"God, this joint is a mess!" complains the one with $60 million in her pocket.
"Don't worry," replies the one with $20 million in hers, "My Dad was a janitor. I'll clean this place out in no time. First, we will raise everyone's wages to $22/hours; and when the establishment goes belly up, I'll represent them in bankruptcy hearings, blaming everything on the banks."
Let's face it, NYC cab rides are not what they used be. And it's not about credit card processing and the built-in monitors - those were inevitable. And it's not about the signature-yellow black-checkered SUV's and vans either (though, only God knows how many pairs of pantyhose I've ruined getting into them). The main difference are the drivers.
Back in the day your taxi driver talked to you; whether you wanted him to or not. They were the ones who invited the conversation. I mean, hairdressers and cabbies were people's confidants. A cabby is even better than the hairdresser - most likely you will never see him again. Nowadays, however... Let me put it this way - Taxicab Confessions (1995) would not happen today.
Of course, just 15 years ago, when the medallions were around $250K, cab-driving was still a viable self-employment option for enterprising individual drivers. And a taxi owner-operator cared for the success of his business-on-wheels. Moreover, he felt at home there, ready to chat with his paying customer about this and that. But as soon as the medallions' prices went over $500K (hitting $1 mil landmark in 2011), the ownership shifted to investment groups, who lease the cabs to drivers known as "hacks." This resulted in a fundamental attitude transformation. To draw a parallel, it's like the difference between the treatment you get from some outsourced customer service representative and the care displayed by a business owner whose livelihood depends on the customer's satisfaction.
Generally speaking, we now get into a cab with an indifferent and dissatisfied employee at the wheel. And most of the time we actually want him to stop talking, because he is blabbering non-stop and not with you - he's got his earpiece in and he is doing his share of "connecting" to his friends and families at full volume in the language you most likely don't understand. Sometimes you are not even sure that he heard your destination; and you have to be really insistent if you want him to pay attention to your route instructions.
And me personally? At this point I am simply weary of cab drivers wanting to talk to me and actually prefer when they are preoccupied with their own telecommunications or whatever. I don't know whether this is because weirdos feel comfortable with me or there are just more weirdos everywhere now, but recently I've been having some uncanny cab experiences: Scientology propaganda session; sex proposals (this actually happens regularly, which is unbelievable for many reasons I will not discuss on this blog); self-righteous preaching (also pretty common); pushy sales pitching of the driver's childishly executed art; a reverse taxicab confession of a middle-aged driver stunning me with graphic details of his affair with a 78-year-old woman (sorry, people, but it's the honest truth), etc., etc. So, trust me, a quiet ride is fine by me.
But I guess there is indeed a reward through suffering, because sometimes you get lucky!
I was in a cab a few days ago. The driver had an old-Brooklyn accent and was middle-aged. The cab wasn't new either, but most remarkably it was already lacking the bulletproof divider (TLC announced in April that it can be removed). This is actually very important, because, even though he had the radio on at a low volume, without the glass barrier I could hear it very well (I have no idea what channel it was).
The topic of some political broadcast was the GOP's opposition to their own likely nominee, Donald J. Trump. One of the guests was commenting on how silly it was and questioning the possibility of some last-moment aspirant's attempting to steal the nomination in Cleveland from a candidate who won the most Republican primary votes in history - 13.4 million. And both the driver and I laughed out loud at the same time.
For the next 15 minutes I enjoyed the most amicable and satisfying political exchange with a person outside of my very close and very immediate circle, a complete stranger for that matter. And I would like my readers to share some of that experience. So, here you go, ladies and gentlemen, from my cab driver's mouth to your ears (or rather eyes) - a few bits of pure common sense:
"...He [The Donald] may not say it right, but he says the right things."
"...Professional politicians didn't work as the country's leaders. We've got to try something new. If he fails, we will not vote for him [The Donald] again."
"...Trump is the only one who has full intention to do what he says and actually take care of things."
"...I may not like Trump as a person and don't what to be his friend, but he is the only one right now I trust to be my President."
"...I used to be a big Clinton supporter, but she is a typical political weasel: talks how it's dangerous to trust Trump with the 'nuclear button,' while 20,000 of her emails with government secrets are about to be publicly released by the Russians."
"...How can she [Hillary Clinton] talk about War on Terrorism, when she is chummy with the Saudis? And how can she claim that she will protect women's interest when she takes millions from the kings of Oman and such."
Look, of course I don't know about all of the 13.4 million of Trump supporters - I'm sure, like in any other group of people, there are plenty of bastards and idiots among them. Yet, every one of those who I met personally, heard talking or read their opinions in various media strikes me as exceptionally reasonable, very informed, logical person, free of fanaticism. Without any bias, in a true objective spirit I so vehemently cultivate on this blog, I cannot say the same about the followers of either of the still-running Democratic candidates. And it makes me wonder: maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with the compelling rationality of Donald Trump's presidential platform.
The same gracious people who introduced me to Diamond & Silk also approached me with a suggestion that I watch the so called "Trump episode" of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Knowing my time constraints and quality standards, they weren't very insistent. They said, "We think you may want to watch this one episode." But I didn't need much convincing anyway. After all, I liked John Oliver's Britishly offbeat, overly serious persona as a Senior British Correspondent on The Daily Show. I was excited when he got his own HBO program and even watched the premier on its first airing. It was quite good, but not stimulating enough to get on my must-watch list. Plus, I was somewhat creeped out by the overly excited John Oliver. So, that first episode was also my last. But if people I respect singled out another one for me, why not?
Granted his audience is small - it averages 0.9 million viewers per episode. Still, to go in front of 900,000 people and advertise yourself as a complete nincompoop, desperately ignorant of the most elemental insights every political commentator simply must have - that requires some seriously engorged balls. How he isn't dead from embarrassment is difficult to understand for someone like me. I mean, whatever subject he touched: public relations, social responsibility, campaign finance, corporate vs. individual contributions, wealth management, commercial lending, real estate, subprime mortgage industry, licensing - to put it mildly, he didn't know what the fuck he was talking about.
Well, I understand that John Oliver is "just a comedian" and encyclopedic standards should not be applied. But the power of political satire has always been in the full grasp of the subject matter. That's what gives laughter substance and makes it an effective weapon. Of course, I know better than to expect such quality here; still, he's got some gall talking out of his ass like that. Why discuss intangible assets with such authority, for instance? Trust me, it takes some heavy-duty modeling to evaluate those. My best guess is that Mr. Oliver is completely unaware how uninformed he comes off. Who's going to tell him? He is probably surrounded entirely by like-minded folk.
But forget the intellectualism; the most shocking element of the program for me was Mr. Oliver's conspicuous hatred toward Mr. Trump. The level of outrage, the voltage of disdain! You would think that Donald Trump's political agenda included cancelling the Bill of Rights and setting up labor camps! (Wait, that's the candidate on the other side, isn't it?) John Oliver was literally exploding with venom! At certain point he reached the state that can only be described as explosively deranged.
This spitting of lies and saliva at your opponents are, of course, the gold standard of yellow journalism. This is exactly how it's done: stretching some tweeted scheduling inaccuracies of a man, whose appointment book is fatter than John Oliver's head, into political lies; or reducing one of the most critically acclaimed musicians of the 21st century (albeit a controversial personality), who smashed hip-hop standards and garnered high praises from the likes of Paul McCartney and Lou Reed, to a "sociopath with a finger-free anus." I guess, that's the brand of programming HBO was expecting when they gave John Oliver what he describes as "creative freedom."
And making fun of immigrant's names?!!! That's just unseemly. It's nice for Mr. Oliver that his name originates in such deep WASP annals that it's unlikely to be misspelled here in America. But many Americans had there original names changed for the sake of assimilation (including Clinton and Sanders) or, even more frequently, misspelled upon entry by immigration clerks. My mother is a Cohen. There is like a hundred variations - Coen, Cohn, Kahn, Kohn, Koyen, Kagan, Kogan, Kogon, Kogen. Ask you friend John Leibowitz (a.k.a. Stewart), Mr. Oliver, and he will explain to you that these are all the same names. And my own names, both first and last? I can fill a volume larger than John Oliver's Earth book with misspellings. I am unequivocally in support of everyone's right to declare their political views; and, like Voltaire said, I will die for their freedom to do so; but that name bit has nothing to do with politics and it felt like a personal affront to me.
This whole tasteless attitude directed specifically towards one presidential candidate has all the makings of media bullying. And it sort of feels like HBO's mandate, doesn't it? First, Oliver's outrageous escapade. And now Ms. Lena Dunham, another HBO alumna with an even tinnier audience (700,000 viewers per episode average) but a larger bag of scandalous tricks, "threatens" the world with a promise to move to Canada if Donald J. Trump wins. Wow, some people! Not only their feminism but even their patriotism is skin-deep. "I don't like the executive part of my government, so bye-bye America!" I would expect a bit more gratitude to this country from someone with pilgrims on one side and Jewish immigrants on the other side of the family. But way to put yourself back in the news with this political barbarism!
Don't even get me started on the improbability and the emptiness of this threat! Moving to a "lovely place in Vancouver" and getting her "work done from there" only makes a person a short-term visitor to Canada. It's just silly! Trump still will be her President, she still will be paying federal taxes, and without a proper visa she will be asked to leave fairly soon. Giving up US citizenship and actually immigrating to Canada - that would be a serious step. And it's also a seriously difficult process. Unless she already has a Canadian family, gets a job in the oil industry, claims a political refugee status (no, Trump's presidency will not qualify), goes to school in Canada (a temporary solution anyway), marries a Canadian (maybe Taylor Swift can hook her up with Justin Bieber), or deposits $7.5 million with the Canadian government as an immigrant investor (with the supposed net worth of $12 mil and the only alive project going into the last season - I don't think so), she will have no chance to become a Canadian. But let's say her celebrity status gets her there somehow. I can only imagine her shock when she sees the tax bill and the diminished consumer basket she will be able to afford with the remainder of her earnings. And all those gynecological issues she habitually bares for the general public - they will be subjected to the state-run Canadian medical industry; very different from the wonderful care she receives in one of the best hospitals in the world here in New York.
Yet, apparently more celebrities are joining this unpatriotic trend of "moving to Canada" threats. Well, it just shows you how politically unsubstantial, unjustifiably empowered, uninformed, and removed from reality these people are. Ignorance is a bitch. If I were on Hillary's campaign I would've recommended her to immediately separate herself from this anti-American movement.
I cannot help but wonder whether these self-righteous entertainers with overblown egos (as well as their HBO bosses) understand that at the end of the day they are nothing more than tiny bolts in a humongous, stock-market fueled, corporate machine, i.e the Time Warner Inc. conglomerate, whose CEO makes $35 million annual salary. And come to think of it, considering the content-driven business model of a premium cable network such as HBO, this could be just a ploy of exploiting Trump's trailblazing persona for the sake of maximizing the big corporate daddy's profits and public stock values. I mean, the media is flooded with Lena Dunham's face like never before; and, according to HBO's statement, John Oliver's Trump episode broke the network's social media viewership record with 23 million YouTube and 62 million Facebook views. Isn't it amazing how Donald J. Trump's Midas touch works? He even turns the shit thrown at him into gold.
But you know what the scariest thing is? It's how fascist the supporters of both the democratic candidates are! They don't leave room for others' right to speak freely at all. These people are militant. One has to be really brave to declare her opposition to Hillary or Bernie in the liberal circles of New York and Hollywood. I guarantee you, these liberals wouldn't even think twice before secretly blacklisting such a daredevil. And heroism is dead (okay, almost dead). And so, with the exception of a few, people hide their true beliefs and yield under the oppression of these bullshit-spewing fanatics.
Yes, I am a pessimist; especially when it comes to my expectations of people's abilities and attitudes. I am the one who talks about the majority's intellectual deterioration every chance I get. So, on rare occasions when I learn of people who don't fall in with the immense mass of inept dumb-asses, I am overwhelmed with excitement. There are not too many of them, but they do exist!
According to Donald Trump, it was his wife Melania who spotted Diamond & Silk (aka Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson) on the Internet. It is truly a blessing when a busy person has someone in his or her life who can sieve through the unmanageable mess of various media. More so, when it is someone who knows you well, i.e. your friends or family, not just some staffer who is probably too snobbish to look for interesting v-bloggers on YouTube. (Once they get "close to politics," they stick mostly to mainstream pundits.)
I am too a beneficiary of someone in my immediate circle who found Stump-for-Trump ladies, watched a bunch of their v-blog installments , got wowed, and shared the videos.
And what can I say? Diamond & Silk are awesome! My sisters in Common Sense! Genuine, smart, quick-witted, they are capable of crystallizing lofty economic issues and obscure political agendas into essential nuggets of coherent information. Their explanations are logical and their messages are transparent. With their personable approach they appeal to people's practicality: "This is what it means to you!" could be their motto. And they never lose their cool, no matter how unfair and sinister they get attacked.
This is what Bernie Sanders' campaign wishes their grassroots were: Not the confused, unclear about Bernie's politics and their own reality overgrown babies (of all ages), willing to sell their country's principles and their own souls in exchange for a place at the socialist's "free" tit; but sure-minded, grounded in reality adults armed with iron-clad logic and sound comprehension of political implications. Bernie's supporters will say "yes" to free college and "no" to tax increases within the same questionnaire. But you ask Diamond and Silk about "free" college and they will explain to you in great detail and with unbeatable precision how much you will end up paying for it with your own blood, sweat, and sorrow.
It would be a mistake to discount Diamond & Silk's impact as negligible (which I'm sure their opponents do). These two women are very significant in the fight for citizens' minds we are witnessing. They are contributing and Trump knows it. That's why he doesn't hesitate to bring them onto the stage to stand next to him. There is nothing more valuable in politics than campaigning that doesn't come from the campaign's HQ. Civilian activism - it's priceless!
I am sure that Diamond & Silk are celebrating their candidate's progress furthered this week with an amazing sweep. And I am positive these true patriots will keep fighting for their convictions. I wish them unyielding strength for the struggles ahead!
There is definitely something terribly fragile about the state of our foreign affairs if I need to discuss our phony "allies" in two posts back-to-back. This time, it's not some unnamed "friend" - it's Saudi Arabia or, as many journalists call it, one of the "most awkward" of US allies. The reason I feel the need to talk about it is that the present tension between us and Saudi Arabia is a stark exhibit of how monetary stimuli affect the White House politics.
But before I can address the current events, some cursory background is mandatory. At the very least it is important to understand why we are allies with Saudis in the first place and what's so awkward about this relationship.
Ever since FDR (that Grand Master of uber-strenuous alliances) struck some sort of a secret deal with the Saudi ruler of the time King Abdulaziz in 1945, the resulting relationship has been teetering on three main financial whales:
As in many money-driven relationships, the partners in this one don't really see eye to eye when it comes to non-monetary issues, especially with respect to social and political values. Hence, the awkwardness. Our President can laugh all he wants, but for those who care it's painful to know that the White House calls the country famous for its obscurantist interpretation of Islam, medieval punishments, and the harshest treatment of women "our ally." On the other hand, Saudis are not happy with US Middle-Eastern policies, especially in Syria, Iran, and Israel. In fact, the Saudi foreign minister has been quoted as saying, "It's a Muslim marriage, not a Catholic marriage."
That's actually remarkably aphoristic: Catholic marriage is for life. No divorces are permitted, so the union is truly "till death do us part." On the other hand, according to Sharia (Islamic law), Muslim divorce process is reduced to a single announcement of a husband to his wife, "I divorce you" (the phrase and the short ritual are both called talaq). That's it - he says it and she is out on the street; no legal or even religious authorities need to be involved. Apparently Saudi Arabia feels that the United States of America is its Muslim wife. As I said, clearly the relationship is precarious at best.
Into this volatile drama enters the bipartisan bill that, if passed by the Congress, may allow victims of 09/11 to sue foreign governments, including Saudi Arabia. When was the last time you've heard of a yet-unapproved legislation proposal becoming a big international news item? Well this one did, as soon as it hit the congressional floor. How important is this bill to the White House? It is so important that, according to the New York Times (our last frontier of journalism with original sources), the Obama Administration has been lobbying against it for quite some time, trying to squash it before it even got to the approval stage. Unable to stop the bill so far, Obama went this week to Saudi Arabia to talk it over with the King.
The administration's cover story for the bill-bashing activities, formulated on the record by the President, is the concern that this will give other nations a reason to put in place similar regulations against the United States. Well, even though we don't create disasters like 09/11, we do meddle in other nations' existence from time to time. So, it's a plausible worry. Only I don't buy it. Why is he not going to any other countries that may be impacted by the bill, just to Saudi Arabia? Why the President himself and not the Secretary of State, for example? You know why - C.R.E.A.M.!!!
The very same New York Times has also reported that our "ally" has already announced to the White House their retaliation strategy. Does it have anything to do with "we-shall-sue-you-back" laws? Nah, not surprisingly it's economic: they threaten to sell off $750 billion of American assets. Now, that's what I'm talking about! Money! It talks and makes US Presidents bounce this way and that way on their strings.
I find it absolutely preposterous that some "commentators" immediately started calming themselves down and speculating that Saudis don't even have that much of US bonds and stocks; or that they wouldn't extinguish a huge cache of investments just like that, because they would lose money, etc., etc. They sound to me like a bunch of ignorant optimists who either don't understand the extent of Saudi wealth, or are hiding their heads in the sand out of fear, or both. But I am not like that. I'd rather look into the face of the most damning scenario. I think that Saudis wouldn't hesitate to act on their threat. I also think that they are probably as conservative as I am and value their investments at the lower of cost or market. Therefore, this specific amount, $750 billion, is exactly what they can do without any problem; moreover, with gains.
Now, let's see what this amount means to the United States. First, there is the most obvious implication of the threat - the one that's on everyone's mind. $750 billion is about 1.7% of the total value (as of 12/31/2015) of American publicly-traded stocks and treasury bonds combined. That's a pretty significant share. (Just to give you an idea of the number's magnitude: the market capitalization, i.e. the total value of all outstanding shares, of Apple, Inc. [#1 ranked American stock] is $600 billion.) Dumping huge buckets of equity shares and bonds into the market will start an obvious chain reaction: The stock prices will start violently dropping and bonds' discounts (percentages below par) increasing. This will push other investors, especially day traders, into a panic and they will join the sell-off in attempt to recover at least some of their money, intensifying the effect and driving the prices further and further down. As the result, (a) the stock market will experience a deep adjustment and (b) the US Dollar will be seriously devalued. This, in turn, will affect the global markets, the international trade, the costs of raw materials, the deficit, etc., etc.
And assets divesture could be just a first step. It may be followed by another economic blow - the cancellations of arms deals. There are always Russians, you know, with their outdated garbage, but it looks pretty sinister. If weapons sales seize abruptly, first the military sector will need a bailout and then we shall see a contraction of the entire industrial sector. Therefore, it is not surprising that the White House is concerned - there is a definite possibility of talaq (see above) here. I'm sure Obama went to Saudi Arabia to promise them that he would veto whatever rightful laws the Congress might pass.
There is another significance to this number, though. It can give you an idea of who owns the US marketable securities (and keeps their values high). As of 10/01/2015, $12.2 trillion of those assets belonged to foreign investors. This breaks down into 43% (!) of total outstanding US government bonds ($6.2 trillion), and 20% of all outstanding equity shares ($6 billion). Now, as I said, not only that I think Saudis own $750 billion of American assets, I am sure that this is just a portion of what they have. It's just hard for me to believe that they would divest of the entire lot, no matter how angry they are. For argument's sake let's say it's 50% of what they actually have. That would mean that the kingdom holds 12% of the total foreign investments into the US markets. Remarkable!
Of course, all this politico-economic rat-scuffling is very fascinating, but so is the human paradox. Just think about it. There always have been plenty of speculations about Saudis complicity in 09/11 attacks, but nobody ever came out with solid proofs. If they exist, they are buried well. And honestly, considering how fickle everyone's attention is nowadays, nobody would dwell on their suspicions too long; if only Saudis kept their guilty asses in low profile, pretending that they have nothing to hide. But no! They had to go to the Bush administration with, "Please, please, get us out of here ASAP," resulting in all those sweeping-away-in-helicopters shenanigans. Nobody will ever forget that! And now, this scandalous reaction to the bill! Doesn't it sound like an admission of guilt? Wouldn't it be cleverer to stick to the not-guilty plea? I mean, even if there are law suits, a country like Saudi Arabia can buy the best legal defense in the world. On the other hand, it could be a matter of arrogance. They must feel incredibly secure not to worry about appearances.
I am not an ophthalmologist. So, I cannot explain why people can't see for themselves. Nor am I interested enough in so-called human factors to start analyzing what makes people so confused. But I am a career financial executive with multiple academic degrees and 30 years experience in international business relations. As such, I can shine some light onto the monetary lining of certain political matters. (And yes, it's always about money!)
We are several months away from 2016 presidential face-off and the outcome of the Republican primary is still uncertain, but Hillary has already started her anti-Trump balls rolling. In March, she and another former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright (he-Clinton's appointee), declared that U.S. allies abroad are "definitely worried" about the idea of Trump's potential presidency.
Here I feel obligated to remind the readers that Madeleine Albright keeps repeating on record that “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other,” thus forcing upon you the idea of vagina sisterhood as the highest priority for women - more important than our survival, well-being, principles, and ideals. This is just to underscore the speakers' vantage point. But you've got to love the ambiguity of their statement worthy of true foreign-affairs foxes: Which allies are they talking about? All of them or just a few? A couple, or twenty, or none?
In the absence of clarity, we can only speculate, but I sure hope they are all worried. Because, unlike all those professional politicians in the running, Donald J. Trump is not going to play nice and be concerned about our allies' opinions of him personally or of America's policies. For Donald J. Trump, American interests come first. And it's about time for someone to care more about us than about all the beneficiaries of IMF, the World Bank, WHO, UN (with all its agencies, funds, and sub-funds), NATO, and any other foreign support system that gets most of its financing from our personal pockets via career global manipulators in Washington, D.C.
And let me tell you something about those possibly "worried" nations: Their governments may officially declare themselves US allies and they may act as friends of Hillary's, but people there hate Americans. Let me repeat that: they hate us with passion. Many writers, journalists, filmmakers, historians, social and political analysts, here and overseas, have touched on the issue of global anti-Americanism. Most of them, including our own liberals, explain and justify even the most unfair hostility towards us by entire nations and groups. A logical person should not even bother with all that emotional theoreticism. All you need is to cross the border.
Anyone who traveled abroad (even as close as Canada, let alone Europe and further) and actually interacted with random people - not polite business partners in their office environments or paid service providers on the beaten paths, but with people on the streets, in cafes, in bars - can tell you about their personal interface with unabashed anti-Americanism: the way people look at you, the things people mutter under their breath, small bits that slip out in conversations, and even open hostility. Let alone the burning of an American flag I've witnessed on Trafalgar Square the last time I was going to the National Gallery in London. The truth is, you don't even have to go outside of NYC: half of the taxi drivers here have BBC UK stations on. Oh my God! The shit that pours out of those radios!
Why do they hate us, though? A lot of official data sources (BBC LOVES those Americanophobia polls) concentrate on "US cultural influence," such as it is. However, that would be the easiest thing to resolve, actually: if you don't like American stuff, stop going to McDonald's and your movie theaters - if there is no demand, there will be no supply and no "influence". But no, the fucking Russia with their 81% of anti-American sentiment (second largest in the world after Jordan) leaves and breathes American cinema and TV. And China (71%), being the largest movie market in the world, is singlehandedly responsible for all the bombastic crap that comes out of Hollywood nowadays. So, obviously, the supposed "influence" is not the reason for hatred.
What is, then? Well, let's sing it together: It's all about money! The jealousy! The primal coveting that the Judeo-Christian canons have been trying so hard to eradicate! American wealth has always been a sore spot for our "friends" and enemies alike. And I am not talking about super-rich either. It's the small things: the fact that so many of us can afford more than our peers overseas; that at each level of income we have bigger houses, more technology, and more food; that many of us can travel to their countries, but they cannot afford to come here; that our gas and coffee is still cheaper; that our cereal boxes and cat-food cans are bigger; that we have dozens of ketchups and mustards in an average supermarket, etc., etc. It's really primitive: "They've got more and we hate it!"
Except that the reality is not some two-dimensional surface. It is constructed on the principle of cause and effect. There are fundamental reasons why we've got what we've got and they haven't. And if I had to narrow it down to the most defining one, I'd say that it's all about the interpretation of Equality.
In many countries our politicians call allies (and some even adore, e.g. Senator Sanders), Equality is misinterpreted as a socialistic notion of public uniformity, with everyone in the same lower middle-range of bare necessities, regardless of their personal merits - gifts, entrepreneurship, ambition, drive. Whether you are a lousy or an extraordinary worker, your opportunities are "EQUAL," because you granted your government the responsibility for redistribution of wealth. On the other hand, our Constitution treats Equality in terms of fairness. It is defined as an opportunity to try your hardest and make the most of your own abilities. And this difference makes their hatred of us unjustifiable.
Yes, we keep losing a grip and sliding off our own foundation due to the government's meddling, overpopulation, pervasive nepotism, illegal immigration, useless liberal education, etc. But the bedrock is there; the shreds of meritocracy can still be detected; and we can still do better than any of our foreign allies. So, why would we care about them?
Trump obviously doesn't, but Hillary, on the other hand, must care! Why? Yet again, money. She needs them and she works hard to get them wherever she can. Just in the past few months Clinton has held 13 foreign fundraisers, including in London, Durban (South Africa), Munich, and Mexico City. Yes, the capital of Mexico, which illegally exports their devastated citizens through the US border. Apparently, it is much cheaper for Mexico to pay off Democratic presidential candidates than to create jobs. Hmm, that's a thought! I wonder who we can bribe to get rid of hipsters?
But seriously, who do I trust more? Someone who is 100% financially and ideologically independent and is hell-bent on making our country prosperous again? Or someone on the take from pretty much everyone and with the greatest concern for her own political status? For me the answer is obvious. But then again, unlike most of Hillary's supporters, I'm not the kind of person who would base her political allegiance purely on gender either. Yes, I'm all about "girl power," but I am not biased in any way! It appears that Ms. Clinton and I have the same physical attributes in the same places. But so what? The body parts is not how I evaluate humans. What's in her mind, in her heart, and in her soul is far more important to me, and it doesn't seem that we have too much in common in those departments.
Well, as long as we are on the topic of feminism, let me share the information that really rubs me the wrong way: It is a matter of public record that Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation has accepted money from King of Saudi Arabia (at least $10 million); King of Morocco ($1 million), and King of Oman ($1 million). How about these feminist countries where, at the very least, women must hide their hair under a scarf? Do I need to remind my readers that it is illegal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia? Are all those vagina sisters of Hillary okay with this?
Coincidentally, the other day one of my attorneys was trying to convince me that you cannot blame fundraisers for unscrupulously raising funds wherever they can. Just because Hillary takes money from whoever, he said, it doesn't mean that she will reciprocate with any favors. This lawyer, being a Philadelphia man himself, was using Bill Cosby's example to illustrate his argument. Why should Temple University, for example, even consider returning the money donated to them by the legally entangled comedian? The money was given in good faith and there are no strings attached, he asserted.
Except, there are strings. Strings are always attached to money. Obviously, my attorney friend is being very naive. Let's follow his example. If such situation arose, do you think for a second that Temple University would refuse to accept one of Cosby's kids or grandkids as their student, regardless of their GPA's and SAT scores? It is a well-known fact that parents' donations ($200,000 - $5,000,000) buy kids' ways into exclusive prep schools and Ivy League universities. And if you think that a valuable donor cannot suggest a grant candidate to the Research Allocation Committee, you don't know how this world works.
And that's educational institutions - that's all they can give in return for the money. Imagine what can be requested from the President of the United States! And don't doubt it for a second: when the donors come knocking on the door, Hillary will have no choice but to open it. Because if you refuse, there will be no more fundraising in the future - not for her, nor for anybody else. These are not alms, these are advances on political favors with global impact. That's how the system works. And she is no Trump. She is a part of the machine and she will not rise against it.
But forget all that political bullshit! This whole issue of Trump-worried allies is far more personal than Hillary's donations. Let's look inside our wallets, at our bank accounts, retirement funds, our very own economic well being; and with that in mind, ask yourself, America, do you want to be on good terms with some broke-ass foreigners, or do you want to rattle everyone's cage by having once again more personal wealth than your counterparts anywhere in the world?
We used to complain about our country being divided into two colors, red and blue. Boy, I miss those clear-cut times when we had a few personal liberties to fight about! Now we are a fucking Pollock's painting! Social, monetary, ideological, intellectual, and cultural (some even say micro-cultural) differences create a broad variety of political blends and affiliations. At this point, we have pretty much slid off the two-party platform; we are now swimming (or drowning) in a multi-faction cesspool.
It definitely looks to me like the 2016 primaries are far more divisive and tumultuous than the presidential election will be in November. Each candidate, on both sides of the partisan divide, represents a very distinct combination of views and positions that categorically separate him/her from others. Accordingly, the supporters are broken up into a multitude of tiny puddles, not two oceans.
This made Politics into a more dangerous and touchy subject than it has ever been. I always tried to uphold the propriety rules and stay clear of the political discussions in public, particularly with co-workers, business relations, perfunctory acquaintances, etc. But nowadays, I am literally left with only one place where I can express my opinions openly - my own home. Even in this blog I keep myself in check.
But there are people who will talk politics anywhere. They are usually either (i) very brave and willing to take a stand; (ii) too powerful or confident to care; or (iii) absolutely tactless and have no idea that they make others uncomfortable. The combination of (ii) and (iii) is also very typical. And, of course, I happened to work with one of those. It seems that this business owner believes the impossible - that everyone in the room shares his opinions on... everything.
When I end up in one of the awkward situations he creates (usually during business dinners), my choice of actions is simple: ignore (just get myself busy with food or something) or deflect (hopefully there are people with little kids at the table - trumps all other topics). Sometimes I find a reason to avoid going to an event with this dude altogether; which is what I did the other week during the company's Annual Sales Summit.
And dammit! He actually managed to instigate a rare political exposé: he asked everyone around the table (two other business owners and five sales directors) to declare their choices of Presidential Candidates! I cannot tell you at what level of intoxication these people agreed to basically reveal their political stands ("No judgement!" was guaranteed, by the way); nor can I warranty the truthfulness of the disclosures. However, I can testify to the fact that everyone was surprised and/or traumatized by their own unusual candor: one by one, all eight participants came to my office the next day to confide their bewilderment and share the results of this bizarre poll. And now I am sharing them with you, my readers (in the order they came through my door):
So, here you go, ladies and gentlemen! By most statistical parameters this group is not even all that diverse! Yet, the results are all over the place; with some totally surprising picks (Ted Cruz? Really?!). I mean, some respondents have named people who are not running at all or are out of the running already. Moreover, the leading Republic and Democratic candidates only got one vote each. It's remarkable how uncertain and confused our political landscape is!
But I have to say: that last one actually broke my heart a little. It is unfathomable to me that someone who fought North Vietnamese commies in hand-to-hand combat; who saw with his own eyes the devastation and poverty of the people under socialist regime; who enjoyed the benefits of booming American capitalism during some of our country's most prosperous periods would vote for a socialist. What veteran would support a senatorial failure that is Bernie Sanders? And why? If I had to guess, it's because his daughter and son-in-law are not doing all that great financially up there in Vermont, but they had two kids nevertheless. The man is afraid that he will be the one paying for his granddaughters' college tuition.
And isn't this typical? A demagogue promises people something free (without even laying down the actual plan of actions) and everyone's principles go out of the window. History repeats itself.
C. G. Jung: The Red Book (*****)