Saturday, January 07, 2023

Making America the Opposite of Great

Kevin McCarthy - a man who has demonstrated that he has no principles and no moral standards and will do anything for power - is now Speaker of the House of Representatives and the slim Republican majority is positioned to launh all kinds of batshit crazy investigations and assaults of the rights of citizens who are not white right wing "Christians," all under the guise of making America great again.  What the GOP will push is actually the opposite of making America great and instead will seek to impose evangelical/Christofascist beliefs on all and erasing those who are non-white and non-heterosexual.  Driving all of this is the GOP base's hatred and resentment of those who are deemed "other" and a zero sum world view where if someone else prospers, then it must be at the expense of members of the party base. The concept that a rising tide can raise all boats is lost on the increasingly uneduccated, knuckle dragging GOP base.  A column in the New York Times looks at the backward facing batshitery that will  likely unfold (and some of which will hopefully die in the U.S. Senate).  Here column are excerpts:

I admit it: Like many liberals, I’m feeling a fair bit of MAGAfreude — taking some pleasure in the self-destruction of the American right.

There has, after all, never been a spectacle like the chaos we’ve seen in the House of Representatives this week. It had been a century since a speaker wasn’t chosen on the first ballot — and the last time that happened, there was an actual substantive dispute: Republican progressives (yes, they existed back then) demanded, and eventually received, procedural reforms that they hoped would favor their agenda.

This time, there has been no significant dispute about policy — Kevin McCarthy and his opponents agree on key policy issues like investigating Hunter Biden’s laptop and depriving the Internal Revenue Service of the resources it needs to go after wealthy tax cheats. Long after he tried to appease his opponents by surrendering his dignity, the voting went on.

But while the spectacle has been amazing and, yes, entertaining, neither I nor, I believe, many other liberals are experiencing the kind of glee Republicans would be feeling if the parties’ roles were reversed. For one thing, liberals want the U.S. government to function, which among other things means that we need a duly constituted House of Representatives, even if it’s run by people we don’t like. For another, I don’t think there are many on the U.S. left (such as it is) who define themselves the way so many on the right do: by their resentments.

And yes, I mean “resentments” rather than “grievances.” Grievances are about things you believe you deserve, and might be diminished if you get some of what you want. Resentment is about feeling that you’re being looked down on, and can only be assuaged by hurting the people you, at some level, envy.

Consider the phrase (and associated sentiment), popular on the right, “owning the libs.” In context, “owning” doesn’t mean defeating progressive policies, say by repealing the Affordable Care Act. It means, instead, humiliating liberals personally — making them look weak and foolish.

I won’t claim that liberals are immune to such sentiments. . . . But liberals have never seemed remotely as interested in humiliating conservatives as conservatives are in humiliating liberals. And a substantial part of what has been going on in the House seems to be that some Republicans who expected to own the libs after a red wave election have acted out their disappointment by owning Kevin McCarthy instead.

And does anyone doubt that resentment on the part of those who felt disrespected was central to the rise of Donald Trump? Are there any pundits left who still believe that it was largely about “economic anxiety”?

I’m not saying that the decline of manufacturing jobs in the heartland was a myth: It really did happen, and it hurt millions of Americans. But the failure of Trump’s trade wars to deliver a manufacturing revival doesn’t seem to have turned off his base. Why?

The likely answer is that Trump’s anti-globalism, his promise to Make America Great Again, had less to do with trade balances and job creation than with a sense that snooty foreigners considered us chumps.The world is laughing at us” was a consistent theme of Trump speeches . . . .

And I have a theory that Trump’s own underlying ludicrousness, his manifest lack of the intellectual capacity and emotional maturity to be president, was part of what endeared him to his base. You fancy liberals think you’re so smart? Well, we’ll show you, by electing someone you consider a clown!

The irony is that the MAGA movement has succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of sinister globalists (if any exist) in making America the opposite of great. Right now the world really is laughing at us, although it’s terrified, too.

[E]ven with a speaker in place, how likely is it that the people we’ve been watching the past few days will agree to raise the debt ceiling, even if failing to do so creates a huge financial crisis? And there may be many other risks requiring emergency congressional action even before we get to that point.

Of course, the world is laughing even harder at Republicans, both the ultraright refuseniks and the spineless careerists like McCarthy who helped empower the crazies.

I’m not sure what we are in store for, nor is anyone else. One thing is sure, however: America is already less great than it was when Nancy Pelosi ran the House, and it’s shrinking by the day.

More Saturday Male Beauty


DeSantis Is Destroying Florida Public Education

Like something out of Putin's Russia (a future post will look at the state of gays in Russia), Florida governor Ron DeSantis is seeking to eliminate any honest discussion of slavery and racism from Florida's public schools and colleges and universities.  Similarly, any references to LGBT people as normal and entitled to equal protection under the law are being erased and DeSantis has (i) launched witch hunts against educators who go against his dictates and (ii) appointed far right extremists to boards of education and university governing boards.   The goal is to revert to a 1950's style of education where certain topics are taboo and certain parts of society cannot be mentioned. DeSanis' motivation?  To endear himself to the evangelical/Christofascist and white supremacist base of today's Republican Party.   A number of articles look at the censorship and witch hunts and dumbing down of public education.  A piece from ABC News looks at the latest witch hunt DeSantis has launched:

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' office has requested data on courses and programs that include “diversity, equity and inclusion” and “critical race theory” despite legal challenges to his law restricting such content.

ABC News has obtained a copy of the Dec. 28 governor’s memo. . . . These public institutions are required to describe which programs and campus related activities are connected to these topics, and send how much these programs cost, how much state-funding is directed toward them, and how many employee positions are dedicated to them, according to the memo.

Schools are told to send this information no later than Friday, Jan. 13, according to the memo.

This memo comes almost two months after a judge temporarily blocked DeSantis’ “Stop WOKE” Act from restricting race-related curriculum and conversation in colleges and universities, which is still being battled out in the courts. WOKE in the bill stands for "Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees."

The law restricts lessons and training on race and diversity in schools and in the workplace, particularly anything that discusses privilege or oppression based on race, or whether someone “bears personal responsibility for and must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress” due to U.S. racial history.

Those behind the lawsuit against the "Stop WOKE" Act, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, say the law restricts free speech.

A representative from the State University System of Florida Board of Governors confirmed that all 12 schools in the system received the memo.

An email from the University of North Florida’s Office of the Provost was first reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education that showed the administration asking university deans to compile lists of courses that fall under these themes of diversity and race.

A piece in The Atlantic looks at the chilling effect and defacto censorship DeSantis and his war on free speech and academic freedom is imposing on colleges and universities:  

Jonathan Cox faced an agonizing decision. He was scheduled to teach two classes this past fall at the University of Central Florida that would explore color-blind racism, the concept that ostensibly race-neutral practices can have a discriminatory impact. The first, “Race and Social Media,” featured a unit on “racial ideology and color-blindness.” The second, “Race and Ethnicity,” included a reading on “the myth of a color-blind society.” An assistant sociology professor, Cox had taught both courses before; they typically drew 35 to 40 undergraduates apiece.

But a clash with state law seemed inevitable, once Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, proposed what he called the strongest legislation in the nation against “the state-sanctioned racism that is critical race theory.” Last April, DeSantis signed the Individual Freedom Act, also known as the “Stop Woke Act,” into law. . . . . it specifically bars portraying racial color-blindness—which the law labels a virtue—as racist.

Whatever one thinks of critical race theory, the state’s interference limits the freedom of professors who are experts in their fields to decide what to teach their students. Cox worried, not without reason, that the law effectively banned him from discussing his ideas in class, and that teaching the courses could cost him his livelihood.

A month before the fall 2022 semester was set to start, he scrapped both courses. . . . . Cox’s decision, along with another professor’s cancellation of a graduate course because of a similar anxiety, created an unusual gap in the sociology curriculum at UCF. Located in Orlando, UCF is Florida’s largest university, with almost 69,000 students.

Cox’s department chair, Elizabeth Mustaine, said she went along with the professors’ wishes because “I thought, I’m not going to stress anyone out about this. It’s crazy.” Still, she added, “it’s an absolute tragedy that classes like this get canceled.”

In just over two years, critical race theory has gone from a largely obscure academic subject to a favorite bogeyman for Republican candidates. Activists such as Christopher Rufo, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute, conceived of targeting CRT to foment a backlash against measures enacted following George Floyd’s murder in May 2020.

The anti-CRT campaign quickly expanded from sloganeering to writing laws. Seven states, including Florida, have passed legislation aimed at restricting public colleges’ teaching or training related to critical race theory. Those laws face impediments. On November 17, 2022, a federal judge temporarily blocked enforcement of the higher-education provisions of Florida’s Individual Freedom Act. “The First Amendment does not permit the State of Florida to muzzle its university professors, impose its own orthodoxy of viewpoints, and cast us all into the dark,”

[A]t the federal level, conservatives are drafting a “potential suite of executive orders in 2024,” in case the next presidential election goes their way, to “disrupt the national network of left-wing ideological production and distribution,” according to Rufo.

[T]he push against CRT is hitting academia after decades of declines in the proportion of professors protected by tenure, meaning that most faculty members are not in positions secure enough to resist political pressure. Now, forced to consider whether they face any legal or career risk, some are canceling courses or watering down content, keeping quiet rather than sharing their expertise with students.

“When you implement a law like this, you’re asking professors to leave out things that clearly happen or have happened in the past,” Grace Castelin, a UCF undergraduate who plans to introduce a resolution in the student senate condemning the law, told me. “It’s making us more ignorant in this generation and generations to come.”

As for the lunatics and extremists being appointed to state boards of education and university boards, a piece in Florida Politics looks at DeSantis' appointment of Rufo and other homophobes and white supremacy advocates to censor courses and educators:

Gov. Ron DeSantis has appointed conservative activist Christopher Rufo and five others to the New College of Florida Board of Trustees in his continuing move to eliminate “political ideology” from public higher education.

With the six new members of the school’s Board of Trustees, the DeSantis admin plans to weed out concepts like diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and critical race theory (CRT).

Republican Party of Florida Vice Chair Christian Ziegler, a former Sarasota County Commissioner, commended DeSantis for taking action against the “liberal” school.

“Impossible to state just how bold and historical this action is,” he said in a statement. “It sets the tone that higher education can and will be reformed if conservative leaders are willing to step up, lead and act.”

Orlando Democrat Anna V. Eskamani, called Rufo a “political propagandist” in a tweet. “DeSantis is destroying higher education in Florida for his own political gain. It’s disgusting, bad for our workforce development (and) everyone — faculty, admin, alumni, students — need(s) to fight back,” Eskamani tweeted.

Here in Virginia Glenn Youngkin and Virginia Republicans seek to similarly dumb down and censor public education with the Democrat controled Virginia Senate being the only bulwark preventing a reprise of Florida's actions.  Meanwhile, having just returned from vacationing in Key West, I find myself thinking that Florida is no longer a destination that I want to support with my hard earned money. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Friday, January 06, 2023

More Friday Male Beauty - Pt 2


No Tears for Kevin McCarthy

The U.S. House of Representatives has as of this moment held eleven (11) votes to elect a new Speaker of the House and every time Kevin McCarthy - a man who has shown he only wants power and is devoid of principles and morality - has fallen short.  Not in over a century has such a circus prevailed in the House and there is no telling how much longer the debacle will continue.  I and many others view McCarthy as unfit for the office he seeks - the only thing I agree with when it comes to the 20 renegade MAGA Repubicans - and hope that Democrats remain united and out of exhaustion or something else refuse to save McCarthy from himself.  A column in The Atlantic by a conservative former Republican lays out why McCarth should never be Speaker and the hope that at some point someone able to lead and not merely prostitute themself to extremists will eventually be selected.  Meanwhile, the dysfunction and amorality of Congressional Republicans is on display to the American public which will hopefully send Republicans back into minority staus in 2024.  Here are article highlights: 

The defeat of Kevin McCarthy in his bid for the speakership of the House would be good for Congress. The defeat of Kevin McCarthy would be good for the United States. It might even be good for his own Republican Party.

Because the people attempting to inflict that defeat upon McCarthy include some of the most nihilistic and destructive characters in U.S. politics, McCarthy is collecting misplaced sympathy from people who want a more responsible Congress. But the House will function better under another speaker than it would under McCarthy—even if that other speaker is much more of an ideological extremist than McCarthy himself.

McCarthy is not in political trouble for the reasons he deserves to be in political trouble. Justice is seldom served so exactly. But he does deserve to be in trouble, so justice must be satisfied with the trouble that he’s in.

McCarthy deserves to be in trouble because he refused to protect the institution he now seeks to lead. After the January 6, 2021, insurrection, he told fellow Republicans that he would urge President Donald Trump to resign immediately. When that vow became public, McCarthy denied he had ever made it, until a contemporaneous audio recording exposed his lie.

“I’ve had it with this guy,” McCarthy said after the January 6 attack—then voted in the impeachment proceedings to protect this guy. Eight days after Trump left office, McCarthy flew to Florida for a photo opportunity with the ex-president who had sent a mob to rampage through the Capitol . . . . Trump then released a statement boasting that he and McCarthy would be working closely together into the future, a statement McCarthy never contradicted.

McCarthy then enabled and supported a purge of every House Republican who had acted with the integrity that he himself had failed to muster. He endorsed the primary opponent to Liz Cheney. He stripped committee assignments from Republicans who served on the committee to investigate the Capitol riot he had once condemned and now condoned.

For weeks after January 6, McCarthy denied that he’d telephoned Trump that day to blame him for the attack. When then–Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler exposed his denials as false, McCarthy brutally rebuked her.

“You should have come to me! Why did you go to the press? This is no way to thank me!”

“What did you want me to do? Lie?”  Well, yes, obviously. That’s what McCarthy did.

Herrera Beutler then lost the nomination in a primary battle against one of the most reactionary Republicans of the 2022-midterms slate—who then proceeded to lose a seat in rural Washington State to a Democratic newcomer.

Sadly, the 20 or so Republicans voting against McCarthy are not exacting retribution for his cravenness toward Trump. It’s not easy to discern what exactly they are exacting retribution for. . . . Their rebellions seem aimed instead at enhancing their own power within the caucus. They are hostage-takers whose chief demand is to keep holding their hostage forever.

Distaste for the anti-McCarthy faction, however, should not mislead anyone into supporting McCarthy. Very specifically, distaste for the anti-McCarthy faction should not mislead House Democrats into rescuing McCarthy. McCarthy has been frantically signaling for Democratic rescue.

But what’s the affirmative case for such rescue?  If McCarthy becomes speaker now, he will be a weak and precarious one—constantly at the mercy over the next two years of those 20-odd fringe Republicans voting against him this week. McCarthy will appease and accommodate them. When John Boehner was speaker, he dealt with the irreconcilable fringe by building majorities across the aisle.

But if McCarthy survives his present leadership test, he’ll do so only by committing never to repeat Boehner’s example. . . . He has proposed to escape his immediate hostage crisis by handing himself over as a hostage forever.

That’s the beginning of the reason it would be better if he failed to win the speakership. If McCarthy somehow ekes out a win, he will be broken from the beginning

A speaker of the House who does not speak for a majority of the House is a waste of time and space. He speaks for nobody, he acts for nobody, and there’s no point in negotiating with him. Seeking a decision from him will be like seeking a decision from the president of Lebanon, when everybody knows that it’s actually Hezbollah who controls the guns and money, and is the power in the land.

A McCarthy speakership is a formula for parliamentary paralysis, for rule by a minority faction within the majority caucus, for crisis after crisis after crisis. Rejection of McCarthy by an agitated minority may paradoxically make it easier for the rest of the system to function with the post-McCarthy Republican majority.

By electing a more ideological speaker, Republicans may inadvertently shape a less ideological House majority. Imagine what this House will look like after a McCarthy defeat. Twenty Republican House members will have exposed 200 colleagues to national ridicule for reasons that even those 20 insurgents cannot coherently explain. Are the 200 now likely to follow the 20 into a fight to default on the U.S. debt? To slash American aid to Ukraine and hand the advantage to Russian President Vladimir Putin? . . . To devote the next Congress to waging war on the FBI and other law-enforcement agencies? Or will they more likely say, “That’s enough from you—you have embarrassed us one time too many”?

The radical crew who aimed to exclude the unworthy man imagine that they will be empowered by their rebellion. Instead, their destructive action will only have discredited them with their peers.

New House Republican leadership must be found. Although that leadership may be more ideologically extreme than McCarthy, it may also learn from this week’s debacle to be more careful about launching crazy adventures—and thus be more able to negotiate and deliver deals.

Ditch McCarthy. He won’t be missed.


More Friday Male Beauty


Virginia GOP Plan to Use "Parental Rights" to Erase Gays, Blacks and Undermine Public Education

Following the game plan of Republicans across the country and Glenn Youngkin's disingenuous support of "parental rights" that many suburban voters - especially in Northern Virginia fell for - an number of GOP backed bills in the coming session of the Virginia General Assembly will seek to erase gays, limit the teaching of accurate history and seek to divert funds from public education.  Together the bills represent a wet dream of sorts for the Christofascists and anti-vaxers at The Family Foundation and other hate groups operating in Virginia. While not as severe as the "don't say gay" and "anti-woke" bills passed in Florida which a number of commentators demonstrate are dumbing down public and college education in Florida, combined with Youngkin's efforts to declare war on LGBT students and erase "divisive concepts" via executive order - namely any honest discussion of slavery and racism and the existence of LGBT individuals - from public school curricula, the GOP efforts do not bode well for quality education and equal treatment for all students.   Fair minded individuals and those who support an honest discussion of race, slavery, and LGBT issues can only hope the bills die in the Democrat controled Virginia Seante.  A piece in the Virginian Pilot looks at some of the GOP backed bills.  Here are excerpts:

Several education-related bills — many focused on expanding what the sponsors call parents’ rights — have been pre-filed for the 2023 General Assembly session and will be up for a read when it convenes Jan. 11.

Among the bills is House Bill 1379, sponsored by Del. Tim Anderson, which seeks to have schools keep a catalog of any materials in the school library that have “graphic sexual content.” Schools are to then let parents opt out of allowing their children access to these materials.

He said this bill allows parents to determine what is appropriate for their own children, without telling schools what they can keep in their collections and without “stepping on the First Amendment.”

He also noted that the bill would only apply to visual depictions of sexual content, such as in animations on film or in graphic novels. It would not apply to sexual content found in just the words of a printed book, for example.

Senate Bill 787, sponsored by Sen. Bill DeSteph, also a Republican from Virginia Beach, is similar to Anderson’s, but would require schools to have procedures in place that would require “mandatory prior written parental consent” before students are permitted to check out sensitive material.

Also this session, House Bill 1371 and matching Senate Bill 823 seek to establish an Education Savings Account program in Virginia. The voucher-like program would allow parents to use state funds to educate their children outside of their traditional public school. The money could be used to send students to private school, purchase material or programs for a homeschool education and pay for tutoring services, among other things. The bill seeks to have the program in place before the 2023-24 school year. Del. Phillip Scott, R-Fredericksburg, and Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Colonial Heights, are the chief sponsors.

Other education-related bills that will come up during the session include:

    • House Bill 1397, which would allow parents to opt out of state-required immunizations for their children, without having to file a religious or medical exemption.
    • House Bill 1387, which would require athletic teams associated with K-12 or higher education institutions to be expressly based on biological sex, and would require a student’s biological sex to be included on an eligibility form signed by a licensed medical professional.
    • HB 1434, which would ban schools from changing the name of students on any educational records unless they receive a change-of-name order from a court.
    • Senate Bill 818, which would require all public K-12 schools to provide an age-appropriate course on mental health.

Transgender students are particularly targeted and I strongly suspect that "graphic sexual content" will include anything mentioning LGBT individuals and same sex relationships. The bills would in effect allow The Family Foundation and its followers and other hate groups masquerading as "family organizations" to censor school curicula and siphon funds from public education while endangering students by exposure to unimmunized fellow students.

Friday Morning Male Beauty


Thursday, January 05, 2023

More Thursday Male Beauty


How George Santos (and Trump) Played Voters for Fools

A good con man (or woman) can take the measure of their targeted victims and then play to the prejudices and bigotries and their perceived view of reality.  In the case of Donald Trump, he played to the white supremacists within the GOP base, pandered to evangelicals and Christofascists who falsely see themselves as persecuted even though they themselve are the ones persecuting others, and, of course the greed of many wealthy voters who place paying lower anounts in taxes over basic morality.  Trump knew and still knows how to play his targets. In his Democrat leaning district, George Santos likewise knew how to play his targets and in addition to recycling Trump's ploys added outright lies of his own to peel off independent and low knowledge voters by playing to certain sympathies correctly gaging that low information voters would never take the time to ferret out his lies which ranged from false claims about his education, past employment, racial background and religious descent.   All was false yet in combination duped enough voters to allow Santos to win.  With the Republican leadership worried more about power than anything else it will likely fall to state and federal prosecutors - investigating where Santos who claimed no assets in 2020 found $700,000 to "loan" to his campaign - to take Santos down.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at Santos' con job.  Here are column excerpts:

Outrageous, contemptible and — let’s face it — endlessly fascinating, the lies of Rep.-elect George Santos (R-N.Y.) are also instructive, about both human psychology and American culture.

Like all astute con men (and women), Santos did not fabricate randomly. He supplied his various audiences with a preexisting narrative they were accustomed to believing, modified by the insertion of himself into the story line.

As psychiatrist Charles V. Ford explained in “Lies!, Lies!!, Lies!!!: The Psychology of Deceit” — a 1996 book that seems destined for perpetual relevance — phonies like Santos exploit people’s tendency to treat familiar stories less skeptically than original ones. “The con artist convinces the victim of the former’s version of reality,” Ford wrote, “by playing on the latter’s stereotyped expectations of reality.”

In other words, grifters work with the grain of popular culture, or its component subcultures.

Accordingly, Santos offered GOP base voters an even Bigger Lie about the 2020 election, in which not only former president Donald Trump but also Santos — who lost a House race to then-incumbent Democrat Tom Suozzi by 12.4 percentage points — was defrauded.

Running in 2022 in a redrawn congressional district whose electorate favored Joe Biden by nine points in 2020, Santos recalibrated his far-right pitch, weaving themes into his campaign biography that might make him more acceptable to swing voters.

Not only did he play against type as a gay Republican, Santos also held himself out as a grandson of Ukrainian Jewish Holocaust survivors. He claimed 9/11 victim status, saying at various times that his mother had died in the attacks or that both of his parents survived the ordeal. . The stories dovetailed with his assertion, during the 2020 campaign, that he was biracial (“Caucasian and Black,” he tweeted).

Fact-checkers have so far been unable to confirm or debunk the last of these; given the intermingling of races in his ancestral Brazil, it could even contain a trace element of truth. The others, though, seem to be baloney.

And Santos would hardly be the first person to lay illegitimate claim to these particular victim identities, and hence to the moral authority our culture, for valid historical reasons, has assigned them.

His brazen ruses might have benefited him politically, at least at the margins; Santos’s eight-point victory last fall in an otherwise Democratic-leaning Long Island district implies that numerous Biden 2020 voters backed him over Democrat Robert Zimmerman.

Some are blaming Santos’s election win on insufficient local media coverage or opposition research. Maybe — but both the North Shore Leader, a newspaper based on Long Island, and a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee report documented multiple red flags in Santos’s biography well before Election Day.

Santos skeptics would have had to prove a negative — multiple negatives, actually. They would also have had to overcome another aspect of human nature that, according to Ford, renders us vulnerable to deceit: Quite simply, he noted, “people are reluctant to challenge another person’s honesty openly.”

The good news, according to Ford, is that con artists’ success at duping others tends to make them overconfident, so they “often engage in self-defeating behavior that ultimately trips them up.”

With prosecutors and the media — belatedly — bearing down on him, George Santos seems to have reached that precarious stage.

Santos’s best hope is that the badly divided House Republicans will be more interested in salvaging their slender majority, or pursuing internal quarrels, than purging their ranks of an apparent charlatan. Don’t count him out yet.

Sadly, Santos is the embodiment of today's GOP where lies and falsehoods are the party's stock in trade.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty


Monday, January 02, 2023

More Monday Male Beauty


Donald Trump is Norma Desmond

I love old movies and as regular readers know, I am a political junkie.  Thus, it was fun to come across a piece in the Washington Post that ties Donald Trump to one of the most self-obsessed and out of touch movie figures: Norma Desmond - the has been movie star - in the classic movie "Sunset Boulevard."  With American democracy barely having surived the four years of Trump's misrule in the White House and his failed coup attempt, the Post piece reminds us of the danger of having a delusional, malignant narcissist anywhere near the White House or any high government position ever again.  The ultimate irony is that Trump is a huge fan of the movie and Norma Desmond and yet is unable to see himself in her flawedand delusional character, most likely because of his own matching narcissism.   One can only hope that Trump's star will burn ot or, like Norma Desmond, he will end up going to prison (or an insane asylum).  Here are highlights from the article:

“No one ever leaves a star. That’s what makes one a star.” — Norma Desmond

Former president Donald Trump adores the 1950 classic Sunset Blvd.,” the saga of a silent-screen legend eternally ready for her close-up and plotting a comeback long after her star has dulled. Trump has repeatedly praised the movie. He declared it “one of the greatest of all time” — on this, he will get little disagreement — and held screenings at the White House and Camp David.

But as Trump mounts a third presidential run amid the lacerating Jan. 6 report recommending four criminal charges against him, multiple other investigations and lawsuits, his election fraud-claiming endorsees losing in the midterms and a depleted inner circle, comparisons between his misfortunes and “Sunset’s” sunsetting Norma Desmond seem increasingly apt.

In a recent New York magazine story, Olivia Nuzzi draws parallels between Norma Desmond and her ardent fan at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s lavish Palm Beach club and winter redoubt: “A washed-up star locked away in a mansion from the 1920s, afraid of the world outside, afraid it will remind him that time has passed.”

Norma’s baronial L.A. manor is a central character in the movie, “a big white elephant of a place” as Joe Gillis (William Holden) puts it, excessive, dated, dark and similar in style to Mar-a-Lago, a “Mediterranean-style villa adapted from the Hispano-Moresque style” according to its website. Norma stuffs her rooms with images of herself. Trump favors a similar decorating scheme, framed photos and painted likenesses.

“The whole enterprise exudes decadence like a stale, exotic perfume,” wrote the late critic Pauline Kael of the Billy Wilder movie, listed as the 12th greatest on the American Film Institute registry.

Trump “could never sit still for anything,” former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham writes in her memoir, but he sat “enthralled” watching “Sunset Blvd.” . . . . Grisham, who had never seen the seminal classic before, was “shocked at all of the similarities” between Trump and Desmond, the latter “obsessed with her looks” and “convinced that everyone loved her and lived in a fantasy world of her own making.” Grisham notes, “I’m sure that Trump has no clue — like none — how similar to him she was.”

Nancy Olson Livingston, 94, is the movie’s last surviving lead cast member. She portrayed talented script reader Betty Schaefer, Norma’s romantic rival. “Trump is interested in Norma Desmond, the greatest star of all and how dare anyone throw her away,” says Livingston in a phone interview from Beverly Hills. “His focus is on being a celebrity, about being talked about and followed and worshiped.” In her new memoir, “A Front Row Seat,” she writes that the movies that “survive through time are those that tell a compelling truth.”

Hollywood loves movies about itself, even ones about a delusional, egotistical, murderous has-been. . . . . Norma blossoms before the cameras. Trump, too. He has a proclivity for wearing television pancake so he is always ready for his close-up.

Norma has three husbands. Trump has three wives. Norma appreciates a younger, pulchritudinous partner in the dimple-chinned Joe, played by Holden, 19 years Swanson’s junior. Trump has a penchant for younger models, Melania nearly a quarter century his junior.

Norma has a weakness for massive jewelry, and gifts Joe with gold bibelots. Trump has a taste for gilding everything from domiciles to escalators. Norma brands her 1929 Isotta Fraschini 8A with her initials. Trump also likes to leave a mark, stamping his name onto all his properties.

Norma believes she knows better than those who came after her. “Those idiot producers. Those imbeciles! Haven’t they got any eyes? Have they forgotten what a star looks like? I’ll show them. I’ll be up there again, so help me!” In a June column, Trump biographer Timothy L. O’Brien recalls watching the Billy Wilder movie almost 20 years ago with the real estate dealer aboard his private plane. “Is this an incredible scene or what? Just incredible,” Trump whispered to him. O’Brien writes: “Trump doesn’t want anyone questioning his star power or impeding his storylines. Like Norma Desmond, he plans to show any doubters what he’s made of. He’ll be up there in the White House again, so help him.” . . . . “Trump is worried about being forgotten by the public. Norma is basically forgotten by the public.”

Both maintain complex relationships with the press. Norma dreams of being a bold-faced name again, yet gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, as herself, feasts on her misfortune, and breathlessly reports Norma’s ultimate downfall from the star’s bedroom. Trump simultaneously courts and filets the “fake news,” one of the greatest hits at his rallies.

And Norma becomes dead set, literally, on stopping Joe from returning to his previous life as a copy editor at the Dayton Evening Post. She insists on absolute loyalty, as does Trump, and turns on anyone who abandons her.

Grisham writes that Trump likes the classic film and others perhaps “because he saw the world as a movie, of which he was usually the star.” In “Sunset Blvd.,” Norma waits 20 years for a comeback. In Palm Beach, Trump hopes to wait only four.

Livingston remains mystified about Trump’s fascination with her film. “I’m surprised he likes it so much. He’s missing something in the movie, while he relates it to stardom,” she says. “Every character in ‘Sunset Blvd.’ is tragic.” Norma’s life is a lesson. “Movie stars did not have happy lives.”

Monday Morning Male Beauty


Sunday, January 01, 2023

More New Year's Day Male Beauty


In 2023, Expect All MAGA Sadism, All the Time

The Christmas holiday - a time supposedly for peace on earth and good will toward mankind - are in the rear view mirror and we find ourselve on January 1, 2023, when many are making resolutions for the coming year about being better and kinder individuals.  Such resolutions are absent in MAGA world and among Congressional Republican, especially in the U.S. House of Representatives, numerous state legislatures and, of course at Fox News and similar propaganda sites that pretend to be "news outlets." Among these folks, misogyny and cruelty for political gain or viewership and page clicks are the norm.  Indeed, as a piece in Salon lays out, we can expect things to be very ugly in MAGA world where attacks on gays, racial minorities and common decency will be the rule.  The gratuitous cruelty - which is just fine with the majority of evangelicals and Christofascists - is disgusting and dangerous, particularly because it encourages physical violence against those being constantly depicted as "other" or not "real Americans."  Here are column highlights:

Here are some snapshots of what the luminaries of the GOP, the cream of the Republican crop, have been up to since the predicted "red wave" of the 2022 midterms failed to materialize:

On Tuesday, Fox News host Tucker Carlson interviewed Chaya Raichik, who runs the vicious anti-LGBTQ Twitter acccount Libs of TikTok. Despite Raichik's routine online pronouncements that she doesn't hate anyone, she revealed herself to be an unreconstructed bigot in the Anita Bryant vein. "The LGTBQ community has become this cult," she said, claiming that queer people are "just evil people, and they want to groom kids," and that the only reason people are gay or trans is because they've been brainwashed. Carlson's response to all this was simple: "Yeah." 

The Republican-controlled Supreme Court, which struck down nearly every emergency measure to slow the spread of COVID, finally found a pandemic rule they like: One that kills people, rather than saving lives. This week, the court forced the Biden adminstration to keep enforcing Title 42, which uses the pandemic as a pretext to expel refugees seeking political asylum, even though health experts say it's not necessary to prevent viral transmission. This decision was in such obvious bad faith that even Justice Neil Gorsuch, a Trump appointee, took issue with it. Migrants who are turned away based on Title 42 are in danger of kidnapping, sex trafficking and murder. 

On Christmas Eve, the Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, shipped a busload of migrants to Washington, D.C., dumping them outside Vice President Kamala Harris' official residence without winter clothes or shelter in subfreezing weather. . . . . That was only the latest of these "dumping" stunts conducted by Republican governors, usually accompanied with rhetoric that sounds distressingly like that used on neo-Nazi websites. 

Earlier this month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he would ask the state Supreme Court to investigate "any and all wrongdoing" related to the COVID vaccination campaign. . . . . Recent studies have demonstrated that anti-vaccine conspiracy theories have led to Republican voters dying at higher rates of than Democrats. "The Republican Party is unquestionably complicit in the premature deaths of many of its own supporters," as Yasmin Tayag of the Atlantic concluded.

Joe Biden and other Democrats were able to beat back a number of more colorful Republican candidates in the midterms by drawing a distinction between "MAGA Republicans" and the party's supposed mainstream. But, as these examples show, the bug-eyed malice that characterizes the MAGA movement has suffused the GOP from top to bottom, so much so that Republicans will gladly let their own voters die of a preventable virus to own the liberals. 

There was a brief moment of hope that the GOP's poor results in the midterm elections might cause Republicans as a whole to "moderate," or at least pull away from noxious MAGA extremism. . . . But examples like these and countless others have made clear that the opposite is happening. Republicans aren't backing away from MAGA. They're doubling down. The cruelty that has come to define the party is only likely to intensify in the next year, resulting in more vicious attacks on LGBTQ people, more dehumanizing treatment of migrants, more deranged conspiracy theories, more pregnant people denied medical care with specious "pro-life" arguments, and more winking approval of political violence

There are many possible explanations for why the GOP is going so dark, most of which revolve around the fact that the party's authoritarian base voters and its big-money donors have a lot more influence than potentially winnable independent voters do. . . . But . . . . It's time to ask a different question: Is it possible that GOP leadership is composed of the same unhinged sadists as their voting base? 

In rational terms, it doesn't make a ton of sense for Republican leaders to lean even harder into MAGA nonsense. Both Abbott and DeSantis won re-election easily, but the overall trend-lines suggest that most voters are grossed out by overt cruelty. . . . . That's exactly what is driving much of this GOP ugliness, I would argue. It's an angry reaction to the growing realization that most Americans think they're nuts. It's not rational at all — it's just vengeful.

Since at least the days Ronald Reagan, Republicans have embraced the idea that they're the rightful rulers of the U.S., and that any Democratic win is a fluke or the result of some kind of cheating. . . . That sense of entitlement, however, is running headlong into a mountain of evidence that most Americans flat-out don't like Republicans and don't agree with their views. 

America is a diverse nation, and also an increasingly liberal one in most important ways. Most Americans don't relate to the sexual conservatism, mandatory Christianity, white identity politics or regressive taxation fantasies that define the Republican Party in the 2020s. Rather than strategically adjusting to this changing reality, Republicans — meaning not just the base but also the leadership — just feel outraged. How dare the rest of Americans say "no thank you" to the policy preferences of the resentful, prudish white minority who think of themselves as the only "real" Americans?

I think often of the sputtering rage of Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing. . . . His screaming, paranoid performance came straight out of the larger GOP mentality that the right kind of people deserve to be in charge, no matter what, and that any challenge to their domination is an insult not to be borne. 

So it is across most of the GOP leadership. The ever-nastier behavior we saw after the 2022 midterms wasn't a show performed for the benefit of the Fox News-drunk base, or at least not entirely. That's just who these people are: privileged bullies who can't stand the idea of treating people different than themselves as equals. The more they come face to face with clear evidence that they're losing the battle for hearts and minds, the more they'll use the authority they still possess — which is a lot — to enforce ever more baroque punishments on the most vulnerable people in our society, out of their misbegotten desire for revenge. 

New Year's Day Male Beauty