Saturday, September 24, 2022

Trump's Judge Backtracks after 11th Circuit Court Rebuke

Happily, the past week has been a bad one for Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenfuhrer, as (i) his forum shopped judge revised her pro-Trump ruling after receiving a severe bitch slap from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (two of the 3 judge panel were Trump appointees which made the bitch slap all the sweeter), (ii) New York State brought a major fraud lawsuit against Trump and three of his spawn, and (ii) the special master hand picked by Trump is proving to be no friend to Trump's spurious claims. A piece in The Atlantic sums things up as follows:

Trump’s latest legal setback came last night, when a federal appeals court handed the classified documents seized by the FBI at his Mar-a-Lago estate back to government investigators. In siding with the government, a three-judge panel—including two Trump appointees—slapped down just about every argument that Trump and his legal team had advanced to suggest that the former president was within his rights to take classified documents from the White House when he left office last year. The decision also rebuked Aileen Cannon, the Trump-appointed federal judge whose rulings in favor of Trump have led many legal experts and former prosecutors to question her impartiality. The lower court had “abused its discretion,” the panel wrote.

The appellate ruling was not the only sign of trouble for Trump in the Department of Justice’s investigation. Earlier this week, Judge Raymond Dearie—the special master whom Judge Cannon appointed (and whom Trump’s lawyers recommended) to review the Mar-a-Lago documents—expressed irritation at the Trump team’s refusal to show proof that as president, Trump had actually declassified the documents in question before his term ended. “You can’t have your cake and eat it,” Dearie told them.

Trump’s legal problems in New York State are growing too. On Tuesday, E. Jean Carroll, a writer who says Trump raped her in the 1990s (he denies it), said she would take advantage of a new state law allowing victims of sexual assault a onetime opportunity to file new civil lawsuits after the statute of limitations on their cases has expired. And yesterday, hours before the appellate ruling came out, New York Attorney General Letitia James unveiled a lawsuit against Trump, his family, and his business alleging that for years, Trump inflated his net worth for financial gain.

As for Trump's flunky judge, a piece at Salon looks at her backtracking and revisions to her ruling in the wake of the 11th Circuit's stinging rebuke and how it largely wipes out further Trump delaying tactics.  Here are highlights:

District Judge Aileen Cannon on Thursday struck portions of her special master ruling barring the Justice Department from investigating former President Donald Trump just hours after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ripped apart her decision to halt the criminal probe.

The three-judge panel — which included two Trump appointees — said Cannon, a fellow Trump-appointee, "abused" her discretion by barring the DOJ from continuing to investigate the classified documents seized from Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence and allowed investigators to resume their probe.

"For our part, we cannot discern why Plaintiff would have an individual interest in or need for any of the one-hundred documents with classification markings," the panel said. "Classified documents are marked to show they are classified, for instance, with their classification level."

Cannon on Thursday issued a revised order stating that the special master in the case would review all documents "except the approximately one-hundred documents bearing classification markings." She also struck two portions from her original order preventing the DOJ from probing the classified documents during the special master review and requiring them to disclose the materials to the special master.

Some legal experts, like NYU Law Professor Ryan Goodman, say that Cannon's revised order essentially "erased Trump's chance to appeal to Supreme Court."

Steve Vladeck, a federal courts expert at the University of Texas School of Law, explained that Cannon's amendment doesn't "formally" kill Trump's ability to ask the court to vacate the stay — since the stay is still out there — but in practical terms, it makes it impossible.

"Cannon's amendment moots DOJ's appeal, and means Trump can't show any harm — let alone irreparable harm — that the Eleventh Circuit's stay is causing," he explained on Twitter. "So there's still *technically* a stay for #SCOTUS to vacate, but no possible legal justification for asking the Court to do so."

Former appellate lawyer Teri Kanefield agreed that "changing the order moots Trump's appeal to SCOTUS." "I suspect that [Cannon] doesn't like being overturned on appeal and wants to avoid more appellate thrashings," Kanefield said. Even if Trump does appeal, legal experts say he will likely lose.

Former US Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal explained that Trump can attempt to go to the US Supreme Court but "it's a loser every day of the week." He added that the former president got "obliterated" by the appellate court and that they confirmed what legal experts have been saying, "the whole declassification thing is a red herring."

Bad news for Trump is good news for the rule of law and the American public.

More Saturday Male Beauty


Glenn Youngkin is Callously Harming Students

Glenn Youngkin and Florida's Ron DeSantis share a common trait: they care nothing about the lives their policies and political stunts harm so long as they believe they are benefitting themselves with the ugly base of the Republican Party.  In Florida, DeSantis pushed through his "don't say gay" law and used refugees seeking asylum as ciphers in a political game.  Here in Virginia, Youngkin has declared war on transgender students - many of whom may resort to suicide or end up homeless - so that he can thrill the Christofascists at The Family Foundation (a vicious hate group that masquerades as an "educational" organization) and improve his prospects for a presidential campaign he is salivating to launch. Sadly, Youngkin and DeSantis are the norm in today's Republican Party where extremism seemingly knows no limits as Republicans push for total bans on abortion with no exceptions and LGBT individuals are increasingly demonized - Pennsylvania Republicans just announced they want an even more extreme "don't say gay" law for their state.  Hopefully, Youngkin will be stopped since his new anti-transgender policies run counter to rulings in the Gavin Grimm federal court rulings and Virginia's non-discrimination law.  While the legal challenges to Youngkin's anti-trans jihad unfold, student lives will be upended with some taking their own lives, not that Youngkin cares.  With 40% of homeless teens being LGBT - many because they are disowned by their right wing "Christian" parents - Youngkin ridiculously tells trans teens to "trust their parents" when the parents are likely a large part of the problem.  In many cases, Youngkin's advice is as sensical as telling a Ukrainian to trust Putin. A Washington Post piece looks at the harm already being done to young lives.  Here are excerpts:

In Fairfax, a gender-nonconforming teen who is out at school, but not at home, is terrified their parents will discover the truth under Virginia’s new policies for transgender students. If they find out, the teen is sure, they will refuse to pay for college — and may kick the teen out of their home.

And in Chester, Ace Nash, a trans sophomore who has passed as male since starting high school, is wondering if classmates will discover his secret — and what they might say if they do. He feels broken when he imagines seeing his birth name on school records or hearing it from a teacher, as may happen under the new policies.

“If I had kept presenting as female, I would be dead,” Ace said. “I can’t imagine being forced to be female again.”

It’s been a week since the administration of Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) sharply restricted transgender student rights, debuting guidelines that say trans students must access school facilities and activities, including restrooms and sports teams, that match their sex assigned at birth. The guidelines also make it difficult for students to change their names and pronouns at school and say teachers can refuse to use transgender students’ names and pronouns if it violates their beliefs. And the guidelines suggest parents should be told about students’ gender identities, no matter if the student wants to keep it private.

Virginia’s more than 130 districts have until next month to adopt the policies, the Youngkin administration says. Already, Democratic legislators are vowing defiance, and Youngkin’s guidelines may be vulnerable to legal challenges.

In the meantime, the teenagers who will be most affected by the new policy are trying to figure out how it will reshape their lives. The Washington Post asked students statewide to share how they are feeling, garnering more than 260 submissions across 30 school districts as of Wednesday evening.

The vast majority were from transgender students who wrote in fear. Some who transitioned years ago are worried they will be outed to unsuspecting classmates. Others who are mid-transition, or just beginning to transition, are worried they will be outed to their parents and forced to leave home. Many wrote they are feeling angry, depressed, suicidal.

“Because of it, I’ll probably have multiple breakdowns a day, my grades will drop,” wrote a 16-year-old. “Everything I’ve worked so hard to overcome will have been for nothing.”

Research suggests there are roughly 4,000 transgender teens in Virginia, a state with 1.2 million public school students. Research has also shown that transgender youths are far more likely to attempt suicide.

Asked about students’ distress, Youngkin spokesman Rob Damschen provided a copy of remarks he said the governor gave to a group of reporters in Loudoun County on Tuesday.

“I would find it very hard to argue that a parent being engaged in a child’s life is inconsistent with that child’s safety,” Youngkin said then. “This is about keeping people safe, but also fully, fully, involving parents into these most important positions.”

Damschen noted that a reporter asked Youngkin what he would say to transgender students who live with parents who do not support their gender identities. “I would say,” the governor said, “trust your parents.”

Over the next several days, Ace did not learn much. He was too busy worrying a teacher would approach him about his name or pronouns, although no one did. He worried someone might stop him on the way to the boys bathroom, although no one did that either. Still, Ace began minimizing restroom trips by skipping lunch or waiting until he got home. At night he took melatonin, seeking the release of sleep. It didn’t help.

Ace’s thoughts strayed to dark places. Before this year, Ace said, he has attempted suicide three times, most recently in November, because he was miserable over the wave of anti-transgender legislation appearing across the country. More than 300 bills restricting trans rights have been proposed nationwide, according to a Washington Post analysis, and many target schools.

Since the Virginia guidelines’ release, Ace said, he has felt the impulse to harm himself. He does not know what he will do if he is forced to return to female pronouns and facilities at school. “I would not be okay,” he said. “I could not deal with that. I would genuinely be a danger to myself.”

Of the 266 submissions received by The Washington Post, 13 came from students who said they are pleased with the guidelines. Four students said they did not care. The rest — 94 percent — came from students who believe the new guidelines will make their lives worse or endanger their friends’ mental health and well-being. Eighty-two percent of the submissions came from students who identified themselves as LGBTQ.

[A] 17-year-old senior, was assigned male at birth but identifies as female. She came out to her parents a year ago, she said, but they refused to believe her. After several yelling matches, they decided to ignore the problem. Now, the teen and her parents live together uneasily, both sides afraid to broach the “taboo topic,” the teen said. The teen’s parents continue to use her old name and treat her as male. The teen spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation from her parents. School is the teen’s safe haven.

Ever since the Youngkin administration guidelines appeared, the gender-nonconforming teenager in Fairfax County has lived in dread of an email from their high school counselor.

The teenager, who is 17 and a senior, spoke on the condition of anonymity because their parents do not know they are gender-nonconforming.

The teen went public with their gender identity at school this year, announcing a different name and pronouns to friends and teachers. Until this month, the student planned to make it through the rest of senior year by existing as their true self at school and a shriveled version at home. The teen dreams of attending a university in the Northeast and majoring in gender studies. The teen meant to tell their parents about their gender once they were much older.

Under the new guidelines, though, the teen fears their parents will learn the truth now — and can almost feel their future slipping away. “It would lead to either me not having housing,” the teen said, “or them not being willing to pay for my college.” Probably both.

All so Youngkin can pursue his political ambitions even if it means he does so on the dead bodies of trans and LGBT students who take their own lives or die on the street after being thrown out by their parents.  Youngkin is despicable.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Friday, September 23, 2022

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Today's GOP: The Tipping Point of Stupid

Based on historical precedents, in the coming 2022 mid-terms the Republicn Party should be posed to enjoy a "red wave" but at the moment that success has become much more less likely thanks largely to (i) the GOP extremists on the Supreme Court's ruling in Dobbs, and (ii) Donald Trump and his constant injection of himself into the GOP primaries and the manner in which his constant scandals and legal problems has sucked the oxygen out of daily news cycles for weeks now with no sign of the news coverage abating.  Indeed, things may only get worse and outside of the MAGA cult the endless coverage of Trump - and his requirement that everyone in the GOP shamelessly prostitute themselves to him and his lies - will continue to make it hard for Republican candidates to get their campaign shtick out to the general voters.  Add to this the nutcases and shameless political whores Trump's intervention has put on the ballot in Senante races in particular and the dream of a "red wave" looks more like a weak high tide.  A piece in The Atlantic looks at the insanity and self-degradation Trump has forced on the GOP.  Here are highlights:

Donald Trump has a knack for making his most committed apologists look like complete imbeciles—even if they are not complete imbeciles, though many of them are. This has been true for several years. But in recent weeks, Trump’s trickle-down idiocy has become a significant midterm-election issue for Republicans, and a drag on some of the party’s most vulnerable Senate candidates.

If you’re a candidate seeking a GOP nomination, Trump’s blessing can be a political wonder drug. But it comes with debilitating side effects. These go beyond the standard debasements that Trump inflicts on his dependents (for instance, Trump boasting at a Youngstown, Ohio, rally on Saturday that J. D. Vance, who is running for Senate there, was “in love” with him and “kissing my ass, he wants my support so much”). Assuming an acceptable Trumpian posture requires a determined self-lobotomy. In most states, it’s nearly impossible to pass yourself off as an election-denying January 6 truther and still be taken seriously by a majority of voters. Yet many candidates who clearly know better are doing exactly this.

You might be a media-slick, Ivy-bred brainiac like Vance or Dr. Mehmet Oz, and even admit backstage that you don’t really believe the asininity you’re spouting. As a general rule, though, discerning swing voters tend not to differentiate between fools and those who just play them on TV.

Not every Trump knockoff is faking it, of course. The former president has mainstreamed an authentic collection of cranks, bozos, and racists. The preponderance of safe, gerrymandered seats probably ensures continued employment in the House for the loony-tunes likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene.

The trickier proposition for Republicans involves statewide elections in toss-up states—which is why someone like Greene would almost certainly never win, say, a Senate race in her home state of Georgia. (The actual Republican nominee, Herschel Walker, is himself bananas, . . . . )

[T]he primary successes of Trump’s protégés have saddled Republicans with, as Mitch McConnell put it, low “candidate quality” . . . . the former president has imposed a mental headwind against even the most seasoned GOP incumbents. It is to their great disadvantage, at least with most college-educated voters, that remaining Trump-accredited requires shaving dozens of IQ points off an otherwise sound candidate’s brain.

I was contemplating this phenomenon the other day as I watched Senator Marco Rubio of Florida beclown himself in service to the man he used to openly loathe. As Trump’s opponent in 2016, Rubio was one of those ostentatiously saddened and troubled candidates who kept lamenting that Trump was turning that campaign into “a freak show.” Before Rubio became a cast member in the freak show himself, he talked a lot about how dangerous Trump was . . . .

Rubio’s self-correction to Made MAGA Man apparently compelled him to downplay Trump’s frightful conduct, even though it was something he obviously would have screamed bloody murder about if Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton had done the same. This was not a mere “storage issue,” at least not primarily. It was a “Why is the former president refusing to relinquish scores of classified and highly sensitive documents that don’t belong to him?” issue.

As the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Rubio is clearly aware of this. But he’s been playing this game for a while, and he knew what was required of him. . . . Rubio sounded miserable, as he often does when called upon to defend Trump’s indefensibles. He seemed to fully anticipate scorn and ridicule raining down. . . . I might have felt a twinge of sympathy, except no one was forcing Rubio to do this.

From the get-go, Republican officials have had to contort themselves in ridiculous ways to navigate Trump’s reality-distortion field. . . . We’ve gotten so used to the Trickle-Down-Idiocy Effect that it no longer engenders surprise, let alone outrage. It goes well beyond candidates having to perpetrate lies or offer preposterous explanations such as “storage issue,” “alternative facts,” “normal tourist visit,” and whatnot. Trump’s reckless claims and behaviors have led his dependents into a minefield of topics that, in previous campaign cycles, would likely never have come up, let alone be so fraught.

Absent Trump, Republican candidates in 2022 would be able to focus on subjects that would be more favorable to them and their party, such as inflation, crime, and Biden’s unpopularity. Trump continuously muddles their efforts and requires them to dwell in the bizarre realm of his narcissistic delusions.

Candidates are well accustomed to playing to the base for the primary and then pivoting to the center for the midterms. Savvy voters understand and tolerate this to a degree. But Trump has made finessing the gap far more complicated. . . . Did Trump—being Trump—place Oz in a no-win position where he would come off as either a kook or a traitor?

Vance can be cavalier at times, taking stupid much too far. Back in February, he appeared on Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast and declared, “I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine one way or the other.” . . . . But Vance paid a price. His “I don’t care about Ukraine” grenade detonated in his own face when Vladimir Putin launched his unprovoked invasion a few days later. People in both parties rallied behind Ukraine, most notably in northeastern Ohio, home to one of the largest concentrations of Ukrainian Americans in the country.

In a less Trump-hospitable state, Vance would have a much harder time. New Hampshire’s Don Bolduc became the latest toadying Trump endorsee to see his apparent faith rewarded, having won the state’s Republican nomination for Senate this month. He spent more than a year as a loud and unrelenting election denier, but just 36 hours after winning the primary, he made a screeching 180. . . . Presumably, Bolduc was trying to make himself look like a reasonable general-election candidate, and not a total idiot.

Friday Morning Male Beauty


Thursday, September 22, 2022

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The Kremlin Must Be in Crisis

A piece in The Atlantic by a long time Russia watcher suggests that all is not well with Vladimir Putin and his regime.  While Putin has called up "partial mobilization" to raise 300,000 more troops, there are signs that all may not be well on the home front with an immediate order barring Russian males between 18 and 65 from leaving Russia by air, small but country wide protests against the mobilization, and more Russian celebreties condemning the war even as they affirm their patriotism.  On the international front, Putin has been rebuffed by India and Turkey and China has expressed its "concern" for the war which obviously is not going well given the success of the recent Ukrainian counter-offensive.  Then there are questions of whether or not the mobilization can provide trained troops )not to mention equipment) or more canon fodder.   In short, Putin's war of choice looks increasing reminescent of Nicholas II's decision to enter into WWI which showed that Russia was not the military giant many had thought and which ultimately set the stage for the overthrow of the monarchy.   Will history repeat itself?  Here are article highlights:

If an American president announced a major speech, booked the networks for 8 p.m., and then disappeared until the following morning, the analysis would be immediate and damning: chaos, disarray, indecision. The White House must be in crisis.

In the past 24 hours, this is exactly what happened in Moscow. The Russian president really did announce a major speech, alert state television, warn journalists, and then disappear without explanation. Although Vladimir Putin finally gave his speech to the nation this morning, the same conclusions have to apply: chaos, disarray, indecision. The Kremlin must be in crisis.

In fact, no elements of the delayed speech were completely new or unexpected. Russian authorities have long intended to hold sham referenda in the Ukrainian territories they occupy. Putin and his television propagandists have been making subtle and unsubtle nuclear threats since February. Quietly, a creeping mobilization has been going on for many weeks too, as the Russian army has sought to recruit more men to replace the soldiers whom it still does not admit have been killed, wounded, or exhausted by the war. But now that Ukraine has successfully recaptured thousands of square miles of Russian-held territory, the sham referenda are being rushed, the nuclear language is being repeated, and the mobilization expanded. These are not the actions of a secure leader assured of his legitimacy and of the outcome of this war.

In part, the crisis stems from Putin’s fears that he will lose whatever counts as his international support. No ideology holds together the global autocrats’ club, and no sentiment does either. As long as they believed Russia really had the second largest army in the world, as long as Putin seemed destined to stay in power indefinitely, then the leaders of China, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, along with the strongmen running India and Turkey, were happy to tolerate his company.

But Putin’s supposedly inevitable military victory is in jeopardy. His army looks weak. Western sanctions make problems not just for him but his trading partners, and their tolerance is receding. At a summit in Uzbekistan last week, he was snubbed by a series of Central Asian leaders. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told him that “today’s era is not an era of war,” and Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed his “concerns” as well. On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told PBS that he had urged Putin to end the war: “The lands which were invaded will be returned to Ukraine.” And those lands, he made clear, should include Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, following a sham referendum much like the ones it now plans to stage in other parts of occupied Ukraine.

But while losing support abroad is bad, losing support at home is worse, and there are some signs of that too. Putin might not care much about the Russian liberals and exiles who oppose the war, but he may worry (and should worry) about people who are supposed to be on his side—people such as Alla Pugacheva, a Soviet-era pop star who has millions of mainstream followers and has recently proclaimed both her patriotism and her opposition to the war. Putin may also worry about the disappointed, pro-war nationalist bloggers, active on social media, who have been criticizing the conduct of the war for some time. . . . If their loyalty isn’t assured, then Putin isn’t secure either.

At the same time, the Russian president has to balance the discontent of that heavily armed minority against the wishes of the mostly apathetic, mostly silent majority. For the past six months, Putin has been telling the latter that there is no war, just a special military operation; that Russia has suffered no losses, just some temporary setbacks. Given that the army is victorious and everything is fine, most people need not alter their lives in any way. Now events have forced Putin to change his language, but it seems there are limits. Thus he speaks not of a true mass mobilization—which would involve conscripting young men in enormous numbers—but of partial mobilization . . .

Finally, and perhaps most important, the speech and a series of legal changes announced yesterday reflect a crisis inside the military. In truth, the Russian army faces not just a logistical emergency or some tactical problems but also a collapse in morale. That’s why Putin needs more soldiers, and that’s why, as in Stalin’s time, the Russian state has now defined “voluntary surrender” as a crime: Under a law approved by the Russian Parliament yesterday, you can be sent to prison for up to 10 years.

If the Russian army were a reliable, enthusiastic, dedicated fighting force, then the state would not need to declare harsh punishments for deserters, looters, and mutineers. But it is not.

Over the next few days, the bogus referenda will gather headlines, and the nuclear threats will create fear, as they were designed to do. But we should understand these attempts at blackmail and intimidation as a part of the deeper story told by this delayed speech: Support for Putin is eroding—abroad, at home, and in the army. Everything else he says and does right now is nothing more than an attempt to halt that decline.

I hope his efforts prove unsuccessful.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty


Wednesday, September 21, 2022

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Glenn Youngkin Is Showing His MAGA Colors

Glenn Youngkin ran a deceptive campaign in 2021 and fooled may suburban voters into voting for him as he posed as a supposed moderate Republican and made good use of a verbal misstep of his opponent.  Since taking office, he has been showing his true colors and seeks to rid school curriculums of "devisive" issues which translates to erasing LGBT students and individuals, waging war against transgender students and whitewashing  history to avoid any accurate discussion of Virginia's - and America's - ugly history of racism and the mistreatment of minorities.    He has also shown that being governor of Virginia and running the state to benefit all of its citizens to him - unlike his predecessor - was never a priority.  It was merely a stepping stone to further his hubris and ambition to eventually occupy the White House.  To accomplish this goal, Youngkin is going fully MAGA to court the national GOP base and will likely continue to push Virginia backwards.  It's all about courting the MAGA base of the GOP and what's good for Virginia is subordinate to furthering Youngkin's national ambitions.   As one friend recently noted:

I hope all those “middle of the road” folks who voted for him because they were annoyed about COVID restrictions (especially in schools) who thought he was a rich guy who didn’t really have extreme views and wouldn’t do any real harm, have woken up and realized he’s actually quite dangerous.

Things will sadly likely get worse here in Virginia as Youngkin pursues his real goal: running for president.  A solumn in the New York Times looks at Youngkin's full embrace of the MAGA base and his display of his true colors.  Here are highlights:

It’s obvious. Glenn Youngkin, the Republican governor of Virginia, wants to be president.

Within months of taking office, Youngkin had already established two political organizations, Spirit of Virginia and America’s Spirit, meant to raise his profile in national Republican politics with donations and assistance to candidates both in his home state and across the country. In July, he met privately with major conservative donors in New York City, underlining the sense that his ambitions run larger than his term in Richmond.

Youngkin, a former private equity executive, is on a tour of the country, speaking and raising money for Republican candidates in key presidential swing states. And as he crisscrosses the United States in support of the Republican Party, Youngkin is neither avoiding Donald Trump nor scorning his acolytes; he’s embracing them.

In Nevada last week, Youngkin stumped for Joe Lombardo, the Trump-backed Republican nominee for governor . . . . In Michigan, Youngkin stumped for Tudor Dixon, the Trump-backed Republican nominee for governor who has repeatedly challenged the integrity of the 2020 presidential election. And later this month, in Arizona, Youngkin will stump for Kari Lake, the Trump-backed Republican nominee for governor who accused Democrats of fraud in the state and says that unlike Gov. Doug Ducey, she “would not have certified” the 2020 election results.

In the 2021 Virginia Republican primary, he flirted with election denialism but never fully committed. What matters, for our purposes, is that Youngkin believes he needs to cater to and actually support election questioners and deniers to have a shot at leading the Republican Party.

The issue is that Republican voters want MAGA candidates, and ambitious Republicans see no path to power that doesn’t treat election deniers and their supporters as partners in arms.

There is an analogy to make here to the midcentury Democratic Party, which was torn between a liberal, Northern, pro-civil rights faction and a reactionary, Southern, segregationist faction. The analogy is useful . . . . because the reason the liberal faction prevailed helps illustrate why anti-MAGA Republicans are fighting a losing battle.

From its inception in the late 1820s as the movement to elect Andrew Jackson president, the Democratic Party relied on the Solid South to win national elections. Now it had a choice. Democrats could reject their new civil rights plank, accommodate the Dixiecrats and fight with a unified front against a hungry and energetic Republican Party, shut out of power since Herbert Hoover’s defeat in 1932. Or they could scorn the so-called States’ Rights Democrats and run as a liberal party committed to equal rights and opportunity for all Americans.

They chose the latter and changed American politics forever. And while much of this choice was born of sincere belief, we also should not ignore the powerful force of demographic change.

There is no equivalent to northern Black voters in the Trumpified Republican Party. Put differently, there is no large and pivotal group of Republicans who can exert cross-pressure on MAGA voters. Instead, the further the Republican Party goes down the rabbit hole of “stop the steal” and other conspiracy theories, the more it loses voters who could serve to apply that pressure.

In a normal, more majoritarian political system, this dynamic would eventually fix the issue of the MAGA Republican Party. . . . . The problem is that the American political system, in its current configuration, gives much of its power to the party with the most supporters in all the right places. Republicans may have lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections, but key features in the system — equal state representation in the Senate, malapportionment in the House of Representatives and winner-take-all distribution of votes in the Electoral College (Nebraska and Maine notwithstanding) — gives them a powerful advantage on the playing field of national politics.

Which is all to say that someone like Glenn Youngkin is only doing what makes sense. To make MAGA politics weak among Republican politicians, you have to make MAGA voters irrelevant in national elections. But that will take a different political system — or a vastly different political landscape — than the one we have now.

Be fearful for what Youngkin will do here in Virginia as he seeks to compete with the likes of Trump and Ron DeSantis on the national stage.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


Tuesday, September 20, 2022

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Much of the Media Continues to Fail America

For years now this blog has complained about the mainstream media and its failure tobe truth-tellers and call out the ugliness and fascism that has overtaken the Republican Party and to call out the gratuitous cruelty that Republcan politicans utilize as a form of performance art to thrill the party's white supremacist and Christofascist base. Indeed, had the mainstream media been united in exposing Donald Trump's lies, his shady business history, the 2016 election might have had a different result.  Instead, we saw endless false equivalency between Republican lies and misogyny versus Democrat policies and positions.  The two were never remotely the same, yet talking heads did not - most still do not - directly challenge outright lies and falsehoods giving undeserved defference to morally bankrupt and/or opportunistic interviewees.   This failure of the has not only damaged American democracy but now puts it at risk if a shape change is not made to correct the media failures,  Frighteningly, as a column in the Washington Post notes, much of the media still does not grasp that it is aiding the forces that seek to end Aerica's democracy.  Here are column excerpts: 

Donald Trump has gone full QAnon. As he spoke during a rally for Ohio Republican candidates on Saturday, a soundtrack associated with the conspiracy theory played. That elicited one-armed salutes — another QAnon symbol — from many attendees.

The display bore an uncanny resemblance to the infamous Nazi salute. The delusional incitement and zombie-like response should put to rest the notion that President Biden (or anyone) should be “reaching out” to these people. They are unreachable, and pretending otherwise misleads voters.

No Republican should ever escape an interview or news conference without being asked to condemn this monstrous event. The cynical GOP leaders who know that Trump is unfit for office and that many of his cult followers have become violent should not be treated as ordinary party hacks. They are enablers of a dangerous movement. Yet they continually evade persistent, aggressive questioning.

Compare this with the mainstream media’s response to Biden’s recent speech condemning the MAGA movement. Biden — though he generously (and inaccurately, in my book) distinguished the movement from the Republican Party writ large — highlighted the MAGA movement’s far-right extremism and its refusal to ascribe to the basic tenets of democracy (e.g., renunciation of violence, sanctity of elections). Yet many in the mainstream media turned up their noses. “Biden should have been more welcoming,” they said. “He’s too divisive!”

And herein rests the fundamental failure of the mainstream political media. Far too many continue to disguise the political reality we face. They refuse to use appropriate descriptors to describe Republican conduct, such as “fascist” or “racist.” Instead, they mislabel radical authoritarians as “conservatives.”

If this were a foreign country, the media would accurately describe the MAGA movement as a far-right cult. Yet in the United States, too many reporters cannot help themselves in normalizing the movement.

“It seems to be very deep in the mainstream press’s DNA to strain for equality when none exists,” said Margaret Sullivan, media critic and author of the upcoming memoir, “Newsroom Confidential: Lessons (and Worries) From an Ink-Stained Life.” She adds, “Maybe journalists just don’t have the language to truly get across how disturbing and abnormal some of this stuff is. If so, it’s high time to grapple with that.”

And it’s not just Trump who has displayed the GOP threat to democracy. Consider also Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’s inhumane transportation of asylum seekers to liberal states or cities to make a political statement. . . . . Regardless of the legalities, the tactic is straight from the Jim Crow handbook. Though the GOP applauded DeSantis’s disdain for human beings fleeing dictatorial repressions, his actions followed in the steps of White citizens’ councils from the 1960s that bused thousands of Black Southerners to Northern communities.

DeSantis is the alternative to Trump, we are told. But alternative does not mean always better.

The two Republicans prioritize intentional cruelty and unabashed xenophobia. Whether it is ripping children from parents’ arms or denouncing Mexican immigrants as “drug dealers” and “rapists,” they and other Republicans vying for consideration in 2024 seem entirely comfortable with dehumanizing vulnerable people. It is abject racism, and the vast majority of their party either applaud them for it or remain mum.

Yet mainstream media hosts rarely manage to bring up the Jim Crow origins of DeSantis’s scheme when interviewing Republican lawmakers. They do not compel lawmakers to explain how using humans as props is legal or decent. Instead, the favored oh-so-polite conventions hold: a mildly probing question, followed by a filibuster answer and then a change of topic. Such performances are insufficient to illuminate the vileness of the party propounding these stunts.

As the GOP becomes more brazen, the media seems to shrink further from its responsibility as truth-tellers and democracy advocates. Our democracy hangs in the balance.

Be very afraid for the future.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


Monday, September 19, 2022

More Monday Male Beauty


Republicans Wear Cruelty as a Badge of Honor

The Republican Party laughably contines to be the party of "family values" even as it abuses undocumented immigarnt familes fr sport and scoring political points with the party's white supremacist and right wing religious extremist base. Evangelicals, who wear false piety and religiosity on their sleeves, applaud the mistreatment of families so long as they have a different skin color, make it clear that Christ's message of aiding the poor, feeding the hungry and giving shelter to the homeless has been totally excised from their bibles.  Their sole focus - when not engaging in Pharisee-like behavior - is embrace the brutality and cruelty of the most heinous Old Testament passages. What is particularly disgusting is how so-called country club Republicans have gotten on board with such vile behavior and/or look the other way only worried about paying less in taxes.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the moral degridation of today's Republican Party.  Yes, Trump has been a toxic influence, but the moral bankruptcy extends far deeper.  Here are column excerpts: 

Many in the media had a meltdown when President Biden called the MAGA movement “semi-fascist.” They tut-tutted because they said his speech in Philadelphia was too “divisive.” In reality, the fault in Biden’s speech is that he was not tough enough on Republicans.

Biden seems to believe there is a mass of normal, non-MAGA Republicans out there. If there is, it is a small minority in the party. Most are all too comfortable with the extremism and violent rhetoric of their peers.

Donald Trump and his flunkies have predicted violence if he were prosecuted for hoarding highly classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort. He did it again Thursday, declaring that if he were indicted, the country would have “problems ... the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen before.” He added that Americans wouldn’t stand for prosecution.

His statement is an incitement to violence, plain and simple. It echoes the same rhetoric he deployed in the run-up to the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. No pundit or Republican official who continues to defend Trump or who feigns outrage at characterizations that his movement is “fascist” can claim ignorance.

Scores of Republican election deniers are on the ballot, including many who actively sought to overturn the 2020 election (e.g., Doug Mastriano, candidate for Pennsylvania governor; Adam Laxalt, candidate for Senate in Nevada). To call these individuals “conservatives” or to treat them as garden-variety candidates is to conceal that they, too, are a threat to democracy.

The horror show does not stop there. The Post reported last week, “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) claimed credit Thursday for flying dozens of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard . . . . Let’s put it this way: Sending migrants to “liberal elites” attempts to use non-White human beings as “punishment.” This conduct is not only dehumanizing; it is racist.

As Jonathan V. Last explains at the Bulwark, DeSantis used migrants as “props” because “he saw that he could use them as a means to the ends of his personal ambition.”

Christians should look at this act and be revolted. They should be horrified.” Some are, no doubt, but the MAGA base is delighted, which is why DeSantis is doing it.

DeSantis is not alone. Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has repeatedly tried the same stunt. . . . . This is how he chooses to spend taxpayers’ money (when he is not bullying LGBTQ children or forcing women to give birth against their will).

Meanwhile, another spasm of bigotry from Republican Senate nominee J.D. Vance of Ohio was uncovered last week. Back in January, he let loose this stream of bile that managed to merge racism, antisemitism and forced-birth extremism . . . .

And I haven’t even bothered with the most notorious MAGA loudmouths, such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Arizona gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake or the election deniers running for secretary of state in Arizona and Nevada.

One wonders when the media will stop calling these Republicans “conservatives” and affix a more accurate label. With all due respect to the president, there is nothing “semi” about their brand of fascism.

Monday Morning Male Beauty


Sunday, September 18, 2022

More Sunday Male Beauty


The GOP Revives A 60-Year-Old Segregationist Playbook

Teaching history has long been given short shrift in America's public schools and now, rather than pushing for a more complete and accurate teaching of history, Republicansacross the country - including the current occupant of Virginia's executive mansion - want to sanitize and re-write the nation's history tofurther their reactionary agenda.  Such a whitewashing of history would certainly exclude mention of the white segregationist tactics now being employed by the governors of Texas and Florida most recently spotlighted by Ron DeSantis using public funds to fly 50 undocumented immigrants to Martha's Vineyard.  As a displeased family member in Texas noted recently. if you or I did such a stunt involving lies and disinformation to vulnerable people, we'd likely be accused of human trafficking.  But in today's MAGA republican Party such deception and cruelty is cheered by the white supremacist/Christofascist base of the party.  I have argued many times that one cannot be a decent and truly moral person and be a member of today's Republican Party.  DeSantis and Abbott and other copycats are underscoring this reality and make it clear that unless one is white, heterosexual and right wing "Christian" you best be prepared to be treated like human garbage. A piece at Mother Jones looks at the ugly segregationist playbook that the GOP is reviving.  Delibrate cruelty has been added to hate and bigotryas one of the pillars of today's GOP. Here are article excerpts: 

On May 22, 1962, Victoria Bell and her 11 children, ranging in age from two to 14, arrived in Hyannis, Massachusetts, after a days-long bus ride to Cape Cod from Little Rock, Arkansas. Amis Guthridge, an attorney and the leader of the southern segregationist group, the Capital Citizens’ Council, gave Bell $60 and paid for the family’s one-way tickets north. Bell was forced to care for her children with little support after her husband left and the local government cut off her welfare. In a photo from that time, she and her sons and daughters can be seen waving in front of a sign for the Cape Cod Community College, which had been turned into temporary housing for her and other families. “I hope my children get a better chance here,” Bell told the Boston Globe. The following day, Lela Mae Williams, a mother of nine from Huttig, Arkansas, disembarked from a Greyhound bus at a stop near President John F. Kennedy’s summer home in Hyannis. She had heard about “free rides” on a Louisiana radio station and been lured by promises of housing, job prospects, and a presidential welcome at their final destination.

It was all a cruel hoax. Bell and Williams were among almost 100 people to be shipped under false pretenses to the resort town over the spring and summer of 1962 as part of a white supremacist campaign to send Black people from the South to northern cities.

The political ploy was a retaliation for the Freedom Rides from the previous year, when a group of 13 Black and white civil rights activists with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) embarked on southbound buses from Washington, DC, to protest continued segregation in interstate transportation despite the Supreme Court having ruled that it was unconstitutional. What became known as the “Reverse Freedom Rides” was meant to embarrass liberal politicians fighting for civil rights and presumably expose their hypocrisy by confronting them with the demand to live up to their values and assist the Black southerners.

Sixty years later, a similarly racist, cynical ploy reminiscent of the “Reverse Freedom Rides” is playing out, But this time with migrants as the innocent pawns. The historical parallels became clear after Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, which doesn’t share a land border with Mexico, flew 50 migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard. As Jonathan Chait wrote in New York Magazine, DeSantis “had to find migrants in Texas and, essentially, kidnap them for his own use.”

In his attempt to outdo his fellow GOP governors, DeSantis’ move even overshadowed news of migrants being dropped off outside Vice-President Kamala Harris’s Washington, DC, residence. The flight to Martha’s Vineyard, where Barack Obama and Bill Clinton often vacationed, was part of “the state’s relocation program,” according to the Florida Governor, . . . .

The migrants who arrived at the island explained to reporters that they had been told there would be work, food, and housing waiting for them, which was “a sadistic lie,” as Martha’s Vineyard immigration attorney Rachel Self wrote in a statement “Not only did those responsible for this stunt know that there was no housing and no employment awaiting the migrants, they also very intentionally chose not to call ahead, to any single office or authority on Martha’s Vineyard, so that even the most basic human needs arrangements could be made. Ensuring that no help awaited the migrants at all was the entire point.”

Massachusetts state senator Julian Cyr noted, “This endeavor is a cruel ruse that is manipulating families who are seeking a better life. No one should be capitalizing on the difficult circumstances that these families are in and contorting that for the purposes of a ‘gotcha’ moment.”

[T]he historical throughline between these two events seems clear. “One of the threads connecting these events is the underlying racism and white supremacy motivating those who are using migrants as pawns in a large political game,” Elisa Minoff, a historian and senior policy analyst at the Center for the Study of Social Policy told me. “That was very clear in the 1960s and I think it’s equally clear now.”

Back in 1962, the Reverse Freedom Rides campaign started in Louisiana and quickly spread among White Citizens’ Councils in Georgia, Arkansas, and Mississippi. As Clive Webb wrote in a 2004  Journal of American Studies article, “A Cheap Trafficking in Human Misery”: The Reverse Freedom Rides of 1962, segregationists “had failed to prevent token integration of the public school system.”

In order to restore their influence, they took to increasingly desperate measures. George Singelmann of the Greater New Orleans Citizens’ Council was the architect behind the efforts to relocate some Black residents. . . . . “I selected them by the number of children they had and things like that.” In other words, by what he considered to be the burden to society their presence would create. 

Much in the same way as DeSantis gave Fox News an exclusive on his Martha’s Vineyard stunt, the white segregationists of the 1960s also tried to use the media to their advantage. But their plan largely backfired and the press, even in the South, was critical of the manipulation of vulnerable Black people. WDSU Radio in New Orleans described it as “sick sensationalism bordering on moronic.” Then Massachusetts Governor John Volpe said, “It is shameful that in this country there should be those who traffic in human misery.”

“It became clear pretty quickly that it wasn’t playing out as they expected. If anything, it was increasing support for the civil rights movement and for the political leaders in the North who were not turning families away.” The white segregationists then—as the Republican governors now—didn’t anticipate that communities in the northern cities would rise to the occasion. While President Kennedy wasn’t waiting for the Bell and Williams families in Hyannis, local officials, faith leaders, and civil rights organizations opened up their arms in a show of solidarity similar to what is being showered upon the migrants of today. “Our island jumped into action putting together 50 beds, giving everyone a good meal, providing a play area for the children, making sure people have the healthcare and support they need,” State Rep. Dylan Fernandes who represents Martha’s Vineyard Tweeted. “We are a community that comes together to support immigrants.”

If there is a god, there should be a special place in Hell for DeSantis, Greg Abbott and others like them.  

Sunday Morning Male Beauty