And In The Center Ring – Bomb Threats, Rotating First Ladies And Pope Francis

headshot

From the political circus, a few items for your consideration and possible amusement before we bring out the dancing bears.

Item 1:   Bomb threat shuts down hearing on bomb threats

Members of the United States Senate were holding a hearing on problems with the Transportation Security Administration, which currently has multiple issues including an inability to stop fake bombs from being smuggled through their security web, when the Senate  Office Building had to be evacuated because of a bomb threat.

Item 2:   Rotating First Ladies

Republican Senator Lindsay Graham, who is a bachelor, says he has a sister and that he’ll have “rotating first ladies” if elected President of the United States.

“Well, I’ve got a sister.  She could play that role if necessary,”  Graham told the Daily Mail Online “I’ve got a lot of friends.  We’ll have a rotating first lady,” he said.

Item 3:  Take My Mother-In-Law, Please  

Hillary Clinton’s been making some interesting charges lately, condemning the huge salaries being paid CEO’s, and tax breaks being given to hedge fund managers.  “There’s something wrong when hedge fund managers pay less in taxes than nurses or the truckers I saw on I-80,” she said at campaign stop in Iowa.

It is perhaps pertinent that Mrs. Clinton has taken tens of thousands of dollars in speaking fees from some of those very same CEO’s she now condemns and that her daughter Chelsea, is married to a hedge fund manager.   Is there anything politicians won’t say to get past a primary?

Item 4:  Say It Ain’t So Dennis

Former Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, a Republican,  just made his first court appearance to face charges that he paid hush money to bury sexual misconduct issues allegedly related to something that happened years ago when he was a high school teacher and wrestling coach.    Fascinating to note that Hastert, became Speaker at the very same time the Republicans were skewering Bill Clinton for his problems with Monica Lewinsky and her little blue dress.    Following in Clinton’s shoes, Mr. Hastert, has pleaded not guilty.

Item 5:  Santorum Spins And Twirls

Another Republican hopeful, attorney Rick Santorum, says the church should stay out of science and specifically, that he wants the Pope to stop talking about climate change.    Interesting comment, since Pope Francis holds a degree as a chemical technician and worked as a chemist before becoming a priest.   So technically, he is a scientist while Santorum, is not.

However, Santorum is a devout Catholic and says it’s his belief “The church has gotten it wrong a few times on science, and I think that we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists…”    Meaning, apparently, that Santorum believes the majority of the science that’s out there and will therefore join the Holy Father (who is trained in science) in his quest to take steps to combat climate change – even while Santorum argues that the church should stay out of science.

And this guy wants to be president.   Then again, he’s no more confused than Dubya was, and the country elected him to two terms.   Sort of.

If all  else fails,  the Republicans can always turn to the Supreme Court.

H/T to Ellen Ratner & John Oliver

Tweeting In Code

headshot

I’m a fairly bright guy.   I try and remain as current as possible – a big fan of John Oliver, Larry Wilmore, Jon Stewart and Silicon Valley.   I built a computer just to see if I could and it worked.   I was an early webmaster on the Net, fooling around with html when most folks had no idea what html was.  Come to think of it, most folks still have no idea.  I think I know what’s happening out there.   And then this shows up as “trending” on Twitter.

App Store ?@AppStore 9h9 hours ago

#WWDC15 is the epicenter of change. Experience the keynote live today at 10 a.m. PDT at http://apple.co/live .

Are we mere mortals supposed to be able to make any sense out of this?  Seriously?  It’s “trending” on Twitter?  It appears to be an ad for something from Apple, but what?  When is an ad not an ad but an “event?”   Should we care?

Studies show that social media can cause anxiety and depression. This depresses me and I’m not even sure why.   Maybe because there appears to be a whole subset of humanity operating in a separate universe with a language and thought patterns all their own, and it’s just a matter of time before those of us here on planet Earth are left totally behind.   Clueless and drooling.  Wondering what went wrong and why nothing is understandable anymore.

Is there any percentage in slowing down long enough to try and understand where we might be headed, or is it now our nature to spiral out of control?

You’ll have to forgive me now, while I leave to Google “WWDC15.”  Having no idea what it is except that it’s “the epicenter of change,” is giving me anxiety.   A deep gnawing anxiety only made worse by the thought that whatever it is, it’s apparently happening for the 15th time and I’ve only just found out about it.

Driven By Paranoia We Soldier On

headshot

There I was, on a treadmill at the gym, the big screen in front of me tuned to CNN,  informing all who dared watch that the federal government had been hacked, probably by China.   That the nasty Chinese had hacked a database, stealing information on federal workers.    Well, they weren’t exactly sure it was China.   I mean, they couldn’t prove China was responsible,  but the experts CNN rolled out onto their stage for instant analysis thought it could have been the Chinese.    That it probably was the Chinese.  One thought it was “likely” the Chinese were to blame and that was that.  The Chinese, were now the “likely” hackers of the federal government.   From  there it was a short hop to officially fixing blame, facts be damned.

I was just getting over the implications of CNN’s speculation that the United States Government had (likely) been hacked by Communist China (probably) and what we might have to do about it at a time when Congress (coincidentally) is voting to limit spying by the NSA, when they hit me with more alarming news.   ISIS, the all-encompassing evil ISIS, had turned off the water at some dam somewhere in the desert and Iraqis were running for their lives.  Again.   Oh no!   But why do we care?

Because more trouble in Iraq,  is sure to lead to another round of expert advice from former military personnel now consulting for CNN, advising us that the problem will only be solved by more American “boots on the ground.”    Even with the massive sectarian religious overtones driving the fight, even though we have been ineffective in our efforts over more than a dozen years in Iraq (25 years if you take it all the way back to the beginning with “Desert Shield”),  only more “boots on the ground” will fix things in the Middle East and North Africa.    Only more funding for the military-industrial complex will help.  The only way to extricate ourselves is to dig a deeper hole.   What would you expect ex-military personnel to say?   Their training, their very fiber, is tuned to achieving victory not withdrawal, which they surely associate with defeat.

Never is there any mention of what can be done to achieve peace.   Just more war and spending more for war.  It’s what we do.  And the media, gone mad in the rush for ratings,  is all in.   You don’t think so?

From there it only got worse, with a story about a 26 year-old in Boston who was shot dead by police because he had a knife and was suspected of harboring thoughts of killing police.   CNN had a terrible picture of the young man wearing a baseball cap on backwards, down low over his forehead, youth rapper-culture fashion,  making him look like something less than a member of the local high school debate team.

They kept flashing the photo over and over as they talked about the way ISIS is brainwashing American youth to do their bidding on U.S. soil.   The connection was obvious, as the young suspect’s family is “well known among Muslims” in the Boston community.   There it is.  Not too difficult for the tv people to figure it out.   THEY ARE EXPORTING TERROR!

ISIS is here!   ISIS is there!   ISIS is everywhere, cutting off the water and brainwashing our youth while, at the same time, evil Chinese Communists (our business partners to whom we are deeply in debt) hack our sacred national database, stealing information about federal employees!  Although no one is exactly certain why.

If you want any peace of mind at all, avoid CNN.  Especially when you go to the gym.   It’ll blow your workout all to pieces.

The Passing Of A Midwestern News Icon

kraehling

Bud Kraehling has died.  He was 96.  For those of us who lived in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, it’s like losing a family member.

For years, Bud did the weather on the midwestern news giant, WCCO-TV.    For many years “CCO” was the news leader in the Twin Cities and surrounding area,  and that meant Bud Kraehling  was “the” weather authority for a great many people.   He was also incredibly easy-going.   A member of that “greatest generation” that had gone through the Great Depression and World War II, and who, consequently, didn’t get too bent out of shape about minor happenings.

Unlike some of today’s broadcasters, who are constantly encouraged to hype even minor events in an effort to drive the ratings (if they wish to remain employed), Bud Kraehling and his contemporaries didn’t get too excited about anything unless it merited the added attention, and that made Kraehling and the guys he worked with believable, credible and professional.   Gentlemen like my former colleagues at KSTP,  Bob Ryan, Johnny Morris and John MacDougall.   Men who had survived the hellfire of war and were undoubtedly stronger, wiser and more measured for it.

Because they were serious about what they did and because the station owners allowed them to take their jobs seriously, or not,  and to be honest about it, they drew an audience at a time when there was no satellite or cable.   And yes, there is a lesson to be learned from the way they did their jobs.

Goodbye, Bud.   Thanks for all you did.   Thanks for reminding us how it’s supposed to be done.   You were like an uncle who was always there to warn us it was time to head down to the cellar because a tornado was on the way and that eventually everything would be okay.   That we would all get through it because we were Minnesotans.  That we were tough enough to weather one more storm if everybody would just calm down, use their heads, and carry on.   Which we did.  With a smile.  Thanks to you.

FIFA And The U.S. Congress – An Unholy Double Standard

headshot

FIFA officials are under indictment from the U.S. Attorney General,  for taking kickbacks to influence their voting.   Exactly like the U.S. system of paying off members of the House and Senate to influence their voting.   So a soccer federation is being held to a higher legal standard than the White House and the Congress of the United States.  

Bernie Sanders is absolutely right, it’s time for a political revolution in America.  The following, written long ago by American patriot Tom Paine, is once again on point. 

“THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”   -‘The Crisis’ byThomas Paine, December 23, 1776 

Why I Just Contributed To Bernie Sanders

headshot

A lifetime in Journalism made me a believer in transparency, which, of course, makes disclosure an important issue even though I currently do what are commonly called “opinion pieces.”  That is to say, I no longer do straight-ahead Journalism, giving readers both sides of the story and then letting them decided for themselves how they might feel about one issue or another.    I stopped doing that kind of Journalism when I left KTLA-TV in 2009 and began writing this blog.   Whether my objectivity and fairness continue now that I am issuing forth with opinion is a question for my readers to answer.

Being able to tell people how I feel about major issues is a real relief following forty years of leaving my opinions and personal bias on the doorstep at home when I left for work each day.   It isn’t easy, but it can be done.   There are any number of outstanding journalists who are doing exactly that, even though many are shown little or no appreciation for their efforts at ethical professional behavior due to the financial pressures pushing down on both print and broadcast news.

But back to transparency.   Today, I made a contribution to the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders.   Some months ago, I made more than one contribution to the Senate campaign of Elizabeth Warren.    I openly support both Sanders and Warren in my writing,  so I don’t feel ethically challenged in sending them money.   Prior to those donations, while I was doing straight-ahead journalism, not only did I never contribute to anyone’s campaign, I  refrained from voting out of fear that having a horse in the race would compromise my ethical position as a journalist.   How could I possibly support a candidate and still expect my viewers to believe I was being objective in my work?   In fact, prior to Sanders and Warren, the only other campaign contribution I had ever made was a small check I made out to George McGovern in the 70’s,  before I got into journalism.

My opinion is that voting for Hillary because she is a woman, is not a valid reason to vote for Hillary.  She’s taken way too much money from Wall Street.   She’s far too tied into the big American banking machine.  In the end, she will favor those who have paid her.   She has to, if only because it’s human nature to favor those who favor you, and she has been favored in a big way.

As for Bernie, yes he leans toward social reform.  Toward re-blancing the nation’s progressive tax structure.  So what?   Who do you think pays for the fire department, the police department, our roads and highways, our food inspectors (such as they still are), maintaining our clean air and water, disaster relief and our military?   Aren’t you burned out on paying twice what the Canadians pay for prescription meds?  If anything, Bernie will bring America back to being a more balanced or “mixed” economy, providing both the incentives offered by Capitalism and the security provided by  Democratic Socialism, without taking us off the rails and into some extremist ideology, which is where this current batch of extremist Republicans want us to go.   The privatization the Republicans are after is no better than Communism.  Both ultimately result in a form of feudalism, absent of adequate self-determination and shared power.

As Bill Moyers recently called to our attention, “…Sanders’s positions are quite mainstream from the point of view of the stances of the American public in general. Of course, the 1 percent, for whom and by whom most mainstream media report, are appalled and would like to depict him as an outlier.”  Moyers points to a recent Gallup poll showing that 63% of Americans support Sanders contention, “that the current distribution of wealth is unfair.”

By my way of thinking, if Sanders has a fault, it’s the same problem Jimmy Carter and George McGovern had.   He’s just too damn honest for American politics.     This isn’t my original thought.   If memory serves,  it came from the shark-toothed brain of Hunter S. Thompson.  I’m not suggesting it’s always a bad problem to have, if only the American people could recognize that honesty is better for us than the lie-fueled, festering,  entertainment driven, mud-slinging frenzy that has come to dominate our political landscape.   It’s so much easier to draw someone’s attention with slime and innuendo than with a discussion of the facts,  a game that plays against politicians who try and deal with the truth to the exclusion of personal attacks.

I think Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are trying to do the right thing against terrifying odds.   In this current environment, that, at the very least, makes them statesmen (and woman), and possibly even patriots.   Real patriots, not one of those flag waving empty bags of rhetorical racket who grow fat on the blood and tears of others while proportionately putting back so much less than they take from the system.

There it is.   All in the interest of transparency.   Were I still on the air, working for a news organization that represents itself as being objective, I wouldn’t be donating to anybody.   But, as I now write opinion pieces, my opinion is that it’s okay to donate to Bernie Sanders.   Considering the bankers and their billions that are stacked against him, I urge you to send what you can by going to his campaign website, berniesanders.com. 

Some are saying he can’t beat Hillary.    Probably some of the same folks who said Obama couldn’t win the primary in 08.

Send Bernie a couple of bucks.  Click here – https://berniesanders.com

Remember

bud

Ensign LeClaire “Bud”Olsen, Aviator, United States Navy, WW II (Paynesville, MN)

Possibly among the finest high school athletes ever to come out of the State of Minnesota, Bud Olsen, earned 14 letters in his high school athletic career, lettering in basketball, football, track and baseball.  After high school, he moved on to Macalester College for a year before transferring to the University of Minnesota, where he intended to play football and study dentistry.

However, the war intervened and in November of 1942 Bud enlisted in the U.S. Naval Air Corps.  He was killed in the Pacific on Dec. 2, 1944,  when his plane, a Grumman TBF Avenger, crashed during a landing attempt on the light carrier Belleau Wood, went into the water and sank within seconds.  His body was never recovered.

To the Uncle I never met. – RIP

Bush/Cheney And The Big Lie That Won’t Go Away

headshot

To say someone has “lied” about something is pretty strong stuff.    It’s so much easier and nicer to imply that they might have intentionally or unintentionally misrepresented the facts based upon conflicting or otherwise confusing evidence.   That way,  the liar (or liars) can later weasel out of their untruths and any trouble their misrepresentations might have caused.   Which is precisely what George W. Bush, Dick Cheney,  and the rest of the Bush crime syndicate have been doing for years.

Perhaps saddest of all, is the degree to which the American mass media watched the Bushies whip the nation into a war frenzy over imaginary weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and non-existent links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, while doing little or nothing to stop it from moving forward.

Remember the misrepresented aluminum tubes?   The yellow cake in Niger that wasn’t there?   Secret meetings in Paris that never took place?   Outing undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame?  Why were they permitted to lay all that nonsense on us and then just walk away?

I was privileged to be working out of the Los Angeles Times in those nervy days, attending the paper’s daily editorial meetings,  and I watched it happen.   It was evident to anyone who cared to read the paper, that Bush and Cheney weren’t getting what they wanted from then CIA Director George Tenet, so they kept sending him back to Langley to come up with evidence of WMD’s and a connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, even if the evidence wasn’t there.   They needed it and they were going to have it regardless of what the CIA might be telling them.   When it was over they blamed not their own push for non-existent evidence, but the CIA for giving them what they were demanding.   Later, Tenet, would be forced to fall on his sword for the Bushies,  as he was presented with the Medal of Freedom before being pushed out the door.   It’s the same departure technique LBJ used on Robert McNamara, after Johnson got tired of being told the Vietnam War was a bad idea.

Of course, what Tenet did or did not say in secret meetings with Administration officials cannot be proven, and unlike Judith Miller, I have no inside information to give you.   These are just my recollections having followed daily reports out of Washington for months on end and nothing more.

The Times did an excellent job reporting what was happening, but by that time the war frenzy propaganda machine was running over everything in its path.   They had us all thinking about taping plastic sheeting to our windows, looking for white powder in the mail and imagining mushroom clouds over the city skyline.   And now, here were are,  a dozen years later, and the former Acting Director of the CIA, Michael Morell, has written a book and is telling those who will listen that Cheney intentionally got it wrong.    That he Intentionally misrepresented the facts to the American people in the runup to the war.

Dare we say it?  He lied.  And if he lied, they lied.  All of them, who repeatedly talked about the threat of mushroom clouds over American cities, or the even bigger lie about an alleged connection between Osama and Saddam Hussein, two men who were in truth, mortal enemies.    The bogus connection between the two is a bigger lie, as in the preemptive world of perceived threats of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, we can surely imagine that Saddam Hussein, might eventually have been able to assemble a bomb.   It might have taken him thirty years and it might only have been a cherry bomb, but he could eventually have done it.   That’s one thing.    Osama and Saddam being allies, is another.  Are we really so naive as to believe the CIA had no idea that Saddam and al Qaeda were at opposite poles of their political  spectrum?  But of course that wasn’t what the Bush/Cheney Administration wanted to hear.

They lied.  Nobody wants to come out and just say it.   Not even Hillary Clinton, who is saying she “got it wrong,” that she made a mistake in voting for the Iraq War.   A mistake?   Why doesn’t she just admit that like so many others, she was tricked into voting the way she did by the Bush/Cheney Administration?   Many of the very same fine Republicans who remain at the top of their wonderful party even today, undoubtedly still drawing upon many of the same public relations professionals who were pressed into service by the Administration in the runup to the Iraq War.   The same guys who scared the nation nearly out of its wits with a massive smear of half-truths, innuendo and falsehood.

The root issue perhaps, is that if we admit they were feeding us lies,  we might then feel compelled to do something about it.   Is the nation ready for that?   And if not, aren’t we condoning the propaganda roller coaster they created and the place it took us as a people?

Attorney Vincent Bugliosi, who put Charles Manson behind bars, has expressed his feelings on the issue in his bestselling book,  “The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder.”   One wonders how many others would be in agreement.

People Or Profits? Mr. Obama Can’t Have It Both Ways

headshot

President Obama is in Camden, New Jersey, promoting community policing.   He’s talking about the need to reform the criminal justice system, particularly with our current “drug culture,” and massive numbers of Americans, (disproportionately  back men), doing time in prison.   He’s also going to cut the supply of military equipment going  to the police as he touts the need to build trust between American communities and their police departments.     He also wants more young people to be able to go to college.

That’s all great.   But he said nothing about the cause.   He said nothing about job creation, about people being able to get a good paying job and funneling more money into education and after-school programs and housing.   About how you keep families from breaking apart.  About keeping kids off the street.

Politicians create the problems.   The police are then sent out to deal with the mess when what the politicians have done or failed to do,  falls apart.    Sure there are bad cops, but mostly there are cops trying to clean up the mess bad government has created by favoring the rich.

Mr. Obama, really shouldn’t complain about problems that have been caused by the off-shoring of good paying jobs here in the U.S., while he also supports his new “TPP” trade deal.   An international deal, made in secret, which Senator Elizabeth Warren, Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, Senator Bernie Sanders and many others believe, based upon what they’ve seen and the impact of NAFTA and CAFTA,  will ultimately benefit the multi-nationals and Wall Streeters, far more than average Americans on Main Street.

Sure we need a better relationship between the police and their communities.   Of course we want more kids to be able to afford college.  Yes, more needs to be done about the scourge of drugs.  It’s also wonderful to help little old ladies cross the street and to say one’s prayers before going beddie-bye.

Job creation?  Increased funding for education to the point that college is affordable or even free?   Encouraging a job market that provides enough pay for one head of the household to support an entire family?  What’s that got to do with it?

Remember the words of the song,  “If you ain’t got nothin’, you ain’t got nothin’ to lose?” 

Perhaps we won’t have to equip our police to look like the First Infantry Division,  if we can just deal with root causes like underfunded education and the lack of good paying jobs while the rich fail to pay their fair share  for the nation’s financial needs while hiding their money in off-shore accounts.

Isn’t it interesting that the wealthy seem to have no problem when paying for the military, only for the state of our civilization here at home?   Could that be why our police are becoming increasingly militarized?

And so our President stands in front of an audience in Camden, expressing his concern for problems created largely by the lack of good paying jobs and a healthy, all inclusive economy, while, at the same time, he supports creating a more favorable business climate for multi-national corporations who have already expressed their disregard for the American people by off-shoring millions of jobs.

The American People or the TPP?  Mr. Obama, can’t have it both ways.

More Than Ever, It’s All About The Money

headshot

An often-used technique by those who would fool you into doing something that’s contrary to your own best interest, is to make the situation seem so complex, so terribly complicated, that there is just no way you can fully understand what’s really going on.   So you give up, leave it alone, and let someone else decide for you.

In a culture that forces so many of us to work twelve hour days or hold down two jobs just to keep the kids fed, this happens frequently, to the point that much of what should be issue oriented news never gets on the air, with news executives declaring that “it’s just too complicated for television.”   No, it’s not.   They just don’t want to put in the time, effort and money necessary to get it done.    So an already exhausted American public becomes a little more dumbed down.

So let’s simplify.

-There is a direct connection between the dumbing down of America and the rise of the new ruling Corporatocracy which began with the tax cuts of “Reagonomics,” and deregulation, and continued on with the Neocon policies of the Republican Party, supported by a Democratic Party,  which,  more often than not sat on its hands while the rich bought our political system and off-shored millions of jobs to countries where slave-labor wages are accepted.   It’s to their advantage to keep you in the dark,  while you are spoon fed overblown issues like Benghazi, by a corporate owned media that cares more for profits than public responsibility.   So you don’t get what you need, you get ratings-driven “infotainment.”

-We are no longer a Democratic Republic, we are an Oligarchy, controlled by multi-national corporations, millionaires and billionaires.   Thinking your vote matters, when the Congress and White House are owned by billionaires and CEO’s, is a sad joke.   The “Citizens United” decision by the Supreme Court drove the last nail in our national coffin, giving free reign to the wealthy of any nation to purchase the U.S. Government.   How’s that for the “New World Order” George H.W. Bush talked about while having no idea what a bar code reader does?   While politicians still must fear losing their jobs by losing an election, that lever has lost much of its clout for the American people, as newcomers who are voted in will eventually fall prey to the millions of dollars flooding the system from lobbyists, giving us the best government money can buy.   The more money you have, the more the government is likely to reflect your wants and needs.

Consequently-

-The United States lags behind the rest of the developed world in healthcare.   We continue to pay more and get less.   Even with “Obamacare.”   We need to catch up with the rest of the developed world with a single payer, government controlled system of Medicare for all.   Dental care and eye care need to be included in the system.   To regard dental and vision care as somehow being separate from healthcare, is madness.

-We are badly behind most of the European countries in rail safety, as was just highlighted by the tragic train derailment in Philadelphia, a crash that might have been prevented by technology that automatically slows trains to a safe speed.   Technology the Europeans have been using for years, but we don’t have it, as the railroad industry and Congress argue over who is going to pay to have it installed.   By one estimate, 140 rail accidents might have been prevented had the new “Positive Train Control” system been installed.   Instead,  congress voted to cut rail funding on the day of the Philadelphia crash.    This isn’t a high speed bullet train we’re talking about folks, it’s old fashioned 20th Century train travel.   And we can’t afford to get it right?   Oh well, at least we’re good at making war.   What about once the war ends?

-The U.S. continues to offer inadequate support to its veterans.  According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, “Although flawless counts are impossible to come by – the transient nature of homeless populations presents a major difficulty – the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that 49,933 veterans are homeless on any given night.

Approximately 12,700 veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation New Dawn (OND) were homeless in 2010. The number of young homeless veterans is increasing, but only constitutes 8.8% of the overall homeless veteran population.”

We didn’t give adequate care to our vets following Vietnam, and now we’re doing it all over again with those returning from the Middle East.

There’s more, but isn’t this enough?    The rich do well, while the middle class is gutted.   Our infrastructure goes begging while our elderly can’t afford dental or vision care and millions of Americans are forced to pay for “Obamacare” which still has no “public option” to provide real competition for the insurance industry.

At the heart of the problem is a lack of campaign finance reform.  They’ve bought us, folks.   They own us.  Our government is going to the highest bidder.    Many of our politicians are in bed with the CEO’s on Wall Street who nearly bankrupted the nation.   But none of the big shots went to jail and the “too big to fail” banks are still there.

It’s relevant that a significant cause of World War II, was a worldwide depression that got its start on Wall Street.

It’s really very simple.   Our representative government is gone.  You now get all the representation you can afford to buy.   With enough money you can defraud the nation, nearly crash the world’s economy, and stay out of jail.  Our Senate has routinely been called a “millionaires club.”  Professional politicians like the Clintons enter office in debt to eventually become millionaires who set up their personal legacy with a fund that’s received millions in donations from the Saudis.   Then there’s the speaker’s circuit, which can be incredibly profitable if you have the right friends.   Politico reports that Bill and Hillary, have pulled in roughly $25 million in speaking fees since 2014.   On the other side of the isle, the uber-rich Bush family takes us to war in Iraq, while maintaining a close ties with Saudi royalty.    Are you beginning to see a pattern?   It’s all about who you know and who is willing to buy your influence.

At the same time, so many Washington fat cats, particularly on the Republican side,  refer to Social Security and Medicare as “entitlements” that should be eliminated.   Entitlements?  Hell,  many of us, with no friends in Saudi Arabia to rely on,  have been paying into those programs since we were in our teens.   They’re not entitlements, they are earned benefits for our national social good, as Bernie Sanders has repeatedly stated.  FDR got it right and now Bernie, and populists like Elizabeth Warren, may be our last best hope.   Remember that term.   Earned benefits.  They are EARNED.   They are NOT a government handout.

Don’t let all the smoke and mirrors confuse you.  It’s all about the money.  Always has been.  Everything else is an illusion.   Until all that  money is somehow gotten out of politics,  we the people out here on Main Street are flat-out screwed, as our trains crash, our highways crumble, homeless veterans live in cardboard boxes under an overpass while we continue paying twice as much as the rest of the developed world for prescription drugs and our old folks are forced to sign “reverse mortgages” in their golden years, as the wealthy on Wall Street develop yet another method to extract every last bit of wealth Middle America has.

In Defense Of The American Garage

headshot

In some parts of the country there appears to be a trend shifting away from the two-car garage to a one-car garage or to no garage at all.  This is troubling, in that the housing industry is undoubtedly looking at forecasts pointing  to a future with far fewer cars and hence, less need for a garage.

Perhaps they feel global warming will force us to abandon personal transportation in favor of riding a bus, or maybe they see the American middle class being so economically devastated by the off-shoring of jobs that homebuyers won’t be able to afford both a new house and a car?   In either case, the American garage appears to be in trouble and that’s seriously bad news for the U.S.A.

But “oh” you say, “surely that’s an overstatement!”  Really?

Think of what’s come out of American garages.   Apple computers and Microsoft for starters, as well as Amazon.com, Google and Disney.   Ritchie Valens and the Velvet Underground got started as garage bands, and although I can’t prove it, I’ll bet old Buddy Holly did too, along with dozens of others who were foundational for mainstream rock n’ roll.    There’s also  Mattel and Maglite and finally, although this is, if anything, an incomplete list, the great Harley Davidson motorcycle.

They all came out of  somebody’s garage or somebody’s parent’s garage, which argues for more and bigger garages, not fewer.   Considering all they’ve given us, our elected leaders should think about setting aside a date on the calendar as “Garage Appreciation Day.”

The time will come when that piece of oil-stained cardboard your father threw down on the floor because the old Rambler blew a gasket, will be framed and hanging in the local museum as a testament to all that we once were.

Garages have done more than house our cars.   They’ve been a springboard for cultural development and a cultural repository.     Without garages, where will we go to create?   Where will all those kids in the Midwest build their floats for thousands of high school homecoming parades?  Imagine America without Apple, Harleys,  Disneyland and rock n’ roll.   America, without Mickey Mouse and Homecoming?

I suppose those who follow will find some other space to create, but it won’t be the same.  It can’t be, for nothing is more American than the American garage, with its oil stains, old license plates, lawn mowers, a big coffee can filled with mismatched nuts and bolts, old tires, your dead grandfather’s golf clubs, the steering wheel from a 54 Olds, motorcycles, gas cans, garbage cans, outdated pinup calendars, campaign posters, tools on a peg board, greasy rags, old baseball gloves, skateboards,  garage bands and all.

And over in the corner an old mirror hangs cockeyed from a rusty three penny nail, reflecting all that we are.

PAINSOFLOVE

“Pains of Love” – American Garage Band/1970’s – Harrisburg, PA  (click on pic for enlargement) photo courtesy of Michael Jones

On The Road In America

headshot

Had an epiphany this morning.    Well, more of an affirmation really, that things are every bit as bad as I thought they were.   As bad as I’ve read and heard they are from those who are supposed to know about issues like real unemployment after millions of jobs have been off-shored never to return,  as the gap between the rich and the rest grows from being just wide to historically chasmatic.

My sisters just drove from one coast to the other taking a lot of side-roads to get a really good look at America, a feel for reality rather than just zipping by on the interstates,  pulling over only for gas and a sandwich before rushing on.  It was a kind of remake of the old “Route 66″ tv show with Martin Milner and George Maharis, except that this time it was my sisters and Lucy the Bernese Mountain Dog in a Volvo crossover instead of two guys in a Corvette convertible.   Almost the same thing.

I hadn’t heard from them since their last stop in Morgantown, West Virginia, until this morning, when one of them emailed, saying they had completed their journey and that, “People can’t afford to fix their cars or paint their houses all the way across this country. ”

And there it was.

This wasn’t coming from someone speculating about the real world impact of the Wall Street crash and the off-shoring of jobs.   This was a first-hand account of someone who just crossed the country by car, actually taking a look around the heartland, as opposed to crunching numbers in a cubicle and then sending them  out in a news release to the media in New York and L.A.

While Baltimore burned, down in Washington, Mr. Obama and the Prime Minister of Japan met with reporters in the Rose Garden, trumpeting the advantages of their new “Trans Pacific Partnership” deal, the “TPP,” just as others from earlier administrations told us how  much we’d benefit from NAFTA, CAFTA and the WTO.

We’ve heard it all before, fellas.

And Bernie Sanders is running.  I hope people take him seriously.   I hope he can raise enough money to take on the Clintons and the other millionaires and billionaires who have a lock on the system.   If Americans can’t afford to paint their houses or fix their cars,  it only follows that there is so much more they can’t afford, like dental care and decent food.  Or a way out of the projects in a city like Baltimore, where economic disparity and social injustice stand side by side, blocking the American dream.

 

Goodbye Jayne

Jayne_Meadows

photo:  wikipedia

Actress and a true force of nature, Jayne Meadows, wife of tv legend Steve Allen, sister of Audrey Meadows of “The Honeymooners,” died at home in Encino, CA, of natural causes on Sunday.   She was 95.  She was a friend.   Condolences to her family.

steveallen

Ron Olsen, Steve Allen and Jayne Meadows in later years attend a dinner in Los Angeles, honoring Steve’s lifetime of public service.