Saturday, June 26, 2010

Get this straight, Corporate Pimps: There ARE NO JOBS!

How many times does this have to be repeated:  There are 15 million unemployed in this country, with 6.8 million chronically unemployed.

Most of them spend their days looking for work.  When they hear about the possibility of jobs, they'll stand in long lines just waiting for a chance at an interview.  They would rather stand in line for a job than stand in line for an unemployment check, but the check is a lifeline when there are no jobs.

Most of them have families who are suffering because there are no jobs.

Most of them had good jobs before the Republicans and turn-coat Democrats took up the phony cry about good wages killing us all and turned the entire country over to Big Business, who in turn thanked us all for bending over and kissing their asses by sending our jobs to corrupt slave wage countries.

They rub salt in the wounds by expecting us to buy those sweatshop goods at whatever price they tag them.  They're cheaply made and cheap to produce--facts not in the least reflected in the dazzlingly audacious price tags.  Talk about chutzpah.

They scream bloody murder because people aren't buying enough but they'll kill every chance American workers might have to earn enough to pay for their pirated booty. (Again with the chutzpah.)

And now the final slap in the face:  The Republicans in the Senate (and one Democrat, Ben Nelson) voted against an unemployment benefits extension.  Two reasons, according to them:  They don't want to add to the enormous deficit they created in the first place, and they don't want to be giving unemployment checks to people who would otherwise have to be out finding a job.

What hogwash.

Never mind that there are at least five people clamoring for every available job, including those jobs that only old people and teenagers used to take:  Fast food flippers, car washers, Walmart greeters. . .what's next?  Shoe shiners and apple sellers?

The real reason--as perverse and cold-blooded as it can get--is that the Republicans don't want the Democrats to have any kind of an edge that might win them the majority again in November.  The bastards are fighting for their political lives and using the already miserable and downtrodden as pawns

So let's say the Republicans win back the majority in November. (A likely prospect, given the baffling inattention of their followers and the woeful inability of the Democrats to fight against our domestic enemies.) What will they do to improve the lives of all our displaced American workers?  What kinds of jobs will they create?  Will the poor get richer and the rich get poorer?  Will all our troubles be over?  Will happy little bluebirds fly?

* La
** La la
*** La la la. . .

I'm waiting. . .


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Lunatic Fringe is No Longer Amusing. Let's get Serious.

The collapse of the economy in the Great Recession gave us the starkest, most painful evidence imaginable of the failure of laissez-faire economics and the destructive force of the alliance of big business and government against the interests of ordinary Americans. Radical change was called for. (One thinks of Franklin Roosevelt raging against the “economic royalists” and asserting that “we need to correct, by drastic means if necessary, the faults in our economic system from which we now suffer.”)

But there has been no radical change, only caution and timidity and more of the same. The royalists remain triumphant and working people are absorbing blow after devastating blow.

Bob Herbert, "When Greatness Slips Away",  NYT, 6/21/10

Bob Herbert has been my favorite doom-sayer for a while now.  Every bit of doom and gloom coming off of his little portion of the paper confirms and solidifies my own feelings of the permanence of America's rack and ruin.  Together we wallow in our weariness and grief, but we don't enjoy it.  Not even a little bit.  That's about the only positive thing I can say about it.

We're also not alone by any means.  I can say that positively, too.  There are a lot of us who recognize a river of no return when we see one, and there are some of us who might even know how to turn this sorry ship around, but our voices are being drowned out by the lunatic fringe shouting crazily for another exciting ride down the rapids.

There's no getting around the fact that we're being hijacked by a loud-mouthed group of know-nothings and evil-doers.  They really, truly want to get us back to the dark days of Bush/Cheney.  They want to give what's left of what we laughingly call a "government" over to the Private Interests, making it a total surrender, and they want to make it happen now.

The crazy thing is some of them don't even know that's the plan.  They get out there and shout for Obama's head and for the destruction of all things liberal/progressive/socialist/communist/Marxist/Leninist/Rooseveltist/
Steinbeckist/MLKingist/WalterReutherist/FlorenceNightingalist/GoldenRulist and think they're doing their part to save the country!
They listen to people like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin and Dick Armey (who know they're talking nutty but like reaping the rewards), and Michelle Bachmann (who apparently doesn't, but reaps anyway), gathering their assigned weapons of anger and hatred, heading out to the battleground without ever recognizing that the real enemies of the state are the generals at their backs.
We're hearing well-paid Republican men and women in powerful governmental positions telling 15 million out-of-work folks that the solution to their problems is to get off the unemployment dole and go get a job.  Some of those same out-of work folks, even the ones who know there ARE no jobs, march with the tea partiers and vote Republican.  In some circles that's called masochism.   I wouldn't care if it was strictly their problem--even masochists need a crazy kind of love--but their actions are affecting us all.  We don't want to have to feel their pain.
Unrepressed anger and the attendant vicious stabs at any kind of remedies are hallmarks of the rest of them.  It's the Gong Show/Jerry Springer mentality, except this is real reality, with consequences. 
Chris Hedges, in a scary-fascinating piece on the "American Psychosis", writes:
  "Our culture of flagrant self-exaltation, hardwired in the American character, permits the humiliation of all those who oppose us. We believe, after all, that because we have the capacity to wage war we have a right to wage war. Those who lose deserve to be erased. Those who fail, those who are deemed ugly, ignorant or poor, should be belittled and mocked. Human beings are used and discarded like Styrofoam boxes that held junk food. And the numbers of superfluous human beings are swelling the unemployment offices, the prisons and the soup kitchens. 

It is the cult of self that is killing the United States. This cult has within it the classic traits of psychopaths: superficial charm, grandiosity and self-importance; a need for constant stimulation; a penchant for lying, deception and manipulation; and the incapacity for remorse or guilt."

We have to stop pretending that what is happening in our country is a cyclical blip in our journey toward  glory.  We're being destroyed from the inside by our own citizens, and our real enemies couldn't be happier.  They don't have to lift a finger.  All it takes for them is patience.

Our goal is a government working toward the common good, and a free press that recognizes their role in achieving it.  Our responsibilities as citizens and voters is to make sure our government works for us.  We do that by taking our voting rights seriously and choosing our leaders judiciously. 

If it's true that senatorial-candidate-from-nowhere Alvin Greene got 60 percent of the primary vote in South Carolina simply because people didn't know who they were voting for, then lord help us, we're doomed.  Something tells me we're not in the '30s anymore.  We actually do have something to fear besides fear itself.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Tom Friedman wants me to take the fall for BP. I'm not going to do it.

Thomas Friedman has a buddy who works in the pentagon and wants to take the blame for the BP oil crisis.  The guy, Mark Mykleby, wrote a letter to the editor of the Beaufort Gazette in South Carolina, saying “I’d like to join in on the blame game that has come to define our national approach to the ongoing environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. This isn’t BP’s or Transocean’s fault. It’s not the government’s fault. It’s my fault. I’m the one to blame and I’m sorry. It’s my fault because I haven’t digested the world’s in-your-face hints that maybe I ought to think about the future and change the unsustainable way I live my life. "

Mark has reluctantly come to the conclusion that we use too much oil and that's why the Gulf is in such a mess.  His solution is to ride bikes to work and plant gardens and. . .something something something.

Tom Friedman thinks his buddy Mark is on to something, as he tells us in his NYT piece"I think Mykleby’s letter gets at something very important: We cannot fix what ails America unless we look honestly at our own roles in creating our own problems. We — both parties — created an awful set of incentives that encouraged our best students to go to Wall Street to create crazy financial instruments instead of to Silicon Valley to create new products that improve people’s lives. We — both parties — created massive tax incentives and cheap money to make home mortgages available to people who really didn’t have the means to sustain them. And we — both parties — sent BP out in the gulf to get us as much oil as possible at the cheapest price. (Of course, we expected them to take care, but when you’re drilling for oil beneath 5,000 feet of water, stuff happens.)"

What's this "we" business?  I didn't do any of those things.  (And neither did any of the people I know who just plod along and do their jobs and worry about keeping a roof over their heads.)

I'm getting ready in a few minutes to go hang a load of dark clothes on the clothesline.  Tomorrow I'll wash whites and lights and hang them out if the sun is shining.  If it isn't, I'll wait to wash until the next day.  I have a dryer but the wind and the sun do the job in a much more satisfying way. 

Nearly every light socket in our house is fitted with CFL bulbs.  The ones that can't take them are on dimmers.

We drive a car that gets at least 33 MPG in the country, which is where we live.  It's our only car.

We burn wood in our high-efficiency stove as much as we can so as not to have to use our propane glutton of a furnace.  We close off half of our house in winter and leave it unheated.

We recycle and compost and wash out our zip-lock bags and use them over again.

When we use paper plates, they're paper and not plastic.

I watch "Living with Ed" and find lots to think about when I'm not ROTFL. (Love that guy!)

I'm still not good at remembering to take my own grocery sacks in to the store, but that doesn't mean I'm letting BP off the hook.  Uh uh.

I'm not the paragon of virtue when it comes to living Green, but I'm to blame for the BP oil mess like a sweat drop in a river is to blame for downstream flooding.  As I write this, the Census Bureau clock says the US population is 309,500,735.  If all 310 million of us dripped sweat into the river, we wouldn't raise that river one inch.  Yet you KNOW if we stand there long enough, it's gonna be our fault that somebody upstream messed up and caused the dam to break.

My kids didn't go to school to learn how to cheat people, as Friedman suggests.  What college teaches that?  (They didn't go to Wall Street or K Street or Easy Street, either.  That gladdens my heart no end.)

 And what kind of mindset thinks building a workforce in Silicon Valley might have been the answer to our collosal, unending unemployment problems?  We need to build goods from start to finish in the US, not assemble electronic gadgets with Chinese components.

Okay, people stupidly bought houses they couldn't afford, but somebody else aided and abetted.  They didn't hold guns to those bankers' heads in order to get their loans. 

And nobody but BP made the decision to deep-drill without giving a thought to safety and repairs.  No hoi polloi were involved in the decision to look the other way while British Petroleum went about their dirty business unimpeded.

Now that the inevitable oil crisis is upon us, every pol and pundit has a solution.  More regulation.  Less regulation. A definite reduction of our dependence on foreign oil, and more oil production in the U.S.  Wind, sun and water as alternatives.  Forget wind, sun and water and go with nuclear.

Here's my humble contribution to the discussion:  Bring back the trains, you idiots!  Tell the truck lobbies and car manufacturers to shove it.  One train engine dragging even a paltry dozen cars takes 12 or more gas-guzzling trucks off the roads.  With passenger trains, it's a multitude of automobiles off the highways.   Was I the only one horrified when our government stopped subsidizing the railroads and let them die a slow death?  Couldn't everyone see where that was going to lead?  More trucks, more cars, more roads, more road repairs, more dependence on oil, more and more pollution and the associated illnesses.

In time, as the railroads declined and air freight proved to be too expensive, freeways sliced through cities and divided neighborhoods.  They created traffic jams and brought us unprecedented air and noise pollution.  Trucks are now the bullies of the road and whatever the trucking lobbyists want the lobbyists get.

A local example:  Here in Michigan our Mackinac Bridge is a toll bridge.  A few years ago it was running in the red, succumbing to constant repairs, since Michigan has the highest weight limit on trucks in the nation (164,000 pounds on 11 axles--more than double most states' limits). So someone suggested raising the tolls on trucks.  Boy, howdy, what a stink!  They threatened a boycott of the entire Upper Peninsula, the eastern portion of which can only be reached by that bridge.  We're poor here--and needy.  That's all it took.  They raised the rates on cars, instead, and now we're paying $3.50 one way instead of the $2.00 we paid just a few years ago.  And repair crews and lane closings have become permanent fixtures on our beautiful bridge, thanks to overloaded trucks. 

Our beautiful Mackinac Bridge, complete with resident maintenance equipment.

Michigan's roads are the worst in the nation, thanks to those behemoth trucks traveling our byways and an auto industry abhorrence of rapid transit.  The state's idea of a solution?  Raise gas taxes to pay for road repairs.  Someone even said out loud that the reason we need the trucks is because we don't have a good rail system in Michigan.  So. . .one-two-three, all together now:  That's because you morons tore up the tracks and scrapped the trains!  You had it once.

When they pulled up the rails--the rails that once took us and our goods speedily, efficiently to where we needed to go--and turned the rail beds into hiking trails, I finally gave up all hope and went into the mourning phase.  Railroads, our beloved national identity, became nothing more than sources of scrap metal.  Every now and then we hear squeakings about a return to trains, but really--how likely is that when they would literally have to start building the system from scratch? (And, adding insult to injury, buying the steel from China, since we don't produce enough of it anymore to rebuild anything of any consequence.)

So, back to taking the blame for BP and that now-permanent disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.  I won't do it.  We do love our selfish indulgences in this country, and we most surely have to learn to curb our impulses and look at the impact on life beyond tomorrow, but to even mention them in the same breath as BP in order to dilute that vile corporation's crass and criminal actions . . .   I'd just like to slap you silly, Friedman and friend.  Get ahold of yourselves.  We don't have time for this.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Kalamazoo Promise: How did Obama miss this?

[I’m] here tonight because I think that America has a lot to learn from Kalamazoo Central about what makes for a successful school in this new century.  (Applause.)  You’ve got educators raising standards and then inspiring their students to meet them.  You’ve got community members who are stepping up as tutors and mentors and coaches.  You got parents who are taking an active interest in their child’s education -- attending those teacher conferences, yes, turning off the TV once in a while, making sure homework gets done.
President Obama, Kalamazoo Central High Commencement Speech, June 7, 2010

Kalamazoo, Michigan is currently home to an unprecedented experiment in economic development. Announced in November 2005, the Kalamazoo Promise guarantees full college scholarships to potentially every graduate of the Kalamazoo Public School district. Behind the scholarship program is an economic development agenda that seeks to revitalize the city and the region through a substantial investment in public education. It is an unorthodox approach and one that is drawing attention throughout the United States. If the return on investment in human and economic terms is high enough, the Kalamazoo Promise could serve as a new model for community revitalization and change the way policymakers think about K-16 education.
Upjohn Institute:  Research related to the Kalamazoo Promise


Something amazing is going on in the Kalamazoo (MI) public schools. Every student who graduates from their schools is eligible to receive a fully or partially paid scholarship to a Michigan public university or community college of their choice. The scholarships aren't based on need, or on highest grade point average, or on ethnic background, or religious persuasion, or on fantastic essays, or on how many clubs they joined throughout their school years.  It's based on location, length of time in the schools, and a minimum 2.0 GPA.  Every child within the Kalamazoo School District boundaries is potentially eligible to receive some help for secondary education.  No strings attached.

The donors for this project insist on anonymity, and I find that refreshingly admirable--I do--but if, after reading about this program, there's one instance where curiosity is nearly killing the cat, this is it.  Who is paying for this? Is it the Upjohn Institute, disseminators of the Kalamazoo Promise information?  Is it Western Michigan University, the evaluators of the project?  Is it the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which, according to the Upjohn info, is funding an initiative called Investing in the Success of the Kalamazoo Promise, "to strengthen the outcomes of the scholarship program by investing in its evaluation and research infrastructure, and deepen community engagement"?  Or is it all of the above, plus a whole lot of other "nice people"?  (The most Upjohn will say about the donors.)

As the self-designated Protector of All Education Public and Free, I'm necessarily suspicious of private interests sticking their noses into our schools.  (One look at the Texas textbook miasma is enough to prove my point.) Their agendas are usually highly suspect, falling in line with their time-honored principal of Total Destruction of Public Education, that Dirty Communist/Socialist Plot to Capture and Brainwash our Precious Commodities.  

So I've looked pretty carefully at the Kalamazoo Promise, and if there is an agenda other than giving their kids a chance at success which may then come back to the community ten-fold,  I can't find it.  I have to admit, it's pretty amazing.

The project is so amazing, in fact, it came to the attention of the White House and the Department of Education as they looked for the one high school in the country where President Obama would be delivering his first high school commencement address.  High School seniors from all over the country were invited to write essays and send in videos presenting their case for winning the honor. (Kalamazoo was one of only two public school districts to race past the 1,000 or so entries and make it into the final six.)

Incredibly, happily, Kalamazoo won.  Here is Katie Couric's segment on the Promise:

And here is the essay:

Kalamazoo Central is a diverse, dynamic and dedicated community of students and staff committed to our district’s mission:  Every Child, Every Opportunity, Every Time. We challenge ourselves to take more AP classes (an increase of 221% in 4 years); we involve ourselves in our community through activism such as PeaceJam; and we take classes such as aviation technology and construction trades that prepare us for careers and college.  Our relationships with teachers and staff empower us all to form a united bond and a belief in our end goal:  changing the world through education.  Since 2006, 91% of all Kalamazoo Central graduates have attended college, affirming a college going culture in a vibrant community of 1700.  The Kalamazoo Promise—free college tuition for all—gives us the opportunity to achieve our college dreams. Our superintendent phrased it best:  
“If you’re looking for a community where going to college is a birthright, then Kalamazoo Public Schools isn’t it; but, if you’re looking for a community trying to send a whole host of students to college, then Kalamazoo Central is a model of that success.” 
We no longer merely hope for a future; we are confident that we are the future.

Considering that our fine Republican legislature decided to cut the Michigan Promise College Scholarship, a $3,000 lifeline for some 100,000 students, as a way of sticking it to higher Public Education in the guise of Saving Our Budget, the success of the Kalamazoo Promise is even more noteworthy.  Which leads me to wonder why President Obama didn't even mention it during his commencement speech.

He lauded the community and the parents and the students, and they truly deserved it--they're truly great--but  The Kalamazoo Promise is big.  It is life-changing.  One thing is leading to another, and  "Promise Zones" are popping up all over the place.  It is a welcome shot in the arm for the chronically ailing Public Education.  How about a little rah-rah from our top Public Servant?  It's right there in the essay:  Free college tuition for all.  It just jumps out at you, doesn't it?  So why wouldn't he want to talk about one of the very reasons why these kids (and their parents and their teachers and their administrators) have worked so hard to get  ready for college placement?  A golden opportunity to give a shout-out to the people who got this thing going, who are keeping it going, and who don't give a care about tooting their own horns.  That in itself is pretty earth-shaking. (I'm guessing they're not politicians.)

June 14 - (Disregard all that I said above about Obama missing an opportunity to praise the Kalamazoo Promise.  He did it, and did it well, and I completely missed it, both in listening to his speech and reading the transcript later.  Mea culpa.  My good friend Ramona (Yes, there are two of us) gave me the quote in the comments below.  Thank you, friend.  I hate it when I'm so obviously wrong, but I would hate it even more if I didn't have a chance to fix it.)


Thursday, June 3, 2010

It All Comes Down to Loyalty

For a nation that can’t stop bragging about how great and powerful it is, we’ve become shockingly helpless in the face of the many challenges confronting us. Our can-do spirit was put on hold many moons ago, and here we are now unable to defeat the Taliban, or rein in the likes of BP and the biggest banks, or stop the oil gushing furiously from the bowels of earth like a warning from Hades about the hubris and ignorance that is threatening to destroy us.    Bob Herbert, NYT, 5/31/10

  Just as we saw in Wall Street's devastating economic disaster and in Massey Energy's murderous explosion inside its Upper Big Branch coal mine, the nastiness in the gulf is baring an ugly truth that We the People must finally face: We are living under de facto corporate rule that has rendered our government impotent.
Thirty years of laissez-faire, ideological nonsense (pushed upon us with a vengeance in the past decade) has transformed government into a subsidiary of corporate power. Wall Street, Massey, BP and its partners — all were allowed to become their own "regulators" and officially encouraged to put their short-term profit interests over the public interest.    Jim Hightower, Alternet, 6/2/10

There was a time when America was known for its greatness.  We were a prosperous country with an upper class that put its riches back into the American economy.  Our middle class, our vast majority, was vibrant and full of life.  Our poor were always with us, but our homeless and hungry weren't so overwhelming in numbers that our shelters and our food banks couldn't keep up.

There was a time when anyone who wanted a job could find one.  Fathers could earn enough to take care of an entire family, and mothers, if they chose, could stay home and care for them.

There was a time when we built factories on American soil and produced goods and made steel and planted crops in such abundance that we not only sustained ourselves, we were actually able to export the remainder.

There was a time when, if we could have looked ahead, we would have had enough sense to be ashamed of what we have become.

What a waste.  All that hard work, all those years of working together to build an America we could all be proud of, and look where we are.

Every day in every way I resent the hell out of the people who put us here.  I've lived through the good times and I've lived through the bad times.  I've watched as greed and selfishness and yes--disloyalty--have eroded  a workable system that had been in place since the aftermath of the Great Depression, and is now plummeting us back into a reprise of those same dark days.

Big business is running our country into the ground.  Big business doesn't care because big business is global now.  If they lose here, they'll gain somewhere else.  Big business has no shame and they have no sense of loyalty.  They live big here because they can.  They can because there are enough Americans who will watch their backs and circle the wagons whenever they think big business is being attacked.  Since the days of their most exalted hero, Ronald Reagan, capitalism at all costs has been hammered into their pointy little heads.  (Never mind that, thanks in large part to the bleatings of their most exalted hero and his most vociferous followers, a good number of their capitalist pals have taken their booty offshore and have completely abandoned ship.)

The Republicans, the Tea Partiers, PalinCorp, Fox "News", the Right Wing pundits, and certain of the DINOs are working hard to distract us from the increasingly obvious truth:  Big business has run amuck and is destroying us.

Why those people feel the need to defend those Terminators is beyond me, but they're apparently going to defend them to the death of us. The mainstream media, either by intent or shortsightedness or fear of ratings, is big into aiding and abetting the Destroyers of All Things American.  Even C-Span, the seeming last bastion of objectivity, is turning right just when we need them to stay focused.  More and more, they highlight the rightward-leaning, and seem to delight in covering everything Tea Party as if they were an actual political party and not simply an angry mob whose only solution to this mess is to pump up the anger.

Defending the status-quo encourages the undermining of our economy.  There is something decidedly ludicrous about that claim to want to "take our country back". The only ones who want to go back to that are the ones who made (and are still making) obscene bundles of cash off of our collective misery.

If they really wanted to take our country back they would be fighting against the disloyal, dishonorable corporations that chose to build factories outside America using foreign slave labor in corrupt, unregulated countries rather than  live by the necessary rules and pay decent wages and benefits.

They wouldn't be waving the American flag while chanting "Drill, baby, drill".

They wouldn't be buying into the corporate lie that all things public, including health care, Social Security and schools, should be privatized so that corporate interests can have the control and keep the profits.

They wouldn't be so bent on electing people who despise the very idea of good, all-encompassing government but wouldn't mind collecting a paycheck while they're attempting to destroy it.

If those people had any sense of loyalty toward this country, they would, instead, be climbing out of that comfy bed they've made with the worst of Big Business and think twice about railing against anyone wanting to put a stop to the most destructive, out-of-control business practices this country has seen since we let this same thing happen in the 1920s.

It all comes down to loyalty.  Do we privatize or do we keep "a government of the people, by the people, and for the people".  Every member of Congress pledges this Oath of Office:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

 Every time we say the Pledge of Allegiance we pledge loyalty to these United States.

Some of us actually mean it.