I say: ¡Cuba Sí! — good move President Obama!

March 21, 2016

I for one think President Obama has made a wise decision in restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba and becoming the first American president to visit that island nation in 88 years.

It seems absurd to me that the U.S. has continued the freeze on relations with that Communist island-nation all these years since the height of the Cold War.

I mean we had full relations with the old Soviet Union and we opened relations with what used to be called “Red China”, the other major communist nation of the time, way back in 1972, when President Nixon made his historic visit.

And oh my gosh! don’t let me forget, we even restored relations with Vietnam after losing the war and seeing it all go communist.

It is true that Cuba was actively trying to export its communist revolution all over Latin America and even into Africa. But communism has not been as successful as it had been hoped and that nation has had its hands full just staying alive (of course the U.S. made it tougher on Cuba with trade embargoes).

I don’t know what Fidel Castro had in mind in the beginning — whether he was a communist the whole time or just a socialist, but he was certainly pushed that direction when from the start the Eisenhower administration drew up a secret plan to get rid of him. And that plan was carried forward by President John F. Kennedy, resulting in the disastrous and unsuccessful Bay of Pigs invasion. Some think Castro was behind the assassination of JFK, as a retaliation for us trying to kill him (that tragedy is still a mystery and likely will be forever).

But at any rate, that is all history. Fidel is old and out of the job of actively running the country, with his brother Raul as the nation’s leader, and Raul is an old man.

Reportedly, Cuba still has hundreds or thousands of political prisoners and it is known that there is less than full freedom of expression in Cuba. It is still a police state, although Raul has granted some new freedoms and there is limited private capitalism allowed.

I have been led to believe that Cuba has a good medical system. Cuba offered medical assistance for the victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans during the George W. Bush administration — the offer was not accepted by the U.S. government (Cuba is a major provider of medical assistance to third-world nations). The irony is that our own government seemed helpless and somewhat dysfunctional during that disaster. Not long after that, I think it was, there was a terrible earthquake in China. I always remember the news videos showing the Chinese Army helping victims and on a large scale. I know our own military was deployed, to some extent, in the Katrina disaster, but not enough and not quickly enough it seems to me.

But to my way of thinking we would do best to cultivate good relations with almost all nations, especially one that is 90 miles off our own shores.

We’ll have a better chance of convincing them our ways are better through normal diplomatic relationships, friendship where possible, and trade.

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Bringing back production to the USA the right idea

March 16, 2016

Donald Trump promises to bring capital and jobs back to the U.S., just like that. Can he do it? I don’t know how, at least not just like that. But someone needs to.

Tuesday night was another big one for Trump, among his victories was Florida, where he forced Marco Rubio out of the presidential race by denying him a victory in his home state — that has to be humiliating.

It seems pretty clear that Trump will be the Republican nominee with even the GOP establishment coming around. Trump, who has incurred the wrath of the party establishment with is crude behavior and his sometimes seemingly un-Republican line, has met with Mr. Establishment himself, GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

(You know those pesky environmental regulations. Who needs them? except maybe the people of Flint, Michigan.)

But globalization is something that is just a natural progression I think. And bigger and faster ships and containerization, as well as modernization in ground and air transport have really made it happen.

As the developing world, which the U.S. helped develop, gets developed nations produce more and then have to have markets for that production. So they export stuff to us and compete with our own home-grown industries.

Trump has called for raising tariffs on incoming goods. But that was tried back in the 1920s, here and in other parts for the world. It crushed world trade and the result was the Great Depression. So clearly simply raising tariffs does not seem to be a magic formula, not to say that in some cases there is not room for raising them to a degree.


What happens when the official line is no more based in reality than a Jerry Springer Show…

March 14, 2016

I offer the following in trying to analyze or explain how our politics have come to what they have:

In 2003 I was at a truck stop in El Centro, California, I being a truck driver. In the TV lounge two things were playing, well not at the same time. On the one hand there was the Jerry Springer Show. To up is ratings Springer had revamped his former more conventional talk show to a spectacle where poor white trash would air their tales and family grievances over adultery or incest or what have you and commonly get into fisticuffs on air with one another or throw chairs at each other. The way it works is the producers put out requests for wild stories and offer money for these yahoos to come on into the studio and act out on stage.

This brought Mr. Springer, a former politician, high ratings. I noticed a lot of the drivers were enthralled or at least entertained by the thing (I was not).

It was low class on national display. Now, stay with me please, countering that we had another program. A CNN news report with Gen. Colin Powell, our secretary of state at the time, presenting “evidence” to the world that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction”, which I think meant nuclear weapons (but they wanted a catchall name, something vague. The George W. Bush administration was itching to go to war in Iraq, even though our main enemy at the time had been operating out of Afghanistan). He showed what purported to be satellite photos of trucks with metal tubes which he claimed to be associated with the WMDs.

It was reminiscent of  U.S. United Nations Ambassador Alai Stevenson presenting satellite photos of Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1960. The main difference was that in Stevenson’s case it was true — they were indeed missile sites. In Powell’s case, the tubes were never proven to have anything to do with the so-called WMDs. Despite an invasion and occupation of Iraq by the U.S., no WMDs were ever found. Powel would later claim that he was misled by others in the Bush administration.

But two things come immediately to my mind: one, that Gen. Powell, a career soldier, knew nothing more about weapons identification than I (a three-year veteran low-ranking soldier).  And two, that he would just say whatever someone told him to say.

There is evidence that Powell indeed knew that the intelligence on the subject was exaggerated at best, or questionable, but he just towed the administration line.

I have almost lost track of my original point, but what I am trying to say is that on the one hand you have Jerry Springer low-life stuff on national TV, passing as some kind of legitimate report on American life, even if it was basically a form of the unreal nonsense of pro-wrestling, and on the other hand you have the official version by a prominent (if somewhat inept) leader, which is nothing more than a lie.

Many no longer put any more stock into what political leaders tell them than what goes on at a Jerry Springer show, or sadly, maybe less (or worse yet, they see the Springer stuff as some form of reality).

And with this cynicism or with this drift from reality, we get Donald Trump.

But Trump and Trumpism is real and is a real danger to our democracy.

 

 

 

 


Trump awakens the masses, for good or evil?

March 13, 2016

I don’t know if Donald Trump is the 21st Century version of Adolf Hitler or the anti-Christ or what I might call the Great Awakener.

I’m not complimenting him (in fact I cannot stand him, and no I don’t think he “tells it like it is”). But I do think he has awakened the pent-up anger among those who just are fed up with the social upheaval where so many people no longer recognize the country as what they grew up with and do not know where they stand.

I have not seen any polls or studies, but what I am reading so far leads me to conclude that Trump has managed to bring in new voters, to the primary process anyway. While Bernie Sanders, in some ways (but not all) his polar opposite, calls for a “revolution” (albeit peaceful), Trump may really be creating a revolution. I did not say a good one, but a revolution nonetheless.

And even though Trump has not indicated any clear or logical or coherent policies for the most part, he does project power (I mean it is bravado). In times of turmoil, in times of danger, the public looks to someone powerful who has the ability and the will to take care of things. I doubt that Trump actually has that ability — but he talks big.

I was watching a video of Trump at one of his raucous rallies where there were demonstrators against him and he was scowling and yelling “get them out of here”!

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You only have to watch the news videos to see for yourself that Trump encourages violence at rallies even though under questioning he claims he does not condone it. Sometimes he tries to imply that the only time any of his supporters use violence is in self-defense but then he also opines that sometimes some of his supporters are just angry and that dealing with protestors makes them snap.

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His scowl and his gestures kind of made him look like Hitler with orange hair and a comb over (sin mustache).

But of course, just as people have a right to free speech, Trump as anyone else has a right to speak and not be disrupted — I mean there is a fine line here between peaceful protest and denying someone else his or her right to speak.

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Of course some protestors may actually be hired or planted disrupters as Trump claims.

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This sort of reminds me of Nixon’s campaign in 1972 when most of his rallies were closely-guarded, closed-door things — supporters only. Nixon, I don’t think, would have ever indicated he had a problem with people protesting him — I mean obviously he did not like it, but he would have not himself ordered people removed (he’d let someone else do it).

Trump is threatening to press charges against protestors. And I would think that if someone goes beyond peaceful protest, that someone might well be subject to prosecution, although prosecuting protestors in a free society with freedom of speech is not good policy, except maybe in extreme circumstances.

In a previous post I somewhat tongue-in-cheek suggested that maybe allowing everyone to vote, even the ignorant, was not such a good idea. But I do think that if we can awaken the populace and remind it (and there is no one it of course) then maybe people will see that they really do have power.

Wouldn’t it be ironic — if a bit scary — if Sanders’ call for a revolution was not heeded as much by those supporting his agenda, but the Trump-driven masses protesting change? Well I am not sure if you can say exactly what they are protesting, but change is part of it.

I will reluctantly give Trump credit for something: sparking a wider public interest in politics.

p.s.

A conundrum: Trump is getting wide support among evangelical Christians even though his remaining rivals in his party (Republican) are seemingly more devout and even while Trump acts in non-Christian ways and has reportedly demonstrated publicly his ignorance of the Bible and while he appears more amenable to some social values at odds with evangelicals. So why is this? I think the evangelicals smell power and want part of it — to get on the bandwagon and get their share of that power. In addition, the few evangelicals I have come into any contact with impressed me as not having a clear grasp of current events or history outside of the good book, because, I guess, if it is not in there, or at least if they don’t see it in there, it is not worth knowing. And anyway, since those establishment candidates in the past, whom they supported, failed to return Christian prayers to public schools and prevent homosexuals from getting married, they’ve given up on that route (that very last thought came out of a column I read this morning).

 


Hillary overpowers Bernie in Florida debate; a progressive versus a socialist firebrand…

March 9, 2016

 

NOTE: I see the morning after now that many called the debate a draw and many even thought Sanders came out ahead. Actually in something like this there is probably no winner (I mean we can’t know how many minds were made up or changed over it) but I just gave my gut reaction without any real supportive evidence. I mean you had to have watched it or heard it yourself. I’m pressed for time but hope to write more in depth later about the differences between Sanders and Clinton. Probably won’t have time to watch the Republican debate (tonight as I write this, 3-10-16), but I’ll try to catch up.

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Okay, I just watched the latest Sanders/Clinton debate. It was done before an Hispanic audience in Florida, so both candidates were forced to make their answers conform to what they thought the audience might want to hear. And I would think they all don’t think as one but of course do have a tendency to have similar interests. But more importantly, I think Hillary Clinton came off as the most presidential, the most adept in the art of politics, while Sanders came off as an old socialist firebrand.

But then again, I do have to admit he has pushed Clinton to the left (and that is not necessarily bad) and is doing his best to keep her eye on what is good for the people and not just the big business interests (although of course they are important too, because they fuel the economy on which we all depend).

But they showed a news clip of a young Bernie Sanders. I did not catch it all, but the general narrative was that way back when he supported both Castro in Cuba and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Bernie the young idealist with is head in the clouds. I think Sanders is claiming that he just meant that the U.S. should not engage in regime change. Well I agree with that, I guess, but I cannot help but think sometimes idealists, such as Sanders, for some reason become enamored with the idea of socialism and everyone sharing in the wealth.

But it never quite works out that way. Workers work, non-workers live off of them, and the government lives off of everyone. Social democracies work in Europe but not without problems. And where they work there is already a strong middle class (and maybe not the same opportunity for upward mobility as we are used to). But too much on all that. It was a lively debate and good points were made by both candidates, but Mrs. Clinton was definitely on her game and seems to have a wider view on issues than Sanders. Just my view on that. Okay, I’ll go a little further. I think she is more likely to beat Trump or any other known possibility for the Republicans at this time.

However, Democrats (and anyone who doesn’t want Trump) will have to get out and vote. Staying at home at general election time might well mean a Trump presidency. And that to me is both scary and unimaginable. I have detected some small signs that he is moderating, just a tad, as he gets closer to the real thing, but he still is Donald Trump — enough said.

And now what I wrote before this evening’s debate:

I’ve often thought that if more people voted then politicians would have to be more accountable to the public than the special interests. But with the demagogue Donald Trump doing so well, I wonder if maybe it’s better that the apathetic and uninformed and under educated just stay home.

But then again, it would be good if there was enough participation to curb the effects of Trumpmania.

Also I am surprised to hear or read some comments among the public that indicate they are not at all turned off by the word “socialist”, Bernie Sanders being a self-avowed one. However I have also heard him called a “communist”, and not as a compliment, of course.

Socialism comes in many forms. We use it to some extent here in the U.S., even if we do not have a socialist government. There is European democratic socialism. Then there was that branch of socialism called communism. It has no record of success whatsoever. From everything I know about it, it takes the humanity out of humans — everything is for something called “the state”.

And sometimes people who proclaim to be working in the interests of the people under the banner of socialism, well, they just are using all that not to share in the wealth but to get all the goodies for themselves. Just read about the socialist Daniel Ortega down there in Nicaragua. He was out of power but he is back, living high off the hog, while his people struggle. Figures.

Even so, it is interesting that time and circumstances may have made socialism sound more appealing to people in the U.S. It was flirted with back in the Great Depression (people even flirted with communism, but would not admit it now). But things got better, living standards improved — forget sharing the wealth.

I personally think our current system works, with flaws, but could work a lot better if we kept our checks and balances in place better. Voter participation is important but is only valuable if those voters are informed, otherwise they fall prey to the likes of Donald Trump.

Sanders and Hillary Clinton are facing off against each other this evening in still another debate. I think for sure there have been far more debates this time around than in any other election I recall, except the Democrats are the only ones actually debating. The Republicans just have some kind of weird side-show going. Their field has finally narrowed, though, so maybe some substance can still come out — hard to do though when Trump is involved —  just is no real there there. Just a lot of noise — but apparently people listen — go figure.

So today’s news seems to be that Bernie Sanders’ upset win in the Michigan primary is probably no more than a feel good thing for him and his followers because Hillary Clinton has already built up such a lead in delegates, including the so-called super delegates that I guess Sanders can’t get his hands on (unless he were to win so many more votes than Hillary that they might feel pressured to switch to him — not likely to happen).

At any rate, on the Democratic side we have middle of the road to left versus far left, albeit pragmatic far left (well pragmatic so far). And we have two candidates battling it out over the real issues, rather than school boys scuffling in the playground, talking dirty, and spreading fear. Oh, yes, there is John Kasich, an adult, but although he has had some surprising success, unless it goes to a brokered convention, it seems he has no chance — too few people are listening, and the ones who do don’t think he as a chance, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

While the threat of ISIS and other terrorists plays a part in this election, mostly I think it is about people losing jobs, living with pay cuts (while the well-to-do just in effect write themselves bigger checks, the source of which is really from the working class), and young people finding their career opportunities slim and the cost of education out of reach.

And I also think a large part of the populace is spoiled and lives way beyond their means. In boom times one can do this, but when things slow down or get tight, the piper still must be paid.

Also, in boom times the fact that government spends so much time trying to help minorities and give them advantages to make up for past discrimination does not create nearly such a problem as it does when things get tight. But if you can’t get that job or can’t get that small business loan or whatever government assistance but someone else can, well you might ask: what gives?

It’s all very confusing, because was not the post isolationist/Cold War right always pushing real war? And was not the left, anti-war?

But now Donald Trump, playing as a conservative, criticizes our wars, but at the same time calls for picking up the pace of war against ISIS. Bomb them, don’t be skittish about civilian casualties, and go after the families of ISIS terrorists.

Actually, I get not going to war unless you have to and then only to win. Overwhelming force is the only way the U.S. ever wins a war. When we don’t use it, we don’t win. Whoops, I sound like Trump.

But to a thinking person Trump makes no sense with his mini diatribes, his weird syntax that seems to convey no clear or consistent thought. He is also threatening with his un-civil discourse and mean-spirited comments and sometimes down right threatening tone.

However, he has apparently caught the ear of a lot of people because he has convinced them he is free-wheeling and beholding to no one but them. And I doubt his audiences are into detail — it’s more raw emotion, RRRRRR! or Sieg Heil!

As in so many things, Trump has played it coy about his courting of white power and neo Nazi types, failing to denounce in some instances and dissociating in others when under pressure or it seemed appropriate due to the audience at hand. Meanwhile the fascists can take it as a wink wink signal.

Maybe the establishment politicians have been too obvious about the fact they are really just pretending to talk to the people but in reality are just representing their fat cat donors.

I think Trump is playing a game too, but if he manages to fool enough people he can win the presidency.

After that, if things go badly, the establishment politicians can ask themselves why they did not spend more time with the real folk, and I don’t mean just at election time.

And where are the true leaders? Is there no one who can stand up to Trump?

It seems not.


Return to waterboarding? Kill terrorists’ families? Modeling the terrorists would be self-defeating…

March 7, 2016

Donald Trump says we can’t be timid about using torture as a weapon because our enemies are not and because we shy away from going there  (or continuing to waterboard as we have in the past) we are not winning the war on terror. And since we are facing something called Islamic terrorism, he says we must ban all Muslims from the country. He says a lot of other things along those lines, such as we should kill members of terrorists’ families

Using his logic we could not have won World War II. The Japanese and Germans tortured and killed some prisoners of war. The Germans executed six million Jews and others Hitler claimed were of an inferior race and a menace to society. But the U.S. and the allies did not resort to a policy of such barbaric actions as those of the axis powers (not to say that there were no isolated instances of prisoner mistreatment or even summary execution).

Fortunately those in charge at the time, such as President Franklin Roosevelt (a Democrat) and Gen. Eisenhower (supreme allied commander and eventually a Republican president of the United States), did not have us become what we were trying to defeat.

War is hell. That is true. And you do things in war you would not do otherwise. But if you give up your morality, your principles, and your soul, then you have lost anyway.

Add to that, once you go down the road of the barbarians, any of their ilk that we catch and detain will just have more reason to hate and will have reason to seek revenge. We would hardly be able to argue our way was better.

In fact, the only way we could ever really prevail in this war on terrorism is to defeat the existing enemies but at the same time convince their potential replacements that our civilized ways are better. If we must become the enemy to defeat the enemy we will have lost everything  and would likely never gain it back.

The only somewhat defensible excuse to use torture would be to gain information that would save lives and only in an instance when there was no other way to gain that information, but that is hypothetical and I think the evidence is that torture only forces a response, if anything, with no guarantee that the response is accurate or helpful. In fact, the response could be misleading.

I have always thought that we have laws that forbid us from using physical torture, but that we would be best to not talk too much about the whole thing. Our enemies should be kept guessing. It’s the unknown that un-nerves people. Ah but yes, our enemies know we have rules and morals. But then again, when captured and isolated away from their comrades, and all alone, well really, what do they know?

Various non-violent methods of subterfuge can be used to effectively elicit information. Our own courts have ruled that police can lie to suspects in order to trick them into divulging information.

I mean if you are vicious enough you could probably beat a confession out of anyone to most anything — just make it stop! But is the “confession” true? If not, what good is it?

Trump of course is only parroting things one might hear on the street.

We need tough but intelligent leaders, not reactionaries out of the gutter.

p.s.

Trump goes back and forth. Says one thing to one audience and then tones it down to another and then claims he never said something at all. But I have heard him say clearly more than once he wants to bring back waterboarding and other rough treatment (torture) and make it legal. A lot of people probably think that way. I don’t and hope that the power remains with the civilized in this nation. And really, it is unsettling that we even have to consider whether we should use torture or uncivilized tactics such as murdering the families of our enemies.


Not a fan of Nancy in life, but in death I miss her…

March 6, 2016

Of course obituaries usually stress the positive about people. But I was impressed after just now reading the obituary of former first lady Nancy Reagan, who died today at the age of 94.

I don’t know if I would have liked her if I had ever met her or been around her, probably not though. I was not a fan or hers for sure (for some weird reason she always reminded me of one or more of the prissy, prickly landladies of my past). But I have to give the woman her due. She was a hard worker and supported her husband, and I am sure a true patriot.

I just saw her as a condescending rich Republican with an icy smile. And then I think of Hillary Clinton, another former first lady (and now of course presidential candidate), a condescending rich Democrat with an icy smile.

You really can’t know a person by their on-screen persona, as it were.

I have to wonder what Mrs. Reagan thought of Donald Trump (sorry, you just cannot write about politics or anything remotely connected to politics these days without mentioning the Donald).

Certainly Trump does not represent the civility or wholesomeness of the Reagans or other established political figures of our times. No, Trump represents the vulgar worst in our society. Just because he from time to time brings up subjects that need airing does not offset the harm he is doing, the harm he has done.

So I do not have much more to say on all of this, just that the passing of Mrs. Reagan at such a time as this is emblematic of the old (and much better) ways going out, with the new and much worse ways taking over.

If only Republican Governor of Ohio John Kasich could have gained some traction. It seems, though, that he or no other one like him has a chance in today’s political climate.

I for one think it would be good to have a woman president. I am not sure that Hillary is the one we need, although it looks as if she may well be the one we get. And she may well do a good job and maintain some semblance of civility in an increasingly uncivil society. I don’t know.

Too bad Nancy was not younger.

I knew very little really of Mrs. Reagan.

But I miss her somehow. I miss the old ways.