the law, and was taking note of the Warren Court’s reshaping of American life, which included landmark rulings desegregating schools and other public facilities; recognizing a right to contraception for married couples and to interracial marriage; barring state-sanctioned school prayer; and guaranteeing access to public defenders for indigent criminal defendants.

Alito told the conservative commentator Bill Kristol that the experience made him “start to think about the Constitution and what it meant,” adding, “There’s nothing in the Constitution about the exclusionary rule. The Fourth Amendment says no unreasonable searches or seizures. But that’s it. So where did this come from? . . . What legitimizes something that is not in the Constitution?”

In Reynolds v. Sims (1964), the Court affirmed the so-called one-person-one-vote rule, an attempt to remedy the overrepresentation of rural voters. It required the states to form legislative districts of roughly equal population—or, as Warren wrote in the opinion, to at least make a “good faith effort.” Alito has written that such opinions helped make him an ardent conservative. . . . . He added that he had particularly opposed the Warren Court’s decisions “in the areas of criminal procedure, the Establishment Clause, and reapportionment.

If Alito is still fighting against the Warren Court of the sixties, he is now in an incomparably more powerful position. Richard L. Hasen, a law professor at U.C.L.A. who studies elections, told me that Alito “has indicated he remains skeptical of the one-person-one-vote rule.”

[O]n his 1985 application for the Office of Legal Counsel job, he had listed membership in an organization called the Concerned Alumni of Princeton (cap). The group was made up of disgruntled former Princetonians who criticized various changes on campus, including coeducation and the university’s efforts to recruit minorities and public-school graduates.

No matter how much individual states, cities, clinics, and activists push back against Dobbs, it will impose a fundamental—and, for a majority of Americans, undesired—reordering of women’s reproductive lives and expectations of equality. . . . . millions of Americans have constructed their lives with the expectation that abortion (and birth control) would be available. And surely part of the Court’s job is to ponder the likely consequences of upending such an expectation. . . . . Alito seemed willing to accept the notion of reliance in only one realm: property and contracts.

As the liberal Justices pointed out in their dissent, the Dobbs decision endangers other Supreme Court precedents. In particular, it leaves vulnerable the cases that established “unenumerated rights” to privacy, intimacy, and bodily autonomy—rights that the Constitution did not explicitly name but that previous Court majorities had seen as reasonable extensions of the liberties protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. Many Americans have also built their lives on precedents such as Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 case confirming the constitutional right of married couples to buy and use contraception; Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 case declaring bans on interracial marriage unconstitutional; Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 case recognizing a right to same-sex intimacy; and Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 case recognizing a right to same-sex marriage. Would Alito grant that these decisions have created reliance interests?

In Dobbs, Alito promised that those other precedents are safe . . . But Alito’s assertion about the singular preciousness of a fetus does not alone create a legal standard. . . .  . The anchoring logic of Alito’s opinion is that rights not stipulated in the Constitution pass muster only if they have long been part of the nation’s traditions. By this standard, what is to preclude the undoing of the right to same-sex marriage guaranteed by Obergefell? Tellingly, Alito furiously dissented in that case, saying that a right to same-sex marriage was “contrary to long-established tradition.” Indeed, Clarence Thomas, in his Dobbs concurrence, argued that the particular cases protecting same-sex marriage and intimacy, along with contraception, were very much up for reconsideration.

Some conservative skeptics of originalism were particularly frustrated with a 2020 majority opinion by Justice Gorsuch concluding—ostensibly through originalist logic—that Title VII prohibitions on employment discrimination applied to gay and transgender people. (Alito dissented, declaring that the inclusion of L.G.B.T.Q. people in Title VII protections “will threaten freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and personal privacy and safety.”)

This past term, Alito got the most attention for Dobbs, but he also signed on to several other 6–3 decisions that achieved right-wing goals. He joined a far-reaching decision curtailing the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to limit carbon emissions without congressional authorization. He also joined an opinion compelling Maine to subsidize the tuition of students attending religious schools, and a decision that expanded the right to carry firearms in public.

Richard L. Hasen, the election-law expert, told me that Alito is “uniformly hostile to voting rights,” and has been a “major force” in the Court’s support for corporate spending in campaigns. Alito encouraged the filing of suits that have allowed the Court to curb the power of public-sector unions. He authored the 5–4 opinion in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores (2014), which exempted some companies from providing contraception coverage to their employees, and he has helped advance a new regime of jurisprudence strengthening the rights of religious people—especially conservative Christians, and especially when their beliefs conflict with anti-discrimination law.

Ira (Chip) Lupu, an emeritus professor at George Washington University Law School with an expertise in religion, believes that Alito has crudely applied “an entirely appropriate concern about persecution of vulnerable minorities, including religious minorities, around the world” to the way “conservative religious people, mainly Christians, are in conflict over matters like L.G.B.T.Q. rights and the status of women and reproductive freedom in this country.” Christian Americans, Lupu argued, “don’t get persecuted—they get disagreed with.” He continued, “Yes, sometimes they are under certain obligations as citizens. They might face non-discrimination laws.

Alito has warned that, as Americans become more secular, the U.S. may become less attuned to the constitutional rights of religious citizens. But when he makes this argument a curious elision sometimes occurs, and he seems to be saying that the growing percentage of secular people is in itself a form of religious persecution.

In a 2011 article in the Times Magazine, Emily Bazelon noted that Alito’s opinions occasionally display some empathy, but that it “rarely extends to people who are not like him.” This selective quality, she argued, offers an insight into “conservative instincts” about “who deserves our solicitude.”

As the years have gone on, it’s become increasingly common to see Alito fret over the burdens of certain classes of people while downplaying those of others. . . . In Alito’s dissent in Obergefell, the same-sex marriage case, he worried about the emotional and reputational ramifications for certain Americans—not L.G.B.T.Q. people but anyone who might want to keep disapproving of them (or discriminating against them).

In last term’s Second Amendment case, the Court overturned a New York State law requiring people to show “proper cause” in order to carry a concealed handgun in public. In Alito’s concurrence, he showed ample sympathy for people who wanted to tote guns in cities where they feared street crime. But he seemed indifferent to New Yorkers who fear mass shootings, or who have been victimized by gun violence, or who simply object to the ubiquity of guns and want laws curbing access to them (a majority of Americans, as it happens).

The Dobbs opinion is blinkered in similar ways. . . . . Alito’s opinion shows so little interest in the workability or consequences of overruling Roe—especially given that he hammers Roe and Casey for establishing impracticable standards based on fluctuating knowledge about fetal development. RebouchĂ©, the Temple law professor, said of Alito’s opinion, “The mentality is ‘This should have been illegal in the first place, so who cares about those people who had a legal right one day and woke up the next day and now it’s a crime?’ ”

Why is a man who is winning as much as Sam Alito is so furious? If last term was the equivalent of a grand slam for him, the coming term may be even better: the conservative majority will have a chance to roll back affirmative action, and to further weaken the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Conservative activists have been celebrating their victories and looking ahead with excitement. In Newsweek, the conservative commentator Josh Hammer declared that the next steps were clear, and included interpreting the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal-protection clause to ban abortion nationwide as well as “delivering a fatal blow to the ahistorical misnomer of ‘separation of church and state.’ ”

In the end, Alito may be angry for the same reasons that many conservatives of his demographic are angry—because they find their values increasingly contested; because they feel less culturally authoritative than they once were; because they want to exclude whom they want to exclude, and resent it when others push back. Neil Siegel told me he thought Alito was frustrated because he knows, at some level, that he is fundamentally “dissenting from American culture and where it is ineluctably heading—a society that is increasingly diverse and secular.” As Siegel put it, “The Supreme Court doesn’t really have the power to change that.” Maybe not. But Alito is clearly trying.  

More Monday Male Beauty


 

What If Ukraine Wins?

Somewhat lost in the midst of the media orgy over the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the succession to the throne of King Charles III and the never ending scandals and drama surrounding Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenfuhrer, is th stunning success over the last six or seven days of Ukraine's counter offensive against Russia and the possible shift in the six month old war.  When Vladimir Putin launched this horrific war he viewed himself I suspect as Russia's new tsar in all but name who would strike a blow to estore the Russian Empire if not the Soviet Empire.  That dream/delusion has hit a brick wall and there is at least some possiblity that Putin's fools errand may in time approximate the  Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 which saw Russia suffer a humiliating defeat the triggered what some view as the first revolution against Nicholas II and tsarist rule:

The complete victory of the Japanese military surprised international observers and transformed the balance of power in both East Asia and Europe, resulting in Japan's emergence as a great power and a decline in the Russian Empire's prestige and influence in Europe. Russia's incurrence of substantial casualties and losses for a cause that resulted in humiliating defeat contributed to a growing domestic unrest which culminated in the 1905 Russian Revolution, and severely damaged the prestige of the Russian autocracy. 

Like Nicholas II,  Putin seemingly has surrounded himself with "yes men" who perhaps never gave him a truthful reading of what the voluntary war might actually entail.  Visions of a lightning fast Russian victory collapsed rapidly after the invasion commenced and now the Ukranian counter offensive has some believing that while it is still too early to know for certain history might repeat itself with the result being instability in Russian and all the uncertainty that portends.  A piece in The Atlantic looks at the unfolding events.  Here are highlights:

Over the past six days, Ukraine’s armed forces have broken through the Russian lines in the northeastern corner of the country, swept eastward, and liberated town after town in what had been occupied territory. First Balakliya, then Kupyansk, then Izium, a city that sits on major supply routes. These names won’t mean much to a foreign audience, but they are places that have been beyond reach, impossible for Ukrainians to contact for months. Now they have fallen in hours. As I write this, Ukrainian forces are said to be fighting on the outskirts of Donetsk, a city that Russia has occupied since 2014.

Many things about this advance are unexpected, especially the location: For many weeks, the Ukrainians loudly telegraphed their intention to launch a major offensive farther south. The biggest shock is not Ukraine’s tactics but Russia’s response. “What really surprises us,” Lieutenant General Yevhen Moisiuk, the deputy commander in chief of the Ukrainian armed forces, told me in Kyiv yesterday morning, “is that the Russian troops are not fighting back.”

Russian troops are not fighting back. More than that: Offered the choice of fighting or fleeing, many of them appear to be escaping as fast as they can. For several days, soldiers and others have posted photographs of hastily abandoned military vehicles and equipment, as well as videos showing lines of cars, presumably belonging to collaborators, fleeing the occupied territories. Ukrainian General Staff report said that Russian soldiers were ditching their uniforms, donning civilian clothes, and trying to slip back into Russian territory. . . . . The fundamental difference between Ukrainian soldiers, who are fighting for their country’s existence, and Russian soldiers, who are fighting for their salary, has finally begun to matter.

That difference might not suffice, of course. Ukrainian soldiers may be better motivated, but the Russians still have far larger stores of weapons and ammunition. They can still inflict misery on civilians, as they did in today’s apparent attack on the electrical grid in Kharkiv and elsewhere in eastern Ukraine. Many other cruel options—horrific options—are still open even to a Russia whose soldiers will not fight.

But even though the fighting may still take many turns, the events of the past few days should force Ukraine’s allies to stop and think. A new reality has been created: The Ukrainians could win this war. Are we in the West really prepared for a Ukrainian victory? Do we know what other changes it could bring?

Back in March, I wrote that it was time to imagine the possibility of victory, and I defined victory quite narrowly: “It means that Ukraine remains a sovereign democracy, with the right to choose its own leaders and make its own treaties.” Six months later, some adjustments to that basic definition are required. In Kyiv yesterday, I watched Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov tell an audience that victory should now include not only a return to the borders of Ukraine as they were in 1991—including Crimea, as well as Donbas in eastern Ukraine—but also reparations to pay for the damage and war-crimes tribunals to give victims some sense of justice.

These demands are not in any sense outrageous or extreme. This was never just a war for territory, after all, but rather a campaign fought with genocidal intent. . . . . But even if it is justified, the Ukrainian definition of victory remains extraordinarily ambitious. To put it bluntly: It is hard to imagine how Russia can meet any of these demands—territorial, financial, legal—so long as its current president remains in power. Remember, Vladimir Putin has put the destruction of Ukraine at the very center of his foreign and domestic policies, and at the heart of what he wants his legacy to be.

 Two days after the launch of the failed invasion of Kyiv, the Russian state-news agency accidentally published, and then retracted, an article prematurely declaring success. “Russia,” it declared, “is restoring its unity.” The dissolution of the U.S.S.R.—the “tragedy of 1991, this terrible catastrophe in our history”—had been overcome. A “new era” had begun.

That original mission has already failed. There will be no such “new era.” The Soviet Union will not be revived. And when Russian elites finally realize that Putin’s imperial project was not just a failure for Putin personally but also a moral, political, and economic disaster for the entire country, themselves included, then his claim to be the legitimate ruler of Russia melts away. When I write that Americans and Europeans need to prepare for a Ukrainian victory, this is what I mean: We must expect that a Ukrainian victory, and certainly a victory in Ukraine’s understanding of the term, also brings about the end of Putin’s regime.

To be clear: This is not a prediction; it’s a warning. Many things about the current Russian political system are strange, and one of the strangest is the total absence of a mechanism for succession. Not only do we have no idea who would or could replace Putin; we have no idea who would or could choose that person.  . . . Putin has refused even to allow Russians to contemplate an alternative to his seedy and corrupt brand of kleptocratic power. Nevertheless, I repeat: It is inconceivable that he can continue to rule if the centerpiece of his claim to legitimacy—his promise to put the Soviet Union back together again—proves not just impossible but laughable.

As Western heads of state, foreign ministers, and generals think about how to end this war, they should not try to preserve Putin’s view of himself or of the world, his backward-looking definition of Russian greatness. They should not be planning to negotiate on his terms at all, because they might be dealing with someone else altogether.

Even if they prove ephemeral, the events of the past few days do change the nature of this war. From the very beginning, everybody—Europeans, Americans, the global business community in particular—has wanted a return to stability. But the path to stability in Ukraine, long-lasting stability, has been hard to see. . . . . But now is the time to ask about the stability of Russia itself and to factor that question into our plans. Russian soldiers are running away, ditching their equipment, asking to surrender. How long do we have to wait until the men in Putin’s inner circle do the same?

The possibility of instability in Russia, a nuclear power, terrifies many. But it may now be unavoidable. And if that’s what is coming, we should anticipate it, plan for it, think about the possibilities as well as the dangers. “We have learned not to be scared,” Reznikov told his Kyiv audience on Saturday. “Now we ask the rest of you not to be scared too.”

It would be ironic if Putin's hubris and delusions of imperial granduer prove to be his undoing.