Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Republican/Teabagger Way: Hating Teachers and Workers

Only in the twisted world of a used repository for billionaires, millionaires, and large multinational corporations would you hear one of these servants whine about privileged economic elites.  What kind of economic elites are they worried about?  You know, those big salaried teachers, janitors, and snow truck operators, pulling in their lavish $30-40,000/year salaries, most all of them with health care coverage!  Those rich Communists.

Indiana's governor calls public unions 'elites'
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has called public unions "the privileged elite" during a speech in Ohio.

Daniels' state faces a political standoff over issues including labor legislation. He told a crowd at a county GOP dinner in Cincinnati Wednesday night that public jobs and salaries went up while private jobs were lost and that private sector salaries have shrunk.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports Daniels said there might have been a time when government employees needed protection and reform, but that was a long time ago.

Public employee rights are a hot issue in Ohio, with a bill proposing to restrict collective bargaining for state workers.

Considered a potential 2012 presidential contender, Daniels stressed he wasn't making a stump speech. His comments about public employee unions got strong applause.

Yes, these are the forces bankrupting us.  Not the $150-plus million of tax cuts that Gov. Daniels gave corporations (through property tax caps), or his advocacy of tax cuts for millionaires (all the more laughable considering that Daniels is a multimillionaire, ex-corporate executive, and graduate of Princeton University, spending his formative youth dodging the Vietnam War and smoking weed [earning him an arrest record for his efforts, while attending that non-elite school disguised as an Ivy League college]).  Of course, those are not privileged types at all.  Those are just average, everyday rich people, doing the Lord's work.  Or, if we are talking about the federal government, how about the $100 billion of tax cuts given to corporations by our president in his stimulus package?  Or how about the $700 billion bailout of our banks and insurance companies, including the multi-billion dollar bonuses they gave themselves (with the support of our Congress and presidential advisors on the grounds that the contract is an inviolable thing, which can never be violated)?

Funny how these servants, like Governors Walker and Daniels, never seem to care about the holiness of the contract when it comes to someone making $32,000 a year to teach your kids.  Surely, those teachers were involved, somehow, in the speculative boom and bust that caused the collapse of our real estate market (the real instigators and culprits who remain some of Governor Daniels' biggest campaign contributors).  I am sure those teachers were responsible for wasting over a trillion dollars of our tax monies (all pure deficit spending) to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq (something Daniels should know all about, seeing how he was at the OMB at the time and estimated that the wars would cost less than $100 billion [fiscal crimes only apply to state workers, apparently]).  Surely, these overpaid elites living off our money, doing such nefarious things like teaching our children how to read and write, were responsible for Bear Sterns and AIG, not to mention Tyco and Enron (or the crimes of Eli Lilly during Mitch's time as an executive there).  Obviously.  This is why they (the workers) are elites, and billionaires and millionaires and fetuses the only legitimate citizens of this republic, according to the party of elephants.

If only we had seen this coming, we could have stopped these all-powerful workers from running up a $14 trillion national debt.  I mean, they must have votes in Congress, right?  I mean, these unions are privileged elites, just like Louis XVI and George III.

Well, at least the GOP took the day off from blaming the swine flu on Muslims and Mexicans, but do not wait for them.  I am sure tomorrow another hated and bashed minority of the hour will become newly enshrined elites, to be taken down by the knee scrapes for the upper 1% income tax bracket.

And to the members of the Wisconsin State State Police, chasing down the people who gave you a union to accrue the very benefits you would take from another fellow worker, this one is for you, you union-busting finks.

Oh, and Governor Daniels, on the off chance your toking habits have not eliminated your memory to read to this point, please tell, do you consider privileged elites those children of the Hilton fortune, inheriting all of their family's wealth without so much as a worry of any tax on estates? I think we already know the answer to that one.  

So, dear teachers, be aware.  You are the new scourge of humanity to the right-wing of this country.  This is what the repositories think of you and every last worker (and have since they took up arms to keep many of you in slavery and the rest working 72 hours a week without benefits).

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Wisconsin: The War on Workers

It is a common refrain from conservatives and Republicans that those of us on the left are guilty of the most vile of offenses (next to killing babies and sodomy):  promoting class warfare (namely, against them and their upper 1% income tax sponsors).  Rarely do we get to see them do it in such a blatant way as what the GOP in Wisconsin is trying to do to its state workers.  For those of you who think the right-wing in this country cares about you (unless you are a millionaire or fetus), Exhibit A.

Wis. gov calls on Dems who fled state to return

MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin's Gov. Scott Walker has called on Democrats who fled the state to block a vote on an anti-union bill to "come home."

Senate Democrats left town on Thursday to stop Republicans who control the chamber from taking a vote on Walker's proposal that would take away collective bargaining rights from public employees.

Walker told reporters on Friday that the Senate Democrats should come back to the Capitol and stop hiding out.

The GOP governor has said that he is not trying to rush things. He told The Associated Press on Friday that he's prepared for the stalemate to drag on into next week.

Democrats on the run in Wisconsin avoided state troopers Friday and threatened to stay in hiding for weeks, potentially paralyzing the state government in a standoff with majority Republicans over union rights for public employees.

The party's battle against balancing the state budget by cutting the pay, benefits and collective bargaining rights of public workers is the boldest action yet by Democrats to push back against last fall's GOP wave.

But the dramatic strategy that has clogged the Capitol with thousands of protesters clashes with one essential truth: Republicans told everyone months ago that unions would be one of their targets, and the GOP now has more than enough votes to pass its plans once the Legislature can convene.

The 14 Senate Democrats left the state Thursday, delaying action in that chamber on the sweeping bill. Among them was Sen. Jon Erpenbach, who said Friday that the group was prepared to be away for weeks, although he would prefer to end the stalemate sooner.

"That really, truly is up to the governor," he told The Associated Press in an interview Friday at a downtown Chicago hotel. "It's his responsibility to bring the state together. The state is not unified. It is totally torn part."
Meanwhile, protests at the state Capitol entered a fourth day and continued to grow — to an estimated 40,000 people, the largest crowd yet. Many schools were closed again after teachers called in sick, including the state's largest district, in Milwaukee.

And neither protesters, Democrats or the GOP appeared ready to make any accommodations for the other side.

Demonstrators vowed to stay as long as necessary to get concessions. New Republican Gov. Scot Walker rebuffed requests to sit down with Democrats to seek a compromise.

Erpenbach (URP'-ehn-bahk) accused Walker of trying to rush the legislation, which was publicly unveiled only a week ago.

"I'm not calling him a dictator. But this is dictatorial almost," Erpenbach said. "I don't think I've ever seen such a draconian piece of legislation come down from any governor, Democrat or Republican."

Republicans had warned since last year's campaign that they would seek major concessions from unions. But for lawmakers in the minority, "The only other option we had to slow things down was to leave."

Erpenbach said the decision to flee happened on the spur of the moment as Democrats gathered near the Capitol for a regular strategy meeting Thursday morning.

An hour later, he threw a few travel essentials — a toothbrush, razor and few changes of clothes — into a duffel bag and a backpack. He took just two or three minutes to pack, and jumped in a car for a prearranged meeting at a hotel in Rockford, Ill., just south of the Wisconsin border. 

The lawmakers were concerned that police could have detained them, even though the Wisconsin Constitution prohibits the arrest of state lawmakers while the Legislature is in session, except in cases of felonies, breaches of the peace or treason. 

"We knew their jurisdiction ends at the state line, and that's why we came to Illinois," Erpenbach said.
From Rockford, the legislators headed in different directions, most of them traveling to the Chicago area or to other parts of northern Illinois, Erpenbach said. 

Since leaving Wisconsin, he said he had not spoken to any of his Republican counterparts. 

The 14 Democrats planned to meet later Friday somewhere in Illinois to discuss strategy. 

"We just need some time to sit down and talk, figure out where we are at and what we are hearing form our constituents, and what we're hearing form the Republicans," Erpenbach said. 

Also Friday, the leader of the state's largest public employee union said workers were willing to make financial concessions but not to give up bargaining rights. 

Marty Beil, executive director of the Wisconsin State Employees Union, issued a statement saying the protests would continue until Walker sits down with the unions. 

In a sign that the commotion might be causing other problems for the governor, he pushed back the release of his two-year budget plan by one week, to March 1. 

The governor insists the concessions he is seeking from public workers — including higher health insurance and pension contributions — are necessary to deal with the state's projected $3.6 billion budget shortfall and to avoid layoffs. 

Eliminating their collective bargaining rights, except over wage increases not greater than the Consumer Price Index, is necessary in order to give the state and local governments and schools the flexibility needed to deal with upcoming cuts in state aid, Walker said. 

Those arguments don't wash with Democrats who say the fight is really about political power and quashing the unions, whose members are longtime supporters of Democrats. 

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he spoke with Democratic Minority Leader Mark Miller by phone late Thursday and asked him to bring his caucus back to Madison, but Miller refused. 

By Friday morning, Fitzgerald was tired of waiting. With the governor's approval, he asked the state patrol to go to Miller's house in a Madison suburb. 

Fitzgerald said he hoped a visit from the police would send a signal about the circumstances at the Capitol. Troopers knocked on Miller's door and rang his doorbell, but no one answered. 

The protests are growing so large that Capitol workers cannot safely move through the halls, Fitzgerald said, calling the situation "a powder keg." The situation was expected to ratchet up on Saturday, when conservative tea party groups planned their own rallies. 

Republican support for the bill remains strong, he added. "If anything, what's going on around this building is galvanizing this caucus," Fitzgerald said. 

The Wisconsin walkout was similar to a 2003 move by Texas Democrats who were outnumbered by Republicans in a battle over congressional redistricting. The group got on a bus and fled for the Oklahoma border. 

Work in the Texas House was halted for a week, and GOP leaders asked state troopers to find and arrest the 52 absent lawmakers. It was the beginning of a bitter partisan confrontation that dragged on for months.

Later that summer, a group of Senate Democrats fled to Albuquerque, N.M., for more than a month. 

In the end, the walkouts only delayed the redistricting plan, which eventually passed and helped give the GOP more seats in Congress. 

Still, organizers of the walkout say it was worth it. 

"It was the toughest thing I've ever done politically," said Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, chairwoman of the Democratic caucus in the Texas Senate. "It was not something we wanted to do. It was the last thing we could do to protect minority voting rights." 

Back in Madison, some Democrats from the state Assembly went to Walker's office to demand a meeting. Walker's spokesman said the governor's scheduler would get back to them. 

The Assembly speaker said the chamber could vote on the bill later Friday, but it was not clear whether the GOP would attempt to proceed without Democrats, who were in a closed caucus meeting. 

Minority Leader Peter Barca said he expected a "long, protracted debate" over their strategy. 

Republicans hold a 57-38 majority in the Assembly, but they need 58 lawmakers present to take up the bill. That puts the lone independent, Rep. Bob Ziegelbauer, in a powerful position. 

Ziegelbauer said he would show up, but hoped to convince Republican leaders to first make changes to the collective bargaining parts of the bill. 

Democratic strategist Chris Lehane called the walkout in Madison the boldest action Democrats have taken since midterm elections swept Republican to power in statehouses across the country. 

Walker "has been so strident that the way he's engaged . has effectively given the Democrats the high ground in terms of how they're responding," Lehane said. 

"What Wisconsin is going through isn't all that different from other states," he added. "But the way it's being handled is."
Associated Press writers Todd Richmond, Dinesh Ramde and Jason Smathers in Madison; Michael Tarm in Chicago; and Michael Gormley in Albany, N.Y., contributed to this story.

These people are fighting our battle, dear non-Wisconsonian progressives.  This is the biggest fight for labor rights in the last generation.  If the right-wing wins in Wisconsin (a traditional labor state), you can rest assured they will  replicate this retrograde legislation elsewhere (just like their targeting of Mexicans and Latino immigrants, now being taken up by Republican-dominated legislatures this year).  Ohio is already following Wisconsin's lead with Senate Bill 5.  The only way to guarantee something like a minimal existence for those who work some of our most essential jobs (educating this population) is to win this first skirmish and kill this return of wage slavery that the GOP and their corporate-sponsored teabagging friends are trying to deliver to us.

Sounds harsh?  The same Republican Governor Walker of Wisconsin is adding over $100 million of debt to the state coffers to give tax cuts to corporations, money that he is going to be taking off the backs of public sector workers.  When you see a conservative talk about making sacrifices to balance the budget, why is it that this never includes anyone who is wealthy?  Why do they not shoot out the windows of and threaten to murder/assassinate those members of Congress (like they did during the healthcare bill debate) who voted to take $700 billion of our money and hand it over to banks and insurance companies?  Because they want to keep the gigantic vacuum cleaner running, sucking upwards your jobs, wages, benefits, and pensions, so the humanized corporations who subsidize them can accrue the loot that these unconvicted felons have stolen from us, that's why.

By the way, here is a petition you can sign to tell Governor Walker what you think of him.

And here is Governor Scott Walker's contact information.  I am sure he would love nothing more than to hear from you, especially if you think less kindly of his attempt to steal away the right of workers in his home state.

Office of Governor Scott Walker
115 East Capitol
Madison WI 53702
(608) 266-1212

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Devils and Angels: Reupping The Patriot Act

After procedurally and accidentally wrecking the Patriot Act in the House of Representatives a week and a half ago, our friends in the US Senate wanted to make sure that our government could continue spying and violating your Fourth Amendment rights.  The vote was not even close.  

And that is what this does.  Our Congressmen do not live in the real world, or the one that respects our Constitution.  The parts of the bill most valued by our Senate include the clauses allowing for roving wiretaps that permit surveillance on multiple phones, permits the government to seize records and property in "anti-terrorism operations" without a warrant or court order (with the non-judged law enforcement bureaucrat being the final arbiter of what constitutes terrorism), and allow surveillance against a so-called lone wolf, a non-U.S. citizen engaged in "terrorism" (without court oversight) who may not be part of a "recognized terrorist group" (group that our State Department calls terrorists, not the ones we subsidize in the Colombian military, or Hosni Mubarak's security detail, naturally).

In a sea of evil, in which our own lawmakers conspire to destroy our rights and our way of life, there is not much good that can come of it.  Well, there were a few angels, a few decent people.

Here they are.  The twelve good members of the US Senate.  And yes, dear members of the right-wing left and libertarians, your beloved Senator Rand Paul is with the angels.

Baucus (D-MT)
Begich (D-AK)
Brown (D-OH)
Harkin (D-IA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Lee (R-UT)
Merkley (D-OR)
Murray (D-WA)
Paul (R-KY)
Sanders (I-VT)
Tester (D-MT)
Udall (D-NM)

As for the rest of the members of the world's greatest deliberative body I suppose warrants and cause with legal and court oversight, the bedrocks of our criminal justice system for over two centuries, need not apply.  To those 86 enablers and defenders of our increasingly Praetorian state, shame on you and what you have done to our Constitution.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Emperor Claudius Day

I cannot count the ways in which I hate Valentine's Day because that is how much I sincerely wish the worst to the Hallmark company and its shrills for turning this commercial fake holiday into an compelled rationale to show that you really care (as if such sentiments should be determined by how much money you spend, not in how you actually feel or live your life, year round).  

On this one issue, I am with the Islamic and Hindu fundamentalists.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Adios, Hosni Mubarak

One less tyrant in the world.  And he was ours, my fellow Americans.  We subsidized this thug for three decades, allowing him to amass a personal wealth of over $20 billion on a military officer's salary (much of this on the dime and involuntary support of the American taxpayer).  Mubarak was Israel's thug, too, putting to rest the notion that our erstwhile ally in Tel Aviv represents the only true democracy in the region.  Not anymore.

Congratulations to the people of Egypt.  Here's to hoping that all of your demands are fulfilled.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

RIP, Huffington Post

I know, it has been awhile.  I work the equivalent of two jobs folks, so sometimes I will be posting a little less (or more) than others.  For my tens of readers, my sincerest apologies.

And now for something completely different.  The death of Huffington Post.  I have been waiting for this sellout for quite some time.  It is of interest to me not just because I am a longtime reader, but because I have noticed over the past year that the site was becoming less political and more entertainment-driven (i.e., trivial and drivel).  I remember well Arianna's career as a right-wing Republican back in the '90s, when she was the wife of an aspiring Senator who never became one (before divorcing), but something happened to Arianna between that split and the early 2000s.  A complete metamorphosis.

Ideology is one of those tricky things because it is a result of belief (like religion), as opposed to some innate quality like ethnicity, race, or physical characteristic.  To be sure, 80% of voters in the US vote the way their parents do/did, and mostly reflect the prejudices and biases of their parents or guardians, but we are not calculators.  We do, after all, change our minds.  I cannot count the number of times I have seen my students switch ideologically, almost overnight (usually, from right to left, but sometimes to or away from libertarianism, as well).  It happens.

It is, however, somewhat less frequent for people to completely and instantly change their worldviews (after a lifetime of commitment to an ideology) in their early 50s.  This is what supposedly happened to Arianna Huffington.  And by instantly, I mean literally the person who once wrote a book and gave speeches bashing feminists as men-haters within a year opining about the importance of choice and gay rights.  The same person who advocated (as recently as the late-90s) expelling all "illegal immigrants" then transforms by 1999-2000 to extol the virtues of immigration and the need for humane treatment and amnesty for the so-called illegal immigrants residing in the US.  The same person who claimed that Bill Clinton was a socialist  (and supported his impeachment) turned on a dime to call George W. Bush (and the entire Republican Party) fascist.

To say that this raised some eyebrows would be an understatement.  Huffington, for her part, claimed she was only a conservative (for the first five decades of her life) because she was 'fooled' by the GOP and conservative establishment (an establishment that she was a big part of).  There was no explanation for how you go from hating immigrants, abortion, and gays to thinking completely the opposite the next day.  No personal revelations or experiences.  No accounts about meeting a victim of a back alley abortion or migrant farm worker starving to make it by.  No need to say how this really happened beyond the claim she was just fooled.

For this reason, I never bought into Arianna's progressive credentials anymore than John Edwards (who was a moderate-to-conservative Senator from North Carolina before pretending to care about poor people in his 2008 presidential campaign [replete with a $400 haircut]).  I do not necessarily think that Arianna was lying to say she had switched sides, but I do believe she was much less ideological than her rhetoric (and some issues were of greater priority than those deemed more valuable to a genuine ideologue).  In that sense Arianna's politics was probably closer to the cynics (my most beloved Greek school of philosophical thought), minus the fact that Diogenes never asserted he was a Hellenistic militarist before changing his mind (and changing it again later on, for a retainer fee of $300 million).

You could tell the jig was up with the Huffington Post by early last year (Jan. 2010 or thereabouts).  Political commentary and articles started being drowned out by articles about Lindsay Lohan, Lady Gaga, and some errant professional athlete of the hour.  Why would a political site do this?  Imagine reading The Nation and the very next week it looks like a British tabloid.  It was not that stark, of course, because the Huffington Post, even at its best, was less journalistically rigorous than The Nation, but the difference between that site today and a couple of years ago is noticeable to anyone who pays attention.

It is in this context that Arianna's sellout of the Huffington Post to a large (and in my view criminal*) corporation like AOL should come as no surprise to anyone.  Here is what the chairman of AOL thinks of the average reader of the Huffington Post.  "Arianna has the same interest we do, which is serving consumers' needs and going beyond the just straight political needs of people."

See, you progressive whiners.  You never knew it, but you are merely consumers to be fed the same escapism as the readers of the National Enquirer.  So, stop ye cryin'.  

I guess that is what we get for venturing outside of the pages of Democracy Now!

*=for those of you who recall what AOL was like back in the '90s and into the early 2000s, when their dial-up internet service would continuously charge you and make it virtually impossible to cancel an account, that is the newest owner of this once progressive site.