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The white man pathology

The border

You feel your whiteness properly at the American border. Most of the time being white is an absence of problems. The police don’t bother you so you don’t notice the police not bothering you. You get the job so you don’t notice not getting it. Your children are not confused with criminals. I live in downtown Toronto, in one of the most liberal neighborhoods in one of the most open cities in the world, where multiculturalism is the dominant civic value and the inert virtue of tolerance is the most prominent inheritance of the British empire, so if you squint you can pretend the ancient categories are dissipating into a haze of enlightenment and intermarriage.

Not at the border.

My son’s Guyanese-Canadian teacher and the Muslim Milton scholar I went to high school with and the Sikh writer I squabble about Harold Innis with and my Ishmaeli accountant, we can all be good little Torontonians of the middle class, deflecting the differences we have been trained to respect. But in a car in the carbon monoxide-infused queue waiting to enter Detroit, their beings diverge drastically from mine.

I am white. They are not. They are vulnerable. I am not.

Here’s the thing: I like the guards at the American border. They’re always friendly with me, decent, even enjoyable company. At the booth in between the never-was of Windsor and the has-been of Detroit, the officer I happened to draw had a gruff belly and the mysterious air of intentional inscrutability, like a troll under a bridge in a fairytale.

“Where are you headed?” he asked.

“Burlington, Iowa.”

“Why would anyone ever choose to go to Burlington, Iowa?” he asked philosophically.

“I’m going to see Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.” Then, because it did seem to require an explanation: “They’re giving rallies within a couple of days of each other.”

“Why would anyone ever choose to go see Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders?”

I didn’t argue, because it was the border, but I could have said that the police chief of Birmingham estimated that 30,000 people showed up in Alabama to see Donald Trump in August and that in Dallas, he had filled the American Airlines Center, and that his counterpart, Bernie Sanders, has generated equally unprecedented numbers – vastly more than Barack Obama drew at comparable moments in the 2008 campaign.

“I’m curious,” I said instead.

At this point he asked me to roll down my window. But it was all fine. Like I said, I’m white.

As I drove through the outskirts of the ruins of Detroit, across the I-94, one of the ugliest highways in the United States, the old familiar lightness fluttered to my heart. I love America. America is not my mother. Canada is my mother. But AmeriAs I drove through the outskirts of the ruins of Detroit, across the I-94, one of the ugliest highways in the United States, the old familiar lightness fluttered to my heart. I love America. America is not my mother. Canada is my mother. But America is an unbelievably gorgeous, surprisingly sweet rich lady who lives next door and appears to be falling apart. I cannot help myself from loving it.

For people who love to dwell in contradictions, the US is the greatest country in the world: the land of the free built on slavery, the country of law and order where everyone is entitled to a gun, a place of unimpeded progress where they cling to backwardness out of sheer stubbornness. And into this glorious morass, a new contradiction has recently announced itself: the white people, the privileged Americans, the ones who had the least to fear from the powers that be, the ones with the surest paths to brighter futures, the ones who are by every metric one of the most fortunate groups in the history of the world, were starting to die off in shocking numbers.

The Case and Deaton report, Rising Morbidity and Mortality in Midlife among White Non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st Century, describes an increased death rate for middle-aged American whites “comparable to lives lost in the US Aids epidemic”. This spike in mortality is unique to white Americans – not to be found among other ethnic groups in the United States or any other white population in the developed world, a mysterious plague of despair.

In one way, it was easy to account for all this white American death – “drug and alcohol poisoning, suicide, and chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis”, according to the report. It was not so easy to account for the accounting. Why were middle-aged white Americans drinking and drugging and shooting themselves to death? The explanations on offer were pre-prepared, fully plugged into confirmation bias: it was the economy or it was demography or it was godlessness or it was religion or it was the breakdown of the family or it was the persistence of antique values or it was the lack of social programs or it was the dependence on social programs.

Case and Deaton call it “an epidemic of pain”. Fine. What does that mean?

On the I-94, you do find yourself asking: what the fuck is wrong with these people? I mean, aside from the rapid decline of the middle class obviously. And the rise of precarious work and the fact that the basic way of life requires so much sedation that nearly a quarter of all Americans are on psychiatric drugs, and somewhere between 26.4 and 36 million Americans abuse opioids every day. Oh yes, and the mass shootings. There was more than one mass shooting a day. And the white terrorists targeting black churches again. And the regularly released videos showing the police assassinating black people. And the police in question never being indicted, let alone being sent to jail.

And you know what Americans were worried about while all this shit was raining down on them? While all this insanity was wounding their beloved country? You know what their number one worry was, according to poll after poll after poll?

Muslims. Muslims, if you can believe it.

‘The American dream is dead but I’m going to make it stronger!’

My body is white and it is male. It is six foot tall and weighs 190lb. It is 39 years old and it has had to start running. It has had to start counting calories. There is a tingle in the joint of my right thigh, so I try not to think about my body. The tingling comes and goes. I know my body is going to kill me.

“A man who fears suffering already suffer what he fears,” as Montaigne said. That’s one of the reasons why men die so much younger than women – six years younger on average in America. Ninety-two percent of men say they wait at least a few days to see if they feel better before they go to a doctor, but I know what they mean by a few days. They mean a few more days than makes sense. It is hard to have a male and white body and to conceive of its weakness. In the same breath, my body cannot bring itself to believe it is the personification of power, though it evidently is in any rational accountancy of social status. It feels like a mere body. It feels mortal.

I’ve never been to a place as white as Iowa. That’s the honest truth. Whenever I go to America it’s New York or Chicago or Los Angeles or Florida. In Burlington, at Jerry’s Main Lunch, the signature dish is “the hot mess, eggs and bacon cooked right into the hash browns. The sugar shakers all have white crackers in them, to prevent clumping – a classic bit of commonsense American know-how. The hot mess is delicious. Why don’t they make these everywhere? Why isn’t there a chain of Jerry’s Main Lunches serving hot messes all across the midwest?

The answer is in the rest of the town: everything that’s going to leave has already left Burlington. The beautiful brick buildings downtown are mostly vacant. The most interesting street is the road out of town.

The Memorial Arena, on the banks of the Mississippi, filled up early. Trump wasn’t speaking until 6pm but by 4.45 the parking situation was grim. Outside the building, the hawkers who follow Trump on the road, event to event, sold T-shirts and buttons, three for $10. “We shall overcomb.” “Cats for Trump, the time is Meow.” “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.”

Inside, every seat had been taken and the floor filled quickly with a standing room only crowd. Burlington is 10% black. The rally was 99.99% white.

The people who attend political rallies in America are a specific genre of humanity, like the people who stand outside in lines for nightclubs. They know where they’re supposed to go and how they’re supposed to behave when they get there. They have gear.

An elderly lady sat beside me wearing a sequined stars-and-stripes-hat she clearly takes out for just these occasions. “Y’all from Illinois?” she asked. I’m not but I can pass. She goes to all the rallies, she explained. She’s been a Republican her whole life, an active Republican, an Iowa Republican. For 30 years, she’s been in crowds like this one. She plans to go, one time in her life, to the national convention. Like going to see the Stones. When the organizers passed around hand signs reading “The Silent Majority”, she grabbed a dozen so she could pass them around to others.

Cheerful helpful women were half the crowd. Angry and absurd men were the other. They wore T-shirts with whole paragraphs written on them: “I am a United States Military Veteran. I once took a SOLEMN OATH to defend the CONSTITUTION against ALL enemies, foreign and Domestic. Be advised No one has ever relieved me of my duties under this Oath!”

There were cars in the parking lot slathered with bumper stickers. “We the people are 100% FED UP!” “So if guns kills people, I guess pencils miss spell words [sic], cars drive drunk and spoons make people fat.” “I’m straight, conservative, Christian, and I own a gun. Is there anything else I can do to piss you off?” A picture of Obama with “Does this ass make my car look big?” The Republican style for 2016 is angry aphoristic humor. Behind comedy, absurd rage: America is the greatest country in the world but America is falling apart, government is the problem which is why government must solve it.

This was a Trump production so naturally there was a VIP section. A door guarded by bald, unsmiling men, the bouncers who stand forever as the bored sentinels of indifferent celebrity. A swinging door at the side of the stage received and dispensed the best-looking people, the ones with the buffed neutrality of political professionals, the women whose faces have been tautened to a perma pout, the men who get their hair cut before every event.

The woman beside me – Stars ’n’ Stripes Hat – was wearing a pewter elephant pendant. A young girl in a bright orange dress passed out of the VIP entrance wearing an elephant pendant encrusted with diamonds. Elephant pendants were a theme, I noticed, and elephant brooches and elephant rings and elephant T-shirts. They came in all different price points and in all different styles: round elephants reminiscent of French cartoons from the 1960s, and strange pseudo-sexual shimmies, and with 1920s straw boater hats leading parades. There was one kind of elephant you couldn’t find. An elephant that actually looked like an elephant. A realistic elephant might serve as a memento to the hundred elephants killed for their ivory every day. A naturalistic elephant would be inherently environmentalist. The elephants must all be fabulous.

Like any good show, there was a warm-up act. In fact, there are two – three if you count the recitation of the pledge of allegiance. The first was Tana Goertz, an Iowa woman who had been runner-up on the third season of The Apprentice. “What a good-looking crowd,” she pandered. She vouched for Trump as a woman (“He loves women!”) and as someone who had returned to Iowa (“How could you live in New York City if you didn’t love people?”). She promoted the idea which is at the core of every last thing that Trump does, that simple contact with the man brings prosperity. “When you’re in the Trump train you’re going places!” She walked off to polite Iowan applause. The crowd would probably, all things considered, rather have listened to the Elton John music playing on the speakers instead, but at least she made the effort.

A more standard hype man followed. Sam Clovis hosts a conservative radio show and is a Tea Party activist who has run and lost a bunch of Iowa Republican positions. He just started right in with it. Trump was “one of the greatest men to ever walk the face of this earth,” a good line – the crowd could have laughed but instead they applauded, thus proving that they were not paying attention or would swallow anything. Clovis compared Trump’s recent speeches to Reagan’s A Time for Choosing at the Goldwater convention in 1964, which must have been, to his way of thinking anyway, roughly like comparing it to the Sermon on the Mount.

Clovis knew what the crowd had come to hear and he gave it to them. “America and Americans will be first again!” A collective roar shook the Burlington Memorial Arena. They so badly wanted to be first again. First in what was unclear but definitely first.

After the roar died, the crowd was ready for Trump. But, showmanship. Trump let the tension build; the angry absurd men and the cheerful, helpful women hollered. Trump! Trump! Trump! I could barely imagine the pleasure the muted sound of his chanted name, from backstage, must have been bringing the man.

When he finally took the stage, the crowd surged; their phones surged. It was an orgy of phones. The men behind Trump scanned the crowd with their phones. The cameras in the back were recording everyone recording each other. Trump was the only person not holding a screen, the absence that brought desire. He started roaring, as everybody in the crowd stopped to check the footage they had gathered.

Trump started out with the clip he knew would appear on the news the next morning – Joe Biden had dropped out of the race and Trump approved of his decision because Biden never had a chance and Trump wanted to face Hillary. The mainstream media adroitly handled, Trump began his disquisition on the subject dearest to his heart: his own success.

The Burlington rally marked the 100th day he had led the polls. He read the polls, poll after poll. He paused only to ask the crowd how great the polls were. “Beating Hillary nationwide do you love that?” The crowd approved of his approval numbers. And so he moved on to the more qualitative aspects of his greatness. His opponents just weren’t winners. “I speak from the brain but I also speak from the heart,” he said, rambling like a rich know-it-all uncle – “I’m bringing back the jobs from China!” – with brief digressions into self-pity: “Macy’s was very disloyal to me. They don’t sell my ties any more.”

He described, in twists intermittently frank and self-deluded, the brilliance of his own capacity for political manipulation. He talked to the people he was spinning about how cleverly he was spinning them. So he declared “I’m a good Christian” and that if he became president “we’re going to be saying merry Christmas”, but then he couldn’t stop himself from acknowledging the cleverness of his Christian electioneering: “I walked on to a stage with a Bible, everybody likes me better.” Trump brought meta to Burlington, Iowa. And he did not deny the crowd that taste of celebrity they desired. What would he say to Caroline Kennedy, the ambassador to Japan? “You’re fired!” “You’re fired!”

A few spectators started to drift out to beat the traffic and Trump shouted about the silent majority and about how he says what nobody else dares to say and about how he will end free trade and how Mexicans are car thieves (big laugh) and how he wants a piece of the action from the Keystone pipeline and how he’s going to help women’s health and how America used to be emulated. “The American Dream is dead but I’m going to make it bigger and stronger!” he shouted. At this moment he appeared to me the way every celebrity I have met in the flesh does, like a living pagan idol awaiting sacrifice, a puff-faced Baal. “We’re going to win so much,” he promised before leaving the stage to Twisted Sister’s We’re Not Going to Take It.

I stayed to watch Trump work the line. Up close, in person, the hair is much more intricate than it appears on screen. Its construction is tripartite, its significance polyvalent. First and foremost, there is the comb-over, although it can be called a comb-over only in the sense that the mall in Dubai with a ski hill inside it can be called a building. It is hair as state-of-the-art engineering feat, with the diaphanous quality of a cloak out of Norse legend or some miraculous near-weightless metal developed in an advanced German laboratory. It floats over the skull, an act of defiance not only against ageing and loss but against time and space, against reality.

Behind the technical display of the comb-over, as counterpoint, the back is as traditional and old-fashioned as a haircut can be. It’s a classic ducktail. It’s such a classic that I have only seen it in movies set in the 1950s. Not movies from the 1950s I should be clear, but movies from the 1970s about the 1950s. In between the comb-over and the ducktail, between the two follicular spaces representing the modernistic and the atavistic, the fantastical and the nostalgic, there is a third tranche. Even in person you have to look closely to catch sight of it. It bulges, slightly but only slightly. It is the real part of the hair, the human part, the actual hair. It is the hinge of Donald Trump.

As Trump’s campaign for the Republican nomination has unfolded, in all its unlikeliness, he has shaken hands with many thousands of Americans, and posed with many thousands for many thousands of selfies. And among those many thousands, not one has reached up to mess up his hair. Though he regularly brings up the physical appearances of his opponent, none of the other candidates even mention the fact that he looks ridiculous. Trump’s hair is an act of defiant social pre-emption: call me a phony. I dare you. I fucking dare you.

A few hardcore fans lingered on the fringes, just like at a concert. Everybody else had drifted into the parking lot and the town center of Burlington was soon returned to its emptiness. A Trump show is good value for the money, especially since it’s free. They don’t even ask for donations.

The view from Fun City

The morning after the rally, it has become clear that Iowa may be the bramble in Trump’s path. A scandal over an errant tweet has cloudburst.

He blames the insult on a young intern. But the eight-point rise of Carson must be galling. Trump possesses the weakness of anyone who lives by the strength of their results. Results vary. When the results are down, where are you? Who are you? Trump is in the business of winning. Does Trump losing even exist?

I had a day between Trump and Sanders, and all I had to read was a pdf of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, which I had agreed to look at for a book of the month club. After another hot mess at Jerry’s Main Lunch, and a run to burn it off, I spent a day at the Motel 8 in Burlington reading, while across the street, the Winegard factory, manufacturing satellite dishes 24 hours a day, thudded like a heart without syncopation. Did you know you can buy a six pack of beer and a bottle of bourbon for just a little over 20 bucks in Iowa? What a great country.

The title of Between the World and Me comes from a Richard Wright poem called White Man, Listen! and it was never going to get much whiter or more male than me in the Motel 8 sipping bourbon and beer, on my iPhone, with the Jays and Royals highlights flickering in the background and the thud of the satellite dish factory in the background.

The urgency of the book, the vitality of the historical imagination at play, rose like waves into crests of anger tumbling over their own force. It was all of a piece. And it all made very ferocious sense. Between the World and Me is one of those books that possess the powerful inevitability of a natural phenomenon – as if it accrued out of the ether that surrounds us, a crystalline formation of the outrage that defines the moment. To criticize is beside the point. It’s just there.

To me, the key passage in Between the World and Me, comes after Coates has been on television explaining to the host the desperate consequences of yet another police assassination of a black boy.

I came out of the studio and walked for a while. It was a calm December day. Families, believing themselves white, were out on the streets. Infants, raised to be white, were bundled in strollers. And I was sad for these people, much as I was sad for the host and sad for all the people out there watching and reveling in a specious hope. I realized then why I was sad. When the journalist asked me about my body, it was like she was asking me to awaken her from the most gorgeous dream. I have seen that dream all my life. It is perfect houses with nice lawns. It is Memorial Day cookouts, block associations, and driveways. The Dream is treehouses and the Cub Scouts. The Dream smells like peppermint but tastes like strawberry shortcake.

Right then, reading that passage, I knew that white people were going to love this book. What white people crave – more, they require it, they require it to live – is an alibi from their whiteness, an escape from the injustice of their existence. There are various alibis available depending on how much stupidity you can tolerate. You can say to yourself or to others that black people are stupid and lazy; you can say that you don’t see color; you can call your uncle a racist so everybody knows you’re not; you can share the latest critique of brutality on Twitter with the word THIS; and now you can tell a friend that she really has to read Between the World and Me.

Because that Dream of Whiteness, the dream of treehouses and cub scouts that tastes like peppermint and smells like strawberry shortcake, is a perfect alibi. Who lives that dream? Somebody else may live it but not me, not anyone I know, no one I could see in Burlington. That’s a dream that belongs to somebody else. Always to somebody else.

It certainly didn’t belong to the Winegard factory workers who were drifting to their cars at the end of their shift. The whiteness of my existence was my iPhone and the fumes of bourbon and beer, and the game from last night and the tingling in my thigh. The tingling in my thigh was my body – the reality I can’t look at because I’m too afraid of my mortality.

To me, the best question ever asked about race in America has always been the one that James Baldwin asked, when an interviewer wanted to know if he was optimistic or pessimistic about the future of America. “What white people have to do is try and find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a nigger in the first place,” he said. “If you invented him, you, the white people invented him, then you’ve got to find out why. And the future of the country depends on that.” The obsession of intellectuals over the question of Malcolm X or Martin Luther King, Jr active or passive resistance – was moot; the pressing matter was why white people were blowing up churches filled with children.

Whiteness is a spiritual distortion, evidently – by the fruit ye shall know the tree. And on the question of white pathology, what good answers has America produced since Baldwin asked that question in 1963? And now that white pathology has returned to waste away its host, unexamined and mysterious, a golem.

In the evening, I finished the book and didn’t want to think about my white and male body any more, or the tingling in my thigh.

Across from my hotel, the Fun City complex contained an imitation midway, a bowling alley, a couple of bars, a replica diner and, tucked in between a hotel and a spa, the Catfish Bend Casino. The poker room is dingy but serviceable. A game started at six. I wanted to play. I wanted to find out how much fun can you have in a place called Fun City.

The youngest guy at the table, Curved Baseball Hat, grew beans and corn. A man with an angry mustache ran the conversation, a three-day beard beside him adding an occasional aside. The rest of us sat cooking quietly in the juices of our addictions, like in any casino. Everybody at the table knew everybody else, except for me and a black welder in town for a specialist job. It was happy hour in Fun City, and beer was a dollar. Everybody ordered a mess of them. And I felt just how lucky it is to be in America, despite politics, despite everything. Cheap beer and frank people and an honestly run game in a clean room. Even compared to Canada, the unthinking prosperity of the place is dazzling.

Three Day Beard had seen Trump the night before, and Angry Mustache asked his opinion.

“I think he could win,” Three Day Beard said cautiously, as if it were a criticism, as if it were all you could say of him, that he might have a chance to take the presidency, for what it was worth.

“Don’t matter,” said Angry Mustache. “No matter who gets in, Washington just ruins them.”

“He might be different because he doesn’t need the money.”

Angry Mustache quoted a statistic, which I later check and turns out to be bullshit, that all congressmen become millionaires by the time they’ve been in office for a year. Everybody agreed that Trump’s main advantage is that he comes pre-corrupted.

“It’s not even the money,” Three Day Beard said. “They get there. They all have these schemes and plans. They can’t do anything.” Three Day Beard almost pitied the politicians.

“It’s all broken,” added Angry Mustache as a kind of given, the way you’d state any historical fact, like “Germany lost the second world war” or “Frances Farmer was once a star.”

The view of American politics in Fun City is snug despair. It is despair not just at who happens to be in power but at whoever could ever be in power. It is despair not simply that the system is broken but that any system, imaginable in the current iteration of the United States, would turn out to be just as broken. The choice is a choice between impotence and coercion. The response was not revolution but a shrug.

Curved Baseball Hat, the guy who grows corn and beans and who had delicate traces of soil in the lunulae of his fingernails, asked about an old gambling hall that used to be in town, and the reminiscences of the way Burlington used to be flowed – buildings that had been knocked down, women that were once beautiful and were now dead, fortunes made and vanished.

Eventually the black player, who has said almost nothing except his calls and folds and raises, busted out.

“Did you see that guy’s fingers?” Angry Mustache asks when he had left. He gestured an inch past his middle finger. We were all, it was made very clear, in a room of white men. “You know what they say. My brother worked in the prison and he says it’s all true. I guess that’s why they say once you go black.”

The rest of us nodded or smiled or said nothing, looking down at the cards. Now that we had all shown how white we were, it was a friendlier room. We knew that none of us would object to the evil of the others. What if the answer to Baldwin’s question is as banal as it appeared to be in Fun City? What if it white people make the nigger to make themselves a little less lonely?

And I said nothing. I offered no resistance, though the line between the man in Fun City and the cop shooting a black child in the face was not hard to trace. Here was my alibi that evening: I am Canadian. Which means I am a spy from nowhere. Or perhaps I am a coward or something in between a coward and spy from nowhere. It’s a pretty threadbare alibi anyway. Whose isn’t?

Conversation drifted back to Trump. It was more polite.

“I can see Trump,” said Angry Mustache. “He’s not the worst that I’ve seen anyway.”

“I’m starting to like that doctor,” Three Day Beard adds as an afterthought.

That doctor, Ben Carson, proposes a flat tax of 10% that would put the US government, estimating conservatively, in a $3tn deficit. He believes that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain, and he believes that Hitler never would have risen to power if the German people were armed, and that Obamacare is worse than slavery, and that Americans are living in a Gestapo age.

I wish that Coates had some crazy scheme, some utopian fantasy for communards in Georgia, or the return to one motherland or another, but he just wants the end of white supremacy. He just wants white people in America to grow up, to cede their inhumane sense of absurd superiority. I cannot imagine why they would. It’s fun to drink and to play cards and to imagine what Donald Trump would say to the Mexican president the day after he was elected, or whether Ben Carson would set the flat tax at 10 or 12%. The ultimate alibi is ignorance – it lies closest to innocence – but if you can’t manage ignorance, craziness does nearly as well.

I mean, none of it’s going to happen anyway, right? Whoever gets elected, it’s just going to be gridlock and outrage anyway, right? Did I mention that beer cost one dollar? A single, solitary buck.

‘Ellen Degeneres, eat your heart out!’

The Bernie Sanders rally in Davenport was the precise opposite of the Donald Trump rally in Burlington and yet precisely the same in every detail. “Make America Great Again” was replaced by “Feel the Bern”. Hawkers sold pins, three for $10. They read “Bernie Sanders is my spirit animal” and “Cats for Bernie” and “I supported Bernie Sanders before it was cool.” Davenport, at least near the Adler Theater, is the same Brooklyn-outside-Brooklyn that has conquered every corner of the world that is not a strip mall. The tattoo artists of Davenport do not go hungry. The cornfed hipsters at the Sanders rally look like they have probably attended a party at which somebody played a bongo. They may even have attended a literary reading.

There were hype men as with Trump, too, although in this case they were twentyish women in glasses screaming “Feel the Bern!” and “We’re Going to Build a Revolution!” Somebody with a camera from NBC asked a group who has brought their precocious children because they want them to be engaged in the political process “Can I get you guys to look like you’re excited about Bernie?” They carefully placed their drinks on the floor, out of sight, to oblige.

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The same specter of angry white people haunts Saunders’s rally, the same sense of longing for a country that was, the country that has been taken away. The Bernie crowd brought homemade signs instead of manufactured ones, because I guess they’re organic. They waved them just the same. They were going to a show. They wanted to be a good audience.

The fundamental difference between the Trump and Sanders crowd was that the Sanders crowd has more money, the natural consequence of the American contradiction machinery: rich white people can afford to think about socialism, the poor can only afford their anger.

Sanders’s opening act was a congressional hopeful, Gary Kroeger. He hadn’t been on The Apprentice but on Saturday Night Live, a forgettable lesser actor from the great period between 1982 and 1985. He started out, naturally, with a half-assed gag: “the fresh patchouli in the air is so beautiful”. The sign language translator offered a mild smile to indicate it was a joke. Then, after a brief foray into leftwingery, calling America a “social democracy also known as a republic”, Kroeger took a big selfie with the crowd behind him: “Ellen Degeneres, eat your heart out!” he shouted. Everyone’s phones rose up to take pictures of themselves in a picture imitating a picture from the Oscars: such was American socialism in the year 2015.

A few desultory bands followed, performing an assortment of leftwing songs from various historical leftwing movements. They harmonized on The Auld Triangle, a prison ballad that was covered on Inside Llewelyn Davis. The singer from Alice in Chains (remember them?) did an electric version of I Won’t Back Down. An old The Clash song, Jail Guitar Doors, was sung by the subject of the first verse, Wayne Kramer. And it was all, so obviously, a nostalgia act, the indulgence for a longing of a time when music encouraged politics, when activism possessed an artistic face, and vice versa.

Eventually Bernie wandered out. The phones went up. The phones went down. “Enough is enough,” he shouted, leaving blank what there’s been enough of. And then he talked about how he wanted to end the war on drugs and campaign finance reform and government that isn’t for plutocrats, and how they were going to build a revolution (such an embarrassing word to hear uttered out loud), and America was going to be a social democracy, by the people of the people.

Sanders’s exasperation was the principal fact to be communicated, more than any political content. Trump was about winning again. Sanders was about having lost. The vagueness of American politics is what astonished the outsider. It’s all about feelings and God and bullshit. Sanders actually uttered the following sentence out loud: “What we’re saying is when millions of people come together to restore their government we can do extraordinary things.” Nobody asked what he meant. Nobody asked for numbers. They applauded. Better to take it in the spirit in which it’s given, like a Catskills resort comedian.

Sanders reminded me of a line from Seinfeld, maybe because Larry David’s SNL parody was only a few days’ old. “The sea was angry that day, my friends, like an old man trying to send back soup at a deli.” When Ben and Jerry make a Bernie Sanders ice cream, I hope it’s chili and ginger: the delicious hot flavour of nasal-passage clearing outrage.

Sanders’s speech was much shorter than Trump’s. There had already been the music, I guess. I had the impression, as with Trump, that I had traveled many hundreds of miles to look at a man’s hair. Bernie Sanders’s hair is as much a statement as Trump’s. It looks like the hair of a tenured professor whose wife has stopped nagging him to get a haircut because the nagging doesn’t work. You couldn’t muss Sanders hair. The disorder is just as much an aesthetic as the comb-over. I mean it always looks the same. Somebody is cutting it to droop that way over the ears.

The view from Tampico

As despair has suddenly spread like a fabulous mist over the white people of America, as the white people die off in their unprecedented numbers, the commenters are surprised, a bit, but they have no plan of action. No policy proposals aim at ameliorating the conditions of white people. 

How could they? If you believe the Case and Deaton report, white people are victims of their own privilege – literally. Their cherished right to own guns, and the vast increase in the ownership of weaponry, means that their suicide attempts are more effective. They have more access to opioids because doctors are more likely to trust white people with them. They have the money to make themselves lonely and drink.

I remember reading a passage from bell hooks once, the kind that circulates on Facebook because it sounds slightly unusual in its predictable virtue. “The first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males,” she wrote, “is not violence toward women. Instead patriarchy demands of all males that they engage is psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves.”

Her compassion is admirable, glorious even, but also inaccurate. No one is more emotional than a piece-of-shit white man. They are sentimentality personified. How else can so many be moved to rage over the absence of a Christmas tree on a Starbucks cup?

That dream, that white dream that smells like peppermint and tastes like strawberry shortcake, comes with a cost of shit. If you take shit, if you eat shit, if you live through the shit, if you survive the stupid wars and the meaningless jobs, you should be sure of who you are and what you deserve. And if you are not sure and you have not received what you deserved, why did you take and eat and breathe all that shit?

In the aftermath of that deal, the choice, I suppose, is either to be proud to be white, which is a form of insanity, or to fantasize a post-racial cosmopolis, which is a kind of make-believe, or to be ashamed. So much easier to forget those choices, or to defer endlessly the choosing, or to debate the difficulties of choosing infinitely, because white male flesh is not under mortal threat, as the flesh of black men or the flesh of women. Our bodies are safe. Our bodies are the threat.

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In medieval monarchies, the state required the existence of a double body, one for the real world and one for the symbolic. There was the flawed and mortal body of the king, which wept and shat and screwed and died, and then there was the Body of the King, sacred, pure, indestructible.

Race gives us all double bodies, “double consciousness” in WEB Du Bois’s phrase, whatever you want to call having to live mortally through the judgment of others. The new white distortion, the sickness at heart, the pathology, may simply be the arrival of the awareness of two bodies: the dizziness and nausea that arrive with the onset of double vision.

Because they have to be like everybody else, their hearts are breaking in half.

The morning after the Sanders rally, I found enough strength to look in the mirror at my white and male body, to examine its mortal and symbolic nature. At the corner of my groin, where it had been tingling, a brown patch spilled like spoiled milk down my skin. A wide brown patch shaped like post-climate change Florida in the corner of my thigh. Instantly, I knew I would die. And the next moment I started driving back to Toronto, to my wife and children, flesh of my flesh.

Bernie Sanders wants a revolution to overthrow casino capitalism but the problem, or maybe just the first problem, is that the American people love casinos. They can’t build them fast enough. On the road from Iowa, I passed at least a dozen, a dozen Fun Cities of various shapes and sizes, enduring various conversations about Trump and Sanders. The highways of Illinois are a unique vision of the workings of human desire – a nearly limitless marketplace for addiction and its cure. Strip clubs or fried chicken or gambling or church or rehab or cancer treatment. The I-94 spoke right to the unwounded body – the promise of processed sugar and pussy, or salvation from them.

There was one other attraction on the route home: Ronald Reagan’s birthplace in Tampico. The beauty of the landscape around those towns, for some reason, has never been properly romanticized. There are no tourist buses to these fields, as there are to the ocean or the mountains, but the landscape is every bit as sublime. Reagan’s childhood passed in the loin of the continent, the grand hinge between the industrial core of the Great Lakes and the agricultural heartland. The historical memory of his presidential monuments has been consumed by fantasies of small-town life but it is a landscape of whitewashed buildings against the undulating emptiness, a country roiling with dreams. You can picture Reagan as a boy in these fields, dreaming of movies and America – vast screens on which he could project himself. The highway runs like a river of craving through an ancient dream.

The ancient dreams are still so vivid here. In the United States, 240-year-old writings can be recited by heart by people who cannot be described as educated. Documents written by men who owned slaves are spoken of as if they could solve the problems of today and tomorrow and any conceivable future no matter how distant.

Thomas Jefferson believed that the constitution should expire after 19 years, so that the dead would not have dominion over the living. That fate seems to have arrived. The Americans are in constant debates with ghosts and their conversations with dead people are most powerful, most ferocious, at exactly the points where they are most nonsensical. They state defiantly that all men are created equal when any casual observer of life knows they aren’t. They claim that men and women should be judged by the content of their character, when nobody can know the content of another’s character. These dreams, these impossibilities, are the absolute and real foundation of their nation. And the dreams are so entrancing that it’s unclear whether the problem is that the Americans believe them, or that they don’t. It’s supremely childish, either way.

Back in Toronto, my wife took a look at the brown patch on my groin and sent me to a doctor, and the doctor told me it was a rash from running too much, and I had been given the greatest gift anyone can hope for, in this time and this place. I had been forgiven, for a while, for my body.

The Guardian, Stephen Marche

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On Scene with Bill Wilson

A Rome 1516_0000651Pilgrims enter St. Peter’s Basilica through the Holy Door opened by Pope Francis on December 8, 2015

This year you have a rare opportunity to participate in an event that has taken place only about 25 times in the past seven hundred years – a Jubilee Year proclaimed by the Pope. Millions of pilgrims are expected to come to Rome from all over the world to walk through the Holy Doors of the four major basilicas in Rome – St. Peter’s, St. John in Lateran, St. Mary Major and St. Paul Outside the Wall.

B Rome1516_0001343AA fragment of a fresco by Giotto showing Pope Boniface VIII.

In 1300 the first Jubilee of the Christian church was proclaimed by Pope Boniface VIII. A fragment of fresco by Giotto showing Pope Boniface VIII can be seen at St. John in Lateran, which is the official seat of the Bishop of Rome. The Pope is at the same time Bishop of Rome.

C Rome1516_0001416Hammer used to unseal the Holy Door on display at St. John Lateran.

In the Middle Ages St. John in Lateran was the location of the papal palace and the center of papal authority. During the “exile” of Popes in Avignon the place deteriorated so much that upon return to Rome it was decided to move the Papal palace to St. Peter’s because of the healthier location. So the first Holy Door was located at St. John in Lateran. It wasn’t until the Jubilee proclaimed for the year 1500 that St. Peter’s, St. Mary Major and St. Paul Outside the Wall were added to the sites of Holy Doors (Porta Santa) by Pope Alexander VI.

D Rome1516_0001348The Holy Door at St. John in Lateran

The ceremonies marking the start of the Jubilee year remained the same from 1500 until 2000. The wall sealing the Holy Door was hit three times by the Pope with a hammer and then the wall would be removed and the door opened. However on Christmas Eve, 1974 as Pope Paul VI was opening the Holy Door debris fell close, dangerously close, or actually hit the Pope (depending on the source you read). Whatever the true version in 2000 the ceremony was changed so that the removing of the wall was done before the Pope actually opened the door.

E Rome1516_0002136The Holy Door at Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Wall

In the Papal Bull Proclaiming the Jubilee Year of Mercy Pope Francis wrote,  “I have chosen the date of 8 December because of its rich meaning in the recent history of the Church. In fact, I will open the Holy Door on the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. The Church feels a great need to keep this event alive. With the Council, the Church entered a new phase of her history. The Council Fathers strongly perceived, as a true breath of the Holy Spirit, a need to talk about God to men and women of their time in a more accessible way. The walls which for too long had made the Church a kind of fortress were torn down and the time had come to proclaim the Gospel in a new way. It was a new phase of the same evangelization that had existed from the beginning. It was a fresh undertaking for all Christians to bear witness to their faith with greater enthusiasm and conviction. The Church sensed a responsibility to be a living sign of the Father’s love in the world.”

F Rome1516_0001840The unopened Holy Door at Basilica of St. Mary Major. The photo was taken before Pope Francis opened it on January 1, 2016

In a move reminiscent of his request that money that people would have spent to come to Rome for his inauguration as Pope be spent helping the poor, Pope Francis has declared that Holy Doors would be designated in other places around the world. The first such door was one he opened while visiting the Central African Republic.

G Rome1516_0001415A trowel used in the closing of the Holy Door is part of a display at St. John in Lateran

Like the opening ceremony, the closing ceremony has been revised. In 1949 Pope Pius XII commissioned a new Holy Door for St. Peter’s that was ready for the Holy Year of 1950. In years not designated as Holy Years it can be viewed from the outside and like so much of the artwork within the churches, seeks to inspire the viewer through images and stories. All Holy Doors in Rome and throughout the word will closed on November 13, 2016 with the exception of the one at St. Peter’s. On November 20, 2016 Pope Francis will close the doors in solemn ceremony marking the end of the Jubilee Year. It will later be sealed to remain closed until the next Jubilee.

H Rome1516_0001418A brick used by Pope Pius XI to close the Holy Door in 1924.

As he opened the Caritas Holy Door Pope Francis said to those listening, “If you want to find God, seek him in humility, seek him in poverty, seek him where he is hidden: in the neediest, in the sick, in the hungry, in the imprisoned. And when Jesus preaches life to us he tells us how we will be judged….What will Jesus say to open the doors of Heaven to us? “I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was homeless and you gave me a home; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me” (cf. Mt 25:35-36).”

J Rome1516_0001784An innovation by Pope Francis is a Holy Door at the entrance to a homeless and migrant service center near the Termi Train Station.

 

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Cruz campaign official says Christians must take over public schools to stop ‘deception of the seed’

The co-chair of Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign in Virginia cited some bogus statistics to argue that Christians must take over public education to stop the deception of children.

Cynthia Dunbar, who brags that she tried to correct a “biblically illiterate society” during her tenure the Texas State Board of Education, now works at Liberty University and serves as co-chair of the Texas Republican’s campaign in Virginia.

She took part recently in a “ProFamily Legislator’s Conference,” along with a number of conservative lawmakers, sponsored by anti-LGBT pseudo-historian David Barton — who heads the pro-Cruz Keep the Promise PAC, reported Right Wing Watch.

In a speech broadcast last week on Barton’s “Wallbuilders Live” program, Dunbar explained her obsession with the Genesis passage in which God vows to create hostility between Eve and the serpent who deceived her.

“It’s what I call the seed policy,” Dunbar said. “If you think about it, every major social issue you’re encountering as legislators actually directs back to what it talks about it in Genesis, ‘if I would put enmity between you and the seed of the woman.’ Because what happens, what is abortion? Abortion is the destruction of the seed. What is homosexuality? It is the prevention of the seed. And what is education? It is potential deception of the seed.”

Dunbar said nearly all American students attend public schools — which she warned were a secular plot to turn children away from Republican values.

“When we have 88 to 90 percent, which is approximately the number of the students that are being educated within our socialized education system, effectively indoctrinating our children with our own tax dollars, guess what?” she said. “We lose every other issue. We lose life, we lose marriage — we lose all of it. So I think this is the linchpin issue.”

She also promoted Barton’s history instruction materials, using a statistic the pseudo-historian apparently made up.

“One of my favorite historians — brilliant, brilliant man — says that 94 percent of the quotes of the founding fathers contemporaneous to our nation’s founding were either directly or indirectly from holy scripture,” Dunbar said. “We know what that means when we say ‘directly’ — they’re quoting scripture. What does it mean when we say ‘indirectly’? They were quoting men who were quoting scripture.”

 

Raw Story, Travis Gettys

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Muslim Family Hunting Down Gay Son After He Narrowly Escaped Death At The Hands Of ISIS

Taim, a 24-year-old medical student, has shared his heartbreaking story to the BBC detailing how he managed to narrowly escape death at the hands of ISIS and his family in Iraq for being gay.

The Islamic State (IS or Isis) has a special punishment for gay men – they throw them blindfolded off the tallest buildings in front of large crowds.

This is the story of how he escaped this horrific fate by fleeing from Iraq to Lebanon.

In our society, being gay means death. When Isis kills gays, most people are happy because they think we’re sick.  I first realised I was gay when I was about 13 or 14. I too thought homosexuality was a sickness and I just wanted to feel normal.

During my first year of college, I started having therapy for it. My therapist told me to tell friends that I was going through a “difficult phase” and to ask for their support.

I’m of Muslim background but my ex-boyfriend was from a Christian background and I had a bunch of Christian friends, whom I used to hang out with. In 2013 I got into a fight with a fellow student, Omar – who later joined Isis – about hanging out with Christians. A friend of mine told him to go easy on me because I was going through a hard time, having treatment for being gay. That’s how people knew. I think my friend’s intention was noble but what happened as a result ruined my life.

In November 2013, Omar attacked me with two of his friends. I was just walking home after a really lovely day. They beat me, threw me to the ground and shaved my head, saying to me: “This is just a lesson to you for the moment, because your father is a religious man. Watch what you do!” He meant that I wouldn’t be killed then and there out of respect for my dad, because I’m from a religious family.

I left town for a few days and didn’t go to university but then I went back, and in March 2014 I made Omar angry again, this time by suggesting that non-Muslims shouldn’t have to pay the “jizya”, the tax paid by non-Muslims to a Muslim government. I was washing my hands in the university bathroom when he and others attacked me again. They came at me from behind, but I recognised one of them from his green watch. It was the same group. They kicked me half-unconscious. I was barely able to walk and stopped going to university for a month.

Then, in the middle of final exams, Isis took over. Omar called me and asked me to repent and join them. I hung up the phone.

On 4 July, a group of fighters from Isis came to my home. My father answered the door and apparently they said to him: “Your son is an infidel and a homosexual and we have come to carry out God’s punishment on him.”

My dad is a religious man and luckily for me he was able to tell them to come back the next day, to give him time to find out whether the accusation was correct. He came inside the house and started screaming. Finally, he said: “If these accusations are true, I will hand you over to them myself, happily.” And I just stood there, not knowing what to do and what to say, or how to defend myself.

I was in shock. But my mother decided that I should leave the house immediately, and she started working on getting me out of Iraq for good. It was midnight and she said to me: “We’re leaving right now.” She took me to her sister’s house. The next day she booked me a plane ticket to Turkey and got me a visa. But I had to travel via Erbil and they wouldn’t let us into Kurdistan. I stayed in a village near Erbil for two weeks, trying to get in but I never managed it. I tried to leave via Baghdad but there were clashes on the road and the driver wouldn’t go on. I tried to get out so many times, and failed.

Eventually, in August, after weeks in hiding, my mum arranged somehow for me to get to Kirkuk, driving there through fields and on unpaved roads. From there, I went to Sulaymaniyah. I’d planned to go to Turkey but the first available flight was to Beirut and I didn’t need a visa – so here I am.

If I’d stayed, Isis would have come for me and killed me the way they’ve killed others. If Isis didn’t get me, members of my family would have done it. A few days after I left, I learned that my uncle – my father’s brother – had taken an oath to cleanse the family honour.

Recently, I received an anonymous Facebook message – but my mother thinks it was from my uncle. It said: “I know you’re in Beirut. Even if you went to hell, I would follow you there.”

All I want now is to be in a safe place, unreachable by my dad or anyone with extremist thoughts. I want to be safe, to be free, and to be myself – to get my degree and start living… I just want to start living.

Human rights lawyers from the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project have helped me get refugee status and are working on getting me resettled in another country, where I want to continue my studies. Here I’m living in one room, the size of my bathroom back home. I’m in limbo.
I think I will recover eventually but there will always be a memory of this dark period when I literally had to run for my life to avoid being killed. It was very stressful, but luckily I made it.

I’ve lost contact with most of my family. A month after I fled, my younger brother sent me a Facebook message saying: “I have had to leave town. The family is shattered and it’s all because of you.”

From the Gaily Grind

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Fox host: President Obama put a ‘raw onion’ in his podium so he could cry fake tears for kids killed by guns

Fox News host Andrea Tantaros suggested on Tuesday President Barack Obama had used a “raw onion” to produce fake tears for shooting victims during his press conference on gun violence.

Following Obama’s announcement that he was taking executive action to expand background checks and gun safety measures, the hosts of Outnumbered argued that the president was violating the separation of powers doctrine in the U.S. Constitution.

But it was the president’s emotional reaction while speaking about gun violence in Chicago that irked host Melissa Francis.

“What was really upsetting was the tears that he wiped away again and again,” Francis opined. “You want that for — I mean, we feel frighten about what’s going on with ISIS. And he can’t pull that kind of passion for anything about this.”

“I feel bad about those kids in [Newtown,] Connecticut,” she added. “Your heart breaks for them. But it’s only about this that he gets so upset about. And never about terror!”

After a commercial break, Fox News replayed a clip of Obama with tears flowing down his face.

Tantaros said that she didn’t buy the emotion because “he would have spoken out a long time ago.”

“This is how many years? Almost eight years, he’s almost at the end of his term,” she continued. “And you haven’t heard him go to Chicago and really speak out about this issue.”

“So, I would check that podium for like a raw onion or some No More Tears,” Tantaros quipped. “It’s not really believable. And the award goes to… we are in awards season.”

Co-host Meghan McCain agreed: “It just didn’t seem horribly authentic. And maybe it is, I don’t know him at all.”

“Go to your hometown of Chicago instead of talking about God-fearing Americans when ISIS is coming to their hometown,” McCain advised.

Francis said that she couldn’t understand how the president could cry for kids in Chicago but not the recent terror attacks in Paris.

“They say he’s just cool, that’s the way he is, that he doesn’t get emotional,” she explained. “We haven’t seen this in a very long time and it’s about something that feels political, that feels somewhat insincere, that feels like it’s not going to make a huge difference.”

“It’s like bad political theater,” McCain concluded.

David Edwards, Raw Story
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The Graying of HIV Disease

The introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) in the mid-1990s transformed HIV from an all-but-certain killer to a manageable chronic condition.

While HIV-positive patients could have expected to live just a year or two in the pre-HAART era, it is common today for people on HAART to reach their 70s and beyond. As of 2015, more than half of those infected with HIV in the U.S. were age 50 or older.1

Testing recommended for everyone

The graying HIV population includes both patients infected for many years and those with newly acquired HIV.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that in 2013, 21% of new diagnoses of HIV and 27% of new AIDS cases occurred in people aged 50 or older. More than a third (37%) of deaths related to AIDS in the U.S. now occur among people aged 55 or older, and older people are also more likely to be diagnosed with HIV later in the course of their disease.2

“Older patients may not recognize their risk. And providers may not be asking older patients about their risk factors or testing them,” says Jonathan Appelbaum, MD, of the American Academy of HIV Medicine.

The CDC recommends that everyone be tested for HIV at least once in their lifetime. “If a patient over the age of 50 has never had an HIV test, they should get one,” says Dr. Appelbaum, who is a professor of internal medicine at Florida State University College of Medicine.

Diseases of aging occurring earlier

While the increased life expectancy of people living with HIV represents one of the biggest medical success stories of the last century, it has also brought new challenges to clinicians treating infected patients.

While it’s no surprise that older patients with HIV develop diseases associated with aging such as hypertension, coronary artery disease, heart disease, and diabetes, it now appears that they may be developing them earlier and at higher rates than people without HIV, says Wayne McCormick, MD, MPH, a geriatrician and professor of medicine at the University of Washington.

“They may also,” he adds, “be developing more complications from these conditions—not because they’re aging more quickly, but because they have a chronic inflammatory condition that’s hard on the body over decades. People on the best HIV therapies still have chronic inflammation.”

AIDS-related opportunistic diseases like Kaposi’s sarcoma and pneumocystis pneumonia, which characterized HIV illness in the decade prior to the introduction of HAART, have been replaced by diseases of aging that are not as obviously associated with HIV infection. Specialists who best understand the nuances of antiretroviral therapy may therefore be less comfortable treating theseincreasingly prevalent diseases in their HIV- positive patients, Dr. McCormick says.

Dr. McCormick says that clinicians caring for patients with HIV need to be ready to address multiple medical problems that may not seem obviously related to HIV illness—at least initially. But some of these actually could be linked to HIV because they’re the result of a chronic inflammatory state.

Liver disease now leading killer

HAART, while very effective against HIV, has its potential downsides. For one thing, liver disease has emerged as a leading cause of illness and death among older HIV-infected patients on HAART.3Certain antiretroviral therapies have been associated with liver toxicity, and chronic inflammation is also believed to play a role in liver disease in HIV-positive patients.

Cross-sectional studies have shown unexpectedly high rates of advanced fibrosis in HIV-infected patients who didn’t have viral hepatitis or a history of alcohol abuse, suggesting that HIV or long-term use of antiviral therapy may independently contribute to liver damage.4

In a recent review of the research examining liver fibrosis in HIV, investigators concluded that as the HIV-infected population gets older, “aging of the liver in HIV may play a much more pivotal role . . . considering age-related effects, coinfection with hepatotropic viruses, and the toxicity of long-term antiviral treatment.”4

Cancer, dementia are also concerns

HIV-infected patients have a higher risk for certain cancers than the general population, and this is especially true among older patients. A recent case-cohort study found HIV infection in the elderly to be associated with a higher risk for many cancers associated with HIV infection than in younger populations.5

Over a 1-year period, 2.5% of the HIV-infected elderly cohort received a cancer diagnosis, and by 5 years, this had increased to 10.2%.5

And while AIDS-related dementia is now relatively rare, a much more subtle form of cognitive impairment associated with HIV infection is now being recognized. A recent review of HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders found that comorbid conditions appear to contribute to cognitive impairment associated with HIV infection, but don’t fully explain it.6

Another study, published in 2011, found persistent evidence of brain atrophy in HIV-infected men on HAART.7 This atrophy occurred in the basal ganglia.

“The volume of the basal ganglia was inversely associated with the time since first seropositivity, suggesting that either there is a chronic, subclinical process that continues in spite of therapy, or that the extent of the initial insult caused the extent of atrophy,” the researchers wrote.7

While HIV in the HAART era may well be a chronic condition, it is one that typically includes multiple, serious comorbidities in aging patients, says Dr. Appelbaum, who believes that primary care physicians and geriatricians who routinely treat these conditions also need to have a good understanding of HAART.

“The population is expanding, so I think almost any primary care physician is going to have patients in their practice who are older and infected with HIV,” he says. “In the past, the message to patients has been that they need to see a specialist if they’re HIV-positive, but that’s not really true anymore.” What is important is they be treated by a physician who has a good overall understanding of the complexities of HIV disease.

 

MedPageToday,  Salynn Boyles

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Why aren’t we calling the Oregon occupiers ‘terrorists?’

As of Sunday afternoon, The Washington Post called them “occupiers.” The New York Times opted for “armed activists” and “militia men.” And the Associated Press put the situation this way: “A family previously involved in a showdown with the federal government has occupied a building at a national wildlife refuge in Oregon and is asking militia members to join them.”

Not one seemed to lean toward terms such as ”insurrection,” “revolt,” anti-government “insurgents” or, as some on social media were calling them, “terrorists.” When a group of unknown size and unknown firepower has taken over any federal building with plans and possibly some equipment to aid a years-long occupation — and when its representative tells reporters that they would prefer to avoid violence but are prepared to die — the kind of almost-uniform delicacy and the limits on the language used to describe the people involved becomes noteworthy itself.

It is hard to imagine that none of the words mentioned above — particularly “insurrection” or “revolt” — would be avoided if, for instance, a group of armed black Americans took possession of a federal or state courthouse to protest the police. Black Americans outraged about the death of a 12-year-old boy at the hands of police or concerned about the absence of a conviction in the George Zimmerman case have been frequently and inaccurately lumped in with criminals and looters, described as “thugs,” or marauding wolf packs where drugs are, according to CNN’s Don Lemon, “obviously” in use.

If a group of armed Muslims took possession of a federal building or even its lobby to protest calls to surveil the entire group, it’s even more doubtful they could avoid harsher, more-alarming labels.

In fairness to those assembled in Oregon, it is true that there have been no reports of actual violence, injury or anyone being held inside the Oregon building against their will.

And in the interim, some may feel particularly inclined to take real care with the language used to describe the situation so as not to inflame it or offend people who, in some cases, have already been troubled by the decision to charge a father and son pair of ranchers with arson under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. The charge not only carries what many of the rancher’s supporters believe to be an unjust five-year jail term, but it brings the very same t-word into the mix.

For those who know the father and son — Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son, Steven Hammond — personally, it is understandable that they would disagree vehemently with any government action that implies that the men they know as engaged members of the community are terrorists. But one really cannot help but wonder where similar outrage lives when data clearly indicate that black Americans are far more likely than white ones to face serious charges and jail time rather than misdemeanor penalties for resisting arrest. Where has the lock-step adherence to careful and delicate language been in all of 2015 when unarmed black Americans were disproportionately more likely to be killed by police than others?

Beyond that seeming incongruity, the Hammonds are not among the occupiers. The man who has helped to organize the building occupation in Oregon is Ammon Bundy. Bundy is the son of Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher who engaged in a standoff in 2014 with the government over grazing rights. And the younger Bundy has, again, described the occupiers as “armed” and prepared to die.

The armed occupation of a federal building might be what Bundy considers an assertion of rights and a mere gathering in a taxpayer-financed space. But it would seem to contain the real risk of violence, serious injury or even death.

Deliberate language choices are always a wise and reasonable move. That is especially true when telling stories of conflict with government and political protests. But the incredibly limited and relatively soft range of words in wide use Sunday seems to extend beyond all of that. The descriptions of events in Oregon appear to reflect the usual shape of our collective assumptions about the relationship between race and guilt — or religion and violent extremism — in the United States.

White Americans, their activities and ideas seem always to stem from a font of principled and committed individuals. As such, group suspicion and presumed guilt are readily perceived and described as unjust, unreasonable and unethical.

You will note that while the group gathered in Oregon is almost assuredly all or nearly all white, that has scarcely been mentioned in any story. You will note that nothing even close to similar can be said about coverage of events in Missouri, Maryland, Illinois or any other place where questions about policing have given way to protests or actual riots.

You will note the extended debate about whether admitted Charleston shooter Dylann Roof’s apparently racially motivated shooting spree was an act of terrorism or even violent racism and the comparatively rapid way that more than one news organization began hinting at and then using terms such as Islamic extremism to describe the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif.

The sometimes-coded but increasingly overt ways that some Americans are presumed guilty and violence-prone while others are assumed to be principled and peaceable unless and until provoked — even when actually armed — is remarkable.

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The trouble with Bernie

Here’s my problem with Bernie Sanders. With few exceptions, I agree with his positions on issues. But I don’t like him or his political temperament. He’d be an awful president.

I followed him carefully when I was editor of the Burlington Free Press in Vermont. Sanders was the state’s sole congressman, lived in Burlington, and would periodically visit with the newspaper’s editors and publisher.

Considering that the Free Press’ editorial positions were very liberal, reflecting the nature of a very liberal Vermont community, one might think that meetings with Sanders were cordial, even celebratory.

They weren’t. Sanders was always full of himself: pious, self-righteous and utterly humorless. Burdened by the cross of his socialist crusade, he was a scold whose counter-culture moralizing appealed to the state’s liberal sensibilities as well as its conservatives, who embraced his gun ownership stance, his defense of individual rights, an antipathy toward big corporations and, generally speaking, his stick-it-to-them approach to politics.

My most memorable encounter with Sanders was during an editorial board session during a period when the Vermont Progressive Party was reconstituting itself to challenge for more seats on the Burlington City Council.

Sanders had been mayor of Burlington from 1981 until 1989, institutionalizing progressive government in the city and other Vermont enclaves. Although he has been in Washington since his election to the House of Representatives in 1991, he remained the titular head of the movement, yet refused to endorse a progressive slate seeking City Council seats or the new leadership orchestrating the campaigns.

After discussing his favorite issues — corporations, government reform, health care and the like, I asked about his unwillingness to endorse his fellow progressives. He said it wasn’t his role. I suggested voters might expect him to weigh in. He disagreed, clearly annoyed at the persistent questioning. Finally I suggested that he had a larger moral responsibility to the progressive movement.

At which point he jumped out of his seat, told me to go f*** myself and stormed out of the edit board meeting. OK, maybe my persistence bordered on hectoring. But I felt he ought to provide an honest answer. My suspicion was that he resented others for assuming his mantle of progressive leadership and wouldn’t acknowledge them.

He returned to the meeting about five minutes after the outburst and we continued to discuss issues of the day.

The candidate you see on television working crowds, shaking hands and even smiling has undergone a presidential campaign conversion. And there is no doubt that Sanders is a smart, deft politician riding a popular, populist wave. But what is real?

I’m not alone in my opinions about Sanders. Chris Graf, long-time Associated Press bureau chief in Vermont, in an article published Sept. 30 in Theweek.com, had this to say about the senator.

“Bernie has no social skills, no sense of humor, and he’s quick to boil over. He’s the most unpolitical person in politics I’ve ever come across,” Graf said. Others who have covered Sanders agree.

Seven Days, the lively alternative weekly in Burlington, is offering extensive coverage of the Sanders campaign, reporting framed by decades of coverage. A recent article by Paul Heintz titled “Anger Management” featured current and former staff who have experienced the dark side of Sanders.

“They characterize the senator as rude, short-tempered and, occasionally, downright hostile. Though Sanders has spent much of his life fighting for working Vermonters, they say he mistreats the people working for him,” Heintz wrote. Among those he cited was Steve Rosenfeld, Sanders’ press secretary during his 1990 House campaign, and author of “In Making History in Vermont.”

“At his best, Sanders is a skilled reader and manipulator of people and events,” Rosenfeld wrote in his account of the campaign. “At his worst, he falls prey to his own emotions, is unable to practice what he preaches (though he would believe otherwise) and exudes a contempt for those he derides, including his staff.”

In the clubby media/political Vermont government bubble examples of Sanders’ sour temperament and moralizing abound. His response to my challenges was perhaps a bit extreme, but not by much. He is a polarizing politician and proud of it; as Woody Allen put it in “Annie Hall”: “But for the left.”

That’s not good enough. The rigid, uncompromising ideology of the Orwellian-named Republican Freedom Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives has helped paralyze government. Its members won’t even compromise with the more pragmatic members of the party, preferring no loaf rather than a half.

Republicans will continue to control the House after the 2016 election. The Democrats have a chance to regain control of the Senate. Split government again. That the parties are unwilling, or at least unable, to work together accounts for the public’s astounding low opinion of Congress. Add a president as unyielding as Sanders to the political mix and we may look back at the current Congress as the good times.

Which is too bad, because Sanders’ positions are really good, progressive and would help Americans. He’d just be really bad advancing them.

 

Micky Hirton, City Pulse

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HIV Breakthrough! Spain Finds Functional Cure For HIV Virus (Confirmed)

Doctors in Barcelona, Spain believe they have found the cure to HIV – the AIDS-causing virus that affects the lives of more than 34 million people worldwide, according to WHO.

By using blood transplants from the umbilical cords of individuals with a genetic resistance to HIV, Spanish medical professionals believe they can treat the virus, having proven the procedure successful with one patient.

A 37-year-old man from Barcelona, who had been infected with the HIV virus in 2009, was cured of the condition after receiving a transplant of blood.

While unfortunately the man later died from cancer just three years later, having developed lymphoma, the Spanish medical team is still hugely encouraged by what it considers to be a breakthrough in the fight against HIV and related conditions, according to the Spanish news source El Mundo.

Doctors in Barcelona initially attempted the technique using the precedent of Timothy Brown, an HIV patient who developed leukemia before receiving experimental treatment in Berlin, the Spanish news site The Local reported.

Brown was given bone marrow from a donor who carried the resistance mutation from HIV. After the cancer treatment, the HIV virus had also disappeared.

According to The Local, the CCR5 Delta 35 mutation affects a protein in white blood cells and provides an estimated one percent of the human population with high resistance to infection from HIV.

Spanish doctors attempted to treat the lymphoma of the so-called “Barcelona patient” with chemotherapy and an auto-transplant of the cells, but were unable to find him a suitable bone marrow.

“We suggested a transplant of blood from an umbilical cord but from someone who had the mutation because we knew from ‘the Berlin patient’ that as well as [ending] the cancer, we could also eradicate HIV,” Rafael Duarte, the director of the Haematopoietic Transplant Programme at the Catalan Oncology Institute in Barcelona, told The Local.

Prior to the transplant, a patient’s blood cells are destroyed with chemotherapy before they are replaced with new cells, incorporating the mutation which means the HIV virus can no longer attach itself to them. For the Barcelona patient, stem cells from another donor were used in order to accelerate the regeneration process.

Eleven days after the transplant, the patient in Barcelona experienced recovery. Three months later, it was found that he was clear of the HIV virus.

Despite the unfortunate death of the patient from cancer, the procedure has led to the development of an ambitious project that is backed by Spain’s National Transplant Organization.

March 2015 will mark the world’s first clinical trials of umbilical cord transplants for HIV patients with blood cancers.

Javier Martinez, a virologist from the research foundation Irsicaixa, stressed that the process is primarily designed to assist HIV patients suffering from cancer, but “this therapy does allow us to speculate about a cure for HIV,” he added.

 

Southern Daily South Africa

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30 People Arrested For Food Stamp Fraud; Guess How Many Were Black

Food-Stamps-Race

While the media and America’s culture will have you believe that black people (or anyone who isn’t white) account for copious amounts of fraud, there’s a story breaking that you won’t hear on Fox “News” anytime soon (or you might, because any chance to crush the SNAP program, they will take).

According to WCAX News in New York:

More than 30 people have been nabbed for food stamp fraud in the North Country.

Investigators say over the past couple month’s people used their food stamps to get food or alcohol at the Old Time Butcher Block store in Brushton.

Police also say it’s not the first time the owner of that store, Dennis Sauve, has been charged with allowing such fraud.

Police say more arrests are expected.

Now here’s the kicker: they’re all white. Brushton, New York, where this bust happened, has a population of roughly 480 people. Approximately 99.83% of the population is white, and 0.42% are black. These demographics are eerily similar to the food stamp capital of the country, Owsley Country, Kentucky, which is 99.22% white and 95% Republican. Maybe we should investigate them.

I just wish we could get the political affiliations of those arrested in Brushton.

According to WPTZ News:

Police say the arrests are the result of a year-long investigation, initiated by the Franklin County Department of Social Services Fraud Unit. Franklin County District Attorney’s Office, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance helped with the investigation.

The store owner, Denis Sauve (also white), has been charged with third-degree grand larceny and misuse of food stamps.

This really isn’t a racial issue so much as it is an, “I told you so,” issue. While the food stamp program has one of the lowest rates of abuse than any other welfare program, a lot of people buy into this misconception that it is the “lazy blacks” who account for all the fraud and woes of government assistance. Well, here we are, a major food stamp “bust” and every criminal involved is white.

It might be time to rethink today’ stereotypes.

 

Ryan Denson, Addicting Info

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Pope Francis Calls for Ending Tax-Exempt Status of Churches That Don’t Help the Needy

On the eve of his visit to the United States, Pope Francis blasted religious institutions who are exploiting tax loopholes to make money instead of helping the needy.

In an interview with a Portuguese Catholic broadcaster, the Pope discussed the need for Christians to fight the temptation of the ‘God of money’, into which many religious institutions often fall. He then called out those institutions that have opted to enter into the hospitality industry while exploiting a legal loophole to keep from paying taxes on their business enterprise operating under the guise of doing “God’s work.”

“Some religious orders say ‘No, now that the convent is empty we are going to make a hotel and we can have guests, and support ourselves that way, or make money.’ Well, if that is what you want to do, then pay taxes! A religious school is tax-exempt because it is religious, but if it is functioning as a hotel, then it should pay taxes just like its neighbor. Otherwise it is not fair business.”

This statement from the leader of the Catholic Church is part of his continuing call for the Church to set an example and create change in what he has continuously referred to as a “bad and unjust economic system,” that continues to maximize profits at the expense of the masses.

In Italy, which the Pope is using as a litmus test for the rest of the world, the Church owns more than 100,000 buildings with an estimated worth exceeding $10 billion. In 2013 the Italian Church started paying taxes on those facilities which are solely commercial, but still avoid taxation on any building that contains a chapel.

In America, it is estimated that churches would generate $83.5 billion in annual tax revenue if the exemption was lifted on their $600 billion in untaxed properties.

James Woods, US Uncut

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Gay Leather Scene Tones Down From Hard-Core to Dress-Up

On a warm Saturday night in November, about 800 gay men wearing harnesses and other items made of leather gathered at Brut, a party held at Santos Party House in Lower Manhattan.

Mostly in their 20s and 30s, the men danced to pounding house music, flirted in an intimate lounge below the dance floor and ogled two beefy go-go men gyrating on boxes. Shirts came off, but leather harnesses stayed on all night, as Brut bills itself as New York’s only monthly leather party.

But if the party was introducing the leather scene to younger gay men who had never heard of the Village People, it also underscored a social shift: The leather scene has lost much of its overt sadomasochistic edge, and is now more about dressing up.

“I’m wearing a harness from Nasty Pig” — a sex-oriented clothing store in Chelsea — “but I’m not a part of the leather community,” said Joseph Alexiou, 31, a writer in New York, who was taking a break from the dance floor. “This party is introducing leather in a fun way that doesn’t seem so serious.”

24LEATHER1-articleLargeLEO VALS / GETTY IMAGES

Stalwarts of the leather scene agree that there has been a shift from lifestyle to sexy dress-up.

David Lauterstein, who opened Nasty Pig in 1994 with his husband, Frederick Kearney, said that his store has undergone a transformation of its own. While the store still carries leather harnesses and chaps, they have become seasonal items tied to specific parties; most racks these days display flannel shirts, hoodies and nylon bomber jackets.

“Leather has been integrated into the larger downtown culture, as gay sexuality has become more accepted,” Mr. Lauterstein said. “Being into kinky stuff doesn’t mean you have to wear certain clothing to let the world know.”

The leather scene used to occupy a very visible part of gay culture. In the 1960s through the early ’80s, men in leather caps and chaps could be seen strutting about Christopher Street, looking as if they had emerged from a Tom of Finlandillustration by way of a Marlon Brando movie still.

“Leather became metaphoric for claiming masculinity,” said Michael Bronski, a gender and sexuality studies professor at Harvard University and author of “A Queer History of the United States.” “These guys were baby boomers who’d been told that being gay meant being a sweater queen or being fluffy or effeminate.”

Gay leather bars dotted Manhattan, with names like the Spike, Rawhide, the Ramrod and Badlands. And during the city’s annual gay pride parade, wearers of leather played a prominent role. Indeed, the annual Leather Pride Night party was one of the parade’s main sources of funding.

But “progress” in the name of same-sex marriage, social acceptance and civil rights seemed to have taken its toll on the leather scene.

“Many factors, like gentrification and the fight for marriage equality, have contributed to the rise in homonormality,” said Jeremiah Moss, who chronicles the city’s evolution on the site Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York. “This is a very American melting pot phenomenon: If you assimilate, if you give up what makes you different, you can have rights.”

The Internet has also impacted the leather scene. “The fact that the bulk of most people’s kinky lives are being lived out online or on their phone has diminished the prominence of what I would call classic leather,” said Matt Johnson, the chairman of Folsom Street East, an annual street fair in Manhattan that celebrates all things leather. “However, the growth of the virtual world has democratized kink to a greater extent, and has led to a proliferation of kinky styles.”

AIDS also had a dramatic effect, according to Mr. Bronski. “Leather shifted and became less aggressively sexual,” he said. “You see the emergence of bear communities, which is about being supportive and huggy.”

In Hell’s Kitchen, which has become Manhattan’s leading gay neighborhood, leather isn’t nearly as visible as button-down shirts, tank tops and cargo pants.

Earlier this year, the organizers of Leather Pride Night announced that after 31 years they were ending its annual fund-raiser. “Leather Pride Night has run its course as a broad-based community event,” the group said in a statement.

And while some leather-themed events remain (most notably the Black Party and Folsom Street East), most of the city’s leather bars have closed. Rawhide, a perennially dark bar on Eighth Avenue and 21st Street, closed in 2013, after 34 years, because of a rent hike.

The Eagle Bar NYC, a long-running club at 554 West 28th Street, is the last stalwart. A smoldering, multilevel place with a pool table, a motorcycle and dim lighting, the Eagle continues to host kinky nights like Foot Fetish Mondays and Hanky Tuesdays.

To survive, it has had to evolve. Derek Danton, 57, a co-owner, said the median age of patrons is now about a decade younger, about 25 to 35, than before. He said they wear less leather than the old guard (sometimes just one item) and generally don’t identity as full-time leather men.

“Now there’s so much assimilation,” Mr. Danton said. “In the ’90s, leather evolved into something else. It became absorbed by the larger fetish community.”

Brut, which started two years ago, has given leather a boost among gay men raised in the age of hookup apps like Grindr and Scruff. The party has grown in popularity, branching out to Los Angeles and San Francisco, with Chicago and Atlanta in the works.

Dan Darlington, 39, a former pharmacist from Chicago, who started Brut with Peter Napoli, 31, also sees a generational divide. “The old guard are the die-hards, very intense, feeling you have to wear your leather all the time,” he said. “The new guard are saying: ‘We’re not going to wear it all the time. We’re going to incorporate other elements into it.’”

Still, he added, the party is a way for the old and new guard to get together.

Michael Musto, NY Times

 

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Bernie Sanders: To Rein In Wall Street, Fix the Fed

WALL STREET is still out of control. Seven years ago, the Federal Reserveand the Treasury Department bailed out the largest financial institutions in this country because they were considered too big to fail. But almost every one is bigger today than it was before the bailout. If any were to fail again, taxpayers could be on the hook for another bailout, perhaps a larger one this time.

To rein in Wall Street, we should begin by reforming the Federal Reserve, which oversees financial institutions and which uses monetary policy to maintain price stability and full employment. Unfortunately, an institution that was created to serve all Americans has been hijacked by the very bankers it regulates.

 CreditSpencer Platt/Getty Images 

The recent decision by the Fed to raise interest rates is the latest example of the rigged economic system. Big bankers and their supporters in Congress have been telling us for years that runaway inflation is just around the corner. They have been dead wrong each time. Raising interest rates now is a disaster for small business owners who need loans to hire more workers and Americans who need more jobs and higher wages. As a rule, the Fed should not raise interest rates until unemployment is lower than 4 percent. Raising rates must be done only as a last resort — not to fight phantom inflation.

What went wrong at the Fed? The chief executives of some of the largest banks in America are allowed to serve on its boards. During the Wall Street crisis of 2007, Jamie Dimon, the chief executive and chairman of JPMorgan Chase, served on the New York Fed’s board of directors while his bank received more than $390 billion in financial assistance from the Fed. Next year, four of the 12 presidents at the regional Federal Reserve Banks will be former executives from one firm: Goldman Sachs.

These are clear conflicts of interest, the kind that would not be allowed at other agencies. We would not tolerate the head of Exxon Mobil running the Environmental Protection Agency. We don’t allow the Federal Communications Commission to be dominated by Verizon executives. And we should not allow big bank executives to serve on the boards of the main agency in charge of regulating financial institutions.

If I were elected president, the foxes would no longer guard the henhouse. To ensure the safety and soundness of our banking system, we need to fundamentally restructure the Fed’s governance system to eliminate conflicts of interest. Board members should be nominated by the president and chosen by the Senate. Banking industry executives must no longer be allowed to serve on the Fed’s boards and to handpick its members and staff. Board positions should instead include representatives from all walks of life — including labor, consumers, homeowners, urban residents, farmers and small businesses.

The Fed must also make sure that financial institutions are investing in the productive economy by providing affordable loans to small businesses and consumers that create good jobs. How? First, we should prohibit commercial banks from gambling with the bank deposits of the American people. Second, the Fed must stop providing incentives for banks to keep money out of the economy. Since 2008, the Fed has been paying financial institutions interest on excess reserves parked at the central bank — reserves that have grown to an unprecedented $2.4 trillion. That is insane. Instead of paying banks interest on these reserves, the Fed should charge them a fee that would be used to provide direct loans to small businesses

Third, as a condition of receiving financial assistance from the Fed, large banks must commit to increasing lending to creditworthy small businesses and consumers, reducing credit card interest rates and fees, and providing help to underwater and struggling homeowners.We also need transparency. Too much of the Fed’s business is conducted in secret, known only to the bankers on its various boards and committees. Full and unredacted transcripts of the Federal Open Market Committee must be released to the public within six months, not five years, which is the custom now. If we had made this reform in 2004, the American people would have learned about the housing bubble well in advance of the financial crisis.

In 2010, I inserted an amendment in Dodd-Frank to audit the emergency lending by the Fed during the financial crisis. We need to go further and require the Government Accountability Office to conduct a full and independent audit of the Fed each and every year.

Financial reforms must not stop with the central bank. We must reinstate Glass-Steagall and break up the too-big-to-fail financial institutions that threaten our economy. But we need to start with fundamental change. The sad reality is that the Federal Reserve doesn’t regulate Wall Street; Wall Street regulates the Fed. It’s time to make banking work for the productive economy and for all Americans, not just a handful of wealthy speculators. And it begins by making the Federal Reserve a more democratic institution, one that is responsive to the needs of ordinary Americans rather than the billionaires on Wall Street

Bernie Sanders, NY Times Op/Ed

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Bernie Sanders Won the Debate, Defeated the DNC, and Became the Real Democratic Front Runner

In my recent appearance on the Thom Hartmann Program, I explain why Bernie Sanders will become president, and why the recent data controversy illuminates numerous Clinton scandals overtly ignored by the DNC. Debbie Wasserman Shultz struck at the campaign, Sanders supporters struck back, and genuine progressives won. The Sanders campaign showed the nation which candidate controls the fate of the Democratic establishment, despite the group think associated with landline-based poll numbers that had Clinton up by a similar margin in 2008.

Bernie Sanders proved he’s the true Democratic frontrunner, forcing the DNC to cavewithin one weekend. In a matter of days, the DNC realized that attacking Bernie Sanders meant dire consequences. Ironically, the base of voters blocked from Sanders is also the lifeblood of the DNC. You can’t defeat Trump in 2016 with millions of frustrated and angry progressives (well aware of the dirty tricks of establishment Democrats even against Obama in 2008), regardless of who becomes the eventual Democratic nominee.

In trying to undermine Sanders, Debbie Wasserman Schultz essentially undermined the Democratic Party. Ultimately, the stunt showed voters a peek behind the Wizard of Oz curtain called the 2016 Democratic Primary. While the Clinton campaign utilized the issue to circumvent an ongoing and expanded FBI investigation (FBI director James Comey stated he’s “personally following closely” an investigation into Clinton’s server), Sanders secured access to his data within days.

Luckily, the FBI isn’t involved with investigating any of Bernie’s data, nor is Sanders accused of having foreign donor (The Washington Post states Foreign governments gave millions to foundation while Clinton was at State Dept.) or weapons deal controversies. Like Dieter Holger writes in a Huffington Post article titled Hillary Clinton Is Pro Gun Control, But She’s Also Big on Arms Deals, Clinton’s anti-gun stance stops at the water’s edge:

According to an investigation by journalists David Sirota and Andrew Perez of the International Business TimesClinton not only rubber-stamped major weapon deals with 20 countries that donated to her and her husband’s philanthropic arm, the Clinton Foundation, but also approved nearly double the amount of arms sales to those same 20 countries as the State Department of George W. Bush’s second term.

It’s easy to pontificate about tough gun legislation at home while giving weapons to the same countries embroiled in chaos and bloodshed in the Middle East.

Also, ask yourself why America’s political establishment has already anointed Clinton, even though ABC’s opening graphic showed 2008′s poll numbers almost identical to 2015′s. Clinton had a wide lead over Obama then, with Gallup sating on December 18, 2007 that Clinton Maintains Large Lead Over Obama Nationally.

In November of 2007, Clinton had a 27 point lead nationally over Barack Obama. Gallup even stated, “In every poll since [August], Clinton has maintained at least a 20-point lead over Obama, with her support fluctuating between 45% and 50% over this period.” With polls being so wrong in 2008, why are observers so enamored with them in 2015, when even more Americans using cell phones and more people on social media?

 

If polls are gospel, then these same polls show 61% of voters find Hillary Clinton “not honest and trustworthy.” While Sanders apologized (showing class that few other politicians would emulate), the DNC’s failed attempt to undermine the Sanders campaign highlighted a rigged debate schedule and the irony of Clinton’s people complaining of foul play.

Speaking of the debate, it’s obvious one candidate wanted to dodge questions about progressive credentials and hawkish tendencies. When Hillary Clinton suggested Bernie Sanders join Democrats on the issue of gun legislation, ignoring the NRA’s D rating for Vermont’s Senator, he could have responded in the following manner.

Sanders could have easily thanked Clinton for joining Democrats in supporting gay marriage, even though the former Secretary of State opposed gay marriage until 2013.

Sanders could have also asked why Clinton supported neoconservative Republicans with her Iraq War vote, or why even though she calls this vote a “mistake,” The New York Times quotes a conservative historian saying she’d have a “neocon” foreign policy as president.

Clinton supporters apparently don’t care about a Democrat with a neocon foreign policy, but it’s important considering a president has the AUMF, and can unilaterally wage war. The AUMF is the reason that Trump and Clinton wouldn’t be very different presidents in terms of the primary powers of a president, namely war and foreign policy.

 

If you disagree, don’t simply say Trump is a fascist and pretend that’s an argument; explain how his foreign policy would be different from Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy. Considering Clinton would utilize the AUMF from a neocon perspective, we’d have two GOP choices on foreign policy if she were to win the nomination.

Also, there was a masterful bout of doublespeak by the former Secretary of State on a number of issues, from her advocacy of the Libya bombing to her support for U.S. ground troops to fight ISIS. Yes, Hillary Clinton did want American ground troops to combat ISIS, and then altered her stance within a short time frame. While Bernie Sanders has won the Congressional Award from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and says “I’ll be damned” if American ground troops are sent into quagmires, Clinton supported U.S. ground troops to fight ISIS before the usual flip flop.

A November 19th, 2015 Guardian article titled Hillary Clinton calls for more ground troops as part of hawkish Isis strategy, explains very clearly that Clinton called for the use of U.S. ground troops after the Paris attacks:

Hillary Clinton distanced herself from Barack Obama’s strategy for defeating Islamic State extremists on Thursday in a sweeping foreign policy speech that called for greater use of American ground troops and an intensified air campaign.

“We should have no illusions about how difficult the mission before us really is … but if we press forward on both sides of the border, in the air on the ground and as well as diplomatically, I do believe we can crush Isis’s enclave of terror,” she added.

So, yes, Clinton hides behind the term “mass deployment,” but clearly supported U.S. ground troops to the Middle East. If you disagree with my assessment, just reread the headline of the Guardian article.

Also, The Los Angeles Times wrote virtually the same article, stating the “U.S. needs to ‘intensify and broaden’ its effort… including sending more ground forces, Hillary Clinton said Thursday in a speech.”

Finally, The International Business Times explained Clinton’s initial support for ground troops in an article titled Hillary Clinton Flip-Flopping On Ground Troops To Fight ISIS? Before US Sends Troops To Iraq, Clinton Says No To Deployment After First Saying Yes:

Tuesday morning’s announcement that the U.S. would be deploying troops to fight the so-called Islamic State militant group in Iraq likely caught Hillary Clinton off guard, considering she said earlier in the day that she didn’t think putting boots on the ground was such a prudent idea. Clinton’s latest opinion on the topic was an abrupt departure from her previous stance, when the Democratic presidential front-runner less than two weeks ago expressed her support to “broaden” anti-ISIS efforts by bringing U.S. troops to the conflict-ridden region.

Most of Clinton’s stances on controversial topics are an “abrupt departure” from her prior viewpoints. As a result, Slate published an article titled Pssssssst: Hillary and Her GOP Rivals Have Pretty Much the Same Plan to Deal With ISIS.

Bernie Sanders won the debate, primarily because Clinton tried desperately to sound progressive on foreign policy, yet failed. Clinton accused Sanders of supporting her disastrous bombing campaign as Secretary of State, but he voted for an “an orderly, irreversible transition to a legitimate democratic government in Libya.” This isn’t the language of the Iraq Resolution (opposed by Sanders), overtly giving the Bush administration authority to invade Iraq, nor can it logically be correlated to Clinton’s Iraq vote.

Bernie Sanders successfully differentiated himself between Clinton’s hawkish foreign policy and failures, and I explain here why I’m choosing him over Clinton or Trump. Sanders is indeed the true front runner, and wins in Iowa and New Hampshire will undermine the groupthink that has so many pundits and observers worshiping at the altar of ever-changing polls. Remember that in late 2007, Gallup proclaimed “it is obvious that Clinton is extremely well-positioned to win the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.”

 

H.A. Goodman, Huffington Post

 

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The Annual Show of Our Glamorous Nuns is Coming January 10

The Sisters pic

The seventh annual  Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence runway show Project Nunway: San Francisco, A History Through fashion! will be held 1/10/16  at the DNA Lounge beginning at 7pm.

Ticket info: https://www.dnalounge.com/calendar/2016/01-10.html

The world famous Sister Roma and Bebe Sweetbriar will entertain you as MC’s.   Designers pair up with a Sister and create amazing couture looks with recycled and new materials.  The beneficiary for this year’s event is the Chinese Progressive Association – an amazing SF organization started in the 1970′s that helps Chinese immigrant families with job and living opportunities.  They also have a youth group called “Youth MOJO” – a program that trains young people with leadership, advocacy, communication, research, and organizing skills.  

The Sisters are a leading-edge Order of queer nuns with a mission to promulgate universal joy, expiate stigmatic guilt and serve the community.  Their first appearance in San Francisco was Easter Sunday, 1979 and soon after houses spread far and wide. Today, houses can be found across the United States and in countries around the world.

Sistory – A long, long time ago, in 1976, far away in the land of Oz (Iowa), a convent of Roman Catholic nuns lent some retired habits to The Sugar Plum Fairies performing their version of The Sound of Music. One year later, one of the Founders Sister Vicious Power Hungry Bitch (Ken Bunch) moved to San Francisco (1977) and brought those habits to the streets of the Castro district.

Become a Sister – contact the Mistress of Novices for an interview http://thesisters.org/index.php/membership-question

Become a Volunteer – http://thesisters.org/index.php/general-question–other

DONATE – The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have raised and distributed over one million dollars to non-profit organizations that serve the needy.  The next time you see a Sister with a collection bucket, drop a couple of bucks in, because the money goes right back to the community or give till it hurts  https://www.justgive.org/basket?acton=donate&ein=94-3032120

Enjoy the Sisters amazing fashion show January 10 and see what happens when nuns and fashion designers pair up to take love and imagination and bring it to life for the world to see through amazing color!

By Paul Margolis –OurTownSF.org www.ourtownsf.org, interview with Sister Betty Tastewell – fully professed in 2011,
dedicated to helping youth

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Ring in 2016 Country-Style with Sundance Saloon

sundance pic

Sundance Saloon http://sundancesaloon.org/ returns to the glorious ballroom of the Hotel Whitcomb for one of the most anticipated events of the year. http://sundancesaloon.org/new_years_eve.html You’ll enjoy dancing on the beautiful hardwood floor.   Start off the evening with lessons at 8:00 and then open dancing at 9:00pm.  They’ll have a balloon drop at midnight, and fantastic country-western dancing all evening long.

An optional 4-course dinner precedes the dancing. For only $30 additional, you can feast on a sumptuous meal that’s received rave reviews in past years! Space for dinner is limited, so be sure to reserve your place early.

The Hotel Whitcomb is located at 1231 Market Street at 8th Street, San Francisco, conveniently adjacent to the Civic Center BART/MUNI station. A limited number of guest rooms are available.

The Sundance Association for Country-Western Dancing is an all-volunteer, community-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to the promotion of country-western dancing through instruction, performance and the presentation of public dance events.  They are a member of the International Association of Gay and Lesbian Country-Western Dance Clubs.

Experience the best in LGBT country-western dance every Sunday and Thursday at Sundance Saloon.  Two-step, line dance, waltz, swing, or just hang out.  If you don’t know how to dance, don’t worry: they’ll teach you with beginning lessons offered both evenings in a friendly and welcoming environment for all ages and genders.  See the lessons calendar for more details. Check out their rave review on Yelp  http://sundancesaloon.org/news.html#yelp

Sundance Saloon is located at 550 Barneveld Ave., San Francisco. There’s plenty of parking in the area, and near MUNI lines 24 and 9. Detailed directions and map.

The Sundance Association also presents an annual internationally acclaimed four-day country western weekend each October – the Sundance Stompede. http://stompede.com/

Join in the country-style fun this New Year’s or at community events throughout the year including both SF and Sonoma County Pride celebrations, Castro Street Fair and periodically at Jane Warner Plaza in the Castro.

 

Paul Margolis, OurTownSF.org

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An Australian gun expert critiques America: You’ve lost control

 

(REUTERS/Jason Miczek)

 

Although we foreigners can offer no immediate solution to America’s gun infestation, we can see how you lost control of the plague of armed violence. Outsiders are also perplexed to see that you’ve done so little to grant your citizens a basic human right — the freedom to live without fear of death by gunshot.

Historically, there’s little mystery as to how it began. The early laws of each European empire relied on two pillars of gun safety: Firearm owners were obliged to apply for a license and then to register each firearm, just as we do with cars. Because these restrictions were copied to hundreds of colonies, almost all nations now rely on universal licensing and registration to regulate firearms. Except America.

Even as America rejected British rule and charted its own brave course, your Founding Fathers and settlers often did more to control firearms than you do today. In Dodge City, Kan.;  Tombstone, Ariz.; New York; and Chicago — to name just a few — stringent gun controls were commonly imposed. But since then, interest groups have bullied politicians into allowing unlicensed, unquantified gun ownership. The United States is now alone with its Second Amendment and almost alone in regulating assault weapons and handgunswith such laxity.

Today, the Congressional Research Service estimates that U.S. residents collectively own 310 million private guns. That’s just a guess, and it’s probably overblown. But here lies the problem: You can’t even gauge the details of America’s 30,000-deaths-a-year epidemic of gun violence, let alone work out how best to save lives, while the gun lobby in Congress systematically crushes attempts at research.

Most developed countries have already moved to reduce gun-fueled mayhem. The Great BritainArgentina and Brazil all mounted massive national gun buybacks to reduce the availability of firearms. The world’s largest occurred in Australia, where a million of its guns — one-third of the nation’s private arsenal — were destroyed after a spate of gun massacres that claimed 100 lives.

Despite a subsequent shooters’ buying spree that has replaced confiscated semi-automatic weapons with new single-shot long guns, the per-capita rate of firearm ownership remains 23 percent lower than it was 20 years ago. The risk of dying by gunshot in Australia fell by more than half, and stayed there. Research found no evidence of substitution to other weapons or means of violent death.

When presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently agreed that Australia’s gun safety measures are “worth considering,” was she suggesting the unthinkable — gun confiscation in the United States? “Of course not,” her spokeswoman swiftly said.

But that’s disingenuous. When a government bans a particularly dangerous type of firearm, then offers to buy those guns under threat of prosecution, that is of course confiscation and destruction of private property. Yet John Howard, Australia’s most conservative prime minister in decades, was just one leader of a large democracy who achieved just that. Australia’s 10-year spate of public mass shootings came to a sudden stop, and in almost two decades, we haven’t suffered another.

To public health practitioners, the gun is to gun violence as the mosquito is to malaria. Break the chain of causation, and the disease begins to retreat. But when guns proliferate, a harm agent designed to kill drives an infectious disease fueled by fear and profit. The more Americans die by gunshot, themore Americans purchase guns.

Successive U.S. surgeons general have rightly described America’s scourge of 30,000 gun deaths each year as an “epidemic” and a “preventable health problem.” Yet the number of U.S. researchers dedicated to this field across all academic disciplines is as few as a dozen. Each year, Congress chokes federal funding to ensure that this remains the case.

All this from a great nation that has led the world in public health interventions to save millions of lives. Both cars and guns are symbols of freedom and masculinity, yet Americans slashed road deaths by applying a holistic suite of public safety measures. You saved countless billions of taxpayer dollars by reducing the health cost of tobacco-related disease and HIV/AIDS.

As with guns, these public safety measures faced intense initial opposition, fueled by personal views on morality, religion, individual freedom and dislike of government. One day, as more and more Americans die, you’ll be left with little option but to bite the bullet and curb gun deaths by following the evidence.

 

By Philip Alpers, Washington Post

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WHY WE’RE KILLING SANTACON, WHICH WE’RE HAPPY IS DYING, BECAUSE SANTACON IS A CULTURAL EBOLA

Dear Prospective SantaCon Participants,

Do you take pride in being a drunk asshole?

Do you enjoy getting together with your fellow goon-swaddled, mouth-breathing mongrels to promote your loathsome, incestual stupidity?

Well, we’ve got some bad news for you: SantaCon—the unofficial holiday of the biggest mooks, knuckle-draggers, and drunk pieces of shit on earth—is ending. And it’s not just that it’s ending, it’s that we won.

In the event you forgot how awful SantaCon is, or simply refuse to acknowledge it, let us remind you: SantaCon makes The Gathering of the Juggalos look like Davos. SantaCon is like The Purge, but instead of a cleansing of society’s weak, it’s a celebration for and by its dumbest, drunkest, most developmentally arrested assholes forcing everyone who isn’t awful to stay inside.

If you’ll recall, your “holiday” was already on the rocks last year. New York City cops warned bar owners in Midtown not to let you in their doors (that’s how despicable you are—you yield New York City cops actually doing something reasonable).  When we noted this development, your finest representatives took to the public forum that is our comments section to show us how wrong we were, and to explain that SantaCon is a great thing run by great people who have something great to express:

Bitter-Liberal-Scumbag-500x113

Just kidding.  When confronted with the fact of your own awfulness (by this writer, who was trying to do you a favor by making you see yourself for what you are, you dirtbags), you responded with outrage and a persecution complex that would embarrass even the most fervent mens’ rights activists. Yes, that guy thinks people hate SantaCon because people hate fun, if your idea of “fun” is turning an entire city into the nosebleed section at a Jets game.

And then there was this person, who not only thinks SantaCon haters are just raining on a wonderful parade, but also spreads joy by way of “fucking dispis[ing]” my kind.

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You know who else despised my “kind,” right? And then there was this smarty, who equivocates SantaCon’s right to exist with…the gay rights movement:

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Yes, because when we think of SantaCon’s right to exist, we think of all the hard work Harvey Milk’s legacy left us.

And sure enough, SantaCon 2013 moved forward. Long live, indeed!

And it went exactly as people expected it to go:

Santa was passed out, piss-drunk on a subway.
Santa was fighting in the street.
Santa was puking in a planter.
Santa was passed out, face-down on a subway grate.
Santa needed to be reminded that “no means no.”
Santa was getting a handjob in Duane Reade.

And so on.

Like clockwork, SantaCon showed America exactly what it was made of, sometimes literally. And so we, in the media, didn’t even have to conspire to expose this shitshow for the cultural detritus that it is.

A year later, people still remember. And—thanks not only to anecdotal experience, but also to me and the rest of my downer, media asshole friends—it’s now common knowledge that SantaCon is awful, and the people who partake in it should be embarrassed and ashamed of themselves, and their parents should be ashamed that their children are overgrown monsters who aren’t even creative enough to have a better fetish than “raw-dogging” a reindeer (or whatever it is you do at the end of the day against a urinal in the back of Joshua Tree).

How common is this knowledge?

  • So common that an entire neighborhood in Brooklyn banded together to essentially blacklist you. Which is to say nothing of swaths of Manhattan, too.
  • So common, that drinking on Long Island Rail Road and the Metro North trains was temporarily banned, exclusively for SantaCon.
  • So common, that you felt the need to retain legendary civil-rights litigator Norman Siegel to try and protect your right to be a drunk asshole, which is as far from being civil or a right—let alone a civil right—as one can possibly get (and which, with apologies to the legacy of Norman Siegel, is totally fucking absurd).

I’m not saying SantaCon is exclusively for people celebrating ignorant white rage, but then again, neither is the Republican Party. Just look around you, SantaCon: Can you imagine if your party were primarily one by and for people of color? The cops would roll out the goddamn tanks. Let’s get real, here: No greater a public demonstration of white privilege exists than you and your friends taking to the streets and covering them in bile, booze, and sometimes, your seed, with nary a worry for criminal consequence, all in the name of the whitest motherfucker ever: Santa Claus.

(And speaking of white privilege: A guy who comes down your chimney every year and expects cookies waiting for him as he delivers goods made by pigmy slave laborers? EXACTLY.)

The persecution of SantaCon participants might be one of the only objectively utilitarian persecutions of a group of people in the history of mankind. And you know who you have to thank for that persecution? For the fact that people now know to abhor, detest, loathe, and fear you, before you’ve event set your stupid Santa booties on the ground?

The media assholes. The elitists. And when I say “elitists,” I mean those who make elitism a virtue; those who look down upon you and see your total buffoonery and asshattery for what it is. And those people, looking down on you: They’re not killjoys. Many of them like to get drunk. Sometimes in costume. Just not with you.

They’re simply adults and accepting of that fact.

And it takes an adult to see SantaCon’s supposed “charitable” component for what it is: Bullshit. Wanna be charitable? Go volunteer some time with Big Brothers, Big Sisters. That’s a good organization—except they’d probably reject your help, because you’re the kind of “adult” who thinks getting piss drunk in a Santa costume on a Saturday morning is perfectly fine, but doesn’t consider what children think when they see that kind of thing. Thanks to you, Santa is no longer a jovial embodiment of good holiday tidings, but some slobbering, wild-eyed animal, retching between failed boob-honkings of the scantily-clad, slurring Kappa Kappa Gamma “elf” who’ll one day have the misfortunate of birthing his spawn.

SantaCon was the Xenomorph of bad holidays: A perfect, unstoppable machine built to impregnate cities with douchery, then spread that douchery far and wide under the ostensible guise of doing something “cheerful.” And now it is being stopped.

And yeah, sure, you’re gonna march out on the streets again, and get drunk. But this year, you know everyone’s looking at you like assholes. Because you are. That alone will make it less fun. And there will be less of you this year. And even less of you next year. And eventually, you’ll stop participating in SantaCon because of how little fun it will become given the mass stigma so rightfully attached to it.

And one day, you will grow up.

Until then, enjoy being a drunk piece of shit. If it were legal, I’d throw rocks at you. But it’s not, so I’ll just have to enjoy the fact that everybody now hates you.

From everyone here at James Beard Award-winning food blog First We Feast,

Merry Christmas, Choke On Your Puke, and Die.

 

Kamen Foster, Now We Puke

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Longtime Conservative Actor Robert Duvall exits the Republican Party’

Hollywood is often portrayed by conservatives as a liberal paradise. Even though it’s true that many actors and actresses have liberal views, there are a few who are right at home in the GOP. Unfortunately for the Republican Party, Robert Duvall is no longer one of them.

In an interview with The Daily Beast’s Marlow Stern last week, Stern asked Duvall if it was tough to be a Republican in Hollywood. In response, the legendary actor called the GOP “a mess,” declared his support of a woman’s right to choose, and said he’ll “probably vote independent.” In short, the longtime conservative seems to have ditched the Republican Party.

STERN: “Republicans in Hollywood seem to get a lot of flack and be a bit marginalized. Has it ever been tough, for you, to be a Republican in Hollywood?”

DUVALL: “Let me say it this way: my wife’s from Argentina, she’s been here for a while, and she’s very smart. She calls herself a “tree-hugging Republican,” but she might even vote Democrat next time because the Republican Party is a mess. I’ll probably vote Independent next time. I think it was Jack Kerouac who said something like, “Don’t run down my country. My people are immigrants, so I believe in this country with all its faults. To me, it’s a big country that’s made mistakes… Some of these very conservative Republicans… I don’t know, man. I believe in a woman’s choice. I believe in certain things.”

Duvall also blamed Democrats for all the “atrocities committed in the South” against African-Americans. On this point, Duvall is only partially correct. While it is true that Southern Democrats supported slavery, Jim Crow laws, and segregation, those particular Democrats were conservatives. Republicans were the liberals until they began their rightward turn after the days of Teddy Roosevelt. Democrats started turning liberal around the same time and are now the champions of civil rights while Republicans are now the staunch conservatives who seek to repeal them. The shift, of course, took some time but it did happen. Even Duvall admits that “everything’s been turned around in a strange way.” So Duvall really can’t blame today’s Democratic Party for terrible events that a totally different Democratic Party committed in the past. It would be like crediting today’s GOP for ending slavery.

This is a high profile loss for the GOP

This is a major loss for the GOP at a time when they need all the big names they can get. The 83-year-old actor had been a huge presence at GOP events in recent years. In 2008, Duvall reportedly narrated videos shown during the Republican National Convention and personally appeared on stage during a rally for John McCain and Sarah Palin. And in 2012, Duvall endorsed Mitt Romney. Losing the support of such an iconic and popular actor is a real blow as the 2014 midterm election approaches. Robert Duvall is yet another example of a Republican who can no longer stand to call themselves one. Other examples include a Texas judge and a House candidate in North Carolina.

Jay-Dee –Blue Wave

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Condoleezza Rice Turns On GOP, Brilliantly Blasts Their Anti-Refugee Bigotry

Former Secretary of State under President George W. Bush Condoleezza Rice is not happy with her party at the present time, particularly in regards to the rabid bigotry that is being directed from that side of the political aisle at Syrian refugees. Rice made a statement regarding this issue to public officials and business leaders who were in attendance at the SEUS Japan 38 conference, which was recently held in Birmingham, Alabama. Rice said:

“I fundamentally understand that you in a position of authority, like you governor and others, in addition to having compassion for others you have to be safety conscious for your people. What the United States has done is to be open to people who are fleeing tyranny, who are fleeing danger, but we have done it in a very careful way that has worked for us.”

Rice seems to have said this in response to Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, who is only the latest in a long line of governors of some 30 U.S. states who are refusing to accept refugees into the borders of their states for resettlement. Bentley, along with other governors, were recently part of a conference call, in which President Obama issued the stern reminder that it is not up to them whether or not refugees will be allowed into their states. That is a matter for the federal government.

The former Secretary of State was not done with them after that statement, either. She reminded them of the many successfully assimilated refugees — some 67,000 people — who were resettled here during her own tenure as Secretary of State.

Since one of the GOP’s most revered and celebrated members is standing against this hate, fear-mongering, and disgusting bigotry that is coming from the current far-right, foaming-at-the-mouth version of the party we are seeing now, perhaps some sort of progress can be made on this issue. These governors need to be made to feel ashamed of themselves for pushing this and playing to the uneducated fundamentalists in the base, and they need to be forced to do their jobs, whether they want to or not.

Perhaps Condoleezza Rice and the other (admittedly very few) sane Republicans left can help with that.

 

Shannon Barber, Bipartisanreport

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Op-Ed: The Displacement Bomb Set to Explode San Francisco… and You’ve Never Even Heard of It

For the good of the City, your old apartment building could be torn down! You’ll be figuring out the next few years living elsewhere, while some developer builds a new “affordable” unit for you. You will have to wait a few years to move back, if the new building even gets built.

Don’t worry, though. This isn’t just about you. It’s your neighbor’s place too. And your whole neighborhood. In fact, the San Francisco Planning Department has placed a developer “incentive” bullseye on nearly 31,000 parcels in every corner of the City. Colored blue on their maps, these vast areas also include your neighborhood corner store, produce market, pub, and restaurant. These homes and businesses are standing selfishly in the way of progress according to the proposed Affordable Housing Density Bonus Program.

If the City implements this program, instead of your rent-controlled home, there will be midrise buidings where the wealthy get to live wherever they want, but you’ll be relegated to a “Below Market Rate (BMR)” unit. To live there, you’ll have to recertify your income every year. And if you no longer qualify, you’ll be pushed out to a hood near a distant BART or Caltrain station. Meanwhile, your neighborhood produce store will probably be replaced by an artisanal donut shop.

If you want a vision of the future, head over to Hayes Valley, Planning’s dream of how redevelopment transforms a diverse neighborhood into an exclusive playground of boutiques for the rich, along with some micro-units, and “BMR” affordables.

Remember that Redevelopment of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s promised “one for one” replacement. People who were displaced from their Victorian style homes in the Fillmore were told they could return after the Redevelopment Agency built new co-op and other BMR housing. The new housing was promised to be modern and price controlled– an upgrade from the aging Victorians considered by the Agency to be blight. However, in reality, this was the demise of the thriving African-American communities in San Francisco.

This is exactly the same rationale being applied in 2015. At the latest presentation to the Planning Commission on December 3, Planning staff told them that displaced tenants would be given priority to return, and that the new housing would be more affordable than the rent controlled units they currently live in. But they couldn’t say where seniors, parents, children, the disabled, artists, and workers would go while displaced. Or how long they’ll be displaced. And Planning couldn’t say how people will can qualify for the new units if they make less than 55% of the Area Median Income (AMI). Even once San Francisco’s new minimum wage gets to $15 an hour, you’re only hitting about 45% of the AMI for full time work.

There’s also no plan for holding these hundreds of new landlords that will own and manage the BMR units accountable. How will we know that any particular building is renting 12% of its units at the right rates to people with the right income levels, and the same with the other 18% that are for a higher BMR price and income level?

The Planning Dept. says that it needs to fast track this program through the approval process, with the approval hearing scheduled for Planning Commission on January 28, 2016, because we’re out of compliance with State law. The State requires that each jurisdiction show how it will implement compliance to this law. But the City has not received a notice from the State penalizing San Francisco, so it doesn’t seem like compliance is really an issue. Planning has said other reasons to fast track are to deal with the City’s affordable housing crisis, and respond to the voters’ call for a Housing Balance between market rate and affordable.

However, the proposed Bonus Program ignores the fact that San Francisco’s housing stock is way out of balance. We keep losing rent controlled units, and are building a tremendous amount of market rate, luxury priced housing, with some crumbs of BMR. The “below market rate” units have become a punch line rather than an actual solution. Why don’t BMR units work? Because the market is so outrageously expensive, there’s too much room “below market.” These units are much too expensive for working class or fixed income San Franciscans. Plus, there are so few BMR units that you literally need to win a lottery to get in.

Presentations by the City make it seem like the Bonus Program is targeted to the west side– commercial streets like Geary and Taraval. But as you can see from the Planning Department’s map, it inlcudes entire neighborhoods, and not just on the west side.

What can we do instead? We still need affordable housing and lots of it! Instead of targeting entire neighborhoods which would mean demolishing thousands of rent controlled apartments and the essential network of small business that provide affordable and culturally responsive goods and services for a diverse city, Planning needs to take a more nuanced approach. Take a look at this collage of sites in the Inner Richmond. There are surface parking lots, large and small, that could be developed as affordable housing. The parking would not be lost because it could be incorporated into the new building.

The City should be using its Housing Bond and Housing Trust Fund dollars to buy as many of these sites as it possibly can– or purchase the air rights like what Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center and Bridge Housing did to create affordable senior housing over existing retail with parking. The only way to achieve the Housing Balance is to stop the loss of rent controlled units and to build 100% new affordable housing. This is true development without displacement which is what San Francisco desperately needs!

from Joseph Smookie, peoplepowermedia

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Think Donald Trump is a joke candidate? That’s what they said about Hitler

Educated, worldly German observers in the early 1930s could not believe that such a man could triumph over cultural and political liberalism. And yet.

“January 30: Hitler Chancellor. What, up to election on March 5, I called terror was a mild prelude. Now the business of 1918 is being exactly repeated, only under a different sign, under the swastika… On Saturday, the fourth, I heard a part of Hitler’s speech from Königsberg. The front of a hotel at the railway station, illuminated, a torchlight procession in front of it, torchbearers and swastika flag bearers on the balconies and loudspeakers. I understood only occasional words. But the tone! The unctuous bawling…”

So wrote the scholar Victor Klemperer in his diary after the unfathomable had happened: Germany, a country that prided itself on its sophistication, its culture, its intellectual accomplishments, its vital engagement with the other great countries of the world, had allowed Hitler to achieve supreme power and had then ratified that power with an election that solidified the Nazi Party’s hold on the entire political process.

It had taken 15 years from the end of the Great War until the rise of Hitler in 1933. And during those years Germany went through some of its most liberal moments, with the Weimar Republic creating universal suffrage, witnessing a cultural flowering, embracing sexual freedoms and women’s emancipation, and providing liberal political figures such as Walther Rathenau – who would die by an assassin’s bullet in 1922 – a glorious, albeit brief, opportunity to reshape not just Germany but the broader European political system.

Yet under the surface, despite the apparent ascendancy of cultural and political liberalism in great urban centres such as Berlin, the country’s psyche was so damaged and its sense of victimhood so profound that, as it lurched from economic crisis to economic crisis, the middle fell out of the political process. By the late 1920s, it had degenerated into a series of savage street fights. By the early 1930s, fascist language – of Jews stabbing Germany in the back, of a Fifth Column, of the Iron Fist, of beating the shit out of enemies, of easy certainties in place of the complexities of modernity – and fascist understandings of history were coming to dominate the public discourse.

To the amazement of Klemperer and other educated, worldly, observers of the German scene, the ludicrous martinet figure of Hitler suddenly became a plausible political choice for millions of angry and fearful and resentful Germans.

Are we witnessing a similar moment in the United States today, nearly fifteen years after the 9/11 terror attacks – a period of permanent war, of relentless terror scares and assaults in one country after the next at the hands of peculiarly bloodthirsty jihadist groups, of economic angst, of surveillance, and of massive global upheaval? After several years of the relatively liberal administration of Obama are we witnessing an unleashed backlash that could have incalculable consequences for America’s pre-eminent standing as a global democracy?

It is easy to dismiss Donald Trump as a barker or as a fool. Surely he can’t be elected politically savvy people say, with a slight, wavering question in their comment. Surely someone who proposes registering all Muslims, surveilling all mosques, and, now, barring all Muslims from entering the country will be laughed off the national stage.

Klemperer’s peers said the same about Hitler. It was inconceivable to them that the bilious author of Mein Kampf held mass appeal; and thus they missed, until it was too late, just how extraordinarily effective a demagogue he was, a man who peddled fear and tapped into a sense of pervasive insecurity, militaristic nationalism and rage, and who shamelessly utilised the Big Lie to build a political base.

Over the last few months, Trump has progressively ratcheted up his xenophobic and Islamophobic rhetoric, at each step of the way carefully moving his audience in a more extreme direction. In pacing his introduction of one ghastly proposal after the next, he has normalized the previously unthinkable and made a part of the political debate ideas that were, just weeks ago, considered far beyond the fringe. His latest outrage, calling for the country, in the wake of the San Bernardino terror attack, to bar access to all Muslim visitors is, surely, not an end point. It is, as was Hitler’s move to consolidate power and destroy enemies after the burning of the Reichstag, just one more stepping stone into the realm of demagoguery and rage-politics, one more frontal assault on the pluralist democracy he claims to be defending.

Words have consequences. Trump is stirring up mob hatreds, is riding a moment of fear as have the Front National in France in the jittery weeks following the Paris massacre. He is all-but-inciting his large crowds to violence. And in the days after the San Bernardino mass killing, he has fed a war-of-civilizations storyline beloved by Isis and al-Qaeda but one that any sober-minded public figure should shy away from in horror. In his evermore-toxic words bellowed forth to enthused crowds, one can see the ghosts of Brownshirts-past come alive; in his rhythms, one can hear the tinkle of breaking glass from Kristallnacht.

Germans in the heyday of the Weimar Republic would have had a hard time imagining that barely a few years later a man such as Hitler could be voted into power. And yet he was. It may be equally hard to imagine today that President Obama could be followed into the White House by Donald Trump – and to be honest I too have a hard time imagining it – and yet if terror attacks continue in this country, with Trump and Isis fuelling each other’s appeal the impossible becomes possible and the roadmap to electoral victory for as thuggish a man as Trump no longer looks entirely implausible.

Fascism doesn’t happen overnight. It is the end product of years and years of debased political rhetoric and an inflamed sense of victimhood. It happens when people have successfully been dehumanised by the apparatus of power; and it happens when good people, of which there are many, stay silent in the face of discrimination and violence. Over the last fifteen years, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, we have seen the adoption of torture as state-sanctioned practice; we have seen the use of wholesale military interventions to solve complex problems from one country to the next; and we have seen the rise of Drone warfare, which reduces the death meted out by these machines to impersonal flashes on computer screens thousands of miles from the bloody scenes of the explosions.

In such an environment, Trumpian proposals, such as religion tests for those wanting to enter the country, are simply seen by many as an extension of the new and violent normal. Yet they aren’t normal, in any way, shape, or form. They are extreme, dangerous, and utterly anti-democratic.

There is nothing benign or humorous anymore in the Trump phenomenon. It is time, before he gains more traction with his obnoxious suggestions, for all political figures of good conscience, from the liberal left to the conservative right to stand up against him, unified in opposition to everything he represents. After all, history furnishes ample examples of what happens when race-and-religion-baiting demagogues triumph in national elections.

“Everything I considered un-German,” Klemperer wrote a month after those democracy-shattering elections in 1933, “brutality, injustice, hypocrisy, mass suggestion to the point of intoxication, all of it flourishes here.”

BY SASHA ABRAMSKY , Newstatesman

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This Week Is The Superbowl For America’s Leading White Rights Activist

You probably haven’t heard of Edward Blum, but if you are white, and you hate going to school with (or voting with, or serving in Congress with) black people or Latinos, then Blum is your personal hero. Blum has probably done more than anyone who does not sit on the Supreme Court to dismantle America’s civil rights laws. And Edward Blum is about to have the biggest week of his life.

Indeed, next week could be one of the most important weeks in the history of the Roberts Court’s racial jurisprudence, as the justices will hear back-to-back civil rights cases in just two days.

On Tuesday, the justices will hear a case that will make Congress much whiter if Blum’s position prevails. Under the Fourteenth Amendment, states are allocated seats in the U.S.House of Representatives by “counting the whole number of persons in each state.” Thus, non-voters, including those who are legally ineligible to vote, still count in determining how many seats each state will fill in the House. The state of Texas, like many states, uses this same practice to carve itself up into multiple congressional districts. Thus, each Texas district has roughly the same population, even if the total number of voters in individual districts will vary.

Evanwel v. Abbott, a case spearheaded by Blum, seeks to change this equation. If Blum’s position prevails, Texas will still receive extra representatives for the large number of non-voters — most significantly, the state’s non-citizen Latino population — who reside in the state, but it will be required to carve up its districts according to the number of eligible voters who live in the state. As a practical matter, this will shift representation away from Latino communities and towards Texas’s white voters — even though Texas will still receive extra seats in Congress for Latino residents who will be completely cut out of the districting process.

Then, on Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, a case that could potentially kill affirmative action in public university admissions. Fishermust overcome a jurisdictional issue that would scuttle the case if the justices apply many longstanding precedents, but a majority of the Court showed little interest in this issue when they heard the same case three years ago. And if the Court does reach the merits, there are five justices on the Supreme Court who are very likely to vote against affirmative action.

Blum is the godfather of both these cases. A former investment broker, Blum now oversees numerous efforts to tear down laws seeking to lift up racial minorities. Part puppet master, part matchmaker, Blum has built a “nationwide network of top legal talent who are often willing to offer their services at greatly reduced rates” to advance his pet cause. He then matches these lawyers with clients who allow them to bring one of Blum’s cases to court and funders who pay their legal fees.

And Fisher and Evanwel are hardly Blum’s first rodeos. Blum’s greatest victory to date is Shelby County v. Holder, the Roberts Court’s 2013 decision striking down much of the Voting Rights Act. That decision gave the green light to a wave of voter suppression laws that disproportionately harm minorities. Just two hours after Shelby County was handed down, Texas announced that a voter suppression law and a redistricting map previously blocked under the Voting Rights Act would take effect. North Carolina celebrated its new freedom to enact laws limiting racial minorities’ access to the franchise with what may be the most comprehensive voter suppression law in the nation. Alabama recently coupled its voter ID law with a plan to shut down driver’s licenses offices in many majority-black communities, thus limiting these black voters ability to obtain the ID they are legally required to have in order to vote.

As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her Shelby County dissent, throwing out a core provision of the Voting Rights Act “when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

Blum’s one-man organization, which he calls the “Project on Fair Representation,” also played supporting roles in several other cases seeking to undo the progress of the Civil Rights Era. In Parents Involved In Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, the five conservative justices held that programs seeking to desegregate public schools in Seattle and Louisville violated the Constitution. Writing for himself and three other justices, Chief Justice John Roberts even claimed that these plans to enable black students to study alongside white students violated the Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision.

The Project on Fair Representation filed an amicus brief supporting the plaintiffs challenging public school integration.

Similarly, in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, four justices attempted to dismantle much of America’s housing discrimination law, claiming that every single court of appeals to consider the matter had read the federal Fair Housing Act to offer too much protection to victims of discrimination. Blum’s group filed an amicus brief asking the Court to go even further, suggesting that many of the nation’s anti-discrimination laws are unconstitutional.

Blum, in other words, dreams of a future where many laws paid for in blood by heroes of the Civil Rights Movement are not simply dismantled. He envisions a nation where these laws are forbidden by our very Constitution. In Fisher and Evanwel, the rest of the nation is likely to get a fairly clear picture of how eager the justices are to make Blum’s dream a reality.

 

IAN MILLHISER, ThinkProgress

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The Second Amendment was Never Meant to Protect an Individual’s Right to a Gun

n common with the other big rightward swerves by the Roberts Court, the 2008 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller was an aggressive exercise in mendacity. By upending the well-established meaning of the Second Amendment, the Court made the country less safe and less free. It did this under the guise of a neutral and principled “originalism” that looks to the text as it was first understood back in 1791 by the amendment’s drafters and their contemporaries.

Heller’s 5–4 majority decision, written by Justice Antonin Scalia and joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito, was less in sync with the founding generation than with the top priority of a powerful interest group closely aligned with the Republican right. The National Rifle Association had been waging an intense 30-year campaign to secure an individual’s constitutional right to keep and bear arms by winning over members of the public, high-level politicians, and, ultimately, the Supreme Court. Mission, to an alarming degree, accomplished.

The decision declared, for the first time, that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to a gun, at least for self-defense in the home. It invalidated key parts of the District of Columbia’s unusually strict handgun ban, which prohibited the possession of nearly all handguns in the violence-prone city and required that firearms be stored unloaded and disassembled, or bound with a trigger lock.

In the process, the conservative justices engaged in an unsubtle brand of outcome-oriented judicial activism and “living constitutionalism” that they claim to abhor—an irony noted by a host of devoted Supreme Court watchers across the ideological spectrum. Richard Posner, the prominent Reagan-appointed federal appellate judge and prolific commentator on legal and economic issues, derided Scalia’s flawed approach as “faux originalism” and a “snow job.”

To grasp the audacity of what Scalia & Co. pulled off, turn to the Second Amendment’s text: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” To find in that wording an individual right to possess a firearm untethered to any militia purpose, the majority performed an epic feat of jurisprudential magic: It made the pesky initial clause about the necessity of a “well regulated Militia” disappear. Poof! Gone. Scalia treated the clause as merely “prefatory” and having no real operative effect—a view at odds with history, the fundamental rules of constitutional interpretation, and the settled legal consensus for many decades.

“The Second Amendment was a response to concerns raised during the ratification of the Constitution that the power of Congress to disarm the state militias and create a national standing army posed an intolerable threat to the sovereignty of the several states,” then-Justice John Paul Stevens correctly noted in his minority opinion, joined by Justices David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer. “Neither the text of the Amendment nor the arguments advanced by its proponents evidenced the slightest interest in limiting any legislature’s authority to regulate private civilian uses of firearms.”

Then there was Scalia’s peculiar breakdown of the phrase “keep and bear arms” into its component words to argue that the Second Amendment protects a general right to possess guns—even though, as Stevens pointed out, the term “bear arms” was most commonly used in the 18th century to describe participation in the military.

And let’s not overlook the most absurd thing, which Breyer tried to get at in a separately filed minority opinion: At a moment in modern America when more than 30,000 lives are lost to gun violence each year, and mass shootings are a common occurrence, the majority opinion relied heavily on a guesstimate (and a rotten one at that) of what the Second Amendment meant more than 200 years ago, with no common-sense balancing test taking into account the real-world consequences for today.

“The idea that the founders wanted to protect a right to have a Glock loaded and stored in your nightstand so you could blow away an intruder is just crazy,” says Saul Cornell, a leading Second Amendment scholar cited by the dissenters in both Heller and McDonald v. Chicago, the 2010 Supreme Court sequel that struck down Chicago’s similarly strict handgun ban and extended the new Second Amendment right to states and cities. Adding to the dishonesty, Scalia refused to acknowledge that he was overturning the Court’s venerable Second Amendment precedent, United States v. Miller, instead straining mightily, if unconvincingly, to draw distinctions.

As radical as the holding is, the majority could have done even more damage. Scalia stopped short of applying the newly discovered individual right beyond “hearth and home,” leaving the constitutional status of toting guns outside the home for another day. And, possibly to secure the vote of a wavering justice, he offered assurance that Heller posed no threat to long-standing gun- control laws and regulations short of total gun bans.

Owing a good deal to that flash of moderation, Heller’s appalling jurisprudence and real-world harms have tended to be under-recognized. The decision gave the NRA a big jolt of energy and a potent new rhetorical tool that has bolstered the group’s already formidable ability to stop needed gun-safety reforms—to the point of blocking hugely popular congressional proposals such as extending background checks to all gun sales, even following the 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. Heller is also wielded to advance the NRA’s maniacal drive to normalize the presence of guns and spread “concealed carry” permits, even absent a special need and adequate screening or training. Coincidentally or not, the number of states with lenient or no concealed-carry permitting requirements has grown significantly since Heller changed the terms of the debate.

We may be approaching another moment of reckoning. Since 2008, several federal courts have upheld state rules that allow officials discretion in issuing concealed-carry licenses. The Supreme Court declined to review those decisions. But forthcoming rulings by federal appellate courts in cases testing the constitutionality of similarly restrictive permitting requirements in San Diego and the District of Columbia could become fodder for a new round of Scalia-style “originalism.” If that happens, we may look back at Heller as a step toward something worse.

It shouldn’t come to that. There is language in Heller, as well as new historical research, to support upholding the concealed-carry permitting limits at issue. Still, it’s a scary thought.

 

Dorothy Samuels, The Nation

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