WORK MORE—EARN LESS—THE AMERICAN WAY

working_overtime

 

A few days ago Republican Presidential candidate Jeb Bush gave an interview in which he stated, among other things, that Americans need to work harder and longer.

Those are not his precise words nor are those words standing alone.

Here is the exact quote:

My aspiration for the country and I believe we can achieve it, is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see. Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours” and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families. That’s the only way we’re going to get out of this rut that we’re in.

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/jeb-bush-people-work-longer-hours/story?id=32313997

And since that statement drew a firestorm from the left, Bush clarified his remarks

If we’re going to grow the economy, people need to stop being part-time workers, they need to be having access to greater opportunities to work.

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/jeb-bush-says-his-longer-hours-comment-meant-people-need-full-time-work-2015-07-09

Either way Bush ignores the realities of the American work force and adopts the typical CEO approach to workers that is more at the heart of our economic troubles than any of the nonsense he spouts.

I will address him directly.

Well, Jeb, let me admit you into the world of reality. I know it’s scary but you’re a big boy, you should be able to handle it.

You see, Jeb, truth be told, Americans work harder at their jobs, and are far more productive, than probably any other collection of workers across the industrialized, corporatized world. And yet…and yet…the corporations that employ them do not already reward them for this productivity. Oh, a company will benefit from this productivity, turning out more widgets at a lower cost sold for a higher price generating record profits for the company, but guess where that profit goes almost exclusively.

I’ll give you a moment to ponder.

OK, time’s up. here’s the answer. Jeb, I’m sure you know many corporate heads and higher ups, have hob nobbed with them or consorted with them in your various jobs—those same jobs which have made you personally a very rich man by the way—no need to worry about your family’s health, or the costs of dealing with that at least—and which have provided you an enormous, steady, not paid by the hour income.

That profit, Jeb, goes almost exclusively to the people who are already rich and who did not have to work an hourly job to achieve those riches. How is that so? Well it is so because those rich people have the money to influence lawmakers to allow them to become even richer. The system, as well you should know, seeing as how your dear brother George was such an advocate of its very processes, keeps seeking to put more money into your pockets through a web of lax or no regulation, perpetual begging for lower taxes, maintaining the ability to earn huge sums that, if taxed at all, are taxed below the rate typically paid by one of these hourly workers you implore to work longer and harder, and…to top it all off…actively seeking to deny the financial rewards that should inure to the people who have produced those riches for you.

Work longer hours? Work full time instead of part time? Tell that to Walmart and its ilk that deliberately keep many employees below the level of full time so they do not have to pay benefits. Or pay overtime when their job responsibilities might occasionally stretch their hours beyond forty per week, all in service to the employer.

Or how about this, Jeb? Working full time…a forty hour week…at $10 per hour, which is a higher pay rate than the majority of them earn…still leaves them below the poverty line, severely so if they have children which the majority do.

Add to that the wage theft committed by corporations, again like Walmart…though it is not alone…who sneakily find ways to not even pay their employers for the time they have worked. Multiple successful class action lawsuits to recover these stolen wages do not lie, Jeb.

I’m breaking up with you, Jeb, not that we ever went steady in the first place. But, unlike in real life romances where the person declaring the split says, ” it’s not you, it’s me”, speaking definitively on behalf of all American workers acting as one, in this case Jeb, it is not me, it is YOU.

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY

amflag

After a very pleasant Fourth Of July observed with my sons, daughter-in-law, her family and a number of friends, I returned home late in the evening to relax and savor.

While browsing the TV listings I saw I was in for a bonanza if I could keep my remote trigger finger limber enough and if the TV commercial gods were willing. A trilogy of movies was scheduled that demonstrated how three very diverse movies may yet have a thread of commonality woven into them.

On Movieplex I noted that the John Goodman vehicle King Ralph was due up. That is the film in which the entire British royal family suddenly finds iteself accidentally electrocuted. In need of an heir the minions investigate all the genealogy records and determine that Ralph Jones, Goodman’s character, is the closest living person with even a dollop of royal blood.

Ralph is an ill-dressed, ill-mannered, and ill-talented lounge crooner in America and the person charged with finding the heir, played by Peter O’Toole, together with another underling, persuades Ralph to go to England and get his due. Much silliness ensues of course, with Ralph falling for a commoner, narrowly escaping an arranged marriage with a Norwegian princess, committing both diplomatic coups and faux pas, and facing off against a conniving member of the House of Lords with his own designs on the Crown.

Along the way Ralph realizes his sober, serious, and thoughtful side and, after making a triumphant deal with an African potentate to build cars and ease British unemployment, Ralph surrenders his throne with a stirring speech and passes the crown to O’Toole who, it seems, also has royal blood but did not have the confidence to place himself in position to be King but now, thanks to Ralph, knows he can handle the job.

Next up was Moscow On The Hudson, my favorite Robin Williams movie in which he plays a Russian saxophonist with the circus who defects from the Soviet Union during a tour to New York City. He temporarily lives with a black man originally from Alabama and his family, the man having been a security guard in Bloomingdales where Vladimir (Williams) declared his defection.

His adjustment to freedom is mixed, getting the good looking Italian immigrant girl and getting employment as varied as peddling silly eyeglass doohickies on the streets, a hot dog cart vendor, a busboy, and a taxi and limo driver.He misses his Russian family. Vlad encounters many other immigrants from many countries, including his immigration lawyer from Cuba.

He becomes dejected and discouraged about America when his girl breaks up with him and he eventually is mugged just inside his modest apartment building. Frustrated and angry he meets up with hs lawyer and they go to a diner where other immigrants are working and/or eating when the sound of fireworks gets their attention. It seems it is the Fourth of July, The individuals from different corners of the world begin reciting the Declaration of Independence, “When in the course of human events….” one folowing another with the next sentence or phrase. He returns home to find his former girlfriend, who had become naturalized, willing to finally move in with him.

Our third and final entry is the spy thriller, Three Days of The Condor featuring Robert Redford as a CIA researcher who returns to his office in NYC from lunch only to find all hs co-workers murdered and himself a target. At some point he contacts his boss, played by Cliff Robertson, and plays cat and mouse as it seems Redford, AKA Condor, inadvertently uncovered a rogue CIA unit with nefarious intentions in the Middle East, possibly seeking to start a war.

Needing a safe haven Redford kidnaps Faye Dunaway, holds her hostage in her own apartment, binding her at one point, and then, as so often happens in real life, the two make passionate, memorable love. There comes a violent fight in the apartment with the mailman, who, it appears, wants to provide special delivery of some deadly bullets into Redford. Naturally our hero prevails and he later has another threatening situation with hired assassin Max Von Sydow, tasked with eliminating  some dangerous elements within the CIA, obviously reincarnated from his exorcism duties of a couple years earlier. Them Swedes are tough!

The denouement is really no denouemet at all as Robertson acknowledges the existence of the rogue faction but essentially throws his hands up in resignation. This being the CIA, who knows? We are abandoned to uncertainty as Redford presumably will return to Dunaway awaiting her breathless announcement of “My sister AND my daughter

Now shame on you should you not have already detected the common thread nor seen the application of the title to this discussion.

Each of the three movies represents in fictional entertainment form the three aspects…the good the bad and the ugly…of American character.

Moscow On The Hudson clearly is the good. Though its immigrants have not teemed across the border without documentation as worries so many in our political culture, they have the same desire for freedom embedded within their souls though more likely to have immigration laws and policy and quotas on their side, as well as political asylum being their “Get Out Of Jail Free” card when they did not arrive by conventional methods. Yet the immigrants (Illegal or undocumented or whatever) who are today so routinely maligned and denigrated for the most part have the same hopes and dreams as the ones in the film. They want freedom, a better life, an opportunity to better themselves.

The most precious scene aside from the Declaration recitation aforementioned is the one in which Vlad’s girlfriend and about fifty others take their oath of citizenship after appropriate study and passing a test far too many Americans born on this soil would fail miserably. The beaming black, brown, yellow, red, and white faces, on the fresh citizens are touching and inspirational.

If ever a movie boasts a postive image and portrays the honest desirability of America herself, with a few unavoidable flaws thrown in, it is this one.

Ralph, on the other hand, at least initially is the “bad” side of America. Arrogance and ignorance are both readily on display in the person of Ralph and sheer inexcusable vulgarity is never that far beyond his possible reach as one of his first impusive acts is to visit a strip club. One of the dancers, who aborts her act just as she is to actually bare her ample breasts (Damn! I hate when that happens.) manages to charm Ralph and turns out to have more class than some of the pretenders with proper attire and twee manners.

Their off and on romance includes an incognito visit to a London McDonalds, surely the lowest crudest point of Ralph’s reign. He does prove that not even a king can get a special order at MickeyD’s without a huge hassle.

His own awakening, tinged with nobility of the not “to the manor born” type reveals a better side of Americans, the ability to express some humility when faced with reality that negates the braggadoccio and false pride. In the end the British are the more enlightened ones, Ralph is made a Duke, and he and his sweetie live happlily ever after as he sings “Duke of Earl” as the credits begin rolling.

The ugly, by default but also by merit, is Three Days Of The Condor. It exposes the ugly, often indecent side of the necessary evil of America’s intelligence apparatus, recently markedly reinforced through revelations of the spying capabilities of the NSA as well as provisions of the Patriot Act. Odd, is it not, that the story plays out against the plotting of mayhem in the Middle East, an area that still preoccupies our foreign policy establishment that quite definitely and remorsely has not learned from its prior and perpetuated mistakes in that region which are haunting us and will continue to haunt us for decades to come.

Implicit in this intertwining theme is the faux notion of American Exceptionalism. I deem that notion false in that it has been applied frequently among craven politicians to excuse all thse crimes that we as a nation commit whether directed inwardly by denigrating the poor or outwardly by virtue of its endless military misadventures and its far too often unmerited air of superiority.

Yet Moscow does represent that image, depicting the allure of America to peoples from all corners of the Earth. Their reasons for leaving their homes vary wildly but they each saw something that led them to the adventure of their lives. On the other hand Ralph is the extremely irritating but ultimately harmless Ugly American who nonetheless leaves a bad impression of his fellow citizens in his wake and by almost any definition is decidedly unexceptional.

Then Condor is the sneaky conniving, duplicitous scheming personification of America’s sad tendency to seek to im pose its will and garner its wealth where it is not needed and even less welcome.The residue of remaining resentment against our aggression still welters around the globe preventing the United States from maintaining the moral superiority we dream we are entitled to and, if ever justified in the least, has long ago been squandered as if we were a collective prodigal son not yet returned from a 65 year binge of sloth, drunkenness, and debauchery.

We need more Moscow, perhaps can tolerate a little Ralph, and need severe reforms to put Condor totally in the past.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

WinnersLosers

On June 25, 2015 the Supreme Court upheld the provision for subsidies in the Affordable Care Act regardless of whether the insured procured their insurance coverage through their own state exchanges or were forced into the federal exchange as their own state’s demented leadership refused to establish an exchange.

This ruling makes clear the winners and losers in this ongoing battle over trying to legislate the availability of health insurance for millions of Americans previously denied access, whether due to pre-existing conditions or lack of affordability.

WINNER————–Chief Justice John Roberts whose concise, common sense opinion sliced through all the nonsense of those who brought the lawsuit out of spite, not out of genuine concern the law was harmful. Of course that brought the enmity of conservatives, some of whom (okay a really tiny portion of whom) believe the Good Justice was blackmailed or worse.

http://www.theblaze.com/contributions/was-supreme-court-justice-john-roberts-blackmailed/

LOSER—————-Justice Antonin Scalia whose sputtering dissent, with phrasing like “interpretive jiggery-pokery”, reminds one of a pillar of the community found with his pants down in the local whorehouse amongst a bevy of belles but who would have you believe he was about to lead them in prayer.

WINNER————-President Barack Obama whose signature legislative accomplishment has survived yet another insidious but withering attack from the forces of politics, not of righteousness.

LOSERS————-Republican candidates for their party’s Presidential 2016 nomination who collectively and figuratively had pie shoved in their faces as again their predictions for the demise of the ACA were dashed on the rocks of futility with reactions ranging from the ridiculous to the ridiculous, nothing sublime remotely within their capacity to bloviate. Several shared their opinions via Twitter which proves once again twitter is for twits.

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/06/gop-candidates-react-supreme-court-obamacare-ruling

WINNERS………..American Citizens who now have reason to feel more secure in the knowledge that it is less likely they will face either financial ruin from receiving health care when they are not insured and that the availability of such coverage will inure to their physical and mental benefit…even in terms of saving lives… by being able to obtain treatment. 

Gee, imagine that, a federal law that actually is good for the lives of ordinary people.

Economist Paul Krugman highlights the way the law is working after only two full years of implementation.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/26/opinion/paul-krugman-hooray-for-the-aca.html?smid=nytcore-ipad-share&smprod=nytcore-ipad&_r=0

……….The Affordable Care Act is now in its second year of full operation; how’s it doing?

The answer is, better than even many supporters realize.

Krugman cites, among other positives,  the expansion of coverage to as many as 15 million Americans,  Also

The newly insured have seen a sharp drop in health-related financial distress, and report a high degree of satisfactionwith their coverage.

Too, instead of a budget buster as the rampaging elephants would have you believe, it has helped in lowering the federal deficit and, if repealed, the deficit would rise again.

Krugman does not deny there are some difficulties, but not insurmountable ones. So long as a number of states refuse to expand Medicaid (placing a huge burden on state and local taxpayers, see http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2015/6/24/not-expanding-medicaid-can-cost-local-taxpayers) millions of the most desperate are still denied coverage.

He further speaks of premiums, which is a contentious issue, no doubt. However, the Commonwealth Fund found that the average increase in premiums for coverage under the ACA from 2014 to 2015 was ZERO.

http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/blog/2014/dec/zero-inflation-nationwide-for-marketplace-premiums

Now average does not mean no increases for anyone anywhere. Anecdotal evidence of large premium hikes are plentiful, especially in internet forums. And even the study above reports substantial increases in some states with lower costs in others.

Which brings me to my real point about WINNERS LOSERS.

So long as health insurance coverage in the United States is in the hands of private, mostly for profit companies, together with the ability of individual states to thwart the purpose of the Affordable Care Act and in light of the vagaries of state laws, insurance regulations, and insurance commissioners, there will be WINNERS and LOSERS in the game of health inusrance coverage and thus health itself.

The health and welfare of our citizens should not be subject to gamesmanship with keeping score a regular and necessary part of it.

This nation needs to wise up and create a system with true universal coverage. This could be achieved through a single payer system as our successful Medicare program could be expanded by making everyone eligible. That is my personal preference.

There are also hybrid systems such as in Australia with mandated coverage for all supported by general revenue taxes, a levy equivalent to our Medicare tax, and private insurance for some.

To me the chief flaw built into the ACA is that it is vulnerable to wanton attacks for purely political purposes, none of which have had either the intent or the ability to actually improve health care coverage in this country.

Of course the saddest part of these attacks is that the assailants simply do not care what harm they cause.

We can acknowledge that no system can be perfect. But our current system, even with the successes of the Affordable Care Act is still far below perfect.

Now, as we adjust to the reality of the ACA it will becvome ever more evident that we have a ways to go.

Let’s make WINNERS of the vast majority of our citizens and consign the LOSERS who oppose a better healthcare coverage system to the back pages of history where they belong.WINNE

JUST CALL IT TREASON AND BE DONE WITH IT

confederateflag-heritagenothate

 

In the wake of the recent murders of nine black worshipers in a church in Charleston, South Carolina by a young professed racist, there has arisen a clarion call for removal of the Confederate flag flying on the grounds of the state capital in Columbia.

I deliberately used this image of the Confederate flag because even if you grant that it is flown as a symbol of the South’s heritage from the Confederate army, that heritage is something not to be honored, but to be deplored. Whether the ensign was an offical rperesentation of the Confederate States of America or not…it was the battle flag of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia…what it stands for is anything but admirable.

Southerners, and there was a man interviewed on NBC News at a cemetery for Confederate soldiers, will state that it honors the brave soldiers who died. I will not dispute the bravery or deny recognition to the horrible tragedy of the men lost to a senseless war. But the man on the news seemed to be pissed off that the Ku Klux Klan had appropriated the banner, thus associating it with hate. He averred that these men died “defending their state”.

Nonsense. They died participating in a war that was the most blatant and broad act of treason ever perpetrated against the United States of America.

The United States Constitution, Article 3 Section 3 reads in part

 Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them,

If ever a clear case of treason could be made one need look only to the events of April 12, 1865 when the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor and subsequent events and battles until Sunday, April 9, 1865 when General Robert E. Lee surrendered his armies at Appomattox.

Those men took up arms against their nation and levied war on it for four years. It was not “The War of Northern Aggression” as some attempt to assert. It was not a war for states’ rights as is commonly pleaded. It was plainly a war against their own nation, treason be damned.

The Constitution provided many ways for any grieveances or concerns the people conducting this treasonous act could have addressed those issues, but they chose treason.

The American Civil War was indescribably destructive and demeaning no matter which side one fought on.And the South, the Confedarcy, clearly was defeated and the treason staunched.

As punitive and oppressive as the Reconstruction Acts and other steps taken to reincorporate the secessionist states into the nation as a whole…and they were harsh indeed…the victors did not summarily execute the traitors as they had every right to do under existing precedents.

But merely losing the war wasn’t enough for the rebels. They had to embark upon a path of self-destruction for the next one and one-half centuries though it most frequently assumed the form of treating the black Americans in their midst as less than human. Jim Crow laws, the Ku Klux Klan, denial of voting rights, and various other tools of the racist trade were implemented, overt and subtle, to carry out this War of Southern Aggression on A Race Deemed Inferior.

All too often, just as they had rallied under the Confederate flag in battles led by Robert E. Lee, they also rallied under that same flag in battles led by hate and discrimination and rapacious desire.

What may arguably have once been a banner of morale easily morphed into a banner of immoral behavior.But that banner would have no meaning whatsoever were it not birthed in treason.

(As an aside, what we think of as the Confederate flag was never formlly adopted by the Confederacy, though one design that was adopted had that stars and bars design in the upper left corner with the field of the flag being white. Its designer, William T. Thompson, described this as a “white man’s flag”, with the white field representing the superiority of the white race.)

Oddly the Confederate flag now on the capital grounds in Columbia, previously over the Capitol itself, did not appear there until 1962, coincidentally in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement. It’s argued in some quarters that this was done in direct defiance of the federal governemnt’s efforts to enforce existing law and court rulings that favored blacks and opposed discrimination. Treason Light, if you will.

It is clear that this flag is a symbol of racist hate. Those who fly or display it may be ignorant of its true meaning but the old saying is that “ignorance of the law is no excuse”. Neither is ignorance of racist meaning…most particularly when that racist meaning has been brought to your attention for years.

This symbol was born in treason and spawned the illegitimate offspring of racism and hate. After several generations its appallingly repugnant prodigious progeny must be eliminated.

TEAR DOWN THAT FLAG!

 

 

THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT (BRAINED) BRIGADE

2016-GOP-Candidates

With apologies to Alfred Lord Tennyson…though admittedly not vey sincere apologies.

Half a mile Half a mile
Half a mile onward
All in the Valley of Iowa
Rode the six Hundred
“Forward the candidates
Charge for the votes”
Into the valley of Iowa
Rode the six hundred

“Forward the candidates”
Was man or woman dismayed?
Not though the candidate knew
They all had blundered
Theirs not to reason why
Climate change to deny
Theirs but to lie and lie
Into the Valley of Iowa
Rode the six hundred.

Reporters to right of them
Reporters to left of them
Reporters in front of them
Volleyed and thundered
Stormed at with “why the hell
Can’t you treat the poor well
Condemning them to death
While you are rich as hell?”
Rode the six hundred.

Flashed all their white teeth bare
“Repeal Obamacare”
Claiming the world ain’t fair
All the world wondered
Why are you blowing smoke
Your platform is a joke
Doctor and Mogul
Sold us a pig in a poke
All rotted and rendered
Then they rode back but not
Not the six hundred

Now reporters to right of them
Polls to left of them
Voters in front of them
Volleyed and thundered
Stormed at with “what the hell!
We’re glad your egos fell”
Your ideas we quell
That came through the Valley of Iowa
Tell you go to hell
All that was left of them
Left of six hundred

When can their nionsense fade
O’ the wild charges they made
All the world wondered
Condemn the charge they made
Condemn this odd brigade
Ignoble six hundred.

CULT TV

CultTalk

A cult following is a group of fans who are highly dedicated to a specific area of culture. A film, book, musical artist, television series or video game, among other things, will be said to have a cult following when it has a small but very passionate fanbase.

One of the most famous of cult movies is Rocky Horror Picture Show which depicts a group of selfie posting mountain climbers caught in an avalanche.

Pulp Fiction is a compilation of tales about practical uses for the innards of oranges, none of which actually work.

Our televison sets have been the receptors of many such shows that became cult classics such as The Ernie Kovacs Show  which surprisingly had no one named Ernie or Kovacs associated with it.

Recently we have witnessed a spate of final episodes of TV cult classics.

Mad Men was concerned with the creation of a satirical magazine in the 1950’s, while Breaking Bad  was a documentary series about the members of an orthopedic physicians’ practice in Ottumwa, Iowa.

The Sopranos had as its theme a female a capella chorus assuming management of a strip club in New Jersey.

The Colbert Report had as its host Bill O’Reilly’s lesser known brother who had a knack for emulating his brothers declarations word for word but somehow they sounded funnier.

The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson starred a Scotsman who took the job away from a white American male. But as soon as Ferguson became a U.S. citizen himself his job was outsourced to Indonesia where a group of pre-teens split the 75 cent hourly salary. But hey! At least dark skinned people and females are being utilized.

Of somewhat older vintage the final episode of the Jerry Seinfeld Show caused critics to long wishfully for the snow globe sensibilities of St. Elsewhere.

On Cheers, where the only name everbody knew was “Norm!”, the lights went dark as Sam Malone was revealing to Diane Sawyer that he was now, offically, Samantha Malone.

Alas, one such cult series will probably not be accorded a final episode to celebrate the ones preceeding it.

I speak, of course of 19 Kids And Counting or as it is now known 19 Kids And Counting While Four Daughters Silently Scream In The Night. This is the Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar clan, living its way through our TV screens, thjough failing to show the immaculate conception details that bring ever more kids.

That program qualifies as a cult classic not only due to its cult following but…because IT IS A CULT!  Sort of like viewing the Manson Family in action but far more disturbing to watch.

Think it’s not a cult? Well look at this check list of the characteristics of cults provided by Janja lalich and Michasel D. Langone, both PhD’s.

http://www.csj.org/infoserv_cult101/checklis.htm

The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.

Check.

The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members

Check

The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.

Check

The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.

Check

The group is preoccupied with making money.

Check

Now it is difficult to envison anyone named Jim Bob as a charismatic leader, but in Arkansas anything is possible, I suppose. After all, some old geezer there became a billionaire selling shoddily made foreign goods to unsupecting masses.

How the molestation by son Josh of his sisters stayed unrecognized by his parents for so long is a mystery. After all,during those Monopoly games on family games night, since there were not enough of the usual tokens to go around, weren’t Jim Bob and Michelle suspicious when Josh used a pair of girls panties? Of course their Monopoly games were also notable  for the younger kids being berated when they inevitably went bankrupt for being either lazy or black…or both.

That this all played out on TLC (The Lurid Channel) is not surprising What also is not surprising is the defense of the evangelical right…and FOX News, offered in support of the Duggars.

Gotta go. I need to get ready for Reefer Madness tonight. Not the movie.

NO MORE PLAYING KING OF THE HILL.

King-of-the-hill-childrens-game

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

I Corinthians 13:11  (KJV)

Like many kids in the 1950’s my friends and I often played “King of The Hill“, a game in which one of the players seeks to gain and maintain control of the high ground within a limited area.. Of course to do so, the winner needs to ensure her rivals go tumbling back down the hill, the other kids facilitating the champion by eliminating each other as they scramble to reach the top.

For too long, especially since the demise of the Soviet Union, the United States has been playing the game on the world stage. In doing so America is undoubtedly stronger than any of its rivals individually but to gain and maintain this superiority it must far too often spread its resources far too thinly to effectively accomplish all its goals.

As we stand atop the crest challenges come from every direction and there is no practical way to dispatch them all without serious damage to ourself.

Yet, we persist in trying.

The United States, through its many adventures, overt and covert, obviously is in denial that, because it outlasted the Soviets of the Cold War, it is THE supreme nation on Earth. Indeed, our leaders seem to believe we are entitled to this supremacy.

It is time to put away childish things.

Michael Klare explores this issue in this essay on TomDispatch.com

http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176003/tomgram%3A_michael_klare%2C_superpower_in_distress/#more

In “Delusionary Thinking in Washington (The Desperate Plight of a Declining Superpower)” Klare discusses the trends in American foreign policy, more precisely the trends in exerting American military power to effectuate that policy, in the past tewnty-five or so years.

He quotes both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush as to their vision of America in a post Cold War world and, though Bush 43 first formulated his vision as a peaceful one in 1999 early in his campaign for President, that vision obviously morphed into quite something else once he assumed office. (Some would argue the peaceful vision was only a  smokescreen but that argument is for another time.)

To Klare this “delusionary”  thinking extends across the aisle as he credits only Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders as totally removed from it among the D.C. lawmakers and power brokers.

He notes that other powers, big and small did not simply  kowtow to the undeniable singular supremacy of the United States as its superpower rival met its demise. General Colin Powell acknowledged this fact when he declared

We have to put a shingle outside our door saying, ‘Superpower Lives Here,’ no matter what the Soviets do, even if they evacuate from Eastern Europe.

Klare is both wary of and dismissive towards the more bellicose version of this notion of American supremacy mostly coming from the right, but does not spare President Obama.

President Obama, who is clearly all too aware of the country’s strategic limitations, has been typical in his unwillingness to retreat from such a supremacist vision.

Klare is not alone in his analysis even coming from a conservative perspective. Christopher Layne of the George H.W. Bush School at Texas A&M writing in The American Conservative in 2010 made many of these same points

Though the path Layne takes to make his point diverges in many ways from Klare’s his conclusion is

U.S. decline means that in the 21st century the United States will pay a high price if it endlessly repeats its mistakes.To change our foreign policy—to come to grips with the end of the Pax Americanawe first need to chage the way we see the world.

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/graceful-decline/

And I see no change in this view at all.

Too, the idea of American supremacy is pretty laughable on any level. This century has already witnessed the utter inability to unilaterally exert our will by force no matter how antagonistic nor how much we spend on our Department of War and all the physical and technological might at our command.

And yes, the current Department of Defense needs to return to its original name of Department of War. After all, we keep seeking ways to dominate others, not protect ourselves. As I recall the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution reads in pertinent part

…provide for the common defence…

not “prepare for war at every opportunity”.

Instead of seeking to exert power over others, I want our military resources devoted to ensuring no one else exerts power over the United States.

To do so, echoing both Klare and Layne, our philosophy towards foreign affairs needs to change.

UNTRAINED AT ANY SPEED

death by cop

Over the past year we have witnessed the deaths caused by police officers on duty that have led to demonstrations across the country and anguish for many families. The images above are of just some of the victims, and really focus on those of color when there are white victims, too. But this is not just about the emphatic point that “Black Lives Matter” or even the greater/counterpoint that “All Lives Matter”.

Those tenets are indiputable…or should be.

It is also indisputable that some lives lost at the hands of police were of persons who themselves were an active and real threat to the officers or someone else.

That begs the question as to how police officers are trained to deal with situations that have the potential to harm them.

The answer is, not very well.

I have read a number of articles in which even police officials admit that when police violence is a problem for a department, such as most notably in Baltimore recently, training of those officers may have been deficient.

So I was intrigued by this article about police training, specifically about trainees viewing videos in which cops get killed during routine traffic stops. They are shown so that the officers are aware that any stop can turn deadly, especially if they neglect the protocols they are taught.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/crime/2015/05/police_shootings_the_grim_videos_cops_watch_of_their_colleagues_being_killed.single.html

One training officer states that “98% of the time nothing happens”.

That number is ridiculously wrong.

Look at it this way. Around 34,000,000 speeding tickets are written in the United States every year. And that does not include stops for broken taillights or illegal turns, or ignoring traffic signs, and it does not include all the other possible encounters law enforcement may have that could put them in danger.

Yet, in the 21st century, fewer than 200 law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty each year according to the “Officer Down Memorial Page” which tracks such deaths and lists the specific cause of each one.

https://www.odmp.org/

Those causes include heart attacks, job related illnesses, drowning, vehicle pursuits, and other causes not the direct result of an assailant.

Let us allow that there may be a thousand or two thousand of other incidents when an officer’s life was on the line due to the unmitigated and unmistaken intent of the suspect, armed and dangerous, and ready to kill.

Yes, those situations are scary and yes officers should be trained to deal with them, and yes officers should be aware of them from the get go.

But no, the focus in training should not be that using your deadly weapon should be the is the first choice of action in response. For when that is your training that is how you will respond to persons who pose no threat to anyone such as Tamir Rice or John Crawford III or Amadou Diallo or Dontre Hamilton or Akai Gurley or…….well you complete the list.

Am I trying to minimize the danger in being in law enforcement? No, that danger is minimized by fact. At least the type of danger that is the be all and end all of these training videos, whcih can be quite graphic. It is easy to imagine that officers develop a mindset whereas their normal and very human desire to remain unharmed may lead to an overreaction to circumstances.

Here I am granting the benefit of the doubt in many of these shootings of unarmed civilians where the truth is, our law enforcement agencies frequently employ their own breed of psychopath, legally armed and with the authority to use that weapon and the rabid eagerness and willingness to do so, irrespective of the need to do so.

If your attitude is “shoot or be shot” you are mush more likely to do the former to pervent the latter, whether justified or not.

Proper training can prepare officers to better handle situations that could put them in danger. When they are taught that every one of over 34 million stops could present that danger when, in fact, fewer than 100 do, it is time to change the training to reflect reality.

I want my police officers to be prepared to protect themselves as well as the public. I do not want them to enter every encounter with a kill or be killed mindset.

We’ll all be safer in the long run.

TPP……TOO PECULIARLY (BI)PARTISAN

tpp

President Barack Obama has been touting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and its companion Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TATIP). These are potential trade agreements, the former being negotiated with 11 other nations bordering the Pacific Ocean and the latter with Europe.

There have been accusations that the negotiations are secretive and that entering such pacts, no matter the assertions by the Administration, will result in the loss of American jobs. In that regard it is claimed to be similar as to what the effects were of the North American Free Trade Agreement, better known as the notorious NAFTA passed during Bill Clinton’s tenure that itself was highly praised in advance for its benefits for American workers and highly cursed since by the thousands, if not millions, of American workers who lost jobs as a result.

Obama has encountered resistance to TPP within his own Democratic Party, most notably from Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Currently there is Congressional legislation pending granting Trade Promotional Authority to the President, the power to cut trade deals and expedite their passage through Congress without amendments or procedural hurdles.

And Republicans are leading the way.

Now these are the same Republicans who have opposed just about any legislation favored by Obama, or any executive action, or any thought speech or motion by Obama down to whether he installs the new roll of toilet paper so it rolls over rather than under.

Affordable Care Act? It got no Republican votes even though its basic premise was first developed by Republicans.

Cap and Trade? Nothing has really been done to enact legislation that would allow companies to, in effect, trade for credits to allow more carbon dioxide emissions. But again this principle first emerged under a Republican. George H.W. Bush was President and cap and trade been cited as a market approach to reducing pollution. Senator John McCain was even the main sponsor of such a bill in both 2003 and 2005. Since Obama took office you’d think he had decided to confiscate the first born of every American family and sell them into sexual slavery from the Republican reaction if the topic was even broached.

Immigration reform? George W. Bush tried to get legislation passed and many Republicans favored passing some measures, though the details drew varying levels of support. Now, it seems, that any efforts by Obama to get some degree of reform is such anathema to Republicans that many are willing to self-deport as a symbolic gesture against reform.

And then there is the ongoing case of Iran and its intentions…or not…to build a nuclear weapon. The Obama administration, together with five other nations, has concluded a framework of an agreement with Iran that would prevent such a weapon from being constructed. Finalization of such pact is pending as the details are committed to the legal niceties.

This would appear to be a good thing, keeping an atomic bomb away from what is considered a rogue state. And I recognize that Iran could break the pact, though its actions will be closely monitored. But, then again, Japan could renounce our World War II Treaty with them, re-arm, and flood the U.S. market with autos and electronics, including those fascinating toilets (with the toilet paper coming off over the top, of course.

But first 47 Republican Senators sent an open letter to Iran’s leadership stating their outright opposition to ANY agreement and their intention to thwart Obama at every turn. Some have even voiced a desire for war against Iran in preference to even the most stringently enforceable treaty possible.

So, just why would Republicans all of a sudden fall all over themselves to work with President Obama on the TPA for both the TPP and TATIP? By god they’ve been willing to work with Democrats to get them to agree in the Senate in order to have enough votes to ensure passage.

In the past few years we have witnessed no cooperation between the two parties in Congess unless the American public was going to get screwed.

Senate Democrats may have maintained unity to prevent the fast tracking sought by Obama,

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/12/senate-democrats-trade-promotion-authority_n_7267600.html

But the mere fact that Republicabns are siding with President Obama on this issue should be sufficient to raise suspicion if not simply reject the TPA out of hand.

The old saying is Politics makes strange bedfellows, commonly atributed to American writer and essayist and friend of Mark Twain, Charles Dudley Warner, though it may have derived from Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Obama and Senate Republicans make for strange bedfellows indeed.

Anyone have pictures?

THE LOONEY TUNES SHOW

The_looney_tunes_show_...

The announced and potential candidates for the Republican nomination for the 2016 Presidential election, as well as many of the more run of the mill pols like Louie Giohmert, have been characterized in the media as a clown car, careening down America’s highways, out of control.

I have bought into that metaphor though lately, due to sheer numbers, I have suggested that perhaps instead of a car, the GOP may need to utilize a C-130 Globemaster plane to carry its heavy heavy multitudinous load.

But other comparisons may be just as apt…if not apter…or at least as comical.

For instance, Superman had his mirror image opposite, Bizarro, described as

Since his hilarious debut in the 1950s, Bizarro has been a character of equal parts humor and confusion. The imperfect duplicate of Superman, the chalk faced hero lives on the cube-shaped world of Bizarro where everything is the opposite of life on Earth. Beauty is hated, ugliness is revered, and it is a crime to make anything perfect.

http://www.dccomics.com/graphic-novels/superman-tales-of-the-bizarro-world

Simply change a few names here and you could be depicting any of a number of the GOP horde (or Hoard, depending on your desired connotation)

But as many of their public stances and utterances can only be portrayed in a kind way as “looney”, (instead of batshit crazy which is more precisely the case) invoking the Warner Brothers classic cartoon collection of personalities, Looney Tunes and deriving a Bizarro equivalent is today’s task.

A few examples.

Foghorn Leghorn‘s pomposity is readily apparent in such as Ted Cruz, always loud, and always right…except for when he is wrong which is……….ALWAYS. And ironically or not, Foghorn himself was the cartoon twin of a fictional Senator Claghorn from the Fred Allen radio show.

Foghorn is often accompanied by the young Chicken Hawk who admires his would be mentor. And we know that GOP leaders are surrounded by all manner of chicken hawks, eh?

Yosemite Sam is a blustery, rootin tootin gun toting egomaniac, ready to fire without provocation, a la Rick Perry.

The Tasmanian Devil is a whirling twirling blast of energy whose spoutings are complete gibberish. Mike Huckabee, Come On Down!

Wile E Coyote. He’s forever scheming to destroy Roadrunner but often finds the destruction turns selfward. This quote from Dean Wormer could very well be appied to Wile. “Put Neidermeyer on it. He’s a sneaky little shit just like you.” Rand Paul to a T.

Sylvester J. Pussycat is forever seeking to oppress those, such as Tweety Bird who are smaller and weaker than himself. Power hungry to a fault and willing to deprive a little old lady of one of her most prized worldly posssessions…who could possibly fil this role out of those eligible? Trick question. Why all of them of course.

Yet the cartoon characters many of us grew up with and stll admire and smile fondly at any recollection of them, within their Republican personnae, are anything but cute and amusing. Bizarro Looney Tunes to be sure.

And don’t forget, seemingly monopolistic The Acme Company represents the Koch brothers.

So while the tedious electoral road ahead to November of 2016 promises no Merrie Melodies, most Americans with the IQ of a sentient being and a modicum of common sense will be anxious to get to the finale of the cartoon and hear those glorious words

THAT’S ALL FOLKS!

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