Saturday, February 27, 2016

More Saturday Male Beauty

Why I am Supporting Hillary Clinton in 2016

In the 2016 presidential election, now more than ever there is a contest between the competing agendas of the Republican Party, most likely embodied by Donald Trump on the one hand and the Democrat agenda, likely to be embodied by Hillary Clinton on the other.  The former calls out the ugliest, most selfish and worse impulses of Americans and would benefit vulture capitalists, the self-fish modern day Pharisees of the Chistofascist set, white supremacists (who have endorsed trump) and the wealthy and privileged.  The middle and lower classes would continue on the road to a modern day version of economic serfdom as attacks on unions intensify and more wealth moves from the middle class to the 1%.  

The Democrat agenda is starkly different and seeks to equalize the playing field and to give all Americans, not just the privileged few, a chance to pursue the American dream.  It seeks to restore upward social mobility which now lags behind that achievable in Canada and Europe. Yes, "Old Europe" as the GOP derisively calls it, now offers more upward mobility than the USA.  As I see it, while admittedly sounding melodramatic, it is a contest between good and evil, with today's GOP and its racist, homophobic, religious extremist agenda embodying a form of social evil that must be stopped.  A piece in the Daily Beast looks at this contest and also the need to not fall for the anti-Hillary narrative that the GOP has disseminated for years and which sadly some of Bernie Sanders' followers have embraced.  Yes, some readers will shriek and scream since I am not backing Sanders, but I remain unconvinced that he can win in November.  Hillary withstood 11 hours of a GOP lynch mob during the Benghazi hearings.  We need that toughness in the coming months.  Here are some column highlights:

I hear you’re still not Ready for Hillary.  I get it. I didn’t start off as her biggest fan either. During the 2008 campaign, I wrote plenty of less-than-complimentary words about Hillary Clinton in my role as Barack Obama’s speechwriter. Then, a few weeks after the election, I had a well-documented run-in with a piece of cardboard that bore a striking resemblance to the incoming Secretary of State.
 It was one of the stupider, more disrespectful mistakes I’ve made, . . .  I had the chance to serve in the Obama administration with someone who was far different than the caricature I had helped perpetuate. . . . . She worked harder and logged more miles than anyone in the administration, including the president. And she’d spend large amounts of time and energy on things that offered no discernible benefit to her political future—saving elephants from ivory poachers, listening to the plight of female coffee farmers in Timor-Leste, defending LGBT rights in places like Uganda. 
Most of all—and you hear this all the time from people who’ve worked for her—Hillary Clinton is uncommonly warm and thoughtful. She surprises with birthday cakes. She calls when a grandparent passes away. She once rearranged her entire campaign schedule so a staffer could attend her daughter’s preschool graduation. Her husband charms by talking to you; Hillary does it by listening to you—not in a head-nodding, politician way; in a real person way. 
This same story has repeated itself throughout Clinton’s career: those who initially view her as distrustful and divisive from afar find her genuine and cooperative in person. It was the case with voters in New York, Republicans in the Senate, Obama people in the White House, and heads of state all over the world. There’s a reason being America’s chief diplomat was the specific job Obama asked Hillary to do—she has the perfect personality for it. 
You don’t often see or read about this side of Hillary. You don’t doubt her fierce brilliance when she’s debating policy with Bernie Sanders. You don’t doubt her stamina or tenacity when she’s sitting through hour eleven of the Benghazi Kangaroo Court. But when it comes to nearly everything else, Clinton can seem a little too cautious and forced—like she’s trying too hard or not at all, preferring to retreat behind the safety of boilerplate rhetoric and cheesy soundbites. It’s a tendency that can’t just be blamed on her opponents or the media, though I wonder how many of us would be so brave and open in our public personas after being subjected to 25 years of unrelenting and downright nasty criticism of what we say, what we do, and how we look. . . . Recently, though, there are signs that Hillary is finding this courage. 
If nothing else, you’ll notice that Hillary Clinton’s words are the very antithesis of the mean-spirited, xenophobic bile that spits from the mouth of Donald Trump. And that’s my point.  Every election is a competition between two stories about America. And Trump already knows his by heart: He is a celebrity strongman who will single-handedly save the country from an establishment that is too weak, stupid, corrupt, and politically correct to let us blame the real source of our problems—Muslims and Mexicans and Black Lives Matter protesters; the media, business, and political elites from both parties. Trump’s eventual opponent will need to tell a story about America that offers a powerful rebuke to the demagogue’s dark vision for the future.
I like Bernie Sanders. I like a lot of what he has to say, I love his idealism, and I believe deeply in his emphasis on grassroots change. My problem is not that his message is unrealistic—it’s that a campaign which is largely about Main St. vs. Wall St. economics is too narrow and divisive for the story we need to tell right now. In her campaign against Sanders, Hillary has begun to tell that broader, more inclusive story about the future.
 Hillary Clinton isn’t perfect. She isn’t flashy or entertaining. She isn’t cool or hip, so please stop forcing the poor woman to learn the Dab on Ellen. As someone who’s been in politics for a few decades, she’s made plenty of mistakes, and will probably make many more.
But Hillary is also more than just a policy wonk who can’t wait to start shuffling through white papers in the Oval Office. She cares. She tries. She perseveres. And now she has a chance to tell the story she’s always wanted about America: the story about a country that found the courage to turn away from our darkest impulses; that chose to embrace our growing diversity as a strength, not a weakness; that pushed the boundaries of opportunity outward and upward, until there are no more barriers, and no more ceilings. 
At stake in this election is control of a Tea Party-run Congress, at least one Supreme Court vacancy that could tip the balance for a generation, and the very real chance that a highly unstable demagogue could become the 45th president of the United States. So while I may not have imagined myself saying this a few years ago, I certainly believe it now: It’s far more important to elect Hillary Clinton in 2016 than it was to elect Barack Obama in 2008.

Like the author, I did not support Hillary in 2008, and instead backed Barack Obama.  The contrast between the GOP agenda and the Obama agenda was stark in 2008, but the differences in what the nation's future may be depending on which party wins the White House in 2016 is even more extreme now. Like her or not, if you believe in a positive future for all Americans (including my grandchildren), we need to make sure Hillary is elected in November.  We cannot allow the GOP to spread its cancer further and pervert the United States Supreme Court for a generation or more.

The GOP's Problem With Obama Summed Up in One Photo

A friend posted the image above on Facebook and sadly, it truly does sum up the root cause of the obstructionism of the Republican Party and the loathing of President Obama on the part of much of the party base.  For decades the GOP has pandered to racists and bigots and those forces of hatred now predominate in the GOP.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

GOP Donors Hire Consulting Firm to Research Independent Presidential Bid

The hysteria over Donald Trump continues within the GOP establishment and now Politico is reporting that some major GOP donors are seeking to potentially launch an independent candidate to challenge Donald Trump and the Democrat presidential candidate.  A GOP consulting firm has been hired to research ballot access issues and, perhaps to identify a possible candidate.  With the GOP seemingly about to splinter, Hillary Clinton mast have a big smile on her face.   On a wider scale, perhaps the movement, if it continues, will be the first step in the official death of the Republican Party.  Here are article highlights:

Conservative donors have engaged a major GOP consulting firm in Florida to research the feasibility of mounting a late, independent run for president amid growing fears that Donald Trump could win the Republican nomination.

A memo prepared for the group zeroes in on ballot access as a looming obstacle for any independent candidate, along with actually identifying a viable, widely known contender and coalescing financial support for that person. The two states with the earliest deadlines for independent candidates, Texas and North Carolina, also have some of the highest hurdles for independents to get on the ballot, according to the research.

“All this research has to happen before March 16, when inevitably Trump is the nominee, so that we have a plan in place," a source familiar with the discussions said. March 16 is the day after the GOP primary in Florida, a winner-take-all contest that Marco Rubio supporters have identified as a must-win to stop Trump's early momentum.

The research points to Texas and North Carolina as early tests for running an independent, conservative candidate against Trump and the Democratic nominee. The candidate would need to gather over 79,900 valid petition signatures in Texas by May 9 and over 89,000 in North Carolina by June 9.

Only two other states have thresholds that high, and gathering petitions can be an expensive and time-consuming process. What’s more, the Texas signatures would have to come entirely from voters who did not vote in this year’s Democratic and Republican primaries.

But “with 38 electoral votes in play in Texas and North Carolina’s true swing state status, failing to qualify in either or both states would render any independent candidate non-viable,” the report's authors wrote. “This is logistically possible but will require immediate action.”

By July 15, the independent candidate would need more than 460,000 voter signatures to make the ballot in 11 states. Assuming an April 1 start date, the campaign would have to gather 4,345 valid signatures per day to maintain a steady pace.

Donald Trump - the GOP’s Frankenstein Monster

Even as the so-called GOP establishment remains dumbstruck over the rise of Donald Trump and seems helpless in terms of stopping his surge towards seizing the Republican presidential nomination, outsiders and former Republicans like myself show little surprise at what has befallen the GOP. Donald Trump is a self-inflicted result of years of demagoguery and welcoming extremists and lunatics into the party while forcing sane and rational folks to flee the insane asylum.  A column in the Washington Post recaps how the GOP establishment set the stage for Donald Trump and how is is now poised to destroy the party.  Like myself, like it or not, the author sees Hillary Clinton as the only option to stop the GOP's Frankenstein monster and keep the cancer in the GOP from infecting the rest of America.  Here are highlights:

When the plague descended on Thebes, Oedipus sent his brother-in-law to the Delphic oracle to discover the cause. Little did he realize that the crime for which Thebes was being punished was his own. Today’s Republican Party is our Oedipus. A plague has descended on the party in the form of the most successful demagogue-charlatan in the history of U.S. politics. The party searches desperately for the cause and the remedy without realizing that, like Oedipus, it is the party itself that brought on this plague. The party’s own political crimes are being punished in a bit of cosmic justice fit for a Greek tragedy.

Let’s be clear: Trump is no fluke. Nor is he hijacking the Republican Party or the conservative movement, if there is such a thing. He is, rather, the party’s creation, its Frankenstein’s monster, brought to life by the party, fed by the party and now made strong enough to destroy its maker. 

Was it not the party’s wild obstructionism — the repeated threats to shut down the government over policy and legislative disagreements, the persistent calls for nullification of Supreme Court decisions, the insistence that compromise was betrayal, the internal coups against party leaders who refused to join the general demolition — that taught Republican voters that government, institutions, political traditions, party leadership and even parties themselves were things to be overthrown, evaded, ignored, insulted, laughed at? Was it not Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), among others, who set this tone and thereby cleared the way for someone even more irreverent, so that now, in a most unenjoyable irony, Cruz, along with the rest of the party, must fall to the purer version of himself, a less ideologically encumbered anarcho-revolutionary? 

Then there was the party’s accommodation to and exploitation of the bigotry in its ranks. No, the majority of Republicans are not bigots. But they have certainly been enablers. Who began the attack on immigrants — legal and illegal — long before Trump arrived on the scene and made it his premier issue?  . . . . . Who opposed any plausible means of dealing with the genuine problem of illegal immigration, forcing Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to cower, abandon his principles — and his own immigration legislation — lest he be driven from the presidential race before it had even begun? It was not Trump. It was not even party yahoos. It was Republican Party pundits and intellectuals, trying to harness populist passions and perhaps deal a blow to any legislation for which President Obama might possibly claim even partial credit. What did Trump do but pick up where they left off, tapping the well-primed gusher of popular anger, xenophobia and, yes, bigotry that the party had already unleashed?

Then there was the Obama hatred, a racially tinged derangement syndrome that made any charge plausible and any opposition justified.  . . . . .  Republican and conservative criticism has taken an unusually dark and paranoid form. Instead of recommending plausible alternative strategies for the crisis in the Middle East, many Republicans have fallen back on mindless Islamophobia, with suspicious intimations about the president’s personal allegiances.

Thus Obama is not only wrong but also anti-American, un-American, non-American, and his policies . . . .  are somehow representative of something subversive. How surprising was it that a man who began his recent political career by questioning Obama’s eligibility for office could leap to the front of the pack, willing and able to communicate with his followers by means of the dog-whistle disdain for “political correctness”?

We are supposed to believe that Trump’s legion of “angry” people are angry about wage stagnation. No, they are angry about all the things Republicans have told them to be angry about these past 7½ years, and it has been Trump’s good fortune to be the guy to sweep them up and become their standard-bearer. He is the Napoleon who has harvested the fruit of the revolution.

Trump was feeding off forces in the party they had helped nurture and that they hoped to ride into power. . . . . The politicians running against him and now facing oblivion were loath to attack him before because they feared alienating his supporters. Instead, they attacked one another, clawing at each other’s faces as they one by one slipped over the cliff.

The Republicans’ creation will soon be let loose on the land, leaving to others the job the party failed to carry out. For this former Republican, and perhaps for others, the only choice will be to vote for Hillary Clinton. The party cannot be saved, but the country still can be. 

Is Black Homophobia a Myth?

In the Hampton Roads area some of the most reliable minions of the anti-gay efforts of The Family Foundation ("TFF"), arguably Virginia's most powerful hate group which the Southern Poverty Law Center has yet to formally certify as  a hate group, are the leaders of black churches.   Seemingly oblivious to the white supremacist roots of TFF, these religious leaders are lead around like trained circus dogs by Victoria Cobb and her, in my view, evil compatriots who want a white Christian theocracy.  Bearing out this reality is a black friend who remains terrified of coming out to his church going parents who has said to me time and time again (we have a discussion about his need to bite the bullet and come out every few months) that I don't grasp how anti-gay the black community is in this area. Despite such concrete examples of black homophobia, a piece in Think Progress written by a blogger friend attempts to make the case that black homophobia is a myth.  I am not sure where the cited survey was conducted, but the support for same sex marriage and non-discrimination laws among black respondents is lower than the general support levels in Virginia. My take away is that the LGBT community still has a great deal of work to do with the black community. Here are article excerpts (I'd love to know what readers think):
For many years, there has been a myth that African Americans are more likely to be homophobic and thus more likely to oppose advances for LGBT equality. Conservatives have even tried to leverage this supposed wedge to slow the progress of equality. A new survey, however, not only debunks the myth, but suggests that the black community is one of the LGBT community’s strongest allies.
After California passed Proposition 8, a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, The Advocate magazine asked on its cover, “Gay Is The New Black?” Following the lead set by Dan Savage in his “Black Homophobia” post the day after the 2008 election, the cover story relied on exit polls from the election that seemed to suggest that even though black voters largely supported Barack Obama for president, they also largely supported Prop 8.
This mythical divide between the two communities has persisted in the years since, despite the fact that the Prop 8 numbers were later debunked. Just last year, for example, writer Michael Arceneaux called out Lee Daniels for his claim that his television show Empire would “blow the lid off homophobia” in the black community, when it actually seemed to be reinforcing the myth. “Blacks are not the X-Men of anti-gay bigotry,” he wrote. “We don’t have some superior level of homophobia compared to other groups.”
Opponents of LGBT equality have, in turn, tried to capitalize on the supposed black/gay divide. A 2009 National Organization for Marriage (NOM) strategy memo revealed a blatant attempt to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks” by convincing black people not to see same-sex marriage as a civil right.
PRRI’s massive survey focused on three general questions: support for marriage equality, support for LGBT nondiscrimination protections, and support for “religious refusal” exemptions — allowing businesses to refuse service to LGBT people based on their religious beliefs.
Support for marriage equality was a bit low among Black Protestants, with only 38 percent supporting and 54 percent opposing. But on the other two measures, Black Protestants overwhelmingly supported LGBT equality. They favored nondiscrimination laws 64-31, and on the question of religious refusals, black respondents actually opposed exemptions at higher rates than any other racial group, including white respondents.
As it turns out, marriage equality and nondiscrimination protections are simply two very different questions for black respondents. For example, among black Protestants who oppose same-sex marriage, a 51 percent majority still favor LGBT nondiscrimination protections — albeit not quite as strongly.
Dr. Robert Jones, CEO of PRRI, told Think Progress that even on the question of marriage equality, black Protestants are more ambivalent than white evangelical Protestants, who oppose same-sex marriage at much higher rates. On LGBT nondiscrimination protections and religious refusals, their support flips. “I think that’s about really their own experience with discrimination,” he explained.
“The thing that African Americans and evangelicals have in common is a very strong connection to religion and particularly religion that has a fairly literal view of the Bible. They have high levels of religious attendance and fairly traditional religious beliefs, and I think that leads to some ambivalence on the issue of marriage equality.”
But on nondiscrimination, there’s a real “parting of the ways,” he said, “where an experience as a racial minority is informing and influencing their views on these issues that it just doesn’t among white evangelicals.”
The Supreme Court established marriage equality nationwide, but 28 states still offer no statewide nondiscrimination protections.
Wilson agreed, pointing out that the work that needs to be done is the same across the board. “The state of homophobia within the black community is only a reflection of the broader American culture, which finds itself in a continuous evolution in favor of the demands that define the LGBTQ equality movement.” He hopes that increased visibility of LGBT people will continue to advance acceptance and inclusion.
Saying that blacks are less extreme in their views of gays than white evangelicals doesn't, in my view, magically make the black community an ally of the LGBT community. Until the embrace of ignorance and bigotry that goes hand in hand with more fundamentalist forms of Christianity prevalent in the black community is defeated, black homophobia will not be a myth.  Yes, things ate better, but there still is a long way to go. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

Friday Morning Male Beauty

The GOP: Twilight of the Apparatchiks

0In an almost equally snarky column in the New York Times, Paul Krugman looks at the delusional nature of the so-called GOP establishment that cannot grasp that it has unleashed a Frankenstein monster that the party base will not reject as directed from on high.  Trump is running his campaign to pander to precisely the racism and misogyny that the party elites have cultivated for years going all the way back to Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy" to win the South after desegregation.   In the process, the establishment types came to live in a bubble where facts and the lives of average Americans do not matter.  Rather, it's all about playing by the rules and swearing allegiance to the party orthodoxy no matter how out of touch with reality it may be.  Donald trump's rise is a signal that the bubble is perhaps about to burst and the neat little game plan of the establishment may be about to go down the toilet.  Here are column highlights:
Lack of self-awareness can be fatal. The haplessness of the Republican establishment in the face of Trumpism is a case in point.
As many have noted, it’s remarkable how shocked — shocked! — that establishment has been at the success of Donald Trump’s racist, xenophobic campaign. Who knew that this kind of thing would appeal to the party’s base? Isn’t the G.O.P. the party of Ronald Reagan, who sold conservatism with high-minded philosophical messages, like talking about a “strapping young buck” using food stamps to buy T-bone steaks?
Seriously, Republican political strategy has been exploiting racial antagonism, getting working-class whites to despise government because it dares to help Those People, for almost half a century. So it’s amazing to see the party’s elite utterly astonished by the success of a candidate who is just saying outright what they have consistently tried to convey with dog whistles.
What I find even more amazing, however, are the Republican establishment’s delusions about what its own voters are for. You see, all indications are that the party elite imagines that base voters share its own faith in conservative principles, when that not only isn’t true, it never has been.
Here’s an example: Last summer, back when Mr. Trump was just beginning his rise, he promised not to cut Social Security, and insiders like William Kristol gleefully declared that he was “willing to lose the primary to win the general.” In reality, however, Republican voters don’t at all share the elite’s enthusiasm for entitlement cuts . . . 
Yet the Republican establishment still seems unable to understand that hardly any of its own voters, let alone the voters it would need to win in the general election, are committed to free-market, small-government ideology. 
Oh, and the G.O.P. establishment was also sure that Mr. Trump would pay a heavy price for asserting that we were misled into Iraq — evidently unaware just how widespread that (correct) belief is among Americans of all political persuasions.
So what’s the source of this obliviousness? The answer, I’d suggest, is that in recent years — and, in fact, for the past couple of decades — becoming a conservative activist has actually been a low-risk, comfortable career choice. Most Republican officeholders hold safe seats, which they can count on keeping if they are sufficiently orthodox. Moreover, if they should stumble, they can fall back on “wingnut welfare,” the array of positions at right-wing media organizations, think tanks and so on that are always there for loyal spear carriers.
And loyalty is almost the only thing that matters. Does an economist at a right-wing think tank have a remarkable record of embarrassing mistakes? Does a pundit have an almost surreal history of bad calls? No matter, as long as they hew to the orthodox line.
But back to the hermetic world of the Republican elite: This world has, as I said, existed for decades. The result is an establishment comprising apparatchiks, men (mainly) who have spent their entire professional lives in an environment where repeating approved orthodoxy guarantees an easy life, while any deviation from that orthodoxy means excommunication. They know that people outside their party disagree, but that doesn’t matter much for their careers.
Now, however, they face the reality that most voters inside their party don’t agree with the orthodoxy, either. And all signs are that they still can’t wrap their minds around that fact. . . . Even now, when it’s almost too late to stop the Trump Express, they still imagine that “But he’s not a true conservative!” is an effective attack.
Things would be very different, obviously, if Mr. Trump were in fact to lock in the Republican nomination (which could happen in a few weeks). Would his raw appeal to white Americans’ baser instincts continue to work? I don’t think so. But given the ineffectuality of his party’s elite, my guess is that we will get a chance to find out.

GOP Debate Circus Reflections

Having watched the GOP "debate" last night - a form of self-inflicted torture - I was again stunned by the substance free nature of the performances of the supposed top three candidates all of whom appeared like elementary school (or at best junior high school) school yard braggarts and bullies.  It is frightening that this is what the Republican Party has become.  Some in the pundit class are breathlessly claiming that Marco Rubio was the winner last evening simply because he attacked Donald Trump.  They gloss over the fact that many of his statements were untrue and that his answers lacked details - and that he looked childish much of the time with his smirking behavior.  The only adult on the stage was John Kasich who in contrast to the other candidates tried to tone down the anti-gay rhetoric, perhaps remembering the the GOP's anti-gay stridency likely delivered Virginia and Ohio to Barack Obama in 2012.  In a column in the Washington Post (that has a hint of Maureen Dowd style snark in it), Joe Scarborough throws cold water on those grasping at straws to see Rubio gaining momentum to stop Trump.  Here are excerpts:

Expect the huddled masses of GOP insiders and conservative media commentators to tell us for the ninth time this election season that Marco Rubio had the debate of his life Thursday night and that the young senator’s tour de force will finally bring Donald Trump to his political knees. Some may even be delusional enough to once again utter the word “Marco-mentum”.

What exactly is “Marco-mentum”? If you judge Team Rubio’s hopeful slogan by actual results, it starts with a 4 point loss in Iowa, a 25 point drubbing in New Hampshire, an 10 point defeat in South Carolina, and an embarrassing 22 point loss in Nevada. Never mind that Team Rubio told reporters for six months to ignore any setbacks in the early states since Nevada would be their political “firewall”. In the end, the Silver State results looked more like a dumpster fire that torched The-Future-of-the-Republican-Party’s hopes to win a single state.

If you’re keeping score at home, Sen. Rubio is 0 for 4 and facing a string of Super Tuesday defeats that will extend that losing streak to fifteen. But relief will surely come in Florida, when Rubio returns to his Sunshine State. Right? Well, no.

Thursday’s Quinnipiac poll of likely GOP voters in Florida showed Donald Trump crushing the sitting Florida senator 44 percent to 28 percent. Among the tea party voters who propelled Rubio to the Senate in 2010, Rubio is getting pummeled 54 percent to 14 percent.

Sen. Rubio has shown an amazing ability to spin yarn into gold, celebrating one ugly election defeat after another with concession speeches that owe less to Ronald Reagan than Baghdad Bob. After losing by 22 percent in Nevada, Rubio criticized Donald Trump for “underperforming.” Before that, he distracted media sycophants and desperate money men from the fact he had no real organization in early states by inventing a “3-2-1″ strategy that vanished into thin air after an embarrassing 5th place finish in New Hampshire.

Regardless of what the future holds, Marco Rubio’s campaign for president is effectively over.

His campaign was fueled more by the promise of things to come than the reality of the present. Glowing press reviews and headlines declaring Rubio the future of the Republican Party were never grounded in substance, but instead on the plodding assumption that a political party bleeding support from young voters and Hispanics could only save themselves by embracing a young Hispanic politician — even if that campaign was little more than a bag of cotton candy.

One day, the hype surrounding Mr. Rubio may be replaced by hope grounded in more than crude demographic calculations. But with the upstart senator facing fifteen straight campaign losses without a win, it seems my tough take on Marco Rubio’s presidential prospects may have been far too kind.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

More Thursday Male Beauty

Italy's Senate Approves Same-Sex Civil Unions

In another major defeat for the Roman Catholic Church, the Italian Senate passed a a bill that would put in place civil unions for same sex couples.  While gay adoption provisions were stripped out of the final bill, much to the dissatisfaction of LGBT advocate, the bill does bring Italy finally in line with other developed western nations.  True, it is not marriage equality, but it is progress and a huge defeat for the Catholic Church.  Here are highlights from The Advocate:

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's political gamble paid off today, with his nation's senate voting overwhelmingly to approve a bill to legalize non-religious civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. After being held up for weeks in the country's upper house of parliament due to heated controversy over a provision that would allow for one partner to adopt the biological child of the other, the bill will now head to the lower house—stripped of the adoption clause—where its passage is expected to be easy.

Renzi has made it a personal mission to bring his country into alignment with the rest of Western Europe—Italy is the only major country without any legal recognition or protections for same-sex couples, let alone marriage equality. In an attempt to force the bill's passage, he called a confidence vote in his leadership and his legislative agenda today. Had the motion failed, he would have been forced to resign. The vote was successful, passing by a margin of 173:71, an outcome that Renzi has hailed as "historic." 

Gay rights activists, however, have described the bill as a betrayal, according to the BBC. Renzi had long insisted that the provision for gay adoption remain included. His unwillingness to back down on the issue is why the bill stalled in the senate for so long. However, after Italy's highest court refused yesterday to recognize a gay partner adoption performed in the United States, Renzi decided to move ahead with a version of the motion stripped of the controversial adoption provision. 

Flavio Romani, president of the LGBT rights group Arcigay, told Reuters:
"This text once again does not take into consideration children who need definite laws and protection. The law that has come out of all this is lacking its heart."

LGBT People Aren't Exempt from Trump's Bigotry

As I listen to tonight's Republican "debate" - having my finger nails pulled out with pliers might be less painful - the lack of substance and any hint of plans and policies is mind boggling.  The anti-immigrant rhetoric is over the top and Trump's claim that he will force Mexico to pay for a wall along the Mexico -USA border is beyond ridiculous.  There is NO legal basis on which Mexico can be forced to pay for such a wall.  Moreover, Trump insulted Telemundo, the largest Hispanic network in America.  Yes, Trump's outrageous statements play well with the white supremacist in the GOP base and garner wingnut applause, but they are disingenuous and dishonest, and deliberately so.   But Trump's bigotry is widespread and as Michelangelo Signorile points out in a column in Huffington Post, the LGBT community is among Trump's targets.  Here  are excerpts:
There's been a theme in some of the media, and certainly among some gay Republicans -- as I focused on a few weeks ago -- that implies Donald Trump isn't so bad on equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, or is at least better than most of the other GOP candidates. It's absolutely false -- he's as extreme as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and will do nothing for LGBT rights -- and it's time to disabuse the media and everyone else of this notion once and for all.

Trump very publicly, often in large media forums, offers up vague hopes about attaining justice (on a whole range of issues, with his "make America great again" mantra), without explaining how he'll do that. He has in the distant past said that he supports non-discrimination laws that protect gay people, and even said last year, when asked on Meet the Press, that gay workers shouldn't be fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation -- though didn't offer support for laws barring such discrimination, and certainly didn't say he'd pressure Congress to pass such a law.

Trump very publicly, often in large media forums, offers up vague hopes about attaining justice (on a whole range of issues, with his "make America great again" mantra), without explaining how he'll do that. He has in the distant past said that he supports non-discrimination laws that protect gay people, and even said last year, when asked on Meet the Press, that gay workers shouldn't be fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation -- though didn't offer support for laws barring such discrimination, and certainly didn't say he'd pressure Congress to pass such a law.

[H]e [Trump] is definitely speaking forcefully on his anti-gay positions to evangelicals on their media platforms, in their language, using the dog whistle on LGBT rights even if he's using the fog horn on other issues. Trump is much smarter than many give him credit for. By speaking with the fog horn on many issues it gives the impression that he places low priority on the issues with which he's using the dog whistle. In fact, he's calibrated what to speak softly on and what to take big, no matter that the positions may be equally extreme.

In his Nevada victory speech, he said, "I love the evangelicals!" Only looking at Christian evangelical media forums, however, would you understand why they have reason to love him back:
Last week in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody, Trump called the Supreme Court's Obergefell marriage equality ruling "shocking" and told evangelicals to "trust me" on the issue, telegraphing that he would get the marriage equality ruling overturned.

On Fox News Sunday, Trump in fact said he'd consider appointing judges who would overturn the Obergefell ruling, taking up a position that Marco Rubio had announced weeks earlier.

Trump came out in support of the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which anti-gay Republicans introduced in Congress last year. It would allow government entities, non-profit organizations that receive government funds and businesses contracted with the federal government to discriminate against gays. Basically, it would allow for the kind of exemption on a whole v
While Trump had initially criticized Kim Davis in the mainstream media for not doing her job, he later quietly backtracked in talking to evangelical Christian-focused media outlets and when pressed in an interview with me at the Values Voter Summit last fall, he expressed support for Davis and her position.

Trump has attacked Chief Justice John Roberts -- who voted against LGBT rights consistently -- as insufficiently conservative, and recently promised in a Christian Broadcasting Network town hall with Pat Robertson at Robertson's Regent University that he would put far right extremists on the court who would get Roe v. Wade "unpassed."

As we've seen, Trump is a master of manipulation (of media and of constituencies) who learned that on the gay issue he could give mixed signals, implying "tolerance" of LGBT rights while on the campaign trail but then speaking to anti-gay bigots within their forums and telling them exactly what they want to hear. 

[H]e knows evangelicals, who've suffered defeats, will accept someone who more quietly makes promises -- as long as he's a winner. And they're intent on making him a winner and holding him to those promises.
Meanwhile, so far, the GOP "debate" has been a study in childish insults and sound bites devoid of any substantive plans or proposals.  The contrast between the GOP circus and the Democrat "town hall meetings" are enormous.  The Democrats focus on policies, proposals, and solutions.  The GOP, it's all about demagoguery and self-prostitution to extremists.  As for LGBT voters, anyone supporting a Republican candidate is in my view akin to a Jew in 1930's Germany supporting the Nazi party.

Far Right Leaders Hedging on Support for Ted Cruz?

There's drama on the Democratic side of the presidential contest, but nothing like the circus that continues on the Republican side where focus from various perspectives seems aimed at stopping Donald trump.  From the outset of the GOP contest Ted Cruz has sought to secure the support of the most extreme far right and Christofascist factions.  Now, with Cruz perceived to be faltering, some of the extremists seem poised to bail on Cruz (who I continue to view as creepy and utterly unprincipled).  National Review looks at the rumors of a jump from Cruz to Rubio by these ugly elements.  Here are highlights:
A group of conservative activist leaders that voted late last year to endorse Ted Cruz over Marco Rubio held a conference call Tuesday to re-evaluate their positions based on new developments in the Republican presidential race, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation. 
The upshot: If Cruz is not successful on Super Tuesday — by carrying his native Texas at the least — some of his prominent backers are prepared to defect to Rubio. The call was held by members of The GROUP, a secretive cabal of prominent conservatives led by the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins and the Senate Conservatives Fund’s Ken Cuccinelli. The outfit has endeavored since late 2014 to coalesce “the movement” of grassroots activists nationwide behind a single GOP candidate, hoping to prevent a splintering of the conservative vote that would allow a more moderate Republican to clinch the nomination.
Not all members were invited to the discussion, which was apparently guarded from Cruz’s most loyal backers. Perkins, who did not respond to repeated calls seeking comment before this story’s publication, said afterward he was not aware of any conference call, and said there isn’t “a snowball’s chance” that he will support Rubio. (He also said any suggestion of Cruz’s allies abandoning him are “lies from the Rubio camp.” In fact, the call and recent conversations surrounding it were confirmed by multiple sources, including those not aligned with Rubio.) 
 The GROUP voted in early December on an endorsement, and after five rounds of balloting Cruz clinched the 75 percent super majority needed for members to publicly support him. 
That support, which included an endorsement from Iowa evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats, helped lift Cruz to a victory in Iowa’s caucuses. But in the weeks since, doubts have arisen about Cruz’s “emotional connection” with the base, his backers say, and concerns have mounted about the “liar” label sticking to the Texas senator. Cruz’s key allies in the conservative movement have gone into damage-control mode, assuring nervous supporters of his continued viability. But even some of Cruz’s strongest advocates, such as GROUP member and longtime activist Richard Viguerie, have in recent private conversations confessed to doubts. 
Then came Saturday night. Cruz’s deflating third-place finish in South Carolina — where he unexpectedly lost the evangelical vote to Trump — landed like a thud on his activist allies, many of whom watched the election returns together in California at a weekend-long meeting of the Council for National Policy.
The Texas senator’s poor showing in South Carolina, particularly among evangelicals there — he finished six points behind Trump, and only five points ahead of Rubio — emboldened Rubio backers at the CNP gathering to question Cruz’s prospects moving forward. And Cruz’s own supporters were forced to acknowledge ominous shortcomings for a candidate whose path to the nomination runs directly through states that are ideologically akin to South Carolina.
Cruz supporters conceded that his path forward is suddenly murky, and lamented that Trump — with an assist from Rubio — had successfully upended their candidate’s core message of trustworthiness. They also complained that Cruz has not forged a personal connection with the Republican base, without which they fear his absolutist positions and organizational strength are hollow.
Rubio’s backers inside The GROUP, who by rule have remained publicly silent due to Cruz winning a supermajority of their fellow members, have not yet pushed for release from their vow of non-support. But they are laying the groundwork for a mass defection to Rubio should Cruz collapse on Super Tuesday. Particular attention is being paid to Texas, Cruz’s make-or-break home state, where an Emerson poll Wednesday showed him ahead — but Trump and Rubio within the margin of error.
If Cruz doesn’t at least deliver Texas on Tuesday, sources involved with the discussions say, there is a chance that some high-profile conservatives will begin jumping ship to Rubio and pressuring Cruz to exit the race.
As for Tony Perkins' denails, don't believe them.  The man is a pathological liar in my view and an opportunist looking to further his own interest and that of the hate group, FRC.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

New White Supremacist PAC Targets Rubio in Robocalls

While the GOP establishment rallies around Marco Rubio, a/k/a Marcobot, as its savior against Donald Trump, some elements in the Republican Party base that the same establishment courted and allowed to infiltrate the party are taking aim at Rubio and urging members of the GOP to back Donald Trump.  It's yet another example of the whirl wind that the GOP establishment has fanned over the last two decades or more through its pandering to racists and white supremacists through dog whistle messaging and winks and nods.  Talking Points Memo looks at how a white supremacist PAC is biting the GOP establishment in the ass.  Here are excerpts:
In a recording of the robocall sent to TPM, American National Super PAC founder William Daniel Johnson calls on white Americans to brush aside their fears of being branded as racist and stop the “gradual genocide against the white race” by electing Trump.

“The white race is dying out in America and Europe because we are afraid to be called ‘racist,’” Johnson says in the recording, which will be pushed out Wednesday in Vermont and Thursday in Minnesota. Voters in both states will head to the polls on Super Tuesday to vote in the Republican presidential primary.

Johnson, who serves as the head of the white nationalist American Freedom Party, has pushed out similar robocall campaigns through his PAC in Iowa and New Hampshire. Both the party and PAC explicitly praise Trump for espousing what they see as a pro-white, anti-immigrant message.

Though Trump has said he “would disavow” the message espoused by his white nationalist supporters, he's expressed sympathy with voters who are “angry” about the presence of undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

The real estate mogul also has suggested that his leading rivals, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), may not be eligible to serve as president. Cruz was born in Calgary, Alberta to a Cuban father and an American mother, while Rubio was born in Miami to Cuban immigrants.

Read the full text of the PAC's latest robocall effort  . . . . :
The American National Super PAC makes this call to support Donald Trump. I am William Johnson, a farmer and white nationalist.
The white race is dying out in America and Europe because we are afraid to be called “racist.” This is our mindset: It’s okay that our government destroys our children’s future, but don’t call me racist. I am afraid to be called racist. It’s okay to give away our country through immigration, but don’t call me racist. It’s okay that few schools anymorehave beautiful white children as the majority, but don’t call me racist. Gradual genocide against the white race is okay, but don’t call me racist. I am afraid to be called racist. Donald Trump is not a racist, but Donald Trump is not afraid.
Don’t vote for a Cuban. Vote for Donald Trump. (213) 718-3908. This call is not authorized by Donald Trump.
There is truly a sense of divine justice watching the GOP establishment final pay a huge price for the misogyny that it has  cynically embraced for short term electoral wins with no thought of the Frankenstein monster that was being created.

Are Donald Trump and Paul Ryan on Collision Course?

Yesterday while driving to a client's office I was listening to satellite radio and had the nauseating experience of listening to a whiny Paul Ryan talking about the "conservative agenda" he wants to foist on America.  It's an agenda that would further aid the wealthy in Ryan's classic reverse Robin Hood approach to the middle class and poor.  Indeed, those supporting Donald Trump - especially the less educated and less financially secure - would face further assaults on the financial future as Ryan and company strive to create a new Gilded Age.  Now, some are speculating that Ryan's backward, regressive agenda may be headed towards a brick wall if Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination since, despite his fascist tendencies, Trump does seem to realize that further GOP attacks on the 99% are not what his base wants.  A piece in the New York Times looks at the possible collision course.  Here are highlights:
Speaker Paul D. Ryan, chairman of the Republican National Convention, recent vice-presidential candidate and the highest elected Republican in the country, has one goal for this year: to form a conservative policy agenda for the Republican presidential nominee to embrace.
If that nominee is Donald J. Trump, that may be a waste of time.

Panicked Republicans question whether Mr. Trump will be able to unite a Republican-controlled Congress that would normally be expected to promote and promulgate his agenda, an internal crisis nearly unheard-of in a generation of American politics. On nearly every significant issue, Mr. Trump stands in opposition to Republican orthodoxy and his party’s policy prescriptions — the very ideas that Mr. Ryan has done more than anyone else to form, refine or promote over the last decade.

If the billionaire New York businessman captures his party’s nomination — which seemed increasingly possible after a decisive victory in Nevada on Tuesday night — he will become the titular head of the Republican Party, and lawmakers like Mr. Ryan will be expected to fall in line for the balance of the campaign. It is something that many in the party think may be impossible.

Trump is not a Republican,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who dropped out of the race for the White House in December “I have no idea how we reconcile a Donald Trump agenda with a Republican agenda. How do we write a platform?”Mr. Ryan’s positions embody the modern institutional Republican Party. He has been a crucial promoter of free trade on Capitol Hill, which Mr. Trump opposes. Mr. Ryan supports taking away money from Planned Parenthood — a central target of Republicans for years — while Mr. Trump has said the group provides needed care to women.

There is more: Mr. Ryan is the architect of his party’s plan to rein in spending on entitlement programs, which Mr. Trump has said is the reason the party lost the White House in 2012, name-checking Mr. Ryan in his swipe. 

Though most in the Republican establishment are hoping for the dust to settle and for Senator Marco Rubio to emerge as their nominee — his Capitol Hill endorsements stack up daily — some still murmur privately that in the event of Mr. Trump’s nomination, they would like to see Mr. Ryan emerge as a brokered nominee at the Republican National Convention in July.

Some Republican lawmakers say, though nervously, that there would be plenty of intersection between their agenda and Mr. Trump’s. His tax plan — which calls for large tax cuts for all Americans, especially the rich — is similar to Mr. Ryan’s. Mr. Trump, like Mr. Ryan, is all for repealing and replacing the current health care law, although he, unlike Mr. Ryan, has endorsed the individual mandate.

Congressional Republicans — especially senators up for re-election in swing states — have been terrified to criticize Mr. Trump by name because they need his voters, too, in primary and possible general election battles. White-hot fear is beginning to set in.

“I finally got scared last night,” said Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, referring to Mr. Trump’s resounding victory in the Nevada caucuses on Tuesday. “As we get closer and people get more serious, I hope more people up here speak out.”

If nothing else comes out of Trump's candidacy, perhaps it will be the growing realization among the GOP base that the party's agenda is against their own best interests and that they have been duped for years into supporting their actual enemies through the GOP's use of wedge issues, religious extremism and racism. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Barack Obama: A Responsibility I Take Seriously

I have written a number of posts about the political crisis surrounding the U. S. Supreme Court in the wake of the death of right wing ideologue Justice Antonin Scalia.  Senate Republicans have vowed to block any nominee to the vacant seat on the Court and suggested that President Obama not bother submitting a nominee  to the Senate - notwithstanding the Constitution's directive that the President SHALL nominate a replacement.  The irony is that the Republicans who now hold themselves out as the protectors of the Constitution are only too willing to ignore the plain language of the Constitution.  In response, Barack Obama has an op-ed at SCOTUS Blog that eloquently  laws out how Obama plans to fulfill his constitutional duties. Here are excerpts:

The Constitution vests in the President the power to appoint judges to the Supreme Court.  It’s a duty that I take seriously, and one that I will fulfill in the weeks ahead.

It’s also one of the most important decisions that a President will make.  Rulings handed down by the Supreme Court directly affect our economy, our security, our rights, and our daily lives.

Needless to say, this isn’t something I take lightly.  It’s a decision to which I devote considerable time, deep reflection, careful deliberation, and serious consultation with legal experts, members of both political parties, and people across the political spectrum.  And with thanks to SCOTUSblog for allowing me to guest post today, I thought I’d share some spoiler-free insights into what I think about before appointing the person who will be our next Supreme Court Justice.

First and foremost, the person I appoint will be eminently qualified.  He or she will have an independent mind, rigorous intellect, impeccable credentials, and a record of excellence and integrity.  I’m looking for a mastery of the law, with an ability to hone in on the key issues before the Court, and provide clear answers to complex legal questions.

Second, the person I appoint will be someone who recognizes the limits of the judiciary’s role; who understands that a judge’s job is to interpret the law, not make the law.  I seek judges who approach decisions without any particular ideology or agenda, but rather a commitment to impartial justice, a respect for precedent, and a determination to faithfully apply the law to the facts at hand.

But I’m also mindful that there will be cases that reach the Supreme Court in which the law is not clear.  There will be cases in which a judge’s analysis necessarily will be shaped by his or her own perspective, ethics, and judgment.  That’s why the third quality I seek in a judge is a keen understanding that justice is not about abstract legal theory, nor some footnote in a dusty casebook.  It’s the kind of life experience earned outside the classroom and the courtroom; experience that suggests he or she views the law not only as an intellectual exercise, but also grasps the way it affects the daily reality of people’s lives in a big, complicated democracy, and in rapidly changing times.  That, I believe, is an essential element for arriving at just decisions and fair outcomes.

A sterling record.  A deep respect for the judiciary’s role.  An understanding of the way the world really works.  That’s what I’m considering as I fulfill my constitutional duty to appoint a judge to our highest court.  And as Senators prepare to fulfill their constitutional responsibility to consider the person I appoint, I hope they’ll move quickly to debate and then confirm this nominee so that the Court can continue to serve the American people at full strength.

Mitt Romney Hints ‘Bombshell’ in Trump’s Taxes

In all of the political noise in the wake of the Nevada caucuses results and the pundit class still talking about Hillary's private e-mail server, The Daily Beast has picked up on why Donald Trump is resisting calls that he release copies of his tax returns.  Failed presidential candidate and vulture capitalist Mitt Romney suggests that Trumps tax returns may contain some "bombshells."  Romney conjectures that Trumps tax returns might reveal (i) that Trump pays an excessively low rate, (ii) that he isn’t worth the $10 billion he claims, and/or (iii) that he hasn’t given as much to veterans’ charities as he boasts.  Here are article highlights:
Mitt Romney suggested Wednesday there may be a "bombshell" within Donald Trump's tax information.

The Republican front runner has been "aggressive in avoiding any discussion of taxes," Romney told Fox News host Neil Cavuto. "Frankly I think we have good reason to believe that there's a bombshell in Donald Trump's taxes."

Asked by Cavuto what problems he envisions in Trump’s taxes, Romney suggested the numbers might reveal that he pays an excessively low rate, or that he isn’t worth the hefty $10 billion he claims, or that he hasn’t given as much to veterans’ charities as he boasts. "Donald Trump has said he's the best in the country for the disabled veterans and for the disabled generally,” Romney said. “Well, if his taxes show that he hasn't made any contributions to the disabled veterans, or to the disabled generally, that would be a big issue."

The former Republican Massachusetts governor, who has yet to endorse a candidate, was subjected to intense tax scrutiny during his failed 2012 presidential run against Barack Obama. Now that he has assumed an elder statesmen's role for the party, Romney believes the GOP candidates should undergo similar tax vetting.

Trump's response:  Mitt Romney,who totally blew an election that should have been won and whose tax returns made him look like a fool, is now playing tough guy.

I always believe that if you have nothing to hide, then way act like you do.  Time will tell whether Trump is even more of a fraud then some of us already believe him to be.