Saturday, January 23, 2016

Bloomberg Revisit Possible White House Run

As if the presidential contests on both sides of the aisle are not unpredictable and turbulent enough, now Michael Bloomberg is said to be reconsidering a run for the White House as an independent.  Like Trump, Bloomberg could largely self-fun his campaign and would offer a far more sane option than Donald Trump or Ted Cruz should they win the GOP nomination.  Bloomberg's decision may hinge on whether or not Hillary Clinton reorder her campaign and look to be a sure victor over a Trump or Cruz candidacy.   Were Bloomberg to run and win, the political calculus in Washington, D.C., would be definitely scrambled.  The New York Times looks at Boomberg's rethinking of an independent run.  Here are excerpts:

Michael R. Bloomberg has instructed advisers to draw up plans for a potential independent campaign in this year’s presidential race. His advisers and associates said he was galled by Donald J. Trump’s dominance of the Republican field, and troubled by Hillary Clinton’s stumbles and the rise of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont on the Democratic side.

Mr. Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, has in the past contemplated running for the White House on a third-party ticket, but always concluded he could not win. A confluence of unlikely events in the 2016 election, however, has given new impetus to his presidential aspirations.

Mr. Bloomberg, 73, has already taken concrete steps toward a possible campaign, and has indicated to friends and allies that he would be willing to spend at least $1 billion of his fortune on it, . . . He has set a deadline for making a final decision in early March, the latest point at which advisers believe Mr. Bloomberg could enter the race and still qualify to appear as an independent candidate on the ballot in all 50 states.

His aides have sketched out a version of a campaign plan that would have the former mayor, a low-key and cerebral personality, give a series of detailed policy speeches backed by an intense television advertising campaign. The ads would introduce him to voters around the country as a technocratic problem-solver and self-made businessman who understands the economy and who built a bipartisan administration in New York.

Mr. Bloomberg would face daunting and perhaps insurmountable obstacles in a presidential campaign: No independent candidate has ever been elected to the White House, and Mr. Bloomberg’s close Wall Street ties and liberal social views, including his strong support for abortion rights and gun control, could repel voters on the left and right.

But his possible candidacy also underscores the volatility of a presidential race that could be thrown into further turmoil by a wild-card candidate like Mr. Bloomberg.

If Republicans were to nominate Mr. Trump or Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a hard-line conservative, and Democrats chose Mr. Sanders, Mr. Bloomberg — who changed his party affiliation to independent in 2007 — has told allies he would be likely to run.

“Mike Bloomberg for president rests on the not-impossible but somewhat unlikely circumstance of either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz versus Bernie Sanders,” said Mr. Rendell, a close ally of Mrs. Clinton’s who is also a friend of Mr. Bloomberg’s. “If Hillary wins the nomination, Hillary is mainstream enough that Mike would have no chance, and Mike’s not going to go on a suicide mission.”

In a three-way race featuring Mr. Sanders and Mr. Bloomberg, Mr. Rendell said he might back the former New York mayor.

Setting a March deadline for making a decision allows Mr. Bloomberg to see how Mrs. Clinton and the more mainstream Republican candidates fare in the early primaries. And because of his vast wealth, there is no downside in laying the groundwork for a possible campaign, even if he ultimately decides against it.

Even a victory by Mrs. Clinton in the Democratic primaries might not preclude a bid by Mr. Bloomberg, his associates said, if he believed she had been gravely weakened by the contest.

The next ten months will be most interesting.

More Saturday Male Beauty

The Emotional/Psychological Pain of Living in the Closet

I am often asked how I managed to stay in the closet for 37 years, especially when questioners learn that I have three children (and now grandchildren).  It is hard to explain and convey to people the lengths that one will go to deceive themselves as to the reality of one's sexual orientation.  Living in the closet is a life of deception, but first and foremost deception of one's self.  The motivation, of course, is to avoid rejection by friends and family and often religious based brainwashing.  The irony is, however, that even as one goes through all sorts of mental gyrations to deny reality, in your heart you know the truth.  Especially when it comes to falling in love with someone of the same gender and never being able to tell them your feelings because you don't want to lose their friendship.   A piece I came across in Queerty reminded me of the heartache and pain the closet entails and how too may young LGBT individuals never get to have normal teen years with love and romance.   Here are highlights:
[W]hat happens when that puppy dog crush doesn’t find its natural closure early on? It must happen all the time. Grade school becomes high school. High school graduates to college, and all those secret feelings stay red hot beneath the surface, always wanting to erupt but knowing better than to ruin the deep and meaningful friendship cultivated over the years. 

At 14, John (we’ll call him John) met a boy who would become his best friend, and so much more. “I spent many sleepless nights wondering why everything had to turn out this way, it crushed me every time I thought about it,” he writes. “Over the course of the rest of high school my feelings of love gradually faded to where I could think of him as a brother, rather than someone I lusted for, although it wasn’t easy.”

Now both 18 and attending separate colleges, John knew he had to reveal two secrets — two coming outs — to his friend. Telling someone “I’m gay” is one thing, but “I’m gay and have secretly been in love with you” is a whole other bag.

“Most of the reason I decided I had to quell these feelings was because he has a girlfriend whom he is committed to and I didn’t want to cause them any disrespect through my actions, words, or thoughts. I cared for him and wanted him to be happy and to do that I wanted to ensure that his relationship with his girlfriend was unadulterated from my feelings towards him.”

But the moment had arrived. John built up his courage and managed to come out to his friend, leaving out the bit about being in love with him. Baby steps.

“I was euphoric. He began to ask me what I looked for in a guy, how long I’ve felt this way, just everything. To finally be able to tell how I felt and discuss it with someone who cares was something I had never experienced before in respect to sexuality. It really sucks having to bottle it up as so many of us have done or are currently doing. As I described to him what my ideal guy would look like, he asked me if I thought he was attractive because my description very closely matched someone with his characteristics. I said yes.”

That’s when the whole truth spilled out — the years of silent agony, the longing and the lust.  He said that he doesn’t hate me for feeling that way, rather he was flattered that I cared about him that much…

He holds nothing against me and doesn’t treat me any differently than he did before, he even said he wouldn’t mind sharing a bed with me again. He reaffirmed my belief that a true friend doesn’t care whether or not you like dick or pussy, nor will they hold your feelings against you. I love this guy with every fiber of my being for giving me the best relationship of my life so far.”
Even while striving to convince myself that I was straight, I had my crushes over the years.  However, I never expressed my feelings.  In some cases, I know my feelings would have been viewed with horror and that the target of my feelings perhaps were not true friends.  In others, I continue to wonder at times "what if I had told him?"  I do know this, the love I felt was real and the heartache and pain was terrible.

Russian Anxiety Rises as Oil Prices Collapse

Vladimir Putin pictures himself as Russia's new Tsar yet seemingly hasn't learned the lessons of what happened to the real tsars at times when the economy went to hell and foreign wars no longer distract the populous from the inept management of the country.  With the price of oil having plunged further this past week, Russia's oil revenue based government budget is seeing huge deficits and the Russian people are seeing benefits and services slashed.  In the past when the ruling regime has not been able to continue to meet expectations of improving living standards, governments, both tsarist and communist have fallen.  The New York Times looks at the situation which one can only hope may hasten Putin's rule.   As has been the case too often over the centuries, the Russian people have been betrayed by a failed leader who has plunder the country along with his cronies.  Here are article highlights:    

The global collapse in oil prices is reordering economic relations around the world, but the change is particularly daunting for Russia, which relies on energy exports for 50 percent of its federal budget.

In December, President Vladimir V. Putin told the nation that the worst of the recession — the economy shrank 3.9 percent and inflation hit 12.9 percent in 2015 — was over and that modest growth would return in 2016. He has been pushing the oil collapse as an “opportunity” that will wean Russia off energy imports and diversify the economy.

Then in January oil fell below $30 per barrel, with no bottom in sight, and the ruble hit a record low of nearly 85 to the dollar before recovering slightly.

The last time oil prices dropped so low and stayed there, in the 1980s, the Soviet Union disintegrated. Steadily rising prices since 2000 have lifted Russia out of poverty and economic chaos, buoying the prosperity of many Russians with it. Mr. Putin was lucky enough to be president for much of that period, but he now faces an extended decline, with real incomes shrinking.

With the federal budget approved in December based on oil at $50 a barrel, Anton Siluanov, the finance minister, announced that the country faced a budget deficit of about $40 billion, and ministries were ordered to cut spending 10 percent. Budgets were similarly guillotined last year.

Food prices rose 20 percent last year, according to official statistics, but often Russians say their grocery tab is up by a third or more, thanks in part to sanctions Moscow slapped on Western food imports in retaliation for sanctions the West imposed over Ukraine.

“Nobody is starving yet, but incomes are definitely down,” he said, noting that homes are colder, that neighbors turn on just two lamps after dark where they once used five and that people have stopped buying new clothes. Retail sales across Russia were down by 13.1 percent for the year ending in November, according to official statistics, with car sales off nearly 40 percent.

Albeit poorer, Russia remains a petro state, so there are pockets of plenty. Rolls-Royce reported a 5 percent jump in sales last year, the rich splurging as the value of their assets nose-dived.

Others just seemed oblivious. Moscow’s City Hall advertised for tenders for its banquets, noting that menu items should include foie gras and Parma ham (which is banned elsewhere in Russia because of sanctions).

 Social media erupted in mocking resentment. One Russian quoted a famous line by the Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovski from the 1917 revolution, “Eat pineapples, munch your grouse!” and left unstated the second line, “Your last day is coming, bourgeois!”

Russian involvement in wars in Ukraine and Syria has swelled the general whirlpool of anxiety, with the possibility of a global war discussed on state-run television. Some analysts accuse the Kremlin of deliberately seeking overseas adventures to distract people from domestic economic woes.

Some residents, like Mr. Titov, groused that the wealth was being wasted on prestige projects rather than helping ordinary people. Still, he does not expect Russians to sour on Mr. Putin any time soon. In nearby Sochi, Russia spent around $50 billion to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, and a similar construction juggernaut is building stadiums nationwide for the 2018 World Cup.

“The Russian people got what they wanted, a czar ruling the country,” he said of Mr. Putin. “What we need is an effective manager, but what we got is the Olympics, soccer and war.”
In 1913 the Romanov dynasty lavishly celebrated its three hundredth - four years later the dynasty was overthrown.  Is Mr. Putin paying attention or is he too busy envisioning himself as a combination of Napoleon and Hitler?

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Panic Grips Clinton Campaign

While things on the GOP side of the aisle in presidential campaigns can only be described as insane, on the Democrat side, there is unexpected turmoil and Hillary Clinton's cake walk to the party nomination is seemingly burned to a crisp.  The result is what some describe as panic in the Clinton campaign as attempts are made to figure out what went wrong.  Here are highlights from one piece that argues that Hillary's problems stem from her own actions and bad choices, both past  - e.g., the freaking private e-mail server - and present:
Panic now grips the Clinton campaign. Polls show Bernie Sanders surging to a dramatic lead in New Hampshire and closing in Iowa. The Washington Post reports that Hillary's national numbers are dropping faster now than they did in 2008. The Clinton campaign has started throwing everything and the kitchen sink at Sanders, with the gutter award captured, thus far, by Senator Claire McCaskill who smeared him with the "hammer and sickle," transparently attributing the red-baiting to future Republican attacks of her own imagination.

But the question isn't what's wrong with Bernie -- he's soaring beyond all expectations. The question is what's wrong with Hillary? She has universal name recognition, unparalleled experience, the support of the big money and the political gatekeepers, the Hollywood glitz, the best political operatives, the pollsters, the ad makers, the establishment policy mavens, and political press coverage. Having learned from 2008, she's got the best ground operation in the history of Iowa caucuses that still may rescue her there. But she's sinking rapidly against a 73-year-old political maverick who is still just introducing himself to the American people.

Already the inevitable Clinton circular firing squad has begun firing its salvos: We should have gone negative on Bernie earlier. We should have used Bill more... or less. We shouldn't have bet the house on the first four primaries. Woulda, shoulda, coulda.

Inevitably, any Clinton campaign carries a lot of baggage that simply has to be overcome. . . . What is plaguing the Clinton campaign are less the sins of the past than the strategic choices of the present -- particularly her decision to be the candidate of big money.

Her ability to raise money helped scare away other potential contenders. Her continued commitment to this path is symbolized by the $33,400 a plate dinner Warren Buffet is hosting for her in Washington, D.C. on the eve of the Iowa caucuses. People who can afford $33,400 for one seat at the table aren't exactly the working people Hillary claims to champion.

Sanders, of course, made a different decision. . . . . He doesn't have anything like a traditional campaign fundraising operation. That independence gives both force and integrity to his core message that it is time to take back our democracy from the "billionaire class," the entrenched interests, and the Wall Street banksters.

Clinton argues that she favors fundamental campaign finance reform, but she can't "unilaterally disarm." Deep pocket Republicans are amassing huge war chests to assault her. She has to be armed with big money to defend herself.

But in doing so, Clinton "unilaterally disarmed" her own credibility. The Clinton family foundation and the family fortune have been built with large contributions and lavish "speaking fees," significantly from the biggest financial interests in the country. Wall Street made Hillary herself a millionaire . . . . 

The result is corrosive. When Clinton insists that her Wall Street reforms are far tougher than those of Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley, it rings false. She attacks Sanders for supporting Medicare for All which naturally is the bĂȘte noire of the private health insurance and drug companies.

When Sanders invoked the $600,000 Clinton received from Goldman Sachs alone in speaking fees (a bank that just agreed to pay $5 billion essentially for mortgage fraud) in the last debate, her only defense was to suggest that a similar criticism would apply to Barack Obama who also raised money from Wall Street.

This helps explain the remarkable excitement that Sanders has generated among the young. He passionately champions popular big reforms -- tuition free college, a $15 minimum wage, Medicare for all, a bold climate change agenda, breaking up the big banks and more. And his integrity and credibility are affirmed by his commitment to funding his campaign with the support of millions of citizens, not the big money of special interests.

As Greg Sargent of the Washington Post notes, Hillary's credibility gulf also undermines her argument about "electability." Democrats have a natural majority among the electorate, but only if they turn out. Even the Clinton campaign has been worried about whether HRC can generate the excitement among the rising American electorate to get them to the polls. Now, they worry about whether Sanders will generate so much excitement that he will flood the Iowa caucuses and primaries with a wave of new voters.

There's more.  Ultimately, the issue is one of electing a Democrat in November.  Either Hillary or Bernie will be light years better than any of the GOP contenders, all of whom would lessen my - and may other people's - legal rights. 

Ted Cruz: 'I'm a Christian First, American Second

Speaking of the insanity plaguing the Republican Party, a pissing contest has arisen among Ted Cruz and some of the most lunatic elements of the Christofascists over the validity of Cruz's religiosity which he wears constantly on his sleeve as he prostitutes himself to the most deranged elements of the GOP base.  Some of the attacks on Cruz trace to Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum who are at the bottom of the polls having seen their theocratic message fall flat.  Others trace to equally scary elements of the professional Christian crowd.  The upshot is that Cruz is now making statements that were they said by a non-Christian - or Heaven forbid, a Muslim - that would have Cruz's audience screaming treason and demanding deportation.  Cruz's defense to the attacks on his religiosity:  that he is a Christian first and American second.  Daily Kos looks at the batshitery.  Here are highlights: 

His Christianity is probably the last thing Ted Cruz ever thought would give him problems. However, a new ad produced by Americans United for Values attacks him for being, get this, a “false prophet.” 

Among other slings and arrows hurled, the ad slams Cruz for not tithing—donating 10 percent of his income to charity—something many Christians believe is a sacred obligation. Cruz, it seems, has donated only about one percent of his income—which came to around $1 million annually—to charity between 2006 and 2010.

In response to the ad and other attacks on his Christianity as well as his conservatism, Cruz responded:
“I’m a Christian first, American second, conservative third and Republican fourth...I’ll tell ya, there are a whole lot of people in this country that feel exactly the same way.”
The politics of this aside, I want to highlight here something we might call Christian Privilege. Could you imagine, for example, a Jewish candidate for president saying that he or she was a Jew first and an American second? Now imagine the sheer outrage if a Muslim American of any prominence whatsoever declared that he or she was Muslim first and American second. People’s heads would explode.
I demand, a president whose first loyalty is to the Constitution, and to the people—all the people—he or she was elected to serve. Only a Christian has the privilege—and only ones like Ted Cruz, who present themselves as holier than thou, would have the gall—to claim otherwise.
Can we send Cruz back to Canada? I suspect they would not want him either!

The Growing Republican Hysteria

As one who has condemned the Republican Party's embrace of ignorance, religious extremism and increasingly blatant racism for a very long time - I left the formally resigned from the GOP roughly 15 years ago when I could no longer stand the batshitery and nastiness of the "godly Christians" being voted onto the City Committee of the Republican Party of Virginia Beach - I feel as if I was a Cassandra long ignored by one time colleagues who refused to see the poison seeping into the party.  Of late - and very belatedly - I suddenly find myself joined by a chorus of "moderate Republicans" and "conservatives" who are lamenting the insane asylum the GOP has become perhaps best embodied by Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.  In today's Washington Post Kathleen Parker joins the cavalcade of those warning of the end of the GOP and takes on a tone one more often expects from Maureen Dowd.  Admittedly, Parker has vented vigorously on occasion before.  This time, she targets those who for too long did nothing to stem the metastasizing cancer in the party while gloating over short term election victories.  Here are column highlights:

At first it seemed too weirdly awful to be true, but there she was: Sarah Palin standing next to Donald Trump on Tuesday and endorsing him for president. 

Like previously conjoined twins who had shared a brain before Ben Carson separated them, these two anti-everything, post-lamestream media instigators presented themselves as political doppelgangers, a he/she, yin-yang, sis-boom-bah political marriage of the carnival barker and the bearded lady.

The challenge for those of us in the observation business is to illuminate what’s plainly obvious without offending those who prefer not to see. But there’s no winning once passions are engaged, and hating the messenger is a time-honored tradition. Even though it was, in fact, obvious in 2008 that Palin was out of her league, as I pointed out in a column, her fans wouldn’t hear of it. About 20,000 of them took time out of their busy schedules to send me emails expressing their displeasure. . . . .  The whole episode was instructive in multiple ways, but most important, it foretold a dumbing down of the GOP that eight years later may prove irreversible.

Into a blizzard of irony gallops National Review with a “symposium” of opinions from noted conservative writers saying what must be said: Trump is terrible for conservatism (because he isn’t a conservative) and that populist demagoguery and vulgarity have no place in the party. You don’t say!

The irony, which is so delicious I may skip the chocolate sauce and forgo the cherry, is that this same publication dropped my syndicated column not long after it ran my Palin column. Hoopla and all that. And now suddenly, the editors, one of whom all but telepathically dated Palin, are blind to the former governor’s charms, opposing her choice for president in the strongest terms.

One wonders only what took them so long to say what has been plainly obvious for months.
It must be difficult for some of these writers to go out on a limb like this and recognize in Trump what they were unable to see in Palin in 2008. Trump, to his credit, has managed to clarify matters for them.

Her erstwhile siren call was mostly siren, her formerly hopey-changey, winky-blinky charm turned cranky-wanky and shrill. “You ready for a commander in chief . . . who will let our warriors do their job and go kick ISIS ass?” she shrieked. 

[I]t looks as though Republicans may get what they deserve — a bombastic, bellicose, self-aggrandizing, mean-streaked, golf-cheating, bullying narcissist without plans or policies beyond his own, no doubt fickle, fantasies.   Once Republicans forced the party to take the governor of Alaska seriously as a vice presidential candidate, they opened a populist door that they’ll not easily shut. 

[N]ow we have Trump, who has Palin, who has cemented the anti-intellectual, anti-“elitist” fervor of the Republican base. William F. Buckley’s conservatism seems headed for the door, and National Review deserves plenty of blame. There is, alas, no one left to stand athwart history and yell, stop! 
The question that puzzles me is this: how and why can anyone remotely sane and decent remain a Republican?   And let's be honest on one other thing.  Ted Cruz is as bad or worse than Donald Trump.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Trump and Palin Join Forces in the War Against Reason

As previously noted, conservative columnist Michael Gerson for too long ignored the metastasizing cancer in the Republican Party base evidenced by the rise of Christofascists, Tea Partiers and white supremacists in the party.  Now, Gerson and others are belatedly sending out a clarion call over the results of the GOP establishment's handiwork.  The seeming alliance of Donald Trump and Darah Palin underscores the sickness of today's GOP.  Here are excerpts from Gerson's latest column in the Washington Post:

The arrival of Sarah Palin brings a special something to the 2016 campaign, like a little LSD added to the punch bowl. Are we watching C-SPAN, or a reality TV show, or a “Saturday Night Live” skit? It is impossible to tell without consulting the channel guide. 

Ted Cruz may have secured the coveted “ Duck Dynasty ” blessing. But Palin is the original and best representative of Kardashian conservatism. Her endorsement of Donald Trump was entirely devoid of policy content — a speech that did not even aspire to shallowness. It is enough that Trump is “going rogue” and “ticking people off” and “media heads are spinning.” 

Palin has been entirely consumed and replaced by her own bitterness against a Republican establishment she feels betrayed her and against a media that mocked her. More than anything else, she clings to resentment and rage. And her revolution, over time, has become comprehensive; not just a revolt against elites, but a revolt against syntax and taste and preparation and reason.  

Does populism need to be anti-intellectual? The answer is: No!  . . . . Populism, by definition, is anti-elitist. But that is very different from being anti-intellectual. 

In this vacuity, Palin and Trump are a perfect match. They both embrace a politics of personality, a politics at war with reason. Who would go to either for advice on Medicare reform or Syria policy? In the two-dimensional politics of Palin and Trump, depth is not even a category. There is only establishment vs. anti-establishment, weakness vs. strength.

The danger of an anti-intellectual politics is that it quickly becomes unmoored from real problems and real answers. In U.S. history, anti-intellectual populism has often become conspiratorial, focusing anger against powerful and imaginary enemies: the Masons, the international bankers, the Jesuits, the munitions- makers.

Trump attacks refugees as a serious potential source of terrorism — though the nearly two-year process of being selected by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, then intensively screened by various U.S. agencies, makes this method of infiltration absurdly difficult. He says many undocumented immigrants are rapists and drug dealers — an absurd claim with no empirical basis. He blames immigrants for depressed wages in the United States — though this effect is small and swamped by other factors such as globalization and technological change.  

Trump is not proposing obnoxious solutions to real challenges; he is promoting obnoxious solutions to fake or wildly exaggerated challenges. His anti-intellectualism is severing the ties between the GOP and reality. If Republicans choose to inhabit the Trump-Palin world, they will offer little of value to our own.

I HATE Winter!

Compared to areas to the north and west of Hampton Roads, the coming storm should be relatively mild.  Nonetheless, we can expect a local freak out and the poor driving skills of local drivers being made painfully obvious.  Here's the forecast via the Virginian Pilot:
It’ll be a wet and windy weekend in Hampton Roads.

The National Weather Service has a high-wind watch in effect for tonight through early Sunday. Parts of the region could see gusts up to 55 mph.

Officials warn drivers of hazardous conditions, especially for vehicles with a high center of gravity.
In addition, a significant winter storm is expected to bring snow in the late morning, turning into rain this afternoon. An accumulation of less than an inch of snow is possible.

The service has a coastal flood watch in effect from 4 a.m. to noon Saturday. Snow or sleet is possible late in the day.

It should start to clear by Sunday, with a chance for showers earlier, turning to a mostly sunny and breezy day in the upper 30s.

I wish I was in Key West right now!!  And I wish I didn't have to drive to Virginia Beach oceanfront to meet with a client today. :(

Can Bernie Sanders Win in November?

The GOP presidential contest seems to go from one new low to another, making it clear that any Democrat is preferable to any of the GOP clown car occupants. For Democrats, therefore, the issue becomes one of which of the two leading Democrats can win not just the primary contest but the general election contest in November 2016.  As previously noted, I am on the fence and I am most concerned about insuring a GOP defeat since the prospect of any of the GOP slate in the White House is downright frightening.  A piece in the Daily Kos argues that Bernie Sanders is the better choice against Hillary Clinton.  I'd love to hear readers' thoughts on this.  Here are article highlights:

I’m beginning to believe Bernie Sanders can win the Democratic nomination and then the presidency.

Since Bernie announced his candidacy, I’ve been torn. On the one hand, I’ve long admired Sanders.  It’s hard not to respect someone who was born the same year that I was and has paid his dues as a liberal activist and politician.  On the other hand, I feel it’s time for a woman to be President and I like Hillary.  And, given the slate of truly dreadful candidates, any Democrat is preferable to whomever the GOP eventually nominates.

For the past eight months I’ve told anyone who asked me, “I believe Hillary will win the Democratic nomination.  But, Bernie’s candidacy serves a useful purpose: it will push Hillary to the left.”  Meanwhile, the contest exposed Clinton’s weaknesses and demonstrated Sanders can harness the energy of the “activist” part of the Democratic base.

Nonetheless, my decision whom to support for the Democratic nomination does not come down to policies or gender or age (although in an ideal campaign I would prefer to support a younger progressive woman); it’s refusing to be satisfied with the Democratic Party “business as usual” process.

There’s two wings of the Democracy Party: an activist wing filled with “do gooders” who, each day, slog through the peace and justice trenches taking on issue after issue.  And an establishment wing composed of  “people of privilege,” the Democratic portion of “the one percent.”

In 2016, Bernie represents the activists and Hillary the establishment.  On May 6th, when I saw Hillary in San Francisco, she talked about the role of money in American politics, “fixing our dysfunctional political system and getting unaccountable money out of it even if that takes a constitutional amendment.”  However, since then Hillary has run as an establishment Democrat.  Bernie Sanders has made money in politics his central issue.

When each candidate was asked what she or he would do to bring the country together, Bernie replied, “The real issue is that Congress is owned by big money and refuses to do what the American people want them to do.”

When asked about his Wall Street policy, Bernie Sanders responded:
The first difference [between him and Clinton] is I don’t take money from big banks. I don’t get personal speaking fees from Goldman Sachs… But here is the issue, Secretary [Clinton] touched on it, can you really reform Wall Street when they are spending millions and millions of dollars on campaign contributions and when they are providing speaker fees to individuals? [$600,00 to Clinton in one year.]
In 2016, Hillary Clinton is running the same campaign as Barack Obama in 2008.  Obama was an establishment Democrat, a person of privilege, running on progressive policies but not addressing the issue of money in politics.

Clinton has three weaknesses:  First, she does not have a central campaign theme, a core message.  (On Sunday night she offered, “I want to be a president who takes care of the big problems and the problems that are affecting the people of our country everyday.”)

Second, she’s identified as a Washington insider.  Likely Republican nominee, Donald Trump, has surged to the lead of the Republican pack by running as an outsider.  He’s effectively channeled voters’ anger at Washington by positioning himself as a maverick who doesn’t need to accept contributions from big money.  If Clinton were the Democratic nominee, Trump could attack her as part of the Washington establishment and as someone beholden to big money.

Finally, a lot of voters don’t like Hillary Clinton.  

Don’t misunderstand me.  If Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee then I will support her.  But now that I think Bernie Sanders has a chance to win the nomination, I’m going to push him (even if he is an old white guy) because he’s got a winning message,  strong progressive values; and is most likely to ignite the Democratic activist base.

The key question is whether or not Bernie Sanders can win independents and moderate voters.  The activist base of the Democrat Party is not enough to guaranty victory in November. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

America's Continued Gay Rights Blindness

Despite the victory for same sex marriage, much still needs to be done before LGBT Americans will have full equality under the laws.  Sadly, a new Harris Poll finds that most Americans are clueless on the issues and discrimination that LGBT individuals face.  They are similarly blind about the plague of LGBT homeless youth - most thrown out by their "godly Christian" parents and families - HIV treatment and support, and many other issues.  The Daily Beast looks at this blindness and failure of Americans to look into their own hearts and see that they are part of the problem.  Here are article highlights:

Same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide last year in a landmark Supreme Court ruling but, as we enter 2016, new data from GLAAD shows that many Americans believe Obergefell v. Hodges was the finish line for LGBT equality.

Half of all non-LGBT Americans believe that gay people currently have the same rights as everyone else, according to a Harris Poll survey of over 2,000 adults commissioned by GLAAD for its second annual Accelerating Acceptance report.

The findings only get more disheartening from there. Nearly 30 percent of non-LGBT respondents said they feel uncomfortable when they see a same-sex couple holding hands or learn that their child’s teacher is LGBT. A quarter of them believe that high rates of depression andsuicide among LGBT people are “not serious” and 27 percent said the same about violence against transgender people.

These numbers are an improvement from last year but not by much. Many fell by only a few percentage points and some—like discomfort with LGBT history lessons being taught in schools or at seeing an LGBT co-worker’s wedding photo—were virtually unchanged. In 2016, it may be legal for a lesbian to get married but she will still likely pause before planting a picture of her spouse on her desk.

Over a third of non-LGBT respondents to the Harris Poll survey—36 percent—said that social acceptance of LGBT people wasn’t a serious problem, even though many of their own survey responses ironically prove that it still is.

The facts about the current state of LGBT acceptance are easy enough to consult: Over half of all states have no statewide employment non-discrimination law covering sexual orientation or gender identity. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than straight kids, and a quarter of transgender youth have made an attempt. Twenty-one transgender people, primarily young transgender women of color, were murdered in the U.S. last year—the highest recorded number in history. Those numbers don’t lie, and there are plenty of other sobering statistics where they came from.

When same-sex marriage was legalized by the Supreme Court last June, leaders of major LGBT organizations in the U.S. told The Daily Beast that their fight was far from over, citing a wide range of remaining issues including employment discrimination, anti-transgender violence, school bullying, detention of LGBT immigrants, bisexual acceptance, and LGBT youth homelessness.

What’s concerning now is just how many people think it’s over, and just how wrong they are.  

Somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT but 37 percent of non-LGBT respondents to the Harris Poll survey said the problem wasn’t “serious.” That includes 10 percent who said it was “not at all serious.”

There's more, so read the entire piece.

Tennessee Lawmakers Kill Anti-Gay Marriage Bill with $8.5 Billion Price Tag

Nowhere has the GOP prostituted itself more to Christofascists and extremists than on the issue of same sex marriage.  Despite the United States Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell striking down marriage bans nationwide, Republican legislators continue to introduce state bills that would undermine the ruling or grant licenses to discriminate to the Kool-Aid drinking "godly folk."  Nine such bills are currently in the Virginia General Assembly, all introduced by Republicans. Never mind that a majority of Americans support the Obergefell ruling - with today's GOP, its ALL about pandering to extremism and bigotry and racism.  In Tennessee, an extreme GOP backed bill was introduced that would have costs that state $8.5 billion in lost revenues.  Thankfully, the price tag shocked enough lawmakers that the bill was killed in committee.  The New Civil Rights Movement looks at the GOP lunacy.  Here are highlights:

Tennessee State Rep. Mark Pody's bill that would have voided all marriages of same-sex couples, costing taxpayers an estimated $8.5 billion, has been defeated. Lawmakers on the House Civil Justice Subcommittee listened to religious and legal arguments for about 90 minutes, but on a voice vote elected to not move the legislation forward.

The Natural Marriage Defense Act would have declared all marriages of same-sex couples "void and unenforceable in Tennessee," specifically citing the Supreme Court's decision last year in Obergefell, stating it is invalid and that the State would ignore it.

[A] state-required fiscal impact report found the legislation, should it become law, would cost the taxpayers of Tennessee $8.5 billion annually. Those costs do not appear to include court and legal costs. The majority of the costs would come as the withdrawal of federal funding of Tennessee's Obamacare program, food stamps (SNAP), and welfare payments (TANF).

While some of the debate focused on constitutional issues, including nullification of a Supreme Court ruling, some, thanks to pastors who spoke before the committee, included traditional anti-gay rhetoric. One pastor warned that same-sex marriage is “the invasion of the wicked agenda that is coming against the Church.”

Lawmakers were begged to offer Tennessee pastors "relief" from the fear of being forced to marry same-sex couples, despite the obvious fact that the First Amendment would prohibit such a governmental action. One speaker insisted that clerks charged with issuing marriage licenses are upset for having to do their job for same-sex couples. Kentucky clerk Kim Davis was mentioned.

At the last minute an attempt was made to hold the bill over but on technical grounds that was not allowed. It should be expected the legislation, perhaps in a different format, will be filed again in the next session.

The Monumental Fall of the GOP

As posts yesterday noted, things on the conservatives side of the political aisle are rapidly descending into such insanity that Saturday Night Live doesn't need any script writing.  A verbatim quote of the lunacy is all that is needed to mock and ridicule the Republican Party base and those who seek to prostitute themselves to it.  What needs to be remembered, however, is that none of this happened by accident or lack of design.  The GOP establishment welcomed the Christofascists and descendants of segregationists into the party for short term advantage with no thought of the long term consequences such as when Karl Rove and George W. Bush rallied the crazy anti-gay extremists in 2004 with gay marriage bans in states around America.  There was no long game, just short term victories.  Now, the GOP has suffered a monumental and perhaps irreversible fall.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at this decline.  Here are excerpts:

The fixed smile on Donald Trump’s face as Sarah Palin unleashed her free-association, who-knows-what-she’ll-say-next harangue endorsing him on Tuesday sent its own message. “How long do I have to stand here?” it seemed to say. But of all the developments in the astonishing Republican presidential contest, this moment told us what we need to know about the state of a once-great political party.

Consider the forces that brought Palin to the national stage in the first place. In 2008, John McCain, running behind Barack Obama in the polls, wanted to shake up the contest by picking a moderate as his running mate. His first choice was then-Sen. Joe Lieberman, and he also liked former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge.

But McCain won the nomination against the will of the Republican right as more-conservative candidates had fractured their side’s vote. “He is not the choice of conservatives, as opposed to the choice of the Republican establishment — and that distinction is key,” said Rush Limbaugh, using language that is now oh-so-familiar. The establishment, Limbaugh charged, had “long sought to rid the party of conservative influence.”

A moderate VP choice would have been too much for Limbaugh’s legions. So McCain, facing a full-scale revolt on the floor of the Republican convention, gave up on Lieberman and Ridge, turning instead to Palin. A new hero for the Limbaugh-Fox News disciples was born.

After Obama won . . . he angry grass-roots right — it has been there for decades but cleverly rebranded itself as the tea party in 2009 — would be central in driving the midterm voters the GOP would need to the polls. Since no one was better at rousing them than Palin, old-line Republican leaders embraced and legitimized her even if they snickered privately about who she was and how she said things.

Today’s Republican crisis was thus engineered by the party leadership’s step-by-step capitulation to a politics of unreason, a policy of silence toward the most extreme and wild charges against Obama, and a lifting up of resentment and anger over policy and ideas as the party’s lodestars.

Many Republicans are now alarmed that their choice may come down to Trump, the candidate of a reality-show populism that tries to look like the real thing, and Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), an ideologue whom they fear would lead their cause to a devastating defeat. There is an honorable pushback against this outcome  . . . .

But this is a battle that needed to be joined long ago . . . .  A showdown was required before the steady, large-scale defection of moderate voters from the party. Now that opponents of Trump and Cruz need the moderates, they are no longer there — except, perhaps, in states where independents might cross into the party’s primaries to save it from itself.

And instead of battling the impulses now engulfing the party, GOP honchos exploited them. They fanned nativist feeling by claiming that illegal immigrants were flooding across our borders, even when net immigration from Mexico had fallen below zero.

Politicians whose rhetoric brought the right’s loyalists to a boiling point now complain that they don’t much like the result. But it’s a little late for that. Why shouldn’t the party’s ultra-conservatives and its economically distressed working-class supporters feel betrayed? At least with Trump, Cruz and Palin, they have reason to think they know what they’re getting. “We are mad, and we’ve been had,” Palin declared on Tuesday. “They need to get used to it.”

So watch for the establishment’s next capitulation. There are reports that some in its ranks are already cozying up to Trump. Given the record, there’s little reason to doubt this. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Christofascists: Only Christian Males Are Eligible For Public Office

As the GOP presidential nomination circus descends into crazy land, the Christofascists are coming forward to underscore just how insane and anti-democracy oriented the GOP base has become.   The misnamed Christian Anti-Defamation Commission - which wants a license for "Christians" to discriminate against others who do not subscribe to their misogynous beliefs -  is now pontificating that only Christians are eligible to hold public office and that uppity women should be barred from public office.  Right Wing Watch  has details.  Here are highlights:

Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission released a new video today aimed at helping his fellow right-wing Christians understand "the biblical qualifications for political office," by which he meant that all of our elected leaders must be Christians ... and men.

"What should be look for in our elected officials?" Cass asked, rhetorically. "The first qualification is they must be a Christian ... What a candidate professes about God is absolutely critical, it will profoundly shape his leadership. Genuine reverence for the Lord is the foundation of knowledge ... so we need a leader who is alive spiritually and who will lead in the fear of God."  And those leaders, Cass explained, must be men.

"The biblical biological requirement for office is you must be male," he stated. "Civil leadership should be conceived of as an extension of the family and God's created order. God established man as the head of the woman and the woman as his helpmate ... In society, the same roles apply as is ordained in the family and in the church."

"The ministry of justice that God has given to the state is generally a man's job," Cass continued. "Yet, there are exceptions in the Bible where God has raised up women like Deborah to judge and even deliver Israel. But it's considered an indictment when there's no strong, godly men to lead and protect their families and society." 

What can I say?  These people have based their world and political views on the writings of anonymous authors/herders from more than 2000 years ago, who knew NOTHING of modern knowledge, science, and sexuality.   A Harry Potter story or a Lord of the Rings story has as much substance to back it up as do the Old Testament writings.