Saturday, April 15, 2023

More Saturday Male Beauty


Republicans and Right Wing Judges Refuse to Quit Abortion Bans

Poll after poll shows that a majority of Americans oppose Republican efforts to ban abortion.  Likewise, the majority of Americans disapprove of the ruling by an extremist Texas judge banning abortion medication nationwide.   Yet Republicans in state houses across the country - and in Congress - continue to flout the will of the majority of the citizens and pass legislation and hand down rulings that inflict far right evangelical/Christofascist religious beliefs on all.  The 2022 mid-term results and the recent Wisconsin Supreme Court race indicate that long term, this is going to be a losing strategy.  The problem for the Republican Party is that religious extremists have been so empowered within the party and hold so much power in primary elections that no one dares to defy them and they are a faction that cannot be reasoned with.  Their goal of a nationwide abortion ban either through Congress or on a state by state basis will remain relentless - for these folks the end justifies the means whether it means lying, trampling on the rights of others, or deliberately harming others.  A piece in Salon looks at the GOP's self-created problem which I for one hope brings down the GOP.  Another piece in the Washington Post looks at the damage being done by right wing extremist judges.  Here are excerpts from Salon:

If you are following the issue of abortion right now you almost surely have a headache. There is just so much happening all over the country that it's very hard to wrap your head around what's going on and how to fight it. This was the predictable outcome of overruling Roe v. Wade to "send it back to the states" because it was always part of the anti-abortion movement strategy. Instead of fighting on one front at the national level, pro-choice advocates would be forced to fight on many different fronts in many different ways while at the same time battling back one attempt after another in the federal courts to degrade the right in the states where it is legal. The final goal remains a national ban even if they have to get it done incrementally.

This was always obvious by the fact that while they always piously proclaimed that abortion is murder while at the same time insisting that they merely wanted to return the issue to the states, as if it was fine with them if some states decided to keep it legal. What they really wanted to do was disperse the resources and energy and wear down the opposition.

Even Donald Trump is having trouble negotiating the issue with his most devoted followers. According to Rolling Stone, he's been meeting with evangelical leaders and trying to convince them that abortion is a loser and they need to change their approach. He tells them they must stop talking about bans and start emphasizing "exceptions" instead because otherwise Democrats will paint him as an "extremist." And when he's asked about how he plans to advocate for their cause in the future, he resorts to bragging about his past accomplishments . . . . His supporters were not amused. One wondered if Trump was "going to try to make us swallow getting next to nothing in return for our support?"

Apparently, Trump's telling anyone who will listen that the Republicans are "getting killed" on abortion, which is true, and Republicans in Washington are freaking out, as Rolling Stone reports: In recent weeks, numerous emergency meetings — focused on abortion-related messaging and the potential for compromises — have been held by conservatives in nonprofit organizations, on Capitol Hill, and in elite Republican and evangelical circles, multiple sources familiar with the situation attest.

Trump seems to think that if the anti-abortion zealots will just agree to allow some exceptions for rape and incest (and maybe the health of the mother) that the whole thing will calm down and everyone can go back to the way it was.

First of all, even if the anti-abortion zealots were to agree, the genie is out of the bottle. Roe was overturned and the battle for women's autonomy isn't going to magically disappear because they agree to allow for an exception for rape and incest, which until fairly recently was supported by most pro-lifers. The right to abortion is supported by a large majority of Americans and that majority is growing. Gallup polls from last May show support for abortion in all or most cases at 85%, higher than when polling began in 1975 (76%).

Unfortunately, those numbers are not going to deter the anti-choice movement and the institutions that support it, including the churches that wield massive influence on the Republican Party. 

And there are activist right wing members of the judiciary ready to step in, as we've seen with the Texas judge who banned one of the medical abortion drugs . . . . . they've also put the FDA's ability to regulate all drugs at the mercy of a full variety of zealots who seek to interfere in all Americans' private medical decisions.

And then there are the activists: . . . . . Lila Rose believes the GOP's national policy should be a total ban with no exceptions and she holds Trump responsible for going wobbly on the issue.

Meanwhile, the pragmatists in the party seem to be drifting toward some kind of 15 week "compromise" but they need look no further than Ron DeSantis who had already signed one into law yet felt compelled to push for the more draconian 6 week ban under pressure from the right as he tries to gain traction in the GOP primary. There is no reason to believe that he will be able to finesse this any better than Trump will.

They brought this on themselves. For decades they encouraged and enabled a religious right extremist faction in their party to seize power (even tacitly encouraging anti-abortion terrorism) secure in the knowledge that they would be thwarted in their goals by Roe v. WadeThey allowed them to demagogue the issue as murder, genocide and even a holocaust apparently thinking that it was all just politics. Now this has become inconvenient and these people are being asked to stand down. Apparently, they didn't know that "sending it to the states" was just the anti-abortion movement's strategy and they never meant a word of it. The GOP is stuck with a political albatross around its neck and it's choking on it. 

Here are excerpts from the Post:

U.S. District Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk’s widely panned ruling blocking the Food and Drug Administration’s approval more than 20 years ago of an effective and safe medication, mifepristone, used both for medical abortions and to treat miscarriages, is another in a string of decisions from right-wing judges that may well boomerang on the MAGA movement. The decisions have revealed its true reactionary face.

Kacsmaryk’s opinion (which the Justice Department appealed on Monday and moved to stay) displays the three telltale characteristics of Trump-appointed judges’ opinions: Contempt for the law, sleight of hand on the facts and partisan language more appropriate to a MAGA rally than a courtroom.

Kacsmaryk’s logic would essentially abolish the standing requirement for lawsuits against drug approvals by creating a special exception out of thin air. That is not the law.”

Moreover, the judge’s reliance on the 1873 “anti-vice” Comstock Act smacks of utter desperation to find any rationale for his desired result. . . . . Comstock was largely invalidated by the Supreme Court’s 1965 ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut.

Kacsmaryk’s ruling also makes factual assertions that are “scientifically baseless and infused with hostility to abortion,” constitutional scholar Kate Shaw writes in a New York Times op-ed, “including that the FDA failed to consider ‘the intense psychological trauma and post-traumatic stress women often experience from chemical abortion.’”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists lambasted the decision as “inflammatory” and “brazenly” substituting “the court’s judgment for that of trained professionals.”

Given that Kacsmaryk’s decision has heaped fuel onto the conflagration caused by the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Republicans might want to ponder: Is the right-wing judiciary as a whole a threat to the MAGA movement’s viability?

It is one thing to gin up the base on invented threats from critical race theory or the “great replacement theory.” But when the MAGA movement’s judges begin to inflict radically unpopular edicts on those outside the right-wing audience, that risks sparking a counter-response: a determined, broad-based movement insistent that the United States not turn the clock back on decades of social progress.

Radical judges who would impose their will on modern America make themselves a target for a movement that pushes back on the courts’ decisions and on the courts themselves. No wonder that there are rising calls for expanding the Supreme Court as well as lower courts (to dilute right-wing judges’ power); limiting Supreme Court terms; and stripping jurisdiction from the Supreme Court. Support for progressive state judicial candidates who vow to act as a counterweight to right-wing judicial imperialism is almost inevitable.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Friday, April 14, 2023

More Friday Male Beauty


Freedom Is Under Assault in DeSantis’s Florida

While perhaps never a liberal state, Florida never seemed hell bent to be more backward and reactionary than states like Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas where ignorance and backwardness aew now celebrated (40 years ago, Alabama was more progressive than today). Now under Ron DeSantis and the Republican controled Florida legislature,  abortion is banned after 6 weeks - DeSantis jist signed the bill - and effectively illegal, freedom of the press is under assault, and gay, blacks and undocumented immigrants are the targets of censorship and state sponsored inhumane treatment. All of these attacks on freedom are being ushered in as DeSantis moves towards announcing his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.  In some ways DeSantis is just as frightening an individual as Donald Trump.  He has no regard for the rights of those he sees as not supporting his fascist agenda and seemingly has an equally crazed ego. Florida is now a case study of why Republicans should never be allowed control a state much less the federal government.  One has to wonder when Floridians will wake up to the nightmare they have brought on themselves and realize that other than unresticted gun ownership, their rights have been stripped away.  A main editorial in the Washington Post looks at Florida, now one of the least free states in America,  DeSantis must be stopped.  Here are editorial highlights:

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) describes his state as “a citadel of freedom,” “freedom’s linchpin” and “freedom’s vanguard.” He titled his memoir “The Courage to Be Free” and called his budget a “Framework for Freedom.” In his State of the State address last month, he said: “We find ourselves in Florida on the front lines in the battle for freedom.”

The ongoing 60-day state legislative session in Tallahassee, which Mr. DeSantis is treating as a springboard to announce a presidential bid, shows the hollowness of his rhetoric.

Backed by GOP supermajorities in both chambers, Mr. DeSantis is waging frontal assaults on press freedom, reproductive freedom, free enterprise and academic freedom. Meanwhile, in the name of protecting gun rights, he has scaled back prudent safety rules. And now he’s poised to target undocumented immigrants, including “dreamers," with what will be some of the cruelest policies in America.

All of this should give pause to those looking to Mr. DeSantis as an alternative to the toxicity of Trumpism. Let’s look at some of Mr. DeSantis’s efforts to undercut freedom:

Freedom of the press

Mr. DeSantis wants to make it easy to successfully sue journalists who quote anonymous sources. The governor has set his sights on overturning a 59-year-old Supreme Court precedent in Times v. Sullivan, which requires plaintiffs suing for defamation to prove an outlet acted with “actual malice” when publishing erroneous information about a public figure. The governor is pushing a bill that would create the presumption under the law that any information attributed to an unnamed source is false.

This would have a chilling effect on whistleblowers and make it harder to hold corrupt government officials accountable. . . . .The measure would encourage venue shopping by trial lawyers whose clients want to harass journalists. It could also expose small newspapers, local TV stations, bloggers, talk-radio hosts, YouTubers and even online commenters to crippling liability. Even DeSantis admirers in right-wing media have mobilized against the measure.

Freedom to choose

Last year, Mr. DeSantis signed a ban on abortion after 15 weeks without exceptions for rape or incest. Apparently, that wasn’t extreme enough. He has since signaled support for legislation, passed by both houses of the legislature, which would outlaw abortion after six weeks of gestation and make Florida one of the most restrictive states in the country.

Free enterprise

Mr. DeSantis tried to build a better mousetrap. After Disney — the employer of 75,000 Floridians — publicly opposed one of his education policies, the governor retaliated by removing the company’s power to self-govern the land around Walt Disney World in the Orlando area. He dissolved a special tax zone that existed since 1967 and named a new board to oversee the land. But before Mr. DeSantis’s handpicked appointees took over this year, the outgoing board passed a series of covenants to tie their hands.

Last week, Mr. DeSantis ordered an inspector general to investigate the former board, and his attorney general is trying to find ways to invalidate the covenants. The governor floated hiking taxes on Disney-owned hotels, imposing tolls on roads into its theme parks and exploring other pressure points. “Ultimately, we’re going to win on every single issue involving Disney,” said Mr. DeSantis.

This hostility to the actions of private corporations repudiates what conservatives used to stand for. But it’s part of a pattern. Mr. DeSantis outlawed cruise lines from asking passengers on their own ships to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. He signed a law to impose daily fines up to $250,000 on social media companies that deplatform candidates for office in his state for any reason.

The freedom to teach and learn

The attacks on Disney started after the company criticized what critics have branded the “don’t say gay” law, which restricts classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade. The legislature is expected to pass an updated law expanding the prohibition through eighth grade. Meanwhile, the governor is using administrative powers to try banning these subjects from being taught in any grade.

Mr. DeSantis also signed a law last year limiting how teachers can talk about race. Instructors are barred from suggesting students should feel guilty about racist acts perpetrated by earlier generations. The DeSantis administration announced in January that Florida won’t recognize the Advanced Placement African American studies course.

State efforts to undermine local control of education also have contributed to a frenzy of book banning, which Mr. DeSantis falsely called a hoax. A proposal under consideration in the legislature would essentially give a heckler’s veto over what’s taught and available in school libraries. Mr. DeSantis also continues to challenge academic freedom in higher education.

Meanwhile, there is at least one area where Mr. DeSantis has expanded individual rights — albeit in violation of common sense. He signed a bill this month that allows Floridians to carry concealed handguns without a permit, safety training or background check.

One of the cruelest steps Mr. DeSantis plans to take in the coming weeks to bolster his presidential bona fides is a crackdown on undocumented immigrants. He wants to require hospitals to collect data on the immigration status of patients, which would deter people from seeking needed medical care. Another measure under consideration would make it a felony to shelter, hire or transport any undocumented immigrant. Advocates say this could criminalize a lawyer driving a client to court or an American citizen letting a parent live with them. Landlords could face legal jeopardy for tenants who have an undocumented housekeeper or nanny.

Bryan Griffin, a spokesman for Mr. DeSantis, says Mr. DeSantis is fighting to keep Florida “free from things like" critical race theory; diversity, equity and inclusion programs; and “medical authoritarianism that can force ineffective covid vaccines on people.”

Now Mr. DeSantis wants to go national. He promises to “Make America Florida.” If the bullying coming out of Tallahassee is an indication of what that means, we think most Americans won’t want what he is offering.

Friday Morning Male Beauty


Thursday, April 13, 2023

More Thursday Male Beauty


Civil Rights Groups Warn Against Travel To Florida

Much of Florida's economy - like a large segment of Virginia's economy - depends on tourism which flourishes when a state or region is welcoming and friendly to all.  This reality is seemingly lost to Ron DeSantis and the Republican controled Florida legislature who are making it ever more clear that only white evangelicals and white supremacists are welcome in that state. Everyone else is not only unwelcomed by the state government but needs to be fearful for their safety.  The result is the unusual step of Equality Florida, the Florida NAACP, and the Florida Immigrant Coalition all issuing travel warns advising members of their respective communities to reconsider travel to Florida.  I have noted before that we have vacationed in Florida for many years, but I will be very unlikely to go back and will consider Puerto Rico and other LGBT welcoming destinations in the Caribbean as alternatives when we seek an escape from cold weather.  Hypocritically, DeSantis has called the travel warnings a "political stunt" yet the racist, and anti-LGBT jihad he is leading is ALL about his posturing himself to attract the hideous GOP primary voter bas. USA Today looks at the situation which cannot be good for Florida tourism overall,  Here are excerpts:

Florida advocacy groups have issued a state travel advisory following the passage and pushing of controversial bills by Gov. Ron DeSantis this legislative session.

LGBTQ civil rights group Equality Florida and the Florida Immigrant Coalition, made up of more than 65 organizations, both warned people away from the state on Wednesday.

"Today, Equality Florida took the extraordinary step of issuing a travel advisory, warning of the risks posed to the health, safety, and freedom of those considering short or long term travel, or relocation to the state," according to an Equality Florida news release

Of concern are "laws that are hostile to the LGBTQ community, restrict access to reproductive health care, repeal gun safety laws, foment racial prejudice and attack public education by banning books and censoring curriculum," Equality Florida wrote.

The Florida Immigrant Coalition said travel across the state should be done with "extreme caution." "It can be unsafe for people of color, individuals who speak with an accent, and international travelers," it said on a webpage made for its advisory.

Due to unconstitutional legislation supported by Governor Ron DeSantis and introduced by Legislative leadership, every county in Florida poses a heightened risk of harassment, possible detainment, and potential family separation based on racial profiling.

The coalition is referring to Senate Bill 1718 and House Bill 1617, legislation that is being pushed by DeSantis.

That legislation strengthens employment requirements, allows state law enforcement officials to conduct random audits of businesses suspected of hiring undocumented workers . . . . . Local governments would be banned from contributing money to organizations creating identification cards for undocumented immigrants and driver's licenses issued to non-citizens in other states would be barred from use in Florida – another provision critics say could lead to confusion and law enforcement profiling, especially in a diverse, visitor-filled state.

The travel advisories come weeks after Florida NAAC members unanimously voted to ask the group's national board to issue a travel advisory.

DeSantis called that move a stunt as well.

The warning to the LGBTQ community also comes days after state representative Webster Barnaby compared transgender people to "mutants," "demons" and "imps," during discussion of legislation that requires people to use public restrooms that correspond with their sex assigned at birth. It would effectively bar transgender people from facilities that match their gender identity. It also came a day after Senate lawmakers voted to amp up regulations on drag shows, something advocates fear could impact Pride festivals.

Republican lawmakers have filed at least 18 bills that directly or indirectly target transgender Floridians and in some cases the broader LGBTQ community, according to counts maintained by advocates

In its press release, Equality Florida said in part the following: 

Today, Equality Florida took the extraordinary step of issuing a travel advisory, warning of the risks posed to the health, safety, and freedom of those considering short or long term travel, or relocation to the state.

“As an organization that has spent decades working to improve Florida’s reputation as a welcoming and inclusive place to live work and visit, it is with great sadness that we must respond to those asking if it is safe to travel to Florida or remain in the state as the laws strip away basic rights and freedoms,” said Nadine Smith, Equality Florida Executive Director.

Governor Ron DeSantis, who has made the extremist policies the centerpiece of his presidential campaign strategy, has weaponized state agencies to silence critics and impose sanctions on large and small companies that dissent with his culture war agenda or disagree with his attacks on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty


Wednesday, April 12, 2023

More Wednesday Male Beauty


Today's GOP": They Are America’s Leninists

The Republican Party's lurch to extremism continues unabated as national and state Republicans embrace ever more extreme positions contrary to the views and wants of the majority of Americans.  As their extremism drives away support of the majority, Republicans at all levels are pushing an agenda that can be called “minority authoritarianism” within the context of a nominally democratic system of government.  Indeed, they are much like Leninists from a century ago in Russia who constructed the trappings of elections even as they system was structured to guaranty election outcomes and dissenters were silenced.  Trapped by the demands of a shrinking base that controls primary election outcomes, moderation to meet the larger public opinion is increasingly difficult.  The solution for Republicans: undermine elections, gerrymander districts to inflate their electoral wins and give increased power to extremists both on social issues and those willing to use violence to inflict their agenda on states and, if allowed to do so, the nation as a whole. Frightenly, far too many voters are not paying adequate attention to what is happening and many remain in a fantasy world where they act as if today's GOP is the same as the one from 30 years ago.  A column in the New York Times looks at the Republican assult on demcracy and the growing extremism of GOP policies.  Here are highlights:

Republican leaders are now adopting increasingly autocratic measures, using the police powers of government to impose moralized regulations, turning private citizens into enforcement officers and expelling defiant elected Democrats just as county Republican parties, particularly in western states, are electing militia members, Christian nationalists and QAnon believers to key posts.

Here’s one example. Last November, the Republican Party of Clackamas County in Oregon chose a new vice chairman, Daniel Tooze, a Proud Boy from Oregon City, and Rick Riley, head of the county chapter of Take Back America, which denies the results of the 2020 presidential election, as chairman.

In June 2022, two of my Times colleagues, Patricia Mazzei and Alan Feuer, reported that “at least a half-dozen current and former Proud Boys” had secured seats on the Miami-Dade Republican Executive Committee, including two facing criminal charges for participation in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol . . .

“On the right, support for violence is no longer a fringe position,Rachel Kleinfeld, a senior fellow in the Democracy, Conflict and Governance Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in a November 2022 Politico essay, “How Political Violence Went Mainstream on the Right.”

Those joining violent political events like the Jan. 6 insurrection, Kleinfeld continued, are more likely to be married middle-aged men with jobs and kids. Those most likely to support violence on the right feel most connected to the Republican Party. This is not a marginal movement: It is people who see violence as a means to defend their values, an extension of their political activity.

Democrats are not driving today’s political violence, Kleinfeld argued . . . Fear is a major cause of violence. As America undergoes immense change, from a fourth industrial revolution to remaking the concept of gender, many Americans are struggling to understand why they feel unmoored, anxious and behind. Snake-oil salesmen like Tucker Carlson offer the racist Great Replacement Theory as an explanation.

At the same time, Republican leaders are showing a growing willingness to disempower both Democratic officials and cities run by Democrats if they defy Republican-endorsed policies on matters as diverse as immigration, abortion and gun control.

The expulsion of two Black state representatives by the Republican majority in Tennessee received widespread publicity this past week (one has already been reinstated by local officials and the other may be soon). But their expulsion, as spectacular as it was, is just the most recent development in a pattern of attempts by Republicans to fire or limit the powers of elected Democrats in Florida, Mississippi, Georgia and elsewhere . . . .

In defiance of public opinion, 22 Republican attorneys general and 67 Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives filed amicus briefs that called on Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Federal District Court judge in Amarillo, Texas, to invalidate the Food and Drug Administration’s 23-year-old approval of the abortion pill mifepristone, which Kacsmaryk promptly went ahead and did last week. A February Ispos poll found that by a 3 to 1 margin (65-21), American adults agree that “medication abortion should remain legal in the United States,” including a healthy plurality (49-35) of Republicans.

Republicans in states across the country are defiantly pushing for the criminalization of abortion — of the procedure, of abortifacient drugs and of those who travel out of state to terminate pregnancy — despite clear evidence, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, that public opinion had shifted in favor of abortion rights.

[S]tates that have abortion bans at various early stages of pregnancy with no exception for rape or incest include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

An overwhelming majority of Americans of all political persuasions believe there should be exceptions for rape and incest.

At least three states with Republican governors — Florida, Virginia and Texas — have adopted laws or regulations empowering private citizens to enforce restrictive policies governing abortion, sex education or the teaching of critical race theory, in some cases providing bounties for those reporting abortions.

Jacob Grumbach, a political scientist at the University of Washington, argues in his 2022 book, “Laboratories Against Democracy,” that  When it comes to democratic backsliding in the states, the results couldn’t be clearer: over the past two decades, the Republican Party has eroded democracy in states under its control. Republican governments have gerrymandered districts, made it more difficult to vote and restricted civil liberties to a degree unprecedented since the civil rights era.

When I asked him why the Republican Party had moved in this direction over the past generation, Grumbach elaborated in an email, observing that the two major elements of the Republican Party — “extremely wealthy individuals in an era of high economic inequality” and “a voter base motivated by cultural and demographic threat” — have a “hard time winning electoral majorities on the basis of their policy agendas (a high-end tax cut agenda for the elite base and a culturally reactionary agenda for the electoral base), which increases their incentive to tweak the rules of the game to their advantage.”

[C]ontemporary cultural conservatism depends on support from declining constituencies — non-college whites (as pollsters put it), evangelical Christians and other ideologues on the right — which places these groups in an increasingly threatened position, especially in the American two-party system.

The consequences of this long-term cultural development for the losers, Norris continued, is a buildup of “resentment at the loss of the hegemony of traditional values and identities.” The problem for the Republican Party, she observed, lies in the fact that “by appealing to their shrinking socially conservative base, the Republican Party has been unable to gain a majority of the popular vote in their bid for the White House in eight of the last nine presidential elections.” . . . . the pool of social conservatives adopting traditional views on these moral and social identity issues has been shrinking in size within the U.S. national electorate, from majority to minority status. They are running down an up escalator.

With their backs to the wall, Norris argued, conservatives have capitalized on institutional features of U.S. elections that allow Republicans to seek to dismantle checks on executive power — including the extreme decentralization of electoral administration to partisan officials with minimal federal regulation, partisan gerrymandering of districts, overrepresentation of rural states in the U.S. Senate and Electoral College, . . . .

[T]he pressure to moderate in order to win general elections faces growing counter-pressure to take immoderate positions in order to win primaries . . . . Ultimately, Cain continued, “If elected officials and judges get too far out of alignment with voters, they will get the message in the form of surprising electoral outcomes, as recently occurred in Wisconsin. Democrats in the seventies and eighties experienced the same on busing, crime and welfare.”

[A] professor of political science and sociology at Harvard, contends that many of the developments in states controlled by Republicans are the result of careful, long-term planning by conservative strategists, particularly those in the Federalist Society, who are developing tools to build what she calls “minority authoritarianism” within the context of a nominally democratic system of government.

They are stoking and using the fears and resentments of about half or so of the G.O.P. popular base to undo American democracy and enhance their own power and privileges. They are doing it because they can, and they believe in what they are doing. They are America’s G.O.P. Leninists.

This situation, locked in place by a corruptly installed Supreme Court majority and by many rotten-borough judicial districts like the one in Amarillo, means that minority authoritarians, behind a bare facade of “constitutionalism,” can render majority-elected officials, including the President and many governors, officials in name only.

First and foremost, the Republican Party’s commitment to democratic values and procedures has been steadily eroding over the past two decades — and the momentum has accelerated. The brakes on extremism are failing, with Donald Trump gaining strength in his bid for renomination and the continuing shift to the right in states like Tennessee and Ohio.

Second, in bright red states, the embrace of far-right positions on such issues as abortion, guns, immigration and election denial is now a requirement rather than a choice for candidates seeking office. At the same time, in purple states like Arizona and Pennsylvania, a hard-right posture may be a liability in the general election, even as it is often mandatory in a primary contest.

The Jan. 6 insurrection, and Trump’s actions trying to change the electoral college votes in five states, was an attempted coup built on the Big Lie of voter fraud. But the potential coup next time will come in neatly filed legal briefs and arguments quoting Thomas Jefferson and wrapped in ancient precedents and purported constitutional textualism. It will be no less pernicious.

Citizens need to wake up and vote out Republicans while there is still time to do so.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


More Tuesday Male Beauty


Republicans Are Responsible for On-Going Gun Violence

Yesterday , America's 146th mass shooting of 2023 took place in Loiusville, Kentucky.   Five are dead, eight wounded, and many more traumatized.  Once again, an AR-15 appears to have been used by the shooter.   These shootings continue to take place because of Republicans' slavish self-prostitution to the gun industry and gun fanatics/extremists within the GOP base.  No other advanced industrial nation experiences such ongoing carnage.  Trump whines about "American carnage" supposedly due to Democrat policies, but the underlying cause comes from his own party (to the extent he has one other than himself).  Astralia, New Zealand and dozens of other nations have shown how the carnage and needless deaths can be stopped or at least greatly limited.   The only obstacle is today's Republican Party's gun worship and addiction to gun industry money. The lives of school children, college students and those going about their daily business at work or in the grocery store simply do not matter to Republicans. Their bloviating about "thoughts and prayers" do nothing to solve the problem and, frankly are an insult to both the dead and wounded and their families.  When will the significant majority of Americans who want gun control say "enough!" and vote the bastards out of office.  A column in the Washington Post responsibility at the feet og the GOP.  Here are excerpts:

The only path out of America’s cycle of gun violence is for the Republican Party to change course and join Democrats in backing far-reaching gun control. Otherwise, Americans will continue to be victims of gun violence, see friends or relatives shot, or be haunted by those possibilities.

I joined the third group this week. On Monday, a man fired shots at a downtown building in Louisville, killing at least four people and injuring numerous others. I had been at the building, which housed a bank branch as well as office space, for a news conference in December, as Mayor-elect Craig Greenberg announced top aides in his administration.

The ongoing national wave of these shootings has made me increasingly leery of attending large events or visiting schools or other venues where mass carnage is all-to-easy to imagine. Five years ago, a high school friend of mine was shot (but thankfully survived) in a mass shooting in nearby Cincinnati. Monday’s shooting makes me even more nervous — I had been in this physical space before.

Because these shootings just keep happening, so many Americans now know someone affected. Twenty-one percent say that either they or a family member or friend has had personal experience with gun violence, according to a 2022 poll conducted by the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. That statistic now includes Gov. Andy Beshear (D) of Kentucky, who said two friends died in Monday’s shooting.

Each year, more than 20,000 Americans are killed in non-suicide incidents (mostly homicides) involving guns in the United States. Several hundred times a year, four or more people are shot and either killed or injured in a single event, which is how the Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting.

But, of course, this is not inevitable. Countries such as Australia and Canada have dramatically lower gun-related death rates than the United States. California and Massachusetts have substantially lower rates than many other states, including Kentucky.

It’s no mystery why. Australia, Canada and other nations have stringent gun regulations. States with higher rates of gun violence are largely Republican-dominated, with looser regulations, while those with lower rates are often blue states with greater gun control.

The solutions aren’t simple, but we can fix this problem. By some estimates, there are nearly 400 million guns in circulation in the United States, meaning we have more guns than people. A good incremental step would be for Kentucky to embrace gun laws similar to California’s. But ultimately, we need the United States to have gun laws more like Australia’s.

If the United States severely restricted AR-15’s and other such weapons, there would be fewer mass killings in which one person shoots dozens. But to truly reduce the number of homicides, we have to restrict handguns, too.

So we need Americans to voluntarily give up their guns en masse — or be required to do so. That would require numerous, aggressive pieces of gun-control legislation, judges upholding those laws in court — and potentially a constitutional amendment stating that the Second Amendment does not provide an individual right to gun ownership.

I don’t think that’s impossible. Australia did something similar in the 1990s after a mass shooting there.

But we all know the problem. Such massive policy changes would require Republican politicians, powerful right-wing institutions such as Fox News and many hard-line conservative voters to stop acting as though radical gun freedoms are essential to a free society. In our current political environment, Fox and other conservative entities regularly suggest that conservatives are under mortal threat and that owning a gun is both good and necessary. Republican politicians also whip up pro-gun sentiment.

Just last month here in Kentucky, for example, the GOP-dominated legislature adopted a provision declaring the state a “Second Amendment sanctuary” barring local law enforcement officials from enforcing some federal gun laws.

For the United States to make progress on guns, the Republican Party has to change direction. That would require powerful parts of the Republican coalition, such as former president Donald Trump and Fox News, to start telling Republican voters that conservatism doesn’t require opposition to gun regulations.

I know how far-fetched that sounds. But ultimately, that’s the only solution. The Democratic Party can’t impose gun control on its own, particularly in GOP-dominated states such as Kentucky. Nor can it push aggressive legislation if Republicans are loudly suggesting Democrats want to put conservative voters in bondage.

We have become a nation of mass-shooting victims and people like me are traumatized by hearing about so many mass shootings. This is a terrible problem, but it is one we can solve. Slavery was abolished. Jim Crow was outlawed. Mass shootings and gun violence can be dramatically reduced, if not eradicated.

But we need some Lincolns and Kings to emerge in the Republican Party to push it in the right direction. I am not optimistic, but I am not fatalistic, either.

Loosening gun laws further as is happening in GOP controled red states will only increase the death toll despite the lies pushed by the gun industry and their polical whores. 

Monday, April 10, 2023

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


More Monday Male Beauty

 Tom Daley

A Georgia Indictment Looms Over Trump

One of the mysteries to me since 2015 has been how people who at least pretend to be decent and moral have continued to wrap themselves up in the cult of Donald Trump, a man who is a serial adulterer, has run his businesses like a crime boss, and pretty much ignores all standards of decency.  Are they really that racist or worried about lower taxes that nothing else matters?   These questions do not apply to evangelicals and Christofascists since I long ago learned that these people are the most inclined to lie and cheat to reach a desired end and displays of false piety and religiosity are all for show and a smoke screen for their relentless quest for power, something Trump promised to them back in June 2016. But for others in the Trump base, their alliegence to someone so foul in so many ways is still baffling at times.  Thus, one has to wonder what kind of criminal charges, if any, might make at lease some of this crowd ceace drinking the Kool-Aid.  The media has had an orgasm over Trump's indictment in New York, but as a piece in the New York Times lays out, an indictment in Georgia may expose Trump to far more danger and further undercut his lies that the 2020 election was "stolen" even though he was the one trying to steal the election.  Here are article highlights:

The indictment of Donald J. Trump in New York over hush-money payments to a porn star was a global spectacle, with the former president glumly returning to his old stomping grounds in Manhattan as TV networks closely tracked his procession of black SUVs on their way to the courthouse.

But strip away the high drama, and the actual charging document in the case was far less grand — 34 felony counts of a fairly narrow and common bookkeeping charge that Alvin L. Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, described as the “bread and butter” of his office’s white-collar criminal prosecutions.

In Georgia, however, there is another criminal investigation of Mr. Trump nearing completion, this one also led by a local prosecutor, Fani T. Willis of Fulton County. While nothing is certain, there are numerous signs that she may go big, with a more kaleidoscopic indictment charging not only Mr. Trump, but perhaps a dozen or more of his allies.

Her investigation has targeted a wide range of conduct centered around efforts to subvert the democratic process and overturn Mr. Trump’s 2020 election loss. Nearly 20 people are already known to have been told that they are targets who could face charges, including Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, and David Shafer, the head of the Georgia Republican Party.

For Ms. Willis, the choice to pursue a narrowly focused indictment or more a sprawling one — a classic prosecutor’s dilemma — carries with it potential risks and benefits on both sides. And American history offers few examples in which the stakes are so high.

A narrow case can be easier for jurors to understand. But it is also possible to go “too narrow,” Ms. McQuade said, denying a jury the ability to see the entire scope of a defendant’s criminal behavior.

If, on the other hand, a wide-ranging scheme is charged, “you allow them to see the full scope of criminal conduct,” she said. But going big could cause jurors to become lost amid a profusion of evidence, with a long trial increasing the possibility of a mistrial.

In Georgia, the investigation is focused on myriad efforts to overturn Mr. Trump’s narrow loss in Georgia after his 2020 election defeat, including his January 2021 phone call to Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, in which he pressed Mr. Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, to recalculate the results and “find” him enough votes to win.

Mr. Trump is also under investigation by Jack Smith, a special counsel appointed by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, for his role in the events leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and his decisions to retain sensitive government documents at his home in Florida.

The wide scope of the investigation has been evident for months, and Ms. Willis has said that seeking an indictment under the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO, statute is an option that she is considering. Like the similar federal law, the Georgia RICO statute allows prosecutors to bundle what may seem to be unrelated crimes committed by a host of different people if those crimes are perceived to be in support of a common objective.

Ms. Willis has extensive experience with racketeering cases . . . . Her office is currently pursuing racketeering charges against two gangs connected to the hip-hop world, including one led by the Atlanta rapper Jeffery Williams, who performs as Young Thug.

After starting the Trump investigation in February 2021, Ms. Willis’s office sought the aid of a special grand jury to gather and consider evidence. In Georgia, such juries do not have indictment powers but can issue subpoenas in long-running investigations. The body was empaneled last spring and completed its work in January after hearing closed-door testimony from 75 witnesses, though its recommendations have remained largely under seal.

Emily Kohrs, the forewoman of that special grand jury, strongly hinted in an interview with The New York Times in February that Mr. Trump was among more than a dozen people who had been recommended for indictment. “You’re not going to be shocked,” she said, when asked whether Mr. Trump was named in the report. “It’s not rocket science.”

Documents also show that prosecutors are following numerous narrative threads in Georgia involving either Mr. Trump or his allies. These include Mr. Trump’s phone calls to Georgia officials, including the one to Mr. Raffensperger; specious statements about election fraud made by Mr. Giuliani and others at state legislative hearings; the convening of pro-Trump electors to the Electoral College at the Georgia State Capitol . . . . and a plot by allies of Mr. Trump involving the copying of sensitive election software in rural Coffee County, Ga.

If Ms. Willis brings a sprawling RICO case, it could present its own problems, said Michael J. Moore, a former U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. Asking a jury to consider multiple acts that do not tie directly back to Mr. Trump might make it more difficult “to point the finger at him with the strength that you might have been able to in a simpler case,” he said.

Mr. Moore also wondered how far a trial involving Mr. Trump would stretch into the coming presidential election season. He noted that the jury selection process in the multi-defendant racketeering case involving Young Thug had been going on for roughly four months, and that the judge in the case had estimated the trial could take up to nine months. “We're just going to have to face the reality that we’re going to have to deal with that,” he said.

Monday Morning Male Beauty


Sunday, April 09, 2023

More Sunday Male Beauty


Republicans: Caught Off Guard by Majority's Backlash

With Republicans still reeling from the backlash against the overturning of Roe v. Wade and GOP threats to democracy itself, the ruling by far right extremist Texas federal judge, Matthew Kacsmaryk, a man who has a mind set one would expect abong the ayatollahs in Iran, banning abortion medications nationwide, will only throw gas on the fire.  Add to this the Tennessee Republicans unprecedented - and racist - explusion of two black Democrat representatives who "sinned" by challenge GOP policies putting the wants of gun fanatics over the lives of school children and everyday Americans, and the flames of a anti-Republican backlash will likely increase.  Meanwhile, GOP threats to Medicare and Social Security may well alienate older voters on whom the GOP has long relied.  Surprisingly - or maybe not given the Fox News fueled bubble in which the political right dwells - Republicans are shocked to find that the citizenry is not inclined to quietly sit back as Republicans strip away their rights and empower religious zealots to engage in censorship and openly racist and homophobic screeds.  Apparently, these out of the mainstream political whores to extreme GOP primary voters simply expected the rest of us to do nothing to fight back.  The results of the Wisconsin supreme court election (and the GOP's poor 2022 mid-term result) show the foolishness this assumption.  A piece at Salon looks at what will hopefully be the GOP's huge miscalculation.   Here are highlights:

For as long as I can remember, Democrats have been on the defensive about enacting their agenda because it was assumed that it would engender a backlash among "the silent majority," as former president Richard Nixon called it, or what modern Republicans call "Real America." Reacting to the counter-culture of the 1960s and the massive social changes it engendered, the left wing of the Democratic Party was always admonished by the centrist and conservative wings not to go too far or too fast. The media even blithely asserted that "America is a conservative country" as if it were an act of God. This article of faith hobbled progress for a very long time and empowered the Reagan Revolution through the Tea Party and Donald Trump's MAGA movement.

Nobody ever seemed to consider that enabling the right wing to become more and more extreme over the course of many years might engender a backlash of its own. It appears as if that time may have finally come — and it's clear the Republican establishment doesn't know what to do about it. The question is whether the Democratic establishment does either.

We started out with former president and current GOP presidential frontrunner being indicted in New York over the payments of hush money to conceal information that might have damaged his chances in the 2016 election. It's a huge story but it's not unanticipated nor is it the last prosecution Donald Trump is likely to face in the coming months. The most interesting aspect of it remains the fact that the Republican establishment is circling the wagons around him once again while Republican voters seem determined to push him to the nomination. This is despite the fact that he will be under indictment on felony charges in at least one case and probably more, proving once again that no amount of norm-busting, corruption or criminal behavior is a deal breaker with his cult. Trump has trained them to believe that it's all an elaborate conspiracy against him.

But this week also showed that something else is afoot. Yes, Trump is a galvanizing force in Democratic politics going all the way back to the massive, global Women's March in 2017. His grotesque behavior motivated millions of people, especially women, to organize and it paid off in every election since then. Donald Trump has been dragging the GOP down for years but they just can't quit him. However, the party's rapid descent into extremism is bigger than Trump and the backlash is continuing to show itself in ways that are shattering the status quo.

The swing state of Wisconsin has been a battleground for years with a polarized electorate that has had power swinging back and forth between the two parties with razor-thin margins. It was assumed that the high-stakes election this week for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court would be similarly tight. The future of the outrageous gerrymander that makes Republicans massively over-represented in the state legislature was at issue but, most importantly, abortion rights were front and center. Abortion has been illegal in the state since last June when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and an archaic law banning abortion that had been on the books since 1849 was no longer moot. The hard right legislature and the conservative state Supreme Court wasn't going to fix that.

The election turned on those two intersecting issues. Abortion rights and democracy were on the ballot with the first being denied as a result of the Republicans manipulating the map to un-democratically seize more power than the people voted for. The anti-abortion candidate (a Trumper, by the way) lost by 10 points, a miracle in that polarized electorate. With good organization by the state Democratic Party — which saw a huge uptick in 18-29-year-old voters, a big gender gap and even, surprisingly, inroads among white, non-college-educated voters — abortion rights and democracy advocacy carried the day.

Meanwhile in Chicago, just as in Los Angeles earlier, the progressive mayoral candidate won despite widespread expectations that the centrist "law and order" candidate would prevail as a result of right-wing fear-mongering about crime. . . . . The stale "law and order" handwringing didn't work in 2022 and it didn't work this week — and it's yet another sign that the extremism of right-wing rhetoric and policies is turning off voters. Backlash.

And then there was the grotesque display we witnessed in Nashville, Tennessee on Thursday when the Republicans expelled two Black lawmakers, Justin Pierson and Justin Jones, for staging a protest for gun safety legislation on the floor of the House.

After six people, including three little children, were shot down in a Nashville school, citizens protested the state's insanely loose gun laws that allowed the shooter to legally obtain firearms despite a history of mental illness. The anti-democratic Republicans (yes, Tennessee is ridiculously gerrymandered as well) essentially scoffed at their concerns, attacked their colleagues' First Amendment rights and then showed the entire country in living color that they are unreconstructed racists on top of it by instituting the political death penalty against two Black legislators for a minor rules violation.

In this instance, we are seeing the burning issue of gun violence converge with the issue of democracy and systemic racism and while it hasn't yet been fully demonstrated, the fact that the two ousted legislators are also quite young, as are most of the protesters, makes me think we are on the verge of seeing another backlash developing.

This dispatch from a local Tennessee journalist suggests that some Republicans sense that too: The GOP is an authoritarian, extremist political party that is out of the mainstream of American life. . . . .Backlashes go both ways and this one is coming from the left. It's about time.