On my Mind This Morning

militia

 

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

Income-Inequality

 

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

sarah

 

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.

 

About Those Comments…

life2

 

I am very grateful for your comments, and I will do my best to respond. That’s the best way I can think of to show my appreciation.

Yes, Janice, the Democrats have not been reliable champions of the global black underclass. And you are right to be outraged at the mess President Obama and Hillary Clinton left in Libya.

You are right, Grace, to complain that America’s socio-economic system is rigged.

And, yes, Eddie, Democrats have failed to cure America’s shocking income inequality.

Pondering the very valid points you all raise, I concede that justice and fairness are often missing in this society.

But where is it any better? Who has done a better job of creating a system that works?

I admire Canada, but right now the Canadian dollar is languishing. With all its vast resources, Canada is struggling economically after a decade of misguided “conservative” government.

Great Britain, once the center of a mighty empire, is floundering. Europe is coming apart at the seams. The Soviet Empire is a vague memory and Russia is in desperate economic straits.

The Mideast is in flames.

Even China seems to be on the economic skids. And would you want to live in China, where the government dictates how many children you can have?

Janice, you and Eddie seem to be admirers of Gaddafi (or Qadafi or Kadafi, or whatever). But would you want to have lived in Libya during his rule? That society was certainly no model of morality. He was a brutal dictator who indulged his basest tastes and savagely suppressed dissent. This is your role model?

I’ve never lived in Libya, but I lived in Haiti when I was a young man, and compared to Haiti, America is paradise on earth.

And would you argue that Jamaican society is better than America’s? The Jamaican dollar is worth a few American cents. What do you say to that?

At least, here in America we are free to have this discussion without fear of reprisal. If we don’t like the job we have, we are free to find a better job. And, while good jobs are not as available as they once were, I personally have never been out of work in my 37 years as an American resident.

I have never been held up at gunpoint in America – as I was in Jamaica – or threatened or beaten up. I have never gone hungry (and trust me, I went hungry in Haiti!).

I concede that American society has its faults. Tribalism, and its toxic byproduct racism, are endemic. And, yes, the rich and powerful take advantage of the vulnerable. Some people are obscenely rich while others  must struggle to make ends meet. Government influence is bought and sold like a pound of sugar…

But where is life better?

You have to admit that most Americans are generous to a fault. Most of the wealthy donate to some kind of charitable work (some of it is bogus, some of it genuine – but the motive is laudable). And, be honest, who is stopping you from becoming obscenely rich? Go invent a catchy gizmo or sell something on the web for Heavens’ sake.

Or become a Wall Street investor. Money has no color bar or gender bias. Anyone of any shape or shade is eligible to make money. All you need is guts and luck.

You, too, are free to become part of the one percent. So what if the system is rigged against you? Try harder. If Carly Fiorina could make millions, what’s wrong with you? You’re smarter, nicer and better looking, that’s for sure!

And if you don’t like the system, fix it. At least here, we are free to try and cure our society’s ills.

As for me, an old, retired codger, the best I can do right now is vote for Hillary – or Bernie – and the other Democrats. Voting for anyone else would be counterproductive. And sitting home on election day would be unforgiveable.

 

I Need to Hear from You

blogAs I sit in my den and write my blogs, I am guided by your response. Without your comments I’m flying blind. These blogs are not intended to end discussion of a topic but to begin it.

They have little value without your contribution.

Do you think Bernie Sanders could win the White House for the Democrats?

Or do you thnk it’s more prudent for the Democrats to nominate Hillary Clinton?

Or would you rather have Donald Trump steering America’s ship of state?

What do you think of Sarah Palin? Is she a fine, Christian wife and mother who will add luster to Trump’s campaign?

Is  she a hottie that gets your hormones churning?

Or is she a silly goose whose tongue is detached from her brain?

Do you think Ted Cruz will win Iowa? Will he even win the nomination? And the White House?

Would that be a good thing or a bad thing?

I need your opinion.

Of course you can disagree with me if you want. And you don’t have to be civil. If you think I’m full of hot air, please let me know.

And if you agree with my musings, please expand on them. Tell me what I’ve omitted, what I’ve failed to notice, whatever you feel about the issues I raise.

Of course I write about things that evoke some kind of response in me, things I might know a little and care a lot about.

But if I’m choosing the wrong subjects, let me know. You might have some good advice for me. I might follow your suggestions or I might not know enough about your suggested topics to write about them.

Even if I don’t, though, you can be sure I’ll give your suggestions serious consideration.

Without you, my blogs are the sound of one hand clapping.

 

The Sobering Reality

trump-cruz

 

There is no real debate in American politics, only polemics. Exaggerating the benefits of one side of an issue and ignoring or deprecating the other side – that’s what everyone does. And it’s depressing.

But that is what the media want. And, presumably, that is what theireaders and viewers  want.

Equally disheartening are the sacred cows. America’s troops, for example, must always be referred to as the greatest in the world – the greatest in history.

I tend to believe that the troops reflect the population at large as just about anyone who is physically fit and not palpably insane can enlist. There’s supposed to be a ban on felons, but increasingly felons are getting waivers to sign up.

Yes, there are heroes in the armed forces. Of course they deserve appreciation and honor. But – as in the population at large – some are better than others.

And as for the population at large…

According to the candidates, we are the most noble, hard working and perceptive folks on the planet. We are “exceptional,” whatever that’s supposed to mean.

But, obviously, that’s not universally true.

We are – like any other population – a mixed bag. Some of us are admirable, some not so much.

And it seems there are a lot more of the “not so much” than I thought.

What kind of person yearns for a President who would have employed “the full force” of the American military against Iran when the Revolutionary Guard detained those 10 American sailors?

That’s what Ted Cruz (above, right) says he would have done.

Imagine that! Picture those missile silos in the American desert spewing their deadly contents to incinerate the Iranians. Imagine how Iran’s ally, Russia, would have responded. Imagine Armageddon.

Today, the sailors are free and the Iranians are going on with their lives because cooler heads prevailed.

Who are these bloodthirsty Americans that yearn for war? Who are these Americans that would abolish food stamps? That would launch another  invasion of Iraq? That would make children go hungry and deprive the sick of health care?

What drives them?

Donald Trump (above, left) says it’s “anger.” He implies it’s a righteous anger. But I suspect the driving force behind his popularity (and that of his closest rival for the Republican nomination) is nothing so wholesome.

I believe many of the Americans who support candidates like Trump and Cruz are driven by resentment and spite. I picture them as mean spirited, creepy creatures who have been so severely damaged by life that they want only to see others suffer too. And I pity them.

I do not pity Trump or Cruz. I despise them.

They are dangerous demagogues who prey upon the emotionally scarred, seeking power by appealing to the most deplorable human instincts.

A public forum that encourages polemics and media that thrive on “controversy” enable such base tactics and diminish one of the greatest societies in history.

What America needs now is more light and less heat as the nation tries to work out the best path forward in a complex and fast changing world. America needs responsible and carefully considered debate, not polemics.

And America certainly does not need the likes of Trump or Cruz.

 

A Wrong-Headed Attack

hillarysandersTonight – yes tonight, on a Sunday – the candidates will once again make their case for the Democratic nomination, and you might want to skip “Sunshine Superman” to catch it.

You won’t hear much that is new, except Hillary’s misguided attack on Bernie’s health care plan.

And is it ever misguided!

Of course expanding Medicare would be far better than the convoluted system brought us by Obamacare. That’s what President Obama would have done if he could’ve mustered the votes, but the Blue Dog Democrats let him down.

The Affordable Care Act that was eventually passed is a compromise among a zillion or so special interests. You know the old saying, a camel is a horse created by a committee? That’s what Obamacare is.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Obamacare is a vast improvement over the old system. It’s a lifesaver for millions. But Medicare for all would be better.

And no, Hillary, expanding Medicare doesn’t have to mean a financial burden for middle class families. Yes, Bernie has said he would fund the plan through taxes, but he added that the tax will be less onerous than the insurance premiums those families pay now.

I can see how that would work. Can’t you?

And, without the need to fund costly employee health insurance programs, businesses would be more able (if not more willing) to pay realistic wages.

To those critics who worry that America’s massive health insurance industry would crumble under Bernie’s plan, putting thousands out of work, I would cite the Medicare Advantage program covering seniors like me. It seems private health insurance companies are doing quite well under that program.

Medicare didn’t put the insurers out of business. It provided new opportunities to replace the old ones.

Of course, Hillary might decide to abandon her stance on Medicare for all, and stick to tried-and-true issues like gun control. Bernie does seem vulnerable on that one. He’s from Vermont, where hunting is almost a religion, and his Senate voting record reflects it.

As for me, I’m voting for Hillary – even though I like Bernie’s ideas better. You see, I remember Walter Mondale’s rout, and I know how timid American voters are about radical change.

I also realize that with so many red districts locked in by gerrymandering, and with so many single-issue voters like anti-abortionists and gun nuts, Republicans are likely to retain a lot of clout in Congress.

Also, there are states so mired in mythology that Democrats have little or no chance of winning control of the legislature – or of occupying the governor’s mansion. They would present a huge stumbling block to implementing Bernie’s agenda.

I can see Hillary actually getting some of her program approved by Congress and implemented by the states. With Bernie, I’m afraid that even if the voters surprise me, Congress won’t. As President, Bernie could very well usher in another period of horrific gridlock.

And that’s the last thing America needs.

Click for more on health care issue.

Click for Mondale’s defeat.

 

Who Won? Who Cares?

r82213cruz

 

Do you care who won and who lost in that debate last night? I don’t and I bet you don’t, either. If you’re a Republican (poor soul), you already have your mind made up. If you’re anyone else, you probably didn’t even tune in to Fox Business News (yes, there is such a channel).

CNN had a focus group assigned to listen to the debaters and give their opinions later. When they were asked if the debate had changed anyone’s preference for presidential candidate, not one hand was raised.

I dutifully endured the entire thing to report to you, my faithful readers. And what struck me was how much misinformation and disinformation was produced.

Ted Cruz, for example, would have you believe his “natural born” citizenship is a done deal – even though he was born in Canada. The moderators and the other debaters (except for Donald Trump, of course) let that pass. Ben Carson even said his son, who was born in Australia, is a natural born American.

(As you probably know, only a “natural born” US citizen can be President.)

The Constitution provides that any child of US “citizens” – even if born abroad – is a “natural born” American.  But does that mean both parents?

It still has not been established that someone born in Canada, whose father was a Cuban-born Canadian citizen and whose American mother reportedly voted in Canada, is a “natural born” citizen of the USA.

I await with interest the lawsuit that Congressman Alan Grayson has promised to file if Cruz gets the Republican nomination.

But such arguments might be too complex for those debaters to grasp. The average intellect on the stage seemed to be about the fourth grade level – a failing class at that.

For example, the candidates persisted in lumping the Kurds and the Indians in with Mideast Muslims, when that’s quite inaccurate. Most Kurds who aren’t Yazidi practice a mystical religion that Sunnis and Shia would not even recognize.

And the vast majority of India’s population are Hindu, not Muslim.

Then there was Ben Carson’s depiction of Islamic terrorists “smoking their cigars, sitting in their comfortable chairs in Raqqa.” Really? Doesn’t the renowned brain surgeon know ISIs inflicts harsh penalties on anyone caught smoking or peddling tobacco?

Of course, some of the falsehoods that came from the candidates were intentional. They’re infamous for making stuff up. Donald Trump, for example, declared that most Syrian immigrants entering Europe are “strong, powerful men.” That’s a lie, pure and simple, but it sounds scary and that’s all he cares about.

Not to be outdone, Marco Rubio concocted a report that ISIS is recruiting doctors and engineers to infiltrate the US. Where did he get that information? I guess he made it up.

These guys don’t care if you know they’re lying. They will look you in the eye and flat out lie. Trump, for example, denied he had told the New York Times he would impose a 45 percent tax on goods from China when anyone can check the record and find out the Times was right.

And, of course, the debaters vigorously invented the most absurd fantasies about the Obama presidency, claiming that he has “gutted the military” and a whole raft of other bad things – not one word of which was true.

Click for the AP fact check.

Click for Grayson’s lawsuit.

Click for a legal opinion on Cruz.

 

When Good Sense Prevails

kerry

 

The President’s State of the Union speech was a humdinger, resounding oratory with a core of reasonableness and perceptiveness. But to me, the most compelling argument for his policies transpired behind the scenes, away from the cameras and the politics.

President Obama didn’t mention it in his speech. but you can bet it was on his mind.

obama2For while he was talking about the need for optimism and cooperation in Washington, two US Navy vessels and 10 crew members were being held by the Iranian National Guard.

The ships had strayed into Iranian territorial waters yesterday morning and the Guard had captured them.

Imagine what that could lead to if any of the Republican presidential candidates were in the White House instead of Barack Obama.

Imagine what that could have led to a year ago.

But because the man in the White House is sensible and sane, nothing dramatic happened. Secretary of State John Kerry picked up the phone and called Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif (photo above). He explained the ships had accidentally strayed off course when one of them developed engine trouble.

Today, the two patrol boats and their crews are headed home.

To me, that illustrates the power of diplomacy and the value of common sense. In the face of bitter opposition, the President insisted on talking to the Iranians, working out a deal to stop them from developing a nuclear bomb.

The pact is to take effect in a few days.

Kerry had developed an amicable personal relationship with the Iranian foreign minister during the negotiations, and Iranian officials said this was one reason for the sailors’ quick release.

That’s the pact you may have heard Republican presidential candidates and media pundits raging against.

They want war with Iran, not diplomacy.

As for me, I would much rather have a peacemaker in charge of America’s armed forces than a hothead. War must be the last resort, not the first choice, of any candidate who wants my vote.

Click for more on the incident.

Click for the President’s speech.