Monthly Archives: March 2015

APATHY AT THE POLLING BOOTHS

The very core foundation of a democratic republic as the United States pretends to be, is that the people get to choose who will govern the country through impartial elections. In short, the voting process becomes the overriding essence of democracy. But what if the people don’t show up to vote? What if they couldn’t care less? That, in a nutshell, is what happened in the 2014 congressional elections in which the Republicans not only swept both houses of congress, but almost all governorships and state legislatures as well. It turns out that only 36.5% of eligible voters made the effort to cast their ballots. Over 60% of eligible voters couldn’t be bothered. Most of those that stayed home tended to vote Democratic; hence the Republican sweep. Older people who are generally more conservative tended to vote in higher numbers; what else do they have to do with their time. The poor and sick, whom Democratic policies generally favor, comprised most of the non-voters, while the more affluent classes, whom the GOP favors, again voted above the norm. Add to that the endemic corruption of the American ballot process to begin with, through the powerful dominance of big money interests, and the growing movement in red states of voter suppression efforts such as picture ID requirements, and you have in the U.S. what I call a faux democracy. Turning out one’s base block of voters is not the only way to win elections. Keeping the other party’s voters from entering the polling booth in the first place, also works.

A little while ago, President Obama suggested that legislation should be passed requiring all eligible voters to cast their ballots at election time. Good luck with that. He pointed out that Australia has such a law that works well. But it’s a much too rational act for the U.S. ever to adopt. First of all, it would defeat the GOP strategy of voter suppression of likely Democratic adherents. Secondly, it could initiate a wave of sanity within the U.S. electoral process which would also be detrimental to Republican interests. Such as a constitutional amendment that would move Election Day from November to late September or early October, when the weather would likely be far more conducive to large voter turnouts. Farmers harvesting their crops is no longer a factor in the polling process as it was in the late 18th century when our constitution was written. Or how about making election time on a weekend when most people are home from work or school, and are thus, more available. And as long as we’re in this phase of sanity-fantizing, how about changing the nomination process so that all states would have their primary ballots cast on the same day in June or early July; instead of a handful of really small states essentially deciding early in the year, who will be one of the two people that will become the next president of the U.S. But, of course, all this is pure fantasy, and will have to probably wait for another few hundred years of human evolution to become a reality.

Thus, come election day 2016 we’ll be stuck with the same mess and clutter inherent in our polling system. As I wrote last time, since the Republicans are so much better at the politics of personal destruction which will become especially potent considering all the political baggage that Mrs. Clinton carries, the GOP would literally  have to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory to lose the 2016 election. I’m still going with my prediction that Senator Marco Rubio will be the next president, with a long shot possibility of Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin. Jeb Bush, who is supposedly the current favorite for the GOP nomination, will fade out quickly once Republican voters realize that he might possess a modicum of sanity and common sense. Can’t have something like that going on with Republican candidate, can we?

So assuming the GOP wins the White House and all of Congress, what would life in America look like come 2017. Let’s first start with the Supreme Court. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who’s well into her 80s, and has had some very serious health issues, apparently is determined to leave the bench the way Justice William Reinquist did many years ago, which was feet first. But how long can she last. One way or another, she’s almost certain to be gone during a Rubio presidency. That would give the the Republican president the opportunity to appoint another anti-abortion Justice to the Supreme Court, which would almost certainly be the death knell for Roe V. Wade. In the nearly 45 years since the Roe V. Wade decision came into existence, nearly 60 million abortions have taken place in the U.S. All that would be largely gone. The bible thumpers would be dancing in the streets with celebration. Immediately, the entire South and most of the Midwest would do away with legal abortion. It might still remain permissible in Northeastern and West Coast states, and perhaps in the upper Midwest. But it would be history everywhere else. So, a poor woman, in say, Alabama, who needs to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, and who couldn’t afford to travel to say, New York, would have no other option than to visit some back-alley butcher, as they used to be called. I’m sure they would begin to proliferate once again.

Continuing on the values page, every effort would be made to reverse whatever progress has been made in accepting gay marriage and non-discrimination of homosexuals. Guns and gun ownership laws would proliferate to the point of potential gunfights at the OK Corral nearly every morning with breakfast. I could go on but I’m sure you get the picture. On the budgetary side of the fence, those that are most down-and-out and most in need of government assistance will also suffer the most, while tax cuts for the rich would almost certainly be enacted. But the financial side deserves a whole chapter unto itself, which I will write about next time. Stay tuned if you care about what your future will look like.

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THE DEMISE OF THE DEMOCRATS

After the 2008 election the Democratic Party seemed to have it all. It had just won the Presidency with the first black ever to occupy the Oval Office, and it had elected overwhelming majorities to both the House and Senate. They had a clear mandate to enact their main policy objectives that had been bottled up for so many years under the Bush Administration. Or so it seemed. What could possibly go wrong. In a word – everything. Now, the Democratic Party is barely hanging on by its fingernails, and faces further electoral disasters come 2016. So let us go back a few years into recent history and examine how the Democrats managed to paint themselves into this unfortunate corner.

In 2008, the Democratic Party made history by nominating a young, inexperienced Barack Obama to be its candidate for president. It was the first time either major party had nominated an Afro-American for the highest elected office in the land. Obama, however, had only been in the Senate for 4 years, and had no real significant accomplishments. Prior to that he was a law professor. The inexperience shone through as he made a number of rookie mistakes during the campaign. The Republicans chose veteran John McCain, whom the polls indicated was reasonably ahead all summer long and into early September, and would likely coast to victory if circumstances remained the same. Of course, as we well know, they did not. The cracks in our economic wall began to grow ever wider, with the wall finally collapsing under a torrent of dismal economical news. The highly inflated housing bubble, along with the derivatives associated with that bubble began disintegrating. Lehman Brothers, a huge Wall Street financial giant, and a holder of much of these types of housing derivatives and other worthless securities was forced to go bankrupt because the Federal Reserve refused to bail them out, as it had with done other Wall Street enterprises. With the collapse of Lehman, financial panic came flooding in as stocks and bonds and other commercial paper plunged in value, almost over night. Companies started going out of business, the unemployment rate skyrocketed, and the housing market collapsed with large numbers of people being “underwater” on their mortgages. Some economists claim that the U.S. economy was just inches away from total disaster which would have included huge bank failures with people not having access to their accounts. Perhaps those that stuffed their life savings into their mattresses might have been immune.

Of course, when the economy goes south, the party in power takes the blame. In this case it was George W. Bush and the Republicans. With a tidal wave of bad economic news spreading over the landscape, the Democrats rode to impressive victories in 2008, and their future as being the dominant force in government seemed impenetrable. But, human nature being as it is, a huge victory often leads to hubris, which, in turn, sows the seeds of inevitable reversal and defeat. The Democrats main policy goal, at that time, was the enactment of universal health care legislation, which no previous president had been able to achieve. So, after much gnashing of teeth, the Democrats finally passed the Affordable Health Care Act, better known as Obamacare, which was neither affordable nor universal. The act was so cumbersome and distasteful to so many Americans, that the Democrats already began sustaining huge losses during the 2010 Congressional elections.

The problem with Obamacare is that it focused on providing health insurance to almost everyone, instead of providing health CARE for all. Once Congress became enmeshed in the insurance markets, it guaranteed there would be unbelievable complexity and dysfunction. Instead of trying to navigate through the details of insurance policies, Congress could have merely extended Medicare to everyone, and paid for that with a modest value-added tax on most products. No applications to process on-line, no forms to fill out. If you got sick, you would go to the doctor of your choice, who in turn would submit his form to the government for reimbursement. Have a toothache, visit your favorite dentist for treatment, who would likewise seek reimbursement from the government. That way, if you liked your doctor, you could really keep your doctor. But that would have been too smart and uncomplicated; virtues not in possession of most politicians.

The albatross of Obamacare continues to weigh heavily on Democrats. Obama did win re-election in 2012, but that was mainly due to Mitt Romney’s incompetence, and his ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. In 2014, however, the Democrats suffered huge losses at the polls, and are now the minority party in both houses of Congress. The Democrats further extended their losing streak to state elections. There are now Republican governors in 32 states, and most state legislatures are in GOP hands as well. Only 18 states have Democratic governors. The mood of the populace, and the election tidal wave seems to be flowing red. So now, a year and a half from the next presidential election in 2016, I’m going to make a flat-out prediction. I’m going to predict that Marco Rubio, Republican senator from Florida will be the next President of the United States.

The Democrats, once again, operating with colossal ineptitude and incompetence, have put all their eggs in Hillary Clinton’s basket. The problem is, that Hillary possesses so much political baggage from dubious schemes from her Arkansas days in the 1980s, to the whole Monica Lewinsky fiasco of the 1990s, to her time as Secretary of State when 4 Americans were murdered in Libya, including our Ambassador, in the 2000s, to the latest flare-up about her using a private server to process government e-mails while Secretary, that I don’t believe she’s electable. Plus the fact that at 69, Mrs. Clinton is showing her age. Not to be unkind, but the way Hillary appears in her later years is no match for the appearance of the youthful, handsome, smiling and friendly Rubio. He may not have a lot of charisma, (what Republican does), but he’s friendly enough to exhibit some degree of charm.

When men age, even if they look like beasts, it’s only to be expected. Everyone knows that down deep, all men are animals. So if they look the part, who cares? But if women begin to lose their beauty as they age, it does become a big deal. It’s the good old double standard, and it will work well to Rubio’s advantage. Unfortunately, the Democrats appear not to have a viable candidate outside of Hillary. If she goes down in flames, the Democratic Party will be on the verge of implosion. Perhaps they can convince New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to convert to being a Democrat and nominate him in 2016. It might save the party from total destruction. I’ll have more to say on this topic next time. Stay tuned.

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ANOTHER WIN FOR DYSFUNCTION

Last time I wrote about the deal emerging in negotiations to limit Iran’s capability to achieve nuclear weaponry. I pointed out that in its efforts to reach some sort of nuclear arrangement with Iran, the Obama administration is very likely to reach some terribly wrong agreement. Like allowing Iran to continue enriching uranium which is at the very core of a nuclear bomb. Or like setting a term-limit on the agreement reached to only 10 years. Which means that at the start of the 11th year, Iran could very easily start to assemble nuclear weapons on their assembly lines. In the meantime, Iran gets the benefit of a relaxation of all economic sanctions that most of the world has placed on it. Oil production would dramatically increase, and the Iranian economy would boom. But even worse than this deeply flawed treaty is the action of 47 Republican senators in sending a letter to the mullahs that exercise iron-clad control over that country. The letter, in effect, stated that any agreement reached between the Obama administration and the Iranian government will be short lived because when the Republicans take power in less than 2 years, they will likely chuck it into the garbage can. For mind-boggling recklessness and sheer outright stupidity, this action is almost beyond comprehension.

Let’s start with the premise that has supposedly been woven into the American landscape since the end of WWII. That premise states that the political divide in this country stops “at the waters edge.” This means that we can bicker internally about all sorts of political issues; but when it comes to dealing in foreign relations and with foreign governments, we speak with one united voice. How else can we successfully achieve our foreign policy objectives? As an analogy, lets turn back the clock to early 1940, when the Nazi military was on the march throughout Europe. The Roosevelt administration had established a “lend-lease” program to supply England with the vital weaponry it needed to fight Hitler’s troops as they threatened to invade the British Isles. If isolationist Republican senators who were opposed to this program had sent Hitler a letter at the time, saying “don’t worry about lend-lease. When we win the election slated for later this year, we’ll just toss that whole lend-lease operation into the trash bin.” One can only imagine the tragedy that would have ensued. Fortunately for us, and the rest of the free world, no such letter was ever sent. But that hasn’t stopped modern day Republicans, whose antipathy, or outright hatred of everything Obama, from going deeply beyond the waters edge.

The GOP excuse for writing that letter was that they wanted to explain to those crazy kids, the ayatollahs, that so-ruthlessly run Iran, about the intricate points of the U.S. constitutional form of government.  Right. If you believe that one, I’ve got a bridge that connects Brooklyn with Manhattan that I’ll sell you real cheap. First of all, by writing to the ayatollahs, the most fanatical and hate-mongering segment of Iranian society, and telling them that any pact reached with the current administration isn’t worth the paper its printed on, only reinforces the ayatollahs doctrine that the U.S. can never be trusted. That the U.S. is the great satan that must be destroyed, along with Israel, of course. That it’s an absolute moral imperative for every Moslem to seek the total destruction of the U.S. and Israel. So, any effort on the part of our current administration to reach some form of reasonable accommodation with Iran is now pretty much out the window.

At the heart of such recklessness is the GOP’s undying antipathy toward Obama and his administration. It explains the daily gushing river of vitriol and venom directed against not only Obama, but his Attorney-General Eric Holder, as well. The first black President and the first black Attorney-General of the United States. Day after day, this vitriol pours forth from Fox News and right-wing-whacko talk radio. But who could possibly infer that there’s anything racial going on here. A Rush Limbaugh or any of his wannabes would, of course, never admit to that.

The Republican mantra of hating everything Obama is further illustrated by the Attorney-General situation. Toward the end of 2014, AG Eric Holder announced that he was resigning and would leave office as soon as a new AG has been approved by the Senate. President Obama thereafter announced that he was nominating a New York prosecutor named Loretta Lynch to be the replacement AG. She would be the first black woman to occupy that office. The Senate panel overseeing such nominations declared that she was well-qualified and approved her nomination for a full Senate vote. The problem is that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, Republican from Kentucky, refuses to schedule such a vote. On the one hand, confirming Lynch’s nomination would be the quickest way to be rid of the despised Eric Holder.  On the other hand, Loretta Lynch would just be another Afro-American carrying out Obama administration policies. A female Eric Holder. What a conundrum. To vote her down would allow the racial disease within the Republican Party to become too obvious, even for voters that hardly pay any attention to such matters. So, at this point, it appears that the GOP has no end-game strategy, other than endless delaying tactics, until, they hope, time runs out on the Obama presidency.

Such is the state of of American politics in the year 2015. Every time one might think that we’ve hit a new low in political dysfunction, polarization, and hyper-partisanship, the political class seems to sink us even deeper into the quagmire of mud and slime. And it’s only going to get worse in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

 

 

 

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THE NUKES IN OUR MIDST

When Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, he spoke of his aspirations of having all nations that possessed nuclear weapons to begin the process of dismantling their nuclear arsenals. A lovely sentiment to be sure; but a highly unrealistic one, given that man is still pretty far down on the evolutionary chain. The U.S. and Russia have made some token reduction of their nukes; but each country still has an arsenal sufficient to destroy every living plant and animal on Planet Earth about 2 dozen times over. So while we can all dream of what a joyful relief it would be to live in a world without nuclear bombs, it likely will never happen in most of our lifetimes. Imagine what celebration there would be if the crazies that have turned North Korea into a giant concentration camp could be stripped of their nuclear weapons. It’s just not going to happen, however.

The subject of nuclear arsenals has become germane because the U.S. has been negotiating for perhaps over 2 years with Iran, to supposedly prevent that nation from acquiring “the Bomb.” Those of you that have read previous entries on this blog know that I’ve often referred to Iran as being the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Which they undoubtedly are. The ayatollahs that run that country possess a bottomless pit of hatred toward Israel, the U.S. and all western culture. The ultimate destruction of these countries and their culture is their undying passion. So Iran has been constructing deep underground sites all over the country where it has been furiously building atomic bomb capabilities, such as enriching uranium to nuclear explosive levels. This has been going on for over 15 years. These sites are buried so deeply underground, that it’s doubtful that even our most lethal bunker-busting bombs could destroy them. Israel wanted to bomb Iranian nuclear development sites in 2006 when it still might have been doable; but President George Bush would not give his approval. Already immeshed in 2 unpopular wars, (Afghanistan and Iraq), the last thing Bush felt he needed was a third military front. Today However, Iran has so improved its military capabilities that an Israeli strike would result in nothing but the destruction of the Israeli air force.

At the present, the Obama administration appears to be in its endgame of negotiations aimed at precluding Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed state. However, the details emerging from the results of these talks are highly disturbing. Apparently any agreement reached would allow Iran to keep enriching uranium, as well as spinning thousands of centrifuges, and continue building a giant plutonium reactor. All the ingredients necessary for a world-class nuclear arsenal. Wait, the news gets even worse. If an agreement is reached, it would contain a sunset clause, wherein any restrictions placed on Iran’s nuclear development would expire in 10 years. After that, those fanatical mullahs running the country can crank up their nuclear program at will, and produce enough enriched uranium to build a 1000 bombs. Now for an old guy like me, 10 years may be enough to squeeze thru this lifetime without a nuclear holocaust. But for you younger people, or those of you that have young children, it means living in a world where a country that despises us has a vast nuclear arsenal with an itchy trigger-finger.

But wait, this apparently deeply flawed treaty would produce even worse results. All economic sanctions and restrictions that we’ve placed on Iran during the past few years would be gone. These sanctions have taken a large bite out of the Iranian economy; but now they would be dissolved. This would allow the Iran to flourish; with trade relations resumed, oil pumping and sold on a world-wide market, and foreign investment pouring into a restored economy. The Iranian government would have additional resources to further enhance their military and nuclear capabilities. But wait, the situation is even worse than that.

Along with its nuclear bomb development, Iran has also accelerated a program of building intercontinental ballistic missiles, which are not even part of the present treaty negotiations. Now, why would Iran be desperate to possess an arsenal of ICBMs when its present collection of rockets could easily reach and destroy Tel-Aviv or any other Israeli city.  Here’s a hint. You don’t build ICBMs to put a stick dynamite on its warhead. However, a nuclear tipped ICBM could reach just about any target in North America, and destroy the despised western culture once and for all. And if such aggression would be too obvious and thus invite military retaliation, Iran has another option. Just build a suitcase sized nuclear device and hand one or two off to a terror group such as ISIS. Who, you can be certain, is working day and night to get their hands on such a nuclear device. Once a terrorist slips inside the U.S. with a nuclear suitcase bomb in his possession, the rest is easy. Just place the bomb inside a hotel room in Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, or any other major U.S. city, and slip back out of the country. When the bomb is detonated killing hundreds of thousands or more, and rendering that city uninhabitable for decades, Iran could deny any knowledge or responsibility for the calamity; and claim that it was solely the work of those crazy and barbaric ISIS terrorists.

If this scenario should ever come to fruition, the U.S. stock market would plunge to zero, and our entire economy would be as devastated as the city in question. The U.S. and the rest of the western world would be a whole different place, and not for the better. The Prime Minister of Israel is due to address Congress tomorrow and will likely warn how deeply-flawed is the treaty being negotiated with Iran. The Obama administration and various Democrats have loudly protested the PM’s address, believing it’s an undesired interference in the American political system. Nevertheless, the U.S. would be wise to heed his concerns. Apparently this administration is desperate to reach any nuclear arms treaty with Iran, no matter how deeply flawed that treaty may be. It’s true that there may be no desirable options regarding Iranian nuclear development other than more tightly increasing the economic sanctions we’ve place on Iran. But at least that’s something.

I used to think that the only thing positive about growing old was that I didn’t have to undergo colonoscopies anymore. But I think I’ve found something else. I likely won’t have to be around when the roof finally caves in.

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