Saturday, February 21, 2009

Blog #76: A Rant in Time, Saves . . . no one

Ever wonder about the human condition? How it is that we human beings manage to get wedded to facts and theories which are obviously, painfully wrong? Is it because our fantasy or wishful thinking gene overpowers our reality gene? What are we talking about here? Well, a couple of things. For one thing the basic divide of our nation, which is should we have a strong, effective Federal government or should we seek a weak one. Arbitrary Term Limits of politicians would be another example of weirdly wrong thinking taking over our brain’s logic cells.

Awakening Under Roosevelt

Personally I came to an awakening to much of the ways and wherefores of life in this country during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. I was born on the first day of spring, March 20, 1926. My mother worked in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Houston, and as I grew up I learned to respect not only the power of the federal government, but also it’s relevance in keeping the bankers and business movers and shakers in their respective grooves and out of our back pockets.

I was fifteen years old on that fateful Monday morning of Dec. 8, 1941 when Lamar High School put President Roosevelt’s voice on our pa system as he announced that “Sunday had been a day which will forever live in infamy,” for the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and World War II was in full swing. Three years later at the age of eighteen I found myself on an overnight train bound to San Antonio to enter the U. S. Army Air Corps, in which for one year, ten months and twenty-one days I served in smelly B-24 bombers, fortunately just a tad behind the human tsunami that our Japanese and German foes had set in motion. My memories of that time include an admiration for the workings of a federal government which was strong enough to eventually turn back the tides of depression as it had whipped that axis of Germany, Italy, and Japan.

Fast forward to Reagan

Fast forward forty years. It is Ronald Reagan’s so-called Morning in America, and our then head honcho was busy purring his way through the selling of the idea of the irrelevancy of the Federal government calling it the “problem, not the solution.” Alongside this he promoted the sacredness and deification of big business and the glories of Supply Side economics. Did we as a people buy it? You bet your sweet bippies we did.

Why? Now that’s a very good question. Forty years before the country had followed FDR because he was a first rate orator and bore a light leading the country out of depression and on to victory in World War II. Why would a new generation of the same people consider the exact opposite set of values as they followed the lead of Ronald Reagan, a far from notable, second rate Hollywood movie actor known to think in terms of black and white with no shades of gray? The governments epitomized by those two leaders had practically no relation to one another, other than both presidents were put in office, and kept there, by votes of a majority of its citizens. Ronald Reagan for two terms, and Franklin Roosevelt as a wartime president, for four terms, although after Roosevelt’s death during his fourth term the Congress got together to limit future presidents to two four year terms of service. People of Roosevelt’s day were feeling the depression the country was into, and following his lead.

In the 1980’s during which Mr. Reagan, pretending prescience, tried to lead America away from the principle of an efficient, competent federal government, instead filling government’s bureaucratic ranks with light-fingered schemers using their positions of power for their own self enrichment. And this condition, after taking an eight year break during the Clinton years during which the country’s economy began to regain some semblance of stability, was destined to return again in full bloom in 2000 as the presidency was hi-jacked by Supreme Court Fiat and George W. Bush got his chance to show the country and the world to just what heights a regime exuding true incompetence could rise.

Term Limits Prime Tool

One of the tools Republicans used to get themselves from the position of looking in from the outside to a position of ruling inside the roost was their promoting the adoption of Term Limits. This tool is Example One of a highly destructive and dictatorial bit of legislation which makes absolutely no sense on its face, but which Republicans, the Anti-Federal Government Party, has managed to use effectively to drive Democrats from power all the while inserting themselves back in. Think about it for a minute? Can you imagine a business firing its CEO at a time when his company is financially successful just because an arbitrary length of time of his service had passed? Of course not, to do so would be termed absurd, nonsensical, laughable. And yet in our system of politics, Term Limits is being used more and more as a tool to limit a politician’s length of service without regard to the job he or she is doing.

This assault on logic and good sense is made possible only by first denigrating the service of those in government. By vilifying the federal government you minimize the importance of an individual politician’s service, and once you can establish that in the public mind it is a hop, skip and a jump to arbitrarily limiting the length of service of most any given politician. Suddenly it doesn’t appear to be the absurdity that it basically is when viewed in the pure light of common sense.

Our modern Term Limits legislation was pushed through by a merry band of Republican upstart politicians led by former House speaker Newt Gingrich and his talk radio echo, Rush Limbaugh. These wannabees, upset over many years of control of the Senate and House by Democrats lawmakers, promoted Term Limits as a way of limiting the service of those incumbent Democrats. It so happened that the general public was also getting tired of what amounted to one party rule, and swallowed the ruse and as a result Republican lawmakers were able to push through their term limits measure in many parts of the country.

Term Limits became the mantra of Republicans of the Gingrich Contract with America campaign. The idea, of course, had been to limit the terms of those Democrats who at the time controlled both houses of Congress, and run them out of office. And over time it had its desired effect as Republicans began to replace Democrats in both houses of congress. This worked famously until the day when those very Republicans who had been most vocal about the passage of Term Limits were suddenly confronted with the outcome of their desires, their ownTerm Limits. Suddenly, it didn’t seem so smart to arbitrarily remove someone without regard to how well he or she was serving, just because a certain arbitrary time period had passed. This is especially noticeable when you’ve espoused this as God’s Law, and your constituents have bought it lock, stock, and barrel.

Did they squeal and holler when their very own Term Limits rule caught up with them? “You betcha! Like stuck pigs! And many of them scurried around attempting to change the very Term Limits laws they caused to have passed in the first place. Mayor Bloomberg of N.Y. City is just the latest Democrat turned Republican turned Independent to challenge and opt out of a system which would have prevented him from running for an additional term. Of course he was absolutely right in doing this, as he had been a most effective mayor running the nation’s most difficult city. It makes absolutely no sense for a citizenry to deny itself the availability of the services of someone who is doing a first class job.

Think back on it, we began fourteen years of lock-step deregulation and the weakening and partial destruction of our federal government and its financial system during those Contract for America years during which Term Limits proponents ruled the day. Now that the Republicans are finally out of power we are being treated to the spectacle of them joining hands en masse, voting no on Obama’s Stimulus Bill, and then singing We Shall Overcome as their very special political Titanic sinks into the depths of irrelevancy.

Looking at the principle of Term Limits from a purely objective standpoint, when you stop and think about it, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. No one approaching Term Limits from a purely logical standpoint could possibly agree with such logic. Imagine taking a congressman, or a president, someone in office who is working and working well, imagine throwing them out of office after an arbitrary specified length of time. Just because Newt Gingrich said to. As a Republican tool for breaking the Democrats hold on Congress it worked fine. However only if you dislike the established governing body would you favor something which so limits its power? One of the most basic and fundamental principles of our world is summed up in the term, “if it works don’t fix it.”

Chavez Scores in Venezuela

Over the last weekend Venezuelan citizens voted, and gave their leader, Hugo Chavez, just what his heart desired. They defeated what would have been a limit on Chavez’s term of office, allowing him to continue to serve in the office of president as long as he might so desire. “Horrible” say the American term limit pundits who secretly hate government, and who had effectively used the plan as a means of terminating one party’s domination of the government here.

Now it is perfectly true that a politician like Hugo Chavez will take advantage of such a situation as the abandonment of Term Limits and keep himself in power for long periods. However, if he is facing regular elections during his tenure and those elections are monitored and deemed fair, then there is no reason in the world to take something that is working, and replace it with an unknown. Of course, from America’s standpoint Mr. Chavez’s government is representing a threat to American sensibilities, and Republican sensibilities in particular. For he is a modern day Venezuelan Robin Hood, taking resources from the rich and giving to the poor. However to those who are willing to look beyond the propaganda pouring from the U.S. State Department, many South American countries including Venezuela had their resources exploited by American business interests, and so far Mr. Chavez is the first South American leader to begin to reclaim their own natural resources.

From our point of view, popularity with Mr. Chavez’s own population comes in a distant second to respecting the resources and power of Venezuela’s very wealthy. In short, our powers that be care not one whit whether Chavez is looked at favorably in the eyes of Venezuelan people he governs. South America has been rampant with two-bit dictators keeping reactionary governments in power with direct aid from the United States for as long as memory serves. The term “banana republic” was coined to describe these countries which are frequently controlled by American business interests. Our CIA has clandestinely overthrown several South American governments which they felt were threats to our power and our way of life. But hold on, here. The United States is not blameless in its struggle to support governments of which we approve, even to the tune of an assassination.

As we citizens of the United States join President Obama in his quest to redistribute our own wealth in ways that are more fair, so we should join with and support peoples in other lands who have the same objectives. Fidel Castro is not the demon that Republicans and particularly Cuban Americans who fled Cuba after Castro’s revolution, have made him out to be. The Cuban Mafia left the island after Castro’s revolution, as did many successful professionals from all walks of life. But Castro’s Cuba has existed peacefully from its berth 90 miles from Florida, there have been no harrassments on the part of Cuba to America’s shipping or our commerce. However, good neighbors we’re not, our long running boycott of Cuba has certainly not contributed to the lifestyle of the average Cuban. It is a shame that we seem destined to carry on such a misguided game plan into perpetuity. Policies cry for revue at least once every eight years. And they should be reviewed in the context of the present administration’s thinking, and not based on yesterday’s ideals and goals.

However, term limits is a relatively minor part of the difference of philosophies of the two parties. Where the parties are really divided is over the what the role of the federal government should be. Conservatives in general and Republicans in particular come over as the party which protects and promotes the wealthy and the powerful. It attempts to do this by limiting and restricting the power of the government. Their mantra of tax breaks as the only stimulus they can support is heard loud and clear in these days of a broken national economy. They don’t allow deviation from the basic tenet of their belief – that the federal government should keep its grubby hands off anything the private sector can do, reminding old timers of that old song from the musical “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better.”

Democrats on the other hand, have traditionaly cast their vote for a strong federal government, one which through regulation and guidance is dedicated to serving the interests of a large number of the citizens of our country. Whereas Republicans have spent much of their service loosening restrictions on the banking and financial industry, measures which were originally put in place to protect our citizens during past times of strife, Democrats believe in using the power of the government to regulate banking and the economy to serve the interests of a majority of the people.

President Obama’s recently introduced Stimulus Package is an excellent example of this. While economists who believe in government intervention to protect the greater population were busy casting about for ways to protect people who were losing jobs, homes, etc., Republican legislators almost to a person held the line against offering such services, pleading that only tax cuts serve the interests of the people and refusing to join in any compromise.

But of course this was pure malarkey. In the United States we have both a private sector and a public sector. The private sector does many things, and does many of them well. It can operate certain services competitive with government, but it cannot for example, replace the public school system. There will always be private schools, and some may even make a profit, but they will never replace public schools. The same rules apply, of course, to the areas of police and fire protection. Although the private sector may offer such protections in limited circumstances, the bottom line is that the public sector will do it much better at far less expense. Libraries, in step with schools, work best as non-profit adjuncts of government. And there is no way that the private sector can, for instance, police the airline industry or replace, say, the air traffic controllers.

And or course when it comes right down to it the health care industry must be expanded to include public sector support. The Republicans will rail against any system which is regulated by the federal government, all the while squealing for a “for profit” system such as that run by the private sector. But get real here, fellas. There is a reason why every health care system in the world’s industrialized countries is deemed as socialist in the eyes of American free enterprise. And that is because each system is based upon some form of socialism. There is no way a “for profit” system can run for the true benefit of the people it is meant to serve, and make a profit while doing it. America’s highly touted health care system is able to generate a profit for its investors only by the use of the term dreaded by all health insurance policy holders, “denial of service.” If we are truly to have a system of health care that really makes health care affordable to all, then we are going to have to socialize medicine to one extent or another. So folks, it’s time to de-stigmatize the word socialism. social: of or relating to society or its organization.

And yet our capitalist system will strongly react against the forming of such a system. I can almost see and hear the Harry and Louise tv ads which will burst forth from the television sets to fight tooth and nail against any attempt by the Obama administration to tilt our health care system in favor of the people it should be created to serve. Physicians, drug companies, health insurance companies, and all of the others who presently rule our system aren’t going to give an inch without a tussle to the death. And yet when viewed in the light of reality our present system is not in a position to care for the population in a way that is fair and balanced. The rich will get treatment and services that the poor will never see. And the idea of running any kind of insurance system for health care for profit is absurd. The only way such an enterprise can be profitable to its stock holders is by denying service to it’s policy holders. And so suddenly the health care system is tilted in favor of the investor and against the interests of the policy holder it purports to serve.

There's not a hell of a lot of interest this week. There's talk on the web about a website/bulletin board which gets a tremendous amount of traffic and yet has no business plan and makes almost no money. It's called 4chan, and it is run by a teenager. And oddly enough, the posts aren't archived, and can disappear within minutes. We just might look into this a little phenom a little more deeply at a future date. However, for now it's exit time fur us. Bye bye, later gator.

The Real Little Eddy

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