The Cost of Economic Injustice

May 20, 2016

Income inequality is one aspect of economic injustice that is getting some exposure this election cycle, primarily from Bernie Sanders. The fact that there is economic inequality is now widely accepted by economists, and felt by most Americans. This may be a good outcome, even if it did take widespread suffering to crush the usual stereotypes about poverty being a function of laziness or some other pejorative.

Horatio Alger’s “rags to riches” America no longer exists. Even with heroic effort and working two full-time jobs, most Americans will not realize economic security. Since the Great Recession, the wealth of 50 percent of Americans decreased an average of 40 percent, while the average hourly wages of the 400 wealthiest Americans increased to over $97,000 per hour. There are structural aspects of our economy, built by political policy, that not only created the recent “Great Recession,” but have also increased the rate of the transfer of wealth since then. This comes at great costs to many social aspects of American life.

A deterioration in health and life expectancy are other negative consequences of inequality. America in the last five years has begun to imitate the conditions of Russians after the Soviet Union fell. In the last five years, the average life expectancy for white women in America has decreased at the same rate as Russian men after the fall of the Iron Curtain. In fact, American women now have the lowest life expectancy of women in any advanced country in the world! One factor in this decline is that the American economy has decreased the wealth of the majority of its citizens, resulting in decreased access to health care. One of the objectives of ObamaCare was to remedy that lack of access to medical treatment, but that was sabotaged when the Supreme Court gave the right of states to opt out of Medicare.

So it is not just a lack of access to education, or any of the traditional vehicles for upward mobility, that have been destroyed by this economy. It is also causing a deterioration in health and other aspects of a quality life. Reagan championed the “trickle down” economic theory that set into motion the greatest transfer of wealth in the world’s history. Since then, the political system has only increased that trickle to a torrent. Our children may be the first generation of Americans to live in a Third World country.


Supreme Fools

March 26, 2016

Mitch McConnell is nothing if not a consistent fool. Make that a supreme fool. Before President Obama ever entered the White House, he publicly stated that his job (and the job of all GOP Senators) was to make sure that Obama was a one-term president. He then initiated the most obstructionist campaign against any president in history. It became so absurd that Republicans in both houses of Congress opposed the president’s initiatives that they had previously supported. It got so bad that the American Psychological Association is considering a new diagnosis of “Obama Derangement Syndrome” or what we call “black-tracking” (rejecting their own ideas whenever Obama supports it).

Perhaps the best example of black-tracking is to not even consider the current nominee for the Supreme Court. In one of the best “in your face” political dunks of all time, President Obama nominated someone that Senator Orin Hatch (R-Utah) only one week earlier cited by name as a man who would easily pass unanimously if only the president would be reasonable enough to nominate him. It clearly showed the willingness of Republicans to put party before the welfare of the country, leaving a Supreme Court seriously impaired for over a year, maybe a year and a half by the time the next president nominates and the Senate confirms.

All the obstructionism Mitch McConnell and his deranged GOP Congress has accomplished up to now is to hurt the country by failing to do much-needed legislation and making the institution of Congress the most derided and least respected in history. Then again, he and his cronies may have accomplished something else. By trying to destroy the Obama Presidency, he may have destroyed his own party. The obstructionism and rhetoric of the GOP leadership has spawned the two front running candidates for their party based on platforms of rejecting their leadership. The reality is that Congress stopped serving the needs of the country shortly after the Citizens United ruling codified the creation of the “donor class” and permanent dysfunction of government.


What $50 Million Will Buy You (and Not)

October 13, 2015

With the admission from the Pentagon that the program to train Syrian fighters has failed, I have to question our priorities as a nation (again). Politicians will go back and forth about policy in the Moslem world in an endless loop of rhetorical nonsense intended to accomplish nothing more than political points.

It’s clear that all the money in our Treasury, all the weapons in our arsenal, and all the talk about the wonders of democracy will have no effect there. We spent $50 million to train five fighters, four of whom are already dead, one of whom defected to ISIL! The training program had a budget of $500 million, and who knows what will happen with that money now.

It appears that President Obama has decided on a nihilistic strategy in Syria. In the past days we have dropped dozens of pallets of weapons and ammunition in rebel held areas, like some demonic Santa Claus. It seems like the only “Christian” thing to do – mortars for Muslims … I guess he decided that if we can’t create democracy in Syria we will arm them to the teeth and let them kill each other (and a few Russians too).

Since the unnecessary war in Iraq, we have spent over $3 trillion and thousands of American lives to accomplish only chaos – and that’s only the money we have been told about! That does not include the hundreds of billions in arms turned over to ISIL, al Qaeda and other terrorist groups by the troops we have spent over a decade training. That money could have created a far better economy and society on Main Street America.

It’s clear that trillions of dollars will have no net positive effect in the Middle East, but I wondered what we could have done with the $50 million (chump change, really) in Michigan. Here’s a few ideas:

• Provide housing for every homeless veteran in Michigan.
• Provide 4 year college scholarships for 1000 of the poorest students in Michigan.
• Restore drinkable water to Flint.
• Provide free dental care for 50,000 children for a year.
• Hire 800 more police officers.

Even for government bureaucrats $50 million can do some damage:
• Buy 250,000 toilet seats for the Pentagon.
• Repair ½ mile of the Lodge Freeway.
• Hire 1,562 new Legislative Aids to assist Michigan Legislators to cover up extra-marital affairs and block all legislation.


Doctors Without Borders and War Without End

October 8, 2015

I heard an interview with John McCain this morning that was troubling. He was being asked about the situation in Afghanistan, and specifically about the bombing of a hospital staffed by Doctors Without Borders. Although the details of the incident are still unclear, some things are known, and it does not reflect well on our efforts there. The hospital was specifically targeted, and not the result of an errant bomb or miscalculation. The airstrike was requested by Afghan forces not receiving immediate fire from the hospital compound, and no American troops were being fired upon.

When asked about the incident, McCain responded that there were Taliban firing on troops “in the vicinity,” and when pressed for how close the fighting was taking place he simply said “they were in the city.” McCain denounced the description of the unjustified hospital bombing as a “war crime,” saying that if the Taliban had not entered Kunduz, then this “tragic event” would have never happened. His solution was sending more American troops to help train and assist Afghan government troops. When confronted with the fact that we had tens of thousands of troops training the Afghan army for over 12 years, and asked if the troops could ever be trained given the lack of success so far, he only responded that there may be a need for a permanent troop presence akin to what we have done in Post-WWII Europe.
I know men who have served in Afghanistan, two in particular who have served three or more deployments there. They tell me that Afghan troops (unlike Iraqi troops) do have a will to fight, but they are constrained by units segregated by ethnic and tribal identities. This creates mixed loyalties when these units are deployed in rival tribal areas. They are just as anxious to fight rival tribes as they are the Taliban. Speculation is that Afghan soldiers targeted the hospital to eliminate leaders of a rival clan, much the same as Gitmo was populated in part by innocent men who were falsely identified as Taliban by their ethnic rivals.
There is an even more compelling reason to doubt that any Afghan government, let alone army, could survive a U.S. withdrawal, and it is related to how the Taliban were able to capture Kunduz in the first place. The corruption of the Afghan government is so pervasive that residents of the city either stood by, or actually assisted the Taliban. It’s not that they want the Taliban as much as they want order and an end to corruption. Drug trade, sex trade, arms trade and demand for bribes for even the most trivial transactions is widespread. In other words, like Iraq and our long history of supporting many other unpopular and corrupt governments (e.g. Viet Nam, Nicaragua), we are on the wrong side of popular support. The widespread presence of American troops restrained the corruption of Afghan officials, just as we did in the post-Sadaam, Shia’ led Iraq. As the U.S. troops leave, corruption and ethnic violence becomes endemic.
In one sense, the nonsense of McCain did led to a valid point: without a permanent, significant American presence in Afghanistan, the country will collapse just as Iraq has. Only the most intransigent Neo-Con would advocate for a permanent presence, requiring an endless drain of resources and even more tragically, an endless stream of dead Americans not so much fighting terrorists, but supporting a corrupt, unpopular government.


Snipers … When Did It Be Gun ….

January 26, 2015

Following the weekend box-office success of the Clint Eastwood film <em>Sniper</em>, Michael Moore tweeted that when he was growing up, his father, a WWII Vet, told him that snipers were “cowards” and “they would shoot you in the back if they had to.” Moore stated that this was because a sniper in WWII had killed his uncle. While he didn’t mention the film by name, the media absurdly connected the statement to the movie.

The point here is that snipers are trained to shoot people in order to kill them, in the front or the back or the middle, provided they get the job done. At least snipers trained as soldiers, that is. The soldier featured in the film is U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who is portrayed saving his own men, and avenging attacks on Americans. Kyle was later fatally shot in America, by another veteran with PTSD; the very disorder that the film alludes to Kyle having overcome.

Moore, in his tweet, used the example of Martin Luther King, Jr. to illustrate his point about snipers not being heroes. He was hopeful that the American public wasn’t viewing them as such, especially at the time of year when we honor and remember Dr. King.

I’m not quite sure that the film shows Kyle as a hero.Rather, it focuses on the point that soldier snipers are human beings. Indeed, there was even some anti-war sentiment in the film.

The sniper who killed Dr. King, and the one who shot JFK, were former Marines. Cowards? Of course. Sociopaths with guns. The man who assassinated John Lennon wasn’t a sniper, he just aimed at close range and landed four of the five bullets into Lennon’s back.

We human beings form opinions and proceed to justify them based upon what is important to us. Moore was taught that snipers were cowards because of his uncle’s death. Oswald and James Earl Ray reinforce that belief. Obviously many regard Chris Kyle as a hero. The difference is which side of the fence you are on when the sniping starts.


Guns, Guns and More Guns

January 16, 2015

One reaction to the terrorist attack on the office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo is to ask a somewhat thought-provoking question about what’s going on.

What if the gunmen had not declared their allegiance to Al-Qaeda? Would this then become just another massacre that the public has become immune to? How is it that only attacks in the name of the Muslim religion make the front pages?

The use of military-class weapons by the two brothers responsible for the attack led to the realization that although these arms are illegal in France, they are becoming increasingly available there. What if this attack had happened on U.S. soil where these weapons are sold openly at gun shows? As long as the perpetrator isn’t a Muslim, it would be covered for a day or two at most. And then, forgotten.

According to a spokesperson for the NRA, this attack had “actually” nothing to do with guns at all. This is just another example of the NRA trying to miscast a tragedy for the association’s benefit. The more joiners they entice, the higher gun sales, and the less defending they have to do of their mindlessly self-serving policies.

The NRA doesn’t care what guns are doing, as long as they keep being manufactured and sold. Their spokesman is correct, the guns, “lacking brains”, did not plan the raid on Charlie Hebdo. But guns did enable the killings.

The bottom line is that we have slaughters every day in America, as bad as anything that happened in France. As long as an Al Qaeda sympathizer does not commit the slaughter, we Americans could care less.

20 school children can be gunned down at Sandyhook, and we do nothing. Nothing! We will never limit access to the guns that enable the slaughter – UNLESS ……..what if all those Al Qaeda nuts suddenly realize that it is way easier to slaughter people in America with our easy access to sophisticated weaponry, courtesy of the NRA? Then maybe, just maybe, this Country might do something about guns? Naw.


GUNS AND COMMON SENSE

January 13, 2015

Guns have one purpose. To kill.

Four years ago, Representative Gabby Gifford was shot in the head while preparing to give a talk in her hometown. Twelve people were killed in Paris for drawing “offensive” satirical cartoons. Two years ago nearly two dozen children were slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Only a year or so before that, a lunatic killed a dozen movie goers in Colorado. It goes on, and on, and on, and on…

Incredibly, the news coverage of these regularly occurring massacres never assesses the deluge of guns in America as a contributing factor. The media doesn’t even explore or report on why we, Americans, mindlessly encourage easy access to guns, or why we are the only country in the world that does so.

And today – right now – there is a bill waiting to be signed by Rick Snyder that will further loosen gun laws in the state of Michigan – because we obviously need looser gun regulations amid the gun violence, don’t we?

This bill would make it possible for people who have been charged with stalking to have a concealed weapons permit, and thus, keep a gun on their person. This means anyone who has a PPO against them could get a gun. The stalkers lobby must be really strong in Michigan.

The bill also shortens the waiting time to get a gun. In the past, people had to go through a background check and get fingerprinted. Sometimes it would take up to 60 days or more for the background check to be cleared. Isn’t that good?

Under the new law, the application process will only be allowed to take 45 days. If the background check isn’t done by then, the applicant will get a temporary permit regardless.

This means that ANYONE — criminals, the insane, lunatics — will be able to get a gun because the bureaucracy may take too long to issue a decision. And the legislature has provided no new funds to speed up the process.

Our bureaucracy takes long to do anything. Look at the thousands of rape kits that haven’t been processed in the city of Detroit. Where is the money going to come from now to pay for this new expedited gun permit process??

Everything costs, everything takes time, but because gun manufacturers want as many people as possible to have guns, our Republican lawmakers are only too happy to oblige.

Does this make sense? Are we crazy?

The only good news is that Snyder hasn’t signed the bill. Yet. Perhaps, if any sense is left in our Republican dominated state, this bill will be left to die. Common sense would dictate that it never sees the light of day. However, if I have learned anything over the last 64 years, it’s that when it comes to guns, America has no common sense.