Wednesday, March 29, 2023

More Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


The Smoke Screen of "Parents' Rights

Over the years the so-called "Christian Right" - which in my view rarely acts in a Christian manner and is rarely right on the issues - and their lackeys in the Republican Party have been good at coming up with catch phrases and talking points that at first blush look innocuous and mask their real agenda of forcing everyone to live in accordance with their ignorance based and bigoted beliefs.  The current rage in the GOP is the mantra of "parents' rights" was kicked off by Glenn Youngkin, a puppet of the Christofacists at The Family Foundation and has gone nationwide thanks to suburban Virginia voters who fell for Youngkin's deceptive campaign.   What the real goal of the "parents' rights" groups - many funded by far right dark money - and elected officials pandering to the GOP base is to force the views of a loud (and vicious) minority on all Americans and in the process rewite history to meet their often white supremacist beliefs and ban books and curriculums that they in their ignorance and prejudice find offensive.   They and their political whores in the GOP care nothing about the rights and wants of the majority.  As is always the case, it's all about them and to hell with everyone else.  A column in the New York Times looks at the real agenda of the GOP and far right players pushing the parents' rights smoke screen.  Here are higlights: 

You may have heard the phrase “parents’ rights.” It sounds unobjectionable — of course parents should have rights — which is probably why it’s become the term of choice for the conservative effort to ban books, censor school curriculums and suppress politically undesirable forms of knowledge.

When House Republicans introduced a bill that would require public schools to notify parents that they are entitled to access course material and lists of books kept in school libraries, they cited “parents’ rights” as the reason.

“That’s what today is all about: It’s about every parent, mom and dad, but most importantly about the students in America,” Speaker Kevin McCarthy said. Several Republican-controlled states have either proposed or passed similar measures.

The official name for Florida’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill, prohibiting “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity,” is the “Parental Rights in Education Act.” And the state’s “Stop WOKE Act” — short for “Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees,” which outlaws any school instruction that classifies individuals as “inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously,” was framed, similarly, as a victory for the rights of parents.

It should be said that this movement for “parents’ rights” in Florida has empowered certain parents to remove books, films, even whole classes that threaten to expose their children to material that might make them uncomfortable. In Pinellas County, for example, a single complaint about the Disney film “Ruby Bridges” — about the 6-year-old girl who integrated an all-white New Orleans school in 1960 — led to its removal from an elementary school.

In his 2021 campaign for the Virginia governor’s mansion, Glenn Youngkin made “parents’ matter” his slogan, and he has asserted “parents’ rights” in his effort to regulate the treatment of transgender children and end “divisive concepts” such as “critical race theory” in schools. His early moves included new history standards that removed discussions of racism and downplayed the role of slavery in causing the Civil War.

And at this moment, Texas Republicans are debating a bill — backed by Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — that, according to The Texas Tribune, “would severely restrict classroom lessons, school activities and teacher guidance about sexual orientation and gender identity in all public and charter schools up to 12th grade.” Texas parents, the Tribune notes, already have the right to “remove their child temporarily from a class or activity that conflicts with their beliefs or review all instructional materials.” This bill would further empower parents to object to books, lessons and entire curriculums.

“Parents’ rights,” you will have noticed, never seems to involve parents who want schools to be more open and accommodating toward gender nonconforming students. It’s never invoked for parents who want their students to learn more about race, identity and the darker parts of American history. And we never hear about the rights of parents who want schools to offer a wide library of books and materials to their children.

“Parents’ rights,” like “states’ rights,” is quite particular. It’s not about all parents and all children and all the rights they might have.

The reality of the “parents’ rights” movement is that it is meant to empower a conservative and reactionary minority of parents to dictate education and curriculums to the rest of the community. It is, in essence, an institutionalization of the heckler’s veto, in which a single parent — or any individual, really — can remove hundreds of books or shut down lessons on the basis of the political discomfort they feel. “Parents’ rights,” in other words, is when some parents have the right to dominate all the others.

And, of course, the point of this movement — the point of creating this state-sanctioned heckler’s veto — is to undermine public education through a thousand little cuts, each meant to weaken public support for teachers and public schools, and to open the floodgates to policies that siphon funds and resources from public institutions and pumps them into private ones.

The culture war that conservatives are currently waging over education is, like the culture wars in other areas of American society, a cover for a more material and ideological agenda. The screaming over “wokeness” and “D.E.I.” is just another Trojan horse for a relentless effort to dismantle a pillar of American democracy that, for all of its flaws, is still one of the country’s most powerful engines for economic and social mobility.

Ultimately, then, the “parents’ rights” movement is not about parents at all; it’s about whether this country will continue to strive for a more equitable and democratic system of education, or whether we’ll let a reactionary minority drag us as far from that goal as possible, in favor of something even more unequal and hierarchical than what we already have.

 This is the reality Virginia voters and voters across America need to understand when they go to the polls in November of this year and in 2024.   Republicans bloviating about "parents' rights" care nothing about most parents and most children.  Don't be fooled by the smoke screen.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


Tuesday, March 28, 2023

More Tuesday Male Beauty


Despite the GOP "Wokeness" Is Winning"

Despite Republian efforts to demonize gays, the transgender and drag queens and to ban books and rewrite a sanitized and very white version on American history, a new by the nonpartisan research institute NORC at the University of Chicago (funded in part by the Wall Street Journal) suggests that outside of the GOP base/Fox News alternate universe, Republican efforts are seemingly failing to changes the hearts and minds of a majority of Americans. Stated another way, what thrills the GOP's evangelical/Christofascist and white supremacist party base doesn't play well with the larger population. Will Republicans open their eyes to this reality?  Likely not given the ugliness and extremism of GOP primary voters and the desire of right wing outlets like Fox News, a/k/a Faux News, to give their viewrs what they want to hear rather than the truth and glimpses of objective reality.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the survey findings and the bubble  Republicans consistently seek to pander to.  Overall, the findings are encouraging for those who support equality and inclusion as opposed to hatred and division.  Here are column excerpts: 

“Wokeness” is winning, according to an illuminating new poll that should — but probably won’t — make Republican politicians wary of hitching their wagon to the anger-fueled culture wars.

The survey — conducted this month by the nonpartisan research institute NORC at the University of Chicago, with funding from the Wall Street Journal — found that on several hot-button issues related to “wokeness”, substantial majorities of Americans believe our progress toward inclusion and diversity is on the right track.

On “accepting people who are transgender,” 56 percent of respondents said our society “has been about right” or “has not gone far enough” — which should be lumped together as the “woke” positions, in my view, because they accept or welcome the way attitudes have changed. What I would call the “anti-woke” view, that we have “gone too far” in accepting transgender people, is held by 43 percent of those surveyed.

And it just gets more woke from there.

On “promoting equality between men and women,” 86 percent took the woke “about right” or “not gone far enough” positions, as opposed to 12 percent who espoused the anti-woke “gone too far” view. On “accepting people who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual,” the poll found respondents to be 69 percent woke versus 29 percent anti-woke. On “businesses taking steps to promote racial and ethnic diversity,” woke beat anti-woke, 70 percent to 28 percent. And on “schools and universities taking steps to promote racial and ethnic diversity,” wokeness ruled once again, 67 percent to 30 percent.

Even on the subject of pronouns, which GOP demagogues have sought to shift from the grammatical realm to the political, 58 percent of respondents were neutral or favorable toward the practice of specifying “he/him, she/her or they/them” in emails, on social media or in conversations; 42 percent were unfavorable.

In one of the poll’s most striking findings, respondents were asked, “Which of these concerns you more about schools today?” — and given the choice of two statements. A whopping 61 percent were more concerned that “some schools may ban books and censor topics that are educationally important,” as opposed to 36 percent who worried more that “some schools may teach books and topics that some students or their parents feel are inappropriate or offensive.”

It is always unwise to take any single poll as gospel. That said, the NORC survey is worth paying attention to because it appears to confirm what we see and hear all around us: Attitudes and language evolve. Americans my age remember a time, for example, when the LGBTQ community was widely shunned and closeted. My grandchildren, when they reach voting age, will wonder why people ever thought sexual orientation or gender identity was such a big deal.

Does the poll mean that MAGA activists will stop hectoring school boards to yank classics such as Nobel laureate Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” from library shelves? Sigh. Probably not.

It still shows a stark partisan divide. Seventy-five percent of respondents who identified as Republicans said we have “gone too far” in accepting transgender people, as opposed to just 15 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of independent voters. Majorities of Republicans also took the “gone too far” position on gay, lesbian and bisexual acceptance, and on promoting diversity in businesses, schools and universities — versus minorities of Democrats and independents who hold those views.

Some commentators, focusing on the poll’s findings about patriotism, religious observance and our national “character,” have suggested they see a retreat from what defines Americans.

But to me, the NORC poll shows Americans advancing in the right direction, toward inclusion rather than exclusion. It says most Americans don’t believe they’re living in a dystopia of “wokeism.” They’re just living in the here and now — not in the discriminatory, exclusionary past.

Monday, March 27, 2023

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


More Monday Male Beauty


The MAGA Base Is a Frankenstein Monster

The Republican Party has become a fetid swamp filled with the embrace of ignorance and conspiracy theories and an explosion of bigotry and prejudice against anyone or anything that challenges the party base's world view to the extent it has one beyond being racist, homophobic and isolationist.  In my view the seeds for today's GOP base were planted over two decades ago when evangelicals were voted into party positions by the party elites who foolishly believed they could control the unwashed elements they were ushering in.  Instead, the ever fanatical base took control and the asylum was taken over by the delusional patients, if you will.  Now, although Trump remains skilled at playing the MAGA base's hatreds and prejudices, what has happened is that the base is now a Frankenstein monster that demands to be coddled andpandered to. Hence all of the Republican officeholders falling all over themselves to attack critical race theory, proper medical treatment for transgender youth and the passage of "don't say gay laws."  Many such officials, I suspect, don't believe half of what they spout to the base, but they are too terrified of having the MAGA base turn on them and defeat them in a primary and back a candidate either far more crazy or with no qualms about lying to tell the base what it wants to hear.  A piece in the New York Times looks how the MAGA base has become largely uncontrolable.  Here are excerpts:

The most telling exchange in Donald Trump’s Waco, Texas, rally on Saturday didn’t come from Trump himself. It came at the beginning, when the aging rock star Ted Nugent was warming up the crowd. “I want my money back,” he yelled. “I didn’t authorize any money to Ukraine, to some homosexual weirdo.”

Moments later, speaking on Real America’s Voice, a far-right television channel, the former Fox News correspondent Ed Henry called Nugent’s words “about Zelensky” and about funding for Ukraine, “amazing.” He then summed up the Trumpist movement’s race to the bottom in one succinct line: “He is channeling what a lot of Americans feel.”

Yes, he is. And so did virtually every speaker at Trump’s marathon rally. One after another, they looked at a seething, conspiracy-addled crowd and indulged, fed, and stoked every element of their furious worldview. I didn’t see a single true leader on Trump’s stage, not even Trump himself. I saw a collection of followers, each vying for the affection of the real power in Waco, the coddled populist mob.

To understand the social and political dynamic on the modern right, you have to understand how millions of Americans became inoculated against the truth. Throughout the 2016 Republican primaries, there was no shortage of Republican leaders and commentators who were willing to call out Trump. . . . . Yet every time Trump faced pushback, he and his allies called critics “elitist” or “fake news” or “weak” or “cowards.” It was much easier to say the Trump skeptics had “Trump derangement syndrome,” or were “just establishment stooges,” than to engage with substantive critique. Thus began the coddling of the populist mind . . .

Disagreement on the right quickly came to be seen as synonymous with disrespect. If “we the people” (the term Trump partisans apply to what they call the “real America”) believe something, then the people deserve to have that view reflected right back to them by their politicians and pundits.

We see this in the internal Fox News documents that surfaced in the Dominion defamation litigation, in which Dominion Voting Systems sued Fox News for broadcasting false claims about its voting machines after the 2020 election. Repeatedly, Fox leaders and personalities who did not seem to believe the 2020 election was stolen referred to the need to “respect” their audience by telling them otherwise.

I saw this phenomenon firsthand early in the Trump era. I was speaking to a small group of Evangelical pastors about how white Evangelicals no longer valued good character in politicians. Compared to other Christian groups and unaffiliated Americans, white Evangelicals went from the group least likely to believe that “an elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties” in 2011 to the group most likely to excuse immoral politicians in 2016.

In that conversation I discussed the 1998 Southern Baptist Convention Resolution on Moral Character of Public Officials. . . . . “Tolerance of serious wrong by leaders,” it said, “sears the conscience of the culture, spawns unrestrained immorality and lawlessness in the society, and surely results in God’s judgment.”

When I reminded the group of that language, a pastor from Alabama raised an objection. “That’s going to sound elitist to lots of folks in my congregation,” he said. I was confused. Here was a Baptist pastor telling me that his congregation would find a recent statement of Baptist belief “elitist.”

Politicians are always tempted to pander, but rarely do you see such a complete abdication of anything approaching true moral or political leadership as what transpired at the Waco rally. It began with that ridiculous and irrelevant statement about Zelensky . . . continued with MyPillow’s Mike Lindell repeating wildly false election claims; and ended with an angry, albeit boilerplate Trump stump speech that was also littered with falsehoods.

And if you think for a moment that there’s any Trumpworld regret over the Jan. 6 insurrection, the rally provided a decisive response.

There may have been a time when Trump truly commanded his movement. That time is past. His movement now commands him. Fed by conspiracies, it is hungry for confrontation, and rallies like Waco demonstrate its dominance. Like the pirate standing in front of Tom Hanks in the popular 2013 film “Captain Phillips,” the populist right stands in front of the G.O.P., conservative media, and even reluctant rank-and-file Republicans, and delivers a single, simple message: “I’m the captain now.”

Monday Morning Male Beauty


Sunday, March 26, 2023

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Republicans Yawn as Trump Threatens "Death and Destruction"

The Republican Party that I grew up in and was active inover two decades ago is dead and gone.  Also gone is any semblance the the GOP is the party of law and order or "family values" save for when they are targeting gays and minorities to allegedly protect children in order to thrill religious extremists and white supremacists even as they seek to unwind child labor laws and continue to bow and scrape to a man who is the embodiment of the seven deadly sins.  As for law and order, criminals who sacked the U.S. Capitol on live video seen by the nation are treated as "political prisoners" while law enforcement officials are cast as the enemy.  In short, the moral bankruptcy of the Republican Party is now complete - something underscored by Donald Trump's lates threats against prosecutors and signals to his demented and toxic base that "death and destruction" should ensue if he is indicted in one or more of the numerous investigations currently properly targeting him. The reaction to all of this from Republican elected officials: yawns and a shrugging of shoulders.  A piece in The Atlantic looks at Trump and the spineless, morallybankrupt party he continues to lead.  Here are highlights:

Donald Trump is back in his presidential—or at least modern-day-presidential—form, posting unhinged threats on social media in the middle of the night. Early today, he posted on his Truth Social site:

What kind of person can charge another person, in this case a former President of the United States, who got more votes than any sitting President in history, and leading candidate (by far!) for the Republican Party nomination, with a Crime, when it is known by all that NO Crime has been committed, & also known that potential death & destruction in such a false charge could be catastrophic for our Country?  Why & who would do such a thing? Only a degenerate psychopath that truely hates the USA!

Nearly every phrase in this message is disturbing, but the most rattling part is his threat of “death & destruction.” This is classic Trumpian mob-boss talk: He doesn’t make a specific threat against anyone, and he doesn’t specifically incite any acts. . . . . yet the intent is unmistakably to intimidate Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and anyone else who might try to charge him with crimes. It’s a threat against the American justice system as a whole.

By now, no one will seriously wonder whether this kind of threat is too much for other Republican leaders to bear. Everyone knows the answer is no. . . . . McCarthy also said, “He’s not talking in a harmful way, and nobody should.” GOP leaders have repeatedly found ways, however implausible, to look past Trump’s abuses.

If the intimidation is shocking, the more revealing part of the rant is what it indicates about Trump’s mindset amid the several criminal probes into him, some of which appear to be moving toward indictments. As he once said in a very different context, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” And although Trump was referring to groping women then, that was also his philosophy in life . . . Now Trump is finding that simply being a star is insufficient to get him out of trouble. In fact, his notoriety has attracted extra scrutiny.

[T]he problem remains that Joe Biden got more votes. His implication is that because he is popular (or somewhat popular!) he ought to be immune to law enforcement.

The former president doesn’t even really bother to mount a substantive defense to the expected allegation against him here, which is that he falsified business records in reimbursing his former fixer Michael Cohen for a hush payment made to Stormy Daniels, an adult-film actor. . . . Instead, he’s upset that anyone would even bother to suggest that the rules apply to him.

Legal problems aside, a lively debate has occurred over whether getting indicted would actually be good for Trump, by rallying support to him. He’s seen recent improvement in primary polls against Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, and raised lots of money. But this Truth missive shows that Trump isn’t acting like it’s good for him. His anger suggests he views Bragg’s probe as a threat, and that leads him to the predictable and unacceptable position of making threats of violence. Trump has the right question: “Why & who would do such a thing? Only a degenerate psychopath that truely hates the USA!” Not a bad answer, either.

Sunday Morning Male Beauty


Saturday, March 25, 2023

More Saturday Male Beauty - Pt 2


Utah Parent: Remove Bible From Schools: "It’s Pornographic"

One Utah parent - who is remaining anonymous, likely to protect against death threats by the "godly folk" - is seeking to turn that state's book banning law against the Christofascist backers of such laws.  The parent has submitted an objection to the bible which is filled with violence, sex and general miscogyny and requested that it be removed from their child's school library.  The Christofascist backers of these laws (in Utah the driving force is "Utah Parents United") and their Republican political whores have consistently targeted books featuring blacks and racism and, of course, LGBT individuals so it is far past time that the book banning law be turned on a book filled with sex and violence, including the slaughter of women and children.  A piece at MSN looks at the novel challenge to the bible, a book that has caused so much human misery through history, which, in my view needs to be targeted in every state pushing book bans (it has been successfully removed in some school distracts).  Here are article excerpts:

God’s bestseller is next up on the chopping block. A Utah parent is calling for the Bible to be banned in school districts, claiming it violates the state’s 2022 law regarding “sensitive material.”

“Get this PORN out of our schools!” pleas the anonymous parent in their scathing request to Davis High School, calling the Bible the “one of the most sex-ridden books around.”

Utah’s law HB0374, passed last year, prohibits materials that include “pornographic or indecent” content.  The parent cited the Bible’s “incest, onanism, bestiality, prostitution, genital mutilation, fellatio, dildos, rape and even infanticide” as cause for its removal.

The disgruntled parent wrote to the school board on Dec. 11, per the original document obtained by the Salt Lake Tribune this month. Referencing the non-profit group Utah Parents United, which has routinely advocated for the removal of certain books — including ones with LGBTQ content — on various social media platforms, the parent called the organization a “white supremacist hate group.”

“Utah Parents United left off one of the most sex-ridden books around: The Bible,” the statement continued, noting a “gap” in the long list of banned books. However, in the religious text, there are a few instances where sex is not only mentioned but described.

A man named Lot has drunken sex with his daughters (Genesis 19:30-32); a woman is condemned for her “nakedness” and “whoring” (Ezekiel 23:18-21); God smites the city of Sodom after a group of men seemingly requests to have sex with other men (Genesis 19); and there were multiple references in the Song of Songs about breasts (among them, 1:13, 4:5, 4:16, 5:4, 7:7-8).

The anonymous person submitted an eight-page list of their own for review, which cited and quoted specific biblical passages that described, alluded to or depicted scenarios that could be considered “offensive,” they claimed.

“You’ll no doubt find that the Bible, under Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-1227, has ‘no serious values for minors’ because it’s pornographic by our new definition,” the Utah parent wrote.

“If the books that have been banned so far are any indication for way lesser offenses, this should be a slam dunk.” Numerous book titles have been targeted for banning throughout the US. Rep. Ken Ivory (R), who sponsored the state’s book ban bill, called the parent’s Bible ban request “a backhanded slap to parents that are simply trying to keep a healthy learning environment for all students in the schools.”

“I have every confidence that no school district is going to consider the Bible as violating 76-10-1227,” he added, referencing the section of the law that describes sex acts or sexual immorality.

The parent’s snarky letter of concern comes as more book bans are introduced throughout the nation – at the dismay of some bibliophiles who believe banning books does more harm than good.

In November 2022, the Keller Independent School District in Texas banned literature on gender fluidity.  Just a few months prior, the same district pulled an illustrated version of Anne Frank’s diary, along with 40 other titles, from its shelves – including the Bible.

Multiple people complained that the Christian text included “inappropriate” content.  One person listed “sexual content, violence including rape, murder, human sacrifice misogyny, homophobia, discrimination, and other inappropriate content” as cause for its removal, a district spokesperson previously told The Post.

Another argued that the holy book is “a map to slavery, incest, sex between donkey and women, misogyny, murder, pedophilia you name it, it’s in there.”

Just last year, the American Library Association (ALA) reported a surge in book banning, reporting 681 attempted bans or restrictions of libraries texts between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31 of 2022. A staggering 1,651 different titles were targeted in that 12-month period alone, the organization noted.

The frustrated Utah parent also referenced the Davis School District’s recent investigation of racism. In 2021, the US Department of Justice determined that Utah’s second-largest district ignored “serious” and “widespread” racism that occurred within the schools. In fact, the DOJ “found severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive race-based harassment by staff in several District schools and services.” It also concluded that the “District left students of color vulnerable to continued abuse.”

More Saturday Male Beauty


The GOP Race to Put More Children to Work

If one believes the lies of Republican elected officials pushing for book bans, "don't say gay" laws and bans on proper medical treatment for transgender minors, their goal is to "protect children" who they view as chattel property of their parents.  If one wants vivid proof that these same Republicans in reality care nothing for the welfare of children, one need look no farther the on-going Republican effort to gut child labor laws and allow big business to further line its pockets working children in dangeous jobs, often with reduced pay. The sad truth is that these Republican's do not give a rat's ass about the welfare of children and only seek to thrill the evangelical/Christofascist segment of the party base and to aid big businesses in further enrich themselves. The physical safety and lives of children is nowhere on the GOP radar save for bloviating talking points used to justify legislation harmful to racial and sexual minorities hated by the party base.   A main editorial in the New York Times looks at the GOP's dangerous race to put children to work, often risking the lives and safety of those they disingenuously claim to seek to protect.  The dishonesty and hypocrisy is off the charts.  Here are editorial highlights:  

In February, the Department of Labor announced that it had discovered 102 teenagers working in hazardous conditions for a company that cleans meatpacking equipment at factories around the country, a violation of federal standards. The minors, ages 13 to 17, were working with dangerous chemicals and cleaning brisket saws and head splitters; three of them suffered injuries, including one with caustic burns.

Ten of those children worked in Arkansas, including six at a factory owned by the state’s second-largest private employer, Tyson Foods. Rather than taking immediate action to tighten standards and prevent further exploitation of children, Arkansas went the opposite direction. Earlier this month, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a Republican, signed legislation that would actually make it easier for companies to put children to work. The bill eliminated a requirement that children under 16 get a state work permit before being employed, a process that required them to verify their age and get the permission of a parent or guardian.

Arkansas is at the vanguard of a concerted effort by business lobbyists and Republican legislators to roll back federal and state regulations that have been in place for decades to protect children from abuse. Echoing that philosophy, bills are moving through at least nine other state legislatures that would expand work hours for children, lift restrictions on hazardous occupations, allow them to work in locations that serve alcohol, or lower the state minimum wage for minors.

The response in these states is not to protect those children from exploitation, but instead to make it legal. Voters in these states may support deregulation, but they may not know that businesses can use these bills to work children harder, cut their wages and put them in danger.

Ms. Sanders, formerly the press secretary for President Donald Trump, made clear in her inaugural address in January the disdain for the protective role of government that is driving this effort.

Lawmakers in these states have been vigorously lobbied by industry groups who like the flexibility of teenage employees and say that more children are needed in the work force to make up for labor shortages. One of the principal lobbying organizations pushing these bills in several states is the National Federation of Independent Business, a conservative group that supports Republican candidates and has long opposed most forms of regulation, as well as the Affordable Care Act.

The real target of these rollbacks is not after-school jobs at the corner hardware store; they will have a much bigger effect on a labor force that includes many unaccompanied migrant children who work long hours to make or package products sold by big companies like General Mills, J. Crew, Target, Whole Foods and PepsiCo. As a recent New York Times investigation documented, children are being widely employed across the country in exhausting and often dangerous jobs working for some of the biggest names in American retailing and manufacturing.

Hundreds of children described in the Times report were working in violation of federal labor standards, which bar child workers from a long list of hazardous jobs and forbid children under 16 from working more than three hours a day or after 7 p.m. on school days unless they work on a farm. (Those under 14 are prohibited from working in all but a handful of jobs.)

A 13-year-old who was burned with caustic chemicals while working for Packers Sanitation Services in Nebraska told investigators the accident occurred during a shift that lasted from 11 p.m. to 5 or 7 a.m., a direct violation of multiple federal laws. The Labor Department imposed a $1.5 million fine on the cleaning company, which is owned by Blackstone, one of the world’s largest private equity firms.

Despite the evidence that more children are being exploited and hurt in this way, state lawmakers are passing bills that defy the federal standards. They are inviting a court challenge, and, in effect, daring the Labor Department to come after them, knowing the department often lacks the manpower to prevent violations of federal law. The Ohio Senate, which passed a bill earlier this month extending working hours for minors under 16, in violation of federal standards, also approved a resolution urging Congress to do the same.

One of the worst bills, introduced by Republicans in Iowa, would allow 14-year-olds to work in industrial freezers, meat coolers and industrial laundries, and 15-year-olds to lift heavy items onto shelves. It is backed by, among others, the independent business federation, the Iowa Grocery Industry Association, and Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group backed by Charles Koch . . . .

If states will not perform a role that has been fundamental for a century — protecting workers from abuse — the federal government will have to increase its efforts to do so. . . . The Labor Department said it would intensify its investigations of business violations, not just by direct employers of children but also by the larger companies that contract with those employers, or that use children in their supply chain. In many cases, big companies use contractors or staffing agencies to hire children and then claim they had nothing to do with the abuses. . . . The companies that hire them should be held accountable. The department also has the authority to seize any products that are made using illegal child labor, even through the use of contractors. Seema Nanda, the department’s chief legal officer, said in an interview that it would use that authority aggressively, as well as every other litigation tool available.

The administration has asked Congress for more enforcement money in its current budget, and for higher penalties. Neither request is likely to be granted, and immigration reform seems far in the distance. Protections against “oppressive child labor,” however, have been part of American law since the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in 1938; dismantling those safeguards now puts young lives at risk.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Federal Lawsuit Challenges Florida Ban on Gender-Affirming Care

In Florida Republicans' quest to pander to and thrill the evangelicals and Christofascists in their party's increasingly hideous base, tansgender and other LGBT Floridians are being vicously targeted with not a shred of concern over the very real harm being done to their victims.  Four mothers of transgender children have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn Florida's politically motivated ban on all gender-affirming care for those under 18 years of age.  Meanwhile, due to the racist policies of the DeSantis regime and the effort to erase blacks from history, the Florida NAACP has asked the national body to issue a travel advisory telling Black Americans not to enter Florida, citing concerns over what they call “anti-black legislation.”  Frankly, it's about time that LGBT travelers avoid the state as well - yes, I know the argument about supporting gay-friendly businesses and destinations, but real economic pain needs to be inflicted on Florida and residents who support the state's turn toward fascism.  A piece in Florida Politics looks at the new federal lawsuit that seeks to udo Republicans' and DeSantis' harmful anti-transgender policies.  Here are highlights:  

Four families challenging Florida’s prohibition against puberty-blocking hormones and gender-affirming surgeries for minors filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against state health officials.

The lawsuit filed in Tallahassee federal court against Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo and the state boards of medicine and osteopathic medicine claims the ban violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution by singling out transgender minors and blocking them from obtaining medically necessary care for gender dysphoria.

The Florida Department of Health and the Governor’s office didn’t respond to messages seeking comment.

“This ban puts me and other Florida parents in the nightmare position of not being able to help our child when they need us most,” one parent said in a statement.

The anonymous plaintiffs are four mothers with transgender children, ages 9 to 14, from St. Johns, Alachua, Duval and Orange counties. They’re being represented by Southern Legal Counsel, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Human Rights Campaign.

The families are seeking a preliminary injunction, asking the federal court to halt the policy while their case against it proceeds. At least nine states have enacted laws restricting or banning gender-affirming care for minors: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Mississippi, Tennessee, Utah and South Dakota. A proposed ban is pending before Kentucky’s Democratic governor. Federal judges have blocked enforcement of laws in Alabama and Arkansas, and nearly two dozen states are considering bills this year to restrict or ban care.

Last summer, Ladapo and the Florida health department asked the state boards of medicine and osteopathic medicine to ban all treatment of gender dysphoria for people under 18 years of age. The boards went on to adopt formal rules prohibiting all access to puberty blocking hormones and gender-affirming surgeries for minors.

“This policy came about through a political process with a predetermined conclusion, and it stands in direct contrast to the overwhelming weight of the evidence and science,” Southern Legal Counsel attorney Simone Chriss said in a statement.

According to the lawsuit, the bans contradict guidelines established through years of clinical research and recommended by every major medical association including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

More Thursday Male Beauty


Republicans’ Stunning Misogyny and Ignorance

While Florida Republicans continue to lead the way towards a return to some of the worse aspects of the early 1950's, many other Republican controled red states are not far behind and at the national level some Republicans seem fine with a return of child labor.  The culture war against modernity and equality is aimed at pandering to the toxic evangelical/Christofascist and white supremacist base of the modern GOP (with no regard of whom they harm), but it is also powered by religious zealots like Justice Samuel Alito and extreme scamvangelists who line their pockets peddling misogyny and ignorance and who frighteningly hold growing sway in the GOP.  A piece at CNN looks at the nightmare playing out in Florida where Ron DeSantis now wants to bar any discussion of gender and sexuality all the way through grade 12 and where girls cannot mention their monthly periods at school. Other GOP controled states are likely to follow.  Meanwhile, a piece in the Washingtom Post looks at the growing Republican love for child labor largely motivated by a desire to further enrich big business.   The harm done to child workers nowhere on the radar screen.  First these highlights from CNN:

The Florida GOP is on a truly stunning tear of misogyny, ignorance, homophobia and censorship, culminating in a bill that just passed the Florida House that would bar young girls from discussing menstruation, including their own menstrual periods, in school. Fifty three years since Judy Blume wrote “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” some Republican legislators still seem less comfortable with puberty and sexuality than pre-teen girls . . .

The Florida bill states that education around sex, reproduction and sexuality cannot begin until 6th grade. On Wednesday, when Florida state Rep. Ashley Gantt, a Democrat, asked her Republican colleague who sponsored the legislation, state Rep. Stan McClain, if the bill means that girls who get their periods before sixth grade couldn’t discuss that in school, he said yes.

“So if little girls experience their menstrual cycle in fifth grade or fourth grade,” she asked, “will that prohibit conversations from them since they are in the grade lower than sixth grade?”  “It would,” McClain said.

Half of American girls get their first period before their 12th birthday. And girls who menstruate early are also more likely to be sexually active at a younger age.

In Florida, those girls – who arguably need the most support as their bodies develop earlier than those of their peers – are being told by people in power that they have to keep their mouths shut about what they’re experiencing. If the bill passes the full legislature, Florida would be legislating shame.

This isn’t an isolated decision. Florida Republicans are legislating shame around adult women’s bodies, too, as they attack abortion rights (it’s an interesting and telling strategy to cut off information about sexuality and reproduction, which we know can increase rates of unintended pregnancy, while also beginning to limit abortion access). Republicans are legislating shame when they declare many beloved and important books to be “obscene” or inappropriate because those books contain LGBT characters, or information about American history and racism. Florida Republicans are legislating shame when they ban transgender teenagers, their parents and their doctors from collaborating on the best medical care to keep them safe and healthy.

In practical terms, limiting the information that young people can access about their own bodies may mean higher rates of unsafe sex and the related rises of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases – states that have historically mandated abstinence-only curriculum, for example, have seen higher teen pregnancy rates than those that taught comprehensive sex ed.

Limiting the discussion in schools about the realities of maturing bodies doesn’t make young people less curious. It just sends the message that normal curiosity is deviant and dangerous; that women and girls are less valuable and worthy of basic dignity than others; and that honesty about one’s body is unacceptable.

These are not good values to impart to our young people. And it’s especially rich that Florida Republicans are also spending significant time obsessing over the biology of kids who are trans or nonbinary – proposing legislation that requires, for example, that teachers refer to students only by the pronouns that match their birth sex, and that would ban gender-affirming care for teens – while being apparently so fearful of female biology that they pass legislation banning young girls from discussing it.

These efforts are not happening in a vacuum, and they are not doing much at all to protect children. Children, like all of us, do not benefit from an ethos of stigma and shame. They do not grow in darkness; they wither. They are not safer in silence; they simply lack the language to describe what they’re experiencing, thinking and wondering. That can open up potential for abuse.

Most girls and women menstruate, or will menstruate once they mature; this is not a sexualized fact and should not be a source of shame. It is a fact of life. That Republicans in Florida choose to shroud this reality and to force young people into silence says very little about any inherent shame in menstruation or living in a female body. It says everything about the legislators’ fears and anxieties about girls and women knowing themselves, their sexuality and having knowledge itself. And it’s that sad and narrow view – not menstruation – that should be treated as shameful.

As noted, the GOP's faux concern and hypocrisy about "protecting children" extends to a new embrace of child labor.  Here are excerpts from the Washington Post (mote how children are deemed the chattel property of their parents):

“A self-supporting and self-respecting democracy can plead no justification for the existence of child labor,” wrote Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937, as he sent the legislation known as the Fair Labor Standards Act to Congress. With the bill, which also established a national minimum wage, lawmakers condemned the ghastly practice of children toiling on factory floors to the past.

But American child labor is making a comeback. Underage children are operating fryers in restaurant kitchens and assembling parts at auto plants. Last month, when the New York Times published a blockbuster expose on how some of the nation’s most prominent companies depend on subcontractors who illegally employ migrant children, it brought attention to an ongoing horror. The Economic Policy Institute recently crunched Labor Department data and discovered an almost 300 percent increase in child labor violations since 2015.

But whether children should work more hours in dangerous jobs appears to be settling in as a partisan issue. Republicans in statehouses nationwide are racing to make it easier for companies to hire youngsters. This isn’t just an attempt, as proponents claim, to address post-pandemic worker shortages while freeing teens to earn pocket money. It is part of an ongoing campaign to roll back worker protections.

In Arkansas, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders has signed legislation doing away with regulations demanding 14- and 15-year-old teens receive a work permit before taking on paid employment. A bill in Ohio seeks to allow 14- and 15-year-olds to work until 9 p.m. during the school year, in defiance of federal law. In Minnesota, a Republican legislator introduced legislation to let the construction industry recruit 16- and 17-year-old workers. In Iowa, a bill in the state’s House of Representatives would make it easier to employ 14-year-olds in the meatpacking industry.

[N]ot a single Republican has signed onto legislation recently introduced by Senate Democrats that would significantly increase the fines on companies for violations of child labor laws, from the maximum of $5,000 per violation up to $132,270 for routine violations, and from $15,138 to $601,150 when children are seriously injured or killed on the job.

In addition to claiming expanded paid work for teens is a win-win for employers and financially needy children, advocates are draping their appeals in the language of parental rights. That’s right — the same logic that dictates parents should be able to protect vulnerable teens by blocking controversial library books, sex ed and the full racial history of the United States. Requiring work permits for children under 16 “steps in front of parents’ decision-making process,” said the Arkansas state representative who spearheaded the successful measure there.

That’s disingenuous. “The party that is so concerned about children and what they are hearing and reading in schools, they are the same party that is pushing all these bills,” says Judy Conti, director of government affairs for the National Employment Law Project.

In reality, all this family talk is there to obscure the bottom line. “Child labor allows business owners to reduce average wages, while pretending they’re just providing opportunities,” says historian Erik M. Conway, co-author of the book “The Big Myth: How American Business Taught Us to Loathe Government and Love the Free Market.”

The hypocrisy and misogyny of today's GOP appears to be limitless.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Thursday Morning Male Beauty


More Wednesday Male Beauty


How Big a Deal Is the Banking Mess?

Just as the economy seemed to be perhaps stabilizing along come bank failures - failures that argue strongly against the Republican Party's never ending mantra of deregulation of banks (this happened during the Trump regime), safety regulations and much more.  The exception of course is Republicans want total regulation of womens' bodies,  books children can read in school, and what courses and rewritten history universities can teach. The dicotomy is stunning.  But back to banks.  The question now facing everyone is whether the bad investing - and likely greed - that brought on recent bank failures is widespread or not, and what exactly will the Federal Reserve and other central bans do to stabilize the situation.  A column in the New York Times lays out why things are different from the 2008-2009 meltdown and there is reason for concern but also no immediate need to panic.   Here are highlights:

[A]s everyone knows, Silicon Valley Bank — not a huge institution, but an integral part of the tech industry’s financial ecosystem — has been taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation after facing a classic bank run. Signature Bank soon followed; First Republic Bank is under severe pressure. Swiss authorities have arranged a takeover of Credit Suisse, a major bank, by its rival UBS. And everyone is wondering what other land mines may be about to go off.

There will and should be many inquests into how and why these banks managed to get into so much trouble. In the case of S.V.B. it appears that regulators had known for some time that the bank was a problem case, but for some reason didn’t or couldn’t rein it in.

But the more pressing question is forward-looking. How much does the banking mess change economic conditions? How much should it change economic policy?

Some commentators — mainly, as far as I can tell, cryptocurrency enthusiasts — are issuing apocalyptic warnings about hyperinflation and the imminent collapse of the dollar. But that’s almost certainly the opposite of the truth. When depositors pull their money out of banks, the effect is disinflationary, even deflationary. That’s certainly what happened in the early years of the Great Depression . . .

The savings-and-loan crisis of the 1980s wasn’t a Depression-level event, largely because depositors were generally insured, so they were made whole (at taxpayers’ immense expense) despite huge industry losses. Even so, the crisis may have curbed business lending, especially in the commercial real estate industry, contributing to the 1990-91 recession.

And the financial crisis of 2008 — which was functionally a bank run even though the crisis centered on “shadow banks” rather than traditional depository institutions — was also disinflationary and helped bring on the worst economic slump since the Great Depression.

So how does the current mess compare? It will definitely impose a drag on the economy. But how big a drag? And how much should it change policy, in particular the interest rate decisions of the Federal Reserve?

The answer is simple: Nobody knows.

Here’s what we do know: Depositors don’t seem to be demanding cash and putting it under their mattresses. They are, however, moving funds out of small and medium-size banks, to some extent into big banks, and to some extent into money market funds

Both types of institution are likely to do less business lending than the smaller banks now under pressure. Big banks are more tightly regulated than smaller banks, required to have more capital (the excess of assets over liabilities) and more liquidity (a higher proportion of their assets devoted to investments that can readily be converted into cash).

Add in the likelihood that even banks that haven’t experienced a run on their deposits will become much more cautious, and we’re probably looking at a serious reduction in credit. In effect, banking turmoil will act a lot like a rate hike by the Fed.

But how big an effective rate hike? I’m seeing smart, well-informed people produce numbers that are all over the place.

However, the direction of the shock seems clear. I wrote a couple of weeks ago that the Fed is creeping its way through a dense data fog, trying to steer between the Scylla of inflation if it tightens too little and the Charybdis of recession if it tightens too much

But clearly the risk of recession has gone up and the risk of inflation has gone down. So it makes sense for the Fed to steer somewhat to the left.

What this probably means in practice is that the Fed should pause its rate hikes until there’s more clarity about both the inflation picture and the effects of the banking mess — and it should be clear that that’s what it is doing.

There doesn’t seem to be much danger that the Fed will lose its inflation-fighting credibility if it takes time to get its bearings. Inflation expectations are looking very well anchored

Should the Fed go further and actually cut rates? Even though I’m generally a monetary dove, I wouldn’t call for an actual cut, at least just yet. Among other things, that might convey a sense of panic.

And even though the wave of bank problems has shocked almost everyone, panic doesn’t seem like the right response.

For what it’s worth — and these may be famous last words — I’m actually somewhat reassured by the way policymakers have been responding to the current wave of banking problems. . . . we’re talking about conventional banks that can be and have been seized by the F.D.I.C., protecting depositors without letting shareholders off the hook.

The upshot is that so far, at least, this doesn’t look like a full-blown financial crisis. Stay tuned, though.