Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Deflating Jeb Bush’s Absurd Economic Plan

Jeb Bush claims that he is "his own man" yet has surrounded himself with many of the same advisers that surrounded his cretin brother, George W. Bush, who oversaw disasters in the Middle East and the greatest economic crash since the Great Depression.  Equally disturbing is the fact that Jebbie is basically offering a warmed over version of his brother's failed policies, including tax cuts for the rich which will then supposedly magically create an economic boom.  It's the same voodoo economics preached by the GOP since 1980 and having not worked in the past, there is zero reason to think it will work after 2016.  A piece in Salon looks at Jebbie's absurd economic plan.  Here are highlights:
The Jeb Bush vision for growing the American economy seems straightforward enough. It basically goes like this: Jeb is elected president, then he cuts some taxes and shows some “leadership,” and then blah blah etcetera etcetera four-percent annual growth for the foreseeable future. The details of how we arrive at this lovely sounding and thoroughly unrealistic sustained rate of growth have yet to be fleshed out, so for the moment we’re just supposed to take it on faith that there exists within John Ellis Bush a special form of economic magic that will be unlocked only when he is safely ensconced in the White House.

[T]he core of Jeb’s pitch on the economy: he knows how to grow the economy at a blistering rate because he’s done it before. It’s largely nonsense.

The Washington Post’s Jim Tankersley has been assiduously picking apart Jeb’s economic boasting and trying to nail down just how much of Florida’s economic growth during the 2000s was Jeb’s doing, and how much was attributable to the state’s massive housing bubble, which popped shortly after he left office and left the state in economic ruin. Last month, Tankersley reported that “almost all of the gains [Jeb] talks up today, including three-fifths of the job creation, were wiped out in the four years after he left office, once the bubble burst.” This week he wrote a follow-up, looking at how the bubble that grew unchecked during Jeb’s administration ultimately “benefited rich investors at the expense of middle-class families.”

Jeb’s campaign, Tankersley notes, is trying to credit Jeb’s policies for the growth during his tenure, but won’t accept any blame for the devastation that came with the collapse of the housing market. His economic pitch is basically that he can replicate the effects of a housing bubble, but just without the nasty bubble part:
But economic analysis suggests that much of that superior performance — at least half of the difference between Florida’s growth and the nation’s — was driven not by any policy initiatives but by a rapid increase in housing prices. When those prices fell sharply, the state’s economy crashed.

It is a “huge stretch” for Bush to hold up Florida’s growth as a model for the country, said Stan Veuger, an economist at the ­conservative American Enterprise Institute
Bloomberg Politics also dug into Jeb’s dodgy economic rhetoric this week and found that he is wildly overselling the impact of his policies on Florida’s rapid growth: “When the effects of the bubble and population growth are taken into account, Florida probably still grew faster under Bush than the 3 percent rate at which U.S. economy was expanding at the time, but not by much and likely not because of his tax cuts.” 

He’s [Jeb] proposing the same raft of conservative economic policy prescriptions we’ve been hearing for decades: cut taxes on income and investments, slash spending, get rid of regulations, trust the free market, etc. Those policies didn’t produce sustained four-percent growth when other Republican presidents pursued them, but with some careful shading and flagrant exaggeration of his own record, Jeb is making the case that in his hands they’ll somehow become the most potent force for economic growth the country has ever seen.

We DO NOT need Jebbie in the White House.  He apparently believes that all Americans are idiots (OK, he's right in terms of the GOP base, but not the rest of us).

What it Means to "Sound Gay" and Internalized Homophobia

Growing up gay and in denial about one's sexual orientation is complicated at best and a mix of knowing in one's heart what the truth is yet trying desperately - at least in my own case - to convince the world and one self that that secretly known truth is not real.  One side effect is being hypersensitive about how one acts, looks and god forbid, talks and sounds to others.   It is all part and parcel with trying to live up to a perceived stereotype of how straight men act and talk.  The effort to maintain the role is non-stop except perhaps when one is alone.  It is exhausting to say the least.  A new documentary called "Do I Sound Gay" throws focus on the phenomenon and the fear that I and others had growing up - I suspect many still are effected - that my voice and/or mannerisms would reveal my dreaded secret.   A piece in the Washington Post looks at the documentary and the internalized (and external) homophobia involved.  Here are excerpts:

Most of us are familiar with the stereotype of a “gay voice.” A man speaks at a higher pitch, and in a more melodious fashion. The man might pronounce his p’s, t’s and k’s very crisply, or have what’s sometimes (incorrectly) described as a “lisp." Think Nathan Lane in The Birdcage, or Buddy Cole of Kids in the Hall.

But is there any reality to this stereotype? Do gay men actually sound different than straight men? And if so, why?

These are the questions in a new documentary, “Do I Sound Gay?” It’s a fascinating and nuanced film, in which the filmmaker, David Thorpe, uses his feelings about his voice to look at attitudes toward homosexuality. It raises a complicated discussion about gay pride, lingering homophobia, disguised misogyny, and the extent to which we all alter the image that we present to the world.

As the film begins, Thorpe is disturbed because he realizes he doesn’t like his voice any more. He’s just gone through a break-up and is feeling unconfident and low. “Who could respect, much less fall in love with, an old braying ninny like me?” he asks.

With these feelings of self-loathing, Thorpe sets on a journey to see if he can become more comfortable with his voice again (and presumably, with himself). He enrolls in voice coaching that promises to give him a "powerful and authentic" voice.

Thorpe explores in other ways the meaning behind his voice and his discomfort with it. He carries out thoughtful conversations with his friends and prominent gay and lesbian figures – including George Takei, David Sedaris, Dan Savage, Margaret Cho and Don Lemon – about what it means to “sound gay.” And though these people are all proud of their sexuality, he finds many of them have surprisingly complex feelings about their voices.

The film asks more questions than it answers. 

In a study published in 2003, Ron Smyth, a linguist at the University of Toronto, found that participants readily separated recordings of 25 diverse voices into those who “sounded gay” and those who “sounded straight.” People picked up on features of the gay stereotype – voices that were higher and more melodious were more often labeled "gay."

The trouble was that these labels had little relationship with sexuality. In Smyth's study, people correctly guessed a man’s sexuality about 60 percent of the time, only a little better than random.

In another small study at the University of Hawaii, both gay and straight listeners were equally as likely to misclassify people as gay or straight. In fact, the straight men with so-called gay voices weren't aware that people thought they sounded gay at all.

"Some men with 'gay voices' are straight, and some men with 'straight voices' are gay," says Smyth. "There are butch and fem gay men, there are butch and fem straight men, there are butch and fem straight women." And so on.

“Do I Sound Gay?” shows that even men who are out and proud may still carry with them some shame about having a stereotypical “gay voice,” even if those feelings are subconscious.

Dan Savage, a gay activist and author, argues in the film that this is a natural consequence of boys being bullied for walking and talking a certain way when they are young. They grow up "policing" themselves for evidence that might betray them, like their voice, Savage says.

Under-running these negative feelings is also a strong current of misogyny, an ingrained prejudice against women, say Thorpe, Savage and others.   Misogyny and homophobia are “evil twins,” which both have a root in sexism and devaluing things that are female, says Thorpe.

Like most kids, Thorpe was painfully sensitive to what made him different.  . . . . there were also almost no positive gay characters in the media. . . . few people openly talked about their homosexuality.   And when characters with “gay” mannerisms or voices appeared in popular culture, they were sometimes coded with negative or insidious meanings.

[H]omophobia still affects Hollywood. Many actors work to make their voices sound masculine: In the film, Bob Corff, a Hollywood speech therapist that Thorpe visits, says 20 to 50 people a year come to him to sound "less gay."

The biggest response to the film, Thorpe says, is people "standing up to talk about their own voices, their own stories, their own anxieties -- about aspects of themselves that are inherent to who they are, but for one reason or another, they’ve been taught to devalue."

I hope for the day when "sounding gay" simply does not matter - either to the speaker or the listeners.  Growing up gay was no bed of roses.  No one should grow up hating them self.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Donald Trump's Spousal Rape Disaster and the GOP War on Women

The Donald and ex-wife Ivana
Donald Trump continues to rile the GOP presidential candidate clown car but not in the way that The Donald may have envisioned.  Now, Trump finds himself akin to the insane GOP senate candidate who brought the term "legitimate rape" to the political discourse.   With the Daily Beast having issued a timely reminder that Ivana Trump accused her ex-husband of raping her in 1989 during her divorce deposition, Trump has unleashed debate on whether one can rape one's spouse.  Trump, of course, says that marital rape is an impossibility.   Talking Points Memo looks at the new attention being brought to the GOP view of women and their subordination to me.  Here are excerpts:
The Donald Trump news cycle is not ready to burn out yet, not while his lawyer, in a very Trump-like show of belligerence, told a reporter that spousal rape is legal when it most certainly is not. This week, the Daily Beast issued a timely reminder that Ivana Trump accused her ex-husband of raping her in 1989 during her divorce deposition. Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen denied this by arguing “she felt raped emotionally” but not criminally, whatever that means.

“You cannot rape your spouse,” and adding, in direct opposition to reality, “There’s very clear case law.”

Thankfully, the response so far to this story is public outrage—causing Trump’s lawyer to quasi-apologize—because most of us easily grasp that there is nothing even remotely okay about throwing your spouse down and forcing yourself on them, as Trump was alleged to have done. There’s even been some stunned disbelief that it took until 1993 for all 50 states to ban raping your spouse. But we shouldn’t be so surprised, as there are more than a few people out there who continue to argue that it still should be legal to rape your spouse. 

As Irin Carmon at writes, “There is a long history of conservative opposition to the very concept of marital rape, which is a fairly recent concept in law.” She cites conservative pundit Phyllis Schlafly, Virginia legislator Richard Black, and the infamous Missouri congressman Todd Akin, all criticizing bans on spousal rape. In most cases, they claim that they worry about the poor hypothetical husbands falsely accused by vindictive women during divorce proceedings.

But the fact that this attitude has a home in conservative circles shouldn’t really be a surprise. After all, resistance to the idea that all forced sex is rape is hardly limited to the question of spousal rape. Public discourse about sexual assault has been on the rise for years now, and the conservative punditry is still a reliable source of people spouting ignorance about rape that sounds more at home in some misogynist Internet forum than in supposedly mainstream media.

Like James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal playing the “rape is just drunk girls expressing regret” card. . . . . . Or George Will suggesting that a clear-cut case of rape can’t count because the victim willingly dated the rapist in the past.
While rape is on the extreme end of the spectrum, women’s basic right to bodily autonomy continues to be hotly controversial, with conservative forces mounting daily assaults on it. Giving women the right to say no to pregnancy is treated, in right wing circles, like it’s the harbinger of the apocalypse. 

The common theme here is that women’s bodies don’t belong to themselves. The red state abortion assaults conducted under the banner of “states rights” imply that women’s bodies belong to those states. The attacks on contraception coverage in your insurance suggest that women’s bodies belong to their employers. Hell, there’s even one Republican suing to strip his own daughters of birth control coverage, with the legal arguments unsubtly suggesting that those bodies belong not to them but Daddy. The grotesque rape apologist arguments made by conservatives range from suggesting that your date has a right to override your “no” to the idea that, if you drink or wear a short skirt, you have somehow become public property, for any rando to do with what he wishes. 

Trump’s role in the campaign is to take every gross conservative prejudice like this, and present it in its unvarnished, most grotesque form. It shouldn’t be a surprise that his team would pull the same stunt when it comes to communicating conservative hostility to female autonomy. 

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

The GOP's Massive Rebranding Failure

Remember how in the wake of their defeat in the 2012 presidential election many Republicans said that the party needed to re-brand and expand beyond its reactionary, aging white voter base?  Even Bobby Jindal who has now fully embraced stupidity in his ridiculous presidential campaign foray had said that the GOP had to stop being "the party of stupid."  Fast forward to today and one sees that absolutely nothing has changed in the GOP and that the so-called re-branding effort never went anywhere.  Indeed, in some ways the GOP seems even more insane and out of touch.  A piece in Salon looks at the failed effort.  Here are highlights:

A couple of weeks ago Univision released a poll that should have sent a piercing shiver of dread through the heart of every Republican who cares about the party’s long-term electoral health. The Spanish-language media outlet asked Latino voters whom they’d support in hypothetical match-ups between the leading Republican presidential candidates and Hillary Clinton, and the GOP’s best-performing candidate – Jeb Bush – did no better among Latinos than Mitt Romney did in 2012. The poll was a grim reminder that the GOP’s fits-and-starts attempts at “rebranding” have not succeeded at measurably improving its standing among one of the fastest growing electoral demographics in the country.

The flip side to the GOP’s problem with appealing to Latino voters is the rather intractable hostility its base shows toward undocumented immigrants. As Greg Sargent and others have pointed out, a new poll from CNN finds a huge gap between Republicans and the rest of the country when it comes to immigration policy. By a wide margin, 56-42, Americans believe the “focus” of U.S. immigration policy should be finding a way to provide some form of legal status for undocumented immigrants in the country. . . . other polling shows “a majority of Republicans does not think the undocumented should be allowed to live and work here even if they pay a fine and meet other requirements.”

This puts 2016 candidates in a difficult spot. The immigration agenda of Republicans in Congress – which is aggressively anti-immigrant and thoroughly unrealistic in its goals and implementation – lines up pretty well with the expectations of Republican base voters. 2016 GOP candidates will be under intense pressure to speak the language of the base on immigration . . . . Doing so will help perpetuate the party’s decline with Latino voters and alienate the other large segments of the electorate that favor a more moderate approach to immigration. There is no good option, which explains why some candidates are trying – and failing – to play both sides.

Hillary Clinton Unveils Far Reaching Climate Change Plan

While the flat earth Republicans continue to deny that climate change is occurring much less that mankind is playing a role in creating the problem, Hillary Clinton has unveiled a proposed plan to address climate change that includes far reaching changes.  It goes without saying that the knuckle dragging, spittle flecked masses of the core GOP base will assail the plan, but one can hope that Democrats and independents will view the plan as proof that they need to embrace the future and Democrats rather than the failed policies of the past so loved by the GOP base.  Another piece in the New York Times looks at the policy announcement.  Here are excerpts:
Setting ambitious goals for producing energy from the sun, wind and other renewable sources, Hillary Rodham Clinton seized on an issue Monday that increasingly resonates with Democratic voters and sets up a stark contrast with the Republican presidential field.

With many Republican candidates saying they do not believe that climate change is a threat or requires government intervention, Mrs. Clinton assailed their logic, saying, “The reality of climate change is unforgiving no matter what the deniers say.”

She set a goal to produce 33 percent of the nation’s electricity from renewable sources by 2027, up from 7 percent today — a higher goal than the 20 percent that President Obama has called for by 2030.

Mrs. Clinton’s strategists see climate change as a winning issue for 2016. They believe it is a cause she can advance to win over deep-pocketed donors and liberal activists in the nominating campaign, where she is facing Democratic challengers to her left on the issue. It is also one that can be a weapon against Republicans in a general election. Polls show that a majority of voters support candidates who pledge policy action on the warming climate.

The Clinton campaign emphasized that her targets cleared a bar set last week by the billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, who spent $74 million on political races in 2014. He announced that for candidates to receive his support in 2016, they must offer policies that would lead the nation to generate half its electricity from clean sources by 2030, and 100 percent by 2050. 

Just as liberal Democrats have tried to pull Mrs. Clinton to the left on economic issues, environmental groups have sought stronger statements from her opposing hydraulic fracturing, oil trains and drilling in the Arctic.

Anti-Keystone protesters have greeted Mrs. Clinton on the campaign trail in New Hampshire and even outside a May fund-raiser for her at Mr. Steyer’s home in San Francisco overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.

“Hillary Clinton is just half the way there,” said Bill McKibben, head of the group, which has led the grass-roots movement calling for Mr. Obama to reject the Keystone pipeline. “This is a credible commitment to renewable energy, and a recognition that the economics of electricity are changing fast. Now, we need Clinton to show she understands the other half of the climate change equation — and prove she has the courage to stand up against fossil fuel projects like offshore and Arctic drilling, coal leasing in the Powder River basin, and the Keystone XL pipeline.”

Her campaign put the cost of her clean electricity initiatives at about $60 billion over 10 years, which it said would be offset by ending tax breaks for oil and gas producers.   “We’ll stop the giveaways to big oil companies and extend, instead, tax incentives for clean energy, while making them more cost-effective for both taxpayers and producers,” Mrs. Clinton said.

A January poll conducted by The New York Times, Stanford University and Resources for the Future found that two-thirds of Americans said they were more likely to vote for political candidates who campaign on fighting climate change.

“This issue now polls better than any other issue for Democrats,” said Paul Bledsoe, a former top climate change official in the Clinton administration. “It’s in Clinton’s interest to talk about the issue, both for primary voters and to highlight Republican vulnerabilities in the general election.”

Boy Scouts End Ban of Gay Leaders - But With a Caveat

As expected, the Boy Scouts of America organization has officially ended its ban on openly gay scout leaders.  However, the policy change has an exception in it so broad that a 18 wheeler can be driven through it: troops sponsored by conservative, anti-gay churches are free to select their own leaders and, thereby continue the ban.  Even with this glaring wink and nod to bigots, the Mormon Church and some in the Southern Baptist Convention have threatened to withdraw from the Boy Scouts.  As always, religious based hatred and discrimination were sadly allowed to win the day.  To the Christofascists and Mormon Church leadership, LGBT individuals remain less than human and targets for hate.  A piece in the New York Times looks at this half-way end of the anti-gay ban.  Here are highlights:

The Boy Scouts of America on Monday ended its nationwide ban on openly gay adult leaders. But despite a compromise allowing conservative church-sponsored units to pick their own volunteer leaders, the Mormon Church, the country’s largest sponsor of Scout units, said it might leave the organization.

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is deeply troubled by today’s vote by the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board,” said a statement issued by the Mormon Church moments after the Scouts announced the new policy. . . . “When the leadership of the church resumes its regular schedule of meetings in August, the century-long association with scouting will need to be examined.”

Mormons use the Boy Scouts as their main nonreligious activity for boys, and the Cub Scout and Boy Scout units they sponsor accounted for 17 percent of all youths in scouting in 2013, the last year for which data have been published. 

" . . . the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America.”

Under the Boy Scout policy adopted Monday, discrimination based on sexual orientation will also be barred in all Boy Scout offices and for all paid jobs — a step that could head off looming lawsuits in New York, Colorado and other states that prohibit such discrimination in employment.

In an effort to avoid the wholesale defection of conservative religious groups, the Boy Scouts said church-based local units would remain free to exclude gay adults from voluntary leadership roles like scoutmasters and Cub Scout den and pack leaders.

The Scouts’ volunteer national president, Robert M. Gates, a former secretary of defense, gave an urgent warning in May that because of cascading social and legal changes, the organization had no choice but to end its discriminatory policy.

Some conservative evangelical churches have ended ties with the Boy Scouts since the 2013 decision to admit openly gay youths. Total national enrollment of youths, which had declined by a few percentage points in many prior years, fell by 6 percent in 2013 and by 7 percent in 2014, to 2.4 million.

Scouting executives hope that with Monday’s change they can renew ties with corporate donors, schools and public agencies and attract parents who had steered their children away from scouting because of the policy.

“Moving forward, we will continue to focus on reaching and serving youth, helping them to grow into good, strong citizens,” said the statement Monday from the Boy Scouts.   The toughest challenge, Scout leaders say, may be to capture the time and enthusiasm of today’s increasingly urban, diverse and over-scheduled youths.