Wednesday, July 20, 2011


War and Peace (1956 film)

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COOKOO continued pretty much where they had left off the previous evening.

He wasn’t entirely sure because his head felt vaguely muzzy. He didn’t think it was the wine; he could hold his liquor.

It was more that he had clouted his head on a rock after he had fallen off a ledge while trying to emulate Denisov dancing on a window ledge in the Hollywood version of War & Peace.

He’d always loved that scene. It expressed absolute joie de vivre. Denison was something of a villain in the movie, but he was a villain who knew how to live.

“I think we covered PREPARATION adequately yesterday,” he said. “This was the decade  - the Seventies - when the Right Mugs planned to take over government from the Left Mugs and to follow an entirely pro-rich and pro-business agenda. They also got tougher with their employees. 1973 was the last year when. apart from those at the top, pay went up in real terms. Inflation disguised this, because the dollar amount of pay increased, but it didn’t in purchasing power. The Middle Class were paid more dollars which bought less. It took most of them a very, very long time to notice.

“In fact, over the last forty odd years, pay for most Americans has actually declined. On the other hand, costs for items such as financial charges, medical bills, education, some foods and gas have increased substantially ahead of inflation; and so, for a while, did housing. The result is that the American Middle Class is slowly being squeezed out of existence. The U.S. – EAGLE-LAND - is rapidly assuming the economic profile of a banana republic; without the bananas. A pity; I like fresh bananas.”

“How about the rest of the developed world?” said EAGLE.

“Varies,” said CUCKOO. “Most of them are doing well; or they were up to the Great Recession. But where this country is concerned, the Rich and Corporate Interests have distinguished themselves by grabbing virtually all the increased profits resulting from increased productivity. Before 1973, gains were shared proportionately. After that date, it was one way traffic. The gains went  up; and did not trickle down.

“To give you a figure, if you took the year 2010, for example, and compared with the early Seventies, roughly $2 trillion a year - which used to go to average Americans – out of a $14 trillion economy, is now going to the Rich and Corporate Interests.”

Eagle was stunned. This sounded to him like the greatest heist in economic history – not that he considered himself an expert in either heists or economic history. On the other hand, while CUCKOO was around, he seemed to know more every day. It was quite remarkable.    

“Why did no one spot this and fight back,” said EAGLE.

“Some did,” said CUCKOO, “but an individual is powerless against a corporation in the U.S. He or she has virtually no protection under U.S. law and can, in effect, be fired at will – frequently without compensation. No income, no healthcare, no credit, no credibility. And corporations own the media. If you fight, you lose everything; including your dignity. That’s why they call it social control. If you are an American, you will be told constantly that you are free, but the reality is that you are a controlled number. And, primarily, it’s not the government that is controlling you. It’s that very particular flavor of capitalism that is practiced here in America. 

“And people who are controlled are not free. And I should add that having a gun doesn’t make you free either; though I’m told they’re a lot of fun to shoot.”

“What about the law?” queried EAGLE.

“Unlike EUROPE, workers have few rights under American law,” said CUCKOO. That is scarcely surprising given that the Rich and Corporate interests own both politicians and the legal system. Bought quite cheap, by the way. Best return on invested capital that there is.”

“Well, what about unions?” said EAGLE.

“Unions are the one force potentially capable of countering corporate power,” said CUCKOO. “As a consequence, they’ve been the focus of a sustained onslaught by corporations and their legal teams, and bought politicians, for decades. And they haven’t helped themselves by tolerating corruption, and by refusing to modernize. Perhaps most serious has been  a sustained propaganda campaign which has been successful in persuading most ordinary workers that unions are all corrupt, in bed with the Mafia, and operate against worker interests. subject to some over-hyped exceptions, neither accusation is true. In fact, virtually every worker benefit that has been gained by U.S.workers since industrialization, has been gained as a result of union action.”

EAGLE was profoundly shaken. What had Americans done to themselves? Why hadn’t he paid more attention to all this before? Why was there no public outrage?

“I guess we’re down to politicians,” he said. “If the Right Mugs are the party of the Rich and Corporate Interests – a distinct minority – who represents your typical American; the vast majority?”

“Err, no one,” said CUCKOO, “because the Left Mugs get much of their money from Big Business too – particularly the Big Banks. That’s the strange thing about the United States. There really isn’t a party representing progressive thinking – or what you might call the wellbeing of the average American. And boy does it show; or perhaps I should say ‘bird.’ ”

“NO ONE?” roared EAGLE, in the distinctive way that eagles do. His outrage echoed through the surrounding hills. “But they have elections and things.”

“Quite so,” said CUCKOO, ‘but they have nothing to do with democracy any more. They’re now entertainment; a sort of a horse race with humans.”

“If you want proof. Look who is competing to represent the Right Mugs and the Tea Mugs in 2012.

“No one, but no one, could consider a single one of them a credible candidate; and most are certifiable. It’s all Hollywood. In fact they may even be holograms. Who would know! Who would care – providing the show was good.”

“Which brings us back to Reagan,” said EAGLE.

“It’s just as well we’re covering him,” said CUCKOO, “because the RIGHT MUGS are turning him into a saint right now. But a saint who can sing and dance. Actually, I’m not sure he could sing and dance. But he was certainly an entertainer; and a pitchman for General Electric.”

“You’re joking,” said EAGLE. “A saint!”

“Metaphorically speaking,” said CUCKOO. “They are marketing him as the perfect Right Mug role model. The facts don’t support that, of course. Reagan was a tax cutter who put taxes up eleven times; and so on. And his Supply Side economics did not work. But Americans don’t care about facts. I suspect they think they’re socialist. The important things was that he looked presidential. I may now break for a soft shoe shuffle.”

“This is insane,” said EAGLE.

CUCKOO spread his wings and started to dance. “WANNA DANCE?” he shouted; or maybe he was singing.

“I always fancied being Gene Kelly,” said EAGLE, and joined in. The pair were really quite good.











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