Posts Tagged With: Obama

ANOTHER WIN FOR DYSFUNCTION

Last time I wrote about the deal emerging in negotiations to limit Iran’s capability to achieve nuclear weaponry. I pointed out that in its efforts to reach some sort of nuclear arrangement with Iran, the Obama administration is very likely to reach some terribly wrong agreement. Like allowing Iran to continue enriching uranium which is at the very core of a nuclear bomb. Or like setting a term-limit on the agreement reached to only 10 years. Which means that at the start of the 11th year, Iran could very easily start to assemble nuclear weapons on their assembly lines. In the meantime, Iran gets the benefit of a relaxation of all economic sanctions that most of the world has placed on it. Oil production would dramatically increase, and the Iranian economy would boom. But even worse than this deeply flawed treaty is the action of 47 Republican senators in sending a letter to the mullahs that exercise iron-clad control over that country. The letter, in effect, stated that any agreement reached between the Obama administration and the Iranian government will be short lived because when the Republicans take power in less than 2 years, they will likely chuck it into the garbage can. For mind-boggling recklessness and sheer outright stupidity, this action is almost beyond comprehension.

Let’s start with the premise that has supposedly been woven into the American landscape since the end of WWII. That premise states that the political divide in this country stops “at the waters edge.” This means that we can bicker internally about all sorts of political issues; but when it comes to dealing in foreign relations and with foreign governments, we speak with one united voice. How else can we successfully achieve our foreign policy objectives? As an analogy, lets turn back the clock to early 1940, when the Nazi military was on the march throughout Europe. The Roosevelt administration had established a “lend-lease” program to supply England with the vital weaponry it needed to fight Hitler’s troops as they threatened to invade the British Isles. If isolationist Republican senators who were opposed to this program had sent Hitler a letter at the time, saying “don’t worry about lend-lease. When we win the election slated for later this year, we’ll just toss that whole lend-lease operation into the trash bin.” One can only imagine the tragedy that would have ensued. Fortunately for us, and the rest of the free world, no such letter was ever sent. But that hasn’t stopped modern day Republicans, whose antipathy, or outright hatred of everything Obama, from going deeply beyond the waters edge.

The GOP excuse for writing that letter was that they wanted to explain to those crazy kids, the ayatollahs, that so-ruthlessly run Iran, about the intricate points of the U.S. constitutional form of government.  Right. If you believe that one, I’ve got a bridge that connects Brooklyn with Manhattan that I’ll sell you real cheap. First of all, by writing to the ayatollahs, the most fanatical and hate-mongering segment of Iranian society, and telling them that any pact reached with the current administration isn’t worth the paper its printed on, only reinforces the ayatollahs doctrine that the U.S. can never be trusted. That the U.S. is the great satan that must be destroyed, along with Israel, of course. That it’s an absolute moral imperative for every Moslem to seek the total destruction of the U.S. and Israel. So, any effort on the part of our current administration to reach some form of reasonable accommodation with Iran is now pretty much out the window.

At the heart of such recklessness is the GOP’s undying antipathy toward Obama and his administration. It explains the daily gushing river of vitriol and venom directed against not only Obama, but his Attorney-General Eric Holder, as well. The first black President and the first black Attorney-General of the United States. Day after day, this vitriol pours forth from Fox News and right-wing-whacko talk radio. But who could possibly infer that there’s anything racial going on here. A Rush Limbaugh or any of his wannabes would, of course, never admit to that.

The Republican mantra of hating everything Obama is further illustrated by the Attorney-General situation. Toward the end of 2014, AG Eric Holder announced that he was resigning and would leave office as soon as a new AG has been approved by the Senate. President Obama thereafter announced that he was nominating a New York prosecutor named Loretta Lynch to be the replacement AG. She would be the first black woman to occupy that office. The Senate panel overseeing such nominations declared that she was well-qualified and approved her nomination for a full Senate vote. The problem is that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, Republican from Kentucky, refuses to schedule such a vote. On the one hand, confirming Lynch’s nomination would be the quickest way to be rid of the despised Eric Holder.  On the other hand, Loretta Lynch would just be another Afro-American carrying out Obama administration policies. A female Eric Holder. What a conundrum. To vote her down would allow the racial disease within the Republican Party to become too obvious, even for voters that hardly pay any attention to such matters. So, at this point, it appears that the GOP has no end-game strategy, other than endless delaying tactics, until, they hope, time runs out on the Obama presidency.

Such is the state of of American politics in the year 2015. Every time one might think that we’ve hit a new low in political dysfunction, polarization, and hyper-partisanship, the political class seems to sink us even deeper into the quagmire of mud and slime. And it’s only going to get worse in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

 

 

 

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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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THE HEALTHCARE SCARE

So Obama promised on numerous occasions that: “If you like your healthcare plan you can keep it. Period.” He often repeated this while campaigning for President and then after he was elected. Bad mistake, as it turned out, since perhaps millions of people will lose their healthcare plan due to implementation of Obamacare. Couple that with the disastrous incompetence of introducing Obamacare on-line, and you have Republicans, like sharks smelling blood in the water, circling around their prey, ready to pounce. I suppose if Obama had said that most people would be able to maintain their healthcare plans, this entire kerfuffle might have been avoided. In any event, before we let panic and hysteria reign supreme, I felt it would actually be helpful if we looked at the facts and the reality surrounding the whole healthcare stew that exist in America today. You know what facts are; those pesky and annoying items that always seem to interfere with ideology.

The first fact to acknowledge is that we are the only civilized country on Planet Earth, (and perhaps in the universe) that doesn’t provide its citizens with universal healthcare. Republicans, and other assorted right-wingers point to healthcare systems in Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, China, Japan, India, and everywhere else, and declaim these systems as “socialized medicine.” Oh, the horror. We must never allow the evils of socialized medicine to take root in the U.S., they staunchly proclaim. Except that it already has for major segments of our society. Like the military, for example. Republicans hold the military in such high esteem, that it has not been a problem bestow upon them the “evils” of socialized medicine. Here’s how it works. The military healthcare system is called TRICARE, and it’s available to all active AND retired military, their spouses and their young children. All are eligible to obtain free medical treatment at VA hospitals or from private doctors. Currently, this comes to just under 10 million people who don’t have to worry about obtaining healthcare. Plus, if one has ever served in the military, they’re allowed to obtain medical care at VA hospitals for a small co-pay. Why is socialized medicine a given for the military, but such a big deal about making it available to the civilian population?

Next comes Medicare for all those pain-in-the-ass seniors, who, as everyone knows, are just leeches on society. While not as good as TRICARE, it’s still not bad. It pays an estimated 80 percent of usual doctor bills, and almost 100 percent of hospital charges. It doesn’t cover stuff like eye glasses or hearing aids which are an increasing necessity in many senior’s lives. Normally, when one has Medicare, one has to also acquire a supplemental healthcare plan to cover the stuff Medicare won’t pay for. My supplemental costs about 3 times more than my Medicare premiums; but, between the two, I don’t have to worry about any billings from doctors or hospitals. So we’ll say that Medicare is semi-socialized medicine. Except if a senior decides to belong to an HMO, where everything is paid for and no supplemental is required. Then it’s fully socialized. There are, however, certain disadvantages to belonging to an HMO, which you can learn about on Google. In any event, there are currently 49 million people receiving Medicare benefits. The list of those with Government healthcare support keeps growing.

The next category of Government provided healthcare is Medicaid, a health plan for the poor. Medicaid is generally not considered a worthy plan because the Government is extremely parsimonious in its funding. Medicaid is a joint federal and state funded venture and both have been reluctant in providing the resources needed to keep the system afloat. Many doctors will not accept Medicaid patients because of stingy reimbursements. Still, if you’re poor, and can’t afford health insurance, it’s better than nothing. Currently, 70 million people rely on Medicaid for their health benefits. There’s also CHIP, the Children Health Insurance Program; essentially, Medicaid for youngsters, which enrolls another 7.6 million people. So we’re now up to about 136 million Americans receiving health insurance benefits from the Government. (Better not alert the Tea Party nut cases, or they’ll develop a case of the heaves.)

An estimated113 million Americans receive their health insurance from private employers or as employees of governments at the federal, state and local levels. These are generally safe from the mandates of Obamacare. So where’s the problem with all these cancellation notices and rate hikes. It comes because 5 percent of the population, or about 15 million people have to buy health insurance directly, because, for one reason or another, they are not part of a group plan. Which is always an unfortunate position to be in. Most of these cancellation notices are occurring because many of these self-insured health plans do not meet minimum medical requirements specified by the Government. Or, in other words, these plans are a piece of crap; and the only thing saving the butts of those purchasing such plans is that they remain healthy enough to not require serious medical attention in the first place. Eventually, over time, if Obamacare is allowed to develop and evolve, those buying self-insurance will be able to obtain decent plans at reasonable cost.

But, if Republicans want to howl that Obama lied, they’re free to do so. Imagine, a politician in Washington lied. I don’t think my heart can take it. Where’s my defibrillator? Although I seem to recall those famous words uttered by George Bush, the Elder: “Read my lips, no new taxes.” That notorious line was proclaimed about a year before he signed legislation raising our taxes. Or how about the right-wingers favorite President, Ronald Reagan, lying to us for over 2 years about the Iran-Contra scandal. (Those not familiar with Iran-Contra can also check it out on Google.) Or how about the infamous: “I did not have sex, not even once, with that woman, Miss Lewenski.” Bill Clinton is now revered as a saint in Democratic circles, despite the utterance. It was he, more than anyone, that saved Obama’s butt, in the 2012 election. Or how about George Bush, the Younger, telling us we had to go to war with Iraq because Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. It was only later that we found no WMDs existed in Iraq. Or better yet, take the man considered our greatest President, Abraham Lincoln. In trying to secure enough votes to pass the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery, lying was the least of his sins. Lincoln used bribery, blackmail, threats of political or bodily harm, coercion, and bunches of other bad stuff, but he got the job done and was hailed as a hero. Perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned from that.

 

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THE SHUTDOWN DEBACLE

Hope you haven’t made any plans to visit any one of our national parks at this time. Over 300 million visitors come to our national parks annually; with a large chunk of them visiting around this time of year, especially those parks with trees that display colorful autumn foliage.  If you have made such plans, and put down a large deposit to cover the costs of trip, you will likely be out of luck. Because if the Government shuts down at midnight tonight, as it appears highly likely, you had better hope that your travel agent is understanding enough to return your deposit. One of the first agencies to shutter their operations during a Government shutdown will be the National Park Service. You can also forget about obtaining a passport at this time, just in case you were planning an overseas trip. The passport office in the State Department will be another shutdown casualty. Welcome to your dysfunctional and delusional Government in the early part of the 21st century.

Technically, if Congress makes no funding appropriations by midnight tonight, the entire Federal Government is supposed to close shop. Because the Constitution clearly states that no expenditure is permitted for any Government operation if funds have not been appropriated by Congress. But there is a tacit, unspoken agreement among politicians of every stripe, that essential Government operations will be permitted to function. I guess it wouldn’t look too good for Congress or the President if we were subject to a major terrorist attack because counter-intelligence operatives in the Dept. of Homeland Security, the Dept. of Defense, or the CIA were told to go fishing instead of coming into work. But where are the strict interpreters of the Constitution when you need them. Where are the strict-constitutionalists like Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia, who are always railing about liberal interpretations of the Constitution.

One of the reasons I write this blog is because its so much fun to highlight the irrational delusions that obsess many people’s lives and their ensuing actions. It’s fun, but it’s also tragic at the same time. Yes, reality is often a bitch, but it needs to be faced if one has any hope of succeeding in life. Delusional fears, paranoia, anger, or blaming others for one’s own mistakes or failures may be temporarily comforting; but in the end they are always highly counter-productive, and will usually lead to disaster. So it is with the House Republicans pandering to the most extreme right-wing elements that have now taken control of the GOP, and have this mantra that everything will be sweetness and light if they can only defund Obamacare. If that would only happen, then the sun will shine, the birds will chirp, and we can all go tiptoeing through tulips every morning with carefree abandonment. Thus, House Republicans refuse to pass required appropriations legislation unless it includes provisions to defund Obamacare. Democrats refuse to accept this defunding provision so Congress has stalemated itself into a Government shutdown at midnight. It’s like 2 cars coming head on at each other from opposite directions, and at high speeds, in an adolescent game of chicken. Which one will swerve to the side to avoid a head-on collision. If neither will, then tragedy ensues.

Time has long since passed when elected officials actually cared about the welfare of our citizenry. Now there is just one item on the agenda of our politicians-and that is getting re-elected next time around. To accomplish that, most politicians feel they have to appeal to their “base,” which is usually comprised of the most dedicated, fanatical, and extremist elements. People that are willing to work themselves into a coma, if that’s what it takes to get their guy elected. Because of this, there is hyper-polarization in Congress, with neither side willing to budge an inch. Which, turn, has resulted in a magnificent the 8-10% approval rating from the public in all the latest polls, that Congress so richly deserves.

Awhile back I posted an entry about why Congress has such dismal approval ratings. I theorized that Congress had been taken over by Plutonians. It seem that a few years back, scientists in this country downgraded Pluto from being a full-fledged planet in our solar system because of its smaller size. To seek vengeance, Plutonians came to Earth in space ships, took over the halls of Congress, and vowed to act as irrationally and dysfunctionally as possible. And that’s exactly what they did. It all made perfect sense, if one thought about. Alas, because this site is devoted to rationality and realism, I’m forced to abandon that theory and seek a more plausible reality.

I now believe that while vengeance is still the issue, it’s not being caused by citizens from the planet Pluto. Instead our own citizenry are the ones to blame. While, according to the polls, over 90% of us disapprove of Congressional actions, who is Congress but us. Aren’t we the ones that put all those senators and representatives there in the first place. And now we condemn them? As Ricky Ricardo might have said on “I Love Lucy”-we have a lot of ‘splaining to do.

I believe that among the Republican base of right-wing diehards, are those seeking revenge against Barack Obama for beating the GOP in 2 presidential elections. What better way to wreck vengeance than to deny Obama the funding needed to make his signature health care act become a reality. I believe that they are willing to shut down the Government indefinitely if that what it takes to strike back at the President, who they despise with every fiber of their being. Then there are those that hate the Government’s existence to begin with. In other times they were known as anarchists or nihilists. In their world, it’s survival of the fittest and every man or woman for themselves. Who needs government in the first place.

Maybe some kind of accord will be reached in the wee hours tonight; but I wouldn’t bet the mortgage on it. Of course, the longer the government shuts down, the more it will adversely affect the most vulnerable in our society. Like the poor, the sick, and the elderly. But in the end, who really cares about them. It’s too much fun watching this panorama of dysfunction unfold before our eyes.

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AS CHERRY PIE

As I’m sure all of you know, the 1960s was a turbulent time in American politics and society.  Various  protest movements were organized against what were considered the two worst evils in America at the time – segregation and other forms of racial discrimination against blacks, and the seemingly endless and bloody war going on in Viet-Nam. Huge protest demonstrations were taking place across the landscape against both these twin plagues; some peaceful, such as the civil rights marches led by Martin Luther King, and some not so peaceful such as the activities of the black panthers. One of the leading spokesman for the black panthers was a man with the nom de plume of H. Rap Brown, who often spoke eloquently about social injustice, but, unfortunately, often advocated a propensity to engage in violent acts to overcome these injustices. While I disagreed with much of what H. Rap Brown advocated, (he’s currently in jail serving a life sentence for murder, for those of you that are further interested in his story,) one statement he made, I thought, hit the nail squarely on the head. He said: “Violence is as American as cherry pie.” Sadly, the events in Connecticut last Friday proved out the validity of that statement.

The mass shootings in that public school in Connecticut were just the latest in a series of murderous events going back more than a dozen years to the tragic loss of life at a public school in Columbine. There was even a greater loss of life when a deranged individual went on a crazed shooting spree at Virginia Tech just a few years back. More recently, let us not forget the lunatic that shot up a movie theater in Colorado causing more loss of life, nor the shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Gifford along with a bunch of other people, on a street corner in Arizona. There is no sense or rationale behind any of these murders, since they emanate from from individuals with deranged mindsets, living in a fog of delusion, and harboring unimaginable grievances. What is readily understandable, however, is how the massive proliferation of guns and bullets and other weapons in this country makes it so easy for those with crazed mental problems to obtain the necessary weaponry to wreck their vengeance, usually on the most innocent of all victims, young children. And because of that proliferation, 40 grieving parents in Connecticut, last Friday, experienced the worst day of their lives, and will live with a nightmare that no parent can ever really recover from. To say nothing of the families and loved ones of the school personnel that were also gunned down.

The gun culture in America, of course, goes back to colonial times. As settlers started pushing west from the 13 original colonies, huge hazards awaited them in the wilderness. There was, of course, wild animals to contend with, as well as the necessity of killing wild game in order to provide themselves with food. Then there were Native Americans who became a tad perturbed that these undocumented white folk, (illegal aliens,) had a propensity for taking away their native lands, and had the means to do it because of superior fire power. So occasionally, these natives whom we call Indians, would go on a rampage and kill the white settlers. Didn’t do them much good though, since we took just about everything away from them, and then threw them a few crumbs called Reservations to live on. There were also a lot of unsavory, nasty characters moving west with the settlers, and general lawlessness was initially experienced in most western states. So it was understandable that a gun culture grew across the U.S. A culture that usually didn’t exist in the European countries from whence most of these settlers came.

Today that culture has become a full fledged gun fetish. There are now federal, state and local police forces in every county from Cape Cod to Seattle WA. Thus, the reality of prevalent lawlessness is largely gone. And I don’t think we have very much to fear from Indian or wild animal attacks. Yes, of course, there are criminals and bad guys  all across the country, but that’s what the police are for. Yet a huge chunk of the populace believes that they have to be armed to the teeth, and ready for the next gunfight at the OK Corral. I have written before about how people went on a huge gun and bullet buying spree when Obama was first elected in 2008. The same thing happened this time around when Obama was re-elected. Gun stores couldn’t keep their shelves stocked, especially with bullets, as people didn’t hesitate to let their fear and paranoia run amok. After all, wasn’t it common knowledge that a re-elected Barack Obama would personally see to it that everyone’s guns were immediately confiscated? So a second gun buying spree has ensued. Even though buying a gun is not exactly like buying a candy bar. Guns run from about $500 a pop and up, well beyond the budgets of most average Americans, I would imagine.

Often it is the most religious fanatics and bible thumpers that have the greatest affinity for gun acquisition. Which makes a lot of sense. I guess they can always point to that passage in the New Testament that describes how Jesus was always packing heat when he went to deliver his sermons. And of course, no topic about guns in America would be complete without mentioning the National Rifle Association (NRA.) With membership in the tens of millions, the NRA has enormous political clout. They have managed to thwart just about every attempt at gun control all across the land, and have caused the defeat of politicians who had advocated for gun control. They, of course, never cease pointing out that that the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution give our citizens the unfettered right (in their minds) to “bear arms.” Since the constitutional wording says “arms” and not “guns,” I wonder if this gives me the right to acquire a howitzer and put it on my front lawn. Then I can blast away at that annoying guy I keep running into in the gym, that lives about a mile away from me. In other words, uncontrolled weapons acquisitions are insane; but neither party is willing to take on the NRA and enact some semblance of gun control sanity.

These days, just about anyone can walk into Wal-Mart or any other store that sells weaponry, fill out a few forms, wait a few days, and then have unlimited access to purchasing any amount of firepower they desire and can pay for. No matter how crazy or delusional they may be. We’ll see if the latest tragedy in Connecticut will change that policy, or whether the NRA will still successfully destroy any attempt at gun control and sanity in this country.

 

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A LETTER FROM GERALD

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

Dear Mitt:

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

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

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

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

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

Your devoted servant,   Gerald P.

 

 

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AFTERTHOUGHTS

The fact that Barack Obama edged out a narrow victory in this election was nothing short of a minor miracle. The last time a president won re-election with an unemployment rate near 8% was in 1936. Then there’s the fact that the country is bleeding red ink with annual trillion plus dollars of budget deficits, and a combined overall red-ink tab exceeding $16 trillion. Let us also not forget that the entire economy is one step away from being on life-support as it barely limps along from one month to the next; and the real estate market, is for the most part, still in the dumpster, with housing prices still well below par, amid a continuing rate of foreclosures. On the international front, the recent fiasco in Libya, where the ambassador and 3 of his aides were murdered by terrorists because of a failure to provide adequate protection, would normally be enough sink any presidential candidate’s hopes. Then there’s Iran on the very cusp of developing nuclear bombs as they defy our puny attempts to shut down their nuclear capabilities, and the risks posed by the growing military strength of China and Russia which we also can’t stop. Although in China’s case, they’re really isn’t much of a risk since they own over a trillion dollars of our debt which would suddenly become worthless should they try any funny staff. To say nothing of the fact that we are such a lucrative market for them to dump their shlock goods on. The clothing aisles in Wal-Mart would be barren if not for cheap Chinese imports.

So how did Obama pull off this miracle. Certainly not by getting the white male vote which went to Romney by 20 points. But Obama achieved a 12 point plurality in receiving the white female vote, mainly because of the Republican’s almost fanatical anti-abortion position. Romney could have significantly cut into Obama’s lead among women had been willing to utter just one sentence such as: “If elected, I will NOT appoint a justice to the Supreme Court that would vote to overturn Roe V. Wade.” With that one statement, Romney would have likely siphoned off enough women’s votes to give him the election. But he couldn’t make himself do it, mainly out fear that his base of white evangelicals (read religious fanatics) would be so turned off by such a statement that he would lose their votes. A false assumption, as it were, since these people would never, under any circumstance, vote for Obama. The rest of the coalition that Democrats were able to stitch together, was comprised of young people under 30, and minority groups such as Latinos, African-Americans and Asians. The GOP, after all these years, has made relatively little effort to secure votes from these groups, and it cost them heavily.

About 95% of the black vote went to Obama, understandably, given the pride blacks felt in seeing one of their own in the Oval Office. But where Romney really lost the election was among Hispanic voters that went for Obama by an incredible 71%. They were the key element in several swing states such as Florida, Colorado, New Mexico, and my own state, Nevada. All of these states went for Obama, albeit by narrow margins provided by the Latino vote. Back in the fun days of the Republican debates, each of those crazy kids up on stage were out to prove their anti-illegal immigration chops by trying to out-do each in how tough they would be on that subject. One of the main goals of the Tea-Party movement, in addition to slashing Government spending, was to stop illegal-immigration in its tracks, and deport as many illegals as possible. In those heady days, it was thought that Republican success at the polls was highly dependent on currying favor with Tea-Partiers, and Romney was no exception. During one of the debates, Romney, again trying to show how tough his anti-illegal stance was, made the curious statement that anyone here illegally should self-deport him or herself back to Mexico. (Like that would ever happen.) It seems that upon hearing that, Hispanics were not in a very forgiving mood, and as I said, 71% voted against the Republican candidate. Asians, because they were experiencing the lowest rate of unemployment among any voting bloc, also went heavily for Obama. Altogether, blacks, hispanics and asians comprised more than 25% of the votes cast, and further illustrated the GOP’s continuing problems with minorities.

There is one more factor I feel is significant, and that is Romney’s inability to connect, on a personal level, with the average man and woman. Almost all of us go through life with feelings of anxiety, inadequacy, weakness, fear, anger issues, depression at times, and even a sense of personal failure, etc., although we may not admit or show these feelings to the rest of the world (except maybe to a psychologist, if you have the money.) Is there anyone out there that has not had some or all of these feelings from time to time. But not Mitt Romney. He was born rich, handsome and smart. He was an honor student in high school and college, which, by the way, was Harvard. After graduating college, he plowed through the world of finance without a setback. He eventually become boss in a huge venture capital operation and earned hundreds of millions of dollars. He has a picture perfect marriage and 5 sons that any parent would die for. And he wears these incredibly successful life experiences like a suit of armor that cannot be penetrated by the slings and arrows of any possible misfortune. No self-doubt or feelings of inadequacy there. If there is any chink in Mitt Romney’s armor, it’s the fact that there are no chinks in his armor.

Who can identify with such a person? The guy behind the counter at your local 7-11?  The truck  driver that has driven hundreds of miles to his destination, and now has to schlep all the heavy boxes he was carrying off the truck? Has anyone, in the history of mankind, ever led a more perfect life? I kind of doubt it. All this abundance has shown thru in the hugely self-confident way that Romney conducts and projects himself. Not that Obama hasn’t also led a privileged life. But Obama goes to great lengths to identify with the average person. He openly roots for the Chicago White Sox. He makes his picks well-known for the NCAA college basketball finals, known as March Madness. He takes his girls to local ice cream stores or hamburger joints in Washington. But Romney’s life has been so perfect that he is just unable to make a personal connection with his fellow citizens. In the end, I believe this went a long way toward crushing his dreams of sitting in the Oval Office.

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FINALLY OVER

At long last, it’s finally coming to an end. Today is the final day we’ll have to put up with all those vile, obnoxious, mudslinging TV ads; all the mendacious junk mail assaulting  our mailboxes every day advocating for every candidate from state assemblyman to president; and all the equally vile and obnoxious attack phone calls invading the privacy of our homes. The phone calls got so bad that I have had to unplug the phone in our bedroom when we turned in for the night. I was getting calls before 5 A.M or after 11 at night; probably from East Coast campaign workers oblivious to the 3- hour difference between Eastern and Pacific Coast times. But, as I’ve said, what started well over a year ago, finally comes to it’s conclusion tonight.

I do have to admit that I sort of miss the-carnival-is-coming-to-town atmosphere of the Republican debates that began in 2011. There, up-on-stage were the carnival actors or clowns if you prefer. There was the dingbat element represented by Michele Bachman and wacky Ricky Santorum, the old crank that was Ron Paul, rotund Newt the Lovable, the bible thumper Rick Perry, and, of course, His Mittness, who by appearing to act with some clarity and sanity out-lasted all of them and secured the Republican nomination, and is now on the very edge of becoming our next president. There was also one other candidate, Jon Huntsman, former governor of Utah. But his problem was that he spoke with such common sense and rationality, that Republican primary voters just couldn’t handle someone that didn’t feed into their world of delusion. Therefore Huntsman wasn’t able to gain any traction, and finally had to drop out of the race. Those were the fun days of the 2012 election, but now it has become a colossal and nauseating drag.

If nothing else, however, this election has richly displayed both the coarsening and polarization of modern-day America. The mean-spirited venom that has spewed forth from from each candidate and their surrogates, from president, to congressional, and to state and local races speaks to both social conditions. First, there is the mind-boggling $3 billion that will have been spent on all these candidates when it finally ends tomorrow. How many hungry people in the world could that $3 billion have fed; how much infrastructure, water or sewer pipes, electrical grids, roads and bridges, etc. could that money have built or repaired. When you think of all the good that money could have been used for versus the garbage ads some of you may be removing from your mailboxes even as I type this, you can only conclude-what a waste. About $2 billion of that amount will have gone into the presidential race where both men are now so hopelessly compromised and beholden to their fat-cat donors, that it’s hard to see how anything meaningful can be accomplished for the rest of the country.

The polarization of America can be seen in the fact that a day before the election, all polls show the race to be a 50-50 toss-up. About half the electorate believes the answer to our huge problems is to severely slash Government spending (except for  military spending),  and cut tax rates that will primarily benefit the rich, while the other half believes that Government is needed to help the poor, the sick, the unemployed and the elderly. Half believes that we should edge toward a Christian theocracy by banning abortion and gay rights and gay marriage, while the other half maintains that we should hold onto a secular society. There appears to be no meeting of the minds or a desire for compromise on either side. So even if Romney wins tomorrow (as I suspect he will) it will be a divided nation with a divided Government. The Democrats will have at least as many Senators as needed to mount a successful filibuster, which could throw a monkey wrench into a President Romney’s agenda. If Obama should manage to squeak out a victory the same would hold true for the Republicans ability to filibuster in the Senate. In the the end we are likely to have a Government that barely muddles through the process of governing and achieves nothing meaningful.

A good example of the coarsening of America could be seen after the 2008 elections. After it was clear that Obama was the victor, there was a huge run on gun stores to purchase as many guns and as much ammo  as people could stuff into their trucks. Now buying a gun is not like buying a loaf of bread. A gun goes for around $500 a pop and can increase in cost into the thousands. Yet millions of people, most of them of modest means, were buying firearms as if they were loaves of bread. In their minds, with the Democrats in power, tanks would soon be rolling down their streets, with armed military going door-to-door, and taking away everyone’s firearms. These people would be defenseless, and then soon shipped off to concentration camps if they opposed the administration. Of course, the gun mentality is just one example of the coarsening of our society. Everything from the degradation of our pop culture to the lack of civility in our everyday dealings with one another, to the lack of compassion in the way we treat the less fortunate among us, to the growing superficiality and shallowness among the populace, bespeaks to the constant dumbing down and coarsening of American society. And now with society so highly polarized, that trend seems to be going in a steady stream downhill.

One last thing. The worst possible outcome in tomorrow’s election would be if the voting was so evenly divided, especially in the swing states, that no winner could be readily ascertained. Counts and recounts could drag on for days or even weeks, with both sides fighting vociferously to get their guy declared the winner. The election results could even wind up for the courts to decide, the way the Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, granted George Bush the winner over Al Gore in the 2000 election. If something like that were to happen, imagine the bitterness and hostility that would emanate from the losing side. It would result in polarization on steroids.

 

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GREAT EXPECTATIONS

No, this isn’t a piece on the classic masterpiece written by Charles Dickens in the 19th century, although a discussion of that novel would certainly be a worthy topic. Instead, I’m writing about new-found Republican optimism following last week’s acclaimed performance by Mitt Romney at the first Presidential debate. He came charging out-of-the-gate with just the right amount of strong aggressiveness mixed with smiling friendliness to win plaudits from both Republicans and Democrats alike. President Obama, on the other hand, appeared weak and indecisive, as if he believed the latest polls showing him in the lead in key states, and felt as long as he didn’t commit any major gaffes, he could just coast along until election day. But as any football team can tell you, trying to just sit on a lead and let the clock run out is often a recipe for disaster. So Obama’s poor performance may well cost him the presidency as the most recent polls show Romney surging into the lead. Couple a very probable Romney win with the strong possibility that the GOP will also capture control of the Senate and House, and I thought it might be fun, if you want to call it that, to see what an all Republican-run Government might look like come next January.

Let’s start with the comment made last week by a Republican Congressman from Georgia. He said that everyone who believed in Darwin’s Theory of Evolution was either going straight to hell, or deserved to be sent to hell. He further stated that the Earth was only 9000 years old, and anyone who believed otherwise was going, again, to you know where. I guess those dinosaurs that roamed the planet 65 million years ago only thought they were on planet Earth. They must have been in an entirely different galaxy altogether. While I can’t find the words to describe the grandiose stupidity of such remarks, the most troubling aspect is number of citizens and voters who believe such delusional thinking. The tens or hundreds of thousands of voters that elected this guy to Congress in the first place. Or the fact that numerous polls show a majority of the populace does not believe in Evolution, even though one visit to any museum of natural history in any major city, would prove to them otherwise. But I guess people who prefer to live in a state of delusion, especially religious delusion, are not big museum goers.

In any event, His Mittness has focused on the poor job market and our huge deficit spending as his main targets to address when entering the Oval Office, so let’s see what would happen come January. In the debate, Romney stated that he would eliminate Government assistance to the Public Broadcasting System and Planned Parenthood. The total Government subsidy to these 2 organizations is about $2.5 million out of an annual budget of $3.8 trillion and an accumulated deficit of $16 trillion. It would be like scooping a glass of water out of the ocean in order to reduce the sea level. So why does Romney even mention these 2 examples? Because PBS is perceived as being favorable toward liberals (even though they’re not) while Planned Parenthood, of course, performs the unforgivable sin of allowing abortions. If PPS favored the  conservative cause, the GOP would want to shower it with funding. On the other hand, His Mittness has stated that he wants to sharply increase Defense spending, i.e. buy more ships, planes, missiles, etc., and significantly increase troop strength. He’s talking about increasing the Defense budget, which already stands at over $700 billion annually, anywhere from another $100-$200 billion a year, but hasn’t said where he would get the additional funding. Oh I know. He could obtain the extra cash from  Big Bird’s nest egg. Romney has publicly stated that he want’s to cut income taxes by 20%, increase Defense spending by $1-2 trillion over 10 years, and yet magically balance the budget. He would follow the same formula that Ronald Reagan used in the 1980’s. Only Reagan’s actions led to a 300 percent increase in our accumulated deficit. These are all crucial points that Obama could have made but didn’t, as he snoozed his way through the debate.

The supposedly rotten economy is Romney’s other big selling point. Except it’s not quite as rotten as it has been made out to be. The vast majority of Americans are working in their preferred jobs. The stock market has been on a steady surge upward. The unemployment rate is higher than the preferred norm by about 2 percent, but it’s getting better. If some of the 15-20 million jobs that American companies have shipped overseas were brought brought back to the U.S., the unemployment numbers would be so low that there would be dancing in the streets. The real estate market, which was the main culprit behind the entire economic downturn in the first place, is still in poor shape. But real estate prices had become so over-inflated, and banks and mortgage companies had acquired so much worthless paper, that it will take years for the market to make a reasonable recovery. This is true no matter who had been elected President. Also true is that whether it’s Obama or Romney in the White House next year, the economy will continue to steadily improve, regardless of the President’s actions. Further points that the Democrat’s could have, but didn’t make.

One last thing. To show the incredible level of Democratic political ineptness and incompetence, one needs to look no further than the very blue state of Conn. There is a Senate race this year that pits the Democratic candidate against a Republican woman whose primary qualification is that she is or was co-owner of the Worldwide Wrestling Federation. This she be a no-brainer win for the Democrat in this, as I’ve said, very blue state. Yet the latest polls show the GOP WWF owner to be winning. If the Dems lose that race, it’s very likely they will lose control of the Senate. When it comes to political competence or smarts, the GOP is like the N.Y. Yankees playing, not a triple A minor league team, but a double A team, for the World Series. It’s a miracle that the Dems ever win any important race. I can only chalk it up to how rotten the Republican agenda is.

 

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BRAND NAMES

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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