ESPN Should Cover War

This past weekend the AM radio airwaves were awash with every possible facet of the new college football season. This was part of Game Day on ESPN. ESPN left no yard marker unturned as college football fever reached its zenith. Pundits and “experts” spent hours on end over days discussing the moral failings and life long character flaws of “Johnny Football” signing autographs during his off season. These are of course sentinel issues that impact the well being of Americans coast to coast.

Enduring this non stop ESPN Game Day football fanaticism got me thinking. What if ESPN hosted “ESPN War Day” every Saturday? Think of the potential here. Pundits could review our latest drone strikes and offer eloquent eulogies to the women and children ripped apart and shredded by our latest drone mass murders. And our pundits and courtiers would have the opportunity to debate next weeks targets and discuss the merits of each anticipated attack. And this is just the beginning. We could host the “War time medical hour” and have an enthusiastic panel discuss the impact of depleted uranium munitions on the Iraqi population and discuss the positive aspects of Iraq’s soaring and unimaginable cancer rates. We could showcase the ESPN – War Day “Top 25 terror threats” and rank which country and people and region deserves a heavy dose of industrialized murder next. And like college football our top 25 would change weekly, helping to peak audience interest throughout.

The great Mideast journalist Robert Fisk lamented the reality that in our land of illusion the closest Americans will get to what our perpetual wars and slaughters have wrought is renting “Saving Private Ryan.” This is precisely why a Saturday ESPN – War Day show has such value and appeal. It would afford us the opportunity to see first hand the human toll of our on-going bombing of third world peoples and it would allow pundits the opportunity to explain with high moral conviction why blowing up woman and children and innocent people is a crucial component of democracy promotion. “A point never understood or grasped by our victims in their death thrones.” Of course ESPN – War Day may not be able to tackle the haunting big issues like those surrounding Johnny Manziel’s signing autographs – an action that again threatens the moral well being of a nation. But ESPN – War Day does have its own unique appeals. It would allow us the opportunity to see if not first hand – at least second hand how our “war on terror” and democracy promotion works. And that reality might actually throw a small but powerful monkey wrench into the propaganda machine that has made us the most illusioned and war prone people on the planet.

Jim Sawyer
Edmonds, Wash.

Welcome Whistleblowers

Yes, “Democracy Needs Whistleblowers,” as Randolph Holhut says [8/1/13 TPP]. They’re the ones who have the foolhardy courage to let us know what is being done with our tax money. They are not traitors to us or to our country, they are betraying the greed of the 0.01%. and they pay a high price. War is very lucrative for the few, and stunningly expensive for the many. The status quo wants to keep it that way.

Would that there were members of the House or Senate who had an iota of the foolish courage required to stand up for our country and its citizens. In the article about Sen. Tom Harkin [“Harkin Letting Loose as Retirement Nears” by Art Cullen, 8/15/13 TPP], we find that a public option for medical insurance had enough votes to pass both the House and Senate, but all it took was a phone call from the White House to make them all back off. Is this what’s called the balance of power? These guys raise their own salaries every year with our tax money and sell us out every time.

What we need are more whistleblowers.

Patricia Black
Nevada City, Calif.

Bring Back Draft, Reluctantly

Besides weakening our democratic connection to the armed forces [“The Military’s 40 Year Experiment” by David Sirota, 6/15/13 TPP], with the loss of the draft we have removed two of the last vestiges of shared American experience – the melting pot and working for your country – which helped make American what it was/is.

The melting pot and the draft forced us to live and work with others who were unfamiliar to us. We overcame initial misgivings and got things done. The “other” turned into the known.

Working for your country gave a sense of ownership of the country and that ownership promoted a responsibility towards that which is owned. The country and the government that runs the country are mine. I want the country and the government to run correctly.

Compare that to the body politic we find today, two generations after the loss of the draft. Segregated communities that never have to talk to each other, let alone live with each other. The government as “other” that should leave me alone. The country is “mine” but I don’t want to pay for its upkeep.

Even though I argue with many of my liberal friends about this, a compulsory National Service with a “military draft component” would bring back the melting pot and working for your country, and solve many of the dysfunctional aspects we find in our society today.

Bob Watson
Decorah, Iowa

CCC Socialism, Not Volunteerism

I was amazed when Arianna Huffington listed the CCC camps as an example of volunteerism along with the Peace Corps [“Volunteering is a Force that Bridges Divides,” 9/1/13 TPP]. She must think that generation of young men in the ’30’s dropped out of college, leaving their sports cars behind to go off and do something noble. Not even close. These boys had fathers who had lost their jobs or who weren’t making a living on the farm. The country was facing bread lines and soup kitchens.

FDR, prodded by his advisors and his good wife, found work for those idle hands. Many learned a trade in the Civilian Conservation Corps. My cousin was camp cook and he went on to serve 20 years as a Navy cook. The boys were paid an Army wage and most reserved an allotment for their needy parents. And by the way many infrastructure projects are still in service. Today that would be called socialism and that is a closer description than volunteerism. Would that our president would be so bold as to resort to direct action to bring recovery to Main Street.

Carroll Johnson
Douglassville, Texas

Stoked Ballplayers

Dave Zirin makes a great case that the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) should defend Alex Rodriguez to the max notwithstanding his less than appealing public persona, lack of support from fans, teammates, the media, etc. (“Alex Rodriguez and ‘Best Interests of the Game’,” 9/1/13 TPP) Unions, he says, need to defend their members no matter what. And the hypocrisy of owners and Commissioner Bud Selig regarding performance-enhancing drugs is obvious.

But he only makes passing reference to the many players, union members also, who want frequent testing and drug users nailed with severe penalties and says, essentially, that the MLBPA should ignore them. Let’s say you are a second baseman hitting .260 with only a few homeruns and a very adequate fielder. There is a kid in AA ball hitting .340 with power and also a good fielder. Rumor has it that this kid is using something. You have deeply held moral values against drug use and very legitimate fear of side effects. Doesn’t your union need to defend you too and protect you from the loss of your job to a chemical cheater? The MLBPA has a very difficult issue to deal with.  

(And Mr. or Ms. Editor, could you please ask David why ballplayers spit so much. It is not in the least charming).

Ed Beller
The Bronx, N.Y.

Tardy Outrage

The International Community has responded with anger and “saber rattling” when Assad of Syria used chemical weapons which resulted in hundreds of deaths. Where were the same leaders when thousands had been killed and where millions were rendered homeless? This is not to diminish the tragedy in any form of those who died but “death is death” and makes hardly any difference if you die from chemical weapons or die from bombardment and gun fire. The bigger tragedy in this conflict are the refugees and their children — to leave the comfort of your home; to leave behind your friends and relatives; to face the cruel augeries of nature; to live without proper sanitation; to be humiliated and suffer the agony of life without privacy.

The United Nations has done a great deal of work on this subject but it seems the international community has become immune from the sad plight of refugees which started after World War II and continues til this date. Someone should warn such leaders that refugee camps may breed ill-health but they also breed future terrorists.

G.M. Chandu
Flushing, N.Y.

Pity Over-Regulated Banks

I see that the banks are complaining loudly because their “regulators” (i.e., all the former bankers who went through the “revolving door” to work for government regulatory agencies) want them to increase their capital to 3% of their liabilities (apparently it is now about 2%).

Just you try to get away with that. Go to your local bank with $2,000 and tell its resident stockbroker that you want to buy $100,000 of some stock on margin. They will either throw you out or hire you as an executive. They require at least 50% margin from persons well known to them.

Why are they so agitated? They have managed to run about $700 trillion in obligations. To put up another 1% against that would cost them $7 trillion, while they definitely don’t have, and probably cannot raise, unless they radically shrink the size of their operations, which would reduce their bonuses which are half their compensation.

They are not worried about risks or losses. Recall how the stock brokers rushed in a stampede in two weeks of 2008 to get themselves reincorporated as “federally insured depository institutions.” Now, if the market goes against them by 3% or more, they may be wiped out, but it will be up to the federal government to bail them out.

Everyone involved has reached an impasse. The banks are having a fit because they can’t find a way to make more easy money. The regulators can no longer enable them because it is much too risky, so they must pretend to be strict with the banks. The Fed is going to “taper off” its quantitative easing. After about three years of buying $85 billion per year in bonds and mortgages from the banks, they are finished. They have accumulated $3.5 trillion, and should have relieved all the banks of most of their bad debts. This was called “supporting the economy.” Now, there is no way to go but down.

Harvey Stoneburner
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Minimum Wage Hike Scare

I enjoyed David Sirota’s article (9/1/13 TPP) dispelling the myth that higher wages for workers necessarily lead to unbearable price increases for consumers, but the wonder is that the studies he cited are needed at all to show that such is not the case when a little common sense and basic arithmetic skills would lead any thinking person to the same conclusion. McDonald’s, Walmart, and other businesses have myriad costs other than labor costs that contribute to the final prices of what they sell. Just to name a few: real estate, advertising, legal, administrative, purchase price of goods, taxes (assuming they actually pay any), and — oh I almost forgot — profits! So, it is really easy to see that labor costs, especially if they are low, constitute a small fraction of the price of goods.

Many years ago, during a strike by the United Farm Workers against the lettuce growers in California, a San Francisco TV newscast interviewed a representative of the growers who warned that if the wage demands of the workers were met, the price of lettuce (which at the time was probably 99 cents a head) would go up to $5 a head! As I sat there is disbelief, I didn’t know which was worse — the bald faced lie by the growers’ representative or the fact that the newsman doing the interview accepted that absurd claim at face value and never followed up with a question as to how the $5 figure was calculated. So, let’s do a simple calculation: Assuming the workers were seeking a $1 per hour raise (and it was probably less) and assuming as a ridiculously conservative estimate that each worker could pick only one head of lettuce a minute and took a 10-minute break every hour (fat chance!), it is readily apparent that the requested raise would increase the price of a head of lettuce by only two cents. But that’s without taking into account any of the other costs associated with bringing that head of lettuce from the field to the consumer — packaging, transportation, warehousing, and markups by the distributor and grocery store. So, in fact, if the $1 per hour raise were granted, at most, the grocery store would raise the price of a head of lettuce by a penny.

The corporate world is not so worried about an increase in the minimum wage itself as they are about a snowballing effect that would raise wages all up and down the system. If that happened, then, God forbid, the Middle Class might be restored.

Peter Hanauer
Berkeley, Calif.

Stop Immigration at the Source

With talk of immigration reform, we may see an amelioration of the treatment and hard life that immigrants go through. However, we must remember the hardship that persists in their countries of origin.

They suffer more and more with our domination of agricultural markets through subsidies and also legal protections to agribusinesses. Labor markets spiral downward as corporations race to get to the bottom of wages and workplace rules. Global pollution rises as corporations scurry to the most lax control laws. Neoliberal economic pressures lead to the erasure of the cultures of indigenous people around the world and a push of them into city squalor. Political and military pressure force independent countries into debasement through legal strong-arming, sanctions, and invasions. Corporations and the rich sprint to purchase around the world what commons remain.

In the global, moral scheme of things, immigration reform seems like giving a little.  Further with investor-trade resolutions, “trade” agreements will bring poorer regulations around the world home to roost as the takers take even more.

Tim Mavrides
Saint Johns, Ariz.

From The Progressive Populist, October 1, 2013



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