Looks more like Hillary the progressive could win, but Bernie looks to the revolution…

February 5, 2016

I want to write more later when I have time, but my initial reaction to the MSNBC Democratic Party debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders is that Mrs. Clinton came off as a more realistic president.

But Sanders is serious about wanting to create a revolution (non-violent I am sure) in which citizens take a more active role in government.

I’m not sure how far you can go with that in a representative democracy and more importantly in the U.S.

And where I live socialism, and Sanders calls it  “democratic socialism” (small d), is just not popular at all, even though, granted, many people don’t understand the concept, or perhaps they do and that is the problem. They tend to see socialism as giving your hard-earned money to someone else who could have but chose not to earn it.

Mrs. Clinton is a progressive. Sanders is a socialist, the two are not always interchangeable.

I’ll give the win to Hillary, but that is more subjective, than anything else. I will say, though, she seems more believable as president, or maybe I mean electable, no I mean believable too.

Even Sanders said there is no dispute that she knows more about foreign policy.

Wow.

I’ll have more in a later post, hopefully by Sunday, if not sooner.

Gotta earn money to pay the rent, you know.

 


Hillary scorched (or ‘berned’?), Cruz clouts Trump, Rubio declares victory, voter revolt…

February 1, 2016

While I don’t think Iowa is necessarily representative of the nation — it’s quirky — the caucus results, in the first indication of what voters really might do in this process to elect a new president, surprise or no surprise, if Hillary Clinton escaped feeling the full “Bern” from her Democratic opponent Bernie Sanders, she did get scorched badly — they virtually tied, with Clinton only in the lead technically by a fraction — or actually the CNN report I am looking at now, the morning after, has them tied evenly, so okay, maybe Hillary did FEEL THE full BERN!

While it is useless for me to speculate, I would still at this point put my money (figuratively) on Hillary, as the one most electable — but she has email and likability problems, and voters on the left and right are in a restive mood.

As much as I cannot stand Ted Cruz, the holier-than-thou Canadian from Texas, I was gleeful to see him take down that dangerous clown Donald Trump, relegating the invincible to second place. I still don’t know what the attraction of Marco Rubio is, but as we know, he placed third and is being described as the “establishment” candidate, which this year might not help him, unless enough GOP voters decide they don’t want extremists, to the extent Rubio is not one himself. But Rubio basically declared himself the victor last night, in a speech to supporters.

I’ve updated the lead on this post and will not bother to list numbers of votes or delegates from the caucus, since anyone can readily get that.

I see that Martin O’Malley on the Democratic side has finally seen the light and quit. Why he wanted to waste time and money I have no idea. Ego is a strange thing. Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee on the Republican side has suspended his campaign. I never could see him as president of the U.S., too intolerant of non-evangelical Christians and of course non-believers. Sorry Mike, we have both freedom of religion and freedom from it.

And now I leave attached my original tome on what might be causing tumult in the electorate and what led up to it. I wrote it stream-of-consciousness style, like I write most things, but sometimes that is the most accurate and sincere way to do things:

The great recession that occurred during the term of our first MBA president is over, unemployment figures seem more favorable these days, at least on a national scale, and we even have a form of national health care. So what has people so bugged that they might buck the establishment, the security of the known versus uncharted waters?

I’ve been thinking about this:

I have noticed that my individual fortunes (I don’t mean money fortunes) did not necessarily coincide with the state of the economy depicted in the news. When things were great they were not necessarily great for me and when we were supposed to be in recession I did not necessarily feel the pain.

I have always felt that the economy, though, is usually the overriding factor in presidential elections — usually I say. It did seem strange that after a pretty good run with Bill Clinton’s two terms the country turned a little right (although Bill was only left of center) and elected George W. Bush (who turned out to be only a little right of center I think). Oh, yeah, I always forget, Clinton’s VP Al Gore won the popular vote and had it all stolen from him by a questionable Supreme Court ruling.

But elections may not be so much about statistics, unemployment figures, gross national product and so on, they are about feelings.

John Kennedy is said to have won (and it was close of course) because the electorate felt we had stagnated as a nation and that the Russians were pulling ahead of us (not really but that was the thought).

Okay, so now I’ll get down to it:

I watched a Pearl Harbor documentary the other night. I had seen it before, but I got to thinking — it just does not turn out that way anymore.

You know the story. We picked ourselves up and after four years of heavy fighting and sacrifice we vanquished the axis powers and became the leading nation in the world.

In the decades that followed we greatly expanded our middle class and built a standard of living that was the envy of the world.

There were moments of doubt. A recession in the late 1950s is said to have propelled a change from a Republican status quo administration in the White House to the election of Democrat John Kennedy, who called for bold moves into the future, expansion of civil rights, and exploration of space, and promised to “fight any foe” who would stand in the way of our freedom.

But as the years progressed, something changed. We could not win a war any more. Korea (pre-Kennedy) had ended in stalemate, a sort of victory, but had it been done in WWII-style we would not be putting up with the nut-case of a dictator In North Korea, who threatens to lob a nuclear bomb at us while we stand by seemingly impotent.

And I recall the arguments back in the early 1960s when Vietnam came into our consciousness. We did not want to get involved in another land war in Asia, but on the other hand it was taken for granted if we did we could certainly win and relatively quick with our overwhelming military might.

But we ended up quitting Vietnam after ten long bloody years and lost by default.

And then we had what was called our second Pearl Harbor — the 9/11 attack.

But it has not played out like the first one:

Our retaliation, or whatever it was (is) a Vietnam-style quagmire. We don’t do victory anymore. Oh, it looked as if we had one with the first Gulf War (pre-9/11), but we failed to demand total surrender by the belligerent.

The point here is not whether we should have fought any of these wars, it is  the fact we have lost our way and have no determination to win. We don’t even know what our goals are.

And there is more:

We are not the same country we were when I was born (1949). That can be good and that can be bad, depending upon who you are.

We were Norman Rockwell white, we were Leave it to Beaver with mom in the kitchen and dad coming home from work and plopping himself into his easy chair, and the kids playing in the yard or down the street. Today kids often stay locked up in their homes for fear of the outside world and parents arrange “play dates” for them to visit friends, for which of course they have to provide transportation.

I’m talking white people of course, because I am one, and I talk of what I know.

Back in the day we all knew that minorities were often at the lower end of the scale and did not completely share in the benefits of society and we did not necessarily feel good about it, but what could we as individuals do about long-entrenched social customs? that is those of us who cared.

Besides, when things are booming, even minorities benefit. As an example, blacks found lucrative employment in the ship yards during World War II.

And in the 50s and 60s the civil rights movement got under way in earnest. That seemed positive to many at first, right up until it went from peaceful to burning neighborhoods down and rioting (instead of demonstrating).

The civil rights rioting and burning and the anti-war demonstrations, primarily by white college students, in the 60s and early 70s, caused social upheaval, that pitted what was called the silent (white) majority of the content, with those non-content.

Ever since World War II and the discovery that women could replace men in the work force, more women were getting out of the home and into the work world. By the late 60s the idea of a stay-at-home mom almost seemed passe.

And this helped propel the women’s rights movement. That and the introduction of the birth control pill changed society forever.

But as the world had recovered from the world war, manufacturing moved overseas where labor was cheaper and safety and pollution regulations all but non-existent.

A combination of economics and political pressure pushed us into a service economy with a minority working at the top in technical fields and the rest working at the bottom in lower-paid endeavors, including fast food.

Also, with all of that the makeup of our society changed. We expanded way beyond the European type as the majority in charge, and minorities gained rights (right they were supposed to have all along).

I still think the economy has a lot to do with it.

Back when we knew where we stood and when the employment picture was relatively good for the many, there was not so much turmoil and the political class just went on its merry way, elect tweedledum or tweedledee.

But now there is great uncertainty. People don’t know where they stand, whether they will get work, or how long it will last. They don’t know whether they will have adequate pay and chance for advancement or whether there is any future for their children. Not everyone can be a computer programmer or stock trader or even entrepreneur.

And it is not at all an exaggeration to say that technology now has gone past making life easier — in fact in some sense it makes it much more complicated, and it threatens to put virtually everyone out of work, whether you work with your hands or brain or a combination of both.

And when it comes to foreign affairs, there seems to be no consensus.

And back to the political class: leadership is lacking. Also lacking is a willingness to compromise and get things accomplished. And compromise is not a dirty word. How could we have a democracy with people allowed to have different ideas and not have a need to compromise to get things done?

So we will see where this election goes and if the electorate really wants change and whether it will get change and whether it will like it if it does.

p.s.

Sure I left a lot out here. For one, I did not address sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. I’ll leave out the music part, but the change in sexual mores has had a profound effect on society — both good and bad. Drugs, well they have been around in some form forever and probably always will be, but most people who have constructive things to do and are content with life stay fairly clear of them (for the most part).


Voters, you always had the power…

January 30, 2016

It’s become fashionable in the last many presidential election cycles to campaign as “the Washington outsider” and now maybe the political outsider.

But maybe this cycle will really be different. The narrative going around now by those who follow politics is that the electorate is really fed up and that both young people, along with not young people, large numbers of whom who have not bothered to vote in the past, just might turn out this time and in the primary to choose an outsider.

On the one hand, there is Donald Trump, who is running as a Republican, and who has not held political office and who has not been active in politics, except perhaps in handing out donations (or bribes as they often really are; I mean he admits that). On the other hand, they can vote for Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-identified socialist, who caucuses with the Democrats, and who is one of the two leading candidates for the Democratic Party.

Even though Democrats are routinely called socialists by non-Democrats, Sanders admits to the ideology.

Now surprising to me, I heard someone mention today that a large number of prospective Democratic caucus participants identify with the socialist ideology or at least are accepting of it. I have not seen actual polls on this. But apparently Sanders’ message is sinking in with large numbers of people.

But at the same time, Trump, a brash, and crass, foul-mouthed real estate tycoon, and so-called reality TV show entertainer and runner of beauty contests, is appealing not only to Republicans but a portion of the Democratic Party who feel their voices are not heard by the insiders.

Union bosses are concerned that portions of their membership are attracted to Trump.

What I am hearing and reading is that people have finally come to realize that under the current system the voices of the masses are basically ignored in favor of special interests — Wall Street, major corporations, big-money donors.

I know, you’ve heard this all before but nothing changes. Yup, that’s right, but theoretically it could.

If people at large actually followed the issues — and I don’t mean by listening to the one-sided bull crap on right-wing radio, which is geared toward simply pleasing its demographic and sponsors with no objective coverage whatsoever, and if they contacted their elected officials on some regular basis then the clout of the special interests would be lessened.

Look at it this way: if I am elected as a congressman I cannot get much done in one two-year term, so to get re-elected I have to raise money for my campaign. But if the common folk cannot be bothered and if they don’t even have time to pay attention to what I am doing and give me feedback, then the only place I have to turn is to the lobbyists. And if I cross them, I not only forgo money for my re-election campaign, I subject myself to the likelihood of attack ads against me.

What I am saying is the power really can be with the people, but they have to stay in touch even after the election. I mean what happened to all that enthusiasm for candidate and then President Barack Obama and his promised cleanup of Wall Street? I mean maybe he never intended to, but had his supporters kept on him, he just might have had to fulfill that promise. While he did enact a landmark health care bill, the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, it was such a compromise that even its supporters in congress didn’t know what they were going to get or approve. Had there been more public support there might have been a public option or something that looked more like universal health care, something more geared toward the patient and less toward the insurance industry.

Just like the good witch told homesick Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, you had the power all along — in Dorothy’s case to go home, in the voters’ case, to take back their government.

p.s.

Probably I should have said something about people becoming more active in political parties at the local level. But that is almost another issue in itself. I know I never have and cannot think of how I would have had the time. But our party system is weak and is outgunned by individual candidates in cahoots with special interests. I think political parties actually can work for the good of the people, but they can be hijacked or bypassed by special interests who count on public apathy and ignorance.


Seems like Jeb Bush finally got a win, thanks partly to Trump absence…

January 29, 2016

I know it serves no real purpose to just follow the horse race and ignore the issues but all I really can say after the Fox News Republican presidential candidate debate that just ended (Thursday night), is that I would score Jeb Bush as the winner by virtue of sound answers and the fact he did not have the distraction of Donald Trump, who apparently strategically boycotted the event because of his lack of debating prowess — he just says he is great and calls people names.

(The presidential primary season officially gets under way Monday with delegates chosen in the Iowa Caucus.)

I think Trump’s absence resulted in an almost donnybrook at one point with several of the seven candidates on stage trading jabs, accusing each other of inconsistencies, particularly on immigration votes. It seems none of them can figure out how to fix the immigration problem without alienating (pardon the almost pun) some of their constituents or interest groups.

While New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie often comes across as abrasive (even to his own constituents at times), he gave a good presentation and was even-tempered but strident.

It was hard for me to see how anyone could be attracted to Ted Cruz. And I never find Marco Rubio impressive.

And while I know the Republicans have to say what they have to say in order to win elections I just don’t buy the line that President Obama is such a terrible person or that he has ruined our country.

I do believe he seems incapable of handling the terror threat or at least is for some strange reason downplaying it, and I don’t see him as particularly strong on foreign policy.

But just what is this supposed catastrophe with Obamacare? If there are problems with the Affordable Care Act (probably misnamed, I admit), it may be more from Republican obstructionism, such as GOP state governors refusing to take part, than anything else. The idea of scrapping it now and putting our whole health care system into turmoil is ludicrous. Improvements can always be made, but we have to have something.

I actually think the GOP propaganda machine has convinced unknowledgeable people (which pretty well describes most of the public on matters of public policy) that Obamacare is a disaster. I’m not seeing the evidence. A lot of problems ascribed to it have their source elsewhere no doubt (even if the line “if you like your current plan you can keep it” was disingenuous).

As I always say, had it been me, I would have preferred we simply provided coverage for those unable to get insurance (expanded Medicare) and left it at that. But you have to admit, a law that excludes you from being turned down because of pre-existing conditions and covers adult children can’t be all bad.

But back to Jeb, I thought he came across as the most palatable alternative to the eventual Democratic nominee (and a pleasant and intelligent and fair-minded person) if that is what you are looking for.

I don’t know his legislative history well as Florida governor as he used to be, but although he campaigns as a conservative, I suspect he tends to be more center right. At one point during the debate he was explaining a compromise he made in some legislation and said he was facing opposition from some circles because a provision was not “conservative enough” (he almost rolled his eyes at this).

Bush faces the obstacle of having had a father and a brother who have already been presidents and the idea people have “Bush fatigue”.

And why is that Dr. Ben Carson even is part of this? He is out of his element. Was he just bored with retirement?

Well last time I picked a debate winner as I recall all the other reports seemed to disagree with me. I have not looked at any since the debate ended. I’ll post this before I do.

(Okay I posted this now, but then took a peek at other reports or columns, well at least one said Jeb had a “good night”.)

It would seem strange if the Republicans lost this election come November what with the fact that it is hard for one party to hold on to the White House after holding it for two terms. Also, with the threat of terror and a president who downplays it, and with the economy seeming as if might be stalling, it is only natural for voters to give the other side a chance once again.

However, times are changing. Younger voters may make a difference or I have read that people who have not been involved before are fed up enough to bother to vote, but it is uncertain for whom they might vote.

Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side might make socialism acceptable or people not steeped in politics might just ignore ideological labels and vote on issues or just vote for a for a change or for a dictator to solve their problems and absolve them of responsibility.

Some pundits are writing about a populist movement both from the political right and left. Historically populism was thought to be a phenomenon of the left.

The “establishment” comes under fire each presidential election and then continues on its merry way.

Outsiders don’t stand much of a chance; remember Jimmy Carter?

 

 


Debate: The media is the message…

January 28, 2016

So it has come to pass. Instead of writing about important public policy issues, the story is about the feud between Fox News (or the Ministry of Right-Wing Propaganda) and presidential candidate Donald Trump.

As much as I hate the term “media” to refer to all who work in the field of journalism — I mean it is a pejorative used to deflect criticism of ideas and actions. You just blame it on “the media” — I have to admit, just as someone wrote decade ago, that the “media is the message”.

I’ll get back to that, but for now I want to say:

I think it would be refreshing to hear the Republican candidates give their views without the distracting presence of Donald Trump, even if they have not given any indication they have any good new ideas and even if all they seem to be able to do is bash President Obama.

It is disheartening that someone so crass, base, conniving (He even admits he just lies and bluffs to make deals — so why does anyone ever work with him?) as Donald Trump could garner so much support (at least indicated by polling and those crazy people who seem not to care about his inconsistencies and his poor manners and his outright dangerous talk. They just want a strong man in power.).

There is some indication of late, I think, that all of that may be falling apart. One theory is that he is skipping the debate to avoid embarrassing questions from Ted Cruz and others on his inconsistencies. He is way ahead in the polls and figures he can stay that way if he dodges that challenge.

(Some think he will attend after all though. Just another publicity stunt.)

But what really disturbs me is how these broadcast personalities and a broadcast network, Fox, have made themselves almost more important than the candidates or other people or issues in the news. Marshall McLuhan wrote back in 1964 that the “medium is the message” not the content or those reported about.

I was first introduced to this while taking a journalism class at a community college. I was preparing to go into that quaint institution called the print media, newspapers. Even then, in 1972, I think it was, my instructor predicted some form of electronic newspaper was just on the horizon and conventional newspapers were on their way out.

Don’t want to get into a discussion on all of that, though. I mean there are a whole bunch of positives about print on the internet (and negatives too), and I love being able to blog. My qualms are with TV and even radio and its so-called journalism which seems to have gone almost entirely to the entertainment side.

Once upon a time the big three TV networks made no money on news but were required by FCC rules to carry it (I think I am correct in that). They also felt it gave them prestige to be presenters of the news. Some of the original broadcast news presenters were old newspaper hands. The story was more important than the personality presenting it. Although I have to admit, even from the get go, there is or was an element of personality in it all, that cannot be helped.

But finally when the networks found they could make money on news, entertainment took over.

I wish that we could have something like C-Span present formal debates, where topics were assigned and men and women faced off against each other, one on one, and presented their arguments and defended them in a formal structure without a TV personality injecting his or her personality into it, just truly moderating.

We could still have news talk shows with all the talking heads. I enjoy those too.

But the message should be the issues and the candidates, not those who are supposed to be reporting on them.

 


Lawless arrested in Oregon, one death…

January 27, 2016

It’s too bad there was one death in the Oregon armed standoff, someone who was on a federal warrant is the report I read, and the exact circumstances not known at the time of this writing, but several of the others of the lawless band who somehow think they do not have to play by the rules as the rest of us were arrested Tuesday in Eastern Oregon.

I have no sympathy with these vigilante/militia types who claim to be demanding constitutional rights — as far as I can see they just want to cause trouble. Why do the people they claim to represent say they want no part of them?

You can read the details in news accounts and I am no expert on it all but I have read accounts and heard an interesting interview with a rancher on the radio who said that while he and many of his fellow ranchers have issues with federal officials over the use of federal lands they prefer to settle things within the confines of the law and peacefully.

More than a year ago, a 20-year dispute between a rancher named Cliven Bundy and federal authorities in Nevada came to a head. For some reason he felt he should not have to pay to graze his cattle on federal land and the feds were rounding up is cattle.

But then the militia (the civilians who might be seen running around in camouflage with guns) showed up and it got to be a bit much even for Bundy.

But then, his son I guess it is, Ammon Bundy and others began an armed protest more recently on the behalf of a couple of other ranchers who ran afoul of the law over federal lands, but they said Bundy and his band did not represent them.

So as far as I can see what we have here is one group of people who may have gripes with the federal government but who believe in law and order, and another group who feel they determine what the law is, and possibly have way too much time on their hands.

The report I read indicated there were no casualties among the peace officers involved. Thank goodness.

Ammon Bundy’s brother Ryan was said to have been injured.

 


Trump may fool the Tea Party…

January 26, 2016

I had a hunch and almost mentioned it but then said to myself: naaaa. But the hunch was that Donald Trump (no one else in politics to write about) was going to change his tune if he won the nomination for GOP presidential candidate, and now I heard that he assured someone that if he wins he will get more serious. I’ll have to check and see what he actually said.

It makes me think of my youngest daughter who as a little girl would say something outrageous or naughty and then say: “I was just kidding”.

Trump’s latest is in a bit of obvious hyperbole he told an audience that he “could shoot somebody and not lose a vote”. (Presumably he would not get the dead man’s vote.)

But the point is, from what I am reading he has masterfully taken the tactic of using his celebrity fame to say outrageous things to get what is called free media. Not only does he get to save money on paid advertising but probably the viral videos and widely reported Tweets and other utterances are more effective in today’s environment anyway.

Whether he would become more serious and whether he could even handle the office remains to be seen. He might like so many before him find that Washington and the whole public sector works by a different set of rules and customs over which he could have little to no control.  And most interesting of all would be if he becomes more mainstream because of his cosmopolitan New York City upbringing.

Wouldn’t that be a laugh at those Tea Partiers who support him (and not all do by a long shot I would not think, but many do I am hearing).

What seems apparent by the discourse I am hearing is that the Republican Party is split more than ever before, maybe not just into two factions but several, that is it is splintered. I think maybe at one time years ago it would be correct to say the GOP had a liberal wing, a broader establishment wing, and especially from 1964 and Barry Goldwater, a conservative wing, the liberal wing gone with Nelson Rockefeller. But that conservative wing, who lost the first round with Goldwater, hit it big with Ronald Reagan. But before Reagan was Richard Nixon, who considered himself conservative, but who cared little for domestic politics. His most notable actions on the domestic side were probably creating the Environmental Protection Agency, something every God-fearing conservative is obligated to hate, and wage and price controls, anathema to conservatives. And on the world stage he opened up relations with Communist China, would you believe?

Those who consider themselves real or true conservatives have had a long-simmering grudge with their own political party (oh, yeah, they were not wild about Eisenhower either), but most have realized the reality is that we have traditionally a two-party system and third parties thus far have not worked.

And it seems to me that even Saint Reagan was not as true to ultra-conservative thought as the ultra-right wing proclaims he was. He was more support the interests of his Orange County California backers and say what he had to say to mollify the conservatives further down the economic rung.

But whatever, the man presented himself well, and I think was fairly honest if a bit befuddled at times and apparently suffering the effects of Alzheimer’s sometime into his presidency.

He is still a Saint in the conservative movement, but what would Trump do with him today if he were running? Trump would call him out to be the grade B actor he was. He wouldn’t fail to mention that Ronnie once played opposite and was upstaged by a chimpanzee in one of his many grade B movies.

But Trump may defy conventional political ideology if indeed he has any at all. I imagine he is a little right and a little left and a nativist. If he was to get the nomination and take a more serious tone, he might make everyone or enough people forget what he said and did before. If so, look out Hillary or Bernie. If not, order the new White House china Hillary (to replace the plates you tossed at Bill’s head).

Sanders? We will see. I’m still doubtful an admitted socialist will be able to garner enough support for either the primary or the general election.

But then again, if we are seriously considering whether Trump could be elected president, we are talking about a desperate or terribly jaded electorate.


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