Stewart as Moderator! Yes!

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Every so often an email shows up in my in basket asking me to sign a petition for some worthy cause. But I did not get this one. And I’m pouting.

Initiated by Change.org, it asks the Commission on Presidential Debates to select Jon Stewart as a moderator for one of the 2016 Presidential Debates. According to an article in Salon. com today, nearly 90,000 people have signed it so far.

The Salon article includes a link to the Change.org web site. So, I immediately clicked on it and signed the petititon.

Change.org doesn’t specify a political party, but if I had my way Stewart would moderate at least one debate for each major party. Indeed I would ask him to moderate them all.

We desperately need his kind of clarity in today’s funky politics.

Of course I know that Jon Stewart is a comedian. He has been making me laugh for the past 16 years. But I am not looking for laughs this time. I am looking for common sense, curiosity and honesty. Stewart is the only current media star I can think of who demonstrates those qualities.

In today’s media world, all we seem to get is spin. That Fox News debate, for example, wasn’t that just a really, really big show designed to boost ratings and provide the Republican candidates with massive exposure?

And if you’re looking to the CNN debate to give you meaningful insights into the issues that matter, you’re in for a letdown.

With the kind of corporate ownership that exists in the mainstream media today and the bizarre exaggerations and fabrications of the fringe mdia, we are left trying to sort out the truth for ourselves as the sound and the fury resonate across the airwaves.

And there is already a lot to laugh at in this year’s campaign. Surely, you don’t take Donald Trump seriously, for example? To me, he’s just a big, fat joke!

What we need is another comedian to counter his nonsense, a gifted and insightful comedian – like Jon Stewart.

Perhaps in this toxic political environment, it’s too dangerous to tell the truth. Perhaps the only way to get away with it is to mask it as comedy – as the court jesters did in ancient times.

Perhaps, when all is said and done, we need a comedian to set us straight.

Click for the Change.org site.

 

Caught in the Act

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What surprises me most about the Ashley Maddison scandal is the cost of signing up for that promised affair. According to a report by Tony Maglio in The Wrap, (former) TV  reality star Josh Duggar apparently paid $986.76 for two accounts on the philanderers’ site.

At those prices, illicit sex is only for the well heeled, I guess.

And two accounts? What does that imply, I wonder? Was he planning to cheat on the women he would be cheating with? Pretty devious even for Josh, who – as I’m sure you know – was recently exposed as a child molester.

You probably never heard of Ashley Maddison. So let me bring you up to date. Ashley Maddison is a web site that offers married individuals with a roving eye an opportunity to hook up with others who also hanker for a bit of hanky panky. Presumably, the trysts would be a deep and dark secret – certainly not shared by the participants’ significant others.

These trysts are secret no more.  Hackers broke into the site’s database and dumped the hidden lives of 37 million cheaters (37 million!) online for all the world to see.

I overheard someone on TV say that divorce lawyers in America are already being deluged by would-be clients, presumably as a result of the data breach.

With those revelatons beginning to come out, with the shocking child porn case involving Subway spokesman Jared Fogle and with the case of the (then) 15-year-old student at St. Paul’s School who is accusing an older student of raping her, you have to wonder what’s going on in our society.

The Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy reports, for example, that nearly 50 percent of married women and 60 percent of married men will have an extramarital affair at some point in their marriage. That’s nearly double the statistics from 10 years ago.

Of course I know the flesh is weak, as the Bible reminds us. But with the relaxed moral code that’s prevalent today, you have to wonder why there’s so much bizarre behavior in the news.

Who in their right mind would pay hundreds of dollars to join a web site so they can meet members of the opposite sex who might want to have sex with them? What is it that makes adults want to molest children? Why is rape in the news almost every day?

And, to add to the strangeness, the deviants often belong to some kind of “family values” political group (like the Duggars).

It seems the more human beings preach about morality the more tempted we are to stray. Is perversity an inherent human trait? Are we still (sometimes irresistibly) tempted to take a bite of the forbidden apple?

I’ll leave it to you psychology students to figure that out.

Click for more on Josh Duggar.

Click for the rape case.

Click for more on Ashley Maddison.

 

A Pill for Women, Too!

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According to the latest news flash, the FDA has approved a pill to make women desire us guys. As an observer of the passing scene, I can’t let this one pass without some pertinent (and impertinent) observations.

First, I’m sure this must come as a shock to most males. After all, we are such studs that women naturally desire us on sight, don’t they? Of course they pretend they don’t find us irresistable. They like to play games to get us even more interested. But we’re on to them. We know they’re just flirting with us when they rage and flail and shove us away.

You ladies might think I’m kidding, but, sadly, that’s how a lot of men really feel in their hearts. And I’m not just talking about your genuine stud muffin. I am referring also to the fat (or scrawny) and the bald, the sweaty and the unkempt, the unshaven, unwashed, hairy brutes with knuckles dragging on the ground. They, too, consider themselves God’s gift to women.

Women, on the other hand, must look their best for us. They’d better go on a diet, get their hair done, paint their lips and fingrnails, lengthen their eyelashes, teeter on the highest of high heels, and get their teeth straightened and whitened. As Masters of the Universe, we males demand no less.

I know that the times have changed and this kind of craziness is not as common as it was. But it is far from extinct.

Why do you think portly and homely Donald Trump feels he can call Rosie O’Donnell “a fat pig”?

Tell the truth, ladies, wouldn’t you need a pill – a powerful one at that – to make you desire Donald Trump?

I’m sure a lot of dutiful wives and lovers will take the new pill to help them discharge their conjugal obligations. Based on the hugely profitable success of Viagra, Cialis and Levitra, the folks at Sprout Pharmaceuticals (the company that developed the new pill)  are rubbing their hands in gleeful anticipation.

But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we men responded to our ladies’ waning desire by making ourselves more desirable? When was the last time you guys took your sweetie on a date? Did you spruce yourself up and comb what hair you have? Did you shave the stubble I notice on so many male faces these days? Did you open the car door for her? Did you mention her beautiful eyes, her silky skin, her intoxicating perfume? Did you tell her you love and desire her today even more than you did when you first met?

Trust me, guys. That works a lot better than any pill.

Click for the news flash.

 

What is it About Hair?

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Tycoon Donald Trump at the house in Tong, on the Isle of Lewis, where his mother was brought up before she emigrated to the United States.

Now that my hair has become severely diminished, I am left wondering: Does that make me a bad person?  You have to wonder about things like that in a culture like this.

Growing up in Jamaica I became, of course, familiar with the terms “good hair” and “bad hair.” And I am aware of the massive fortunes people – especially women – spend on their hair. But I never dreamed hair would become an issue in America’s choice of a President. Certainly not in times like these.

What got me thinking about hair in politics this morning was yesterday’s exchange between Bernie Sanders and Ana Marie Cox of the New York Times Magazine.

“Do you think it’s fair that Hillary’s hair gets a lot more scrutiny than yours does?” Ms. Cox asked. Here’s Bernie’s reply:

Hillary’s hair gets more scrutiny than my hair? Is that what you’re asking? Ana, I don’t mean to be rude here. I am running for president of the United States on serious issues, OK? Do you have serious questions?

To me, and probably to you, that’s an eminently reasonable response. Surely, what’s inside a candidate’s head is a lot more important than what’s on the outside? But before you stand up and cheer for Bernie, stop and think. Have Americans elected a bald President since Ike?

John Kennedy had great hair. George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, “Poppy” Bush, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon… All had a healthy head of hair. (Yes, Barack Obama’s hair is not the traditional European kind and he keeps it shorn close but it looks quite robust.)

And consider Donald Trump’s hair. It has been ridiculed so much that he has started wearing a cap.

And it’s not just an American phenomenon.

When I was a young reporter in Canada, there was an eminently qualified candidate for Prime Minister named Robert Stanfield, but he didn’t have a chance of getting elected – not with his balding head.

As far as I know, hair has no useful function unless you’re a farmer in a hot climate who can’t afford a hat. But it has somehow been elevated to iconic status around the civilized world. Is there some vast marketing machine at work here? Some deep-rooted psychological trigger?

Beats me. I have no idea.

I am left to comfort myself with this old joke:

God made only a few perfect heads. The rest he had to cover with hair.

(Photos above… I don’t eally need to identify Trump, Hillary and Bernie, do I?)

Click for more on Bernie’s hair.

Click for more about Hillary’s hair.

 

In the Wake of the Debate

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Remember the Great Debate? Remember all the punditry that followed? Dozens of wise looking folks summing it all up for us. What wouild we have done without them? We would have had to make up our own minds. Imagine that! We the people actually forming an intelligent opinion. Who ever heard of such a thing?

As it turns out, the pundits were completely (laughably) wrong. As in misled… confused… or maybe just plain dumb.

They said, not one but all, that Carly Fiorina had emerged from the Happy Hour debate with new star power. And where is Carly now? Way, way down in the latest poll conducted for Fox News. Yes, I know 5 percent is a big improvement on the 1 percent she used to score, but with a 4 percent margin of error, I don’t think it means that much.

They assured us that Marco Rubio, the young senator from Florida, had distinguished himself and was on his way to the top. Actually Rubio impressed few viewers. His latest poll number dipped to 4 percent (and, remember, that’s the margin of error).

And didn’t I hear them joining in a chorus of doom for Donald Trump? Actually, Trump is going from strength to strength. His latest poll position is still Number One, with 25 percent, more than double the second-place candidate, Ben Carson. You remember Ben Carson? He is the supposed genius who wants to replace the income tax with a Biblical tithing system. The pundits wrote him off after the debate, but 12 percent of the Republicans in the Fox poll think he would make a great chief of state.

Who’s on third? Crazy Ted Cruz, that’s who. That should come as a surprise to the pundits! His 10 percent should make them rethink their punditry.

More and more, it seems that America’s Republican base is defying all attempts at logic. They seem to want a president who will rage, rage aginst the dying of the light, not one who will try to light a candle.

Is that what the rest of America wants? I guess we’ll find out next November.

Click for more on the poll results.

 

Shutting Out the Chatter

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Why, I’m sure you are wondering, has there been no blog for so many days? Those of you who know me can probably figure it out. The final major golf tournament of the season is under way, and I am glued to my PC in the mornings and to the TV for the rest of the day.

I have stirred only to play a round of golf on Thursday, to drop off Sandra at a neighbor’s tea party yesterday (and pick her up afterwards) and to help clean up the mess left by flooding last night. Yes, we were under water. The rain came down like a waterfall and backed up on the patio, then poured in under the doors. The laundry room became a wading pool and the family room wasn’t much better. Water was inches deep in the garage, and even the breezeway was submerged.

It wasn’t as bad as it has been in many other parts of Central Florida, though. In Tampa, Palm Harbor and parts of Pasco County, residents were trapped in apartment buildings and mobile home parks. Local TV stations showed boats rowing to their rescue (photo above).

I understand the Cotee river almost swallowed up the New Port Richey home where my sister Elizabeth and her husband Wendell spend the winters (they live in Toronto for the rest of the year). But I haven’t been in touch with her in a while ( I phoned but they must have been out), so I don’t know if it was really that bad.

What with the PGA Championship and all the rain we’ve been having, I’ve missed a lot of the news.

But I doubt I’ve missed much.

Every time I turn on the TV, I see Donald Trump’s bloated visage and hear him ranting about this or that. He seems to be really, really mad at Megan Kelly and Rosie O’Donnell but declares that he loves – cherishes!– the rest of the female population. And he has figured out – all by himself – that America stupidly blew trillions of dollars, more than 4,000 American lives (and who knows how many non-American lives?) and left thousands upon thousands of shattered bodies and minds in the wake of that ghastly Iraq adventure. And his greatest complaint? The US came away with nothing – not even Iraq’s oil.

That’s the kind of guy he is. Sensitive and sympathetic to the core.

I am also hearing that Joe Biden is pondering a run at the presidency. I love good ol’ Joe but Hillary is getting my vote despite all the ugliness the vast right-wing conspiracy is throwing at her.

Meanwhile, on the shores of Lake Michigan, a phenomenon named Jordan Spieth is teeing off this afternoon against another young Titan named Jason Day. They will take on a diabolically designed Pete Dye masterpiece in a tough wind. On their heels is a pack of the most talented golfers ever, most of whom (even Phil!) are playing at or near their best.

(Sadly, Tiger is not in contention. He still has not rediscovered his game. But I’m betting you will, Tiger. Don’t give up.)

So, if you will forgive me, I’ll shut out the phony chatter of this dreary political season and enjoy some real brilliance and genuine drama for a change.

 

No Sense of Decency, Sir?

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casualtiesI was agog last night when I heard Jeb Bush (above) reinvent the history of his brother’s war, and I was even more agog when none of the TV pundits set him straight.

According to Jeb, here’s what happened:

Heroic American troops, deployed in a brilliantly conceived and executed surge, had beaten back the insurgents in Iraq and eliminated the al Qaida threat, but this glorious achievement was undone by Hillary Clinton and President Obama who prematurely withdrew American troops from Iraq, and it was this blunder that created ISIS.

Really, Jeb? Is that the way you remember it?

Here’s how I remember it:

After shamefully manipulating America into the disastrous adventure in Iraq, George W. Bush discovered (to quote his own words) that “a successful strategy for Iraq goes beyond military operations.”  But he agreed (after he was badgered relentlessly by hawks like Senator McCain) to significantly increase the number of troops in 2007 – a maneuver that became known as “the surge.” Bush said the deployment of extra troops was intended  to protect Baghdad and Al Anbar Province, buying time for the warring factions within Iraq (Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds) to iron out their differences (which never happened).

The “surge” did not “win” the Iraq war. Bush may have thought his “mission accomplished,” but later events proved him sadly mistaken. And that “surge” had absolutely nothing to do with al Qaida or its monstrous offspring, ISIS.

Fuirthermore, surge or no surge, it was President Bush who negotiated the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. President Obama did his best to expedite it, of course, but he ended up following the Bush timetable after all was said and done.

The 2008 Status of Forces Agreement was negotiated between the Bush administration and the Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki. That agreeement set the deadline of December 31, 2011, for all U.S. troops to leave Iraq. In October 2011, President Obama announced that all U.S. troops would be out of Iraq “before Christmas.”

President Obama tried to renogiate the agreement to let 10,000 US troops remain in Iraq but al-Maliki refused to provide the customary immunity for the soldiers that would be based there so Obama had no choice but to bring them home.

As for Hillary Clinton, who was Secretary of State at the time, I can find no record of her involvement in the timing of US troop withdrawals from Iraq.

I vaguely remember that General George Casey and General John Abizaid conducted a campaign against al Qaida and killed offf some of the terrorist group’s leaders (as the Obama Administration has continued to do). But they did not succeed in eliminating al Qaida. And  President Bush certainly did not succeed in bringing stability, peace and democracy to Iraq.

George W. Bush will forever be remembered for initiating and prosecuting the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and for creating the instability that has resulted in today’s horrors. Investigative journalist and author Robert Parry sums up Bush’s bleak legacy this way:

In the final accounting of the neocon adventure of conquering Iraq, nearly 4,500 American soldiers had died; some 30,000 were wounded; and an estimated $1 trillion was squandered. What was ultimately left behind was not only a devastated Iraqi nation but an authoritarian Shiite government (in place of Saddam Hussein’s authoritarian Sunni government) and an Iraq that had become a regional ally of Iran (rather than a bulwark against Iran).

For Jeb Bush to twist the facts so grossly is to add insult to injury. Someone should have asked him – as Special Counsel for the Army Joseph N. Welch famously asked Senator Joseph McCarthy back in the early Fifties:

 Have you no sense of decency, sir?

Click for Jeb’s rewrite of history.

Click for a more realistic view of “the surge.”

 

Impossible? Perhaps Not.

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Could Bernie Sanders make me eat my words? I said there was no way he could win the presidency of these United States. Could I be mistaken?

The old Socialist (photo at right) is living the impossible dream. He is outdrawing every other candidate – Democrat or Republican – by thousands. And his fans are not only showing up at rallies; they’re also sending him their hard-earned cash.

No, he won’t raise more money than Hillary. He won’t raise more money than Jeb. Hillary has amassed about $50 million already,. Jeb and his PACs have raked in more than $100 million. In the last quarterly reports, announced in July, Sanders had raised $10.5 million. More recent estimates put the total above $15 million.

But with Hillary and Jeb, campaign contributions come mainly from a few fat cats with axes to grind. Bernie’s money comes out of the pockets of thousands upon thousands of idealistic supporters, most of whom don’t have much to spare after they buy the groceries and pay the rent.

Doesn’t that tell you something?

It tells me democracy might not be dead in America after all.

Sadly, the mainstream media aren’t getting it. I keep hearing pundits equate the Bernie Sanders surge with the Trump bump. They glibly ascribe both to the same distrust of Washington lurking in the hearts and minds of the American electorate. (And why should  we trust Washington after our leaders abetted the blatant theft of billions of our tax dollars by the big banks?)

Trump’s supporters are simply sore at the world. By backing him, they are stickin’ it to the Man, giving Washington and all it stands for the finger.

Bernie’s supporters are a different breed entirely. His movement reminds me of John Kennedy’s Camelot.

In yesterday’s New York Observer, Brent Budowsky describes it as:

…the invasion of Normandy by the young people and liberals and progressives and idealists who are storming the beaches of American politics like tens of millions of little liberal Koch brothers who want to take America back from corruptions of big money and the stench of politics as usual and the arrogance and insiderism of political oligarchs and their mouthpieces and hired help.

Budowsky argues that Sanders “has a strong chance of winning”  the Iowa Democratic caucus. He points out that social media are today’s equivalent of Sixties television, and Bernie is dominant on web sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Curiously, Budowsky is not a Bernie-for-President enthusiast. He points to Bernie’s surge as a warning to Hillary, urging her and her team to:

…shed their caution and old media and old politics thinking and be bold and daring and speak to the real aspirations of real people in a real politics.

As for me, I admire Hillary Clinton immensely, and if she gets the Democratic nomination (as I still think is likely) she will certainly get my vote next November. But…

But wouldn’t it be wonderful if this great nation rose up against the traditional power structure and rejected dynasty politics in favor of an unlikely old firebrand with real reform in his heart?

Click for the Observer article.

Click for more on Bernie’s campaign.

 

Cringing at Jeb’s Joke

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First, the disclaimer: I see through a glass darkly. I have no special sources to draw on, no exceptional occult or analytical powers to inform me. All I have is what I read on the web and hear and see on TV, plus my basic common sense.

To me (as it was with Indiana poet James Whitcomb Riley), if it looks like a duck, if it swims like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.

And, based on that simple logic, I can’t shake the uneasy feeling that organized crime has sunk its hooks into America’s political system.

So I cringed when a leading Republican presidential candidate joked in Thursday night’s debate about being called “Veto Corleone.”

I know Jeb Bush (top photo) was referring to his ruthless budget cutting during his time as governor of Florida, not to any extracurricular involvement. But I wonder, does he know what’s on the Internet? Does he know how his family is characterized on some web sites?

The Bush dynasty goes back a long way, and there are startling accusations on the web concerning their activities. I wasn’t around, for example, when Jeb’s grandfather,Prescott Bush, is supposed to have collected funds for Hitler. And I haven’t read or heard this accusation repeated in coverage of the current presidential campaign.  But I come across it on the web when I Google the Bush family.

American news sources have short memories. They don’t have time for “old news.” They have forgotten the Savings and Loan scandal of the 1980s, for example. But the American Society of Criminology has not. And its web site has a savage indictment of the part Bush family members played in that debacle (including Jeb).

Of course, anyone can write just about anything on the web. So I am not going to repeat the stuff I’ve come across. (I’m not even going to link to the web sites.)

Still, the accusations on the web might be based, however unfairly, on official records – from that Savings and Loan mess, for example. An enterprising reporter might decide to dig the records up.

So if I were a Jeb Bush adviser, I would tell him to deep-six the joke about being known as the Godfather.

(Lower photo shows Marlon Brandon as Vito Corleone n The Godfather.)

Click for more on Jeb Bush.

 

This Was a Debate?

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I watched both Republican primary debates and I wonder whether I speak English. I always thought a debate involved a conflict of ideas. You know, one side says the moon is made of green cheese; the other says it’s made of cheddar. And they trot out a bunch of facts and supposedly logical assumptions to persuade listeners they’re right.

If that kind of exchange occurred at either of the two debates on Fox News, I guess I wasn’t listening when it did.

Especially at the 9 p.m. debate, what I watched was a kind of revue – like the Rockettes or some Las Vegas girlie show (lower photo). I expected Joel Grey to be slithering out on stage at any minute singing “Come to the Cabaret.” Or perhaps Donald Trump doing a Joel Grey impersonation.

I heard nothing new in either debate.

And, after two hours watching alone in my room (Sandra was fast asleep within minutes), I was left with a nagging suspicion that the main event (top photo) was scripted. “Hard hitting” press person Megyn Kelly pulled no punches and the “debaters” all had plausible answers for her “hard hitting” questions without seeming to pause for breath.

Even Trump.

Kelly let him have it with both barrels:

You’ve called women you don’t like, ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ slobs, and disgusting animals.

And:

You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president, and how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who was likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the war on women?

And someone introduced as Brett Baier opened the proceedings by putting Trump on the spot. Raise your hand, he told the debaters, if you can’t promise not to run as a third-party candidate. (Of course he knew Trump was the only one who would raise his hand. Trump’s threatened third-party run had been all over the news for days.)

So was Trump stuck for a response?

Of course not. He pulled plausible replies out of the hat as if he had been rehearsing all afternoon. And his responses were in character. He reminded me of one of those “villains” in professional wrestling who make millions by getting themselves booed.

To Kelly he replied that the times are too perilous for him to bother with “political correctness.”  He even  hinted that he wouldn’t mind calling her a thing or two if she kept on badgering him (was that in character or what?).

And facing the Brett press person, the Donald adamantly refused to back down after raising his hand to threaten a third-party run at the presidency.

Trump wasn’t the only candidate to face hard-hitting questions. Every one of them faced “challenging” – even hostile – queries. Even Ben Carson, who hardly got noticed the rest of the time. Kelly reminded him that:

You’ve suggested that the Baltic States are not a part of NATO, just months ago you were unfamiliar with the major political parties and government in Israel, and domestically, you thought Alan Greenspan had been treasury secretary instead of federal reserve chair.

Of course the nerosurgeon had a quick and easy reply. He said he didn’t sweat such small stuff because:

the thing that is probably most important is having a brain, and to be able to figure things out and learn things very rapidly.

And as a neurosurgeon, he knows a brain when he sees one (as he emphasized in his closing comments).

Yes, folks, what we have is a group of impressively qualified candidates who can answer tough questions with aplomb. All with impressive resumes (which they took the trouble to share). All with impressive personalities – from don’t-give-a-damn Donald Trump to love-is-all-you-need John Kasich. And these are all – to a man – Bible loving, God fearing men of faith who love their families, their guns, unborn infants (from the moment of conception) and us the voters – all of us even Independents and Democrats (excluding, of course, such bad actors as Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama  and their ilk).

No there was no debate. What we got was a show that pulled in huge ratings for Fox and provided the Republican candidates with the kind of exposure they couldn’t have bought with all the millions their deep-pocket backers could provide.

It was a coup, plain and simple. Once again we the people have been played for suckers.

Click for a blow-by-blow of the main event.