Saturday, October 15, 2022

More Saturday Male Beauty


LGBT Voters: One of the Fastest Growing Voting Blocks

As the Republican Party doubles down on its pandering to Christofascists, white supremacists, and uneducated whites while seeking to limit access to voting by those outside the GOP's ugly base, the nation's demographics continue to change with the number of LGBT voters surging.   GOP backed "don't say gay" and anti-transgender laws - here in Virginia Glenn Youngkin's regime is pushing this agenda - may resonate with Christofacists but drive away LGBT and college educated voters, the former being poised by 2040 to potentially represent 20% of all voters based on the findings of a new study.  As noted in the past, rather than working to build a growing coalition, the GOP remains committed to pandering to a shrinking base with disenfranchise efforts based on lies about nonexistent "voter fraud" being the main tool to try to guarantee GOP victories.  A piece in Politico looks at the growing numbers of LGBT voters, including in swing states.  Here are article highlights: 

LGBTQ voters are poised to become one of the fastest-growing blocs in the country, according to a report first shared with POLITICO.

The research, conducted by the Human Rights Campaign and Bowling Green State University and based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, finds that by 2030, approximately 1-in-7 voters will be LGBTQ. The researchers expect to see that share grow to nearly 1-in-5 by 2040.

Ahead of the midterm election this year, 11 percent of the voting-eligible population identifies as LGBTQ. The projections are a conservative estimate, the researchers noted, because more people continue to come out as they age.

The report suggests that momentum is driven by the growing number of youth voters and more people coming out in younger generations. Nationally, Gen Z has the highest share of those who are LGBTQ — 27 percent — followed by millenials, with 16 percent who identify as LGBTQ. In 2020, youth turnout was 11 points higher than the previous presidential election, and 17 million young people have turned, or are turning, 18 between the 2020 election and the 2022 midterms.

“It is safe to assume that LGBTQ+ Americans are, and will increasingly continue to be, an important voting bloc in American elections,” the report says.

Issues involving LGBTQ rights, abortion access and voting access are driving these voters to the polls this year, said Geoff Wetrosky, the Human Rights Campaign’s national campaign director.

Republican campaigns are relying heavily on messaging this cycle about crime and immigration. Exit polls from previous elections show that the majority of voters who identify as LGBTQ are Democrats. And Wetrosky said there is a stark partisan divide in terms of who LGBTQ voters support.

“But our hope is that as politicians of all political parties recognize the changing demographics of the country, and the growth of the LGBTQ voting bloc and the growth of our number of pro-equality allies, that they too will support pro-equality policies,” he said.

The Senate is voting on legislation to protect same-sex marriage after the election, a delay that senators supporting the deal say will increase its chances of passage. But it does mean Republicans will be able to skirt their records on the issue before the midterms.

“The LGBTQ voting bloc does not act as a monolith, and we do not necessarily only support Democrats, we support pro-equality candidates,” he continued. “We hope that candidates of all parties will recognize that and support pro-equality policies and reach out to LGBTQ voters and seek our votes.”

The LGBTQ vote can have an impact in battleground states, the report suggests. In both 2030 and 2040, the percentage of eligible voters who are LGBTQ is projected to exceed the national average in Georgia, Arizona, Texas, Nevada and Colorado. Ohio is projected to have the highest percentage change, jumping from 10 percent in 2020 to 18 percent in 2040.

Earlier this year, Agenda PAC, a new liberal super PAC, launched to defeat anti-LGBTQ candidates — with one of the first being Doug Mastriano, the Republican candidate for Pennsylvania governor. Mastriano has said that LGBTQ couples should not be allowed to adopt children, gay marriage should not be legal and transgender females should not be permitted to compete in women’s sports.

“This would be a political earthquake across the country, particularly with a state like Texas — having this huge LGBTQ population, a growing number of allies as well, in the state looking for pro-equality politicians that at the statewide level in particular, are not currently seeking the votes of LGBTQ voters by supporting pro-equality policies,” Wetrosky said.

Just last week, a federal judge ruled in favor of Texas and halted implementation of two Biden administration rules concerning LGBTQ protections for employees and children. . . . Biden has condemned these moves made by Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s administration.

“These states and these leaders [are] on the wrong side of history, but I think they’re really on the wrong side of the demographics, even,” said Shoshana Goldberg, lead author of the study and director of public education and research at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. “Just the basic numbers suggest that where these states are going versus where their states’ politicians think that they’re going, suggests a pretty big mismatch.”

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Friday, October 14, 2022

More Friday Morning Male Beauty


How to Rein In An Extremist U.S. Supreme Court

During the last term of the U.S. Supreme Court the extremist majority on the Court stripped women of control over their own bodies, put the wants of gun fanatics over the safety of the larger public and wreak havoc on the EPA's ability to protect the environment.  In each case, the majority put their own views, both religious and anti-government, over the Constitution and the law.  In the coming term, yet more damage to the constitutional order, the rights of minorities (other than Christofascists, of course) will likely be further eroded, and the ability of white supremacists to limit voting rights for minorities will be further enhanced.  Meanwhile, the will of the majority of Americans means nothing to justices like Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas who appears too stupid to grasp that he is putting his own rights potentially at risk.  A long column in the New York Times examines how Congress, if it can summon the will, can rein in a Supreme Court which is visibly out of step with the nation's population and seeks to champion the rights of only certain groups to the detriment of the majority of citizens.  Here are highlights:

I have written before about the ways that Congress could restrain an overbearing and ideological Supreme Court, using its powers under the Constitution.

In short, Article III, Section 2 states that the Supreme Court shall have “original jurisdiction” in all cases affecting “Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party.” And in all other cases, the court shall have “appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.”

The “exceptions” and “regulations” are key. Most of the business of the Supreme Court is appellate work. It hears cases that have already gone through the federal judicial process.

If Congress can regulate the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, then it can determine which cases it can hear, the criteria for choosing those cases and even the basis on which the court can make a constitutional determination.

Congress could say, for instance, that the court needs more than a bare majority to overturn a federal statute. Even if you agree that the court has the mostly exclusive right to interpret the Constitution, it doesn’t therefore follow that five justices can essentially nullify the constitutional views of the legislators who passed a law, the president who signed it and the four other justices who affirmed it. Constitutional meaning, in other words, flows as much from the elected branches (and the people themselves) as it does from courts and legal elites.

In the same way that it takes a supermajority of Congress to propose a constitutional amendment, it should probably take a supermajority of the court to say what the Constitution means, especially when it relates to acts and actions of elected officials. If there is any place for mandatory consensus in our government, it should be in an area where any given decision can have broad and far-reaching consequences for the entire constitutional order.

[W]hile reading up on legal disputes during Reconstruction, I learned that at one point Congress attempted to do exactly what I’ve described: limit the court’s use of judicial review to overturn congressional statutes by raising the bar for a decision from a simple majority to a supermajority.

At issue was the Supreme Court’s decision in Ex parte Milligan. In 1864, Union Army officers arrested a group of Indiana Democrats who had been vocal critics of the Lincoln administration and its allies. A military commission authorized by President Abraham Lincoln under a previously issued executive order charged the men — including Lambdin P. Milligan, a leader in the “Order of American Knights,” a pro-slavery, secessionist group — with, among other things, inciting insurrection and conspiring against the U.S. government. Milligan and others were convicted and sentenced to death.

The following year, in May, lawyers for Milligan filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the circuit court district of Indiana. . . . . Justice David Davis — who rode circuit in Indiana, hearing cases along with a Federal District Court judge as they moved through the appeals process — reviewed Milligan’s petition. Davis did not think that a military commission was the appropriate way to try Milligan, a civilian in a state where there was no active rebellion. The other judge disagreed.

Their disagreement sent the case to the Supreme Court, which held oral arguments the next year, in 1866. Writing for five of the nine justices, Davis declared it unconstitutional to try civilians in military courts when civilian courts were still available.

“For the chief justice,” Walter Stahr explains in “Salmon P. Chase: Lincoln’s Vital Rival,” “the Milligan case was only in part about events in Indiana in the recent past; it was also about the scope of federal authority in the violent present. Chase was well aware that, in many parts of the South, the state civilian courts provided no protections for blacks; only the federal military courts would punish whites for crimes against blacks.”

In 1868, as Congress awaited the court’s decision in another case, Ex parte McCardle, that could undermine its military Reconstruction policies, the House of Representatives debated a bill that would require, according to The New York Herald, “a concurrence of two-thirds of all the members necessary to a decision adverse to the validity of any law of the United States.”

Democrats condemned the bill as one of the “very gravest” of “all the revolutionary measures brought before the last or present Congress tending to subvert and destroy the institutions of the country.”

Representative John Bingham of Ohio, author of the 14th Amendment and a Republican, disagreed. “It would be a sad day for American institutions and for the sacred cause of Republican Governments if any tribunal in this land, created by the will of the people, was above and superior to the people’s power.” The Supreme Court, he continued, in a reference to its decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford, “had disgraced not only itself as a tribunal of justice, but it had disgraced humanity when it dared to mouth from its high seat of justice, the horrible blasphemy that there were human beings, either in this land, or in any land, whose rights white men were not bound to respect.”

The bill passed the House and Senate but it was never signed into law. President Johnson simply refused. . . . . In November, Republicans won the White House with Ulysses S. Grant at the top of the ticket. In 1869, a Republican Congress passed a law that set the size of the Supreme Court at nine justices (up from eight) and provided that any justice over 70 with sufficient experience could retire at full salary for the rest of his life. By mid-1870, Grant had appointed two associate justices of the Supreme Court, who would go on to affirm his policies. Republicans were content that the court was in their hands.

The point of all this is to say that disputes over the Supreme Court’s power of judicial review are not new. The reforms to curb it, likewise, are not novel. And even if you stipulate that the Republicans of 1868 were motivated by partisan concerns, it is also true that these Republicans — the lawmakers who wrote the Reconstruction amendments and reshaped our entire constitutional order — grasped a serious problem with the Supreme Court’s role in our ostensibly democratic political system. Their experience of the previous decade — of Dred Scott and the secession crisis and the war — had put court reform at top of mind, even if they ultimately only took minor steps to reshape the institution.

But this decision to spare court the rod of discipline undermined the Republicans’ own political project, although they could not see this in the moment. Within 20 years, the Supreme Court would render much of the 13th and 14th Amendments a dead letter. And by the end of the century, the 15th would have almost no impact on life in the South.

Despite some of the more interesting ideas that came out of President Biden’s court reform commission, there is no chance at this time for serious court reform. There is no consensus for it within the Democratic Party and there are certainly not the votes for it in Congress. But circumstances do change, often unexpectedly. Should progressives gain the opportunity to make structural changes to the Supreme Court, they should take it. Democrats in the 21st century should not make the same mistake Republicans in the 19th century did.

Friday Morning Male Beauty


Thursday, October 13, 2022

More Thursday Male Beauty


Trump Employee Hid Government Documents on Trump's Orders

Throughout his business career and while in the White House, Donald Trump has always flauted the law, lied incessantly, sought to screw subordinates and legal counsel who could serve as fall-guys, and left a trail of bankruptcies and unpaid creditors.  Nothing has changed sice Trump exited the White House after his failed coup attempt except that perhaps now Trump may be headed for some long over due accou ting for his misdeeds.  One area where Trump may have the least wiggle room now is in the context of the government documents - including top secret documents - Trump stole and took with him to Florida inviolation of several laws.  After giving conflicting stories that border on the incredible and far fetched, one of Trump's own employees and security-cameral video may now be tying Trump directly to the effort to hide government documents and ignore a subpoena for the return of the documents.  Meanwhile, one of Trump's attorneys who stupidly signed a letter claiming all requested government documents had been returned is speaking with authorities and has likely hired her own legal counsel to stave off her own legal problems for lying for Trump (I continue to be amazed that attorneys are foolish enough to represent Trump).  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the latest development.  Here are highlights:

A Trump employee has told federal agents about moving boxes of documents at Mar-a-Lago at the specific direction of the former president, according to people familiar with the investigation, who say the witness account — combined with security-camera footage — offers key evidence of Donald Trump’s behavior as investigators sought the return of classified material.

The witness description and footage described to The Washington Post offer the most direct account to date of Trump’s actions and instructions leading up to the FBI’s Aug. 8 search of the Florida residence and private club, in which agents were looking for evidence of potential crimes including obstruction, destruction of government records or mishandling classified information.

[A]fter Trump advisers received a subpoena in May for any classified documents that remained at Mar-a-Lago, Trump told people to move boxes to his residence at the property. That description of events was corroborated by the security-camera footage, which showed people moving the boxes, . . .

The employee who was working at Mar-a-Lago is cooperating with the Justice Department and has been interviewed multiple times by federal agents, according to the people familiar with the situation, who declined to identify the worker.

In the first interview, these people said, the witness denied handling sensitive documents or the boxes that might contain such documents. As they gathered evidence, agents decided to re-interview the witness, and the witness’s story changed dramatically, these people said. In the second interview, the witness described moving boxes at Trump’s request.

The witness is now considered a key part of the Mar-a-Lago investigation, these people said, offering details about the former president’s alleged actions and instructions to subordinates that could have been an attempt to thwart federal officials’ demands for the return of classified and government documents.

Multiple witnesses have told the FBI they tried to talk Trump into cooperating with the National Archives and Records Administration and the Justice Department as those agencies for months sought the return of sensitive or historical government records, people familiar with the situation said. . . . But entreaties from advisers and lawyers who pushed for Trump to hand the documents back fell on deaf ears with Trump, these people said, . . .

Trump grew angry this spring after a House Oversight Committee investigation was launched, telling aides they’d “screwed up” the situation, according to people who heard his comments. “They’re my documents,” Trump said, according to an aide who spoke to him.

The details shared with The Post reveal two key parts of the criminal probe that until now had been shrouded in secrecy: an account from a witness who worked for and took directions from Trump, and the way that security footage from Mar-a-Lago has played an important role in buttressing witness accounts.

Together, those pieces of evidence helped convince the FBI and Justice Department to seek the court-authorized search of Trump’s residence, office and a storage room at Mar-a-Lago, which resulted in the seizure of 103 documents that were marked classified and had not been turned over to the government in response to the May subpoena. Some of the documents detail top-secret U.S. operations so closely guarded that many senior national security officials are kept in the dark about them.

[P]eople familiar with the situation said, authorities are also concerned that if or when the witness’s identity eventually becomes public, that person could face harassment or threats from Trump supporters.

Since the Aug. 8 search, Trump has offered a number of public defenses of why documents with classified markings remained at Mar-a-Lago saying he declassified the secret documents, suggesting that the FBI planted evidence during the search, and suggesting that as a former president he may have had a right to keep classified documents. National security law experts have overwhelmingly dismissed such claims, saying they range from far-fetched to nonsensical.

In May, a grand jury subpoena demanded the return of classified documents with a wide variety of markings, including a category used for secrets about nuclear weapons.

In response to that subpoena, Trump’s advisers met with government agents and prosecutors at Mar-a-Lago in early June, handing over a sealed envelope containing another 38 classified documents, including 17 marked top secret, according to court papers. According to government filings, Trump’s representatives claimed at the meeting that a diligent search had been conducted for all classified documents at the club.

Agents continued to gather evidence that Trump was apparently not complying with either government requests or subpoena demands. After significant deliberation, aware that it would be highly unusual for federal agents to search a former president’s home, they decided to seek a judge’s approval to do so.

That Aug. 8 search turned up, in a matter of hours, 103 documents marked classified, including 18 marked top secret, according to court papers. The stash included at least one document that described a foreign country’s military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities. 

Thursay Morning Male Beauty


Tuesday, October 11, 2022

More Tuesday Male Beauty


Democrats Are Belatedly Realizing Saudi Arabia Is Not An Ally

This blog has long argued that Saufi Arabia is no ally to America or the rest of the western world.  In addition to the horrific human rights abuses witin its borders, Saudi Arabia has been the leading financial underwriter of Islamic extremism which it has helped export around the world. Plus, let's not forget that 15 of the 19 terrorist hijackers on 9-11 were Saudis.  Despite this reality for too long America has treated the horrible kingdom as an ally in opposition to Iran and because of American dependence on oil.   With Saudi Arabia's decision to aid Vladimir Putin and to reduce oil production so Russian oil revenues can increase, some Democrats in Congress have belatedly awaken to the fact that Saudi Arabia is and enemy and no ally.  Unfortunately, it took this lates slap in the face to make people open their eyes to the truth of the kingdom's opposition to American values and strategic goals.  A piece in Politico looks at movement in Congress to cease all arms sale to the kngdom and to redeploy American military assets out of the kingdom.  Here are article highlights:

A top Democratic senator is vowing to block all future weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and urging the Biden administration to “immediately freeze all aspects” of U.S. cooperation with the kingdom in response to its decision to cut oil production amid a global energy crisis set off by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The message from Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who has veto power over foreign arms sales, comes amid the West’s outrage at OPEC+ for slashing its oil output — a move that the U.S. and other allied governments saw as a gift to Moscow as it suffers significant losses on the battlefield in Ukraine.

U.S. officials were quietly urging Saudi Arabia to ramp up its oil production in order to boost the global supply and lower prices for consumers in the U.S. and Europe who have been hit hard as their governments moved to cut off Russian energy. Russia’s intensifying assault on Ukraine has tested the resolve of European nations that had previously relied heavily on Russia for their energy needs.

In a statement on Monday, Menendez said the decision helped to “underwrite” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war.

“As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I will not green light any cooperation with Riyadh until the Kingdom reassesses its position with respect to the war in Ukraine,” Menendez said in a statement first obtained by POLITICO. “Enough is enough.”

In addition to Menendez’s authority as chairman of the powerful Foreign Relations panel, Congress as a whole can vote to block certain weapons sales.

“There simply is no room to play both sides of this conflict — either you support the rest of the free world in trying to stop a war criminal from violently wiping ... an entire country off of the map, or you support him,” Menendez added. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia chose the latter in a terrible decision driven by economic self-interest.”

Energy is a top source of revenue for Russia, and Western nations have tried to starve funding for Putin’s assault on Ukraine through biting sanctions and other extraordinary measures aimed at cutting off the Kremlin. Saudi Arabia was under intense pressure to boost its output to make up for the shortfall in the global oil market caused by those sanctions.

It wasn’t just Menendez fuming at the Saudis. The Senate’s second-ranking Democrat, Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, on Thursday charged that the Saudi kingdom “has never been a trustworthy ally of our nation,” citing Saudi Arabia’s abysmal human-rights record.

“From unanswered questions about 9/11, the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and the exporting of extremism, to dubious jailing of peaceful dissidents and conspiring with Vladimir Putin to punish the U.S. with higher oil prices, the Saudi royal family has never been a trustworthy ally of our nation,” Durbin said. “It’s time for our foreign policy to imagine a world without this alliance with these royal backstabbers.”

And Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has already said several legislative responses are under consideration, including a bill taking aim at OPEC for price-fixing and antitrust violations. The legislation, referred to as NOPEC, cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year in a 17-4 vote.

Lawmakers are also calling for a drawdown of U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia as a consequence of the oil production cut.

Reps. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), Sean Casten (D-Ill.) and Susan Wild (D-Pa.) have unveiled legislation that would force the removal of U.S. troops and equipment from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates within 90 days.

The move would include the removal of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense and Patriot missile and air defense batteries. The bill calls for relocating forces and weapons to other Middle Eastern nations with the aim of protecting U.S. troops.

Saudi Arabia’s standing on Capitol Hill has plummeted in recent years, even as former President Donald Trump sought to deepen U.S. security ties to the kingdom. Trump repeatedly advocated for arming the Saudis and sought to use its government as a way to counter Iran in the region.

Democrats, though, have mostly remained skeptical of the Saudis, and President Joe Biden’s decision to travel to Riyadh over the summer was met with outrage among some of his allies on the Hill. They’ve argued that the U.S. should not overlook democracy and human rights in countries that benefit from U.S. support.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


Monday, October 10, 2022

More Monday Male Beauty


New Lawsuit: Abortion Bans Violate Religious Freedom

For the current extremist majority on the U.S. Supreme Court religious freedom - at least for right wing Christians - trumps nearly all else, including non-discrimination laws.  Now, another new lawsuit has begun working its way through the courts that may, if it reaches the Supreme Court, may force these radical justices to show that dispite their disingenuous bloviating only "conservative" Christian religious freedom matters to them.  The beliefs and religious freedom rights of others are of simply no concern to these religious zealots as they seek to force their personal religious belifs on the nation.  Similarly, the far right Christian beliefs collide head on with the realities of maternal health issues, genetic abnormalities, and in vitro fertilization.  Should the case eventually reach SCOTUS, it will be telling to see the contortions the majority utilizes to not recognize the religious freedoms of other faith traditions.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the new lawsuit and the hypocrisy and bias of the Court majority.  Here are column highlights:

In July I wrote about a lawsuit in Florida challenging the state’s abortion ban on the grounds that it violates the religious beliefs of Jews — and members of other faiths — who do not believe in the Christian dogma that human life begins at conception. Now, three Jewish women from Kentucky have filed a similar suit.

One of the plaintiffs is undergoing in vitro fertilization. Another one is storing nine embryos. And another is “of advanced maternal age and faces many risk factors if she chooses to have a third child,” the complaint explains. It adds, “Individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry have a heightened risk of passing on genetic anomalies, like Tay-Sachs disease, for which there is no cure and the average life span of those with the condition is four years of age.”

Yet Kentucky’s abortion law, the complaint argues, would arguably make both an abortion after genetic counseling or the destruction of IVF embryos capital murder.

Contrary to the officiousness of the right-wing Supreme Court justices, who seem not to understand that they applied their own religious views in their ruling overturning abortion rights, the complaint explains:

Judaism has never defined life beginning at conception. Jewish views on the beginning of life originate in the Torah. ... Millenia of commentary from Jewish scholars has reaffirmed Judaism’s commitment to reproductive rights.

Under Jewish law, a fetus does not become a human being or child until birth. Under no circumstances has Jewish law defined a human being or child as the moment that a human spermatozoon fuses with a human ovum.

The question of when life begins for a human being is a religious and philosophical question without universal beliefs across different religions.

The last sentence is key. The so-called state interest in preserving “fetal life” depends on the assumption that a fetus deserves the same protection as a toddler. But for Jews, “the necessity of protecting birth givers in the event a pregnancy endangers the woman’s life and causes the mother physical and mental harm” must control. Moreover, “the law forces Plaintiffs to spend exorbitant fees to keep their embryos frozen indefinitely or face potential felony charges.”

For that reason, the complaint alleges that the Kentucky abortion law violates the First Amendment and the state constitutional protection for religious freedom — as well as the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The latter part of the lawsuit may become moot should Kentucky voters pass a ballot measure that would declare the state constitution does not protect abortion access. But, in any case, forcing others to comply with the religious-based edicts of one sect flies in the face of the constitutional guarantee of free religious expression.

Regardless of whether the lawsuit succeeds, it raises three critical issues that apply in legal challenges to abortion bans. First, it pulls back the curtain to reveal that judges are acting on a religious, not scientific, view of personhood. The arrogance in assuming that everyone buys into a specific Christian sectarian viewpoint reveals the degree to which right-wing courts and legislatures ignore or disfavor Americans who are not Christian. It’s critical to force politicians, media, pundits, doctors, researchers and ordinary voters to recognize this.

Second, the lawsuit makes clear the negative impact on IVF, which was not in existence when many state abortion bans were passed in the 19th or early 20th century. The current crop of state lawmakers and Supreme Court justices seems willfully oblivious to the implications for such reproductive care. Do they really want to make a commonly used process for procreation effectively impossible?

Finally, it’s not just the Kentucky law that is vague to the point of unintelligibility. Many state statutes use vague, nonmedical terms to put doctors and patients in untenable positions. Should physicians render care to a pregnant woman experiencing a dangerous pregnancy, risking prosecution under the opaque language of a 19th-century law, or should they let the patient’s condition become so acute that she might fit within an exception for preservation of her life? The uncertainty these laws have imposed seems designed to chill the willingness of doctors to provide care, even if it turns out to be legal.

If the Kentucky lawsuit forces state legislators to wrestle with the real harm and chaos these laws have created, then it will be a success.


Monday Morning Male Beauty


Sunday, October 09, 2022

More Sunday Male Beauty - Pt 2


An Ominous Lesson on the Fragility of Democracy

Sadly, far too many Americans do not have a good knowledge of history and the lessons and warnings that history can provide.   Yet, in this time when America's democracy is threatened by the forces on the right which are increasingly embracing authoritarianism and aspects of fascism, the demise of Germany's Weimar Republic provide cautionary warnings to what could happen in America if the forces on the right continue to put power and one party rule above all else.  While Trump may not be a new Hitler, the parallels between this moment in time and the last years of the Weimar Republic are nonetheless frightening.   Will enough Americans pay attention so that this nation's form of government  does not suffer a similar fate?  The signs are not reassuring as the forces of reaction and authoritarian rule seek to use conspiracy theories, the "Big Lie" and a perverse form of legalism to end democracy in America and to install themselves in dictatorship in all but name.  A long piece in The Atlantic looks at the scary parallels and mistakes that are happening before our eyes.  Here are excerpts:

The short-lived Weimar Republic—which spanned the years after Germany’s defeat in World War I until 1933, when Hitler came to power—has become a paradigmatic example of democratic collapse. That has brought it renewed attention at this moment in America, when democracy is under threat from illiberal, would-be-authoritarian forces. We should rightly be suspicious of facile comparisons, especially the casual use of fascism as an imprecise epithet, yet Weimar’s fate provides us with some instructive parallels and important warning signals.

During its first four years, Weimar was under constant attack—above all, from the Big Lie that the republic was a totally illegitimate government because it owed its genesis to a “stab in the back” delivered on the home front. According to this Big Lie, the German army had not been defeated on the battlefield in 1918—when in fact General Erich Ludendorff’s spring offensive was a gamble that ended in military disaster. Instead, the myth went, a cabal of “November criminals”—Jews, Marxists, democrats, and internationalists— had betrayed the country, subverted the war effort, driven out the kaiser, signed the shameful Treaty of Versailles, and imposed an un-German democracy.

Not just Hitler and the Nazis but the entire German right latched on to this message and promoted it. Two factors distinguished Hitler from the rest of the German right. First was his self-awareness and cool calculation in deploying the Big Lie. . . . . Essential to the “stab in the back” conspiracy theory’s effectiveness were a simple appeal to the emotions, not the intellect, and its endless repetition without concession to contrary evidence. Commitment to the Big Lie, he realized, had to be total and uncompromising.

The second factor was Hitler’s decision to make the conspiracy theory the justification for violent action, moving rapidly from merely denigrating Weimar democracy to staging an outright insurrection.

Hitler’s lesson from the failed putsch was that he needed to pursue revolution through “the politics of legality” rather than storm Munich City Hall. The Nazis would use the electoral process of democracy to destroy democracy. As Hitler’s associate Joseph Goebbels said, the Nazis would come to the Reichstag, or Parliament, as wolves to the sheep pen.

Then the Great Depression and the political discontent that followed opened the way for a Nazi surge. First, in 1930, the party achieved an electoral breakthrough that made it the second-largest group in Parliament. Less than two years later, it became the largest party in Germany, winning a plurality of votes (about 37 percent) . . . . Despite this electoral triumph, the Nazis were blocked from an absolute majority in the Reichstag because voters for the Social Democratic, Communist, and Catholic Center parties did not, for the most part, succumb to Nazi blandishments.

This time Hitler attempted no coup, but he would not be denied what the German historian Karl Dietrich Bracher later dubbed a “legal revolution.” By January 1933, Germany’s old guard saw that they were not remotely competitive in any election without the Nazi base, and opted to have Hitler legally appointed chancellor (or first minister). But because non-Nazi conservatives still held eight of 11 cabinet positions in the new government, they persisted in their delusion that they could control him—or, as some might say in today’s parlance, that they could preserve the “guardrails” that would contain him.

Weimar has bequeathed three distinct cautions for the political right of any era about what not to do in comparable situations: join in disseminating a Big Lie; take inadequate action and impose an inadequate penalty after a treasonous uprising; and cement an alliance between traditional conservatives and fascists.

[T]he way Hitler’s faction benefited from the conservative establishment’s support, exploited constitutional vulnerabilities, and undermined political norms to subvert German democracy suggests some portents for American politics today.

Hitler soon prevailed on von Hindenburg to use other powers entrusted to the president. In short order, the freedoms of speech, press, and assembly were suspended. An extrajudicial power to arrest and detain people without trial voided normal due process, and this provided a legal basis for the Nazi concentration-camp system. In addition, non-Nazi state governments were deposed, and full legislative powers were vested in the chancellor instead of the Reichstag—in effect allowing rule by fiat. That enabled Hitler to disband labor unions, purge the civil service, and outlaw, one by one, opposing political parties. Within five months, Germany was a one-party dictatorship and a police state.

Unlike interwar fascism, which openly condemned parliamentary democracy, the current wave of ethnonationalist authoritarian populism in the West—dubbed “illiberal democracy” by the new darling of the American right, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orb├ín—prefers to preserve elections as a legitimizing mechanism. The aim of this illiberalism is a “managed democracy” unchecked by an independent judiciary and untrammeled by the inconvenience of real democratic accountability that comes through the hazard of electoral defeat and alternating parties in government.

The American political system has some built-in vulnerabilities to illiberal, antidemocratic actors—flaws that the Republican Party exploited even before Donald Trump took it over. Since 1992, Republicans have won the popular vote in a presidential election only once. But the U.S. Constitution has provided them with intrinsic advantages in the forms of the Electoral College and the Senate: Both bodies overrepresent parts of the country where Republicans are strong (less-populated states and areas) and underrepresent more Democratic-leaning localities (populous states and urban areas). As a result, the Democrats have to win the popular vote by a disproportionately large margin to prevail in either the Electoral College or the Senate.

The post-2010 gerrymandering of state legislature and U.S. House redistricting—executed with unprecedented precision through sophisticated data processing—has hugely exacerbated the problem. . . . Supreme Court decisions gutting crucial parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 have cleared the way for a host of voter-suppression measures. The purging of electoral officials and the Republican nomination of election deniers for governor and secretary of state in battleground states are even more ominous warnings. This pattern of GOP activity adds up to an effort to rule by executing a specifically American form of legal revolution.

A significant difference with Weimar Germany, where Hitler started a new party and gradually made its growing base the indispensable ally of vote-starved establishment conservatives, is that Trump dispensed with the need to build his own movement by swiftly dispossessing America’s establishment conservatives of their existing party. After his hostile takeover of their political franchise, he expanded the Republican base in new ways and secured the presidency. , , , , The price of being a Trump Republican was obsequious submission to a cult of personality and unembarrassed acceptance of a post-truth web of lies and conspiracy theories. That now includes, of course, the Big Lie of the stolen election.

During Trump’s presidential term, his conservative enablers in the Republican Party nursed an illusion that they could maintain the guardrails and constrain his worst instincts. Clear now, as Jonathan Rauch recently argued, is that no one will even be there to try in a second Trump term.

Despite the failure of the “Stop the Steal” attempted coup of January 6, 2021, which briefly shocked traditional Republicans, their hopes for a successful legal revolution in 2024 continue to bind them to Trump and his base.

Be very afraid for the future.

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The Unholy Alliance: Trump, Walker and Evangelicals

Once upon a time evangelicals and many Republicans argued that character mattered as they blew Bill Clinton's affair in the White House all out of proportion. They argued that if one's personal character was lacking, the self-styled "godly folk" should and "family values" crowd should never vote for such a person.   That day and a Republican Party that stood for semblance of decency is dead and gone and now both evangelicals and the GOP are defined by hatred of others, thinly veiled or open racism, and the embrace of fascism. Political power and the ability to impose a religious dogma anathema to Christ's gospel message on all of society is all that matters.  Indeed, those who are the antithesis of Christ;s message and true Christian virtue are the darlings of evangelicals and other "conservative Christians" as evidenced by Donald Trump and his Georgia acolyte, Herschel Walker, who displays the same never ending dishonest and abusive treatment of women that defines Trump.  A column in the New York Times looks at the abject moral bankruptcy of evangelicals and those in the GOP who put their quest for power above moral decency.  Here are highlights:

This will sound quaint. In May 2016, The Washington Post ran the story of how Donald Trump, in his real estate days, would call reporters, pretending to be his own spokesman, to brag and leak nuggets about nonexistent romances with famous women. I thought that would knock him out of the race.

The story hit on a Friday, so I scrambled to rewrite my column on the assumption that Trump wouldn’t last the weekend. But the scoop didn’t make a dent.

The next day, The Times splashed a piece on the front page reporting that dozens of women had accused Trump of “unwelcome romantic advances” and lewd and “unending commentary on the female form.” Again, he emerged unscathed with his base.

I still didn’t learn my lesson, though. That October, when the “Access Hollywood” tape showed Trump yucking it up about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women, noting that “when you’re a star, they let you do it,” I once more figured he couldn’t survive as leader of the party of “family values” and the religious right. He could.

Once, there were limits, things that could disqualify you from office, especially in the party that claimed a special relationship with Jesus.

But those limits don’t exist anymore. Conservatives have sacrificed any claim to principle. In an unholy transaction, they stuck with Trump because there was a Supreme Court seat and they were willing to tolerate his moral void in order to hijack the court. They didn’t care how he treated women as long as he gave them the opportunity to rip away rights from women. They wanted to impose their warped morality, a “Handmaid’s Tale” world, on the rest of us.

Christian-right leaders made clear that, no matter what Trump said or did to women, he was preferable to Hillary Clinton, who supported abortion rights.

Now, in Georgia, conservatives are turning a blind eye to sordid stories coming out about Herschel Walker, who demonstrates no qualifications for serving in the Senate. His sole credential is that he was once excellent at carrying a football.

Story after story has emerged about reprehensible behavior and lies concerning women and children, and about falsifying his personal history.

On Friday, The Times published a story confirming The Daily Beast’s reporting, and in a startling development added that in 2011, Herschel pressured the same woman to have another abortion. They ended their relationship when she refused; she had their son, now 10.

There’s more: His ex-wife claimed he pointed a pistol at her head and told her he was going to blow her brains out; he has four children with four different women, but hadn’t publicly acknowledged three of them. His 10-year-old was one of those hidden.

Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republicans should be ashamed to promote this troubled person for their own benefit.

Republicans have exposed their willingness to accept anything to get power that they then abuse. As Lindsey Graham said out loud, with his fellow Republicans shushing him, they want a nationwide ban on abortion after 15 weeks. And Herschel Walker is key to that.

“In a lot of ways, Mr. Trump became a mentor to me,” Walker wrote in his memoir in 2008 . . . Walker takes after his mentor with his lies, hypocrisy and know-nothingness on issues. Still worse, he’s following his mentor by denying his transgressions as a womanizer, even as he tries to smash women’s rights.

It is little wonder that the younger generations are exodusing institutional religion in droves - Christians may be a minority in America within 50 years - give the never ending display of moral bankruptcy, hatred and bigotry that define much of Christianity in America.

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