Posts Tagged With: Hillary Clinton

THE GOLDEN SHOWER

Last week, at one of his campaign rallies, Trump made the bold prediction that if he stood in the middle of 5th Avenue in New York, and randomly shot someone dead in the street, there would still be no diminishment of support among his followers. And he’s absolutely right. So strong is the blind faith among his growing mass of adherents, that there is literally no act that Trump could perform that would in any way dissuade his fanatical adherents from supporting him. Or as one columnist put it, if Trump were on stage at a large campaign rally, and suddenly began to urinate on people in the first row, those in the back would come surging forward to also benefit from this “golden shower.” Awhile back, when Hillary Clinton was slightly late returning from a bathroom break during one of the Democratic debates, Trump called it “disgusting.” Which is understandable since Trump is rich enough to where he can hire someone to go to the bathroom for him.

In any event, I thought it would be interesting to attempt to understand what motivates this fanatical following for someone essentially espousing a neo-fascist imperative. In a nutshell it can be boiled down to talk radio and Fox News. For 25-30 years these sources have been poisoning the airwaves with a steady drumbeat of hatred and vile rhetoric directed against progressives, liberals and Democrats. Now, after 3 decades of all this vitriol, which has leached huge volumes of poison into the American mainstream, such efforts are finally paying dividends for the haters; which include Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity on the male side and Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham on the female side. To say nothing of all the Rush and Laura wannabes that broadcast from every city in the country. To also say nothing of the daily bile put forth by Fox News against Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Democrats in general. These broadcasters command millions of devoted viewers and listeners, who then spread this venom amongst friends and families and others throughout their neighborhoods. Sort of like a rippling effect in a lake. Who better to take advantage of all this poisonous hate circulating throughout the country than a neo-fascist demagogue such as a Donald Trump.

As I’ve written before, one of the most venom, rage filled such broadcasters is named Michael Savage, who calls his program the Savage Nation. His real name is Michael Wiener, but I guess the Wiener Nation wouldn’t sound all that imposing. He also claims to have millions of devoted listeners.  Anyway, his speech is so filled with pure, undiluted, outright hatred toward Obama and the Democrats, that England saw fit to put him on a list banning him from entry into that country. Others on that list are mostly serial killers and terrorists. But in this country he has total freedom of the airwaves. (Maybe it’s time to re-think that freedom of speech thingy in the first amendment.) None of this bothered Trump, however, who went on the Savage Nation and thanked Michael for his strong support. Another fine bromance, similar to the one Trump established with Vladimir Putin, the tyrant dictator of Russia.

In the 1920s, when Adolf Hitler, was first starting his quest for power, most Germans considered him a fringe crackpot. After all, Germany was not some backwater, hicksville country. To the contrary, most Germans were well educated, and Germany had a rich culture of music, literature, art, and philosophy. Hitler blamed the multitude of Germany’s problems on a small minority of Jews, who were mostly shopkeepers. Similar to the way Trump has blamed virtually all the woes in this country to undocumented Hispanics. Who, at less than 11 million, now comprise about 3.5% of the U.S. population of over 320 million. Who the vast majority of Americans never have any contact with. As I’ve said, most Germans in the beginning considered Hitler part of the lunatic fringe. But through demagogic persistence, and through the force of Hitler’s dominating personality, more and more Germans began to fall in line with Hitler’s message of hatred toward Jews. More and more Swastika arm bands began showing up in the public square. And the rest, as they say, is history.

So, today in this country, we have another fascist purveyor of hate, also with apparently over-powering demagogic abilities that convince large numbers of people to follow him down his rabidly destructive pathways. All set in motion by nearly 3 decades of vitriol and venom emanating from talk radio and Fox News, who planted the seeds that make Trump’s landscape so fertile. During the 1930s, after Hitler took power, the Nazis conducted huge parades through German cities where thousands or tens of thousands of  gleeful Germans would line the boulevards to show their adoration of Der Furhrer. But by the 1940s, when these same cities were being bombed into heaps of rubble, the blinders finally fell away from German eyes. Lets hope it never quite comes to that, after Trump takes command in the Oval Office.

 

 

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CAMPAIGN FOLLIES

In less than 100 days, the first primary voting takes place, to nominate two people, one of which will become the next president of the United States in November 2016. It’s the good old Iowa caucus, where a relatively small handful of people will kick off the voting season by giving a leg up to the winning candidates. I’ve written several times before about how a “caucus” is so bizarre that any third or fourth world banana republic would be too ashamed to employ such a method in choosing their elected officials. Essentially, a few people show up at a usually empty school house on a Saturday, and raise their hands in approval when their preferred candidate name is called. Or maybe they’re asked to stand in an area designated as their candidate’s space, and a head count is taken. Despite the fact that Iowa is a small state to begin with, and only just a fraction of that population bothers to show up and vote in the first place, obviously doesn’t dissuade the media from over-hyping the results of that odd-ball event. The winning candidates will gain “momentum” from this absurdity.

The interesting fact about the coming Iowa caucus, however, is that the latest polls show that Ben Carson has moved into the lead. Ahead of the bloviating, bellicose, bullying that has come to signify Donald Trump’s candidacy. So much for Trump’s supposed invincibility. The reason given by the media for Carson’s lead is that Republicans in Iowa are universally bible-thumpers. Ben Carson is a Seventh-day-Adventist, which is like being a Mormon on steroids. Seventh-day-Adventists make Southern Baptists look like secular humanists.

The Seventh-day Adventist movement started in the 1840s, when a Baptist preacher named William Miller predicted that Jesus would descend and sweep up into heaven those that were his faithful followers. Miller predicted the time and place where this event would occur, and urged those who were pure of heart to congregate at that location at that time. But the kicker was, that to prove one was pure of heart, he or she would have to give away all their earthly possessions, and arrive at the designated area, penniless. Several hundred people did just that, only to be bitterly disappointed when Jesus was a no-show. Seems he got caught up in a game of Texas hold-em with the arch-angels, and completely lost track of time. You know how compelling a good game of poker can become.

Not to be discouraged, a disciple of Miller named Samuel Snow, publicly stated that Miller was essentially right; but he had just miscalculated the time and place where this great ascendency was to transpire. Using more “scientific” methods, Snow gave a new, more precise time and location when the great schlep up to heaven would occur. This time thousands of people showed up at the designated spot, also after giving away all their earthly possessions. Only to be disappointed once again. Seems that Jesus had a rough night and failed to hear the alarm clock go off, thereby missing his appointment. But proving that nothing succeeds like failure, all these shenanigans gave birth to the Church of Seventh-day-Adventists, with about 2 million adherents in the U.S. and about 20 million world-wide. And explaining why Iowa holy-rollers have a great affinity for the Carson candidacy.

The trouble is, that while Ben Carson may have been a brilliant neurosurgeon, he has had no experience in the political arena and has some incredibly naive views of of how the world spins. He has equated Obamacare with the horrors of slavery in this country. He has stated that Jews in Nazi Germany could have avoided the Holocaust if Hitler hadn’t taken their guns away. The problem was gun control, not the darkest evils of Nazism, and Hitler’s fanatical hatred of Jews. Yes, if only the Jews had kept their pistols, they could have fought off the Nazi tanks rolling down their streets to pick them up and send them off to the concentration camps. It seems that every time Carson opens his mouth, more political gaffes come tumbling out.

The rest of the Republican field seems mired down in minutiae. Jeb Bush, who at the outset was supposedly the favorite to become the nominee, has seen his poll numbers sinking faster than my blood-sugar levels when I’ve gone too long without eating. His problem is that he has to keep defending brother George’s actions as president. Especially the whole invasion of Iraq fiasco, where we’re still sunk into that never-ending quagmire to this day. Carly Fiorina surged for awhile but has fallen back now that her record as CEO of Hewlitt-Packard has been exposed. The job she was eventually fired from because of some very bad decisions. Marco Rubio, who probably would be the most charismatic Republican choice, can’t seem to attract enough big money to engage in a viable, high-profile campaign. As I’ve said many times, in U.S. politics, the winner is usually the best candidate that money can buy. If one can’t attract enough big-money interests, their candidacy is done. The rest of the Republican field is comprised of pygmies usually polling at less than one percent. Such as Bobby Jindal, soon to be ex-governor of Louisiana, who is becoming more and more despised by the people of his own state.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton seems to pretty much have a lock on the nomination now that Veep Joe Biden is out of the picture. Bernie Sanders continues to put on a good show, but in the end, even Democrats are not going to give an avowed Socialist the nomination. The problem is, that with the FBI still investigating her email antics, i.e. putting classified, official government emails on a private server in her home, the Democrats could wind-up with a candidate that is under a Federal felony indictment. Now that would be a first in U.S. political history. Who would the Democrats turn to under that scenario.

So there you have. The latest version of the Ringling Bros., Barnum&Bailey Circus, better known as the American political landscape. Stay tuned, as the circus antics are just beginning.

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THE DEMISE OF THE DEMOCRATS

After the 2008 election the Democratic Party seemed to have it all. It had just won the Presidency with the first black ever to occupy the Oval Office, and it had elected overwhelming majorities to both the House and Senate. They had a clear mandate to enact their main policy objectives that had been bottled up for so many years under the Bush Administration. Or so it seemed. What could possibly go wrong. In a word – everything. Now, the Democratic Party is barely hanging on by its fingernails, and faces further electoral disasters come 2016. So let us go back a few years into recent history and examine how the Democrats managed to paint themselves into this unfortunate corner.

In 2008, the Democratic Party made history by nominating a young, inexperienced Barack Obama to be its candidate for president. It was the first time either major party had nominated an Afro-American for the highest elected office in the land. Obama, however, had only been in the Senate for 4 years, and had no real significant accomplishments. Prior to that he was a law professor. The inexperience shone through as he made a number of rookie mistakes during the campaign. The Republicans chose veteran John McCain, whom the polls indicated was reasonably ahead all summer long and into early September, and would likely coast to victory if circumstances remained the same. Of course, as we well know, they did not. The cracks in our economic wall began to grow ever wider, with the wall finally collapsing under a torrent of dismal economical news. The highly inflated housing bubble, along with the derivatives associated with that bubble began disintegrating. Lehman Brothers, a huge Wall Street financial giant, and a holder of much of these types of housing derivatives and other worthless securities was forced to go bankrupt because the Federal Reserve refused to bail them out, as it had with done other Wall Street enterprises. With the collapse of Lehman, financial panic came flooding in as stocks and bonds and other commercial paper plunged in value, almost over night. Companies started going out of business, the unemployment rate skyrocketed, and the housing market collapsed with large numbers of people being “underwater” on their mortgages. Some economists claim that the U.S. economy was just inches away from total disaster which would have included huge bank failures with people not having access to their accounts. Perhaps those that stuffed their life savings into their mattresses might have been immune.

Of course, when the economy goes south, the party in power takes the blame. In this case it was George W. Bush and the Republicans. With a tidal wave of bad economic news spreading over the landscape, the Democrats rode to impressive victories in 2008, and their future as being the dominant force in government seemed impenetrable. But, human nature being as it is, a huge victory often leads to hubris, which, in turn, sows the seeds of inevitable reversal and defeat. The Democrats main policy goal, at that time, was the enactment of universal health care legislation, which no previous president had been able to achieve. So, after much gnashing of teeth, the Democrats finally passed the Affordable Health Care Act, better known as Obamacare, which was neither affordable nor universal. The act was so cumbersome and distasteful to so many Americans, that the Democrats already began sustaining huge losses during the 2010 Congressional elections.

The problem with Obamacare is that it focused on providing health insurance to almost everyone, instead of providing health CARE for all. Once Congress became enmeshed in the insurance markets, it guaranteed there would be unbelievable complexity and dysfunction. Instead of trying to navigate through the details of insurance policies, Congress could have merely extended Medicare to everyone, and paid for that with a modest value-added tax on most products. No applications to process on-line, no forms to fill out. If you got sick, you would go to the doctor of your choice, who in turn would submit his form to the government for reimbursement. Have a toothache, visit your favorite dentist for treatment, who would likewise seek reimbursement from the government. That way, if you liked your doctor, you could really keep your doctor. But that would have been too smart and uncomplicated; virtues not in possession of most politicians.

The albatross of Obamacare continues to weigh heavily on Democrats. Obama did win re-election in 2012, but that was mainly due to Mitt Romney’s incompetence, and his ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. In 2014, however, the Democrats suffered huge losses at the polls, and are now the minority party in both houses of Congress. The Democrats further extended their losing streak to state elections. There are now Republican governors in 32 states, and most state legislatures are in GOP hands as well. Only 18 states have Democratic governors. The mood of the populace, and the election tidal wave seems to be flowing red. So now, a year and a half from the next presidential election in 2016, I’m going to make a flat-out prediction. I’m going to predict that Marco Rubio, Republican senator from Florida will be the next President of the United States.

The Democrats, once again, operating with colossal ineptitude and incompetence, have put all their eggs in Hillary Clinton’s basket. The problem is, that Hillary possesses so much political baggage from dubious schemes from her Arkansas days in the 1980s, to the whole Monica Lewinsky fiasco of the 1990s, to her time as Secretary of State when 4 Americans were murdered in Libya, including our Ambassador, in the 2000s, to the latest flare-up about her using a private server to process government e-mails while Secretary, that I don’t believe she’s electable. Plus the fact that at 69, Mrs. Clinton is showing her age. Not to be unkind, but the way Hillary appears in her later years is no match for the appearance of the youthful, handsome, smiling and friendly Rubio. He may not have a lot of charisma, (what Republican does), but he’s friendly enough to exhibit some degree of charm.

When men age, even if they look like beasts, it’s only to be expected. Everyone knows that down deep, all men are animals. So if they look the part, who cares? But if women begin to lose their beauty as they age, it does become a big deal. It’s the good old double standard, and it will work well to Rubio’s advantage. Unfortunately, the Democrats appear not to have a viable candidate outside of Hillary. If she goes down in flames, the Democratic Party will be on the verge of implosion. Perhaps they can convince New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to convert to being a Democrat and nominate him in 2016. It might save the party from total destruction. I’ll have more to say on this topic next time. Stay tuned.

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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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CRAZIER-THAN-THOU

The way I see it, the Republican Party is divided into 3 factions- crazy, crazier, and craziest. Off the charts on the far end of this spectrum in the craziest category are senators like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. They really represent the heart and soul of the Republican base as it exists today. If this base had its way, one of them would achieve the GOP nomination for president in 2016. However, deep in the hearts of most Republicans is the knowledge that these guys are just too lunatic to actually win  a national election for the presidency. So the next search is in the crazy set. Most prominent in the just plain crazy category is Chris Christie, Republican governor of New Jersey. Although he professes to basically believe in the essence of the Republican platform, (tax cuts for the rich, trickle-down economics, slashing government expenditures for the poor, the sick, and the elderly, etc.) he does exhibit a sliver of rationality and sanity every so often. Even just a tiny bit of such common sense may be too much for the Republican base to handle. Christie’s problem, therefore, is that while he could likely win a national election for president, it will be extremely difficult for him to obtain the GOP nomination. Can’t have too much of that sanity going on if you want to be prominent in Republican politics.

I rather liked Christie ever since he posted on his personal blog, a recommendation for a certain pancake house in New Jersey. I figured if there was anyone who knew good pancakes, it had to be Chris Christie. From what I heard, that pancake joint really does live up to its reputation. There are a few other prominent Republicans that are also in the just plain crazy category, such as governor of Ohio John Kasich, and 2 female senators- Susan Collins from Maine, and Lisa Murakowski from Alaska. (Interestingly, in 2008, if John McCain was looking for a conservative female from Alaska as his running mate, he could have picked Murakowski who actually has a brain in her head, instead of a mindless dingbat like Sarah Palin. Who knows, that might have just given him the election.) In any event, as I’ve said, just being crazy may not be irrational enough to secure the GOP nomination for president in 2016.

It thus comes down to the crazier category whose leading figure is Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. Well spoken, and with boyish good looks, I believe that Rubio’s core beliefs lie mostly in the extreme craziest portion of the GOP. But Rubio is smart enough to know that if he publicly  espouses the same looney-tunes babble about slashing government as a Ted Cruz or Rand Paul, it would also make him un-winable in the general election. So Rubio has learned to moderate his speeches and actions to the point where he sounds a little bit more crazy rather than craziest, in hopes of securing the nomination and winning the general election. He possess abundant charisma, and since he’s Hispanic, he would be in a perfect position to cut dramatically into the lead that Democrats have with Latino voters. Therefore, my money is on Marco Rubio being the next president in 2016. The Las Vegas sports books aren’t taking bets yet on the 2016 election, but if they were, I would be tempted to put a few shekels down on Rubio winning it all.

On the other side of the aisle, the Democrats are putting all their eggs in Hillary Clinton’s basket, which I think is a huge blunder. First of all, she would be 69 come election time; and let’s face it, she’s not aging all that gracefully. Men can generally get away with looking old and haggard; but women, not so much. Secondly, there are lingering questions about her health. She did spend about a month in the hospital after a seizure caused by a fall. But most of all, she has enough political baggage to fill every flight leaving out of JFK for a month. From the Whitewater scandals from when husband Bill was president, to the whole Monica Lewinski fiasco, to her less than scintillating performance as Secretary of State, which included the Benghazi disaster, there is sufficient ammo for the Republican smear machine to kick into high gear. And you can bet that GOP mudslinging will reach staggering levels in radio and TV ads, since Hillary is despised almost as much as Barack Obama. Yes recent polls show her leading potential Republican candidates; but that will likely change once the demonization of her begins in earnest.

I believe the Democrats would be better off looking for a fresh face. If they’re looking for a female candidate, Senator Elizabeth Warren from Mass. would be an excellent choice. A dedicated progressive with impressive credentials and little if any political negatives, all she needs is some national publicity to enable her to become a viable candidate. Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York, and Martin O’Malley of Maryland would also be top choices. But they also need promotion on a national scale. However, no matter who achieves the Democrat nomination, I’m still going with my prediction that Marco Rubio will be the next president.

Of course, why anyone would be crazy enough to desire the presidency is beyond me. Yes, it does have its perks such as flying on Air Force One, or playing at elite golf courses. Its just that the governing part is so annoying. Just the thought of having to deal with Congress would make me nauseous. With a good portion of the world in flames, or at each others throats, and with all the dysfunction and polarization here at home, who needs such headaches. That’s why Barack Obama mostly plays golf or flies on Air Force One to fund raisers these days. It beats trying to manage the mess that world has made of itself. It would truly take someone crazier-than-thou to desire the job of becoming the next president.

 

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THE UKRAINE DEBACLE

Hillary Clinton was right-0n target when she described Vladimir Putin and his Russian forces take-over of the Crimean sector of the Ukraine as being virtually identical to Hitler’s takeover of Chechoslovakia. In 1938, Hitler marched his Nazi troops into northern Chechoslovakia on the pretext that he was merely protecting the rights of the large German population that inhabited that region. This led to the infamous Munich conference between Hitler and England’s Neville Chamberlain as well as the Prime Minister of France. Hitler promised no further military incursions if his act of aggression was allowed to stand. Chamberlain agreed, and returned home to wildly cheering crowds when he proclaimed that that he had “achieved peace in our time.” At Chechoslovakia’s expense, of course. The French PM knew this was all a charade but was powerless to reverse the course that was unfolding. It was only a few months later that Hitler tore up the Munich accord by taking over the rest of Chechoslovakia, and then invading Poland, as World War II was on for real. The British finally came to their senses and replaced Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement, with the toughness and realism of a Winston Churchill.

So it is with Putin’s military takeover of Crimea. After all, he only did it to protect the rights of the large Russian populace currently living in Crimea. The first thing to know is that Putin is an old KGB mid-level thug who rose to power with the fall of the old Soviet empire. The KGB was Moscow’s equivalent of the Nazi Gestapo, and had used virtually identical Gestapo methods as standard operating procedure. Since knocking off his opponents and achieving ultimate power, Putin runs the Russian government Mafia-style. If anyone of significance crosses him, they’re either deposited in Siberian prison camps for the duration, or just simply eliminated. Putin’s economic system relies heavily on crony capitalism-his cronies receive all the capital, and the rest of the peasants are left with their vodka to blot out their unhappy lives. As I’ve said, it’s a Mafia-style government with Putin being the godfather, or the boss of bosses. It’s a primary reason that Russia is chief among all nations in the world, in actually losing population, due to a significantly declining  birth rate, that doesn’t keep pace with its death rate.

The thing is, however, that Putin is also a highly ambitious man, and is not satisfied with just ruling Russia. He has big dreams of re-assembling the old Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR, and bringing it all under his command. In 2008, his troops invaded and took over half the state of adjoining Georgia, while President George W. Bush, and the rest of the world stood by and did nothing. He maintains an iron-grip on Chechnya, which is a Moslem country fighting for years for its independence from Russia. The Chechnians have resorted to unleashing horrific terrorist acts against the Russian people; but this has not dissuaded Putin from granting Chechnya its freedom.  The Ukraine, however, is the biggest prize in Putin’s ambitions, and the takeover of Crimea is just the beginning.

Just as Hitler got to preside over the 1936 summer Olympics in Berlin, shortly before the out break of WWII, Putin took center-stage over the 2014  just-ended winter Olympics in Russia, shortly before invading Crimea. Amazing how consistently history keeps repeating itself. Both men presented themselves as models of rationality who enjoyed world class sporting events as much as the next guy. Their sinister goals remained well-hidden during the Olympic festivities. But the wolf in sheep’s clothing eventually bares its fangs. And when it does people die.

The mess in the Ukraine began when its democratically elected leader decided to switch sides. Preparations had been made for the Ukraine to join the European Union, which would enable it to reap all the trade, economic, and other financial benefits that membership in the EU had to offer. The whole world expected that to occur, including the leadership in this country. But Putin could never allow that to happen. At the last minute, Putin persuaded the Ukrainian leader to renounce EU membership and, instead, come in under Russia’s umbrella. The Ukrainian people were up in arms and massive demonstrations started taking place. The government’s answer was to slaughter protesters by the hundreds as the streets literally ran with blood. Even more massive protests took place, and the Ukrainian government was finally overthrown, with its leader fleeing for his life to Russia. An interim government has been established, with a pro-western agenda. It was at this point that Putin decided on a military take-over of the Crimean portion of the Ukraine, which is now solidly inside the Russian orbit.

While President Obama and other western allies have generally denounced Russia’s military aggression, there’s not a lot options available to us. There was a time in recent history when the North Atlantic Treaty Organization had the military muscle to counter such Russian operations, but it no longer does. Today NATO is just a shadow of its former self. England, France and Germany have cut their military resources to the bone; leaving the U.S. to pretty much do all the heavy lifting. It’s one of the reasons why we sustain $700 billion dollars a year in Defense expenditures. But there is virtually no appetite in this country for further military adventurism for any reason. After being sapped by a decade’s-long war in Iraq, and a still on-going 13 year-old war in Afghanistan, the one thing almost all Americans agree on is, no more military involvements.

There has been talk of imposing economic or financial sanctions against Russia, but major problems exist with those courses of action too. Russia supplies western Europe and the Ukraine with almost all of its energy resources. Gas and oil flow through Russian pipelines to virtually every European country. If we imposed economic sanctions against Russia, Putin could just as easily shut down all Russian energy deliveries to the rest of Europe. It’s known as being caught between a rock and a hard place. So consider that Crimea is now permanently within Moscow’s sphere of influence. The real question is, however, whether or not Putin will be satisfied with just ownership of Crimea, or does he have all of the Ukraine within his sight. Stay tuned for further developments.

 

 

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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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