Thursday, October 29, 2015

GOP debate recap

This is actually what I tuned in to see, but it was a bit more restrained.  Pity.  ;)

For those of you who are vaguely interested in politics, but not enough so to actually watch 2 hours of their regularly televised sit-com, I offer this debate recap:  Mark O. Rubio seemed cool and above the fray, Dr. Ben Carson, always the polite gentleman, showed....umm....good posture, The Donald seemed to have ratcheted down his mouth a couple of notches, Chris Christie was once again the 8-to-5 working guy's guy, Mike Huckleberry showed he was still the best orator, Ted Cruz had a memorable line, John Kasich seemed to be desperately struggling to keep his head above water, Carly Fiorina was chomping at the bit for a cat fight with Hillary C,  and Jeb Bush and Rand Paul rode off into the sunset (they just don't know it yet).

And the CNBC moderators were assholes.  What the hell was wrong with those folks?  Every question they asked was little more than "have you stopped beating your wife?"

For the life of me I can't understand why Dr. Carson is now the front-runner. Is he smart?  Yes, he's brilliant.  Does he act like an adult when the opportunity is there for a sleazy attack?  Yes, he's a class guy.  But IMHO his demeanor is more that of a statistical actuary than a leader.

I expect my leaders to be able to inspire, to work a crowd up into a force for action.  Such as....

"We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall NEVER surrender."  Winston Churchill

or "Mr. Gorbachev, TEAR...DOWN...THIS...WALL!"  Ronald Reagan

or "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."  FDR

Dr. Carson has a soft-spoken demeanor that is [to me] reminiscent of Jimmah Carter, and we all know how THAT turned out!  (He was absolutely run over by the scum-bag Washington professional politicians.)

Several of the candidates (Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie) seemed almost like they were "Democrat Lite" when they spoke of entitlements.  "Workers have BOUGHT their 'entitlements', they were not just given to them."  Gov. Christie even slapped us with the truth:  The money we put into our Social Security Trust Fund is GONE.  Over the past 50 years our "leaders" have STOLEN it.   We're not EVER going to see it again.   Fact!  

And Christie wants to jail the crooked bankers who almost imploded the world back in '08.  YES!

There was almost unanimity over how unhealthy our income inequality is.  This from Republicans?  Whoa!

Poor Jeb.  If you're a Jeb Bush fan, I'm sorry, but it's over for him.  The Bush dynasty has obviously ended with Dubyah.  Give Jeb a nice dinner and a gold watch and retire him.  Now.

Even Ted Cruz got a well-deserved round of applause from the audience when he called out the moderators for being unfair beyond belief.

And Donald Trump.  *sigh*  I think he'll lumber along for a while longer as a legitimate contender, but voters seem to be getting a little lot more serious about the issues, and The Donald hasn't really told us much yet about how he's going to do what he's promised.  I'm not sure if he can.  

My chuckle moment was when Trump skewered PAC's as the scourge of politics.  Ha!   So true!  But as he was the only one there not accepting PAC money, he was a lonely voice of one.  Touche Donald!

I think Mark O. will get a bounce from this debate.  Something about him, though, troubles me.  I'm just not sure exactly what.  I'm sure if there's anything there it will surface in time.

There you have opinion, which ranks right up there with a big bowl of cold oatmeal.  ;)


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Cradle of Civilization or....

....the Death of Civilization?

According to the currently popular fountain of knowledge (Wikipedia), "The cradle of civilization is a term referring to locations where, according to current archaeological data, civilization is understood to have emerged."  There were actually several "cradles", but the first was generally acknowledged to be in Mesopotamia, which roughly corresponds to modern day Iraq and Syria.

It seems to me this area is today more like the world's hell hole.  Is there anything good going on there?  I'm not seeing it.  Will this be where civilization ends?  There is obviously an abundance of oil and gas in the region, but little else that the rest of the world seems to have any use for.  If it wasn't for that, I think the rest of the world would just as soon let 'em fight it out among themselves.  

I believe it was Donald Trump (OK, one point for The Donald) who recently said the world was better off when Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi ruled Iraq and Libya. The people who live there would probably not agree, or maybe they would, I dunno, but at least there was a regional status quo that contained the dysfunction.  Now every little sicko guy with a kufi (beanie) thinks he is some sort of Islamic Grand Poo-Bah.  The sad part is the poor ignorant masses there seem to believe in and are willing to die for them. 

I've been reading a book titled Gideon's Spies by Gordon Thomas..."The Secret History Of The Mossad" (Israel's version of our CIA, only better).  It's a good read, and not terribly biased.  I've been amazed to learn how many plots and other evil deeds the Israelis have been able to foil.  They are brilliant, and yes, cunning, vicious, and devious, too.  They have to be....for them it's "do or die".

Despite Israeli's shortcomings, and I'll admit they are numerous, I still believe they are the closest "friends" we have in the region.  Of course they play us when it suits their needs, just like we play everyone else when it is in our interest.  But still, if anyone can cut the legs out from under Iran and all the rest of the whack jobs there, IMHO it is Israel.  

I hope our next President, whoever he/she is, will support Israel.  For if we don't, I see the cancer that is Islamic fundamentalism continuing to spread far and wide.  To think we can negotiate with and trust these radicals is absurd. 

I know this might sound all doom and gloom, but I don't mean for it to.  In fact, I'm optimistic that the good guys, led in the region by Israel, will eventually, somehow, prevail.  I think the Europeans are rapidly coming around to seeing the light, too.  Hey, I'm just calling it like I see it.

OK, skewer me now if you want.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

I'm tired of being the bug. I wanna be the windshield!

A modern day "Tale of Two Cities"....the number of "health insurance co-ops" set up to enroll people in the ACA program, aka Obamacare, is declining by two more due to financial underperformance, leaving only 15 of the original 23 still in business.  Meanwhile four of the giant health insurers are merging to become even more "giant-er".  

As the photo headline above says, Aetna is buying Humana, and Anthem (Blue Cross) is buying Cigna.  The combined Aetna-Humana will insure 33 million people, and Anthem-Cigna will insure 53 million people.  The current top insurer, UnitedHealthcare, insures 49 million people. (FYI, those three insurers will have a combined revenue of $448 BILLION per year.)

From what I have read (and if anyone inside the medical/insurance field has other information I'd like to hear it), far-and-away the BIG winners in the Obamacare health care reform movement are the health insurers.  Early on the Democrats who pushed for Obamacare enlisted the health insurers support, promising them millions of predominantly young, mostly healthy, new other words, lots of new income, with little additional expense.  CHA-CHING!

Here's what it comes down to:  the health insurers are making money hand-over-fist, with numbers few of us can even imagine.  They have to invest their profits somewhere (they don't pay it all out in dividends), and they have found that there is no place more profitable to put their cash than in....themselves!

“When big [companies] like this join forces rather than compete, it’s always a worry in terms of choice,” said Betsy Imholz, special projects director for Consumer Reports. “History has generally taught us when there’s greater concentration of health insurers, premiums are higher. Companies say there are greater efficiencies, but I’ve never seen that passed along to consumers.”

“We really do need the regulators to be watching out for consumers in this because there’s not too much consumers can do” about it, she said. 

What?  Regulators watching out for consumers?  ROFLMAO!  Maybe in the old days, but now regulators are controlled by the politicians who appoint them, and the politicians are controlled by the companies (via their campaign contributions/PAC's) being regulated.  The fox is in charge of the hen house!

I thought capitalism was all about free markets, and competition?  No?  This all sounds rigged to me.

So, let's all go to the polls next year and vote to re-elect the same bunch of politicians that we have right now.  I mean, they're doing such a great job looking out for our interests, why shouldn't we?


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Debate, debate, de took de bait

The two Democratic candidates for President plus three other guys.

The political / news junkie I am watched with interest the Democratic presidential debate last night.  Short version:  Hillary Clinton came across as polished and "presidential", and Bernie Sanders came across as honest, sincere, thoughtful, a guy who genuinely cares....and as un-electable.  Sen. Jim Webb was voted Most Likely To Die On Stage From A Stick Up His Ass, Gov. Martin O'Malley seemed to be auditioning for a Hollywood movie roll, and Sen. Lincoln Chaffee seemed happy just to be allowed to eat the free munchies back in the Green Room.

One issue I personally agreed with was their almost universal (except for Hillary C) position that our financial system (the banks) are too powerful, too big, and should be reined in or even broken up into smaller, less dangerous pieces. I think it was Bernie Sanders who said, "Fraud has become their business model".  He was spot on, and there are sanctions and fines against all the big banks to prove it.

They were also spot on when they said our campaign finance rules that allow PAC's to decide elections is a travesty.  (Hillary was understandably quiet on the subject as she has Super PAC's supporting her.)  I like the way Bernie Sanders raises his money, $30 at a time.  

But their call for a $15 minimum wage, a "living wage", doesn't seem well thought out.  My understanding of economics is that if your costs increase without also increasing the value of what is being produced accordingly, you'll get inflation, negating the pay increase.  And it's hard to increase the value of a burger enough to justify paying flippers $15 an hour.  Noble idea, but DOA.

And they want to take on the NRA?  Are they nuts?  Stoopid!  Without even trying to debate the merits of their position, all I can say is they're chasing the proverbial windmill.  Their best move would have been to just say nothing about gun control, which was the winning strategy Brick O'Bama had back in '12.  Bernie hit the nail when he said if they think they're going to Congress with a comprehensive gun bill, they're delusional.

A global warming remediation agenda....sure, they can sell that.

Notice how little mention there was of the pro-choice / pro-life issue?  Smart.  The two positions aren't likely to change their minds, so smart politics says just leave it alone.

They seemed to agree the Middle Eastern countries should take the lead fighting ISIS, with the US supporting.  That seems sellable.

The best line was Bernie's.... "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about Hillary's damn emails."  That sold well in that highly partisan auditorium, but I doubt FOX News and the Republicans will be as kind over the next year.

Bottom line....IMHO it's now a 2-person race for the Democratic nomination.  Hillary comes with lots of baggage, and Bernie used the "S" word.  It's gonna take a lot of lipstick....  ;)


Thursday, October 8, 2015

A train wreck in not-so-slow-motion

For the life of me I don't understand why so many in the world look to the United States for leadership.  We wouldn't know "leadership" if it bit us on the butt!  There may be a very few potential "leaders" lurking in our political landscape, but they either have no chance of getting the nod to lead, or THEY DON'T WANT IT!

It wasn't long ago I was pooh-pooing the "Young Guns" in the House of Representatives, those being Republicans Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, and Kevin McCarthy, their best-of-the-best.  Yes, the same Kevin McCarthy who just dropped out of the race to become the next Speaker of the House.  Back then I thought they were too rigid, too my-way-or-the-highway, too cold to effectively lead.  

Turns out McCarthy is now deemed not cold enough to please the 40 or so members of the Tea Party (now calling themselves the Freedom Party) who are bullying the rest of the Republican's.  They're like the Nazi Brown Shirts of the 1930's, sans the actual physical beating of opponents.  Current Speaker John Boner is looking like an absolute moderate.  Don't get cocky Democrats, you're no better.  Nancy Pelosi?  Really?  She's the best you have?

And the Senate....Oh dear God, we've hit bottom!  Mitch McConnell (R)?  Harry Reid (D)?  The Mafia should study them to learn the fine art of real organized crime.

Which leaves President Barack Obama.   Sir, please explain it to me again, slowly....what exactly is our foreign policy?  If it's to get run over, then I give you a perfect 10.  You say we're involved in Syria in order to help send Assad packing.  So who's going to take his place?  One of those flea-bag rebel warlords we're supporting now?  You know they're just suckering you, right?  They don't give a rats ass about working with us.  In fact they hate us.  They'll still take our money, but they hate us.  Why can't they hate us on their dime?

And who do we have in the wings?  Donald Trump, entertainer extraordinaire.  Dr Ben Carson, has no chance.  Carly Fiorina, ditto.  Ted Cruz, pond scum.  And a bunch of others who have less than no chance.  Hillary, too many skeletons in the closet.  Bernie Sanders, even his supporters say he could never be elected.  


What the hell has happened to us?  Our potential is limitless, our people incredibly dynamic.  Our compassion (excluding the Freedom Party) comforting, our power to do good beyond the reach of anyone else in the world.  And we're squandering it.  DOH!

You know that revolution we haven't had in 239 years?  Don't look now, but....


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The "Religion of Peace", huh?


I've been reading an interesting book about the Israeli Mossad (their version of our CIA), Gideon's Spies, written by Gordon Thomas.  What I found out for the first time was the circumstance behind the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II back in 1981.

It seems that while the Pope was recovering from his wounds he became obsessed with finding out who was actually behind the attempt on his life.  A Turkish militant, Mehmet Ali Agca, carried out the actual attack, but the consensus opinion was that he was not sufficiently intelligent to pull it off by himself.

Before Agca's attack on the Pope he killed a Turkish newspaper editor who published flattering pieces on the West.  Agca was arrested, but was soon sprung from jail by The Gray Wolves, an Islamic extremist group, and went underground.  He sent a letter the next day to the Turkish press threatening just about everyone, including "the infidel in Rome", "the Commander Pope", and "the Commander of the Crusades", all of course referring to Pope John Paul II.  The suspicious part was that these terms were much too eloquent to be used by the barely literate Agca.

The Pope's confidant and the Vatican's virtual Secretary of State (my title), Cardinal Luigi Poggi, was sent out to ask questions.  That's when the Israeli Mossad began checking their data base and found that the terms "infidel in Rome, Commander Pope, and Commander of the Crusades" were originally used by the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.  Intense digging pieced together that the plot was indeed hatched in Iran.


Two years after the attempt on his life, the Pope visited the man in prison who shot him where he pointedly asked him if Khomeini was responsible, and Agca admitted that yes, it was true.  The Pope forgave Agca and even gave him a rosary crafted in silver and mother-of-pearl.

Pope John Paul II later said during a speech to workers at an Olivetti factory in Ivrea, Italy, "What the Koran teaches people is aggression; what we teach our people is peace.  Of course, you always have human nature which distorts whatever message religion is sending, but even though people can be led astray by vices and bad habits, Christianity aspires to peace and love." 

"Islam is a religion that attacks.  If you start by teaching aggression to the whole community, you end up pandering to the negative elements in everyone.  You know what that leads to:  such people will assault us."

How could this have gotten past by me, the news junkie that I am?  Did you know this?


Friday, October 2, 2015


I have quite a few friends and family members who are justifiably proud of their principles, their sense of right and wrong.  To waiver for even a nanosecond is unthinkable.  I respect them immensely.  But they are wrong.

Here's why:  Once again there has been a mass shooting, a massacre at a school, this time in Oregon.  And once again the rhetoric from both the political right and left is in-your-face.  The liberal left would just love to outlaw all guns, just declare them illegal and confiscate them all.  The Tea Party and the NRA say that will happen when you pry them from their cold know the rest.

And nothing gets done.

The left must understand they can NOT close down gun makers, gun stores, private ownership of guns, etc. If they try the matter will be tied up in the courts for years, decades even.  Not gonna happen!

The right must understand that no one is going to knock on their door and rifle through their stuff (pun intended) and seize their guns.  If someone tries, there will be blood in the streets.

Nor can they grab up all the ammo.  There are already hundreds of millions (billions?) of rounds of ammunition in private hands.  If they try it will just give the black market and smugglers another product to profit off of.  Not gonna happen!

Both sides need to suck it up, bend their principles a bit, and find common ground.  To a pragmatist like me this is just so obvious.  They need to sit down and find out exactly what both sides CAN agree on. 

Obviously criminals past and present can not...MUST not have guns.  When they are found in possession of guns, it's off to the lock-up they go.  Look aggressively.  Not enough prison space, you say?  Then MAKE more prison space.

Obviously the mentally unstable can not...MUST not have guns.  Find a way to identify these sadly troubled people.  Look aggressively.  

Surely both sides can agree on this.  Yes, compromise is often dirty, and often leaves a bad taste in the mouth.  But at least SOMETHING gets done.  And something desperately needs to get done.  We all need to quit beating our chests and refusing to bend.

Lets face it:  The only difference between good guns and bad guns is who is holding them.  Lets stop focusing on the guns, and concentrate on who is holding them.

Compromise, dammit!