Remember

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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“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

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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

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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.

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

 

 

Prosecute Dick Cheney? Yeah, Right….When Pigs Fly

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Kudos to the New York Times for having the stones to recommend that Dick Cheney and other officials of the administration of George W. Bush, should be prosecuted for war crimes.   Of course they should.  The feds should also throw a dozen or so big bankers in jail for committing fraud and crashing the economy in 2008.   But they haven’t and they won’t.   And nobody is going to prosecute Dick Cheney, and the editorial writers at the Times know it.

The big guys at the top almost always take care of one another.  In big business, how many of the CEO’s who have crashed big companies and then bailed out with golden parachutes have been prosecuted?   It’s endemic in our society and the same holds true for politics.  Ford, pardoned Richard Nixon, the Reagan Administration was never held accountable for prolonging the release of the American hostages in Iran in 1981, and and Mr. Obama, won’t condone a criminal prosecution of Dick Cheney.   If he did, a special prosecutor appointed by his new attorney general might have to haul a former president into court to testify.   There’s a precedent no sitting president wants to set.

Beyond that, can you even imagine the uproar from the right, claiming any prosecution of poor Dick Cheney and his inner circle was purely political?   Whitewater, Benghazi, Vince Foster and Monica Lewinsky combined don’t even being to touch it.

Being able to commit and benefit from horrendous acts, either economically or politically, and then walking away without reasonable accountability, may be at the heart of all that ails us as a people.

That doesn’t mean that putting the proposition out there has no value.   Not being able to act on the truth doesn’t mean we should deny it.  Denial, only makes matters worse by implying our tacit approval.   Like looking the other way while the Reagonites cut their deal with the Iranians to delay the release of the hostages until Reagan had been sworn in back in 1981, or when Nixon’s gang of political thugs torpedoed the peace process in Vietnam to defeat Hubert Humphrey in 1968 .

Most Americans never even think about these things.   Denial, is so much easier.

Poem: “The Dinner” (a salute to the white house correspondents dinner)

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The Dinner
by Ron Olsen

The watchers
And the watched
Nose to nose
Too close for those
Of opposing prose
An unholy alliance
Comfortable unease
In a room filled with
Corporate cheese
For those who should question
Not accept
Under the table a lobbyist crept
Doing something down there
I leave it to you
To decide what it was
To the many and the few
But doing it well
As smiles abound
Notebooks down
For the business of politics
Playing the clown
As the rubber chicken goes round and round

The poor forgotten
They’re having a ball
Yukking it up in the big banquet hall

The truth goes begging
Out in the street
While the corporate media
Meet to eat

I envy their status
Their paychecks, too
If I were there
I wouldn’t bother
With you

 

©2015 Ron Olsen – all rights reserved

Mr. Obama, Change Your Neoliberal Ways

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Neoliberalism:  “A political theory of the late 1900s holding that personal liberty is maximized by limiting government interference in the operation of free markets.”   -The Free Dictionary

I fully support the Democrats over the Neo-feudal Republicans and their ongoing push to take us all back into serfdom.  At the same time, Barack Obama, continues to entertain as he keeps trying to play both sides of the aisle.   Or whatever it is he’s now doing.  Some of it is indefinable.

You’ve gotta love the President’s latest nonsense about the need to use a naval blockade to stop Iranian ships from delivering weapons to Shia rebels in Yemen.   He says it’s to protect navigation in international waters.  If that’s the case, why aren’t we protecting the ability of the Iranian ships to navigate into Yemeni ports?    He is making no sense at all.   Unless you get beyond the big lie and understand what’s actually happening.

The United States is blocking the Iranian ships (Shia) because they would deliver arms to Shia rebels trying to push back against Sunni government leaders supported by the Saudis who are also Sunni.   Get it?   As with the rest of the Middle East and North Africa, this is a religious war and we keep sticking our big nose into the middle of it as though we know how to solve the centuries-old conflict.

In this case, the U.S. is supporting the Sunni Saudis against the Shia Iranians at a time when we are attempting to cut a nuclear control pact with Iran.  What a bad joke.  I guess Mr. Obama, has to put Saudi oil above all else?    Admittedly there is also the Israeli conundrum, dictating that anything the United States might do to create a better relationship with Iran, even if that means limiting their nuclear weapons capability into the distant future,  is inherently anti-Israeli.

Mr. Obama is also appearing comical as he continues to defend the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, which is such a great deal that it had to be negotiated in secret lest the American people would find out what was going on and rise up in anger.

It appears the only people who approve the TPP are Mr. Obama, the international business establishment, those Asian countries who will benefit and the corporate controlled Republican Party.    On the other side are the Democrats and the American people, who might be angry as hell if they knew what was going on.

The TPP.    If it’s such a great deal then stop trying to “fast track” it through the Congress, tell us what  it contains and put it out there before the American people for a full debate prior to any vote in the House and Senate.

Stop cutting trade deals behind our backs.   You guys sold us on killing Glass Steagall while passing NAFTA, CAFTA and supporting the WTO.   It was good for mutli-national corporations, a handful of their major shareholders and a few foreign countries where slave labor continues to exist,  while it wrecked the American middle class.  We may never recover.

And now you want us to trust you with this secret “TPP” deal?  What a joke.   Come on Mr. Obama.   The nation needs you to restore the two-party system and be a Democrat.   Not a neoliberal who chooses sides to fit the moment in an attempt to placate the robber barons of our new Gilded Age.    Do what you were elected to do and put the majority ahead of a wealthy minority.  Come on, you can do it.   It might even help your party at the polls in 2016.   In fact becoming a real populist, instead of continuing to talk the talk while refusing to walk the walk, would make Dems a pollitical slam dunk in 2016.   Of course you’d be taking on Wall Street and the big money multi-nationals, which you can’t really do, can you?    And if you can’t, then what are we?   Are we done?

The United States Leads In Exporting Terror To The World?

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Broad concepts can be deceiving.   They can also be enlightening.    For example, with all the war in the world, all the slaughter and mayhem, why is there almost no discussion about where the weapons are coming from?  Could it be because it might force us to face ourselves?

Illiterate thugs driving around in Japanese and American built pickup trucks blowing each other away, kidnapping little girls and conducting ethnic murder and rape on a massive scale while decrying education and knowledge are not manufacturing pickup trucks, RPG’s, heavy machine guns or assault rifles.   So were is all this stuff coming from?    What truly evil entity could be so unprincipled, immoral and greedy, as to be supplying high-powered weapons of war to an underdeveloped and politically unstable world?   Would you put an assault rifle in the hands of a 10-year old?

Surely, it must be the many faces of evil we see on the network news each night?   You know, the really bad guys like ISIL and Boko Haram?

Not really.  It’s us.   The United States is at the top of the list with Russia coming in second.    France, the UK, Germany and Israel,  also rank in the top ten on weapons exports.

Isn’t this something we at least need to be talking about here in gun loving America, as our leaders wring their hands and shake their heads about all the violence overseas and on U.S. soil?   Isn’t the fact that we are the world’s biggest exporter of weaponry pertinent?    Of course it is.  To the tune of something over $1.5 trillion  a year.   And it’s growing.

CNN reports, “Worldwide arms exports are surging. They’re up nearly 30% since 2008, according to a new report from defense analyst IHS Jane’s.”

The circle becomes all the more vicious when organized militias like ISIL, capture arms the United States has supplied to others and turns those same arms on U.S. troops.   Weapons manufacturers are the only winners.

If developed nations want the slaughter to stop, then those same developed nations need to stop supplying weaponry to the world.  Here in the States, we need to stop buying into the argument that controlling the production and sale of assault weapons is an attack on the Second Amendment.

Try and get your head around the fact that the founders had no concept of a rifle with a firing rate of 100 rounds per minute like an AK-47.   The British were hi-tech at the time, and they were using the Ferguson Rifle, a breech loading, single shot rifle, which meant you didn’t have to stick a metal ball in the barrel and ram it down with a rod.   No, the Ferguson was so hi-tech, that it permitted a skilled marksman to drop a ball in the breech (up by the trigger), apply some powder and get off between six and ten shots per minute.    Compare that to an AR-15 rifle with a rate of fire of 90 rounds per minute and an effective range of 547 yards.  And it’s available and perfectly legal at your local gun store.  Not in full-auto mind you, but conversion kits can be had.

Want something more?   Consider the little Colt 9mm SMG (submachine gun).   According to Colt’s website, the rate of fire on full-auto is 700-950 rounds per minute.   Weighing only 6.6 pounds it’s incredibly easy to use.  I know, because I fired one while under DEA supervision.  It was like holding a garden hose, except you were dealing with a stream of bullets instead of water.   To me, it felt pretty much the same.   Just like watering the garden.

That’s what happened during the “North Hollywood Shootout,”  in 1997.   The LAPD came up against two bank robbers wearing body armor and carrying illegally modified fully automatic rifles loaded with “cop killer” bullets that could penetrate so-called “bullet-proof” vests.     With SWAT away on an exercise, the LAPD was armed only with service pistols and shotguns.   They had to run to a nearby gun dealer to borrow a few semi-automatic rifles to fight back while waiting for SWAT to arrive.   In 44 minutes while the two bank robbers held off the police,  eleven cops and seven civilians were injured with more than 1,700 rounds flying through the air.   Both suspects were eventually killed.   The incident, with two men holding off dozens of police officers, led to an increase in firepower at police departments across the country.

I was there and I’ll always remember the words of my friend,  video-journalist David Lopez, who later recalled, “It was just like that movie, “Heat.”  He was right.  It was.   Because the suspects had assault rifles modified to operate on full-auto, the police were simply outgunned.

The Second Amendment argument benefits only the arms manufacturers, allowing them to continue flooding the U.S. and the world not with hunting or sporting weapons, but with weapons of war which have no purpose other than the slaughter of human beings.   And the United States, is by far and away leading the world in the export of what truly should be considered weapons of mass destruction.    We’ve been warned repeatedly about the Military Industrial Complex and profitability.

“Well, come on Wall Street, don’t move slow,
Why man, this is war a-go-go.
There’s plenty good money to be made
By supplying the Army with the tools of the trade,                                               Just hope and pray that if they drop the bomb,
They drop it on the Viet Cong….”                                                                                 -‘Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die Rag’ – Country Joe McDonald, 1966

When a hippie singer from the 60’s like Country Joe McDonald is in agreement with Dwight David Eisenhower,  former 5-star General of the Army who led the military that defeated the Nazis and then went on to be elected President on a Republican ticket, it is perhaps time for us to pay closer attention to what’s going on and maybe even try and think things through.

Follow the money, and don’t buy into the nonsense that if we stop supplying the weaponry,  production will simply shift to Russia, China, and a few other countries.   Somebody has to take the lead in stopping this madness.    Since the U.S. is supplying most of the weapons, then a halt to weapons exports by the U.S. would clearly be a good place to start as it would provide the greatest incentive for other supposedly civilized nations to follow suit.

Imagine putting a genuine push for peace ahead of the ongoing promotion of warfare and death.   Imagine trade sanctions on any country that refused to stop exporting weapons of war.   Is that even possible,  or will we have to wait another three or four hundred years to evolve to a point at which we cease being our own worst enemy?

It’s something to think about as we wait for the next body count to come in from Mali or Nigeria, the next mass drowning of war refugees in the Mediterranean, and the next school shooting here in the United States as the developed nations sit back in relative security collecting the profits on arms sales to second and third world nations who hate us for what we are.

Oh Lord! Jeb Bush Is Excited!

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FLASH! “Jeb Bush ‘excited about the possibility’ of a presidential run!” Really? Could this be more predictable?

So it’ll be Hillary, going all liberal following two years of smiles and silence to pick up her base and Jeb going as far to the right as he can without sounding too much like a nutjob to pick up his base as they both head off into the primaries. Then, as the general approaches, they’ll tell us what they really think, but only if it’s deemed acceptable by various board room bullies who care more for their bottom lines than they do for America,  the oil barons of Texas and assorted other billionaires who have no more connection to Main Street Americans than George W. Bush has to worrying how to pay the rent and put food on the table.

Hillary, of course, could surprise everybody and turn her back on the bankers who have been paying her $200,000 a pop for speaking engagements, not to mention contributions to the Clinton Foundation, and the potential threat to Bill’s legacy should the big money stop rolling in.

What do you suppose the Wall Streeters were buying with those mammoth speaking fees?   Advice on how to invest their billions?  Why do you suppose Bill cozied up to the Bush clan once he left the White House?

Meantime, middle America is being devastated as the gap between the rich and the rest hits dimensions not seen prior to the Gilded Age as the nation’s youth struggle to pay back huge college loans for an education that should be free and our elderly can’t afford dental care.

The following passage on the Gilded Age (1870’s – 1900) bears consideration:  “Political corruption was rampant, as business leaders spent significant amounts of money ensuring that government did not regulate the activities of big business – and they more often than not got what they wanted. Such corruption was so commonplace that in 1868 the New York state legislature legalized such bribery.[51] Historian Howard Zinn argues that the U.S. government was acting exactly as Karl Marx described capitalist states: “pretending neutrality to maintain order, but serving the interests of the rich.”[52]” – Wikipedia

Sound familiar?   Pretend it isn’t so.  Pretend Hillary will do a 180 on the robber barons of the 21st Century and fight to fix it.   Or that anti-unionist,  Rand Paul,  who opposes abortion rights and gay marriage while favoring increased military spending and taking even more from the poor to give to the rich, is a viable alternative.    He’s all over the board, with a sound argument for restoring constitutional rights but voting against reforming the NSA.   His strategy, apparently, is to generate backing from confused moderates and some liberals who can’t see themselves backing Hillary because of her Wall Street (and other) baggage.   Generating confusion could be intentional.   Or perhaps, since this is all about winning, like a blind man in a tunnel he’s making things up as he feels his way along.  A convenient strategy for someone who doesn’t want to be nailed down to specific issues, which appears to be what Rand Paul is up to as he ducked one question by walking out on the interview and another by shushing a reporter, although it’s difficult to say.

We should be so much better than this.    There is some consolation in knowing any Democrat will be better than any Republican, as the GOP continues doing all it can to take us back to the Middle Ages with barons and earls sitting on hilltops overlooking millions of peasants below, begging for scraps to survive.   Some consolation, not much.   It’s admittedly marginal, but the margin is there.

There’s a whole family hanging out at my local market these days, mom, dad and two kids, all begging for scraps.   “Lost my job,” says the sign the head of the family holds.   And this is an upscale neighborhood.    Before the Neocon takeover pushing our political system so far to the right that it’s bumping up against fascism, NAFTA, the WTO, the Reagan tax cuts for the rich and and the off-shoring of millions of good jobs, there were no homeless on the streets in my part of Los Angeles.  Detroit, and other American cities were not in bankruptcy.  This is scary.  It’s also unnecessary.   And it all started with “Reagonomics” in the 80’s to be carried forth by Republicans and Democrats alike.

Representative democracy in America is barely existent.  It went to the highest bidder with the blessing of a shameful Supreme Court,  who declared money is speech and speech is money and corporations have the same legal standing as people, while the media, like a watchdog chained out in the barn,  prattles on, mostly acting like it’s business as usual.    It’s not.   The country has been hijacked.

We keep repeating the same mistakes.  And Jeb Bush, is “excited, ” while Ted Cruz goes on Obamacare and the ghost of Ayn Rand picks up her Social Security check.  Now there’s some real news.