Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fox News and the C of C thank you for voting Republican. But don't call us, we'll call you.

So, all you "Mad as Hell" people who idolize Fox "News" and their partners in crime, the Koch Brothers, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Republican Party, let's hear what you've learned from that bunch you've been following so religiously.  What's the plan?  What's marvels are in store for you when they take out the government and make it obsolete?

Wait a minute--you haven't asked?  Okay, then.  Obviously you haven't been thinking about it, but I have.  I've made up a list of questions for you to ask as soon as you've put all those constitution-loving patriots back in the cat-bird seat:

How soon will all the jobs be back?
What's the forecast for a booming housing market?
Can we stop paying taxes now?
When will all wars end?
Can we get the the gays and liberals and non-Christians and brown-skinned people out of our sight ASAP?
Now can we force all kids to pray in school?
How soon before the poor aren't among us?
Do we have to take our guns to town?
When you outlaw abortions are you going to expect me to take care of those little brats?
When DC is a ghost town will the rents go down?
Why is Obamacare bad again?

and last but not least (because this one is very, very, very important):
 Do you like me?  Do you really, really like me?


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Liberals for Obama: What a Concept!

 Yesterday Maureen Dowd devoted an entire column to why her Republican sister is angry that she voted for Obama:

One of the independent voters Obama will be trying to charm over the next two years is my sister, Peggy, a formerly ardent Obamican (a Republican who changed spots to vote for Obama).
Disillusioned with her beloved W. over Iraq and Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and the disdain for bipartisanship, she gave her affections — and small cash infusions — to Barack Obama in 2008.
Despite being a Washington native, Peggy believed that the dazzling young newcomer could change Washington.
But she has lost a lot of faith now, saying she might vote for Mitt Romney over Obama if Romney is the Republican nominee in 2012. (Sarah Palin shouldn’t count on her vote though. In Peggy’s words, “Are you nuts?”)

 Give credit to Peggy for dismissing Palin as President, but really--what would a Republican who loved George W want from someone like Barack Obama anyway?

No credit, however, to her sister, who either panicked at deadline or thought another jab at Obama was just the ticket on 9/11.  (I would say to Mo "Are you nuts?", but I don't want to be a copycat.)

I'm watching what's happening these days, with friend and foe alike turning against the president, and I'm starting to think like a fiercely protective mother here.  Just as with my own children, when they did wrong I'd let them know, and I expected a ready fix,  but I wasn't about to go out into the neighborhood telling everybody what rotten little brats they sometimes were.  I didn't want the whole neighborhood to think they were rotten little brats.

Same with my president.  I'm not happy with the way things are going, either.  At risk of sounding like a broken record, I wanted a New Deal/WPA/CCC approach to fixing our nation. I wanted every leader in the Democratic Party to thumb their noses at the outgoing regime on Day One by coming up with creative ways of creating economy-sustaining American jobs, hang the cost or the damage to the Fat Cats.

I thought bank bailouts without gajillions of strings attached would fail almost as badly as they did.  I hate the idea of still having a military presence in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  I've never been happy about the Wall Street and Chicago guys Obama chose to help with his "Hope and Change" program.

That he reads from a teleprompter or acts "lawyerly", thus boring us to tears when he's explaining his plans to us, bothers me not, and I wish everybody would just shut up about it.  It's the actions, not the delivery, that counts.  Concentrate on the big stuff, and screw the small stuff.

Every time Obama's allies make fun or go on the attack they've put one foot  into the enemy camp.  There are enough enemies there already, but believe me, they'll welcome those they see as turncoats with open arms.   And pretty soon they've won and we've lost and we'll be on the outside looking in, bitching about our loss more than we're bitching now about how Obama has let us down.

There are enough real issues we can use against the Republicans without wasting valuable time reinforcing the prevailing opinion that Obama is the baddest of the bad guys.  Come on.  We know better.  Go on the attack against Obama's dithering and doddering and seeming bad judgment if you must, but do it as a family member--as an ally.  He may be a disappointment, but he is the least of our enemies.  Stop making him into one, even and especially from our side.

Just today Dick Armey ruffled his breast feathers and cackled to CNN's Candy Crowley about how the Democrats are "confused and demoralized" and are going to lose in November.  That's the weapon the Republicans and the new Tea Party party are going to be using against us--that we don't know what the hell we're doing and we don't like each other much--and unless we prove them wrong it's going to work.
I want Obama and the Democrats to do better, but they can't do better if they don't have the chance.  They have to win in November because it'll be just insane if they don't.  So, yeah, let's knock their heads together and twist their arms until they holler "uncle", and then let's get this show on the road.  But we have to get them elected first and we have less than two months to do it.

Here's a parting thought:

In the Nevada Senate race Harry Reid and Sharron Angle are running neck and neck.

Let me repeat that:  Harry Reid and Sharron Angle are running NECK AND NECK.

In the California Senate race Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina are running neck and neck.

Again--Boxer and Fiorina, NECK AND NECK.

And so it goes.

So unless you want the Republicans to give you something really bad to bitch about, I would suggest you tuck any gripes you have about Obama and the Dems behind your left ear (as my Aunt Ingrid used to say--meaning they'll still be there, festering), and get on with keeping in place the only party in office that has any hope of getting us out of this mess.

It's not a matter of rewarding them, it's a matter of protecting us.   All of us.  Every single one of us.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What's the Matter with the Media? Or, What if they gave a Quran-Burning and Nobody Came?

A wacky preacher in a tiny "church" in a rinky-dink town comes up with the idea to burn a dozen or so Qurans, the Islamic holy book, and chooses the rife-with-symbolic-symbolism of September 11 as the date for his glorious bonfire. Somebody gets wind of the story and thinks it would make good copy. Christians burning the Muslim holy book!  It can only mean that Armageddon is next.

That was a few weeks ago. Today, three days before the ritual burning of the books, the media circus is outdoing itself in a rending-of-the-garments, frothing-at-the-mouth, what-does-it-all-mean yakkity-yak.

All it means, when all is said and done, is that a wacky preacher in a tiny "church" came up with a really dumb, irrelevant idea for drawing attention to 9/11. It goes without saying that burning holy books is disgraceful and disrespectful and blasphemous and sacrilegious. But it's one wacky preacher in a little, tiny "church" and. . .yeah.

The little story surfaced at the same time as fuss was being made over the building of a supposed "mosque" right exactly ON the Twin Towers site (or so it was reported early on), and the tie-in was just too delicious to pass up. So now it's gone international and every politician who can get near a megaphone is weighing in and everybody is apalled, just appalled, but freedom of speech and all that--and now comes the wringing-of-the-hands.

What to do, what to do?  The president needs to do something! (And while we're at it, what's he doing about anything?  More talk, few answers, so let's get back to the real story:  The wacky preacher in the tiny "church". )

Meanwhile, every mortal media personality is running after the wacky preacher to see if he can't be dissuaded from burning those holy books.  But God has answered his prayers!  He's on TV!   So, no, he hasn't changed his mind.  Because if he changes his mind he's just another wacky preacher in a tiny "church" and his 15 minutes are up.

Now, because the story has grown to humongous proportions,  the religious leaders of all faiths are asked to weigh in, and if there's anything good about this story, it's that:  There is a place for conversation about religious tolerance and it can't be discussed enough these days. But--I don't know--it feels like gathering the best of the best and setting them up in a trash-strewn alley.  Their reasons for being there might make sense, and of course we want to hear what they have to say,  but, really--you couldn't find a better room?

Much has been written about the excesses of the 24-7 controversy-driven media and their lust for juicy media-driven stories, and none of it really bears repeating, but am I alone in wanting enough to finally be enough?

How many stories have pounded us day after day that started out as nothingburgers and should have stayed that way?  This man Terry Jones and his idiotic hate message would have wafted into the wallpaper and disappeared if not for the gossip-lust of an entire industry that originally took pride in reporting and analyzing the news.

Unbelievable that today what should have been a non-story has grown into an ugly international incident and could have ramifications for years to come.  So please, illustrious members of the Fourth Estate, guardians of a free and honest press, graduates of the best J-schools in the land--do a little soul-searching here and drop this story like a hot potato.  I'm begging you.

Do your best to wake up on Saturday morning and pretend there's no such thing as a wacky preacher at a tiny "church" preparing to burn the holy books of another religion.  Do not get dressed in your best, do not write impassioned copy designed to further enrage, do not deliver it in your usual breathless fashion.  Do not go there.

I'm begging you.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor in America: Those were the Days

Every year for the past two dozen or so, I've felt less and less like celebrating Labor Day and more and more like forgetting the whole damned thing.  It used to be that we actually set aside that day to acknowledge and pay tribute to our vast labor force.  We had parades and speeches and presentations all across the country, with union leaders sticking verbal pins in the Big Guys, and the Big Guys pretending not to notice as they got ready to hold their noses and gush over the workers who made their products and sold their products and fixed their products (and--it should be noted--bought their products).

Labor and management have always had a love-hate relationship but there was a window--a brief window in time--when nearly everybody was making money and spending money and for most Americans life was good.  Cheap goods were coming in from the slave-labor countries but we still  made enough to be self-sustaining and proud.

A chicken in every pot. 

"Made in America".

"Look for the Union Label".

Then came government-approved off-shoring and outsourcing, along with cheap labor and non-regulation, and suddenly the Big Guys saw gold in them thar hills and weren't even our pretend friends anymore. We stopped making things and became the poor step-satellite of industrialized nations like China, Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Korea, Macau (I'm reading labels here in my house).

And now here we are, looking at another Labor Day and wondering how the hell we got ourselves into this fix, considering the rich history of the labor movement and what those people put themselves through in order to make life fair for all of us.  I'm glad they're not here to see this.  On the other hand, we could use their fierce commitment to us right about now:

Cesar Chavez - Si Se Pueda

There has never been a law at the state or national levels that has ever been enforced for farm workers and against growers: child labor, minimum wage and hour, occupational health and safety, agricultural labor relations.
Now will agribusiness protect farm workers from pesticides?
The agrichemical industry won't do it.
It's out to maximize profits. Using smaller amounts of safer chemicals more wisely is not in the interest of chemical companies and agribusiness groups like the Farm Bureau that have heavy financial stakes in maintaining pesticide use.
There is nothing is wrong with pesticides, they claim; the blame rests with abuse and misuse of pesticides.
It's like the N.R.A. saying, 'guns don't kill people, people kill people.'
Universities won't do it.
America's colleges and universities are the best research facilities in the world. But farm workers are of the wrong color; they don't speak the right language; and they're poor.
The University of California, and other land grant colleges spend millions of dollars developing agricultural mechanization and farm chemicals. Although we're all affected in the end, researchers won't deal with the inherent toxicity or chronic effects of their creations.
Protecting farm workers and consumers is not their concern.
Doctors won't do it.
Most physicians farm workers see won't even admit their patients' problems are caused by pesticides. They usually blame symptoms on skin rashes and heat stroke.
Doctors don't know much about pesticides; the signs and symptoms of acute pesticide poisoning are similar to other illnesses.
Doctors who work for growers or physicians with close ties to rural communities won't take a stand.
Two years ago in Tulare County, California 120 orange grove workers at LaBue ranch suffered the largest skin poisoning every reported. The grower had changed the formulation of a pesticide, Omite CR, to make it stick to the leaves better. It did.
It also stuck better to the workers. Later they discovered the reentry delay had to be extended from seven to 42 days.
After the poisoning, the company doctor said workers should just change clothes and return to work. When we demanded the workers be removed from exposure, the doctor replied, "Do you know how much that would cost?"
Workers endure skin irritations and rashes that none of us would tolerate. They continue to work because they desperately need the money. They don't complain out of fear of losing their jobs.
Farm workers aren't told when pesticides are used. They have no health insurance. They are cheated out of workers compensation benefits by disappearing labor contractors or foremen who intimidate people into not filing claims.
In the old days, miners would carry birds with them to warn against poison gas. Hopefully, the birds would die before the miners.
Farm workers are society's canaries.
Pacific Lutheran University
March 1989-Tacoma, Washington

As a nation, we need to work out a list of national priorities.  We need to sharpen our vision and we need to rededicate ourselves to the basic human and democratic values that we believe in, and we need to put first things first.  We need to overcome the serious deficit in education, which is denying millions of our children their rightful opportunity to maximum growth.  The American labor movement can be proud that it was among those who pioneered for free public education.  American labor shares the belief that every child made in the image of God is entitled to an educational opportunity that will facilitate the maximum intellectual, cultural and spiritual growth.  We need to wipe out our slums and build decent, wholesome neighborhoods.  We need to provide more adequate medical care available to all groups.  We need to improve social security so that our aged citizens can live out their lives with a fuller measure of security and dignity.  We need to provide all of our citizens, without regard to race, creed, or color, equal opportunity in every phase of our national life.  We need to develop more fully our natural resources so that continued neglect will not put in jeopardy the welfare of future generations.

Walter Reuther, Labor Day speech, September 1, 1958

No tin-hat brigade of goose-stepping vigilantes or bibble-babbling mob of blackguarding and corporation paid scoundrels will prevent the onward march of labor, or divert its purpose to play its natural and rational part in the development of the economic, political and social life of our nation.
Unionization, as opposed to communism, presupposes the relation of employment; it is based upon the wage system and it recognizes fully and unreservedly the institution of private property and the right to investment profit. It is upon the fuller development of collective bargaining, the wider expansion of the labor movement, the increased influence of labor in our national councils, that the perpetuity of our democratic institutions must largely depend.
The organized workers of America, free in their industrial life, conscious partners in production, secure in their homes and enjoying a decent standard of living, will prove the finest bulwark against the intrusion of alien doctrines of government

John L. Lewis
, United Mine Workers of America, Labor Day speech, 1937

Now, my boys, you are mine; we have fought together, we have hungered together, we have marched together, but I can see victory in the Heavens for you. I can see the hand above you guiding and inspiring you to move onward and upward. No white flag — we can not raise it; we must not raise it. We must redeem the world!
Go into our factories, see how the conditions are there, see how women are ground up for the merciless money pirates, see how many of the poor wretches go to work with crippled bodies.
I talked with a mother who had her small children working. She said to me, "Mother, they are not of age, but I had to say they were; I had to tell them they were of age so they could get a chance to help me to get something to eat." She said after they were there for a little while, "I have saved $40, the first I ever saw. I put that into a cow and we had some milk for the little ones." In all the years her husband had put in the earth digging out wealth, he never got a glimpse of $40 until he had to take his infant boys, that ought to go to school, and sacrifice them.
If there was no other reason that should stimulate every man and woman to fight this damnable system of commercial pirates. That alone should do it, my friends.

Mother Jones to striking W. Virginia coal miners, 8/15/1912


We want eight hours and nothing less. We have been accused of being selfish, and it has been said that we will want more; that last year we got an advance of ten cents and now we want more. We do want more. You will find that a man generally wants more. Go and ask a tramp what he wants, and if he doesn’t want a drink he will want a good, square meal. You ask a workingman, who is getting two dollars a day, and he will say that he wants ten cents more. Ask a man who gets five dollars a day and he will want fifty cents more. The man who receives five thousand dollars a year wants six thousand a year, and the man who owns eight or nine hundred thousand dollars will want a hundred thousand dollars more to make it a million, while the man who has his millions will want everything he can lay his hands on and then raise his voice against the poor devil who wants ten cents more a day. We live in the latter part of the nineteenth century. In the age of electricity and steam that has produced wealth a hundred fold, we insist that it has been brought about by the intelligence and energy of the workingmen, and while we find that it is now easier to produce it is harder to live. We do want more, and when it becomes more, we shall still want more. And we shall never cease to demand more until we have received the results of our labor.

Samuel Gompers, Address to workers, Louisville, KY 1890

President Obama talked about the needs of workers and the declining middle class in his Weekly Address.  If he lets us down this time, I'm going to go out and find me my own bibble-babbling mob and take action.

And maybe I missed it, but whatever happened to the Employee Free Choice Act?

(Oh, and did you catch "Sunday Morning" on CBS yesterday?  Did you see their tribute to Labor?  It was about German workers in a BMW factory.  Management came up with the idea to put older, more experienced workers in one section on one shift and let them come up with ways to improve productivity.  At their suggestion the company put in wooden floors, gave them more comfortable shoes, gave them hairdressers chairs to sit in, increased the size of the computer fonts, and fixed up places for them to stretch.  Over time productivity went up 7%, absenteeism went down, and the assembly line defect rate was non-existent.  Damned Socialists. . .)

Enjoy our day. Keep the light shining.  Solidarity.