Saturday, February 06, 2016

A Pleasant Evening

We've all had the experience- watching a political debate (photo from Reuters/Mike Segar), listening to the "color analyst" for an athletic event, even reading a review of a favorite television program or movie- and wondering: did she watch the same thing I did?

You may had that same feeling if you watched Thursday night's Democratic debate in New Hampshire and then read the Associated Press story by Nancy Benac and Lisa Lerer, who write

Fireworks flying in their first one-on-one was Clinton who was the main aggressor, saying Sanders could never achieve his ambitious and costly proposals. Then she took after the Vermont senator for his efforts to cast her as beholden to Wall Street interests because of the campaign donations and speaking fees she's accepted from the financial sector.

"It's time to end the very artful smear that you and your campaign have been carrying out," she said.

"Artful smear" was, admittedly, a smear, something of a cheap shot.   And when Clinton charged "So I think it's time to end the very artful smear that you and your campaign have been carrying out...," some cross-talk followed, after which Sanders shot back with the vicious  "Let's talk -- let's talk about issues, all right? "

Devastating,just devastating.

Benac and Lerer note

Sanders, for his part, suggested Clinton's loyalties were colored by a reliance on big corporate donors.

"Secretary Clinton does represent the establishment," he said. "I represent - I hope - ordinary Americans."

Clinton may say the right things, he suggested, but "one of the things we should do is not only talk the talk but walk the walk."

Sanders added that he is "very proud to have people like Keith Ellison and Raul Grijalva in the House, the co-chairmen of the House Progressive Caucus" (supporting him). Clinton thus was handed the opportunity to suggest that Sanders has garnered the support of only two of the 188 Democratic members of the US House of Representatives, zero (0) Senators, and zero (0) governors because he is out of the mainstream or that the governors and members of Congress, from nearly every other state, who have endorsed her are afraid Sanders cannot carry their state in November.

Instead, she insisted "Well, look, I've got to just jump in here because, honestly, Senator Sanders is the only person who I think would characterize me, a woman running to be the first woman president, as exemplifying the establishment. And I've got to tell you that it is... " It was a positive statement, albeit one that does not mean she does not represent the Establishment.

For his part, Sanders could have laid into Clinton about her ties to the financial industry, or at least to Goldman Sachs.  Yet, when he cited Goldman for helping to "destroy our economy and runin the lives of millions of Americans," he said nothing about Clinton, instead turning to something no national Democrat would contest:

Kid gets caught with marijuana, that kid has a police record. A Wall Street executive destroys the economy, $5 billion settlement with the government, no criminal record. That is what power is about. That is what corruption is about. And that is what has to change in the United States of America.

Consider that Sanders has assiduously avoided the e-mail scandal, the nexus between Clinton's service as Secretary of State and the Clinton Global Initiative, or her response to her husband's philandering, which the GOP recently tried to exploit. Instead, he has criticized his opponent for: a bias toward "free" trade; an ambiguous relationship to Wall Street; not being a "progressive;" voting to give President Bush a blank check in Iraq; insufficient enthusiasm for universal health care. If Clinton is the nominee, the GOP- with its ideological bent- would be hard pressed to turn any of that into a sound bite or a damaging video.

The "fireworks" in the debate presumably did not include the following remarks by Sanders: "Secretary Clinton is absolutely right, there ar people, Koch brothers among others..."; "O.K. Let me argue with much of what the Secretary said..."' And I would say if I might, Madame Secretary- and you can correct me if I'm wrong"; "I fully, fully concede that Secretary Clinton, who was Secretary of State for four years, has more experience- that is not arguable- in foreign affairs."

In return (sort of), when Mrs. Clinton was asked if she wished to respond to Sanders' claim that an ad implying a New Hampshire newspaper (which had taken no position) had endorsed him, and which was entitled "Endorsement," Clinton replied "no."    It was a response as generous as it was brief, which  is itself  a welcome departure from the norm for a politican (or a celebrity).

Admittedly, Clinton must- not strategically, but from a sense of decency- drop the claim that the Vermont Senator proposes that as President he would rescind the Affordable Care Act while endeavoring to institute single payer.   It is a preposterous claim, intended to raise the hair on the back of the head of Obama Stepfords unaware that a President Sanders would maintain the current system while trying to improve or replace it.

Still, Clinton was civil to her opponent, at one point acknowledging "I have great great respect for Senator Sanders' commitment to trying to restore Glass-Steagall." And when the debate ended and Rachel Maddow, exhibiting a remarkable lack of professionalism and inferring a bias toward the Democratic candidates, hugged both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, it was a fitting end to a relatively informative and cordial encounter.


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Friday, February 05, 2016

A Rubio "Like"

Marco Rubio from is prancing around with his third place showing in Iowa, like the boy in grade school who loses but gets a trophy for competing. (Usually, Republicans don't like this.) Much of the media is buying it and Seth Stevenson notes

The Washington Post deemed Rubio a “winner” because “he made a strong run at Trump,” while Trump got classified as a “loser” whose second-place finish (again, you understand, ahead of Rubio) might represent “a catastrophic hole that will bring the whole enterprise down.” Politico’s Dylan Byers tweeted that Rubio had secured a “win for [the] establishment” and that Trump had suffered a “clear loss.” Further examples abound.

Rubio himself, in a postcaucus address that sounded a lot like a victory speech, proudly embraced his tertiary status. “So this is the moment they said would never happen,” he began, beaming. “For months they told us we had no chance … but tonight here in Iowa the people sent a very clear message.” Indeed. Very clearly, more of them voted for Trump. A couple thousand more of them....

It’s a collective hallucination. Like we’ve all made a pact to disregard the actual vote tallies.

Stevenson recognizes, however, "the most insidious thing about the expectations game is that it might matter, even though it shouldn’t."

It matters because-  consciously or otherwise- Rush Limbaugh has bought it. Less than two months ago, Limbaugh maintained

Marco Rubio was part of the Gang of Eight trying to secure amnesty and wishes he wasn’t. Ted Cruz never was and they’re trying to make it out like he was. At the end of the day when people go vote, people are gonna remember of the two it was Marco Rubio that was a member of the Gang of Eight and Ted Cruz that wasn’t.”

Limbaugh never was specifically opposed to the Rubio candidacy but was decidely cooler toward the Senator than he was to Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, or to Donald Trump. However, he changed his tune promptly once the results were in from the Iowa caucus, stating (admiring image below from his website) on Wednesday

I think I made the point analyzing the results in Iowa that Rubio is heavily influenced by Reagan, as was Ted Cruz, as was Dr. Carson.  Three of the four top finishers in Iowa -- and I think it's momentous.  I think it's remarkable.  'Cause the Republican Party establishment they are trying to tie Rubio to is actually the group that wants to get rid of Reagan and Reagan influences, the Reagan fetish, the era of Reagan is over.  And I think Rubio's a Reaganite. 

That's tantamount to gaining Rush's "imprimatur," as Steve M. puts it. SM believes it "might make him acceptable to the crazies (even as the mainstream media is persuading middle-of-the-road voters all over America that he's a moderate)."  Nevertheless, as important as it is, the Limbaugh imprimatur will be even less important in persuading the right-wing popular base than it is in signifying that Rubio is (again) the candidate to beat, the guy whose nomination it is to lose.

There are very few things more reliable in any presidential campaign season

There are very few more reliable events throughout the years than that Rush Limbaugh will avidly, enthusiastically, and demagogically support the Republican nominee for President. If Rand Paul- whom Limbaugh has rarely if ever defended, let alone applauded- had become the GOP nominee, Limbaugh would have unqualifiedly endorsed him for the office of the presidency. If Jim Gilmore, whomever he is, had won the nomination, Rush would have had his back.

Neither Rand Paul nor Jim Gilmore ever had a chance of pulling it off.  However, Limbaugh is careful to couch criticism of any Republican candidate with a serious chance of nomination in terms that can be revoked or modified if the man or woman becomes the GOP standard bearer. And designation as a "Reaganite" is imperative.

The expectations game matters, as does the claim of Rubio spokesman Joe Pounder that "Marco is the only candidate who can unite conservatives and beat Hillary Clinton," which fits in nicely with the portrayal of the right-wing extremist from Florida as the campaign's "moderate." When Christie and Bush pound on Rubio, it becomes increasingly clear they believe he must be stopped in his tracks.

As someone who predicted that if Trump (still purportedly way ahead in New Hampshire) were to lose in Iowa, his support would plummet, I can be sure of this analysis. Maybe.

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Thursday, February 04, 2016

Not There.

Included among President Obama's ringing notes of extraordinary eloquence (photo from Reuters/Jonathan Ernst) at the Islamic Society of Baltimore (which isnot in Baltimore) was

And today, there are voices in this world, particularly over the Internet, who are constantly claiming that you have to choose between your identities -- as a Muslim, for example, or an American.  Do not believe them.  If you’re ever wondering whether you fit in here, let me say it as clearly as I can, as President of the United States:  You fit in here -- right here. (Applause.)  You’re right where you belong.  You’re part of America, too.  (Applause.) You’re not Muslim or American.  You’re Muslim and American. (Applause.) 

Indeed, they are American, Syrian-American, Lebanese-American, Iranian-American, Brazilian-American, Indonesian-American and so forth. And they are Muslim: Muslim and American, not Muslim-American, as they are so inaccurately referred to of late by President Obama and many other people. And as Muslims and Americans, they do "fit in here- right here."

The  President condemned hate crimes in the USA and courageiously acknowledged "there are Christians who are targeted now in the Middle East" and Jews who in France and elsewhere who "feel themselves under assault- sometimes by Muslims."

However, the President stated also

So let’s start with this fact:  For more than a thousand years, people have been drawn to Islam’s message of peace.  And the very word itself, Islam, comes from salam -- peace. The standard greeting is as-salamu alaykum -- peace be upon you.  And like so many faiths, Islam is rooted in a commitment to compassion and mercy and justice and charity. Whoever wants to enter paradise, the Prophet Muhammad taught, “let him treat people the way he would love to be treated.”  (Applause.) For Christians like myself, I’m assuming that sounds familiar.  (Laughter.)

People have drawn for more than a thousand years to Islam's message of peace, just as they have been drawn for at least as long as that to Christianity's message of peace. However, as this piece (written nearly four  years ago, before some of the more egregious examples came to light) indicates, religion has been the primary motivator of the Crusades,The Thirty Year War, the strife in Northern Ireland, "numerous religious wars of England and France," and more recent wars in Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. It goes on and on, with religions- Islam and Christianity included- being responsible for much evil and much good in the world. "Faith" has proven a handy rationale for scoundrels and the well-meaning alike..

But Muslim activists Asra Q. Nomani and Ify Okoye painted a different picture of the chosen mosque when Wednesday they wrote

This past weekend, dozens of girls and boys as young as about 8 years old ran up the stairwell to the main entrance of the musallah, or main prayer hall, of the Islamic Society of Baltimore, where President Obama visits Wednesday in his first presidential visit to a U.S. mosque. As the children rounded the corner, a stern mosque Sunday school teacher stood before them, shouting, “Girls, inside the gym! Boys in the musallah.”

The girls, shrouded in headscarves that, in some cases, draped half their bodies, slipped into a stark gymnasium and found seats on bare red carpet pieces laid out in a corner. They faced a tall industrial cement block wall, in the direction of the qibla, facing Mecca, a basketball hoop above them. Before them a long narrow window poured a small dash of sunlight into the dark gym.

On the other side of the wall, the boys clamored excitedly into the majestic musallah, their feet padded by thick, decorated carpet, the sunlight flooding into the room through spectacular windows engraved with the 99 names of Allah, or God, in Islam. Ornate Korans and Islamic books filled shelves that lined the front walls.

And it didn't have to be that way. Obama did not have to go to that particular house of worship to bring his message of acceptance and inclusion because (emphasis mine)

Today, in an estimated two-thirds of mosques around the United States, women and girls are segregated in dark basements, sparse balconies, separate rooms and even behind shower curtains in the “sisters’ section,” listening to Friday sermons piped in through shaky sound systems and watching them, if we are lucky, via TV screens.

There are mosques in the USA in which women are not segregated. As the 2011 report to which Noman/Okoye link reveals, "two thirds (66%) of mosques sampled use dividers to demarcate women’s prayer spaces during daily prayers. This percentage has also not changed over the past decade."

That leaves one-third which do not. None of those was honored with a visit while the leader of the Free World chose to extend a hand of friendship where "on any given day a woman or girl worshiping in the mosque would be dispatched away from the musallah where he will stand to speak out against 'Islamophobia,' to the 'prayer room for females,' as one worshipper described it."  Noman and Okoye

believe it is the role of government to protect women’s rights within religion, if a place of worship gets federal nonprofit benefits, just as it protects civil rights in the secular space. Places of worship in the U.S.would not be allowed tax-exempt status if, for example, they were to seat African Americans in segregated spaces. To condone the mosque’s gender segregation is particularly ironic coming days after the White House announced efforts to win equal pay for women and increased workplace benefits for women in the military.

It's ironic, but not surprising.  While robustly applauding the breakdown of barriers to same-sex marriage in the USA, the left can at most manage a "tsk, tsk" at the brazen discrimination practiced among some of those recognized by President Obama as Muslim and American.

Noman and Okoye refer to it as "gender apartheid."  However, I refer to it as segregation, practiced 62 years after Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka and 52 years after discrimination in public accomodations was outlawed. Houses of worship, including mosques, can segregate males and females as does the Islamic Society of Baltimore. But the President of the United States of America should not celebrate it.

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