Bloviator in Chief

Given that those who trouble to read these blogs are of inordinately high intellect, I’m sure that you not only know the definition of the key word in this title, but also could easily suss out to whom I refer.  However, in the off chance there are some small few for whom the word does not ring a bell, I offer the following definitions:

BLOVIATOR

1.  A public figure, such as a politician or an actor, who makes outlandish, strident statements on issues, thinking that the average man will care about their opinions.

2.  Someone who pontificates about issues of which they are uninformed, yet pretend to be expert.

3.  A pompous blowhard who uses their celebrity to speak about topics on which they are totally unqualified.

Yep, you got it.  This could only refer to The Donald of which much has been made of late. It’s been suggested by my editor-in-chief, with whom I share a bed, that I should not be writing about Trump for at least two reasons.  First, he is such easy pickings that to dis him is far beneath my lofty aspirations not to mention, my dignity.  I might even be accused of dog piling. Secondly, given his predilection for legal remedy, he might just sue.  The first I reject on the basis that if you can’t pick on someone like Trump, who can you ever pick on.  The second I also reject primarily; because if he didn’t sue Rosie O’Donnell….you see what I mean.

I actually know Donald Trump. Well, know might be stretching a point.  But I have  only supped with him, and during this time at table, I had a lengthy conversation with him about the state of affairs in Trump world.  Perhaps, it’s more accurate to say that I listened while Trump talked.  That’s what passes for a conversation with Trump.  I’m pretty sure though that he wouldn’t now know me from Adams house cat.  The occasion was a dinner at his private club, Mar-a-Lago for which he was trying to sell memberships so he could pay the rent.  I was accompanied by my darling wife, S.   The Donald, or Donny as his good friends call him, was in the company of his second wife, Marla Maples Trump.  S. sat at the table with Marla and I was stuck with Trump.  I was asked later what I thought, and I replied that I thought someone had really screwed up the seating chart.  No, really, I did have one important takeaway about Trump.  When he is in full charm mode he is amazing.  That, and the fact that he can talk for fully three minutes without taking a breath.

There are those small minded few who opine that Trump, who has never held elective office, is in no way qualified to be president of the US of A.  Let me offer some evidence to the contrary.  He’s rich, he has built tall buildings, he had his own TV show, and, he has a demonstrated knack for marrying really good looking women.  Still not presidential you say.  Well, let’s take a look at some of the ways he is qualified.  Take foreign policy for example.  Unlike Sarah Palin who could see Russia from her kitchen window, Trump actually has some chops in this area.   He has (at least he says he has) several hotels with International in the name i.e. Trump International Hotel and Tower  (New York City), Trump International Hotel Las Vegas, Trump International Hotel and Tower (Chicago), and Trump International Hotel and Residence in Phoenix.  Plus I know he has a hotel with the Trump name on it in Panama City, Panama, as well as a hotel and golf course in Scotland.  So I guess you could say so long as we’re conducting foreign policy with the Panamanians or the Scots, he’s our man. And he’s pretty good at working International in to everything else he owns or is associated with..  The topper to his foreign policy creds is much closer to home.  His first wife, Ivana, was from the Czech Republic.  In fact, Ivana Zelnickiva Trump, who is pretty sharp in her own right, didn’t even  become a citizen until 1988.  Then there’s the current Mrs. Trump, the former Melanija Knavs who then became Melania Knauss before she became Mrs. Trump 3.  She was born in Sevnica, Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, otherwise called Slovenia.  She didn’t get her US citizenship until 2006. So you can see that The Donald has had close, even intimate, relationships with foreign nationals.  Oh, I forgot to tell you that Donald’s grandfather who emigrated to America in 1885  was named Friedrich Drumph, Like many of his era; however, he was determined to Americanize, and renamed himself Fred Trump.  Hmm.  Just think, if old Friedrich had not been anxious to become more American, at least in name, we might now have Drumph International Hotel and Tower.  So you see what I mean, no one can say that The Donald lacks foreign exposure and experience.

Ok, you say.  He passes muster on the foreign credentials front.  What about the economy?  What about budgets?  Finance?  Hah!  This may, in fact, be his strong suit.  First of all he’s worth billions.  No one can seem to agree on how many billions, but come on, even one tinsy billion is proof positive that he know something about money.  And if that’s not enough, what about his four bankruptcies.  Yes, I know that they weren’t personal but rather corporate bankruptcies, but they did have his name on them and he did control them at some point in time.  Lot’s of business guys have been through or associated with a bankruptcy, but four…that’s the thing of legends.  So let’s put this to bed.  We can safely claim these were Trump’s bankruptcies, and they, as much as anything shows that Trump can travel in the financial fast lane with anyone.  Hell, he can even go nose to nose with another republican candidate, and a woman, who ran a really big company and got fired for it. Some might say that bankruptcies aren’t necessarily proof positive of Trumps’s financial knowledge, but that just shows what the average joe doesn’t know about big business and high finance.  Big bankruptcies is how America got built.  Look at the evidence.  General Motors, American Airlines, to name but two recent examples.  Those deals didn’t get done by a bunch of rubes.  It took real skills, real vision, real energy and real leadership. Just like we need in Washington to Make America Great Again.

I haven’t looked real close, but I’m pretty sure we would find that The Donald has an equally impressive background in other pressing national issues like Social Security, Health Care, Immigration, and Income inequality.  Well, maybe not Income Inequality.  He does know what it’s like to be rich, but he may lack a little insight on the other end of the pay scale.

You, of course, know that most, not all, of the foregoing was offered with tongue-well-in cheek.  Let’s return to reality and refer back to the definitions above.  Is Trump a bloviator?  You bet he is?  In fact, I was surprised that his picture didn’t appear in the dictionary beside the definition.  He targets angry people with great success, and he stokes their anger.  Trump can say less, by saying more with no substance and great pretense of anger, but with great panach.  Go figure.  I wanna know where these people in the polls come from.  Who are these angry people and why are they angry? And why would they raise their hand in public for a certified megalomaniac.  A friend who has done business with Trump over the years told me that there’s not enough room in the room for Trump and his ego.  Look, he’s not stupid, and he’s gotten a lot of complex deals done over the years, and he’s married some really good looking women.  But does that qualify him for the presidency?  Of course, not.  You know it, I know it, and I think that even the people who are raising their hands for him know it.  Hell, he probably knows it too.

Why do they do it then?  Fawn over Trump that is.  Why to they give him standing ovations at even his most inane remarks.  Lemme give you a theory.  It’s, in part, his celebrity, but the real reason is political anger.  Political anger in the raw.    It looks to me like about 25-30 percent of our voting population at any one time is so angry about something or everything having to do with (big) government, that they would vote for anyone, regardless of qualifications or positions on the issues if he/she convinced the audience that their anger was shared.  The smart guy on the fringe does it by throwing what we used to call “gorilla dust” in the air.  Stir the pot, obfuscate with ultimatums, denigrate the status quo, recall the good old days with fervor, speak only in generalities with what passes for passion, castigate the establishment, speak of destroying the elite, ruling class, and while you’re at it, get the socialists too.   Solutions aren’t necessary.  Specifics are avoided.  The undocumented immigrant problem…build a big fence.  Secure the border.  Never mind that 40 percent of all illegals in the country got here with a legal visa in hand.  The threat of ISIL…send more troops to Iraq.  Prevent a nuclear Iran…use more sanctions or bomb them and take their oil.  And above all, guns.  Guns for everyone everywhere.  Shoot first.  It’s all self defense.  The 2nd amendment says so.  I wrote about political anger in a post I”m Mad as Hell…on November 15, 2010.  In it I concluded that “…anger is closely related to paranoia, it’s the handmaiden of fear, and a first cousin of hate.”  The other conclusion I reached that political anger is less useful than it might appear because anger, even political anger is not sustainable over a long period of time.  It loses steam at some point even for Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.

The slice of America that has pushed Trump to the top of most polls thinks it’s a good thing that he has no experience in government. It’s good that he’s not “sweating the details”.  It’s good he will say or do anything to get attention.  The more angry Trump is, the more they like him.  That’s why he won’t be there at the end.

I’d be truly morose if I didn’t know it won’t last.  Some form of the anger will last, but Trump won’t.  Like Perot in ’92, he will sooner or later add up the numbers, and having gotten all of the notoriety he can use, will do the math and figure out that spending large chunks of his own money in a losing cause isn’t worth it.  Then he will go back to his more comfortable, normal state of fleecing investors…a truly happy man.  A bloviator to the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sequestration?

Be honest now.  How many of you dear, intelligent readers know what would have to have been done in order to avoid the blunt axe budget cuts of the  2013 sequester we are now facing?  I’m looking for some specifics here.  Yes, I know the repubs would have to agree with the dems on something, but what is it that they needed to agree on?  Yes, I also know that it has to do with budget deficits, but what exactly needed to be done, by whom, when?

After asking all the smart people I know, and spending untold hours inquiring of the source of all knowledge, I was about to conclude that, while opinions were many, facts were scarce.  No one knew.  No one knew the specific act that would have put the looming sequester asunder.  No one knew who was supposed to do what.  And few knew specifically what problem was being presumably solved.  Most agreed that the sequester was bad insofar as they understood it, but when pressed for specifics on exactly how much it would affect the budget this year or next, people tended to clear their throats and look the other way.  When asked what departments of government would have to cut how much, and when…eyes rolled.  Some mumbled, er, ah about two percent, but of what and when they knew not.

I must say, I find this more than a little odd.  The airways have been filled with prognostications of doom. Pundits of all stripes have pontificated myriad of theories about who’s to blame.  Yards of column inches in news publications in cyberspace and here on planet earth have been filled with yammering and guffawing on the sequester.  All of this and the vast majority of the body politic knows exactly nada.

Now, you can rest easy.  I’m not going to give you a learned (or otherwise) discourse on the fine art of government budget obfuscation, but some basics are in order.

First, the word itself.  To sequester as a verb means to isolate or hide away, and as a noun the meaning is “a general cut in government spending”.  In the case at point, I think both are accurate.  Its etymology is either from the middle english sequestren, the anglo-french sequester or from the Latin sequestrare.  So you can see this word was confused from its beginning.

Ok, you all remember of Budget Control Act of 2011, don’t you.  Of course you do.  It was that wonderful piece of political pandering and miscalculation that presumed twelve of our finest elected representatives could agree on a package of cuts in spending and increases in revenues that would result in a reduction in our deficit of $1.5 trillion (yes that’s trillion with a T).  Further, in a blinding flash of insight, the law mandated that when the committee of twelve did not succeed, $1.2 trillion of future budgets would be “sequestered” over a period from 2013 to 2021.  Well, it’s really not $1.2 trillion when you deduct for interest payments that would not have to be paid on the lower level of borrowing required. To save you the math, it equates to a total of about $894 billion or $109 billion per annum.  No hill for a climber you say.  After all, that’s only about 2.3% of the federal budget.  Hell, anyone can do that.  Watch the shells move and find the pea.  The sequester, in the infinite wisdom of the congress, only applies to that amount of the budget that is “discretionary” or about thirty percent of the total budget.  So two percent of one hundred percent translates into ??% of thirty percent.  That’s ok, I can’t figure it out either, but it’s a lot more than 2.3%.  If you do a deep dive into the details, other than getting a massive headache, you will find some areas, including the department of defense, will have to cut into the bone to meet the requirements of the law.

To say that this whole mess is insane, misses the mark.  Insanity implies a medical condition which precludes normal behavior.  A better descriptor would be inane…you know, silly, senseless, stupid.  If needed, this whole process is proof positive of the inability of our political parties, as they are currently constructed, to govern for the benefit of the those to be governed. It certainly reinforces my sentiment of not wanting to vote for any politician who wants to be elected.

I will, forthwith, proceed with my project to create a new political party in America.  I haven’t found quite the right name for it yet, but I know it’s slogan.  “Let’s throw the b#@*!^ds out whoever they are.”

ps.  How many of the “Supercommittee of Twelve” who were charged with coming up with a plan that would have avoided sequestration can you name?  Can you just name one?  I thought so.

Why I Will Vote for Obama Again

I’ll admit it.  I was in a funk at the close of the republican convention.  Laying aside the bizarre sight of my man Clint debating an empty chair, the repubs did a pretty good job.  In fact, they made Romney seem almost normal, as far as politicians go.  Yes, I know that his VP guy, Ryan, told some whoppers, but everyone expects that of pols.  I’m reminded of the old aphorism, “I’d never want to be a member of a club that would have me”.  In political speak, that translates to an equally pithy thought, “One should never vote for a politician that wants to be elected”.  Clearly, Romney wants to be elected.  Hells bells, he’s taken every position, on every issue so as to increase his appeal to everyone.

At my early morning coffee klatch, the day after the close of the convention, the conversation inevitably turned to things political, but only after we had worn out all of the regular topics…yesterday’s performance by the Texas Rangers, the weather, the price of tea in China, etc…  All, excepting me, of course, opined that this should have cinched the deal for Romney.  You should know that I am the only left-leaning, socialist abiding, liberal, Obama loving, pinko, democrat at the table. So not surprisingly, I took the contrary view.

An esteemed, and mostly well informed member of our group, turned to me and said, “surely you’re still not going to vote for Obama”.  “Tell me why you would do that in the face of his first term performance.”  My mind raced.  My heart rate picked up.  I licked my lips.  Now was the chance for me to state the case for Obama.  I moved my mouth, but nothing came out.  I mumbled something about the terrible state that George W. had left things in, but nothing else emerged.  In short, I froze up.  I clutched.  I whiffed my big chance even though the odds of creating any converts were slim and none.  It did get me thinking, however.  I know that in certain political circles, facts aren’t terribly important, but I’m gonna give it a shot anyway.  Below are only some of the fact based reasons that I’m going to vote for Obama again.  You read it here first.

1.  On the first trading day in January after Obama took office in 2009, the Dow was at 8070, the S&P was at 850, and the NASDAQ was at 1477.  At the close of trading on the 24th of August, these indicators were at 13000, 1411, and 3069 respectively.  If you’re quick with a pencil, you will note that these reflect increases of 72% for the Dow, 66% for the S&P, and 107% for the NASDAQ.  I’d think all you coupon clipping, savvy traders with big portfolios would be showering Obama with rose petals.

2.  In the last four months of W’s administration, the economy was losing jobs at the rate of about five hundred thousand per month.  In fact, for all of 2008, the last year under W, we lost two million six hundred thousand jobs…the worst performance since the great depression.  Can we all agree, at least, that Obama had nothing to do with job losses before he took office.  Well, maybe not.  The repub veep guy blamed Obama for shutting down a GM plant before he took office, so I guess anything is possible.  The reality is that under Obama, we have now had twenty two consecutive months of total job growth and twenty nine months of private sector job growth.

3.  In the face of torrid criticism from the repubs, and even some dissent from his fellow  dems, Obama took actions that saved GM, Chrysler, and their supply chains from disaster.  Then for good measure, he also made it possible for AIG to survive.  It’s really hard to put a bad face on this….unless you’re Ayn Rand.

4.  He gave hope and insurance coverage to millions who would have been denied basic health care because of pre-existing conditions.  He made it possible for older Americans to afford to continue to buy the meds they need by closing the Part D “doughnut hole”.  He made it possible for dependents under twenty six to continue be covered by their parent’s health plans rather than go without coverage.  He cracked down on fraud and waste in Medicare and Medicaid saving millions.

5.  He preserved low interest student loans (Pell Grants).  In an environment when every job is precious and unemployment is still far too high we need to recognize that education may be our only long term solution.  Today, graduates of four year colleges have an unemployment rate of 4.1%, graduates of two year programs and jucos are at about 7%, while high school grads have over 11% unemployment and high school drop-outs are at 17%.  Yet the Grand Old Party wants to make it harder for college students to pay for college.  Go figure.

6.  By executive order Obama achieved what congress could not and would  not do.  He began the reform of our broken immigrations system by providing children who had been brought into the country illegally by their parents, but had otherwise lived good, productive lives, a way out of the shadows.  He increased deportations of “undesirable” undocumented workers, and decreased the number of illegals coming into the country by beefing up security on our borders.

7.  His record on national security includes getting rid of Bin Laden and Quadaffi, while continuing to protect the US homeland against terrorist activity.  He has largely gotten all US combat forces out of Iraq, is on a path to do the same in Afganistan, but has projected US military force in other areas of the world where appropriate.  How would you like to be a Taliban leader in the border region of Pakistan when you hear a faint “droning” sound?

I realize that the health care act is a sticking point for many, but an equal number, including me, believe that it is economically and morally right for our society and government to provide for a means of obtaining basic health care services for even the least among us.  As for taxes…no one, again including me, likes to pay unnecessary taxes.  I, however, would like to see discussion on how the money is spent, rather than on tax rate.  Having said that, I’m not sure that accelerated depreciation on corporate jets does much good for the body politic, but I am sure that I’m going to get by pretty well whether my effective tax rate is 16% or 18%.

It’s ok, I guess, for one not to like Obama and not vote for him, but I’d hope that it’s for the right reasons.  To say that he hasn’t done anything for our country in his first four years is not a good reason.

 

 

 

Fidel, the Embargo and More

In Cuba, every one calls him Fidel as if they not only know him, but have a personal relationship with him.  In a way, they do.  He has cast a long shadow over the island and those who live there or lived there at one time.  He has, directly or indirectly controlled almost every aspect of their lives.  Those who live in Cuba today depend on Fidel and his regime for their livelihood, their well being and even their sense of self worth.  Those who are Cuban, but have left Cuba are, for the most part sustained by their hatred of him and a desire for revenge that transcends reason. Continue reading

How to Not Get Elected

I dunno why exactly, but I’ve been ruminating on the results of the Iowa GOP caucus.  I guess it’s in part because I’ve actually attended an Iowa caucus (see  I Caucus, Too November, 23, 2007), and in part, because I’m fascinated by the fact that Romney won/lost this caucus after spending only $1,642 per vote cast in his favor. My preliminary conclusion is that there’s a lot of people including a bunch of really conservative Iowans who are pretty well convinced that Anyone But Mitt (ABM) would be a far better candidate.  Go figure.

Ok, this may be too clever by half, but the parallels between this caucus and the 1972 Democratic caucus that I attended in a neighbor’s living room in Iowa are compelling.  Those of you, of a certain age, remember the 1972 presidential election.  There are many memorable facets of this another in a long line of political charades known as presidential politics, but the Anyone But McGovern (ABMc) coalition of 1972 that failed to derail an unelectable George McGovern calls to mind our current day ABM movement of 2012.  Yes, I mean the Anyone But Mitt movement of today’s GOP who is also bound to fail to prevent the Mittster from being nominated and inevitably losing to Obama.

Both the Dems of 1972 and the Repubs of 2012 were riven by internecine warfare.  The establishment Dems of 1972 were horrified by an overly pacifist, overly progressive, overly “let’s hold hands and hum” McGovern going up against and losing to the Nixon machine just as the the died-in-the-wool right wingers, cum tea party, cum stone age constitutionalists, are horrified by an overly moderate. overly establishment, overly non-evangelical christian losing to an Obama challenged only by a weak economy and a mean steak that persists in a certain slice of Americana.

Let’s review the candidates, then and now.  I think we can all agree that neither is a stellar slate to put up against an incumbent president.  For the Dems we have:  Ed Muskie (the hands down favorite from the get go), George McGovern (the Eugene McCarthy clone), George Wallace (nuff said), Hubert Humphrey (already a one time loser), Scoop Jackson, the neo-con’s neo-con of his era) and newcomer Shirley Chisolm, who was not only black. but, gulp, a female of the species.  The Repub candidates of 2012 are fresh on our mind:  The Mittster (whose flip flopping brings a worn out shower shoe to mind), The Newtster (those who know him well know of his razor sharp tongue and his intellect prone to flights of fancy), The Hermanator (ok, I understand he dropped out before the first vote was cast), but I gotta include him for balance, Rick (Mr. Sanctimonious) Santorum, Rick Perry (who makes Scoop Jackson’s militarism seem mild), John (who’s that) Huntsman, and finally Ron Paul (who pretty much doesn’t agree with anything ever uttered by any other Repub).  I didn’t list those who didn’t quite make it out of the starting gate, but I was tempted to include my favorite New Yorker,  Jimmy McMillan who campaigned on a platform of “The Rent’s Too Damn High”.  He may be the only one of the whole crowd who ever spoke the truth.

There you have it.  What a cast of characters.  It just goes to show that neither side of the aisle has an exclusive on stupidity.  Let me start at the end.  The anti-McGovern forces who labeled him the candidate for Acid, Amnesty, and Abortion failed to prevent him from being their candidate from hell.  He lost all but one state in the general election wherein Tricky Dick Nixon (soon to resign in disgrace as a result of Watergate) garnered over 60% of the popular vote.  McGovern’s vice-presidential nominee, Thomas Eagleton resigned in a puddle of emotion after failing to disclose his prior treatment for mental problems. Whazzat?  Hell, if we’re going to make people get out of elective politics because of mental defects, we’d have slim pickings for sure.  How many of you remember who replaced Eagleton?  Look it up, you’ll be surprised.

I’ve got to give a little context about the Dems of 1972.  As I said earlier, the party was injuriously divided along a fault line of Viet Nam, but also between the progressive movement of McGovern and McCarthy and the old line, shall we say establishment, democrats represented by Hubert Humphrey, John Connally, and our own Bob Strauss.  They distrusted, even despised each other with a passion which brings to mind today Tea Baggers, oops, I mean Tea Partiers.  Add to that calculus of the state’s rights (I guess that’s more or less a code phrase for rascist) faction centered in the southern states and headed by George Wallace.  You remember of course, that George got shot in an assassination attempt in mid campaign.  What you may not remember is that he still got 23.5% of the primary votes cast to McGovern’s 25.77%.  And he was laying in a hospital bed for much of the campaign.  He won every county in Florida, and that was before hanging chads.  One last bit of context.  Ed Muskie, who had resounding wins in both Iowa and New Hampshire faded fast with his tearful defense of this darling wife who had been disparaged in a newspaper column which alleged that she was a person of low character because she drank (one supposes whiskey) and used off color language.  Hmm.  I guess that let’s me out too.

So, you say, what about the parallels with 2012.  Well, you gotta start at the sheer theatre of the respective casts and then move to the great divide of the respective parties.  On the one hand you have the Hermantor who had to leave the field because he hadn’t been able to keep his pants zipped, and then you have dear old Ed M. who faded from sight after crying about his wife telling off color jokes.  You have Rick Perry who carries a .357 magnum and shoots a coyote while jogging, and on the other you have Scoop Jackson who had the temerity to accuse Ike of being soft on national security.  You have Sactimonious Santorum who believes that everyone who doesn’t think like he does should be excommunicated from the church and the nation, and on the other you have ( well, not exactly on the other) George Wallace whose views offended just enough people (thank god) to make sure he couldn’t be elected.  On the one hand you have Ron Paul, who only a handful of people in America understand what he’s saying (what’s up with this Austrian economics thing), and on the other we have Shirley Chislolm who pretty much never said anything of interest to anyone.  And finally, we have the Mittster who believes his time has come, and who will take pretty much any position on any issue to get the nod, and on the other we have Humphries who thought his time had come just because he had already lost once and thought that lightening couldn’t strike twice.  For this analysis, I’ve left out the Newtser for the simple reason that he’s (in crossword terms) a oner.  There’s no one quite like him in either party.  I hope he stays in just for the shear entertainment value.  I may even write him a check.

The great divide is easier to understand.  For the Dems it was Vietnam and progressive versus establishment control of the party.  For the Repubs it is the Tea Party vs. everyone else (particularly the establishment types).  I’m excluding Ron Paul from this because, well, just because.

So what does it all mean?  Well, just as the ABM’s of 1972 failed and selected a candidate who couldn’t and didn’t win, the Repubs of 2012 are on a track to do the same.  Their ABM movement will fail and they will select a candidate who can’t and won’t win.  It’s kind of a shame because we really do need two strong parties for our system of government to work well,  But if one is bent on self destruction, what can you do.  I say again, we adopt the middle ground and resolve to “just throw the bast**ds out, whoever they are”.