Saturday, December 03, 2022

More Saturday Male Beauty


 

The GOP is Stuck in a Doom Loop

As I have said many, many times over the life of this blog, I grew up in a Republican household (even my grandparents were Republicans) and for eight years, decades ago now, I served on the Republican City Committee for Virginia Beach - I even incorporated that organization(check the state corporation commission records if you don't believe me).  With a few exceptions, now my family all votes Democrat, not because we have changed but because the Republican Party has become unrecognizable from what it once was.  Now, the GOP offers no message of hope and has an agenda that rewards the already wealthy and at best throws meager scraps to working Americans.  All it really offers is anger, hatred, grievance and resentment and a promise to "own the libs" and harm those who are deemed "other" which now encompasses everyone other than poorly educated whites, open racists and white "Christian" nationalists - I put Christian in quotations because what these people espouse has nothing to do with Christ's gospel message and is more akin to what the ayatollahs in Iran promote. Sadly, these uneducated whites cannot see that all the GOP offers them is grievance and an outlet for their bigotry. Freedom is for the few and religious intolerance is the norm.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the degredation of the GOP over the last 30 years which I continue to attribute in no small part to the rise of evangelicals in the party and the hijacking of the grassroots of the party.  If you want to see the hatred that now animates the GOP, look at the websites of supposed Christian and "family values" organizations which have been promoting the same message of division and hatred throughout the whole 30 year period.   Until this cancer is driven from the GOP, it will never again be a responsible, forward thinking political party.  Here are column excerpts:

One cannot be surprised to find the Republican Party adrift. This is what happens to ships boarded by pirates, plundered and set aflame on the high seas.

Poor Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), leader of the House majority-to-be: How glum he looks as the Cuckoo Caucus binds his hands to walk the plank of a doomed speakership. He knows he will soon bob helplessly amid the same swarm of sharks that devoured predecessors Paul D. Ryan and John A. Boehner.

The pendulum of history suggests that something will eventually be salvaged of the GOP. But it won’t be a quick fix, because righting the ship is not simply a matter of striking the orange skull and crossbones and raising the standard of some better-behaved buccaneer. Deeper problems made the party vulnerable to raiding in the first place.

The problems go back 30 years. Republicans created in the 1970s and 1980s some of the strongest presidential mojo in American history. The five nationwide elections during that period — 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984 and 1988 — produced four GOP landslides, including some of the largest on record. Republicans lost only once, in 1976, in a squeaker, when the economy was mired in stagflation and the Republican incumbent had resigned in disgrace two years earlier.

Americans have voted in eight presidential elections in the three decades since. Only once, in 2004, has the Republican won a majority of the popular vote. Running as an incumbent in wartime, George W. Bush eked out 51 percent of the popular vote against a weak opponent named John F. Kerry.

What happened? Until the GOP faces the answer, it will continue to drift as a national party.

The landslides ended in 1992. Many Republicans remember it as the year Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot flew a suicide mission into George H.W. Bush’s reelection campaign. But the first fatal blow to Bush Sr. was dealt by hard-right pundit Patrick J. Buchanan. His angry populist campaign carried all the way to the convention, where he traded a grudging endorsement of Bush for influence over the opening-night program. Buchanan anchored an evening of hatreds and resentments that presaged the politics of today.

With Bush Sr. gone, de facto leadership of the GOP passed to Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who had risen from the backbenches of the House by perfecting a politics of personal destruction. Gingrich was the first speaker of the House to stir up a presidential impeachment that had no chance of success in the Senate . . . . .

One of the fathers of modern American conservatism, William F. Buckley Jr., had Buchanan on his mind in the months leading up to that fateful 1992 campaign. In a 40,000-word essay published late in 1991, Buckley examined the pitchfork populist’s tendency to deal in antisemitic tropes and allusions. His conclusion: “I find it impossible to defend Pat Buchanan against the charge that what he did and said during the period under examination amounted to anti-Semitism, whatever it was that drove him to say and do it.”

George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign was a repudiation of the Buchanan movement. Bush promised to govern as a “compassionate conservative” . . . . But he did no more to vindicate this approach than his father had, leaving office amid a failing war and a crashed economy.

Buchananism, with its ugly undertones and shades of paranoid grievance, was the only energy remaining in the GOP. It expressed itself in the tea party movement of 2010. Mitt Romney’s failed 2012 campaign was the last gasp of the party elite, which was too exhausted to resist Donald Trump’s takeover four years later.

From Buchanan to Gingrich to Trump, the drivers of the Republican Party have pushed relentlessly toward anger, accusation, isolationism, pessimism and paranoia. In the guise of battling the left, they wage their most effective warfare against their fellow Republicans. Having purged proponents of the overwhelmingly popular ideas of the 1970s and 1980s . . . . they offer nothing positive. Literally: In 2020, the GOP did not offer any platform.

Trump’s supper with a Holocaust denier brings Buchanan’s assault on the GOP to its dismal conclusion — at a hateful dead end. Individual Republicans will continue to win races, if only because the Democrats have their own self-destructive elements. But the party will not be popular as long as the dark side’s in charge.

With the GOP poised to control the House of Representatives, we can expect a circus of batshit craziness with "investigations" that will go nowhere and do nothing but thrill the party base while reminding the majority of Americans why the GOP in its present form should never be given power.  The base, of course, is blind to this reality as are House Republicans who semingly only are concerned with further prostituting themselves to the ugliest elements of the party base.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


 

Friday, December 02, 2022

Has the MAGA Cult's Moment Passed?

I willl admit that on the eve of the 2022 mid-term elections I had a strong sense of foreboding and worried that if a GOP "red wave" occurred it might be time to consider emigrating from the USA.  Then something happened to the surprise of pundits: a majority of voters sad "no" to the MAGA agenda, recognizing that it is both a threat to democracy and their own personal rights.    Democrats held the U.S. Senate, picked up governorships, the majority of Trump endorsed candidates lost, and the GOP gained only the slimist majority in the House of Representatives.  The danger is not over, but GOP extremism, racism and white nationalsim, and overt misogyny were rejected.  Odds are good the batshitery House Republicans will engage in over the next two years will further alienate voters save for the Christofascist white supremacist elements of the GOP base.  It's a reality lost on this ugly element of the party base, bloviating Fox News talking heads and far too many Republican office holders who continue to court the ugly minority within their party.  A column in the Washington Post by a former Republican looks at the state of affairs.  Here are excerpts:

Right-wing media commentators and MAGA politicians have one thing right: The cultural tide of pluralism, secularism and feminism has washed away their imagined reactionary paradise of a White Christian America. Unfortunately, they fail to realize this trend is irreversible.

Nowhere has this been more evident than the split within the GOP over the Respect for Marriage Act. Twelve Senate Republicans on Tuesday voted for the bill, which will codify protections for same-sex marriage, but more than 36 — or three-quarters of the Republican caucus — did not. They did so even though 70 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage.

The GOP’s reactionary stance on this issue — as on abortion and virtually anything that smacks of racial justice — reflects the party’s dependence on White Christian nationalism. Put differently, the party cannot seem to embrace inclusion, tolerance or simple decency for fear of losing a significant bloc of its electorate. As a result, Republicans have put their party at odds with the values of the overwhelming majority of the country.

The GOP’s positions on these cultural issues are rooted in the conviction that only “real Americans” — their White Christian nationalist supporters — should maintain the levers of economic and political power. But the ground is shifting under the MAGA cult’s feet.

Even some hard-right Republicans are realizing this. Sen. Cynthia M. Lummis (R-Wyo.) on Tuesday explained her vote in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act, despite her religious conviction . . . . I’ve tried to distinguish the fact that I support God’s definition of marriage, but now there’s a second definition of marriage — it is secular and established by the [Supreme Court] Obergefell decision — and it deserves respect, too.”

For many Republicans, those are fighting words. If one is going to start differentiating between one’s religious convictions and the dictates of a pluralistic, inclusive society, then what’s the rationalization for embedding in law a Christian view that personhood begins at conception? What’s the justification for allowing businesses to impose their religious convictions on others (e.g., denying birth control coverage to their employees, refusing service to same-sex couples)?

Alas, Lummis is in the distinct minority in the GOP. The party’s fixation with a pre-civil rights society leads it into one political debacle after another. Too many Republicans cannot repudiate virulent racist, sexist or antisemitic rhetoric. Too many channel their supporters’ conviction that they are the victims and under siege from alien values, and back legislation ranging from Florida’s “Don’t say gay” law to abortion bans. None of this makes the GOP popular with average voters, especially millennials and Generation Z voters who will soon dominate the electorate.

As Robert P. Jones, head of the Public Religion Research Institute, wrote at the time the Supreme Court issued its ruling overturning abortion rights, the decision "is part of a gambit — seen in attacks on LGBTQ rights, immigrants, the separation of church and state, and critical race theory — to hold onto a particular conservative vision of white Christian America and impose it upon a more religiously and racially diverse nation that is increasingly supportive of this set of rights grounded in a constitutional right to privacy.”

Thousands of words have been devoted to pointing out the danger the GOP presents to itself with its debilitating dependence on former president Donald Trump. But its far bigger problem, which won’t disappear even if Trump is indicted and convicted, is that not even a solid conservative such as Lummis can persuade her party to turn away from its rigid, anachronistic outlook that turns off a majority of Americans.

So long as that ideology remains a fixture in the GOP, Republicans will find it difficult to construct a governing coalition. That is disastrous news for the GOP, but it should be reassuring for a country devoted to becoming a more perfect nation.


More Friday Male Beauty


 

Marjorie Taylor Greene: The Face of Today's GOP

There is a plethora of bad actors and insane lunatics in today's Republican Party.  Indeed, the list is long and starts with Donald Trump himself,  Among the others is Rep. Marjorie Tayor Greene - who, in my view is metally ill, like Trump - who embraces every wild conspiracy theory, justifies political violence and spreads a constant message of hate, all the while pandering to the most hideous elements of the Republican Party base.  Some GOP apologist would argue that not all Republicans are like Trum and Greene, but the reality is that when one refuses to loudly condemn hate speech and misogyny you give it tacit approval and help mainstream it and those shouting out batshit craziness and open hatred.  Greene outs out a constant message of extremism and now, with Kevin McCarthy willing to do literally anyhing necessary to secure the House speakership, Greene and others like her will likely be further empowered and have an even bigger platform to spread a nonstop message of hate and grievance.  A piece in Politico looks at how the Biden White House is belatedly aiming at hanging the likes of Greene around the GOP's neck.  Here are article excerpts:

With a fractured Republican party readying to take the reins in the House of Representatives, the White House is doing something it resisted early in office: taking on the more extreme members of the opposition party.

Over the past few months, President Joe Biden and top aides have become much more inclined to call out Republicans they consider radical by name, in hopes of tarring the GOP writ large and further dividing the party.

During Congress’ lame duck period, the West Wing has unleashed attacks on lawmakers like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), whom the White House has tried to turn into the poster child of the incoming House GOP majority.

[I]t was a reaction to the fringe members becoming more prominent and, in their eyes, Republican leadership ignoring the worst offenders.

“Those dangerous conspiracy theories took hold. These people got big followings. There was not enough leadership from the Republicans in charge when it came to this. And so early this year, he made a decision that was in line with why he chose to run in the first place: he had to specifically condemn this and show how false and dangerous it is,” . . . . Pretending these threats didn’t exist would only help them grow.”

The Republicans’ narrow midterms win in the House has put prominent conservatives atop major committees poised to launch an onslaught of GOP-led investigations into the administration. The third presidential candidacy of Donald Trump has also provided the White House with fodder to warn about MAGA Republican figures taking on positions of prominence.

“Bigotry, hate, and antisemitism have absolutely no place in America — including at Mar-A-Lago. Holocaust denial is repugnant and dangerous, and it must be forcefully condemned,” White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said at the time. . . . they also see an opportunity to exploit what they see as the extremism of some of the Republicans coming to power.

The Republican Party has, on the whole, leaned harder to the right in the age of Trump with some of his most faithful disciples — Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), and Greene among them — becoming conservative stars.

The thin majority has given the group enormous clout for the new Congress as GOP leader Kevin McCarthy has been working to consolidate support for House speaker. Greene has offered her support . . . .

As others on conservative fringe of the party threaten to break away, many, including officials in the White House, expect McCarthy will have no choice but to offer the hardcore members prominent posts in exchange for their support. White House aides believe it will be much easier to make them the faces of the opposition, turning off voters who might find some of those views as too extreme. . . . . we need to ‘be honest with each other and with ourselves’ that ‘too much of what’s happening in our country today is not normal.’ And ‘we, the people, must say this is not who we are,’” Bates said in a statement.

After the Georgia Republican[Greene] repeatedly denounced a need for an assault weapons ban in the wake of the recent Colorado Springs mass shooting — saying it would not stop “a transgender from shooting up his own LGBTQ community or any other murderer already breaking laws to kill people” — White House spokesperson Andrew Bates jumped on the remarks.

“These sentiments, from a politician who has called for violence against those with whom she disagrees, are not only inherently discredited — but they prove President Biden’s point,” Bates said at the time.

Some Biden aides and allies contend that the revised approach is a matter of principle and not politics while others admit that a helpful byproduct is large swaths of voters being turned off by extremism. They point to Biden’s use of the “ultra MAGA” moniker — derided by pundits at the time — as useful rhetorical fodder during the midterm elections. . . . . it was a very effective strategy for raising for the American people the hazards of going down that path with democracy denial, with the threats of political violence to achieve political ends.”

“When you have Republicans in governing positions, it’s pretty powerful to just point a very sharp finger at what they’re doing and say, is this really the kind of America you want to live in or the kind of people you want in these positions?”

Friday Morning Male Beauty


 

Thursday, December 01, 2022

More Thursday Male Beauty


 

Christianity Is a Minority Religion in England and Wales

It what may be a preview of where America is heading - despite the attempt by the ayatollah-like  majority on the U.S. Supreme Court to inflict their religious beliefs on all and Republican pandering to Christofascist - a new survey found that Christianity is now a minority religion in England and Wales.  For the first time less than 50% of the population identifying as Christian.  Other religions have seen increases, but the "no religion" category is the fastest growing in shere numbers.  Personally, I view this as a positive development given the hate and division that has long been the hallmark of Christianity despite lip service to the gospel message of Christ.  Indeed, as past posts have noted, surveys in America have found "conservative Christians" to have the less empathy towards others and that children raised is conservative Christian homes are the least kind to others.  Meanwhile,  atheists score higher on empathy and compassion towards others.  Yes, there are kind and good Christians loyal to the gospel message, but the ones who dominate society are neither kind to others or loyal to Christ's true message.   Hence the exodus of the younger generations from religion entirely. A piece in The Economist looks at the fundings and the reality that the world has not ended even as Christians move into a minority status.  Here are article highlights:

AT TIMES AND in places, Britain can still look and feel like a Christian country. December, when pubs and high streets sparkle. The House of Lords, where 26 seats are reserved for bishops from the Church of England (CofE). The state’s deep entanglement with its established church was vividly illustrated in September when Queen Elizabeth, Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the CofE, was buried with spectacular Protestant pomp.

Most Britons are no longer connected to these things by religious belief. Very many people who celebrate Christmas are not marking the birth of their saviour. The presence of senior clergy in Parliament’s upper chamber offers a different perspective but has long been an anachronism. Many people who filled the streets outside Westminster Abbey during the queen’s funeral were grieving a beloved monarch, not praying for her soul. For years only a small (and falling) proportion of Britons have regularly gone to church; polls suggest the figure is now around 5%.

The ebbing of Christian belief in Britain reached a watershed moment on November 29th, when a fresh batch of figures from the 2021 census were published by the Office for National Statistics. They showed that, for the first time, less than half of the population of England and Wales consider themselves to be Christians. The number fell by 13 percentage points in a decade . . . those who ticked the “no religion” box grew by 12 percentage points . . .

Yet even as England is becoming more secular, some religions are growing. The census showed that the number of Muslims has risen by 44%; they now constitute 7% of the population. British Hindus hit the million mark for the first time in 2021. These changes reflect big demographic shifts. One in six of those who filled in the census was born abroad, compared with one in ten a decade ago. Three cities are “majority-minority”: Birmingham (51.4%), Leicester (59.1%) and Luton (54.8%).

The revelation that Christianity is now a minority religion is being bewailed by some on the right. But will passing this symbolic threshold actually change anything? It could influence discussions over the state funding of faith schools. Most are still Christian; an increasing number are not. There are concerns that non-Christian faith schools may exacerbate ethnic segregation: Hindu schools, for example, tend to be populated only by children of immigrants from south Asian countries.

Groups that campaign against religious privilege, like the National Secular Society, use such moments to argue it is past time to cut ties between church and state. The Labour Party is proposing to abolish the House of Lords, bishops and all. Yet the most distinctive element of Britain’s theocracy is likely to adapt rather than disappear.  . . . At his coronation, which will take place in May, he [King Charles III] is likely to find a way to cast himself as defender of all faiths. It will help that he is likely to be king alongside a Hindu prime minister and a Muslim mayor of London.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty


 

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

More Wednesday Male Beauty - Pt 2


 

House Republicans Face a Triple Threat

Next month Republicans will control the House of Representatives by a slim four vote majority.  Currently, the stage seems set for a circus of Benghazi style "investigations" aimed at thrilling the lunatic Fox News worship elements of the party base that will likely alienate the majority of Americans.  No real agenda exists for actual governing and who will assume the role of Speaker of the House remains unclear although Kevin McCarthy continues to prostitute himself in every manner imaginable to get himself elected to the position.  Meanwhile a portion of House Republicans want to attack Medicaire and Social Security - a guaranteed way to alienate senior voters - and resist an increase in the debt limit which would result in economic chaos.  As a column in the New York Times lays out, House Republicans face a triple threat, most eminating from within the Republican majority. Combined with a potential Trump nomination the GOP House insanity could well set the stage for a stinging rebuke from voters in 2024 who want to move on from Trump and want real economic issues addressed (more unpopular rulings from the ayatollahs who control the U.S. Supreme Court could further outrage voters).  Here are column highlights (my personal prediction is that we will see a circus and non-stop soap opera and little substance):

In the new year, Republicans will hold a majority in the House of Representatives. They will have the opportunity to set the chamber’s agenda, conduct oversight of the White House and amplify their platform in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election.

That’s the good news for the G.O.P. The bad news is that Democrats will still hold the presidency and control of the Senate. Also, with the new Congress in January, there will be no more than 222 Republicans in the chamber, just four more than a bare majority.

A narrow majority is not in itself sufficient to cripple a majority party. In the past two years, Democrats in the House and Senate proved that.

But House Republicans face low odds of success because of a triple threat: a fragile majority, factional divisions and untested leadership. Still, there are steps that party leaders should take to improve their chances of avoiding a partisan circus and perhaps even preside over a productive two years in power — and real risks if they defer instead to extremists in their ranks.

The House Freedom Caucus, an assertive faction of 40-odd lawmakers, includes the likes of Jim Jordan of Ohio, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado. Generally, the caucus embraces confrontation over compromise, is disdainful of party loyalty — which extends to the selection of its leaders — and has a track record of killing its party’s own bills. In a slim majority, it holds greater leverage over any legislation.

Kevin McCarthy has made assiduous efforts to court the caucus over the past few years to become speaker, yet the caucus members’ skepticism of him in that role remains: In a recent vote for the party’s nominee for speaker, over 30 Republicans voted against him, and at least five conservatives have said that they will oppose him when the full House votes for its next speaker in January. That is more than enough to deny him the speakership, since the nominee must get a majority of the entire House, and no Democrat is expected to vote for Mr. McCarthy.

This makes Mr. McCarthy vulnerable. Freedom Caucus members are making demands that could ultimately be fatal to any hope of Republican success in the House.

Mr. McCarthy should not empower the Freedom Caucus at the expense of his own influence. Yes, he has to navigate a delicate path. But if he is elected speaker but gives away the store in the process, it will be a Pyrrhic victory.

At the moment, he seems inclined to give away the store. By not refusing caucus demands, he has most likely put himself along a troubled path similar to those of his predecessors Newt Gingrich and John Boehner.

These ill-conceived pledges create false hopes among Republican lawmakers and voters of what the party can accomplish. It’s true that in seeking the speakership, Mr. McCarthy cannot simply ignore the Freedom Caucus, since it commands more than enough votes to torpedo his quest for speaker and any partisan Republican bill in the next Congress.

But political power comes in part from perceptions. If Mr. McCarthy surrenders too much to the caucus, it will reinforce the impression that he is less a leader than a follower and erode the clout he will need to lobby lawmakers on tough votes.

Furthermore, if as speaker he consistently defers to the Freedom Caucus, he risks alienating more moderate or swing-district Republicans (or both). Only a handful of these lawmakers would need to cross party lines in order for the minority party to get its way.

Republican leaders can avoid making Congress look like a space exclusively for partisan show trials by being flexible in their agenda and seeking out majorities wherever they can find them. That could include partisan measures from the party’s Commitment to America platform, like funding for the police as well as some symbolic, non-consequential legislation that will please the party’s base. (Think resolutions that declare lawmaker opposition to “woke” teaching and illegal immigration.)

The G.O.P. might also try to pursue bipartisan legislation in areas like health or family care, since securing the votes of minority-party members on bills can make up for any defections within their own ranks. Bipartisan bills also have at least a plausible chance of getting the approval of the Democratic-led Senate and White House that they will need to become law.

When it comes to bills that the House must pass, like appropriations and an increase in the debt ceiling, Mr. McCarthy might have to follow in the footsteps of Speaker Boehner, who let party conservatives resist the passage of such measures until, facing economic catastrophe, he deferred to Republican moderates to pass them with Democrats.

None of these strategies is a guarantee of success. And with such a slim majority, there is also the possibility, if remote, that the Republican Party loses power altogether because a few of its members resign or die in office or one or more members leave the party. In 1930, enough of the G.O.P.’s lawmakers passed away and were replaced by Democrats in special elections that the party was robbed of its majority.

In 2001, Senate Republicans failed to heed the warnings of Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont that he would leave the Republican Party. When he did, control of the Senate flipped to Democrats.

Even if Republicans don’t lose power this way, the conditions are far from ideal for House Republicans to take advantage of being a governing party. Don’t be surprised if the next two years in the House of Representatives are more soap opera than substance.

But if the party remains in charge in the House and can assuage its right flank, its leaders should take steps to temper expectations, protect their authority and be open to working with Democrats if they hope to build a record of legislative success in what will be a challenging political environment.

More Wednesday Male Beauty


 

U.S. Senate Pases Respect for Marriage Act

Despite the wailing, threats of Republican primary challenges and self-enriching money begs of the racist, anti-gay scamvangelists and the falsely self-described "family values" organizations that make money marketing hate, enough Senate Republicans joined with Democrats to pass the Respect for Marriage Act that protects same sex marriages and interracial marriages from possible threats of the overturning of the the 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges and/or the 1968 ruling in Loving v. Virginia (both of which had their basis in the right to privacy in ones intimate relationships) by the extremist majority on the U.S. Supreme Court.   In overturning Roe v. Wade, the Inquisition like majority on the Court basically gutted the implied constitutional right to privacy on which Loving and Obergefell rely.  Worse yet, Justice Clarence Thomas (for whom I have limitless contempt) went further to flat out stated in his concurring opinion in Dobbs that he rejected a constitutional right to privacy that he wanted the same sex marriage ruling and the Court's ruling on the right to use contraception to be reconsidered (Thomas is too stupid to realize that this would also put his own interracial marriage at risk).  It was in this context in the wake of this year's Dobbs ruling that the Respect Marriage Act was introduce to protects both same sex marriages and interracial marriages from a renegade U.S. Supreme Court.   Ironically, the Dobbs ruling harmed Republicans significantly in the recent mid-term elections and set the stage for passage of this act which is anathema to the SCOTUS extremists.   A piece in the Washington Post as well as one at Boston.com look at the vote  which will likely see quick approval in the House of Representatives and signing by President Biden.   Here are highlights from the piece in the Post:

The Senate on Tuesday passed the Respect for Marriage Act, which would enshrine marriage equality in federal law, granting protections to same-sex and interracial couples.

The bill passed in a 61-36 vote, with 12 Republicans joining Democrats to vote for it. Three senators did not vote. The bill includes a bipartisan amendment that clarifies protections for religious liberties, and it will now return to the House for another vote before it can go to President Biden to sign into law.

The 12 Republican senators who voted “yes” were Roy Blunt (Mo.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Susan Collins (Maine), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Cynthia M. Lummis (Wyo.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio), Mitt Romney (Utah), Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Todd C. Young (Ind.).

Before the final vote, Collins stood to “thank all of the Republicans who have supported this. I know that it’s not been easy, but they’ve done the right thing.”

[President] Biden celebrated the passage shortly after the tally was announced.

“With today’s bipartisan Senate passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, the United States is on the brink of reaffirming a fundamental truth: love is love, and Americans should have the right to marry the person they love,” the president said in a statement. “For millions of Americans, this legislation will safeguard the rights and protections to which LGBTQI+ and interracial couples and their children are entitled.”

The Respect for Marriage Act would not force states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples but would require that people be considered married in any state as long as the marriage was valid in the state where it was performed. The bill also would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman and allowed states to decline to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. That law has remained on the books despite being declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which guaranteed same-sex couples the fundamental right to marry.

In his June concurrence with the decision to overturn Roe, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the high court should also examine previous rulings that legalized the right to buy and use contraception without government restriction (Griswold v. Connecticut), same-sex relationships (Lawrence v. Texas), and marriage equality (Obergefell v. Hodges).

“In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell,” Thomas wrote. “Because any substantive due process decision is ‘demonstrably erroneous’ … we have a duty to ‘correct the error’ established in those precedents.”

Thomas’s opinion set off alarm bells among proponents of marriage equality, who pointed out that if the Supreme Court were to overturn Obergefell, as it did Roe, then the right to same-sex marriage would similarly fall to the states. Currently 35 states have statutes or constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage that would go into effect if Obergefell were overturned, according to the Movement Advancement Project, a nonprofit that advocates for LGBTQ equality.

In July, the House passed the Respect for Marriage Act, but the Senate delayed its vote on the bill until after the midterm elections. The decision to postpone the vote was negotiated on a bipartisan basis and was made to ensure that there were enough votes to pass the measure.

[T]he bill does not authorize the federal government to recognize polygamous marriages and confirms that nonprofit religious organizations would not be required to provide “any services, facilities, or goods for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.”

Several religious leaders and groups expressed support for the amended bill, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In a joint statement this month, the bipartisan group of senators that worked on the amendment touted its protections for religious liberties as much as the protections for same-sex and interracial couples.

[Chuck Schumer said] “A decade ago, it would have strained all of our imaginations to envision both sides talking about protecting the rights of same-sex married couples,” he said. “America does move forward, although sometimes in difficult ways, and sometimes it’s two steps forward, one step back. But today is a big step forward.”

Many in the LGBT community will give a shy of relief once the Act is signed into law.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


 

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

More Tuesday Male Beauty - Pt 2


 

Antisemitism’s March Into the Mainstream

This post is a follow up to the earlier one today and looks at the growing embrace of antisemitism within the Republican Party - something that parallel's the GOP's growing war on LGBT individuals, particularly transgender individuals, as noted in a post over the weekend.   In both cases Jews and LGBT individuals are deliberately depicted as a threat to white Christians and their 12th century dogma (through the centuries the Catholic Church fanned antisemitism and there are still unresolved facts about Pope Pius XII dealings with Hitler's Nazi regime, including aiding Nazi figures in escaping to South America and elsewhere).  At the national level we see Trump - who was no friend to gays while in office - and the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene (who wants a national "don't say gay law) emb racing white nationalists and antisemites.   Most of the GOP simply yawns and ignores the dangerous trend toward intolerance and the demonization of targeted citizens. Some might argue that I and others are over reacting, but history shows all to clearly where such hate can lead if not rigorously opposed and push back into the fringes.  A column in the New York Times looks at the danger and reminds of horrors of the past that ought to be a lesson to those who believe their privilege will protect them.  Here are excerpts (Note how Fuentes wants Christians to have ALL power):

Tom Stoppard’s wrenching drama “Leopoldstadt,” which I recently saw on Broadway, begins in 1899 at a Christmas party in the Vienna apartment of Hermann Merz, a prosperous and assimilated Jewish businessman, who is married to a Catholic and nominally converted. Hermann is convinced that the antisemitism that plagued his forefathers is fading into the past.

There’s still plenty of anti-Jewish prejudice around, he acknowledges, but nothing comparable to what prior generations endured. His family socializes with aristocrats, patronizes the arts, worships high culture. “This is the promised land, and not because it’s some place on a map where my ancestors came from,” he says to his anxious and pessimistic brother-in-law. “We’re Austrians now.”

The rest of the play, which ends in 1955, chronicles how misplaced this confidence was.

Jews are thriving in America, and even with the violent resurgence of antisemitism in the Trump era, I’ve rarely felt personally threatened, perhaps a function of my privilege. Over the last week, though, I’m reminded that well-off Jews in other times and places have also imagined that they’d moved beyond existential danger, and been wrong.

At this point, there is no excuse for being shocked by anything that Donald Trump does, yet I confess to being astonished that the former president dined last week with one of the country’s most influential white supremacists, a smirking little fascist named Nick Fuentes. There’s nothing new about antisemites in Trump’s circle, but they usually try to maintain some plausible deniability, ranting about globalists and George Soros rather than the Jews. Fuentes, by contrast, is overt. “Jews have too much power in our society,” he recently wrote on his Telegram channel. “Christians should have all the power, everyone else very little.”

Since then, Trump has claimed he didn’t know who Fuentes was. I find this unlikely. In September, I wrote a piece about a Trump-endorsed congressional candidate named Joe Kent that mentions Fuentes in the first paragraph. Trump scrawled a note of congratulations on the print version and mailed it to Kent, who sent the image out on his email list. But even if Trump’s ignorance was sincere, he still didn’t denounce Fuentes after learning his identity.

There is a good argument that politicians and journalists should avoid responding to every one of the ex-president’s provocations. In this case, however, the reluctance to rebuke Trump erodes the already-shaky taboo against antisemitism in Republican politics.

Early this year, the Republican House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy — who could soon become House speaker — castigated Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar for speaking at one of Fuentes’s events. McCarthy’s refusal to say anything about Fuentes’s meeting with the Republican Party’s most influential figure suggests that the boundary between the intolerable and the acceptable is shifting.

Ye is launching a vanity presidential campaign run by the far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, who recently wrote on Telegram, “We’re done putting Jewish interests first.” After buying Twitter, Elon Musk enthusiastically welcomed both Trump and Ye back to the platform, and has been tiptoing up to the edge of antisemitism himself. . . . On Monday, Musk tweeted an image of the alt-right symbol Pepe the Frog.

For most of my adult life, antisemites — with exceptions like Pat Buchanan and Mel Gibson — have lacked status in America. The most virulent antisemites tended to hate Jews from below, blaming them for their own failures and disappointments. Now, however, anti-Jewish bigotry, or at least tacit approval of anti-Jewish bigotry, is coming from people with serious power: the leader of a major political party, a famous pop star, and the world’s richest man.

Such antisemitism still feels, at least to me, less like an immediate source of terror than an ominous force offstage, just as it was for the comfortable fin-de-si├Ęcle Austrian Jews in Stoppard’s play. Maybe this time, for the first time, it won’t get worse.

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The Cancer in the GOP Goes Beyond Trump

Sadly, Donaldd Trump now embodies the soul of the Republican Party which is to say the party is souless and the political home of those who in my parent's generation or even up through 1980 would never have been openly welcomed into the party mainstream.   Trump is symptomatic of the canser that has metastized throughout the GOP where avowed racist, anti-semites, white supremacists, and mysogynists in general are not only welcomed but increasingly represent the mainstream of the party.  Thus the silence by many in leadership positions of the GOP in the wake of Trump's dinner with nutcase anti-semite Kanye West, n/k/a Ye, and white nationalist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes (pictured above) who wants a white theocracy and has vowed to replace non-white Americans - the reverse of the manufactured "great replacement myth - should come as little surprise.  Mitch McConnell has not condemned Trump, West or Fuentes.  Kevin McCarthy - who I believe would sell his mother into prostitution if he thought it would gain him the House speakership - has been totally silent.  And there are scores of others who out of fear of Trump and/or the ugly party base who has not said a word of disapproval.   It is past time for Republican "friends" to decide whether they are going to remain part of this moral cesspool or abandon the GOP.  They cannot have it both ways.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the degenerate and morally bankrupt state of the GOP.  Here are excerpts:

No one is buying the idea that Donald Trump’s dinner last week at Mar-a-Lago with antisemite and white nationalist Nick Fuentes was some sort of aberration — even if Trump’s claim is true that Fuentes showed up unannounced in the company of rapper (and fellow antisemite) Ye, formerly known as Kanye West.

That Trump would meet with bigots and conspiracy theorists was very much on brand for someone who sees loyalty to himself as the only character trait that matters. Trump, after all, claimed moral equivalence (“very fine people on both sides”) between the neo-Nazis who chanted in Charlottesville that Jews would not replace them and a group of counterprotesters, one of whom was murdered.

Which means things like the Mar-a-Lago dinner are surely going to continue to happen as Trump forges ahead with his bid for the GOP’s 2024 presidential nomination. And with each instance, the far-right extremists who spew hate will continue nudging their way from the fringes into the mainstream of the Republican Party.

In the wake of the GOP’s disappointing performance in the midterm elections, it is plainly self evident that the party has a “Trump problem.” But there is a deeper problem, and that is the Republican Party itself.

Republicans cannot move past Trump, as long as they cannot bring themselves to confront him and, by association, the element he attracts. This is not the party that had the fortitude to purge the hateful John Birch Society from its ranks in the mid-1960s.

Since the dinner became public over the weekend, we have heard plenty of prominent Republicans denounce antisemitism, as though that is anything other than basic human decency. Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who is reported to be considering a presidential bid of his own, tweeted that antisemitism is “a cancer” and declared: “We stand with the Jewish people in the fight against the world’s oldest bigotry.”

But depressingly few were willing to even mention Trump himself.

One welcome exception was outgoing Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), who told CNN: "I don’t think it’s a good idea for a leader that is setting an example for the country or the party to meet with an avowed racist or antisemite. And so it’s very troubling, and it shouldn’t happen. And we need to avoid those kinds of empowering the extremes. And when you meet with people, you empower.” Another was Trump’s own vice president, Mike Pence, who said . . . . I think he [Trump] should apologize.”

Come January, there will be fewer Republicans left in Congress willing to speak out when Trump does what he keeps doing. That in itself is a testament to where the party has positioned itself with regard to the crocodile, given how many of those who did take issue with him were either wiped out in Republican primaries this year or chose to retire.

And those who have followed Trump’s example in associating themselves with extremists and their ideas will have more clout within the institution. Earlier this year, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) spoke at a conference organized by Fuentes, later claiming (as Trump has about last week’s dinner) that she didn’t know who he was; House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has promised, if he becomes speaker, to restore her committee assignments . . . .

Meanwhile, don’t expect much by way of correctives to be offered as the GOP gets ready to elect its next party chair in January. McDaniel, who was handpicked by Trump to run the party after the 2016 election and who has been a model of obeisance to him since, has indicated she plans to run for another term.

There is grumbling in the party about McDaniel’s win-loss record, with South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem telling Fox News: “I don’t know a party that can continue to lose like we have and keep their jobs.” But none of the talked-about alternatives . . . . . represent a turn away from Trump.

So Republican leaders should quit deluding themselves about the possibility of moving on from the former president, who continues to bring the worst people into their fold. They are along for the ride — even as it takes them over a cliff.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


 

Monday, November 28, 2022

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Families Are Fleeing Anti-Transgender States

A lengthy piece in Politico looks at those fleeing Republican controled anti-transgender (and anti-gay) states.  In these states - think Florida and Texas as prime examples - Republican controled legislatures and opportunistic Republican elected officials have declared war on gays and transgender individuals, especially transgender youth.   The motivation?  To pander to the Christofascists in the GOP base who cannot tolerate anyone who doesn't subscribe to their ignorance embracing dogma and/or who very existence threatens their 12th century house of cards belief system.  Since LGBT individuals go against their childish beliefs on sexuality, we are target number one as they try to stamp out anything that might cause anyone to question the lies and hatred being spewed from pulpits.   It means nothing that legitimate scientific and medical experts disagree with their propaganda, particularly that they seek to protect youths.  It's ugly, but then so much of the right wing "Christian" - and Muslim - agenda is ugly and ultimately selfish.   That they endanger or damage lives means nothing to these people and the political whores within the GOP who pander to them for perceived political advantage.  Here are article highlights:

Carrie Jackson and her family of three fondly remember their home in Denton, Texas. They had moved to the Dallas suburb from the tiny town of Malakoff, Texas, back in 2016. Jackson landed a job she liked as a lead counselor for the Aubrey Independent School District. Carrie said her 17-year-old high school junior, Cass, who is transgender, was thriving. . . . . Cass was making great grades, working a job, driving a car and starting to think about college, Carrie said.

On the night of Feb. 22. Carrie was sitting in bed, scrolling through her Facebook feed, and spotted a news article posted by another mother. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had issued a directive requiring the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate all parents with medically transitioning kids, enclosing an opinion from fellow Republican, Attorney General Ken Paxton, to back it up. These parents could be brought up on charges of child abuse — and people who worked with trans kids could be, too, if they didn’t report such families to state authorities.

Just weeks later, the Jacksons were en route to Cumberland, a small city near the Allegheny mountains in western Maryland, where Cass’ older sibling lived. Cass’ sibling, Bug, is also transgender and would provide a new home for Cass, their mother and their other sister. Unemployed and without a plan, the family felt their only option was to flee a state they had never intended to leave. They were leaving their home.

The Jacksons are not the only family that left Texas since Abbott’s directive — they’re part of a larger exodus of families with trans children from states that have implemented laws and policies clamping down on their access to health care, according to POLITICO interviews with more than a dozen transgender teens and adults and their family members.

The fight over access to gender-affirming medical care for trans youths — like the fight over abortion rights and other issues at the intersection of health, politics, gender, culture and race — is impacting where Americans want to live, work and raise families. And it’s grown particularly acute over the past year, as conservative governors and legislators have restricted access to medical care for gender dysphoria, a condition that stems from one’s lived experience of gender being different from the sex assigned at birth.

“The impact [on trans people] is very significant,” said Assistant U.S. Secretary for Health Rachel Levine in an interview, referring to the state moves to restrict care.

For the Jacksons, who let a reporter and photographer spend days with them in Maryland sharing their story of leaving Texas, the choice quickly became urgent. After Abbott’s announcement, Cass’ mental health suffered, Carrie said. The directive required professionals who work with children — teachers, school nurses, counselors — to report the parents of children like Cass to the Department of Family and Protective Services or face possible criminal charges.

Cass worried about their mother’s career in school counseling and of the risk to their whole family if they were reported to the Department of Family and Protective Services.

Almost 2 percent of high schoolers in the U.S. identify as trans, and they report starkly higher rates of depression, suicidal thoughts and other mental health issues compared to peers who identify as cisgender (meaning their gender identity corresponds with the sex they were assigned at birth, according to the National Institute of Health), Meanwhile, over 5 percent of adults under 30 and about 1.6 percent of all adults identify as transgender or nonbinary in the U.S., according to a survey by the Pew Research Center.

Over the last few years, multiple GOP-controlled state legislatures have advanced bills that would strip access for children and teens to undergo a gender transition. These pieces of legislation have largely been framed by their sponsors as efforts to protect children from “groomers,” pedophiles and doctors intent on doing irreversible harm to their bodies. Though the bills are focused on minors, they have also created fear and uncertainty among trans adults about whether their care, too, could soon be threatened . . . .

Arkansas, Arizona and Alabama have passed laws limiting or outright banning gender-affirming care for minors, while states including Texas and Florida are using executive actions to pursue similar goals. The Arkansas, Texas and Alabama measures have been blocked or partly blocked in court while legal battles continue. Advocates have also vowed to challenge Arizona’s less sweeping law.

Some states also limit — or in some cases exclude — Medicaid coverage for gender-affirming care, including for adults, a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found.

At least 15 other state legislatures are considering proposals for similar restrictions. At the federal level, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has introduced the “Protect Children’s Innocence Act” which would ban federal funding for health plans that cover gender-affirming treatment, prohibit U.S. academia from training doctors in how to provide such care and make it a felony for a doctor to give such care to a minor. It has 49 co-sponsors. It has not yet been heard in the House, but that could change as Republicans take control in that chamber next year.

In Florida, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis — frequently mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2024 — has spoken out against gender-affirming care for minors and the governor’s state-appointed Medical Board just a few days before the November elections banned most gender-affirming care for minors. Doctors could lose their licenses if they violate the new policy. The DeSantis administration has also barred Medicaid from covering gender-affirming care for adults.

DeSantis also led the fight for Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education Bill” — or the “Don’t Say Gay” law, as opponents have dubbed it — which prohibits classroom discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation in grades K-3, and seeks to ban such lessons for other grades as well.

[T]he American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Physicians, among many others — have taken the position that gender-affirming care is a medical necessity.

Left untreated, studies have shown, individuals with gender dysphoria face a higher risk of self-harm and suicidal thoughts. For adults, studies have found medical interventions to treat gender dysphoria — including hormone replacement therapies and surgeries — substantially reduce the likelihood of those negative mental health outcomes.

These treatments may be more effective earlier on in life, before puberty locks somebody into having physical features that don’t align with their gender identity. In January, a Stanford University study based on the largest-ever survey of U.S. transgender adults found that those who received hormonal treatment in childhood are less likely to experience major health disorders or have problems with substance abuse.

“Nothing is more ominous than allowing politicians and attorneys to render medical judgments on our nation’s children,” Brown added. “The greatest myth perpetrated by these lawmakers is that there are high numbers who regret and that young people are incapable of making permanent decisions about their gender identity, neither of which are supported by any documented evidence.”

Safer also said that the claim that children entering puberty would face irreversible changes is incorrect. Trans children entering puberty may opt for medications to pause their hormonal development, but if they later choose to stop taking the drug, puberty will resume its course.

Nor is the assertion by some politicians that many trans teens are receiving surgery correct. There has been a marginal increase in “top” surgery — meaning breast tissue removal — among older trans boys, but it is still a rare occurrence. Any kind of genital surgery is highly unusual for anyone under 18.

Some activists and campaign strategists — including one of Abbott’s — have acknowledged they believe this push could be good politics, rallying a conservative base who believe that trans lives don’t comport with their values.

One transgender woman in her thirties packed her bags and left Florida for Washington state in mid-October. She said in an interview that she began looking at options to sell the house she purchased four years ago after DeSantis began ramping up restrictions on her care.

“I’ve been living in Florida, grew up here, went to school here, started a company here, bought a house and was trying to have a family,” said the woman, who was granted anonymity out of fear of harassment. “Now that’s just all out the window because of what’s happening.”

Opponents of trans children receiving hormone medications claim there is a risk that kids will regret changing their bodies later in life, and say they will grow out of identifying as trans. Studies have shown the contrary — most teenagers who receive this care continue into adulthood with positive results.

As is the norm with Christofascists - and far to may in the GOP base - facts and knowledge mean nothing.  It's all about inflicting their Dark Age beliefs on all of society and punishing those who do not conform. 

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