I finally finished and published Numbered Lakes as an e-book. Check it out, won’t you? For details, see the Numbered Lakes tab on this website or follow the link below to preview on Amazon.
I finally finished and published Numbered Lakes as an e-book. Check it out, won’t you? For details, see the Numbered Lakes tab on this website or follow the link below to preview on Amazon.
I’ve written enough about Donald Trump, and though he is still leading in the polls, he won’t win the GOP nomination. Prospective GOP voters love to flirt with trash talking demagogues, but will eventually come to their senses and go with a more mainstream candidate. Trump’s star faded a little when Dr. Ben Carson began to connect with evangelicals in Iowa and elsewhere. But after the terror attacks in Paris, Carson’s lack of foreign policy knowledge has proven costly in the polls. By contrast, Trump’s hawkish talking rhetoric on how to deal with terrorism and his general disdain for foreigner’s, chiefly immigrants and refugees, has helped him regain some of the support he had lost to Ben Carson, but only some of it because another candidate is now surging in the polls; another demagogue who is more politically savvy than Trump and Carson and just as dangerous, if not more; his name: Rafael, Edward “Ted” Cruz, the Canadian born, Texas Senator and son of a Cuban refugee.
Watch out for this tough talking, televangelist type demagogue who has considerable oratorical skills. His popularity among evangelicals and tea party extremists is on the rise. And while Americans think very little of the “do nothing” Congress, Cruz has positioned himself as an outsider who has tried to shake things up in the Senate. He hasn’t succeeded in doing much except political grandstanding and pissing off the GOP leadership who have frankly had enough of him. Remember, he spearheaded a government shutdown over funding for Obamacare and then more recently threatened a government shutdown over funding for Planned Parenthood. No one wants a government shutdown.
If you think Trump and Carson are extreme, wait until you look at Cruz a little more closely. He makes the outsiders look moderate by comparison. A little known fact is that the Texas Senator is tied with Utah Senator Mike Lee as the most conservative member of Congress as rated by the Heritage Action, a conservative outfit associated with the Heritage Foundation. Cruz and Lee scored 100% on the Heritage Action Scorecard which tabulates how conservative the 535 members of Congress are. I think this qualifies as extreme given that Cruz is to the right of 533 of the 535 members of Congress whose average score is about 64%. Rand Paul, the libertarian leaning candidate rates at 88%, and Marco Rubio, who many have argued would be more of a mainstream alternative to the “outsiders” is actually much more conservative than many think at 94%. For comparison sake, John McCain, the party’s nominee in 2008, scores on the moderate side at 51%.
So what does Ted Cruz believe? That’s hard to say. Actually, it is easier to articulate the many things he does not believe in including:
the federal government, fair taxation, educational standards, affordable health care, a women’s right to choose, marriage equality, climate change, allowing the undocumented to stay in the country, allowing Syrian refugees into the country, the nuclear deal with Iran, sending ground troops to fight ISIS, tax credits for wind production, high speed rail, paid sick leave, unions, gun control, reducing military spending, the separation of church and state, infrastructure spending and compromise.
What we do know is that he favors the death penalty, shutting down the government when he can’t get his way, and a balanced budget. It is not clear how he plans to balance the budget, while increasing military spending and decreasing taxes, but I guess this doesn’t matter as long as big business prospers and the interest of the 1% remain safe and sound.
Cruz may seem to some like a reasonable alternative to the “outsiders”, but what is clear is that when you get a closer look, his viewpoints are shockingly extreme.
An NPR article reminded me that even though the U.S. has been a “beacon” for immigrants and refugees, it has not always welcomed them and this goes back all the way to the first Americans who were suspicious of the white “settlers” who they knew were not interested in just settling. As such, that 54% of Americans are opposed to accepting Syrian and Iraqi refugees comes as no surprise. As the article points out, the majority of Americans polled at various times in the past, opposed granting safe haven for immigrants fleeing danger including German Jews during and after War World II, Vietnamese “boat people” after the fall of Saigon, Cuban exiles in the 80’s leaving Castro’s dictatorship and a disastrous economy thanks to an American embargo, and Haitians escaping a country devastated by the earthquake of 2010. And I would point out that Americans, particularly those on the right, want to secure the border, which is code for keeping Latinos out. Not only is anti-immigrant sentiment fierce and politically motivated during election years and particularly this year, it is, at its core, an expression of racism and fear, not so much of the individual, but the threat that changing demographics pose to the system of white supremacy. And the billionaire reality host who has benefited more than most from the system, one Donald Trump, has perfectly exploited and stoked the flames of racism giving him a huge lead in the GOP race for the U.S. Presidency. And while his anti-immigrant campaign may appeal to the base of the GOP, it is ultimately a losing strategy because people of color do and will vote in the 2016 election, even as the GOP tries to create barriers to prevent them from doing so.
So what about the Syrian refugees? For starters, our shameful Congress that voted to put a pause on processing Syrian refugees should be reminded that the vetting process is already rigorous, much more rigorous than in Europe and that it would take up to two years for any of them to be resettled in the U.S. The bi-partisan bill would effectively make it nearly impossible for the U.S. to be helpful in dealing with the humanitarian crisis. In fact, the U.S. Congress has essentially told our allies in Europe that “it’s your problem, deal with it.” Morally speaking, it is the world’s problem. The U.S. has more capacity than most other countries to resettle refugees, but unfortunately, not the will. 31 U.S. Governors, all but 1 Republican, including Massachusetts’s Governor Charlie Baker, have gone on record as saying they would not allow Syrian refugees into their states. Since refugee resettlement is a federal question, it is not clear whether states have the authority to reject them, but clearly, their knee jerk reactions have sent the message to the rest of the world that the U.S. is motivated by fear, racism, xenophobia and ignorance. It should be stressed that the refugees are fleeing the very terrorism that most people fear; refugees are not jihadists, far from it; in fact, they are victims. And once again, America, the “beacon of liberty,” has turned her back.
The organized Islamic terrorist cells of Isis, as we now know, are homegrown. Those who committed the atrocities in Paris, were born in Europe and radicalized there. We should be more worried about the visa waiver program that allows Europeans to travel freely in the U.S. and intelligence gathering capabilities than desperate refugees. We should be at least as worried about homegrown terrorism here rooted in racism and extreme Christian views that promote hatred and incite violence and murder as we should be of sleeper radical Islamic terrorist cells. We should be more concerned about passing sensible gun control measures to prevent mass shootings than absorbing 10,000 Syrian refugees. As a nation, we should be disturbed by the inflammatory rhetoric and general demagoguery coming from the right with its cries for the suspension of constitutional rights that would have us living in a police state and allow the government to round up “enemies” such as was done to Japanese Americans during World Word II. We should be worried about the creation of a federal database to track Muslims, as Trump has called for in a country known as the “land of the free.”
If we object to refugee resettlement; if we don’t lift a hand to help; if we blame the Syrians and Iraqi’s for their own plight and give in to fear, we are a shallow, and spineless people who have lost our moral compass. As President Obama said “slamming the door on immigrants would betray our deepest values,” and hand a decisive victory to the terrorists.
Breaking news which I saw on my Facebook feed, which actually broke back in 2008: Moisturizers cause cancer in mice. Yes, the moisturizers we all know and presumably trust, the mainstream brands that keep us from shriveling up like raisins and moulting, do not appear to offer mice any health benefits. Scientists slathered the rodents with copious amounts of Eucerin and Vanicream daily for 17 weeks with disastrous results. These poor mice developed 69% more tumors than mice not “hydrated” with the moisturizers. There are three aspects to the study, that were glossed over by the outraged anti-moisturizer activists who published a Portlandia type article in some off the grid journal devoted to convincing readers that we modern day humans are doomed. One, unlike humans, mice don’t need moisturizers. Though I am not a scientist and do not claim to have any knowledge of science except that climate change and evolution are real, common sense would dictate that rodents produce natural skin oils that render creams redundant. Two, Eucerin and the like are not made for mice. Three, the mice that developed tumors were already at risk for cancers because the researchers had been subjecting them to high amounts of ultraviolet rays, if I understood the study correctly – the mice subjects were known as UVB-pretreated high-risk mice.
I am not defending the petroleum industry, but I am suggesting that extrapolating results of tests on mice to humans is dubious. The amount of lotion those suffering rodents must have received each day would probably have been the human equivalent to 32 ounces rubbed all over our bodies daily, head to toe, over a lifetime. You’d likely drown in the stuff before you developed a tumor, and even if you were a good swimmer, you’d probably end up dying of cancer eventually anyway, as many of us unfortunately will. The fact remains, cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States and no doubt the leading cause of death among laboratory rats. A little dab of Eucerin or Neutrogena is not likely to do us in. And because I secretly read this off the grid journal and have drawn my own conclusions, I believe that what we should be more worried about are pesticides, GMOs, bourbon because its made with GMO corn, breakfast cereal, homogenized milk, preservatives, meat of any kind, soda, flouride in toothpaste and drinking water, energy drinks, mercury from light bulbs (and all that mercury us older folks played with when the family thermometer broke), white bread, the sun, sunscreen, air pollution, climate change, bedding material, rugs, mosquitoes, ticks, rabid raccoons, asbestos, lead paint, air freshner, laminate floors, bug spray, bug propellant, pesticides, nuclear waste, bottled water and so on. As they say in New Hampshire, “Live Free and Die anyway or something like that.
If I were a cow, I would be concerned about the latest bill supported by California Governor Jerry Brown which would make it nearly impossible for cows to get antibiotics. For the record, cows generally don’t like antibiotics and some even refuse the treatment because it upsets their four chambered stomach, especially when its empty. However, a key source from the bovine world told me that were the Brown proposal fully implemented, and the cows unable to purchase over-the-counter antibiotics, something they have been able to do since the 60’s, yes, without a prescription, they would agitate and it would not be pretty. Already some leaders of the various Bovine Unions in California have begun to organize stray cows who have taken advantage of their owners free range practices, and disaffected cows who are fed up with electric fences. Just last week, a group of Holstein Heifers marched and then grazed on the California capital grounds demanding access to a broad spectrum of antibiotics to combat a nasty case of pink eye going around. One young calf had also complained of not being able to get a bottle of tetracycline to treat his acne. He said the wildflowers he had tried as a home remedy had not helped and had actually made him “quite mad”, which was related to one of the slogans on a two-sided banner that an Angus cow wore like a saddle – MAD COWS = ANGRY DAIRY. A group of devious beavers provided a constant drumbeat on empty plastic gallons of milk with their paddles in support of the cattle who chanted MOO, MOO, MOO, which sounded like a tractor motor that was trying to start, but wouldn’t.
Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to consume angry milk, yogurt with an attitude or crazed cheese. The cows do have a point. And they are organized!
Ibeyi means twins in Yoruba and is the name of a twin sister band who trace their roots to Nigeria and Benin through their father, the late great Cuban percussionist who played with Irakere and was best known for work with the Buena Vista Social Club. The Diaz twins, Naomi and Lisa-Kainde, were born in Paris and spent some formative years in Cuba. They recently launched their music careers with their self-titled debut album. I was fortunate enough to catch their act in Boston, the second to last stop on their first world tour. A mix of Afro-Cuban fused pop, European electronica and a unique blend all their own, Ibeyi brought down the house last night.
The house where the twins performed happened to be the Royale in Boston, a tiny club that seats or stands less than 1,000 people in the heart of Boston’s Theater District. Ibeyi sports a sparse stage setup included an Akai synthesizer atop a Roland 700 digital piano for keyboardist Noami and an electronic drum machine, a cajon, a sort of drum box that is sat on and played, and a set of bata drums for percussionist Lisa-Kainde. A video screen hung in the background to project abstract black and white videos of urban scenes to accompany each song.
There was a spacious bar in the back, a small dance floor in the middle in front of the stage where most of the crowd packed and balcony seating all around for those who preferred to chill in the distance. The venue did not appear to be at maximum capacity, but the crowd, mostly Gen. X’ers and Millennials, was nonetheless enthusiastic and welcoming. I attended with my daughter, a recent college graduate, who is a big fan of Ibeyi. I was one of the oldest in the crowd, no doubt. One funny aside, as the concert was held in the Theatre Distict, and we were running a little late getting there, we hurriedly walked up to get in line with a group of patrons who looked much older than we would have expected for an Ibeyi concert. I asked the ticket taker what band was playing and to my amusement, he said “Kraftwerk”. We were at the wrong theater and I could not help but laugh at the thought of Mike Meyer’s SNL “Sprockets” routine. Fortunately, Ibeyi was playing right across the street and we got there just a few minutes before they walked on stage. And even though I had never heard Ibeyi’s music before, I liked their sound instantly, something I could never say about Kraftwerk.
It is hard to describe Ibeyi’s music and I am probably not doing them justice, but I can say that they harmonized, vocalized, memorialized with tributes to their late sister and father, and mesmerized with captivating beats, melodies and rhythms. It was the kind of music that makes you move and sway but also takes you by surprise, especially the percussion work. The tunes were emotional, yet upbeat with a spirit that brought smiles to all in the crowd. It was a night I won’t soon forget. And I am betting that as their sound reaches more ears, their popularity will increase. I predict stardom in the twins’ future!
Here’s their setlist from the Boston concert that I found on setlist.fm. Do yourself a favor and go have a listen!
In my estimation, the three candidates most likely to win a party nomination – Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Jeb Bush have some serious questions to resolve, namely how they are perceived by the electorate. Based on recent polling done by Quinnipiac University, Clinton and Trump have serious unfavorability ratings to overcome – Clinton at 51% and Trump at 54%. 63% of Hispanics view Trump unfavorably as do 79% of Blacks. Bush’s numbers are less dramatic. He is viewed unfavorably by 41% of prospective registered voters. Though trailing Trump badly, Bush is viewed unfavorably by 17% of Republicans vs. 30% for Trump.
If Bush and Clinton win the nomination, which is the most likely scenario as I’ll explain, Clinton will face a tough road. In a head to head battle, according to the the poll, she beats Bush by 2% points, but, and here is where she runs into big problems, her negatives could give Bush the ultimate advantage.
Quinnipiac asked voters to give the first word that came into their mind about the candidates. I only saw the listing for Trump, Clinton and Bush. The results were revealing and not very flattering for Clinton and Trump, to put it mildly, and not very encouraging for Bush, but Bush arguably performed better on the metric. I analyzed the descriptors for each candidate and organized them into three categories, positive, negative and neutral. For example, the comment “brilliant” pertaining to Clinton would be positive; the comment “liar” would be negative and the comment “sec-of-state” would be neutral. I tallied up the number of responses in each category and divided by the total number of responses to get a percentage for each category and found that 28% of the comments for Clinton were positive; 57% negative and 15% neutral. For Trump, the numbers were 19% positive; 64% negative and 17% neutral. For Bush it was 22%, 22% and 56%
Clinton has a big problem of public perception. She is thought to be dishonest, untrustworthy and a liar. However, she is also mentioned time and again as smart, intelligent or brilliant. Fully 5% of the responses had to do with her intelligence. By comparison, the number is 1% for Bush and less than 1% for Trump, despite the fact that he keeps telling everybody that he is smart. Clinton could still turnaround her untrustworthiness numbers by being more forthcoming about the email server affair and assuring the public she hasn’t covered up anything of real importance. As Eugene Robinson suggests, if she would just say she was wrong about having a private server and apologize for the bad judgement, she might be forgiven. However, she has yet to fully do so. Instead she’s tried to explain it to the public as something very complicated and nuanced. And while it may be true that she did everything within legal boundaries, to many Americans, this just sounds like CYA talk. She has to put the matter to rest by owning up to using a worst as opposed to best practice with respect to the management of her electronic files. Once she is allowed to pivot, she needs to focus on her achievements and show the population that she is capable of successfully governing. She should spend less time attacking the Republicans and Trump’s hair and more time repairing her reputation. She has many accomplishments as first lady, senator and secretary of state that she should be talking about on the campaign trail.
Bush’s numbers indicate that he has not inspired much enthusiasm for his ideas. Many of the comments that prospective voters gave suggested that he hasn’t yet separated himself from the family legacy. The first things that came to people’s mind in the poll were “Bush” and “family”, followed closely by “brother” and “dynasty.” Either he needs to embrace this and turn it into a positive, which would be hard to do with respect to W’s reign, or he needs to take some bold positions with creative plans on say immigration reform, gun control (like universal background checks) and climate change. This would separate him from the Bush name and possibly get him banned from the family.
While Trump is leading the other candidates, there is evidence in the poll that part of the reason is that he has been covered by the press so much more than the other candidates. For example, among Republicans, 58% indicated they haven’t heard enough information about Gov. Kasich to form an opinion as to whether they view him favorably or unfavorably. This number was 43% for Gov. Walker; 44% for Fiorina; 32% for Carson; 33% for Sen. Cruz; 25% for Sen. Rubio and remarkably, 24% for Jeb Bush.
My theory is that once the other candidates get more coverage, Trump will fade and Bush will gather some momentum that will earn him the nomination over Rubio, Cruz, Kasich and Walker, his closest competitors. He’ll face Hillary Clinton who will beat him by a razor thin margin if Trump doesn’t get in as a third party candidate. If he does, Clinton beats Bush and Trump by 16% points according to the poll.
So who do voters dislike the most? And he’s leading in the polls. You guessed it, Trump, who was described in the most unflattering of terms by respondents, and who has alarmingly high negatives and very little support among Blacks and Hispanics.
A Quinnipiac poll released today shows that most Americans polled in the swing states of OH, PA and FL don’t approve of the Iran nuclear deal. In Florida, and Pennsylvania, 61% were against it; in Ohio, 58% opposed the deal. By similar margins, those polled thought the deal made the world less safe.
This poll comes out a time when there has been intense pressure on Congress to vote no on the deal by AIPAC, the conservative pro-Israel lobby and the GOP who oppose the President on everything. The just say NO Congress and their band of conservative presidential candidates lead by Trump have fear-mongered on the Iran “deal” question to the point that most Americans believe the deal will lead to the destruction of the world, which in my view is a far more likely thing to happen as a result of GOP climate denying. The fringe is certain that all of Iran’s own money that will be freed up by the deal when sanctions are lifted will be spent on terrorism and building nuclear bombs, despite the fact that the deal is exclusively ABOUT nuclear disarmament.
But here’s the other thing, the poll asks the question in the wrong way, in fact all the political pundits have been talking about the “deal” in the wrong way. It’s actually not so much a deal as an agreement and it’s more than the just an agreement between Iran and the U.S.; it’s actually an agreement between Iran and 6 countries: the U.S., China, France, the UK, Russia and Germany. And the agreement is called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. If the poll question were rephrased to: “Do you support or oppose the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreement concerning Iran’s nuclear program between Iran and the U.S., China, France, the UK, Russia and Germany?” my guess is that more would be in favor than opposed.
Also, the media continues to perpetuate the notion that Iran will do its own inspections, which is patently false. This aspect concerns a side deal that has nothing to do with the agreement and pertains to a deactivated site where some testing with nuclear materials had been performed in the past. Iran will present samples from this site to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), for verification. The main agreement covers Iran’s active nuclear sites which will be under constant monitoring by the IAEA and subject to periodic site visits.
How can a denuclearized Iran make the world less safe? What people seem to be responding to is the idea that Iran will use all the money freed up from sanctions to fund global terror. First, how can we be so certain and how do we know they aren’t already supporting terrorist groups to achieve political objectives? Second, have we forgotten that the Iranian people are suffering and have put a great deal of pressure on the regime to invest in their own economic and social needs. If Iran ignores the needs of their own people, this would be a disaster and threaten the regime’s viability. Third, the prospect of a nation with a nuclear bomb that has been openly hostile to Israel poses a great threat to the world. The agreement prevents that possibility. Last, the agreement is one that deals solely with the nuclear question. It doesn’t tackle foreign policy objectives, the hostage situation or anything else. If these other questions were put into the mix, there would be no deal, which is what many on the right would prefer. And if there were no deal, the only solution would be war. And in my judgement, war makes the world less safe and secure. Our recent exploits in Afghanistan and Iraq should be lessons for us all that war is not the answer.
Despite the polls, the U.S. electorate is unlikely to vote an outsider into office. What I mean by outsider is one with either no political experience – Fiorina, Trump, Carson- or a candidate who is not a true member of one of the two parties – Trump and Sanders.
For better or worse, the U.S. has just two functioning parties, and one, the GOP, is struggling to stay relevant as it’s been hijacked by Trump and is very close to becoming a fringe party of loud unelectable extremist voices. In a fierce battle to rescue the party, the leadership will turn its back on Trump and its long line of clowns, which spells defeat for Cruz (the most conservative of the bunch based on rankings from GovTrack.us), Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, Kasich and Rick Perry. Lindsay Graham and Bobby Jindal have no chance polling at less than 1%. This leaves Bush and Rubio to duke it out and as flawed as Bush numero tres happens to be, I expect him to come out on top.
On the Democrat side, while Sanders, like Trump has attracted large crowds, most won’t vote for a self-described Socialist, much to the dismay of Republicans who praise Bernie as a serious and honest candidate. The GOP would also like nothing better than for Biden to get into the race and even apparently persuaded Quinnipiac to poll Biden’s numbers even though he is not yet running. The GOP and the Press have relentlessly attacked Hillary Clinton over the email server affair hoping to turn it all into a scandal so that Biden runs and wins the nomination. If he does, Bush may not trounce Biden but he’d have a much easier time beating Biden than he would Hillary Clinton. However, despite the GOPs attempts to manipulate the Democratic race, I expect Clinton to survive server “scandal” and the rehashed assaults over her role in the Benghazi attack and win the nomination fairly handily over her competitors and take the general by a hanging chad, thanks to Trump’s last minute 3rd party disruption, a la Ralph Nader and Ross Perot.
I know why all the GOP candidates didn’t take on Trump in the first GOP debate – they’re afraid of him. Afraid he’d turn the audience against them; afraid he might sue them if they crossed him; and afraid that he’ll run as a third party candidate. And he just might if enough of the field were to attack him at some point. Their strategy was to go easy on Trump and not goad him into slinging zingers, like the one he slang on Rand Paul who tried to call him out early on.
Almost everyone has written the Donald off as a serious candidate, and possibly even conservatives who until the debate, liked what they heard, but I wouldn’t write him off just yet. He might continue to surprise and could even win the nomination. And if he did, and the GOP united in support of him, which seems unlikely, but if they did, he would give Hillary Clinton a good fight, though she would win with ease.
In my opinion, Trump would be the least electable of the lot, alongside Gov. Rick Perry, Senator Lindsay Graham whose candidacy makes me think of House of Cards, Gov. Jindal who had the awkward family reveal, and Gov. Huckabee whose incendiary rhetoric is both dangerous and pitiful. The most electable candidates and the ones Democrats like me should fear the most are Gov. Jeb Bush, Senator Marco Rubio, Gov. Rick Kasich and Gov. Scott Walker. The union busting Walker may have some appeal outside the Midwest where people tend to hate teachers and the unions who protect them. Marcus Rubio may gain the backing of several billionaires in the coming months and whip the tea party into a frenzy with his memorized talking points. Rick Kasich, who I first thought was the lead vocalist for the band the Cars, appears to be a moderate who could draw support in others regions, not the South, and take some votes from Jeb Bush. And of course if Jeb Bush wakes up and finds a little fire in his belly, he could emerge as the one to beat. But none of the candidates did themselves much of a favor in the debates. They sounded scripted, timid and uninspiring.
The question is, will the Republican base turn out to vote for Rubio? If Bush were nominated, would the base support him or throw their support to Trump, the spoiler. Bush and Rubio are Clinton’s biggest threats. Which is why her best pathway to victory is for Trump to run as an Independent if not nominated by the GOP. And though he’d take some of her votes, he’d take more away from the GOP as disaffected right wingers – who don’t believe in science, regulations, the separation of church and state and who generally don’t like government and prefer it be run as a business, because we all know that corporations are people – clamor to register their angst. But this scenario could also have the effect of turning out both bases of the two parties. The GOP’s best pathway to victory, then, will be to continue to push voter suppression laws, because if the elderly, students, Blacks and Latinos can’t vote, many of whom are registered Democrats, it’s all over for the former first lady, Senator and Secretary of State. It is.