Contributors

Monday, February 28, 2011

Divide and Conquer

When I was a kid my dad owned a window cleaning and janitorial company. He hired other guys to do some of the work, but it was basically a one-man show. He often took me to work with him, and at first I was too small to do anything but drink soda from the fountain at the pizza joint he cleaned. Later I was able to do light work like dusting the woodwork in newly constructed houses.

Eventually my dad got out of the business. I remember him telling me that it was because of unions, but it really seemed due to large janitorial firms that were snatching up all the business from the small operators. I don't remember the logic behind his anti-union statements, just the sentiment. Maybe he couldn't compete with the big companies on salaries (he also got in trouble with the federal government because he would pay workers cash, in order to avoid paying the corporate part of Medicare and Social Security taxes). But now, thinking back on it, most likely it was that big companies were able to underbid him, or were large enough to provide janitorial services for all the stores in a chain, or they used their high-level business connections to schmooze with company bigwigs to get new work. Big businesses will trounce one-man operations every time.

And so it went with my dad. He folded his janitorial business and went into real estate, working for a small company. During that period I started college and moved out, and eventually got married. Not long after that my dad quit real estate -- big companies with offices city- and nation-wide were crushing him, cutting deals that he couldn't match. He went to work for the metropolitan bus company as a driver. Eventually he wearied of this (he had no patience for old ladies that dawdled as they boarded the bus with all their packages) and became a bus cleaner, working nights in the garage clearing the buses of the detritus from the day. After 20-some years on the job he retired.

My dad only has a high school education. But in retirement he has a decent pension and Social Security, and has full medical benefits -- my mom and dad pay a fraction of what my wife and I do for health insurance every month. And his union medical benefits even paid for the pacemaker they installed a few years ago, probably saving his life. My parents live in a small house in rural Minnesota. Hardly an opulent lifestyle, but they're comfortable enough and even had enough money to buy a fixer-upper in a small town to renovate it for resale.

What made this possible? The union he worked for, the government job he had for the last 20-odd years of his working life, and the Social Security Administration he tried to stiff when he ran his own business.

I've got a college education and have worked in well-paying tech jobs. I've never been a union member, and don't particularly like the tactics that unions have used. I don't like the antagonistic attitude they foster against companies, or the silly work rules and featherbedding they negotiate. But those who complain of the hard-ball tactics unions use neglect to mention the even harsher tactics corporations used to try to crush them, often conspiring with government to use lethal force in the early years of the union movement.

But given all that history my dad is inexplicably a rabid Tea Party conservative, who rants about Obama's socialist policies ruining this country. This is the magic of the conservative spin machine. They are able to make people believe things that are against their best interests again and again. How? It's the oldest game in the political book: divide and conquer.

During the last 15 years the Republican party has been a political monolith. There is only one Republican party line and anyone who strays from it is put down quickly: abortion, tax cuts, the war in Iraq, you name it. Except in one area: immigration reform. On the one hand guys like Bush and McCain wanted to liberalize immigration and allow more immigrant labor in the country. On the other hand the anti-immigrant forces -- like my dad -- blamed every problem in this country on illegal immigrants, overwhelmingly Hispanic ones. These attacks usually have a nasty racist undercurrent.

So, over the last thirty years businesses and country club Republicans have been undermining the earning power of low-income Americans by hiring illegal immigrants, while cracker conservatives have been blaming those illegal immigrants for taking away jobs from low-income Americans. Jobs like picking tomatoes, cleaning hotel rooms and cutting up chickens -- all jobs that are back-breaking and often dangerous, and pay far too little for most Americans to survive on.

Meanwhile, the private-sector unions that my dad blamed for his business's demise have all but disappeared. Corporate union busting tactics -- inspired by Reagan's breakup of the air traffic controllers union and the influx of immigrant labor destroyed them. And now that basically all private sector unions in construction, janitorial services and meat packing are gone, Republicans like McCain have now changed their tune and are adopting the anti-immigrant fervor.

That brings us to the current day. After turning low-income Americans against illegal immigrants, the Republicans are now turning low-income workers against unionized government workers in states like Wisconsin. They are making an all-out attack on the last vestiges of unions in this country, characterizing them as lazy and overpaid.

The New York Times investigated public vs. private sector pay. From the numbers they cite I'm not clear on why people think government employees are so overpaid:

The janitors who buff floors and empty wastebaskets for the State of California earn a median wage of a little over $31,000 a year, which is 45 percent more than janitors in the private sector earn there. Georgia’s janitors, by contrast, earn less than $21,000, about 6 percent below their private sector counterparts.
First, even if you include medical and retirement benefits in those numbers, those salaries are appallingly small, much less than what the average American makes.

And second, why do public-sector janitors in California make more than private sector janitors? Could it have anything to do with a steady supply of illegal immigrants in the private sector? And third, could the absence of unions have anything to do with the scathingly low pay of public-sector janitors in Georgia?

No matter how you slice it, even the "highly paid" public-sector janitors who make $31,000 in California are living on abysmally low salaries. And the private-sector janitors who are making 45% less are pulling down a scant $21K. How could a guy like my dad, with six kids and a stay-at-home-wife, possibly make it $21K? How could you even afford a place to live in California? Much less buy a house? Or send your kids to college?

But if you dig deeper:

When workers are divided into two groups — those with bachelor’s degrees and higher and those without — a very different pattern emerges. State workers with college degrees earn less, often substantially less, than private sector workers with the same education in all but three states — Montana, Nevada and Wyoming.
This is the core of what unions do: make it possible for regular, red-blooded, high-school-graduated, beef-eating, beer-drinking, NASCAR-watching Americans to make enough money to live and retire on. Well-educated people who have more personal leverage with employers can make more money in the private sector than in government, where employers have less latitude to give raises and merit pay. What a surprise.

Republicans like Scott Walker are hell-bent on destroying the unions, making sure that the least-well off in this country have even less power than they already do.

But destroying public sector unions and reducing wages of public sector employees will result in the reduction of wages in the private sector as well. As the incentive for working in government goes away, there'll be more competition for private sector jobs, which will drive wages down. It's Econ 101.

And it's not going to end there. A major problem for many state and local governments is overcommitted pension funds. Republicans are attacking these next, proposing 401(k) style plans instead. But many public pensions are in serious trouble right now, and no doubt Republicans will propose the private-sector response: foist the problem on someone else. Several airlines have already used this trick, intentionally underfunding pension funds and then dumping their obligations on the federal government after declaring bankruptcy.

Will the Republicans succeed at defunding existing public pensions and destroying my father's "cushy" lifestyle before he dies? I hope not. But maybe then my dad will finally get it.

The genius of the Republican propaganda machine is that they are able to take guys like my dad, whose entire life history reflects the propensity of big companies to crush the little guy, and turn them against institutions like unions, Social Security and Medicare that gave them a shot at decent life and retirement.

Because in the end, this is a very rich country. There's more than enough wealth to pay for decent retirements for all Americans like my dad. But corporations and guys like the Koch brothers have used their position to enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of us (a good example of this is the recent runup of gas prices because of instability in the Middle East -- no real disruptions in the oil supply have occurred, but it's a great excuse to jack up prices).

The Kochs need American workers more than American workers need the Kochs. The people who actually do the work of the Koch companies are responsible for the vast wealth generated, not the Kochs. We need the people who drill oil, clean floors, drive trucks, build houses, design buildings, pave roads, grow food and cut up meat. Those people need to make a decent living so that they can afford to buy the stuff that makes our economy work. We don't need highly paid corporate execs like the Kochs who do no actual work and inherited their positions through the divine right of kings.

The Republicans are using their divide and conquer strategy on the people in the mean streets, getting the poor and middle class to duke it out over crumbs while they and the other corporate elites eat brie and swill champagne in the penthouse.

Unions ain't perfect. But they're the only shot at a decent life most regular Joes have in an age where Walmart has dismantled every mom-and-pop outfit in the country.

I think this joke my wife just got in an email today after I had written the above pretty much sums it up:
A CEO, a tea party activist and a public union employee are sitting at a table with a plate of a dozen cookies laid out before them.
The CEO takes eleven cookies for himself, turns to the Tea Partyer and says, "Watch out for that union guy. He wants a piece of your cookie."

Sunday, February 27, 2011

And The Oscar Goes To...

INSIDE JOB for Best Documentary Feature. Congratulations to Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs for being recognized as making the film of the year...hell...the century!

As Last in Line said after he saw it, "It's "House of Cards" on steroids."

Simply Stunning

And I wonder why I can't seem to get anywhere with people. Scroll down to the fourth question in this poll and take a look.

1 in 5 Americans think that the Health Care Law has been repealed. And another 25 percent don't know or refused to answer the question. Wow.

With this complete lack of involvement, it's amazing to me that our country is still functioning.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Even More "Failure" at GM

General Motors has just posted its first full year profit since 2004.

They posted a 4.7 billion dollar profit for 2010.

"I'm not sure anyone would have predicted a year ago that GM will deliver net income of $4.7 billion," Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson said Thursday. The annual profit, fueled by strong sales in China and the U.S. as the global auto market began to recover, gave GM its best year since 1999, when it made $6 billion at the height of the pickup truck and sport utility vehicle boom.

Pretty great considering where they were. So...are we still sticking to the story that "Government Motors" is a failure?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Stripping Away The Douche

According to David Cay Johnston, the general public has been done a great disservice in terms of the the reporting of FACTS regarding the situation in Wisconsin.After reading his article, it's clear to me that language of douche (spoken frequently in comments here on the subject of Wisconsin) has hijacked this issue and, with the help of Mr. Johnston, needs a little translating.

Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin' s pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers.

Kindly take a moment and ask the nearest friend to clean up your exploded head.

Done? Now let's continue.

How can that be? Because the "contributions" consist of money that employees chose to take as deferred wages – as pensions when they retire – rather than take immediately in cash. The same is true with the health care plan. If this were not so a serious crime would be taking place, the gift of public funds rather than payment for services.

So, they take less money in order to get the better benefits. Since I don't speak douche, this seems reasonable to me. But why are they all pissed off about Governor Walker's plan then?

State workers are not being asked to simply "contribute more" to Wisconsin' s retirement system (or as the argument goes, "pay their fair share" of retirement costs as do employees in Wisconsin' s private sector who still have pensions and health insurance). They are being asked to accept a cut in their salaries so that the state of Wisconsin can use the money to fill the hole left by tax cuts and reduced audits of corporations in Wisconsin.

Perhaps if Governor Walker hadn't cut taxes or reduced audits the budget might be in a better place right now. The article goes on to detail exactly how every reporter (and some of my commenters) are factually wrong when they say, "the state workers are being asked to contribute more." Johnston makes a great argument and is quite detailed in the rest of the piece as to why this is the case. The state is paying their pensions. THE WORKERS ARE!!

And that brings us to the collective bargaining part of the equation. Why is this so important?

The fact is that all of the money going into these plans belongs to the workers because it is part of the compensation of the state workers. The fact is that the state workers negotiate their total compensation, which they then divvy up between cash wages, paid vacations, health insurance and, yes, pensions. Since the Wisconsin government workers collectively bargained for their compensation, all of the compensation they have bargained for is part of their pay and thus only the workers contribute to the pension plan. This is an indisputable fact.

Part of their fee for their service is the collective bargaining for all the benefits. Taking this away diminishes their value of their service...which is EXACTLY  the point. The message is clear once you see it. The people that stand against the state workers don't value public employees. It's just that simple.

Witness a fine and shining example of the pathological war on all the things public sector by a group of pissed off and frightened bullies blaming the completely wrong people. It's like I said yesterday...misery loves company. And if you aren't miserable, there's a whole bunch of people that want you right down in the sewage with them.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

When The Tide Goes Out, I Want To Make Sure That I Drag You Down With Me

Whether he knew it or not, Stephen Colbert (in the video I posted yesterday) summed up exactly how the conservative movement of this country has as many followers as it does. I also now understand the motivations of some of my posters.

If you take a look at most conservatives these days, they are pissed off about something. Abortion, gay marriage, the debt, unions...whatever...and each of these things are demonized to such a point of irrationality that it's quite befuddling. For years, I thought they were just dicks. Recently, I have to come think that they are mostly just bullies and adolescents but I didn't take that extra step until reading this article in the Times and hearing Colbert two days ago.

I was so blind.

What do most bullies have in common? They all have a bunch of crappy things going on in their personal lives so they act out when they are at school. Or, in this case since they are "adults," the act like creeps when they are out with people and/or posting on blogs. Take the example of Rick Hahan from the Times article.

“Something needs to be done,” he said, “and quickly.”

Across Wisconsin, residents like Mr. Hahan have fumed in recent years as tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs have vanished, and as some of the state’s best-known corporations have pressured workers to accept benefit cuts.

 
Fumed...there's the anger that they tap into as easy as pie which is why something needs to be done "quickly," I wonder if Mr. Hahan understands that this problem could have been easily remedied by not cutting taxes as the Governor did upon taking office. Taxes that were cut,  I might add, to favor the people that are (in reality) the reason why Mr. Hahan is out of a job.

And see how easily anger becomes resentment in the case of Mary Kay Horter.

Ms. Horter said she was forced to work more hours as an occupational therapist, but had not seen a raise or any retirement contributions from her employer for the last two years. All told, her family’s income has dropped by about a third.

“I don’t get to bargain in my job, either,” she said.

Ah, I see. Since Ms. Horter and Mr. Hahan don't have the same benefits, why should anyone else? Everyone, I guess, should be as miserable as them regardless of how hard they have worked to get to where they are today.

Misery does indeed love company. In American today there a fuck load of people, like Ms. Horter and Mr. Hahan, who are miserable and don't really like themselves very much. It's become increasingly obvious that these folks are ripe fruit for the pickins.

Guess who are the produce collectors?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

So Brilliant I Can Hardly Contain Myself...

This is a nice front load to my post tomorrow which will contain an epiphany I had recently. In fact, Colbert says it in this segment.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
A Less Perfect Union - Randi Weingarten
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

So That's Where That Came From

A while back, someone linked a pajamas TV video in comments which essentially said the city was in ruins because of liberal policies. Stuff like this always makes me scratch my head...what fucking planet do they live on? At least now we have an explanation as to the origin of the story.

THIS.

Not simply a lie but a Pants on Fire lie. Wow. And a chain email source to boot. Those are always reliable.

Let's take a look at some of the facts.

Since 1950, Detroit has lost more than 80 percent of its jobs because manufacturers embraced new technologies and moved their businesses to the suburbs.That destroyed retail  businesses and led to a drastic drop in the city’s population; from the 1950 peak of 1.85 million, the population had fallen to about 900,000 by 2009.

So, no one is really to blame. This is what happened when we shifted from an agrarian culture to a manufacturing society. Further...

Detroit’s decline began shortly after World War II, he said, for the same reasons Dewar cited.
If welfare were the problem, Sugrue said, then one could expect to see hollowed out sections of Stockholm or Paris, cities in nations with generous welfare programs.

Yes, they are very generous. And we don't see the issues there that we see here. I wonder why that is?


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Corporate Takeover in Wisconsin

Tucked away on page 24 of the bill to strip some government employee unions (the ones that didn't support Walker's election) of collective bargaining rights is an interesting provision. It allows the state of Wisconsin to sell power plants without a competitive bidding process to whomever the department feels like, defining "public interest" as whatever the governor's lackey department head says it is.

Now, who would be interested in buying power plants in Wisconsin? Could it be the Koch brothers, who bought Governor Walker's election?

Why does corporate America always have its hand out, begging for government money and special deals? Why does every pro football team in the country need the government to build their stadiums for them? Why do oil companies need special tax breaks for finding new oil when the price of oil is so high and they're making money hand over fist? Why do conservatives love "privatization," where the government does all the heavy lifting (building freeways that become private tollways, privatized prisons in North Carolina, the state office buildings in Arizona, the power plants in Wisconsin), and then companies move in and take all the profit?

And then when corporations have obligations they no longer feel like living up to, they just declare bankruptcy and get out of jail free. Which several airlines did, foisting their employee pension obligations off on the federal government.

The shakedown of America by the financiers of the Tea Party has begun. The real agenda is now laid bare. They bought their elected officials; it's time to cash in.

Only Themselves to Blame

While there is no doubt in my mind that most of the people protesting in Madison right now turned out to vote last November, had the other half of eligible voters in Wisconsin actually participated in choosing a new governor, Scott Walker would not be in power.

I find it sad that the "record" was 52 percent back in 1962 and it speaks volumes about our pathetically apathetic culture. The simple fact is that lower voter turnout favors the GOP. This would be why they use the tactics they use (ACORN, Scare the Old, White Person etc.). They work. Many young people didn't turn out and vote and it's their future on the line. I'm certain as well that there were many people that were too busy with work and their lives so they just skipped the 15 minutes it would take to vote.

Now they have to live with it and they have only themselves to blame. Regardless of how this ends in Wisconsin, it's not going to go well for the individual. I use this word because I am attempting (in what I'm sure will result in failure) to get through to some of the thick skulls who read this blog (who laughingly champion individualism) that they are doing the bidding of corporate fascists. YOU (yes, you) are going to be affected adversely by this.

It's only a matter of time...

Most Excellent














I don't think I've seen a more accurate cartoon in my entire life.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Presidents Day Pageant (5)

The people can never understand why the President does not use his powers to make them behave. Well all the president is, is a glorified public relations man who spends his time flattering, kissing, and kicking people to get them to do what they are supposed to do anyway.

--Harry Truman, 1947

Presidents Day Pageant (4)

Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns.

--Jimmy Carter, 1979

Presidents Day Pageant (3)

‎I believe we've got a great chance to establish a Palestinian state, and I intend to use the next four years to spend the capital of the United States on such a state. I believe it is in the interest of the world that a truly free state develop.

--George W. Bush, 2004

Presidents Day Pageant (2)

‎Above all, we must realize that no arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.

---Ronald Reagan, 1981

Presidents Day Pageant (1)

Dedicated to the men and women sitting in the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin.

Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.

--Dwight David Eisenhower, 1954

Sunday, February 20, 2011

So Much For States Rights

Now the Tea Party has showed up down in Madison which means that their list of hypocrisies has grown by yet another item. I'm still shaking my head in bewilderment regarding their name (no one is being taxed without representation) but this latest move demonstrates how completely full of shit they are.

It was my understanding (correct me if I am wrong, please) that their rasion d'etre is less national government and more state government. Each state is left to their own devices to operate as they see fit. Someone from Minnesota, for example, has no business telling someone from Wisconsin what type of government they should have. This would be why I have largely been silent on the issue and let Mr. Waxey make his case. Of course, I'm not a conservative so, as a Democrat, I would still be operating in line with my beliefs if I did try to force my views on the Cheezers.

And I lived there from age 6 to age 18 (with my mom still living there and being directly affected by this bill as a state employee of 32 years) so even with just that I could say something if I wanted. So could Jesse Jackson and all the other folks from the left that have descended on Madison. They could be called meddlesome but not hypocritical.

That badge of honor falls squarely on the chest of the various NATIONAL Tea Party organization and their army of professional protesters. Apparently they have chucked their principles down the toilet and headed off the to the prairie to thump their chests about how evil government is and how blessed (from the Lord himself) we all are to have corporations.

Because that's what this is really all about. Scott Walker is one of many who has been funded by the Koch Brothers. Their vision for America, like Walker's, is one in which everyone works for private companies and workers have zero rights. They knew that their time is now and, with a very base of angry, hateful, and frightened older people, they are attempting to assert their will. I'm sorry...VILL!

Must be nice to have so many true believers. I'm happy, though, that my best friend (since 7th grade) John Waxey is on the case. Hopefully, we will get some more updates soon. He's been down at the capital every day!

UPDATE AND CORRECTION: I was just informed by John Waxey that the union supporters to Tea Partier ratio was 50 to 1 and not 2 to 1. Most of the major media are reporting that the crowd doubled when the Tea Party showed up. I did as well in the first sentence (which I have now corrected) but I wanted to leave a note about it down here as well to say that it was not true. 

Do you think the media enjoys divisiveness? 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Notes From The Front in Wisconsin

from John Waxey...

Markadelphia has asked me to put down some thoughts and my experiences on what is currently happening in Madison, Wisconsin because I happen to be right in the middle of it (literally). I am not watching from my porch or re-hashing what I see on the local and national news, I am on the front line amongst the crowds at the Capital. The reason I am there is that I am on the faculty of two local state institutions and have been working in the Wisconsin system for the last 12 years. Furthermore, my wife is a nurse at UW Hospital and both of us will be substantially impacted by Scott Walker's budget repair bill. Let's start with some facts about the situation with UW system workers.

1. I have been working with a 3% salary furlough for the past two years. A 4% pay increase that was approved 4 years ago was rescinded two years ago meaning that I am making the same salary that I made 4 years ago minus the 3%. It's not complicated to see that my salary is not increasing with the rising cost of living and hasn't done so for several years.

2. The budget repair bill will shave another 7% off of my salary leaving me with an overall 10% reduction in my salary. This means overall that for a composite full-time position (it's split between two institutions), I will make approximately 22,500 before taxes this year. That is with a Masters degree and being nearly finished with a doctorate.

You might ask why do I keep the job. Fair enough question and the answer is that my retirement package and health care benefits, in part, make up for the lousy pay. So, the comments I hear on Fox News and by people who are annoyed with the protests that state workers are living high off the hog and have been for years is not part of my experience. What I have experienced is constant compromise, pay reductions and class size increase since the fiscal disaster brought upon us by the Bush administration.

I get that we all have to sacrifice and I am willing to do my part, but remember that my wife will also be affected by this repair bill, so my house gets hit twice. Add to that this bill also takes away my hard-fought right to collectively bargain. Unlike the private sector, we do not get merit pay, we may not ask for raises, we do not have the opportunity for overtime (I'm not sure the last time I spent only 40 hours a week working during the school year) and the only opportunity we have to ask for even cost of living increases is in collective bargaining. What Walker wants us to do is to just shut-up and take what is given without question or complaint. There is no way to address work-place safety without the collective bargaining process. In essence, he wants to run the state like the private sector, but not allow us to be treated like workers in the private sector. That's unfair.

Walker's argument is that we are simply being asked to contribute more to our benefits, but that is without consideration to what our salaries are. By most studies, we, the workers of Wisconsin are underpaid by some 8% already by comparison to the private sector considering experience and education and that is just in general. University of Wisconsin System workers are dramatically behind on salary compared to other colleges and universities. Furthermore, he suggests this bill is to address shortfalls in the budget. What does collective bargaining have to do with budget shortfalls? What does forcing unions to vote each year on whether they should continue to exist or not have to do with budget shortfalls? What does eliminating mandatory union dues have to do with budget shortfalls? It doesn't have anything to do with it. Plain and simple, Walker wants to see unions collapse so that he (and future governors I suppose) can dictate the livelihood of the 177,000 state workers in Wisconsin. We are to just trust that he knows what's best for us and our families. That is not reasonable and is not the limited government that he and his Republican pals have promised.

One last thing for now...I find it infuriating that people who are backing Walker are referring to him as courageous. This is a man who has hidden from the people he intends to screw with this bill. He goes to Green Bay to tour a factory and meet with a dozen people while 13,000 people are protesting his power grab. He didn't come to the public workers of Wisconsin to discuss his bill, he won't face them and his excuse is he has nothing to offer. He is a coward by definition and a poor leader (even if you agree with his politics). Mr. Walker seems to think that his being elected meant that his agenda was given the A-Ok by everyone and that he would not actually have to govern, just enforce. Of course understanding the difference between those two things may have been covered in his senior year at Marquette, you know, the one that he dropped out of pulling a mighty 2.59 average. That was a cheap shot, but it also illustrates a failing I am seeing in most politicians these days. That is, the attitude that winning an election entitles them to push one agenda or another.

In Walker's first 6 weeks, he has proposed 117.2 million in tax breaks that will affect mostly wealthier people, he has attempted to cut my pay by another 7% and destroy my right to collectively bargain. He has pissed off nearly 200,000 workers and their families by not governing but trying only to enforce his un-creative and narrow-minded approach to repairing a deficit that is largely manufactured. This is why I am at the Capital today and tomorrow. God and Ed Schultz save us all.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

State-Sanctioned Terrorism in South Dakota

A committee in the South Dakota legislature recently approved a bill that would have defined the killing of an abortion doctor as justifiable homicide. The bill has since been shelved, but anti-abortion activists have praised it because it would scare away abortion doctors. In essence, the bill is state-sanctioned terrorism.

And in the House of Representatives the new Republican majority started attacking abortion rights straight out of the gate by introducing a bill allowing abortions only in cases of "forcible rape." So, if you get date-raped by some loser who puts rufies in your drink or a horny step-father, tough luck.

What's behind these perennial attacks on abortion rights? It's obviously not an overweening concern for human life. A law that declares open season on doctors performing a legal medical procedure can hardly be considered pro-life.

And it's not about responsibility. If you get pregnant, and you know can't take care of the kid, or don't have the money for the proper prenatal care, or can't afford to take time off during the last part of the pregnancy, or don't have money for the actual delivery, or don't have the money to raise the kid, the responsible thing to do is to end the pregnancy immediately, before you put another burden on society.

And it's not about the sanctity of human life. Most anti-abortion activists oppose abortion in any of its forms, including the morning after pill. A fertilized ovum is still a one-celled blastocyte. It is not a living, breathing person in any sense. At all. Nor is a two-cell, four-cell, eight-cell, sixteen-cell blastocyte a human being. A five-week-old fetus is not a living, breathing, thinking human. It looks like a tadpole.

And functionally speaking, it's not a human being either. There's an old saw in biology, "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny." Basically, this says that fetuses sort of descend down the evolutionary ladder as they develop. Human and chick embryos have gill slits and tails. Though much of this theory has been discredited, you can tell just by looking that early-stage fetuses of salamanders, frogs, fish, rabbits, cows and humans bear much more similarity to each other than to their full-grown counterparts.

All animal fetuses start out with pretty much the same body plan. As the fetus develops certain changes are triggered. Males are identical to females until testosterone is released, and the ovaries transform into testes. Certain body parts come and go: for example, in manatees (legless sea mammals) the fetus has leg buds like all mammals, but they disappear at one point. And the thing that makes humans truly human -- the big cerebrum-- doesn't start forming until very late in the process.

So, prior to a particular point in development a fetus isn't really human. It's proto-human, yes, and might become human one day. The approach taken by the courts acknowledges this fact, positing a date of fetal viability. That's basically the point at which the fetus can breathe outside the womb, but that date could conceivably be moved earlier, to the point where all the major structures of a human being are present in the fetus. As technology and science improve we will undoubtedly revisit this issue, and rightly so. Whatever the number is, there's some point where a fetus is not really human, and after that point it is.

The question of what is human is at the core of this. We have decided that certain types of brain-injury patients have no potential to recover are no longer human, and can be terminated out of mercy. A fetus without the higher brain functions is in pretty much the same boat. I would rather err on the side of caution and make the standard of proof for euthanasia extremely high. But a fetus without a cerebrum has never been a living, breathing human being, so there's not much of a slippery slope here.

And hatred of abortion is not about potential. "You can't abort that baby. It might be another Einstein!" Many abortion foes are staunch supporters of the death penalty. While your average clod on death row will never become an Einstein, they certainly might be "born again" or experience some other spiritual rebirth and do something positive with their lives, helping others. This idea of forgiveness and rebirth is core to Christian theology; it's strange that so many so-called Christians are so adamant about killing people (this is one area where the Catholic Church is way ahead of and most American protestant denominations).

And many abortion foes support war, and some even support pre-emptive wars like the war in Iraq. One of our soldiers, or an Iraqi soldier, or an Iraqi civilian, or an Iraqi child could have potentially made an Einsteinian contribution to the world. So how could anyone calling themselves pro-life have condoned W's pre-emptive fling in Iraq?

And it's not about innocence. We condone the deaths of innocents all the time. We have killed thousands of innocent Afghan and Iraqi citizens. Thousands of innocent people die in this country every year because they don't have adequate health insurance. We allow guys like Jared Loughner to buy high-capacity semiautomatic weapons on demand, and then are shocked when they use them to kill innocent people. Thousands of asthma and emphysema sufferers die each year from high ozone and particulate levels in the air. We drink and then drive (everyone who drinks has a funny story about driving drunk) and then have accidents that kill innocent people on the highways by the thousands every year. But that's all collateral damage because of our "rights" and "freedoms."

And it's not even about dead fetuses. Estimates of the percentage of pregnancies that end spontaneous abortions ("miscarriages") are all over the map, from 10 to 25 to 75%. Yes, you read that right: some experts think that as many as 75% of all fertilized ova fail to implant and just slide on through. If the latter number is correct, that would make God the biggest abortionist of all.

So why do people really oppose abortion? Do they want to keep women under their thumbs? Is it about vengeance and retribution? Do they want to make women pay for having had sex? Is about saving souls?

I don't know. But does it really make sense to punish a woman by forcing them to bear a child they don't want or can't afford? Aren't the pain and shame of going through an abortion punishment enough? Does it make sense for the government to interfere with the personal decisions of a woman over her own body and inflict unwanted children on that woman and on society?

More "Failure" at GM

Hmm...

Less than two years after entering bankruptcy, General Motors will extend millions of dollars in bonuses to most of its 48,000 hourly workers as a reward for the company's rapid turnaround after it was rescued by the government.

So, perhaps those nine words aren't so terrifying after all.

The company made $4.2 billion in the first nine months of 2010 and is expected to announce a fourth-quarter profit soon.

Another quarter with a profit...hey, that's pretty great!

Anyone out there care to retract their statements on how "Government Motors" was a giant mistake?


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

It's About Time

I've been in Natalie Munroe's shoes more times than I can count. After putting up with endless bullshit from the youth of America, she finally cracked and let loose a spiel on her blog that has ended with her suspension. Her analysis of the youth of America is, in some ways, correct.

Yet her mistake was putting too much of the blame on the students and not enough where most of the problem truly lies...the parents. I suspect that's why she got in trouble. I'm willing to be that it wasn't a student that ratted her out but a parent who got called on their lazy bullshit and, rather than take responsibility for their child's horse shit attitude, turned to Munroe as a scapegoat. Until more parents take responsibility and actually fucking parent, this malaise is going to grow. Nikto wrote about his very problem recently and so have I.  Can we all say Michael Jordan Generation?

After all, I can only do so much if they don't want to do their work. If they decide that they know they are going to make it as an athlete or recording artist and don't think they need a back up plan, there's only so much I can do. Remember, it's what they see as success defined, within the functionality of our society, that's the real problem. I'm going up against the onslaught of the images of corporate America which their parents buy into as well. Ms. Munroe and I are only one fifth of the primary agencies of socialization. As I will continue to say (probably forever), the mass media is the 400 pound gorilla in the room. They have smothered the other four agencies just like BP oil all over the Gulf.

The other side to all of this is Munroe's lack of reflection. This was also part of her undoing. Certain people become teachers for all the wrong reasons. They think they can connect with the youth of America but they really can't. They also don't have the thick skin that one needs (as I do) to let insults bounce right off and go into oblivion. I've had students hurl insult after insult at me and I just laugh. That just pisses them off even more. Clearly, Munroe couldn't handle this and part of me thinks that she lacked that coolnees with which kids can connect. The youth of today can smell "DORK" a mile away and woe be to anyone who has this built into their personality. This would also be where the lazy teacher rag that I sing quite often chimes in. If you aren't a very creative person to begin with and lack width of vision, you will not intrinsically motivate your students.

So, it was probably a combination of all of these things that caused this mini mushroom cloud in Pennsylvania. It's my hope that this incident acts as a catalyst for change. Kevin Baker is fond of saying, "Let's take off...nuke the site from orbit...it's the only way to be sure" when it comes to our education system. What he fails to see is that our education system is one small reflection in the extrinsically motivated cesspool that is our entire culture.

The reason why we are seeing more and more stories like Ms. Munroe's has to do with the giant flaw in the entire system. We have allowed the mass media to dictate our behavior and socialize our children as well as....everyone else. There are pockets of success here and there but you'll have to pardon my cynicism when I say that as long as we continue to function like this, President Obama's call for our country to out innovate the rest of the world will be pure folly.

In the final analysis, it's going to take a mass effort on the part of all of us to change the paradigm of how our culture operates. Parents, teachers, communities, and peer groups are going to have to regain control of socialization from the mass media. They need to take responsibility for themselves and actually dedicate their time to achieve this goal. It's going to take patience coupled with the willingness to manage complexities in order to shift the way our culture works.

Anyone out there think our ADD society can do it?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Making Complete Sense

Ah, now I get it. 

A 51% majority of national GOP primary voters erroneously think President Obama was not born in the U.S. 28% know that he was. With the latter, Palin’s favorability rating is 41-52—other than Ron Paul, the only candidate these voters view negatively. But with birthers, she has a soaring 83-12, far higher than for any of the others.

I completely understand Sarah Palin now and why she is as popular as she is.

Monday, February 14, 2011

He's Correct!

There are a few things on which Mitt Romney and I agree. At the recent CPAC conference, Mr. Romney stated that Canada created more jobs than the US. This statement was verified by the folks at Politifact which is illustrative (once again) that they are not in the tank for the left. Here are they are rating a statement as "True" made by a Republican (although he probably is an impure RINO to some of you).

More importantly, however, is the fact that a country with socialized medicine can create jobs. I was under the impression that all of those countries were falling apart and looked like Detroit now. What the--??!!?? How dare Canada with its liberal ways beat us at something!

Thanks for the heads up, Mitt!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Wow, I'm Not At All Surprised.

Americans Are Horribly Misinformed About Who Has Money

Denial is not a river in Egypt.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Get Out of the Way?

For the last few months, we've been hearing a classic line from the right. It goes something like this.

If the government would only get out of the way, the economy could take off.

Like many things they say, it's a giant pile of steaming shit and, sadly, has the distinct odor of the John Birch Soceity. I smell a lot of Koch on this mound of poo...

According to the National Science Foundation, the federal government funds 57 percent of basic research, compared to less than 18 percent for business, 15 percent for colleges and universities and 11 percent for nonprofits. And business only funds about 6 percent of university-based scientific research.

And take a look at this table which shows that the Evil Government has been a major contributor to science for the last half century. They've also given tax breaks to companies that engage in research which has saved each of these businesses billions of dollars. This was begun under President Reagan. The government also sets standards which provides a framework for companies to work more efficiently.

This is all great information. And where did I find it all? Well...here.

Yeah, that's right...PolitiFact...a topic that has recently come up in comments. Politifact has become yet another (in a very long series) of sties that is "liberally biased." TRANSLATION: I am a conservative who wants to win arguments, can never be wrong, and don't like what they say. Therefore, they are liberally biased. 

As we will soon see, the next step will be to a). completely ignore Politifact's analysis of Democratic statements or b). applaud (spin) them for being factually based while the Republican statement analyses are faulty and riddled with errors. How convenient. I'm fairly certain this will occur for this post.Well, they are just going to have to get used to it because now I'm going to link a whole shit load of Politifact and Factcheck articles which have caught my fancy of late.

Anyhoo, The government has been an integral part of innovation which has lead to the United States being leaders in the world when it comes to innovation. The notion that they need to get out of the way is ludicrous when you consider the facts. They need to be very much leading the way given their successful track record.

Makes Reagan's nine terrifying words seem awfully silly.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

I Didn't Need A Poll To Tell Me That!

Poll: GOP voters just want to win

Sixty-eight percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents surveyed for a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Tuesday said they prefer a nominee who stands a real shot at winning in the general election but with whom they may have ideological disagreements. Meanwhile, 29 percent said want a candidate who they agree with on all the important issues.

Winning the argument...

PWNED!

Monday, February 07, 2011

The Purest Depth of Loathing

Right around this time of year, I make a comment at either my children's school or my school that is a catalyst for the crook eye, stink eye, or evil eye...actually all three. Generally speaking, it's the same comment every year and it goes like this.

I hate Black History Month.

At first, people think I'm joking. Then they realize I'm not. A quick glance at my bald head and they think I might be a member of the skin heads. This usually evolves into indignant anger and outright disgust...even when I explain why I hate it. It's terribly vexing.

I hate Black History Month because every month should be Black History Month. To put it simply, our curriculum should be similar to the theme and style of Ken Burns' fantastic documentary series, Baseball. If you haven't seen it, this is how the story of our history should be told...from the point of view of all people, not just the famous ones that have been heroified being belief. One cannot look at the history of this country without looking at the role of black people in our culture.

To set aside one month as a metaphorical highlight reel is akin to asking the one black friend you have to be a spokesperson for all blacks. It's simply ridiculous. I get the reasons why we do it but, in the end, it only makes it worse. People pay attention for one month and then our ADD culture tunes out the rest of the year and it's back to the myopic view of our history and culture. It's crap and I hate it.

I catch a lot of heat for not doing more at this time of year but I just tell people,

"Come see me the other 11 months of the year."

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Super Socialist Sunday

As millions settle in to watch the big game today between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers, half of them (who are likely conservatives) need to read Bill Maher's New Rule on the NFL. 

Hilarious! And more true than he realizes. The NFL is indeed socialism in action. Smaller market teams like Green Bay and Pittsburgh share revenue with the bigger market teams like the New York Giants and the high profile teams like the Dallas Cowboys. All the money goes into one pot and it is shared. Shared! What a concept...

Success is punished as the winner of today's game will be picked last in the draft. In addition, today's game is a double dose of socialism as the city of Green Bay (aka the GOVERNMENT) owns the the Packers. So if they Pack do go on to win, all the people in Green Bay will benefit and not just one tyrannical owner.

Sit back for a moment and think about the BILLIONS of dollars the NFL makes every year. To call them a success would be as much of an understatement as saying the Beatles were a pop group in the 1960s. The reason why they are successful is due to their framework which is completely socialistic. I know this will be tough concept for the conservative brain to grasp (as they are wired differently) so I'm going to skip over the part where I ask some of you to reflect. Instead, I will point the light of interrogation on myself.

Looking inward, I do not like what I see. I actually prefer baseball to football. As Maher astutely points out, baseball is the libertarian's dream...every man for himself...smaller market teams crushed by giants like the Yankees...hands off my cash...fuck sharing....and, until very recently, indentured servants. Ideologically, I am more in line with football yet I prefer baseball. WTF??!!???

Perhaps I need to re-think all of this. As I often lament, I will not stand for such hypocrisy!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

A Simple Suggestion

"WAAAAAAH. They are trying to make me do something I don't wanna do. WAAHHHH"

No, that's not my 8 year old son. Nor are "they" making you do anything. First Lady Michelle Obama is suggesting that people eat less shitty food. Every first lady has a pet project and hers is childhood obesity. Because the Right has to counter every single thing the left does (winning the argument, never being wrong, bully power fantasies), Sarah Palin made a media event out of bringing sugar cookies to a school. Rush Limbaugh claims that Ms. Obama is coming to get your furnace.On Laura Ingraham’s talk show she challenged Michelle Obama to “get off our back and allow us as individuals to exercise our own God-given rights to make our own decisions.”

And what has to be the most idiotic fucking thing I have ever heard, Matt Drudge has suggested that Michelle Obama is to blame for the increase in pedestrian deaths because more people are walking per her suggestion. Are you kidding me? 

How about we take a look at the number of lard asses that die every year because they don't take a walk once in awhile? Must the right find fault with everything the Obamas do even if it is a good idea?

Yes. Yes, they must.

What's truly hilarious about all of this is these aren't laws. They are suggestions. Within a one mile radius of my house there is a McDonald's, a Dairy Queen, several greasy bars, and three grocery stores that all have fully stocked bakeries. The government is not regulating my ability to pile on to my gut.

Yet the fear is still there. More and more these days any remaining doubt that I had about the conservative brain being wired differently is being washed away. All Rush Limbaugh has to do is look in the mirror when he gets out of the shower to see that the government is not forcing him to do anything.

Comments Spam Problem Solved?

I thought I had the comments spam issue solved as the only one I saw in the spam filter recently was something in Spanish offering male enhancement services. Everyone seemed to be getting their comments through just fine. But then Guard Duck's comment yesterday ended up in there. Drat! Apologies to Guard Duck. I did publish it a little later but still this is a continuing problem, I guess.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

What You Afraid Of?

It's been a few weeks since the tragedy in Tuscon reignited several debates. One of them was the gun debate and in all of the swirl of dialog, a question arose in my head.

What you are afraid of?

I am asking this question specifically to the gun rights folks that migrated to this blog from Kevin's site. After the Tuscon shooting, gun sales skyrocketed. Many gun rights proponents told me this was due to fear of a new wave of gun control yet the only thing that I have seen being seriously considered is a ban on the high capacity clips that are similar to what Loughner used. I guess I wouldn't have a problem with that but I'd like to see tighter controls on the mentally ill being able to purchase guns before that sort of ban.

I'm still lost, though. Was there another reason why people rushed out to buy a gun? I think so but I'll get to that in a moment. I get the fact that people should be able to own guns and use them for hunting, sport, and target practice. I even get the collectible side of it...I'm the world's biggest pack rat with comic books, CDs, and DVDs, books...so I get the obsessive need to collect.

But what I don't get is the ridiculous notion that an AR-15 is for home protection. Or a Glock with a high capacity clip is used to protect oneself on the street. Again, if it's just because they are cool and you want one, fine. I'm that way with stuff too. But don't give me the BS about protection. And that goes for just about every situation regarding protection.

In some situations, I can see it. I have a friend who lives in Chicago who got mugged a few times and bought a gun. She has since been nearly mugged three times and her gun has been an effective deterrent. Women protecting themselves....I get it...no problem. But I had someone tell me the other day that if Abe Lincoln had a gun, he would've been able to turn around and shoot John Wilkes Booth. He was serious but I just laughed at him. Where would he have kept it for easy access? In his hat?

Then it all dawned on me. In their continued adolescent power fantasy, people who (over) use the line of protection think they are living their lives in an episode of 24. Or in the film Die Hard where John McLane duct tapes guns to his back and tricks the bad guys. This is complete fiction. It NEVER happens like this. Yet these folks thinks that it does and that's a big problem. They are so afraid of...something...in their lives that they primarily reside in a world of fantasy (Ayn Rand) in which they are Campbell's archetypal hero...shooting their way to security.

I've always been a huge action film and TV fan. I love 24, the Die Hard films, and have been obsessed for over 20 years with HK action flicks (Chow with two guns=Mega) but I know that they are complete fantasies and have no resemblance to real life. The same person who told me that if Abe Lincoln had a gun, he would've been able to defend himself said the same thing of Gabby Giffords. This mentality is so silly that it's hard to even comment. She would've had no time to react and the one guy that was there with a gun didn't even draw it because was uncertain as to who the gunmen was during the incident.

This is how the real world works, folks. So, if you just like guns because they are cool to collect or you have a legitimate reason to defend yourself, fine. Fess up. If neither are true, however, I ask again.

What are you afraid of?

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Proud To Be An American (Part 1)

It's cold up in the North Woods and several million of us around the country are now experiencing what we Minnesotans call a real winter. Yet, today, my heart is warmed because of this story.

Young women in evening gowns and young men in dark suits walked through a makeshift arch and to the stage during the Monday afternoon pep rally complete with cheerleaders, dance teams and the school band. So did two young women in suits, and the crowd cheered for each one.


Several of the students in the crowd didn't understand what all the fuss over the lesbian couple."Some people are against it, but they don't care if they walk down a stupid runway," said Maggie Hesaliman, 14.


Melissa Biellefe, 16, said, "We're a pretty respectful school. Our rule is just let people be who they are."

The crowd cheered for each one. We have come a long way since stuffing homos into paddy wagons, haven't we? Kids today don't look at people as being gay or straight. They look at them as people. Thank God. Although this younger generation has several other challenges (the chief one being learned helplessness but that's just the MJG at work), one thing is very clear: on the whole, they don't give a crap if someone is gay. No doubt, there is still bullying that goes on but I view this as a dying gasp more than a recurring trend.

When events like this happen, the future is quite clear. The end of discrimination and bias against homosexuals is nearly upon us.

Proud to be an American (Part 2)

Continuing with the warming heart trend, I have to admit that I have taken a liking to John Boehner. Maybe it's the fact that he is a man not afraid to show emotion. Or maybe it's that he seems fairly moderate for a Republican. I don't know. His words and actions have thus far done nothing really to piss me off. In fact, he's said a few things I agree with since he has taken over the mantle. I suppose the Health Care repeal thing sucked but it was little more than a political stunt.

And I have to say that I'm really irked at left wing pundits for making fun of the guy for crying as often as he does. In fact, I think it really sucks that Maddow and Maher have made fun of him.Yes, it's self involved but so what? Aren't we all? I know I am. If people on the right start counting emotion as relevant (it's called being human) and move towards individual reflection, shouldn't that be applauded? I will if no one else will.

(CLAP CLAP)!!!!!