Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Frank Bruni on feminism, hell and Hillary Clinton

"People don’t vote out of shame. They vote out of hope" — Frank Bruni

FRANK BRUNI of The New York Times is such an insightful and elegant writer that he often leaves me speechless. See for yourself.

Feminism, Hell and Hillary Clinton

By Frank Bruni
February 9, 2016

I’m 51. My health is decent. And while my mother died young, there’s longevity elsewhere in the family tree.

I could live to see an openly gay presidential candidate with a real chance of victory.

Will there be a “special place in hell” for me if I, as a gay man, don’t support him or her?

I can guess Madeleine Albright’s answer. She more or less told women that they’re damned if they’re not on Hillary Clinton’s team.

I’m still trying to get my head around that — and around Gloria Steinem’s breathtakingly demeaning assertion that young women who back Bernie Sanders are in thrall to pheromones, not ideas or idealism, and angling to score dates with the young bucks in the Sanders brigade.

That’s right, “democratic socialism” is a known aphrodisiac: the oyster of politics. There’s nothing like denunciations of oligarchs to put you in the mood.

Also, has Steinem forgotten about lesbians? More than a few of them support Sanders, and it’s not because of the way some 26-year-old doctoral candidate looks in his L. L. Bean flannel.

There’s a weird strain of thought swirling around Clinton’s campaign: that we should vote for her because she’s a woman. Or that she’s inoculated from certain flaws or accusations by dint of gender. Or that, at the least, there’s an onus on forward-looking people who care about gender inequality to promote her candidacy.

I care about gender inequality, and I don’t buy it. It’s bad logic. It’s even worse strategy. People don’t vote out of shame. They vote out of hope.

Perhaps that was among the lessons of Clinton’s defeat in New Hampshire on Tuesday, where she lost to Sanders among all women by at least seven percentage points, according to exit polling, and among women under 30 by more than 60 points.

Clinton is on sturdy ground, morally and tactically, when she mentions a double standard for women. So are her surrogates. Actually, there are so many double standards that you couldn’t fit them in a column eight times the length of this one, and she has bumped into plenty, including, yes, the fuss over her raised voice.

But the argument that she’s somehow not a full-fledged member of the establishment because she’s a woman — as she contended during the most recent Democratic debate — is nonsense. On that night, she also echoed a past statement to CBS News that she “cannot imagine anyone being more of an outsider than the first woman president.”

Really? Anyone? Off the top of my head I can think of a person who might quibble with that. His name is Barack Obama.

Admittedly, there’s no easy way to navigate the terrain she inhabits. Eight years ago, she denied her campaign the romantic sweep of Obama’s by playing down and trying to correct for gender. This time around, she was advised, rightly, not to repeat that mistake. But how to do that without going too far?

I think she started out perfectly, with incontestable reflections on women’s challenges in the workplace and with casual asides about the historic nature of her bid. Discussing her age, she said, “I will be the youngest woman president in the history of the United States.”

But more recently, things have fallen out of whack. Bill Clinton’s diatribe about the misogyny of some Sanders supporters sounded like a defensive outsourcing of blame for the Clinton campaign’s disappointments in the polls and the returns: the narrowest of victories in Iowa followed by the resounding New Hampshire defeat.

The Clintons are always quick to point fingers and slow to look in the mirror. On top of which, Bill Clinton’s invocation of sexism felt too pat, his citation of gross language on Twitter (which, sadly, brims with it) too easy.

Clinton’s gender indeed matters. Just as you couldn’t properly evaluate Obama’s arc without factoring in race, you can’t see her accurately without recognizing that she’s a woman of her time, with all the attendant obstacles, hurts, compromises and tenacity.

That informs — and, ideally, illuminates — her perspective. And her presidency would carry a powerful, constructive symbolism that can’t and shouldn’t be ignored.

But those are considerations among many, many others in taking her measure and in casting a vote. To focus only or primarily on them is more reductive than respectful, and to tell women in particular what kind of politics they should practice is the antithesis of feminism, which advocates independence and choices.

We’re all complicated people voting for complicated people. We’re not census subgroups falling in line.

I’ll go to the barricades for that imagined gay candidate if he or she has talents I trust, positions I respect and a character I admire. If not, I’ll probably go elsewhere, because being gay won’t be the sum of that person, just as womanhood isn’t where Clinton begins and ends.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Run, don't walk, to see Spotlight

 "These crimes were unimaginable, and that they could've been countenanced and enabled by such an iconic institution, it gave us so much energy to pursue the story and get the story and make it public." — Walter Robinson

WONDER of wonders, Paul and I actually went to see a movie in a theater last night. His gig with Parranderos didn't start until 11:00, so we caught an early showing of Spotlight.

It's a phenomenal movie.

Before I elaborate on what I thought of the movie, I feel called to add a note of explanation: When I write about restaurants, movies, TV shows, concerts, visiting locales — any sort of a review, if you will, although that's much too grand a word to affix to my musings and mutterings — I want to emphasize that it's not that I think what we've experienced is "all that" because WE'VE done it. 

We're lucky. We pretty much always have a good time together whatever we're doing, but most of it isn't remarkable enough to anyone but us to warrant writing about. 

I issue the above disclaimer because I'm about to rave about Spotlight.

Paul and I had not seen a movie in a theater since we saw A Walk in the Woods with Robert Redford, Nick Nolte and Emma Thompson. The movie is based on the book A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail written by Bill Bryson.

Many of us in Des Moines tend to feel somewhat territorial about Mr. Bryson. He grew up here, went to Roosevelt High and then on to Drake University for a couple of years. Several of my Rotary Club friends lived in the same neighborhood and were great pals of his family, so
 we're proud of Bill, but sorry to say, the movie was stinker. 

First of all, Robert Redford was simply too darned old to play Bill at the age when he wrote the book, plus Redford just phoned it in: he was wooden and dull. In the movie, Redford and Nolte supposedly hiked for months, but Nolte is just as fat as when he started, and their gear never sustained any wear even by the end. There's a shot where Nolte has his feet up near the conclusion of their hike, and the tread on his boots isn't even scuffed.

But enough about that dud (if you haven't watched it, don't bother), let's talk about Spotlight!!

The movie tells the gripping story of a special investigative team at The Boston Globe that exposes a decades-long coverup by the Catholic church of the molestation of hundreds of children by priests in Boston, and even though we know the outcome beforehand, the movie is still riveting and suspenseful. Each cast member delivers a nuanced, believable performance, no one overacts. Mark Ruffalo especially deserves every nomination and award he's received. Adding to its excellence, the music and the way the film is shot and edited enhance the movie, instead of calling attention to themselves which is too often the case. 

Mark Ruffalo with the real life Mike Rezendes

But the thing I loved best about it by far is that it's entirely true.

I have gotten so fed up with "based-on-a-true-story" movies, that I've sworn to never watch one again. (I can tell I've got enough of a bee in my bonnet on this subject that I'll have to write a separate post.)

And that's what makes Spotlight so exceptional: it's truth.

I've attached a review for you from The New York Times and a link to a Fresh Air interview of the real Walter (Robby) Robinson and Spotlight co-writer and director Tom McCarthy. Read, watch . . . then go see the movie! You'll thank me.

Review: In ‘Spotlight,’ The Boston Globe Digs Up the Catholic Church’s Dirt

By A. O. Scott

November 5, 2015

“The city flourishes when its great institutions work together,” says the cardinal to the newspaper editor during a friendly chat in the rectory. The city in question is Boston. The cardinal is Bernard F. Law and the editor, newly arrived at The Boston Globe from The Miami Herald, is Martin Baron. He politely dissents from the cardinal’s vision of civic harmony, arguing that the paper should stand alone.

Their conversation, which takes place early in “Spotlight,” sets up the film’s central conflict. Encouraged by Baron, a small group of reporters at The Globe will spend the next eight months (and the next two hours) digging into the role of the Boston archdiocese in covering up the sexual abuse of children by priests. But the image of two prominent men talking quietly behind closed doors — Law is played with orotund charm by Len Cariou, Baron with sphinxlike self-containment by Liev Schreiber — haunts this somber, thrilling movie and crystallizes its major concern, which is the way power operates in the absence of accountability. When institutions convinced of their own greatness work together, what usually happens is that the truth is buried and the innocent suffer. Breaking that pattern of collaboration is not easy. Challenging deeply entrenched, widely respected authority can be very scary.

Directed by Tom McCarthy from a script he wrote with Josh Singer and based closely on recent history, “Spotlight” is a gripping detective story and a superlative newsroom drama, a solid procedural that tries to confront evil without sensationalism. Taking its name from the investigative team that began pursuing the sex-abuse story in 2001, the film focuses on both the human particulars and the larger political contours of the scandal and its uncovering.

We spend most of our time with the Spotlight staff. Their supervising editor, Walter Robinson (known as Robby and played by an extra-flinty Michael Keaton), has a classically blunt, skeptical newsman style, but he’s also part of Boston’s mostly Roman Catholic establishment. He rubs shoulders with an unctuous church P.R. guy (Paul Guilfoyle) and plays golf with a well-connected lawyer (Jamey Sheridan) who handled some of the archdiocese’s unsavory business. The reporters working for Robby — Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) — come from Catholic backgrounds, and have their own mixed feelings about what they’re doing.

Mr. McCarthy, who played a rotten reporter on the last season of “The Wire,” views journalists primarily through the lens of their work. He follows Pfeiffer as she interviews survivors, Rezendes as he wrangles a zealous lawyer (Stanley Tucci) and Carroll as he digs into long-hidden records, including articles buried in the newspaper’s archives. Though the film, like the Spotlight articles, avoids euphemism in discussing the facts of child rape, it also avoids exploitative flashbacks, balancing attention to individual cases with a sense of pervasive, invisible corruption. Baron urges the reporters to focus on the systemic dimensions of the story, and “Spotlight” does the same. As the number of victims and predators increases, and as it becomes clear that Law and others knew what was happening and protected the guilty, shock and indignation are replaced by a deeper sense of moral horror.

The outcome of the story may be well known, but Mr. McCarthy and his superb cast generate plenty of suspense along the way, and the idiosyncratic humanity of the reporters keeps the audience engaged and aware of the stakes. During the climactic montage — the presses humming, the papers stacked and baled, the trucks rumbling out into the morning light — my heart swelled and my pulse quickened, and not only because I have printer’s ink running through my veins. Journalists on film are usually portrayed as idealists or cynics, crusaders or parasites. The reality is much grayer, and more than just about any other film I can think of, “Spotlight” gets it right.

It captures the finer grain of newsroom life in the early years of this century almost perfectly, starting with a scene in which a retiring veteran is sent off with awkward speeches, forced laughter and dry cake. As the story unfolds, there are scenes of pale-skinned guys in pleated khakis and button-down oxfords gathering under fluorescent lights and ugly drop ceilings, spasms of frantic phone-calling and stretches of fidgety downtime. Not even the raffish presence of “Mad Men” bad-boy John Slattery can impart much glamour to these drab surroundings. Visually, the movie is about as compelling as a day-old coffee stain. As I said: almost perfect.

The Globe itself (owned by The New York Times Company when the film takes place) is shown to be an imperfect institution. The people who work inside it are decidedly fallible — as prone to laziness, confusion and compromise as anyone else. Before 2001 — with some exceptions, notably in the work of the columnist Eileen McNamara (played here in a few cursory scenes by Maureen Keiller) — the paper overlooked both the extent of the criminality in the local church and the evidence that the hierarchy knew what was going on. The Spotlight reporters and editors are pursuing a big, potentially career-making scoop. At the same time, they are atoning for previous lapses and trying to overcome the bureaucratic inertia that is as integral to the functioning of a newspaper as the zealous pursuit of the truth. “What took you so long?” is a question they hear more than once.

To use “Spotlight” as an occasion to wax nostalgic for the vanishing glory of print would be to miss the point. The movie celebrates a specific professional accomplishment and beautifully captures the professional ethos of journalism. It is also a defense of professionalism in a culture that increasingly holds it in contempt.

Mr. McCarthy is a solid craftsman. The actors are disciplined and serious, forgoing the table-pounding and speechifying that might more readily win them prizes from their peers. Everything in this movie works, which is only fitting, since its vision of heroism involves showing up in the morning and — whether inspired by bosses or in spite of them — doing the job.

Click here to listen to Fresh Air host Dave Davies interview Walter Robinson and Tom McCarthy. It's worth your time.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Iowa caucus aftermath up close and personal

“Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt

WHEN THERE isn't an incumbent United States president in office, the Iowa caucus becomes absolutely frenetic — especially on the D-side because the Democrats utilize a weird process instead of a simple vote. 

Despite promising myself and Paul that we would just be ordinary attendee-participants like everyone else, I couldn't let the Nafflers, the kindly retired couple who had agreed to be ringmasters of our precinct and who had exactly zero volunteers, drown. knew the turnout would be large, participants would be lining up well before the doors opened and there would be a passel of new voters and party-switchers to register. 

In addition to our previous experience of running our precinct's caucus in 2008, the last big non-incumbant year, oddly enough it was our experience managing the audience at Turner Center Jazz Orchestra concerts that stood us in good stead. We've gotten used to having a horde of people show up well before the doors are supposed to open, all clamoring to buy tickets or be checked off the prepaid or reserved seat list so that they can get in and grab a table.

While Paul was setting up the sound equipment he brought (he knew it would be needed), I commandeered the first registrants, deputized them, and split up the alphabetical list to check people in. I had purchased 300 heart stickers for registered voters to wear, one each, so that we could easily discern voters from observers.

As soon as Paul was free, he became a one-person registration station and registered 89 voters, at least a handful of them previous Republicans reregistering as Democrats.

Our precinct was almost exactly evenly split between Hillary supporters and Bernie fans, but in the end there were two people more for Bernie, which meant that our side (Paul and I were in Bernie's camp) got the extra delegate: five delegates for Bernie, for four Hillary — and Paul and I were both elected to serve as delegates to the county convention.

At one point Paul looked at me and said, "Look at the difference between one side of the room and the other." 

I said, "What?" 

"Hair color, Kelly. Hair color!" 

He was right. One side was primarily gray-haired, and the other side was not. We were on the "not" side.

It's also been of great interest to me to discover that the local and state Democratic "powers that be" are all, as near as I can tell, for Hillary. Make of that what you will.

Below are a couple of pictures I snapped that night, some interesting statistics form NBC News and a concise summary from ABC News.

The Bernie side

The Hillary side

7 Takeaways Post-Iowa Caucus

By Column Matthew Dowd
February 2, 2016

The Iowa Caucus results are in. Victors have been declared. And numbers and entrance poll data is being analyzed. And the consultant classes in DC are already telling us the old ways worked, and are propagating myths once again. But what actual lessons did we learn in its aftermath? Here are seven of my takeaways:

1. Let's not overplay the results in Iowa. Yes, it was record turnout for the Republicans and a robust turnout by Democrats, but the total is less than 400,000 voters. To add perspective, in the general election just in Iowa ten months from now we can expect 1.6 million people to vote. The caucuses are a signal of some things, but not many things. And every candidate still has to show if they have a broad diverse base of voters - we have only heard from one tiny segment of America.

2. Trump finished second in Iowa, and Hillary squeaked out a bare slim victory, but the frustration and anger in this country at the status quo and the establishment of both parties is real and lasting. If either party thinks this was just a moment in time, and they can go back to the way of doing things they are sadly mistaken. The majority of Americans feel no real attachment to the two incumbent political parties, and desperately want change. The earthquake has already happened, and it is essential that we don't underestimate the foundational damage that has occurred to politics as usual.

3. Right now there are five dominant candidates in this Presidential race, and none of them look anything like the traditional "presidential" types. First, there are no governors in this five and none of these would be what you would typically pick out of central casting for a Presidential race. Each has very unique attributes we don't normally associate with a candidate for the White House. We have two Cuban American first term U.S. Senators (one of whom is a native Canadian), a woman who was a former First Lady, a brash billionaire, developer and a reality TV star with no political experience, and a 74 year old Jewish Democratic Socialist Senator from Vermont. America has definitely changed.

4. The road ahead for Cruz, Trump, and Rubio is complicated and problematic for each of them. Each has a path to victory, and each has serious obstacles ahead. Cruz has to show going forward that he can win in higher turnout primaries where evangelicals don't dominate the voter pool. Trump has to show he can get up off the canvas, learn from his mistakes, and win quickly in New Hampshire and then keep it going in South Carolina. Rubio has to figure out a place he will start winning - a series of 2nds and 3rds won't cut it for long.

5. If Trump really wants to win the nomination, the Iowa results show that he needs some campaign pros who understand messaging, targeting, and can provide discipline. To that end, Trump needs to quit relying on public polls for direction, and hire some folks who know what they are doing. He probably needs to win New Hampshire before any seasoned veterans will go to work for him. He also needs to demonstrate some humility and that he's able to seek advice from others. For starters, he did show some humility in the aftermath of the Iowa loss, but we will find out if that was a real change or just an instance.

6. Organization matters to a point, but don't overplay it. Passion and momentum are still two of the most important ingredients in politics. Hillary had the best organization of anyone running, had all the paid staff one could hire, and she ended up in a tie with a candidate built on volunteers. Yes, Ted Cruz won Iowa, and his organization was the best, so props to him. But, keep in mind, two candidates (Trump and Rubio) finished right behind him who spent hardly any time in the state, and who had limited organizations. And Trump and Rubio beat the total vote performance of all previous GOP caucus winners.

7. Advertising has very limited effects. Cruz (and others) went very negative on Rubio in the last ten days, but Rubio still caught momentum to finish with a surge. Jeb Bush spent more money on advertising by far in Iowa than anyone else and finished in the single digits. Hillary has outspent Bernie by a large amount and couldn't put him away in the first caucus. Trump relentlessly attacked Cruz, and Cruz still pulled out a victory. Pay less attention to ad buys, and more to authenticity, inspiration, and message delivery in key moments like debates. And mistakes or mishaps matter way more than media buys.

It is going to be a fascinating ride in the months ahead. The voters as of last night now have their hands on the steering wheel and there is no telling where they might direct things in this race for the White House.

There you have it.

Matthew Dowd is an ABC News analyst and special correspondent. Opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of ABC News.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The state of our state the night before caucus

"Thank you, Iowa.” — Senator Barack Obama at a rally after his triumph in the 2008 Iowa caucuses 

TWENTY-FOUR hours from now it will all be over here in Iowa — or very close to it. I can remember delivering sealed envelopes to the Secretary of State in person at caucus headquarters close to midnight in 2008 and being surprised to see media from Japan and France and countries from around the world. But they'll all be catching flights out of here by Tuesday or Wednesday. 

Here are the latest poll results as reported by The New York Times.

Taken at a West Des Moines precinct caucus in 2008.

Donald Trump Leads Ted Cruz in Top Iowa Poll

By Alan Rappeport
January 31, 2016

DES MOINES – Donald J. Trump has widened his edge against Ted Cruz in Iowa, according to a Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll on Saturday that shows the billionaire gaining momentum right ahead of Monday’s caucuses.

The survey, considered the most authoritative poll of Iowa caucus-goers, found that 28 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers support Mr. Trump, while 23 percent back Mr. Cruz. Trailing the two leading candidates are Senator Marco Rubio at 15 percent and Ben Carson at 10 percent.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The results come as the Republican presidential candidates are crisscrossing Iowa in hopes of turning out their supporters and persuading remaining undecided voters to caucus for them.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders were battling for the lead position, with Mrs. Clinton getting the support of 45 percent of likely caucus-goers to Mr. Sanders’s 42 percent. Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor, trails them with just 3 percent.

Of Democrats who are planning to caucus, 30 percent say they could still be persuaded, while 45 percent of Republicans remain open to changing their minds.

Backed by evangelical Christians and social conservatives, Mr. Cruz, Senator of Texas, had surged to the top of the Iowa polls a month ago only to see his momentum dampened under sustained attacks from Mr. Trump. A poll from the same group in mid-January showed Mr. Cruz with a three-point lead.

For months the candidates had been been publicly friendly toward each other, but Mr. Trump has recently raised questions about the eligibility of the Canadian born Mr. Cruz to run for president and has assailed his lack of popularity in the senate. Mr. Cruz has largely sought to remain above the fray, but has been urging Iowans not to be lured by a candidate without a conservative record who will “burn” them if chosen as the Republican nominee.

Some political analysts suggested that Mr. Trump might have blunted his momentum by skipping the Republican presidential debate earlier this week. However, Saturday’s results show that his gamble appears to have paid off.

Most voters said they did not care about Mr. Trump missing the debate. However, the survey did show that some of the candidates’ attacks appear to be resonating. A majority of respondents said they were bothered by Mr. Trump’s previous pro-choice views and his use of eminent domain as a businessman.

Voters were also perturbed by Mr. Cruz’s failure to disclose loans he took from big banks during his senate run, but they did not seem to care about his Canadian roots.

Among the lower-tier Republican, candidates, the poll showed Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky with 5 percent support, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey with 3 percent, and Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee and Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio each with 2 percent. Mr. Christie, Mr. Bush and Mr. Kasich have focused their efforts on winning New Hampshire, visiting Iowa only sporadically.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The NYT's Democratic primary endorsement

“Voting is the most precious right of every citizen, and we have a moral obligation to ensure the integrity of our voting process.” — Hillary Clinton

BELIEVE IT or not, I'm probably even more tired of hearing about the Iowa caucuses than you are since we're immersed in it 24/7. But because we live in Des Moines, the throbbing heart of it, I feel almost duty-bound to keep you apprised.

This post will no doubt gratify some HLSS readers and rankle others. The New York Times has endorsed Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee. No surprise.

Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Nomination
Voters have the chance to choose one of the most broadly and deeply qualified presidential candidates in modern history.

By The Editorial Board
January 30, 2016

For the past painful year, the Republican presidential contenders have been bombarding Americans with empty propaganda slogans and competing, bizarrely, to present themselves as the least experienced person for the most important elected job in the world. Democratic primary voters, on the other hand, after a substantive debate over real issues, have the chance to nominate one of the most broadly and deeply qualified presidential candidates in modern history.

Hillary Clinton would be the first woman nominated by a major party. She served as a senator from a major state (New York) and as secretary of state — not to mention her experience on the national stage as first lady with her brilliant and flawed husband, President Bill Clinton. The Times editorial board has endorsed her three times for federal office — twice for Senate and once in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary — and is doing so again with confidence and enthusiasm.

Mrs. Clinton’s main opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described Democratic Socialist, has proved to be more formidable than most people, including Mrs. Clinton, anticipated. He has brought income inequality and the lingering pain of the middle class to center stage and pushed Mrs. Clinton a bit more to the left than she might have gone on economic issues. Mr. Sanders has also surfaced important foreign policy questions, including the need for greater restraint in the use of military force.

In the end, though, Mr. Sanders does not have the breadth of experience or policy ideas that Mrs. Clinton offers. His boldest proposals — to break up the banks and to start all over on health care reform with a Medicare-for-all system — have earned him support among alienated middle-class voters and young people. But his plans for achieving them aren’t realistic, while Mrs. Clinton has very good, and achievable, proposals in both areas.

For the past painful year, the Republican presidential contenders have been bombarding Americans with empty propaganda slogans and competing, bizarrely, to present themselves as the least experienced person for the most important elected job in the world. Democratic primary voters, on the other hand, after a substantive debate over real issues, have the chance to nominate one of the most broadly and deeply qualified presidential candidates in modern history.

The third Democratic contender, Martin O’Malley, is a personable and reasonable liberal who seems more suited for the jobs he has already had — governor of Maryland and mayor of Baltimore — than for president.

Mrs. Clinton is a strong advocate of sensible and effective measures to combat the plague of firearms; Mr. Sanders’s record on guns is relatively weak. Her economic proposals for financial reform reflect a deep understanding of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform act, including the ways in which it has fallen short. She supports changes that the country badly needs, like controls on high-frequency trading and stronger curbs on bank speculation in derivatives.

Mr. Sanders has scored some rhetorical points against Mrs. Clinton for her longstanding ties to Wall Street, but she has responded well, and it would be comical to watch any of the Republican candidates try to make that case, given that they are all virtually tied to, or actually part of, the business establishment.

One of the most attractive parts of Mrs. Clinton’s economic platform is her pledge to support the well-being and rights of working Americans. Her lifelong fight for women bolsters her credibility in this area, since so many of the problems with labor law hit women the hardest, including those involving child care, paid sick leave, unstable schedules and low wages for tipped workers.

Mrs. Clinton is keenly aware of the wage gap for women, especially for women of color. It’s not just that she’s done her homework — Mrs. Clinton has done her homework on pretty much any subject you’d care to name. Her knowledge comes from a commitment to issues like reproductive rights that is decades old. She was well ahead of Mr. Sanders in calling for repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which severely limits federal money to pay for abortions for poor women.

As secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton worked tirelessly, and with important successes, for the nation’s benefit. She was the secretary President Obama needed and wanted: someone who knew leaders around the world, who brought star power as well as expertise to the table. The combination of a new president who talked about inclusiveness and a chief diplomat who had been his rival but shared his vision allowed the United States to repair relations around the world that had been completely trashed by the previous administration.

Mrs. Clinton helped make it possible to impose tougher sanctions on Iran, which in turn led to the important nuclear deal now going into effect. She also fostered closer cooperation with Asian countries. She worked to expand and deepen the dialogue with China and to increase Washington’s institutional ties to the region. Mrs. Clinton had rebuked China when she was first lady for its treatment of women, and she criticized the Beijing government’s record on human rights even as she worked to improve relations.

In January 2011, before the Arab Spring, Mrs. Clinton delivered a speech that criticized Arab leaders, saying their countries risked “sinking into the sand” unless they liberalized their political systems and cleaned up their economies. Certainly, the Israeli-Palestinian crisis deepened during her tenure, but she did not cause that.

Mrs. Clinton can be more hawkish on the use of military power than Mr. Obama, as shown by her current call for a no-fly zone in Syria and her earlier support for arming and training Syrian rebels. We are not convinced that a no-fly zone is the right approach in Syria, but we have no doubt that Mrs. Clinton would use American military power effectively and with infinitely more care and wisdom than any of the leading Republican contenders.

Mrs. Clinton, who has been accused of flip-flopping on trade, has shown a refreshing willingness to learn and to explain, as she has in detail, why she changed her mind on trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. She is likely to do more to help workers displaced by the forces of trade than previous presidents have done, and certainly more than any of the Republicans.

Mrs. Clinton has honed a steeliness that will serve her well in negotiating with a difficult Congress on critically important issues like climate change. It will also help her weather what are certain to be more attacks from Republicans and, should she win the White House, the possibility of the same ideological opposition and personal animus that President Obama has endured. Some of the campaign attacks are outrageous, like Donald Trump’s efforts to bring up Bill Clinton’s marital infidelity. Some, like those about Mrs. Clinton's use of a private email server, are legitimate and deserve forthright answers.

Hillary Clinton is the right choice for the Democrats to present a vision for America that is radically different from the one that leading Republican candidates offer — a vision in which middle-class Americans have a real shot at prosperity, women’s rights are enhanced, undocumented immigrants are given a chance at legitimacy, international alliances are nurtured and the country is kept safe.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Lying liars who lie: he-who-shall-not-be-named

“The world is not fair, and often fools, cowards, liars and the selfish hide in high places.” — Bryant H. McGill, American author, speaker and activist 

I CAN'T shake the feeling that I have awakened in an alternate reality, a dystopian planet Earth, and the pulsing, ugly heart of it is my own home country. 

That he-who-shall-not-be-named has been given more than five minutes of our collective awareness is incomprehensible to me! 

In my ongoing series of Lying Liars Who Lie, I'm certain that HWSNBN warrants a thousand chapters, but I'll stick to this one — for now. The below article is from NBC News.

Tennessee Williams quote

Trump Foundation Has Given Little To Vets Groups

By Leigh Ann Caldwell and Charlie Gile
January 28, 2016

Donald Trump has vowed to donate the donations he receives tonight to the Trump Foundation to veterans groups. But a look at The Donald J. Trump Foundation's history of giving shows that the organization has given a small percentage of its donations to veterans groups.

Since 2010, Trump has donated just $35,000 to veterans groups, according to the foundation's 990 forms that donated $5 million during the same time.

In 2014, the year his foundation donated the most amount of money to vets groups, the foundation gave $10,000 to the Green Beret Foundation, $5,000 to K9s for Warriors and $5,000 for Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

Trump is skipping Thursday night's Fox News debate and instead hosting his own rally also in Des Moines where he said he's going to raise money for veterans. He launched the website to collect the donations.

At a previous CNN debate, Trump told the network that they should donate all of their profits to veterans.

Trump often says at this campaign rallies, "We're gonna take care of veterans."

While Trump's foundation has given little to vets, he did donate $1 million to New York City's The Friends of the Vietnam Veterans Plaza in 2008, according to the New York Times.

During those years, Trump's foundation gave $10,000 to the William J. Clinton Foundation and $100,000 to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

His foundation also gave $100,000 to Citizens United, the organization that spurred the 2010 Supreme Court case that led to the proliferation of money in politics. Trump often denounces super PACs, the groups that proliferated after the Citizens United decision.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

New study lets caffeine off the hook

“I like coffee because it gives me the illusion that I might be awake.” — Lewis Black, American comedian, author, playwright, social critic and actor

I DON'T drink coffee. Never have. I tried it once and my taste buds said, "Well, this tastes bad" — and I believed them. I also figure that the world probably doesn't need me on caffeine. 

According to various studies, caffeine conveys certain health benefits. Now a recent study questions long-held beliefs about the risks of caffeine consumption. The below article is from NBC News.

Caffeine Doesn’t Give You Heart Palpitations, Study Finds

By Maggie Fox
January 26, 2016

Drinking coffee, tea or chocolate does not appear to cause heart palpitations, heart fluttering and other out-of-sync heartbeat patterns, researchers reported Tuesday.

The report challenges a widely held belief that caffeinated drinks cause irregular heart rhythms that can lead to heart failure or dangerous heart rhythm disorders and is another vindication for coffee as a safe drink.

It might be time for doctors to lighten up on coffee, says Dr. Gregory Marcus, a cardiologist at the University of California San Francisco, who led the study.

"Clinical recommendations advising against the regular consumption of caffeinated products to prevent disturbances of the heart's cardiac rhythm should be reconsidered, as we may unnecessarily be discouraging consumption of items like chocolate, coffee and tea that might actually have cardiovascular benefits," Marcus said in a statement.

"Given our recent work demonstrating that extra heartbeats can be dangerous, this finding is especially relevant."

It used to be believed that premature cardiac contractions, which usually cause no symptoms or mild symptoms such as heart palpitations, 'skipped' beats or fluttering, were harmless. But studies now show they're associated with heart failure, atrial fibrillation and other dangerous conditions.

And doctors are widely taught that caffeine can cause these heart disturbances.

To check, Marcus and colleagues examined 1,388 people, with an average age of 72, taking part in a larger heart study.

About 60 percent said they drank some sort of caffeinated product every day. The team looked specifically at coffee, tea and chocolate and did not ask about super-caffeinated energy drinks.

They measured instances of premature ventricular contractions and premature atrial contractions.

They could not find any differences in instances of these heart disturbances, no matter how much coffee or tea or chocolate people had.

"Therefore, we are only able to conclude that in general, consuming caffeinated products every day is not associated with having increased ectopy or arrhythmia but cannot specify a particular amount per day," Marcus and colleagues wrote in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

They said it is possible that people who noticed heart flutters or other symptoms from coffee or tea may have cut back - they did not ask them.

But they also noted that it's yet another finding in favor of moderate coffee drinking.

"Coffee is among the most commonly consumed beverages in the United States and is the main source of caffeine intake among adults," they wrote.

"Regular coffee consumption has been associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus and other cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity and depression," they added.

"Furthermore, large observational studies have found that habitual coffee drinkers have lower rates of coronary artery disease and of cardiovascular and all-cause mortality."

The cutoff seems to be around five cups a day, and kids shouldn't be drinking too much caffeine.

Higher doses of caffeine can be deadly. The Food and Drug Administration has warned about sales of powdered caffeine, One teaspoon delivers as much caffeine as 28 cups of regular coffee.