I Hope Ted Cruz Runs for President

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Texas Senator Ted Cruz splashed onto the political scene two years ago when he easily won the seat vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison. Well-educated and highly intellectual, Cruz was a championship debater at Harvard University and, in 2003, became the youngest Solicitor General in the state of Texas; a role he served in until 2008. Unlike many first-year senators, Cruz quickly established himself as a rugged individualist by being blunt and outspoken. He held true to his base by bashing anyone and anything that didn’t fit his narrow agenda: taxes, regulation, the federal government, and, of course, President Obama. While the Republican National Party was already moving in a more staunchly conservative direction, Cruz seemed to break off his own small faction that slid even further to the right; making Hitler and Stalin look like tree-hugging liberals.

In September of 2013, Cruz incited a shutdown of the entire federal government over funding for the Affordable Care Act. He spoke on the Senate floor for 21 uninterrupted hours and was hailed as a hero by his “Tea Party” acolytes. Cruz and his Republican cohorts were unwilling to reach even a modest agreement with Democrats and Independents on funding the government; so on October 1, 2013, it essentially shut down. Approximately 850,000 workers were furloughed, and another 1.3 million were required to report for work with paycheck dates. The 16-day stalemate was the third-longest government shutdown in U.S. history and cost about $24 billion. As usual, whenever government officials skirmish, average citizens bore the brunt of the shutdown.

Now that Republicans are scheduled to take control of both houses of Congress next month, Cruz is demanding that funding for any of Obama’s programs – namely the ACA – be severed and any presidential appointments be thwarted. In other words, Cruz is pushing for nothing to get done so he can prove his point.

For all of these reasons, I sincerely hope Cruz runs for president in 2016. Not because I like and admire him. I want to see his arrogance get shoved down his throat.

Cruz is already positioning himself for a run. He’s engaged in the vital prerequisites: he’s visited the state of Iowa several times (Iowa is where the nation’s first voting primaries are held each election cycle); he’s solicited a bevy of affluent donors; and he’s expressed his unmitigated support for Israel. All he has to do is give a speech at Bob Jones University saying he doesn’t think Negro slavery was all that bad, and he’ll be good for the Republican Party’s nomination.

But I think once Cruz enters onto that stage, spouting off his vitriolic rhetoric and twisted views on American values, he’ll be shocked to learn not everyone loves him. His right-wing extremism will become apparent. Politics has a way of cutting people down to size. I sincerely feel Cruz will get diced up quicker than squid at a sushi restaurant.

A brief examination of Cruz’s voting record shows his true dimension. Among other things, he’s voted against funding for highways and transportation (three times); the “Bring Jobs Home Act”; the “Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act”; “Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act”; the “Minimum Wage Fairness Act”; the “Protecting Access to Medicare Act”; the 2014 “Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act”; the 2013 “Employment Non-Discrimination Act”; and the 2013 “Student Loan Affordability Act.”

There is one seemingly innocuous fact about Cruz that may play into the hands of his opponents: he wasn’t born in the U.S. He was born in Canada; something from which he doesn’t shy away. Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, was born in Cuba and lived under the brutal dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. In 1957, Cruz managed to escape Cuba and arrive in Texas with only 100 U.S. dollars and the clothes on his back. He had supported Fidel Castro, but now claims he didn’t know at the time that Castro was a communist. There’s a politician, if I’ve ever heard one! In the 1960s, Cruz met and married Eleanor Elizabeth Wilson. Eleanor was born in Delaware to Irish- and Italian-American parents. Rafael and Eleanor Cruz moved to Alberta, Canada where they worked in the oil industry. In 1974, the Cruz family (now including little Ted) moved back to Texas. Rafael and Eleanor divorced several years later. Why they abruptly relocated to Canada in the first place and when exactly they were married and divorced remains unclear. But doubts about Sen. Cruz’s citizenship keep surfacing.

In order to qualify to be President, the U.S. Constitution states, “No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”

The precise definition of “natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States” has confounded plenty of legal scholars and amateurs. To many of us, it simply means that you were born in one of the 50 United States, a U.S. territory, or a U.S. military base. But, if at least one of your parents was born in the U.S., then you are a U.S. citizen. My mother, for example, was born just outside of México City in 1932; yet she and her three siblings were U.S. citizens because their father was born in Michigan in 1902. Does that mean she’s qualified to run for U.S. president? I’m not certain. I don’t think she’d want the job anyway; she’d scare the crap out of too many people.

The issue of U.S. citizenship in relation to the presidency has come up before. In 1964, when Barry Goldwater garnered the Republican Party’s nomination for president, some speculated he wasn’t qualified, since he’d been born in Arizona, three years before it became a state. In 1968, when George Romney sought the Republican nomination, he didn’t avoid the fact he had been born in México in 1907. Both of his parents had been born in the U.S. and allegedly fled religious persecution by relocating to México where they and fellow Mormons set up a Mormon colony that still exists. (In reality, the Romneys wanted to maintain their polygamous lifestyle.)

The right-wing hysteria surrounding President Obama’s birthplace and birth certificate is well-documented. The self-righteous “birther” gang maintains that Obama was born in Kenya, like his father, and not in Hawaii, as the president’s birth certificate declares. Some people still don’t realize Hawaii is one of the United States. When I worked for the wire transfer division of a bank in the 1990s, we’d invariably get calls from branch offices asking if a transfer to Hawaii was domestic or international. Not much was made of the fact Senator John McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936, when it was still a U.S. territory.

Ted Cruz tackled his own citizenship last year when he released his official Canadian birth certificate and then renounced his Canadian citizenship. I’m sure Canada was heartbroken.

Citizenship matters aside, Cruz may feel self-assured about a presidential run. Anyone who dares to tackle such an office has to be extremely self-confident and just a little bit arrogant. Cruz will find, though, that he has to appeal to a much larger base of people than the gaggle of conservative hardliners that orgasm with his every word. For one thing, he’ll have to appeal to Hispanics. That’ll be especially tough. I guess you have to understand the Hispanic identity in the U.S. Cuban-Americans don’t like to be dubbed “Hispanic” or “Latino” because that places them in the same category as Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Guatemalans, etc. For some ungodly reason, some Cuban-Americans – Rafael Cruz among them – think they’re superior to other Spanish-surnamed peoples in the Western Hemisphere. As comedian Paul Rodriguez once noted, “When Mexicans enter the U.S. illegally, they take them to jail. When Cubans enter the U.S. illegally, they take them to Disney World.”

Ted Cruz will have no choice but to court Hispanics – and everyone else, regardless of ethnicity – if he wants to live in the White House and be considered the “Leader of the Free World.” It won’t be easy for him; not at all. He won’t be able to justify his extremist views to a broader audience. Then he’ll find himself on that sushi board. And me, personally, I think sushi is disgusting.

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In Remembrance – Pearl Harbor

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“Everybody knows about Pearl Harbor. The thing that really fascinated me is that through this tragedy there was this amazing American heroism.”

Michael Bay

Pearl Harbor.

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Slammed

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It’s been one month since the midterm elections, and a lot of people are still smarting from the results. But several folks saw this coming. As expected, the Republican Party has retained control of the House of Representatives and taken the Senate. But, few anticipated the GOP would garner such high numbers. Moreover, Republicans have attained most of the state governorships. Here in Texas, the GOP has won every major state-level office for the fifth consecutive election cycle. A Democrat hasn’t won a state-wide office since 1994, when Garry Mauro won reelection as State Treasurer. By the time the current crop of officeholders finish their respective terms, Democrats will have been shut out of state-level offices for two decades.

Texas Democrats had hoped this year would be theirs; that they would recapture at least one office, preferably the governorship, but at least maybe attorney general or state treasurer. But they didn’t. They lost – in the worst way. As usual, most voting-eligible Texans failed to turn up at the voting booths this year. In fact, Texas had the lowest rate of voter turnout than any state in the union – roughly 4.75 million people, or 28.5% of the vote-eligible population. In the Dallas – Fort Worth metropolitan area, some local officials blamed the damp, cold weather for the dismal response. Really? I recall an election in India several years ago where some people were being carried in on their deathbeds – literally! – to cast a ballot. Overall this year’s midterm produced the worst voter turnout since 1942. That particular year was understandable: the U.S. had just entered World War II, when many young men had already joined the fight overseas. Men were much more likely to vote than women back then, plus there were a slew of voter restriction laws – especially in the Southeast – to keep poor and non-White voters from casting ballots. But that was then; things have changed considerably in 70 years. I don’t just find the low voter response appalling. I find it disgusting. What happened?

After the 2007 – 2008 financial downturn – a period in which the U.S. came as close to a completed and total economic collapse – people felt their elected officials simply weren’t responding to their needs. President Obama and the Democrats inexplicably focused their energy on passing a healthcare bill and reforming the immigration system. The latter was labeled an attempt to appeal to Hispanics; once again, assuming Hispanics only care about immigration in the same way women only care about abortion and gays and lesbians only care about same-sex marriage. Sweeping assumptions like that are an insult and always dangerous. It’s bad enough, though, the Republican Party was determined from the moment Obama won the 2008 presidential elections to obstruct his agenda. Every conservative lout from Dick Cheney to Mitch McConnell stated publicly and emphatically they wanted to make Obama a “one-term president.” Fortunately, they failed. But they and the Democrats have failed miserably over just about everything, mainly the economy.

My gripe with Obama is his overt willingness to compromise. His first major capitulation to the Republicans came in December 2010, as the Bush-era tax cuts were due to expire. The GOP literally threatened to withhold votes on extending benefits for the long-term unemployed, if tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens and largest corporations weren’t kept in place. Obama bowed to them; declaring openly that he didn’t want “the hostages” to be harmed. In December 2010, the Democrats still held majorities in both houses of Congress, and the President could have very well issued an executive order extending the benefits in question. But he backed down. And that’s when I began to lose respect for him – in the same way I’d long lost respect for most elected officials.

In 1934, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt realized just how bad the Great Depression really was, he made the bold – and shocking – decision to raise taxes on the wealthiest citizens and largest corporations (the same ones who benefited from hefty Republican-spawned tax breaks the previous decade) to stimulate the economy. He convinced these people that such hikes would benefit them, too, in that more Americans would be able to enter the workforce and pay their own taxes, plus have money left over to buy goods produced by a variety of industries. It made sense. The policy worked to some extent, but the 1929 collapse had been so bad, the positive effects weren’t immediate. Thus, economists and the politicians who think they know so much have been debating the logic of this move ever since.

The Democrats failed on another front regarding the economy. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder never indicted anyone in connection with the recent financial calamity. Anyone with at least half a brain knows it didn’t happen by chance. It wasn’t the inevitable result of market ups and downs. Major banking entities such as Citigroup and Fannie Mae were key players in the debacle. Both helped to create the massive housing bubble at the turn of the century, replete with outrageous features such as zero-down purchases and mortgage-backed securities. As the crisis worsened towards the end of 2008, Citigroup managed to convince the federal government to give it a life-saving multi-billion-dollar loan. But it also began laying off people at its various offices across the globe. Fannie Mae, along with Freddie Mac, also received a multi-billion-dollar, taxpayer-funded bailout; this one in 2009. Yet that investment didn’t become profitable for taxpayers until this year. The average American worker hasn’t seen a lot of positive returns on their “investments” to save the “too-big-to-fail” banks. Those lounging in the economic ivory tower certainly have. For example, Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, received a $16.2 million compensation package for 2011, despite a serious drop in corporate profits. The following year Blankfein urged Americans to consider a later retirement age.

“You can look at history of these things,” he told CBS News, “and Social Security wasn’t devised to be a system that supported you for a 30-year retirement after a 25-year career. … So there will be things that, you know, the retirement age has to be changed, maybe some of the benefits have to be affected, maybe some of the inflation adjustments have to be revised. But in general, entitlements have to be slowed down and contained.”

How thoughtful. In February of 2009, two months after I earned my college degree, the engineering company where I worked held their annuals employee reviews. Due to budget crunches, my then-manager told me, they couldn’t afford significant salary increases. So, while my living expenses continued to rise, my salary essentially remained flat. I was laid off the following year.

People like Blankfein are part of the current problem of wealth inequality in America. That the Obama Administration neglected to prosecute the scoundrels responsible for all those business closings and job losses – again, this didn’t happen by accident – is reprehensible. If I rob a convenience store of a hundred bucks and get caught, I’d be sure to serve some serious prison time. Hedge-fund managers who manipulated the stock market seem immune to the most egregious of financial indiscretions.

Still, the economy has rebounded since Obama first took office. The unemployment rate, which reached a high of 9.9% in April 2010, now stands at 5.8%. GDP growth stood at negative 5.4% in the first quarter of 2009 and is now at 3.9%. The national deficit was $1.4 trillion in 2009 and now is $564 billion. That all brings up yet another complaint. Why didn’t the Democrats highlight those facts? In his 2012 reelection bid, Obama proclaimed, “Bin Laden is dead, and GM is alive.”

It was simple, yet effective. For many of us, though, the economy really hasn’t recovered. Wages remain stagnant, and jobs are tenuous. We’ve become a contract society.

Moreover, I don’t really blame many people for not voting. I understand the frustration with the hollow words and obstinacy of some candidates. Wendy Davis, for example, began her campaign for Texas governor by attacking her opponent, Greg Abbott, instead of highlighting her own accomplishments. I think it was about 6 months into the campaign before she ran a more positive ad; one telling her life story. Voters really get put off by such animosity from the start. Criticizing the opposition is a dubious tactic. It’s almost as if the individual is hiding something nefarious about their own past. That’s essentially how George W. Bush won his two presidential terms: he had no redeeming qualities, so his campaign team attacked the other guys. And some voters fell for it.

I don’t know what the immediate future holds for this country. With Republicans now in control of the U.S. Congress, I foresee further adolescent bickering between people who are otherwise educated business professionals. I don’t envision economic improvements or tax relief for us regular folks. It’s depressing. That Mars One venture is looking more and more attractive.

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What’s It Like?

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My father sat on a riding lawnmower; an interesting thing considering we’d never had one. But, as he traveled across a vast field of bright green grass, he came upon some people standing beneath a large tree; an oak, he thought. Getting closer to them, he realized they were some relatives: his parents, his oldest sister, his older brother and another sister. They all had one thing in common – they were deceased. He could see his parents clearly, especially his father who died in 1969. He could make out the face of his older sister. His brother looked to be in the shadows, and the other sister was cloaked in a black veil. But he knew it was them.

“Do you want to come with us?” his mother asked him.

My father turned to the expanse of grass and nodded his head no. “I can’t,” he told her. “I have to finish mowing.”

Then, he woke up. It was late 2004, and he abruptly snapped out of a depressive funk. He’d lost his second-oldest sister and his older brother within a five-month period that year. Our family was still reeling from that. But, when he recounted the episode to me, he wondered aloud if his time was coming sooner than expected.

“No,” I told him. “They were testing you. They wanted to see if you were ready to give up. But you obviously have a lot of things left to do in this world.” He’d always liked gardening, I reminded him; a trait he’d gotten from his mother. The large field of grass was just a metaphor for life.

What’s it like, I wonder, to be dead? How do people navigate in the afterlife? I’ve always been fascinated with that; what happens to people when they die. Unlike some people, I don’t pretend to know what exactly will happen to me once I expire. But, unlike others, I don’t believe this is it; our life here on Earth is all we get. I’m not so arrogant as to express a firm knowledge of such things. I just have my own beliefs.

When my father’s oldest sister died in February of 1998, we had a simple ceremony in a chapel at the cemetery and then watched her be interred in a place near her father. That’s how she wanted it: just throw her body into a box, drop her into the ground and go on with our lives. Nothing fancy; no drawn-out church mass; no miles-long funeral procession; and no rosary. When I told a close friend about it, he expressed shock that we didn’t have a rosary; a pre-funeral Catholic affair akin to a Protestant wake.

“I hate to tell you this,” he said matter-of-factly, almost ominously, “but your aunt’s chances of getting into Heaven are slim.”

If we’d been sitting face-to-face, I would have smacked him. “Who the fuck do you think you are?!” I screamed into the phone. I unleashed a slew of other invectives, before slamming down the receiver.

This came from a guy who was raised devoutly Catholic, like me, but who – at some point in his early 20s – detoured into voodoo. He had renounced the latter and returned to his Christian roots. Yet, his self-righteous proclamation about my aunt’s spiritual survival was more than an insult; it was an abomination.

Several years ago, while attending a Catholic parochial school, an antiquitous nun (I knew of no other kind) abruptly informed me and some other students that animals have no soul. They just die, she said, and that was it. I was horrified. Did that mean I would never see my beloved dog, a German shepherd named Joshua? I cried deep inside. How could that be? Why would God be so cruel as to deny we animal lovers the company of our pets in the afterlife?

Fortunately, I’ve long since recovered from the perversions of Roman Catholicism and Christianity in general. It’s one reason why I divorced myself from that mess – a sin unto itself. Religion makes people say and do stupid shit.

Theology or not, I’ve never really been afraid of the unknown. I’m not a Goth-like critter who looks for ingenious new ways to kill himself – well, not anymore. My fascination with death started when I was young; perhaps, because I really did think of killing myself. The relentless bullying I experienced in school and the loneliness of being an only child made me contemplate suicide when I should have been thinking about sports or games.

Now, as an adult, I still think about death, but not so much dying. I consider it the afterlife, or more appropriately, the after-this-life. It’s another level the human soul attains; a world superior to this one. I’m not eager to get there! I’m just curious about it. I tell people I have so many books I hope I get to read them all before I die. But then, maybe my after-this-life activities will include reading. And playing with dogs!

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Happy Thanksgiving 2014!

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“Great Spirit and all unseen, this day we pray and ask You for guidance,

humbly we ask You to help us and fellow men to have recourse to peaceful

ways of life, because of uncontrolled deceitfulness by humankind. Help

us all to love, not hate one another.

 

We ask you to be seen in an image of Love and Peace. Let us be seen in

beauty, the colors of the rainbow. We respect our Mother, the planet,

with our loving care, for from Her breast we receive our nourishment.

 

Let us not listen to the voices of the two-hearted, the destroyers of mind,

the haters and self-made leaders, whose lusts for power and wealth will

lead us into confusion and darkness.

 

Seek visions always of world beauty, not violence nor battlefields.

 

It is our duty to pray always for harmony between man and earth, so that

the earth will bloom once more. Let us show our emblem of love and goodwill

for all life and land.

 

Pray for the House of Glass, for within it are minds clear and pure as ice

and mountain streams. Pray for the great leaders of nations in the House of

Mica who in their own quiet ways help the earth in balance.

 

We pray the Great Spirit that one day our Mother Earth will be purified

into a healthy peaceful one. Let us sing for strength of wisdom with all

nations for the good of all people. Our hope is not yet lost, purification

must be to restore the health of our Mother Earth for lasting peace and

happiness.”

Techqua Ikachi – Hopi Prayer for Peace

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Veterans Day 2014

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“Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war.”

Mark Twain

 

Veterans Day

Image: The Burnt Papers.

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The Chief at 51

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Wow! I’m 51 today. That’s more than half a century. So, what? I feel pretty good. I’m certainly glad to make it to this age. The alternative isn’t pleasant. I think of the few people I know who died well before 51 and I certainly can’t be thankful enough that I’ve lived this long. Each day I wake up gives me another chance to make my life better.

I do have a few simple wishes:

  • That my parents’ health improves long enough for me to get their life stories on video. They’re not celebrities, but they’ve led some interesting lives and have some great tales to share.
  • That my dog lives a few more years. He’s 12 now, which apparently puts him in the same age bracket as my parents. He’s only the second dog I’ve ever own, but he’s made realize what’s important in life.
  • To get my novel published within the next few months. I’ve worked on this thing longer than most DVD players have been around, so it’s way past time to get it into print. Being a professional, published writer is all I’ve ever wanted to do with my life anyway. I know it’s a tough business, but I can imagine no better profession for me.
  • To see my freelance writing career take off. Business or technical writing is the second greatest passion I have – somewhere after lifting weights and sleeping nude.
  • To find a box with $1 million in cash somewhere on the side of the road.

Okay, maybe getting my novel published now is a bit of a stretch. But who says we can’t dream extravagantly?

I don’t know why I’ve made it to this age, nor do I know why I’ve gone through all the crap I’ve experienced. I’ll find out one day. But it’s brought me here. And my life isn’t done yet. I don’t know how much longer I have, but I want to make up for all the lost years of being terrified of the future. Here’s to more time on Earth with the people I love and care for the most!

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