Veterans Befuddle Trump

Military and their families are different. Last month, I attended an American Veterans Committee event with the World Veterans Federation. Full disclosure, I am a senior advisor to AVC. Mr. Dan Viggo Bergtun, President of the federation, briefly addressed the gathering. President Viggo Bergtun’s remarks were a powerful reminder of what military veterans hold in common.

“Nearly every military veteran sacrificed for a country, belief or cause.” Mister Bergtun pointed out. My varied military career provided the opportunity to break bread with, and in some cases, live with, foreign military and their families. We held more in common than what divided us. A greater purpose drove our lives. This sense of dedication seems to be generally alien to many Americans.

Veterans realize that it is not all about them and that they cannot do it all on their own. Surviving in a war zone means that you are strong, supported and lucky. When a large segment of the US public embraces an individualism that undermines efforts to build a better nation and society, some veterans can lose their way.

The old recruiting slogan ‘An Army of One’ was a running joke and punchline. You are only as good as the person beside you and the people behind you. You would give your life if necessary to protect others. On 9/11 many questioned that unarmed fighter aircraft could be ordered to ram an airliner heading for Washington. Fighter intercept training covered just such a last ditch maneuver to prevent enemy aircraft from reaching a target. The vast majority of fliers would have executed the order. Most Americans were astonished and many horrified at that reality.

Now, compare that willingness to work and to sacrifice together with a private sector that often denigrates attention to any goals other than profit. The vulture capitalists and quick buck artists that pillage solid companies loading them with debt and taking the cash often leave behind crushed workers and towns. The vultures would call those companies, workers and towns losers, just as they do Trump investors. The majority of Americans would never behave this way but cheap buck artists like Romney, Trump and Toomey most certainly do, often receiving high praise; unless, it is your job, town or business.

Our long standing American values are epitomized in the best of our public servants from military to emergency responders to teachers and healthcare professionals. Denigration of public service and servants leads to a culture of selfishness and destruction. Is a lack of required public service tearing us apart? What made this nation great was not our private sector. Many nations had thriving private sectors but what set this nation apart was recognition that we need our brightest and most capable leaders in education, public service and government as well as business and trade.

Two Gold Star Mothers understand the disease infecting many Americans and for which Trump is a poster child. In referring to Trump’s recent veterans skirmish, Michelle DeFord, Gold Star mother, supporter, said; “Mr. Trump hasn’t the slightest notion of what the word sacrifice means. His grandiose gestures about giving money to our vets is purely for the benefit of the media.” Karen Meredith, Gold Star mother, Military Families Liaison,, said:

“As a Gold Star Mother, I listened in horror, as he said that he ‘liked people who weren’t captured’ in war, as if they were losers for not completing their mission and coming back. I thought of my son, Ken, who lost his life in service to America, and couldn’t even imagine what Mr. Trump really thinks about him, and all those who didn’t come back alive.”

Perhaps the difficulties many veterans encounter in PTSD counseling is partly explained in Matthew B. Crawford’s New York Times review of Sebastian Junger’s new book, Tribe.

“…Post-traumatic stress disorder is a medical term for a cultural problem: the basic impossibility of digesting the experience of combat as an isolated individual among other isolated individuals, each devoted to pursuing his or her private interests. There is no tribe. To risk one’s life for the common good is to declare oneself outside this cultural logic of acquisitive individualism; the veteran is an outsider to us by definition, and no amount of yellow ribbons can change that fact….”

Apparently, many Americans do not understand veterans. Besides fighting for each other, perhaps veterans should redirect themselves toward creating a national and global society based upon their personal values and work with other veterans to build a society where peace can grow. Clearly, the task is beyond the capabilities of many politicians.

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Ryan Endorses Trump; Trump Endorses Clinton

great summation of the state of the nation

Rcooley123's Blog

Since word went out through the media that Donald Trump had effectively exceeded the committed delegate total needed to win the GOP Presidential nomination, some weird stuff has been happening involving his campaign. The vast bulk of Republican office holders fell in line supporting Trump. True, the Bushes and Mitt Romney did not, and House Speaker Paul Ryan held out for a bit. But even Ryan broke down and endorsed Trump…right before the shit started hitting the fan (hence the title of this essay).

On Tuesday morning, I was sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office when I noticed a TV showing Trumps glorious press conference being carried live on CNN. He was basically castigating all of American mass media in the course of explaining the sordid tale of the distribution of funds raised for and distributed to various Veterans’ charities during the media circus he created to…

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Righteous Rage: 3 Things Feeding Trump/Sanders Success

Too big to fail companies are not limited to the financial sector. Entire swaths of the economy are dominated by large corporate entities encountering very little competition. Three forces drive voter rage.

1. Private Sector Misfeasance

Corporate consolidations coupled with heavy legislative lobbying at state and federal level force workers to do more for effectively less. The minimum wage is not adjusted for cost of living while employers feel no competitive pressure to increase wages.
Truck drivers, much like other U.S. workers, chose to become effectively serfs. Once long ago, I was a card-carrying member of the Teamsters Union. Back then truckers generally drove the proper speed; had very good pay and much respect.

Then the government forced deregulation and allowed unions to be literally crushed. If workers refuse to join together, they will hang separately which is precisely what happened. Once the government allowed a race to the bottom in wages and safety regulations, nearly every company was forced to join the race to bottom wages and high corporate profits for survival.

Republicans and conservatives in Congress allowed corporations to force policy changes on individual states removing any chance of safe and sane laws. What works on the high plains with straight roads and little traffic does not work in crowded, older, urban areas with narrow roads and high volume traffic.

2. Stagnant or reduced wages and pensions — fear

Yes, Donald Trump feeds the monsters of hate and division. However, his real success is built upon worker outrage. Conservatives and others see their dreams of retirement fade away as the years pile up and their savings dwindle. Bitter indeed is the worker who bought the anti-union rhetoric and toiled in the factories and workshops of Middle America believing that their ship would come in — too many ships, not enough ocean.

Many Americans are facing pensions that may be a meager social security check and little else. Their children, many of whom believed conservative elites that college was not needed, now see younger, better educated people grabbing the high paying jobs. Of course, those same Republican and conservative elites sent their children to the finest colleges available.

3. Higher state and local taxes coupled with artificially higher private sector costs

Industry “consolidations” enable entire sectors of the economy to increase profits while decreasing wages and benefits.

Loan industries, from so called payday loans to education loans, are seen to be rapacious. Working class people are essentially saddled with debt for most of their lives. Senator Bob Casey, sponsoring the “In the Red Act” legislation to address college affordability, provided this information:

Low-income graduates (those who received a Pell Grant while in school) borrow at far higher rates–and in higher amounts–than their middle- and upper-income counterparts at both two- and four-year institutions, regardless of the type of institution attended and despite receiving thousands of dollars in grant aid.

A full 84 percent of graduates who received Pell Grants graduate with debt, compared to less than half (46%) of non-Pell recipients. This shift places an unequal burden on communities that have historically been denied an opportunity to gain and leverage wealth.

Being lower income is expensive but not just for education.

Both cable and telephone conglomerates effectively stifle competition and divide markets between them. An example in my region, Verizon Fios is not available in the entire market area while cable companies reign nearly supreme. The result is a less economically competitive business environment. Local economies become competitively disadvantaged through “less than highest speed” internet; communications companies maintain high profitability. Politicians are silent in the face of deliberate inaction by corporations.

U.S. airline companies and their partners appear to have eliminated real competition in both U.S. and foreign markets. The result is high profits but even higher costs and worse service for their customers while employees’ wages and benefits are crushed — they have nowhere else to go. The passengers are often in the same situation.

In the absence of either unions or a government maintaining a level playing field, we reap a nation of serfs. It is not just trucking but nearly every industrial sector from retail to aviation where quality suffers yet profits soar. Why Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders? Why not? If government will not respond — shake it hard. This is why Trump and Sanders are getting so much attention.

Wage equity is not enough. Competition, government regulation and/or a combination of both is necessary to restore the US economy and pride. The trouble with laissez faire capitalism is it fails faster than communism, ending in oligopoly. Here we are. What happens next?

Big Government is the Problem

Little different from Middle Eastern extremists, the Bundy militias and their ilk confabulate an alternate world to justify their rage at loss of status and a feeling of societal betrayal. Times are changing and the old men and their older power structures are collapsing, crushed by new ideas and youth.

Once, not long ago, the cowboy and the frontier U.S. west were idealized as portraying American values. The legendary independence of westerners and cowboys hid a strong dose of government spending and investment. The movie and television heroes of my youth were invariably western and emphasized the quiet man with a gun rounding up the bad guys.

Heroes like Roy Rogers and Sky King carried guns and brought bad guys to justice. Later in my youth, Twilight Zone and Star Trek were the shows that captured my attention. Television that appealed more to an urban kid.

The Andy Griffith Show and similar programs began to portray country living differently and less violent. The country was changing when, by the 1950s, even the South and the Midwest were mostly urbanized. The myth of the self-reliant rancher and farmer was being subtly replaced with laughter and nostalgia.

The areas of the country last to host urban majorities remain the most conservative. Reagan, a former western actor himself, knew how to speak to people who felt threatened by the urbanization of America. The myth of independent action strangely coupled with the need to follow strong leaders created the conservative coalition now being torn asunder in the presidential primaries.

The Republican presidential candidates are feeding outrage stoked at the speed of the nation’s changing values and traditions. Their audience and their scapegoats are changing quickly also. While their followers decry ‘big government’, the issue is much broader now. Creating seats at the table for women and minorities, does not steal chairs from white males but it most certainly dilutes their influence and perceived value. In a blog some time ago, I wrote what I thought was happening.

Workers are being crushed from both sides — more work for the same pay, while taxes creep steadily up. The government empowers corporations to impose demands on small businesses and workers that enable a race to the economic bottom. The Cruz/Trump success is getting these small business people and workers to blame those below them on the economic ladder rather than the government and corporate elite who are the actual culprits.

Republican presidential candidates now seize upon the message that ‘hard working Americans’ are being slighted and robbed by government policies. The message works because it is true. Where the blame lies is the real misdirection. While immigrants, minorities and ‘takers’ are blamed, the real perpetrators, business executives and politicians, are heralded as the saviors rather than the cause.

Business and conservative political agendas merge to form a mutually self-serving agenda that stifles competition and creates oligopolies. This coalition shares the profits among themselves and transfers the costs to the worker and taxpayers. Working diligently, corporations and governments have denied wage and hour protections for employees while shredding the safety net designed to protect workers. The cost to the taxpayer is huge.

This sleight of hand and misdirection is possible because of the conservative base’s already devout belief that government is the problem and business is the answer. The Bundy militia terrorism (it is no longer a peaceful protest when you bring guns and threaten to use them.) against the government is a blatant attempt to steal land from the taxpayers. Land designed to benefit the very ranchers now attempting the theft. Essentially, they demand more corporate theft under the guise of ‘American Values’.

Democrats, liberals and moderates must demonstrate how the Republican and conservative embrace of Reaganism causes government to be the problem. Democratic candidates for president should address this problem that citizens know to be true – then explain how to change the process with the peoples’ support and votes. In the New York Times this week, two columns exposed how corporations and big government are robbing the taxpayer.

In Nevada, the state legislature tripled fees for homeowners with solar panels at the behest of energy company lobbyists. This big government move makes solar panels less attractive and breaks previous agreements to homeowners.

In North Carolina, factory farmers recently passed legislation stifling both first amendment rights and whistleblower protections. This big government legislation may increase consumer health risks/costs and guarantee factory farm profits. Apparently, consumers cannot know where their food comes from and how it gets there.

Americans, especially middle aged males among them, long for a return to fairness and equal opportunity. Democrats should embrace this desire and promise to build on it. Facts will not convince them but identifying the real takers just may.