Posts Tagged With: political commentary

THE FREAK SHOW

I had promised myself that I wouldn’t write about Trump at least until it was clear that he would become the Republican nominee. But the latest shenanigans going on in that continuing circus known as the Republican debates made it all too irresistible. The latest kerfuffle occurred when Trump, always seeking to travel the low road, questioned whether his nearest rival in the upcoming Iowa caucus, Ted Cruz, is really a legitimate citizen of the U.S. Seems that good ole Ted was born in Canada, but to an American mother. That Cruz is a U.S. citizen is undeniable. But the Constitution states that to run for president, one must be a “natural born citizen.” Since Ted was born in Canada, Trump claims that the Democrats could “sue” Cruz’s eligibility to sit behind the desk in the oval office, should he be the party’s nominee. Since mudslinging is the name of the game in Trump’s world, these phony allegations reminded me of the 2012 election when Trump based his attempted march to fame on the “birther” allegation that Barack Obama was not a naturally born U.S. citizen, i.e., that he was really born in Kenya. Didn’t work out too well for him back then, and likely won’t this time around too.

First a few observations. Canada practically is the U.S., and would have been if not for the seditious actions of Aaron Burr, back in the days of our founding fathers. Secondly, most legal scholars agree that Cruz meets the definition of a “natural born citizen” and that Trump’s allegations constitute a “red herring.” It also noteworthy that the Iowa “caucus” followed right after by the New Hampshire primary, have an outlandish influence in selecting 2 candidates, one of which will go on to become the most powerful person in the world. Iowa and New Hampshire combined, constitute 1.4% of the total U.S. population. Yet if one candidate sweeps both states, it gives him or her a powerful leg up, and lots of momentum in winning future primaries in the more populous regions of the country. Such is the irrational or insane method this country employs to select its presidential candidates. Any third or fourth world banana republic would be too ashamed to admit to this method of choosing their leaders. 

So Trump goes non-stop on Twitter bashing Ted Cruz, in an effort to tweet his way to the White House. The latest polls show the 2 of them in a dead heat in Iowa. Now, normally I would be the last person to come to Cruz’s defense, since he’s a right-wing whacko extraordinaire. He’s anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, anti-immigration, and anti-gun control for openers. He’s also vociferously against government assistance to the poor, the sick, and the elderly. (If you’re poor, sick and old, you’re really up the creek without a paddle, in Cruz’s world.) He was instrumental in shutting down the government for 5 weeks in 2013, because he felt it was spending far too much on assistance for the disadvantaged. But, he’s also open and honest about his beliefs and priorities, such as they are, and doesn’t resort to mud-slinging demagoguery in order to achieve his goals. His views were largely shaped by his father, Rafael Cruz, who escaped from Castro’s Cuba, and equates all governments to the way the Castro brothers have ruled Cuba for the last 65 years. Rafael runs a mega-church in Texas, and has passed on his “all governments are tyrannical and godless” philosophy to son Ted who absorbed this type of thinking like a sponge.

Besides the bombastic, bullying Trump, and the far right, delusional Cruz, there’s a whole slew of Republican candidates eager for a shot at occupying the White House. There were originally 17 clowns on stage, and it’s now down to 13, I believe. But the only other candidate performing in these circus shows, that might have an outside chance at winning the nomination, is Marco Rubio. I’ve written about Rubio before; about his youth, good looks and even a dash of charisma, (unusual for a Republican.) There is no question that the young, handsome Marco would easily trounce the aging and highly damaged Hillary Clinton in a final showdown. The problem is that Rubio has run a rather lackluster campaign that has failed to energize most of the Republican base. He could easily win the election, but likely will not be able to secure the nomination. 

Then there are the also-rans like Jeb Bush. Bush used to be Governor of Florida but that was 8 years ago. Somehow Jeb believed that he could parlay the Bush family name into lining up big time cash donors that would buy the nomination and then the presidency for him. He did get the cash donors, but it’s not translating into potential votes in the upcoming primaries. Seems that the mostly disastrous  administration that brother George ran for 8 years, is still on voters minds. The thought of putting yet a third Bush in the Oval Office actually makes some people nauseous. There are also some of the longest of long-shots up on stage, hoping that lightening will somehow strike in their favor. For example, Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey, believes he somehow has a chance. But it’s not going to to happen and he should stick to blogging about his favorite restaurants in New Jersey. If anyone knows food, it has to be Gov. Christie. And, of course, these circus performances would not be complete without the one woman in the Republican race, Carly Fiorina. She speaks well, and exhibits great poise and decorum. But many years ago, Carly used to be CEO of Hewlitt-Packard, and nearly ran that company into ground with her decision to acquire the Compaq computer company. She was promptly fired from her job because of that fiasco. Then not too long ago she ran for senator in California and was soundly defeated in that quest, primarily because she was vociferously anti-abortion in a very blue state. Put her odds for the nomination at about a thousand to one. And the beat goes on.

There will be many more circus performances to write about before the eventual outcome, which will likely culminate with a Trump nomination. Then look at all the fun I could have, writing about The Donald’s exploits and ensuing disasters. 

Categories: Economics, human affairs, Isis terrorist attack in Paris,, Joe McCarthy, McCarthyism, World War II, Viet-Nam, Anti-Communist Witch Hunts, Army-McCarthy hearings, Islamic Jihadist terrorism, Soviet Union, Red China, politics, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

DEPRESSION AT ITS ROOTS

I thought that, for a change of pace, we would discuss a really fun topic like depression. No not the mental breakdown type, but the fiscal meltdown type instead. Although if you have a financial breakdown, it’s sure to cause a plethora of the mental type, so maybe we’ll wind up talking about both. They say that money can’t buy happiness, but tell that to the homeless guy sleeping in a cardboard box in a back alley or under a bridge somewhere. Or to the recent winners of the mega-millions jackpot as they were popping the champagne corks. It’s hard to imagine any individual or family where money doesn’t play a central role.

Throughout American history there’s been at least a dozen major depressions, or panics as they were sometimes called, starting as early as 1807. There was also a few milder recessions thrown in for good luck. (Ronald Reagan used to say that a recession is when your neighbor loses his job, and a depression is when you are thrown out of work. Not a bad definition.) But the depression I would like to focus on is the one back in the thirties. Not the 1930s, but the 1830s, or 1837 to be exact. It’s hard to believe they could have a depression back then when the entire U.S. population was only about 17 million. But not only did they have a depression, it was just as severe and destructive to people’s lives as the 1930s joyride. Those that are such strong advocates of capitalism somehow never get around to talking about capitalism’s failures, and how numerous they have been.

The U.S. government in 1837 was a modern day tea party’s dream come true in that it hardly did anything and hardly spent any money. It had a small Army and a few ships they called a Navy, a State Department that conducted a limited amount of foreign affairs, a small Attorney General’s office, and perhaps something that looked like an agriculture department to help out farmers. Even then people recognized that food was too important to deny at least some government involvement to help offset  the hardships that droughts or flooding rains may have caused farmers. But outside of these limited functions there was little government activity. Revenues came primarily from tariffs on imported goods, so tax rates on rich or poor was a non-factor.

In November of 1836, the only man in U.S. history to be elected from the House of Representatives directly to the White House, Martin Van Buren, became president in the following year, succeeding the the 8 year presidency of Andrew Jackson. Economic times were good at the start of the Van Buren presidency, as land values started to sky rocket in value because of increasing numbers of people pushing west. One might say there was a growing real-estate bubble, not unlike the one that has led to our current economic down-turn. Banks were eagerly encouraging people to borrow money and invest in real estate to keep land values rising.  Sound familiar? However, with all the cheap money flooding the market, inflation started to soar, and the government, in its infinite wisdom, declared that outstanding debt would have to be repaid in gold or silver, which made all the paper money on the market almost valueless. Instantly, there was widespread panic, as people rushed to their banks to withdraw their life’s savings while they could. Almost overnight, 40% of the banks in the U.S. had to close their shutters, since they were unable to meet their financial obligations. Financial destruction and ruin ensued on a massive scale in most people’s lives, from which  they would never recover.

Since governments in those days didn’t do much of anything outside of defense and foreign affairs, Van Buren was clueless as to what remedial actions the government might take to alleviate the hard financial times. So in the end he did nothing, and the unrelenting depression dragged on for 6  years until finally the economy started to improve in 1843. The depression caused Van Buren to lose his re-election bid in 1840, and he probably went to his grave insisting it was not government’s role to bail out the economy. Sort of like today’s far right, who are still monumentally upset that the current administration bailed out General Motors and Chrysler in their time of need,  instead of letting them go out of business, with a few hundred thousand more jobs going down the drain.

What is the relevance of the 1837 depression to our current world affairs? It’s not that capitalism is bad. Indeed, it’s probably the only real workable economic system at this stage of man’s evolutionary development. Even Communist China recognized that when they went to a market economy. But capitalism does have some deep fault lines that are ripe for exploitation by the unscrupulous. For example, when my wife and I bought our first house, people acquired real estate primarily for living purposes. We were required to put 20% of the purchase as a down payment. But early in the 21st century the fast-buck artists felt there was a quick killing to be made by constantly inflating real-estate values through convincing potential home-buyers to secure mortgages they could ill-afford with virtually no down payment. Real-estate prices could only go up, they told dubious buyers, before the crash came and all the foreclosures with it. And all the people now sitting in their homes with mortgages that are under-water. The 1930s depression was caused by the same-type of fast-buck artists that were exploiting the stock market, causing ever-increasing and unsustainable stock prices until the crash came.

So in the end it doesn’t matter whether it’s capitalism or socialism, or any other ism. What matters is the honesty and integrity of the people participating in what ever system is put in place. What’s important is to have the safeguards necessary to prevent the dishonest, the unscrupulous, and the out-and-out scammers from perverting whatever the chosen system of economics is. One final note. Mitt Romney has secured the GOP nomination, but during the primaries he referred to himself as a “severe conservative.” I wonder if that’s like a severe depression. Maybe it’s just a severe mental breakdown.

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

LIFE’S CERTAINTIES

“Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” So wrote Dylan Thomas, the Irish poet, as a memorial to his recently deceased father. Unfortunately Dylan Thomas, himself, would be dead three years later at the much too young age of 38. I don’t suppose it really matters if you rage or go peacefully, you know what’s coming at the end of the road. It’s the one certainty we have in life. A lot of people say there are 2 sure things in life: death and taxes. But a some people have figured out how to avoid paying taxes so we’re left with the one surety. All I know is, that when you’re young and you look down the road of life, it’s usually sunny and clear as a bell with nothing to mar the view. (Unless you’re one of the unfortunate few that has a genetic defect or some other catastrophic event in your young life.) But at my age when you look down that very same road, you see Death flitting among the bushes, or peeking out from behind a tree, to use some Ingamar Bergman imagery. (If you don’t know who Ingamar Bergman is, look it up in your Funk&Wagnells.)

When I was a young teenager, maybe 13 or 14, I remember standing around one day with a group of guys my age, watching the old people in the neighborhood as they shuffled along. Invariably all their teeth had fallen out and they had false teeth, everything hurt them, they walked bent over with a cane, and if they were in a park, they barely had the strength to make it from one bench to  the next. If you never have had the image burnt into your brain of what someone with false teeth looks like after they take them out at night to put into a glass of water, think “Night of The Walking Dead” or other such zombie movies. Suffice to say that getting old in those days was not a pretty picture. So we youngsters unanimously agreed that, ugh, this was no way to live. We all vowed that we would never want to be in that condition, and that we were better off dying by the age 60, or 65 absolute tops, to avoid the horrors of old age. After all, 50 more years down the road of life seemed like forever. I remember saying something to the effect that I just wanted to make it to the year 2000, (which would put me at 62) as if an artificial demarcation on the calendar would bring some magical occurrence. So here I am some 60 years after that conversation, with some of my teeth falling out, but no false teeth yet, and so far, still being able to walk without a cane. I’m assuming the other guys in that conversation are pretty much in the same boat.

However, life after you turn 70, certainly does change, and usually not for the better. You may have what people generously  call “senior moments” where at times, you may forget some basic stuff like the brand of your car. If it doesn’t happen repetitively, you may get the benefit of the doubt that you’re not senile. Also old people generally enter a state of total obliviousness, where they feel that the focus of all the the energy in the universe is entirely on them. Everyone else that exists is totally incidental to their needs. For example, and I see this all the time since I live in a seniors community, they may be driving down a residential street and spot someone they know walking on the sidewalk. They will then stop their car in the middle of the street to strike up a conversation with that friend, totally oblivious to the possibility that another car may be behind them seeking to pass. Perish the thought of having to endure the extreme hardship of pulling off to the side of road.

If you make it to your eighties, you get a free pass on just acting weird or cantankerous. For example, not too long ago, we were in a group of 4 senior couples meeting for dinner at a local restaurant. The last couple who came about 15-20 minutes late was perhaps in their early 80s. Now I’m always hungry and ready to eat, but some seniors apparently abhor the thought of food, and have to be coaxed into eating, or so it seems.  Such was the case of the woman in that late-arriving couple. First she had to relate to us all the exciting things that occurred during her heart-pounding day, before she even recognized there was a menu in front of her. She seemed to have an attitude of: “What, we’re here to have dinner? I thought we were meeting to play dominoes.” With the rest of us waiting, she finally decided that she would now take a side-ward glance at the menu. Doing so she frowned, and the expression on her faced seemed to ask: “Why have they given me a menu written in Portuguese.” Being assured that the menu was indeed in English, she favored us by rummaging through her pocketbook (which couldn’t have taken more than 10 minutes) to find her glasses, so she could read the menu with utter disdain. When the waiter finally came to take our order, there was, of course, nothing on the menu, as presented, that would suit her needs. The poor waiter, after much grilling, had to agree to have the kitchen make various substitutions to particular dishes before she would agree to order. By now, I was so famished, that I contemplated crawling around on my hands and knees under the table, looking for some crumbs or a crust of bread the previous party might have dropped on the floor.

I could go on and on, but I’m sure you get the picture by now, of what you have to look forward to in your senior years. Maybe us young teenagers weren’t so crazy after all.

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

WAR GAMES

The first recorded war in history happened about 4700 years ago between what are parts of Iran and Iraq today. (Some things never change, do they?) There was obviously earlier wars, since’s man’s propensity to slaughter his fellow man seems infinite, but the first time war was actually recorded was about 2600 B.C. I guess weapons of mass destruction in those days were clubs and perhaps a spear or two. Fast forward through history, and an untold number of wars in which millions were killed, to World War I where weapons of mass destruction were bombs being dropped from planes. Bombs had been around for at least 2 centuries, (they’re mentioned in our “Star Spangled Banner”), but WWI was the first time they could be dropped from the air on a hapless population that were unfortunate enough to be on the ground beneath them.

WWI was also famous for its trench warfare. Both the German and French sides drew huge trenches in the eastern part of France where the war bogged down after the German invasion. Besides the constant bombardment between the 2 sides, life in the trenches was a living hell. It continually rained or snowed, so the trenches were always a muddy, rat-infested hellhole, where hundreds of thousands of lives were lost, more due to disease from the miserable living conditions, than to enemy fire. Trench warfare continued for about 3 years as the war degenerated into a stalemate, until the U.S. entered the war, which enabled the allies to push Germany out of France and finally ended with Germany’s defeat. So many lives were lost in the trenches that burial was out of the question. Instead they built a huge structure around all the dead with side glass panels. To this day visitors can look inside this monument to the dead and still see their bones.

Fast forward now to the late 1930s when Nazi Germany was gearing up for the next war. When the Nazi’s were re-arming, in violation of the treaty that ended WWI, France could have easily intervened and put a stop to the re-armament process, and probably could have put an end to Hitler’s rise to power. But France did nothing, primarily because the French military and population were too demoralized by the horrific losses they had suffered in WWI. Everyone knows about how the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain came to Munich and tried to appease Hitler in 1938 by ceding over parts of Czechoslovakia to Hitler’s demands. Chamberlain apparently believed he had achieved “peace in our time” through appeasement of perhaps the most evil dictator of all time. What many people are not aware of is that the French Prime Minister was also at that meeting in Munich. His name was Edouard Daladier, and unlike Chamberlain, he had no illusions that Hitler could be bought off. He knew full well that Munich was just a prelude to WWII but he was too worn down by French malaise to do anything about it. Getting off the plane when he returned to Paris, and to throngs of people cheering him because they had believed Chamberlain’s proclamation that peace had indeed been achieved, he looked tired and haggard, with large bags under his eyes. Looking at the waving crowd,  he was heard to mutter to one of his aides:”The damned fools.”

Of course, instead of peace, war ensued and about 60 million people lost their lives in Europe, with millions more lost in the Pacific. The good guys (the Allies) finally won, and those Nazi war criminals that hadn’t committed suicide were hung at Nuremberg. But most people are unaware of just how close the Allies came to losing, in which case it would have been Truman and Eisenhower, and Churchill and Montgomery that were hung at Nuremberg, and Nazi rule prevailing throughout the West. Within a matter of weeks after the war begun, Nazi forces rampaged through and took over all of western Europe except for England. Thereafter Hitler invaded Russia in eastern Europe, and his forces marched almost unopposed over a thousand miles to the gates of Moscow. If Moscow had fallen, Russia would have been out of the war, and to try to retake Europe by fighting on just the western front would have been nearly impossible. Stalin, himself no stranger as an evil dictator, ordered the Russian military to defend Moscow at all costs, or to the last dead man, and somehow, although heavily out-gunned and out-manned, Russia held on, and the Nazi army was finally force to retreat back to Germany in the dead of winter. Hitler still had one ace up his sleeve, however. The Nazis were within weeks of developing an atomic bomb as well as rockets that could have reached New York and Washington before the Third Reich was finally forced to surrender. That’s how close we came to total disaster.

In the Pacific, the only thing that saved us, after the fiasco at Pearl Harbor, was that our carrier fleet, with all its hundreds of war planes was out at sea, instead being in port, when Japan struck. As bad as our losses at Pearl Harbor were, we could have never recovered if our carrier fleet had also been destroyed. Indeed after the destruction at Pearl Harbor, the Roosevelt White House fully believed that Japan would invade our west coast. We were so militarily unprepared, that had such an invasion occurred, Roosevelt believed we could not have stopped it. Military planners were prepared to set up a line of defense around the Chicago area, as a last-ditch effort against an invading Japanese army. The only thing that saved us was that Japan never realized how unprepared and vulnerable we were. It’s amazing how often wars are won and lost based on sets of missed opportunities.

Which brings us to the the present and our conflicts in the middle east. With Iran feverishly in the process of developing a nuclear arsenal, the next war could make the casualties suffered in previous wars look small in comparison. With Americans sick and tired of the wars in Iraq (which we are out of now), and Afghanistan where we’ve been bogged down for over 10 years, there is absolutely no desire for another conflict, especially not with Iran. Yet if we don’t take out Iran’s nuclear development now, that window of opportunity will soon be gone. We are at a point where France was with Nazi Germany in the late 1930s. France still had time to take out the Nazi war machine as late as 1938, but was too demoralized to take action. Are we also in the same category?

 

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

TEAPOT CRACKPOTS

Most of you have probably never heard of Dick Armey.  He was a Republican Congressman from Texas during the 1990s, and along with his fellow GOP Congressman from TX, Tom Delay, was chiefly responsible for the impeachment of Bill Clinton over that Monica Lewinski  thingy. In any event, after serving several terms in the House of Representatives, Armey felt that just being in Congress did not satisfy his thirst for pyrotechnics. He quit Congress in the early 2000s, and was the guiding light behind forming several ultra-conservative political organizations. Working from the shadows as fit his shadowy and unsavory  persona, his biggest success came from being the primary force in developing the recent tea-party movement. Almost everyone, even those not politically inclined, has some knowledge of the tea party involvement in recent politics,  but almost no one is familiar with the man who energizes the tea party initiative behind the scenes. If you ever caught one of his rare public appearances on TV or elsewhere, you would understand why he prefers to manipulate strategy behind the curtains. Not one of your more pleasant fellow human beings walking the planet.

Anyway we all know about the tea party successes in the the 2010 elections. The tea party movement, which basically seeks to cut Government expenditures and regulations back to 18th century levels, won the House for the Republicans by a wide margin, and sliced the Democratic lead in the Senate. Just for the record, however, tea partiers don’t want to cut all Government budgets. For example, they are quite willing to spend tens of billions to build like a 97 foot wall across the entire length of our border with Mexico, and station a couple of hundred thousand troops there, to make sure that not even one illegal alien slips across the border into the U.S. They are also quite fond of spending billions for military hardware. But as I said, they had much political success in 2010. But they also suffered some notable failures.

For example there was Delaware, where a seasoned seasoned politician named Mike Castle was supposed to win the Republican nomination, and then be a sure winner for the Senate seat election that November. Instead the primary win went to a young, pretty, pert woman with a bubbly personality named Christine O’Donnell, who had heavy tea party support. The only trouble was, that once she started campaigning, she made Sarah Palin look like another Albert Einstein. Apparently, in the 1990s, Christine had dabbled in witchcraft ( a harmless enough pastime) but when running for the Senate, somehow felt the need to apologize for it. She cut a TV commercial saying, “I’m not a witch.” (It was so 17th century of her.) That and other brilliant gems caused her to lose the Senate race in November. Karl Rove, the Republicans chief campaign strategist, nearly had a nervous breakdown on Fox News as he watched his dreams of a Republican majority in the Senate fade into the sunset.

The most notable tea party failure occurred here in Nevada where I currently reside. (And I’m not proud of it.) Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate majority leader was running for re-election with probably the highest negative poll numbers of any candidate since Ben Franklin discovered electricity. His negative ratings were well above 50%, and it was generally agreed that there was no way he could win re-election. Running in the Republican primary to oppose Reid was a very smart, conservative businesswoman named Sue Lowden. Polls showed her leading Reid by  at least 10-12%. Also running in the GOP primary was a man named Danny Tarkanian whose father was a former highly revered basketball coach at UNLV. Polls also showed the Tark with a very comfortable lead over Reid. The tea party, however, in its infinite wisdom, chose to back an obscure state assembly woman named Sharon Angle, who was such a dim bulb, she made Christine O’Donnell shine with brilliance.

Angle’s claim to fame, and the reason for the tea party endorsement, was that she voted against virtually every spending bills in the State legislature, even mundane stuff like road repair and bridges. When reporting this, State newspapers referring to a vote on a particular bill, would say the vote was 42 Yea 1Angle ( in lieu of Nay.) Once out on the campaign trail, it was clear what a disaster she was. About a week and a half before the election, for some strange reason, she gave a speech before a local high school assembly that was mainly populated by Hispanic students, almost all of whom were too young to vote. During the speech she came out with the weird statement that she often has difficulty differentiating between Hispanic and Asian people. The students looked at each other in deep puzzlement, scratching their heads. Even if true, why would she ever say something like that. Still, right up to the end, the polls she her with a small lead. Come election day, however, sanity prevailed, and Reid won re-election, by a narrow margin, still with the highest negative ratings ever.

All this is a prelude to the upcoming presidential election this year. Will the GOP propelled by the tea party movement, do something incredibly stupid again and hand Obama an undeserved win. Right now, as any grade school student could testify, Romney has such a commanding lead in the delegate count that it would be mathematically impossible for any other candidate to wrest the nomination away from him. Romney already has more than half the delegates he needs for the nomination, and the big states like California and New York which haven’t yet reported, are almost sure to go his way. Still wild, whacky Ricky Santorum and fantasy chaser Newt plow on hoping for a miracle. Santorum’s latest walk on the wild side is that as President he will ban internet pornography. That’s what I love about this primary season, the laughs never stop coming.

Forget the fact that internet pornography is a multi-billion dollar business, and far outstrips any other form of commercial activity on the web. While it’s true that porn is watched almost exclusively by men, it’s also true that a lot of men are users. Guys will put up with a lot of stuff they’re not happy with, but try to take their porn away, and you would probably face a lynch mob. In fact I was considering putting dirty pictures on this site as a way of sprucing up viewership. I could even change the name of the site to: Porn and Politics. They’re practically the same anyhow.

I sure will miss the GOP primary process when it’s over. As I’ve said, the laughs never stop coming.

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

TWO STATES OF DELUSION

In the 19th century Mark Twain said: “The more I get to know people, the better I like my dog.” In the 20th century the French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre said: “Hell is other people.” Sartre also came to the conclusion that man’s belief in God and religion stemmed from an overwhelming fear and sense of abandonment if man believed he was alone in an empty universe without a supreme being. It’s as Christopher Hitchens said in his book, “God is Not Great,” God did not create man. It’s the other way around. Man created God.

People, you can’t live with them but you can’t live without them. Actually you can live without them if you’re willing to become a hermit. But that doesn’t sound like tons of fun either, and it also brings on its own set of unique delusions. All this is the long way around of getting to 2 polls that were taken in Alabama and Mississippi that caught my attention. No, they weren’t polls showing that weird, whacky Ricky Santorum would win those 2 states in the Republican primaries over Mitt the Lionhearted, and Newt the Fantasy Chaser. ( Mitt displayed his fearlessness yet again when he responded to a question from the press about Rush Limbaugh calling a Georgetown Univ. student a slut and prostitute, by saying, “those are not the words I would have used.” How much more of a hard-hitting rebuke can you get than that. As for Newt, about the only place where he wins the Republican nomination is on Fantasy Island.)

The poll that I’m referring to is the one where they asked the citizens of Alabama and Mississippi whether they believed that Barack Obama was a Christian. Only 15% believed that he was. Unbelievably, about 50% were convinced he was a Moslem. After all, what else could he be with a name like Barack Hussein Obama. (The other 35% were too busy keeping up with the Kardashians to give a damn, one way or another.) This despite Obama”s often repeated assertion that he was a Christian, and his often publicized church attendance over several decades. Now, understandably, you can’t get any deeper into the bible belt than those 2 southern states. But the hatred there of Obama, because he is perceived to be a dangerous, radical, socialist bent on destroying America, is such that a majority of people are willing to ignore reality and, once again, slip into that comfy state delusion. One more way in which irrationality becomes most people’s life-style.

After all if we were a rational society, would we conduct the political primary process in the manner that it’s conducted, with a hodgepodge of caucuses and elections starting way too early, and giving way too much influence to small states like Iowa or New Hampshire. In a rational society, there would be a primary election day sometime in June or July, where all 50 states would vote to select each party’s candidate to go forward into the general election. If we were a rational society. And does anyone understand why states have caucuses instead of outright elections. Near as I can make out, its because people have some sentimental belief that political business was conducted in that manner back in colonial days.

Nevada is a caucus state, and in 2008 the wife and I decided to attend the Democratic caucus for the party’s nomination between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. (Now we are older and wiser and will never make that mistake again.) Anyway we were told to report on a Saturday morning to a local school room where the caucus for our area would be held. Fortunately we arrived early enough to get seats in an enlarged but overcrowded school room where people kept pouring in. Soon the room became overheated and there was standing room only. Finally a moderator appeared (I have no idea how he was selected or who he even was), and announced that everybody who supported Obama go to the right side of the room, and all Clinton supporters to the left side. This would facilitate the counting of votes. I had intended to support Obama, but I was OK with Clinton too, and I happened to be seated on the Clinton side. We agreed that there was no way we were going to give up our seats to go stand in the too hot room, with the rabble on the Obama side. So we remained seated, and thus were counted as votes for Hillary. There you have the democratic process in action.

But the irrationality of the primary process pales in comparison to the way we select the most powerful man or woman in the world. As I’ve written before, every office in the land, from dog catcher to Senator or Governor is decided by a simple majority of votes cast. Not so for the presidency, as Al Gore found out, where the electoral college decides who the winner is. This system was written into the Constitution because of our founding fathers deep distrust of the judgements of the rabble that would be allowed to vote in future elections. Of course, they did have a valid point. On the average, about 50% of people eligible, fail to vote. Of the remaining 50% percent that do vote, maybe about half of that is somewhat conversant with issues at stake. The rest likely base their selections on radio or TV commercials. So perhaps 25% of the eligible population takes enough interest to know what they’re doing when voting for the President or Congress.

A third or fourth world banana republic country might legitimately raise the question: Is the United States ready for democracy?

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

IT’S ONLY JUST A GAME

Like a few million other people, I watched HBO’s “Game Change” over the week-end. The made for TV movie was about the campaign for President in 2008, but focused primarily on the inner workings of the McCain campaign staff and the process of selecting and trying to make viable, the Vice-Presidential candidacy of Sarah Palin. It was a well done, superbly acted movie based primarily on on interviews with Steve Schmidt, who was the head of the McCain campaign, as well as the woman who was in charge of the VP effort. Basically the movie showed that Palin was selected because she was considered a game-changer. With her good looks, vibrant personality,  excellent speech making ability, and hard-core right-wing beliefs, it was felt that Palin would ignite the Republican base, as well as independent voters the way the charisma-lacking John McCain could never do. Initially things seemed to be going in that direction, as huge crowds comprised mainly of the Republican base enthusiastically turned out for Palin’s campaign stops. Steve Schmidt and the rest of McCain’s aides were congratulating themselves on what a great selection they had made, and that this would enable the ticket to win the election. And then It all turned to crap.

It suddenly became apparent to them and to the media how incredibly ignorant Sarah Palin was about politics in general and foreign affairs in particular. For example she didn’t know that there was both a North and South Korea (thought it was all one country), thought the Queen of England was the head of government in Great Britain instead of the Prime Minister, thought Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11 instead of Al-qaeda, and so forth. Stuff a grade schooler is supposed to know had somehow escaped her. More upsetting than her ignorance of world affairs was her cluelessness about how much she didn’t know. It was as if people in Alaska were living in a 1950s “Leave It To Beaver” or “Ozzie and Harriet” time-warp.

The movie went on to show how the McCain aides went on a crash course to try to bring Palin up to speed on world affairs, including cue cards and daily lecturing sessions on current events.With all this pressure, and with media criticism and satire piling up on her (think of the huge boost in Tina Fey’s career by impersonating Palin so delightfully) Palin started to shut down and go into a deep funk. Some in McCain’s campaign believed she was deranged or on the verge of a nervous breakdown. One almost began to feel sorry for her. Of course, large crowds of the Republican base still turned out at her campaign stops. Her popularity among the GOP base never wavered as long as she was so strongly anti-abortion and anti-gay rights, and the base had no qualms about putting her within a heartbeat of the Presidency, ignorant or not.

Interestingly, John McCain wanted to pick Joe Lieberman as his VP, who was a Democrat turned Independent, and was supporting the MCain candidacy. This move  in my opinion, would have led him to victory over the highly inexperienced Barack Obama. However, Lieberman was pro-choice, and it it was believed that the Republican base could never support him at the convention. There’s that abortion issue again. We, of course, know how it all turned out, but it hasn’t discouraged Sarah Palin from continuing to maintain a high profile in this election year, and quietly hoping the the Republican convention will somehow be deadlocked, and magically turn to her as their candidate. Ignorant or not, she is unquestionably highly ambitious and strongly covets the the Presidency. And if she doesn’t get the nomination this year, she’s young enough to run in 2016 if Obama does get reelected, or in 2020 if Romney wins the presidency.

As an interesting sidelight, the woman in charge of running the Palin campaign on a daily basis ended up not voting in the election. Being a Republican, she couldn’t vote for Obama. But after witnessing Palin’s incredible shallowness and superficiality, she also couldn’t bring herself to vote to put her within striking distance of being President should something have happened to the aging John McCain. As she put it, Palin was a mile wide but an inch deep.

So here we are in another campaign year. (It comes like a plague of locusts.) As I’ve written before, with the lousy economy, high unemployment, huge deficit spending, and rising gasoline prices, I can’t see how Obama can get re-elected, unless the Republicans do something incredibly stupid again. Not beyond the realm of possibility. But Democrats, and progressives in general, have another albatross around their necks. They assume that people will generally act in a rational manner and in their own self-interest. That is seldom the case, however, as people tend to be highly irrational, and act contrary to their interests, especially if they feel threatened in any way. A good example is Obamacare. Supposedly the public is against the individual mandate (which will require everyone to buy health insurance by 2013) by a margin of about two to one. Yet every time a person without health insurance gets sick or injured all of us that did purchase insurance have to pay for the uninsured sick person. Our rates and the doctor’s fees go up and the insured pay a larger tab to cover the costs of the uninsured. In a rational society almost everyone would be clamoring for the individual mandate since most people do buy health insurance. But whoever said we were a rational society.

Somehow the majority of people feel threatened by this requirement, and thus act against their best interests. And that , in a nutshell, is what politics is all about. Making the opposing candidate and party more scary than you and your party. But take heart, this whole mess will be over with in about 8 months. Until the next invasion of the locusts.

 

 

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

LOOKING FOR LOVE IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES

One of the small pleasures I enjoy is reading the morning newspaper with my breakfast. I know that it’s been predicted that the printed newspaper will become as extinct as the saber-toothed tiger within a short period of time, thanks to all the electronic gadgetry available, but I hope they hang around for a few more years. As I get older I especially enjoy reading the obituaries every morning. One could say I check the obits to make sure my name is not on the list. (An old joke from vaudeville days.) What really strikes me, though, when I read these obits, is how saintly and benevolent each dead person was during their lifetimes. Every obit recounts how loving and generous and humane  each grandfather/grandmother, husband/wife, father/mother, etc., were when they prowled around this planet above ground. There is never a low-life in the bunch. My question is, however, how come I never seemed to run into any of these saintly figures, who would have undoubtably been more than eager to shower me with their benevolence once they got to know me. I guess it’s like the title of this piece, and the old song says. But reading the paper every morning got me to thinking of the power the printed word, and media in general has on society.

One day when I was in college I was having a political discussion with my father who was a Franklin Roosevelt democrat until the day he died. The topic got around to hate groups, and suddenly my father came out with the strange statement as to how the Ku Klux Klan saved America right after the Civil War by repelling angry mobs of former slaves who were bent on destroying this country out of revenge. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “Dad,” I said, “you do know that the Klan hates Jews as much as they hate blacks.” “Yeah” he replied, “that’s now. But back in Civil War days it was different.” It was different? Where did he get such a cockamamie idea. Well it turned out he got this notion from a movie-maker named D.W. Griffith.

D.W. Griffith was a silent film director and producer and was also a master propagandist. He was the son of a Confederate soldier killed during the Civil War and in 1915 he produced a movie called “Birth of a Nation” which, although it looks primitive by today’s standards, was considered a masterpiece at the time, and was seen by nearly everyone. ( It’s still shown every now and then on the Turner Movie Channel and still worth seeing.) Taken from a book called “The Clansman” it shows the southern confederacy in the most favorable light, and sure enough there are vivid scenes showing former black slaves in a state of manic rage burning down cities until the KKK comes together and rallies to put an end to the rampage. As I said, a masterpiece in bigotry and propaganda. But the point is that if my father believed this tripe, millions of other Americans were probably brain-washed as well. The KKK had a huge increase in membership and activity in the 1920s and early 1930s, existing in large numbers in virtually every state in the union, and I think “Birth of a Nation” had a big part in that activity.

Of course, the evil that media propaganda can wreck reached its zenith during the 1930s in Nazi Germany. Josef Goebbels, who was head of the Ministry of Propaganda was considered the third most evil person in the Nazi regime (after Hitler and Himmler) and yet, to my knowledge, he never personally killed anyone, or even gave the orders to do so. Yet he surely would have swung from the gallows at Nuremberg if he and his wife had not murdered their 6 children and then committed suicide, because they couldn’t bear to live in a world without Hitler. His evil stemmed from the prodigious anti-semitic propaganda his Ministry put out all across Europe, which opened the gates for the ensuing death camps and the murder of 6 million innocent people. It should be noted that the Holocaust could never have succeeded without the labors of tens of thousands of Germans and other Europeans who built the death camps or the railway cars and tracks to the camps, provided the food and other supplies to these camps, built and transported the poison gas systems, and on and on. A prime motivator for the thousands of participants or cogs in this machine of death was Goebbels propaganda.

On a somewhat less virulent scale, propaganda goes on today in the social and political arenas, especially in this political year. As I’ve written before, it’s estimated that about $2 billion will be spent on the Presidential campaigns. Throw in another billion or so for Senatorial, Congressional, and Governorship races and you’ve hit the perfect trifecta. Almost all of this will be spent on radio and TV advertising trying to convince you that the candidate’s opponent is pure scum. It’s called the politics of personal destruction. As obnoxious and demeaning these mudslinging ads are, they apparently wouldn’t exist if people didn’t buy into and use them as the basis of their voting decisions. That’s called brainwashing. The other day I went on YouTube to listen to some recordings, and  all of a sudden, up popped this particularly obnoxious anti-Obama smear job advertisement. And it’s not even spring. Wait until summer and fall. Can’t you just feel the love.

P.S. If you want to hear perhaps the saddest and most tragic song ever written, go on YouTube and click on a recording of “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” (as differentiated from the song “Waltzing Matilda.”) Click on the version that shows the lyrics because the song is sung by Aussies who could be difficult to understand. I can assure you that what ever problems you may feel you have will pale in comparison when you hear this song.

 

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

A DYING BREED

I’m assuming that most of you are generally non-political, and therefore have never heard of Olympia Snowe. She is, in fact, a Republican U.S. Senator from Maine and part of a dying breed soon to be as extinct as the Dodo bird. You see, she’s actually a Republican moderate, in this day and age, when the GOP has swung so far to the looney right, that they want to put Galileo on trial again for suggesting that the Earth revolves around the Sun instead of the other way around. What brought her to mind, was that she just announced that she will not run for re-election to the Senate this November although she could have easily won. She opined that the well of political discourse has been so thoroughly poisoned by increasing extremism on both sides of the aisle, that being the thoughtful moderate person she is, she could no longer achieve anything beneficial for her state or for the country. This means that maybe 2 moderate Republicans are left in the Senate-her fellow Senator from Maine, Susan Collins, and perhaps Scott Brown from Mass. (As an aside, the race for President in 2008 might have been a whole different ball game if John McCain, instead of selecting the dingbat from Alaska as his running mate, had picked an intelligent woman like Olympia Snowe.)

There was a time, however, and not that long ago, when a fair number of moderate to liberal members of Congress did belong to the Republican party. There was an excellent Senator from New Jersey named Clifford Case, whose son recently campaigned for his father’s old seat in N.J., but was much more conservative and lost the race. The first black man elected to the Senate since Reconstruction days was named Edwin Brooke from Mass. and was quite the moderate. New York had several what would be called liberal politicians such as Senator Jacob Javits, John Lindsey who was mayor of NYC, and of course, Nelson Rockefeller who became Governor of NY and later, Vice-President. I first ran into Rockefeller in my early 20s when I still lived in Brooklyn and he was running for Governor. I was strolling along the boardwalk in Coney Island one Sunday, with some friends, when this larger than life figure came charging at me, grabbed my hand pumping it up and down, and said-“How ya doing fella. Would certainly appreciate your vote come November,” and then strode on to the next prospective voter. ( As an interesting footnote to Rockefeller’s career, shortly after he served his term as VP, he died in the saddle so to speak. He had a fatal heart attack while having sex with his mistress, an event that sent her into a state of shock. She refused any public comment, and the last I heard, she was entering a nunnery.)

Of course we could further back into history to Old Rough and Ready himself, Teddy Roosevelt. You think a sane, rational, no-nonsense  guy like TR could ever be his party”s nominee in today’s political climate?  Which brings us to his royal mittness, Mitt Romney who will almost certainly win the GOP nomination this year. After next Tuesday’s primaries in 10 states, I’m pretty sure Romney will have a lock on the nomination. Here we will have a candidate that exudes, out of every pore in his being,  a lifetime of privilege and wealth. There is absolutely no lack of self-confidence or doubt in his manner. I believe the last President we had like that was John Kennedy. But besides supreme self-cofidence, Kennedy also had tons of charm, charisma, and a sharp sense of humor, qualities I see lacking in Romney. Nevertheless, he’s a good looking guy, which should appeal to women, and all he has to do is cut into the white woman’s vote, which Obama captured last time and he has a lock on the election. Forget that he flip flopped on a whole range of issues- first being for universal health care, legalized abortion, gay rights and a whole host of others, before he realized he had to do a 180 on these very same issues in order to secure the GOP nomination. With little compunction he is now adamantly against everything he once stood for, but voters have short memories and this should be no hinderance. Besides he has a powerful organization funded by  a gaggle of billionaires anxious to get rid of Obama.

I believe Obama has too many negatives to be re-elected. His biggest success was killing Osama Bin Laden, which was huge. A large number of other low-life terrorists have also been killed on his watch. But the negatives keep multiplying. There’s the lousy economy, the high unemployment rate, the huge quantity of red-ink Government debt we’ve incurred, and increasing gasoline prices which could be the ultimate killer of Obama’s re-election hopes. But people should keep in mind that if, indeed, Romney wins the election, Roe V. Wade and legal abortion are dead for openers. Romney will get to appoint at least one and perhaps more judges to the Supreme Court, which will then overturn Roe V. Wade. Also look for sharp increases in Defense spending where we are already spending $700 billion a year. It seems that in right-wing whacko land, it’s not the spending that troubles people, it’s what the money is being spent on. Spend it on the sick or poor or jobless or those that are losing their homes to foreclosure, and that’s a bad thing. But spend it on military hardware or troop increases or building a 90 foot wall to keep out illegal Mexicans, and the sky’s the limit.

Aren’t you glad we’re living in such interesting times? Strap yourselves in tightly for the coming roller-coaster ride.

 

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.