73 Cents
by Michael Brenner on 14 Jul 2021 1 Comment

How we view the world around us is shaped – to a very large extent – by a culture that provides us with a very narrow aperture. It focuses our attention on the particular, the literal, the immediate. That is apparent in our public life as well as in our mundane personal lives. Go into a store to ask a clerk where in the mall a particular restaurant is located only to receive the reply: “I’ve heard that name, I think it’s around here somewhere, but I’m sorry I can’t help you.” The restaurant, in fact, is 4 doors down, where the clerk likely has passed it several hundred times. Invite guests to dinner and not a one of them will notice da Vinci painting (just bought at the bargain price of $100 million) looming on the wall other than to register the fleeting impression that the frame is striking.


You wonder at times whether a pink elephant in the front room would go unremarked unless it trumpeted; although somebody might express surprise: “gee, what happened to Rover?” In the media, a news event of any consequence is treated without reference to context, background, meaning, or implications. It’s just another titillating epiphenomenon worthy of a few clichéd, if breathless, reactions. Political leaders take the same tack – for obvious reasons of manipulating our impressions and preferences. The political class (especially the Democrats among them), the MSM and most of the commentariat respond with the same narrowness and superficiality.   


You all can easily bring to mind examples of these peculiar traits. So, what I thought it useful to do, in order to elucidate this phenomenon, is to take the indirect tack of simply noting some facts without offering any interpretation or appraisal. It’s up to the reader to consider how they are to be reconciled with the general understanding of their significance. To paraphrase Sherlock Holmes: to see is not to observe; to observe is not to examine with critical mind. 


I. The Kremlin is accused of assassinating for political reasons several persons, all Russian, abroad as well as domestically – in the case of Navalny, both places. Six is the most concrete number in the former category. The Secret Services directed from Moscow have experience in this domain dating back to the CHEKA in 1918. Albeit we have no hard proof of doing so after 1991, i.e. proof that would pass muster in a court of law. Those services have at their disposal a comprehensive array of means and methods. That includes the notorious Novichok nerve agent of extraordinary lethality. 


Ø  Of the six persons allegedly poisoned, 1 has died. That’s a batting average of 0.167 - for those supposedly nonpareil assassination experts. (In that same period, the United States government killed abroad 3 American citizens with no due process. That’s a batting average of 1000). 


II. It is a near universal belief in the West that Putin’s Russia is an autocratic state that represses its population and uses nationalist propaganda to control simmering discontents over a deteriorating economy. As a former Republican candidate for the Presidency said: “Russia is gas station with atomic bombs.”


Ø  Millions of Russians travel freely abroad each year. 99.9% return voluntarily – the exceptions tending to be star tennis players who prefer living among the predatory reptiles of Florida because that’s where their fellow pros on the circuit gather to work on their backhands and their melanoma.


III. The United States possesses the most extensive electronic surveillance network in the world, it’s capabilities supplemented by those of its Anglo-Saxon partners – the ‘Five Eyes’ – plus countries who are accorded the status of honorary Anglo-Saxons like the Danes. Our Intelligence agencies supposedly are capable of intercepting all forms of electronic communication anywhere from any site. Related technologies can spy on people through their computers, TVs, smart phones, etc. As far back as 2012, NSA could get into Angela Merkel’s private phone and register what her favorite pizza toppings are. 


Ø  In June 2015, Russia deployed a very large military force to Syria. It included troops, aircraft, radars, and naval vessels. Washington was surprised by the move. The CIA and NSA have said that all signs pointed to a more-or-less routine replacement/rotation of pre-existing capabilities.


In accordance with a strategic decision made several years ago, the 16 American Intelligence agencies rely almost exclusively on high tech methods and, therefore, has almost no human assets in Russia – e.g. speculatively, some guy whose brother-in-law works at a naval base or military airport and mentioned casually that he’d been on overtime for the past weeks because there are preparations for some big movement of some sort.




Fact 1: These are the same people who lied to us repeatedly in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion.


Fact 2: These are the same people who lied to us, and perjured themselves before Congress, in denying the existence of massive electronic surveillance of citizens domestically.


Fact 3: These are the people who have lied to us – up to this day – about the United States’ tacit alliance with jihadi terrorist groups in Syria, including direct offshoots of al-Qaeda. 


Fact 4: These are the people who lied to us about the discovery and execution of Osama bin Laden.


Fact 5: These are the people who have told us in their evidence-free judgment that it was the Kremlin that hacked into the DNC computers in 2016, among other continual efforts to corrupt the pristine purity of harmonious American politics. Actually, it was hand-picked, ad hoc group of individuals chosen because they were ready to support a pre-determined judgment without going through the standard, rigorous review processes of each agency.


Yet, their conclusions are uncritically accepted by all of official Washington and nearly the entire political class. Similarly, they accept the government’s make-believe account of what happened off Sebastapol despite the eye-witness testimony of 2 reporters aboard the British destroyer and videos of the incident.


IV. a] The latest employment statistics released on July 2 show that smallest recovery from the COVID-19 layoffs was in “State & Local Government” – in aggregate still 1 million lower than in 2019. 

Ø  Employment in that sector never recovered fully from the severe losses that incurred at the time of the 2008-2009 financial crisis as of 2019. The two huge COVID stimulus packages appropriated in 2020 included nothing for state or local governments. The deterioration in public services and investment in local infrastructure is an outstanding feature of our public institutions. The IRS, for one, has a 4-month backlog in processing tax returns, letters of inquiry, and responses to claims. 


b) Politicos and the MSM are celebrating the fact that employee wages since January 2019 are rising ‘sharply’. It is affirmed or implied that the inequality gap is closing. That rise across sectors is calculated at 10%. The federally mandated minimum wage is $7.35 which remains the mandated minimum wage in 19 states. 5 states have set their minimum wage at $15; the others are somewhere in-between.


Ø  For somebody earning the minimum wage, the broadcast sharp rise amounts to 74 cents = $8.10 per hour (ph). That translates into an annual income (pre-tax) of $16,000. A minimum of $12 ph means an increase of $1.20 = $13.20 ph. Annual income = $26,000 or still below the poverty line.


A minimum wage of $15 ph means an increase of $1.50 = $16.50.  Annual income = $33,000

These calculations assume that 10% nation-wide rise in wages is distributed evenly – yet, it may well be that there has been a higher percentage rise for those who earn much more than $15.00ph than for those who earn below it.


V. The gravest threat to the integrity of the United States’ political institutions is the assault on voting rights – promoted and led by Republicans. A bill to counter those efforts was defeated by a Republican filibuster in the Senate. It is very likely that the Democrats will lose their razor thin majorities in both houses come the 2022 Congressional elections.


Ø  President Joe Biden made one public statement in support of the initiative and decrying the Republican campaign – that was some weeks ago. He did not actively campaign for the bill’s passage, did not hold rallies across the country, did not lobby individual Senators, and he certainly did not make an address to the nation on a matter that will determine the country’s future.


VI. Facts: Charter schools overall perform less well on standardized tests than do students overall in public schools. This is despite the preferential funding that they receive from state and local governments and their privilege to reject certain categories of problematic students.


Ø  The movement to privatize American public education continues at an accelerated pace.


In conclusion, a comparison of hourly and annual minimum wages between the United States and some leading economies:




Hourly Minimum

Wage (2018)

Annual Minimum

 Wage Earnings















New Zealand
















United Kingdom
















United States




South Korea





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