Sunday, September 27, 2015

Time for Bloomberg?

A look at the current Republican presidential polling shows more than half of voters' support going to political "outsiders" Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina. Clearly, at least within the GOP, voters are fed up with career politicians and the status quo. So is the landscape finally fertile enough for former New York City mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg? 

Bloomberg is Trump without the crazy. Without the pomp and petulance. Without the ad hominem attacks and the inflammatory, race-baiting rhetoric. Without the catty teenage girl-like incessant Tweeting. No walls, no Mexican rapists, no birthing. Just a smart, savvy, mega-rich chief executive (in business and politics) who can appeal to the "no bullshit, owes no one, he's his own man" crowd who's heretofore fallen in lust with Trump and his "message." Is 2016 America ready for a self-funded independent candidate with class, credentials and credibility? An outsider who could actually win? If you're Bloomberg you must be asking these same questions.

Unlike Trump, Bloomberg actually has a brain when it comes to politics and policy. He's an intellectual. A substantive thinker who's been on the populist side of a variety of national-interest issues such as the environment, illegal immigration, gun control, stem-cell research, intelligent design and gay marriage. And while Trump's bombast and bragodiccio has captured the over-excited loins of GOP extremists, Bloomberg could, more importantly, capture the hearts and votes of a much broader coalition within the party's disillusioned and disenchanted. Oh sure, Trump's the fun party girl. But Bloomberg's the one they could bring home to mama. 

With voters' anger and frustration with Washington never greater, and with Hillary Clinton's campaign awash in distrust, disappointment and 'truthiness,' the time has never been better for a socially moderate, fiscally conservative 3rd party candidate to capture the disenfranchised on both sides. However, such independent candidates have never fared well in American politics.

But Bloomberg could say, "I've been a Democrat, a Republican, and can give you the best of both parties and the fresh perspective of a Washington outsider--a successful chief executive, who's not beholden to any special interests." He could run on a bi-partisan platform that promises to bring the nation together after decades of gridlock and toxicity. Perhaps we're finally at that moment in American politics where this unique message could resonate with a majority of voters and change history.

Unlike the empty suit that is Donald Trump, Bloomberg has impeccable credentials from which he could mount a potent campaign. After twelve years as mayor he left NYC with a $2.5-billion budget surplus; a declining crime rate; an overhauled public education system with rising test scores; cleaner streets and environment; more efficient public transportation; and booming tourism. He's also responsible for the 311 info line; CitiBikes; public plazas; and the High Line park. And if you consider his smoking and trans fat bans, as well as required calorie counts, the city's a much healthier place.

And when it comes to business, he's the real deal. A self-made, no-help-from-daddy visionary who's amassed a $40-billion fortune, making him America's 10th richest individual and the 13th in the world. He's no self-serving, carnival barking, megalomaniacal media whore whose businesses have filed for bankruptcy four times. Bloomberg is Goliath to Trump's Lilliputian.

President Bloomberg? The sound of that could be extremely appealing to many on both sides of the aisle.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Will Republicans Heed the Words of Pope Francis?

One thing's become abundantly clear with Pope Francis's visit to America this week:  God is most definitely not a Republican. As the human embodiment of God herself, Francis, in his historic address Thursday before a joint session of Congress, spoke plainly, passionately and with unfettered moral leadership on myriad hot-button issues with positions that contrast those of many staunch conservatives.

For decades Republicans have been hijacking God and religion, twisting and redefining the teachings of Jesus to fit their ideological dogma of intolerance, bigotry and exclusion. Remember, this is a party that threatens to shut down the U.S. government next week because of its rabid obsession with defunding Planned Parenthood and denying women a range of critical health and reproductive services.

But ever since he was elected in 2013, Francis has been vocally progressive and thought-provoking, often times arousing disappointment and ire among many conservatives who oppose what they consider his "liberal" statements and positions. And Thursday's speech in the nation's Capital was no different.

The Pontiff stepped squarely into Americans' difficult national dialogue on gay marriage, immigration, refugees, poverty, income inequality, "unbridled capitalism," capital punishment, gun violence and climate change. He spoke of "humility and devotion," and implored Christians and people of all faiths to help the poor, the sick, the hungry and the homeless. "Be kind to strangers," he said. And, "we know that Jesus wanted to show solidarity with every person."

It was touching to see politicians including House Speaker John Boehner shed tears listening to the Pope's sermon. But it's unlikely the Pontiff's stirring words will be taken to heart by the Speaker and his fellow narrow-minded conservatives, who for years have hid under the cloak of God in perpetrating a self-serving, elitist and decidedly unchristian-like extremist political agenda. 

To be sure, Francis is the people's Pope. His warmth, compassion, energy, accessibility and somewhat populist views on at least a few controversial subjects have given him rock-star status among the masses. But the adulation for Francis doesn't come without a measure of residual disappointment in him and the Church on issues, for example, relating to women, homosexuality and birth control. That said, Francis indeed deserves major praise for taking the controversial steps to move the church and the Papacy into the 21st century. Rome wasn't built in a day.

"Let us remember the golden rule," the Pontiff told his Congressional audience. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

That may be easier said than done in today's highly toxic, polarized, partisan landscape.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The GOP Nomination: It's Still Jeb Bush

Back in April of 2014, when everyone was still riding the Chris Christie bandwagon (despite the BridgeGate and Sandygate scandals), I wrote why Jeb Bush will win the 2016 presidential nomination. Eight months later I wrote "Here Comes Bush v Clinton 2.0". Almost a year later it's still Jeb Bush.

Scott Walker and Rick Perry are already gone. For all intents and purposes, Ben Carson "Muslim-ed" his way out of the race last weekend. And it's just a matter of time before the hope and money dries up for Rick Santorum, John Kasich, Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee and the rest of the 2nd string clowns. That leaves Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina and Bush. Rest assured, the whorish, sycophantic lust affair that extremist troglodytes have with Trump will soon end, as will Fiorina's revisionist history campaign designed to botox away the deep scars of her dreadful corporate record (read Joe Nocera's excellent Tuesday NY Times op-ed on Trump and Fiorina's "Snake Oil Sales"). Stick a fork in Cinderella and Shrek.

Watching last week's second Republican debate made it clear that Bush was the only adult in the room (except when he seemed a little too sophomorically excited about receiving Trump's adulation with that awkward hand slap). And while the other candidates' poll numbers are gyrating all over the place like a cheap stripper, Bush is holding steady near 10%. As more candidates implode and drop out, his numbers will steadily rise. And with over $100-million raised to-date, he's got nothing but time in this war of attrition. Take it to the bank: Gen. Jeb Custer will be the right's last man standing.

And what about the Democrats? A new CNN poll shows Hillary Clinton dealing with her Bernie Sanders "problem" by taking a commanding 42%-24% lead. Joe Biden's a likable guy with a  stellar public service record, but if he enters the race his chances of beating Hil are about as good as mine. Martin O'Malley and Jim Webb? Yawn. Nationally, Clinton has the support of an overwhelming majority of Democrats, especially women. No one's beating her. Period. End of story.

So yes, it will be Bush v. Clinton, again. Just another dynastic retread, right? Wrong. Hillary Clinton stands to make history as the first woman president of the United States. That makes this next election not only different, but incredibly exciting, inspiring and a proud moment for all Americans, even Republicans, even if they don't understand and appreciate the monumental significance of it all.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Stick a Fork in Trump

Since the beginning of the campaign I've said the time will come when voters, even the narrow-minded hateful troglodytes who've heretofore propelled Donald Trump's Cinderella campaign to the top of the polls, will tire of his shallow speeches, empty promises and incendiary rhetoric. Simultaneously, Republican voters with brains will rise up off the couch and begin to take a serious interest in the election. And that's when Trump turns back into a pumpkin. That time is now. 

The second Republican debate is where history will point to the official end of Trumpalooza, a circus-like campaign that actually died the moment it began, with the candidate's controversial "Mexican rapists" speech. Wednesday's contest served as a real eye-opener to voters, in particular, the sane ones who've finally realized, 'Holy shit, if I don't get behind someone else right now this hateful racist misogynist could be nominated!'

Trump faced three solid hours of substantive challenges on everything from his lack of expertise on a range of domestic and foreign policy issues to his ad hominem attacks on everyone from Carly Fiorina to Jeb Bush's wife. When the discussion turned to Iran, Russia and Syria, Trump looked like a pathetic deer in the headlights. "I'd give Putin a call..." is all he could offer when asked about how'd he'd address the Russian president's support of Syria's Bashar al-Assad. That's his answer for everything: 'I'll give 'em a call, and because I'm the amazing Trump, they'll listen." Goodbye war, terrorism and world hunger!

And now The Donald is embroiled in yet another foot-in-mouth controversy, this time for failing, unlike John McCain in the 2008 campaign, to correct a supporter at a New Hampshire town hall rally Thursday who said: "We have a problem in this country. It's called Muslims. You know our current president is one. You know he's not even an American." Trump, instead of pulling a McCain--"No sir, he's not, he's a good Christian and an American"--turned to the crowd, chuckled and mocked, "We need this question? This is the first question!"

Glossing over the racist comment entirely, Trump responded with a typically superficial assurance: "We're going to be looking at a lot of different things. You know, a lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening. We're going to be looking at that and many other things.

Stick a fork in Trump. He's about as done as piece of burnt coffee shop toast. His debate performance, or lack thereof, put on high-def display his myriad failings, from his persistent combativeness, race-baiting and misogyny to his utter lack of substance, policy positions and moral authority. 

Next week polls will surely indicate a reversal in momentum for Trump. From this point forward it's all downhill, and just a matter of time before he's out of the race.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The GOP's Real Problem With Trumpalooza


It was just a few short months ago that it seemed likely that Republicans would put forth mainstream presidential candidates for 2016 who, more than ever, mirrored the overall opinions of a majority of Americans on a range of social and domestic issues such as gay marriage, abortion, women's rights, religion and immigration.

It appeared that, finally, the GOP and its leading candidates would focus on the pressing issues of the day that matter greatly to voters: the economy, jobs, wages, education, healthcare, energy and the environment.

To most pundits and strategists on both sides of the aisle, the Republican Party's only hope to win the White House in '16 would be to focus on substantive policy while vastly broadening its tent to include gays, women, young people, blacks and Hispanics. And then came Donald Trump.

Welcome to Trumpalooza. Just when the party appeared headed towards the 21st century, Trump entered the race and sent the GOP clown car speeding back to Crazytown. Curiously, though his regressive behavior has been outrageous and offensive, his popularity and polling keep rising, as does his clear front-runner status. While pandering to the party's lowest common denominator, he's become the biggest political story in decades, just not the one the GOP wants.

The real Trump problem for Republicans is that, just as the party was seemingly on the precipice of meaningful evolution and change, he's single-handedly transporting it back to its ugly, dark, losing days of ignorance and intolerance. The Trumpnado that blasted ashore this Summer consists of fiery race-baiting, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic rhetoric and ad hominem attacks on anything and anyone that gets in his way. And his small, frothing-at-the-mouth radical fringe base is eatin' it up like blood-thirsty zombies on The Walking Dead.

To be sure, Trump's been dominating the liberal and conservative media, sucking all the energy out of the campaign and forcing the more "mainstream" candidates like Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Scott Walker to swing far right in order to avoid irrelevance, or worse, extinction. It's been fascinating to watch them tripping over themselves to out-Trump The Donald. But at some point soon all that will end when Republican voters tire of the one they're fucking and start pursuing the one they'll marry.

Until then, rather than expanding its tent by appealing to a broad base of voters, the GOP's limply watching Trump shrink it to feed just the rapacious, red meat-starved extremists. And in the process, no other candidate has been able to break out and gain any traction, especially by discussing what's really important. Jobs? The economy? Education? Healthcare? The environment? Fat chance. It's all 'fat, ugly, disgusting bimbos' and 'Mexican rapists' until the "Orange Clown," as the rock band REM calls him, finally gets out of the GOP's way. But by that time it may be too late.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Where Do We Draw the Line with "Religious Freedom" in the Workplace?

Imagine you're approaching the counter at Walmart. The cashier looks in your wagon and politely informs you that as a Catholic she can't ring up your condoms. Another cashier, a Christian Scientist, says he's refusing to ring up your aspirin. An Orthodox Jew tells you she can't ring up your bacon. A Muslim says he won't touch the bikini you have in your wagon. And then there's other Kim Davis wannabes who, as strict bible-interpreting devout Christians, won't serve you because you're gay, or have been divorced.

These cashiers would claim to be acting under the "authority of God" in their pursuit of "religious freedom." Are these plausible scenarios? You betchya, especially if someone like Davis isn't forced to follow the rule of law and the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. You think shopping at Walmart is crazy now? Just wait till the God Squad's in charge.

It may be 2015, but in many ways when it comes to race, religion, gender and sex it feels like the '50's. To be sure, tremendous progress has been made in not just tolerating but accepting people of all shapes, sizes, colors, faiths and sexual orientation. But there remains a (thankfully) small and ignorant minority that wishes to turn the clock back to when white, christian, heterosexual males were in charge.  The good old days, according to these narrow-minded, backward oppressors. 

And yet here we are still, incredulous that we're actually debating whether the definition of an individual's religious rights and freedoms should be mangled in a heaping pile of dogma crap to mean the right to persecute others. I suppose discrimination is ok as long as it's done under the cloak of God, right? But what would Jesus actually do, I wonder? Well, I'm pretty sure he wouldn't be telling his followers to persecute someone in his name because she was poor, sick, gay, a woman, an immigrant or of a different faith. And I'm also sure as shit that he wouldn't have race-baiting homophobes like Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz as his spokesmen.

So I have a suggestion to those whose lives are ruled by their religious beliefs: if gay marriage violates those beliefs, then don't marry someone gay. That's where your "rights" end. Period.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

The Typical Trump Press Conference

Donald Trump continues to maintain his front runner status in the campaign for the Republican Party's presidential nomination. That simple fact in and of itself is fascinating, but is even more intriguing given how Trump has not offered voters one single comprehensive policy plan relating to the economy, taxes, jobs, the environment, education, foreign affairs, defense and, yes, even immigration.

To the contrary, Trump's interviews, press conferences and campaign speeches utterly lack substance, and instead are filled with empty promises built on bumper-sticker slogans and superlatives, unparalleled in their superficiality, grandiosity and bombast. 

The man who's captivated his party is a master at actually saying nothing of substance.  A typical Trump press conference goes like this:

Reporter 1: Mr. Trump, you keep talking about how bad the economy is doing. What facts can you provide to support that contention, and what specifically would you do to fix it?

Trump: First, Jack, let me say that's a nice suit you're wearing. And by the way, Trump makes great suits. You've seen my suits? They're incredible. Worn by very, very important people. Your suit is ok. Normally you look like a putz but today you look, well, ok. The economy? It's in horrible shape. Horrible. Just look at the numbers. The statistics. You're a smart guy. Do your homework. want me to do your job for you? If I were president I'll put everyone to work who wants a job. I'll bring manufacturing, good jobs, back to America. The economy will explode. Next question....Ellen...

Reporter 2: What will you do to improve the nation's education system?

Trump: Thank you Ellen for asking that. Normally you ask stupid questions. But I like this one. I'm gonna make our educational system number one in the world. We're gonna hire the best teachers and pay them well. Test scores will go through the roof. Every kid who wants to go to college will under my plan.

Reporter 2: And what exactly is that plan?

Trump: Ok Ellen, now you're asking stupid questions again. If I wanted a bimbo in the room I'd have invited Megyn Kelly. Next question...Alejandro....

Reporter 3: You've been saying that you'll build a wall to keep Mexicans from illegally entering the U.S. This is estimated to cost tens of billions of dollars. How exactly will you pay for this?

Trump: Alejandro, did you get the "Let's be stupid" email that Ellen apparently got today?! Look, I'm a builder...and by the way, Trump's building are the biggest and best in the world. Some very rich, very important people live and work in my buildings. Hugely important people. I know how to build things. And I make deals. I'll go to President Prieto, Nato, Noriega, whatever his name is down there and tell him he's gotta pay for it.  He'll do what I say. Next question...Angela...

Reporter 4: What do you say to those who believe you have a huge uphill battle in the African American and Latino communities?

Trump: I don't have any problem with the Blacks. The Blacks love me. I cherish Blacks. They're good, decent, hard working people. I'm gonna do more for the Blacks than Lincoln. Than Martin Luther King Jr. They'll be rich and happy under Trump! And by the way, I have more Blacks working for me than anyone. In my hotels. They clean rooms really well...better than the Mexicans. Yeah, the Blacks love me. And do I really have to explain how much the Mexicans love me? Next question...Todd...

Reporter 5: What will you do to ensure a clean, healthy environment?

Trump: That's easy. Trump will make the air fresher than ever. The water cleaner and more delicious. And I'll end pollution. Who likes pollution, right!? It's gonna be amazing. Next question...Alex...

Reporter 6: Republicans want to outlaw abortion. They also seek to defund Planned Parenthood, which is a major source of contraception for women. They also would like to stop insurance companies from covering contraception. These are utterly convoluted, contradicting positions. The number one way to lower abortions is through greater contraception. What is your position on abortion and contraception?

Trump: Another easy one. I know how to influence people. I'm Trump. All day I get people to do things for me. I don't mess around. I'll say to the kids, to the sexually promiscuous..."Hey, stop having sex!" They'll listen. And we'll have no more abortions. And we won't need contraception. Next question...Drew...

Reporter 7: You say you'll lower taxes. Not a popular stand for a Republican. How do you propose to do that?

Trump: Hedge fund guys...many of whom are my friends...I love 'em. And by the way, they buy massive apartments in my incredible buildings. Have I told you that Trump's building's are the biggest and best in the world? These guys will do favors for me. So if I tell 'em to pay more taxes so I can give the little guy a break, they will. Trust me. It's a great, great plan. There'll be plenty of tax money for everything. Next question....Farouk...

Reporter 8: Your campaign slogan is "Make America Great Again." This implies America is not great right now? How do you plan to improve America's standing abroad? Particularly in the Middle East?

Trump: The Arabs love me too. I cherish Arabs. Just not when they're blowin' things ups. Look, some of my best friends are Arabs. They come to Trump's clubs to play golf. I golf with them. And by the way, I have the most gorgeous golf courses in the world. So I'll settle the whole damn Arab/Israeli problem by the time we get to the 15th hole. I'll get all these guys out there together and be like, "Bibi, Mahmoud, Bashar, Abdel, Abdulaziz...just get your shit together and stop all this fighting, ok?!" And ya know what? They'll listen to Trump. Because they love my hotels and want to keep playing at my clubs. Ok, one last question...Jan...

Reporter 9: I'd like to do a little word association with you. I'll name a few of your Republican opponents and you give me a few words to describe them. Jeb Bush...

Trump: Like watching paint dry...

Reporter 9: Marco Rubio...

Trump: Adolescent Mexican... Ok, I'm kidding. He's not that young....

Reporter 9: Ben Carson...

Trump: Pretty smart and articulate for a Black guy...

Reporter 9: Carly Fiorina...

Trump: Look, I could call her a miserable, job-killing corporate loser, but I won't...

Reporter 9: Chris Christie...

Trump: Hey, great segue...when's lunch...I'm starving!

Friday, September 04, 2015

An Open Letter to Kim Davis


Dear Ms. Davis:

As you occupy your jail cell, contemplating your next move, let's set the record straight: you are a public official, paid by taxpayers and therefore your personal religious beliefs are completely irrelevant and insignificant as relating to issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. America's Founding Fathers took great pains to ensure that America would be governed under the rule of law, not by the authority of God.

You have no inalienable rights here under the United States Constitution. In fact, the Constitution protects the very people you are discriminating against, not you. The Supreme Court has affirmed that fact, despite your ignorance, intolerance and ill-advised protestations.

We have laws in America which we all must abide by. We can't arbitrarily decide which laws to follow and which ones to ignore. That's called chaos. Let me ask you this, Kim: in a country founded on the principle of separation of church and state and religious pluralism, would any of the following situations be acceptable to you?:

-can an Orthodox Jew refuse to issue marriage licenses to reform and conservative Jews because, according to his religious belief, these are not "real Jews?"

-can a radical Mormon insist on issuing licenses to polygamists?

-can a devout Catholic county clerk refuse to issue you a marriage license after your next (4th) divorce because he believes that marriage is sacred and considers you a sinner? 

-can an Atheist refuse to issue licenses to Christians because her religious belief is that organized religion is the root of all evil?

These situations are as absurdly unconstitutional as your attempt to deny gays their legal right to marry because of your personal religious beliefs. The irony is, as a thrice divorced "traditional marriage" proponent, you have degraded this institution more than any gay couple likely ever will. No one's stood in the way of your choice to marry four times. How dare you prevent others from marrying?

To be sure, we will never allow people like you to ram your extremist dogma down our throats or deny us our inalienable rights. So if that's unacceptable to you...if you feel you can't perform your job because of your devout religious beliefs... then quit and find another job. Or, as U.S. District Court Judge David L. Bunning ordered Thursday, you can defiantly rot in jail in contempt.