’Twixt the Cobwebs of Halloween and the Lights of Christmas

  by Rosemary and Walter Brasch   At one time, people placed carved pumpkins with a candle inside on their front porches to announce the beginning of the Halloween season. And then it became a contest. First, best Halloween pumpkin. And then who could decorate their trees and hedges with the best fake cobwebs, followed by fake witches in trees. Next came Pumpkin’ Chunkin’, where teams make catapults and launch pumpkins. The beneficiaries of all this, of course, are the candy companies—which have steadily decreased the number of miniature candies and increased the price of them in giant bags—the card industry that began marketing their products not long after Labor Day, and just about every company that has figured out … Continue reading

A Call for Fair Pay for College Athletes

  by Walter Brasch   Some people foolishly believe the purpose of a college education is to further one’s education. To explore new cultures and views. Perhaps to help make a difference in the world. They, of course, are wrong. The purpose of going to college is to party, make contacts, and get a job. Sometimes the job is as a shift manager at a fast food restaurant. Sometimes it’s as a professional athlete. March Madness, the nation’s annual tribute to tall teenagers who can dunk a basketball, is now over. A few of the starters will become professional basketball players this year; some in the next year or the year after that. The University of Kentucky and Duke University, … Continue reading

They Brand Cattle, Don’t They?

by Walter Brasch “Branding! We have to make you a brand!” “I’m not cattle,” I told my sometimes faux foil assistant Marshbaum, who had just burst into my office. “And if you think I’m getting a tattoo,” I replied, “my body isn’t a canvas.” “It’s sure wide enough,” Marshbaum flippantly replied. Before I could throw sheets of wadded up paper at him, he explained what he meant. “It’s not a fire-iron brand,” he explained. “It’s strategic marketing.” “I’m a journalist,” I reminded Marshbaum, “I don’t do that kind of thing.” “You will if you want to stay in business.” “I’ve been in this business four decades, and I’ve never been branded.” “That’s why we need you to do TV commercials,” … Continue reading

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

Lettuce Look at Some Prices

   by Walter Brasch   I was resting at home when Marshbaum called to ask if I wanted to go with him to look at the lettuce. “The supermarket’s got lettuce for less than two bucks a head,” he said enthusiastically. “What’s so unusual about that?” “Because it’s going to be extinct in a few weeks.” “You’re buying up lettuce and selling it on eBay as antiques?” I sarcastically asked. “Don’t be ridiculous! I’m buying the best heads, storing them, and selling them for four bucks in a couple of months.” “What makes you think anyone would pay four bucks a head when they can get them now for less than two bucks?” “Weren’t you listening, Ink Breath? I said, … Continue reading

Shuffling Federal Paperwork

The right-wing part of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, with John Boehner in the role of spineless lackey rather than courageous Speaker, has shut down much of the federal government. Eighty Republicans had signed a letter expressing their intent to shut down the government. It was a political act of defiance against government by people who themselves were government. The millionaire representatives have grabbed the media, which they publicly say they hate—except for one TV network and a few loud-mouth blowhards on radio—to proclaim their demands. They demand the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, be defunded. To these ultra-conservatives, the most important health care insurance protection in the nation’s history is a socialist trap, just like Social … 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

A Father’s Day BBQ–Washington, DC, Style

By Walter Brasch   It’s Father’s Day, and that means the Great White Republican Hierarchy in Washington smells burnt charcoal and is ready to barbeque some Democrats. Because Father’s Day is special, the Republican-proposed Sequester is waived, and there is no budget limit for the day’s food and frivolity. It’s warm this Father’s Day, but the Republicans aren’t complaining about all the fracking heat from their propane grill or the sweat they’re putting into making a nice dinner. They’re sure that it’ll be ice-age cool next year because the destruction of the ozone layer and Climate Change don’t exist. First onto their searing grill is a slice of prime Benghazi. The meat has been marinating for nine months and is … Continue reading