Posts Tagged With: politics

THE HEALTH CARE BAMBOOZLE

Much of the friction and divisiveness among the U.S. electorate is often the result of most Americans choosing to be either uncaring, uninformed, or uninvolved. For example, in the 2016 presidential election only about 135 million Americans bothered to vote out of an adult population well in excess of 200 million. It’s now estimated that for the upcoming 2018 Congressional elections there will be a 40% drop-off from the already weak numbers of 2016. In the computer age when a wealth of information is literally at ones finger tips, most people can’t be bothered to access such data that’s often critical to their lives and well-being. Instead they prefer to make crucial decisions based on trite slogans written on a baseball cap or a hand-made sign sticking out from a crowd. Back in the day, when I was actually young, one had to literally trudge to the library and search out hard-copy (if it existed) in order to become informed. Now that the process has become so much easier, most people are too busy with other stuff to really care. Yet, even though political and social ignorance and uncaring is so prevalent, the actions of our elected officials often have profound consequences for all too many people.

You want proof. In the presidential election of 2000, George W. Bush supposedly carried the state of Florida ( a fact still being disputed) by a few hundred votes out of millions cast, thus giving him the presidency. His opponent, Democrat Al Gore, won the popular vote nation-wide only to lose access to the White House because of the idiocies of our Electoral College system, and a disputed vote count in Florida. (Sound familiar regarding our 2016 election?) The primary difference between the two men? In 2003 Bush decide to invade Iraq in order to depose Saddam Hussein, admittedly, a really bad tyrant and despot. That war continues in one form another to this day 14 years later. Al Gore, had he become president, would have never initiated such an invasion. During the Iraqi war 6000 U.S. military and civilian contractors lost their lives, and about another 25,000 Americans were so severely wounded that their lives were effectively over. Brain damage, blindness, loss of limbs, that sort of thing. Ask a veteran of that war  who’s blind or a quad-palegic whether elections have consequences.

The relevancy of an uninformed and generally uncaring public will once again rear it’s ugly head when Congressional Republicans, for the umpteenth time, try, once again, to repeal and supposedly replace Obamacare, as the nation’s health care system. It’s once again time for the Republican health care bamboozle. In the Senate, the Republican effort is primarily based on lopping off over 20 million poor from Medicaid, in order to provide tax cuts for the rich. It’s Reverse Robin Hood time, as I wrote in a previous piece. And, of course, the proposed legislation has the solid backing of Donald Trump, who really doesn’t care what’s in the details, as long as he can claim that his administration did away with the supposedly despised and socialistic Obamacare. Good for the ego and that sort of rot. Especially for a pathological narcissist like Trump. So, since Republicans are so adamant in their opposition to socialized medicine, I thought it would be useful to cite some relevant facts in that regard, that dispute the fact our medicine is un-socialistic.

The reality is that we already have a large degree of socialized medicine in this country. Here are the facts. TRICARE, a comprehensive medical plan that’s available to active and retired military and their families for a nominal fee, already has 9.5 million participants. The Veterans Affairs system, also for the military, is free, for those that don’t participate in TRICARE, and counts another 9 million members. Medicare, a type of socialized medicine with nominal premiums for seniors, has about 55.5  million members, while Medicaid, which is free health care for the poor, adds another 76 million to its membership rolls. Throw in CHIP, which is Medicaid for poor children, and you have another 4 million participants on the governments dime. Call me crazy, but my math is saying that about 154 million Americans are already receiving subsidized or socialized health care support from the government. It’s true that for Medicaid participants, the quality of the health care they receive is often poor or low-grade, but that’s because of government stinginess in reimbursing doctors for health care services provided to poor people.

It also should be considered that another 156 million Americans receive their health care coverage from their employers. This is also subsidized by the government since those same employers are then allowed to deduct the costs of providing that benefit  from the income taxes they owe the government. So, although the various health care arrangements in the U.S. may be convoluted, there’s little doubt that the government participates in providing socialistic type coverage to about 310 million Americans. That leaves about 15 million people in the U.S. that are left dangling in the wind when it comes to protecting their most valuable asset, namely their health.

The sane solution to all of this would be to scrap all these various arrangements, and institute a universal, single payer health care system that’s prevalent through the rest of the world, especially those with advanced economies like ours. But, of course, that’s way too sensible and would not allow our Republican President and Congress to demagogue the issue as they plan to do this week. It will probably take another couple of centuries of evolution before the sanity of universal health care will be allowed to prevail.

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Brexit, Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, human affairs, Joe McCarthy, McCarthyism, World War II, Viet-Nam, Anti-Communist Witch Hunts, Army-McCarthy hearings, Islamic Jihadist terrorism, Soviet Union, Red China, politics | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

GENETIC PREDISPOSITIONS: PART II

When I was young, (yes, electricity had already been discovered and was in general use) there was term often used by newspapers and other media to disparage or otherwise shame certain members of society. That term was “being on the dole” and it came to signify those unfortunates that were having a tough time financially and required governmental assistance to get thru the transactions of day-to-day living. That phrase originated in England in 1917 and was in reference to benefits being “doled” out by the government to generally poor souls that couldn’t otherwise provide for themselves. Since the U.S. at the time, had a hard-core, laissez-faire, capitalistic type of thinking ingrained into most people’s psyches, having to receive government assistance was considered especially shameful. The mark of a slacker, one too lazy or otherwise too indolent to provide for themselves. Indeed, according to newspapers that were published in those days, no criminal’s deeds were as heinous as that of someone “being on the dole.”

With the advent of FDR’s New Deal, however, the use of that term began to lose it’s luster. It turned out that with the creation of Social Security and Medicare legislation, virtually all seniors were eventually “on the dole,” so to speak. More social programs regarding veterans benefits, student loans, housing and other government assistance came into being, so it seemed almost everyone “was on the dole” at some point in their lives, and that inglorious phrase was eventually tossed into the dustbin of history. It was to some degree revived in a new form during the Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s. The term “welfare queens” suddenly came into existence as racist code to denote single black mothers who were supposedly having babies out of wedlock in order to receive larger government welfare checks. When it was pointed out that the preponderance of welfare payments were being made to white people, that derogatory phrase also faded from the public forum. But the on-going efforts of the fortunate to stigmatize the unfortunate in some shape or manner continues on unabated.

This is kind of a long way around to come to the main point of how genetics is often the determining factor in the way our lives will unfold and the destinies in store for all of us. Some time back I wrote a piece called “Genetic Predispositions” which still receives “views” years later, and I thought I would update the original with additional insights. In the original, I cited some extreme examples of how one’s genes are often the determining factor of the life being led. How, due to genetic malfunction, some fetus brains are bathed in an overdose of serotonin while in the womb. Hence, when these individuals grow into adulthood, they cannot derive pleasure or comfort from those activities that normally satisfy most of us, and thus, are often likely to turn out to be brutish rapists or serial killers to satisfy their lusts. Even when the brain develops normally, genetic make-up is usually the name of the game.

Those whose DNA is formed with a talent for fiscal matters often do the best in our capitalistic society. Bankers, Wall Street brokers, hedge fund managers, entrepreneurs etc. often accomplish the most financially, and are able to lead the most luxurious materialistic lives. Not that such bountiful materialism necessarily translates into lifelong happiness and serenity. Just ask those who knew Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston for starters. All four of whom had not only acquired immense riches, but, also millions of adoring fans and worldwide fame; but still managed to kill themselves at a fairly young age. On the the other hand, those whose DNA thrusts them into the artistic side of human performance usually receive the short end of the stick from a capitalistic oriented society. Very few writers, artists, musicians, etc. receive just compensation for their efforts and often live in poverty throughout their lives. This could also result in early demise. Think Vincent Van Gogh or Edgar Allen Poe, neither of whom caught a break as far as public recognition of their talents while they were still alive, and who also died at an early age

Most of the rest of us are somewhere in the middle, living anywhere from relatively lower middle class, to reasonably comfortable lifestyles, depending on the talent programmed into our DNA. But what I didn’t mention last time are the environmental factors that one grows up with, that also have a huge influence on our future lives, and must be considered along with genes as one of life’s determining forces. An Irish poet put it best when he wrote that “They fuck you up your Mum and Dad; they fuck you up real good.” Those coming from abusive or dysfunctional homes where parents might be alcoholics, druggies, or child molesters, hardly have a chance in life, no matter how strong their genes may be. Some hearty, brave souls do manage to escape an horrendous upbringing, however, and go on to thrive in life.

It the end it virtually all comes down to a matter of genetic inheritance and environmental upbringing. I think, though, that genes are more of the determinant factor. As for me, at this stage of my life, I’m quite content to be “on the dole” and receive my government benefits.

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Economics, Health Care, Obamacare, human affairs, politics, Ronald Reagan, the Depression | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THE UN-TRUMP

As the Trump Administration lurches from one pending disaster to the next, the latest being the ill-conceived firing of FBI Director James Comey, one would think that the Democrats would have at least several young, ambitious, potential candidates to challenge The Donald in the next scheduled mud-wrestling challenge. Sadly, the Democrats appear to be too demoralized and apathetic to even enter the arena. They’re truly in a state of shambles. There seems to be no Young Lochinvar to ride in from the west on his trusty steed to save the country from the machinations of a demagogic president and his henchmen. But if there were such a bold, brazen Democratic senator for example, he or she might want to pursue the following path to a likely victory come the next election. He or she could start out by visiting college campuses and deliver the following speech.

“Good evening fellow students of LSU. I say fellow students because I am an alumni of this fine institution, being an under-graduate not that many years ago. Let me start off by saying that I am the Un-Trump. I live in a state of reality and sanity, rather than in a parallel universe of delusional paranoia. I don’t indulge in pathological narcissism, and I don’t try to cover-up wrong-doings that might of occurred on my watch with serial mendacity. I don’t indulge, every other day, in Twitter tirades against perceived critics or enemies, with all the fervor of an adolescent teen-ager whose ego has been absurdly bruised. I would not continue on the campaign trail long after the election is over, in a pathetic attempt to boost my sagging poll numbers. I would not enlist the help of Russia or any other country to hack my opponents computers or otherwise spread false news to assist my election effort. I would not attempt to bar peaceful citizens of any country, or nationality or religion from entering the U.S. for legitimate reasons. And if I am elected your president, I would not have members of the Alt-Right white supremacist movement as my closest advisors in the White House. To the contrary, I would employ the strongest of civil rights advocates. As I’ve said, I am The Un-Trump.

“And one other matter above all else. I surely would never build that hideous 2000 mile monstrosity on the Mexican border that will become known as the Trump Wall, if it does become a reality. Erecting such a barrier would not only be the biggest boondoggle in U.S. history, costing tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer money, its effectiveness in keeping out criminals or terrorists would range between negligible to non-existent. And that’s one of the reasons I’m appearing before you tonight. I need your help in assuring that the Trump Wall never becomes a reality. If, in fact, it appears that construction is about to begin on this fiasco, who among you will join me at the Mexican border to stand in the way of the tractors and earth-movers. In civil protest and disobedience, Ghandi-style. If a few thousand of us come down to the border and stand in the way of construction crews, this wall will not be built. Perhaps, if as many as 10 or 20 or 50 or even 100 thousand people show up to block construction, this hideous wall will never see the light of day. They couldn’t possibly lock up that many protesters. But remember, this would be an act of civil disobedience, with emphasis on “civil.” There can be absolutely no violence on our part, which would only serve to discredit such a protest. It must be 100% civil, the way Ghandi employed such tactics to free India from British colonial rule.

“In coming weeks I plan to visit more college campuses and other venues to elicit as much support as I can to block this impending insanity. So I ask, one more time, who will join with me in this act of conscience. Let me see a show of hands. Ahh, good. I see most of you are willing to support me in this crusade. It bodes well for the resistance. If it keeps growing, we can end all this craziness within a few short years. Remember, above all else- I am the Un-Trump.”

Alas, it appears, however, that there is no such young Democrat on the horizon that has that kind of energy and inventiveness. You might say Bernie Sanders; but he would be about 78 come next election, which really is too old. Elizabeth Warren is a possibility, but she’s not exactly a spring chicken herself. Lacking a Young Lochinvar, all you young people are faced with the bleak likelihood of enduring the Trump insanity for 8 long years.

One other thing. The crude vulgarity that Trump employed to fire James Comey was beyond comprehension, even for Trump. Comey had to learn about being dumped from a third party source as he was about to give a speech. It was obviously in retribution for the ongoing FBI investigation into the Trump team’s collusion with Russia to alter the final election results. The unceremonious firing was ironic also, since it was Comey that handed Trump the election victory on a silver platter. It was Comey, who 12 days before the election, stated that the FBI was re-opening it’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails processed on a private server in Clinton’s basement. If Comey had kept his mouth shut, Hillary would now be sitting in the Oval Office. And for that, the thanks that Comey received from the president this past week was to be sacked as if he was the janitor in the J. Edgar Hoover building in Washington D.C.

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Brexit, Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, Health Care, Obamacare, human affairs, Israeli-Palestinan Relations, Joe McCarthy, McCarthyism, World War II, Viet-Nam, Anti-Communist Witch Hunts, Army-McCarthy hearings, Islamic Jihadist terrorism, Soviet Union, Red China, politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FRANCE CHOOSES SANITY

How come the French were able to act so rationally when it came to their run-off presidential election held yesterday, while the United States behaved so badly in its presidential balloting held last November. How come France, by a two-thirds vote margin, was able to elect the candidate of moderation and common sense instead of the one pushing an agenda of white supremacy, economic supra-nationalism, and favoritism toward Russia’s tyrant Vladimir Putin, while we in the U.S. did just the opposite. Perhaps it’s something in the drinking water; or the outstanding quality of French wines.

In yesterday’s presidential run-off election in France, independent moderate Emmanuel Macron easily defeated National Front far-right candidate Marine Le Pen to win a 5 year term. At age 39 Macron is the youngest president in French history. His campaign rested on reviving France’s sclerotic economy which has been virtually on life-support since almost the end of WWII. France’s unemployment rate is more than double that of the U.S., and its economic productivity and growth rates are less than half of that in this country. Marine Le Pen’s demagoguery regarding those issues, however, never caught fire during the French campaign the way Donald Trump’s demonizing of those matters in the U.S. gave him an unexpected victory. Le Pen promised, if elected, to pull France out of the European Union, renounce the euro in favor of the franc, deny entry to Muslim immigrants fleeing into Europe from the Mid-East, and cozy up to thuggish Vladimir Putin in Russia while dis-engaging from NATO and the EU. Almost an exact female replica of Donald Trump. She called herself a “nationalist” as Trump’s key advisor, Steve Bannon, has described himself. In both cases, the term “nationalist” was code for white supremacist.

Of course, Le Pen was fighting a huge uphill battle to begin with. Her father, Jean Marie Le Pen, who had founded the National Front party in the 1970s, was notoriously bigoted, especially toward Jews. He was a Holocaust denier exhibiting a distinctly fascist profile. Marine tried to scrub off her party’s bigotry, but her whitewash job didn’t work as well with the French electorate as it did here in the U.S. with Trump’s demagoguery. Perhaps the fact that France suffered for five years under the heel of a fascist tyranny until liberated by the Allies a mere 72 years ago might have been a factor. A five year span when virtually every French Jew was rounded up by French quislings and sent to Nazi death camps. In any event, Macron won handily as Hillary Clinton should have done in the U.S. election, except for monumental Democratic incompetence and blunders.

So now, instead of living with a Clinton Administration of moderation and rationality, Americans are forced to cope with the right-wing agenda and hysterics of the Trump follies. Jeff Sessions, the arch-typical white southern bigot from Alabama that Trump made his Attorney-General, wants to deny the growing number of states that have legalized marijuana, the right to do so. He would still have the Feds go after and prosecute marijuana sellers as well as buyers. (Whatever happened to the GOP’s insistence on “states rights.”) And forget about anything resembling civil rights enforcement coming out of the Justice Department. Meanwhile the top priority of the moment for Trump and his Republican Congress is to repeal and replace Obamacare. They shoved such a bill through the House, which is long on repeal and minutely short on replace. So what if the poor that can’t afford health insurance become gravely ill. I guess they should just curl up in a ball and die somewhere, so as not to bother us righteous folk that do have health insurance. Some 20 million people that were able to sign up for Medicaid under Obamacare, as minimal as that is, are now in jeopardy of losing that coverage under the Republican proposed legislation. Supposedly, the GOP plan will be drastically overhauled when the Senate takes it up.

And the beat goes on. Next up on the Trump agenda is income tax overhaul. The proposed legislation is once again distinctly Republican. Heavy tax cuts for the rich, with a few crumbs tossed to the middle and lower classes. Trump in this instance is following Ronald Reagan’s formula of large tax cuts for the upper classes while substantially increasing our military and defense spending. The same formula that started us on the road to the $20 trillion budget deficit this country now so sublimely endures. How does that line go- the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Trump, always the comfortable occupant in his parallel universe of delusional paranoia, recently said words to the effect that a government shut down is needed in this country, and is long overdue. Current appropriations to keep the government running expire on September 30 of this year. Congress must appropriate and the president must sign new legislation to keep the government operating for the new fiscal year starting October 1st. Trump has threatened to veto any new appropriations that don’t contain funds to build his myopically insane border wall with Mexico, or don’t slash funding for agencies that he considers useless such as the National Institutes for Health, or the Environmental Protection Agency and a host of others.

These and many, many other examples are the consequences of a Trump versus a Clinton regime in the White House. The consequences of less than a hundred thousand votes going the wrong way in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Anyway, congratulations to the French for finally doing the right thing. After the Brexit vote in England, and the Trump victory in the U.S., it seemed like the end of Western civilization as we know it; but France has shown that it doesn’t have to be so. Perhaps we should all move to France.

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Brexit, Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, Health Care, Obamacare, human affairs, politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THE ACCIDENTAL PRESIDENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Brexit, Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, Health Care, Obamacare, human affairs, politics, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THE FRENCH CONNECTION

No, I’m not writing about the excellent movie, a few decades ago, that dealt with drug dealers and won numerous awards. Instead, this piece is about the recently concluded presidential election in France, and its remarkable similarity to the U.S. balloting concluded last November. The only thing different about these two elections is the role reversal of the major candidates. In France the female candidate is the white supremacist, xenophobic candidate while her male challenger is the voice of reason, moderation, and sanity. The irony of these 2 electoral predicaments  couldn’t be more stark.

France has a slightly different method of voting than the U.S. In their first round of balloting held this past Sunday, 11 candidates ran for the office of the presidency. With so many choices it was predictable that no one would receive the 50% threshold level needed to avoid  a run-off. So on May 7, a second round of voting will take place pitting the 2 highest vote-getters, Marine Le Pen of the National Front far right wing party against Emmanuel Macron, an independent moderate. One could rightly view Le Pen as a female version of Donald Trump, as she is running on a platform of anti-immigration, white supremacy, withdrawal from the European Union, demonizing minorities, and cozying up to Russia while abandoning relations with other Western countries. She wants to withdraw from the euro as France’s currency and reinstate the franc. Macron, conversely could be considered a male version of Hillary Clinton as he seeks to strengthen ties to the EU, as well as strengthening France’s famous safety net for the poor and disadvantaged. He would keep the euro in French circulation. Right now, political pundits in Europe are claiming that all French citizens that are not neo-fascist will coalesce behind behind Macron and give him an easy victory in the May 7 round of balloting. Trouble is, these are the same pundits who predicted that Clinton would coast to a sure victory over Trump. London bookies were giving 5 to 2 odds on Clinton being the next president.

Marine Le Pen, aged 47 and twice divorced mother of 3, inherited the mantle of the National Front party from her well known father, Jean Marie Le Pen, who got the ball rolling on the far right of the political spectrum in France in the early 1970s. At first considered a fringe lunatic, Le Pen and his party has slowly gathered steam over the ensuing decades to the point that his daughter is now on the threshold of becoming the next French president. What held Jean Marie himself back from achieving that goal, was his openly virulent brand of anti-semitism. He would often pooh-pooh the fact that the Holocaust ever occurred in the first place, or that 6 million Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps. He stated that a 500 page book on WWII would hardly devote 2 pages to the gas chambers, so inconsequential was their existence. It appears that there was still enough decency in France to not allow that type of rhetoric to occupy its presidential palace.

Marine Le Pen, learning from her father’s mistakes, has down-played the National Front’s overt Jew-hating. Instead she focused her bigotry on the surge of Muslim immigrants trying to flee to Europe from the nightmare wars and acts of terror on-going in the Mid-East, especially Syria. As Trump attempts to slam the door shut in the U.S. to any further Muslim immigration, Le Pen campaigns on enacting the same Muslim prohibitions in France. As Trump’s demagoguery against Muslims (and Mexicans) gained big-time traction in the U.S. among white voters, Le Pen’s anti-Muslim rhetoric has found favor among a large chunk of the French voting populace. (At least she hasn’t expressed any anti- Mexican sentiments thus far.) While it’s true that France and Germany as well as other European countries are being swamped with immigrants from the Mid-East, it must be remembered that these people are fleeing for their and their family’s very lives; and to deny them safe refuge exhibits a special type of heartless disregard.

Some years ago, a movie called “Ship of Fools” was produced based on a real life occurrence that took place shortly before the out break of WWII. It told the story of a group of German Jews attempting to escape Nazi persecution, and hiring a cruise ship to transport them to a safe harbor in some foreign country where their lives would not be in jeopardy. They literally sailed around the world looking for a safe port of debarkation but every country refused them entry. Including the U.S., which then had Franklin Roosevelt as president, supposedly a great friend of the Jews. In the end, they were forced to return to Germany where they were then slaughtered in the Nazi Holocaust. Such was the mindset of their fellow human beings around the world.

So, it will be interesting to see if Marine Le Pen, like her fellow demagogue, Donald Trump, can parlay French fears of being overrun by Moslem foreigners, into the presidency of her country. If she does, it will have huge adverse consequences not only for Europe, and the EU, but for the U.S. as well. But perhaps this time around, the French will exercise better common sense and sanity than Americans did last November, and elect the candidate of decency and humanity to their highest office.

 

 

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, human affairs, Isis terrorist attack in Paris,, politics | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS GONE….”

I’m one of those people that faithfully reads the obituaries every day in the morning newspaper. Perhaps it’s because, as the old joke goes, I’m checking to see wether my name is listed there or not. Well, this morning’s obits had a bit of surprise for me. Listed as one of life’s casualties was a person that I had gone to college with named Reuben Goldstein, so many decades ago. He too was my age and born and raised in Brooklyn, but unbeknownst to me, was living in Las Vegas well before we had moved out here. I guess we were like two ships passing in the night. How unfortunate.

In those days of yesteryear (as the Lone Ranger might have said) I went to City College in Manhattan. It’s now called City University of New York or CUNY. Living in Brooklyn, I had to walk 12 blocks to the nearest subway station and take the train for about a 45 minute ride into Manhattan. A total joy in freezing cold, or rainy or snowy winter days. This station was elevated (above ground) and Reuben was often already there for the morning commute before I had arrived. When he saw me approaching, he would call out my name and shout that he would wait for me even if a train was pulling into the station to pick up passengers. And so he waited until I arrived and we then took the next train so that we could commute together and avoid the loneliness and monotony of those daily subway rides.

Reuben was not a great student as I came to realize when we sometimes did homework together after class. It turned out to be mainly a case of me helping him cope with subject matter that seemed to baffle him. In the end I wound up doing most of his homework in addition to mine. It wasn’t long after I graduated, that I latched onto a cushy assignment in Europe for three years (which I’ve written about in previous pieces) and lost complete contact with Rueben. That is, until now, when his entire life’s journey is summed up in a very brief paragraph in the daily obits. How sad. In those days, tuition at City College amounted to a $10 registration fee per semester for New York residents. When I had to spend $50 each term for school books, (used, of course) I considered it an outlandish rip-off. A subway ride initially cost a nickel then, and when it was raised to a dime, New Yorkers howled in protest, as if they were being slaughtered by Jack the Ripper. I don’t even want to know what obscene amount is being charged today. Garbage was picked up 6 days a week, even in poor neighborhoods like the one I grew up in. Now you’re lucky if they come around once a week. Is this what they call progress?

The title of this piece is taken from a song made famous by Peter, Paul, and Mary. It’s an anti-war song about loss and death, which Reuben’s passing made me think of. Speaking of P,P,&M, the wife and I saw them perform here in Las Vegas when they were well into their sixties, or perhaps older. I’ve often written that Las Vegas is where dead performers can come back to life. For a fraction of the price that it would cost to see a headliner like, say, Celine Dion, perform at a strip hotel, one can see a has-been  perform at an off-strip hotel. Think Frankie Valli, and the Four Seasons. And so it was with Peter, Paul and Mary, who were well past their prime when we saw them go on stage at one of the local hotel/casinos. Peter and Paul were in reasonably decent shape but Mary had aged considerably. I remember in her youth, with her long blonde hair and bangs tossing about as she performed on-stage with huge vibrance and vitality.  Now she had gotten fat with multiple ailments and had to walk on-stage using two canes and sit while performing. Their voices were a whisper of past glories. The audience sat there respectfully, knowing it was likely to be the last time they would come together on-stage. Mary, sadly, would die not that long after, at the premature age 72. And so goes the cycle of life and death.

Today I also learned that a man my age, who lived in my community, and who we used to socialize and play cards with, also just died, this time from cancer. Add one more to the obits list. Indeed, where have all the flowers gone. Turned to dust, every one.

 

 

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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. 

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THE “WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME” SYNDROME

As I’ve written several times before, election results, especially in America, are determined primarily by those citizens that don’t vote, versus those that do bother to cast their ballots. Unless it’s a blowout landslide, such as Lyndon Johnson’s defeat of Barry Goldwater in 1964, or Richard Nixon’s 49 state sweep against George McGovern in 1972, it’s the stay-at-homes that are usually the decisive factor, especially in close elections. (You can add Ronald Reagan’s 49 state victory over Walter Mondale in 1984, to the few contests where non-voters were not a primary issue.) So who are these non-voters that decide most elections. Well, for the most part, these are people that are mired in deep and unrelenting poverty. People that will never hear phrases from others such as “good morning” or “have a nice day.” For those people living in rat-infested, and crime and drug riddled slums, who lack the resources to put food on the table for themselves and their children, it’s never going to be a nice day. Caught up in their own misery, despair, and sense of hopelessness, the last thing on their minds is finding a polling booth, and standing on line to cast a ballot for politicians that will invariably ignore their desperate plights in the first place. Hence the success of the Republican Party.

It’s no secret that the percent of people bothering to vote steadily increases with the amount of material affluence these people attain. The amount of wealth a person accumulates is in direct proportion to the fear among these affluent types, that forces within this country are seeking to to rob them of their wealth. Such as the wrong type of people in political office that would over-burden them with heavy taxes,  and redistribute their wealth to the poor. Who, in their minds, are either lazy, or shiftless, or too dumb to make a decent living. Or all of the above. Hence, the affluent naturally gravitate to the Republican Party, that continually promises to cut taxes mostly for the rich, as well as severely slash, if not eliminate welfare programs for the poor, such as food stamps, housing assistance, and medical care. Thus, the Democratic Party’s dilemma- the very people its programs are designed to assist, are the ones that barely show up to vote for them on election day.

The government calculates that about 16% of the U.S. population now lives below its officially established poverty rate, which equates to almost 50 million Americans. But it’s much worse than that, if you consider that the official poverty level is really a joke. The official poverty level for single people is about $13,000, and even less for old fogies like me. For a family of 4, it runs at less than $25,000. Try putting a roof over the heads of such a family, as well as feeding them 3 half-way decent daily meals, buying them clothing, transportation and communication means, as well as medical care, all for 25 grand a year. Of course, poverty levels vary significantly among ethnic groups with blacks and Hispanics bearing the brunt of having to live out their lives in squalor and despair. Poverty levels for those 2 groupings approach the 30% range, while for non-Hispanic whites, it stands at around 10%. The only thing saving these down-trodden poor are the government assistance programs that I mentioned previously. The very ones that Republican voters are so eager to dismantle.

It’s all part of the “what’s in it for me” mentality. The “as along as I have mine, the hell with everyone else” mindset. That’s why politicians from both parties seldom, if ever, talk about the plight of the poor. Political campaigning is always about the middle class, who actually do vote in ever increasing numbers based on their levels of affluence. It’s so much more fun for politicians to demonize undocumented immigrants, who are among the poorest of the poor, as Donald Trump has done so effectively in getting the middle-class all riled up. Rather than discuss real issues such as life destroying poverty. Speaking of Trump, which I discussed in my last entry, I failed to mention that back in 2012 when Trump thought he could achieve fame and power by joining the “birther” movement, he did receive some unexpected blowback. George Will, a conservative newspaper columnist, whose column appears in many papers across the nation, couldn’t take it anymore. He called Trump a “bloviating ignoramus” which helped speed up Trump’s political demise back then. This year, he’s bloviating about immigration. Anything to avoid the real issues of the day that afflict this country.

Back during the turbulent 1960s, of which I’ve written about often, the U.S. had 3 great leaders, who I believed could lead us to far better and more peaceful and prosperous landscape-namely Jack and Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King. After Jack Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated I wrote that Bobby Kennedy was our last best hope for a more humane society built on decency and compassion. For example, during his 1968 campaign for the presidency, Bobby would visit places such as rural Mississippi and find (usually black) farmhands living in the most dismal, down run shacks, amidst indescribable, bone-crushing poverty. He would tell the farm owners that he wouldn’t allow his dogs to live under such despicable conditions. The farm owners responses were often to threaten Bobby with bodily harm. After Bobby was also assassinated, I wrote that the U.S. had probably lost its last best hope for a more humane and just society, perhaps for all time. It seems those words are even more appropriate in today’s landscape.

So welcome to the what’s in it for me syndrome, flourishing so spectacularly amidst our instant gratification society. We’re just getting started in the demonization and bloviating antics that will only intensify over the next 15 months. Buckle up everyone.

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APATHY AT THE POLLING BOOTHS

The very core foundation of a democratic republic as the United States pretends to be, is that the people get to choose who will govern the country through impartial elections. In short, the voting process becomes the overriding essence of democracy. But what if the people don’t show up to vote? What if they couldn’t care less? That, in a nutshell, is what happened in the 2014 congressional elections in which the Republicans not only swept both houses of congress, but almost all governorships and state legislatures as well. It turns out that only 36.5% of eligible voters made the effort to cast their ballots. Over 60% of eligible voters couldn’t be bothered. Most of those that stayed home tended to vote Democratic; hence the Republican sweep. Older people who are generally more conservative tended to vote in higher numbers; what else do they have to do with their time. The poor and sick, whom Democratic policies generally favor, comprised most of the non-voters, while the more affluent classes, whom the GOP favors, again voted above the norm. Add to that the endemic corruption of the American ballot process to begin with, through the powerful dominance of big money interests, and the growing movement in red states of voter suppression efforts such as picture ID requirements, and you have in the U.S. what I call a faux democracy. Turning out one’s base block of voters is not the only way to win elections. Keeping the other party’s voters from entering the polling booth in the first place, also works.

A little while ago, President Obama suggested that legislation should be passed requiring all eligible voters to cast their ballots at election time. Good luck with that. He pointed out that Australia has such a law that works well. But it’s a much too rational act for the U.S. ever to adopt. First of all, it would defeat the GOP strategy of voter suppression of likely Democratic adherents. Secondly, it could initiate a wave of sanity within the U.S. electoral process which would also be detrimental to Republican interests. Such as a constitutional amendment that would move Election Day from November to late September or early October, when the weather would likely be far more conducive to large voter turnouts. Farmers harvesting their crops is no longer a factor in the polling process as it was in the late 18th century when our constitution was written. Or how about making election time on a weekend when most people are home from work or school, and are thus, more available. And as long as we’re in this phase of sanity-fantizing, how about changing the nomination process so that all states would have their primary ballots cast on the same day in June or early July; instead of a handful of really small states essentially deciding early in the year, who will be one of the two people that will become the next president of the U.S. But, of course, all this is pure fantasy, and will have to probably wait for another few hundred years of human evolution to become a reality.

Thus, come election day 2016 we’ll be stuck with the same mess and clutter inherent in our polling system. As I wrote last time, since the Republicans are so much better at the politics of personal destruction which will become especially potent considering all the political baggage that Mrs. Clinton carries, the GOP would literally  have to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory to lose the 2016 election. I’m still going with my prediction that Senator Marco Rubio will be the next president, with a long shot possibility of Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin. Jeb Bush, who is supposedly the current favorite for the GOP nomination, will fade out quickly once Republican voters realize that he might possess a modicum of sanity and common sense. Can’t have something like that going on with Republican candidate, can we?

So assuming the GOP wins the White House and all of Congress, what would life in America look like come 2017. Let’s first start with the Supreme Court. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who’s well into her 80s, and has had some very serious health issues, apparently is determined to leave the bench the way Justice William Reinquist did many years ago, which was feet first. But how long can she last. One way or another, she’s almost certain to be gone during a Rubio presidency. That would give the the Republican president the opportunity to appoint another anti-abortion Justice to the Supreme Court, which would almost certainly be the death knell for Roe V. Wade. In the nearly 45 years since the Roe V. Wade decision came into existence, nearly 60 million abortions have taken place in the U.S. All that would be largely gone. The bible thumpers would be dancing in the streets with celebration. Immediately, the entire South and most of the Midwest would do away with legal abortion. It might still remain permissible in Northeastern and West Coast states, and perhaps in the upper Midwest. But it would be history everywhere else. So, a poor woman, in say, Alabama, who needs to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, and who couldn’t afford to travel to say, New York, would have no other option than to visit some back-alley butcher, as they used to be called. I’m sure they would begin to proliferate once again.

Continuing on the values page, every effort would be made to reverse whatever progress has been made in accepting gay marriage and non-discrimination of homosexuals. Guns and gun ownership laws would proliferate to the point of potential gunfights at the OK Corral nearly every morning with breakfast. I could go on but I’m sure you get the picture. On the budgetary side of the fence, those that are most down-and-out and most in need of government assistance will also suffer the most, while tax cuts for the rich would almost certainly be enacted. But the financial side deserves a whole chapter unto itself, which I will write about next time. Stay tuned if you care about what your future will look like.

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