Saturday, August 3, 2013

Who is the leader of the Republicans? Poll: nobody

A Pew Research poll asked Republican voters whom they thought of as the Republican leader.   Here are the results:    56% picked either "I don't know" or "Nobody."

34%     I don't know
22%     Nobody
19%     Other (< 3%)
10%     John Boehner
 5%      Marco Rubio
 3%      John McCain
 3%      Rand Paul
 3%      Paul Ryan 
They have some work to do.  The 2016 presidential race has already begun -- and Hillary Clinton is already being declared the winner.

In a Daily Beast article, conservative political writer Myra Adam, listed "16 Reasons Why Hillary Clinton Will Win 2016."    They range from "there's a great social movement to have a woman president," to an Obama-type campaign organization, to "barrels of money," to electoral college/demographic advantage, to Bill Clinton, to a weak Republican bench . . . and on and on.

Still . . . it's a long time until 2016.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Another sign of the changing times

Today, the U. S. Senate approved by voice vote -- without opposition -- five Obama nominees who happen to be gay and are open about it.

This includes ambassadors to Australia, Denmark, and Spain as well as a senior Justice Deprtment official and the U. S. representative to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

What this means is that, at least in the Senate, sexual orientation is now irrelevant.   It's been only a year since it could get you discharged from the army, and only a few decades since it was cause for scandal and shameful dismissal from any government job.

Never thought I'd see the day . . .


Russia's new anti-gay laws and the Olympics

With the Winter 2014 Olympics set to open in Russia in about 6 months, it's puzzling to me why the Russian Duma has just passed anti-gay laws which President Putin has signed into law.

These laws may not be as physically draconian as places like Uganda or Saudi Arabia (laws criminalizing gay sex were abolished years ago), but they are chilling in their breadth.

They are now defining as "gay propaganda" anything that presents gays in a favorable light.  Any sort of advocacy or protest activity is forbidden and the person subject to arrest.  Even tourists from other countries are subject to laws that would prohibit same-sex couples from holding hands in public.    And they had already banned adoptions of Russian babies, not only to same-sex couples but even to heterosexual married couples who reside in a U. S. state that allows gay marriage.

So how is this going to impact the Olympics in Russia -- both competing athletes and tourists?    The International Olympics Committee claims that it has an agreement with the Russian authorities that people attending the games will not be subject to the laws.    But today the Russian politician responsible for the legislative ban says that cannot be, because it is the law and the government has no right to suspend it.

They will probably sort this out before the Opening Ceremonies.   But we can't wait until the last minute.   Some people have started petitions asking the U. S. not to participate in the games because of this.    Athletes have responded saying that unfairly penalizes athletes who have trained their whole lives for this moment, and the next chance is four years away.

Fortunately this has come up far enough in advance that a solution will surely be found.   Pressure needs to come from the IOC for more than just a promise that people attending the games will not be arrested.    I think the games should not be held in such a climate.   If the laws had been in effect when the choice of location for the 2014 games was made, it should certainly have influenced the choice.


PS:   Just found this new article that attempts to explain this as purely political.   Putin's popularity is in decline, and one measure he has taken is to court the Orthodox Church.   There is also concern about the declining birth rate and the survival of the nation -- so there is an active governmental push for babies and family life.

But perhaps the main point is that Putin is seeking "an Other" as a common enemy to try to unite his lagging following.

I suppose ignorance and bigotry as motives are harder to get rid of, whereas political motives can turn on a dime -- or just be suspended during the Olympic games.   But that is small comfort to those who are victims of the increasingly common anti-gay attacks encouraged by this.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A thaw?

Are these signs of a thaw in the political stalemate and the partisan extremism in Congress?

1.  Republican senators finally backed down and agreed to allow confirmation votes on a number of President Obama's nominees for judges and agency heads, including the new Consumer Credit Protection Bureau.   It took the threat of changing the filibuster rules, but it worked.

2.  More moderate Republicans are engaging in a debate (or a fight in some cases) with Tea Party zealots over ideology.

3.  The House GOP leadership withdrew an austerity bill because they didn't have the votes to pass it.

4.  Sen. Ted Cruz admitted that they do not have the votes to defund ObamaCare -- "Right now we don't have the votes.   We're not even close."

5.  Sen. John McCain is reinventing himself. . . once again . . . as a maverick in his own party.  He's now saying that his vote for the sequester was "the worst vote I've made in a long time."  And, after spending four years criticizing every foreign policy decision the president made, he has been sounding a different tune, culminating with the announcement yesterday that he and Sen. Lindsey Graham will be going to Egypt as special envoys from the Obama administration.

6.  Sen. Tom Coburn, Saxby Chambliss, and other mainstream Republicans have been speaking out against the more radical calls for shutting down the government in another budgetary fight.   Chambliss said, "We tried that before, and we got out butts kicked."

At least there seems to be a bit of sanity emerging.    And now they'll be home for a month and hearing from their constituents.   The only problem is that, in the House with its local districts that get gerrymandered into safe seats, the radicals will continue to be elected -- even when they hurt the national party.   This could increase the intra-party GOP fight, prompting some moderates to revolt and join Democrats to get something done.

Again, I say it:   the 2014 elections can't come soon enough.


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

God's (self-appointed) spokesman

I wonder what it feels like to be so sure that you know what God's intendsPat Robertson knows . . .  he says so himself.   His latest proclamation (see below for his track record) has to do with the Middle East peace process.  He warns that, if the U. S. pressures Israel to accept a compromise that involves divided ownership of Jerusalem, God will punish the U. S. with natural disasters.
“[I]f the United States pressures Israel to try to give up half of Jerusalem, God himself is going to come against this nation. Watch it. . . .  You're asking for the wrath of Almighty God to fall on this nation. And when it falls, it won't be fun."
Of course, natural disasters happen all the timeSo it's a pretty safe prediction to make.  Just wait a while, and one is sure to come along, and you can claim that's it.

But Pat Robertson isn't really concerned with the validity of his wild predictions.   He's just trying to keep up his audience on his tv show.   Maybe he really believes it, but that doesn't make it true.

I well remember some years back when he predicted that the fires raging across central Florida were God's wrath at the city of Orlando for flying banners proclaiming Gay Day at Disneyworld.    He said Orlando would burn.   Instead, when the fires were just 50 miles outside the city, they turned and went another way.  The city was spared.

Instead, later that same year, a hurricane struck Virginia Beach, where Robertson has his headquarters.   But we heard nothing about God's punishment for Robertson's lies about Him.

There must be some really gullible people who watch Robertson's PTL network.  He can just say anything he wants, just make stuff up.   And claim he knows God's intent.

Must be wonderful, in a deluded sort of way.   What freedom !!!   Freedom from logic, freedom from evidence, freedom from responsibility.   Wow !!!


Monday, July 29, 2013

Amazing support for gay rights by Desmond Tutu and Pope Francis

Desmon Tutu, retired Espicopal archbishop of South Africa, leader of the anti-apartheid movement, and Nobel Peace Prize winner, has made some amazing statements in support of the U. N.'s launch of its gay rights campaign in Africa.
"I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this. . . .  I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven.   No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place. . . .I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level."
That is powerful support from one of the most revered people in the world.

And, given who he is, this much milder statement nevertheless will have tremendous impact.  Pope Francis, on the plane home from a tour of Brazil, was asked by a reporter about gay priests.   He replied:
"Who am I to judge a gay person of good will who seeks the Lord? . . .  You can't marginalize these people?"
Such a contrast to his predecessor, Pope Benedict, who officially barred from the priesthood any man with "deep-seated" homosexuality.

Combine the influence of Desmond Tutu, perhaps the most admired man in Protestantism, and Francis, pope of more than a billion Catholics -- it helps, even as Putin cracks down in Russia and as many African nations tighten their anti-gay laws.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Weiner . . .just go away and keep it private

I thought I was through writing about Anthony Weiner and his narcissism.   But this is just too much . . . whatever is the opposite of "whipped cream on top of the icing."

Still on the campaign and refusing to be shamed into silence, he's probably loving every moment of the notoriety.   Whatever puts You in the spotlight -- be it fame or shame.  At least you're the center of attention.

OK.  Here goes.

He was asked in an interview how he would explain the scandal to his son some day.

Weiner:   "First of all, the kid's going to grow up in Gracie Mansion. So I'm going to say, 'Kid, don't complain.'"

Get it?   Growing up in Gracie Mansion trumps everything.   Well, for Anthony Weiner, it does.   Poor kid.


"The Unprecedented -- and Contemptible -- Attempts to Sabotage Obamacare"

This article, by Norm Ornstein, appeared in the National Journal.

When Bush's prescription drug bill for seniors was passed, many Democrats opposed it because it expressly prevented Medicare from negotiating with drug companies for lower prices.   Nevertheless, once the bill was law, Democrats did not try to undermine its implementation.

Which is exactly what Republicans are doing -- not covertly, but directly out in the open -- cravenly and without shame.   Ornstein writes: 
"But to do everything possible to undercut and destroy its implementation—which in this case means finding ways to deny coverage to many who lack any health insurance; to keep millions who might be able to get better and cheaper coverage in the dark about their new options; to create disruption for the health providers who are trying to implement the law, including insurers, hospitals, and physicians; to threaten the even greater disruption via a government shutdown or breach of the debt limit in order to blackmail the president into abandoning the law; and to hope to benefit politically from all the resulting turmoil—is simply unacceptable, even contemptible. One might expect this kind of behavior from a few grenade-throwing firebrands. That the effort is spearheaded by the Republican leaders of the House and Senate—even if Speaker John Boehner is motivated by fear of his caucus, and McConnell and Cornyn by fear of Kentucky and Texas Republican activists—takes one's breath away."
Hundreds of thousands of jobs have already been lost due to the sequester.   Predictions are of more than 1 million more lost if it continues into next year -- and that's even if the Republicans don't shut down the government to try to force Obama to abandon health care reforms. 
I have run out of words to convey my outrage and contempt.
How many times have we thought: 'it can't get any worse'?
. . .  and then it got worse.