Passing Gas to the Consumer

  by Walter Brasch   Gas prices at the pump during the July 4th extended weekend were the highest they have been in six years. This, of course, has little to do with supply-and-demand economics. It has everything to do with supply-and-gouge profits. Over the past decade, the five largest oil companies have earned more than $1 trillion in profits. Last year, the Big Five—BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Shell—earned about $93 billion in profits. Their CEOs last year earned an average of about $20 million. Included within the profits is $2.4 billion in taxpayer subsidies because it’s hard to make a living when your hourly wage, assuming you work every hour of every day, is only $2,283. “We … Continue reading

Whistleblowers Necessary for a Free Press

Bradley Manning

In a well-orchestrated effort to get ahead of the story, this week the Obama administration released a trove of secret information about domestic spying and the rules of how the domestic phone records may be accessed and used by intelligence analysts. And yesterday, the president met with congressional leaders to assure them that the secret NSA programs would be adjusted. But, the administration efforts failed miserably in heading off the growing outcry and only raised more questions than they answered. Too little, too late. Even as senators debated the program, The Guardian published a 32-page presentation,  downloaded by Edward J. Snowden, that describes a separate surveillance activity by the agency. It gives NSA analysts access to virtually any Internet browsing … Continue reading

The No-News Media Cover a Royal Birth

by Walter Brasch   Long after the American colonials broke away from the British monarchy, long after George Washington refused to take the title of “king,” Americans are still fascinated by anything British and royal. The media incessantly pumped out news and features about the royal birth. TV networks gave us several “special reports” when Kate Middleton checked into the hospital, and then even more reports when the birth was announced, and then when Middleton, Prince William, and their baby went home.  The 30-minute network evening news devoted as much as half of its time to the royal birth. There was live coverage. There was taped coverage. Radio gave us near-instant updates. Just about anyone in London with a cell … Continue reading

Practicing Un-Medicine

          by Walter Brasch Clutching a sheaf of newspaper clippings in one hand and a medical bag in the other, Dr. Franklin Peterson Comstock III, knocking down pregnant ladies, students, the elderly, and even two burly construction workers who were waiting for a bus, rushed past me, leaving me in a close and personal encounter with the concrete. Since he had given up medicine to invest in a string of service stations and an oil distributorship, I assumed what was in his medical bag was the morning’s take from obscene profits. “Medical emergency!” Comstock cried out. “Gang way!” “You’ve returned to medicine?” I shouted after him. “I’m going into un-medicine!” he shouted back. “I’m getting the big bucks not … Continue reading

NRA Liars and Congressional Cowards

    by Walter Brasch   President Obama cast off his “No Drama Obama” garb, and became the fiery leader of hope and change that Americans first elected in 2008. At a speech in Hartford, Conn., the President, frustrated by Republican obstructionism, demanded of his audience, “If you believe that the families of Newtown and Aurora and Tucson and Virginia Tech and the thousands of Americans who have been gunned down in the last four months deserve a vote, we all have to stand up.” He demand, “If you want the people you send to Washington to have just an iota of the courage that the educators at Sandy Hook showed when danger arrived on their doorstep, then we’re all … Continue reading

The Paul Ryan Magical Mystery Chop, Dice, and Slice Budget

  By Walter Brasch   In 2011, before he was the Republican nominee for vice-president, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) proposed a federal budget. He called it, “The Path to Prosperity: Restoring America’s Promise.” Two years later, now in his second year as chair of the House budget committee, he dusted off and polished his old proposal. He calls this one: “The Path to Prosperity: A Responsible Balanced Budget.” His plan is to cut the federal deficit by $4.6 trillion in four years, reducing the deficit to about $12.1 trillion. While the Republicans blame President Obama and the Democrats for wild tax-and-spend policies that led to the huge deficit, they conveniently overlook the reality that Bill Clinton left George W. Bush … Continue reading

Holding the American People Hostage

by Walter Brasch   Judges who wish to assure that a jury has no outside influence will sequester them. Legally, a sequestered jury is seized by authority and isolated from all outside influences. The jurors are escorted into and out of the courtroom. They aren’t allowed to read newspapers, listen to radio news, or watch TV news, ’lest they could be influenced by the media. They are escorted to and from meals, and isolated from other customers. They can’t discuss the case with family or friends. They can’t even go home at the end of the day; they’re housed in hotel rooms. In the summer of 2011, a bipartisan “super-committee” was supposed to come up with a reasonable budget to … Continue reading

The No News News Media

There was a lot of news this past week. Some of it was even reported by the news media. First, there was a football player from Notre Dame who either did or didn’t know that his girlfriend was or wasn’t real, but died sometime during the season. Six column headlines for several days announced the fraud. Network news and talk show hosts rehashed it almost daily. Two weeks ago, Lance Armstrong admitted he was a dope. Or maybe he just took dope. The news media kept sending urgent flashes all week of what he was going to tell Oprah. And then he told Oprah, and now we’ll be reading stories about it until Schwinn adds a jet engine to a … Continue reading