Too Late to Stop the Runaway Train?

Over the course of the last two weeks, the political conversation among Republican party elders and increasingly, within the same Media which has helped to create the Monster, has turned to trying to find a way to keep Donald Trump from becoming our next president.  To many of us, the thought that he might actually have a chance at doing so seems ludicrous.  Here is a man with no experience of government, a self-proclaimed master of business with at least four bankruptcies to his credit and a string of failed business ventures which range from comical to con-artist.  If ever there was a candidate ripped straight from the pages of a Superman comic, this is it. 

But alas, it is we who have been proven wrong, as the Trump Train continues to gain steam.  You see, we have committed the cardinal sin of believing that somehow, the election process will run on logic and reason.  It doesn’t.  It never has.  The fuel of elections is raw emotion, visceral gut reaction.  In life, we don’t love and trust people from our head; we love and trust from our heart and our gut.  And the election process is nothing, if not a love fest.

One look at Trump’s supporters should be enough to tell us.  They are not interested in taking the time to hash out the details of his platform; he hasn’t got any.  His campaign is swagger, bluster, braggadocio, histrionics and self-aggrandizement in the extreme.  Every other day it’s “pin the blame on the foreigner” or “when are we gonna get sick of all this winning?”  I have personally witnessed high school pep rallies with a better articulated game plan.

But the Republicans don’t get it.  In desperation, they sent out Mitt Romney, first runner up as most boring man in North America, to strike dead this fire-breathing town dragon.  To say he failed to do so does not adequately paint the pile of ashes Trump and his supporters made of ol’ Mitt.  Next, Marco Rubio threw himself on his sword, overthinking the game and asking his supporters in Ohio to vote for John Kasich.  His supporters everywhere probably saw that Marco’s investment in the election was not 100% and they promptly lost him his home state of Florida.  Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out.  Now, Ted Cruz and John Kasich are squaring off against each other, each claiming that for the betterment of the party, the other should step aside.

All of this plays right into the hands of Trump and his followers.  Every time the establishment makes a failed run at derailing his express, they confirm at a gut level, at a heart level, that they fear Trump because he is the strongest candidate, because he has the truest message, because he will make America great again.  This is the same Republican party which has taught the far right to fear that the government is coming for them, that the invasion of Texas by the US military is imminent, that the Supreme Court is coming for their weapons and will confiscate their bibles, that a Kenyan muslim has usurped our government with plans to overthrow the country and instill Sharia law.  Well fellas, you reap what you sow.

Let us be real.  Ted Cruz has all the appeal of a tooth extraction without the Novocain.  John Kasich’s homespun vitality plays well with the flannel shirt crowd, but the establishment Republicans are more of an Armani suit group and Trump’s followers don’t wear shirts; the bib overalls show off the White Power tattoos to greater advantage.  Neither of these guys is going to galvanize enough of the party faithful to overtake the Trumpster.

Now, it appears that Rod Serling is staging a chess match from the heart of the Twilight Zone.  The party suggests that if they can get to a brokered convention, the delegates will be free to vote for a candidate of party choosing.  Trump counters with a riots in the streets threat.  The party probingly hints that they might have to run a third party candidate of their own.  Trump’s smirk emerges like the Cheshire Cat as he instructs his acolytes, “see how the establishment works to undermine the will of the people, my people.”  This may go down in history as the first Reality Presidential Election, with Kim Kardashian installed as the next Secretary of Status.

So, what will it take to put the brakes on the Trump Train?  For stop it, we must.  If you haven’t been living under the neighbor’s porch and have an IQ somewhere north of litmus paper, you know that this guy is bad news.  What he lacks in a legislative record on which to run, he makes up for in a record of dim-witted get rich(er) quick schemes ranging from steaks and vodka, to a crashed airline business, a bogus school for wannabe real estate moguls and a casino empire that has run out of money on four separate occasions.  For Christ’s sake, he’s a game show and beauty pageant host.  Wink Martindale has an equal claim to the Presidency.

In one sense, the Republican elders are right.  If they can somehow drag this to the convention without the obligation of naming Trump the winner, arcane rules of the nomination process can be dusted off and a nominee, maybe someone who has not yet even thrown a hat into the ring, could be crowned heir apparent to Ronald Reagan or perhaps, Zachary Taylor.  But this is a Friday Night Football and Jeopardy kind of crowd.  The way they see it, whomever has the most points at the end of regulation time, wins.  The risk for the Republicans is that they could save the country (from Trump) and fracture the GOP in the process.  And this would not be Socrates knocking back a goblet of hemlock; this would be Jim Jones ladling up the Kool-Aid.

It is possible that a third-party, independent candidate could be run with the backing of a Super-Pac and keep enough votes from Trump in the general to either lose the election to a Democrat or stall it in the Electoral College.  That would send the decision to the Speaker of the House, Republican Paul Ryan. 

On the surface, it would appear that a split ticket from the Republican side would send the Democrat through, but there are no guarantees here.  It is already becoming clear that a large portion of the Democratic base will not support Hillary Clinton, should she become the nominee.  With allegations of voter fraud emerging from Florida, North Carolina and Illinois, and a DNC which has overtly been attempting to rig the primary process, many true liberals are feeling disenfranchised.  In a three way race, they might just stay home.

So, unless a true Republican could be induced to take a dive for the party, it would have to be another outsider running on the third party ticket and that would possibly put Ryan in a quandary.  If he named the Democrat as president, he would remove from the Republican party any license to play the victim at the hands of those Democrats.  If he selected the Third-Party candidate, the faithful would proclaim that the fix was in, and the party would be faced with rebuilding its base for the next decade.  And if he played the Trump card, he would not only risk the American economy, judicial system, a new war in the Middle East and deteriorating relationships with allies across the Western World, he would risk the Republican party becoming a global laughing stock, witnessed as the newest incarnation of a Papa Doc Duvalier led banana republic.

For these reasons and perhaps a few more, the Republican elders are more likely to do nothing, and continue to let the string play out.  “Perhaps,” they may think, “this train is still going to wreck and boy, we wouldn’t want to miss that!”  If they can make it to a brokered convention, they will have to wet a finger and see just how hard the political wind is blowing. 

They may determine that there is no choice but to let Trump run.  They may take him into a back room and make him an offer he can’t refuse; while his ego is immense, his love of money and the sense that he made a great deal might leave him open to an old-fashioned bribe to step aside.  Give him a huge cash settlement and make him ambassador to Monaco.

Or, they may wet the middle finger, test the wind with it and name Cruz or Kasich as their man with the plan.  If there are riots in the streets, well, it is only Cleveland.  Who’d notice?

Ultimately, if they choose to let this nation’s voters decide, the odds are that Trump will take the nomination and will be run against the Democratic nominee.  That is allowing this race to be run right down to the wire.  They could instruct the Super Pacs and Republican office holders to sit on their hands and let Trump play this game with his own money.  But he seems to have plenty of it. 

Then, it comes down to the Democratic candidate.  As I see it, Hillary is the Lou Costello to Trump’s Bud Abbott.  They were made for each other as they were made for entertaining, reality TV.  She is a large target with a string of scandals, a paltry legislative record, a history of failures as Secretary of State, lingering doubts about her honesty and the lurking and leering shadow of her womanizing better half.  All of Trump’s inadequacies as leadership material will have to be set against her on the record lies, obfuscations, legalese, flip-flops and her track record of not being able to work across party lines (let alone within her own party).  In a tragi-comic sense, she makes him look, if not good, acceptable.  And of course, this is a popularity contest.  This is emotion and gut.  People love a winner.  And people don’t like Hillary.

The only way to save this country, and the Republican Party by extension,  from the disaster that would be a Donald Trump presidency, may be to stack him up against Bernie Sanders.  Sanders has the record of achievement that Trump lacks.  Sanders speaks to the heart of the American population from inside.  He is one of us.  There are no scandals surrounding Sanders.  There are no flip-flops, no moral lapses, no equivocations or inconsistencies of political vision.  The socialist tag has not done him any harm.  His actions speak volumes to his integrity.  Like Trump, Bernie Sanders can’t be bought.  But unlike Trump, he is doing this with our money, given gladly by a population that loves the man and trusts the message.  Trump’s style of attack will not find its mark with Sanders.  Instead, Trump will be forced to actually debate Sanders on real issues, and will be shown to be the fool that he truly is.  When the American voter makes an emotional decision here, it will be between everyone’s favorite grandfather and their belligerent, drunken uncle. 

But there is a price to be paid by the Democratic party as well, and they may not be prepared to meet it.  The DNC has backed Hillary because Hillary represents business as usual.  Her election ensures the continued funding from Wall Street, the backing of lobbyists attached to the health insurance and big-pharmaceutical industries, and the quick death of a grass roots movement that might toss out long standing Democratic House and Senate members in favor of new blood who would work with a President Sanders to revive the middle and working classes.  The oligarchy is not prepared for a life in exile, and they fear that Sanders might be punching that ticket.  As the DNC carefully pointed out in explaining the role of their Super Delegates, the Democratic Party does not belong to the people, it belongs to the folks who know better, the elder statesmen of the party, the oligarchs themselves.

Come November, should Trump become the next President of the United States, history will forever blame the Republicans.  But those of us who live through it, will remember that the Democrats, through the actions of the DNC, were absolutely complicit.

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Why Do You Keep Voting For These Guys?

In the clip from Rachel Maddow’s show below, Bernie asks and answers this all important question, one which we all have to ask of ourselves.  Why do we keep voting for people who drive our country further into the hole?  Our political process, much like society itself, has devolved into a stream of vacuous soundbites, personality cults, fear mongering and knee-jerk responses to what are more often than not, the wrong questions.  And from that, we somehow are expected to find our leaders?

While Bernie’s response in the clip below is focused primarily on the phenomenon that has become Donald Trump, it really is a plain spoken assessment of what we as receptors have allowed the senders to accomplish as a means to their own ends.  We are afraid of the now and even more so of the future.  We have become powerless against the demons under the bed, monsters which most likely would vanish in the light of day.  But the curtains are held closed, the light extinguished, and those who profess to hold the answers keep pulling the covers over our heads.

The American people, the real people of this country, are indeed in trouble.  This has become the first generation who will undoubtedly be providing their children with a lower quality of life than they had, themselves.  It is hard to be all you can be when you are just barely hanging on.  We are working harder, and for increasingly less, but never quite for nothing.  And that is significant.  For, as the old song goes, if we had nothing, we’d have nothing to lose.  Instead, the power brokers and institutions who benefit from the rest of us following blindly like sheep are sure to leave us with just enough that we fear that someone will come and take it.  Why do we keep voting for these guys?  We have been conditioned to respond to that fear by electing, time and again, the man with the plan, the candidate with the answer to the very fear he or she has been spreading across the countryside.  It is as though the knight in shining armor has arrived in our town, bringing his own dragon, just in case we don’t have one of our own.

It is easy to blame the far right for their calculated use of fear as motivator for their brand of conservatism.  They taught us to be afraid of women taking men’s jobs, blacks  moving into white neighborhoods, gays becoming teachers in our schools, the government coming to take our guns and drive our religious beliefs out of our culture, Mexican rapists crossing our borders with drugs, and Muslim terror cells waltzing into the country on refugee visas.  But the Democrats are as much to blame in the dispensation of fear, teaching us to be afraid of conservative Supreme Court justices taking away women’s rights to control their own bodies, the imposition of an Evangelical belief system upon our laws, and a government of the corporation, by the corporation and for the corporation.  In short, both sides have taught us to fear the other.

These architects of fear have become the builders of our modern political system.  I’ve said this part before, but I believe it bears repeating.  We need to understand that in America, our politics have come to function as a form of religion.  And it is an Old Testament style of religion, built on fear from a house of cards.  Our politics are like a religion in that increasingly, they are built upon assumptions that are unproven or unprovable.  Candidates from each party rail against perceived injustices and Machiavellian designs of the other party, but seldom, if ever, is any injustice really probed, does any design really come to fruition. 

Without the pudding, we never experience the proof.  But there is reason for that, as well.  Just like a religion, if any of our unprovable assumptions were to become provable and demonstrated to be unfounded, that part of the house of cards collapses and possibly takes the rest of the structure with it.  Here we have two churches, Republican and Democrat, and each holds their congregants in large part through fear of the other.  But each instructs those congregants not to look too closely at those fears, not to test the waters of their fear to judge the depth.  As a result, Washington is more devoted to posturing than a Vogue runway.  Very little of substance is attempted or accomplished for fear that if it works, the party that suggested it is validated and the party that feared and opposed it has another wall removed from its own house of cards.  Similarly, if a bill is passed and the results of it merit a failing grade, we pull a card from the stack of the party that suggested it in the first place.  Thus we have replaced bustle with monolith.

An interesting manifestation of this development of the “immovable object” as government can be found  in the candidates running for President.  If you dare not risk validating the ideology of the other church, you do not want to run a candidate who has had much experience mingling with its congregation.  And so we see many candidates for office who have very little real experience of government, very little experience of real political compromise, very little experience of getting legislation passed into law.  The one thing they know is that the fault lies somewhere in the other party.

By way of example, here are the political tenures, at a national level, of the major candidates we have seen thus far (with a couple of ringers thrown in for good measure):

Marco Rubio – one term in the Senate

Ted Cruz – one term in the Senate

Donald Trump – zero political experience

Ben Carson – zero political experience

Carly Fiorina – zero political experience

Rand Paul – one term in the Senate

Interestingly enough, we used to elect former governors to the Presidency, in large part because we found them to have had a great deal of relevant administrative experience and of having worked across the aisles in their own states to get things done.  Aside from John Kasich, who is still trying to get a leg up in the Republican party, three others have run during this election cycle.  All three washed out fairly early on:

Jeb Bush – two terms as governor

Chris Christie – two terms as governor

Martin O’Malley – two terms as governor

Beyond Martin O’Malley, the Democrats present a somewhat different resumé:

Hillary Clinton – one and a half terms in the Senate, four years as Secretary of State

Bernie Sanders – sixteen years in the House, two terms in the Senate

Jim Webb – one term in the Senate

Barack Obama (remember him?) – one term in the senate

John F. Kennedy (remember him??) – one term in the House, one term in the Senate

Why would either political party want to run candidates with little to no demonstrable experience of government?  Perhaps they fear that experience makes agnostics of us all.

Now we are down to five candidates.  On the Republican side, the front-runner has no experience of government, though he does have numerous bankruptcies and a track record of failed business schemes to his credit.  The two candidates chasing him each have one term in the Senate to their credit.  What did they actually manage to accomplish?  Not a whole lot.  Ted Cruz sponsored fifty-seven pieces of legislation and Marco Rubio one hundred and six.  Each has had only one piece of legislation passed into law. 

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton proposed seven hundred and thirteen pieces of legislation, but only three were passed into law.  And those three were fairly nondescript, the Kate Mullany National Historic Site (Troy, NY), the renaming of a post office in New York City (Major George Quamo Post Office Building) and the renaming of a section of State Route 20A as the Timothy J. Russert Highway.  Her tenure as Secretary of State has been the ongoing focus for much of the political discourse in both parties this cycle, and we may have to wait for numerous shoes to drop before we make a final assessment of it.  That being said, she did preside over the mess that has become Libya, Syria and the rise of ISIS.

The lone outlier in this election cycle and the only independent who also possesses a proven track record in government of working across the aisles and passing legislation is Bernie Sanders, whose accomplishments in some twenty-five years on Capitol Hill are too numerous to mention (so they are attached via a link below).

Perhaps it becomes a little easier to understand the level of enthusiasm people have felt for Sanders (due to his accomplishments) and Trump (due to his lack of political failures), the resignation to practicality which has greeted much of the Clinton campaign,  and the vitriol from both Cruz and Rubio, who really do not have much of a record on which to run. 

Each of the candidates has introduced a level of fear into their respective campaigns, often directed at the candidates of the other party.  The Republicans would have us fear immigrants, Muslim extremists, Socialist governmental programs, and the chance that the balance of power in the Supreme Court might switch, meaning the end of gun ownership and Christianity itself.  The Democrats are less unified in their expression of fear (aren’t they always).  Bernie Sanders fears the continued erosion of the middle and working classes and widening economic inequality in the country, while Hillary Clinton seems to fear that the nation will not settle for incremental progress toward hazy aspirations.

What should we fear?  From my vantage point, we should fear exactly what we now have, a society and a government so polarized that we cannot come together, compromise, and seek mutually beneficial solutions to stop the downward slide of the American Dream.  We may choose to imagine it differently, but in the end, we all have the same monster under the bed.  Fear, itself.

Rachel Maddow’s interview with Bernie Sanders:

https://www.facebook.com/aamir.pvz/videos/980505895331895/

Bernie’s record of accomplishment as member of the House and Senator:

https://pplswar.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/what-bernie-sanders-got-done-in-washington-a-legislative-inventory/

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Branding Bernie Points To Limitations of Republican Thought

Lately, the Republicans and, to some extent, the Clinton camp, have taken great pains to opine negatively about Bernie Sanders and his brand of Democratic Socialism.  Their rather ham-handed approach is to call him a Socialist but paint him as a Communist.

One problem that the right, in particular, seems to have with this issue is that they believe that a political system is an all or nothing choice. That “either / or,” “black / white” mentality is something philosophically that dominates the thought process of the western world. We have many socialist programs in this country on which we depend, social security, medicare, public schools, and the interstate highway system to name just four of them.

The idea that the government’s task is to implement policies that benefit all of us at a fair cost to all of us, is the core of Democratic Socialism. That is a very different state from Communism, where the state owns and apportions out everything. Shall we abandon our socialist programs entirely, absolve corporate America from any shred of obligation to paying their share and elect a leadership whose sole function is to find ways to legalize the rape of our economy by the wealthiest class? If so, go on and vote for a Republican, either a fascist (Trump) or an Evangelical imbecile (Cruz). I do not envy your choice.

 

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Ted Cruz’s Plan for Your Health

It was very interesting to hear Ted Cruz tip his hand last night in an instance of classic Washington double-speak. We’re going to let you hear one thing while we are actually saying something entirely different. He said that he would repeal “every last word” of Obamacare and would replace it with his plan, which had three main points.

First, “we should allow people to buy health insurance across state lines. That’ll create a true 50-state national marketplace while we drive down the cost of low-cost catastrophic health insurance.” – From that, I would take it that he wants to create even larger corporate health insurance providers who will focus on providing catastrophic health insurance (what we used to call major medical) for those instances when you have to go to the hospital. That would allow any other form of health insurance, for say, doctor visits, to continue to climb through the roof while mega-corporations put other insurers out of business. The net result would be the exact opposite of what anyone would call “health care.”

Second, “we should expand health savings accounts so people can save in a tax-advantaged way for more routine health care needs.” I have had HSA health insurance and it is a bust. The HSA account is linked to a very high deductible type of plan which essentially insures that you will pay every minor health care bill entirely out of pocket. The notion that this account can build over time to provide some manner of nest egg of tax-protected health care fund, is nonsense. Your employer contribution is capped, so any contribution you make is after taxes anyway and it is minimized by the cost of the health insurance you still need.

Third, “we should work to delink health insurance from your employment, so if you lose your job, your health insurance goes with you.” In other words, at the end of the day, all of this will be on you. We will remove the responsibility from employers to provide health care coverage, thus increasing their bottom line. Tell me Ted, if you lose your job and your health insurance goes with you, how the hell are you going to pay for it?
Folks, there is a very interesting point to bear in mind here. It has to do with language. Language can be very precise, when we want it to be. The Republicans and Hilary Clinton continue to talk about health “insurance.” You don’t need health “insurance,” you need health “care.” They are two very different animals.

Health “insurance” is that plastic card in your wallet which promises to bail you out should your health “care” costs get too high. It is a gamble. You are gambling that you will need that coverage and the health insurance company is gambling that you won’t (and now, your government is requiring that you play the game!). And the insurance companies are hedging their bets by setting higher and higher deductibles and out of pocket costs and capping benefits.

So, what we are seeing all over the country now are people who have health insurance but can not afford to go to the doctor. Where does the money go? If you don’t go to your doctor, your doctor does not get paid. The money stays in the insurance company’s coffers, which get richer and richer. Then, the insurance company puts more and more money into lobbyists to make sure that the system stays exactly the same.

The point on which we need to focus is that what we need is health “care.” If we can cut out the middle man which is the insurance company and can negotiate at a federal level with big-medicine and big-pharmaceuticals, the way every other industrialized country in the world does, the cost of our care can come down while the quality of our care remains high. It has been demonstrated time and again, all over the world.

A single payer system is the only way that the middle and working class people of this country can escape the burden of the rising cost of health insurance and can put more of their hard earned money back into the economy, to jump start it. Cruz, the Republicans, Clinton and Establishment Politicians in Washington have become too accustomed to having their own pockets lined by lobbyists for institutions which would drive the entire nation further into debt, with little to nothing to show for it.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2016/01/28/ted_cruz_s_horrifying_idea_of_health_reform.html?wpsrc=sh_all_dt_tw_top

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Playing Both Sides Against the Middle

An interesting consideration. As we all know, most political candidates these days rely on Super PACs to enhance their funding and to do a lot of dirty work on the campaign trail that can be held at a safe distance from the candidate him or herself. And, it is certainly the case that a tremendous amount of campaign funding comes from extremely wealthy individuals and corporations which want to hold some degree of influence over the candidate once they become elected.

This past week, we came to know that Senator Ted Cruz was “loaned” a million dollars from Goldman Sachs. Oddly enough, Goldman Sachs is one of Hillary Clinton’s top contributors. In fact, when you look at where Goldman Sachs has been spending its campaign donation money, you’ll see that it has been fairly evenly split between Republican and Democratic candidates.

How should we see that? Is it the case that Goldman Sachs (which we are using in this example, but you could insert your favorite campaign contributor here) has a political ideology that is both conservative and liberal simultaneously? Probably not. I think it might be fairer to say that Goldman Sachs does not care who wins an election. They care only that they have “stock” in that candidate and can expect to reap dividends in return.

These candidates, whether at a Senatorial, House or Presidential level, are auspiciously “representatives.” But whom do they represent? Many of you know that I am supporting Bernie Sanders. Part of my rationale is that Sanders represents us and does not take campaign contributions from big corporations or donors like the Koch Brothers. This is part of the homework we must all do for ourselves.

https://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib.php…

http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/toprecips.php…

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Ted Cruz is Frightening

A while back, I reached the conclusion that I felt that Donald Trump would flame out as a candidate, and I still believe he will. My worry was that he would be replaced as a candidate from the GOP by someone far more clever (politically) and far more sinister than himself. We may have found him in Ted Cruz. I was listening to an interview with Mr. Cruz this morning on NPR.org’s “Morning Edition,” which I am sure you can find at the site. It was rather revealing! He is a war hawk if ever there was one, prepared to drive us into Syria (he’ll lead from the rear, thank you) on the fool’s errand of trying to eradicate ISIS, and, like Trump, wants to keep Muslim’s out of the US homeland. But, when asked very short and straight up questions, he also revealed that he has no coherent plan other than “carpet bombing” Syrian cities (“there will be some civilian casualties”) and halting the inflow of refugees, but not Muslims on tourist, work, study or fiancee visas (the San Bernardino attacker’s wife came from Pakistan on a fiancee visa). He only really wants to block refugees fleeing ISIS, not potentially radicalized Muslims from other countries. In short, he has no plan at all, other than to paint people from the Middle East with a very broad brush. I’m sure that there are elements in the Pentagon who would approve of dropping some ordinance; it has to be restocked, you know!  Another election cycle and once again, the people of this nation ask a very simple question; Is this the best we have to offer?

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