Saturday, December 19, 2015

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Donald Trump: The Marriage of P.T. Barnum and Rush Limbaugh.

Two editorials in the Washington Post together provide a good summary of politics in America today.  The first looks at the efforts being made by Barack Obama to keep reason and logic in policies and moving the nation forward in the face of Republican extremism and the embrace of ignorance.  The second looks at the way in which Donald Trump in particular has given racists and bigots free license to come out from the nooks and crannies where they have been existing out of sight much like cockroaches.  Indeed, many of Trump's followers seem to be of the same mindset as Germans who happily followed Hitler's nod to unfettered bigotry and ultimately violence.  Here are highlights from the first piece:
It’s a paradox that Obama can have so many successes, and yet be seen by some at home and abroad as weak.

Obama’s political education has been expensive, for him and the country. He came into office believing that good ideas would prevail. He disliked the messy, boisterous work of salesmanship and retail governance. Perhaps he worried deep down that some of the opposition to his policies was rooted in prejudice against him as an African American. Perhaps he was right.

From his first year in office, Obama encountered a raw rejectionism from the Republican right; it wasn’t just criticism of his policies but a challenge to the very legitimacy of his presidency. Many details were fabricated, such as the allegation that he was secretly a Muslim, or that he had been born outside the United States. Yet these themes were repeated so often on conservative talk radio and cable news that they began to constitute an alternative reality.

The rise of Trump has surprised most pundits, but it doesn’t seem to shock Obama. Trump is a crystallization of the angry rhetoric that Obama has been facing from the GOP since he took office. Trump is just louder, more shameless and more charismatic. He’s the marriage of P.T. Barnum and Rush Limbaugh. 

It would be good if Obama were better at projecting the rationalist’s faith in this moment of irrational politics. . . . Obama has made skepticism about easy answers and quick fixes the cornerstone of his foreign policy. In the Situation Room, he is said to quiz his advisers about unintended consequences — to ask what Iraq or Syria or Ukraine would look like in the months after a proposed action. Those are the questions the country should want asked, but Obama hasn’t found a way to make them sound like good leadership.
As noted, the second op-ed looks at the ugliness that Trump and to a lesser extent the rest of the GOP clown car has unleashed.  Here are highlights:
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote: “Let’s not mince words: Donald Trump is a bigot and a racist.”

I cited a long list of incidents in which he targeted women, Latinos, African Americans, Muslims, Asians and the disabled. Here’s what I heard from Trump’s defenders:
“Let’s not mince words,” somebody tweeted under the name Helios Megistos. “Milbank is an anti-white parasite and a bigoted kike supremacist.”

“[Trump] may well be a bigot and a racist,” one Michael Banfield wrote me via email. “But one thing is certain: The only thing missing from your photo is a [vulgar word for penis] in your mouth, gay bastard.”
Various Trump defenders derided Muslims as “Muzzies” and “Mo-slimes.” One reader informed me that “Muslims worship a man who f----- a 9-year-old.” They spoke of the “sociopath Hussein” — President Obama — and his “Islamic butt buddies.” But mostly they zeroed in on my Judaism, which they discovered from Internet searches.
This is the seventh presidential campaign I’ve covered in some form over 25 years, and harsh criticism comes with the territory. But the Trump-backers’ venom is without precedent. His supporters surely aren’t all bigots — but he is bringing the bigoted in from the cold.  

I write this not out of any hope of changing the minds of Trump-backers, nor to reinforce the prevailing view among liberals that Trump has unleashed ugliness. I write this to conservatives of conscience: Is this what you want conservatism, the Republican Party and America to be? 

My Post colleagues Carol Leonnig and David Nakamura and others have documented the racial violence at Trump rallies  . . . . The Post’s Stephanie McCrummen wrote a powerful piece this week about a Trump rally in Mesa, Ariz., where a young man shouted “motherf---ing tacos — go back to Mexico” at two Latino protesters — and a 70-year-old retiree sucker-punched a demonstrator.

And where is the condemnation of this behavior? . . . . Trump is burning down the Republican house, and the American house, yet his rivals are on a march of the narcissists. 

Is this what Republicans stand for? Is this conservatism? 
 Trump and his base are nothing less than frightening.

Doubts About Saudi Arabia’s Antiterrorism Efforts

As noted in a recent post, one of the flaws in America's Middle East policy is that it relies in part on a false ally: Saudi Arabia, the number one financier of Islamic extremism across the globe.  Until Saudi Arabia is forced to take action to stop the export of extremism and to forcefully condemn Islamic fundamentalists - including sending troops to defeat ISIS - America will have a traitor in its coalition. To date no one, Democrat or Republican - seems willing to have a very blunt conversation with the Saudi royals.  With America now largely independent form Saudi blackmail through oil dependence, this conversation needs to happen.  Europe may be still subject to Saudi blackmail, so America needs to lead the way on the effort.  A main editorial in the New York Times looks at Saudi Arabia's dubious efforts to fight Islamic terrorism.  Here are excerpts:
One of the greatest weaknesses in the American-led fight against the Islamic State is the lack of competent regional forces to join in defeating the militants, especially on the ground. Saudi Arabia’s plans to organize a military coalition of 34 Islamic nations against terrorism could be a breakthrough, though there are many reasons to doubt how effective the plan will be.

As for the coalition, there is no clarity about what the group will actually do. Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s inexperienced defense minister, said the coalition’s efforts would not be limited to fighting the Islamic State, a Sunni Muslim group, but would include a joint operations center established in Riyadh to “coordinate and support military operations to fight terrorism” across the Muslim world. Just what that means is unclear, but it could be a license to find enemies everywhere.

[I]t is hard to see Saudi Arabia, a Sunni-led state, as a serious partner against the Islamic State unless it stops financing the Wahhabi religious schools and clerics that are spreading the kind of extremist doctrine that is at the heart of the Islamic State’s ideology. Although the Islamic State has pledged to destroy Saudi Arabia, Saudi leaders have so far been more concerned with opposing Shia-led Iran, which they consider their greatest adversary.

It’s also not clear which nations will be involved in the coalition. When the deputy crown prince announced the initiative on Tuesday, he identified some states, like Pakistan and Malaysia, as members, though they said they were unaware of the plans. Yet several key Muslim countries have been excluded, namely Iran and Iraq, another Shia-majority country, which Saudi Arabia views as an Iranian puppet. Also absent are Oman, a neighbor of Saudi Arabia that brokered the shaky cease-fire in Yemen that started this week, and Algeria, the largest Muslim country in Africa. Indonesia, the largest Muslim-majority nation, is not on the list. . . . . 

Saudi Arabia, with one of the most modern arsenals in the region, has not been seriously committed to fighting the Islamic State. The proposal is at least partly a response to pressure from President Obama, who has argued that it and other Sunni states have done far too little to defeat a force that threatens them more than anyone else. It shouldn’t take long to see whether the proposal has substance or is just an attempt to divert attention from Saudi Arabia’s disastrous military intervention in Yemen and defer an overdue reckoning for its own role in spawning the kinds of extremists the coalition is supposed to counter.

If Republicans are really serious about national security, expanding alternative fuel sources, solar and wind power should be a priority.  Only then will oil, the sole support for Saudi Arabia influence, lose its value and that nation can slide back into being a worthless desert.

Massachusetts Court: Catholic School Wrongly Fired Gay Employee

Anti-gay school
Increasingly, we are seeing religious affiliated schools and colleges seek special rights when it comes to discriminating against gays and otherwise breaking non-discrimination laws.  The godly folk believe that they should have the right to refuse to employ gays - even while disgustingly enjoying tax-exempt status and, thus, indirect financial benefits from those they discriminate against - on the justification of their hate and fear based religious beliefs (I believe that no religious institution should not be tax exempt unless engaged in solely charitable works which do not include disseminating religious beliefs and bigotry). These beliefs, of course, are typically selectively aimed at LGBT individuals.  A Massachusetts court has called this bigotry out for the bull shit that it is and has ruled against a Catholic School that fired a gay worker once it discovered he was married to a man.   Metro Weekly looks at this first of its kind ruling.  Here are highlights:
A Massachusetts superior court judge on Wednesday ruled in a first-of-its-kind decision that a Catholic all-girls school in Milton, Mass., illegally discriminated against a gay cafeteria worker when school officials fired him after learning he was married to another man.

Matthew Barrett, of Dorchester, had argued that Fontbonne Academy had engaged in sex discrimination when it rescinded its job offer after discovering details about his personal life. Barrett had previously been offered and accepted the position of food services director at the school, a position that did not put him in the classroom or leave him with the ability to influence school curriculum. But Fontbonne insisted it had a right to fire Barrett, citing the Catholic Church’s opposition to homosexuality and same-sex marriage, as well as an exemption within Massachusetts’ LGBT nondiscrimination law for religiously-affiliated institutions. 

But Norfolk Superior Court Judge Douglas Wilkins rejected that argument, ruling that the exemption within the nondiscrimination law does not apply, because Fontbonne accepts non-Catholic students and employees, regardless of their faith. According to Wilkins, the religious exemption only applies to organizations that limit membership or admission to members of a certain religion.

Additionally, Wilkins ruled that the First Amendment’s protections for religious expression did not apply to the case, as hiring a food service worker who happened to be married to a same-sex spouse would not interfere with Fontbonne’s ability to express its opposition to same-sex marriages.

“Religiously-affiliated organizations do not get a free pass to discriminate against gay and lesbian people,” Bennett Klein, a senior attorney with Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), which is representing Barrett, said in a statement. “When Fontbonne fired Matt from a job that has nothing to do with religion, and simply because he is married, they came down on the wrong side of the law.”

If the school decides not to appeal, the two sides must determine whether there will be a trial to determine the amount in damages that Fontbonne would owe to Barrett, who has since taken a job with the Milton public school system. 

“I’m ecstatic,” Barrett said in a statement. “What happened to me was wrong, and I truly hope it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
Kudos to Judge Wilkins!!   As regular readers know, I view religion as one of the pervasive forces of evil in the world today be it in the form of Islamic extremism or the hate and bigotry which is the bedrock of conservative Christianity.  The world would simply be a better place if religion suddenly disappeared from the face of the planet.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Will the Saudi Arabia Let the West Defeat ISIS?

As noted in a number of previous posts, one of America's most duplicitous "allies" in the Middle East is Saudi Arabia and the Saudi royal family.  Yes, the Saudi royals want to retain their wealth and very nice life style, yet Saudi Arabia remains the number one financier of Islamic extremism in the world. And little is being done to reign in the money flow supporting the export of Islamic extremism despite Saudi lip service to the contrary.  Indeed, like the GOP in this country, the Saudi monarchy has used appeals to fundamentalist extremist to help hold on to their power.  A piece in The Daily Beast raises the timely question of whether or not the Saudis are actually on the side of the West in seeking to defeat ISIS.  Here are article highlights:

Saudi Arabia has put on quite a show. On Dec. 9 and 10, the Gulf monarchy held a major conference to assemble the Syrian rebels into a cohesive front—a welcome reprieve from the chaos in Syria and the fragmentation of the opposition. On Dec. 15, Saudi Arabia announced a new “Islamic military alliance” of 34 countries to “coordinate and support military operations to fight terrorism.” These two developments—unifying the Syrian rebels and leading the Muslim world in the fight against terrorism—were certainly meant to reaffirm Saudi Arabia’s role as a reliable U.S. ally in Syria and the Middle East.

Unfortunately, both of these initiatives fell apart before they were even underway. Not only did the Saudis exclude the Kurds—the most effective ground force fighting ISIS—from the Syrian opposition conference, they also included radical elements like Ahrar al-Sham, an ally of Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra. 

So why the dog and pony show? Saudi Arabia is hoping to draw attention away from the true objectives of it and its partners, Qatar and Turkey, and the support they give to the Salafist groups in Syria that contribute to the continued instability in the country.

Embroiled in a proxy war with Russia and Iran—both of whom support Assad—Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey have supported and armed the more radical elements of the opposition.

While some, like Ahrar al-Sham, have made robust public relations efforts to present themselves as moderates, these groups espouse radical ideologies and carry out atrocities that make it so no minority group in Syria could, or should, trust them. Moreover, they continue to expand Syria’s ungoverned space, forming a stronghold from which they can arm and train themselves and carry out attacks both inside and outside of Syria. Russia and Iran already fear this outcome; the United States, the West, and other countries in the Middle East should as well.

Their goals are much narrower than creating a viable state. Instead, their intervention in Syria is part-and-parcel of the larger conflict with Iran. The evident objective is simply to create enough instability that the country is no longer an asset to Tehran but is, rather, a liability. In this regard, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are already succeeding.

Turkey, on the other hand, has an entirely different interest in prolonging the Syrian Civil War. Rather than a threat from Iran, Turkey is concerned over the potential creation of a Kurdish autonomous region in Syria—much like the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq to which Turkey has reluctantly grown accustomed.

Though their objectives are different, the Gulf policies and the Turkish policy have one thing in common—even if they achieved their end goals, a stop to the fighting is not part of their vision for Syria. As long as the Gulf States continue their conflict with Iran and the Turks try to hold off an inevitable Kurdish autonomous region—with neither employing a long-term strategy—there will be no foreseeable end to the Syrian conflict.

Where is the United States in this? What should the United States do?  Russia and Iran will never give up Assad in the face of unabated external support for Syria’s Salafist opposition groups. Expecting them to do so while the United States turns a blind eye to its allies—something Moscow and Tehran see as tacit approval—is naive.

Washington must make public demands that its allies, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey, stop arming these radical groups. John Kerry and other U.S. officials may well be quietly urging Ankara and Gulf partners to limit their aid to what the United States deems “moderate” opposition groups; however, as these countries refuse to cooperate, Washington must, at the very least, make these calls louder.

When these countries continue to act against long-term U.S. interests—that is, stability in Syria—Washington should restrict, rather than facilitate, new arms sales and investment opportunities for them. This will of course create complications, as the United States has used Turkey’s Incirlik airbase since June and has coordinated with both Turkey and Saudi Arabia to arm and train rebels against ISIS. But if Washington remains quiet on these countries’ divisive behavior, they will be emboldened to continue and create further instability.

If, however, both sides can be persuaded—and if necessary, pressured—to stop supporting those who prolong the war, perhaps some form of unity can be reached. It will be a tense unity, certainly, but it will be a step in the right direction.

If the United States wants to mediate effectively between the two sides, it must find a more balanced approach. If it can’t keep its allies—especially Saudi Arabia—in check, any efforts to end the war will be doomed from the start.

Ted Cruz Continues to Garner Hate Group Support

As noted in a previous post, Ted Cruz is increasingly the candidate of choice among far right Christian hate groups that hide behind the label of "family values" organizations.  Many of these groups are not only virulently anti-gay but are also stridently anti-immigrant and have overt white supremacists leanings.   Indeed, they make up the leadership of those I refer to as Christofascists.  Yesterday, Cruz picked up another hate group endorsement when James Dobson, founder of both Focus On The Family and the Family Research Council, endorsed Cruz.  Here is part of Dobson's disingenuous statement via press release.
“Ted Cruz’s record on religious liberty, life, and marriage is second to none in this Republican field,” Dobson said. “I have met with the senator on multiple occasions: he is brilliant, articulate, and informed. Shirley and I have been praying for a leader such as this, and we are confident that Ted Cruz has the moral and spiritual foundations to lead our nation with excellence. Speaking as private individuals, we urge conservatives and people of faith to join us in supporting his race for the presidency.”
Both Focus On The Family and the Family Research Council disseminate deliberate lies about LGBT Americans and other demographic groups.  How Focus on the Family has avoided a formal hate group designation is mind boggling (FRC has been so categorized).  Make no mistake, Dobson has wants a Christian theocracy in America and is a proponent of license to discriminate laws and has signed the Manhattan Declaration, which calls on Christians to disobey LGBT civil rights and non-discrimination laws.  His endorsement of Cruz ought to send decent, thoughtful individuals - admittedly a rare breed in today's GOP - running and screaming away from Cruz. Cruz is very, very dangerous.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

More Thursday Male Beauty

Pharma-Douche Martin Shkreli Arrested By The FBI

Martin Shkreli being taken away in handcuffs
Few individuals personify the epitome of vulture capitalism and pharmaceutical company greed more than Martin Shkreli, a former hedge fund operator and douche bag who purchased a pharmaceutical company and then promptly raised the price of a drug used to treat infections that can be devastating for babies and those with AIDS from $13.50 a pill to $750 a pill.  Today, the lime ball and arrogant bastard (who seems to have studied the art under Donald Trump) got his just deserves and was arrested by the FBI on securities fraud and wire fraud charges.  The New York Times has details.  Here are highlights:

It has been a busy week for Martin Shkreli, the flamboyant businessman at the center of the drug industry’s price-gouging scandals.
He said he would sharply increase the cost of a drug used to treat a potentially deadly parasitic infection. He called himself “the world’s most eligible bachelor” on Twitter and railed against critics in a live-streaming YouTube video.

Then, at 6 a.m. Thursday morning, federal authorities arrested Mr. Shkreli, 32, at his Murray Hill apartment. He was arraigned in Federal District Court in Brooklyn on securities fraud and wire fraud charges.

Mr. Shkreli has emerged as a symbol of pharmaceutical greed for acquiring a decades-old drug used to treat an infection that can be devastating for babies and people with AIDS and, overnight, raised the price to $750 a pill from $13.50. His only mistake, he later conceded, was not raising the price more.

Those price increases combined with Mr. Shkreli’s jeering response has made him a lightning rod for public outrage and fodder for the presidential campaign. His company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, and others, like Valeant Pharmaceuticals, have come under fire from lawmakers and consumers for profiting from steep price increases for old drugs.

But the criminal charges brought against him actually relate to something else entirely — his time as a hedge fund manager and when he ran his first biopharmaceutical company, Retrophin. Federal officials described his crimes as a quasi-Ponzi scheme in which he used money from his company to pay off money-losing investors in his hedge funds. An F.B.I. official called his business schemes a “securities fraud trifecta of lies, deceit and greed.”

Still, for many of his critics, Mr. Shkreli’s arrest was a comeuppance for the brash, irreverent executive who has seemed to enjoy — relish, even — his public notoriety.

“Personally, I think Martin Shkreli has become wealthy at the expense of the public good. I don’t believe for a second that his manipulation of drug prices fuels valuable research as he has claimed,” said Katie Uva, a 2006 alumni of Hunter College High School in Manhattan where Mr. Shkreli attended, in an email response to questions. This fall, Ms. Uva started an online fund-raising campaign to match a $1 million donation from Mr. Shkreli to Hunter in the hope of persuading the school to return the donation.

MSMB’s performance wasn’t nearly as hot as Mr. Shkreli let on. From 2009 through 2012, Mr. Shkreli lost millions of dollars trading in the market, according to the accusations contained in the indictment. But he hid those losses, telling investors instead that the funds had strong double-digit returns.

In 2011, Mr. Shkreli started Retrophin, which quickly adopted a controversial business strategy, acquiring old, neglected drugs used for rare diseases and quickly raising their prices.

Soon, however, Mr. Shkreli was embarking on a plan to use Retrophin assets to pay off MSMB investors. . . . When seven MSMB investors threatened to sue in 2013, Mr. Shkreli and Evan Greebel, the lead outside counsel for Retrophin, used $3.4 million in Retrophin funds and stock to settle the investors’ claims, even though Retrophin had no responsibility, the indictment says.

[W]hen Retrophin’s auditor raised questions about the settlements, Mr. Shkreli and Mr. Greebel created fraudulent consulting agreements for the investors, thinking they could pay the money back without upsetting the auditor, the indictment states. From September 2013 to March 2014, they created fake consulting agreements for four investors, paying $7.6 million in cash and stock. Retrophin’s board did not approve of the consulting agreements, the indictment says.

In September 2014, Retrophin ousted Mr. Shkreli as its chief executive. A lawsuit filed this summer by the company mirrors many of the same accusations contained in the federal charges.
There is more, but the take away is that this guy is disgusting.  I hope he gets convicted and ends up being someone's bitch in prison.  It would be all too sweet of a divine justice.  Of course, if you believe Ben Carson's lunatic theories, Shkreli will be gay when he gets out of prison.

McAuliffe Promises to Veto Bogus GOP "Religious Freedom" Bills

Gov. McAuliffe (L) and Sen. Carrico (R)
As predicted, the Virginia Republicans are using the U.S. Supreme Court's marriage ruling as a pretense to introduce bills in the 2016 session of the Virginia General Assembly that would give special rights to right wing Christians and allow them to ignore existing non-discrimination laws.  The Bill SB 40, filed by GOP state Senator  Charles W. Carrico, Sr. from Galax, would allow Circuit Court Clerks and deputy Clerk's  to  to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples on "ethical, moral, or religious grounds."  Despite refusing to do their jobs, they would draw their full salaries,  More insanely, the bill would require a process be established where same sex marriage licenses could be obtained at Department of Motor Vehicle offices. 

The second Bill, SB 41 is much broader in scope and would grant special rights to any number of parties:
". . . . no individual authorized to solemnize any marriage shall be required to do so and no religious organization shall be required to provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization of any marriage if the action would cause the individual or organization to violate a sincerely held religious belief. . . . ."

In short, right wing Christians would be placed above the laws that bind the rest of society and could refuse hotel accommodations, services, flowers, baked gods, etc., etc., based ultimately on anti-gay animus.   If it is any comfort, gays are not Carrico's only target.  He has also introduced a bill, SB 45, that would bring back Confederate flag license plates to the Commonwealth.   GayRVA looks at Carrico's bogus "religious freedom" bills and Governor McAuliffe's promised veto.  Here are highlights:

In an email sent to GayRVA, a spokesperson for Governor Terry McAuliffe said he would veto two new bills aiming to expand religious freedoms in Virginia.

“Governor McAuliffe believes legislation like this would send the wrong message to people around the globe about the climate Virginia offers businesses and families who may want to locate here,” said Irma Palmer, spokesperson for Governor McAuliffe, about the two bills, submitted by Senator Carrico, mentioned below which aim to make it harder for same-sex couples to marry.

McAuliffe has long said LGBTQ equality is key for the Commonwealth to grow its business markets. Palmer said the Governor supports same-sex marriage and believes “we need to be working to make Virginia more open and welcoming to everyone, not less. Accordingly, he would veto these bills if they pass.”

In an interview with GayRVA, Carrico said the two bills weren’t asked for by any court clerks or state employees, but the call for action on this issue came from his constituents who he said voted firmly in 2006 to support Virginia’s now debunked ban on same-sex marriage.

“I have 200,000 constituents that a vast majority supported marriage as between one man and and one woman,” he said. “They elected me to represent their values and their beliefs and that’s what I’m representing.”

Carrico said same-sex marriage was his specific target on for this bill, and his district’s proximity to states like North Carolina and Kentucky, where action has been taken to allow court clerks to deny marriage licenses, was part of his inspiration.
Carrico claims the backing for the bills came from his constituents, but I suspect the real push came from the hate merchants and parasites at The Family Foundation.  But, in the remote chance Carrico, is correctly blaming the bills on his constituents, it is worthwhile to look at Carrico's district.  It is located in far Southwest Virginia, the economic and cultural basket case of the Commonwealth of Virginia.   From data I located, 27.97% of the households in Gala make less than $15,000 per year versus 12.61% of American households nationally.  56.35% percent of the households in Galax make $30,000 or less per year versus 28.51 percent of American households nationally.   In short, the area is an economically depressed backwater that desperately needs new, progressive businesses to relocate to the area.  However, due to the region's bigotry and backwardness, that is not likely to happen.  Bigotry does indeed have a price.  It's a message that Carrico and his constituents need to grasp. 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

The GOP Candidates’ Hypocrisy on Christianity

One of the things that disgusts me about today's Republican Party - actually, there are MANY things that disgust me about the GOP - is the perversion, if not total rejection of the Gospel message even as both candidates and many in the party base wrap themselves in religion and utterly false piety.  The New Testament seemingly does not exist and only selective passages in the Old Testament - generally those that inspire hatred and justify violence - are on the radar screen.  The hypocrisy is literally off the charts.  A column in the Washington Post looks at this hypocrisy.  Here are excerpts:

Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) defended “carpet bombing,” while Donald Trump explained that being “much tougher” on terrorists meant going after their families and “girlfriends.” 

Perhaps I am influenced by the Christmas season, but there was something genuinely appalling that candidates who so often claim to be devout Christians allocated the bulk of their time to warfare, to throwing people out of our country and to walling them off. There was almost nothing about our obligations to millions around the world who are suffering, from the very wars the candidates were so focused on and from a depth of poverty that is hard for us in rich countries to fathom.

[Carly] Hernandez raised this matter pointedly in a video, asking: “If the Bible clearly states that we need to embrace those in need and not fear, how can we justify not accepting refugees?” The responses from Christie and even the normally compassionate Kasich were, shall we say, less than full-hearted. 

I am not naive, and I am not a pacifist. But I’d ask a small favor from these candidates: Please stop saying how Christian you are unless you show at least a few signs of understanding the social obligations the word imposes.

Bush, at least, called out some of the meanness where Trump is concerned. The smart punditry saw his performance as coming too late to salvage his candidacy, and this may well be true. But it was a real relief to hear Bush mock Trump for proposals that would “push the Muslim world, the Arab world, away from us at a time when we need to reengage with them to be able to create a strategy to destroy ISIS.” Bush left a lasting scar when he called Trump “a chaos candidate” who bids to be “a chaos president.”

Overall, Republicans are betting that our country is in a warlike mood. I’m skeptical. But even if they’re right, they will have to do better than playing tough guys on TV. 
I long ago ceased calling myself a Christian given what an ugly word the GOP and the Christofascists have made it to be.

10 Bald-Faced Lies from the Republican Debate

One way in which one can tell that the Republican Party has become largely controlled by the Christofascists is the fact that the truth no longer matters.   No one lies more than the "godly folk" so it should come as no surprise that GOP candidates have adopted the same truth free agenda and see themselves as having a license to say whatever furthers their cause, namely power and upward movement in polls of GOP ignorance embracing voters.  And the focus of many of the untruths is to pander to the bigotry and racism of the GOP base which seemingly will believe anything so long as it plays to its widely held prejudices.  A piece in Salon looks at some of the top lies from Tuesday night's debate.  Here are highlights:

Another GOP debate, another steaming pile of half-truths, lies and pseudo-facts. The Republican Party seems to be almost entirely post-truth at this point, and if you call them out, you’re the liberal media! It’s a brilliant racket and one that led us to the current state of affairs where facts aren’t just dispensable, but a political liability. Without further ado, here are the top lies and distortions from tonight’s debate.

1. Ben Carson and Ted Cruz: “We cannot vet refugees. A popular refrain in the wake of the Paris and San Bernadino attacks is that the U.S. government (or more specifically President Obama) cannot properly vet Syrian refugees. This has been repeatedly debunked as hysterical posturing, yet remains a popular trope among the far right. In addition to a rather thorough takedown by John Oliver two weeks ago, PoliticoFact rated this claim, “Mostly False” . .

2. Marco Rubio claims Assad created ISISThis is an old canard, and one that even nominally lefty outlets like Vox like to push, but it has little to do with reality. In an effort to shore up his neocon credentials, Rubio has doubled down on regime change in Syria while other GOP candidates like Paul and Cruz – as well as Bernie Sanders – have run away from this position. To do this Rubio has pushed the conspiracy theory that the reason ISIS grew in Syria is because the U.S. didn’t back the rebels opposed to Assad when in fact the CIA, according to documents revealed by Edward Snowden, spent $1 billion a year arming, funding and assisting the opposition.

3. Donald Trump cites bogus poll that 25% of Muslims condone acts of violence.   A popular trope among the nativist wing of the Republican Party (aka the Republican Party), the bogus stat that 25% of Muslins support violence is thrown around quite often. But it originates from noted Islamophobic “think tank” Center for Security Policy.

4. Chris Christie insists he was appointed U.S. Attorney on Sept 10, 2001.  Why does Christie keep repeating this lie? It’s been debunked several times and it’s a matter of public record. It’s a great soundbite to be sure, and if true, would put Christie in the heart of the most significant foreign policy crisis of the past 20 years. But the reality is that George W. Bush nominated Christie on Dec. 7, 2001, as one can clearly see from a White House press release.

5. Ted Cruz claims George W. Bush deported 10 million peopleGeroge W. Bush deported 1.8 million people. Obama deported 2 million. It’s unclear where Cruz is getting this number from.

6. Donald Trump keeps saying he self-funds, but we know that’s demonstrably false.  This is another assertion that’s completely disproven and easily searchable online (which raises the question of why CNN hasn’t bothered doing this). Trump has received, according to the last available FEC filings, upward of $3.9 million from individual donors compared to using only $101,000 of his own money. 

7. Moderator lie: CNN’s Wolf Blitzer claimed terrorism fears are higher than they’ve been since 9/11.  That’s not true. A recent Gallup poll shows terrorism fears have spiked recently, but are the same as in 2005 and nowhere near as high as after 9/11.

8. Lie by omission: Why was the attack on Planned Parenthood not mentioned in a debate about terrorism?  . . . . non-Muslim terrorism was completely absent. The recent Planned Parenthood terrorist attack carried out by a man who claims to be a “warrior for babies” wasn’t discussed in the broader context of terrorism. Why this is so remains unclear.

9. Lie by cliche: What the hell is Fiorina talking about?   Fiorina keeps referencing “building up the sixth fleet” because presumably it sounds like some important walk-and-talk dialogue in the West Wing, but it actually makes no sense. Several experts have chimed in on this strange refrain and pointed out that it’s basically nonsense. As military magazine Stars and Stripes noted:
Her meaning wasn’t immediately clear — the U.S. 6th Fleet is less a collection of ships than a command structure for operating American warships in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. Moreover, the fleet is one of the few growing military commands in Europe.
10. Several candidates keep claiming the Iran deal “gives $150 billion to Iran.”  As the LA Times notes, it’s not “giving” $150 billion to Iran, it’s relieving sanctions that will ultimately unfreeze more than $150 billion in assets to Iran, but the funds were already Iran’s to begin with. No one is “giving” Iran anything.

As for condoning the use of violence, I would argue that the group most in favor of using violence is evangelical Christians who seemingly cannot wait to see the slaughter of Muslims by American forces.  They probably like to see some gays slaughtered as well since they claim we are a threat to Western Civilization.  

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Marco Rubio Fear Mongers to Chritofascists

With the leading hate merchants of the "Christian Right" falling in line behind the always foul Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio is making a new push to utterly prostitute himself to America's Christian Taliban.  In a new ad, Marco plays on the delusions of the elements of the religious extremist party base who feel persecuted if their ability to persecute and debase others is in anyway challenged. These folks - and apparently Rubio - have no problem making others feel out of place in their own country, but god forbid that they cannot inflict their beliefs and views on others.   CNN looks at Rubio's whore like self-prostitution.  Here are highlights:
Marco Rubio is making a play for "traditional values" voters with a new campaign ad targeting those who Rubio says "feel out of place in our own country."

Challenged by the rise of GOP rival Ted Cruz, Rubio appears to be going after the same bloc of social conservative voters that has propelled Cruz to first place in Iowa in recent polls and previously buoyed Donald Trump and Ben Carson's campaigns.

In the spare new 30-second ad, titled "About," Rubio speaks directly to the camera as he frames the stakes of the 2016 election. 

"This election is about the essence of America," he says. "About all of us who feel out of place in our own country."

"A government incredibly out of touch, and millions with traditional values branded bigots and haters," Rubio said. 

The pitch is a pointed appeal to the Republican Party's social conservative base, which is critical to success in the Republican primary, and has been energized in recent years by political fights over same-sex marriage, religious liberty and abortion.
The question to me is this: when is Rubio going to get a tattoo on his forehead that says "I am a whore"?

Fear Won the GOP Presidential Debate

Overall, there seems to be any consensus as to who won the Republican Presidential debate last night.  Yes, Jebbie Bush got in a few licks against The Donald and reminded the audience that the Geneva Conventions still exist (not that his idiot brother and Dick Cheney let that bother them), but seemingly there is little movement to be seen in polling numbers.  But, as a piece in Politico, there was indeed one winner: fear or perhaps more accurately, fear mongering.  And the overall solution the GOP clown card offered is belligerence, calls for "troops on the ground," and, of course, killing Muslims.  In the process, the would be commanders in chief showed most were not ready for prime time.  Ted Cruz may hay released classified information, Chris Christie talked about talking face to face with the king of Jordan who has been dead for 16 years, and as noted in a prior post, Ben Carson advocated for killing women and children in the fight against ISIS.  Sadly, the mainstream media is doing its best to whip up fear and anxiety and, thus are aiding the GOP.  Here are highlights from the Politico piece:

[I]t’s accurate to say that the debate was all about terrorism—how to fight it, how to keep Americans safe from it, and how much Americans should be freaking out about it. CNN’s panelists asked no questions about jobs, wages, the impending Fed rate hike, health care, energy, infrastructure, the federal budget, the federal deficit, the Supreme Court, financial reform, abortion, race, or any other domestic issue unrelated to homeland security. “Americans are more afraid today than they’ve been at any time since 9/11,” Wolf Blitzer declared, and the main theme of the debate—from the candidates, but arguably from the network as well—was that they ought to be even more afraid.

Immigration was a prominent topic, but mostly in the context of keeping jihadist refugees out of the U.S. Energy came up, but only in the context of reducing U.S. dependence on oil from terror-supporting nations. Guns came up, but only in the context of Obama’s proposal to deny guns to Americans on the terror watch list. The economy barely came up, although Kasich did say strengthening the economy would help defeat ISIS. Rand Paul brought up the federal debt in his closing statement, calling it the greatest threat to U.S. security.

Polls after the Paris and San Bernardino attacks have found that terrorism has become the most pressing issue for the public. It’s a complex issue, worthy of debate, and last night’s focus on terror produced several interesting disagreements among the Republicans—over regime change and foreign entanglements, over domestic surveillance, over Syrian refugees and border security. But CNN’s implicit assumption was that non-terror issues are no longer as important for 2016. “You all have different strategies for keeping America safe and that will be the focus of our debate tonight,” Blitzer said at the outset.

There was little acknowledgment during the conversation that Americans have anything to fear from anything other than terrorists, or that the terrorist threat could be anything but dire. In fact, since 9/11, more Americans have been killed by lightning strikes than by terror attacks—and way more Americans have been killed by car accidents or preventable diseases. But that doesn’t mean Americans feel safe, especially when cable news is wall-to-wall terror coverage. There’s a fine line between covering anxiety and creating it.

Rand Paul also suggested last night that Americans shouldn’t overreact, that “we defeat terrorists by showing them we don’t fear them.” But that was a minority view on the Republican stage, as the candidates generally agreed that our military is in shambles, our president is weak, and ISIS is an existential threat. There was no sense that the U.S. spends more on its military than the next seven countries combined, and little mention of the thousands of bombs the U.S. and its allies are already dropping on ISIS.

Nobody really explained how all that belligerence would defuse a threat that can manifest itself in homegrown Americans, like the health inspector who killed his colleagues in San Bernardino. And there wasn’t much discussion of the potential for military action abroad to create unintended consequences. But near the end of the debate, Trump complained that more than a decade of U.S. intervention in the Middle East has achieved nothing, while costing trillions of dollars that could have been spent upgrading U.S. roads, bridges and airports.

It was a profound attack on the interventionist Republican foreign policy of the 21st century; Carly Fiorina immediately pointed out, correctly, that Trump’s rhetoric echoed the Democrats. And needless to say, it was the only time anyone mentioned infrastructure.

In truth, other than waging endless war and ignoring huge domestic problems, the GOP clowns offered no real solutions - which is par for the course.