Mommy to the Rescue



In the Bush clan, she is known as The Enforcer. That’s how tough Barbara Bush is. Jeb jokes that she was such a strict disciplinarian she should’ve been charged with child abuse when he was growing up. So tough that at the age of 90 she slogged through the New Hampshire snow this week – with the aid of her walker –  to stump for her son. Tough enough to put Donald Trump in his place if they ever met one on one.

She is also a former first lady whose charitable work, mischievous wit and authentic personality won the hearts of millions of Americans.

No doubt about it. This is one formidable campaigner.

But not even Barbara Bush can save Jeb now.

Neither can her ex-president son George W, who is appearing in a Super Bowl commercial to boost his brother Jeb’s candidacy.

It’s all Jeb has left. He has tried everything else, spent millions – make that tens of millions – and he has hardly any votes to show for it.

Despite flooding the airwaves with ads, Jeb remains a footnote in the New Hampshire primary. He was even less relevant in Iowa.

Yes, there are Republicans who remember the Bush years favorably – strange as that might seem to the rest of us. But they are a splinter group, even among the far right.

America made the worst blunder in foreign policy history on W’s watch. And Jeb is promising to repeat it.

Not even his beloved mom could sell that kind of horror to the voters.

After Tuesday’s primary, it will probably be goodbye Jeb. Goodbye W. And goodbye Barbara. No hard feelings. Don’t take it personally.

Clip for more on the campaign.

Click for more on Barbara Bush.


Marco and the Cocaine Cowboy

rubioThe media are aghast at Hillary’s speaking fees. Did you hear about it? She took $675,000 to enlighten the folks at Goldman Sachs! Oh the shame! Oh the horror!

Really guys?

You don’t seem too worried about Marco Rubio’s cocaine connection.

Yes, really. That clean-cut Marco (photo at right), with his neatly trimmed hair and boyish face, has a brother-in-law who was convicted of drug dealing.

Remember the “Cocaine Cowboys” movie? The one about those bloodthirsty drug dealers in Miami? Remember those Colombian gangsters who were so awash in cocaine money they buried bags of raw cash in their front yards?

Orlando Cicilia, the husband of Rubio’s older sister Barbara, was one of those guys!

This is not just an accusation. This is fact. Cicilia was convicted in a court of law and served 12 years in prison. According to Univision, Cicilia was linked to a “crime ring implicated in the death and dismemberment of a federal informant, as well as the bribing of several Miami police officers.”

Press reports say Cicilia was a close associate of cocaine kingpin Mario Tabraue, the model for Al Pacino’s Tony Montana in the movie “Scarface.”

So, I hear you asking, what has that got to do with Marco? He was only 16 at the time, and we would all be in trouble if we had to answer for our relatives’ transgressions.

But Cicilia was not just a relative, he was Marco’s mentor and pal. Later on, when he was an influential Florida politician, Marco pulled strings to get him a real estate license, and some sources suggest, may have helped get his 25-year prison sentence shortened. We’ll never know about that, though, as the court records were somehow “destroyed” when investigative reporters tried to get hold of them.

How close were they? Indeed, how close are they still? Here’s what the “Independent” web site has to say about that:

When Rubio’s Senate campaign was looking for office space, it was Cicilia, now a real estate agent, who helped to find a location, according to a friend. Cicilia has had no further troubles with the law, according to court records. Rubio, now 44, is close to Cicilia’s sons, Daniel and Orlando, the latter nicknamed “Landy”. They call Rubio “Tony,” an Americanised version of his middle name, Antonio. Rubio-affiliated PACs and his campaigns, including his presidential operation, have paid more than $130,000 to his nephews over the past decade, the bulk going to Landy Cicilia’s video and consulting companies….

On the night of Rubio’s 2010 Senate victory it was Landy Cicilia who drove Rubio to the elegant Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida, for his celebration. On stage that night, with confetti cascading down, music blaring and an audience looking on, a graying man stood behind Rubio: Orlando Cicilia…

Ys, that close. In fact:

Cicilia, now 58, and his wife live in Rubio’s childhood home with the senator’s mother, Oriales Rubio.

I know, we have to be careful of the “guilt by association” trap. But don’t you wonder about the relatives and associates of so many politicians – Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie, for example?

Or is it just speaking fees that get your motors revved up?

Click for more on Marco.

More on his finances.

About those speaking fees


In the Age of Rage



The American voter is in a mood. I hink it started with that sleazy bank bailout after Wall Street gamblers crashed the global economy. Workers lost their jobs. Families lost their homes. Investors lost their pensions and savings. Iceland went broke…

You remember? It was a mess.

Then the government rewarded the crooks with a massive taxpayer bailout. Not a single banker went to jail.

To add insult to injury, the recovery from the Great Recession has meant unprecedented riches for Wall Street and not a dime for the hard working middle class.

And you wonder why the middle class is mad at the government?

Many are not just mad at the government but mad at the world. All the old resentments have surfaced, all the festering tribal grudges. All the old scabbed over wounds of history have been rubbed raw.

On top of violent economic upheaval, social change has been fast and furious. Illegal immigration… Same sex marriage… Abortion… Welfare… Gays in the military… Gun control… A black family in the White House…

This is the Age of Rage.

Not just rage but fear. Self-serving demagogues have exploited the threat of global terrorism, conjuring up the specter of hidden assassins disguised as friendly neighbors or pitiful refugees.

In such a climate, the saturnine visage of Ted Cruz emerges as a possible choice for President. Ugly, mean, spiteful Ted Cruz. His is the face of snarling rage, the face that defies any demand to be compassionate, fair or decent.

With the trio of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio (above) emerging as the favorites in the Republican presidential primaries, all of the ugliness lurking beneath the surface of American society has come into plain view.

Still, America’s better angels have not left us. A 74-year-old New York Jew has emerged to carry their banner. Bernie Sanders is offering to translate the country’s rage into positive action. And he has struck a nerve.

Millions are rising to demand a new deal – progressive policies to counter the hate and spite of the radical right.

In such a contest, there may be no room for compromise, no middle ground. Republicans have rejected the reasonable conservatism of candidates like John Kasich. It remains to be seen whether Democrats will reject the common-sense statesmanship of brilliant but cautious Hillary Clinton.

This could be the dawning of  the Bernie Revolution.


That Worrying GM Threat



My nephew Christopher alerted me to a couple of articles that sent chills down my spine.  No, it wasn’t about some savage serial killer or zombies coming to eat our brains. It was about genetically modified mosquitoes.

The articles suggest GM mosquitoes might be causing the widespread birth defects blamed on the Zika virus. The writers observe that the virus was around for ages without causing the birth defects reported since the mosquitoes’ development.

The deadly insects – artificially equipped with a “jumping DNA” sequence – were released in Brazil in the hope of wiping out other mosquitoes that carry dengue fever, Zika, yellow fever, and chikungunya.

Only male GM mosquitoes were released. They were supposed to mate with the wild mosquito population, producing offspring genetically designed to die before reaching mating age.

But, according to the articles, the experiment was botched and the offspring have survived in large numbers.

Articles like these are especially troubling at a time when Congress is considering another extension to legislation blocking litigation against producers of genetically altered foods.

GM companies such as Monsanto and Cargill are spending huge sums to lobby politicians in the hope of gaining immunity from any long-term consequences of their risky experiments. They are even trying to block mandatory labeling of GM foods, which seems a perfectly reasonable requirement to me.

GM foods could be the answer to world hunger but they could also be the path to unknowable horror. We should at least get the chance to choose whether we want to risk eating them.

Across America consumers are in an uproar. And they are finally having some impact on lawmakers. Recently, Congress ordered labeling of genetically engineered salmon. At least, now we’ll be able to tell if we’re buying a can of Frankenfish.

I know, that’s a small step for mankind. But it’s a step in the right direction.

Click for report on birth defects

More on GM mosquitoes


Those Crazy Caucuses

cornBy some kind of twisted logic, the caucuses in Iowa today will impact the lives of millions of Americans who couldn’t find Iowa on a map.

Hardly anybody lives in Iowa. Do you know anyone who does? I was there once a long time ago, covering a contest between a Canadian owned tractor and an American machine.  As I recall, the Canadian one won.

I remember driving through a tunnel of corn – miles and miles of corn on both sides of the road. We stopped for a drink and a bite at a road house. It was made of rough-hewn wood and seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. There was a live band – country music of course.

In such a place you would expect the “evangelical vote” to be big.  What else do the inhabitants have to do but go to church?

Yet, as the media and the political powers have decreed, these rustic innocents set the stage for regime change in the world’s number one democracy.

The media are there in full force today. They were there all weekend. Even those lazy layabouts at MSNBC who never ever work on weekends were there yesterday and the day before, prognosticating like crazy.

From what they have to say, and from the various polls they excitedly cite, it’s a razor-thin competition between Hillary and Bernie, with Martin O’Malley as the king (or queen) maker. Apparently his handful of supporters could determine the outcome.

Yes, I know that’s a confusing concept but – hey – it’s the caucuses remember? The trusty Iowans don’t just pick a winner. They keep voting until there’s a clear majority. Any candidate who doesn’t get 15 percent of each vote is chopped and that candidate’s delegates get to go with some other candidate.

In other words, if there are 100 people caucusing at some location and 14 or fewer say they’re voting for O’Malley, then O’Malley would get zero delegates in that precinct and his supporters would get to choose Hillary or Bernie.

Of course, the O’Malley voters don’t have to accept their candidate’s recommendation. They can make up their own minds.

Republican caucus goers are expected to settle on Donald Trump, with Ted Cruz as second choice. But with all those evangelicals caucusing, who knows what will happen?

They picked Mike Huckabee in 2008 and Rick Santorum in 2012. Remember?

The weirdest thing is how much the caucuses in tiny Iowa will influence the presidential primaries.

The winners will get so much media attention they will head into the rest of the campaign season with enhanced credibility. And, conversely, the losers will be left with so much ground to make up that some of them will probably quit the race.

How the caucus works

More on the evangelicals


Shame on Body Shaming



One of the worst things the Internet has popularized is shaming, especially body shaming.

The trolls get away with it because they can remain anonymous, and it causes a lot of grief. Some kids have even committed suicide as a result of this kind of bullying.

So I view the emergence of the new breed of curvy models with delight.

But that doesn’t mean I approve of skinny shaming.

Or any other kind of body shaming.

Growing up is complicated enough without others sitting in judgment on your looks. We do the best we can but Mother Nature rules. We didn’t get to choose our hair or our waistline or our legs. All we can do is make the best of what we got.

And sometimes making the best isn’t easy. Emotional and physical problems get in the way.

Of course, the media influence our ideas about beauty. Of course young people, especially girls, will want to meet generally accepted standards of appearance. And they usually look for guidance in the media.

The fashion police often get carried away – putting undue emphasis on looking lean, for example. (I suppose that’s because the diet industry is such an important source of advertising dollars.)

It got to the point where models were beginning to look like scarecrows.

But I notice that a new breed of model is becoming popular. Models with curves. And it’s about time.

Still, that doesn’t make it OK to criticize others for being too thin.

No matter what you look like, someone might find it shameful.

It’s becoming popular, for example, to shame those whom some folks consider out of shape.

Fitness is great. Working out is admirable. Lying around, eating cheeseburgers and playing video games is deplorable.

But there’s no virtue in shaming those who don’t frequent the gym, who don’t curb their appetites. Sometimes, they really can’t help the way they are.

What others could do for these folks is encourage them to be more active and to eat healthy. And give them a little love along the way. We can’t all be Adonis or Cleopatra. We have to live our lives with the bodies we were given. And genetics has a lot more to do with that than is generally acknowledged.

There was a time when women were prized for their protruding posteriors. Indeed, I’m sure that’s still a beauty standard in some cultures. And it’s quite normal for humans to store fat in their hips – and with men, especially – on their midriffs.

Of course I’m not suggesting that we should overeat and let ourselves get grossly of shape. Fit is good.

But shaming isn’t. I know there’s supposed to be free speech in America, but I think the social media sites should consider banning the trolls who make a practice of shaming others.


On my Mind This Morning



Here I go again, talking to myself. It’s a lonely job and nobody really has to do it. But I guess I’ll give it another try, anyway.

What do I care about this morning?

The arrest of those militiamen illegally occupying the Oregon wildlife sanctuary, for one thing. I think it’s about time law enforcement put an end to their showboating. I regret the fact that one of the lawbreakers was killed. I don’t celebrate anyone’s death. But that’s the kind of tragedy you can expect when you defy the law.

I also care that Planned Parenthood was absolved in the fake “baby parts”  scandal. Like the other infamous video that caused ACORN’s demise before it was debunked, this right-wing arrack has been exposed as fraudulent. Ironically, it’s the right-wing activists who now face criminal charges.

I am also wondering what the world can do to avert financial catastrophe, and I think Martin O’Malley might have hit on the answer. At the Democrats’ town hall the other night, he proposed a massive initiative to develop clean energy sources. I think that’s a great idea. It would help to avert a climate change nightmare and, in the process, revive America’s sluggish economy.

With America’s economy buzzing again, global finance would be sure to benefit.

I read recently that China is already investing heavily in clean energy research and development.  If China wins the race, the Chinese economy will reap the reward, the kind of reward America got from the Internet. You would think Americans would be eager to get there first again.

And I’m sure you know how essential public investment is in projects like this. There would be no Internet today, no miracle drugs, none of the amazing byproducts of the space program (super-efficient golf equipment for example) without government dollars.

But nobody is listening to O’Malley.  He gets no love from Democratic voters. They are totally obsessed with Bernie and Hillary. I feel a kinship with the guy. Nobody seems to be listening to me, either.

Click for more on the militia arrests.

Click for more on Planned Parenthood.

Click for China’s clean energy program.

Click for more on green energy.


No News is Bad News



Why aren’t more TV talking heads debating the likelihood of a global economic meltdown?

Of course, this is an election year and the media are preoccupied with the  cat fighting and backbiting of the campaigns.

And I suspect another reason for the pundits’ silence is that doomsayers have been screaming that the sky is falling for years, yet the sky has not fallen.

But it looks as if there’s real trouble ahead this time.

China, which recently became the world’s largest economy, is struggling. Third World economies are mired in debt they have little hope of paying.  And efforts to combat the climate change crisis are sure to put the brakes on the kind of industrial expansion emerging countries need to accommodate their exploding populations.

Things are not much rosier in the developed world.

Greece has faded from the headlines but its economic problems remain unsolved. Spain is drifting toward another crisis. Throughout Europe, social and economic problems persist, endangering the very existence of the EEU.

In our hemisphere, Brazil is in serious trouble with a contracting economy and fast-rising inflation. Its currency has collapsed. Argentina is on the brink of the worst financial collapse in its history. Plunging oil prices have hobbled once-thriving countries like Venezuela and Canada.

America may seem to have recovered from the Great Recession. But with weak foreign demand, tight government budgets and high income inequality, the recovery is fragile. While consumer spending keeps growing, wages have remained stagnant. And the result is a dangerous bubble of debt.

What’s going on?

Pope Francis recently cited the twin scourges of income inequality and youth unemployment and warned that an economic collapse is imminent.

He blamed a global economy based on constant war.

According to the pontiff:

We discard a whole generation to maintain an economic system that no longer endures, a system that to survive has to make war, as the big empires have always done.

The Pope is right, of course.  The world spends billions on arms while widespread poverty persists. And as President Eisenhower said:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children… This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

We should remember Ike’s words when we hear presidential candidates advocating more war. The gravest threat Americans face might not be from terrorists or malevolent despots but from the economic system this nation – and the world – has come to depend on.

Click for more on the US economy.


Don’t Get Mad, Make a Deal

angryI can understand the rage that’s driving American politics. Society, especially a democratic society, is frustrating. Anything the government does to help one group is likely to hurt some other group. Conflict is inevitable.

What do you and I want? We want security, that’s for sure. We want food on our tables, a roof over our heads, and reasonable expectation of a better future for ourselves and our children. We also want freedom.

Think about that.

Complete freedom and complete security are mutually exclusive. To be secure, we must surrender some of our freedoms.

If you want to be free to own any gun you like and carry it anywhere you like, you also have to give others the same freedom. And you know what happens then. It happens all the time.

I recently read about some gun nut dropping his weapon in a movie theater and wounding a woman in the shoulder. It seems there are accidental shootings every day. And I don’t have to remind you about the many horrors inflicted by crazies (and no, they are not staged by politicians who want to impose gun control; that’s nonsense).

The truth is that to get some of the things we want, we have to give up other things we want.

To get an education, we have to endure school. We can’t sleep late, hang out with our buddies and enjoy ourselves all day. Then, to get rich we have to save our money, and that means denying ourselves some of those treats we enjoy so much.

To get richer, we have to risk losing our savings. That’s the way it is. Remember that guy in the Bible who buried his one talent? He didn’t fare so well, did he?

But what happens when some of us want more security and others want more freedom? It gets gritty when we live in the same society. How does the government give both groups what they want?

It’s a kind of push-you-pull-you arrangement, and we cannot expect to get everything we want. That’s being petulant and spoiled.

So here’s my message to the far right – and my fellow-travelers on the far left.

Anger isn’t the answer. Resentment does no good. We have to take the world as we find it, not as we want it to be. Of course, we should continue to make the best case we can for the changes we want – sensibly and calmly.

In the meantime, we have to cut our opponents some slack, give a little to get a little. With luck, we might even get a little more than we give.

And that, folks, is the real art of the deal – not the mindless rage of spoiled brats like Donald Trump.


In the Land of Weird



There’s so much to fear, so much to deplore, so much regret for the past and trepidation for the future that the entry of Sarah Palin and Phil Robertson is actually a welcome development in America’s current election season.

It’s a kind of comic relief from the grim reality of a Republican primary fueled by rage and resentment.

So, we might as well enjoy it. After all, this election is costing Americans billions, trillions even.

I know you refuse to enjoy Sarah. You refuse to enjoy Phil. You think they’re sinister, not the least bit amusing.

And there’s something to be said for that view.

But, confess, who else can wow an audience like Sarah? And without uttering one intelligible sentence?

(The best description of Sarah’s endorsement speech came from Stephen Colbert who said she locked up the evangelical vote because she was talking “in unknown tongues.”)

And wphilho else could look as bizarre as Phil does in that Ted Cruz endorsement ad (picture at right)? Who else would soberly suggest that making duck gumbo is an essential requirement  for the presidency?

Sarah and Phil are just a part of a prevailing GOP primary weirdness. I understand Cruz is going  to call on Glenn Beck next in an effort to trump Palin’s endorsement of the Donald.

Yes, Glenn Beck. Apparently he’s still around. And you can bet he’s as weird as ever.

But who isn’t acting strange in this oh-so-strange Republican primary?

Even John Kasich, who seemed to be the sanest of the Republican candidates, is acting strange – very strange.

He recently described himself as the “prince of light and hope.” No kidding.

Maybe it’s not just the folks in Flint who are being poisoned by lead in the water. Maybe the entire country has ingested some kind of toxin that affects the brain.

But maybe not. We’ll find out in November.

Click for more on Palin.

Click for more GOP weirdness.