Main Street vs. Wall Street – Why Greece Matters

headshot

Something very important is happening in Greece.   On the surface it appears to be terribly complex.  High finance usually is.   But there’s something beyond that.  Something fundamental.    It has to do with standing up to a system that hurts the many while helping the few.  The old story of haves and have-nots and the haves wanting to have it all.

The Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras, is  giving the middle finger to the world’s bankers and billionaires,  telling them he will not agree to a cycle of endless economic bondage enforced by an ongoing program of  “austerity.”   Basically, it means taking away even more of what little the average Greeks have left to further bolster the coffers of the world’s wealthy, including the bankers, billionaires, millionaires and others who pulled their money out of Greece when the big financial collapse hit in 2008,  leaving the Greeks even worse off than before.

Here in the U.S., our bankers were “too big to fail,” so we bailed them out with huge infusions of cash.    No such luck for poor little Greece.  They were in economic trouble before the crash and bigger trouble after it occurred. Now, the bankers and the billionaires want them to suffer on,  until somehow they pay back every last Euro and Dollar they borrowed to keep their system up and running.  Possibly through the rediscovery of a long-lost mystical process of turning lead into gold?   Or perhaps they can search their islands until they find a cave with a money tree in it?     Until then, they are being forced to get down on their knees in a state of ongoing austerity to get it done, even though years of experience have proven beyond a doubt that austerity does not work.

More jobs and the money that accompanies jobs are what’s needed, not less.  Not more austerity.   It’s the very same nonsense being pitched by the wealthy far-right in America.  When you see what’s happening to the Greeks, think about what’s happening to the American middle class.

And so Mr. Tsipras  is telling the European Central Bank, that his country will be defaulting on their enormous debt.  They will, he says, choose Democracy instead,  by letting the Greek people vote on what they want, austerity, or something else.   It’s speculated that this could eventually mean that Greece would leave the European Union and return to its former currency, the Drachma.

EU officials, including Angela Merkel, are saying they will continue to be open to negotiation even if the Greek people vote “no.”   Imagine if Greece did leave the EU and was better off?   Where would that leave Merkel and the rest of her EU states?   Would Portugal and Italy be far behind?

A national referendum in the birthplace of Democracy is scheduled to take place on Sunday.   To a simple thinker, this would appear to be earth-shattering, with the ancestors of those who invented Democracy, standing up to the bankers and billionaires and saying “Enough!  We’ve had it with your demands for an ongoing cycle of poverty for us, while you continue raking in billions through derivatives only you can understand as you change the rules of the economic game to meet your shifting needs at any given moment in time.”

As Mr. Tsipras puts it, “On the one side, there are workers and a majority of people, and on the other are global capitalists, bankers, profiteers on stock exchanges, the big funds. It’s a war between peoples and capitalism, and Greece is on the frontline of that war. And, as in each war, what happens on the frontline defines the battle. It will be decisive for the war elsewhere. Greece has become a model for the rest of Europe because it was chosen as the experiment for the application of neoliberal shock [policies], and Greek people were the guinea pigs. If the experiment continues, it will be considered successful, and the policies will be applied in other countries. That is why it is so important to stop the experiment. It will not just be a victory for Greece but for all of Europe.”

So, Greece is threatening to leave the rigged banking system, where millions of shares change hands at the blink of an eye in cyberspace, to return to something they understand.   Something based in human decency and dignity rather than raw greed.  Something called Democracy.

The vote will probably be “no” on caving in to the bankers demands for continued austerity.   I doubt Mr.  Tsipras  is seriously considering leaving the Eurozone, but having his people’s approval to do so will give him a bargaining chip when negotiations resume.

All of this is most certainly something Americans should carefully watch,  since the U.S. Government has been purchased by some of  those same bankers and billionaires who are now causing the economic suffocation of Greece.   The time will likely come when we too may have to give a big middle finger to the bankers, billionaires and oligarchs.   When, like the Greeks,  we too will demand a return to Democracy in America.

America – What The Hell Are We?

headshot

France, is now complaining that the U.S.  has been spying on French President  Francois Hollande and other French leaders.  Why?  Are we worried about a terrorist attack from the French?   Do we now routinely spy on all our friends and learn about our government’s activities only because of Wikileaks?

How did Julian Assange and Edward Snowden become international heroes of the early 21st Century?   Is it because they did something wrong, or could it possibly be because they had the courage to point to wrongdoing by the United States?

Why is the United States Senate about to pass a bill approving a massive trade agreement, the TPP,  negotiated in secret by the Obama Administration, which then demanded that it be “fast tracked,” rammed through the legislative process, before the American people could find out what was going on and have time to compare it to NAFTA and CAFTA, both of which helped to gut the American middle class?  What country is this?    Who are these guys working for?

Why is our own President going behind our backs with secret deals,  siding with the wealthy few against his own party,  forcing us to turn to Julian Assange and Edward Snowden to find the truth?

Why do we continue  paying more for health care but getting less than the rest of the developed world?   Why do we continue to accept this madness?

Why does it feel like a victory when the Supreme Court upholds one of the basic tenants of Obamacare, when we should have a nationalized healtcare system that cares for all, like the rest of the developed world?    Medicare for everybody.   Dental care, too.   Why doesn’t the government consider dentistry to be an essential part of our healthcare?    This is insane.

Why are Confederate battle flags still flying in the South?   Why is this even still an issue?   The Civil War ended in 1865.   As many as 850,000 Americans were killed settling the issue of slavery and state’s rights.   It’s over.   The Union won.  Why is this still with us?   Why did it take the slaughter of nine innocent people at a bible study meeting to awaken the country to the ongoing issue of racism?   Why is the Rebel battle flag still flying on the state capitol grounds in South Carolina, where the murders took place,  overtly marking the State’s approval of slavery?   Why don’t they just take it down and apologize for their blind insensitivity?  Who the hell are we, that a whole section of our country can still be called the former slave states?   Why are there people there who continue to celebrate the Confederacy and all it stood for?   How can they possibly fail to understand that honoring bigotry serves as an attitudinal poison going forward?

After more than a dozen years of failure in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East, we continue to engage in unending but profitable warfare.   Promises that we will withdraw are broken as we refuse  to let indigenous peoples work out their own problems.   As a people we have become conditioned to endless warfare.   Peace feels like an anachronism,  something John Lennon sang about and nothing more.  Although it feels as though it no longer has a chance.  There’s too much money in death.

With massive tax cuts for the wealthy, the gap between the rich and the poor hasn’t been so broad since the Great Depression, and still Wall Street is permitted to run amok, as the rich do all they can to suck every last penny out of a beleaguered middle America which struggles to pay for increasingly expensive food and shelter.   Forget a college education, which is now beyond the reach of most average Americans.   Your grandparents were just forced to apply for a “reverse mortgage”  so that they could stay in their house and continue buying food and supplemental health care while, by his own admission,  billionaire Warren Buffet pays a lower percentage in taxes than his secretary.

Want a car?    Take out a 7 year loan.   Want to go to college?   Fine, but you’ll graduate $80,000 in debt.   Want to stay in your house?  Take out a reverse mortgage and max out your credit cards while a reasonable rate of return on money deposited in a bank is an illusion even as CEO’s and board directors, aided and abetted by our politicians,  walk away with billions in their overstuffed pockets.

This is madness.

Our government cuts deals in secret while spying on our allies and our own people while taking orders from bankers who finance their campaigns and promise heavy funding for their families and their causes once they leave office.    A relative handful of royal families, the Bushs, the Waltons, the Kennedys, the Clintons, the Kochs, Dianne Feinstien, John Kerry, Darrell Issa, the Rockefellers and the rest of the uber-wealthy exert their influence and rake in profits while America goes dangerously off course.

Our government cuts deals in secret and spies on our allies and us while those who tell the truth about what’s happening are called traitors and lawbreakers and are forced into exile in foreign embassies and on Russian soil.

Where is the line between political and financial self-interest and America’s best interest?   When did majority rule die?   Can you even remember majority rule?   How about American Democracy?   Remember that?   Our scholars tell us it’s dead.

What the hell are we?

Salvation – A Poem

headshot

Salvation
by Ron Olsen

A flag
A radio mouthpiece
Appealing to all that is the very worst
In human nature
Rushing in
For financial gain
Pitting us one against the other
Black against white
White against white
The past against present and future
A fool believes what a fool believes
A pundit
A flag
The very worst that we can be
All that we were
And still are
Racism
Slavery
Outrageous denial
Human indignity
A species
Needing to prove itself
Worthy of being
Answering to no one
But ourselves
Waiting for a light
To show us the way
When the answer was there
All the while

 
©2015 Ron Olsen/all rights reserved

Charleston

headshot

Another mass shooting.   This time it was clearly race-based, with a white man who can be seen in photos wearing racist patches on his jacket killing nine black people in a black church.   Sadly, Jon Stewart is right, nothing will be done about it.   Sadly,  mass shootings have become a common occurrence in America.   They have come to be expected.   Nothing will be done.

In April of 2013, USA Today reported on statistics from the Children’s Defense Fund,  writing that  “In 2010, 15,576 children and teenagers were injured by firearms — three times more than the number of U.S. soldiers injured in the war in Afghanistan, according to the defense fund.  Nationally, guns still kill twice as many children and young people than cancer, five times as many than heart disease and 15 times more than infection, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.”

But nothing will be done.

Even though the United States has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world, with 89 guns for every 100 Americans.  Even with Sandy Hook (27 dead), Charleston (9 dead), San Ysidro (21 dead), Columbine (13 dead), Oakland (7 dead), Oak Creek (6 dead),  Killeen, Texas (22 dead), Washington, DC (13 dead), Aurora (12 dead), Virginia Tech (32 dead),  and all the rest, nothing will be done, because so many of our leaders have been co-opted by the NRA and other special interest groups representing gun manufacturers, owners and promoters.   Because, as Bernie Sanders has reminded us, our government no longer works.   It is broken.   We truly do have the best government money can buy.

At the very least, our gun laws need to be reformed to include backgrounds checks.   It should probably go even further, but that at least would be a place to start.    Better controls on the sale and ownership of firearms is one  part of the problem.    In Charleston, the other part involves decades of ignorance, fear and hate.  In other words, racism,  with thinking people growing weary waiting for non-thinking people to evolve while rebel flags continue flying over South Carolina, promoting terrorism against American citizens on American soil.

And we the people, steeped in denial and locked down by a dysfunctional government do nothing, other than run out of things to say as we face moral and ethical exhaustion waiting for the carnage to continue.

DNC Chair Turns Her Back On Labor

 

schultz

DNC Chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, joined Republicans in the House and voted FOR “fast tracking” the TPP trade bill, which now goes back to the Senate.   Schultz cast her vote in spite of opposition to the bill from both a majority of Americans and labor, including the AFL-CIO and the Communications Workers of America.  There are now calls for her to step down as Chair of the DNC, which too often looks like they are representing a party of centrist Republicans and not the traditional party of progressive working class Americans.

What a strange alliance, with Republicans, Obama and Wasserman Schultz supporting the TPP trade bill with a majority of the House Democrats and labor on the other side.   The behind-the-scenes deal making to get this thing passed has to be outrageous.  One wonders what the 28 Dems who voted for fast-tracking the bill in the House (including no fewer than 5 Californians) are being promised, and what it will take for the Democratic  Party to reclaim its moral and ethical center?

We can all make a difference as the bill heads back to the Senate by e-mailing or calling our U.S. Senators , urging them to vote AGAINST fast-tracking the TPP bill.   Do it.  You’ll feel better.

Hang On Los Angeles, Here Comes The “Obamajam” – Again

headshot

Mr. Obama is coming to town, and they’ll be shutting down much of the west side and two major freeways just to prove how important he is and how badly he needs to raise money for the Dems.   Oh wait, did I say two major freeways?   Scratch that, because here in Los Angeles, they are all major.    You shut down even one freeway and tens of thousands of Angelinos are impacted for miles around as the traffic flows off the freeways and onto surface streets, causing backups reaching into the next county.

Don’t think so?  By one count, the 405 freeway carries 374,000 vehicles per day.  They’ll be closing it not  once but twice for the Obama visit.    If you live here you will understand and probably start weeping.  If not, use your imagination.

The Los Angeles Times lists no fewer than 32 road and freeway closures over the next two days to accommodate the Obama fundraising tour.   You have to wonder if his “people” understand the nature of Los Angeles?  You have to wonder if at some point this won’t begin to have a negative  return at the polls? Oh wait,  LA is so blue, that he doesn’t really need to care about that, does he?

Shut it down.   Shut it all down.  Let the “Obamajam” begin.  And while you’re sitting out there stuck in traffic for hours with your air conditioner blasting to counteract the heat and humidity while your car sucks up $4 a gallon gas, pretend that it doesn’t matter.   Pretend there isn’t a better way.   I’m sure there is, but I have no hope that people living inside the DC bubble will ever figure it out.

Getting Ready For War In Europe (They Have Got To Be Kidding)

headshot

Here we go again, the United States vs. Russia, with visions of Nikita Khrushchev banging his shoe on a desk at the UN,  while the world awaited nuclear annihilation.

Because a nuclear exchange is unthinkable, we are now gearing up for a conventional confrontation with the Russians?  Oh, humanity!  They say it is being done to “deter Russian expansionism?”    Why?  Because that’s the way we did it in the 1950’s and 60’s?   When did “peace” become a dirty word?

Why not try talking?  Remember when some genius decided it would be a good idea to put in a “hot line” between the Kremlin and the White House?   Is diplomacy dead or is there simply too much profit (both political and financial) in warfare, to make peace a viable option?   Is peace a priority for anyone, anymore?   Or have we become so conditioned to our own military expansionism, that we simply accept it as being the best alternative available without considering the profits involved and the Pentagon’s interest in promoting what it does best, making war, while condemning anyone who opposes their point of view as being dangerously naive.

Is the idea of peace still an option or is America becoming some new form of Spartan/Roman ideal, with military outposts in every land and a general acceptance of perpetual warfare?   In the 60’s we revered the philosophy of Kwai Chang Caine and John Lennon.  It felt like we had a chance.  Now we salivate over “Game of Thrones, cage fighting and the real-life humiliation of dumbed down reality tv.  It feels like our chance has slipped away.

The situation in Ukraine, is complicated.   Political, ethnic and economic forces are all pulling at one-another,  irritated further by the the machismo of leaders like Vladimir Putin, who has been known to run around shirtless flexing his muscles.   He’s perfect bait for American political hawks, who tend to see complex geopolitical problems in simple black and white text of the 1950’s.

Mr. Obama, may not be naked and flexing in public but one wonders how the United States would react to a potentially hostile nation placing heavy military equipment on our border with Canada.   Not very well, probably.   Not very well at all.

If the hotline is no longer working maybe Obama can get his hands on Putin’s cellphone number – or we can continue repeating the mistakes of the past.

################

Add:   The day after this was posted Russia announced that it was beefing up its nuclear arsenal in response to the U.S. sending heavy military equipment to NATO states along the Russian border.

 

Bernie Sanders, Our Last Best Chance?

headshot

It’s kinda like one of those stupid “Mom and Dad Save the World” movies, except this time,  instead of Mom and Dad, its our national grandfather Bernie Sanders who’s doing the saving and it isn’t stupid and it’s not a movie.   And the plot is becoming more and more interesting.

Nancy Pelosi and her Democrats in the House have just turned their backs on President Obama’s effort to fast track the TPP free trade bill.  Well, good for them.   There’s an election coming and they had to do something to try and convince the millions of unemployed, underemployed, the students and others being crushed by debt, that Democrats care about something other than campaign contributions.  They get this way around election time and later seem to partake in selective amnesia.

“That’s not what I said” they say, except that it’s usually exactly what they said and they’ll probably say it again in a year or two and then move on with another round of denials while kissing babies and eating barbecue in someone’s backyard somewhere in West Texas.

Any number of progressives fear that the “TPP” will do what NAFTA, CAFTA and the WTO have done,  further devastate the American middle class by dropping trade barriers even further and sending even more jobs overseas to countries where slave labor is still permissible.

Some Democrats worry out loud whether this split between House Dems and Mr. Obama, will hurt Hillary Clinton at the polls,  as the  giant groaning and hopefully wrong-headed assumption that Hillary Clinton will win the primary continues.

Meantime, if the polls are to be believed, Bernie Sanders continues picking up followers.  And for good reason.  Bernie, has none of the Wall Street baggage Hillary Clinton will carry with her wherever she goes, regardless of what she might say about the evils of what CEO’s  are being paid and the scourge of tax breaks afforded hedge fund managers.  Like her son-in-law for example.   She wants to eliminate her son-in-laws tax breaks?  What overwhelming sincerity.  What forthrightness.   What nonsense.

So many of the Democrats in Congress are doing nothing but carrying water for millionaires, billionaires and big corporations, and Bill and Hillary Clinton are right there, in bed with their Wall Street buddies who have paid out hundreds of thousands in speaker’s fees to Hillary will bolstering Bill’s legacy by writing checks to The Clinton Foundation.   So forget them.   Hopefully America will.   They’ve had their very lengthy moment in the sun.   Hopefully the Democrats will understand this in the runup to the primary.

Hopefully, they will realize that Bernie Sanders may be our best chance to restore some political balance to the country.   He says a “political revolution” is what we need.  He’s right.

An Independent from Vermont,  Sanders is running as a Democrat, because it’s the only way he has a chance of winning.  And he will have a chance, a very real chance,  if America wakes up to the terrible fact that our political system has been bought off, our freedom of self-determination stolen, and that Bernie, may be our last best chance of recovering what we once had, a nation that works for the majority and not just a wealthy few.

At a gathering in Des Moines,  Sanders put it this way, “Today, we live in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, but that reality means little because almost all of that wealth is controlled by a tiny handful of individuals. America now has more income and wealth inequality than any major country on earth, and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is wider than at any time since the 1920s. The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great moral issue of our time, it is the great economic issue of our time and it is the great political issue of our time.

Let me be very clear. There is something profoundly wrong when the top one-tenth of one percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom ninety percent, and when ninety-nine percent of all new income goes to the top one percent. There is something profoundly wrong when we have a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires at the same time as millions of Americans work longer hours for lower wages and we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on earth. There is something profoundly wrong when one family owns more wealth than the bottom 130 million Americans. This grotesque level of inequality is immoral. It is bad economics. It is unsustainable. That is why we need a tax system that is fair and progressive, which makes wealthy individuals and profitable corporations begin to pay their fair share of taxes. This type of rigged economy is not what America is supposed to be about. This has got to change and, together we will change it.

This campaign is sending a message to the billionaire class:  “you can’t have it all.”  -Bernie Sanders

Good for Pelosi and the Democrats for standing up to Mr. Obama, Wall Street and the corporations on the TPP bill.  Just remember that for years most of these people have been part of the problem.  That there’s no way many of them will take part in the “political revolution” the nation so badly needs.   That Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush and most of the others will only follow in the footsteps of Mr. Obama, by maintaining much of the status quo, continuing on with the best government money can buy while the remnants of representative democracy are nothing but an illusion.

Oh, and Bernie Sanders will not be serving an adequate purpose by simply pulling Hilary farther to the left.  That won’t be enough.   Since Reagan, the country has been pushed so far to the right that those of us who were once moderates, even Eisenhower Republicans,  are now considered to be radical lefties.   No, Bernie needs to win this thing.   Nobody’s perfect, but he could be our last best chance.

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