Saturday, February 06, 2016

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

The Right Baits the Left to Turn Against Hillary

I admit that I like some of Bernie Sanders' proposals - especially a single payer national health program which would put America among other advanced nations and likely slash healthcare costs in the long run - but I still worry about his electability.  Apparently the GOP and the right wing also doubt that he could win in a general election and hence their insidious efforts to turn Democrats and liberals against Hillary Clinton.  Yes, they hate Hillary and have done so for many years, but their calculation appears to be that she'd be more difficult to defeat in November.  The last thing we need is a GOP victory in November!  A piece in the New York Times looks the right's agenda.  Here are highlights that ought to make progressives and liberals take pause and not allow themselves to be played for fools by right :

“You expect different from a Clinton?” one person responded on Twitter. And from another: “Did you need another reason not to vote for Hillary Clinton?” Lost in the response was the source of the offending tweet. It was not another environmental organization or even a liberal challenger to Mrs. Clinton. Instead, it was a conservative group called America Rising PAC, which is trying, with laserlike focus, to weaken the woman who almost everyone believes will be the Democratic Party’s candidate for president in 2016.

For months now, America Rising has sent out a steady stream of posts on social media attacking Mrs. Clinton, some of them specifically designed to be spotted, and shared, by liberals. The posts highlight critiques of her connections to Wall Street and the Clinton Foundation and feature images of Democrats like Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, interspersed with cartoon characters and pictures of Kevin Spacey, who plays the villain in “House of Cards.” And as they are read and shared, an anti-Clinton narrative is reinforced.

America Rising is not the only conservative group attacking Mrs. Clinton from the left. Another is American Crossroads, the group started by Karl Rove, which has been sending out its own digital content, including one ad using a speech Ms. Warren gave at the New Populism Conference in Washington last May.

Information travels at warp speed on social media, it is sometimes difficult to know where that information comes from, and most people like to read things with which they agree. The result, said Ken Goldstein, a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco who specializes in political advertising, is something more sophisticated.

The tactic is making for some awkward moments online. The A.F.L.-C.I.O. sent to its more than 60,000 followers an America Rising tweet praising its president, Richard L. Trumka, for a speech that was seen as challenging Mrs. Clinton on economic issues, only to take it down a few hours later, saying it was a mistake.
Laura Hart Cole of Verbank, N.Y., whose father, Philip A. Hart, was a senator from Michigan and a liberal icon, was shocked to learn that she had, like Mr. McKibben, shared the meme from America Rising on Twitter. Republican groups, she said, “have a history of sleazy tactics.” 

Conservative strategists and operatives say they are simply filling a vacuum on the far left, as well as applying the lesson they learned in 2012, when they watched in frustration as Mitt Romney was forced to expend time and resources in a protracted primary fight.

Few Republicans are more familiar with that nightmare than Matt Rhoades, who was Mr. Romney’s campaign manager. He founded America Rising . . . . The group’s original goal was to compete with American Bridge, the Democratic opposition research group, but its focus under Mr. Rhoades has been to subject Mrs. Clinton to an ordeal similar to Mr. Romney’s.

“The idea is to make her life difficult in the primary and challenge her from the left,” said Colin Reed, America Rising’s executive director. “We don’t want her to enter the general election not having been pushed from the left, so if we have opportunities — creative ways, especially online — to push her from the left, we’ll do it just to show those folks who she needs to turn out that she’s not in line with them.”

Steven Law, president of American Crossroads, said the goal was simply to erode what should be her natural core of support.

“It can diminish enthusiasm for Hillary among the base over time,” he said. “And if you diminish enthusiasm, lukewarm support can translate into lackluster fund-raising and perhaps diminished turnout down the road.

This year, Zac Moffatt, a co-founder of Targeted Victory, a right-leaning political technology firm, who handled Mr. Romney’s digital operation and has worked with groups like America Rising and American Crossroads, laid out the strategy in a memo to several clients.

Other groups are also using micro-targeted advertising to inject their content into the Facebook and Twitter news feeds of “liberal Democrats,” environmentalists and declared supporters of Ms. Warren, among others.

And even some of those unhappy with Mrs. Clinton, like Joel Gombiner of Brooklyn — who posted the “Did you need another reason?” response to the Twitter message shared by Mr. McKibben — think the conservative groups may be outsmarting themselves.

“They view this as a means of weakening the Democratic Party and weakening the chance in a presidential election,” said Mr. Gombiner, 26. But “that’s the whole point of a democracy, that the arguments make you stronger.”

My response?  I think I will put a Hillary bumper sticker on my car this morning.  Anything involving Karl Rove, et al, cannot be good for America.

Virginia House Republicans Effectively Kills Pro-Gay Bills

Once again gay friendly bills that would have protected LGBT Virginians have been effectively killed by Republicans in the House of Delegates.  Thus, gays can marry on Saturday and be fired on Monday because of their sexual orientation - a situation that no doubt warms the ice cold heart of Victoria Cobb and her fellow hate merchants at The Family Foundation, one of the foulest organizations in Virginia.  The only good news is that the same committee tabled anti-gay bills as well, apparently seeking to shield House Republicans from having to take a recorded vote that could come back to haunt them in 2017.  The irony is that a vast majority of Virginians support non-discrimination protections for LGBT Virginians - many don't realize they do not exist in Virginia - as do Virginia's leading businesses.  But sadly, the power of the Christofascists in the Virginia GOP has not been broken and hate, bigotry and the embrace of ignorance remain the hallmarks of the party.  Metro Weekly looks at the wrongs done to LGBT Virginians yesterday.  Here are highlights (when is the media going to stop using the euphemism "social conservatives" and call these people out for what they are, the Christian Taliban?):
A Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee voted 5-2, along party lines, to table a number of LGBT-related bills this week, shuffling them off to the Code Commission for further review and analysis.

The move, which was done for eight bills, regardless of whether they espoused a pro-equality or anti-equality viewpoint, allows lawmakers in the Republican-dominated House to avoid taking a firm position on LGBT issues for the rest of the 2016 session. 

Voting to table the bills and send them on to the Code Commission also allows Republican lawmakers to placate social conservatives who demand that all Republicans adhere to anti-gay orthodoxy while also giving them political cover by avoiding an on-the-record vote that could prove unpopular with a general electorate or a majority of their constituents. Polls have consistently shown that super-majorities of Virginians support nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people. 

Among the bills that were sent to the Code Commission and are not likely to be brought up for the remainder of this year’s legislative session were six bills granting protections in public employment, private employment, housing and public accommodations, as well as a measure that would have banned the practice of LGBT conversion therapy on minors.

From the anti-gay side, the subcommittee also referred to the Code Commission two bills submitted by Delegates Bob Marshall (R-Manassas, Manassas Park, Sudley, Bull Run) and Dave LaRock (R-Hamilton, Lovettsville, Berryville) that attempt to define gender in terms of biological sex only. Marshall’s bill seeks to nullify any pro-LGBT federal policies, rules or regulations dealing with discrimination that were either passed or came into effect after Jan. 1, 2012. LaRock’s bill seeks to prohibit the commonwealth or any subdivisions from adopting policies that treat gender identity discrimination as sex discrimination, regardless of any federal ruling on the issue.

These delegates refuse to acknowledge what the majority of Virginia has long believed: protecting LGBT Virginians is not only the right thing to do, but it’s what is best for the overall success of the commonwealth.

“Our hope now is the broad Republican support in the Senate will provide the bipartisan support needed to properly and accurately represent Virginia’s people and the Code Commission will take these issues into serious consideration in the upcoming year,” added Parrish.

The House subcommittee also approved two other bills from Marshall and Del. Mark Cole (R-Fredericksburg, Hartwood, Remington), respectively, putting them up for consideration by the full committee, and, later, potentially the full House.

Marshall’s approved bill seeks to circumvent and overturn several school board policies — such as ones that passed this past year in Fairfax and Arlington counties — that prohibit discrimination against LGBT students, staff, teachers or other employees. Marshall’s bill would explicitly bind the hands of school boards from passing any such policy unless the General Assembly had passed a similar policy. 

Cole’s bill, meanwhile, directly targets transgender restroom use in public facilities in any government building or school in the commonwealth. Under the bill, transgender people would only be allowed to use the restroom consistent with their biological sex. The bill would also make it harder for schools to provide alternatives to restrooms or changing facilities for transgender students. Cole’s bill received much criticism, particularly in its initial form, which was interpreted as potentially requiring teachers and administrators to check students’ genitals before allowing them to use the bathroom.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Dedicated to Virginia House Republicans

Virginia, Like Indiana Still Hasn’t Learned Its Lesson

As detailed in my upcoming February column in VEER Magazine, this year's General Assembly session has seen a raft of anti-gay, anti-transgender bills introduced by Republicans.  As is the norm with Republicans, the misogyny is cloaked as protecting "religious freedom."  Thankfully, Gov. McAuliffe has promised to veto the bills should they make it out of the legislature.  Pro-gay bills were introduced by Democrats and two have actually passed the Virginia Senate with 6 Republicans supporting them.  Sadly, the bills will likely be killed in the Republican controlled House of Delegates.  As a piece in The Advocate argues, Indiana hasn't learned from its religious freedom bill debacle last year.  The same argument applies to Virginia Republicans.  Here are article excerpts:

In one, foul sweeping gesture of rejection, the Indiana legislature this week killed our best chance of securing equal protections for LGBT Hoosiers this year. The bill, SB 344, was a measure that, while flawed in its current incarnation — with amendments advocates were working to insert — would have prohibited discrimination at the state level.  Indiana lawmakers’ unwillingness to move this bill through the legislative process reflects a special kind of stubbornness. They have not learned from last year, when the prospect of a law that would open the door to discrimination against LGBT Hoosiers unleashed backlash that the state is still feeling today.
Last year, the fight played out in plain sight of the entire nation. Governor Mike Pence and the Indiana legislature passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) bill, which would allow someone to claim that their religion gives them a right to undermine nondiscrimination laws. Prominent allies like Salesforce, the NCAA, Angie’s List, Gen Con, and others spoke up and said that discrimination against LGBT people was not only wrong but bad for business. Some even said they would stop investment in Indiana. 

The national pressure forced lawmakers’ hands into adding a welcomed (though incomplete) “fix” that said the RFRA couldn’t be used to discriminate against LGBT Hoosiers in housing, employment, and public accommodations.

The climate was tense but a victory of sorts was won. For the first time, the majority of the country, including the business community, was united in saying that discrimination against LGBT people is wrong and we must put a stop to it. Better yet, the country was vocally on our side.

[C]ome the 2016 legislative session, lawmakers were angry they had lost both on the RFRA and marriage equality fronts. Perhaps they thought the country wasn’t watching this time. Whatever the reason, rather than moving forward in the direction of the nation and in line with the majority of their constituents and businesses, they introduced “non-discrimination” bills riddled with carve-outs, . . .

There was renewed hope that perhaps an affirmative non-discrimination bill would at long last prevail. SB 344 passed out of committee hours later. Unfortunately, it didn’t go far.

To the rest of the country, may they heed the lessons learned from Indiana and know that we’re watching and assuming ready position. At the end of the day, all we’re fighting for is a fair playing field, one in which everyone can pursue a life of their choosing free from discrimination.  
 Here in Virginia expect a reprise of Indiana's preference for hate and bigotry rather than equality for all citizens.

Why Marco Rubio is Not a Moderate

One of the biggest problems with politics today is the mainstream media's refusal to ask hard questions, engage in investigative journalism  such as that displayed in the movie Spotlight, and do more that simply mouthing the lies and extremism coming out of the mouths of politicians, especially Republicans.  Equally dangerous is the media's preference to jump on a story line and move it forward regardless of whether or not it bears any resemblance to the truth and/or reality.  Had the media done its job, the Iraq War and all the disasters that it precipitated could have been avoided.  As a piece in Salon points out, another case in point is the myth that Marco Rubio is a moderate Republican.  He's not, yet the media continues to support the lie.  Here are column highlights:

The press wrote this script a very long time ago: Senator Marco Rubio could become the favored establishment candidate in the Republican Party primary as party elites search for answers to the insurgent campaigns of outsiders Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz.

That note has been hit especially hard in the press since the Trump circus arrived on the campaign trail last summer: The GOP is hoping for a tempered, pragmatic savior who can appeal to mainstream voters and help Republicans avoid disaster come November.

But what happens when the facts change but the script does not? What happens when a so-called Establishment candidate like Rubio starts espousing ugly, divisive rhetoric that’s synonymous with the darker regions of Fox News and the Republican Party? What happens when he adopts radical policy positions that just years ago would have been seen as borderline even for AM talk radio? (i.e. Outlawing abortions even for victims of rape and incest.)

I don’t think there’s any doubt that, overall, Rubio has benefited from very generous press coverage. Whether it’s the sweeping conclusion that he’s a “charismatic” communicator, the media happily running with his campaign’s spin that it essentially won in Iowa by finishing third, or the press’ steadfast refusal to delve deeply into the senator’s questionable finances, . . .

To me, establishment sounds like a placeholder for “moderate.” And in the case of Rubio, that’s a complete myth.

By placing the Florida senator in that wider establishment lane, pundits and reporters seem to suggest that he’s somehow part of a pragmatic Republican wing (does that even exist?) that practices common sense conservatism; that he’s separate and above those outlier disrupters like Trump and Cruz who embrace more political chaos.

But just because an extremist coats his divisiveness in “optimistic” language, doesn’t mean the campaign press should play along and portray him as something he’s clearly not.

A unifier? Rubio walked away from his one stab at establishment legislating with the immigration reform bill that he, as part of the Gang of Eight, helped shepherd through Congress. But quickly finding himself out step with a rabid Republican base that’s adopted anti-immigration as its defining litmus test, Rubio sprinted so far to the right on this issue that not only does he oppose his own reform proposal, he’s connecting the issue to the rise of ISIS.

As for Rubio’s potential appeal to young voters and moderates, a central part of the media’s establishment narrative, the senator’s increasingly right-wing agenda certainly raises doubts.
Rubio opposes expanding background checks for gun owners, even though 90 percent of Americans support the measure, as do an overwhelming majority of gun owners and even NRA members. He opposes marriage equality and “believes some kinds of businesses, like wedding photography, should be allowed to turn away gay customers.” He doesn’t want to increase the minimum wage (even though he thinks it’s currently too low). He doesn’t believe in climate change.
From PolitiFact [emphasis added]:
Rubio will support anti-abortion legislation that includes an exception for rape and incest, but he prefers that the procedure be illegal even in cases of rape and incest.
There may still be an establishment candidate lurking in the Republican field who can try to save the party from its own extremism, but based on the media’s apparent definition of Establishment, Rubio isn’t that person.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

More Thursday Male Beauty

White America’s Nervous Breakdown

Much of the insanity of the current presidential campaign contest on both sides of the political aisle stems from white American's facing up to the changing demographics sweeping the country and the horrific betrayal of the middle class by an economic system increasingly stacked in favor of the 1% that has sucked up all of the increased wealth over the last few decades.  On the Republican side, the candidates are cynically - as has become the GOP norm - using racism, nativism, and right wing Christian religious extremism to dupe angry Americans into supporting policies that will only make wealth disparities worse, not better.  On the Democrat side, the battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders is about how to right the wrongs done to the middle class, rebuild the nation's infrastructure, and end the scandal of America's still inadequate health care system.  A piece in the New York Times looks at this internal debate and conflict.  Here are excerpts:
[F]ormer President Bill Clinton . . . . attributed much of the anger that’s present in the electorate to anxiety over a changing demographic profile of the country, but then said: We are going to share the future. The only question is: What will be the terms of the sharing?

This idea of negotiating the terms of sharing the future is an expansive one, on both ends of the ideological spectrum, but it also seems to me to be an internal debate white America is having with itself.
Much of the energy on both the left and the right this cycle is coming from white Americans who are rejecting the direction of America and its institutions. There is a profound disappointment. On one hand, it’s about fear of dislocation of supremacy, and the surrendering of power and the security it provides. On the other hand, it’s about disillusionment that the game is rigged and the turf is tilted. It is about defining who created this country’s bounty and who has most benefited from it.

White America is wrestling with itself, torn between two increasingly distant visions and philosophies . . . . 

America has a gauzy, romanticized version of its history that is largely fiction. According to that mythology, America rose to greatness by sheer ruggedness, ingenuity and hard work. It ignores or sidelines the tremendous human suffering of African slaves that fueled that financial growth, and the blood spilled and dubious treaties signed with Native Americans that fueled its geographic growth. It ignores that the prosperity of some Americans always hinged on the oppression of other Americans.

Much of America’s past is the story of white people benefiting from a system that white people designed and maintained, which increased their chances of success as it suppressed those same chances in other groups. Those systems persist to this day in some disturbing ways, but the current, vociferous naming and challenging of those systems, the placing of the lamp of truth near the seesaw of privilege and oppression, has provoked a profound sense of discomfort and even anger.

Indeed, the current urgency about inequality as an issue is really about how some white Americans are coming to live an experience that many minorities in this country have long lived — structural inequity has leapt the racial barrier — and that the legacy to which they fully assumed they were heirs is increasingly beyond their grasp.

Inequality has been a feature of the African-American condition in this country since the first black feet touched this ground.

Last month, the MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes tweeted: “This campaign is starting to feel more and more like a long, national nervous breakdown.” For white America, I believe this is true.

Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice Also Used Private E-mail

While it annoys me to no end that Hillary Clinton set her self up for the ongoing e-mail "scandal" - if she knew she was going to run for president why give the Republicans a toe hold? - I have always suspected that others have similarly utilized private e-mail while holding the position of Secretary of State or similarly sensitive positions.  Now, my suspicions have been confirmed by a piece at MSNBC that lays details of out how both Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice utilized private e-mail while conducting official business during their tenure under the Bush/Cheney regime.  The take away?  The Congressional Republicans and GOP presidential candidates are using Hillary's shortsightedness to fuel a political witch hunt.  Here are highlights:
When the political world’s interest in Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails was near its peak, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza defended the media’s fascination with the story. “Democrats, ask yourself this,” Cillizza wrote in August. “If this was a former [Republican Secretary of State] and his/her private e-mail server, would it be a ‘non-story’?”
As a rule, I continue to believe that’s a smart way for political observers to look at every story. If the situations were reversed, how would you react to a controversy? If the accusations targeted someone you detest, as opposed to someone you like, would you see the story as legitimate?
Cillizza’s question wasn’t really a hypothetical. We learned nearly a year ago from a Politico article that former Secretary of State Colin Powell “also used a personal email account” during his State Department tenure. Several months later, MSNBC found that Powell conducted official business from his personal email account managed through his personal laptop.
“But wait,” Clinton’s critics in the media and Republican circles protest, “what about emails that were later deemed to include sensitive information?” NBC News reports today that both of the Bush/Cheney-era Secretaries of State fall into the same category.
State Department officials have determined that classified information was sent to the personal email accounts of former Secretary of State Colin Powell and the senior staff of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, NBC News has learned. […]
In a letter to Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy dated Feb. 3, State Department Inspector General Steve Linick said that the State Department has determined that 12 emails examined from State’s archives contained national security information now classified “Secret” or “Confidential.” The letter was read to NBC News.
 None of this is to suggest Powell or Rice’s office is guilty of wrongdoing.
The political salience of news like this, however, is that Clinton’s critics would like voters to believe she’s at the center of some damaging “scandal” because of her approach to email management. These new details suggest Clinton’s practices were fairly common, and unless Republicans and the media are prepared to start condemning Powell and Rice with equal vigor – an unlikely scenario – it’s starting to look like this entire line of attack lacks merit.
Or as the NBC News report put it, the new findings “show that past secretaries of state and senior officials used personal accounts to conduct government business and occasionally allowed secrets to spill into the insecure traffic.”
As for Chris Cillizza’s question – if were talking about a former Republican Secretary of State, would it be a “non-story” – it would appear the answer is, “Yep.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, said in a statement this morning, “Based on this new revelation, it is clear that the Republican investigations [into Clinton’s emails] are nothing more than a transparent political attempt to use taxpayer funds to target the Democratic candidate for president.”  

Thursday Morning Male Beauty