Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Primary Season is Upon Us!

What season is it?  Why, it's primary season!

   Today (Feb 9) is the New Hampshire primary, and the election gets into full swing.  I'm both excited by it and repulsed.   

     I'm repulsed by the normally sensible center of American politics which has learned to embrace huge deficits, perpetual war in the Middle East, out of control immigration and several other huge problems as the norm.   

    Not surprisingly, then, we have serious challenges being mounted by relative outsiders to the political process such as Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson.  The Republican inside man, Jeb Bush has already been thoroughly routed whereas the erstwhile Democrat juggernaut, Hillary Clinton, has been hit hard by a 74 year old socialist named Bernie Sanders. 

    At this point, nine months before the election there is plenty of time to pick which party to support.  I think it is good to look at both sides, just like when you go to buy a new car you're better off to look at more than one brand of car.

    In my humble opinion, if you can't differentiate between candidates from the "other" party (say, you're a Democrat and you see no difference between Donald Trump and Jeb Bush), you're in danger of becoming a partisan ideologue. There are huge differences between the nine or so Republicans duking it out, and even the two Democrats are sharply divided on most issues.  

   The Democratic National Committee has done a good job of eliminating potential candidacies of people like Elizabeth Warren who is young enough and bright enough to make a difference.  Hillary Clinton is their annointed candidate, with only Bernie Sanders to challenge her.  Bernie is apparently too naughty to obey the memo.  The Republican primary is kind of like the clown car in the circus, with all sorts of zany characters along for the ride.  I think there may be a good one in there someplace, but I'm not sure.  

    I don't know who it I'm going to vote for for President, but I know it won't be Hillary Clinton, or Ted Cruz.   Clinton is addicted to war in the Middle East, in my opinion.  I believe as Scretary of State she hoped American would lead an extended Arab Spring revolution to "liberate" Arab peoples via the "Regime Change" policy, in which the US is allowed to take down foreign governments as kind of a public service to the inhabitants, but which instead is dragging down the US economy and nobody seems to much like us in the Middle East despite our wonderful intentions.  This is simply a disaster, compounding the mistakes of the Bush Administration, and I can't accept it or even make sense of it. Why in the world are we intervening in a Civil War in Syria while not supporting either of the two warring parties?  Cruz on the other hand, appears to be incapable of accepting a compromise, and moreover tried via filibustering to cause the US government to default on the Federal Deficit in order to destroy the banking system.  I'm not sure how either of these two got to the point of being so highly respected as politicians.     

Can somebody please do better than these two, I hope?  

     If the major parties diverge too far from reality, might a third party candidacy take hold? Michael Bloomberg may be leaning that way.  

    Earlier, I offered the opinion that a third party might emerge this year for a number of reasons.  Perhaps even someone with some common sense might be needed if the major parties veer too far from the sensible center.  We're hearing now that Michael Bloomberg is strongly considering a run.  That might be a good thing.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Trump Can Win, But Can Hilllary?

No, seriously!  Why does anyone think Hillary could be Trump?  

     Conventional wisdom is that Trump can not win.  That's what the Huntington Post said when it announced it was going to cover Trump's candidacy from the Entertainment News, since he couldn't be given a serious chance to win. Surely Jeb Bush would prove to be an insurmountable force in the Republican electorate, and Trump could be given no chance to beat him.
     That was conventional wisdom a few months ago. 

       The Village Elliot figured Trump had a chance because he is extremely good on TV, has better name recognition, and because the policies of the Bush family have been idiotic and most normal people realize it.  It turns out that Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have all been kicking Bush's ass, and Trump is on the front page, contrary to the confident promise by Huntington Post. 

       My Democrat friends are gleeful, rubbing their hands in expectation of an easy victory by their heroine, Hillary Clinton, in the fall.   Well, why can't Trump win?  

     "Trump says stupid things, Hillary says smart things," they assure me.  

     "Well, isn't it better to say stupid things if you want to win over a lot of voters in America?"  I protest.   

      Donald Trump has spent more than a decade fighting in the "Boardroom" of his TV show, "The Apprentice."  I think he is going to tear Hillary to shreds if she becomes the nominee. 

     Hillary, it must be pointed out, helped to craft our wonderful Syrian policy, in which America has strongly intervened in their Civil War, while hoping that neither side will win.  Incredible genius.  Meantime, there is an enormous refugee problem since there is no safe haven.  And we are committed to staying in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and the entire Middle East until peaceful and stable pro-American governments arise.  I'm sure this plan will work, sometime between now and the next 500 years.  Together, mainstream Democrats and Republicans have crafted a tacit agreement to spend trillions of dollars with no end in sight, and they can not imagine why a Washington outsider might be a tiny bit popular with the people.

     I think Hillary is very vulnerable here, and Trump will blast her record (plus throw in gratuitous insults).  

         By the same token, mainstream Democrats are proud of having reduced the deficit under 500 billion dollars per year, and Republicans don't seem to mind as long as wealthy people don't have to pay for it.   With such a great system, how could outsiders hope to break in?  Here again, the mainstream has a tacit agreement not to mention this embarrassing issue, but I think Trump will drive home the point that the country needs responsible management of public monies.

        Speaking of the wealthy, I'm not sure that Hillary is going to be able to run over Bernie Sanders.  There is no possible way that a 74 year old socialist from Vermont should be able to take on Secretary Clinton.   I give Mr Sanders great credit for his honesty (except for how he would pay for all the services he wishes to provide), but if Hillary can not beat Sanders, I don't see any way she can beat Trump.   

       No, I think it is clear that this is going to be the year of the outsider.  Trump can certainly win, and will probably beat Hillary badly if she is in fact the nominee.  Sanders would probably fare better because he is a more tenacious debater, and has less of the horrible baggage that Secretary Clinton has to carry around.   

       Stay tuned, it should be an interesting election at least.  

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Will a Third Party Presidential Candidate Emerge in 2016?

    I was very interested to see that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is considering a third party run for the US presidency this year.  
    I believe that this is a very good opportunity, as the major US Parties are so dysfunctional that neither represents America very well.  
   The major parties are united in the belief that a deficit of half a trillion dollars is just fine.  
   The two major parties are also enamored with continuous warfare in the Middle East, believing that this is a wise investment that will pay handsome dividends as new governments emerge that are Pro-American Democracies. Personally, I find that idea hideously repugnant. 
    Currently the leader among the Republicans is Donald Trump, who pledges to build a wall around America, bomb Muslims and restrict immigration.  Republicans are embarrassed by the low level of the favored candidate, but this is what happens when you have tried your best to appeal to ignorance over the past few decades.  Now it is coming home to roost.  Many establishment Republicans are very distraught over the pathetic state the party finds itself in.  The foolish hope has been that Mr Trump will simply go away, but it is increasingly obvious that he is the front runner.  The second place man is even worse, with Ted Cruz previously seeking to force the US government to default on its debt, the theory being that the destruction of the US government would lead to a better one to take its place.  Good luck with that one, Senator.   We haven't had candidates this crazy since the heyday of Strom Thurmond.  

   On the Democratic side, Socialist Bernie Sanders is giving Secretary Hillary Clinton a run for her money.  In my opinion, it's not that Sanders is so good, it's that Hillary is so bad.  Hillary is a champion of massive intervention in the Middle East filling the same role for the Democrats that Dick Cheney played for the Republicans.   With Hillary we can be sure to be in for another round of trillion dollar mlitary "investing" as Hillary seeks to be the first female president not only in America but also in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan.   Meantime, the security violations involving classified information in her non-secure emails might be under-rated as a problem, as there is a real concern that laws may have been broken. 

    Nevertheless, the Democrats have tried to reign in potential competitors to Hillary, but Bernie evidently did not get the memo.   Although scoring big points for honesty and sincerity and his desire to disengage from Middle Eastern warfare, I don't think America really wants to go Socialist.  I think we would rather try to reduce the role of government, and elect someone that believes in coming closer to balancing the budget.    But these centrist Democrats are not running, having been chased away by the Democratic National Committee.      I think someone with common sense with an appeal to the sensible center of America might win.  Perhaps if the Democrats can set social agenda, while letting the Republicans try to balance the budget, a strong candidacy could emerge. Bloomberg, Mitt Romney or Elizabeth Warren might win.  Especially in combination.   I think Elizabeth could get us out of perpetual warfare, and Bloomberg or Romney would present a very credible economic recovery agenda.
The Village Elliot believes Elizabeth Warren is the best person to take us out of Middle Eastern Wars, while Mitt Romney or Mike Bloomberg could reduce the deficit.  

     Nor are there practical alternatives presented by perpetual fringe parties such as the Libertarians, who ran former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson last time; nor the Greens, who ran Jill Stein, who was a town representative in Lexington Mass.  I can't imagine that these candidates will engender much support.  For that reason I think that a third party candidacy in 2016 is likely to be an ad-hoc affair, similar to the candidacies of Ross Perot in 1992 or John Anderson in 1980.  

    The two-party system is broken, as both parties are too comfortable with running a half-trillion dollar deficit and funding perpetual death in the Middle East as a public service.  Out! Out! Out!  I don't think any third party candidate could possibly mess us up as badly as Republicans and Democrats.  

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The VIllage Elliot Slumbers at Star Wars the Force Awakens

Don't worry I won't spoil the ending.  I can't because an hour after it started, I walked out on The Farce Awakens, one of the weakest science fiction movies I have ever endured.  

I was first of all bored by the Storm Troopers, the wimpiest fighting force ever assembled.   They still can not hit the broad side of a barn with their high tech but ineffective weapons. After they shoot and miss the good 10,000 times in a row over 38 years, they cease being scary.  If I saw one in real life, I would not flee in terror, I would order a burger and fries.  

"Welcome to Burger King, may I take your order?"

Then there are some random crappy desert planets on which a handsome guy (Finn, after Huckleberry I suppose) and gal (Rey) live, and they happen to be able to pilot space ships, and can fix them using only a 9/16" wrench and a screwdriver.
The Galactic Empire decides to kill the heroic couple, but apparently is too weak to get it done. Some emperor!  Next time send the marines, not Storm Troopers.  Jeez.  
If I were to put the plot in 20th century terms, it would be that youngsters in rural England find a message in a bottle with a map to Charles De Gaulle, the one man who can defeat Adolf Hitler.  Well, Hitler finds out about it and sends his storm troopers to kill the youngsters.  But the youngsters steal a fighter aircraft and use it to hold off the entire German army until the great De Gaulle can be found.   They are able to do this by using prayer power to outfly the Luftwaffe and baffle the army, which consists of 150 or so soldiers, most of whom use bows and arrows instead of guns.   Meantime it turns out that the youngsters are all related to Hitler and De Gaulle. Isn't that an exciting little tidbit?  

Throughout the movie I wanted desperately to sleep to avoid the idiotic and boring script, but I was too miserable.   There might have been more to the plot than I saw, but after an hour it failed to emerge so I left.   

Rey and Finn are not only smart and sexy, but they have innate commando abilities, can pilot any starship with zero training and can easily defeat an intergalactic empire. Ah to be that young and talented!  

This little robot may be the father of Darth Vader.  Wow!  Plot twist!


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Who Will We Support in Syria?

        My main hope in the Paris crisis is that we do not wind up with Democrats supporting one group of Middle Eastern extremists, while the Republicans support a different group of Middle Eastern extremists. 

     In the wake of bombings in Paris, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that we must oppose ISIS.  There is virtually 100% agreement on that point.  No doubt the American Congress will be eager to send more weapons and possibly troops to the area.      
     But it's easy to oppose groups in the Middle East.  A tougher question, is who will we support there?  In order to effectively oppose ISIS, there must be some local Syria-based group that we will support.  Who will get these weapons we will presumably continue to send?  
      In the Village Ellliot's opinion, much harm was done by the Chief Executive proclaiming "Assad must go!"  I think it was an enormous miscalculation based on the Administration's misplaced desire to appear to be at the forefront of the Arab Spring movement (which totally fizzled once we attempted to insert ourselves in it, by the way).  Moreover, by these three words Obama unequivocally threw his support behind the Regime Change doctrine, which basically says the US is entitled to overthrow foreign governments if we believe that they are bad.  

      There are two major Middle Eastern powers involved in Syria:  the Assad government and ISIS.   Russia has backed the Syrian government, which is the only sensible way to oppose ISIS. However, the US wants to posture itself as anti-Russia and anti-Assad and, more recently,anti-ISIS.   We wish to pretend that there is this sensible pro-American progressively-minded third party in Syria, but it does not exist.  

     Recall Middle East Rule Number 1;  all warring groups in the region hate the US and Israel.   There are no US allies in the region. 

     Rule Number 2 is that a charismatic American leader can not overturn Rule Number 1.  

     In fact, it may not be too much of a stretch to say that the US probably saved Assad by demanding his ouster, because 100% of the peoples in the region hate the US more than they might have hated Assad.

     This does not mean that we can not deal diplomatically with countries that hate us.  "Speak softly and carry a big stick," was the way President Theodore Roosevelt explained it.

     Anything we do in Syria is short term.  If ISIS is the number one threat, we can weaken them by attacking their military presence and set them back.   But the purpose of the US military is to destroy military threats.  It does not create stable friendships, does not create progressive attitudes, does not overcome oppression, does not help suppressed minorities.  Understand?  It destroys the opponent's military, and it does that job very well. But that's all it does.  Don't show me any pictures of GI's handing out candy to grateful foreign tots.   That's simply public relations for the US.     

     It seems to me that if the US, Russia and France wanted to help Assad destroy ISIS we could certainly do so.  The outcome is less certain if the US wishes to also oppose Assad at the same time, while hoping for a pro-American faction to emerge (it won't). Meanwhile we may wind up confronting Russia for supporting Assad.  I'm not sure what France will want to do, but I would bet that they will not endorse the weird US non-plan of being anti-everyone.  
     My guess is that France may want to hit back at ISIS.  I doubt whether they are going to care about the fizzled, dysfunctional dream of American leadership of Arab Spring.   If the US had any sense, we would back off this insane concept and stop calling for the overthrow of the Assad government, especially while they are fighting ISIS.  

Thursday, October 29, 2015

MSNBC Commentators Play Disgracefully Poor Host to Republican Debate.

       “How about talking about the substantive issues people care about?”  Heck, no, that doesn't sell.
  I can not emphasize how pathetic MSNBC commentors were in hosting the supposed Republican Debate yesterday. This is not just complaining by the Republican National Committee.   Instead of finding out the candidates' positions on issues, they commentators sought ratings points with deliberately dumbed down and nearly meaningless  questions. 
         American voters, I believe, wanted to hear questions about the economy, the unwillingness to tax the rich, the war in Syria, balancing the budget, alterative medical care.   But no!
     The debate started by asking candidates simply "what's your greatest weakness?"  

    John Harwood didn't ask questions, so much as editorialize to Donald Trump:   "Mr. Trump, you've done very well in this campaign so far by promising to build a wall and make another country pay for it.  Send 11 million people out of the country. Cut taxes $10 trillion without increasing the deficit. And make Americans better off because your greatness would replace the stupidity and incompetence of others. Is this a comic book version of a presidential campaign?"

     Perhaps this is a comic book version of a debate.  Each Presidential cycle, it seems, brings more ridiculousness and humiliation to televised debates, especially as the networks are seeking advertising revenue rather than a quality debate.

       This is far different from the debates from 1960, in which Kennedy and Nixon debated their differences in political philosophy openly and honestly in response to questions, in a format roughly consistent with that used by scholarly debating societies.   There wasn't really much concern about advertising revenues, although the major networks were interested in televising the debates.  

Kennedy and Nixon debated in 1960 in a manner that was more Presidential and informative to voters, rather than the wild format that the media now uses to generate sound bites and "gotchas."  This business of cross-examining each candidate with rapid fire accusations is ridiculous.  

The debate transcript is found here: Debate Transcript, Washington Post .  Amazingly, "Syria" is not mentioned a single time.   "Global warming" was mentioned once.   It was a pathetic performance, and more than one candidate complained about the poor quality of the questions.

They're right.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Would Gun Control Make our Schools Safer?

Would gun control provide additional protection against armed madmen?   Like most Americans, I'm in the middle on this issue, willing to consider it if it makes sense.  So I'm writing this blog mainly to set down in writing my own priorities and thoughts and what I struggle with.  It's not that I have any brilliant solutions or insights but as voters we all have a responsiblity to think about these serious issues, particularly in light of recent mass shootings.  I hope this blog may be helpful to one or two others, but if I'm off base I humbly ask your forgiveness. 

I am friends with the Chief of Police in a local college town in southwest Ohio, which is very conservative and church oriented.  In this town if the police are seen on school grounds, people get worried and call up to complain.  So the police try to stay away from the schools as much as possible.

Another community a few miles away is close to an Air Force base.  In that community, the police have a presence, and if there is a field trip or something, there is an armed policeman assigned to accompany each bus. They visit the school to talk about the importance of staying away from drugs and stuff.   Plus when the PTA mommies show up they wear tee shirts with school colors, and they also sometimes have a visible holster.

Both approaches have a certain appeal. I'm more  comfortable with the second approach, but I wouldn't want to force the first community to have armed persons at the school facilities if they are not wanted.    I'm comfortable with the idea of having local school authorities controlling the guns, not comfortable with having just anyone who wants to visit the school and bring guns.  

Truthfully I am scared of communities that want to shoo away the police and local authorities,while at the same time others are making it easy for crazy people to own and carry as many weapons as they want.  Let the good guys have some guns too.  

I'm not a Constitutional lawyer, but to me it seems that the Federal Government is prevented by the Second Ammendment from controlling guns.  However, the ability to have a state militia strongly implies that the States do have the right to take care of their own business.  And you can argue about it, but the Second Ammendment isn't getting changed.  That's a waste of time.   

But as a practical matter, it is more efficient to regulate the good guys and prevent them from having guns, while it is much more difficult to regulate bad guys having them.  I think the good guys will obey your gun control law even if they disagree with it, while the bad guys will not obey.  I don't see how you are really going to deny them access. 

On the other hand, some of my friends think that it is better to reduce the police force and simply encourage the rest of the population to carry guns around, figuring that that will help common sense prevail.  Presidential candidate Rick Santorum ludicrously suggested that "gun crimes were not very prevalent back then [in the Wild West days]. Why? Because people carry guns.”   Well, the fact of the matter is that that didn't work in Dodge City.  Overall death rates were low because the population was low.  But deaths per capita were high.   Self policing by gun nuts may be well intentioned, but it is a pathological dream. (Link to Washington Post Santorum article)

No, make it easy for the authorities to protect our kids.  I'd like my kids to continue to be visited by police in a classroom setting and learn to develop a trusting relationship.   I'm open to ideas smaking it difficult for crazy people to operate, but I don't know of many practical proposals for the latter. And I don't think anyone has enough political capital to really overturn the Second Amendment, that's just something to rile up the populace.