Showing posts with label Ted Cruz. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ted Cruz. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Be-twitched Bothered Bewildered

I’m still recoiling from Meet the Press last Sunday, in particular Chuck Todd’s brief interview with Ted Cruz.  If Donald Trump is a symptom of a malignancy in American politics, Cruz is part of the disease itself. Here’s a brief except from that interview:

I want you to react to something here that President Obama said at a fundraiser, responding to the tone of Donald Trump rallies. Here it is, sir.
And what's been happening in our politics lately is not an accident. For years, we've been told we should be angry about America and that the economy's a disaster. And that we're weak. And that compromise is weakness. And that you can ignore science and you could ignore facts and say whatever you want about the president. And feed suspicion about immigrants and Muslims and poor people and people who aren't like us.
That's the president essentially saying, "This has been happening for years," before most of his term.
You know, Chuck, Barack Obama's a world class demagogue. That language there is designed to divide us. No, Mr. President, we're not angry at that. We're angry at politicians in Washington, including you, who ignore the men and women who elected you. Who have been presiding over our jobs going overseas for seven years?
Who have been cutting deals that are enriching the rich and powerful, the special interests and the big corporations, while working men and women are seeing their wages stagnating?  And he talks about immigrants and Muslims. Mr. President, we're mad at a president who wants to bring in Syrian refugees who may be infiltrated by ISIS. And you're unwilling to be commander in chief and keep us safe. So don't engage in attacking the people, like the president did.

Wow, it takes a demagogue to call someone a demagogue.  Psittacisms for the masses, from both Cruz and Trump.

This brought Mr. Cruz into power as a leading Tea Party advocate. His obstructionist voice has been a leading one during his Senate occupancy, effectively shutting down any hope of compromise.   No wonder the President had to resort to his much criticized use of Executive Orders, although his use of such orders has averaged less than George Bush’s.
And, yet, there is the whiff of truth in some of what he says, no, not about Obama being the cause, but about a long-building anger, much longer than Mr. Cruz et al would like it to be known.  Bernie Sanders taps into similar angst.  At the heart of that fury is the American socio-economic landscape which has changed over the years, but you could count them in decades.  The last seven years were more of the same for the disenfranchised middle class, watching their earning power and employability decline in relation to better educated, higher income families. Consequently, wage inequality has grown, but this has been going on for thirty five years, well documented by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI)
Unfortunately, there is no easy panacea for this other than for our country to come to grips with the reality of today’s world.  The industrial revolution has morphed into a cyber revolution, where geographic borders do not exist.  Workers are being displaced by technology, robotics.  It is not a question of bringing manufacturing jobs home any more; it’s the challenge of educating workers in new skills.  Any politician who holds out the trade war card is delusional, playing a simplistic card to get elected.  We’re a country after a quick fix and it sounds good, make “tough” deals with China, tax their goods sky high.  Wait until the quick fixers see the new prices at Walmart.  None of them will like that either (unless a President Trump makes Walmart reduce their prices! :-)

Many of the recommendations suggested by the EPI for turning the tide of income inequality were also advocated by the Obama administration but have been cut off at the knees by the Party of No, one for example enacting public investments in infrastructure to create jobs.  And there are others.

But nothing rings truer for the disenfranchised than the Trumperian throwaway that in 15 minutes he’d solve the trade deficit.  Our trade agreements have evolved over years of negotiations and it’s not that simple Donald (or Ted).  Admittedly the currency manipulations on the part of governments all over the world throw aspects of trade agreements under the bus, each region fighting for a larger piece of a pie that is growing only oh-so-very-slowly.  We have the “advantage” of having (at least seemingly) the currency of last resort, and this is yet another factor in the strong dollar, but that further contributes to making foreign goods cheaper and our exports more expensive.  It is the inverse of the early 1980’s when the dollar was cheap and interest rates were double digits, inflationary fears running amuck.  Today there is little inflation with whiffs of deflation.

This is all in the wake of the most dangerous economic crisis we have faced since the Great Depression.  In the absence of Congress being able to agree upon fiscal policy the temporary fix was radical monetary policy engineered by the Federal Reserve.  Someone had to act.  But the Fed now is blamed by the Party of No.

Nonetheless we are left with debt; it could have been less with sounder fiscal policy, but that was not to be.  Where would Ted Cruz’s flat tax plan and tying the dollar to the Gold Standard leave us?  And the Trump solution?  “Trust me, I make good deals.”  Whatever that means.

For anyone who has read thus far, I leave the reader with an “out-of-the-box” review on the subject (hat tip to my son, Chris).  It is the most cynical analysis I’ve ever read, authored by “Cognitive Dissonance,” Down the Trump Rabbit Hole - Manufacturing Consent. 

It attempts to explain Trump in light of the “system” which “Cognitive Dissonance” equates to “The Empire,” its purpose to always move forward, to consume. Everyone within the empire serves the Empire, including its individual and corporate ‘citizens’. This especially holds true for its upper level civil ‘servants’, political appointees, elected office holders, state and federal judges, the military at all levels including ‘civilian police officers, the oligarchs and elites. And most importantly, the President of the United States. All are beholden to the Empire and constitute the court of the Empire. While the president may be considered the Chief Executive Officer, the president works for the Empire and is controlled by the Empire’s court. The power of the president flows up from the Empire’s court, not down from the president

So how does this relate to The Donald?  When your credibility is suddenly called into question and people begin to seek alternative ‘authorities’, give the people what they want…though not exactly what they want, just what you have conditioned them to believe they want. Or as is the case with our current situation, since anyone who is presently an authority is not to be trusted, give people the antithesis of the existing authority structure.  The Donald.

“Cognitive Dissonance” goes on to argue that as Clinton is a “child of the court,” she cannot deliver what the Empire’s subjects perceive to be needed for the Empire’s very survival.  Only the anti-establishment holds that power but expect Trump to concoct some mighty reforms which will bleed and permanently weaken the middle class even further. You didn’t expect the elite and court to actually pay for the reforms…did you?

I would like to believe that this cynicism is merely an exaggeration of the truth, that we’re better than that, and reasonable people can come to long term solutions.   Yes, more and more time will be needed as the can is kicked further down the road.  To deal with the national debt we first have to work towards a balanced budget.  A tall order in today’s world, one that will exact pain, particularly for the Plutocracy, but in the end for us all.  We’ve lived long enough by borrowing against the future.  Do we have the fortitude, the patience, and above all the willingness to make compromises? 

If not, “Cognitive Dissonance” might be right on the mark.

On the other hand, “Stonekettle” has hit it out of the ballpark once again.  I’ve mentioned this blog before.  Its views are compelling, brutally honest, no holding back for Jim Wright, the blog's author.  His take on the topic was published in two parts, the latest being his The Latter Days of a Better Nation, Part II.
Far too many Americans still think of Trump’s campaign as a joke and they keep waiting for the laugh ... but somehow the punch line never comes.

It never comes because, you see, the joke is on us. All of us, conservatives and liberals, republicans and democrats and the independents.

In effect, to understand Trumpism, look in a mirror.  We’ve given rise to him.  As Wright concludes, if you want a better nation, be better citizens.

I thought I was done with this.  In the process of posting this entry President Obama was delivering an eloquent speech, nominating Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.  Mitch McConnell now responding in the background, with “let the people decide.”  We did in 2012.  So, the beat goes on….

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Hopalong Cassidy America

It is the best of times; it is the worst of times, to paraphrase Mr. Dickens.  Technologically speaking, it is wondrous.  As a kid our Philco radio (which was actually a piece of furniture) brought me into the world of the Lone Ranger and Hopalong Cassidy, graduating to a big Dumont TV (well the cabinet was big but the screen minuscule), where I could finally see my cowboy heroes (that’s me in my Hopalong outfit).  We had a party line telephone and had to wait for our neighbor to get off their call to make a call.  No dialup. You spoke to an operator to make a call, and telephone numbers began with a word, in our case “Virginia.”  When dialup arrived and party lines disappeared, the first two letters of the word preceded the number.  I still remember ours: VI-6-3134.  Unthinkable, making or taking a call from a tiny device on your wrist, or from one hanging on your belt, or in the comfort of your car  This was the stuff of science fiction, although it was commonly thought that by the 21st century everyone would be driving flying cars.

This time of innocence was belied by the increasing tensions of the cold war with regular air raid drills in school, hiding under our desks as the shades were drawn to thwart the effects of a Russian nuclear attack.  We thought of it as protection, but it was part of the propaganda, that the threat of a sudden attack was real and we shouldn’t worry, the government would somehow look after us (e.g. the drawn shades).  The McCarthy hearings and communist witch hunting were just part of the scheme to whip up fear to justify the investment in a giant nuclear arsenal.

Back then, though, there was the rise of a real middle class, the American dream realized which started with the GI Bill after WW II.  Hard work really did pay off then, and company loyalty and affordable housing abounded, although other social issues lagged, in particular; racial equality, long held prejudices were still ingrained in our institutions. 

Fast forward to the present with the wonders of technology which have changed our lives, and have given promise to a future of driverless cars, robotic assistants, and the colonization of planets (we’ll have to eventually get off this one).

Mankind seems hell bent on destroying those future benefits.  Imagine, the reality of global warming still being questioned, politicizing the very existence of our species (quick get me to Mars where I can feast on potatoes, but please don’t run out of ketchup : - ).  Even if we agree to solve this primary issue, we still have a dysfunctional government which cannot agree on matters of gun control, a decaying infrastructure (see anecdotal photos below), reeducation of the depressed middle class to replace their disappearing factory jobs with those in the technology, health, or service sectors, and how to properly deal with terrorism and immigration policies, income inequalities, and that is but to name a few.

The ingredients seem ripe in the forthcoming Presidential election for the tipping point into downright dystopianism, the stuff of fiction until now, 1984, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, Clockwork Orange, and The Road.  I think of the latter two in particular in relation to what is already happening in Michigan, the Flint water fiasco, and the condition of the Detroit public schools. 

Read David Brooks' insightful piece in a recent New York Times editorial in particular his comments on Donald Trump and Ted Cruz: Worse is the prospect that one of them might somehow win. Very few presidents are so terrible that they genuinely endanger their own nation, but Trump and Cruz would go there and beyond. Trump is a solipsistic branding genius whose “policies” have no contact with Planet Earth and who would be incapable of organizing a coalition, domestic or foreign. Cruz would be as universally off-putting as he has been in all his workplaces. He’s always been good at tearing things down but incompetent when it comes to putting things together.

Imagine if Bernie Sanders does beat Hillary Clinton and Trump or Cruz wins their party’s nomination.  I don’t think this nation is ready to elect a Jewish politician who has socialist leanings.  And of course Clinton has her own issues so she isn’t a shoo-in.  Maybe the Democrats at the last minute can draft Al Gore who won the election in 2000 if it was not for the Supreme Court? : - )  (Parenthetically what would our world look like now if Gore was allowed to win?  Would 9/11 still have happened?  Would we have gone into Iraq?  Would there have been better controls over bank risk taking which might have at least mitigated some of the 2007 collapse?  More progress on reversing global warming?).  Or, as Michael Bloomberg recently hinted, perhaps he’d run as an Independent if Sanders gets the Democratic nomination and either Trump or Cruz runs as the Republican nominee.  But that would further split the progressive vote, making the Republican candidate a more likely winner even with a minority of the popular vote. (As a fiscal conservative and a social liberal, I’d support Bloomberg.)

So, if we find ourselves a year from now waking up to a President Trump or Cruz, would we, as Brooks contends, be in a position of having a new President genuinely endangering our own nation?  A self-aggrandizing, poll spouting, reality TV star (to watch Trump squirm as Sarah Palin rambled on invectives and gibberish would be as funny as Tina Fey portrayed, if it were not so tragic – that’s what our political system has come to: reality TV star endorsing a reality TV star), or a borderline fascist, a real tough guy (his persona reminds me of Senator Joe McCarthy in many ways) who as Supreme Court Clerk, made the death penalty his cause  and who would carpet bomb the sand of the Middle East until it glows in the dark.  

Either Cruz or Trump might have us strapping on guns as our “Constitutional right.”  And if everyone was so armed, shouldn’t it be a safer America, where we can shoot the “bad guys” and “stand our ground?” Hopalong Cassidy America!  

Decaying 120 Year Old Norwalk Ct Amtrak Swing Bridge

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Talk about a scary Halloween.  We're fearing little goblins with Ted Cruz masks, demanding all the Candy or else, the "trick" being they will stay at our doorstep forever, blocking our exit until we relent. Other non-Cruz goblins better watch out too, once the Cruz clan congregates. 

Until now, I've been silent on the subject of Ted Cruz.  He burst on the political scene as did Sarah Palin, but Palin was clearly a hopeless lightweight who was "hired" to play a role.  She is a reality TV star, and that's about it.  But Cruz is very different, and I've been trying to make some sense of him, his views, and where he might be going.

He is perhaps the most disturbing politician I've witnessed firsthand (only vaguely remembering Joseph McCarthy from my childhood).  I thought Barry Goldwater was dangerous, but unlike Ted Cruz I don't remember him threatening to hold the US Government hostage.  Cruz's intransigent political views, with no compromise possible, is menacing enough. He is clearly an exceedingly ambitious politician who has all the requisite American-as-apple-pie views and the mannerisms of a preacher, attributes that appeal to his Tea Party / Christian Right followers.  (His recent hunting outing was amusing, perhaps not as well staged as Sarah-got-her-gun trained from a helicopter for moose in Alaska; he was in Iowa, the first stop for the Primary.  And he looks oh so manly with a gun.  Check out the pix here.)  Furthermore, Cruz is well educated and one can only assume that his behavior is being carefully choreographed to achieve the objective of running for the Presidency of the United States. 

His call to shut down the government and have the US default on its debts is a form of economic terrorism, i.e. the "threatened use of force [in this case, legislative force] a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons." (The Free Dictionary) Or at least the rubric of demagogue might apply -- "a political leader in a democracy who appeals to the emotions, fears, prejudices, and ignorance of the less-educated citizens in order to gain power and promote political motives. Demagogues usually oppose deliberation and advocate immediate, violent action to address a national crisis; they accuse moderate and thoughtful opponents of weakness." (Wikipedia)

I can't help but think of Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here, depicting the rise of a Senator "Buzz Windrip" to the Presidency, a campaign built on the back of patriotism and traditional "American values" promising economic reform, and after election appoints his own personal army ("The Minutemen" -- perhaps the NRA would apply for the job?), curtails minority rights, institutes kangaroo courts to do his dictatorial biding, while also limiting the power of the United States Congress. 

No, I don't believe that is what would happen if the unthinkable occurs, Ted Cruz being elected President, but he has mainly used his Senatorial seat as a bully pulpit for his Tea Party views, so his political ambition seems to know no bounds.  And I also can't help but think of this very loose paraphrase of a quote (sometimes attributed to Sinclair Lewis, but no one is sure)  -- if some form of dictatorship ever comes to America, it will be with a cross wrapped in an American flag. (Whatever happened to the concept of the separation of Church and State?) 

One would hope that moderates in the Republican Party can put down this radical, take-all-or-else faction.  John G. Taft, who rightly calls himself "a genetic Republican" made the brilliant case for reigning in the likes of Ted Cruz in his Op-Ed column in the October 22 NYT. He expresses my concerns exactly.

Here are some bullet point quotes from the article....

* If he [Senator Robert Alphonso Taft, his grandfather] were alive today, I can assure you he wouldn’t even recognize the modern Republican Party, which has repeatedly brought the United States of America to the edge of a fiscal cliff — seemingly with every intention of pushing us off the edge.

* Throughout my family’s more than 170-year legacy of public service, Republicans have represented the voice of fiscal conservatism. Republicans have been the adults in the room. Yet somehow the current generation of party activists has managed to do what no previous Republicans have been able to do — position the Democratic Party as the agents of fiscal responsibility.

* Speaking through the night, Senator Ted Cruz, with heavy-lidded, sleep-deprived eyes, conveyed not the libertarian element in Republican philosophy that advocates for smaller government and less intrusion into the personal lives of citizens, but a new, virulent strain of empty nihilism: “blow it up if we can’t get what we want.”

* This recent display of bomb-throwing obstructionism by Republicans in Congress evokes another painful, historically embarrassing chapter in the Republican Party — that of Senator Joseph McCarthy.....There is more than a passing similarity between Joseph McCarthy and Ted Cruz, between McCarthyism and the Tea Party movement.

* Watching the Republican Party use the full faith and credit of the United States to try to roll back Obamacare, watching its members threaten not to raise the debt limit — which Warren Buffett rightly called a “political weapon of mass destruction” — to repeal a tax on medical devices, I so wanted to ask a similar question: “Have you no sense of responsibility? At long last, have you left no sense of responsibility?” [A paraphrase of what was asked of Senator McCarthy.]

So, we now wait until February 7, the next "deadline" for the debt ceiling (it's becoming a Yo-Yo economy with all these kaleidoscopic, Armageddon-like cut-off dates).  It will be fascinating (or perhaps even more frightening) to watch Senator Cruz's machinations as that fateful day approaches.