Two More Years of Gridlock, At Least…

This goes for either guy because, let’s face it, if Romney were running on what he really believes, he’d split the Democrat vote and all the GOP base would stay home in a funk. No matter who wins in November, the President is going to be in for a tough time, come January.

It looks like the GOP will get a majority in both the House and Senate. Before anyone of the elephantine persuasion starts dancing on tables, look at that Senate number again. The GOP won’t have 60 votes. That means the Democrats can block everything they want to block, just like the Republicans did in this session of Congress. If Romney wins and tries to pass stuff that his party wants, it won’t clear the Senate. If Romney or Obama win and try to pass things close to their hearts, that stuff won’t make it out of the House alive, let alone the Senate.

We look set to have another two years of kicking the can down the road, at least. Hate to disappoint, but them’s the facts as I see ‘em.

Painful to Watch

The voters of the USA are like a girlfriend that got promised all kinds of stuff and Obama is the boyfriend making rationalizations. He’s staying cool and distant, but if there was someone the voters thought would deliver better, they’d go for him.

Mitt Romney is not that guy. Mental note: NEVER get a spray tan immediately before doing a live news appearance on Univision. Yes, Romney got a spray tan. Yes, it looked awful and made me shudder to think if he’d appear before the NAACP in blackface. I don’t think he would, but, still, I wondered.

Both candidates appeared on Univision and 60 Minutes and neither time did they get soft questions. Obama was held to account about what he failed to deliver in his first two years, when he wasn’t blocked by a Republican House. If he was unable to build a coalition to get his agenda passed then, what will he do with a GOP-run House *and* Senate, which looks likely in January?

If Obama did badly, Romney did much worse. No specifics, the spray tan thing, and he made a sudden decision to give Univision only 35 minutes instead of the 60 he promised them. He’s not even in office, and he’s going back on his promises to the Hispanic community… does not bode well…

So, if you want a reason why the polls are running the way they are, it’s because while Obama is failing to capture the nation’s imagination like he did in 2008, Romney’s campaign in unraveling right before our eyes.

And that’s why I ain’t voting for either of ‘em.

This Is not the Conservative You’re Looking For…

Conservatives love Ronald Reagan. This should be no surprise to anyone. Reagan always presented a charismatic face to the media. He looked comfortable in any circumstance. It doesn’t matter what did or didn’t happen off-camera: when Reagan was in the camera eye, he looked good.

Romney doesn’t have that mojo. This is why he’s not electrifying the electorate the way Reagan did. Romney frequently looks and sounds embarrassingly out of place. Where Reagan made a connection, Romney seems like a stranger.

Lt. Col. Oliver North has the same GOP-style everyman charisma. He took Iran-Contra and actually made it a positive when he ran against Chuck Robb in 1994. Chuck Robb was the Democrat version of Romney in that race, with additional twists: he had to fend off accusations of infidelity and cocaine use. Robb even said he’d take food out of the mouths of widows and orphans if it meant he’d be able to balance the budget.

It took a third-party candidate and a set of stump speeches by Bill Clinton to get Robb re-elected. Without those boosts, Robb was the only incumbent senator in 2000 to lose his bid.

There is no third-party candidate drawing away Democrat votes. There is no big GOP charismatic leader stumping for Romney. Romney has the charisma of a shrub, and I don’t mean George Bush Jr. I mean a short, woody plant common as a landscape decoration. I’m thinking a boxwood shrub.

The GOP wants another Reagan. This is not the conservative they’re looking for. They may holler that he’s better than Obama, but that’s not a reason to vote *for* him as much as it’s a reason to vote *against* Obama.

This Should be the Romney Comment Being Discussed

[The] former head of Goldman Sachs, John Whitehead, was also the former head of the New York Federal Reserve. And I met with him, and he said as soon as the Fed stops buying all the debt that we’re issuing—which they’ve been doing, the Fed’s buying like three-quarters of the debt that America issues. He said, once that’s over, he said we’re going to have a failed Treasury auction, interest rates are going to have to go up. We’re living in this borrowed fantasy world, where the government keeps on borrowing money. You know, we borrow this extra trillion a year, we wonder who’s loaning us the trillion? The Chinese aren’t loaning us anymore. The Russians aren’t loaning it to us anymore. So who’s giving us the trillion? And the answer is we’re just making it up. The Federal Reserve is just taking it and saying, “Here, we’re giving it.” It’s just made up money, and this does not augur well for our economic future. You know, some of these things are complex enough it’s not easy for people to understand, but your point of saying, bankruptcy usually concentrates the mind. – Mitt Romney, May 2012

He’s not making this up. This is the honest truth. The Chinese might even dump about a trillion in our bonds and another trillion in Japanese bonds, further burdening both our central bank and the Bank of Japan with those debt burdens. Tax cuts make the deficit worse. Spending cuts would have to be not $1.2 trillion over ten years, but about $1.5 trillion right now to balance the budget – which would likely wreck the Treasury Department’s “rescue” of the major banks… aaaaand there goes the banking sector!

On average, major economic collapses like the one we had in 2008 see a 180% increase in sovereign debt. We’re still about $6 trillion away from that benchmark. It won’t matter which party is in Congress or the White House: those numbers are relentless in their historic precedents. While it could be better, it could also be much, much worse – and there’s plenty of underlying instability and unaccounted-for losses to trigger a much worse knock-on disaster to the current situation.

I said it makes no difference which party runs things in regards to this problem. Perhaps the reason it’s not being discussed in the national media is that we, as a people, will realize that neither party will make a difference and, in that realization, stop dividing ourselves with anger over issues that distract us from how the nation has been sold out from under us.

Martial Law in Congress

No, I am not making this up. Martial law in the Congress means that bills are debated on the floor and voted on without any time for committee deliberation or even reading the bills. Massive things, full of fine print and spaghetti legalisms, hundreds of pages long, with nothing more than a “Vote for this!” to recommend it to the legislators.

That’s rubber-stamp legislation, plain and simple. Both Republicans and Democrats resort to it, so it’s not a partisan issue. It’s wholesale failure of democratic principles, that’s what it is. The people that wrote the massive bills – the rich men and women and corporations that can afford to hire enough lawyers and make enough campaign contributions to make them happen – do not want what’s in those bills to be read. It would spoil their system of spoils.

No matter what appearances you think you might see to indicate to the contrary, America is an increasingly authoritarian plutocracy. The rich run this place, and they use both the Democrats and Republicans at their beck and call to expand their power, increase their wealth, and all the while impoverishing and oppressing us that aren’t rich. This is why discussions about Romney and Obama tire me: neither man will make a difference when it comes to reducing the power of our unelected tyrants.

Political Percentages

47% of Americans don’t pay income taxes, although they still pay sales taxes. In that 47% are the very poor, military overseas, and the retired elderly. Also the disabled. Yet, there is one group in that 47% of Americans that don’t pay income taxes that isn’t angry about Mitt Romney’s gaffe: they’re the richest of the rich, whose incomes have gone up 385% in the last 20 years, while the bottom 90% of American incomes have declined by 1% in the same time frame. Those guys don’t pay taxes, or pay very little, and they all know how to take huge streams of taxpayer money and direct them towards their businesses and bank accounts.

It’s disgusting how the rich of this nation have forgotten that we are all debtors to the earth and our national ancestors. This is not a land to be consumed in an instant: it is to be husbanded carefully so that it will be in proper shape for our descendants. We are currently being ruled by plunderers, and the plunderers to watch are not the supposed ones that are barely able to keep from starving. No, the real plunderers, the real criminals, the real destroyers of democracy are people that live in houses with more bathrooms than bedrooms. They are the people that live in one of many houses like that, and they care nothing at all for the poor, the infirm, or the widows.

Well, let them cut aid for the poor. What they get will serve them right. I will pass over what may await them in an afterlife scenario. I will instead look to the rioting that happens around the world when people are starving and food prices go up. If our nation fails to care for its poor and they go hungry, we will see the destruction of the nation.

Even if we cling to fascism as a means of combatting nascent communism, it will be a fool’s bargain with the devil: does anyone remember that fascism demands militarism, and that when all the small targets are consumed, fascism commits a nation to a path that leads to world war. Do not point to Spain or Portugal as a model: the USA is a great power, and it must be compared to the fascism that ruled in Italy, Japan, and Germany as a possible glimpse into a future in which we forget our poor.

China Draws the Foul

For those of you watching corporate media or living inside salt shakers – because the view of the world is roughly the same – China and Japan are close to blows over a set of rocks in the East China Sea. These rocks have lots of petrochemicals underneath them, but that’s not the big contention.

It’s the 81st anniversary of Japan’s unapologized-for invasion of Manchuria, and Japan’s assertion of sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands right up on that anniversary makes their move infinitely more insulting to China. Think of how we’d feel if Japan took control of a few outlying Hawaiian Islands on or about December 7. Well, it’s worse than that in China on account of their millions more of casualties from their war with Japan.

Anti-Japanese riots are all over China. The Chinese are sending 1000 fishing boats into the waters around the disputed islands. If the Japanese don’t stop them, then the Chinese will declare that they have a stronger claim on the islands. If the Japanese try to stop them, then China will claim a causus belli. China either gets the two points or the penalty shots, to use a basketball metaphor.

I’m flipping my lid over this because the US has a treaty with Japan and this will directly affect us even more than the anti-American rampages going through the Muslim world. That stuff, we pretty much expect. This business between China and Japan is something we need to be focused on, and our focus needs to be in finding a way to keep this conflict from escalating. Even if it only leads to a trade war, its effects will be devastating.

China makes nearly all the rare earths used in wireless technology – imagine a world in which there are no new cell phones or other like telecom devices. That’s just the start. Never mind preventing a shooting war, we need to halt the trade war.

Bollywood Lord of the Rings

For all the people that complain about how the existing LOTR movies left things out or got things wrong, you should be clamoring for a Bollywood version of the epic series. First off, they’d make twelve films, three hours apiece, and keep everything in there. Second, the music wouldn’t put everyone to sleep. Sorry, Enya, but your tunes were the Snoozerville Trolley. A.R. Rahman would blow everyone away with his Bollywood LOTR score. Plus, dance numbers. Finally, audiences would really, really cry their eyes out at the sad parts. In the current films, Boromir dying is noble, but we move on. When Denethor goes up in smoke, it’s kind of a relief. Bollywood, though, would make us cry and we’d love it.

So… how about the casting?

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“Helicopter Ben” Lives Up to His Name – But What Will Be His Legacy?

Ben Bernanke said the Fed will buy $85 billion in US debt every month through to the end of 2013. That means, by that time, the Fed balance sheet will have 25% of US GDP on its hands. It will eventually have to unwind all that. That will be hard to do.

But for the short term, look for higher prices at the pump, higher food prices, more desperate people about to retire that can’t get good yields on their investments, more insolvent state pension plans, aaaaaand… more riots, revolutions, and civil wars around the world.

Food prices spike up when the Fed does a round of QE*. When the Fed did its first move in 2008, we saw massive riots in the poor nations of the world. When QE2 hit in 2010, the riots were severe enough in North Africa to deliver the Arab Spring. Prices were already high enough this year to intensify the Syrian civil war and provide the foundation for the latest round of anti-US violence in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Tunisia, and Morocco (so far). This new QE looks set to send food prices even higher – and they were already higher in 2012 than they were in 2010.

Jeremy Grantham has said that we are five years into a severe global food shortage. This “QE to Infinity and Beyond” business from Bernanke is going to exacerbate that situation. We may soon see nuclear armed Pakistan and China descend into civil war because of food prices. China might be able to avoid war through draconian internal measures, but Pakistan is not capable of such action in my assessment.

The law of diminishing returns says that this QE will have less effect on the US economy than previous ones. It might even have no effect on the US economy outside of fueling a stock market bubble that will have tremendous fallout when it pops. But that law of diminishing returns is the least of our worries when we look at the law of inflation and how those food prices are going to affect Central America, South America, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and East Asia. Think about each in turn, because we do ourselves a disservice if we lump them all together. Can governments in those regions withstand an even more severe food shortage than the one they’re facing now?

*QE= Quantitative Easing, or the Federal Reserve’s purchase of bank loans that may or may not be dodgy… Japan tried it in 2001 and found it to be highly ineffective in the long run.

An Angry Redaction

OK, so I endorsed Obama because I can’t stand the foreign policy people connected to Romney. Now I have to un-endorse Obama because I can’t stand the foreign policy people connected to his organization. Not only is a third carrier group underway to the Persian Gulf, which can only serve to further provoke and inflame Iran, Russia, and China, but this happened: Video of undemocratic stunt at Democratic convention

That is unreal! The party wanted to add a platform plank that required a two-thirds majority. I don’t care if it was right or wrong to add the plank. It could have been about endorsing the official dog food of the Democratic party, for all I care. They ran the vote three times, and it was clear to me that there wasn’t a two-thirds majority for the plank… and the chairman rammed it through, anyway, claiming he heard a two-thirds majority in favor of it.

Democracy, that ain’t. Sorry, Democrats, but stuff like this should be unacceptable. At least half the people there didn’t want to have that on the party platform. In a two-thirds majority situation, the measure should have been defeated, not added to the platform.

This is all about power. Naked, aggressive power. I’ve seen this in the GOP, and I’m looking at it right now in the Democrat party. It’s like breaking a hole in the drywall and seeing the wood frame shot through with termite tunnels. How far does this go? How long has this been going on? If it’s been going on too long, is the structure able to be saved, or is it beyond repair?

I know that sounds terribly negative, and it’ll sound even more so when I say I don’t think it is savable, not with this system in place around it. I have hope for the future, but it lies more in myself and my community than in the people that hold power in the USA. There are ways to fix this mess, but they have to come from within individuals and not from within party platforms, as we can see here…