Monthly Archives: August 2015

SELLING THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE

I want all of you to know that I’ve just developed this wonderful elixir that will alleviate or cure a host of various medical problems. Its known to reduce or eliminate the pain and suffering from arthritis, rheumatism, sciatica, gout, and many other maladies including diabetes and even cancer. And I’m offering this splendid tonic for only $40 for a month’s supply. It’s really too good a product to pass up. What, no takers? Well, how about this then. I also dabble in real estate and I’m willing to put on the market for a very low price, a bridge that connects Brooklyn with Manhattan. It’s the deal of a lifetime. A deal that you can’t afford to pass up. Still no buyers? Whew, tough crowd. I don’t see why people aren’t jumping to take advantage of these splendid offerings when apparently millions are buying into the same type snake oil that Donald Trump has been peddling. If anything, my promises would appear to be more credible.

For example, Trump promises that as president (a scary premise you can put together in time for Halloween), he will build a nearly 2000 mile long wall on our border with Mexico to keep out those dastardly illegal aliens. But the best part of this scenario is that he will get Mexico to pay the tens or hundreds of billions of dollars such a wall would cost. I can just imagine how this would play out. Trump calls Mexico with his request, and the Mexican president comes on the line and says: “But of course, Señor Trump. Anything for you. We’ll be delighted to furnish you the billions you need to build your wall. We’re rolling in so much cash here in Mexico that we don’t know where to spend it all.” And just like that the wall is built and paid for, almost overnight. Pure, unadulterated snake oil, yet Trump is leading in the polls for the GOP nomination.

To follow this premise to its logical conclusion, say the wall gets built and does bar undocumented migrants from entering our country through our southern border. So what’s next. Will those sneaky illegals then fly to Canada and come in through our porous, nearly 4000 mile long border to the north. Will this necessitate spending more gazillions of dollars for a wall on the Canadian border. What if the illegals get on rafts or dinghies and try to enter from the east or west coasts. More walls to erect, until we’ve totally boxed ourselves in from the rest of the world? Such is the mind-numbing blindness that Trump followers are so heavily infested with. Did I mention that Trump leads in all the polls for the presidency in 2016? At one Trump rally, a woman was holding a big sign over her head that read-“Thank God for Trump.” So let’s look past the hysteria over undocumented aliens, revved up thanks to Trump’s demagoguery and opaque salesmanship, to those pesky, deflating little items known as facts. Facts that demagogues such as Trump truly despise because they tend to deflate their hate filled balloons.

According to experts in the field, the undocumented alien population in the U.S. six years ago stood at about 12.5 million. Due to the economic swan dive the U.S. has experienced over the past 6 years, the illegal population in this country has actually declined to just a tad over 11 million. I guess many that came here figured out that conditions in this country were just as lousy as back home, and self-deported themselves, (as Mitt Romney might say), back to Latin America. With a U.S. population of some 320 million, the 11 million illegals here today represent less than 4% of the total. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of Americans have little or no contact with illegals. Another fact is that a good chunk of of the undocumented worker pool are people that entered this country legally, but who have stayed on after their visas have expired. So much for building those hideous walls.

Another demonization perpetuated by the illegal immigration demagogues concerns the status of “anchor babies.” Supposedly, pregnant  Hispanic women are entering the U.S. illegally, to give birth on U.S. soil, so that their baby has to be granted automatic U.S. citizenship according to the 14th amendment to the U.S. constitution. If the baby is an American citizen, so the argument goes, it’s all the harder to deport that baby’s illegal parents. First off, this occurs in a very few and insignificant instances. Secondly, it’s fascinating to watch all those right-wing fanatics who have been constantly berating the Obama administration for ignoring or flouting a ton of constitutional requirements, now willing to shred the clear and precise language of the 14th amendment, when it suits their purpose. I guess, in the end, it all depends on whose ox is being gored.

To be a successful demagogue several factors have to come into play. First, the aspiring demagogue must be highly skilled at salesmanship. Secondly, there has to be a small, rather defenseless minority within the country that can be demonized and scapegoated as causing the major problems that country is experiencing. That’s how Hitler was able to attain power in Germany during the 1930s. Hitler’s powerful salesmanship abilities were able to convince a well-educated, sophisticated, and cultural German populace that a small, law-abiding, defenseless Jewish minority was the cause of virtually all of that country’s ills at that time. We all know how well that scenario played out. Now Trump is in full throttle mode of demonizing undocumented Hispanics in order to become the most powerful man in the world. Once in power, he promises to have his forces go door-to-door if necessary, to round up 11 million illegals and deport them all back to from whence they came. The similarities with Nazi Germany are unfortunately all too apparent. The question is, will a majority of the U.S. populace be duped by this snake-oil salesman and grant him the power he so desperately seeks.

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BERNIE

Bernie Sanders, Senator from Vermont, is only the third openly avowed Socialist ever to be elected to Congress. The previous two won seats in the House but quickly faded from the scene. The most remarkable attribute about Sanders, however, is that at age 73, he still has the stamina and energy to traipse all over the country as he seeks the Democratic nomination to run for president. And he’s been drawing extremely enthusiastic crowds in the tens of thousands at various campaign rallies across the nation. Crowds that are a lot larger and far more enthused than anything Hillary Clinton has been able to generate thus far. His message of economic populism has resounded among massive segments of the population that believe they are being screwed over by Wall Street sharpies, banking institutions, hedge fund managers, and others with inside knowledge of how to manipulate the U.S. financial markets and economic systems. Basically, Bernie’s platform is one of redistribution of wealth. Take from those living in huge mansions, have private yachts and jets, drive top of the line Mercedes, etc., and give to those forced to live in rat-infested, crime and drug riddled slums, and not knowing when and where their next meal will be eaten. In effect, Bernie’s candidacy is an indictment of the very capitalist system that is the heart and soul of present day economics in the U.S.

Capitalism in this country has failed so many people for so long that massive crowds are turning to listen to Bernie’s message. Crowds that should have made the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, envious. Starting out as a huge underdog, recent polls show that Bernie is now within striking distance of Hillary overall, and is actual ahead of her in some early voting primary states. And why not? Bernie, even at 73, is a vigorous campaigner with a strong message for America, while Hillary is lackluster at best, during her campaign speeches. That might be forgiven where it not for the fact that Hillary has gotten herself entangled in some very messy “scandals” that have provided lots of fodder to her enemies. The latest one, of course, is her e-mail fiasco that has to be the very definition of self-inflicted wounds.

For some inexplicable reason, Hillary decided that she needed a server in her home in order to send and receive e-mails. Who does that? I have been sending and receiving e-mails on my computer for years without installing a server in my house. Beside it being prohibitively expensive, why would I need a server. Granted that Hillary’s e-mail volume vastly exceeds mine, but it still could have been handled without a server. The problem turns out to be that mixed among her private stuff, such as getting ready for Chelsea’s wedding, were also work related e-mails  in accordance with her job as Secretary of State. Critics are claiming that some of the work-related stuff was classified, some as high as top-secret. Processing classified information on a private, unsecured computer is definitely a no-no. To make matters worse, accusations are being made that she deliberately had the e-mails on her server erased so as to cover up the fact that she was processing classified info on an unsecured line. If any of this is true, we’re talking felony crime. Or, perhaps, more like felony stupidity.

Why would someone bent on becoming our first female president indulge in such risky behavior. Everyone down to the lowest mail clerk knows that any official government business, classified or otherwise, is the property of only the government, and only designated officials operating under strict rules have the right of disposal. But the Clintons, going back to their days in Arkansas, have a pattern of such dangerous undertakings. Besides Bill’s extra-marital dalliances, both Clinton’s were involved in some highly questionable financial schemes that edged right up to the line of illegality. Once in the White House, there was, of course, the whole Monica Lewinski fiasco. The only thing that saved Bill from being thrown out of office was Republican overreach. When the House voted to impeach him, Bill Clinton become a hugely sympathetic figure with the American public, and his approval ratings skyrocketed. Much to the GOP’s chagrin, its effort to have Bill removed from the White House totally backfired . A lesson they haven’t forgotten when there was some talk of impeaching Barack Obama.

Now, however, with this latest flare-up over Hillary’s e-mails, Democrats are becoming very frightened she will be inherently un-electable. That her campaign will go down in flames. This is also one of the reasons that Bernie Sanders is beginning to look more and more viable. But most people still are fixated on the fact that it is highly unlikely that a Socialist candidate can win the election. So Democratic pros are now turning to Vice-President Joe Biden to ride in on his white stead and save the day for them. Now, Biden is one of the most decent and honorable men in modern day American politics. The problem is, that besides being gaffe-prone, he’s rather colorless and endures a charisma deficiency. More importantly, however, he has suffered more tragedy in his life than most people can bear.

Many years ago, he lost his wife and infant daughter who were killed in a car accident. And just recently he lost his beautiful son, Beau Biden, age 45, to brain cancer. Beau was Attorney-General of Delaware, and every bit as decent and personable as his father. No parent should have to undergo that kind of nightmare. But the question is, after suffering such loss, would Joe Biden have the fortitude to mount an exhausting and depleting campaign for the U.S. presidency. Probably against the likes of a Donald Trump. So, as I’ve written before, the Democrats are caught between a rock and a hard place. And if they don’t figure it out soon, we could see the bellicosity and bullying of a bloviating Donald Trump in the White House for the next 4 to 8 years.

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THE KVETCHING SOCIETY

I’ve written before about Joey, our pet cat who is now 9 years old (middle-age for cats.) Joey has white and grey fur, sparkling blue eyes, and a bushy tail that seems to be in perpetual motion whenever she’s excited. But the most distinctive feature about Joey is that she’s a non-stop kvetcher. If she’s displeased about something, we will  hear about it in no uncertain terms. I don’t believe our previous cat, who was with us for 18 plus years, meowed more than a half dozen times during that period. But with Joey, it’s just the opposite. She started kvetching the first morning after we brought her home from the shelter as a 12 week-old kitten. I understood that she was upset because for her previous 12 weeks of existence, she was surrounded by probably hundreds of homeless cats, to say nothing of her mother and siblings. Now all her little pals were gone, and there were just these two strange looming figures towering over her.

To aver that Joey is doted on, pampered, and just spoiled rotten would be a vast understatement. She lives in pleasant surroundings, is well-fed, receives “treats” periodically throughout the day, receives fresh water twice a day, has her litter box cleaned as necessary, and gets periodic out-door time in our backyard each day. If the wife and I leave her alone for a few hours, say to go to dinner and a movie, she’s a nervous wreck. We have to pet and kitchy- koo her endlessly to soothe her frazzled nerves when we return home. But still Joey is unhappy, and kvetches away to let us know about it. And why is that you might ask.

Well, it’s because we don’t allow her to roam freely over the entire neighborhood as she so desperately desires. Besides it being verboten by our community regulations, her life would be in peril because of the wildlife inherent in this area of the country. Coyotes and bobcats exist in large numbers out here in the desert, and would enjoy nothing better than tearing apart a defenseless cat for lunch or dinner. One of them already did that to a rabbit it had trapped on our front porch.  What a delightful mess that was to clean up. Unfortunately, Joey is too innocent and naive to understand such dangers, or why her out-door time is restricted to supervised periods in our fenced-in backyard. And so she continuously kvetches away.

It has struck me, however, that American society has become a lot like Joey, always kvetching about one thing or another. Poll-after-poll in recent years has shown that two-thirds or more of the population is unhappy with the direction this country is headed. Some polls show that more than 70% are saying that the U.S. is on the wrong track, or that their children will have a bleaker or poorer future than they have had. So, you might ask, what is driving this sort of pessimism. As always, one has to return to those glorious days of yesteryear (as the Lone Ranger might have put it) to find the answers. Not as far back as when people had to traipse across the entire country in horse-driven covered wagons. Just a generation or so back to the 1980s.

In the 1980s, there were no cell phones, texts, apps, or calls for Uber to pick you up, etc. If you wanted to call someone, it had to be from a land line, and would connect only if the other party was at home. Computers were mysterious gadgets only located in offices to be used for business purposes. The first home computers started coming on the market around 1980, and were bulky, clumsy hunks of metal boxes. Hardly anyone bothered to get one. The internet, if it existed then, was in it’s infancy. The operating systems for these new computers were so slow and archaic, that one was tempted to claw his or her eyes out while waiting for a transaction to be completed. Cell phones and home computers didn’t start to take off until about the mid-1990s. Cable TV was also in its infancy a generation ago. And it wasn’t just electronics. Both high and lower priced cars were usually gas guzzlers, often prone to mechanical breakdowns. Today’s cars are vastly more reliable and energy-efficient. The same is true for home appliances, which use far less electricity or gas while giving greatly improved performances. I could go on, but you get the picture. So why all the kvetching.

Well, it’s about the economy, stupid, you might say. So, if that’s true, this time we only have to go back 6 years to 2009. If you’ll remember, the economy was crumbling under the weight of a vastly over-inflated housing market. The unemployment rate shot up to 10.5%. Today, it’s down to 5.3%. It seemed as if almost the entire housing market was “underwater,” i.e. homeowner’s mortgages war far higher than the property could sell for. People, by the droves, were abandoning their homes, i.e. walking away and leaving the banks holding what became useless paper. Today, the term-mortgages underwater- is seldom used as the housing market has begun to stabilize, with reality prices headed back up. Of course, there are still serious economic weaknesses, such as stagnant wages for middle class workers, or our mounting national debt. But compared to where we were a mere 6 years ago, vast strides have been accomplished.

Well, you might further say, if it’s not the economy, then it’s about foreign affairs. Yes, the threat of terrorism from Mid-Eastern Islamic fanatics is a constant worry, as well as, a rather poorly drafted nuclear agreement with Iran. But we should be comforted by the knowledge that we have the military capability to destroy both the Islamic-Jihadist infrastructure, as well as Iran’s nuclear capabilities should we decide to so deploy our forces. Perhaps the next president might decide to do just that.

Don’t get me wrong. This country has some very deep-seated problems, which I will be the first one to attest to. Almost all my blogs have been to examine those problems, and perhaps offer-up potential solutions. It may take a lengthy span of time and evolution, but most of the serious stuff troubling us today is solvable through rationality and wisdom. So when something like 70% of Americans pessimistically believe our future in indeed dark and bleak, I can’t help but feel that they’re acting a lot like my cat Joey. Welcome to the USA, the kvetching nation.

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