Friday, January 29, 2016

This Is Where Democracy Fails

And that is what democracy looks like!

And I don't see us coming back from this one, folks.


Fareed Zakaria's piece today in the Wash Post, regarding the fact that years of dishonesty on behalf of the Republicans to their base, dishonesty about starving that big government beast, about the danger of the deficit and immigrants, about trickle-down economics, about pretty much everything, is what led to the likes of Cruz and the Donald, while thoughtful and informative totally misses the point.

The very nature of this two-party Constitutional Republic of ours has but one single rule that is constant: the party that is not currently in power exists solely for regaining power back. When the freshly defeated conservatives in the beginning of 2009 told their fellow colleagues in the House and Senate that their sole purpose from now on is to ensure Barack Obama and his fellow Dems FAIL, even if that meant the entire country failing, shit, ESPECIALLY if the entire country fails, well that is what I call accidental honesty. They were simply doing what is required of this rigged charade we call democracy.

This has been going on since the beginning, make no mistake. The only difference, and it is a big difference, is that it was never easier to galvanize a political base than in 2009, 2010, 2014 and so on. And that is because of THREE factors:

1.) Black
2.) Democrat
3.) Big city

I can't help but wonder if Obama and his team on the campaign trail naively overestimated the nature of this democracy and the individuals that make it up. Did they ever really think that this liberal-ass black community activist turned elitist professor from the southside of liberal-ass Chicago with a "Muslim" middle name and a father from Kenya could possibly unite a country of countries? Winning election and reelection was the easy part. But governing, you know, the part that truly matters, is another.

Interestingly, our democracy and our free-market system, those two main facets that make us uniquely American, allow for, encourage, and even force us, to bet against just bets against our money, the other against our intellect.

We all have teachers in our lives who we never forget, and one of the few in my life is Tom Babcock, my Spanish teacher for two years in high school, with whom my class and I all watched the Twin Towers crumble live on TV that morning. He once said that America is the "bratty teenager of the world." We are one of the youngest countries, yet very successful and extremely powerful. We know it all. Screw all the others, like France, Iraq, Sudan, and China, who are ancient and have seen it all, who look down on us like an old grizzled war veteran to a 16-year old suburban kid whose only concern is next Saturday's soccer game and think, boy oh boy, have you got a whole lotta growing up ahead of you. Sweet kid..

But grow up, how? Besides waiting centuries for inevitable wisdom one thing could be done. The Founding Fathers saw this coming, and fearing that the public's freedom to choose their own leaders would be undermined by a dumb public, they created the free library system which we still have. Today though it's not enough, but the modern day equivalent may well be heavily subsidized, high-quality, debt free higher education for all. Incentivize it, so it's easy to accomplish whether you're Harvard-inclined or are better with your hands and prefer night school. At least then we'd have better critical thinking skills, at least then we'd have people questioning whether banning all Muslims, getting past the fact that it's immoral and unAmerican, could ever be practical or logistically-sound.

My inner cynic though thinks we just have to wait a few centuries and figure this whole thing out as we go.

Monday, January 25, 2016


With few places more exotic, my lovely girlfriend and I embarked on January 13th to be foreigners in this distant land for a few days. And it was breathtaking.

But to make it to heaven sometimes you must go through hell, or in this case China. And more specifically, Beijing Airport. It was an experience in itself to say the least, having to connect here and go through a secondary security inspection just to walk through to our next flight. This behemoth of an airport, which feels and looks like a large plane hangar, but with high-end mall-style storefronts truly is where capitalism meets communism, and awkwardly. The outside temperature is 26°, the entire place is unheated, and the bundled up scarf wearing baristas, customer service reps, and store clerks surely don't seem to mind.

Soon however we were in Bangkok, and even though we arrived at the fantastic Amari Watergate Hotel in the dead of night, the humidity was punishing. Quite the opposite of Beijing. The entire time here, the day time temperature averaged 91°, the humidity continued to be punishing...and this was the cool season.

But the Thais seemed to be used to it, and even if they weren't, they probably wouldn't complain. What we encountered here on a daily basis was the happiest, simplest, and most humble culture of people. From our tour guide to the bell hop to the street vendors, nothing but the utmost generosity, and welcoming smiley faces. Probably a legacy of centuries of ingrained Buddhist thought.

For this country has nearly always been peaceful, not meddling in foreign affairs but also not allowing to be meddled with. One wouldn't even know that a royal family and King still run the county, or that just a year and a half prior a military coups took place here. Of course, a relatively civil and peaceful one somehow.

We were privileged to see pretty much all of what is Thailand, minus the resorts on the southern peninsula, which we had no desire to see anyway. Of course we had to be stereotypical tourists to do all of this, which included walking the bustling streets of Bangkok, viewing and walking about within the most intricately designed gorgeous temples, shopping for unheard of deals and eating the most delicious of food, driving through the countryside to Kanchanabori to ride elephants, stopping at the floating markets along the way. We sipped from the tops of coconuts and feasted on the freshest of wild fruits which could've been grown in the Garden of Eden itself, which alone is a good enough reason to visit.  I stuck my feet into a tank and watched as hundreds of fish gave me a pedicure. We zip-lined tree to tree from hundreds of feet up in the forest canopy, rafted in the River Kwai, boated in the Mekong, crossed into the country of Laos where we drank snake whiskey and tiger penis liqueur, saw the border of Myanmar, and laid our heads for the last four nights in the beautiful moat-surrounded city of Chiang Mai.

It was the vacation of a lifetime, and it came to a close after we departed Chiang Mai to arrive back to the drab and coldness of Beijing Airport to connect to JFK.

Our 13 hour flight left Beijing at 10 am, and as if straight out of a sci fi novel, we arrived safely at JFK... at 10 am.

Before heading home though, we stopped at IHOP, succumbing to hunger for a meal that didn't contain any white rice and fighting back the intense jet lag that was coming, and just hours before the intense blizzard that was also coming.

Thailand is and was amazing. There really are no words.

But damn, three days later and I am still fighting that jet lag.

In Defense of the Donald

I was jogging on a treadmill in a hotel exercise room in Omaha when I saw his now famous presidential run introduction live on CNN, a speech that touched on all the important issues such as illegal immigration, building a wall to keep out immigrants and making Mexico pay for it, and immediately deporting tens of millions of illegal immigrants.

And I will not mention his last name. The last thing the internet needs is more of that word and hence more free publicity. No, from hereafter, the subject shall be referred to as he/him/this guy.

This is a guy who was a sleazy New Jersey developer for most of his life, a Democrat at that, a guy who extolled the benefits of making deals with the government, greasing the wheels of democracy, and maximizing profit. He proudly owns dens of filth and sin, and has filed bankruptcy several times.

In other words, for most of his life, he epitomized everything that the Republican base feared and hated, the very base that now he polls with virtually 100%.


Because, simply, he saw an opportunity and ran with it. It was quite business-like and therefore, quite him.

He saw from miles away the seething anger of an American public climbing the slow crest of the horrific Great Recession which seemed to spark from a match to a full blown arson so perfectly (and conveniently) right about in January 2009, between Bush's exit and Obama's entrance.

Suddenly, a conservative base that would otherwise despise an East Coast elitist sleazeball Casino developer channeled their hate towards a Midwest elitist Harvard educated Constitution lawyer. And he saw this, from miles away.

Testing the waters of fear and stupidity by dipping into and becoming a driving force behind the "birther" bull shit, realizing that this would work politically, realizing that the vast majority of one voting bloc could simply go against reality out of jealousy and ignorance.

No, I truly doubt this guy is a Hitler-esque racist, or an ignorant bigot, or dangerous man.

He is simply a pandering liar, and more specifically, a lying politician.

I truly can't believe he believes what he says.

And that is a giant compliment.