Posts Tagged With: GOP

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.

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Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Economics, Health Care, Obamacare, human affairs, politics, Ronald Reagan, the Depression | 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 ACCIDENTAL PRESIDENT

It’s late 2015 and Donald Trump is having a small gathering at his penthouse at Trump Towers in Manhattan. His family is there including his children and grandchildren, as well as some friends and associates his known over the years. The conversation invariably begins to dwell on politics and how the upcoming 2016 primaries are starting earlier and earlier. Suddenly, Donnie Jr. loudly comments that- “You know, Dad, you could take another run at it. It’s not too late to get your name on the ballot for the Iowa caucuses.” “Right,” replies Trump. “Because it worked out so well for me in 2012.” But Donnie Jr. is persistent. “The only reason that went bust was because you let Corey talk into running as a “birther.” (He’s referring to Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager in 2012, and the first half of the 2016 campaign.) “That was a losing issue from the beginning. There just wasn’t enough true believers in the Republican base to convince that Obama was secretly born in Kenya. Besides this time, you would be running against Hillary, a much weaker candidate than Obama ever was.”

“This time you can focus on the stuff that has the Republican base all in tizzy,” continues  Donnie Jr. “Like all the Mexican illegals pouring over the border. Most Republicans really hate that. And ISIS terrorism and the flood of Moslems coming into this country as well as Europe are certainly issues to rile people up. Look at the recent attacks in Europe and California. Both of these areas could give you plenty of traction in the primaries.” “I don’t know Dad,” injects Ivanka, speaking for the first time. “Aren’t there like 20 guys running for the nomination. How are you going to stand out from the rest.” “By being different than rest, and politically incorrrect” declares Steve Bannon,” a close associate of Trump over the years, and head of the Alt-Right propaganda outlet called Breitbart News.  “I mean, look who he would be running against. Jeb Bush? Give me a break. Not only has his time come and gone maybe a dozen years ago, but I don’t believe the country is ready for still another Bush in the White House. Ted Cruz? Outside of Texas, his drawing power is diddly-squat. Rubio? Too young and inexperienced. The rest are just political pigmies.”

Trump turned to Melania seated next to him, and said- “You know, the kids pretty much run the business on a day-to-day basis as it is. It’s not like I don’t have the time.” “But you would be out campaigning for about the next year,” she protested. “I’d still make time to come home to you, every now and then,” Trump replied. Melania did not look pleased, but said nothing. Turning to everyone else Trump declared that- “If I did do this, I’m not going to spend a lot of my own money, I’ll tell you that. It will be a like a take it or leave proposition. This is who I am, take it or leave it.” And the rest, as the cliche goes, is history.

Trump entered the Republican primaries with 16 other potential candidates. His ratings alongside the others stood at about 5%. That’s when he decided to be as politically incorrect as possible, as Steve Bannon had advised. He denigrated Senator John McCain’s service to his country when he was captured and held prisoner by the Viet-Cong in the hellish “Hanoi Hilton” for 6 long years. Trump stated that he- “liked people that weren’t captured.” (I’m still trying to figure out in what universe that’s a coherent statement.) When Megyn Kelly, Fox News host, was critical of him during a debate, Trump stated that “she had blood coming out of her whatever.” He said that Mexico was deliberately sending us “their rapists and murderers,” and promised to build a 2000 mile long wall to keep them out. He said he would bar Moslems from entering the country, and would “bomb the shit out of ISIS.” (I’m still waiting on some action concerning that last promise.) But the more outlandish the Trump remarks were, the more his poll numbers shot up. From 5% to about the 35-40% range.

Because Trump’s comments were considered so utterly vile, NBC fired him from their “Celebrity Apprentice” show. Macy’s fired him from being one of their spokespersons. But a large chunk of the Republican base really liked what they heard. Every white supremacist organization from the KKK on down considered Trump “their kind of guy.” The “Bikers of America” flocked to the Cleveland Convention Center to provide the necessary protection and muscle to assure that for the first time in their lives, they would have a kindred spirit occupying the White House. To this day, the large and growing white supremacy movement in the U.S. maintains nothing but adoration for Trump and his cohorts.

Despite his demagogic appeal to white racists and bigots, Trump still would have lost the election had his campaign not suppressed the voter turnout amongst blacks, Latinos and other minorities that normally vote Democratic. As I’ve said many times, elections are often decided more by the people who stay home and fail to vote, then by the numbers that do cast a ballot. The Trump campaign cast Hillary in such a derogatory light, that many voters that would have normally turned out for her were too discouraged to make the effort. Also, of course, if we didn’t have this unfathomable electoral college system, Hillary would be occupying the Oval Office today.

I wrote last time about the upcoming French presidential election (this Sunday), where the female version of Donald Trump is trying to use the same tactics of voter suppression on her opponents base. Marine Le Pen, the candidate of the far right, who hopes to become the new French president, is telling her opponent’s base voters that it’s not worth their effort to come out and cast a ballot on Sunday.  It would be much more pleasant for them to take a liesurly stroll in the park. Interesting to see if that tactic will work a second time.

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, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

AND ….THEY’RE OFF AND RUNNING

Probably, over 99% of Americans living outside of New York state have never heard  of George Pataki. Within the state of New York, perhaps about a quarter of the population still remembers that he was governor from 1995-2006. A pretty fair governor to be sure, but nothing that would set off a cavalcade of fireworks. Nevertheless, Pataki, at age 69, is putting together an exploratory committee to determine the feasibility of seeking the GOP nomination for president in 2016. His chances of success are about the same as mine if I ran for president. And why would anybody really want the job. Just the thought of having to deal with Congress would make me nauseous. Sure, there’s the fun stuff like getting to fly on Air Force One, or playing at elite golf courses, or hosting lavish state dinners. But every now and then the president has to deal with serious items such as combatting terrorism, Iranian nuclear ambitions, and budget and tax issues. The Obama presidency has seemed to focus more on the fun side such as playing golf, and as little as possible on world affairs such as the Ukrainian civil war and other other crises. But who needs all those headaches. I would probably do the same in Obama’s shoes.

In any event, with the election still more than a year and a half away, the race for the Republican nomination has attracted more than a dozen players, some whose chances of success are about as ludicrous as George Pataki’s. First off, like the ghost of Christmas past, Mitt Romney returned to the political arena figuring that the third time had to be a charm. It seemed for awhile that despite his losses in 2008 and 2012, His Mittness still had enough popularity amongst the GOP rank and file to secure the nomination for 2016. But as I’ve written many times before, financing is the name of the game in buying an American election, with the winning candidate usually being the most costly that money can buy. In our faux democracy, if a potential candidate can’t raise at least tens of millions of dollars, just for openers, he or she is usually toast. Romney did have huge money supporters until former Florida governor Jeb Bush figured that it would be a neat idea to follow the family heritage and become Bush number three to occupy the Oval office. When that happened Romney’s big money donors decided that the Busch name still had more commercial value than that of a previous two-time loser, and they swung over to Jeb’s side. Once Romney lost his major donors he knew it was all over, and time for him to get out of the game. The problem is, however, that Jeb Bush might be a tad too rational and sane to satisfy the looney-tunes element of the GOP which continues to grow even larger and more powerful.

The Rush Limbaugh faction in the Republican Party has focused on a number of potential candidates (excluding Jeb Bush) that would satisfy their far-right ambitions to basically destroy what’s left of the non-military portion of the U.S. government. First off, there are the holdovers from the 2012 Republican debates, such as Rick Santorum from Pennsylvania who is still seeking to criminalize social affairs such as birth control, abortion and gay marriage; as well as bible thumper Rick Perry, ex-governor of Texas, who couldn’t remember, last time around, all the government departments he would eliminate upon becoming president. Then their are new figures that  have lunatic fringe especially enthralled. One is Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, who pretty much was able to destroy public worker unions in Wisconsin that state employees belonged to, by taking away their rights to collective bargaining. He had to face a recall election because of that action; but thanks to heavy financing by the Koch brothers (whom I’ve written about before), Walker won the recall and is now the darling of the far, far right. He’s being hailed as another Ronald Reagan, their all-time favorite hero. With heavy money interests starting to galvanize in his direction, I would not discount Walker’s chances of securing the Republican nomination.

Of course he would have to contend with others that even the lunatic fringe considers lunatics, such as Rand Paul from Kentucky and Ted Cruz from Texas, who also have strong presidential ambitions. And, for the dingbat faction of the GOP, which is also growing in strength, there is always Sarah Palin who has mumbled something about entering the fray. I think more than half the fun of watching this circus unfold, would be lost if Sarah Palin didn’t have a go at the nomination. Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, was thought to have a shot for awhile, but his balloon seems to be deflating. Again, he seems to possess too much of that sanity thingy to be a viable GOP candidate. But, if you want irrationality,  there’s always Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana, who traded in his Hindu heritage for a strict brand of fundamental Catholicism, and who would also criminalize abortion and gay rights. And the beat goes on with a slew of more aspirants, each seeking to outdo the others in their extremist views.

If the Republican side of the coin has an over-abundance of candidates striving for the presidency, the Democratic side has decided to put all their eggs in one basket; which, of course, belongs to Hillary Clinton. Which is a very dumb idea to begin with. First of all, Hillary will be 69 in 2016 and has had health issues that could raise a number of red flags. Secondly, Hillary has enough political baggage to fill every flight leaving out of JFK for a month. Republicans, who are so much better than Democrats at practicing the politics of personal destruction, would immediately jump on husband Bill’s personal foibles from the 1990s and blame them all on Hillary. Already, they are printing up bumper stickers that say: “Monica Lewinski’s ex-boyfriend’s wife for president.” You can be sure that all of Bill Clinton’s prior misdeeds would be dredged up all over again. Also the Benghazi fiasco, where 4 Americans, including our Ambassador to Libya, were slain by terrorists on Hillary’s watch as Secretary of State, would be thrown in her face. Add to that, the fact that Hillary isn’t exactly the most dynamic or charismatic candidate around, and you can see that the Democrats are in a real pickle. The problem for the Democratic Party is, however, that they have such a thin farm system, who else could they nominate that would have a viable chance of winning the presidency.

My prognosis is that the election of our next president is the Republican candidate’s to lose. Which wouldn’t be the first time that they’ve snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Think back just to 2012 when Mitt Romney should have won by at least 10-15 points. In any event, it will be a fascinating spectacle to watch along the way, as the political scene unfolds over the next 18 months in our pretend election process.

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UNCIVIL DISCOURSE

The Friday after the mid-term elections two weeks ago, Republican and Democratic Congressional leaders, i.e. the guys who will be running the show when the new Congress convenes in January, met in the White House with President Obama to hammer out an agenda that both sides could agree to, that would actually benefit the American people. It was supposedly a show of good will that both Democrats and Republicans could work together for the two remaining years of the Obama Administration, to produce needed legislation to better the lives of most Americans. After all, isn’t that what they were sent there to accomplish in the first place. Well, obviously not, as evidenced by the fact that both parties were at each others throats, about 30 seconds after this new “era of goodwill” began. So much for legislative productivity.

It all started over the issue of “amnesty” for illegal aliens. There are an estimated 11-12 million undocumented people who have supposedly entered the U.S. through illegal means. Almost all are from Latin America. Of course, I don’t understand how this figure was arrived, since almost all illegals maintain a very low profile, and go to great lengths to avoid being counted in the first place. Nevertheless, this is this figure that’s usually bandied about. Many have been in the U.S. for 20 or 30 or even 40 years or longer, generally living in the shadows. They usually don’t pay taxes, vote, or have a drivers license; and most live in constant fear of being rounded up and deported back to whence they came from. To address this rather deplorable state of affairs for both U.S. citizen and non-citizen alike, the Senate in 2013, passed legislation that would strengthen border security, but would also provide a pathway to legality and eventual citizenship for most illegals that didn’t have a criminal record. This legislation was sponsored by Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida whose parents had immigrated here legally from Cuba. One would have thought that with Republican sponsorship of this act in the Senate, it would have been a slam-dunk for passage in the GOP controlled House. Instead just the opposite was true. Where would the fun be if the House just went along with the Senate. Why, there might even be a slight dissipation in the hyper-partisanship, dysfunction and polarization that so engulfs Washington these days. Couldn’t have that.

The right-wing lunatic fringe of the GOP began bellowing that this act was nothing more than amnesty for illegals; and besides, if they received such amnesty, they would most likely vote Democratic. Perish the thought. House Speaker John Boehner didn’t have the courage to override the protests from the Tea-Party crackpots in his own party, and, thus, didn’t allow the Senate bill to come to the House floor for a vote. If he had, the votes were there  to secure passage. Rush Limbaugh, and all the other right-wing whackos on talk radio (that I wrote about last time) kept screaming about amnesty as if this was an awful thing. As we all know, the connotations surrounding the word “amnesty” used to be that of generosity of spirit, forgiveness, providing shelter for the persecuted, being a benefactor, and establishing a safe harbor for those most in need, etc. However, in right-wing looney-tunesville, amnesty became something ugly, to be despised and feared. Thus, nothing has been achieved in the past 2 years concerning the plight of illegal aliens in the U.S.

Hence, after that supposedly goodwill meeting between Republicans and Democrats that I discussed at the outset, President Obama declared that if Congress failed to act on the immigration issue, as apparently it will, he was going to issue an executive order that would, in effect, provide “amnesty” for several million illegals. Oh noooo, not “amnesty.” It was like waving a red flag in front of a charging bull. Or in this case, an elephant. Speaker Boehner quickly mounted the dais to announce that Obama could expect a rather unpleasant visit from 2 GOP enforcers named Tiny and Knuckles, if he did undertake such unilateral action. Tiny got his name because he’s 6ft.9 and weighs 380 pounds. Knuckles got his name because he likes to use brass knuckles when whaling on his victims. If they showed up at the White House, things would definitely not go well for Obama. Okay, so maybe Boehner did not use that exact verbiage, but the sentiment was clearly evident. With an executive order from the President due out almost within the hour, Republicans are furiously plotting counter-strategies. Some are talking about impeaching Obama, while others are focusing on shutting down the Government.

Now, it should be noted that Obama gets down on his knees every night before bedtime, and prays to God that the Republican Congress will initiate impeachment actions against him. Nothing would rescue his dismal approval ratings faster than having the Republican Party initiate impeachment against the first African-American president of the U.S. One only has to go back to the late 1990s, when a Republican Congress tried to impeach Bill Clinton, who also had low approval ratings at the time because of the Monica Lewinsky fiasco; to see how well that strategy worked out for the GOP. Once impeachment proceedings got underway, the public recognized them for the ultimate in bullying tactics; and Clinton’s low approval ratings suddenly began to soar. The formerly disgraced President became a conquering hero; especially at the 2008 and 2012 Democratic conventions, where he played a major role in getting Obama elected President.

Assuming that the GOP is not stupid enough to make the same glaring mistake twice; the next best thing for Obama would be if they shut down the Government. The Republicans would be sure to feel the heat for such action. After all, they have been publicly advocating for such a shutdown. The trouble is, that even people that have great antipathy toward a variety of Government actions, (or non-actions as the case may be) usually are opposed, nonetheless, to Government shutdowns. So after all the sound and fury of Obama granting amnesty to illegals starts to wear thin, a shutdown might not occur either. However, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Obama receiving a very unpleasant visit from Tiny and Knuckles.

 

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A HOUSE DIVIDED

In 1858, in a speech Abe Lincoln gave before a Republican convention that would nominate him for the Illinois Senate race, (an election he would lose, by the way), Lincoln proclaimed the following phrase that would live in history: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” He was, of course, talking about the issue of slavery which had so polarized the country, that civil war would break out almost immediately after he was elected President 2 years later. A civil war that would claim the lives of over 600,000 Americans, or the equivalent of 6 million with today’s population. The 1858 Senatorial race was between Lincoln and his Democratic opponent Stephen Douglas who would win the election, and it resulted in the famous Lincoln/Douglas debates, which were mostly about the slavery issue. The same 2 squared off for the presidency 2 years later, and as we all know, Lincoln was the victor in that campaign. The relevance to today’s landscape, however, is that this country is more polarized and divided, as well as mired in dysfunction, as it has been at any time since those historical events more than 150 years ago. So let us examine the different ways that the country is split into ever growing fault lines.

Let’s start with the difference between rural and city life in America, today. That’s relevant because voters in small town America tend to vote heavily for Republicans, while metropolitan areas vote Democratic almost as heavily. That Red State-Blue State thingy. It all comes down to a question of values. People living in rural, small town-America tend to be more religious and self-protectionist. It’s a matter of tradition. Bibles and guns are the mainstay of most people living in the country-side. They have been raised to believe in a literal translation of both the old and new testaments, and no force on Earth can shake the foundations of those beliefs. Of course gay marriage should be prohibited since homosexuality is a sin. It says so, loud and clear, in the bible. Likewise, all abortions should be banned, since only God can take a human life. (Although, interestingly, all these anti-abortionists seem to have no trouble with the government executing criminals.) And it’s rather difficult to pinpoint a biblical passage that strictly forbids abortions. Not that any of that matters, since most religious beliefs come from sermons being preached in churches across the nation by priests that apparently have an insider’s pipeline to God’s desires.

As for the guns part of bibles and guns-wasn’t Jesus packing heat when he gave his famous sermon on the mount. Besides, doesn’t everyone know that our immoral, communistic, atheistic government would throw us all into concentration camps without hesitation, if we didn’t maintain our own guns. And not just a handgun, but an entire arsenal of weaponry. So goes the thinking over much of rural America. Such are the beliefs that one in indoctrinated with while growing up in this country environment. Young people being raised in this setting, if they are sharper, more industrious, and more ambitious, will often leave these small towns for metropolitan areas where they have much greater economic, cultural, and entertainment opportunities. Those that stay behind are usually more content to lead the same lives as their parents did, and inherit the same set of doctrines and dogma. Thus, the Republican Party, which goes out of its way to cater to religious evangelicals, or bible thumpers, as I would call them, reaps the lion’s share of the vote in rural America.

Living in big cities almost forces people to become more tolerant. While rural America is almost solidly white, metropolitan areas usually consist of a mix of whites, blacks, Latinos, Asians, Moslems, Jews, etc. Gays are just as likely to be living in the apartment next to yours as are heterosexuals. If one is to live well in big city life, the dogma of demonizing homosexuals, or other religions or races, or women having an abortion, necessarily must become a thing of the past. Hence, city dwellers become less attached the the religious dogma they may have been raised with, and increasingly become more secular and more tolerant. They will then mostly vote for Democrats who are more in tune with their secular beliefs.

One can also look at the great political divide in this country as between white men and the rest of the populace. White men (and often married white women) tend to vote mostly Republican, because they feel their privileged status in American society is being taken away from them. With black, Hispanic and Asian populations seemingly on the increase, older white men and women believe that a time will come in the not too distant future, when they will no longer be able to call the shots. Then all these minorities will become the dominant voting bloc, which, in turn, will greatly increase government handouts and welfare payments to people too lazy and shiftless to fend for themselves. Or so goes their thinking. Thus, the GOP, which is continually trying to significantly cut the food stamp program, housing assistance, or health insurance benefits, is the party for them. Democrats tend to exhibit more empathy for for minorities or those in need of financial help. This doesn’t sit well with the current white majority.

The thing about our current political divide is that it is increasingly hardening. Less and less is there any room for political compromise, or a meeting of the minds. In this November’s election, if the GOP gains control of both the House and the Senate, with a liberal Democrat in the White House, today’s dysfunction and polarization will seem like a minor spat between family members. And all political pundits are predicting that Republicans will win big time. Then we will truly become a house divided against itself, as Lincoln warned 150 years ago. And we all know how well that turned out last time.

 

 

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HOW FAR CAN WE FALL?

The answer to that question is -a lot further than most people realize. I suppose it’s human nature to take the constitutional freedoms we possess,  and the political process that ensures those freedoms, for granted. Most of the under developed nations of the world have no such process and are, therefore, in a constant state of turmoil. Look no further than recent events in Egypt, where a 30 year military dictatorship was replaced by an attempt at constitutional government, resulting in a freely elected president. However, the man elected was attempting to establish an Islamic dictatorship, which would result in the dissolution of all constitutional liberties that had been recently established. When the people rose up in protest, the Islamist president was then overthrown and replaced by a new military dictatorship. Back to square one; but the Egyptian people are probably better off with their new rulers.

In any event, as I’ve said, most people take the political process established in this country for granted. A full 40% or more of eligible voters can’t be bothered to take the time out to vote in a presidential election. That figure rises to near 60% in non-presidential elections. We assume that the political system we have in place will always be there, even if we’re not paying attention. Duly elected future presidents would never dream of suspending all further elections as well as civil liberties, would they? The way Hitler did in Nazi Germany, which had been a functioning constitutional democracy until he became Chancellor. I guess most Germans weren’t pay close attention either, at the time. In fact, we can thank George Washington for the fact that we have a constitutional election process in the first place. Our founding fathers wanted to establish a monarchy with Washington as king, until George nixed that idea.

This is kind of a long preamble to get to the point I really wanted to make, of how low we’ve sunk in our national election system. This past week the Chairman of the Republican Party sent off an angry missive to TV stations NBC and CNN, because both stations were in the early phases of developing documentaries about the life of Hillary Clinton. How dare these stations, said the Chairman, consider programming anything that might be seen as favorable to Hillary’s chances of winning the presidency in 2016. Threatening blackmail and other dastardly deeds, the GOP said the 2 stations must stop these projects dead in their tracks, immediately. Even though they are in the earliest stages of script writing, and no one knows exactly how the documentaries will turn out. To me, this represents a new low in political mudslinging and thuggery.

Now the GOP knows that its fiscal policies of trickle-down-economics, tax cuts for the rich, and slashing Government assistance to the poor, the sick, and the elderly  doesn’t sit that well with large parts of the electorate. Couple that with its social agenda of anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, anti-immigration, and anti-gun control, and one can see how the Republicans have a problem in winning over a majority of the electorate. So to compensate, Republicans engage heavily in the politics of personal destruction and demonization. Democrats try that too; but they’re far more inept and incompetent at it than Republicans. With Democrats it’s like amateur night versus highly professional Republicans when the politics of personal destruction are employed. For example, early in the 2008 primary season, when it appeared Hillary Clinton would easily win the Democratic nomination against an unknown, black Senator from Illinois with the peculiar name of Barack Obama, the GOP mud-slinging machine kicked into hi-gear. It already started printing up bumper-stickers that said: “Monica Lewinski’s Ex-Boyfriend’s Wife For President.” You can expect the same treatment if she’s dumb enough to run for president again. With all the grief she had to endure when Bill was President, and being in her late sixties by 2016, one would think that the Oval Office would be the last place she’d want to spend her remaining years. But, I guess, one never knows.

Being president these days means having to cope with a government mired in dysfunction and polarization. The greatest amount of polarization since the Civil War. Congress is currently on its month-long vacation for all of August. It’s recuperating from the enormous burdens of having to put in 3-day work weeks,  (Tuesday thru Thursday) at least 2 or 3 times a month. Who can cope with such stress? When it returns sometime after Labor Day, Republicans will try mightily to defund Obamacare and further slash social spending. House Republicans are threatening not to pass a fiscal 2014 budget, or raise the debt-ceiling unless those objectives prevail. The President, of course, will refuse to go along with defunding his signature piece of legislation. So look for a government shutdown after September 30, similar to the one that occurred in 1995. That’s when House Republicans led by GOP firebrand Newt Gingrich, refused to fund government operations unless deep spending cuts were made to Medicare. President Bill Clinton refused, and the government was shut down for 3 weeks before Gingrich finally budged. I can foresee a similar scenario occurring this year, perhaps resulting in an even lengthier government closure.

Perhaps it’s the nature of the human condition to see great civilizations rise to the apex, and then slowly crumble. Many social prognosticators have already proclaimed that America’s best days are behind her. There are those that trace the start of America’s downhill decline to the time a dingbat like Sarah Palin became prominent in American politics. But I would go back further to 1960. In the waning days of his presidency, Dwight Eisenhower warned the American people about the undue influence and power accruing to the military-industrial complex. He warned that if left unchecked, such power could destroy America from within. Coming from a 5-star general, it was a warning to be heeded. But America generally ignored what Ike had to say, and the chickens are coming home to roost. Like bloated $700 billion a year Defense budgets, and unwise American entanglements in all kinds of foreign escapades.

As I’ve said, perhaps it’s our destiny to fall after we’ve accumulated such vast power. For those of you interested, you might want to compare America’s history with the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. It’s eerily similar. Those of you that have great fortitude and patience can learn more by reading British author Edward Gibbon’s classic, six volume work called “The Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire.” Because we seem to be trudging along the same path as the ancient Romans. So how far can we fall? All the way to the bottom. In the meantime, it wouldn’t hurt to pay greater attention to the political process.

 

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TEA PARTY GOVERNANCE

Four high-profile Republican senators that were elected in 2010, and who are solid tea party favorites because of their extreme right-wing political views, are already running for president in 2016. Yes, I know that’s over 3 years away, but it takes a long time to put together the organization, the large amounts of necessary cash,  and the name recognition, to make a serious bid. You just don’t run for president on a lark, if one is serious about winning. These 4 senators consist of Rand Paul of Kentucky, Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Mike Lee of Utah. (Of the 4, Mike Lee is probably the longest of long-shots.) The 4 of them are putting together campaign organizations, appearing with increasing frequency on Fox News and other far right radio and TV outlets, and increasingly undertaking campaign trips to early primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire.

Rand Paul is, of course, the son of Ron Paul, a long-time Libertarian congressman from Texas, who recently retired. Ron Paul ran for president in Republican primaries in at least the last 3-4 presidential races. His platform was essentially to cut Government spending to the bone, and bring home all U.S. troops stationed  overseas. He would have also sharply curtailed intelligence operations such as the latest kerfuffle going on about the NSA eavesdropping operations. I guess his theory was that those meanies overseas that we call terrorists, are really just swell guys at heart. If we would just withdraw from all foreign operations, bring all U.S. troops home, and return to a policy of isolationism, (that worked so well prior to WWII and the bombing of Pearl Harbor), those mis-understood ruffians would be more than happy to leave us alone.  Although from Texas, Ron Paul had his largest number of supporters here in Nevada. People here felt that if he slashed income taxes as he promised, it would free up that much more money to throw away in the slot machines or at the craps tables.

In any event, son Rand Paul has taken over his father’s political inheritance by advocating the same far-right policies. A short time back, he launched a 13 hour filibuster on the Senate floor, because he felt that something President Obama said indicated that the President had the right to launch a drone strike on a domestic target. But I can see his point. Nothing will get the day off to a worse start than having a drone come crashing into the cafe where you’re having your morning coffee and reading the newspaper. The 13 hour filibuster and other similar stunts have, nevertheless, raised Rand Paul’s profile and have given him gobs of free publicity and name recognition.

Not to be outdone, Marco Rubio is slogging ahead to become the GOP’s standard bearer in 2016. He was instrumental in getting the Senate to pass a cockamamie immigration bill, that would theoretically create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. But the bill contains so many looney-tunes features that it turned out to be a really bad joke. It would mandate that a cement wall, about 1500 miles long, about a hundred feet tall, and 20 feet deep, ( you wouldn’t want those illegals to tunnel their way in), with electrified barbed wire on top, be built along the U.S.-Mexican border.  Plus, there  would be all kinds of motion detectors, infra-red cameras, and other devices along the wall. Plus, border-control agents would be posted about 50 apart. Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but you get the picture. But as bad as this bill is, it’s still too moderate for the Republican-controlled House. Republican representatives have already stated that no legislation that gives undocumented people legal status, will pass the House.

The third member of the four horsemen of the government apocalypse, Ted Cruz, maybe the biggest tea-party favorite of all. He makes Marco Rubio seem moderate. He failed to support Rubio’s immigration bill, although Cruz, himself, is Hispanic. He calls for the abolition of the Federal Reserve banking system, a favorite plank in Ron Paul’s libertarian agenda. He too would slash Government spending to the levels that existed in Calvin Coolidge’s time, as well as create tax cuts for the rich. In any event, I thought it might be of some fun to picture what life in the U.S. might look like should one of these senators become president, and  both houses of congress come under republican control.

Let’s start with Social Security and Medicare. Where in the Constitution does it say that the Government is responsible for providing for senior’s pensions or medical needs. If you’re going to start slashing public spending, you have start with these 2 major budgetary sinkholes. Okay, we will fund those that are already in those two programs, but only on the condition that they don’t live too long thereafter. I mean, everybody knows that those pain-in-the-ass seniors are nothing but a drain on society. Not working and just taking handouts from us productive working-class types. Maybe we will even let those within 5-10 years of SS and Medicare eligibility get into those programs, but again they have to promise to die soon after that. Everyone else is on their own. Create your own savings programs to take care of your own retirement needs and medical treatments. Try not to invest your savings in some fly-by-night stock or other hair brained savings scheme, even though we know most of you will ignore that advice and do just the opposite. Next, we save a bundle by bringing all our overseas troops home, and slashing the Defense budget. As well as eliminating all those unconstitutional counter-intelligence snooping programs. After all, what’s more important- human lives or the purity of the Constitution.

Of course not all Tea Party related programs will be about slashing government spending. Some programs will actually get pumped up. Such as creating the anti-abortion police to make sure that some poor, unfortunate woman isn’t doing away with her baby.  Or hiring thousands more border security guards to make sure that not even one more illegal Mexican is allowed to slip through and contaminate our society. The sky’s the limit when it comes to funding fun-stuff like that.

So this is what we have to look forward to in our short-term future. I can hardly wait for 2016 to come rolling in, when the Republican/Tea Party types take over the reigns of government.

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