Posts Tagged 'Politics'

Is anyone listening?

Many years ago, in a country far, far away, there lived an old man who thought he had seen it all. He had been through every kind of natural and man-made disaster but had managed to cheat death and live a peaceful existence. Until now.

His neighbors and friends, having been impacted by global warming, immigration, declining food stocks and 24/7 exposure to events around the world, had grown increasingly sullen, insular and argumentative.  Mere differences of opinion could not be solved by peaceful discussion. A profound loss of common decency was replaced by strident self-interest. This rapidly deteriorating state-of-affairs was something the old man hadn’t  seen before. His neighbors, once unified and caring, had turned surly. They no longer spoke to one another. They only sought the company of those who were like-minded and who shared similar opinions of right and wrong.

People separated into two distinct groups, each easily identifiable by the color of their clothing. One group wore red. Red shirts, red pants and red shoes. The other wore blue, including their underwear. The Blues walked down the left side of the only street in the country, while the Reds filled the right. Some Reds and some Blues, more strident than others in their group, wore large felt hats emblazoned with their group motto Me First. They also carried large signs that, in appropriately colored letters, shouted their group’s demands. They carried the signs wherever they went; into the supermarket, the church and the schools.

Their children were indoctrinated from the age of three by TVs, computer screens and smart phones. Talking heads poured forth their vitriol twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Panel discussions deteriorated into near brawls. Children freely mocked other children without punishment.

Each group embraced leaders who promised to ignore the pleadings of the other group.  Once amiable and social despite their differences, the leaders of each group now shunned their counterparts and never crossed the street. Eye contact became rare; verbal intercourse was only used in dire circumstances. The unwillingness of the groups to speak with each other left the street in disrepair and eventually all public conveyances had to be removed from active service. Unable to move without restraint, people became even more insular.

The only meaningful activity was voting in elections that occurred every two years. Pitting Blues against Reds, these elections were preceded by attack-ads that focused on the personal traits and imaginary foibles of one’s opponent. Real issues, in particular the much-needed repair of the only street in the country, were either ignored or promises made that were either impractical or required solutions that were well beyond the available financing. Elections regularly caused the in-party to lose control. Every two years, any positive steps taken by the party last in power were undone by the incoming party.  Soon, fed up by the lack of any solution, the street issue faded into obscurity.

Although elections occurred only every two years, campaigning was non-stop. Fundraising for candidates began the day after the bi-annual election. Pleas for funding soon eclipsed the funds raised in the last election. People, fearing that the other side would eclipse their own meager resources, poured money into the pockets of their chosen candidates. Property taxes, income taxes and other revenue sources were regularly reduced by the party in power in order to fund candidates.

Other public services began to diminish. Schools closed, police and fire personnel were laid off and the street continued to crumble. Each side blamed the other for this lack of service. Those who won an election would initially promise to create greater unity with the other party. This commitment soon faded, and threats continued to be hurled across the potholed street by both Reds and Blues. Blues who were seen consorting with Reds were deemed traitors. Reds suffered the same consequences. Meaningful discourse ended.

Financially bankrupt, their infrastructure in ruins and unwilling to compromise, the country became insolvent and unmanageable.  Other countries surrounding it viewed the dire situation as an opportunity for expansion. Efforts to fend off the attackers weakened the country and left it without recourse. It gave up and was absorbed by its strongest neighbor.

The old man, now close to death, walked the barely recognizable street. He confronted his former countrymen, whose Red and Blue uniforms were now in tatters and indistinguishable. He asked, “How did this happen?” But no one listened.

Shoot first, aim later

It was my birthday, May 13, 1939. The SS St. Louis was carrying 900 German Jews fleeing the Nazis.  They had hoped to land in Cuba and then proceed to the United States but were refused entry by the Cuban government.  With no place to go, the ship returned to Europe and over 250 of those refugees were eventually murdered in Nazi death camps. The United States government played a role in that crime against humanity by also refusing to accept them.

Fast forward seventy-six years.  A band of murdering misfits guns down helpless Parisians whose principal crime was enjoying all that Paris has to offer.  Talking heads go into high gear predicting the end of humanity as we know it. They create an atmosphere of mistrust where people “unlike us” are to be avoided, suspected and kept in their place.

Politicians, seeing fodder for their flagging campaigns, leapt into action and promised to be the answer to the threat hovering somewhere in the ether.  Marco Rubio, forgetting his own heritage for the expedient moment, said that we should stop accepting Syrian refugees.  Not for a moment did he seem to comprehend that these are the very people who are fleeing the murdering misfits.

Jeb Bush, fearing permanent assignment to the ignominious list of also-rans, is somewhat more accepting of the refugees..so long as they are Christians.  Continuing the parade of presidential hopefuls who believe that it’s constitutional to discriminate by religion, Senator Ted Cruz said Sunday in South Carolina “There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror.” Duh.

Donald Trump, once a lukewarm supporter of Syrian immigration, turned his coat and announced that he would, as President, deport any of that ilk. Coupled with his demand that eleven million illegal aliens be summarily ripped from their homes and sent back to their ancestral homes leaves him batting a thousand.  But looking for more points than his competition led him to suggest on Monday that he would “strongly consider” shutting down Muslim mosques in this country in response to the Paris attacks.  “Some of the absolute hatred is coming from these areas…The hatred is incredible. It’s embedded. The hatred is beyond belief. The hatred is greater than anybody understands.”

Reaching for the gold ring, the current heir apparent to the Republican Presidential nomination, Ben Carson, offered this inexplicable foreign policy during a Sunday interview on Fox News..

  • Stated he would not allow refugees into the US because of his “frontal lobes”
  • Insisted that China is active in the Syrian conflict
  • Struggled to name a single coalition partner he could call upon to combat ISIS
  • Advocated a shooting match with Russia over a no-fly zone

A respectable cadre of Republican governors, led by Alabama and Mississippi, joined the “Keep Out the Refugees” chorus by issuing statements saying that those miserable people would find no solace in their otherwise safe and happy states. And if I had a choice, I’d avoid those two states too.

These shoot first and aim later politicians surely are smart enough to realize that their actions merely fall right into the plot set by ISIS.  Generate havoc, let world leader wannabes shout out against Muslims and then reap the windfall of more misfit volunteers to their blighted cause.  But no, fear mongering reaps more votes at the ballot box than calls for helping persecuted people do.

Maybe it’s the “silly season” but I’m not laughing.

Grumpy Old Men

Has anyone else noticed the resemblance between Clint Eastwood and John McCain?

Dirty Hairy was, at one time, my hero.  Didn’t give a shit about the rules.  Just went after the bad guys,  ignored protocol and left political niceties to politicians.  He cleaned up on the evil doers and crooked cops.  I couldn’t wait for his next movie, and a big fist in the mouth or a 45 magnum for anyone who crossed him.  A real American idol.

John flew planes for his country, shot bad guys out of the air, got caught in Nam, spent serious time in the worst of all places and came home a hero.  He found his way to Washington and became a maverick who only cared about what was right and honorable.  Party politics be damned, he tweaked the noses of his own colleagues.  I’d probably have voted for him.

How things have changed.  Both Clint and John have become grumpy old men.

Clint at 82 probably plays the same role in the movies that he does in real life.  His latest run of pictures depict someone who is all too ready to thumb his nose at anyone who gets in his way.   His character, Walt Kowalski, spits on his next door neighbors in Gran Torino while his Gus Lobel smart mouths the baseball world in Trouble With the Curve.   As further evidence of Clint’s grumpy man metamorphosis, he occasionally speaks incoherently  to empty chairs.

John at 76 hasn’t recovered from the 2008 election when he and the Snow Queen were decimated by the Black Guy.  Finding his vision of the world moving further into obscurity, he has become the Senate minority standard-bearer responsible for carrying out Banzai attacks on the guy who bested him four years ago.  No surrender for John.  Instead, a last desperate attack before he falls on his sword.

But there is one important difference between Clint and John.  We can avoid Clint by not buying his movie tickets.  But we’re stuck with John in our face until at least 2016.

John’s current grumpiness is reflected in his dogged determination to show that Obama was the guy who led the attack on the Benghazi embassy.  Raising the terrorist event to the level of the sinking of the Lusitania, the attack on Pearl Harbor and the destruction of the Twin Towers,  John insists that not enough information has been provided to allow him to declare that the Black Guy was not, in fact, the perpetrator of the event.

He also warns that he will block the nomination of Susan Rice to the position of Secretary of State, a nomination that has not and may not occur.  Blaming Ms. Rice, currently our U.N. ambassador, for providing false information on Benghazi, John  offers to temper his approach only if Susan will publicly reveal that the Black Guy was in fact responsible for supplying arms to the terrorists, pointing them in the direction of Benghazi, and giving them the spare key to the embassy.

Seeking the pole position on administration harassment, John insists that a Watergate style inquisition be started immediately.  The lack of credible information and probable complicity by the Black Guy seemed an appropriate start to Obama’s second presidential term of office.  Visions of impeachment, ala the Clinton and Monica show, float like sugar plums through John’s head.  Failing to achieve Mitch McConnell’s stated goal of a one term presidency, maybe this is the answer to hobbling the Black Guy for the next four years.

Alas, John got off to a poor start.  First he holds a news conference blasting the White House for not being forthcoming.  But then given the opportunity to attend a bi-partisan briefing on the Benghazi caper, John chose to thumb his nose at it.  When CNN reporter Ted Barrett asked why he missed the briefing, John said “I have no comment about my schedule and I’m not going to comment on how I spend my time to the media.”  Asked why he wouldn’t comment, McCain huffed “Because I have the right as a senator to have no comment and who the hell are you to tell me I can or not?”

So, rather than focusing on our real problems, the grumpy guy tries to hobble the black guy while the rest of us say…get a life, John.”

The Morning After

Tuesday evening Sweetie and I watched Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkins duke it out in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  Gary, in a role superbly suited to him, still scares me as he seeks to capture Winona Ryder’s heart while fending off the sharpened stake wielded, somewhat comically,  by a partially deranged Mr. Hopkins.

You were watching a twenty year old film on election night, you say?  With all that time on your hands why weren’t you focused on the election results?  Because my blood pressure was already high enough, thank you.

In a way I suppose I was, in fact, watching a stand-in for the election night results.  Oldman could just as well have been playing Mitt Romney, a man who was serially written off for dead, starting with the primaries where he was confronted by any number of netherworld demons including Newt, Michelle, Rick, and Herman.  No stake in the heart could penetrate him regardless of multiple ill-fated attempts. His pursuers were doomed to fall on their own swords.  Like Dracula, Mitt’s oft-repeated metamorphosis from one life form into another finally ended only when he was exposed to the full light of day.

Hopkins, a somewhat shy and retiring personality, could have been Obama who refused to give up the quest for another four years even though at times you wondered if he was really serious about the whole thing.  Stake in hand, he methodically pursued his quarry and, when all seemed to hang by a thread, plunged the dagger into his antagonist.  Not a lingering death as predicted by the pundits, it was all over in the blink of an eye.

Belatedly, we made the rounds of the usual cable news stations.  MSNBC, CNN and, yes, Fox.   OK, I really enjoyed Fox.  Shepard Smith was particularly interesting.  With a “what the hell happened” expression on his face, he looked splendidly shell-shocked.

Karl Rove was delightful as the mad scientist who, with precise logic and an intensity bordering on the maniacal, sought to refute Fox’s award of Ohio to Obama.  How dare Fox do that without his permission.  In a moment rivaling the best of the Keystone Kops, Megan Kelly, playing the role of Karl’s Igor, dutifully strolled down to the bowels of Fox and asked her own statisticians “are you guys shitting me or what?”

Rove and his buddy George Will were understandably stunned.  How could this be?  Especially after the outpouring of money from their friends and neighbors.  We will win big, they had assured themselves and their minions. This must be some alternate universe.  When we wake, things will be better.

Donald Trump who, as NBC’s Brian Williams put it, has driven well past the last exit of relevance, tweeted multiple brain farts including a frenzied call to his followers to march on Washington.

Bill O’Reilly, a little late in seeking more Hispanic votes, made a plea for an election re-run with Marco Rubio instead of Paul Ryan as Mitt’s Sancho Panza.  While insulting half the American voters and ignoring the fact that Mitt’s votes came from predominantly aging white men on Medicare and Social Security, Bill observed that the 50% of the country who voted for Obama want stuff.   They want things.  And who is going to give them things? President Obama. He knows it. And he ran on it.

But perhaps the most rewarding election revelation came the morning after when we were treated to an analysis of the money spent and the rewards of that extravagance.  The most candid and resigned expression came from Kenneth Langone, the founder of Home Depot and a top Romney fundraiser.  “All I can say is the American people have spoken.”

The Koch brothers spent millions including a reputed chunk of the $11 million delivered from an Arizona mystery PAC in a failed attempt to block California’s Proposition 30 supporting schools, and to promote Proposition 32 that would have limited the rights of unions to spend money just like, thanks to Citizens United and the Supremes, corporations do.

Foregoing the ubiquitous PAC route, Linda E. McMahon, owner of a professional wrestling company, concluded her second attempt to single-handedly buy a Republican Senate seat by spending $100 million of her own money in Connecticut.  She lost.  But in the process she certainly succeeded in adding jobs to the media and printing industries in her own state.  Way to go, Linda.

Joe Ricketts, the owner of the Chicago Cubs, spent close to $13 million to bankroll a super PAC attacking Obama over federal spending.  Better he should have spent it on the pitiful team that lost 101 games this season.  That’s the last time I go to a Cub game.

And then there’s Sheldon Adelson, the gambling casino mogul.  Sporting a refreshed carrot coloring of his sparsely populated hairline, he seemed unperturbed about the sixty million he had pumped into the super PACS supporting eight carefully selected Republican candidates.  Sheldon went 0 for 8.  Better stay away from your own craps tables, Sheldon.  Oh, and buy a mirror.

As the NY Times reported, Karl Rove has been busy fielding calls from many of those bazillionaires who forked over about $300 million to two super PACs founded in part by him.  Always looking on the bright side, he offered them these uplifting words,  “Without us, the race would not have been as close as it was.”

So it’s four more years.  Used to seem like a long time.  Not any more.  A blink of an eye.  A week in Dracula time.  I hope Obama’s stake is well sharpened.

A Lesson in Communications

That was quite a storm.

Having struck out with the airlines, neighbor Bob and his dog Toby drove back to Ojai from Rhode Island.  Because of Toby’s handicap, Bob had to find shelter along the way that welcomed pets.  When I spoke with Bob early in the week, he was ensconced in a Motel 6 in Lawrence, Kansas surrounded by all manner of wailing and yowling.  He cut our conversation short saying “I have to go to bed…right now.”  I shudder to think of driving nearly 3,000 miles with a dog licking my face, or worse.

Then I see those poor people back east who are without power, many without a home and all with a major clean-up effort ahead of them.  Now those folks could use some serious face licking.

And speaking of clean-up.  Mitt is busy dry cleaning his comments about FEMA.  You remember.  He told us during the primaries…so many moons ago…that FEMA was an unnecessary intrusion on the free market.  Much more better to have private companies, maybe like Halliburton or Bain Capital, jump right in with both feet to save us from Mother Nature’s vagaries.  Mindful that Sandy had been more than a sun-shower, Mitt’s campaign jumped in to clarify his position and to amend what they claimed was only garbled communications.

It reminded me of that scene from Cool Hand Luke.  The one where the prison guards, led by that scary guy with the mirrored sunglasses, have just beaten the crap out of Paul Newman.  The prison boss, played by that oh so nerd-like Strother Martin, stands over Newman and in all seriousness says “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” 

Taking a page from Strother Martin, Mitt would surely also point to a lapse in his communication skills when trying to explain his other memorable moments…

“I’m proud of what we’ve done.  If Massachusetts succeeds in implementing Romneycare, then that will be a model for the nation.”

“Look, I was pro-choice. I am pro-life. You can go back to YouTube and look at what I said in 1994. I never said I was pro-choice, but my position was effectively pro-choice. I changed my position.”

“If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.”

“It’s not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.”

“That’s not going to make me the hero of the NRA.  I don’t line up with a lot of special interest groups.”

“They’re not happy that my dog loves fresh air.”

And now his campaign is trying to woo back the auto guys they once shit-canned by scaring the crap out of them.  An ad approved by Mitt says “Obama is shipping your jobs to China to build Jeeps.  You better learn how to use chopsticks.  And sharpen your skills at making those miniature paper umbrellas that go into mai tai drinks.”  Or something like that.  Even a letter from Chrysler telling Mitt that he was a dumb-fuck  failed to put a stop to the scare tactic.

So tell me, why is it that so many voters trust this guy?  Why is the election so close?  Why do I continue to write these political blogs when I swore I’d stop.

It should be as plain as the nose on your face. But then, some of us need extra help.  Or maybe just improved communications.

A Storm in the Making

OK, I admit it.  I’m scared and in hiding.

A tempest threatens us and all I can do is wait.  I can’t bear watching the depressing news on TV.  It’s full of ominous rumblings, dangerous predictions, and imminent disaster.  So I seek  safe haven in mindless detritus.

Even my computer is no refuge from the specter of impending doom.  Hourly, I’m bombarded with e-mails that warn me of the consequences of my inaction, the urgent need for resources to cope with the onslaught, the pleas for assistance.  Minute by minute updates stridently report the status and odds of it hitting us where it can do the most damage.  I feel sorry for people exposed and in its path.

Whole communities lie in the track of this unstoppable juggernaut.  The social fabric of the country is imperiled, about to be challenged by irreparable damage to schools, roads and bridges.  Millions of people left to suffer without adequate support and the very real prospect of limited government aid.  Only those with substantial assets may survive and even prosper as a result of the unthinkable.  The consequences of what may happen will be irreparable for years to come.  A perfect storm.

Oh, and I’m also worried about Hurricane Sandy.

It was all I could do to muster enough energy to watch The News Hour on Friday.  Even then I had to click away from it whenever the conversation centered on what might happen next Tuesday.  He’s up…he’s down.  A shoo-in…a nail biter.  He said…she said.  Give me an Advil…puleeeze!

And  I am so very tired of hearing about Ohio.   Even the Weather Channel is fixated on it.  With less than four percent of the electoral votes, it rivets our attention as though it were the center of the universe.  Nobody gives a crap about California with three times as many votes, or New York for that matter…we might as well be an alien planet populated by Mork and Mindy.

Forgive me, but even that pinko, liberal MSNBC is a pain in the ass.  Valiantly struggling to keep pace with Fox even though it has less than half the viewers, it finds a fascist plot in anything said by the Dark Side and claims that seventy million old Democrats in wheelchairs will be stripped of their voting privileges because some lame brained Republicans want to see their birth certificates.

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer has to calm down, get his act together and stop casting himself as the bearded version of Cassandra.  Coupled with Anderson Cooper, who I swear was put together in a high school physics lab, it’s no wonder that CNN’s viewership has fallen to its lowest in ten years.  No amount of placing daredevil reporters in hurricane force wind and rain will help.  Yes, we know it’s wet and windy…now get out of there, you bozos.

As my visits to Fox are generally restricted to whenever we have a total eclipse of the sun, my principal exposure to the Red team is Bill O’Reilly’s column.  His most recent diatribe chronicled media bias and listed a dozen left-leaning TV broadcasters and their potential negative impact on the election.  He somehow missed any mention of anyone on the Fox staff.  Maybe he watches CNN. 

Thank goodness for the once-a-week News Hour musings of David Brooks and Mark Shields.  They have very different political persuasions yet find a way to voice their opinions while maintaining a collegial rapport.  I somehow feel cleansed and refreshed when their fifteen minutes of fame ends.

Unfortunately, the rest of week will have begun all over again.  Might even rain.

Romney Supports Obama for President

While continuing his support for Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdoch despite Mourdoch’s declaration that a child born of rape is a gift from god, Mitt Romney announced that he will support President Obama’s re-election.

Interviewed on CBS this morning, Governor Romney said “I realize that I have no scruples and have waffled all over the lot for the last year and a half.  So I find no conflict in what I think I believe and  who I can support.”

When asked what it was that brought him to his decision to support Obama, the Governor said “It is a continuation of the meek approach I took in the third debate with the President where I applauded the President’s stance on foreign relations.  I figure that if I agree with everything the President has done for the last four years, that people will see how friendly I am.  Supporting his re-election will also reinforce my contention that I am the candidate best suited to work hand in hand with the opposition across the aisle.”

Reporters pursued the logic of Romney’s decision and noted that the polls since the third debate seem to have reversed their earlier movement and were heading slightly in Obama’s favor.  “It’s all part of my grand strategy”, the Governor said.  “If they continue to move in the President’s direction, I will simply claim that I was misquoted in this video interview.  Everyone knows that the media is populated by flaming liberals, except for Fox of course.”

Concluding his remarks, the Governor offered his own views on a woman’s right to determine what to do with her own body.  “I think a woman should be able to do whatever she wants.  And I intend on my first day in the Oval Office to offer legislation that moves us in that direction, starting with giving them the right to vote.  I realize that this may not sit well with some in my party but we’ve got to move vigorously into the twentieth century.”

 


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