Bottoms Up, America

Excerpt From STUFF ACCORDING TO ROCKO

You’d think hypocrisy, selfishness, and ignorance had been shaken or stirred and served as the newest American cocktail. And the dimwits who blither endlessly about freeloaders and welfare reform while rabidly supporting corporate welfare have clearly been over-served.

Here’s what a more sober view of corporate welfare would show them.

Cities and states compete to attract major corporate employers by offering incentives: subsidies (gifts of taxpayer funds) to help pay for construction; extension of utility services to newly developed property at taxpayers’ expense; construction or improvement of roads, also at taxpayers’ expense; permits to use land for purposes prohibited to local citizens and businesses by zoning ordinances; permission to violate environmental protections; and special low tax rates on profits.

Kinda makes food stamps and rent money to needy families look like chicken feed, doesn’t it?

Another type of corporate welfare is outsourcing government work to for-profit companies.

EXAMPLE: providing construction and transportation services for the Army, formerly a self-sufficient organization that provided these services by training soldiers with skills they could take with them back into civilian life. Think of Halliburton running convoys of empty trucks in Iraq and charging the government a huge mark-up on what they actually paid for fuel.

ANOTHER EXAMPLE (and a really weird one): civilian companies (hey there, Blackwater) providing security services for our armed forces, which formerly had their own police forces. And if the most heavily armed and well trained fighting force on Earth needs to be protected by a civilian company, two questions come to mind: (1) what kind of horrific weapons and unrestrained tactics do their protectors use, and (2) why not send the troops home and let their protectors fight the enemy?

STILL ANOTHER EXAMPLE: private contractors running prisons where an entry-level guard earns more than twice the annual salary of a public school teacher with advanced university degrees and twenty years of experience.

Have another olive or onion or a little paper umbrella in that cocktail

The standard excuse for corporate welfare is that it’s good for the community. Aside from the dishonesty of that claim, it’s worth noting that feeding the hungry so they don’t have to steal is also good for the community. So is housing the homeless so they don’t clutter up the sidewalks, which drives shoppers away. So is providing the poor with money so they can buy life’s necessities at local stores.

The anti-welfare crowd would never support feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and providing the poor with enough money to survive just because it’s the right thing to do. And they’re too drunk on the new American cocktail to recognize that these things would also serve their own best interests.

Bottoms up.

Fake Objectivity

Excerpt From STUFF ACCORDING TO ROCKO

Hardly anything branded as “fake news” is actually fraudulent, but much of what’s called “objective reporting” is as phony as a politician’s commitment to the good of the American people.

“Objective reporting” means relating what happened without trying to convey an opinion about it. Americans have been duped into accepting “balanced reporting” as just another term for “objective reporting” — but they’re not the same thing, and “balanced reporting” isn’t nearly as admirable as its proponents want you to think it is.

Dragging in a highly inflammatory statement or a statement of questionable validity from the lunatic fringe to “balance out” the key point of the story is not “objective” — it’s either devious or stupid depending on the intention or the ignorance of the reporter. “Telling both sides” is equally without merit when one or two unrelated or insignificant points are used to “balance” a preponderance of strong evidence or when a statement from an unqualified person “balances” the opinions or findings of leading experts.

Newspapers and magazines that target readers with a specific and narrow mindset are sometimes faced with a story of high news value that contradicts their position. Since they can’t ignore it, they undermine it with input from sources that would not be quoted in more ethical publications.

The same scenario plays out in the broadcast media, where there are at least three reasons for this deviation from straight news reporting. One reason is the proliferation of interview and discussion programs which, like fruit trees, require many branches if they’re to bear the desired fruit (in this case, filling the allotted air time and attracting the largest possible audience and the highest-paying sponsors). Another reason is Fox’s need to obscure obvious facts with a smoke-screen of contradictory “evidence”. And a third reason is National Public Radio’s compulsion to include a blatantly liberal element in every discussion whether it’s relevant or not.

The urge to demonstrate objectivity without understanding it is typically triggered by news items about legislation, administrative actions, court decisions, and the like. These invariably inspire reporters to seek out contrasting opinions about the underlying issues which are seldom part of the actual news story.

Equal air time for a rival political party’s response to a State of the Union speech is an example of token objectivity or its illegitimate sibling, balanced reporting, carried to an extreme. Of course, no State of the Union speech in living memory has actually been a report on the condition of the country. It’s just another partisan political stump speech, too predictable to be considered news. But the opposition’s response is even more “not news”.

The New Citizen Soldier

Excerpt from STUFF ACCORDING TO ROCKO

The “citizen soldier” is one of the best-known symbols of the American spirit. Picture the Minutemen who fought the Redcoats at Lexington and Concord, the Doughboys who stopped the Germans in the Argonne Forest, the Marines who raised Old Glory on Iwo Jima.

But the war against COVID-19 gives the term “citizen soldier” a whole new meaning. Here’s why.

Our independence from England was won by civilian militias and a temporary army of recruits who returned to civilian life when the war ended. The Civil War was fought almost entirely by soldiers recruited or conscripted after the war started, and almost all of the survivors returned to civilian life when their enlistment was up.

Both World War I and World War II caught us without regular armed forces sufficient to meet the need. But ordinary citizens answered the call of duty, temporarily giving up their civilian liberties for a soldier’s discipline and sacrifice.

But the war against COVID-19 is a whole new kind of war. The “soldiers” are civilians who haven’t enlisted, even temporarily, in the armed forces. We’re all on active duty now, and we’ve all got to think like soldiers.

The first lessons a soldier learns are that orders must be carried out promptly and completely and that each member of the unit is responsible for the safety of the others. Recklessly endangering fellow soldiers would be unthinkable and, like disobeying orders, would be severely punished.

Failure to follow the urgent recommendations of health experts during a pandemic is the moral equivalent of disobeying orders. It’s also the literal equivalent of needlessly exposing yourself and your unit to enemy fire and thereby needlessly overloading the aid stations and field hospitals with casualties.

Soldiers accept certain limitations on their personal liberties during their time of service as the price of helping to preserve those liberties for themselves and all other Americans in the long run. In past wars, civilians have been spared those limitations but have had to accept rationing, shortages, and some travel restrictions. COVID-19 has made it necessary for every American to accept both sets of limitations and sacrifices.

COVID-19 has also given the new “citizen soldier” something else in common with traditional soldiers past and present: the very real chance of being killed.

With ever-changing guidelines instead of clear and enforceable rules, the integrity and responsibility of individual citizens are more important than ever. We must all take our orders (or advice) from authorities based on their knowledge and experience, not their political affiliation.

And we must all remember that a casualty curve that levels out or starts trending downward doesn’t mark the end of the war. The war won’t be over until the casualty count drops to zero.

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