Saturday, October 29, 2016

A Political Lurch to the Left

Nobody cares about the political views of an obscure blogger. I know that. But I suspect, if truth were known, few pay much attention to the political views of The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal either. Big media reaches more people, but it has no particular corner on the truth or insight into how the election will shape the future.

So with that preamble, however shaky, I offer the following thoughts about what the country will look like after a Hillary Clinton victory in November. She will win, of course. By a landslide. And there will be a huge swing to the left, a bonanza for Democrats.

First off, let's examine Hillary Clinton. She's a disaster. Donald Trump says bad things, but Hillary does bad things. She has amassed a record of lies, deceit and failure. Her record as U.S. Senator and Secretary of State was mediocre at best, destructive at worst. In the private sector, you don't hire people like that. In government they thrive.

Obsessed with entitlement ("It's my turn to be president"), she lets nothing stand in her way. A political animal to the core, she has few principles and very little integrity. For the Clintons, the end always justifies the means.

While the email scandal is telling -- the FBI is reopening the probe -- the favors-for-cash debacle of the Clinton Foundation is downright criminal. People should be serving prison time. And the ad hominem attacks on Trump's womanizing is hypocrisy at its worst. Bill Clinton's presidency was a locker room joke. (Think Gennifer Flowers, Monica Lewinsky, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick.) And Bubba isn't going away. He'll be Hillary's chief advisor on women's rights.

But here's the thing. Most voters don't care. They really don't. They shrug off the Clintons' immoral behavior. They ignore their corruption and flaunting of the law. They accept all of that to get the protection of bigger government, to get more safety nets, to shed reliance on the free market, which they think has failed them.

We're seeing a historic shift to the left because people want it. Most voters want capitalism contained. They want taxes borne by the rich. (Wealth redistribution isn't such a bad thing.) Most voters want little overseas involvement, no more body bags from unpopular wars. They want hegemony consigned to the history books. They want less stress and more family time. They want to be more like Europe. And why not? The Scandinavians, socialist to the core, are the happiest people in the world according to survey after survey.

And that's where we're headed. Here's what a Clinton presidency will look like.

  • The U.S. Senate, with a slight Democrat majority, will go nuclear and approve leftist Supreme Court justices by simple majority vote.
  • Unable to work with a still-Republican House, Clinton will govern by executive order (Obama has shown her how), and the newly minted Supreme Court will uphold the executive orders. Congress will no longer be needed.
  • Regulations will proliferate, upheld by the courts, further hobbling American business.
  • Demographics, already changing, will change further. To hasten the change, the government will loosen immigration restraints for Hispanics, Africans, anyone who will vote for liberal candidates. Clinton will deliver on her promise to "open the borders."
  • NATO will die, in fact if not in name. Taking her cue from Obama, Clinton will never send American troops to protect Lithuania or Estonia or even Poland. The U.S. will turn inward as never before. Defense funding will shrivel. 
  • Marijuana will be decriminalized. Religion will be marginalized. Law enforcement will be subjugated to racial correctness.
  • College will be free for everyone. Previous loans will be forgiven. Charter schools will be defunded. Educational standards will fall, but it won't matter. Government will take care of everyone.
  • With Obamacare costs spiraling out of sight, the government will turn to a single-payer system, the ultimate prize for socialized medicine.
  • Windmills and solar farms will proliferate, covering huge swathes of the landscape. The government will hold down energy prices by increasing subsidies for renewables.
  • Huge infusions of federal money will go to repair our crumbling infrastructure -- roads, bridges, rail systems. Our water supplies and electricity grid will receive more oversight and may be nationalized.
  • All of this will be paid for with revenues from higher and more progressive income taxes, with the top 2-3% carrying over 90% of the load. The middle class will pitch in, paying higher sales and property taxes.
I'm not suggesting any of this will take place at the point of a Democratic bayonet. It won't. The U.S. voter wants these things. Forget about Trump. He's just an excuse. The 2016 election with candidates named Bush and Sanders or any other pairing would turn out the same.

The country is turning to the left because it wants to. Maybe its reasons are good, maybe not. But it's happening.

To those who doubt me, to the conservatives who think this is just a bump in the road, let's see where things stand 12 or 24 months from now. Let's see if I was right.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Soundings in a Crazy Political Season

"Winning," Vince Lombardi famously said, "isn't everything. It's the only thing." The end really does justify the means. As the election season draws to a close, we're seeing this manifested big time -- in lies, smears and misdirection. Whatever it takes to win. And we're seeing some behavior that is downright laughable.

Here are some examples.

A group of letter writers to the Naples Daily News recently claimed they suffered ill effects from exposure to Naled, a pesticide used for decades to control mosquitos in Collier County. But not to worry, they say, all will be well if the voters just elect Andreas Roth and David Chapman to the Mosquito Control Board. That's right. Who needs science when you can invoke politics?

Now maybe the letter writers did have a negative reaction to Naled, an organophosphate approved by the EPA long ago and used largely without incident for over 50 years. But why did the letter writers wait until now, just before a critical election, to tell their stories? Why didn't they alert their neighbors to the threat last year? And why tie their maladies to endorsements of political candidates? Those are, of course, rhetorical questions.

Here's another grabber. Roth and Chapman imply they have a better way of controlling mosquitos than using those bad chemicals -- but they're not telling us how. You have to elect them to find out!

Then there's the bare-knuckles fight in the North Collier Fire District. That's hardly news, given the fractious behavior we've come to expect from that bunch. But the current election has shown you can always reach new lows.

Four of the five commission seats are being contested (one candidate is running unopposed), and the majority will determine whether cost allocations are fair and whether further consolidation is to be even considered. Each pair of competing candidates offers huge contrasts -- in experience, in outlook and, yes, in honesty.

But that's not enough of a stew for North Collier. The local firefighter's union has to get involved. That's the group that sends out big, uniformed firemen to intimidate voters on election day.

The union wants to to protect the status quo; further consolidation would dilute its power. As such, it has endorsed the circle-the-wagons candidates, those far-sighted folks who want nothing to do with the county, with EMS or with further mergers -- Chris Lombardo, Norm Feder, Christopher Crossen and Ramon Chao. Mailers supporting the hunker-down slate were signed "Pelican Bay 20/20." The problem is no one in Pelican Bay had anything to do with it!

Okay, that's just a small lie. At least the union head was upfront in his attack on Jim Burke, a fire commissioner for 8 years who dares to think progressively and buck the union. Also anathema to the union is Richard Hoffman of Big Corkscrew, a candidate whose accounting skills are a big threat.

But wait, there's more. An ethics complaint has been filed with the state over illegal signs on fire district property promoting ... guess who? And, as a capper, a barely literate email blast just appeared from some courageous soul who won't sign his name: "Why would anyone vote for Burke (The People's Liar) and or Hoffman (In Need of Medical Insurance). They are controlled by the puppet master Naegele." (Bob Naegele is president of the Pelican Bay Property Owners Association and, to my knowledge, knows nothing about puppetry.)

Then there's Tamara Paquette, a candidate for Collier County Commission, District 5, calling her opponent a "terrorist" in a recent forum.

And the state utilities pretending Amendment 1 is pro-solar when it's anything but.

And John Morgan, the primary force behind Amendment 2, invoking God in support of medical marijuana. Synthetic drugs with their terrible side effects are made by man, but good, natural marijuana is made by God. (You can't make this stuff up.)

But don't be disheartened. There's a bright side. This will all be over soon. Just hang on until November 9.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Country Down Under

If you think we've got political problems here (and we have), you should visit South America, where things are immeasurably worse.

Take, for example, Columbia, where there's both rampant corruption and a curious kind of political disconnect -- like the sick irony of Columbian President Juan Manuel Santo being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize at the very time 83% of his constituents rejected his cozy settlement with the terrorist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, a vicious gang of thugs that's terrorized the country for years.

The situation in Ecuador is only slightly better. My wife and I just visited there and got to experience both the good and bad of that beautiful country.

The good is the Ecuadorian Andes, a string of massive volcanos, some still active, that runs down the center of the country, presenting photographic vistas of remarkable proportion. On our fourth day, near Riobamba, the rain stopped, the clouds lifted and mighty Chimborazo, covered with snow, made an appearance against a blue sky. Because of the equatorial bulge, Chimborazo, at 20,700 feet, is the highest mountain in the world when measured from the center of the earth. I'll never forget the sight.

Less spectacular but no less photogenic were the native Ecuadorians, euphemistically called indigenas, with their brilliantly colored ponchos and brimmed hats worn by both men and women. Made locally by hand, the hats designate their regional home. The highlight was a visit to Guamote on market day, a kaleidoscopic treat of colorful dress, hats galore and native wares. This was the real thing; we were the only tourists in sight.

In the high country, we saw llamas, alpacas and even vicunas running free, and shaded farmland that  produces roses and carnations for overnight shipment to the United States.

Then there was the remarkable indoor market in Sigsig, where Ecuadorian women multi-tasked by selling fruit and vegetables, while at the same time weaving Panama hats by hand!

Finally there were the Galapagos Islands (most visitors to Ecuador fly directly there), and everything you've heard about them is true. Exotic wildlife everywhere. In Puerto Ayora, a sea lion came out of the bay and took a nap on our chaise lounge! And the namesake Galapagos tortoises, land and marine iguanas, flamingos in the wild, masked and blue-footed boobies, magnificent frigate birds, lava herons, zayapa crabs, swallow-tailed gulls, huge rays, sharks and more pelicans than in Pelican Bay.

That's the good. But Ecuador is struggling. Heavily dependent on oil, it saw its economy tank when the price of petroleum fell. Light industry couldn't make up the difference. Neither could its lush Pacific lowlands that grow bananas (Ecuador was the first "banana republic"), sugar cane, broccoli, cabbage, mangos, papayas and huge tracts of cacao.

But worse than a shaky economy, Ecuador's political freedom is all but gone. In Quito, the capital, we saw the festive changing of the guard and a balcony appearance by El Presidente, Rafael Correa. He was cheered lustily, perhaps by plants, but we were told he's immensely unpopular. And there's little people can do about it.

As the case with other Central and South American heads of state, he has co-opted the military, muzzled the press and neutralized the courts. He and his cohorts run the show, we were told, with little political opposition. Chances for fair elections were said to be little or none.

His constituents, at least most of those we saw, are poor, with the middle class apparently disappearing. Ecuador's GNP was said to be in the lower third of South American countries. The cities, with the exception of Cuenca and parts of Quito and Guayaquil, are shabby, as are most of the rural villages.

Our mainland guide complained about widespread corruption. He and his wife, he said, are owed $35,000 in tax refunds and have virtually no chance of collecting. And they're facing higher taxes next year. With no recourse, they and others we spoke to were understandably frustrated. Their options are limited. Family ties and traditions are strong, and moving elsewhere is a last resort.

Meanwhile, tourists will continue to come, hoping for a glimpse of Cotopaxi or Chimborazo, and ensured of a wildlife bonanza in the Galapagos. That's a certainty. Less certain is the fate of the creative and generous Ecuadorian people. We can only hope for the best.