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Biden is clearly the frontrunner—and deserves to be

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Joe Biden is conducting a really smart campaign. He was the last major candidate in; his timing was perfect; he did not want to peak too early. He’s been sparing in his public appearances and press availability, a good thing given his tendency for gaffes, and the fact that he needed to find his footing and develop talking points before jumping into the melée.

He’s now found that footing and those talking points, and his commanding lead in the polls proves that Democratic voters like what they see. The smartest thing he’s doing is to make this election all about Trump. The other candidates are getting lost in the tall weeds of issues: healthcare, immigration, climate change, foreign policy, marijuana. Not Biden; his overriding message resonates: Trump’s utter lack of moral fitness. The other candidates have to focus on specific issues, in order to differentiate themselves from the pack and prove to skeptical voters they have chops. Not Biden. Everybody knows he knows the issues: he was a Senator for decades, and then the Vice President for Barack Obama’s two terms—and Obama remains wildly popular, not just among Democrats but Independents, the most important group Biden must court. Since voters assume Biden understands every issue, he’s free to devote himself to the one thing that matters: taking Trump on.

His speech yesterday was masterful. Joe Biden has an impeccable record in politics and in his personal life. He’s never been in a scandal. His reputation for uprightness has survived since his first election victory. His personal story—unlike Trump’s sordid one—arouses sympathy and admiration. There is not a thing Trump or the Republican attack machine can smear him with. Trump can insult him by calling him old or tired or lazy, but it does no good; Trump insults everybody; the voters see it for what it is: the cranky reflex of an angry, bitter man. Biden’s reputation for integrity, for—yes—family values is rock-solid. More than any other Democratic candidate, Biden is entitled to call out Trump’s indecency, and to do so with power. The public has been primed to regard Trump as a pig—by none other than Trump himself. It’s all too easy for Biden to step happily into that role.

And, yesterday, did he ever! In his Iowa address, he played Trump’s greatest hits of hatred: Mexicans as “rapists and criminals,” “Shoot them,” “rat-infested” Baltimore, “Send her back!,” “invasion,” “animals,” “caravans,” “I am a nationalist,” “Go back”…Americans have heard it all, and been repelled, frightened and disgusted by it. Biden’s job is to remind voters of their disgust; he is doing it perfectly. It was a great speech, delivered by a man not known for great oratory, but so passionate, so sincere, so scathing, you had to be touched, amazed and—if you doubted Biden’s fighting powers–reassured. And if you were Trump, you had to be scared, especially in view of his latest dismal polling numbers in the Midwest.

I’m still prepared to vote for whomever the eventual Democratic nominee is, and I hope you are, too. Right now, it looks like it will be Biden—and that’s fine with me. He’ll run a strong campaign. He’ll have the most popular person in America, Barack Obama, right beside him, with support from the most popular woman in America, Michelle Obama. If the election were held today, Biden would easily win at least 300 electoral votes. And then (with due credit to Kirsten Gillibrand), we can Clorox out the White House and begin a new era of clean, responsible and respectable government in America.


The Tipping Point just arrived

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Did you feel it? That political tremor of the last few days? It’s the beginning of the end of the trump regime.

Don’t be dubious! Think about it. The entire republican edifice is crumbling: the NRA is melting down, financially and morally; members are leaving in droves. The republican party itself is in a shambles; while GOP congressmen quit, a majority of the American people clearly blames it for the failure of the Congress to pass meaningful gun control laws. As for trump, at no point in his presidency has he been so pitiful and disgraced as he is following the shootings. He painted himself into a corner from which there is no escape. By his violent rhetoric—thank God for videotape!–he has shown the American people exactly what he is: a sociopathic racist, leading a party of sociopaths.

I’ll tell you why this is the Tipping Point. He’s a cornered rat. He’s never been cornered before. Oh, sure, he’s been busted, dozens of times, for stupid, callous remarks, or aberrant behavior that may be criminal. But he’s never been cornered like he is now. You could see it in his eyes the other day when he delivered that word salad of a speech: beady eyes, narrow slits through which his defensiveness and panic were palpable. This is the trump we’ve long waited for, caught with his fat little hand in the cookie jar.

There are a couple things Democrats, especially the candidates, can and should immediately undertake:

  1. Cease all criticism of fellow Democrats.
  2. Focus all criticism where it belongs: on trump.
  3. Constantly remind Americans of all the things they can’t stand about him.
  4. Continue the Congressional investigations and, if possible, speed them up, while talking of impeachment.
  5. Talk more than ever about gun control. Embarrass governors and Congressional reps who oppose it.
  6. Keep up the pressure on Moscow Mitch. We know it’s getting to him.
  7. Monitor every single word trump says or tweets. The next time he insults Mexicans, or immigrants, or jokes about “his” people punching liberals, scream bloody murder as if your hair was on fire.
  8. And finally, primary every damn Republican in the country—and also primary those Democrats who vote as the NRA instructs them.

The Resistance hasn’t felt like this in the 2-1/2 years since trump’s been President. It mostly been an uphill battle: we were screaming in the wind, and few heard us. Suddenly, overnight—after El Paso and Dayton—America is listening. They’re revolted by this thug in the White House. I will bet anything that, in the next series of polls to emerge, trump’s approvals are way down. The second they get low enough, republicans will start to wake up from their trump coma. Then we can get onto the 2020 elections, in which the vast majority of voters will show this evil cabal to the door and boot them out.


he massacres are trump’s fault, and everybody knows it

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No, he didn’t pull the trigger. He just gave permission to the guy who did.

Look: For decades it’s been the lie of NRA-obsessed republicans that “guns don’t kill people, people do.” Because no gun ever pulled its own trigger, republicans thought they could fool people into being against gun-control laws.

And you know what? The argument worked, despite its patent absurdity. That’s why we have so few national laws limiting gun and ammunition use, which in turn is why we have so many mass murders. The NRA and its republican bootlickers hornswaggled the American people, particularly the lower-educated gun freaks who vote republican.

A similar argument was made by Nazi defendants at the Nuremberg Trials. Senior military commanders and top members of Hitler’s government claimed they couldn’t possibly be held responsible for the Deaths because they never personally killed anyone. The Generals didn’t personally load Jews into the gas chambers. The top political leaders didn’t personally strip the bodies of gold teeth and jewelry and then stuff them into the ovens. So how could they be accused or convicted of mass murder?

Of course, that’s not how the Tribunal’s judges saw things. They did convict the Generals and politicians of crimes against humanity and other war crimes, and they did hang dozens of them. A handful escaped the hangman’s noose by committing suicide, but otherwise, History has recorded that the Third Reich received its just desserts on the gallows.

So much for the republican argument! trump and virtually all of the rest of the republican cult actually seem to think they’re getting away with this stuff. They think that all they have to do is call for better mental health treatment (whatever the hell that means), and people won’t blame them for the massacres. They have the chutzpah (or self-delusion) to believe that they can peddle this crap to a public that’s credulous enough to buy it.

Well, maybe they can to the 30% who are so stupid they still think trump had the biggest inaugural crowd in history. As for the rest of us, fugeddaboutit. That’s the lesson of Nuremberg. In order to be guilty, you don’t just have to be the maniac that pulled the trigger. You’re equally guilty if you incited the violence, if you aided and abetted it through your words and deeds, if you gave dog whistles to the murderers and wink-wink-nod-nod “apologies” you didn’t really mean, and if you support propaganda outlets, like fox “news,” that peddle race hatred 24/7. If you do these things, you’re guilty. And you deserve the same penalty as those who pulled the triggers.

America is going to have Nuremberg-style trials for republicans. I imagine they’ll be held in Washington, D.C., perhaps in the U.S. Supreme Court building. A list of those who will be indicted and tried begins, obviously, with Donald J. Trump, but it will include his senior political allies: Stephen Miller, Mitch McConnell, Devin Nunes, Kevin McCarthy, Kellyanne Conway, Michael Pence, Clarence Thomas and dozens of others. It also will include trump’s military leadership: Joseph Dunford and Patrick Shanahan, for starters. And lest we forget that at Nuremberg the Justices also convicted Hitler’s chief propagandists, so too will the Washington trials charge Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson and the rest of the white nationalists in the media with inciting and being accessories to mass murder. They, too, along with their cohorts, will face the choice of being executed or facing long imprisonment, or of committing suicide.

Sound harsh? Yes. Harsh times call for harsh words. But we are in harsh times, brought on by decades of a republican party stoking hatred, resentment and violence, and now led by the worst president ever, an unstable narcissist and pathological liar interested only in sexual gratification, power and money. The tea party—incorrigible deplorables—started this. We Democrats will settle it, starting right now.


Rural California fights back

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Poor Jeff Williams. He has to drive 140 miles to buy ammunition for his Glock 45 9mm pistol—the same type of gun Omar Mateen used when he slaughtered 49 people in the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting.

Williams lives in Needles, California, a small city on the California-Arizona border, in the Mohave Desert. Due to California’s strict gun control laws, gun owners are prohibited from buying ammo in other states and then transporting it into California. So Williams, who is Needles’ mayor, can’t just buy bullets from the nearby towns, a few miles away, that are across the state line in Arizona. “I have to drive 140 miles to Barstow,” he complains.

Needles is one of those towns where firearms play an inordinate role in its citizens’ lives. There are many gun stores and shooting ranges. It’s the kind of place where dads take their kids out for target practice with semi-automatic rifles.

Needles’ congressman is the arch-Republican Paul Cook, who has a perfect 0% rating from Planned Parenthood and an equally perfect 100% rating from the National Right to Life Committee. Cook is a global warming denier, and he opposes holding Russia accountable for meddling in our elections.

I mention this just to provide some background to the political and cultural environment in Needles. In the wake of California’s strict gun control laws, Needles just declared itself a “Second Amendment Sanctuary City,” an obvious play-on-words with the sanctuary city policies that apply to immigrants in cities like San Francisco and Oakland. Needless to say, immigrant sanctuary city policies are not popular in conservative Needles. In fact, the man who introduced Needles’ gun-sanctuary city policy, City Councilman Tim Terral, admits he “chose the word ‘sanctuary’ to take a stab at all the liberals. It was a little jab in the eyes.”

Needles is, needless to say, Trump country. It is more than 50% white, although that percentage has been shrinking in recent years as the Hispanic population, currently around 35%, increases. So conservative is Needles that when Cook ran for re-election in 2018, he faced, not a Democratic candidate, but another Republican. The Dems didn’t even bother to compete. Cook, who won, was endorsed by Trump and by the N.R.A.

I have never owned a gun. I’ve fired a few, for sports activities. I support the Second Amendment, but what ammophiles, like Cook, Terrel and other gun nuts never talk about is that section of the amendment that refers to “a well-regulated Militia.” It is one of the coarsest, most blatant Republican lies in history to conveniently forget that phrase and argue instead that the Second Amendment gives every citizen the right to own weaponry no matter how lethal it is: automatic weapons, tanks, perhaps someday even tactical nuclear weapons.

If that sounds absurd, then ask yourself what is the limit of weapon ownership in America? If you can legally possess an AK-47 then it’s only a slippery slope towards an even more deadly arsenal. As crazy as owning a tank sounds, the Founding Fathers would have thought it insane to allow a U.S. civilian to own a machine gun that can mow down dozens of people in minutes.

What is this so-called “gun culture” all about, anyway? Here’s what we know about it. They are practically 100% Republicans, and not moderate Republicans, but the most hardcore of the right. They are overwhelmingly white, and male. They are rural. They mostly do not have much money, and their educational level is low. They live in places that have very few Black people. They voted for Trump in overwhelming numbers; they’re the ones turning up at his rallies in their little MAGA hats shrieking “Send Her Back” or, in the last election, “Lock Her Up.” They’re militantly homophobic, they hate government (except when they’re collecting their Social Security, unemployment or Medicare benefits), they don’t much care for foreigners, and they use Jesus as an excuse for their bigotry. They use the language of self-determination to justify their peculiar addictions. “[Needles residents] should be able to govern themselves with certain things and make decisions that are best for their communities,” said a prominent Needles Republican activist.

Well, for sure. Who’s against self-governance? But by the same token the people of California should be able to govern themselves, and they have determined that there are too many guns, in the hands of too many unstable people. Part of the solution is to ban the importation of ammunition. If that means that Mayor Williams has to drive 140 miles each way to buy bullets for his Glock, then screw him. That’s his problem, not ours—and we Californians are going to make gun and ammunition ownership even more difficult in the coming years. If Mayor Williams doesn’t like it, let him move to Arizona.


Stone trashes gay rights, then says he was “misunderstood”

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Oliver Stone, the filmmaker, said something pretty stupid the other day, when he told Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom he was meeting, that Russia’s anti-gay laws are “sensible.”

In their conversation, the two men wandered into what seems like a weird area for the leader of a nuclear-armed country and a Hollywood movie director: gender issues. It’s not clear from the reports how they got there, but Stone began complaining about “some of the behaviors and the thinking of the new generation…about gender.” What specifically galls Stone is, in his words, “people identify themselves [as] ‘I’m male, I’m female, I’m transgender, I’m cisgender.’ It goes on forever…It’s not a healthy culture.”

Putin, who has presided over increasingly harsh anti-gay laws in Russia, was quick to agree. “They live too well. They have nothing to think about.” Again, it’s not quite clear what Putin meant by this insulting observation (“nothing to think about”??), except that he was agreeing with Stone. Then Stone made his “sensible” comment. Their chat had reverted to Russia’s notorious 2013 law (pushed by Putin) that criminalized “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships,” widely known as the “gay propaganda law.”

Passed by a vote of 436-0 in Russia’s parliament, it banned “the spreading of propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors,” and “made it illegal to equate straight and gay relationships, as well as the distribution of material on gay rights.” The law was heavily lobbied for by the Russian Orthodox [Catholic] Church, of which Putin claims to be a devout follower.

To understand the law’s impact, imagine such a ban here in the U.S. No gay magazines would be allowed to publish. No homophile films could be made (such as Bohemian Rhapsody, Call Me By My Name, or Brokeback Mountain). Schools would be forbidden to teach anything suggesting acceptance of LGBTQ people. Media commentators could be arrested for making pro-gay statements. Gay people would, in short, be “disappeared” from public discourse.

Why would Stone—born of Jewish and Catholic parents but a practicing Buddhist—be so fiercely critical of gay rights? It’s easy to understand why Putin is: in Russia, the Orthodox Church is just as hatefully intolerant as the evangelical churches are here in America. You would think that Oliver Stone would be more receptive to gay people, wouldn’t you?

But no. That conversation between Stone and Putin is best seen as a whine-fest between two aging, straight and rather angry white men, whose cozy, familiar world of heteronormativity is being challenged by a new generation of gender activists. This is hugely upsetting for Stone and Putin. They just can’t understand why everybody isn’t comfortable with the old roles: you’re either male or female, and that’s it. Why does anyone have to use non-gender-conforming pronouns like “we” or “it”? Why do transgendered people insist on using public bathrooms of the gender with which they identify? Why for that matter do people have gender-reassignment surgery? Why all the fuss?

Liberals and gay activists were quick to criticize Stone, who immediately went on the defensive. “Vladimir Putin is not anti-gay, nor am I,” he insisted just two days ago. Claiming that the whole issue had been “much misunderstood,” Stone trotted out the pro-gay themes in his films, including his 2004 movie, “Alexander” (a critical failure), which told the story (made famous by the writer Mary Renault) about Alexander the Great’s male lover, Bagoas. “I prominently featured Alexander’s love for the Persian eunuch Bagoas, certainly an example of a third sex and emblematic of Alexander’s world vision, which I much admired,” Stone argued. Then he added, “Do not bring American expectations to Russian life any more than you expect Iran, Korea, Venezuela, or China to follow our political or social demands.”

This is moral relativism of the highest order. Don’t tell the Ayatollahs that anti-semitism is bad, not unless you want them to lecture us on our racial problems. This false equivalency argument has never been productive. It lets oppressive regimes off the hook for muzzling their populations, and completely shreds the historic American ideals of equality and freedom.

If Oliver Stone can’t understand that LGBTQ members of “the new generation” are tired of being excluded by a straight culture that has never permitted them rights, that’s his problem. He ought to know better. One doesn’t expect anything from a man like Putin, but of an American who made Born on the Fourth of July, Wall Street, World Trade Center and Midnight Express, one should have higher, nobler expectations.

It is, admittedly, difficult to convince straight white men, who have never suffered discrimination based on their race or gender, that LGBTQ people might have a case. In this rapidly changing world, they feel the rug being pulled out from under their feet; indeed, this is why so many of them voted for Trump. But decent policies ought not be based on the fears and insecurities of bigoted people. The LGBTQ community and their straight supporters for many years have presented eloquent, detailed arguments for their positions. There has been no lack of information. Still, some opponents, including Oliver Stone, just don’t get it. It’s so odd. Stone has an entire body of work that critiques the American government for censoring truth and suppressing information. But when the Russian government does the same thing to gay people, suddenly that’s “sensible.”

I don’t buy it.


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