Raising the Rent …

Dr. Ben Carson, formerly a pediatric neurosurgeon, is the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under the Trump administration.  Dr. Carson was, by all accounts, an excellent surgeon, but as I have mentioned before in this blog, he should have stayed in the medical profession and out of politics.

Yesterday’s news, widely reported among the media, floored me – a jaw-dropping moment.   It turns out that Dr. Carson has a plan … a plan to raise rents on subsidized housing, in some cases as much as 300%.  This comes on the heels of an executive order that Trump signed earlier this month to expand work requirements for low-income Americans receiving Medicaid, food stamps, public housing benefits and welfare.

Hey … somebody has to pay for all those tax cuts we gave to the already-wealthy last year, right?

Carson also wants to scrap rules allowing deductions for medical and child-care costs when determining rent, which Carson says gives some tenants an unfair advantage.  Now think about this one.  He wants to impose a requirement that all adults under 60 must be employed, but take away the credit for child care?  If I’m a single mom, and I have to work, most likely at a minimum wage job, and I have to pay for child care … ???

Trump, in his budget proposal, suggested that families on food stamps be given, instead, a box of government-issued non-perishable food.  No fresh veggies or chicken, just canned beans and peanut butter.  Oh yeah, that’s healthy.

Let us not forget that it was just last May when Carson said that “poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind.”  And let’s also remember that Mr. Carson and his wife like to live well … they really like nice things.  Such as the $31,000 dining room set he ordered for his new office.  Once the public became aware of it, he canceled the order, but still …

And let’s take a look again at Ben & Candy’s 6,400 square-foot, five-bedroom house …

Carson-house-1And now, how about, just for comparison purposes, some of the homes he plans to triple the rent on …

I do not suggest that Dr. Carson should live like a pauper, but rather that his lavish lifestyle prevents him from having any sense of what those less fortunate go through simply to survive in the world.  Just how little Dr. Carson understands about anything can be seen in his remarks last December when he offered a prayer at a cabinet meeting that included thanks for “the unity in Congress that presented an opportunity for our economy to expand so that we can fight the corrosive debt that has been destroying our future.”  He was referring to the wealthy donor tax cuts that will dramatically increase our national debt!

Dr. Carson’s own net worth is said to be around $30 million.  And although he claims a ‘rags-to-riches’ story of childhood poverty, I am willing to bet that this man has never missed so much as a single meal in his entire life!

Carson justifies his stance by saying he is doing poor people a favour, because the current system creates …

“perverse incentives, including discouraging these families from earning more income and becoming self-sufficient.”

While nobody expects cabinet members to be selected from among the poorest of poor, it would be nice if they weren’t so far removed from the day-to-day reality most of us live with that they cannot even relate to the very people they are supposed to be helping.

HOW Could I Have Been So Wrong???

duhYesterday I was going back through some of my posts from the end of 2015, the beginning of the disastrous 2016 election campaign, as I was looking for something specific.  During my search, I came across a post from 27 October 2015 and I decided to repost it this morning, as it should be good for a few laughs and a whole lot of head shaking.   Most of you began reading my blog after this post was published, so for most it will be new material, and you will ask, “How could you have been so wrong, Filosofa???”  Trust me, I am asking myself the same question. The original title of the post was …

Trump Supporters? Where???

The Donald Trump that some 20% of republicans seem to love is loud, obnoxious and bombastic, which leaves me scratching my head and wondering just what that says about those who claim to support him.  But the bigger question I have is this:  where the heck ARE those 20%???  I have among my friends, relatives and acquaintances many republicans, and not a single one of them can even tolerate Trump, let alone support him.  To a person they agree with my assessment of him as a clown, a joke, a narcissist, take your pick.  In addition, I am an avid reader of op-ed pages in many of the major, mainstream news media, and have yet to read a single opinion by political analysts, editors, writers or voters that support Trump or his inane ideas.  So, I repeat the question, who are these people who have elevated his poll numbers and where are they hiding?

Until now, I have left Trump alone and not written about him except in response to an op-ed in the New York Times, for a number of reasons.  The main reason is that I do not think he or his candidacy is actually worth wasting my time or effort.  The second reason is that the man is so wrong on so many issues that it would be impossible to discuss them all in a single post.  Third, everything there is to be said about Trump has already been said by people far more qualified than I.  Lastly, I get a nauseous feeling every time I hear his name or see his picture.  But alas, I decided to join in the fray for two reasons, the first being that I think there is danger in allowing his rhetoric to go unchecked.  The second is that I heard him say that he “just doesn’t get it” that Ben Carson has edged above him in the polls.  What is there to “not get”?  Though I do not consider Dr. Carson to be a viable option to govern this nation, I will at least give him credit for intelligence (although not when it comes to politics, government and foreign policy), being soft-spoken (very refreshing after Trump’s in-your-face ranting persona) and for not lowering himself to the petty criticisms and attacks on his opponents for which Trump is so well-known.

Trump, in crowing proudly about his poll numbers has forgotten a couple of salient points.  First, the election is more than a year away, and early polls are rarely an accurate predictor of the eventual outcome.  Second, neither he nor Dr. Carson nor any other republican candidate have anything remotely close to a majority.  Third, the Republican Party is only one of the two major parties in the nation and there are some 42% of eligible voters who are not committed to either party.  There are two strong contenders in the democratic field, both of whom have distinct advantages over both Trump and Carson.  First, they both have experience in policy-making and governance, and secondly, while the republicans have been conducting a circus, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have been seriously speaking about issues that matter to the American people, issues such as jobs, the economy, minimum wage, climate change and the environment, the gun lobby, the Iran nuclear agreement and more.  Whether one agrees with their opinions or not is not my point.  My point is that at least they are discussing issues, things that matter to “We the People”, and doing so with knowledge and experience, without mud-slinging and name-calling, and giving the voters an opportunity to actually consider their viewpoints.  Now, what Trump, Carson and every other republican candidate need to realize is that whoever ultimately gains the GOP nomination will need to convince a fairly large number of voters outside the republican party that they are the best person for the job, and in light of the current circus-atmosphere, that is likely to be a very tough sell.

All of which brings me back to my original question:  where are the people who supposedly support Trump, the people who have kept his poll rankings in the 20% range for a few months?  It is to be hoped that over the course of the next twelve months, the American people step back and look at the bigger picture, that they do their own research into the issues and weed out the candidates who can only bring disaster to our nation.  Trump has made the claim that “our country is going to hell”.  Despite numerous social and economic problems, our country is a far cry from “going to hell”.  We still have more going for us than working against us, and I believe that the citizens of this nation still hold basic values of caring, compassion and humanity.  Why would anyone want to vote for a candidate that doesn’t even believe in his country?

Poverty … A State of Mind????

“I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind.” – Dr. Ben Carson, Secretary of Department of Housing and Urban Development

Yesterday morning Dr. Ben Carson was interviewed by Armstrong Williams, a longtime friend, and the interview was aired yesterday evening on SiriusXM Radio.  A few snippets from that interview:

“I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind. You take somebody that has the right mindset, you can take everything from them and put them on the street, and I guarantee in a little while they’ll be right back up there. And you take somebody with the wrong mindset, you can give them everything in the world, they’ll work their way right back down to the bottom.”

“There’s also a poverty of spirit. You develop a certain mindset. I think the majority of people don’t have that defeatist attitude, but they sometimes just don’t see the way, and that’s where government can come in and be very helpful. It can provide the ladder of opportunity, it can provide the mechanism that will demonstrate to them what can be done.”

Try telling that to the single mother of four who struggles every day to put food on the table and every month to pay the rent.

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Carson tours the apartment of Ms. Tracy Grant

Alzene

87-year-old Alzene Munnerlyn

Earlier this month Carson toured facilities for the poor in Columbus, Ohio where he explained in an interview that in his view, compassion means not giving people “a comfortable setting that would make somebody want to say: ‘I’ll just stay here. They will take care of me.’”  Although he toured a number of apartments occupied by low income people, he gave the people almost no opportunity to speak with him, to help him to understand their situations.  87-year-old Alzene Munnerlyn living in senior housing said that although he spent about 10 minutes in her apartment, she was not given an opportunity to converse with him. “It was staged. It was so fast.” A dog-and-pony show, some called it.  A photo op … look at the magnanimous Dr. Ben Carson.

At a supportive housing center for drug addicts in Lancaster, Ohio, Trisha Farmer, the chief executive of the Recovery Center, pleaded for more federal help to house recovering addicts. Mr. Carson interjected. “We are talking about incentivizing those who help themselves,” he said, before again asking minutes later about how comfortable the facility was letting people get.

As Zerlina Maxwell tweeted, “Ben Carson said poverty is a state of mind. Next month, I’m going to tell my landlord that I paid my rent with positive thinking!”

I awarded Dr. Carson Filosofa’s Idiot of the Week award on March 7th, just a few days after his Senate confirmation. I noted at that time that Carson is as unqualified as Betsy DeVos (Secretary of Education) and Jeff Sessions (Attorney General), but no surprise.  Living in the inner city as a child does not, in and of itself, qualify one for the job of Secretary of HUD.  Now, however, Carson lives in a home with an estimated value of $1.2 million and recently purchased a “get-a-way” home in Florida for $4.375 million. His annual salary is just short of $200,000, and according to Forbes, his net worth is $29 million. This is the man who claims to understand poverty, and this is the man upon whom people needing housing assistance must depend.  Spare me. Carson has a complete lack of government experience, lack of knowledge of the issues surrounding his new department and, more importantly, lack of understanding what it is like simply trying to scrape together the rent money each month … all of that makes him remarkably un-qualified.

On Tuesday, Trump’s proposed budget went to the House of Representatives with no chance of passing in its current state.  The budget calls for deep cuts in HUD programs … nearly $6 billion per year. Under those circumstances, HUD needs a strong director, someone who believes in the goals of the agency — to help people; someone who will fight to keep sufficient funding to meet those goals.  Instead, they have a Trump ‘yes-man’, a pansy.

The one bright spot came last month.  Carson has been touring low-income housing in cities around the nation since he took over as Director of HUD, and in April, when he was touring a facility in Miami, he was stuck in an elevator for 20 minutes until the fire department could arrive to free him.  Poetic justice, yes?

Here are a few shots of Carson’s home, just for comparison purposes.

carson-house-2

Filosofa’s Late Night Bits ‘n Pieces

Every now and then, I have several things on my mind, but none major enough to fill an entire post.  When that happens, I write a post like this … just a compilation of bits of this and scraps of that.  Such is the case tonight.  I am currently at work on a couple of longer posts, but not able to focus enough to finish them tonight, so … here are some of the bits ‘n pieces from the corners of my mind.

tidbits


Filosofa falls out of favour with the White House …

white-houseI think I am no longer a ‘friend’ of the White House.  Back in January, shortly after the inauguration, I wanted to share one of my posts with Donald Trump.  In the past, before he took the oath of office, I frequently posted a link to some of my posts that I thought he should see on his Twitter feed, but now that he was in office, I really wanted to ensure that he would read every word, so I tried to send it through the usual channel of ‘whitehouse.gov’.  But I received a message back saying that was no longer an option, and giving me another site on which I could send a letter to him.  Well, that became problematic because it would only allow about half the word count of my post, so I started trimming excess verbage and cut it down to size.

The next day I began receiving daily updates via email from the White House.  They went to my spam folder, which was fine by me, since all they were was propaganda about all the “wonderful” things going on in the administration, and other sickening ‘alternative facts’.  But every now and then, I would read one, especially if I was feeling a bit too good and needed to become nauseous.  Then one day, about two weeks ago, there was an email asking me to take a short survey.  Well, I’m not into “short” surveys, partly because they are rarely short and most always annoying, and because my time is valuable.  But this time, I thought I would just check it out.  I did not keep a copy, but have found it replicated online.  There are only two questions, and I think you can still submit the online form at this address, though I am not sure.  In addition to the two ‘select all that apply’ questions, there is a box to ‘share your ideas to make America great again’.  This is where I took the opportunity to share a piece of my mind.  I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I know that it included comments about racial and religious equality, valuing our immigrants, tolerance, and the usual things I tend to go on about.  I no longer receive daily emails from the White House.  Gee … was it something I said?


The mystery of why Carson was chosen to lead HUD is solved … maybe …

In regards to Trump’s cabinet picks … with the first announcements of who he was planning to nominate, long before he took the oath on January 20th, I wondered if he just sought the person least qualified for the job in order to show us that he could, or if there was some devious method to his madness.  Once I became convinced of the power Steve Bannon holds, I became more and more convinced that his choices were not just random poor choices, but poor choices with intent.  This evening’s headline further convinced me.

Two days ago, I wrote a post titled Idiot of the Week – Dr. Ben Carson.  I noted that Carson is severely under-qualified for the job, but being by now somewhat inured to Trump’s really bad choices, I failed to ask the question: why?  Why Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development?  Even had I asked that question, I likely would have concluded that either, a) he is to be the token black, or b) it is repayment for Carson selling his integrity by endorsing Trump last March.

Today, however, I am convinced there is another reason.  The Washington Post headline reads:

Trump Administration Considers $6 Billion Cut to HUD Budget

Trump plans to cut the $47 billion dollar HUD budget by $6 billion, or 13%.  Another person, a person of integrity and knowledge of the department and its functions, would fight hard against a cut of 13%, but don’t look for Dr. Ben Carson to raise so much as a soft-spoken, polite objection.  Dr. Ben Carson was put into that position to not make waves, but to sit back, accept his nearly $200,000 a year salary, and do what ‘big daddy’ tells him to do.  He is a highly paid yes-man.  As with other areas, the cuts will hurt those in lower income brackets.  It is still early, and while there is speculation about where the cuts would take place, I will not engage in such speculation, but merely remind the reader that HUD is responsible for providing rental assistance, overseeing public housing and community development, insuring mortgages of more than 20% of all homeowners, and enforcing fair housing laws that bar racial discrimination by lenders and landlords. Whichever of these programs get short-sheeted, it will hurt the poor and lower income people.  But let us not lose sight of the “greater purpose” … to increase a military budget that already far exceeds that of any other nation on the globe.


Harvard.jpg

Is Harvard Law School lowering their standards?

There has always been a certain level of prestige in a Harvard Law School degree.  Harvard has always been known for its strict standards, but that may be changing.  For 70 years, students wishing to be accepted into Harvard Law were required to pass the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), designed to gauge students’ ability to learn the law.  Beginning this fall, Harvard Law School will allow applicants to submit their scores from either the LSAT or the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). While both are stringent tests, the LSAT is geared more toward law students, more a test of your reasoning skills than your subject knowledge (in math and verbal).

Perhaps this is a minor change, in the grand scheme of law school requirements, but in my mind, it is yet another step in the “dumbing down of America”.  The change is said to be part of a broader strategy at the school to expand access. I am all for expanding access to higher education, but my fear is that the next steps may be to lower the standards by which a student may graduate, law degree in hand.

As reported by U.S. News and World Report last May, there has been the significant drop in the number of law school applicants. The number of applicants dropped from 87,900 for fall 2010 admission to 54,500 for fall 2015.  Presumably this is the driving force behind Harvard Law’s decision, but what will be the next step?  The U.S. has fallen woefully behind in the quality of education as compared to other industrialized nations … is this the first step toward dropping our standards even lower?


Thus concludes the little things that were bouncing around in my webby mind.  Perhaps now I can focus on some of the bigger issues!

Nightmare on Pennsylvania Avenue

trump-cabinet

As we near the end of this mind-boggling election that has occupied our thoughts for the last year-and-a-half, some speculate that there is a possibility that da trumpeter might actually become the next President of the United States (POTUS).  I cringe and shudder, and still I believe that common sense will prevail next Tuesday and in just over two months we will be seeing the inauguration of President Hillary Clinton.  But just for the sake of argument, I thought it might be fun to consider what a Trump presidency might actually look like.  The writers at Politico must have had the same thought, as they published an article  yesterday speculating who da trumpeter would take to the White House with him as advisors.  Based on the choices of the Politico writers, let us take a look at those who would surround da man:

nightmare-2

Ivanka Trump, Special Advisor — Since by all accounts, Trump relies heavily on at least some of his children to provide advice and assistance in his campaign, it only stands to reason they would continue to do so as he transitions into the Oval Office.  However, somebody has to stay behind and run the multiple business Trump owns, and it is, in Trump’s view, a ‘man’s world’, so the boys, Eric and what’s-his-name, will handle the bankruptcy filings and lawsuits for the Trump Corporation.  This leaves his favourite child, Ivanka, to serve on Trump’s advisory team.  Ivanka is more intelligent, more well-spoken and outwardly more even-tempered than her father, however many consider her to be a Donald Trump clone.  I tend to agree – when you look at what she says, she says the same things Trump says, only in a quieter, nicer way.

Corey Lewandowski, Chief of Staff – Fired by Trump in June, Lewandowski almost immediately went to work for CNN where he continued to campaign for Trump, leaving one to wonder if he had ever actually left Trump’s employ.  Turns out his ‘firing’ was nothing more than a political ploy, as he still campaigns with Trump, remains on the Trump payroll, and spreads Trump’s rhetoric far and wide through CNN.  His tendency toward violence and brashness should go far in making him a much-loved Chief of Staff!  He will take great pleasure, I am sure, in doing Trump’s dirty work when necessary … like, daily.

Stephen Miller, Counselor – Often called ‘Donald Trump’s warm-up act’, Miller’s job in the campaign has been to go behind Trump with his whisk broom and dustpan, cleaning up the detritus left behind.  Surprisingly, Miller is capable of speaking in complete sentences, hence his value during the campaign and thereafter.

Hope Hicks, Deputy Communications Director – Ms. Hicks, dubbed by the New York Times as ‘the woman who totally understands Donald Trump’ (scary, isn’t it?), was once a model (seem to be a lot of those in Trump’s retinue, don’t there?) who only entered the political arena a year ago.  It is said that she has a ‘unique bond’ with Trump … no, I am not going to speculate further on that!  But I am unclear, since she refuses to appear on camera, how she will be an effective communications director.  Ah well, I don’t suppose it much matters … if you look at her picture, you can see how she keeps her position.  Just once I would like to see one of his female staff members with a normal body!

Dan Scavino, White House Photographer – Scavino, a life-long Trump employee, began as Trump’s golf caddy, worked his way through the ranks in Trump’s businesses, and now serves as director of social media for the Trump campaign.  He has been dubbed ‘Trump’s Twitter Troll Ringmaster’, since he, like the rest of Trump’s advisors, runs around with a whisk broom and dustpan, cleaning up the messes left by the head clown.  Then again, Scavino is no saint.  He is known for posting doctored or false pictures, including one that implied, untruthfully, that Ted Cruz had an affair with his former staffer Amanda Carpenter.  His unorthodox use of Twitter to convey campaign messages was apparently not lost on Trump, who seems to favor Tweeting over all other forms of communication.

Kellyanne Conway, Communications Director – Kellyanne, his current campaign manager, as communications director?  I am not so sure about this one, as I believe that by the time election day rolls around, she will be happy to walk away from Trump and never look back, except perhaps in her nightmares.  As campaign manager, she is responsible for trying to spin all the outrageous things he says in such a way that the public is somewhat less offended, or convince the public that what he said made some sort of sense.  It is not a job I would want, and she has shown signs many times of being frustrated with da man and his mouth.  But then again, politics makes strange bedfellows, as they say, so who knows?

Steve Bannon, Senior Advisor – America’s #1 thug, is a perfect choice for Trump’s senior advisor, as he shares Trump’s mentality of bullying rather than negotiating to get what he wants. Bannon is the former (?) CEO of Breitbart, the alt-right website that is so far to the right if they went any farther they would fall into the Atlantic Ocean.  The man could be Trump’s twin brother, bluster, bluster, and yet more bluster until nobody hears the conversation.  It is said that Brannon’s influence led Trump to his ridiculous claim that he is the target of a vast globalist conspiracy of bankers and journalists and that his election to the presidency is the only hope for Western civilization. Yes, he and Trump will make a wonderful couple. Bannon even looks as disgusting as Trump! I imagine Breitbart would suddenly be invited to all White House press events.  Ugh.

Alan Garten, White House Counsel – Not much is known about Garten, other than that he is a lawyer (that says it all, doesn’t it?) and likes to sue people.  He and Trump should quickly become best buddies, if they aren’t already.  It is Garten who sends all those letters threatening to sue media outlets for saying bad things about da boss man.

Michael Flynn, National Security Advisor – Although an Obama appointee and a registered Democrat, Trump and Flynn have much in common:  they both love Vladimir Putin, and they both want to throw Hillary Clinton in prison.  He has hands-on military experience, as a retired lieutenant-general, but otherwise I think his only qualification is … well … I cannot think of anything else that would qualify him to be responsible for the security of the nation.

Rudy Giuliani, Senior Advisor – If ‘senior advisor’ is synonymous with ‘boot-licker’, then Rudy is certainly the man for this job!  Giuliani, once known as ‘America’s Mayor’ due to his superior instincts in leading New Yorkers through the tragic aftermath of 9/11, jumped tracks sometime in the last year and is now an obnoxious, fanatical, yes-man to Trump.  If Trump says it, Rudy goes out and says it even louder, if that is possible.  However, as an advisor, I suppose he would have to wait for Trump to tell him what advice he wants, and then Rudy could give him that very advice.  Rudy traded his soul for a position on the Trump team, so I imagine it will work out well for him.

Chris Christie, Attorney General – Well, based on this morning’s ‘breaking news’, I imagine Mr. Christie will be seeking some form of permanent employment in the near future, and I predicted when Christie sold his soul and endorsed Trump that he was doing it in hopes of winning the Attorney General spot in a Trump campaign, so I suppose this should come as no surprise. Of the aforementioned motley crew, Mr. Christie is the only one with government experience beyond the city/local level.  And he would fit well with the team, since even in the aftermath of brutal, cruel insults from Trump during Christie’s own campaign, he caved and endorsed Trump just days after dropping out of the race.  So, he is definitely what Trump is looking for in an advisor:  a whipping boy.

There is only one name off the top of my head that I would add to the list, and that is Dr. Ben Carson, who I believe, like Governor Christie, endorsed Trump for the sole purpose of gaining a high-level position in a Trump administration.  So, I predict that he would be named Surgeon General by da trumpeter.  Like all on this list, he is a yes-man, so whatever Trump believes in, Carson will also believe in.  This likely means that people with disabilities, or those who are weakened by illness will be sent away somewhere … perhaps they could be bussed to a nice set of toxic showers somewhere out in Idaho … out of sight, out of mind.

So there you have it … Trump’s potential advisory team.  If the man himself doesn’t disgust you enough to make you determined to vote for Hillary Clinton, this ragtag bunch certainly should.  My imagination is not yet quite done, so look for at least one more post before Tuesday … Nightmare on Pennsylvania Avenue, Part II.

The Biggest Loser is … We The People

The Super Bowl is being played today … somewhere … at some time … isn’t it?  Most years, I would be complaining that all we hear about is Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, but this year I have barely heard mention of it.  Does this mean that the nation has abandoned its sometimes obsessive love of the game?  Does it mean that everybody will instead be watching the History Channel, or (shudder) reality television?  No, friends, it means that the 2016 Presidential Election has overshadowed all other events.  Last year, for two weeks leading up to what we refer to as Super Bowl Sunday, the media were busily interviewing fans, players, coaches, previewing those ever-famous television commercials (the only reason most people actually watch the game), and interviewing more fans while showing pictures of the stadium.  This year, turn on the television, pick up a newspaper or magazine, and you will not see Peyton Manning, but Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz or one of the other numerous contenders.

There was yet another GOP debate last night … sigh. There have been so many debates this election season that I have lost count … and lost interest, for the most part.  I am not going to go into any great detail about this debate, as it was just more of the same ol’, same ol’ and if I am getting tired of writing about it, you are certainly getting tired of reading about it.  I do, however, want to touch on a few of points:

  • The introduction of the candidates was, perhaps, the best moment of all the debates! I laughed so hard I nearly choked, then went back and watched the clip two more times.  In case you didn’t see it, here is a link:  http://www.vox.com/2016/2/6/10929066/republican-debate-ben-carson-backstage. We were told that Carson, Trump and Kasich were unable to hear their names called, but the rest of the bunch seemed to have no trouble, so ???
  • Marco Rubio, who was beginning to actually rise on the charts in Iowa, blew this debate which is likely to affect his position in the primary on Monday. He seems to do pretty well as long as the conversation stays within the script he anticipated, but when thrown off course, he flops about like a fish on deck.
  • Carly Fiorina was excluded from the debate, as she did not meet the eligibility criteria as determined by ABC, the network hosting the debate. Fiorina was angry and appealed to the RNC (Republican National Committee) to force ABC to include her, and several other candidates supported her inclusion.  My question is:  WHY?  She is polling at 8th place, has absolutely no possible chance to win the nomination, so why does it matter?  They need to narrow the field to about the top 4-5 candidates so that we, the viewers (voters) might actually be able to figure out what the individual candidates stand for.  And as far as the complaints about ABC’s decision, the candidates should be thanking every network that has hosted a debate … it is absolutely free advertising for them!
  • Though his first sentence of the debate was to claim that he has “the best temperament” of any of the candidates, Trump lost it on the question of eminent domain and the fact that he once tried to take an elderly woman’s house for a limousine parking lot at one of his casinos. He rudely (surprise!) told Jeb Bush to shut up and insulted the audience, resulting in several episodes of unanimous “booing” from the audience.
  • Though in the beginning, moderator David Muir claimed they were “going to tackle the issues Americans are most concerned about, the economy, ISIS, Homeland Security”, the moderators began by pitting candidates against one another, urging them to respond to prior criticisms by their fellow candidates. Is this how to conduct a debate?  I think not, yet it has been the format for every GOP debate thus far.  The debate turned into yet another republican brawl, complete with name-calling, yelling, and the same rhetoric the candidates have been spewing for months now.  Frankly, I find it monotonous, boring, tedious and pointless.  Why not simply record one debate and replay it every 2-3 weeks?

 

I do not watch the live debates, either republican or democrat.  Instead, I generally watch a few of the most notable clips, then read the annotated transcript so helpfully provided by The Washington Post.  After the last GOP debate, however, I vowed to stop doing even that much, as there is really no serious discussion of the issues. I generally walk away more thoroughly disgusted than before, and it is more about trading insults and personality conflicts than anything else.  There are those who enjoy this type of drama, but I do not find it to be helpful in determining who, if anyone, might be best qualified to lead this nation for the next four years.  It is demeaning to us all that the republican party, the candidates and the networks believe we are incapable of understanding serious discussion of the issues facing this nation and instead would prefer a Jerry Springer-type of reality show/circus atmosphere.  I am insulted, and you should be too.

Two words for last night’s GOP debate: boring, predictable

As a student of International Relations, obviously my interests lie more in the direction of how the next president will handle the many global crises and issues that face the world today than the economy of the U.S., which was the topic of the night.  I tend to find economic discussions taxing (pun intended), to say the least, though not outside my comprehension.  I support raising the minimum wage, though perhaps not to $15 an hour.  I support tax cuts for median-income families who are struggling to put food on the table and their children through college.  I support continued funding of Social Security.  I support curtailing jobs being outsourced overseas and the creation of more jobs at home.  However two hours of discussion about how to achieve our domestic economic goals by eight people who are under-educated on the topic is more than I can abide.  That said, let us move on to the “highlights” of the debate, if one can call them that. (Italicized text is my own thoughts/comments)

  • Nobody appears to want to raise the federal minimum wage:
    • Trump: “ [people] they have to work really hard and have to get into that upper stratum
    • Carson: “ … Every time we raise the minimum wage, the number of jobless people increases … only 19.8 percent of black teenagers have a job … that’s because of those high wages ($7.25 is high wages???). If you lower those wages, that comes down.”
    • Rubio: “If you raise the minimum wage, you’re going to make people more expensive than a machine. And that means all this automation that’s replacing jobs and people right now is only going to be accelerated.”
  • Paul blames the democrats and the Federal Reserve for income disparity (he used 268 words to say this, most of which made no sense whatsoever)
  • Carson, who has recently come under fire for stating “non-verifiable facts” (I’m trying to be nice here and not say “outright lies”) regarding his past, whined that he is being lied about. (Yawn #1 – I’m already bored)
  • Bush: I think we need to repeal every rule that Barack Obama has in terms of work in progress, every one of them.  (No clarification as to which “rules” or why, just reverse everything that President Obama has done … that is his proposed policy, and this actually got applause from the audience who also, obviously, have no clue)
  • Fiorina: “ … citizens of this nation must help a President Fiorina get it done.”  (Doesn’t matter what “it” is, because she has no clue either, but what a joke that she already refers to herself as President Fiorina!)
  • Trump: “We will have a wall.”  (Yawn #2 … not this again … can I go now?)
  • Bush: “Thank you, Donald, for allowing me to speak at the debate. That’s really nice of you. Really appreciate that.” (Maybe one of the best lines of the night)
  • Rubio: “… we have a crazy health care law that discourages companies from hiring people,”  (Seriously???  I thought it provided affordable healthcare to millions of citizens.  Silly me.)
  • Cruz: “I am the son of an immigrant who came legally from Cuba…”  (Yawn #3)
  • Moderator Cavuto: “Dr. Carson, to you. You say you are in favor of a tax system, I guess akin to tithing, sir, with a flat tax rate of up to 15 percent because you said, if everybody pays this, I think God is a pretty fair guy, so tithing is a pretty fair process.  But Donald Trump says that is not fair. That wealthier taxpayers should pay a higher rate because it’s a fair thing to do. So whose plan would God endorse then, Doctor?”
  • Cruz: “There are more words in the IRS code than there are in the Bible “  (So????)
  • Carson (on being asked to respond to President Obama’s decision to put 50 Special Ops forces on the ground in Syria): Well, putting the special ops people in there is better than not having them there, because they — that’s why they’re called special ops, they’re actually able to guide some of the other things that we’re doing there … Putin is trying to really spread his influence and we have to oppose him  … it’s a very complex place. You know, the Chinese are there, as well as the Russians, and you have all kinds of factions there. (WHOA … the Chinese are there??? Who knew???)
  • Bush (on being asked what is the biggest threat facing America today): “ … Islamic terrorism”.  (Can anybody remember the last time ISIS or al Qaeda or Hamas or Hezbollah attacked citizens on U.S. soil?)
  • Trump: “But, as far as the Ukraine is concerned, and you could Syria — as far as Syria, I like — if Putin wants to go in, and I got to know him very well because we were both on 60 Minutes, we were stablemates, and we did very well that night. But, you know that. But, if Putin wants to go and knocked [sic] the hell out of ISIS, I am all for it, 100%, and I can’t understand how anybody would be against it…  (Yawn #4 … or is it #5?  So good to know that Trump and Putin are such good buddies, isn’t it?)
  • zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Well okay, you get the gist.  This takes us up to about mid-point in the debate and I cannot stand any more.  If you are really interested, you can read the entire annotated transcript at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/11/10/well-be-annotating-the-gop-debate-here/

A few brief thoughts to sum up:

  • Why does every single candidate think we care about what their parents and grandparents did for a living? It is irrelevant and frankly uninteresting in this context.  You want the world to know all about your ancestry?  Write a book.  Oh wait … most of them have already written one (or more).
  • I disregarded the whole discussion about tax-reform and a balanced budget because not a single one of these candidates are educated about the topic and it was a “pie-in-the-sky discussion that doesn’t bear repetition nor analysis.
  • I think that Mr. Trump, as well as some other candidates, defines an “American” as White Rich, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant … or WRASP … guess that leaves me out on at least 3 counts. I will be drafting my letter to the Prime Minister of Canada asking for political asylum if, by some freak chance, Trump should become the next president of the U.S.
  • A fellow blogger asked me why I always write about the republicans and never the democrats. I replied that I am having too much fun mocking the GOP. This was the most boring debate … perhaps it IS time to turn my sights to the left …

The Doctor (Carson) is …. IN??????

Today I turn my thoughts to … drumroll, please … the GOP circus!  Come on … you know you’re shocked and that this comes totally out of left field!  Okay, okay … it is great fodder for the gristmill and it will only last another year, so I must take advantage of it while I can.  Specifically, I shall leave Trump alone this time, and perhaps forevermore, as I believe his ship is going down without any help from me.  This time, I am more focused on the new front-runner, Dr. Ben Carson.

I actually have tremendous respect and admiration for Dr. Carson.  His substantial medical credentials indicate that he did some really wonderful things as a neurosurgeon, including the separation of conjoined twins, joined at the back of the head.  His credentials are very impressive … in the medical world.  I also have tremendous respect and admiration for Maya Angelou, and I love her writing, but I would not want her to operate on my brain nor govern the nation.  I greatly respect and admire Pope Francis, but I will not let him near me with a scalpel.  So it is with Dr. Carson.  I would entrust my brain to Dr. Carson in a heartbeat if I had a brain injury or a spinal cord tumor, but I cannot entrust him with the future of our nation.  Dr. Carson is a medical doctor, he is not a lawyer, he is not a political scientist nor an economist, and his knowledge in these areas is less than Ms. Angelou’s, the Pope’s or even my own.  The fields of government and medicine are simply not interchangeable. What he seems to believe qualifies him for the highest position in the United States government is simply that he looked around and didn’t like the direction in which the country is headed, figured he could do better and thus threw his hat in the ring.  I’m sorry, but that is not enough.  Nowhere in his achievements will you see anything that qualifies him to make treaties that guarantee the peace and safety of our nation, to ward off conflicts with other nations, to form coalitions to ensure economic growth within our borders, or even to address the issues of global climate change and the environment.  I would argue that my knowledge of the Constitution exceeds that of Dr. Carson, yet not in my wildest dreams do I believe I am qualified to be President of the United States.

So why is Dr. Carson leading in the current GOP polls?  Actually, I believe it is less to do with Dr. Carson than with Trump.  I think that Dr. Carson’s soft spoken manner and his unwillingness to get into a shouting match in a public venue put him far ahead when compared to Trump.  His mild manner is refreshing … but still, in and of itself it is not a qualifier for the most responsible job in the nation.  I applaud Dr. Carson’s courage, but at the same time, I frown upon his narcissism and his willingness to speak on topics of which he has no understanding.  Although he has not been as outspoken as Trump, he has made his share of fatal faux pas, beginning with his put-down of the victims of the Oregon shooting, saying “I would not just stand there and let him shoot me.”  He has also compared the U.S. to Nazi Germany, claiming that “We now live in a society where people are afraid to say what they actually believe.”  Seriously, folks, I read a lot of news, blogs, opinions, and I do not get the sense that anybody is afraid to voice any opinion in the United States today!  And the list of his blunders goes on and on, but there is only so much one can or should say at this point.

So, Trump’s ship is sinking and I believe that Carson’s ratings will also begin to slip when there is no longer an obnoxious clown standing next to him on the debate stage.  Where does that leave the GOP?  According to the analysts, Marco Rubio is next in line to lead the race.  Time will tell, but one thing is for certain:  all of these antics are not putting the Republican Party in a position of power, but rather are making the Democratic Party look better than they otherwise might if they had a viable opponent.  The one thing I can say for certain is that the next twelve months should prove … interesting.

Trump Supporters? Where???

The Donald Trump that some 20% of republicans seem to love is loud, obnoxious and bombastic, which leaves me scratching my head and wondering just what that says about those who claim to support him.  But the bigger question I have is this:  where the heck ARE those 20%???  I have among my friends, relatives and acquaintances many republicans, and not a single one of them can even tolerate Trump, let alone support him.  To a person they agree with my assessment of him as a clown, a joke, a narcissist, take your pick.  In addition, I am an avid reader of op-ed pages in many of the major, mainstream news media, and have yet to read a single opinion by political analysts, editors, writers or voters that support Trump or his inane ideas.  So, I repeat the question, who are these people who have elevated his poll numbers and where are they hiding?

Until now, I have left Trump alone and not written about him except in response to an op-ed in the New York Times, for a number of reasons.  The main reason is that I do not think he or his candidacy is actually worth wasting my time or effort.  The second reason is that the man is so wrong on so many issues that it would be impossible to discuss them all in a single post.  Third, everything there is to be said about Trump has already been said by people far more qualified than I.  Lastly, I get a nauseous feeling every time I hear his name or see his picture.  But alas, I decided to join in the fray for two reasons, the first being that I think there is danger in allowing his rhetoric to go unchecked.  The second is that I heard him say that he “just doesn’t get it” that Ben Carson has edged above him in the polls.  What is there to “not get”?  Though I do not consider Dr. Carson to be a viable option to govern this nation, I will at least give him credit for intelligence (although not when it comes to politics, government and foreign policy), being soft-spoken (very refreshing after Trump’s in-your-face ranting persona) and for not lowering himself to the petty criticisms and attacks on his opponents for which Trump is so well-known.

Trump, in crowing proudly about his poll numbers has forgotten a couple of salient points.  First, the election is more than a year away, and early polls are rarely an accurate predictor of the eventual outcome.  Second, neither he nor Dr. Carson nor any other republican candidate have anything remotely close to a majority.  Third, the Republican Party is only one of the two major parties in the nation and there are some 42% of eligible voters who are not committed to either party.  There are two strong contenders in the democratic field, both of whom have distinct advantages over both Trump and Carson.  First, they both have experience in policy-making and governance, and secondly, while the republicans have been conducting a circus, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have been seriously speaking about issues that matter to the American people, issues such as jobs, the economy, minimum wage, climate change and the environment, the gun lobby, the Iran nuclear agreement and more.  Whether one agrees with their opinions or not is not my point.  My point is that at least they are discussing issues, things that matter to “We the People”, and doing so with knowledge and experience, without mud-slinging and name-calling, and giving the voters an opportunity to actually consider their viewpoints.  Now, what Trump, Carson and every other republican candidate need to realize is that whoever ultimately gains the GOP nomination will need to convince a fairly large number of voters outside the republican party that they are the best person for the job, and in light of the current circus-atmosphere, that is likely to be a very tough sell.

All of which brings me back to my original question:  where are the people who supposedly support Trump, the people who have kept his poll rankings in the 20% range for a few months?  It is to be hoped that over the course of the next twelve months, the American people step back and look at the bigger picture, that they do their own research into the issues and weed out the candidates who can only bring disaster to our nation.  Trump has made the claim that “our country is going to hell”.  Despite numerous social and economic problems, our country is a far cry from “going to hell”.  We still have more going for us than working against us, and I believe that the citizens of this nation still hold basic values of caring, compassion and humanity.  Why would anyone want to vote for a candidate that doesn’t even believe in his country?