Perhaps the U.S. Can Save the World by Starting at Home

by David and Shadra Bruce

So, the issue, then, is that the Syrian government allegedly used chemical weapons against its citizens. President Obama has been quoted as saying that the use of such weapons would cross a “red line”, prompting intervention by the United States. But does it make sense for our government, or any government, to respond by taking more lives?

And seriously: The Bush vs. Obama debate is old. Who knew what and when is irrelevant. Both men allegedly had America’s best interests at heart at one time or another, and the only interests that they or our government have demonstrated is that of corporate and offshore interests. Both Bush and Obama are cut from the same cloth, and instead of renewing this debate every time a domestic or global incident occurs, it may make more sense to address the larger issue.

foreign-aid-definition-wileyGranted, a government killing its own citizens with chemical weapons is a crime. But how is killing additional people more acceptable? The true crime is that millions of people will find themselves displaced while governments engage in a global pissing contest. The true crime is that millions of dollars will be spent on killing more people (just to make a point) while simultaneously sentencing people in America to death for lack of food, shelter and health care. The money spent on global conflicts could be spent on taking care of the poor and elderly in America. This is not about Bush or Obama. This is about a government as corrupt (if not more so) as the one we broke ties with over 200 years ago.

We have spent over $4 trillion on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Instead of spending money on killing more people, what if we used this money on providing aid to Syrian refugees? What if we used a fraction of that money to affect repairs in the countries we have scarred with our search for phantom WMDs and war criminals? A more aggressive stance in terms of sanctioning governments who fund Syria may prove more affective, less deadly and less costly.

We do not need any more wars. We need to take care of the people here at home. We need to focus on strengthening the economy. We need to focus on our veterans and saving lives, not putting more soldiers in harm’s way. We need to make sure every American has access to healthcare. We need to address poverty and the growing gap between the poor and the rich. We need to humble ourselves enough to realize that we are not the country that can save the whole world any more. War – any kind of military action – is not the answer in Syria or anywhere else in the world.

Haven’t we had enough of the political and military grandstanding?


The FDA and Monsanto Think We Haven’t Got a Brain

They say you’re stupid
That you’re too young to vote
They say you’ll swallow anything
That they shove down your throat
~ Danny Elfman

by David T. Bruce

Monsanto, Evil Seed Of Corporate Greed SignThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) supposedly is charged with “protecting and promoting your health.” This analysis highlights a variety of instances in which the FDA has failed to prioritize the interests of American citizens. The FDA has failed to take proactive and timely measures to ban BPA as well as other harmful chemicals that are used as additives in consumer products.

Yet another report documented instances of questionable FDA practices. This report shows that “the FDA allowed [Basic Food Flavors Inc.] to ‘recondition’ [177] salmonella-tainted products by heat-treating the foods. The foods were then redistributed and sold.”

The most recent debate regarding our food supply and the level of oversight provided by the FDA involves the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). World wide, the majority of people have voiced concerns about foods that have GMOs, demanding that foods consisting of GMOs be labeled as such.

Oddly enough, music is labeled because there is the perception of risk. Music is labeled because it was determined that listeners had a right to know the content of what was inside. Congress has determined that it is not necessary, however, to offer the same courtesy to Americans who want to know what is in their food.

In various European countries, public outcries against Monsanto have proven effective. Austria, Bulgaria, France, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg and Poland have banned the cultivation of genetically modified crops in their countries. “GMO food, broadly rejected by consumers, are practically unsalable.” People have simply stopped buying those products.

Yes, modifying our diet is an option; however, many Americans do not have the financial resources to shop the outer aisles or the organic sections of grocery stores. Many are forced into the aisles where the food is priced affordably (yet insidiously enough, the packaged or processed food costs more per pound than fresh food) and are adulterated with a variety of fillers as well as GMOs. And contrary to what the FDA would have us believe, they do not have our best interests at heart.

A conflict of interest is defined as “a conflict between the private interests and the official responsibilities of a person in a position of trust.” With not less than 18 people working for the United States Government also appointed to or working for Monsanto at one time or another (and another), we can safely argue that a conflict of interest exists that is not favorable to the American consumer.

Monsanto posted on its official website that collusion theories relating to these agencies, including the FDA, “ignore the simple truth that people regularly change jobs to find positions that match their experience, skills and interests.”  Please. You cannot negotiate for the interests of the people when your interests hang in the balance. The simple truth is that as humans, each of us will do what is in our own best interests. No one is altruistic, and we would be fools to believe otherwise.

Americans need to trust in themselves and their gut instincts (no pun intended). The FDA has not earned our trust, and they have demonstrated their proclivity for incompetence and gross negligence when it comes to policing the food industry and ensuring the safety of the food supply in America. And it is a given that the vast majority of large corporations in America, in tandem with our government, are only concerned with the bottom line and maintaining their standard of living, our health be damned.

As citizens, we must carefully scrutinize the efforts and motivations of the FDA and insist on reform. As for Monsanto, their motivations are embarrassingly obvious, and we need to send a resounding message to them – with our voices and our dollars – that we see through their façade. Yes, we can bite the hand that feeds us.

Learn more about GMOs; educate yourself and take care of yourself. The FDA certainly will not.




We Can Think of 535 Ways to Cut Government Spending

by David T. Bruce

House Speaker Boehner tells us that it is “time to focus on the real problem here in Washington and that is spending.” We couldn’t agree more, Mr. Boehner. How we disagree, however, as do a great many Americans, is how spending should be reduced.

education_deathThis sequester will force federal job cuts in the hundreds of thousands, affecting civilians and military alike. Education in America will further erode, as children will be cut from Head Start programs and teachers and aides will lose their jobs. The mentally ill, the disabled and the elderly will also be impacted, as funds for health and food services will be eliminated or reduced. Are these truly the people and services that are a priority in terms of cutting the federal deficit?

Those most affected are those that are already reeling from an economy that has never quite recovered from the Great Recession, except in the eyes (and the coffers) of those who work on Wall Street. Those most affected are those who already have little or nothing, who have been literally dealt a poor hand.

Doug Bandow, a contributor to, illustrated a variety of ways that our government is wasting money:

 “The Department of State used $306,000 to bring European college students to America to learn civic activism” (we need an exchange program for this one).

“Columbia University collected $606,000 for a study of online dating” (perverts).

“The federal government cut a check for $550,000 to underwrite a documentary on the impact of rock and roll on the collapse of communism” (hell, if that worked, I can think of another government at whom we could sling our guitars).

“A federal grant for $765,828 went to [. . .] bring an International House of Pancakes franchise to Washington, D.C.” (this requires no punch line).

Instead of wasting millions of dollars (which quickly adds up to billions) on discretionary and frivolous spending, why don’t you try balancing the budget (we call it penny pinching in the real world) without passing the buck(s) to the rest of us, asking us to pay for your ill-considered spending?

Instead of pointing fingers at one another, ask yourself what good you have done recently for your constituents and for your country that didn’t somehow benefit you. Instead of chiding or punishing the poorest of Americans (by eliminating support programs) who you believe have made poor decisions that have lead them to fiscal ruin, clean up your own act and demand the same from government employees who are sending billions of dollars in improper payments and overpayments out the door.

We cannot be the only ones sick and tired of the endless bickering that occurs on Capitol Hill. The only time our representatives take a break from throwing stones at one another is when they need time to rebuild their forts, preparing for yet another election year. While our elected representatives engage in yet another pissing contest, the working men and women whom they are elected to serve (those fortunate enough to still have jobs, that is), further struggle to make ends meet in the land of the American nightmare that is politics as usual.

Corporate Greed Fuels Resistance to Minimum Wage Hike

by David T. Bruce

Many analysts and columnists are insisting that the economy is getting better. The state of the economy is a relative condition, however, as over 12 million Americans remain unemployed, with long-term unemployed men and women accounting for 38 percent of that number. At any rate, this perceived economic recovery has prompted President Obama to offer up an increase in the federal minimum wage over the next two years.

minwageThe arguments against raising the minimum wage are predictable, as they are consistent. Business owners contend that an increase in the minimum wage would force them to pass that cost on to the consumer. As well, the costs associated with paying employees more would limit the number of employees that they could hire, thereby further impacting the unemployment rate. This may be the case, certainly for small business owners who are trying to earn a living, but for those larger corporations that are doing well, these arguments amount to pure greed.

The current minimum wage of $7.25 amounts to $15,080 a year; this places a family of two below the poverty level. This is recovery? To pay rent in 1960, a person would have to work 71 hours at minimum wage ($1); a person would have to work 109 hours at the current minimum wage, to afford rent. This is recovery?

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (unaffectionatly referred to as Obamacare by dissenters) compels business owners employing over 50 people to provide those employees with healthcare benefits. Companies such as Wendy’s (in Omaha, Nebraska), Papa John’s and Walmart are systematically structuring their workforce to avoid providing benefits. This is greed. And the bottom line of the argument against increasing the federal minimum wage is greed.

Business owners regularly raise prices to keep pace with inflation. Local utilities and governments do likewise. When will big businesses and governments realize that at some point, prices will be raised so much that they will lose money? The federal government does understand this, as government employees have historically received a cost-of-living allowance to help offset inflation.

The unemployed and underemployed Americans cannot give what they do not have. At some point, everyone will suffer. There is plenty of evidence to support that an increase in minimum wage would be a good thing, and the numbers demonstrate that big businesses continues to prosper while the middle class deteriorates. Every time you read or hear that the economy is improving, you can bet that Wall Street is doing very well, while the rest of us are worse off than we were yesterday.







Credit Debt is the Enemy of Financial Health

by Shadra Bruce

Living in debt has become the norm. Credit has involved into one of the most profitable industries in the country. Credit card companies in particular prey on those who are least likely to be able to repay their debts as well as those who feel they must have what they cannot afford.

There is no doubt that accumulating credit debt is the enemy of financial health. Creditors make it possible to live above our means, spend what we don’t have, and create an illusion of wealth.

The path to true financial health begins with seeing through the illusion of credit.

  • We have to start changing the way we look at how we accumulate stuff. We must begin changing the reality of wealth in America.
  • We can’t lease BMWs when all we can afford is Hyundais
  • We can’t buy 50-inch big screen TVs with credit cards when all we can afford is 22-inch
  • We can’t charge $8,000 vacations and hope we get them paid off before we plan the next one
  • We have to change the way we live.

erCredit debt is the enemy of financial health.

The items you have hold no value because of the money you now owe (and the interest you now pay) to have them. You might have only charged $4,000 on your credit card, but if you make minimum payments on a card with 18% interest, you will end up paying $25,010 in interest – and it will take you 40 years to do so.

It is impossible to be financially healthy when you rely on credit. The steadily increasing rate of debt is part of why we were unable to survive the housing collapse and the recession.

To truly gain financial health, credit debt can’t be a part of your life. Any purchase is less inexpensive when it is done without loans or credit, avoiding the interest rates and fees. By living within your means rather than above them, you will be in a position to create financial health.

  • Live simply
  • Live within your means
  • Barter and trade
  • Ignore marketing ploys designed to part you from your money and make you want things you don’t need
  • Work only enough to survive; thrive by volunteering, being part of your community, and encouraging sustainability
  • Get rid of the extra cars, cable subscriptions, unlimited cell phone plans, and unnecessary debt
  • Pay off your credit cards and stop using them unless you pay off immediately what you charge
  • Leave big banks and move to credit unions
  • Donate extra money to Rolling Jubilee to help others
  • Teach your children to be smart consumers and self-sufficient citizens
  • Grow as much of your own food as you possibly can

Changing the Reality of Wealth in America

by Shadra Bruce

There was a time when we thought the growth would never stop. The housing market was thriving, jobs were everywhere, and money was plentiful. Unfortunately, we forgot that the economy is cyclical, and many of us did not realize (or did not pay attention to) how precariously we were balanced on the brink of ruin.

We pushed the limits of the American Dream, convinced that we needed to own more and more, bigger and bigger.

The United States  is considered one of the richest countries in the world, but underneath that thin sheen of wealth lies a thick layer of poverty. Even those considered part of the ever-dwindling middle class often have no source of savings. The American Dream evolved from the big house and the white picket fence to a big screen television and a BMW.

We have officially reached our spending limit, and the only direction that remains is down.

It is time to wake up and see reality.

Everything happens in cycles, and we are in the midst of the biggest financial crisis that this country has experienced since the Great Depression.

As a society and as individuals, we forgot how to be frugal. We love to have, and none of what we desire was or is sustainable. Middle-class America bought more house than they could afford, and now many are stuck with homes that will never regain their value. There are difficult choices to be made.

Our resources, both natural and artificial, are exhausting themselves.

 It’s not too late.

We haven’t completely failed yet, and we still have the means to recover. The biggest change that everyone must undergo is to realize that it is not about how much you earn. You have to change your mindset, because it’s really about how much you spend.

It used to be simple to have a home, buy a car, and to buy everything that piqued your interest. Everyone had lines of credit, because we never dreamed that we wouldn’t be able to fulfill our debts. But with nothing to fall back on, things have to change.

The reality of America’s wealth is that it is incredibly superficial.

You must start by clearing away the illusions and realize that the way forward begins with being smarter with the money you have now and realizing you don’t need to have it all.

  • Live simply
  • Live within your means
  • Barter and trade
  • Ignore marketing ploys designed to part you from your money and make you want things you don’t need
  • Work only enough to survive; thrive by volunteering, being part of your community, and encouraging sustainability
  • Get rid of the extra cars, cable subscriptions, unlimited cell phone plans, and unnecessary debt
  • Pay off your credit cards and stop using them unless you pay off immediately what you charge
  • Leave big banks and move to credit unions
  • Donate extra money to Rolling Jubilee to help others
  • Teach your children to be smart consumers and self-sufficient citizens
  • Grow as much of your own food as you possibly can



Is the Right to Bear Arms Automatic?

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

by David T. Bruce

guncontrolThe Second Amendment to the United States Constitution supports the necessity of a disciplined and prepared military force as a means to protect and defend each state. To that end, the Constitution provides that people will have the right to keep and bear arms.

This right has become a mantra for firearm enthusiasts; this right has become a refrain is boisterously sounded as a defense for owning assault weapons. Our federal government has been largely elusive in terms of how our society should manage the sale of guns and the expectations of gun owners. As of the end of 2012, there are “no federal laws banning semi-automatic assault weapons, military-style .50 caliber rifles, handguns, or large capacity ammunition magazines, which can increase the potential lethality of a given firearm.”  As well, Congress has allowed assault weapon prohibitions to expire.

Our representatives continue to dodge the issue while American citizens continue to dodge bullets.

The issue of gun control cannot hinge on the Second Amendment. Each year, our love affair with guns earns firearm manufacturers over $1 billion and costs our society over 30,000 lives. In 2010 the CDC estimated that 30 homicides were committed per day with guns, and while this number is on the decline and varies based on the statistics used, this cannot be considered tolerable.

The word “change” is thrown about on both sides of the political aisle, and we are told that change is inevitable at home and in the workplace.

Rules change as we grow up. We cannot effectively throw a temper tantrum to get our way. Rules that once applied when we were two years old do not hold true when we are twenty years old; the same can be said for our nation as it grows up. The rules set down by the authors of the Constitution reflected the world in which they lived. They did not – nor could they – conceive of the world in which we live today.

Is it not possible that “arms” may refer to bows and arrows, knives and spears, as well as muskets?

Is it reasonable to expect that each of us has the right to own a semi-automatic or automatic weapon?

Do we put our own lives and the lives of our families and neighbors at risk by clinging to this expectation?

Many people argue as to why the Second Amendment was drafted and worded the way it was. Unfortunately, none of us were there, and it seems that the best way to interpret the intent of this particular right is to apply it to modern times.

Can we, in good conscience, argue that the founding fathers of our nation could foresee the availability and proliferation of modern weaponry?

Do we need arms for reasons other than providing food for our families and protecting our homes?

I am not suggesting that our rights should be taken away; I am suggesting that there are some rights that we do not have to begin with.

Preserving our rights is paramount, and any discussion related to reinterpreting, modifying or amending our amendments guarantees to raise eyebrows and cause frustrations on all sides of the issue. By lumping all guns together under one amendment, however, we invite disaster.

Forget statistics; look at the facts.

We do not need semi-automatic and automatic weapons in our homes and in our neighborhoods.

We need a well regulated militia; we do not need mercenaries.

We have the right to keep and bear arms; we do not have the right to define “arms” as we see fit.

The Second Amendment is not at risk; human lives are.

For a variety of interpretations and a broader perspective about the Second Amendment debate, take time to read this interesting examination and analysis of the Second Amendment, authored by Professor Eugene Volokh.

Image source: WorldMeets.Us


David and Shadra Bruce

Have you ever gone to the circus where they have those fun house mirrors? You know, the kind you stand in front of and it distorts your body all out of proportion. Right now, the Republican Party is as distorted as an image in a fun house mirror.

The leaders of the Republican party no longer represent standard Republican values and instead have been completely bought and paid for by wealthy corporations and SuperPacs who wield their money like swords, striking down any who would stand in the way of their greed.

2012-repugsWhile they tout small government, state rights, and the constitution, they pervert the foundation upon which this country was founded in order to protect their power base, seeing everyone as a disposable and consumable resource to be used to further their profits. This is not the Republican party of 1960; this is not the Republican Party of the 1970s, this is not the Republican Party of the 1980s.

This is the Republican Party of hate, war mongering, willfully lying, wantonly misrepresenting, hidden agendas, racism, and backwards thinking. We can’t help but wonder how nearly half the country can still be blindly faithful to this distorted version of what was once the party that championed the protection of the poor, the marginalized, and even the environment.

Samuel L. Jackson’s tongue-in-cheek story hour has a message, and while it’s a little rough around the edges for those who cringe at foul language, it is time to WAKE THE FUCK UP.