TRUMP: THE CANARY IN THE COAL MINE

Posted May 10, 2016 on 10:25 pm | In the category Politics, Press, Republican Party | by Jeff

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,…
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity……….WB Yeats

It is simple to blame Donald Trump for the ugliness, banality and venality of his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. But he can also be viewed as the proverbial canary in the coal mine. There is clearly a large amount of fear, frustration and anger in America and Trump may merely be its visible representation. While there is considerable angst over the possibility of Trump becoming president, it is worthwhile to look beyond him to the people that have enabled him to occupy such a prominent position. These include those who voted for him in primaries, but also the press for not treating his candidacy seriously, and for a political party that has in general lost its bearings.

The Republican Party has, since the Bill Clinton years, become an obstructionist institution dedicated to pandering to the basest instincts of it’s least rational members. The election and reelection of President Obama has intensified their commitment to avoid all attempts at actually governing, including the simple activity of holding hearings on a Supreme Court nominee. They managed to produce a primary election season of unrelenting nonsense and stupidity. The list of candidates is mind numbing in its lack of talent, intellectual capacity and fundamental honesty. They fooled no one and are now left holding the bag called Trump.

But Trump, as ugly and mean-spirited a candidate as we have seen since George Wallace, can be seen as a warning to the country and its putative leaders that much of the country’s rot has settled into that portion of a population that has identified with Trump’s nativist view of America’s place in the world. A world in which foreigners are threats, Muslims are all potential terrorists, women are only sometimes useful tools, and what is needed are simple-minded solutions, implemented by a proto-fascist leader.

While this environment was largely created by the Republican Party some responsibility can be shared by Democrats who participated in relaxing the rules regulating banking and financial institutions, in waging useless and stupid wars from Vietnam to Iraq, and institutionalizing unfairness in the economy. But regardless of how we parcel out the blame it is clear that the United States is facing a serious, long-term threat that is largely self-generated by rancid politics, a weak media, and an uninformed populace.

Many Americans were seriously injured by the 2007-2009 recession brought on by rapacious financial institutions and inadequately addressed by the government. Many Americans have had to learn – or relearn – that American military power can be misused, costly and with long term negative consequences. Many Americans have become scared of terrorism that since 9-11 2001, has cost fewer deaths in America than guns fired by toddlers. Many Americans have seen their jobs move to foreign countries with cheap labor while international companies pay little or no taxes in the U.S..

Given the failure of government to address America’s problems in a meaningful way it is less of a surprise that a campaign based on bigotry, ignorance, bombast and bullying could be successful. And given the nastiness of the Republican attacks on President Obama’s legitimacy it becomes understandable that a naive populace would gravitate to the man with the easy answers and the loud voice. Whether there are enough such voters in America is a question to be answered in November but regardless, the country has some very tough issues that will require more than a presidential election to begin to address.

The job of the canary in the coal mine is to die in order to alert miners of the existence of poisonous gases. Donald Trump’s job as a canary does not require his death. In fact he has done his job well enough already to alert much of the world of the existence of some poisonous gases in the United States. Now it’s time for the miners to begin the long task of digging themselves out. Denying Trump his ultimate prize would be a good first step.

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And the winner is

Posted May 2, 2016 on 4:45 pm | In the category Republican Party, U.S. Domestic Policy, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

So what happens next?  Even CNN, the great publicizer of the complete outsider Donald Trump, will discover  that this story  has run out of steam and they will have great difficulty pushing that revved-up political locomotive onto the summer timetable.   The problem is that the main event has already been completed and there is really little  excitement to rev up on how Indiana, or any other last-minute primary state, might vote in the primaries from now on.  Bernie Sanders put in a splendid race for a very long time, but in the end he has no chance of winning this marathon against the too-well connected and experienced front runner, Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump was a newspaper person’s delight in the beginning for putting together  an  amazingly unpredictable sprint  that put him way ahead of his rivals, and left  him on track to continue to pull ahead after the  sprinting should have been history.  He will certainly cross the finish line well ahead of  a catastrophically weak field of supposed  favourites, who had no staying power for the long haul, and in fact dropped out like flies as the checkpoints passed behind them.

So the US is still a democracy and the voters have spoken.  It will be Donald against Hillary for the winner-take all runoff, and already the pundits who were wrong from the start about the Trump candidacy, are  confidently predicting it will be a rout  for Hillary.  Here’s my advice.  Look out for the underdog once again.  Big Donald did not get into this runoff by being a man without a lot of public support,  Au contraire.  He is turning out to have plenty of friends  in a population tired of an overstuffed establishment, and willing to ignore the  fact that Billionaire Don is an obvious high flyer in that group.  His great advantage is, however, that he has never been a politician, like all the other candidates, and made his fortune by other means.   Donald could be gathering his second wind, and some pundits are already suggesting it – that there may still be a long-distance runner out on the streets and the outcome might be much closer than  seems to be the conclusion that the experts,  who were wrong in the beginning, might be predicting once again.

 

 

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Vikings in Panama

Posted April 6, 2016 on 4:27 pm | In the category Hillary Clintom, Republican Party, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Mackenzie Brothers

So – just about everybody you think of as overpaid – from soccer players to petty politicians to tough-guy dictators – have something in common. They invest in Panama Virgin Islands Co-operation companies. And it’s all legal – sort of – and moral – less sort of, but hey what do you expect in the modern world. Non-diving soccer players, truth-telling politicians, people-oriented  dictators? Okay okay, Bernie Sanders is from Brooklyn, where you’ve got to tell the truth or you know what! So he’s an exception. Maybe. And let’s hope he wins, so there is an exception that counts!

In the meantime, as expected from all serious history buffs, only one  society has demanded the consequences. Just as they did in Egil’s or Hrafnkls Saga or the Saga of Grettir the Strong, (until he was exiled to an isolated uninhabited Arctic island), the Vikings of Iceland know how to handle tax avoiders.  Sigmundur David Gunlaugsson (can’t match those Icelandic names), the PM, was caught with  his fingers in the Panama pot, presented himself with the *eatingest grin in photographic history as he entered parliament (the kid was caught with his fingers in the cookie jar as well) and only left it after he had been kicked out of his office, which had been pelted with  eggs and bananas by an angry mob, and joined the ranks of the unemployed – a contemporary mild version of medieval punishments.  No if only the US presidential candidates (pace Sanders)could be convinced after being pelted by eggs and bananas to get the hell out before it’s too late, we would all breathe easier.

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Carly Fiorina: Blood on Her Hands

Posted December 2, 2015 on 10:10 pm | In the category abortion, Carly Fiorina, Politics, Republican Party | by Jeff

As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, it’s heart beating, it’s legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.– C. Fiorina

So, when does a politician’s lie mean more than just the ordinary pumping up of one’s persona? Well, maybe when said politician starts to promote lies about others – lies intended to destroy their humanity. And then those lies contribute to a culture – an environment – that produces false reasons to lash out. Carly Fiorina’s easily disproved lies abut Planned Parenthood fit that category. It started at a debate with a bizarre tale of a video of an alive baby flailing its arms while its brain was harvested by Planned Parenthood. A video that does not exist. It takes some fairly big balls to make up such a story and then double down on it – which she did in later interviews. It puts her in the Goebbels category – Uberprograndischesturmfuhrer for the Monster.

So okay, she has illusions of grandeur. Okay, she wants to be President – or maybe Vice. So she is willing to do whatever is necessary to gather a few Iowa votes in two months – and even fewer in New Hampshire. What in God’s name motivates someone to lie in such a way to further infect an already diseased culture; in such a way to contribute to the motivation of the likes of a mad man in Colorado Springs to take his gun to Planned Parenthood and start shooting up the place? How shallow can a person be? How utterly debauched? Just watch.

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Words Fail: The Republicans Try to Debate

Posted November 4, 2015 on 11:24 pm | In the category Politics, Press, Republican Party | by Jeff

When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser(s). Socrates

There has been much mindless toing and froing among the literati and iliterati about the GOP debate that was interrupted – some say ruined – by actual questions directed at the participants. Some say the questions were “snarky”; others that they were – “gotcha” questions (a la Sarah Palin). Then there were some who said they did not really matter since none of the candidates answered any of the questions asked, choosing instead to launch unarmed missiles at the questioners. This has led to an opportunity for the mainstream media to cut off its collective balls and run. which to a large extent they have done.

GOP candidates want to be treated with a respect they have not earned but might actually earn if they found the courage to answer directly and honestly questions. And if they are offended by the questions to answer them anyway. Anyone who watched the Benghazi hearings saw a lesson in intelligence and intellectual courage and patience in the face of some of the stupidest questions anyone could come up with. Seems like Ms. Clinton provided a lesson in grace under pressure while the Republican candidates have provided a lesson in cowardice in the face of facts.

So given that the Republican candidates could stop being whining crybabies and put on their big boy (or girl) pants and answer some semi-tough questions, what about the press? Do your job: report on them, call them out, do not let them get away with their fatuous BS, and defend whatever integrity you have retained. Let Faux News carry their debates and then simply report on them – honestly and toughly.

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The Press, Facts and Reality

Posted September 24, 2015 on 11:01 am | In the category Election, Politics, Press, Republican Party, Uncategorized | by Jeff

In about 13 months the U.S. will have elected a new president. That is a long time away, but already it is not going well, with a Republican field of fact-resistant candidates and a Democrat field led by a candidate with a couple of self inflicted wounds. There is no useful purpose running through a list of candidates that until recently included a governor under indictment, another governor  looking at possible indictment,  a third who dropped out after his poll numbers disappeared, a couple of religious hustlers – one protestant, one catholic –  a woman campaigning on a record of running a major U.S.company into the ground, a Southern governor who has destroyed his state’s education and health programs to kiss down to the GOP base, a former Lehman Bros. operative running on – yes! – economic expertise, a brain surgeon with zero political experience, and a narcissistic TV loudmouth.

Some initially saw the GOP race as an entertainment but with all candidates given a degree of credibility strange things can happen. And the press tends to provide that credibility to practically any candidate, regardless of their tenuous grasp of reality.

It is easy to criticize the press. While no one is innocent, culpability does vary from source to source. It is silly to complain about Fox News – serious news is not what they do. They are a propaganda machine and they feed the beast and are good at it. MSNBC serves a similar function for the left, with the important exception that people like Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes (an actual journalist) maintain an attachment to facts and reality.

But what about the “serious” “objective” press, like the Washington Post, the NY Times and subscriber supported PBS Newshour? Would a serious press treat Trump seriously? Well, as it turns out – yes. His poll numbers are up therefore he gets an if not free, at least reduced fare, ride. Is there any reason to report that when Trump says we need to remove 11 million people from the U.S. he is suggesting an impossibility? Is there any reason when reporting that Carly Fiorina wants to defund Planned Parenthood because she claims to have viewed a video of alive babies being slaughtered by PP  not to mention that no such video exists? Are climate change deniers entitled to a free ride away from scientific fact? Candidates’ statements typically are reported without filters of facts partly because it contributes to the narrative of political campaigns as horseraces and allows journalists to produce words without doing the real work of journalism.

Monday is “politics night” on the PBS Newshour and last Monday their panel discussed the current GOP race and with a wink wink here, and a wink wink there, they disposed of Wisconsin Governor Walker’s removal from the race without discussing his real policy and personal deficiencies, which are considerable. It was the horserace – he could not raise enough money they said – well, there might be a reason for that and maybe that could be discussed. Stories like Walker’s claim that he is saving Wisconsin’s education system by cutting the state’s premier University’s budget and spending the money instead on a basketball arena, and Carly Fiorina’s manufactured story on Planned Parenthood are reported without comment. Overall too many journalists seem to believe that they are not to call a lie a lie when the liar is an”important” politician. And in the name of “balance” they seem too often to be able to find someone able to make up facts to denigrate Planned Parenthood or deny climate change.

PBS Newshour does a fine job when they bring in real expert analysts but they have a tendency to head toward the on-the-one-hand-this, on-the-other-hand-that face offs, sometimes providing opposing party politicians air time to exhibit what is frequently an appalling lack of substance, apparently aimed at pleasing their bases. Newspapers are improving their approach to analysis by opening opportunities for experts to write focussed oped pieces that frequently serve as correctives to developing myths. We would all  benefit from more of this and less timid acceptance of all that comes out of a politician’s mouth.

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Obama: Everyman’s Whipping Boy

Posted July 28, 2014 on 11:37 pm | In the category Canada, Germany, Obama, Republican Party, U.S. Domestic Policy, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Jeff

O-Bama, O-Bama, Wherefore Art Thou?

That is the question that many of us ask, but when we do we must also ask: what kind of country has the U.S. become and why are we unhinged in so very fundamental ways.  The previous entry on this blog by my pals from the friendly North is representative of what seems to me to be a lack of understanding (or empathy? God help us) of just what it is we are suffering through down here in the arid, thought-deficient South.

But let’s begin with our Northern pals’ comments. Right out of the chute (a Calgary rough rider reference, we should note) they wonder whether Obama is the least trusted president in recent memory. As my old Mom would have said, “are you kidding me? have you gone bonkers?” There was for instance “W” and his merry gang of thieves and eejits, led by the estimable Vice, Cheney. All they did was torture people all over the planet, with the help of countries like Germany – just to name one-  start a war on a lie (aided in a somewhat clumsy perhaps accidental way by German Intel), kill ca. 4500 NATO troops (most American but also Canadians, Germans etc.), kill ca 100,000+++ Iraqis, send 200,000+ Iraqis into refugee status, and empower a Shia dictator-to-be to screw Sunnis and Kurds in  whatever way he can thus producing a seemingly perpetual civil war which we are now – too late again – recognizing as a – well, problem.  I could go back further to Reagan and his criminal work with the Contras and Iran, or even Nixon – remember him? Trustworthy guys, eh?

Then we have the concern that Canada – our best friend to the north of us – supposedly moving away from us with the indisputable fact that our ambassadors are not top drawer. Without making a huge point of it, Bush appointed former Massachusetts Governor Paul Cellucci as ambassador and frankly his best strength was his wife, a bright, articulate librarian at Boston College before she agreed to sacrifice a life in a real city for duty in Ottawa. Fact is that Canada has not had a real U.S. Ambassador for over thirty years and even then they got a guy with blood on his hands. And I do not here discuss the Keyspan pipeline, aka, the Pipe of American Death and Canadian Profit.

And yes, we are reluctant to build a bridge from Detroit to Windsor – but is Obama to blame? I remind those who live in a Parliamentary political system that we have a system of “checks and balances” which has ensured in this time that nothing can ever happen. We live in a Kafka novel.  It is not fair to blame Obama for the failures of a Republican party that has decided not to participate in governance. I know not whether it is because he is black or a democrat or just whether the republicans have drunk the kool aid — what i know is that nothing happens, nothing can be done, and every bad fking thing that happens in the world is presented as the fault of the black American Democrat – and democratically elected – – president.  When considering anything that involves expenditures of federal money always look at congress and specifically the House of Representatives.. They have broken my country and are traitors to the core interests of our country.

Now, onto the unpleasant fact that we are listening to everyone’s phone calls and reading everyone’s emails, including Frau Merkel’s….On one level it is simple to say that of course we spy on Germany  – they are an important player – and that is what intel services do. Alas there are issues of trust – and issues of competence.. When i read about the spying on Merkel I thought that – well – ok, but why are you listening to MY calls and reading MY emails? Obama has clearly been sucked into the security organizations’ thinking and that is not a good reflection on his judgment. The CIA has – at best – a questionable record and that a President with a background in constitutional law would do what he has done is more than very troubling.

But for we who live in this country the mood of the people is more troubling. There is a strange and nasty beast out there and it is ignorant, stupid, lazy and ugly and it blames Obama for everything wrong in its  world. So more of this in the future. More on President Obama’s failures, Congress’s complicity, and the failure of the American people to grasp and deal with reality. It is, alas, a rich subject.

 

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Hucksters and Suckers: The Politics of Healthcare in America

Posted November 20, 2013 on 10:13 am | In the category Healthcare, Obama, Politics, Press, Republican Party, Tea Party | by Jeff

For over four years we have been barraged with misinformation, disinformation, lies, and misrepresentations by the Republican party, its politicians and media hacks that has apparently convinced many Americans that a national attempt to bring down costs of health care AND to make it available to all is a bad thing.

America has the most expensive health care system in the Western world, with per capita costs 25 to 300% higher than other Western democracies’ plans. While one might assume that we get better results, one would be mistaken. Bloomberg News did a ranking of national Healthcare systems using data from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Health organization and the Hong Kong Dept, of Health (for Asian data). For any American who has bothered to look at facts beyond the political game shows played on their local TVs, the results are not surprising. The U.S. spends over $8500 per capita on health care; this is almost 4 times what Israel spends; almost 8 times what Hong Kong spends, almost three times what Italy spends, etc. See the chart at Bloomberg News.

There is no country that spends more but there is a boatload of countries that while spending less, get equal or even better results. The statistics for all of this are readily available to both American voters AND their congressional representatives and Senators. Bloomberg News’ study ranked the U.S. at 46th among nations for the effectiveness of their healthcare system. Among the countries ahead of them in the rankings were all the Western European countries, most of the advanced Asian countries, and some surprises that included Libya(!), Israel, Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, Canada, Turkey, the Czech Republic and the list goes on. Every part of the world except most of Africa (beyond Libya) is represented. It is – and continues to be – for the U.S., a national disgrace.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) – dubbed “Obamacare” by Republican and Tea Party hacks, is an approach to a problem that was clearly out of control. Costs were becoming prohibitive, significant parts of the population were unable to obtain affordable insurance, people with chronic, serious diseases were unable to get insurance, people that got sick soon found themselves dropped by their insurance companies and medical expenses became the most frequent driver of personal bankruptcies.

In this context the Republican party has spent the past four years lying about the ACA, promoting scare stories about its content, insulting in almost racist terms the President who initiated the plan, – in short doing everything possible to make the plan fail while presenting NO alternative plan. It has been a criminal – even traitorous – approach abetted by all Republicans, even those so-called guardians of moderation like Susan Collins of Maine. The lies have been obvious, easy to disprove by simple fact-checking, but abetted by a supine press willing to pass on the nonsense and lies without vetting or comment. The press should be ashamed for treating an issue of such fundamental importance to the public good as a crass political game.

This could not happen without a population too lazy and/or too stupid to seek and care about the truth, and a political party that has no interest in governing the country for the good of the country.. We are a country of hucksters and suckers.

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Rick Santorum: The Catholic Church’s Trojan Horse

Posted March 18, 2012 on 1:35 pm | In the category Election, Politics, Republican Party, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

The Republican primaries continue to amaze and entertain with Mitt finding new ways to sink lower into the mire of pandering to the lowest common denominator, the aptly named Newt Gingrich self inflating at the sight of a microphone – any microphone – and Rick Santorum ranting against the joys of sex. Of particular recent interest is the role being played by the Catholic bishops in a strange, retro fight over birth control.

As the self appointed guardians of American faith and morals the bishops are mostly known by members and former members of their faith as the enablers of countless Catholic priest pedophiles. Just to be clear, we are being asked to buy into the morality of a group that ensured that priests under their administration could continue to rape young boys by moving them to ever new pastures of altar boys at the slightest threat of disclosure. The photo in the Boston Globe of the new Cardinal Dolan from NY being hugged by Boston’s chief pedophile enabler Cardinal Law after Dolan was elevated to Cardinal by Pope Benedict tells us all we need to know.

So now in a country that used to pride itself in its ability to keep religion largely out of our political life, the likes of Cardinal Dolan and his old friend Bernard Law have inserted themselves into the presidential election on the issue of birth control. in doing so the bishops are promoting a largely ignored and even ridiculed Church’s view that birth control is against God’s law even as virtually every Catholic woman in America has moved beyond that medieval view.

The moral power of the Catholic church is contributing to the dingbat wing of various state legislatures which are imposing laws that are intended to remind American women who is in charge – white guys in suits waiting in line to order the legal rape of any woman who might wish – for whatever reason – to have a legal abortion. In states like Texas and Virginia women are faced with these bizarre laws regardless of whether a pregnancy is the result of rape or incest or whether a woman’s health is threatened.

Rick Santorum follows the bishops’ lead and and would have everyone in America have sex only when they are intent on conceiving a child. We are truly in a dark and strange area here; an area where state legislators begin to practice medicine of the ob-gyn variety..

As for the Catholic Church – I refer readers to Catholic historian Gary Wills’ history of the church’s screwing around with contraception (“Contraception’s Con Men”)
http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2012/feb/15/contraception-con-men/
and how it became “Catholic Dogma” on the NY Review blog. And let’s all pray for the lives destroyed by pedophiliac priests and their bishop enablers, and the lives lost to AIDS because the church won’t support condoms in Africa, and for the disappearance of Rick Santorum into the dustbin of history.

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Living in Lies: America Goes to the Polls

Posted January 19, 2012 on 10:50 am | In the category Politics, Republican Party, Romney | by Jeff

Truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred.
—— Vaclav Havel

The late Vaclav Havel promoted the concept of “living in truth” as a revolutionary strategy for overcoming the authoritarian crimes committed on the Czech people by the Soviet regime. A frequently jailed dissident, Havel led the Czechoslovak people through their Velvet Revolution, became the president of Czechoslovakia, and watched sadly as the country’s Czech and Slovak populations went through their Velvet Divorce. Havel then re-emerged as the President of the Czech Republic and started the process of re-invigorating the country’s political and economic cultures. Throughout his life his commitment to truth remained paramount and constant, both in his literature and his politics. Small of stature, he was a giant among the world’s leaders.

And that brings us to those of our home grown political practitioners who are convinced that truth is at best a relative term and at worst an inconvenience. We are stuck – and I do mean stuck – with a group of Republican challengers for the presidency whose commitment to truth is about as strong as Newt Gingrich’s commitment to his first two wives.

The likely Republican challenger to President Obama, Mitt Romney, flits from one stance to another while manufacturing Obama quotes that were never actually said. People expressed shock when Newt Gingrich said on national TV that Romney is a liar, but their shock was only that he said it, not that the description was untrue. Our candidates are expected to lie and we accept it as part of the game. But the result of our willingness to play along with that game is that we end up electing people we cannot trust and then wondering later what went wrong.

The Czech Republic is a country of approximately 10 million people and it produced the leadership of Vaclav Havel; our country of 300 million produces the Lilliputian likes of Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Donald Trump and Rick Santorum. Go Figure.

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