Monthly Archives: July 2015

THE “WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME” SYNDROME

As I’ve written several times before, election results, especially in America, are determined primarily by those citizens that don’t vote, versus those that do bother to cast their ballots. Unless it’s a blowout landslide, such as Lyndon Johnson’s defeat of Barry Goldwater in 1964, or Richard Nixon’s 49 state sweep against George McGovern in 1972, it’s the stay-at-homes that are usually the decisive factor, especially in close elections. (You can add Ronald Reagan’s 49 state victory over Walter Mondale in 1984, to the few contests where non-voters were not a primary issue.) So who are these non-voters that decide most elections. Well, for the most part, these are people that are mired in deep and unrelenting poverty. People that will never hear phrases from others such as “good morning” or “have a nice day.” For those people living in rat-infested, and crime and drug riddled slums, who lack the resources to put food on the table for themselves and their children, it’s never going to be a nice day. Caught up in their own misery, despair, and sense of hopelessness, the last thing on their minds is finding a polling booth, and standing on line to cast a ballot for politicians that will invariably ignore their desperate plights in the first place. Hence the success of the Republican Party.

It’s no secret that the percent of people bothering to vote steadily increases with the amount of material affluence these people attain. The amount of wealth a person accumulates is in direct proportion to the fear among these affluent types, that forces within this country are seeking to to rob them of their wealth. Such as the wrong type of people in political office that would over-burden them with heavy taxes,  and redistribute their wealth to the poor. Who, in their minds, are either lazy, or shiftless, or too dumb to make a decent living. Or all of the above. Hence, the affluent naturally gravitate to the Republican Party, that continually promises to cut taxes mostly for the rich, as well as severely slash, if not eliminate welfare programs for the poor, such as food stamps, housing assistance, and medical care. Thus, the Democratic Party’s dilemma- the very people its programs are designed to assist, are the ones that barely show up to vote for them on election day.

The government calculates that about 16% of the U.S. population now lives below its officially established poverty rate, which equates to almost 50 million Americans. But it’s much worse than that, if you consider that the official poverty level is really a joke. The official poverty level for single people is about $13,000, and even less for old fogies like me. For a family of 4, it runs at less than $25,000. Try putting a roof over the heads of such a family, as well as feeding them 3 half-way decent daily meals, buying them clothing, transportation and communication means, as well as medical care, all for 25 grand a year. Of course, poverty levels vary significantly among ethnic groups with blacks and Hispanics bearing the brunt of having to live out their lives in squalor and despair. Poverty levels for those 2 groupings approach the 30% range, while for non-Hispanic whites, it stands at around 10%. The only thing saving these down-trodden poor are the government assistance programs that I mentioned previously. The very ones that Republican voters are so eager to dismantle.

It’s all part of the “what’s in it for me” mentality. The “as along as I have mine, the hell with everyone else” mindset. That’s why politicians from both parties seldom, if ever, talk about the plight of the poor. Political campaigning is always about the middle class, who actually do vote in ever increasing numbers based on their levels of affluence. It’s so much more fun for politicians to demonize undocumented immigrants, who are among the poorest of the poor, as Donald Trump has done so effectively in getting the middle-class all riled up. Rather than discuss real issues such as life destroying poverty. Speaking of Trump, which I discussed in my last entry, I failed to mention that back in 2012 when Trump thought he could achieve fame and power by joining the “birther” movement, he did receive some unexpected blowback. George Will, a conservative newspaper columnist, whose column appears in many papers across the nation, couldn’t take it anymore. He called Trump a “bloviating ignoramus” which helped speed up Trump’s political demise back then. This year, he’s bloviating about immigration. Anything to avoid the real issues of the day that afflict this country.

Back during the turbulent 1960s, of which I’ve written about often, the U.S. had 3 great leaders, who I believed could lead us to far better and more peaceful and prosperous landscape-namely Jack and Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King. After Jack Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated I wrote that Bobby Kennedy was our last best hope for a more humane society built on decency and compassion. For example, during his 1968 campaign for the presidency, Bobby would visit places such as rural Mississippi and find (usually black) farmhands living in the most dismal, down run shacks, amidst indescribable, bone-crushing poverty. He would tell the farm owners that he wouldn’t allow his dogs to live under such despicable conditions. The farm owners responses were often to threaten Bobby with bodily harm. After Bobby was also assassinated, I wrote that the U.S. had probably lost its last best hope for a more humane and just society, perhaps for all time. It seems those words are even more appropriate in today’s landscape.

So welcome to the what’s in it for me syndrome, flourishing so spectacularly amidst our instant gratification society. We’re just getting started in the demonization and bloviating antics that will only intensify over the next 15 months. Buckle up everyone.

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CAUGHT BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

In 2006, the Israeli government decided that it was necessary for Israel’s survival to destroy Iran’s budding nuclear bomb development. After all, Iran’s fanatical mullahs had threatened over decades, to destroy the State of Israel, and the quickest way of doing that would be for Iran to launch a nuclear missile attack. So Israel decided that a bombing raid on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be the most direct action necessary to prevent a nuclear armageddon. At that time such a military strike was still doable since almost all of Iran’s nuclear stations were either above ground or otherwise easily accessible. The mistake Israel made then, however, was to ask the United States government for permission to proceed with this action. At the time, President George W. Bush had the U.S. already deeply enmeshed in 2 Mid-East wars, (Iraq and Afghanistan) and he figured that the last thing the American public wanted to hear was U.S. involvement in still a third war in that region. There were already big-time protests against the 2 on-going wars, since there seemed to be no daylight at the end of the tunnels for concluding these wars. So Bush denied Israel’s request for military action in 2006, and a golden opportunity to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities was lost, probably for all time. Now fast forward to the mess we’re in today trying to prevent Iran from actually building an accumulating nuclear weapons.

Over the ensuing years, Iran realized how vulnerable their existing sites were, and thus started building new sites that were deeply underground and scattered all over the country. So deep underground that it’s problematical as to whether our most potent bunker-busting bombs could destroy such facilities. Iran also added thousands of centrifuges for enriching uranium to levels needed for nuclear weaponry. With this being the new reality, as we all know, the Obama administration has just concluded a treaty with Iran that would supposedly preclude the fanatically-driven Islamic-Jihadist mullahs who run that country from acquiring a nuclear arsenal. But the treaty is unquestionably flawed and virtually all Republicans and some Democrats, as well as the Israeli government are deeply opposed to its ratification. Nevertheless, this pact may be the only realistic option available for us to currently deal with this mess. In effect, we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.

The pact’s opponents rightly point out that Iran will still be allowed to keep thousands of centrifuges, still enriching uranium, but supposedly, to just below weapons-grade levels. A key aspect of this treaty was to allow United Nations weapons inspectors unfettered access to Iran’s nuclear development sites at any time, anywhere, and unexpected, in order to assure Iran’s compliance with treaty requirements. This provision, however, has been compromised to the degree that Iran will have some say in where and when U.N. inspectors are allowed to show up, and what they will be allowed to examine. In return the U.S. and its 5 negotiating partners have made huge concessions to Iran. About $150 billion of Iranian money that’s been frozen in U.S. and European banks will eventually be released back to Iran. A U.N. embargo on providing military hardware to Iran is to be lifted over time. And, Iran will be allowed to pump an export its full quota oil, which will do wonders for the currently wounded Iranian economy. All of this will be bestowed on the world’s number one Islamic-Jihadist state, who will then be free to further support murderous terrorist organizations such as Hamas, Hezbollah, the sadistic Assad regime in Syria, and other assorted cutthroats. All are valid arguments for opposing the treaty’s ratification. But it’s still not enough. Here’s why.

The only really valid option to not ratifying this pact would be to go to war with Iran. The U.S. could bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities around the clock and hope that its bunker-busters would reach down deep enough. But if we initiated such action, the Iranian government is not going to just sit back and sigh-” Well, we’re not happy about it, but I guess, that’s just how the cookie crumbles.” Instead, Iran would undoubtedly launch powerful missile strikes against Israel for certain, as well as against U.S. bases scattered throughout the Mid-East. An Iranian missile launch against Tel-Aviv alone could kill thousands, if not tens of thousands. Iran also has a fairly strong Navy that could bottle up that narrow waterway known as the Straits of Hormuz through which 17 million barrels of oil pass on a daily basis, most of it headed for Europe. Think our European allies would be delighted over that event. There’s also the likelihood that some Americans could be coming home in body bags. Think Americans would have the stomach for that. I’ve written in a previous entry about how the U.S. has become soft with its primary focus on achieving instant gratification, often through the latest in electronics such as the newest version of the smart-phone, or the latest in automobiles. Think Americans today would be willing to make the sacrifices needed to fulfill the military option, as they did during WWII. Think again.

That’s why none of the numerous Republican candidates for president are advocating military force, even though they’re all opposed to this treaty. Instead they’re claiming that we should strengthen the economic sanctions and trade embargoes that we and much of the rest of the world have placed on Iran. The trouble with that line of reasoning is that sanctions and embargoes can always be evaded. There are enough shady wheelers and dealers throughout the world, who, for the right price, will be more than happy to provide Iran with everything it desires, from weaponry to lettuce and tomatoes. That’s how Iran has been functioning all these years under supposedly severe sanctions. Yes, the people may suffer to some degree because of sanctions, but those fanatical mullahs will never give up their dream of a nuclear-armed Iran, no matter how much human suffering it entails. If we tore up this treaty as many Republicans are advocating, it would just give the ruling mullahs license to plow ahead unfettered in achieving their nuclear aspirations. To have the ability to wipe Israel off the map as they have so often stated. And to launch a nuclear strike against the “Great Satan” or America as we call it.

So there you have it- caught between a rock and a hard place. My feeling is that we should ratify this treaty, even with all its defects. It will, at least, slow down Iran’s impetus toward acquiring a nuclear arsenal, perhaps for a period of years or even decades. In the meantime, a regime change in Iran is always a possibility, which could alter the course of history.

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TRUMP’S DEMAGOGUERY

Americans have notoriously short memories. Most of us can hardly remember what we had for dinner last night, let alone the events that shaped this country’s political discourse a whole three years ago. For example, most Americans have forgotten that Donald Trump also ran for the Republican presidential nomination back in 2012, and also went shooting up quickly in the polls, only to flame-out, and tumble back down to earth. In 2012, Barack Obama was running for re-election, and Trump’s issue du jour was that Obama was really born in Kenya instead of the U.S., which would render him Constitutionally ineligible to occupy the Oval Office. In other words, Trump had joined forces with people that came to be known as the “birthers,” i.e. those that were so delusion- ally unhinged that they kept insisting that Obama was not a native born American. And not only was he not born in this country, but he was also a devout Muslim instead of a Christian. I mean, with a name like Barack Obama, how could he be anything else but a Muslim.

Never mind that Obama had a certified birth certificate issued by the state of Hawaii. Never mind that there was a printed notification in the local Honolulu newspaper announcing his birth. After all, if one is to act and behave in a delusional manner, one can’t allow pesky things such as facts spoil all the fun. So the more that Trump was criticized for throwing his lot in with the “birthers” the more he doubled down on his opinion that Obama was not a native-born American. Much the way he’s doubling down these days about how Mexicans are the scourge of American society. Back in 2012, however, it wasn’t until Barbara Walters, supposedly an old friend, told The Donald to knock it off with the “birther” crap; that he was just embarrassing himself. It was then that Trump had to return to the unfriendly and harsh world of reality. When he did, his poll numbers plunged like a ship’s anchor thrown into the sea, and he was finished politically, at least for that cycle.  As a side note, there are still large numbers of people on the lunatic right that still advocate for the delusional belief that Obama is a foreign born Muslim. But with only a year and half left of the Obama presidency, their cause has pretty much run out of steam.

So now we’re headed for the 2016 presidential election, and Trump again has political aspirations. Always the demagogue, Trump’s new cause, as we all know, is illegal immigration. It’s those rotten Mexicans coming across our borders illegally that’s screwing up American society. Everyone knows that these Mexicans are nothing but a band of criminals, murderers, rapists, drug dealers, etc. and that the Mexican government is only too happy to off-load these people into the U.S. But he, Trump, once he becomes president, will put a stop to such shenanigans. He will build a full proof fence along the entire Mexican border (almost 2000 miles) and get the Mexican government to cough up the trillion dollars or so, that it would take to erect such a monstrosity. How would he do that? you might timidly ask. No problem for Trump- he will just demand it of the Mexicans,and they will obediently acquiesce.

Back during the 2012 election cycle I wrote a piece in which I stated that Trump’s ego is so enormous that it makes the Grand Canyon look like a crack in your sidewalk. Nothing has changed since then, so I still believe that’s a pretty apt description. When Trump caught a certain amount of grief from some notable people and organizations over his remarks demonizing Mexican immigrants, he responded as he always does, i.e., by brashly doubling down on those remarks with more extremism and demagoguery.  But the sad thing is that large numbers of Republican voters appear to be lapping up that type of anti-immigrant extremism, the way a dog might be lapping up the water in his dish on a hot summer day.

Trump used to be pro-abortion until he started becoming seriously involved with the Republican Party. Now he’s anti-abortion. No problem. He used to be pro-gay rights until he did a 180 on that issue too. He used to favor increasing taxes on the rich, until he started favoring tax cuts for the wealthy. If you’re going to be a serious Republican, you obviously have to go all in. Besides, as I’ve said, people have short memory spans. The trouble is, however, that Trump has indeed tapped into a large cesspool of anger, hate, and a thirst for vengeance against Mexican immigrants, which says a lot about the state of affairs in the U.S. these days, none of which is good. The latest poll numbers show Trump at the top of the heap in the ever growing list of potential Republican candidates. Although some of these candidates have mildly criticized Trump’s language in demonizing Mexicans, not one will dare to disavow the basic anti-immigration message espoused in Trump’s speeches.

More troubling than Trump’s demagoguery is the willingness of so many Americans so willing to believe that if Trump becomes president all our illegal immigration issues will magically disappear. About 11 million illegal aliens will be put on some magic carpet an flown back from whence they came. A giant wall, about 2000 miles long will magically be built without costing us a penny. I guess the secret to a demagogue’s success is the gullibility of the people he’s preaching to. Of course, it’s likely that Trump will eventually flame out, as he did in 2012, or as soon as someone with considerable prestige tells him to knock this shit off. But it’s still upsetting to know that in America, as of today, there is such a huge cesspool of hate and desire for vengeance  against our next-door neighbor to the south. It speaks volumes as to who we are as a society.

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