We Know What Jeb Stands for

king jeb

I don’t think Jeb Bush surprised anyone with that speech announcing his presidential candidacy. America should know by now what Jeb Bush represents.

It’s not just that his father and brother occupied the White House. You might think Jeb is his own man and would pursue less disastrous policies than they did. But we in Florida know better. Jeb was our governor, you know. And we witnessed firsthand the consequences of putting a Bush scion in power.

As Debbie Wasserman Schultz points out in her Huffington Post blog:

Jeb Bush supports a return to the same, failed trickle-down economic policies that leave so many Americans behind. As Governor of Florida, Bush’s tax policies favored the rich and wealthy corporations at the expense of the middle class. He stood by his brother’s proposal to privatize Social Security and endorsed the Ryan budget that would end Medicare as we know it, policies that would shred the social safety net on which so many Florida seniors rely.

Like so many born to wealth and privilege, Jeb obviously believes in the role of an elite class, the manifest destiny of those who were born to lead.

He is a rich, white man who married the daughter of a Mexican migrant worker. I’m sure his family thought he married “beneath” him. That’s how his kind of people think.

There’s a story that George H. W. Bush called Jeb’s children “the little brown ones,” and I am inclined to believe it.

These “upper crust” Americans feel entitled to wealth and power. They feel they earn it by accepting responsibility for the “lower classes.”

And they are shocked when we in the “lower classes” grumble. After all, don’t we know we’re getting more than we deserve? Don’t we know we’re lucky to have born leaders like Jeb running things? Think of the mess we would make if we were allowed to take charge.

Clearly Jeb sees it as his duty to step in and straighten his country out. It’s not a pleasant task, you know. He will be sacrificing a lot.

He would personally be much better off running his myriad business interests and enjoying his vast wealth and powerful family connections. But duty calls.

If this were some other country, some Third World country, Jeb would fit right in. Those societies are founded on the acceptance of an elite class. But this is America. And the essence of America is its populism. We the People are the rulers here.

That’s what makes America “exceptional.”

So thank you, Master Jeb for your kind offer, but I think we in the “lower classes” would rather make our own decisions and run our own lives. I’m sure we couldn’t make a worse mess of things than your brother did.

Click for the announcement.

Click for the Huffington Post blog.

Click for more on Jeb.


Why Hillary Gets My Vote


eleanorThe media are all over Hillary Clinton’s first major campaign speech, as if there’s something there that will tell us what kind of President she would be. But speeches are just speeches. Hillary is Hillary (top photo).

If Americans don’t know what she stands for by now, Americans are dumber than I thought.

Nobody in the history of American politics has been so exposed, so scrutinized. We have seen her in good times and bad. We have seen her stripped of all camouflage, all defense. We have seen her warts and all. And the vast right-wing conspiracy has done its utmost to make her look as ugly as Medusa.

Is she a perfect human being?

Of course not. Are you?

Is she smart? You know she is. Is she compassionate? Loving? A hard worker? All of the above.

Forgiving? Well, maybe not so much. Not if you believe the lurid tales of revenge that have been spread about her.

But you know she was forgiving enough to stand by Bill when he got caught fooling around with that intern.

I trust Hillary. These are perilous times, globally and domestically. One false move could trigger a nightmare. I would be terrified of putting my fate in the hands of someone like Rick Santorum or Scott Walker or Ted Cruz or any of the snorting, strutting, self-adoring popinjays who might be running against her. And I trust Hillary more than Bernie – not to do the right thing (we can count on Bernie for that) but to do the smart thing, which could be the difference between the world’s survival and the Apocalypse.

You know what I like most about Hillary? She is a big fan of Eleanor Roosevelt (bottom photo). And if you don’t know who Eleanor Roosevelt was, shame on you. She probably did more for Americans like you and me than anyone else in history. And she wasn’t even President.

If Eleanor were still around, she would get my vote.

Eleanor isn’t around but Hillary is. I am voting for Hillary.

Click for more on the speech.

Click for more on Hillary and Eleanor.


A Bulla for Fox News



When I was a child in Jamaica, we used to call it a bulla. Not the molasses, ginger-and-nutmeg cake, though. It was a different kind of bulla and it was certainly no treat. It was a verbal slap in the face. I think Americans call it a “put-down.”

Why did we call it a bulla? Beats me. I have no idea.

Anyway, the bulla I’m talking about is the one Fox News just got from a New Hampshire newspaper.

The decision makers at the self-styled “news” channel took it upon themselves to limit the number of Republican presidential candidates in the first primary debate. They would let only the top 10 in national opinion polls participate. That would  “winnow down” the unmanageable number of candiddates, according to the Fox pundits.

Not so fast, said  Joe McQuaid, publisher of the Manchester Union-Leader.

He threatened to stage a competing debate on August 6, the night of the first debate, for the candidates who didn’t make the Fox News top-ten list.

“What Fox is attempting to do, and is actually bragging about doing, is a real threat to the first-in-the-nation primary,” McQuaid said. “Fox boasts that it will ‘winnow’ the field of candidates before New Hampshire gets to do so. That isn’t just bad for New Hampshire, it’s bad for the presidential selection process by limiting the field to only the best-known few with the biggest bankrolls. Why the RNC and, especially, its New Hampshire representative, Steve Duprey, would defend this and be a party to it is baffling.”

Baffling indeed. And not just to Joe McQuaid. To a lot of other people, including 56 prominent New Hampshire Republicans who sent  an open protest letter to Fox and the party’s national committee.

Faced with the New Hampshire revolt, Fox News backed down.

Now, candidates who don’t poll among the top ten will be invited to participate in a televised debate earlier on the same day as the main debate.

You might be wondering why Fox News gets to set the rules for the Republican Party’s presidential debates. But nature abhors a vacuum, and the party has an obvious vacuum at the top. So, a TV channel – with a sharp elbow from a newspaper – gets to fill the vacuum.

In Republican politics, it’s no longer the party – or its membership – that calls the shots. Now, it’s billionaires like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson, talk radio loudmouths like Rush Limbaugh, Fox News – and a feisty newspaper publisher in New Hampshire.

Illustration above by DonkeyHotey depicts 2016 Republican candidates. Click on it to enlarge it.

Click for more about DonkeyHotey.

Click if you don’t know what a bulla is.


Health Care and Politics



The technician drawing my blood this morning has a simple solution for America’s healthcare problems – a government run, single-payer system. Everyone should have the same health care, she says – even the politicians. The down-and-out panhandler should get the same care as the millionaire cruising by in his Mercedes.

Why, I wonder, would anyone argue with this point of view?

Yet even when Democrats controlled Congress, President Obama could not get the support he needed for such a simple plan. He was obliged to settle for the unwieldy, legally vulnerable Affordable Care Act, derisively christened Obamacare by its critics.

One consequence is a case before the Supreme Court that could disrupt the law’s implementation and leave millions of Americans stripped of their health insurance. 

What do you think America’s leaders should do if the court strikes down the law’s provision subsidizing residents of states that have no health insurance exchanges of their own? I think Congress should replace Obamacare with a straightforward single-payer system. If you get sick or hurt, you get care, and you don’t have to pay a dime. Period. 

But you and I know that’s not going to happen. Not with this Congress. Why?

The cynical explanation is that drug companies and private health insurers have “bought” the politicians. And these interests certainly spend a ton of money lobbying Congress.Yet, surely, politicians must answer to the voters as well as the lobbyists. There must be resistance to health care reform at the grass roots level, or Congress could not get away with its grotesque obstructionism.

Yes, I know, many Americans have a built-in fear and loathing of “socialism” even though I don’t think they know what “socialism” means. Universal health care is not, in my view, socialism. It is simply good government.

Socialism involves government ownership of a country’s resources, especially in such sensitive areas as utilities. There are sensible arguments for and against that economic approach. Health care is a different matter entirely. It’s a matter of life and death, not economics.

Who in their right mind would prefer an unhealthy society to a healthy one?

It’s a question that might face voters next November.

If the Republican assault on the Affordable Care Act succeeds, the Demnocrats shouldn’t just try to resuscitate the Affordable Care Act. They should offer a single-payer plan like the one in Canada and several other countries.

Are Americans ready for such a bold decision? My blood testing technician sure is.

Click for more on the Supreme Court case.


Is Serena “Beautiful”?


suzanneI know, you will tell me that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. So let’s stipulate up front to that tired old cliche. What I want to know is whether you think the world’s greatest-ever female tennis player (top photo) is eye candy.

I know you’re not one of those anonymous trolls who infested social media while Serena was winning the French Open, the racist, sexist creeps who sneered that Serena Williams looks like a man – or even “a gorilla.”

But, tell the truth, is she too powerful looking to meet your standards of beauty?

I think Serena is a work of art.  I think the lines of her face are classical, her cheekbones exquisite. I think her movement is as graceful as a panther’s.

As for her broad shoulders and rippling thighs, I think they  would be a sculptor’s dream.

But that’s just me.

Obviously, there are others who don’t share my perspective.

The question is whether in the year 2015, in Western civilization, female beauty can include power and athleticism.

Obviously, Serena is no delicate geisha.

But is the geisha your idea of feminine charm?

A half century ago, when I worked for the Toronto Telegram,  I interviewed the great  George Balanchine, who was visiting Canada with his ballet company. And he lectured me about prevailing concepts of female beauty.

He had no use for dancers with “tiny hands and tiny feet,” he said. He preferred his ballerinas to have hands and feet large enough to make a dramatic statement on stage. Dancers like the immortal Suzanne Farrell (bottom photo).

That was half a century ago. Have our tastes evolved in all that time?

What does this generation think, I wonder.

Do women still have to be “delicate” in order to be considered “beautiful”?

Click for more on the social media trolls.

Click for more on George Balanchine.

Click for more on Suzanne Farrell.


Could This Story be True?



I am as credulous as anyone else. If I see it in print I tend to believe it’s true. But I find this one hard to swallow:

76-year-old great-grandmother running against Father Time on the track

The story – emailed to me by my friend Margaret Marshall –  is about a Jamaican woman who lives in America and who is setting records in track events.

She celebrated her 77th birthday a couple of weeks ago.

Here’s what the news story says:

Rose Green is a champion sprinter. She has won medals in the 200 meters, the 400 meters, and is the American record holder in the 60-meter sprint.

She is also a great-grandmother.

Green will turn 77 on May 24 and only took up sprinting last year. But she is already one of the best in the world in her age group.

I remember being 77 and I was definitely not contemplating a career in track and field at the time.

I used to be a sprinter. Competed at a hundred yards and at 220 yards. Won the long jump in high school. But that was in high school.

At 77, I was panting after 18 holes of golf. In a golf cart.

But that’s not what leaves me scratching my head the hardest. The part that I find  even harder to believe is about her relationship with her coach.

According to the news story:

Green and Austin have been dating for four years.

Dating? Does that mean what I think it means?

Apparently it does. And more. Ms. Green is quoted as saying:

He’s a very strict coach even though we are lovers.

You mean this lady has enough energy left to fool around after setting records in the sprints? Hard to believe. But she’s a Jamaican woman after all, and Jamaican women never cease to amaze me.

Top photo shows Ms. Green with her medals. Bottom photo with her coach/lover.

Click for the story.


Behind the Gender Labels



Can you believe Bruce Jenner was a woman all along? The world class athlete? The Olympic star  who won the decathlon? Can you believe that inside that  Greek god (above, left) was a goddess (above, right) trying to escape?

It boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

And aren’t you blown away by the woman he turned out to be? That beautiful creature on the cover of Vanity Fair doesn’t look like any other 65-year-old I can recall – man or woman.

Gender is a weird business, anyway.  I remember a captivating young lady turning up at a golf club dance in Jamaica, and hearing that she used to be a boy I knew in boarding school. And much later in life, I heard a story about a burly managing editor of a Florida newspaper who had a sex change operation so he/she could engage in lesbian sex.

Go figure.

Sex and gender are more complicated than we humans would like them to be.  Life would be a lot simpler if we could slap labels on everyone and file them away neatly – one cabinet for male and another for female. If only Mother Nature would cooperate.

People are a frustrating muddle. We refuse to be labeled – and stay labeled. One day we’re swaggering about like Sylvester Stalone, the next we’re purring like someone’s sex kitten. And in some cases, that someone might not necessarily be of the opposite sex.

Don’t get me wrong. I would be horrified if you thought this could apply to me!

No sir. I am all man. See the hair on my chest? See my skinny, hairy legs? My knobby knees? Nothing feminine there! There’s no Caitlin inside me  trying to escape.

My mother did a great job of conditioning me – as your mother probably did with you. It’s what mothers do.

It’s what society wants. Order. Clarity.

Then along comes Caitlin Jenner to challenge our notions of sex and gender.

Click for more on the Jenner story.


Saving the Earth


Of course there are numerous issues – vital issues – in next year’s US elections. The way some Americans are living high on the hog – undeservedly – while others struggle in vain to feed their families is among the most glaring.  And there’s the horror of Islamic extremism; Americans cannot afford to let some amateur become commander in chief at a time like this. But to me, the most vital issue is protection of the environment.

The Republican Party has made no secret of its position on the environment: If protecting God’s earth gets in the way of some big shots making more money, trash it. Climate change? Deny it. So what if coastal communities get flooded? So what if wildlife suffers horribly? So what if the only world we have to live in is destroyed?

Surely, that’s an issue worth fighting over.

The anti-environment forces, financed largely by billionaires with a financial ax to grind, have declared war on the Environmental Protection Agency. And they are vowing to roll back President Obama’s latest attempt to save the wetlands – an executive order banning pollution of small streams and marshes.

Republican senators have come out in force against the President’s executive order. North Dakota’s John Hoeven, is promising voters that Republicans will “continue our efforts to either rescind the rule through legislation or defund it through the appropriate process.”

The anti-environment crusade seems to be backed by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Their rulings have weakened the Clean Water Act, making the President’s executive order necessary to protect the nation’s drinking water.

I can’t recall a period in American history when public figures were so bold in their assault on nature. I can’t remember a time when politicians dared to deny compelling scientific evidence and even question the validity of science itself. For the first time since the beginning of the Enlightenment in the mid-17th century, the very idea of science as the commonly accepted way of  gathering knowledge about the world is being challenged by heavily financed public relations campaigns.

I shudder at the prospect of these ignoramuses controlling the future of our Earth. And that’s a very real danger because they are backed by special interests with enormous financial power.

If there were no other issues to vote for next November, surely this one would be motivation enough.

Click for more on the executive order.


Show Them the Money


The FIFA scandal is just one more affirmation that it’s a pay-to-play world. It’s regrettable, of course, but it seems that’s how most folks like it.

They don’t want justice; they want an edge.

The pundits can wring their hands and cry shame all they want but it seems the great majority of ordinary folks shrug their shoulders and figure that’s just the way it is and they should learn to work with it.

If Diogenes and his lantern were around today, he would still be searching for an honest man. The spirit may be willing but the flesh is weak, as the Good Book says.

Most people would like to think of themselves as honest – until they get into trouble. If they have a brother-in-law in the mayor’s office, they’ll tap him to fix their parking ticket.

Sometimes this pay-to-play attitude is quite harmless.  Nobody gets hurt when three American businessmen shell out $150,000 to play a pro-am round of golf with Rory McIlroy in the Irish Open.  Indeed the cash goes to a good cause – McIlroy’s foundation, which supports children’s charities around the world.

But when a politician takes a substantial “campaign contribution” in exchange for shredding environmental protection laws, the consequences can be dire.

Unfortunately, that’s the way the political system works in the United States today. The Supreme Court decided that American corporations and individuals should be free to contribute as much as they like to their favorite politicians. I’m sure the generous donors expect to influence the way those politicians vote. Aren’t you?

The opportunity to get their pet agendas implemented has not escaped billionaires such as Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers. They’re reaching into their deep pockets to buy themselves a (Republican) politician or two. Left-leaning moneybags like George Soros and Tom Stayer have stepped in to bolster the Democrats.

That leaves you and me (with our nickels and dimes) on the outside looking in. American politics has become a high-stakes game.

It’s not just America, of course. Indeed, America only earned an “honorable mention” in a recently released list of the world’s most corrupt countries.  In his book, “Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust,” author Darrell West reports:

The top one percent own about one-third of the assets in America and 40 percent of assets around the world. This concentration of financial resources in many countries gives the ultra-rich extraordinary influence over elections, public policy, and governance.

The burning question now is this: Is there any way of changing things for the better? We could hope for a massive revolt by voters fed up with blatant misgovernment. But in the prevailing climate of cynicism, voters are staying home in droves, apparently convinced that their vote is irrelevant.

President Obama suggested making it mandatory to vote. But that kind of change isn’t likely when the plutocrats are calling the shots, is it?

Click for the FIFA scandal.

Click for more on West’s book.

Click for a closer look at Wall Street’s tactics.

Click for more on billionaires in politics.

Click for more on mandatory voting.


The Elusive Truth


The truth is elusive. Facts are not. And while assigning blame for the horrors in the Middle East is tricky, finding the facts is simply a matter of research.

So it’s not difficult to set Jeb Bush straight about the origins of  the movement now known as ISIS.

The Republican candidate for US President stated recently that ISIS did not exist when his brother was President.

The fact is that the movement did indeed exist. You can look it up.

Whether ISIS would have become the powerhouse that it is today if President Obama had pursued a different course in the Mideast is a debatable topic.

Jeb and his ilk would like voters to think that the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq caused the ISIS blight. But it is probably more sensible to argue that the invasion of Iraq, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the dismantling of his army were the underlying causes of today’s nightmare.

The real question should be: What does America do now?

I don’t like the idea of being mixed up in the Mideast, but I don’t see how we can avoid it after all that has occurred.

Like it or not, America is heavily invested in the region.

Does the next President “bomb ISIS back into the Seventh Century”? That’s what some Republican candidates are suggesting. But is that even possible?

Military experts tell us ISIS cannot be bombed into submission. It would take “boots on the ground” – lots of boots.

Whose boots, though?

President Obama would like it to be Iraqi boots. But there really is no such political entity as an Iraqi.  There are only Shia and Sunni living in Iraq. And Kurds.

The Sunnis in Iraq have more in common with the Sunnis in Saudi Arabia than with their Shia neighbors. And the Shia Iraqis have more in common with the Shia in Iran than with the Sunni Iraqis.

This division complicates politics throughout the Mideast. Especially since ISIS is a Sunni organization – a rogue organization but Sunni nonetheless.

The obvious response to ISIS is to arm the Kurds. They are formidable fighters and have no sympathy for ISIS. And they have proved staunch Western allies through the years. Unfortunately, politics interferes once again. The Iraqi government is dead against it. And so is neighboring Turkey, a traditional US ally.

The prospect of a heavily armed Kurdish population makes both governments quake in their boots. They have dominated the Kurds who live in their countries for generations and fear a regional Kurdish uprising once ISIS is defeated.

I imagine President Obama doesn’t want to alienate the Iraqi and Turkish governments. He has armed the Kurds to some extent but seems reluctant to create a really effective Kurdish opposition to ISIS.

I can understand this position, but I wish the powers that be had listened to Joe Biden when he proposed letting the Kurds have their own state within Iraq and dividing the rest of the country between the Sunnis and the Shia.

Trying to create a blended Iraq has failed utterly. The various elements are like oil and water – they cannot be mixed.

In such a volatile and complex environment, I shudder to think of the consequences if ham-handed politicians like Jeb Bush – who can’t even get their facts right – were elected President. The Mideast situation is far too delicate for amateurs to try and sort out.

Click for the origin of ISIS.

Click for more on the Iraq blame game.

Click for more on arming the Kurds.

Click for more on Shia and Sunni.