Political M.A.D.ness

Surely the biggest, most important issue in this year’s presidential election is, or should be, what to do about the so-called fiscal/economic cliff looming on January first.

The issues that are being talked about are of course important to a lot of people and I am not suggesting for a second that they are not important to talk about. The problem is that if we do not seriously address the cliff issue properly, a lot of those other issues will suffer as well. We cannot, must not, be ostriches!

So why are the two candidates not talking more about the cliff and what they propose to do about it in sufficient detail to give voters a better basis on which to make an informed choice?

Sadly, the answer, in part, is that the cliff is such a big complex of fiscal, economic, financial, defense, health and tax issues, which have already been kicked down the road for years now. It truly has become a topic about which only a very few super experts can speak with sufficient knowledge, experience and wisdom to make sense of the subject as well as be credible.

The other reason it is not being talked about by the candidates, other than to berate each other for not being specific about their plans, is that it could be political madness if they actually did get specific.

The cornerstone of arms control doctrine, which many believe has kept the world free of atomic weapons since the end of WWII, is called mutual assured destruction or simply “MAD” for short. In the same vein both candidates realize that talking about the specifics of their plans is likely to assure their political destruction because as they enumerate those specifics they start to lose, not gain, votes in almost all instances across the board.

The result has been a tacit compact to not get specific and instead simply complain that the other guy will not get specific. That may suit their needs but leaves the voters and the country in the dark.

Imagine the political consequences of losing the tax deduction for interest on home ownership. Imagine the political consequences of severely limiting charitable deductions. The furthest either candidate has gone so far is to suggest some cap on all deductions. And, then when it comes to cutting government funding, recall the hubbub created by Big Bird’s prospective demise if support for PBS were eliminated — even though it turns out that Big Bird really now flies without help.

While there absolutely will need to be cuts, large and small, from many parts of the Federal budget to deal with the cliff, no political candidate is likely to speak out loud about those subjects unless and until they are forced to by some independent bi-partisan process.

As we have eased our way over the past 50 years into accepting that there must be presidential debates and now have a serious Commission in place to manage and produce those debates, perhaps we need a similar commission to ensure that all the critical questions in presidential races be asked and answered.

For example, such a commission could produce a formal questionnaire for both candidates, for which they would have to supply answers or risk exposure and serious criticism for refusing to do so.

Today we have to suffer through debates at which the questions come only from ordinary citizens or journalists who seem reluctant to ask questions about such a complicated subject. Perhaps they worry that they might not understand or like the answers.

The result is that we are going into this year’s election largely ignorant because of lack of honest openness from both candidates on the most important question facing the nation at this time.


Which Romney Do You Believe?

Governor Romney came off his successful debate fired up with new confidence and hoping to put his recent mistakes and problems behind him and to rest.

Then last Friday, to the surprise of many, he brought up his comment of last spring about the 47% of Americans, whom he practically called deadbeats, who pay no taxes (plainly and factually wrong). Perhaps he believed that the new post-debate Romney could bury the comment by saying, in plain English, “I was wrong.”

Yes, I suppose everyone should have a chance to admit even a serious mistake and “change” their mind. But, in this case, at the time it was originally revealed, Romney defended the remark and tried to explain it away. And, given his history, particularly this year, of changeability and flip flops, one really has to wonder which Romney to believe.

The big question now is whether he actually made a mistake last spring (and then really believed what he said) and has now changed his mind. Or, was he simply hoping he could get people to forget about it and/or believe that he had truly changed his mind?

Which Romney was speaking last spring and which Romney spoke on last Friday? Last spring he spoke in private believing he was off the record and sounded like he was speaking from the heart. On Friday he spoke on the record for public consumption and in an obviously self-serving way.

Every citizen who cares at all about Romney’s underlying beliefs (pro or con) that motivated his comment last spring should think and decide for her/himself which Romney is more credible today.

It is amazing to this writer that the TV talking heads, who attempt to lead public thinking, have not really picked up on this particular big question. Could they be, for their own self-serving reasons, trying to keep the race alive?

They continue to focus primarily on Romney’s apparently new-found middle road stance and persona, as if they really believe it.

Let’s give Romney the credit for a good showing in the debate. But, why are the pundits not questioning what a Romney in the Oval Office would really be thinking deep down about this issue? If they, and the country, risk finding that out by electing him, by the time the real Romney would finally be revealed, it would be too late.

Perhaps, that was why his father’s famous brainwashing comments* after returning from Vietnam spelled the end of his George Romney’s campaign for president then? Like father, like son?


From the September 15, 1967 issue of Time magazine:

Romney’s judgment has never been noticeably clouded by the hobgoblin of little minds. He strongly endorsed the war in July 1965 (before he first visited Vietnam); he lent qualified support to the administration’s policy at Hartford last spring (17 months after his return from Saigon); and, most recently, he unequivocally denounced the U.S. commitment as a “tragic” mistake. Last week, during a Labor Day interview on Detroit’s WKBD-TV, Commentator Lou Gordon wanted to know how Romney squared his current conviction that the U.S. should never have got involved in Asia with the comment he made after a tour of the war zone in November 1965 that “involvement was morally right and necessary.”

Replied Romney: “When I came back from Vietnam, I had just had the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get when you go over to Vietnam.”

Gordon: By the generals?

Romney: Not only by the generals but also by the diplomatic corps over there, and they do a very thorough job, and, since returning from Vietnam, I’ve gone into the history of Vietnam, all the way back into World War II and before that. And, as a result, I have changed my mind.

Footsteps of Fate

As we progress through life, if we never hear the footsteps of the reaper, we likely are deprived of a critically important protective force to lengthen and improve our life.

How many people do we all know, including of course ourselves, who eat and drink too much of the wrong things and, despite modern medicine, have gotten heavy and out of control? Too many, for sure!

I admit that I am one of those over-indulgers, though so far I have hung on for 81 years. I recently discovered that it is never too late to get “with it” and clean up my act. This should allow me to move forward to even better years, in which I can look, feel and behave better — as well as keep you informed with my ideas.

This note is absolutely not for the purpose of preaching gospel, but simply to do my duty as your self-appointed commentator and share with you some stuff I learned recently. You may do whatever you like with it, including stopping right here, trashing it online, or ignoring it entirely. However, if you do that, please do not blame me for not telling you some interesting things that you probably do not know.

Most of us tend to consume too much. Notice I said consume, not eat. Of course we do both.

The difference is, for example, that as we consume air and water, we get vital ingredients like oxygen and fluids. On the other hand, as we select what to eat and drink, we also get essential nourishment but with it — in most cases unwittingly — we also are consuming too many things (like salt, sugar and animal fats) that, over time, become very bad for us.

Thus, it is what we choose to eat (often with too much influence from massive advertising) without fully knowing what it contains, that holds the danger to our lives. And it is not so much the calories or the quantities of any given item that are dangerous as it is the ingredients.

Yes, modern medicine (with all of its advertising) is keeping many of us alive, as much as 20 years longer than our parents. Ironically, that is simply keeping a lot of us around long enough to get us into the clutches of a whole raft of new diseases — ones that in simpler times a half-century and more ago, when other causes of death were more prevalent, were still pretty rare.

Sure many of us already generally know that too much salt, sugar and animal fats are bad for us. But few of us ever knew, for example, that plain, ordinary bread is our largest single source of salt, that the sugar in fruit is fine in large quantities — especially if eaten in conjunction with vegetables — that essential protein does not have to come solely from animals. Perhaps, if more of us knew more about these facts, we would be better people overall and, who knows, even better able to deal with political gridlock to boot?

All human bodies have two lines running in them through the passage of time. The top line is input (consumption) and the bottom line is output (exercise). If those two lines grow apart over time and the input line rises and the output line falls,  that body will over time almost surely gain weight. And in most cases, it will also gain far too much of that dratted salt, refined sugars and animal fats.

In time that body thus becomes seriously at risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), cardiac disease (clogged arteries and heart attacks) and Type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes. According to the CDC:

Chronic diseases — such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and arthritis — are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems in the U.S.
7 out of 10 deaths among Americans each year are from chronic diseases. Heart disease, cancer and stroke account for more than 50 percent of all deaths each year.

In 2005, 133 million Americans — almost one out of every two adults — had at least one chronic illness.

Sadly, but realistically, most good doctors are trained to deal primarily with the conditions presented to them, not to preach endlessly to their patients on how to avoid them.

OK, you may be asking, what can I do about it?

The answer is, a lot — and more easily than you think

Obviously the first step is to accept and become aware of the facts.

A second step is to do your own research on what is appropriate for you. That could be as simple as adjusting eating and exercising habits on your own.

However, most people need help doing that. Our country has a vast array of places that hold themselves out to show you how. You may need to find a place near you, that you can afford. And thanks to Google (which may have kept you in a chair too long) you can find one in a flash!

One standout among those places that I attended recently is the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, Fla.

All those places try to help you get rid of bad habits and replace them with new, better ones. Many times it works well for a short while, but most of the time the half-life of persistence is too brief. That is where vanity and the footsteps of fate (mortality) should kick in to prod your willpower back to work to enable you to remain in charge of your life and appearance.

And, here enters a final point. You are not only fighting with yourself, but you are fighting with the food and beverage industries, which are making fortunes from your desires and spending endless amounts on massive advertising to lure you, your children and grandchildren more deeply into their sugary, fat-laden abyss.

And to make matters even worse, the government agency charged with ensuring that you are properly informed about what is in what you consume — the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — appears to be in the pockets of the industry they are charged to regulate because they have allowed far too many labels to be horribly misleading, in many cases virtually to the point of fraud, by allowing merchants to play games and confuse you, often by mixing volumes and weight and promising you wildly distorted, healthy-sounding descriptions of things that taste good and you like to eat.

The emphasis in most good places that seek to help you is more on education and medical science than simply weight loss and exercise. You should think about it as a comprehensive review and modification of your lifestyle. The first step is to get rid of your denial and let your desire to be healthier and more attractive-looking out of the closet and into your life!

Go for it, friends!

P.S: I lost 15 pounds in 12 days (now down to 240); all my “numbers” greatly improved; I never craved anything nor was hungry. I think I figured out how to eat outside the “prison” walls — breakfast and lunch are easy, but dining out is not. I have doubled my exercise schedule; and lastly, when I drink scotch I take sips of it, neat like a medicine (which of course it is!) and I feel and behave better too — some say?

Early Voting?

Early voting has started in many states and will run until Election Day. Some people speculate that tens of millions of people will have voted before Election Day. Is that really such a good idea?

On the one hand, yes. Early voting takes pressure off Election Day; it gives an easier opportunity for many people to vote when they can and it is convenient; it eliminates some waiting on Election Day.

On the other hand, no. Some people may have voted before late-breaking events or news occur which give some voters a desire to change their vote. In some states that may be possible, but it is fraught with complications, bother and problems. And, there is the risk, as on Election Day when West Coast voting may be affected by early East Coast results, that the estimating of early voting affects Election Day voting.

Evidently the vast preponderance of early voters are die hard believers in the candidate they voted for and are less likely than most voters to want to change their minds.

But then there are circumstances such as the race for governor in Maine in 2010 when there was an Independent in the race with a Democrat and Republican. The Independent had started the year with 1 percent name recognition but a lifetime of terrific experience. By early October that year the Independent was nearing 30 percent, along with the Republican and the Democrat, and in the few weeks before the election a lot of Democrats saw that their party’s candidate was a loser and a shift started toward the Independent.

By Election Day it ended up approximately Republican 38 percent, Independent 37 percent and Democrat about 20 percent, with the balance for stragglers. In the meanwhile, apparently close to 10 percent had voted early, and it is widely speculated in Maine and elsewhere that if the trend away from the Democrat had been reflected on Election Day (without early voting) the Independent would most likely have won by several percentage points. The result was that Maine elected a knuckleheaded Tea Party governor who is giving most Mainers serious regrets.

Of course, that kind of situation could occur in almost any combination of ways and circumstances, so it isn’t an argument for or against any party or any independent in any given place or time.

Many of the recent elections for president, senators, and congresspersons, etc. have been by quite close margins — close enough to have been subject to a radical change, if early voting was followed by a change sufficient to cause a number of folks to regret and want to change their votes.

Still, the idea of making voting easier and simpler has a lot of appeal and support for valid reasons.

That said, there are at least two other ways to try to achieve the same objective:

  1. Hold a regular election over a weekend plus a Monday and not allow any campaigning after the prior Friday, or
  2. Have campaigning stop two Fridays before the first Tuesday in November and allow people to vote early during all of those days, ending on a regular Election Day.

The Maine 2010 example should give many wise heads real pause for further thought.

It will be interesting to see how this year’s presidential election turns out with the possibility that tens of millions of early votes could still have been subject to last minute changes of mind.