Posts Tagged With: current-events

GENETIC PREDISPOSITIONS: PART II

When I was young, (yes, electricity had already been discovered and was in general use) there was term often used by newspapers and other media to disparage or otherwise shame certain members of society. That term was “being on the dole” and it came to signify those unfortunates that were having a tough time financially and required governmental assistance to get thru the transactions of day-to-day living. That phrase originated in England in 1917 and was in reference to benefits being “doled” out by the government to generally poor souls that couldn’t otherwise provide for themselves. Since the U.S. at the time, had a hard-core, laissez-faire, capitalistic type of thinking ingrained into most people’s psyches, having to receive government assistance was considered especially shameful. The mark of a slacker, one too lazy or otherwise too indolent to provide for themselves. Indeed, according to newspapers that were published in those days, no criminal’s deeds were as heinous as that of someone “being on the dole.”

With the advent of FDR’s New Deal, however, the use of that term began to lose it’s luster. It turned out that with the creation of Social Security and Medicare legislation, virtually all seniors were eventually “on the dole,” so to speak. More social programs regarding veterans benefits, student loans, housing and other government assistance came into being, so it seemed almost everyone “was on the dole” at some point in their lives, and that inglorious phrase was eventually tossed into the dustbin of history. It was to some degree revived in a new form during the Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s. The term “welfare queens” suddenly came into existence as racist code to denote single black mothers who were supposedly having babies out of wedlock in order to receive larger government welfare checks. When it was pointed out that the preponderance of welfare payments were being made to white people, that derogatory phrase also faded from the public forum. But the on-going efforts of the fortunate to stigmatize the unfortunate in some shape or manner continues on unabated.

This is kind of a long way around to come to the main point of how genetics is often the determining factor in the way our lives will unfold and the destinies in store for all of us. Some time back I wrote a piece called “Genetic Predispositions” which still receives “views” years later, and I thought I would update the original with additional insights. In the original, I cited some extreme examples of how one’s genes are often the determining factor of the life being led. How, due to genetic malfunction, some fetus brains are bathed in an overdose of serotonin while in the womb. Hence, when these individuals grow into adulthood, they cannot derive pleasure or comfort from those activities that normally satisfy most of us, and thus, are often likely to turn out to be brutish rapists or serial killers to satisfy their lusts. Even when the brain develops normally, genetic make-up is usually the name of the game.

Those whose DNA is formed with a talent for fiscal matters often do the best in our capitalistic society. Bankers, Wall Street brokers, hedge fund managers, entrepreneurs etc. often accomplish the most financially, and are able to lead the most luxurious materialistic lives. Not that such bountiful materialism necessarily translates into lifelong happiness and serenity. Just ask those who knew Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston for starters. All four of whom had not only acquired immense riches, but, also millions of adoring fans and worldwide fame; but still managed to kill themselves at a fairly young age. On the the other hand, those whose DNA thrusts them into the artistic side of human performance usually receive the short end of the stick from a capitalistic oriented society. Very few writers, artists, musicians, etc. receive just compensation for their efforts and often live in poverty throughout their lives. This could also result in early demise. Think Vincent Van Gogh or Edgar Allen Poe, neither of whom caught a break as far as public recognition of their talents while they were still alive, and who also died at an early age

Most of the rest of us are somewhere in the middle, living anywhere from relatively lower middle class, to reasonably comfortable lifestyles, depending on the talent programmed into our DNA. But what I didn’t mention last time are the environmental factors that one grows up with, that also have a huge influence on our future lives, and must be considered along with genes as one of life’s determining forces. An Irish poet put it best when he wrote that “They fuck you up your Mum and Dad; they fuck you up real good.” Those coming from abusive or dysfunctional homes where parents might be alcoholics, druggies, or child molesters, hardly have a chance in life, no matter how strong their genes may be. Some hearty, brave souls do manage to escape an horrendous upbringing, however, and go on to thrive in life.

It the end it virtually all comes down to a matter of genetic inheritance and environmental upbringing. I think, though, that genes are more of the determinant factor. As for me, at this stage of my life, I’m quite content to be “on the dole” and receive my government benefits.

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Economics, Health Care, Obamacare, human affairs, politics, Ronald Reagan, the Depression | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THE UN-TRUMP

As the Trump Administration lurches from one pending disaster to the next, the latest being the ill-conceived firing of FBI Director James Comey, one would think that the Democrats would have at least several young, ambitious, potential candidates to challenge The Donald in the next scheduled mud-wrestling challenge. Sadly, the Democrats appear to be too demoralized and apathetic to even enter the arena. They’re truly in a state of shambles. There seems to be no Young Lochinvar to ride in from the west on his trusty steed to save the country from the machinations of a demagogic president and his henchmen. But if there were such a bold, brazen Democratic senator for example, he or she might want to pursue the following path to a likely victory come the next election. He or she could start out by visiting college campuses and deliver the following speech.

“Good evening fellow students of LSU. I say fellow students because I am an alumni of this fine institution, being an under-graduate not that many years ago. Let me start off by saying that I am the Un-Trump. I live in a state of reality and sanity, rather than in a parallel universe of delusional paranoia. I don’t indulge in pathological narcissism, and I don’t try to cover-up wrong-doings that might of occurred on my watch with serial mendacity. I don’t indulge, every other day, in Twitter tirades against perceived critics or enemies, with all the fervor of an adolescent teen-ager whose ego has been absurdly bruised. I would not continue on the campaign trail long after the election is over, in a pathetic attempt to boost my sagging poll numbers. I would not enlist the help of Russia or any other country to hack my opponents computers or otherwise spread false news to assist my election effort. I would not attempt to bar peaceful citizens of any country, or nationality or religion from entering the U.S. for legitimate reasons. And if I am elected your president, I would not have members of the Alt-Right white supremacist movement as my closest advisors in the White House. To the contrary, I would employ the strongest of civil rights advocates. As I’ve said, I am The Un-Trump.

“And one other matter above all else. I surely would never build that hideous 2000 mile monstrosity on the Mexican border that will become known as the Trump Wall, if it does become a reality. Erecting such a barrier would not only be the biggest boondoggle in U.S. history, costing tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer money, its effectiveness in keeping out criminals or terrorists would range between negligible to non-existent. And that’s one of the reasons I’m appearing before you tonight. I need your help in assuring that the Trump Wall never becomes a reality. If, in fact, it appears that construction is about to begin on this fiasco, who among you will join me at the Mexican border to stand in the way of the tractors and earth-movers. In civil protest and disobedience, Ghandi-style. If a few thousand of us come down to the border and stand in the way of construction crews, this wall will not be built. Perhaps, if as many as 10 or 20 or 50 or even 100 thousand people show up to block construction, this hideous wall will never see the light of day. They couldn’t possibly lock up that many protesters. But remember, this would be an act of civil disobedience, with emphasis on “civil.” There can be absolutely no violence on our part, which would only serve to discredit such a protest. It must be 100% civil, the way Ghandi employed such tactics to free India from British colonial rule.

“In coming weeks I plan to visit more college campuses and other venues to elicit as much support as I can to block this impending insanity. So I ask, one more time, who will join with me in this act of conscience. Let me see a show of hands. Ahh, good. I see most of you are willing to support me in this crusade. It bodes well for the resistance. If it keeps growing, we can end all this craziness within a few short years. Remember, above all else- I am the Un-Trump.”

Alas, it appears, however, that there is no such young Democrat on the horizon that has that kind of energy and inventiveness. You might say Bernie Sanders; but he would be about 78 come next election, which really is too old. Elizabeth Warren is a possibility, but she’s not exactly a spring chicken herself. Lacking a Young Lochinvar, all you young people are faced with the bleak likelihood of enduring the Trump insanity for 8 long years.

One other thing. The crude vulgarity that Trump employed to fire James Comey was beyond comprehension, even for Trump. Comey had to learn about being dumped from a third party source as he was about to give a speech. It was obviously in retribution for the ongoing FBI investigation into the Trump team’s collusion with Russia to alter the final election results. The unceremonious firing was ironic also, since it was Comey that handed Trump the election victory on a silver platter. It was Comey, who 12 days before the election, stated that the FBI was re-opening it’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails processed on a private server in Clinton’s basement. If Comey had kept his mouth shut, Hillary would now be sitting in the Oval Office. And for that, the thanks that Comey received from the president this past week was to be sacked as if he was the janitor in the J. Edgar Hoover building in Washington D.C.

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Brexit, Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, Health Care, Obamacare, human affairs, Israeli-Palestinan Relations, Joe McCarthy, McCarthyism, World War II, Viet-Nam, Anti-Communist Witch Hunts, Army-McCarthy hearings, Islamic Jihadist terrorism, Soviet Union, Red China, politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FRANCE CHOOSES SANITY

How come the French were able to act so rationally when it came to their run-off presidential election held yesterday, while the United States behaved so badly in its presidential balloting held last November. How come France, by a two-thirds vote margin, was able to elect the candidate of moderation and common sense instead of the one pushing an agenda of white supremacy, economic supra-nationalism, and favoritism toward Russia’s tyrant Vladimir Putin, while we in the U.S. did just the opposite. Perhaps it’s something in the drinking water; or the outstanding quality of French wines.

In yesterday’s presidential run-off election in France, independent moderate Emmanuel Macron easily defeated National Front far-right candidate Marine Le Pen to win a 5 year term. At age 39 Macron is the youngest president in French history. His campaign rested on reviving France’s sclerotic economy which has been virtually on life-support since almost the end of WWII. France’s unemployment rate is more than double that of the U.S., and its economic productivity and growth rates are less than half of that in this country. Marine Le Pen’s demagoguery regarding those issues, however, never caught fire during the French campaign the way Donald Trump’s demonizing of those matters in the U.S. gave him an unexpected victory. Le Pen promised, if elected, to pull France out of the European Union, renounce the euro in favor of the franc, deny entry to Muslim immigrants fleeing into Europe from the Mid-East, and cozy up to thuggish Vladimir Putin in Russia while dis-engaging from NATO and the EU. Almost an exact female replica of Donald Trump. She called herself a “nationalist” as Trump’s key advisor, Steve Bannon, has described himself. In both cases, the term “nationalist” was code for white supremacist.

Of course, Le Pen was fighting a huge uphill battle to begin with. Her father, Jean Marie Le Pen, who had founded the National Front party in the 1970s, was notoriously bigoted, especially toward Jews. He was a Holocaust denier exhibiting a distinctly fascist profile. Marine tried to scrub off her party’s bigotry, but her whitewash job didn’t work as well with the French electorate as it did here in the U.S. with Trump’s demagoguery. Perhaps the fact that France suffered for five years under the heel of a fascist tyranny until liberated by the Allies a mere 72 years ago might have been a factor. A five year span when virtually every French Jew was rounded up by French quislings and sent to Nazi death camps. In any event, Macron won handily as Hillary Clinton should have done in the U.S. election, except for monumental Democratic incompetence and blunders.

So now, instead of living with a Clinton Administration of moderation and rationality, Americans are forced to cope with the right-wing agenda and hysterics of the Trump follies. Jeff Sessions, the arch-typical white southern bigot from Alabama that Trump made his Attorney-General, wants to deny the growing number of states that have legalized marijuana, the right to do so. He would still have the Feds go after and prosecute marijuana sellers as well as buyers. (Whatever happened to the GOP’s insistence on “states rights.”) And forget about anything resembling civil rights enforcement coming out of the Justice Department. Meanwhile the top priority of the moment for Trump and his Republican Congress is to repeal and replace Obamacare. They shoved such a bill through the House, which is long on repeal and minutely short on replace. So what if the poor that can’t afford health insurance become gravely ill. I guess they should just curl up in a ball and die somewhere, so as not to bother us righteous folk that do have health insurance. Some 20 million people that were able to sign up for Medicaid under Obamacare, as minimal as that is, are now in jeopardy of losing that coverage under the Republican proposed legislation. Supposedly, the GOP plan will be drastically overhauled when the Senate takes it up.

And the beat goes on. Next up on the Trump agenda is income tax overhaul. The proposed legislation is once again distinctly Republican. Heavy tax cuts for the rich, with a few crumbs tossed to the middle and lower classes. Trump in this instance is following Ronald Reagan’s formula of large tax cuts for the upper classes while substantially increasing our military and defense spending. The same formula that started us on the road to the $20 trillion budget deficit this country now so sublimely endures. How does that line go- the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Trump, always the comfortable occupant in his parallel universe of delusional paranoia, recently said words to the effect that a government shut down is needed in this country, and is long overdue. Current appropriations to keep the government running expire on September 30 of this year. Congress must appropriate and the president must sign new legislation to keep the government operating for the new fiscal year starting October 1st. Trump has threatened to veto any new appropriations that don’t contain funds to build his myopically insane border wall with Mexico, or don’t slash funding for agencies that he considers useless such as the National Institutes for Health, or the Environmental Protection Agency and a host of others.

These and many, many other examples are the consequences of a Trump versus a Clinton regime in the White House. The consequences of less than a hundred thousand votes going the wrong way in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Anyway, congratulations to the French for finally doing the right thing. After the Brexit vote in England, and the Trump victory in the U.S., it seemed like the end of Western civilization as we know it; but France has shown that it doesn’t have to be so. Perhaps we should all move to France.

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Brexit, Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, Health Care, Obamacare, human affairs, politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THE FRENCH CONNECTION

No, I’m not writing about the excellent movie, a few decades ago, that dealt with drug dealers and won numerous awards. Instead, this piece is about the recently concluded presidential election in France, and its remarkable similarity to the U.S. balloting concluded last November. The only thing different about these two elections is the role reversal of the major candidates. In France the female candidate is the white supremacist, xenophobic candidate while her male challenger is the voice of reason, moderation, and sanity. The irony of these 2 electoral predicaments  couldn’t be more stark.

France has a slightly different method of voting than the U.S. In their first round of balloting held this past Sunday, 11 candidates ran for the office of the presidency. With so many choices it was predictable that no one would receive the 50% threshold level needed to avoid  a run-off. So on May 7, a second round of voting will take place pitting the 2 highest vote-getters, Marine Le Pen of the National Front far right wing party against Emmanuel Macron, an independent moderate. One could rightly view Le Pen as a female version of Donald Trump, as she is running on a platform of anti-immigration, white supremacy, withdrawal from the European Union, demonizing minorities, and cozying up to Russia while abandoning relations with other Western countries. She wants to withdraw from the euro as France’s currency and reinstate the franc. Macron, conversely could be considered a male version of Hillary Clinton as he seeks to strengthen ties to the EU, as well as strengthening France’s famous safety net for the poor and disadvantaged. He would keep the euro in French circulation. Right now, political pundits in Europe are claiming that all French citizens that are not neo-fascist will coalesce behind behind Macron and give him an easy victory in the May 7 round of balloting. Trouble is, these are the same pundits who predicted that Clinton would coast to a sure victory over Trump. London bookies were giving 5 to 2 odds on Clinton being the next president.

Marine Le Pen, aged 47 and twice divorced mother of 3, inherited the mantle of the National Front party from her well known father, Jean Marie Le Pen, who got the ball rolling on the far right of the political spectrum in France in the early 1970s. At first considered a fringe lunatic, Le Pen and his party has slowly gathered steam over the ensuing decades to the point that his daughter is now on the threshold of becoming the next French president. What held Jean Marie himself back from achieving that goal, was his openly virulent brand of anti-semitism. He would often pooh-pooh the fact that the Holocaust ever occurred in the first place, or that 6 million Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps. He stated that a 500 page book on WWII would hardly devote 2 pages to the gas chambers, so inconsequential was their existence. It appears that there was still enough decency in France to not allow that type of rhetoric to occupy its presidential palace.

Marine Le Pen, learning from her father’s mistakes, has down-played the National Front’s overt Jew-hating. Instead she focused her bigotry on the surge of Muslim immigrants trying to flee to Europe from the nightmare wars and acts of terror on-going in the Mid-East, especially Syria. As Trump attempts to slam the door shut in the U.S. to any further Muslim immigration, Le Pen campaigns on enacting the same Muslim prohibitions in France. As Trump’s demagoguery against Muslims (and Mexicans) gained big-time traction in the U.S. among white voters, Le Pen’s anti-Muslim rhetoric has found favor among a large chunk of the French voting populace. (At least she hasn’t expressed any anti- Mexican sentiments thus far.) While it’s true that France and Germany as well as other European countries are being swamped with immigrants from the Mid-East, it must be remembered that these people are fleeing for their and their family’s very lives; and to deny them safe refuge exhibits a special type of heartless disregard.

Some years ago, a movie called “Ship of Fools” was produced based on a real life occurrence that took place shortly before the out break of WWII. It told the story of a group of German Jews attempting to escape Nazi persecution, and hiring a cruise ship to transport them to a safe harbor in some foreign country where their lives would not be in jeopardy. They literally sailed around the world looking for a safe port of debarkation but every country refused them entry. Including the U.S., which then had Franklin Roosevelt as president, supposedly a great friend of the Jews. In the end, they were forced to return to Germany where they were then slaughtered in the Nazi Holocaust. Such was the mindset of their fellow human beings around the world.

So, it will be interesting to see if Marine Le Pen, like her fellow demagogue, Donald Trump, can parlay French fears of being overrun by Moslem foreigners, into the presidency of her country. If she does, it will have huge adverse consequences not only for Europe, and the EU, but for the U.S. as well. But perhaps this time around, the French will exercise better common sense and sanity than Americans did last November, and elect the candidate of decency and humanity to their highest office.

 

 

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, human affairs, Isis terrorist attack in Paris,, politics | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS GONE….”

I’m one of those people that faithfully reads the obituaries every day in the morning newspaper. Perhaps it’s because, as the old joke goes, I’m checking to see wether my name is listed there or not. Well, this morning’s obits had a bit of surprise for me. Listed as one of life’s casualties was a person that I had gone to college with named Reuben Goldstein, so many decades ago. He too was my age and born and raised in Brooklyn, but unbeknownst to me, was living in Las Vegas well before we had moved out here. I guess we were like two ships passing in the night. How unfortunate.

In those days of yesteryear (as the Lone Ranger might have said) I went to City College in Manhattan. It’s now called City University of New York or CUNY. Living in Brooklyn, I had to walk 12 blocks to the nearest subway station and take the train for about a 45 minute ride into Manhattan. A total joy in freezing cold, or rainy or snowy winter days. This station was elevated (above ground) and Reuben was often already there for the morning commute before I had arrived. When he saw me approaching, he would call out my name and shout that he would wait for me even if a train was pulling into the station to pick up passengers. And so he waited until I arrived and we then took the next train so that we could commute together and avoid the loneliness and monotony of those daily subway rides.

Reuben was not a great student as I came to realize when we sometimes did homework together after class. It turned out to be mainly a case of me helping him cope with subject matter that seemed to baffle him. In the end I wound up doing most of his homework in addition to mine. It wasn’t long after I graduated, that I latched onto a cushy assignment in Europe for three years (which I’ve written about in previous pieces) and lost complete contact with Rueben. That is, until now, when his entire life’s journey is summed up in a very brief paragraph in the daily obits. How sad. In those days, tuition at City College amounted to a $10 registration fee per semester for New York residents. When I had to spend $50 each term for school books, (used, of course) I considered it an outlandish rip-off. A subway ride initially cost a nickel then, and when it was raised to a dime, New Yorkers howled in protest, as if they were being slaughtered by Jack the Ripper. I don’t even want to know what obscene amount is being charged today. Garbage was picked up 6 days a week, even in poor neighborhoods like the one I grew up in. Now you’re lucky if they come around once a week. Is this what they call progress?

The title of this piece is taken from a song made famous by Peter, Paul, and Mary. It’s an anti-war song about loss and death, which Reuben’s passing made me think of. Speaking of P,P,&M, the wife and I saw them perform here in Las Vegas when they were well into their sixties, or perhaps older. I’ve often written that Las Vegas is where dead performers can come back to life. For a fraction of the price that it would cost to see a headliner like, say, Celine Dion, perform at a strip hotel, one can see a has-been  perform at an off-strip hotel. Think Frankie Valli, and the Four Seasons. And so it was with Peter, Paul and Mary, who were well past their prime when we saw them go on stage at one of the local hotel/casinos. Peter and Paul were in reasonably decent shape but Mary had aged considerably. I remember in her youth, with her long blonde hair and bangs tossing about as she performed on-stage with huge vibrance and vitality.  Now she had gotten fat with multiple ailments and had to walk on-stage using two canes and sit while performing. Their voices were a whisper of past glories. The audience sat there respectfully, knowing it was likely to be the last time they would come together on-stage. Mary, sadly, would die not that long after, at the premature age 72. And so goes the cycle of life and death.

Today I also learned that a man my age, who lived in my community, and who we used to socialize and play cards with, also just died, this time from cancer. Add one more to the obits list. Indeed, where have all the flowers gone. Turned to dust, every one.

 

 

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OF PATRIOTS AND SCOUNDRELS

Most or all of you probably never hear of Major General Edwin Walker. He fought in WWII and then in the Korean war, and as I indicated, rose to the rank of major-general. But he was heavily invested into deep right wing politics, which at the time, (late 1950s to mid-1960s) meant being virulently anti-communist, and preserving Jim Crow racist segregation laws that existed throughout the South, and to a lesser extent in the North. In September, 1957, the courts decreed that segregation in the Little Rock Ark. public school system was unconstitutional, and ordered the schools to be immediately integrated. The man that was Governor of Arkansas at the time, a delightful chap named Orval Faubus, was thoroughly racist and a firm believer in segregation. So when 9 black school children tried to enter what was then an all-white high school, Faubus ordered out the Arkansas national guard to block their entry into that school. After trying for 18 days, unsuccessfully, to persuade Faubus to reverse course, President Eisenhower ordered federal troops into Little Rock to escort the 9 black children into an all-white school. Leading those federal troops was General Walker. Although, as I’ve said, he was a staunch believer in segregation, he was, nevertheless, forced to obey his commander-in-chief’s orders. With that, a major hole in the wall of segregation that the South had erected, was blown open. Of course, the white population of Little Rock were beside themselves in fury at the forced school integration; and Faubus described the federal troops as an army of occupation.

Although being forced to command the troops that led the way to successfully integrating Little Rock Central High, Walker never changed his segregationist views. He became prominent in the John Birch Society, which was not only a virulently anti-communist organization;  but also a strong advocate of racial segregation. They believed that segregation was God’s will, so that anyone opposing segregation was obviously a godless communist or communist-sympathizer. In the early 1960s, after being accused of trying to indoctrinate his troops with John Birch Society propaganda,  Walker left the Army and began making political speeches around the country. He called Eleanor Roosevelt and former President Harry Truman communist sympathizers. He flew the American flag upside at his Texas home to demonstrate that the U.S. had been taken over by commies and pinkos with the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960. Then in 1961, the courts ordered that a black man named James Meredith be allowed to enroll at the all-white University of Mississippi, (Ole Miss.) The Governor of Mississippi at the time was Ross Barnett, who made Orval Faubus seem like a mild-mannered pussy cat.

Barnett went on a fiery, speechmaking tour throughout the state, with Edwin Walker at his side, denouncing the evils of integration, and the big, bad federal government that imposed such evils. After all, the Feds actions were clearly unconstitutional; a violation of states rights enumerated in the tenth amendment. States rights became the rallying cry for allowing the South to maintain its segregationist laws. Sound familiar? Aren’t states rights kind of what the tea party looney-tunes, and far right politicians like Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum are speechifying these days. In any event, there was a drumbeat of how states rights and the constitution were being violated because the walls of Jim Crowism seemed to be crumbling. Edwin Walker went throughout the country giving speeches about how godless communism was taking over the country with advent of integration. The sad thing was that he drew crowds numbering in the tens of thousands or more, all wildly cheering virtually everything he said. He ran for Governor of Texas, but even that deep Southern state rejected his craziness. He died in 1993, declaring to the end that godless communism was destroying America. Oh, and James Meredith was eventually admitted to Ole Miss, which further led to the destruction of Jim Crowism in the South.

This is sort of a long-way around of coming to the point, which is the National Rifle Association convention held in Houston, TX last week. The same sort of right-wing whackoism that was on display around 50 years ago regarding violation of the 10th Amendment’s states rights, was similarly on display at the NRA convention regarding the Feds violation of the 2nd Amendment regarding the right to bear arms. The parallels are remarkably eerie. Over 70 thousand people purportedly attended this convention to hear speaker-after-speaker denounce the Federal government for trying to pass some mild legislation that would prevent people with serious mental problems from obtaining firearms. Why this legislation was just a ruse to confiscate guns from honest, god-fearing gun-owners. Everyone there knew that Barack Obama would personally give the order for the military to roll their tanks down every street in the nation; and go door-to-door confiscating everyone’s firearms. That would leave all the honest folk defenseless against all the bad guys out there who apparently had no trouble at all obtaining guns. But the NRA, which is now supposedly 5 million strong, vowed that they would never allow this type of unconstitutional heresy to occur. Any politician supporting any type of gun control would be made to pay dearly, come election time. And, of course, chief among the speakers denouncing these supposed 2nd Amendment rights violations, were Rick Santorum and Sarah Palin. What’s that old saying-the more things change, the more they stay the same.

In 1775, British poet, philosopher, and essayist Samuel Johnson, issued the famous statement that-“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Watching the antics going on at the NRA convention, one couldn’t help but think that did he ever hit the nail on the head.

 

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ARBITRARY VALUES

“But square-cut or pear-shaped, these rocks won’t lose their shape; diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” So sang Marilyn Monroe, provocatively, in the 1953 hit movie-“Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” I believe she was also accompanied by Jane Russell, another one of Hollywood’s sexiest bombshells. And it’s true, not only for girls, but for guys too, if you’re among the fortunate ones to have been able to acquire and hold on to diamonds through the years. Priced in the thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars depending on the size of these carbon-based stones, diamonds have produced extraordinary monetary value throughout the centuries. But what makes these stones so valuable when compared to other stones that are more readily available. As I’ve said, diamonds are almost exclusively carbon-based, and carbon is one of the is one of the most common elements on the planet. Coal is also exclusively carbon-based, but no one pays comparable prices for coal as they do for diamonds.

It’s often the assignment of of arbitrary values by mankind that prove to be durable throughout the ages, that determines value. In the case of diamonds, it’s based on the fact that they are the hardest, most imperishable, and brilliant of what are considered precious stones. They’re formed when carbon deposits begin to harden deep within the Earth’s surface and under enormous pressure. This pressure results in diamonds being thousands of times harder than corundum, the next hardest substance, and from which rubies and sapphires are formed. Their hardness is often valuable in certain commercial enterprises, when cutting through other hardened materials can only be accomplished by diamonds. And diamonds can also be made in factories. But these have only a fraction of the value of those dug out of the ground. In the end, what determines the monetary value of diamonds versus any other stone dug out of the ground, or made in a laboratory, is whatever mankind is willing to pay for these items.  A totally arbitrary process.

The same is true with gold, another element dug out of earth. Throughout mankind’s history, gold has been put on a very high monetary pedestal by virtually all societies. Being more durable, and perhaps considered more beautiful than other minerals, gold has been often used as currency from before ancient Roman times, by almost all civilized societies, or what have been considered civilized societies by various historians. It could just as well have been copper, or nickel, or bronze, or any other metal. But gold was the chosen one, (to a lesser degree, silver also.) There go those arbitrary values again. Adding more to the value of diamonds or gold and silver was the prestige factor of ownership. Having lots of gold and diamonds has meant that you own membership in the most elite, privileged, and powerful sectors in any society. Membership based on stones and metals dug out of the earth. How arbitrary.

Which brings to the usefulness of gold as a currency in the U.S. Since 1879, the U.S. had been on a monetary gold standard, which meant that gold coins could be used interchangeably with paper currency. Supposedly, paper bills could be exchanged at any bank for gold coinage, and there had to be a fixed amount of gold held by the Government to support the entire supply of paper money. But in 1933, with the Great Depression in full swing, Franklin Roosevelt, on becoming President, declared a bank moratorium to prevent further bank failures. As part of this moratorium, banks were to end the practice of issuing gold coinage in exchange for paper fiat, and everyone was required to turn in all the gold coinage they owned (except for a nominal amount), and receive paper bills in return. The price of gold, then at $21 per ounce, slowly rose to about $35 an ounce over the next several decades. But as Government budgets kept expanding with the expansion of the welfare state, it became more and more impossible to tether the amount of paper currency in circulation to the amount of gold held at Fort Knox.

Thus, in a stunning reversal of previous history, and having no other choice, President Richard Nixon, in August, 1971, announced this would no longer be U.S.policy. That the U.S. would no longer convert dollars to gold at a fixed value, and  big banks, foreign governments or any other holder of U.S. debt, could not ask to be repaid in gold. Since then, the amount of paper money in circulation has expanded dramatically. The price of gold has rocketed from $35 an ounce to about $1600 an ounce (and an ounce is an awfully small quantity.) The price of gasoline has gone from about a quarter a gallon, to near $4 a gallon. Indeed, the dollar today will buy only one-sixth of what it could buy in 1971. And the amount of Government debt, which totaled $1 trillion from the beginning of George Washington’s administration to the early days of Ronald Reagan’s administration, (1981), now totals almost $17 trillion. Add to this, the fact that we are accumulating debt of nearly $1 trillion a year, and the fiscal picture looks none too rosy in the coming years.

Also to be considered is the fact that the Federal Reserve is currently “buying” most of the newly issued Government debt. While the Fed is supposedly quasi-autonomous, it really is an arm of the Government. Thus, you have one portion of Government (the Fed) “buying” the debt issued by another portion of the Government, the Treasury Department. Talk about an incestuous relationship. The Fed really doesn’t have money of its own, so it, in effect, just “prints” money to buy all this debt. The money supply keeps expanding and the value of this money keeps decreasing. Maybe those old-fashioned arbitrary values like the gold standard weren’t so bad after all.

So how do we get out of this mess. We start by raising the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare to 70, dramatically cutting the Defense budget so we are no longer the world’s policeman, raising taxes on the wealthy who can well afford such increases, and eliminating the considerable amount of Government waste that currently exists. Know any politicians that have the “stones” to make that happen?

 

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GERALD ON THE FISCAL CLIFF

I ran into my friend Gerald again, and this time he was sort of ranting about the fiscal cliff.  When he found out that his taxes would go up significantly in January because of Congressional inability to renew the Bush tax cuts, he became even more visibly upset than when he lost his money betting on Romney to win the election. Once again he asked if I could write a blog letting the world know what he thought of this Congressional inaction. Once again I reminded him of how easy it would be to obtain his own blog and write whatever he wanted. Gerald still wasn’t in the mood to do this. I then told him I would not write another entry trying to capture the way he thought about things. Finally, Gerald asked if I would “lend” him my blog, just this one time, and he would do the writing. Despite deep misgivings, and against my better judgement, I reluctantly agreed, this one time. Besides, I had actually gotten some favorable comments on his previous posting. So from this point on, the keyboard is in Gerald’s hands. You may find the verbiage a little “earthier” than I would normally use.

To All The Morons Currently Running Congress:

What the fuck is the matter with you people. You can’t bring yourselves to slightly upping the tax rate on really rich guys, so I’m going to have to cough up several grand more out of my pension. Are you really that imbecilic? What, the rich don’t have enough mansions, or yachts, or private jets? The guy with the 12 car garage still needs a couple of Rolls Royces to fill in 2 empty parking spaces? Not only is your inability to get your act together going to cost me several thousand bucks, but more money will also be  taken out of the Missus social security check. When she heard that she nearly exploded. She threatened to go to Washington and have out with all you imbeciles. Believe me, you don’t want a confrontation with the Missus when she’s angry. I guarantee it wouldn’t be pretty.

Normally, I don’t give a fuck that you do virtually nothing on Capitol Hill except fight with each other. I’m usually too busy making my weekly contributions at the craps tables or the sports books at the Strip casinos to give a damn. I know that a productive week for you people is to declare May 14 as National Walnut Day, or some piece of shit “legislation” like that. A normal work week for you people is usually Tuesday – Thursday, anyhow. Then you leave town Thursday night or Friday morning, and don’t come back until Monday night. And that’s if there’s no holiday at the time. If there is a holiday, then it’s an automatic 2-3 weeks off from your “arduous” labors. My cousin Stan, who works down at the auto shop is more productive than you guys. True, he comes in most mornings with a bad hangover, and needs a few gulps from his silver flask to get himself through the day. But at least he shows up for work most mornings, and unlike you morons, actually fixes cars now and then. What do you guys ever accomplish for the couple of hundred thousand they’re paying you?

And you Republicans especially take the cake. First you blow the presidential election by pissing off women, blacks, Hispanics, Asians and other minorities. Women were especially pissed off when those 2 idiots you put up for the Senate in the mid-west came out with their crazy anti-abortion rhetoric, allowing the public to see that your party was swimming out there in looney-tuneville. At least, one would expect that if they did harbor such crazy ideas, they would be smart enough to keep them to themselves. But no, they had to blab them for the whole world to hear. As the Missus would say- they have shit for brains. So who’s left that’s still on your side. Us white guys?  When we go over the fiscal cliff and we start bringing home smaller paychecks, who do you think we’ll blame- Obama or the Republicans. I’ll give you a clue. It won’t be Obama. So the only ones still left in the Republican Party will be the bible-thumpers and the billionaires. Good luck winning elections with that as your base. Shit for brains.

If  I get a smaller pension check, I won’t be able to go down to the Strip and keep the casino workers so gainfully employed taking my money. Plus less people will come to Las Vegas to gamble away their kids college funds, or their retirement savings. This will raise the unemployment rate here in Nevada, which is already the worst in the country. Huge chunks of Las Vegas away from the Strip are already abandoned and look like ghost towns. When the fiscal cliff comes in January, it will only get worse. So here we are on Christmas eve looking at a bleak future. Between the tragic shootings in Connecticut that killed so many innocent, precious  children, and the looming fiscal cliff, there isn’t a lot of merriment going around. Ho, ho, ho.

Well I don’t want to seem to be too judgmental. I am judgmental, of course, but I try to fake not being so. Maybe, at the last moment, you esteemed Congressmen and women will pull a rabbit out of the hat and actually fix the tax situation. That will only leave the mind-boggling deficit, the high unemployment rate, the weak economy and Iran getting a nuclear bomb to worry about. I don’t have high hopes for fixing those things either. But I guess, what will be, will be. In the meantime, stay well, have a happy holiday season, and at least pretend you’re doing something meaningful for the country. As always, I remain:

Your humble servant, Gerald P.

 

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A LETTER FROM GERALD

My friend Gerald is still expressing anger and frustration, if not out-right bitterness, at Mitt Romney’s election loss, and does not hesitate to express his wrath every time I run into him. I told him if he was that angry, why not at least send the Romney camp an e-mail expressing his frustrations. He replied that he did that, but with the likely tens of thousands of e-mails they receive, his probably won’t get read. Next, I mentioned that I get to express my opinions on a blog, and that he could very easily set up his own blog, and vent away to his heart’s content. But Gerald didn’t think that was a good idea. He basically views a home computer as a way to obtain as much free stuff as humanly possible, or to play video games. Which is actually a step up, since in his younger days he believed it existed to surf the web for free porn. Besides, he said, outside of the election, what would he write about. His never-ending losses at the craps tables, or from betting on the ponies? He further stated that he was a lousy writer anyhow, but since I already had a blog, would I write a letter to Romney expressing his views, so others could share in his feelings. With great reluctance, and despite knowing better, I finally agreed. So the following is a letter to Romney written from Gerald’s perspective as best that I could capture it. I may have interjected some of my own thoughts, but Gerald had the final say as to content. Changes or deletions were made at Gerald’s behest.

Dear Mitt:

What the fuck? How could you have you have possibly lost the election to the worst President we’ve had since Jimmy Carter, or more likely, Herbert Hoover. You should have won in a landslide by 15-20 points. The way Nixon trounced McGovern in 1972 when he carried 49 states. Or the way Reagan beat Mondale in 1984, also carrying 49 states.  Instead you blew what should have been a sure thing. You did the near impossible; you managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Plus, you cost me a wad of cash when I so foolishly bet on you, because the local casinos were giving  much better odds on your victory versus Obama winning. Yes, that part’s my fault, since I well know from hard experience that the sports books are not in the business of losing. Nevertheless, you are not absolved from blowing what should have been a sure thing.

Here we are with the worst unemployment rate we’ve had since our troops hit the beaches at Normandy, to say nothing of a lagging economy that’s going nowhere, and a real estate market that’s still in the dumpster. Add to that oceans of read ink with a $16 trillion plus debt, and annual budget  deficits well north of a trillion dollars every year. Add to that the fact that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are bankrupting us to the point that we’re running out of places on this planet to borrow money. Even China has a limit as to how much we can borrow from them. We’re soon going to have to look for life on Mars or Pluto or somewhere, to see if they can lend us a few bucks. In other words it was a presidential candidate’s best possible scenario for winning an election, but still you blew it. So instead of being the most powerful man on Earth, there’s a picture of you on the web pumping your own gas, and then, probably on your way to the store to buy some detergent.

I know why you lost too. You had this habit of saying one thing one day, and then a completely opposite thing the next day. Okay, so maybe it was years instead of days, but you get the picture. The Democrats may be total incompetents, but they’re not entirely stupid. All they had to do was run an ad from when you said (in the 1990s) that like your mother you were strongly pro-choice on abortion, and showing it side-by-side with you saying that now you’re pro-life and opposed to legal abortions. The same thing on a whole bunch of other issues as well. You thought people wouldn’t be paying attention and would never notice. But you were wrong. Say or do anything to get elected? Most people consider that spinelessness. Having no core values tends to worry a lot of folks. Like bringing the hammer down on undocumented immigrants which you did so effectively during the Republican debates. I know you felt you had to go hard right during the primaries so that the looney-tunes, crack-pot element in the Republican Party would vote to give you the nomination. But did you think that Hispanic voters were not paying attention? That there would not be retribution from Latinos on election day. Or how about your comments that 47% of the populace were basically freeloaders. Or your “binders full of women” comments.  Or that you were a “severe conservative.” For a supposedly smart guy, you sure made a lot of stupid mistakes.

Still, when you came on like gangbusters during the first debate, while Obama basically snoozed, I had renewed hopes that my casino bets were not in vain. Things finally seemed to be going your way. Of course, by that point, as I said earlier, you should have been ahead by at least 15 points. Still, I thought, alls well that ends well, and a win by inches is as good as a win by miles. And then another rotten break-hurricane Sandy. When Chris Christie put his arm around Obama and praised him for coming to N.J. after Sandy’s devastation, I knew it was all over. I could see the local sports books already breaking open the champaign bottles bought just with bets that I had unwisely put down.

Please understand that I harbor no grudges. What’s done is done. Mistakes were made but that is the nature of life. Of course it would be nice if you could see fit to reimburse me for my betting losses, being the rich guy that you are, but I’m not holding my breath. You are obviously a good person and a very decent family man, even if you did send for take-out from Boston Market for your Thanksgiving dinner. I figured a guy with your money would have at least had a catered affair. Even I, with a tiny fraction of your money, took my beautiful wife out to some place nicer than Boston Market. In any event, as I’ve said, there’s no bad feelings. I wish you and your family good health and a happy future.

Your devoted servant,   Gerald P.

 

 

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BRAND NAMES

One of the more curious events of the recent Republican convention that was totally under reported by the media, was the fact that neither of the last 2 Republican Presidents, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush were not only not invited, but were never mentioned during the convention process. On the other hand, Bill Clinton, the last Democratic President before Obama, was hailed at the Democratic convention as the second coming, and one could almost see a halo ringing the top of his head when he gave his convention speech. This despite the whole Monica Lewinski scandal thingy. Yet both Bush the Elder and Bush the Younger were both persona-non-grata at the GOP production. Although I disagreed with some of his policies I always considered the elder Bush to be a man of integrity and decency. At least, for a politician. But, I guess, that since he’s a pretty old man now, and he did lose his reelection bid, were factors leading to his aura of invisibility at the Republican festivities. The younger Bush, who also possesses a high level of decency, was made a non-person as far as Republicans were concerned, for several reasons. One, of course, was the economic crash we endured during the last 2 years of his presidency, which got us into the mess that we’re still trying to emerge from today. But the other reason was that W. showed too much moderation for today’s GOP, which has swung totally over to the dark side of political fanaticism. After all, it was under Bush’s reign that the Medicare drug benefit was enacted and federal aid to education, as well as other social programs, was significantly increased.  Can’t have that, as far as today’s Republicans are concerned.

Regarding the economy, however, the economic disaster in 2008 was not Bush’s fault,  nor is it ever the President’s fault. Although Democrats in general, and Obama in particular, have made lifetime careers out of blaming Bush for the bad economy, the reality is that the fault lies in the inherent nature of our capitalist system, and the speculators that try to game the system. In the 1920s, the economy was on a roll and the stock market was booming. It was known as the roaring ’20s. There were big profits to be made in the stock market, and investors were making money hand-over-fist. It really didn’t matter what stock a person bought, the stock market could only go one way, and that was up. Or so the speculators and other capitalistic gamers would have you believe. Until one day in October 1929, someone took a second look at what was supporting highly inflated stock prices, and found there was really nothing there. Word got around, and sooner rather than later, panic began setting in. People started selling their stocks in a mass frenzy, and the entire market collapsed. We all know about the great Depression that ensued, and the misery that America went through for about a dozen years, until WWII pulled us out the hard times.

Similarly, in the 2000s, capitalistic speculators zeroed in on the real estate market where values could only go one way, and again, that was up. Whereas, in previous decades, people bought houses primarily for living quarters, in the early 2000s, speculators were grabbing houses to to make big, quick and easy bucks. Indeed, we bought our house here in Las Vegas in the year 2000, and saw the property nearly triple in value before the roller-coaster ride came to an end sometime between 2006-2007. Almost on a weekly basis, I would tell my wife that our builder had increased the prices of new homes by somewhere between 25,000 to 50,000 dollars, and she would shake her head and utter words of disbelief. We saw speculators buying up scores of houses in our development, in one get-rich-quick scheme after another. Until, as in 1929, someone took a second look, and asked how real estate prices could possibly be so astronomical, given what was being offered for those prices. As previously, panic selling started to set in, and speculators were dumping their properties on the market for whatever price they could get. Today, my house is back down to roughly what we paid for it almost 13 years ago, which is okay since we bought it to live in, not for speculation. Plus, I have the satisfaction of knowing that many speculators and gammers were financially ruined when the housing bubble burst.

Of course, the greatest economic downturn since the great Depression resulted from the bursting of that bubble, and the economy continues to limp along weakly since 2008. Once again the flaws of our capitalistic system raised their ugly heads. But Mitt Romney and the Republicans see the poor economy as their pathway to the presidency and perhaps full control of Congress. Just blame the high unemployment rate and huge deficit spending on Obama and the Democrats, and winning in November should be in the bag. So why isn’t it. When it became a sure thing that Romney would be the Republican nominee back in April or May, and given the lousy state of economic conditions, I expected His Mittness to open up at least a 10%-15% lead in the polling numbers. Yet here we are, a little over a month from balloting time, and the latest polls show the race to be a dead heat with Obama actually having a small lead. What happened?

Could it be that the Republican brand of politics just isn’t selling too well? That the GOP way of fixing the economy by giving tax cuts to the rich while sharply cutting Government spending for the poor, sick and elderly, is not the way many people view reality. You know, that pesky 47% of us always looking for a Government handout. Including veterans from Mid-East wars with brain damage, blindness, missing limbs, or PTSD that insist on asking the Veterans Administration for benefits. Or perhaps those obnoxious seniors always carrying-on about their Medicare or Social Security benefits being tampered with. Or perhaps those receiving food stamps, where the GOP wants to make substantial cuts. After all, if you have no money to feed yourself, is it really the Government’s responsibility to keep you from starving to death.

Or perhaps people are objecting to the Republican brand when it comes to social issues. Like the Republican platform that would not allow any abortions, even in cases of rape, incest, or where the mothers life is at peril. Or the GOP guy from Missouri running for the U.S. Senate, claiming that a woman’s body would take care of her in cases of “legitimate” rape. (I would hate to see what illegitimate rape looks like.) Or the Republican continuing war against gay rights and gay marriage. Thus, in a year when a bad economy should enable the GOP to sweep into power, Republicans, as I said previously, have gone so far over to the dark side of right-wing whackoism, that the race for both President and Congress remains exceedingly close. I still think that Romney will likely win, because he has more billionaires willing to spend whatever it takes to get him elected. But by this point in time it shouldn’t even be close, except for the Republican brand of extremism. And as I’ve said many times, Mitt Romney remains the best candidate the billionaires could buy.

 

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