Friday, February 5, 2016

If it acts like a crook and talks like a crook....

This is what politicians would look like if they had to wear campaign donor logos the way NASCAR drivers do.

Money drives politics, fact.  My giving $5 or $50 or even $1,000 isn't a problem.  The problem comes when someone, or some special interest, gives $1,000,000.  If I call the office of the POTUS and say "Lowandslow here, a $100 campaign contributor, and I need to speak to the President", do you think they would put my call through?   

Now if someone representing Goldman Sachs or Monsanto or Exxon Mobil called and asked for the President's ear, what do you think their chances of getting connected might be?

Popular wisdom is that big business supports Republicans, and trial lawyers and labor unions support Democrats.  That is mostly, but not entirely, true.  Most special interests wisely (?) contribute to BOTH political parties, just in case their preferred candidate/party loses.  It's called hedging your bets.

There is another problem with how our current political process is funded:  We don't know who is giving or how much they are giving.  Individual contributors to candidates are listed and the amount they can contribute is limited and must be made public.  But contributions to groups who advertise for a candidate (by 527 tax-exempt organizations....that means you and I are subsidizing their political views), are kept secret from the public.  We don't know who they are or how much they are giving.  The process is about as clear as mud, by design.  

Likewise for money donated to either PARTY.  The party does not have to divulge who they received donations from or how much they gave, yet the party can forward funds to any candidate they want, in whatever amount they want, and it is completely NON-transparent.  Do you see where there might be some room for abuse?

I've been watching the Clinton/Sanders debate I recorded last night and I heard Hillary Clinton say something that made my jaw drop.  She said she has never been swayed by campaign contributions she has received from special interests.  (In fairness, probably all candidates from both parties will say the same, except maybe Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, who don't rely on big special interest donations.)

Wha...wha...WHAT?

Really?  You can call Goldman Sachs or Monsanto or Exxon Mobil or any of the rest of them a lot of things, but STUPID is not one of them!  No special interest is going to give millions of dollars to a candidate without having a reasonable expectation of getting something in return.  

Do politicians think we're really dumb enough to believe that? 

S




Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Where have all the Good Guys gone?



Does anyone remember these two guys?  That's President Ronald Reagan on the right (naturally) and House Speaker Tip O'Neal on the left (both literally and figuratively).  

Mr. Conservative and Mr. Liberal they were.  They had sharply different political philosophies, visions for the future, and constituencies, yet they also had respect for each other.  When one had the opportunity to completely crush the other, to politically destroy the other, he didn't do it.  They realized they needed each other.  

Sometimes Tip had to swallow hard and give in to something Reagan wanted, and sometimes their roles were reversed.  They both knew they couldn't just dump on a large part of the American population in order to get their way.  That would be what is called "winning the battle, but losing the war"....a long-term bad thing for the country, and they knew it.

Contrast them to the "leaders" (more like "hired guns") that we have today.  Reid, Pelosi, McConnell, Ryan, Clinton, and lets not forget the Tea Party faction led by Ted Cruz....they would rather eat s__t than give an inch to the other.  The Republicans, for example, recently agreed to a budget deal only because elections are upcoming and they knew polls showed the public held them responsible for past government shutdowns that harmed millions of people.  It was self-preservation, pure and simple.

They gave in not for the good of the country, but for their own political gain.  And under similar circumstances the Democrats would do the same.  They care about themselves, and no one else.  You and I are just pawns to them.

Bernie Sanders is saying a political revolution is coming, and he may be right.  I'm wondering if it will be limited to just being "political"?  Think about that.

S


Friday, January 29, 2016

So if I can do it, why can't the TV talking heads?



Ask an honest question and get a straight answer, that is.  

It seems it isn't a good time to be a politician.  Thanks to 24-hour news, twitter, You Tube and the like, it's hard to say one thing to one crowd, and something different to another as was common in the "old days".

The current big political stink is Donald Trump refusing to participate in the last Republican debate.  He said they (FOX News) are being unfair to him.  I agree that most modern day "journalists" seem to be adept at asking "gotcha" questions, hoping to embarrass the candidates and enhance their own reputation.  Rarely do modern journalists press for a straight answer.  To see how IMO it should be done, see this, minutes 4-6.  (Thanks for the link Simon Butler.)

A short story:

Years ago Texas State Senator John Corona was the speaker at our homebuilders monthly luncheon.  He was introduced and gave his normal address, then invited questions.  

I stood up and asked him, "Sir, the Legislature recently passed SB 1234 (?).  Are you aware that that bill (relating to housing) does X, Y, and Z?  Did you vote for or against that bill?"

Sen. Corona replied something to the effect, "Thank you for that question.  I always enjoy coming to these luncheons where I can get close to my constituients and find out what you are thinking.  This feedback is what makes our system work.  Thank you.  Next question."

I remained standing and said, "Sir, you didn't answer my question.  Did you vote for or against this bill?  Were you aware of its implications?"

He again sidestepped my question.  "The only way we have to learn what is important to our constituients is to visit with you and learn what's on your mind.  These exchanges are what make Ameirca great.  Thank you."

I was still standing.  "Sir, now that you know the implications, would you be willing to work with us in the next legislative session to amend this bill?"

He said, "Thank you so much for inviting me, but I have another commitment I need to get to.  Thank you again..." and he grabbed up his papers and walked (briskly) toward the door.  Unfortunately for him I had a better angle on the door and caught up with him before he escaped.

I asked, "Sir would you be willing to work with us on this issue?"

He replied, "I have to go now, but if you'll give me your card I'll have my staff contact you."  I gave my business card to him, and not surprisingly never received a call from either him or his staff.

In retrospect I don't think he remembered the details of SB 1234 at all, which is understandable considering the volume of bills that come to a vote in the final few days of a session.  If he had just said so I would have sat down. 

For some reason politicians are unwilling to admit they are human and can't remember everything, and I think it's unfair of us to expect them to.  And I also think it is unfair of us to criticize them for changing their mind.  To me it's an admirable sign of critical thinking to admit that when new information is made available, it is acceptable to amend an opinion.

As mentioned, I never received a call from Sen. Corona, but I did continue to receive mailings from him asking for my vote AND MY MONEY.  (He received neither.)  Several election cycles later he was defeated in his primary.  I guess I wasn't the only one he dodged.  Karma.  ;)

 S


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

When you come to the fork in the road, take it


After watching the Democratic  "Town Hall Meeting" last night, I now see why Bernie Sanders is surging and Hillary Clinton is lagging.  Oh, and there was that other guy there, too, Merlin O'Grady.

Bernie gets it.  He's genuine, down-to-earth, and transparent.  He oozes integrity.  He has tapped in to those issues that are bugging the other 99%, or 90%, or wherever the dividing line is between the have's and have not's.  This is that dangerous divide I predicted would eventually come to be when inequality between the two became a solidly entrenched "us vs them".  This is a wake up call.  Right now it's just a "political revolution".  Unchecked, it could someday become a violent revolution.

To be polite, Bernie has "socialist leanings".  He admits he likes the European model of social welfare:  universal medical care, child care, pensions, etc.  To those who say Bernie's agenda is "pie in the sky", he says no it isn't.  He points out that such a social platform already exists in much of the advanced world, and he's right.  But IMO he's ahead of his time....he misses one important historical difference.

Over the 30 years between the end of WWI and WWII, Europe convulsed and imploded.  Europe was missing two generations of workers and breadwinners.  Their cities and economies were in ruins.  The survivors were beaten down.  They were simply too exhausted and impoverished to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, as we Americans like to say.  They were ready to let government take care of them, hence their socialist inclinations.

America emerged from both World Wars relatively unscathed.  We certainly, sadly, suffered hundreds of thousands of causalities, but they paled to the number of causalities suffered by the European warring nations.  And those wars were actually a tremendous boon for our infrastructure and economy.  We emerged richer and more powerful than we could have ever imagined.  We had a can-do spirit, the feeling that there were no limits on our imagination and where we could go.  We didn't need government to look after us....indeed we wanted government to get out of our way!

That worked fairly well for most, but not well at all for a few others.  The majority ruled, and we steamrolled ahead.  But over time the schism widened, and more and more began to fall behind.  Regardless of why, fewer and fewer climbed higher and higher, while more and more found themselves stuck in place or sliding backward.  It's at this point when too many lose hope of a better future for themselves and their children that they begin to listen to non-traditional American ideas, like those coming from Bernie Sanders.

I believe it was that great American philosopher, Jerry Lewis, who once said "United we stand, divided we fall".  Judging by the large, enthusiastic crowds who attend Bernie's campaign rallies, it seems many Americans are today where many Europeans were in the late 1940's:  ready for government to step in and provide.  That is clearly (to me) where we're headed....but we're not quite there yet.


It's a numbers game.  Unchecked, the masses will prevail.  There is a lot of historical precedence to support this.  The American political / economic aristocracy should take note.  They would be wise to put their greed aside, reach out, and try to get the majority of Americans back on the gravy train with them instead of picking their pockets.

In a few words:  "A little piece of a big pie is better than a big piece of NO pie."

S

EDIT: Plain English....Populist politicians are no doubt watching what Bernie is saying, and how it is being received.  Bernie will fall short IMO in 2016, but 10 (?) years from now, if the conservatives don't wise up and squash their ultra-radical conservative faction and become a more inclusive party where everyone can thrive and prosper, Bernie's revolution will become reality.  Fair warning.



Wednesday, January 20, 2016

What if they gave a party and nobody came?


Since I have been such a highly accurate *snicker* political prognosticator so far this election year, I'll swing my bat once more and go for the home run....or will it be strike three?

So far I've predicted the Tea Party would run its course in due time as they were just a bunch of radical extremists (redundant?), but they're still here.  I failed to take into account the American people's ignorance / indifference / gullibility (choose one).

I predicted Donald Trump's ongoing reality TV show would eventually flame out, but it hasn't.  Oops.  I predicted Ted Cruz would be unmasked for the pure McCarthyesque pot-stirring opportunist he is.  Double oops.  The rest of the field hasn't made a move, and might not be able to in time.

I predicted Hillary Clinton was a shoe-in for the Democrats as her only competitor was a life-long avowed Socialist.  He's smoking her....didn't see that coming, either!

So what's next?  IMHO....

The Republicans will nominate The Donald.  His star power will be hard to overcome.  The conservative special interests will line up behind him as they will see him as "one of them", despite his protests *wink*.

The Democrats will nominate Hillary C.  I don't think Iowa or New Hampshire are representative of traditional Democratic voters....both states are ''too white".  When the primaries move to states with sizable numbers of minorities, Hillary should climb back on top.   *heehee...not going there*  She might come across as a poor man's champion, but Wall Street owns her lock, stock, and barrel.  She would sell her soul to be elected president, and they know it.

If Trump is elected, will he appoint good advisers, and will he LISTEN to them?  And if he wins, and the Republicans have control of the House AND the Senate AND the White House, will they govern like a bunch of drunk sailors on shore leave?

If Hillary is elected will her presidency be doomed from the get-go?  Let's face it....she's reviled by many, and considered untrustworthy by even more.

So it's a choice between being stuck between a rock and a hard place.  Saturday Night Live should have plenty of material to work with.  That might be the only good thing about this election year.

S


Friday, January 15, 2016

I'd better hurry or I'll miss the boat (pardon the pun)

Do you have prejudices, at least subliminally, against certain countries?  I remember my dad would not buy a German or Japanese car, saying "I fought those bastards in WWII, and I'm NOT going to drive one of their cars today!"  His reaction was obviously a generational thing as my generation loves both German and Japanese cars.  I've had Audi's and Honda's and Mazda's and loved them all.



It's hard to imagine that one of the worlds absolute finest luxury SUV's...




...and most iconic sports car marques are both owned by an Indian company, Tata Motors (even though they are designed, engineered, and built in the UK).

My generation seems to have a problem with Vietnam and China.  I cringe when I pick up a coat, for example, and see the tag that says it was made in Vietnam.  And now I subliminally rule out Volvo as it is owned by a Chinese company, even though they are still Swedish in origin.  As we all know (?), most Chinese companies have their strings pulled by the Chinese government, the Chinese COMMUNIST government.  Ewwwww!

A few years ago I was given a private tour of the Boeing complex in Renton, Washington.  We were on the back loading dock where my guide asked, "See anything unusual about those shipping crates" (each the size of a small house)?  Turns out they were made of bamboo plywood, because they contained the empennage for a 737 (in this case the horizontal tail assembly) which was made in China...COMMUNIST China.  Aren't these the same folks that gave us kids toys made pretty by lead paint?  Ouch!  

Today I read the Chinese company, Haier, is buying the appliance division of General Electric for $5.9B.  It's hard enough trying to understand the customer service rep in India.  I shudder to think...

Now more than ever, it looks like the old saying "you can't judge a book by its cover" holds true. The terms "old"  "mature" and "change" sometimes are hard to reconcile.  *sigh*

S



 

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Status Quo Lives!....with EDIT


Did anyone but me watch the Townhall Meeting last night where Prez O'Bama politely sparred with pro-gun advocates?  As expected, when the dust settled, the status quo was still intact.  I can't for the life of me understand why the pro-gun side still believes the Federales are intent on coming for their guns (it's a physical impossibility), and why the anti-gun advocates believe that the pro-gun side will someday just say, "Oh, OK, we'll do it your way."  Square peg, round hole.

Full disclosure:  I have guns.  I enjoy shooting them.  I have a Concealed Handgun License.  I will not carry openly.  I am not a member of the NRA.  I'm a political skeptic.  I don't trust either side.  I (arguably) have a fair amount of gray matter between my ears.

On O'Bama's proposal to require background checks on all gun purchases, I don't see a problem with it.  If I were a federally licensed gun dealer, I'd be all for it in order to level the playing field.  Am I worried about having my name on a federal database identifying me as a gun owner?  Ha! I suspect my name is on a whole lot of private and government databases already.  What's one more?
 
If the feds someday come to my house to confiscate my guns, I'll just say "no".  I'll have a legion of Pro Bono lawyers line up to represent me (and enhance their reputation), and I'll win.  And when I do, I'll never have to buy another restaurant meal or beer ever again.  I'll be a folk hero.  Gun makers will fawn all over me, and will happily give me their products just to see me photographed holding one.   And the feds know it.  It's a DOA idea if there ever was one.

Will more background checks keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them?  Highly doubtful.  Will the NRA-types ever be willing to give it a try?  Lololololol!

So can we do anything to curb gun violence, something that both sides might buy into?  I think so.  It's common knowledge that convicted felons have, by existing law, forfeited many of their civil rights, including the right to own a gun.  It's also common knowledge that many convicted felons continue to own guns, and continue to use them.  So lets round 'em up and lock 'em away!

Oops....one little problem.  It costs LOTS of money to incarcerate a person.  I suspect we could get hundreds of thousands of felons in possession of guns off our streets if we would just put a concerted effort into going after them.  BUT WE WOULD ALSO HAVE TO AGREE TO PAY THE PRICE TO BUILD MORE PRISON CELLS, AND HIRE MORE PRISON GUARDS, and probably pay more welfare to the families left behind by their now-jailed breadwinners.

So, can we afford it?  No...and yes.  The original numbers to do all this would be staggering, and the Tea Party would no doubt piss and moan about it because all they know how to say is "cut taxes".  But then once some non-partisan think tanks examined it, I think they would find that since the perps would likely wind up back in jail at some time in the future anyway, and the cost of legal proceedings and public defenders being what they are, yeah, we probably could afford it.  It fact, it would likely be a good investment of taxpayer money. 

I'd love to see the NRA try and oppose such a strategy, try to oppose putting bad guys back behind bars.  The most hemophilic of the bleeding heart left might bemoan yet more people being locked up vs rehabbed, but I think they could be drowned out by the public applauding the lower gun violence numbers.

So why don't we think more outside the box to find things that could be agreed to by all sides?  Have we become that unimaginative?  *shaking head*

S

EDIT:  The news is reporting a Philadelphia police officer was ambushed in his car by an assailant claiming to be an ISIS sympathizer.  But beyond that, he also had a lengthy criminal record.  This is EXACTLY the type of gun violence that could be prevented if felons in possession of guns could be locked up.