National

Full speed ahead for the 1%

The economy is burning down and the 1% don't care.

The economy is burning down and the 1% don’t care.

Detroit’s default and bankruptcy say a great deal about where we’re headed, and that has little to do with the outcome for municipal bond investors or with the national debt picture. Many, many Detroit retirees are watching their pensions blow up in front of their eyes. What will they do? I’d lay odds we’ll have a gray version of Cairo’s Tahrir Square within two years if some entity fails to come to the rescue.

But these folks were mostly if not entirely UNIONIZED. So let ’em eat Alpo, the GOP says. And while we’re at it, we’re going to chop food stamps and vouchers for subsidized housing for the poor. In short, we just don’t give a Tinker’s dam about anyone except the 1% and ourselves, sayeth the buffoons on the wrong side of the aisle and the wrong side of history.

Where might this lead in short order? Assume no other municipality files for Chapter 9. But watch Detroit. See if CURRENT (union) firefighters begin ignoring calls, because there’s no future in it for them. These people are galvanized solid gold human beings, but they do have to eat. Now and in thirty-five years, and later.

What’s the GOP solution? Cut the budget some more. Cut taxes on those who can afford them. Cut the arguing and let us “deliver.” Like John Boehner means “deliver?” Pray that the country finally sees the real cost of the anti, do NOTHING Congressional GOP.

Or else, by the time it does see, climate change will make Detroit pensions completely irrelevant anyway. Oh, Boehner’s clowns are not about to allow anything to get in the way of that little matter, either. Who cares about a few polar bears or coral reefs? These simpletons care only about SUVs, resource extraction, and a 25% return. that’s what made this country GREAT, you know.

Paradigm shift from fighter-nation mentality needed

Are we a fighter nation?

Are we a fighter nation?

My June 29 guest column in the Times-Call generated a variety of responses via email and on the Opinion page, leading some respondents to ask for a follow-up, so here goes.

I often use personal stories to make a point, connect the dots. These stories are true. I don’t make them up and readers tell me they appreciate them. I was appalled during Army basic training to have my sore feet questioned and see many trainees pummeled into submission with challenges to their veracity. But at least I had boots and the times were different. Our military needed more fighters in Vietnam and petty excuses were not acceptable. I do remember receiving much better medical treatment as an officer, though. I hope that has changed over the past 47 years since I went through training.

One respondent cited a New York Times article claiming more than 50 percent of assaults were to men. Another referred me to Marine Capt. Lindsay Rodman’s Wall Street Journal column, which concluded the statistics on sexual assaults were based on a bad survey resulting in bad math, with projections, not actual assaults that others have hyped out of reality.

Per Capt. Rodman, “The actual number of reported sexual assaults in the military in 2012 was 3,374, up from 3,192 in 2011. Of the 3,374 total cases reported last year, only 12 percent to 14 percent were reported by men. … We in the military justice system want victims to come forward, and to seek accountability through the system. We want them to feel empowered to report, and to know that their command will take the allegation and their recovery seriously. An increasing number of reported sexual assaults, at least in the next few years, should be viewed as a positive sign that this message is being heard.”

Another respondent, a retired Navy public relations officer, described having written a report on sexual assaults that was covered up by the chain of command. And a grandmother wrote concerned about a grandson who might be making a bad choice by enlisting in the military.

All of these perspectives, including mine, are valid. Our military is a huge amalgamation of people. In many ways its members are characteristic of society, yet military service is not the romanticized life portrayed in enlistment commercials flooding TV. Previously on this page, I applauded a young Marine recruit who signed up for the possibility of receiving valuable training while serving his country. Yet he also understood the dreaded alternative of being sent into combat and being killed. Anyone seeking military service must weigh these alternatives.

Personally, I believe everyone should serve this country for at least two years. There are many alternatives to serving in the military and I’ve described some on this page before, especially AmeriCorps. But public service of some kind is necessary to gain a commitment, an investment, in our country.

Over the last half-century, military spending has gobbled up resources that should have been used for education and health care. Yet, doomsday spokesmen tote up the national debt and find no way out of rapidly increasing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid spending other than to reduce benefits and raise taxes.

Our political leaders are looking at the wrong issues. Incrementally, we have drifted into a fighter-nation mentality. Our priorities are out of whack and we now equate bloated military spending with adequate defense spending. Statistics show we have had enough defense for a long time. We must have a paradigm shift of priorities, a change that puts people first.

Bill Ellis is a local author. Reply to him at contact@billelliswrites.com,

U.S. checkered immigration history

The U.S. is a land of immigrants, a common saying. Our treatment of immigrants has not always been one we can be proud of, beginning with mostly northern Europeans entering lands populated by a native or indigenous people. Through disease, wars, and policy that population has been decimated and still suffers oppression.

Following independence from England the U.S. purchased lands taken from the indigenous population by Spain, and annexed 55 percent of Mexico following a war. Indigenous people who had crossed the man-made border between the U.S. and Mexico for centuries were eventually not permitted to cross that border.

Various populations were excluded after providing much-needed labor. After building the transcontinental railroad Chinese immigrants were barred from entering the U.S. (Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882). Between 1943 and 1964 the Bracero Program bought in more than 5 million temporary workers. In 1954 Operation Wetback targeted Mexican American communities with nearly 4 million deported, including some U.S. citizens of Mexican descent.

A common practice has been the utilization of Asians and Latinos as a labor commodity rather than as people. (For a local flavor, see “White Gold Labors” by Jody Lopez and Gabriel Lopez, a documentation of the abuse of laborers brought to Greeley to harvest the sugar beet crop.) When the labor is no longer valued, people, including families, are deported.

The immigration situation has never been no more complicated than it is today. For many years the southern border was alternately open and largely closed. When labor was needed in fields and orchards, workers, mostly men, entered with a wink and nod by border enforcement. These workers tended to work for the same farm or orchard year after year, returning home after the harvest season. As the border became more challenging and more dangerous, workers stayed. Some with green cards failed to renew their status or simply overstayed.

Because we have not matched work visas with labor demand, we have many undocumented people here to fill a need. As we saw in some states, tough anti-immigrant laws resulted in large portions of crops rotting in the fields.

Over the years many immigrants brought their children with them or had children here, sometimes with U.S. citizens as the other parent. As we “got tough” on undocumented immigrants we began to deport a large number of people.

Unlike the stated policies of the White House and Department of Homeland Security, many of the deported have nothing other than a minor traffic violation in addition to illegal entry. A very significant number of those deported are parents and breadwinners. Their departure causes huge hardships on those left behind. As a result of the recession here and improving economy in Mexico, a greater percent of those trying to enter (re-enter) are doing so for family reunification.

At the same time the U.S. beefed up border security, spending billions of dollars, cutting through properties of U.S. citizens and creating the largest policing force in the country. The “fence” has been extended farther and farther away from populous centers. What used to require one or two days walking in the desert is now a brutal four-day walk. In 2012 in the Tucson Sector alone, 300 bodies (estimated to be a small fraction of the total deaths) were found. These bodies are those of brothers, daughters, mothers, aunts, grandparents, etc. Their death is not just their death but the loss of someone very important in the lives of those in the U.S. or in their home country.

Many Border Patrol agents are compassionate and rescue as well as capture immigrants in the desert. However, videos document border patrol agents breaking water bottles left out to save lives (killing is not the answer) and treating immigrants inhumanely such as making them walk barefoot. The most egregious examples on film are the beating of a man in Nogales and the shooting of an unarmed teenager who was in the Mexican town of Nogales.

Those of us who participated in the Migrant Trail, a 75-mile, seven-day walk from Sasabe, Mexico, to Tucson watched a film (“The Undocumented”) that showed the finding of bodies, the autopsies and the efforts to let families know the tragic ends of their relatives. We carried crosses with the names of the deceased and called out their names. If we did not relate to the terrible conditions at the border before we walked, we did afterward.

Arrogance of command protects sexual assault offenders

Clearly, someone needs a good boot in the pants.

Clearly, someone needs a good boot in the pants.

The first time I showed up at “sick call” during Army basic training, 16 in my company of 250 filled the first sergeant’s office displaying blisters worn through to flesh. Both of my Achilles were bloody and I could hardly walk, much less run in combat boots. This ailment stayed with me through four months of infantry training and six months of officer training, the latter including “jorks,” jogs of five miles carrying an M-14 and wearing a fully loaded backpack.

Periodically, an Army doctor would prescribe low quarters, regular shoes, so I could continue training. And to this day, nerve damage in my left foot causes pain and numbness in several toes.

I relate this sad tale to demonstrate this point: Of the 16 complainers that day, only four of us withstood the first sergeant’s shaming condemnation and actually went to see a doctor. The other 12 were bullied into submission, made to feel like cowards and laggards. Our treatment then was matched with another warning. Don’t write to your congressman and complain because the chain of command will send that letter to your company commander and you will be in hot water.

No one who has served in the military should be surprised that there were 26,000 cases of sexual assault recently reported. I wondered about the huge jump and asked a friend, a woman who served four years and left the Army as a captain. She related that a male senior officer had harassed her on her first tour of duty. It didn’t matter that she was married and warned him off. She is an attractive woman, and, as she said, “boys will be boys.” Today though, she believes the overall environment has improved, leading more women to report sexual assaults and harassment. Regardless, she said, there is still an arrogant “good old boy network” protecting offenders.

As the father of four daughters and grandfather of six granddaughters, I see the existence of a network of men who will lie to protect other men as so far from honorable as to be repulsive. Military officers are sworn to tell the truth. Always. They are also expected to uphold positive leadership characteristics including empathy, dedication, judiciousness, loyalty, trust and understanding. Note that arrogance is not one. Yet I saw it many times from officers who believed that once silver or gold bars, oak leaf clusters, eagles or stars were pinned on their shoulders they were automatically imbued with greater intelligence and overriding power. And that first morning on sick call was my first encounter with its corruption.

Years before the reality of Hillary Clinton as a viable presidential candidate, my wife asked a good question: Where are all the women running for president? That was in August 2000, when we didn’t like any of the candidates. The idea for a book struck me, so one night we sat down and brainstormed to describe the ideal first woman president. She had to be “flameproof,” and Hailey MacMurray, the leading lady in my novel, was certainly that. She was spick and span, highly intelligent, smart, an All-American athlete and attractive. Hailey would attend the Air Force Academy and graduate at the top of her class on the way to becoming a jet fighter pilot. And become a widowed, single mom. How could the hawks vote against such a phenomenon?

Then real life intervened. Almost between chapters in my writing life at home, I was introduced to the daughter of an office secretary where I worked as part-time gofer. Personable and well-mannered, she was an all-state volleyball player, and as a freshman at the Air Force Academy was so good she was on the starting varsity.

Then she was sexually assaulted at the academy. Her mother’s grief at work was palpable and mixed with the fear that her husband was threatening to take his gun to the academy and shoot somebody, anybody. But on top of the anguish of the assault came this message to the young woman from the “brass”: Resign. Quit school. That’s what all the other women have done.

Say again? Where was the empathy, loyalty, trust and understanding?

Twenty-six thousand sexual assaults tell me the chain of command does not work and should not be considered for reporting such felonies, court martial offenses. Yet the Inspector General reporting system is set up for just such cases. If the IG system is not working, then it’s time, in Army lingo, to take names and kick ass.

Bill Ellis is a local author who can be reached at contact@billelliswrites.com.

President Obama: Fracked Gas is Not a Solution to Climate Change

I watched with anticipation yesterday as President Obama delivered his speech laying out his new climate action plan. Climate change is one of the most pressing issue of our time, and one on which the United States desperately needs to lead. While it was heartening to hear the President take on climate deniers and pledge to fight the problem, his full-throated advocacy for fracked natural gas and oil was more a case of two steps back than a giant step forward.

A major pillar of the President’s climate action plan is increased production and use of domestic fracked natural gas – and it wasn’t just gas – he also lauded increased domestic oil production. While Obama didn’t use the word “fracking,” that is the method used to extract gas and oil in communities across the country. He repeatedly referred to “clean burning natural gas” and lauded it as a “bridge fuel.” But if our goal is stemming climate change, fracked gas is a bridge to nowhere. It’s true that we need to identify new sources of energy, but we can’t drill away our energy problems.

Studies show that the process of drilling, fracking, processing and transporting natural gas releases a tremendous amount of methane into the air. Methane is 70-100 times more potent of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame.  Some recently published studies on methane emissions show that burning natural gas may be even worse, in terms of the overall greenhouse gas footprint, than burning coal for electricity and burning fuel oil to heat homes or run industrial boilers. A massive expansion of fracking threatens to undo any gains from other parts of his plan and may make matters even worse. For an excellent video on the intersection between fracking and climate change, check out this great explanation by Cornell Professor, Tony Ingraffea.

Ban Fracking NowThere is a strong and growing movement against fracking – not just because of its documented impact on water, air and communities, but also because it is a driver of climate change. PrintAmericans Against Fracking, a national coalition to ban fracking has over 200 organizational members and vibrant state based coalitions pushing for a ban in New York, Colorado, California and elsewhere.  People across the country are growing to understand what climate scientists have said for years—that we must leave our fossil fuels in the ground to avert climate change.

When I heard Obama talking about boosting the development of natural gas and oil yesterday, I got angry, but then I got energized. I got energized by the tens of thousands of people in New York pushing Governor Cuomo to ban fracking; I got energized by the amazing organizing in Pennsylvania and California to move the Democratic Party to endorse moratoriums on fracking; and I got energized by the people in Boulder County, Colorado who won an 18 month moratorium on fracking.

Our movement is growing and our elected officials have not caught up to their constituents. It’s critical that we pressure President Obama to listen to the science and to this growing movement against fracking for oil and gas. We also need to continue to hold him accountable for decisions he is making that contribute to climate change. His Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management, for example, is facing critical decisions about fracking on public lands and his administration is also making key decisions on liquefied natural gas exports, pipeline projects and other infrastructure projects.

Take action now to tell President Obama that fracked gas and oil is not part of any climate solution.

Mark Schlosberg is the National Organizing Director of Food & Water Watch. He has a J.D. from New York University and a B.A. in Economics from University of California at Berkeley.

Americans Against Fracking Statement: Obama Climate Change Plan

For Immediate Release
June 25, 2013

Contact
Emily Wurth, 202-412-1505

Americans Against Fracking

Statement

on Obama Climate Change Plan

“President Obama deserves praise for prioritizing climate change, but if he’s serious he needs to start by rejecting fracking for oil and gas. Fracking is a dangerous and toxic drilling process that greatly exacerbates climate change and threatens to put us over the edge. 400 ppm is a game changer that requires President Obama stand up to the oil and gas industry. We have clean and abundant wind, water, and solar alternatives that can power the entire U.S. and individual states, according to studies, with existing technologies at equivalent or lower costs than conventional fuels. President Obama can’t claim to seriously address climate change and expand fracking for oil and gas – that’s a stark contradiction,” said actor/director Mark Ruffalo, a spokesperson for Americans Against Fracking.

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When is a “Democrat” not a Democrat?

Ah, for the “good old days.”  It’s a lament that’s heard a lot these days — from a lot of quarters and for a lot of reasons. Some pine for their youth and vigor. An “empty nester” might long for the days when the kids were little. Some might wish for a full head of hair.

But more often than not, those words are spoken in a political context. Conservative Republicans long for their hero, Ronald Reagan. Progressives have to go all the way back to Carter or Johnson, and especially to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Up and down the political “food chain” there are not many “real Democrats” left. (Yes, I know, very punny.) It’s especially true as you go further up that chain. The genuine Democrats were replaced by others heralding from the Democratic Leadership Council or eliminated by the painstaking work of Newt Gingrich to poison the public’s perception of Congress so that it would be ripe for a takeover by his clones.

OK, I can see conservatives and corporatists “visitors” uttering “yeah” with two thumbs up. The “flat earthers” and the “birthers” and the “Bible thumpers” may not join in the cheers. But, hey, they are mostly just along for the ride (or the votes), while the money changers are forming “one world under the dollar with liberty and “justice” only for them.”

In reality, there is no more Democratic Party. Oh, yes, they still use that name. We have only ONE political party in charge of our government; but it has two branches. I like to call them the Republican Corporate Party and the Republican Lunatic Fringe Party.

Which leads me to the point of this article — President Barack Obama and his junior wannabe president Governor John Hickenlooper. The “we have every right to spy on Americans” president and the “fracking fluid drinker” governor are two cases in point.

worried ObamaWhile spending some time exploring the many articles that find their way into my Inbox, I found one especially astute and honest, brought to me courtesy of OpEdNews. “Dear Obamaheads” by John and Jean Anton is worth reading in it’s entirety. Please do. But here’s the part that I’ll borrow for this article. (Some of my good Democratic friends may not like this.  But there’s an elephant that some don’t want to see.)

[Obama] should consider how much easier life would be for him, if he were a Republican.   He wouldn’t have to make any more promises that he had no intention of keeping.   He could build even more nuclear plants, extend even more gas lines, and subsidize fracking everywhere without worrying about environmentalists.   Whistle-blowers could still be arrested as traitors, tortured, and imprisoned indefinitely “for their own good” without guilt….

Best of all, in the name of national security, he could join Republicans in ignoring all the amendments to the constitution except two: the one that says corporations are people, and the one that says yes, even four-year-olds have the right to carry weapons of mass destruction to school, to libraries, to lavatories.

He could lie like a Republican.   He could bully like a Republican.

He could steal from the poor and the middle class to give to the rich like a Republican.   He could continue to wage war everywhere in the world with only a nod of his head, without congressional approval, without the support of the American people whose blood he could spill and treasure he could spend because —  he wants to.

In other words, instead of being a fake Democrat, he could be a real Republican.

 What is it that broadcasters like to say?  “And now we return you to your local programming.”  Moving on to Colorado…

Frackenlooper appears to be digging his own political grave.

Frackenlooper appears to be digging his own political grave.

Yes, I really need to say more about our beloved Frankenlooper.  We wouldn’t want him to feel slighted.  After all, he may be the “chosen one” to replace Obama in 2016.  The Democratic Governors Association loves him and is doing everything in its power to elevate Hick’s profile (with a little help for oil and gas $$$).  And he’s a safer bet than New York’s guv, Andrew Cuomo — at least when it comes to oil and gas.

Although not everyone has faced the true political identity of Barack Obama, there IS a growing body of awareness where Frackenlooper is concerned.  He knows how to get down to business, Big Business, Big Oil Business.  Whether overt or covert, he gets the job done for them.

BUT!  He overplayed his hand when he sued the City of Longmont.  No one bought his “sleepless nights” or his “last resort” rhetoric.  Well, maybe not “no one.”  But it certainly was a media and public wake-up call. Even then, Hick was more politically tone-deaf than what might be expected of a calculating pol.  He went for the knock-out punch and instead got knocked out himself when he strutted his stuff and said that he’d sue the pants off anymore communities that dared to ban fracking for oil and gas.

Oops!!  That’s when his handlers stepped in.  And if he didn’t figure it out all by his lonesome, they said, “Hey, Hick!  You can’t keep doin’ this.  When you find yourself in a hole, stop diggin’.  Let COGA [Colorado Oil and Gas Association] and the industry folks do it for you.”

It wasn’t long ago that Hickenlooper was sporting a 54% approval rating. However, the recent Quinnipaic poll has him now at 47%. That’s frightening for an incumbent, even if it’s spun otherwise.  Quinnipaic coupled this survey with Hickenlooper’s decision on the Dunlap death penalty matter. But they were too narrow in their research into causation. Many of those up in arms about Hickenlooper’s decision for a temporary reprieve won’t vote for the governor for any number of other reasons.

Hick is losing support from “his base,” the Democratic voter that is furious with him for his position on oil and gas legislation.

No-fracking-logoSo here’s the message to our Colorado governor: If you want to get re-elected in 2014 and have that shot at the coveted whole enchilada, get on the right side of history. Let local governments determine whether or not they want oil and gas drilling and specifically hydraulic fracturing for the stuff in their communities. Don’t con us. No weasel words. No lies.

If you do this, most will come back to you next November in stead of staying home or even voting Republican because they just can’t pull the lever for you. The big oil and gas bucks into your campaign account are not going to save your political hide. In fact, they will help do you in. “You can run but you can’t hide.” has all kinds of meanings this time around. Your Republican opponent may not bring that up, but be sure that others will.

So spend some of those sleepless nights that you really didn’t spend before you sued Longmont thinking about YOUR future. The rest of us are going to do all we can to preserve ours. And that might not include YOU.

Down the corporate greed rabbit hole

Capitalism, gun to headWhen did making a profit turn into greed? Greed has been around from the beginning of time, but my guess would be it was unleashed in the1980s when American voters bought the farce that wealth would trickle down to them. There was no proof of this theory, but politicians kept saying it over and over until a majority of people began voting against their self-interests: Electing congressional representatives who approved lower corporate tax rates and numerous business deductions, but were against that job killer, increasing the minimum wage.

The fear tactic

When companies downsize, the actual work does not go away. One employee leaves; her co-worker takes up the slack, receiving extra duties. Or technical assistance is transferred to a phone bank in India. The fear tactic is deathly subtle: Either work harder and longer hours or you’ll be out of a job. Result: less overhead, more profit. Improving procedures and workflow? Not in the picture because that worker picking up the slack will stay at the same pay. What’s to change?

The early-out two-step

Older workers on the cusp of reaching retirement are offered a quick out — with reduced benefits. The work remains but will be done by lower-paid rookies. Conservatives in Congress refuse to compromise on solutions to fully fund Social Security. Their best thinking is to push up the retirement age and reduce benefits. Does anyone who’s been out looking for a job after age 40 really believe you can find one after 50? 60? Or even 70?

The possibilities?

I retired on an early-out offer at 51. In the succeeding 20 years I have worked in several full-time jobs and a half-dozen part-time ones. My job experience: toll booth operator; free-lance writer; warehouseman; multiple-choice question writer; online accounting system tech writer; AmeriCorps writing mentor; law firm runner; para-educator; sole business owner writing and selling books; writing coach; creative writing instructor; concierge; writer-in-residence. There were pluses and minuses. I wanted to write after I retired, so the keyword “writing” is sprinkled among my various jobs. But among the good experiences was a nasty confrontation with exhaust fumes in that toll booth — it was either that or wear a Donald Duck costume and walk around Walt Disney World in 90-degree heat. Worse was physical exhaustion in the warehouse doing a job designed for someone 30 years younger. Yet I discovered the joy of writing at home and selling a few books.

Something different is needed

A paradigm shift in thinking would lower the retirement age, not raise it. Consider this: What if the tax code favored workers who wanted to retire early, even at 45 or 50? Going further: What if big business/large corporations got a tax deduction only if they created jobs? Moving us older workers into retirement earlier makes room for younger folks. Let’s tell it like it is. Is it more cost-effective to pay hundreds of thousands of workers unemployment insurance or to rewrite the tax code making it feasible for older workers to leave earlier? Perhaps more would sample the work world as I have done and create their own job. Or start a small business.

Slurping at the federal trough

Entrepreneurs know where the big money is, in that trough filled with our taxes; politicians need money to keep their jobs. It has become a traditional tradeoff. The push for an independent Congress requires getting money out of elections. Changes to thinking, especially for a tax code favorable to American workers, require publicly funded elections, setting term limits and abolishing political parties. While we’re at it, let’s throw open primary and general elections to all voters no matter their political affiliation. No one really won the 2012 general election. Less than 24 hours after the votes were counted, stalemate returned, or really, simply remained. Does anyone really like gridlock? The work of Congress has become winner take all. Any vote is not for the people but for the particular party’s ideology. Meanwhile political spin managers try to convince us that our friends and neighbors we know to be moderate and independent are actually out to destroy our country. Preposterous.

Bill Ellis is a local author and can be reached at

contact@billelliswrites.com

 

What price combat?

vietnam_injuredThe final step when I reported to the Army intake center in Roanoke, Va., in February 1966 was an interview with a doctor. That day is memorable not only as my first one in the Army but also one observing draftees being inducted who were illiterate; others couldn’t speak English.

In a desperate attempt to increase the ranks of its fighting men in Vietnam, the Army had lowered its mental requirements. Physical qualifications were a moving target as I discovered during that interview with the doctor. A young man was brought over for an expert medical evaluation to determine his ability to serve. The specialist held up the boy’s arm bent permanently at a 90-degree angle and asked with obvious doubt, “Is this enough to disqualify him?” The doctor’s reply was a disgusted “yes!”

Looking back, I felt that at least one person had enough sense to send that draftee home. The Army could not enlist someone physically disabled. Yet, what happens to our combat veterans disabled mentally or physically?

I was disgusted by the May 20 article in this paper, “Report finds combat troop discharges rising sharply.” The AP article quoted from an investigation by the Colorado Springs Gazette: “The number of soldiers discharged from the Army for misconduct has risen to its highest rate in recent times, and some are wounded combat troops who have lost their medical care and other benefits because of other-than-honorable discharges.”

This is morally unacceptable to me, so I researched the full article through the Internet. The report got worse. Combat veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder are among those being discharged. Several top generals are quoted saying how much discipline counts to maintain an effective military and that our troops are important. Convinced? Me neither.

PTSD diagnosis is the tip of the iceberg. Combat damages and ruins untold thousands. We’ve only named it recently. After their release from Union and Confederate armies, many Civil War veterans simply “walked into the west,” unable to adjust to civilian life after observing the slaughter of the battlefield. Nothing compares to it.

Perhaps the most thoughtful words in the report were spoken by Lenore Yarger, a veterans advocate near Fort Bragg, N.C. She said, “We have gotten very efficient at getting people to fight wars but are not prepared to deal with the aftermath.”

In my opinion, we have never been prepared to deal with the aftermath. Also, I firmly believe that once a young man or woman is sent into combat we can never do enough for their maintenance afterward. To my thinking, it is unconscionable to discharge anyone and deny them benefits if they have faced combat. What is the value of discipline once you’ve sold your soul?

Estimates range from $5 trillion to $10 trillion spent on defense in the past 50 years. The Obama administration has increased funding for veteran support and there are still waiting lines sometimes hundreds of days long. In my lifetime, no president’s administration has done enough to maintain our veterans.

In Rachel Maddow’s book “Drift,” she details how every president from Johnson to the present has diligently tried to avoid congressional approval needed to send our troops into combat. Corrupting the power of their “commander-in-chief” role, presidents have outright lied and bent analyses to have their way with our military. It is an equal-opportunity corruption shared by presidents from both political parties. And worse, staunch defense-minded politicians, a euphemism for hawks, have even argued that since we have invested so much in our military we might as well use it. Fight on.

Obviously, this conundrum demands a change in thinking. Active citizenship requires each of us to question our country’s penchant for war. We must ask a tough question. How much defense do we need? Not how much can we spend on our military to keep our economy strolling along.

In my view, for every dime we invest in new weapons we should spend millions on the humans ruined by war. And we must ask, what is the cause for dismissal from service? Can anyone know the contribution of combat?

Shame on us.

Bill Ellis is a local author and can be reached at contact@billelliswrites.com.

 

 

 

In the Days Before – Part 4

Mary Pitt

Mary Pitt – age 30

It is easy to recall my days in school as a halcyon time, though the happiness was not, of course, unstained by some coarser events. But that is childhood, is it not? Mother delayed my entry into formal school by a year because, she said, I was ill with some sort of respiratory disease, but I have no memory of being ill. In later days, I teased her, saying that she had had a baby in the house for so many years that she delayed the “empty nest syndrome” as long as possible. This is not to say that I learned nothing in the pre-school years!

My youngest brother started to school when I was only in the toddler stage and, from that time was, like the other boys, spent either in school or working at tasks assigned by my father. This left Mother home alone all day, every day. And she was a garrulous talker, spinning our her stream-of-consciousness verbally in order to banish her own boredom and loneliness. And I had nothing to do but to listen and to absorb her life into my own memory.

I heard tales of adventure as her grandfather strode the decks of a freighter plying the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Hudson River as it made its way even deeper into the New World, bringing trade goods to the Indians and returning loaded with valuable furs as the result. He was following his father in the endeavor as did his many brothers and, between them, they established permanent residences and families ashore all along the boundary of what became Canada and the United States.

I heard tales of hardship as her mother accompanied her own husband, first to a logging camp in what would become the state of Washington and then to Oklahoma after the Land Rush where they lived in a “dugout” cabin on the arid plains and where my mother lived her own childhood. She, herself, had known both cowboys and Indians and shared her many memories of her daily life and that of her mother and her older sisters. Every tale was an entertaining movie in my over-active imagination and one which would be acted out in my out-of-door play in the summer.

When the day was over, the door would open and in would troop an assortment of brothers, eager to change out of their school clothes and go outside to do their assigned chores. Later, they would all return, accompanied by Father, to line the long kitchen table and eagerly fill plates with the result of Mother’s afternoon work at the wood-burning cook stove. Mother baked twelve loaves of homemade bread every other day and, on fresh-bread day the aroma would be a great appetite-inducer. There may have been no meat on the table but there would be Navy beans and home-canned vegetables, usually potatoes and, always, white gravy. Gravy was a staple in our diet since Father insisted on it, three meals a day, every day, while praising its “stick-to-the-ribs” qualities.

I do wish I could recall verbatim some of those dinner-table conversations but, fortunately, only snippets remain. If I had ever written anything like them, I would likely have been arrested for writing obscenities. But Mother listened carefully to learn of weather conditions, neighborly chit-chat, and political doings. She, too, was a farmer, being in charge of the gardening, chickens, and turkeys as well as attending to the milk, cream, and eggs that were produced to provide food for the brood.

After supper, all moved about the house, getting settled for homework time. This was my first school! I would move from brother to brother, asking questions and getting answers.

“What are you reading? What does it mean? How do you do that? Show me!” And, bless their hearts, I got real answers! I was shown unfamiliar words, told what they mean, and encouraged to study the letters therein. With my little slate and a short, grubby piece of chalk, I would approach a boy who was working on arithmetic and repeat the demand, “Show me!”

On occasional Saturday nights, our neighbors would show up and get set for a night of card playing. First, I was allowed to keep score for their games of Pitch. That was easy and already within my range of abilities but I yearned to also learn to keep score for Rummy, which required a good deal of multiplication as well as simple addition. I put the heat on my brothers, who obediantly taught me to multiply through the number thirteen!

At that time the school systems were set up according to “townships.” The State was divided by counties which were, in turn, divided into townships and each township maintained a school. These were simple one-room buildings containing desks, a wood-fired heating stove, and either a bell tower or a little hand bell, according to what the district could afford. The first school I attended was in a larger township and had a two-room schoolhouse.

Teachers were hired on a room, board, and tiny salary basis. Almost all were young women and a new teacher created a bit of excitement among the young men of a community! The room-and board were usually contributed by a local taxpayer who had an extra bedroom. Only a dedicated person would have dared accept such an offer but these were hard times and jobs were scarce. During the coldest winters, the teacher was at the school early so that the fire in the big stove would be rekindled the little fingers could be warmed in its glow as the children arrived by whatever mode of transportation was available to them. Sometimes the aroma of a pot of hot soup simmering on the stove would make a warm and welcome addition to the cold sandwiches which were taken from the lunch boxes.

We must remember that, “In the Days Before”, each school was funded only by the property taxes paid by the farmers in that township with no State or Federal assistance whatever. Each autumn, a teacher was confronted with a deluge of children of varying ages and abilities, some prim and proper while others were as wild as little mavericks. She was charged with the task of turning them all into literate young people who would be able to make their way in the world. The miracle was that they were usually successful. Not only did they teach the academics but also congributed some small knowledge of whatever talent they possessed. One teacher might play the piano, another a guitar, and still another would teach awkward little girls to tap-dance!

In short, these miracle-workers brought a finer example of civilization to small offspring of unlearned and largely rough-hewn humanity to the status of up-standing citizens who could function to further build a growing nation into a united entity which could exert great influence on the world. They were over-worked and underpaid and, unfortunately, they still are. We entered our school years as blank slates and departed from them as literate and understanding individuals with a mission to make ourselves and our nation capable of bequeathing to our progeny a better life than we had experienced,

Many of these children would find their education cut short after less than a high school diploma and those early years must of necessity cram a lot of learning into the very young. Many young men were required to assist their parents on the farm and girls could expect to be married by the end if their teens. Few women worked outside the home and those who did not marry young were condemned to clerical work or to teaching, so the small proportion who were able to extend their education became teachers until marriage, so most of the teachers were young. The amazement was that so many of them were excellent, considering that the work was only a stop-gap to support themselves until marriage.

But that was a long time ago. Post World War II, the baby boom brought ever-larger schools and population growth in communities that could not afford to support them all. More Federal aid was channeled to the States as were funds for things like welfare and Medic-Aid for families in need. The nation grew and, of necessity, the government grew to deal with the ever-increasing population. New schools were built and buses provided for the transportation of the children to ever-larger schools. The percentage of high school graduates grew as did that of post-high-school education in the rising number of colleges. We became the best-educated population in the world!

Now we find ourselves governed by those with the money to exert undue influence on our representatives to government. Their battle cry is, “Stop spending! Cut taxes!” The nation is as split as any time since the Civil War as half the States are pursuing those same policies. Schools are being closed, free lunches and food stanmps are cut for hungry children, and the law-makers are talking about the Good Old Days but few of them were yet alive during the conditions that existed before the institution of the very programs that they choose to cut. Our expensive infrastructure is collapsing from neglect while the nation becomes more like “Les Miserable.” Soon, it will be divided between the huge cities with the financial concentration on assuring the super-rich that their lifestyle will not be threatened, and the rest of the country where children, old people, the infirm, and the will serve their local masters until blessed with the delivery of death.

Did the thousands of young men who were my brothers sacrifice their “lives and fortunes” in order to establish this kind of uncaring society. I think not! Will we dishonor The Greatest Generation by turning our national back on those sacrifices as well as those of all the other great patriots in our history to satisfy the desires of those for whom “All” is never “Enough?” That remains to be seen and depends entirely on the degree of sacrifice and dedication that is offered by today’s patriots.

We who remember “The Days Before” are now old, weak, and few. And so, the decision is up to you, the readers, to decide and to do whatever is necessary to stop it!

Frackenlooper: No “Fair Witness”

Oil and gas lobbyists call him "a stud."

Hickenlooper 2On May 2, Gov. Hickenlooper participated in the FrackingSENSE lecture series at the University of Colorado. There he stated that he wants to be a “fair witness” of oil and gas development (particularly of fracking) in Colorado. 

The term “fair witness” was introduced in the 1961 science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. In this book, a fair witness is defined as an individual trained to observe events and report exactly what he or she sees and hears, making no extrapolations or assumptions. I would venture to say Hickenlooper is anything but a fair witness when it comes to fracking.

Frackenlooper ButtonConsider that he has appeared in paid advertisements for the oil and gas industry claiming that fracking is safe. He has been called a “stud” by oil and gas lobbyists, hardly an impartial reference. He intentionally misled a Senate hearing committee and the press with his claims of drinking fracking fluid, which in reality was not the kind of highly toxic and carcinogenic fracking fluid that is routinely used throughout Colorado. He has sued a local community, Longmont, for imposing a ban on fracking. He has not only continually threatened to veto just about any bills that would strengthen regulations or enforcement of existing regulations, but has pressured Democrats to kill such bills before they even reach his desk so he can avoid looking like the bad guy.

At this same conference Hickenlooper stated that “if we find unhealthy air quality around a community and something coming out of a well that is an issue, we will put the brakes on faster than you can imagine.” Oh really? NOAA recently reported air quality in Weld County that is worse than Los Angeles and Houston and is directly related to oil and gas activity, yet there is no slowdown on activity there. And a recent gas leak near Parachute allowed a carcinogen to seep into the ground near a large creek that feeds into the Colorado River, and I have yet to hear of any “brakes” being applied there.

Probably the most alarming statement that Hickenlooper made at the FrackingSENSE event is that the science on the impacts of fracking is far from settled and that scientists don’t know the impacts of wells on air and how that might affect the health of nearby residents. If this is true, then why are we continuing to drill, baby, drill? Shouldn’t we be implementing the precautionary principal and putting the brakes on fracking until we know the answers to these important questions? Shouldn’t we be putting state money toward studies that would answer these questions instead of toward costly lawsuits against residents who are trying to protect themselves? Instead, Hickenlooper’s appointee to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Dr. Urbina, specifically testified against HB 1275 that would have produced a study on health impacts.

The fact that our governor is saying one thing but doing completely the opposite leads me to believe that he is certainly no fair witness to oil and gas development and fracking but instead is a colluding representative of the industry.

Corporate Greed, Corporate Bullying, Corporate Slavery

Featured in McClatchy Newspapers articles, Phil Richards, Joe Arredondo, and Lisa Weber are being pushed to their human limits while their employers use technology to measure every minute of their work in a “relentless push for efficiency.” (“A Tougher World: As employers push efficiency, the daily grind wears down workers,” and “Tracking workers’ every move raises stress along with productivity.” Business Section of the Sunday, April 14, Times-Call, page C6.)In Greed We Trust

The technology may be new, but the management strategy is quite old: Use threats and fear to maximize productivity. I saw it working summers in a sweatshirt factory where “efficiency engineers” used the technology of that era, stopwatches, to pressure workers to attain 200 percent of the going piece rate. We called those timers “Khrushchev” behind their backs; the Soviet premier at that time was feared by all blue-collar workers. Cutting wages to the bone and fighting off unions was the norm in the textile industry’s greedy, profit-seeking course as owners moved their factories from England, to New England, to the American South, to out of the United States.

I worked in a Florida sweatshop writing multiple-choice questions for a greedy man who joked as he gave me 25-cent-an-hour raise after a year. “Here’s some motivation,” he said sarcastically. The perks? We all got a turkey for Thanksgiving and a pound of venison sausage from his hunting trips for Christmas. The man flaunted his wealth and was always chipping away at working conditions, making life miserable. It worked. No one stayed long.

In my last part-time job working for a health food store, I was called into the office and given the choice of running to restock shelves faster or quitting. That was my last day.

My wife’s experience more closely mirrors that of many of today’s workers. In her HMO job, she gradually assumed the duties of exiting co-workers without any raises. Her company perk was a grand Christmas party. At her last one, the retiring CEO thanked everyone for helping him build a mansion on a Caribbean island. He said that? Really.

After we moved to Longmont, my wife started as a temp and again gradually took on duties of co-workers who either quit or left in downsizing efficiency moves. After two years she “earned” a 1 percent raise.

The American “business model” is dangerously flawed. Under the guise of a sacrosanct profit motive, and raising productivity to compete in the global economy, government and business leaders, stitched at the hips of special interests, have left out American workers. Just three decades ago Robert Townsend, CEO of Avis and author of “Up the Organization,” set an example by paying his management team members more than he got. Today that strategy has vanished. Multimillions go to the top while arguments to raise the minimum wage for average workers is fought as a job killer. It is absurd.

Today it is a rare event when a smart and conscientious executive like Harold Dominguez, Longmont’s city manager, shares bonus pay with a team of workers. Or, Don Haddad, superintendent of the St. Vrain Valley School District, rejects raises four years running.

In a negative paradigm shift, corporations continue to cry wolf about government regulation stifling business. But their lobbyists and congressional representatives, bought with campaign contributions, have manipulated the tax code to create deductions that virtually avoid their paying a fair share of taxes. Worse, many top earning corporations do not pay any taxes. According to the Corporate Tax Dodgers Report, a joint project of Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, for years 2009 and 2010 General Electric made a profit of $10.46 billion and paid no taxes. GE actually got a refund, with a tax rate of minus 45 percent.

My wife and I paid more taxes for 2012 than GE did in 2009 and 2010.

money_stacks_of_100sIn plain English, the untouchable profit motive has been used successfully in “getting government off the backs of businesses” and unleashing obscene greed. Workers have been pummeled with dehumanizing pressure so the big bucks can stay at the top. The middle class is threatened with unconscionable cuts to entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security while lobbyists and politicians rant against raising taxes for the wealthy elite and protect tax deductions that allow mega corporations to avoid paying taxes.

In The Days Before – Part 3

Mary Pitt at age 14

Mary Pitt at age 14

On a warm early spring, while I was outside playing, Mother called me back to the front porch where she told me that Father had passed away. She told me that there would be a number of people going in and out of the house and she would like me to stay out of the way until she called me in. As was (and is) my wont, I had no reaction except obedience. I walked up the sidewalk into the next block where I met a slightly smaller boy who, upon seeing me, picked up a rock and threw it with great accuracy right into my forehead. I fell to the ground and lay there weeping long after the bleeding stopped. I knew no emotional ties to this fearsome man but I suppose I knew that this would make new and terrible changes to my life.

And those changes were certainly unwelcome. There was a funeral in this little town where we had taken residence, followed by another in the town where my parents had lived for years. There were many strangers to meet and sort as to their relationship, a solemn visit with the one brother who had been able to obtain a “compassionate” leave for the occasion, and much confusion as to where life would take us next.

Mother decided to stay in the house until “things were settled” and then to take the remaining family back to the town where she had friends and relatives. At the funeral, friends and relatives had given her small donations which she carefully hoarded for moving expenses, and she rented two adjoining rooms upstairs to a newlywed couple who were diligent about paying their $10 a month rent so that, by the time the renter had to report to service, she said that she had enough to move. The oldest brother who remained at home had a birthday and he announced that he was enlisting in the Air Force but would wait until he had helped her move.

Life was again uprooted and my mother and two youngest brothers would undergo another settling-in with nothing but faith and optimism. The following year the next oldest brother enlisted and left, being followed the next year by the next younger brother, leaving only the youngest brother, who joined the Navy at only 17. Mother was left alone with only an adolescent daughter to care for and only minimal means of support.

war-ration-book-1_600
We continued, the two of us, living in the house with the five-star flag in the window and endured the rigors of living, not only in extreme poverty but with the added challenges of the war-time restrictions of food and ordinary daily needs. We were getting a reduced allotment from more than one brother in order to lessen the burden on each of them. I still wore second-hand and hand-me-down clothing, as did she. I vividly recall the time she decided that we could afford a rare visit to the cheapest movie house in town. The tickets cost eleven cents each and it was a rare and treasured event.

As we were leaving the movie, she paused in the midst of the pushing crowd, and all eyes searching her for the reason for the delay. There she stood with her under-drawers crumpled up around her ankles. I was feeling humiliated when she kicked them the rest of the way off, put them in her purse, and announced, “Darn that old Hitler! You can’t even get good elastic any more.” We continued proudly out the door to the sound of applause.

My brothers, as young men do, met lovely young women and got married. In turn, each asked Mother to forgo her allotment from him, to which Mother gladly agreed. Each time, we had to move to smaller and less expensive living quarters. Only one time did either of us have a serious illness and it was a trial. She became ill and the doctor told her that she had an obscure disease which he did not know how to treat. Being poor, hospital treatment was out of the question. She took to her bed and remained there for several weeks with no care other than what I could provide under the direction of the doctor who would stop in to check on her and to give me instructions

I gave up the upstairs bedroom and slept in the living room so I could hear her at night, eventually, staying home from school to care for her. She became delirious from the fever and required constant attention.

Finally, thinking Mother was dying, one of the brothers got a leave and came home to see her “one last time.” It was not the help I needed. He took me to task because the house was not adequately maintained and provided even more tasks, as I was also charged with cooking for him and his small family. His emergency leave ran out and they departed, so I continued caring for Mother until the morning she woke up lucid and demanding breakfast!

As time went on, older members of the family would turn to Mother for help. Because they were working on farms where a house was given as part of the wages, when they lost their jobs, they would have to live elsewhere. While with us, they would take any temporary employment they could find, but it was never enough. But Mother would pinch every dollar even harder and managed to keep children and grandchildren fed. First my sister and then a brother brought their child to us for them to attend school because, living in the country — before there were school buses — the walk was too far for a six-year-old to navigate alone.

The last of these events was when we were living in a one-bedroom house and another brother decided it was necessary to “come home.” Unfortunately, he brought his wife and four kids! Mother slept on the couch so that they and their youngest could have the bedroom. The rest of us slept on pallets of folded bedding on the floor.

My brother was still recuperating from the diphtheria that had cost him his job and it was a long time before he could find work that he could do. After a while, it seemed as though we were living with them! Mother finally informed them that the rent on the house was $15 per month and she had found us a one-bedroom apartment above a store downtown. We moved out and left them there. It was nice to have a bed again.

As more brothers married and cut off the allotments to Mother, money became more scarce than ever. Mother got a part-time job, altering clothes for a women’s store. She made a dime for measuring and sewing a hem, maybe twenty-five cents for alterations, etc., certainly not enough to live on but still welcome in her budget. I also got a job, washing dishes on weekend evenings in a tiny cafe downstairs from our apartment. I was allowed to keep the quarter I was paid each week for mad money!

I shall never forget my fifteenth birthday. Birthdays had never been celebrated in our home, just sort of a family reunion in July near Father’s birthday when we were on the farm. Mother would kill and dress a couple of young chickens to fry, and mix up milk and eggs for a freezer full of home-made ice cream. I recall it as the epitome of our familial happiness. This birthday, however, was an awesome surprise. Mother took me downtown to buy me a pair of shoes, not to the usual second-hand store but to J.C. Penney’s! To my delight, she allowed me to choose a pair of white gillie-tie shoes with the toes out! Then she said that we needed to go to the dress shop where she worked. I floated down the street in my beautiful shoes and into the door of the shop. There, she presented me with a new two-piece blue dress in the height of fashion! This was the first “store-bought-just-for-me” dress I had ever owned in my entire life!

Only over these many years have I really appreciated that gift as I came to understand the horrendous sacrifices and scrimping she had undergone to provide it to me. How many hems she had to stitch, how many seams she had to take in or let out and what she had done without in order to save that much money! It took many years of experience in scrimping and saving for something special for me to really appreciate her heroic efforts.

Today’s people may read of the circumstances of those days but they cannot be expected to truly understand them. It is possible to survive without welfare, Social Security, and medic-aid, but to those forced to live without them, there is a whole lot of miserable existence which only the heroic among us can survive. I lived in “The Days Before” and I know whereof I speak. I can recall as a small child asking my mother, “Why can’t we live in the days of fairy tales? Princesses lived in castles with beautiful things and had servants to do all the work.”

Mother’s reply was succinct and spoken with the wisdom of the ages, “What makes you think that, if you had lived in those days, YOU would be the princess and not the servant?”

America is Dying (But don’t blame me, I’m just the messenger)

SamSkull“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity” ~~Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 – 1968), Strength to Love, 1963

Over the years I have written many articles about issues I felt are prevalent. For damn good reasons I have sounded the alarm bell for most of my life. And, for those who have paid attention and have answered the call to action while others have not, our country truly thanks you. For the rest of you, at least we have the satisfaction of knowing that in your absence, we have given it our best and we’ll continue to do so, regardless of your silent ineptness, but don’t blame me when I say our country is dying. I’m only the messenger, not the culprit.

Many of my essays on a variety of topics are published at OpEd News. All I can suggest for those who keep their heads buried in FOX News sand — either get wise, get active, or get busy digging a big grave for our national corpse.

If you want a great example of what it means to selflessly give part of yourself to society, a few years ago I wrote an essay honoring my parents, both whom were mavericks for hope and change. This tribute piece was the hardest thing I will ever attempt to write in my lifetime. When I submitted it to Consortium News back in 2008, editor-in-chief Robert Parry wrote a sobering introduction to the article — one that I consider a prime example of where I came from in the activist role-model department:

“Editor’s Note: One of the cruelest acts ever inflicted by the U.S government on its own servicemen was a 1946 experiment that put 42,000 sailors in close proximity to the detonation of two atom bombs to test the effects on humans.”The experiment, called Operation Crossroads, harmed the health of many sailors. It also was a turning point in the life of one, Anthony Guarisco, who dedicated his life — working with his wife Mary — to address the threat of nuclear weapons. In this guest essay, their son, Vincent, pays tribute to his parents and what they gave to him and to the world.

Moreover, I want to take a moment to share the value I place on being a worthy parent. It is after all our job to raise our children — the next generation — the best we can to ensure they have enough knowledge at their disposal to thrive in a world that although it offers much joy and beauty, is often laced with danger at every twist and turn. Their success (and survival) of our children is much greater if we adequately prepare them now for the road ahead.
At the starting gate, I guess I was luckier than most. I had an advantage at birth. I was lucky enough to have wise and loving parents. Looking back, I now know they were my lighthouse, my trusty compass … because they were always there to provide us kids with the essential knowledge and wisdom that gave us safe passage in a vast sea filled with many ripples with each crashing wave.

I wish I could say their life experience ended on a perfect note, but that would be untrue. My parents knew a terrible storm was gathering on the national horizon — much like the one that is building up today. They often spoke of this pending disaster that lay in wait (in the shadows) for just the right time to unleash its hell with ramifications in line with George Orwell’s 1984.Who can blame them for being skeptical of what the future had in store? Especially when we consider that both of them grew up during the great depression, both witnessed the attack of Pearl Harbor, WWII with atom bombs bursting in air and two Presidential assassinations as their horrid history lessons.
I guess my parents found other clues, having devoted most of their time studying history, current events and actively performing social activism that took them around the globe. They say some wounds cut deepest when they’re personal. For them, it was heartbreaking to accept that, while they worked overtime to help the sick and vulnerable in our society, most folks sat on the sidelines doing nothing.

Therefore, a question begs an answer — why do so many do-nothing squatters think “freedom” is free? As history has taught us many times over, tyrants will always try to dominate society in every aspect imaginable, and without hesitation, will always slap a “price tag” on it. If you think otherwise, quickly slap yourself in the face and wake the hell up!

It takes a lot of hard work and courage to step up to the plate and get the job done. With love, intuition and a little weariness, my parents did their best to prepare my sister and I for the many challenges that lie ahead. They knew empty minds are easily manipulated, so they taught us history and pushed education, which they believed was the foundation for creating a better, peaceful society and nation.

They did their best to prepare us for the many obstacles that life can surely put in front of us, and they also included some useful survival techniques to help us avoid many nefarious pitfalls often created by psychopathic individuals working in unison for the global elites. They held nothing back; they told us everything good or bad that we may have to face in life … and I must admit I learned my lessons well. Because, when the inside job of 9/11 occurred and afterward when the same hateful neocons fabricated the bogus War on Terror, I was neither surprised nor fooled; even when many other terrible events later reared their ugly heads for all the world to see.

Early on, I was made aware that most politicians will eagerly kiss your baby at any election photo Op, but afterward … will throw the little tot in the fire of hell (as they steal their future) to serve their own selfish goals. Being armed with the truth is not always pleasant, but I was taught to be a critical thinker and read between the lines so I would not be fooled or manipulated into doing anything that I knew in my heart was against the high principles of my beliefs. In addition, I was taught to redirect my energy and knowledge into positive ways to create a meaningful life not only for myself, but for those around me. However, my father also warned me that if I ever found myself boxed into a corner in harm’s way with no peaceful way out, to be a fierce fighter and defeat my opponent(s) at all cost. Words to live by…

Fast forwarding to today, I know the hard knocks of life are getting tougher with each passing day. Indeed, it’s not getting any easier to decipher truth from lies nor is this heavy burden getting any lighter to carry as we try to keep our heads above the waterline. I understand many folks are woefully confused as to what exactly is going down here, so let me clarify the severity of the situation by offering my synopsis. For those who do not pay attention, It’s a bleak version of the worst-case scenario. Sorry, If you want it candy-coated, go elsewhere…

Listen up. While most of us were fast asleep, the nature of mankind has become disproportionately twisted and has immorally ordered its political sentinels to serve only a select few at the top 1% of the food chain. Thus, a primary method of control has been achieved through violence, oppression, murder and genocide. This applies both at home and abroad. Indeed, other nations the world over are paying the price whenever our leaders desire to crush them for this or that.

Thus, at home we are thoroughly being groomed, brainwashed and inseminated with a barrage of psychological head trips, vicious physical assaults with a mixture of false-flag terrorist acts, including but not limited to, soft-kill tactics in all sectors of psy-Op covert action deployment. Eventually, if we do not stop it, we’ll all become sick, docile and compliant as they would love to reduce our living standards to those comparable to a large third-world prison. It’s the same life-diminishing trick our CIA has been doing to the other nations for decades.

Do the math. Seven billion souls on the planet has been deemed “far too many,” so the elites want to drastically reduce this number to a more manageable amount (perhaps a few hundred million). The hard kill plan is already in motion in most third world countries, and like a thief in the night, it will eventually land here in the U.S. For now though, they’re still using the “soft kill” approach by adding fluoride to our already polluted water supply which already contains mercury, lead and a host of chemicals, all of which are carcinogenic killers from all the fracking. Plus, we are also being fed harmful Genetically Modified Food (GMO) in virtually every food product we consume. Unless of course you have the money to buy all organic.

And don’t forget, we are still receiving our daily dose of radiation exposure from all the fallout drifting over from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear meltdowns. Yes, even though that little goodie fell off the news media map, we are still getting exposed every minute of every day. Quick pop quiz: Raise both hands high in the air if you know someone who is dying of cancer? Golly gee, so many hands extended my way! Now bow your head with your hands extended. Wow! Am I a God or what? Just kidding…

After that, it only gets worse: After the great culling, the rich 1% elites will completely enslave those of us who survive to a life of hard labor factories, and we’ll be worked to the bone until our bodies eventually give out. Thus, we’ll all be slaves to the grave within the construct of our own mundane borders … unless of course some of us are deemed “enemy combatants.” In that case, we will be quickly black-bagged and hauled off to Guantanamo (or imprisoned elsewhere via their extraordinary rendition policy) and forced to dance on a crate with wires attached to our teeth and testicles while some picture-taking gulag goon slowly cranks the handle on a generator just for shits and giggles.

Or — best case scenario — we will simply be placed in cages to rot … or if any of you desire, you can participate in one of the many hunger strikes that are always ongoing. Then, you get to watch your body slowly feed on your own flesh and organs until you eventually perish as a razor-thin skeletal corpse with little meat remaining. Nice, huh?

Yes, we’re in serious trouble! We’re not quite there yet, but all the preparations are almost in place … In fact, when we consider how our lives have drastically changed in just the last 13 years, we will soon realize how intense control-freak obsession can be: to track, monitor and record virtually everything we do.

I mean seriously, are we that damn stupid to merrily get into cars equipped with automated license-plate readers that track where we go? Do you think it’s A-OK that we have smart meters tracking our electrical use or that we walk the streets with a vast network of security cameras and “smart street lights” constantly watching our every step? Do you blindly accept tens of thousands of drones patrolling the air space, spying on us? Think about it — those same drones can zero in on a gnat’s ass and are highly equipped to kill in a variety of ways.

Will you comply when the TSA sets up “internal checkpoints” all over the nation, comparable to what the Soviet Union did during the Soviet Block? Do you accept Homeland Security encouraging all of us to report any (loosely defined) “suspicious activity” on our neighbors so the federal government can flag us as “potential terrorists” if we display a hint of nervousness? I would also mention this is happening at a time when all of us “should be very nervous.”

Will you quietly let the U.S. Military kick down your neighbors’ doors and shove black bags over their heads and indefinitely detain them without ever charging them of a crime whatsoever? To know they will never be afforded due process of law in order to defend themselves against some non-existence crimes they supposedly committed?

What happened? I thought this was the home of the brave and land of the free! Why do we seem content to roll over for this crap? For some time now, I have seen this fundamental shift quickly escalate. I have watched my fellow citizens eagerly give-up huge swaths of liberty and freedom in exchange for vague promises of increased security. Why? Have we lost all common sense along with our druthers?

If we don’t break away from the shackles of corporate fascism and state-sponsored intrusion, that big country-size prison I mentioned earlier will materialize. Thus, like any prison, capital punishment is a reality. A noose can easily be applied, the lever pulled, and a free-fall will commence for that final snap and jerk.

The primary objective of any tyrannical government is to exercise absolute control — to conquer the subjugated populace. For now, it’s mostly about keeping the revenue stream generated by lop-sided trade agreements and myriad forms of taxes imposed on individuals with the Internal Revenue Service collecting the wares for their foreign investors. The Federal Reserve will keep everyone in debt with their worthless fiat money and conduct on-demand inflation until they’re given the green light to crash the system.

Welcome to the “Big Brother” Orwellian prison matrix, a Homeland Security, CIA, NSA, FBI prison playground, where jackboots rule the nest. Truth is, were already walking the green mile. It’s just that far too many of us are too dumbed-down to know it.

This is the truth my parents could not bring themselves to tell their children. Deep down, they hoped we could stop them. But that hope is quickly dwindling away. I guess that is why my mother (before she died) often told me to cherish each moment. Unfortunately, as bad as I think it is now, in reality, these are the good days…

Author’s Bio:

Vincent L. Guarisco is a freelance writer from Arizona, a contributing writer for many web sites, and a lifetime founding member of the Alliance of Atomic Veterans. The 21st century, once so full of shining promise, now threatens to force countless millions of us at home and abroad into a dark abyss of languishing poverty and silent servitude; a lowly prodigy of painful struggle and suffering that could stream for generations to come. I’m wishing for a miracle, before it is too late, the masses will figure it out and will stand as one and roar. So, pass the word — it’s past time to take back what is ours — the American Dream where the pursuit of happiness, the ability to live in a free and peaceful nation is a reality. We bought it, and we paid for it. It’s time to take it back. For replies, contact: vincespainting1@hotmail.com