Posts Tagged With: elections

THE WAY THINGS OUGHT TO BE

People have told me that I focus too heavily on all the corrupt and dysfunctional behavior in our society and the world at-large, and not enough on finding solutions to all the myriad of problems I’ve identified. Of course, in almost all instances, the solutions lie in applying a rational, common sense approach toward resolving these issues. But rationality and common sense are often too much to ask of people mired in delusional wastelands, or caught up in the philosophy  of opposing any meaningful change in their lives, or in society as a whole. The way it’s always been has to be the way it always will be, without exception. Life is so much more uncomplicated if we just follow the old traditions, no matter how non-sensical they may be. In any event, I thought I would offer up some solutions to what seem to be intractable deficiencies in the way we go about spending the few short years we have on this planet.

Lets start with the presidency. No matter how corrupt and dysfunctional you may view politics in this country, there is no denying that the President of the United States is the single most powerful person in the world. This is true whether you love or hate politics, or whether you make the sign of the cross to ward of being involved in the political system, as one would try to ward off a vampire attack. The President is the ultimate leader, not only for this country, but for the entire world population. It would, therefore, seem prudent that the process for choosing this person would be well-thought out and highly rational. Instead, just the opposite is true. We have a system for presidential candidate selection that would make any third-world, banana republic blush in shame. First of all, we have essentially a 2 party system that has been hopelessly compromised because of special interest groups. The Republican Party caters to the agenda of religious fanatics, (they call them evangelicals in this country. Sounds so much better than looney-tunes, bible-thumpers.) Also to big money interests in business and on Wall Street. While the Democratic Party is beholden to labor organizations like the teachers unions, and to environmental extremists. These groups represent supposedly the base of each party, and are never to be offended, especially in an election year. There are some third party candidates; but they never seem to garner any traction, and usually wind up getting less than 1% of the vote. And sadly, a third party, beholden to no special interest group, is just what this country needs.

Next comes the party selection process. This would appear to be crucial since one of the two people selected by each party will wind up being, as I’ve said, the most powerful person on the planet. Unfortunately, the selection process has turned out to be a farce almost beyond description. Each party has, what are called primaries, with the earliest one being in January for an election that won’t take place until early November. The small state of New Hampshire used to hold the first primary in February; but then, the even smaller state of Iowa decided to jump the gun. Iowa holds what is called a caucus in January so it can be the first one diving into the political swimming pool. A caucus is where a tiny fraction of the state’s population meets in somebody’s house, or perhaps a school room, and votes on their preference for their party’s nomination. It’s considered a lot if 1 or 2% of the state’s populace bothers to vote in the caucus. Nevertheless, it gives the winning candidate a leg up for winning future primaries and caucuses, at least as far as the media is concerned. Next comes the New Hampshire primary, where also a small number of people turn out to actually cast ballots in an election booth. If a certain candidate wins both the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, they’ve garnered huge momentum going into the rest of the primaries, at least as far as the media is concerned. As a result, it’s often likely that that each party’s nominee has the nomination just about locked up before any of the larger states such as New York, California, or Texas hold their own primaries. How irrational.

The sane way would be to have national primary day in late June or early July, whereby all states would vote in either party’s primary on the same day. And instead of being held on a Tuesday, when most people have to be on the job, hold the vote on a weekend when most people are off, or don’t have school. Wouldn’t that be a lot more logical. You might even get better quality candidates this way. But one can almost hear the howls of protest should such a plan be proposed. Especially from people in Iowa and New Hampshire who would lose their special shining spotlight in the primary process. Can’t have this new-fangled thing called sanity entering our political system.

While we’re at it, lets change the time of the actual presidential election to perhaps early October. When the November timeframe was specified in the Constitution, the U.S. was almost exclusively an agricultural society. Our framers believed that by early November, all the crops would have been harvested on American farms, and farmers would no longer have the chores of bringing their produce to market. Today, only 1% of the population is engaged in agriculture. Isn’t it time to change election day to a period when mild weather prevails. We only get about a 60% turn out for a presidential election and far less in a non-presidential election year. Really  bad weather often arrives by early November, at least in Northern states, which further inhibits voter turn out. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have elections in September or early October when there is generally good weather, and have them on a weekend, when people don’t have the excuse for not voting because they had to go to work. I believe you would see much larger voter turn outs. So what are the chances of seeing these rational, common sense reforms being enacted into reality. Probably, between zero and minus zero.

I had planned to write about other major areas of American and world-wide dysfunctional practices that could be changed by simple, common-sense ideas, but I feel my energy level beginning to wane at this point. It’s that senior thing again.

 

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THE TRUE BELIEVER

When I was still working, thousands of years ago, I used to have a sign hanging in my office that read as follows: ” NO AMOUNT OF HARD WORK OR CAREFUL PLANNING CAN EVER REPLACE SHEER DUMB LUCK.” It was, of course meant to convey the capriciousness of life, where through no effort of their own, some people seem to experience a constant stream of good fortune, while others appear to inherit a disproportionate boatload of bad luck. Just read through the obit column in your daily newspaper. There is the 26- year-old who just died of a brain tumor before her life had barely begun. Right next to the obituary of the 97-year- old who led a full and enjoyable life before simply dying of old age.

As we grow from childhood into becoming adults, we gain the experience to recognize the basic unfairness of the human condition. We accordingly adjust, learn to comprise, and recognize we won’t acquire everything we desire. That life is basically a game of give-and-take, and we mostly make pragmatic choices to get us through the day. As a child we may cry and scream or even throw a tantrum because Mommy won’t buy us the toy or candy bar we so desperately desire. But as we become adults, that type of behavior is shut down to us, and we have to make necessary compromises with our spouses, our families, friends, and even strangers in order to reasonably function on a daily basis within society. But for some people, the idea of compromise or pragmatism is beyond their comprehension. In their personal lives such behavior often leads to dysfunctional relationships, as well as dependency on drugs or alcohol. But when this type of uncompromising behavior enters the social and/or political arenas, it usually means death and misery for millions of people. Because more often than not, the persons perpetuating such hardcore, fundamentalist and uncompromising positions are “the true believers.” Those that believe that only their views of religion, or politics, or social behavior, is the right path, and those that deviate from that path must either be coerced into changing, or else, in extreme cases, be put to death. And unfortunately history is replete with such examples.

A good example, and certainly on the hit parade’s top ten list of man’s follies through the ages, is the Spanish Inquisition. When the Catholic Church became dominant in Spain in the late 15th century, the Inquisition was begun to convert all non-believers into becoming Catholics. By the way, this practice didn’t end until the mid-19th century, almost 400 years later. The non-believers that had to be converted into Catholicism included Jews, Muslims and eventually Protestants. The Inquisitors (true believers) stated that they didn’t have anything against these beliefs; it was just that the only way to save a person’s soul, and hence enable them to enter the kingdom of heaven, was through conversion to Catholicism. Some Jews and Muslims converted while others didn’t. Those that didn’t were either imprisoned for life, or burned at the stake. But it was for their own good. After all, the important thing was to save their souls. So went the mindset of the true believer.

In the 20th century we saw this type of rigid, true-believer mindset take hold in Europe and the Pacific, with both Communist and Fascist dictatorships causing the deaths of hundreds of millions of people. When the Bolsheviks took control of Russia, those that refused to become true believers in the merits of communism, were usually sent to slave labor camps in Siberia or simply put to death. In Germany, in 1925, Adolph Hitler got his autobiographical “Mien Kamf” published with its viciously anti-semitic diatribes. Most Germans at the time considered the book the ravings of a lunatic. After all, Germany was a well-educated, sophisticated country with a rich cultural history. But persistence and demagoguery began paying off, and slowly but surely, as more and more swastikas began appearing in the public square, Hitler’s lunatic ideas began taking hold, and the rest, as they say, is history. More than 60 million people died in in Europe, thanks to the fascist ideology  of the true believer. In the Pacific, at the same time, the fascist and militaristic dictatorship of Japan was killing millions of more “non-believers.” After WWII, China came to be ruled by the truest of all believers in Marxism, Mao Zedong. Those that refused to follow or bow to Mao’s rigid beliefs were slaughtered by the millions. On a slightly smaller scale, we saw similar occurrences when Castro took over Cuba and the dictatorship that reigns over North Korea. Today, the most fundamentalist of all regimes controls Iran, which has also murdered tens of thousands of its people that refused to abide by the tenets of true belief in radical Islam, which holds that all non-believers in strict Sharia law should be put to death.  And Iran is developing the nuclear capability that can make that happen.

What’s the lesson to be learned as far as this country is concerned, at this point in time?  The lesson is that the true believers in our country are acquiring more and more power and influence, and will have a dominant role should the Republicans win the November election. Among the true believers are the anti-abortion fanatics, who will strive to outlaw all legal abortions, because, after-all, this is what Jesus would dictate. Also, gay rights would be denied and homosexuals would have to get way back in the closet, because such unbiblical behavior cannot be tolerated is a proper society. Government assistance to the poor, the sick and the elderly would be sharply curtailed because, although the New Testament stresses helping the poor, it’s somehow a bad  thing if the Government does it. I could go on but you get the picture. The only question is whether the people will allow the true believers of today to really exert their rigid and fundamentalist beliefs on all of us.

 

 

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GENETIC PREDISPOSITIONS

I’ve written before about how the FBI estimates, that at any one time, there are about one to two dozen serial killers on the loose hunting for prey. I’ve also written that the FBI has determined that, most often, a serial killer is genetically predisposed to engage in sexual sadism, torture, and eventually murder because of biological malfunctions during the birthing process. It seems for some, that when the fetus is in the womb, too much serotonin is being produced that is constantly bathing the brain. Hence when that baby is born, it is already brain-dead, so to speak, in that it can’t derive pleasure from activities most people consider the norm. That innocent child in the crib will likely grow up to be a psychopath because his brain cannot feel sensations in the same way as the rest of the populace. To derive any type of pleasurable sensation the baby, now an adult, and a psychopath, must resort to the most extreme measures, which usually involves killing innocent and helpless victims. One serial killer that was caught by the FBI put it this way: “When people walk down the street where there are other people walking, they think nothing of it. But when I walk down that street with other people, I have an overwhelming urge to bash in their skulls with a pipe or baseball bat. I can’t imagine not wanting to destroy these other people.”

Which, since this is an election year, brings us to the genetic predispositions behind the voting process. (Serial killing, politics, they’re practically the same thing anyhow.) I believe it can be demonstrated that most people’s political inclinations are genetically derived. Yes, upbringing, especially where parents set out to brainwash their children in political or religious beliefs, can have a major influence. But I think that, at the end of the day, most parents are too worn out from trying to make a living, or fighting rush hour traffic, or just keeping their heads above water, to be so inclined. That’s when genetics take over in determining whether an individual will become a Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, or just not give a “fig” (as the British might say.) We should point out that about half the voting age population couldn’t care less who gets elected to any office. Many of them couldn’t name one of the two Senators from their state, their Congressional representative, or their Governor. I mean, isn’t there a rumor that another Kardashian may be headed for divorce. And what about the health issues facing the latest American Idol. And lets not forget the shock waves emanating from the Tom Cruise-Katy Holmes divorce. After-all, it’s essential that we get our priorities straight.

For the other half of the population that does take at least the time and interest to vote, their choices will be predicated on how they view the world, which I maintain, is in turn predicated on the genes they inherited. For example, the differences concerning fiscal issues between the 2 major parties, and between liberals and conservatives, can often be boiled down to one word, redistribution. Liberals and Democrats take the position that the Government has a moral obligation to come to the aid of those that can’t fend for themselves, such as the sick, the elderly, the poor who cannot afford health care, the hungry, and those otherwise disadvantaged. Conservatives and Republicans see it differently, however. They see it as Government handouts of their tax money to those that are too lazy to work, or too stupid to know how to live their lives properly, or both. In the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was President, women receiving Government assistance were referred to as “welfare queens” which was also a racist code name. After all, weren’t most most welfare recipients black? (As it later turned out, most were white.) That type of mentality exists to this day, and explains why those on the right fight tooth and nail against any possible tax increase on the rich. After all, the thinking goes, any tax increase will just be taking money from the most productive members of society, and redistributing it to people who are nothing but leeches on society. Since voters are often genetically programmed to be greedy and self-centered, the Republican appeal to people’s basest instincts has, and will, translate into a ton of votes and election victories.

Of course, fiscal considerations, although paramount, are not the only issues that motivate people’s voting decisions. There is always the religious focus. Democrats tend to favor a more secular society, with religious issues best left to churches and and temples of what ever religion someone believes in. Republicans, however, have made religious fanaticism a corner stone of their platform. A big chunk of the GOP base is comprised of evangelicals or religious fanatics who DO NOT believe the political arena should be primarily secular. Quite the opposite. Their desire is to establish something akin to a religious theocracy, first by banning all abortion rights, and then banning gay rights. They will often talk about shrinking the size of Government and reducing expenditures, except when it comes to private matters best left to decisions between a women and her doctor, or what consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedrooms. Then, by all means, lets get the Government involved no matter what the cost. And while we’re at it, damn the costs, and put a few thousand more border patrol agents down in Texas and Arizona to make sure none of those illegal Mexicans sneak into the country.

There are of course, a slew of other issues that divide the country, and I could go on and on. But I believe it’s really futile to debate these issues with someone that has strong opposing views, because people’s genetic predisposition toward the positions they hold will outweigh any cogent arguments. It’s been said that the country is more polarized now than at any time since the Civil War. Should this be a close election in November, even those that spend most of their time keeping up with the Kardasians will have to get involved in the chaos and turmoil that will almost certainly ensue.

 

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THE SUMMER OF OUR DISCONTENT

The opening line of Shakespeare”s play “Richard III” states that “It was the winter of our discontent.” That was back in the 16th century, and the following lines were meant to convey that the people’s long winter of suffering was coming to an end because of new leadership. But if that was a period of England’s discontent, the year 2012 appears to be engulfed in our summer of discontent. And there seems to be no end in sight.

It started with mind numbing heat clawing its way into a stranglehold throughout most of the mid-west, south and east coast. Temperatures in excess of 100 degrees took hold in much of the country including areas that are known for their sweltering humidity levels. Heat records were broken in most of the major cities throughout the affected areas. Combine more than 100 degree heat and high humidity levels and you  get a picture of what the 9th circle of Hell in Dante’s Inferno feels like. Then gigantic storms with near hurricane-like winds and rain come pouring down on these beleaguered sections of the the country, knocking down trees and limbs, which in turn knocked down power lines, which in turn meant no electricity for stuff we all take for granted like refrigeration and air-conditioning. More than 100 degree heat, high humidity, and no air-conditioning. And with proclamations being issued by the power companies that it would be days or even weeks before electricity was restored. Young people who had never known a life without air-conditioning were threatening to kill themselves if they had to go on living without their a/c. Is air-conditioning the greatest invention of all time? Or perhaps Skype is. I’m not sure.

Also, many areas affected by the record heat, but not hit with huge storms, are now, instead, afflicted by severe droughts. Shrubbery is turning brown, and leaves are falling off trees as if it were autumn and crunching under pedestrians footsteps. Prices of many fruits and vegetables grown in the afflicted areas will soon begin to soar. What’s particularly interesting, however, is that right-wing looney-tunesville seems to be unaffected by the extreme weather. Listen to Rush Limbaugh, or all the Rush wannabes on “talk-radio” (really hate radio), or watch Fox News, and there is complete denial that anything like climate change or global warming even exists. Or if it does exist, it certainly can’t be anything that man is causing. The immense tonnage of carbon dioxide that we spew into the Earth’s atmosphere on a daily basis from burning fossil fuels such as coal an oil, can’t possibly be responsible for weather severity or rising ocean levels according to the mantra among  the right-wing whacko set. Instead the call has gone forth to drill for more oil and for us to become even more dependent on fossil fuels. Mitt, The Dishonorable has already promised this when he becomes President next January.

Speaking of Romney, are we having fun yet, when we turn on the TV, only to be confronted with those obnoxious and mendacious political commercials. You know, the kind that wallows in mud- slinging, mean-spirited, vicious attacks on the other guy, with the truth be-damned. And this is only July. Wait until September and October when TV- land will be nothing but these gutter commercials. So since 2012 is an election year we can add one more reason for our summer of discontent. Of course, one always has the option of keeping the TV shut until after the election. Or at least recording everything in advance so you can fast-forward through the commercials. But that just seems like too much rational common sense to be a course of action. One other thing to keep in mind regarding those political commercials. A lot of them are being funded by the Koch brothers who are far right-wing industrial billionaires. They tend to be a little bit on the religious fanatical side, often providing financial support for right-wing dream causes, such as anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, etc. As I’ve mentioned before, his Mittness is the best candidate these billionaires could buy, and they expect to be richly rewarded for their investment when Romney takes his seat in the Oval Office.

The third leg of misery in this perfect trifecta of our summer of discontent, at least for those of us living in Las Vegas, is our own unique version of severe summer weather. Of course it’s well-known that temperatures exceeding 100 degrees are par for the course here from about mid-June thru mid-September. But up to about 105, the heat is reasonably tolerable, because after-all, it’s a “dry heat,” which means that when you go out-doors in that heat, you feel like an ant under a magnifying glass in the broiling sun. But now the temperatures are forecast to hit 110 and beyond, which puts additional severe strain on everything and everyone. People become noticeably short-tempered, especially if stuck in traffic with the sun beating down. Go to the store, or anywhere else where you have to leave your car parked in the sun, and you’ll be making a return trip to Dante’s Inferno mentioned earlier when you get back in. Air-conditioners are strained to the breaking point, and if they do break down, you will want to join those teenagers back east contemplating suicide for lack of a/c. Of course the casinos are nice and cool, with thermostats set at sub-artic levels, so residents join tourists in flocking to these hotels. It may be rather costly as one inevitably plays the slots once inside the casinos, but, I guess, a small price to pay for avoiding the unpleasantness of our summer climate.

Such are the rhythms of life in the year 2012. Perhaps the summer of our discontent will be followed by a winter of joy and plenty. Most likely not, however.

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