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“You’ve Got A Friend”: Italy’s Most Racist Politician Comes To Philly To Help Donald Trump

Matteo Salvini, Italy’s most openly racist politician and leader of the far-right Northern League party, loves Donald Trump. And The Donald apparently loves him back.

Salvini, who has called German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policy to accept Syrian refugees a disaster, and who has been pictured with a bulldozer on the edge of Roma camps, tweeted a selection of pictures of himself at a Trump rally in Philadelphia. In one, he poses with the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination in what appears to be a somewhat awkward “thumbs up” moment with the caption, “Go, Donald, Go!”

Salvini, who is in the United States to promote Italian culture (as opposed to any other culture), then met with Trump for around 20 minutes after the rally, which was held on April 25—the day Italy celebrates its liberation from fascism and a holiday Salvini does not celebrate. “Matteo, I hope you will soon become the prime minister of Italy,” Trump said, according to ANSA news service. Salvini then returned the sentiment, saying he hoped the Republican hopeful would be elected to the White House on Nov. 8.

The Italian politician is widely known in Italy and throughout Europe for his radical right-wing rallies, during which it is common for him to slip on a black shirt to pay homage to the Fascist era. His rallies have often included people waving photos of Benito Mussolini, who he has praised for his “efficiency” and “dedication” to the country.

It must be noted that Salvini and Trump also share a common anti-immigration attitude, and after the meeting said they were in “total agreement” on closed borders. Salvini, who also idolizes Vladimir Putin and has often railed against Europe as a whole, has previously argued that migrant and refugee boats should not be allowed to disembark in Italy, and called upon local governments to refuse to open refugee centers.

He counts among his friends some of the most xenophobic politicians in Europe. He has repeatedly invited French right-wing politician Marine Le Pen to speak at Northern League rallies and she has had him speak at at least one National Front rally in which she said, “He sends me into ecstasy” when she introduced him.

The openly racist politician is also critical of Pope Francis for accepting refugees. “With all due respect, the pope is wrong,” Salvini wrote on his Facebook page last week. “The pope wants to invite thousands of immigrants in Italy? It is one thing is to accommodate the few who escaped from the war, it is another to encourage and fund an unprecedented invasion. Dear Holy Father, the catastrophe is around the corner from the Vatican, is in Italy.”

He has also criticized Italian President Sergio Mattarella as a “sellout” and “accomplice” to illegal immigration.

It seems unlikely that Salvini’s extremist policies will ever win him the top seat in Italian government, but many have said that about his new best friend Donald Trump, too.

 

By: Barbie Latza Nadeau, Rome Bureau Chief for The Daily Beast, April 26, 2016

April 27, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Matteo Salvini, Racism | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Hypocrisy Watch”: When Bernie Sanders, Conventional Politician, Called For Still More Mass Incarceration

Could Bernie Sanders be starting to look ever so slightly like just another pol? Not to his besotted legions, of course. For them, nothing can tarnish the great man. But for other voters, the past week may mark a turning point in the way he’s perceived.

I have three events in mind. First was the Hillary-is-not-qualified business. Yeah, he walked it back fast, but not before he grossly mischaracterized what Clinton had said on Morning Joe and then went out and raised money off of his own mischaracterization! Far be it from me to suggest that the righteous one ever reads a poll, but I bet he does, and I bet his were showing that the controversy was killing him.

Second was the Vatican dust-up. What really happened there, who knows. But if your behavior leads two Vatican officials to start cat-scratching each other on the record, you have not won the morning. Given that he’s apparently not meeting with the Pope, I have no idea at this point why he’s even going. We all get that it’s a pander for Latino votes in New York, but why not just spend that time meeting actual Latino voters?

But third and biggest by far is Sanders’s continuing hypocrisy regarding the 1994 crime bill. Hypocrisy is a strong word. Is it fair? Well, he’s been going around for months criticizing both Clintons on the bill. But of course, as we know, he voted for it. And as we learned Sunday from Clinton surrogate John Podesta on ABC, Sanders boasted as recently as 2006 that he was tough on crime because he supported the ’94 bill.

Say what you want to say about the bill. It was really bad in many respects. It did help contribute to mass incarceration, especially of young black men. These arguments weren’t secrets at the time. Many people made them. In the House, about one-third of Democrats voted against the bill, most of them liberal or African-American (or both) critics of the bill on exactly these grounds. So Congressman Sanders was sitting on the House floor, or in the Democratic cloakroom, being exposed to these arguments, and he still voted for it.

He says it was because of the provisions that cracked down on violence against women. Fine; laudable, even. But if he gets credit for the good parts, don’t Bill and Hillary get that credit, too?

The story gets worse for Sanders. Over the weekend, an excerpt of remarks Congressman Sanders had inserted into the Congressional Record in 1995 started making the rounds. A debate was raging at the time about the crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparities (black people were more often arrested on crack charges, for which the sentencing guidelines were much harsher). The U.S. Sentencing Commission had recommended to Congress that it eliminate the disparity (PDF). It meant that Congress should do so by lowering the guidelines for crack so that they’d be equal to those for powder. Most Democrats, of course, supported this change.

Sanders? Well, he wanted to eliminate the disparity—but by raising the powder guidelines to those for crack! Here are the salient sentences, from the Record of Oct. 18, 1995, tweeted over the weekend by James E. Carter IV, President Carter’s grandson:

“This Congressman thinks that drugs are a scourge on America, and I strongly believe we must fight cocaine use in any form. We should be addressing the fairness issue by raising the punishment for powder cocaine, not lowering the sentence for crack offenses. I am deeply disturbed that this was not given as an option today.”

Well, I’ll give him this much. The Sanders option would have eliminated the disparity. But it would have done so by throwing millions more people behind bars for years, ruining that many more lives, black, white, and otherwise. It’s totally at odds with Sanders’s rhetoric, which I agree with by the way, about how we need to give young people from difficult circumstances more opportunity. Bernie wanted to give young people from all circumstances less opportunity. He may never have used the word “superpredators,” but he sure seems to have believed in their existence.

Why was Sanders such a law-and-order type? It’s hard to know, since of course he never talks about it and now says just the opposite, with all that imperious moral thunder that some find bewitching and others bothersome or bewildering. But this excellent Yahoo! News piece from early February lays the record out. He even voted against a bill in 1995 that would have established separate drug courts and taken steps to demilitarize police departments, preventing them from using any money in the act in question (which failed) for the purchase of Army-style tanks or aircraft.

It’s hard to imagine that crime was raging across the state from Burlington to Brattleboro. Maybe it was, by Vermont standards. Or maybe he just believed it was. But if he did believe it, he ought to just say so and explain why.

Hillary Clinton’s record on these matters is compromised as well. But at least the Clintons acknowledge error. Bill said last summer that the crime bill made mass incarceration worse. Hillary, in her first major speech of her campaign, also last year, ducked mentioning the crime bill by name but clearly spent parts of the speech criticizing it.

The Clintons, quite imperfect the both of them, live in a world where things are complicated, history advances and changes, and you have to rethink and explain. Sanders lives in a world where no explanation is ever required of him. Clinton has a week to change that.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, April 12, 2016

April 14, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Crime Bill 1994, Hillary Clinton, Mass Incarceration | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Talking Encourages Effective Change”: Obama In Cuba, And The Astounding Legacy Of A Pragmatic President

I’m old. Not as ancient as, say, the dinosaurs, but I’m certainly not young. In fact, I’m only a few years younger than the president, which, while young for the White House, is kind of old in my house.

How old am I? Well, I’ll tell you: I’m old enough to remember when all manner of things now the stuff of daily life were the stuff of Hollywood — the notion of an African-American president, for one.

Or, for instance, relations with Cuba. Are you mad, son? That embargo outlived the Iron Curtain! We will never have anything to do with Cuba (other than smuggled cigars) until the Castros are dead and a unicorn sits on a throne of dollars in the heart of Havana. The sky is blue, the grass is green, and Cuba is natio non grata, forever and ever.

Until this month. Until Sunday. Until, actually, December 2014, when the president announced, “Today, the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba” — an announcement which frankly left me gobsmacked and a little pie-eyed. I hadn’t been paying attention, you see, and seemingly out of the blue, this president had done the undoable, as if 50 years of human history could be changed with human hands. Now he’s walking around Havana and meeting with Raul Castro.

Or how about that other impossibility: U.S.-Iranian détente? I actually remember when the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was stormed. I’m also old enough to remember George W. Bush’s 2002 Axis of Evil speech, the one that torpedoed active Iranian cooperation with America in post-9/11 Afghanistan. And yet here we are, one president later, in possession of a nuclear deal with one of our most implacable foes, a foe that has in the meantime elected a slate of surprisingly moderate politicians to its parliament, reinforcing Obama’s position that talking encourages change more effectively than ceaseless saber-rattling.

Oh, I’m old enough to remember all kinds of things. I remember when “LGBTQ rights” were called “the homosexual agenda” and orange juice pitch-woman Anita Bryant told America that the gays wanted to hurt your children. I also remember the AIDS crisis, and how many people had to die before anyone in power began to treat them with dignity. I think that as a young woman I literally wouldn’t have been able to imagine a circumstance in which a sitting U.S. president would oversee the establishment of same-sex marriage as a constitutional right. Obama “evolved” on the issue, he told us — bringing America along with him, allowing us to evolve toward that more-perfect union of which our founders spoke.

And don’t think I’ve forgotten health care reform, which has been impossible since Harry Truman. I remember when the current Democratic frontrunner tried her hand at reshaping health care and got so badly burned that she and her then-president husband paid for it for years. Today, on the other hand, millions of Americans for whom basic health care was once as unimaginable as that unicorn in Havana now have insurance, and cannot be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions — such as, for instance, domestic violence or having a cervix. ObamaCare is, in many ways, feminism at its most brass-tacks, and I’m pretty sure Young Me also couldn’t have imagined having a president who is a feminist.

No one accomplishes anything on their own, no matter the office they hold. In the course of seven years, the president has had to learn from, respond to, and work with people ranging from grassroots activists to Pope Francis (while, it should be noted, the opposition party has done all it can to prevent him from accomplishing anything at all). And on many of these matters, Obama has just barely been ahead of the curve. When he announced the change in relations with Cuba, for instance, just less than half of Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade County supported the embargo anymore — down from 66 percent in 2004 and 56 percent in 2011.

The president has never been a revolutionary; to borrow from Lin-Manuel Miranda, he is and has always been a bold pragmatist — which is, in my book, a compliment.

I don’t want to give the impression that I agree with everything Obama and his administration have presided over. Ask me (or better yet, don’t) about Obama’s record on Israel/Palestine — or maybe talk to the Central Americans deported back to their home countries after fleeing unspeakable violence. To borrow from the internet, your faves are always problematic. My faves are, too.

And yet. There are days on which this old woman looks at her young president’s record, and all but falls out of her chair. The foregoing is but a partial list, missing many things Obama has accomplished or advanced that were, as far as I once knew, impossible or pretty near. The beautiful thing, of course, is that you don’t actually have to be old to see it — you just have to be paying attention.

Thanks, Obama.

 

By: Emily L. Hauser, The Week, March 21, 2016

March 23, 2016 Posted by | Cuba, Diplomacy, President Obama, Raul Castro | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An American Prayer”: Why Doesn’t Lindsey Graham Challenge The ‘Religious Climate’ Deniers In His Party?

Five years ago, the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza had a lengthy and fairly depressing report on the demise of climate-change legislation in the US Senate. Lizza included this interesting tidbit about Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who initially co-sponsored the climate bill with then-Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT):

At a climate-change conference in South Carolina on January 5, 2010, Graham started to sound a little like Al Gore. “I have come to conclude that greenhouse gases and carbon pollution” are “not a good thing,” Graham said. He insisted that nobody could convince him that “all the cars and trucks and plants that have been in existence since the Industrial Revolution, spewing out carbon day in and day out,” could be “a good thing for your children and the future of the planet.” Environmentalists swooned. “Graham was the most inspirational part of that triumvirate throughout the fall and winter,” Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, said. “He was advocating for strong action on climate change from an ethical and a moral perspective.”

But, back in Washington, Graham warned Lieberman and Kerry that they needed to get as far as they could in negotiating the bill “before Fox News got wind of the fact that this was a serious process,” one of the people involved in the negotiations said. “He would say, ‘The second they focus on us, it’s gonna be all cap-and-tax all the time, and it’s gonna become just a disaster for me on the airwaves. We have to move this along as quickly as possible.'”

Graham later washed his hands of the legislation under controversial circumstances, setting the stage for the bill’s death in July 2010. Graham’s abandonment of the legislation—just weeks after he had been touted as the future of climate leadership in the United States–was one of three major setbacks that year for those who longed for a bipartisan solution to the climate crisis, the others being Rep. Bob Inglis’s (R-SC) primary loss to future Benghazi bully Trey Gowdy (R-SC) in June, and Rep. Mike Castle’s (R-DE) loss to Christine O’Donnell in a Republican Senate primary in September.

Five years later, Graham is one of only two Republican presidential candidates (the other being former New York Governor George Pataki) who’s willing to acknowledge the reality of human-caused climate change. The problem is, Graham can’t seem to resist taking nasty potshots at climate-concerned progressives, as he did recently in New Hampshire:

Graham continued by contrasting Democrats who view climate change as a “religion” with Republicans that refuse to accept the mainstream consensus on climate science.

“It is, to me folks, a problem that needs to be solved, not a religion,” Graham said of climate change. “So to my friends on the left who are making this a religion, you’re making a mistake. To my friends on the right who deny the science, tell me why.”

The “religion” rhetoric, apparently borrowed from an ugly 2008 column by Charles Krauthammer, is silly, and Graham would be well-advised to drop it as soon as possible if he’s serious about once again bringing both parties together on this issue. If climate change is, according to Graham, a “religion,” that means Pope Francis is following two “religions.” Does that make any sense at all?

Instead of bashing progressives, why doesn’t Graham challenge the climate deniers in his party to travel down to his home state—recently devastated by fossil-fueled flooding—and tell the relatives and friends of those who died in those floods that human-caused climate-change isn’t real, and that we don’t need to take action? That would be far more productive than taking potshots at climate hawks on the left.

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 17, 2015

October 20, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, Climate Change Deniers, GOP, Lindsey Graham | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Cleaning Up The Last Bush/Cheney Mess”: There Is Almost Never A Way To Do So That Pleases Everyone

One of the sad realities of the Obama presidency is that he and his administration have had to spend so much of their time cleaning up messes that were left by Bush and Cheney. I won’t try to capture all of them, but two wars in the Middle East, an economy careening towards a second Great Depression and exploding federal deficits are the three big ones. When President Obama titled his 2015 State of the Union Address “Turning the Page,” a lot of what he was saying is that his administration was finally ready to move on from most of that.

But one intransigent mess lingers on…the prison Bush/Cheney built in Guantanamo, Cuba. President Obama is determined to close Gitmo before his term ends and the White House has been clear that they are drafting a plan to do so.

This week right wing media sites have gone a bit berserk over the fact that two more detainees have been released. The first was the man who was reported to be Osama bin Laden’s bodyguard.

The former detainee, Abdul Rahman Shalabi, 39, is from Saudi Arabia, and he was one of 32 Middle Eastern men who were captured by the Pakistani military along the Afghanistan border in December 2001 and turned over to the United States. He was among the first batch of detainees taken to the prison when it opened at the American naval station in Cuba on Jan. 11, 2002.

Second was the last of several British residents and citizens who have been held at Gitmo.

The Obama administration has notified Congress of its intent to send Shaker Aamer, a suspected al-Qaeda plotter held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for more than 13 years, back to Britain, yielding to a lengthy campaign to secure the British resident’s release, officials said Friday.

For a status update on where things stand with closing Gitmo, the New York Times has some helpful graphs. Of the 771 detainees who have been held there, 657 have been released and 114 remain. Of the 53 who have been cleared for release but are still there, 43 are from Yemen. The Obama administration has been reluctant to repatriate detainees to Yemen due to the chaos that currently exists in that country. Ten detainees have either been convicted or await trial. Finally, as a testament to how badly the Bush/Cheney administration handled all this, the remaining 51 have been recommended for indefinite detention without a trail – mostly due to the fact that evidence has been tainted by their treatment (read: torture).

In December of last year, Pope Francis offered to help the Obama administration in their efforts to close Gitmo. This is very likely one of the topics he and the President discussed in their one-on-one meeting this week. I would assume that the Vatican might be most helpful in working with countries to provide alternatives for the 53 who have been cleared for release. No matter how controversial plans for that might be, you can be sure that whatever President Obama proposes to do with the remaining detainees (10 convicted/awaiting trail and 51 to be indefinitely detained), there will be howls from both sides of the political spectrum. The left will suggest that they shouldn’t be held at all and the right will complain because President Obama’s likely solution will be to move them to a maximum security prison(s) in the United States.

I will simply say that one of the problems that is endemic to cleaning up your predecessors messes is that there is almost never a way to do so that pleases everyone. Nothing more ably demonstrates that than Gitmo. Perhaps the one thing that everyone can agree with is that President Obama deserves some credit for his determination to not leave this one to the next president.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 27, 2015

September 30, 2015 Posted by | Bush-Cheney Administration, Congress, GITMO | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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