2016: The Democrats

After thinking and writing about the Republican candidates last time, doing similar reviews of the Democrats of 2016 is just anticlimactic.

Martin O’Malley

O’Malley is the former governor of Maryland, mayor of Baltimore, and city councilman in that city.  He is the least well-known of the three major Democratic candidates.  His two terms as governor were marked by a rise in statewide taxes to reduce a persistent deficit in the state budget and efforts to adapt a successful “crime management” system (tracking events requiring police involvement on a district by district-by-district basis to increase the efficiency of policing) he had implemented in Baltimore to the whole state.  He went against the teachings and the hierarchy of his own (Roman Catholic) church to implement legal same-sex marriage in Maryland.

O’Malley is seen by some as a sort of good government technocrat; he is not well-known nationally and has been polling in the single digits.  Verdict: he’s running a distant third in a three-person race.  It would take a miracle for him to get the nomination, but he is young enough (53) to be heard from again.

Bernie Sanders

He’s old (74).  He is, by his own admission. not a practitioner of any religion (gasp), though he is (gasp gasp) “culturally Jewish.”  He talks with an odd inflection.  He is an avowed “democratic socialist.”  Any one of these items is, under conventional wisdom, political Kryptonite.

And yet, he’s still standing, and drawing big crowds who are “feeling the Bern.”  He has a hot-button issue in income inequality (shorthand for rampant concentration of power in the hands of the same one percent who have the wealth) which is not going away.  Like Barack Obama in 2008, he has gotten the attention of young voters, and he is running second (an uncomfortably close second, for the Clinton campaign) in most national polls.  He is also likely to win in New Hampshire’s primary.

Sanders was the mayor of Burlington before running for the US Senate.  He has never been formally affiliated with the national or state Democratic Party. though he does caucus with Senate Democrats.  He has long been identified with progressive causes and with a very independent streak, as befits his Independent label.  Verdict: well…maybe, but I’m very skeptical.  I have remarked before on the futility of using Iowa Caucuses to predict anything outside of Iowa, even though Sanders may win this contest outright or come in a close second.  Next up is New Hampshire, where polls show him with a wide advantage over Clinton.  But the glitter may wear off soon thereafter.

The primary season after New Hampshire is heavily weighted with primaries and caucuses in states in the Old Confederacy as well as Nevada and Oklahoma.  Sanders is a curiosity in places like those and is not known for his appeal to minority voters.  Sanders’ real effect on this year’s electorate is  likely to be his influence in getting out a heavy youth vote, and in pulling the Clinton campaign slightly to the left.  Neither of those is inconsequential, but I don’t see him winning the nomination.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON

There’s not much new to say about Hillary.  She’s a known quantity and experienced, with appeal built up over years of public service, as First Lady, Senator from New York, and as Secretary of State.  She also needs a valet to assist her with her baggage.  All the same elements of the public who come out from under rocks and go screamingly apoplectic at her husband’s presence will double in volume if she is the nominee.

She is closely identified with large banking and Wall Street interests, from whom she has collected large speaking fees for years.  In foreign policy, she appears to be intent to present a hawkish profile to prove she is not “weak”  in matters of statecraft. She voted to go into Iraq.  And on and on.

Still, the question nobody wants to ask out loud: what happens to the women who supported her in 2008, and were disappointed?  They appear not to have deserted the Democrats for the last two cycles, but if their candidate is once again rebuffed by their party, it could rip open a large wound in one constituency the party really needs.  Verdict: probably, but there may be a twist in the road ahead.  If the Republicans and their media echo chamber succeed in damaging her over the business of Benghazi and misuse of e=mails, a panicky party leadership may say they need a more electable woman palatable to Sanders’ partisans.  Elizabeth Warren, are you listening?

The Republican candidates of 2016

In my last blog post, I promised to take a look at the candidates for President.  The Republican field is still too big to fit in a short summary of all candidates, so I’ll look at the Republicans in their own post, then follow with an examination of the Democratic field.

This is not an easy task.  Republican candidates in the 21st century have campaigned as pragmatic, thoughtful friends of the “working man” and governed like military overseers of a country whose progressive impulses must be shattered, in some cases by stealth (e. g. the constant warnings of catastrophe to the Social Security system) or by direct action (e. g. the Bush tax cuts of the early days of his administration, dressed up as much-needed relief to the “job-creating” class: they did create jobs, but most of them were not in the United States).  Thus, for me, these candidates (and Bush as President) have always seemed unmoored to reality and unconcerned with the plight of millions, provided the donor class was kept mollified.  This year is no different.

Let’s look at the remaining contenders, one at a time.

Rick Santorum

He made a small splash by winning the Iowa caucus in 2012 and becoming a sort of standard bearer for evangelicals.  Why he is still a candidate now, only he knows, but I guess it’s fun to travel, stay in hotels and appear on TV for a while.  He doesn’t seem to have any other employment prospects.  Verdict: Legend in his own mind.  May be hoping for a call to run as Vice-presidential candidate.

Carly Fiorina

She has made some headlines for…well…being female and appearing mostly lucid in debates.  There is no doubt she is intelligent and capable, but those who think that success in business will mean success in government are not likely to know a lot about either.  High point: calling out Donald Trump for misogynist comments.  Low point: just about everything else, especially her condemnation of Planned Parenthood and doubling down on it when she was informed that much of what she was saying was just not factual.  Verdict: no chance, but, like Santorum, may be hoping for a phone call for VP.  Her chances are better than his.

Mike Huckabee

He’d be a more viable candidate if…well, to tell the truth, I don’t know what would make him more viable.  His speeches and his positions on almost anything seem to be designed to appeal to some portion of the right wing that votes its religious impulses–and those impulses include a lot of self-righteousness.  He constantly demonstrates a pedantic self-love and head-shaking condescension for anyone else (except Kim Davis).  Verdict: soon to go back into cryo-sleep or something and wait for a call to return to the Fox “news” network.

Jim Gilmore

Who????

Rand Paul

Another one who seems destined to resurface every Presidential election cycle and cause some excitement, as John McCain famously put it, among “…college kids in their dorm rooms.”  His stance is libertarian, which appeals to numerous voters, but it is a limited appeal, since it is more abstract than concrete.  There will probably always be a flurry of speculation and interest, but it will probably fade as things get more reality-based–as in, when people start to cast votes.  Verdict: no.  Not going to happen.

John Kasich

In any other election cycle, I would say this is a really viable guy, as in, he might be able to appeal to a lot of people who don’t necessarily identify as Republicans.  He has taken mostly reactionary positions, and worked for a time on Fox “news,” so many would call him a conservative.  On the other hand, as governor of Ohio, he accepted the expansion of Medicaid for his constituents under the Affordable Care Act, allowing them to reap the benefits of (shudder) federal subsidies for health care insurance, for most of today’s Republican base an unforgiveable embrace of all things Obama.  There are other instances where he has seemed all too willing to govern according to pragmatic principles rather than strict ideology, so he would have a lot of fences to mend within his own party.  Verdict: Too early to say.  Should he finish as high as or higher than Bush, Rubio, and Christie in Iowa and New Hampshire, he could have real staying power.

Dr. Ben Carson

A lot of early enthusiasm has dissipated.  He never had a real chance at winning the nomination, but was the “shiny object” of this cycle’s silly season.  Undoubtedly a very intelligent and capable neurosurgeon, he has shown nonetheless the perils of “dabbling” in politics at the highest levels, where his lack of depth has been all too evident.  Verdict: Probably has earned high book sales and appearances on Fox for life, but for the big prize: No.

Chris Christie

The “big and tall” size Governor of New Jersey is abrasive and condescending toward the media and at times toward other candidates.  He suffers (within the party) from pictures of him greeting Obama when the latter came to New Jersey with a promise of federal aid after Hurricane Sandy.  The nerve.  He has executive governing experience, and was a US attorney.  He has been linked to an unseemly chain of events that culminated in massive traffic snarls in a New Jersey town where the mayor had the effrontery not to endorse Christie for a second term as governor.

A mixed bag, all in all.  Like anyone with a record of governing, Christie is stuck with it, and the extended tantrum his party has had and continues to have over two presidential terms for Barack Obama drags on him.  Part of the remaining “eastern Establishment” within the GOP sees him as a savior against the barbarian Trump.  Verdict: Not likely, but still a chance.  He faces a situation like an NFL team in the 17th week: if he pulls off a win where he isn’t supposed to, and if a lot of others stumble, he could still sneak in.

Jeb Bush

The pre-emptive favorite at the beginning of this campaign, and the champion money raiser of all.  He has shown little appeal to the GOP voters, though.  Many are tired of the Bushes.  Others fear the name factor will damage the party in November.  He has  had lackluster debate performances, and generally stirs no excitement.  Biggest gaffe: statement during a debate that his brother had “kept us safe” during his presidency.   Also has a record as a governor, in Florida, but that is now ancient history, and the “successes” thereof were probably more a result of the real estate bubble than of anything he did.  He has a Mexican wife, and speaks good Spanish, both of which might be assets in most years.  In 2016, they have become proof of  love for foreigners.  Verdict: No, no, a thousand times no.  But the eventual nominee will ignore Bush at his (or her) peril.  He still has much influence over many big-name Republicans and the donor class, and will need to be soothed.

Marco Rubio

He’s young.  He could bring Florida’s electoral votes to the GOP, where they haven’t gone for the last couple of cycles.  He has a great biography as a son of the Cuban diaspora who made good in Florida politics.  He’s a strong debater.

He’s also a doctrinaire reactionary.  He hates the diplomatic opening to Cuba.  He has fudged the story of his family’s immigration to the United States (they actually left Cuba in 1956, three years before Castro came to power).  He has held elected office, first local, then state, and then federal, virtually continuously since he graduated from law school, and he suffers from allegations of fiscal irresponsibility (a foreclosure and some dubious use of a party credit card) as well as a basketful of speeding tickets.  I am truly perplexed by the seeming fascination of some in the Republican Party with Rubio; his largest seeming qualifying factor for the Presidency is that he really wants it.  Verdict: Maybe…but I have real doubts.  Perhaps in another cycle.  He seems poised to leave the Senate after 2016, presidential candidate or not, so he may be planning books and TV appearances.  I hear that can be really lucrative.

Ted Cruz

Currently the subject of a debate over whether he is even eligible to be President of the US, Cruz is even a stranger attraction than Rubio, and was elected during the “Tea Party” ascendancy, with strong support from that group.

Because Donald Trump, birther-in-chief, raised the “natural born citizen” clause in the Constitution to question Cruz’ eligibility, the issue has gotten legs, and each day brings new opinions on the Net as to whether he is actually such a citizen.  I’m not a Constitutional scholar, but I would guess that “natural born citizen” distinguishes such a citizen from a “naturalized” citizen.  Cruz, if his mother was still a US citizen at the time of his birth, “transmitted” that citizenship to him from the moment of his birth.  That would do it for me, but the Supreme Court may decide otherwise.

Assuming he gets over that hurdle, is Cruz a viable candidate?  He is a bit of an extremist, taking the US government to a shutdown or two and the brink of a couple more over paltry issues.  He was for immigration “reform” before he was against it.  Some evangelicals love him.  Senate colleagues of both parties uniformly can not stand him.  Virtually no top-ranking Republican has endorsed him, because they think Cruz at the top of a national ticket is a sure loser.  Polls keep on telling us he has a chance to beat Trump in Iowa.

At this point, I have to admit, I just do not get the appeal Cruz has to any voter, unless that voter is a narcissistic nihilist, and wants to see a like-minded person running the country.

Verdict:  Honestly, no idea.  I am dumbfounded by the very possibility, but this is 2016, when conventional wisdom means nothing and historical antecedents, not very much.  He may have best chance after Trump at the nomination, but I do think that might trigger a national Republican implosion or schism.  Stay tuned.

Donald Trump

The presumptive front-runner at this point.  I don’t want to add to all the ink he’s gotten.  But I will make a couple of points.

As I have said before, virtually all of Trump’s campaign promises can be disregarded out of hand.  He is not going to build a beautiful wall or any other, let alone make Mexico pay for it.

The man is a showman, a carnival barker, with few convictions other than that everyone should be paying attention to him, and he will say absolutely anything to further his ambition.

Plans?  Specifics?  He has none.  At all.  If needed, he will hire people to carry the heavy intellectual load for him.

He envisions his name in history books and on libraries.

All that said, and with his three marriages (supposedly a taboo with the electorate) and his several bankruptcies, he is the overwhelming favorite, and frankly, the GOP deserves him and its own current inability to inject any sanity into this race.  They have spent years devaluing sanity in campaigns, preferring to use fear and other emotional response (hatred, bigotry) as winning strategies.  Years of this produced candidates like Sarah Palin, who was at first well-regarded for her “plain talk.”  Harry Truman was a plain talker in the truer sense–he spoke the truth, even when it was not pleasant.  Palin and Trump are just people with no filters, who  say whatever comes into their minds.

Verdict:  Sure, why not?  In my (ever-humble) opinion, he has a more than 50% chance of securing the nomination.

Next: the Democratic candidates…

 

Obama: a very consequential president, like him or not

We have entered the twilight of the Obama era in US politics, and, it seems to me, it may be time to take stock of two lists: the events of his time in office, along with his performance relative  to those events, and the list of those who are panting to take his place.  Either would be enough material for a thoughtful book, but I’m not doing that, so this will be a quick, blog-sized look at the events and reactions theme; a look at the (shrinking) list of pretenders will be next.

November, 2008: Mitch McConnell announced about five minutes after he learned that he had been re-elected to his US Senate seat but Barack Obama had been elected President, his intention to do everything possible to make Obama a one-term president.  The Republican donor class, meaning big Pharma, military contractors, the Koch brothers, hedge fund managers, etc., had been afraid of Obama’s potential to damage their high-flying ways, and now this upstart, mixed-race young character had actually been elected!  (I don’t say big Oil and Big Banks because they happily buy politicians from both parties.)  One can only imagine the meetings, the conferences, and the marching orders over the course of the campaign and in its aftermath.  This undying hostility by McConnell’s party has marked the entire Obama tenure; as soon as he says he has an idea or tries to act on anything, they react as if the fall of the Republic is imminent, so major changes or innovations have been all but impossible.  Some incremental changes, though, have been important.

Domestic  Innovations

Let’s not beat around the bush: the signature enactment of the past several years is the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).  It aimed to stop or at least slow the increase in health care spending by Americans in general, as well as their financial vulnerability to catastrophic illness.  Is this the be-all and end-all of health care insurance regulation?  Hardly.  Is it a success?  I really don’t know, and neither do most people, frankly.  Economists point to a decrease in cost inflation, and that’s good.  The federal government points at increased numbers of insured persons, and that’s good.  A true (and impartial) evaluation is not practical until years of statistics are available.

The disastrous scenarios put forth by such as John Boehner, the former Speaker of the House, who referred to the ACA as the “job-killing Obama health plan” at every conceivable turn, have not come to pass, at least not yet.  Those who used to insist that the United States had the “world’s best health care system” always failed to add the kicker “…if you can afford it.”  Many could not, and some still can’t.  But needed health care, and the attendant means to pay for it, are more widely available now than ever before.  Based on a Republican plan first implemented in Massachusetts (under Mitt Romney–you remember him, right?), many, myself included, think it doesn’t go far enough.  But it’s worth some credit!

In a baton pass from the Bush administration, Obama opted in favor of a costly “bailout” both for the US automotive industry and Wall Street and the big banks.  The current health of GM and Chrysler speaks volumes.  The automotive sector is a huge part of the US economy.  Former Bushie David Frum once pronounced GM  “a company that needs to go out of business.” The truth is that mismanagement had contributed to its ills, and under bankruptcy and with federal help, it did emerge better than it was, and hundreds of thousands of jobs were salvaged.  And the government resold the portion of the companies that it had held; taxpayers came out of the auto deal with a net investment of zero.

The bank bailout was less successful.  Today, as at the time, bankers themselves are held by many to be responsible for the near-crash of 2008-09, and bailing them out is still not popular.  Nor did it save a lot of jobs–only the fortunes of a lot of Wall Streeters.  Economic policy: still some credit due, but lessened by the stain of cronyism with banking and finance interests.

Civil Rights for gays, lesbians, and others: this one isn’t even debatable.  This issue is so improved compared to previous administrations that we have to acknowledge Obama’s contribution, even as we admit he did not “lead the parade.”  But he didn’t block it either.  Thumbs up here.  And the public is gradually coming to the realization that civil marriage is the province of Caesar–whatever churches choose to teach is separate.  (great idea: separation of church and state…)

Economic and energy policy: Yes and yes.  Curbing carbon emissions should be a priority and it has been.  (To all climate change deniers: it’s a fact.  The only debate is how much humans are responsible for.  If it’s possible to mitigate the effects of this change, regardless of whether you are convinced of human agency, and human agency can contribute, why not?)  Fossil fuel use must decline, and it is declining.  Partly as a result, we are no longer as dependent on foreign oil, and not as beholden to far-off sheiks, either.  I don’t see a downside here.

And permitting the expiration of Bush-era “temporary” tax breaks for the top of the economic heap was a way of returning to sustainable tax and budget policies and closing part of a massive shortfall–i.e., deficits, which Republicans claim to hate.

Foreign policy

A mixed bag here, though primarily positive.  Large plus: re-establishing full diplomatic ties with Cuba.  If you don’t know much about diplomacy, a good deal of what diplomatic missions do is to watch, listen, and report on what is going on in Lower Slobovia.  Would the US be well-served by having diplomatic ties with North Korea?   While the Kim dynasty would be no less an irritant, we would be much more informed.  And the commercial advantages are well worth the expense.  Cuba will become, if not a democracy in the next decade, at least a more reasonable actor as a result.  (Remember all the time “Red” China just didn’t exist?)  And anyway, a few thousand Cuban exiles in Florida don’t wag this dog forever.

Iran is a harder case.  It is more intransigent. and it has a more viable economy and an educated populace that make it a more significant irritant than Cuba.  While nobody can guarantee the Iranians won’t cheat on the agreement to stop enriching uranium to bomb-grade levels, the fact that Britain, France, the EU, Germany, and Russia are poised to open the door a crack to trust (and verify) their compliance means the Iranians would not really need US approval to come back onto the world stage.  Failing to participate in  this reappearance would mean losing influence on the outcome, whatever it may be.  And sanctions, sanctions (yes, Senator Tom Cotton, we know you didn’t like the deal…) can easily be slapped on at any time they might be required.

Less happy consequences?  Yes, there are some.  Libya and Syria, to name the two most prominent.  Also Iraq and Afghanistan, perennially.  On the other hand, I doubt any of the current critics could have done much better in the years in question.  Contrary to the thinking of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, the world cannot be bombed into submission and made to offer sweets to the conquering Americans.  Obama’s quiet handling of his foreign policy problems and the calm hand of Secretary of State John Kerry at the tiller (e. g., Cuba and Iran) hint at positive trends in the near future, but no one can be sure.  ISIS is being dealt with on a long-term basis by starving it of its assets.

The 21st century in American Middle East policy will have to include less wink and nod toward Israel, a concession to Russia that only that country has any real leverage over Syria, and a firm “suggestion” that Saudi Arabia pull its weight in regional affairs.  We can not shake our fists halfway around the world and say that’s leadership.  We must set an example, and I think Obama has done that–but unlike in the movies, it can’t have a happy ending in two hours.  Patience is a virtue.  It is not a weakness.

ADDENDUM: January 17, 2016

After I published this post but within a few hours of it, multiple sources reported that several (dual citizen) Iranian-Americans were being released from Iranian custody.  Most or all had been held on charges of “espionage.”  On the face of things, this might seem not to be important to the contents of this post, but…

In the world of foreign relations, anything can and may be linked to anything else.  It is almost humorous to observe the volume of criticism from the domestic right wing (including virtually the entire field of Republican presidential hopefuls) as to how the Obama administration should NEVER have negotiated any agreement with the Iranian government as long as these Americans were in Iranian prisons.  Ralph Reed, that perennial Cheshire cat of the sanctimonious Christian evangelical know-nothing right, God-is-on-our-side. wing of American politics, spent several minutes of air time as a guest on Bill Maher’s HBO show Real Time enthusiastically flogging this point of view on Friday, January 15.  I get some satisfaction out of picturing Reed’s toothy face growing less so on Saturday morning as he read that a prisoner exchange had been agreed upon and was taking place.

Ralph and everyone else of his ilk should remember that, just as the general public (of which he is a member, despite his seeming belief that he is really “in the know”) found out about the death of Osama bin Laden after the fact. There is more going on behind the scenes than most people know.  “Obama is doing nothing,” they yell incessantly, when they should be saying “I don’t know what if anything Obama is doing,” just to be more factual.  Of course, when you are trying to create the impression of being all-knowing and privy to the observations of the Almighty, confessions of ignorance, or, at best , partial knowledge, do not serve your cause.

Modern times bring modern irritants

Often when I am watching a movie or something vaguely historical on TV, it occurs to me that living in an earlier era might have been considerably more difficult and more trying.  The state of medicine, civic life, entertainment, technology, and a dozen other things come to mind; I think I am pretty fortunate to be an inhabitant of the modern world.  Nonetheless, there are exceptions, and I am the type who dislikes certain features of the early 21st century, as perhaps you are, too.  Here are a few of my “pet peeves” about the here and now.

Incessant advertising

E-mail was a wonderful innovation that allowed people from opposite ends of the earth to correspond in real time: you ask what I think about something, and I can respond immediately.  Online chat was a natural outgrowth, and video chat and many other permutations followed.  These are all great things, and it almost seems petty to carp about another use of computers that followed.  Each day my inbox has some messages that require my attention, and many others that don’t–what the service providers have come to call “junk mail.”  Whether it’s “what the government doesn’t want you to know about” or “something that will change your world” or “this military flashlight is now available,” I really don’t care, and I delete them, usually without reading.   Some senders are clever enough to disguise their peddling with a decoy subject line (“You have delayed facebook messages…”) in the hopes the recipient will click and read.  I do less and less clicking, but I’d like it to stop anyway.

Adapted scamming and invasive sales

Scamming probably goes back to the Neolithic Age, when Ugg told Guk, “You need some of my new (all new!) spear points to be the most successful hunter in the clan.”  A spear point  was a spear point at the time, but if Ugg was convincing in his appeal, he might have cajoled a few extra bear skins out of Guk, and a process was set in motion that continues today.

My mobile phone, and even my home phone, are increasingly the target of unsolicited and unwanted (I’m on the “do not call” list for both numbers) calls from sales people and even scammers.  I got, some months ago, at least 70 calls from people who wanted to offer me extended warranties on a car I don’t even own any more.  These people have gotten hold of my number, I suspect from a car dealer, and are determined to make a sale. Even more annoying are the calls that come from people who say they are part of the “Windows security team” or “Windows technical department” or some other official-sounding entity, offering to take care of my computer problems.  I think if Microsoft wanted to offer me anything they would use their own medium to do it, but then I am a suspicious type.

A favorite in my area is an offer, often sent by actual (snail) mail, to “Test your water absolutely free” and often worded so as to encourage the recipient to believe the state may require such periodic testing.  There is county water and sewage service in my area, but the water, while safe, is notoriously “hard” as in, full of minerals.  Many households have individual water treatment equipment and most simply drink bottled water.  If one succumbs to the seductive offer of a free service…well, I think you can guess: someone comes to your house and tests your water, only to express amazement that you and your family have not yet keeled over–but there is hope!  For only X thousand dollars you can have this unit installed at your house to remove everything from the water except the H2 and the O!  Oh, and you qualify for this month’s special because your name has a vowel in it, so that’s $500 off!  Uh…thanks, I’ll think about it.

Red light cameras and speed cameras

I have never run afoul of a red light camera.  I have known people who have, and it can be quite costly.  If I ever were stopped by a police officer for running a red light, I would be really embarrassed, and I would ever so reluctantly pay the fine.  I’m not sure how I would feel if I were ticketed by a soulless electric signal device.  And such an event would immediately set in motion a search of my mental files–might I have loaned my car to someone on the date cited and might that person be less observant of the niceties of traffic law than I am?

On the other hand, I have been sent violation notices for excess speed in a 35-mph zone along a busy highway connecting a busy interstate highway to a city mass transit system.  I can only marvel at some machine that can (supposedly) take a photograph of my license plate and reliably measure my speed at a given moment.  This was on a very busy, multilane commuter route where I was in the extreme right lane, passing  nobody, so by logical inference, everyone on that road at that moment was speeding.  I don’t know, since I am not in the habit of watching the car speedometer rather than the road.  At any rate, I did what I suppose most would have done, especially if you read the fine print, which warns that if you do not pay within __ days, you may be issued a summons to appear in court.  It involves less bother, risk, and frankly, expense, just to pay, and it’s not a stretch to suspect that the municipality that issues these citations is thinking the same thing.

Sports metaphors for political reporting

You knew I had to mention politics, right?  Why, when two parties put forth candidates for an office, are we subjected to endless reportage to the effect that “We’ve entered the home stretch,” and candidate X has “mounted a better ground game,” or Candidate Y “has to rally to come from behind,” etc., etc., ad nauseum?  Ideally, voters are choosing between two representatives of the respective parties (or maybe more than two), and the thoughts and plans by those two representatives to improve on the municipality, state, or country to make it better.  There is really no “winner.”  Only one will be chosen by voters to have the chance try to put those plans into action and make their jurisdictions better in some way.  Only time will tell.

Those are a few of the things that grind away at me.  As I say, I benefit from living in a first-world, technologically advanced environment, but not everything in that environment inspires limitless awe; one positive feature of it is that we are free to say so!