NFL Players’ "Remarkable" Labor Victory
From Democracy Now, Amy Goodman interviews leftist sports writer Dave Zirin:
Troy Polamalu, All-Pro for the Pittsburgh Steelers, he said, "I think what the players are fighting for is something bigger. The fact is it’s people fighting against big business. The big business argument is 'I got the money and I got the power, and therefore I can tell you what to do.' That’s life everywhere. I think this is a time when the football players are standing up and saying, 'No, no, no, the people have the power.'" I mean, this is a guy who is best known for doing Head & Shoulders commercials, and now he sounds like Big Bill Haywood.
Click here to watch, read, or listen to the rest.
So like lots of other Americans, I'm glad the strike is over. As you know, I'm a much bigger fan of college ball, but, you know, the Saints are infectious when you live in the New Orleans area. And they've got something the Oilers and the Texans never had, a Super Bowl victory. But I also really like that the strike happened at all.
It gave the NFL fans who read the sports pages regularly a great lesson in the economics of labor, and if these fans understood what they were reading, they ought to also walk away with a new understanding of the power that regular ordinary work-a-day guys have when they stick together. The power to bring a mighty corporation to its knees.
Yeah, pro football is glamorous, and the players are extraordinarily skilled, but the basics for their strike are the same for workers in all fields. That is, like Polamalu says, big business has money and power which they think allows them to dictate terms. And usually, almost always in fact, they get away with it, at least here in the US because nobody knows how to challenge them anymore. Until now, that is. I mean, among those above mentioned guys who read the sports pages. All they have to do is understand that their lot in life isn't too terribly different from the guys in the NFL: they work for very wealthy people who think they have the power to tell them how they're going to work, how much they will earn, and the conditions of the workplace; if workers stick together, however, a lot of that power simply evaporates, once the wealthy elites realize that their wealth absolutely depends on the people who actually do the work.
It's that simple. And as American as the NFL.
Okay, are you ready for some football?
Sunday, July 31, 2011
NFL Players’ "Remarkable" Labor Victory
Posted by Ron at 12:56 AM
Friday, July 29, 2011
THE FOLLY OF OUTSOURCING
From the Nation:
How America Could Collapse
It was in the 1990s that American multinationals, spurred by government policy, began outsourcing operations to China. At the same time, the Clinton administration steadily relaxed antitrust enforcement, leading to massive corporate consolidation and the creation of the virtual firm. By the early parts of the last decade, the ideal American multinational made its profits by using its market power to gut labor and supply prices and by using its political power to eliminate taxation. All of this turned giant American institutions against making things. This is why we rely on a British factory to make our flu vaccine, why global videotape production was knocked offline by a tsunami and why that same event slowed the gigantic auto industry. US corporate leaders now see the idea of making things as a cost of doing business, one best left to others. What has happened as a result is that much of the production for critical products and services that make our economy run is constructed by a patchwork global network of suppliers all over the world in unstable regions, over which we have very little control. An accident or political problem in any number of countries may deny us not just iPhones but food, medicine or critical machinery.
This well articulates something that has made me uneasy since the late 90s. I mean, I've never liked the fact that all the old good unionized manufacturing jobs that were once the nucleus of the American middle class have essentially been permanently sent to nations where people will work for pennies on the dollar. That's obviously bad for the economic well being of our country. But after all the blood letting of the 80s and 90s it started occurring to me that all this downsizing and outsourcing was also destroying our capacity to make things. Important things. That is, sending production to foreign nations means we no longer have a manufacturing base.
My free trade oriented acquaintances have assured me on multiple occasions that not only was it no problem, but that it was actually good for the economy overall, that it would increase trade, which would make life better and more lucrative for everybody in the long run. Nice theory. I'm still waiting to see if it pans out after all these years. But nobody's ever really offered any theory to calm my nerves about the fact that America no longer makes things. Just assurances that outsourcing production is good economics.
But how can it be good economics if, say, hostile nations decide to just take over the factories and manufacturing plants owned by American corporations? I guess that's why we have a massive military, to make the world safe for global capitalism. But it still makes me uneasy that we depend on other nations for really important things we need. Sure, it's nice to have that great capital inflow--I mean, I guess it's nice, at least for the wealthy elites who get the vast majority of such profits. But, in the end, how nice would it be to have a whole lot of money but without the ability to buy the things we used to make here in great quantities because other nations refuse to deal with us? Right, not very nice at all.
So I know it's a weak hypothesis on my part: nations hosting American industrial capacity band together and cut us out. Probably not likely. At least, not all at once. But the above linked essay outlines some scenarios that don't seem so unlikely at all, scenarios that are already coming to pass, environmental disaster, political instability, oil price spikes. Put them all together at the same time, and we have economic chaos. That is, suddenly we won't be able to put food on the table, or fix our air conditioners, or take heart medications. We'll have money, but not things.
So all these decades of outsourcing American industry may very well make good economic sense in terms of cheaper labor costs or efficiency, but they have left us wide open to catastrophic risk. I don't see how anybody can think that's good sense.
Posted by Ron at 12:38 AM
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Right-Wing Media Outraged Norway Attacker Accurately Labeled A Christian
From Media Matters courtesy of Eschaton:
On The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly claimed: "The New York Times and other liberal media have branded the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik a Christian, even though there is absolutely no evidence the man is a follower of Jesus Christ." O'Reilly later claimed: "There is no evidence this man was a member of a church. No evidence that he followed the teachings of Jesus Christ. As you know, they're nonviolent. OK? No evidence that he had anything to do with the Christian faith. Yet, they call him a Christian because he says he is? Come on."
On the July 27 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade asked Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham if she was "surprised" that the media "quickly label[ed]" Breivik a "Christian." Ingraham replied that Breivik didn't represent "any mainstream or even fringe sentiment in the Christian community."
Well, maybe Breivik doesn't represent "any mainstream" variety of Christianity, but he definitely represents the fringe. The KKK, Timothy McVeigh, various militia groups, anyone who has ever taken a shot at an abortion doctor or bombed a clinic, all these people are self-identified Christians, often with more mainstream support than people are willing to admit, who both advocate and engage in political violence because of their Christian faith. And those are just some examples off the top of my head from the last twenty years: indeed, Christianity's history is extraordinarily bloody and violent, from the destruction of the Serapeum, to the Crusades, to the Spanish Inquisition, to the wars between Protestants and Catholics, to the "Christianizing" of indigenous populations under European colonial control. Jesus may have been called "the prince of peace," but his followers have often been warriors and torturers.
Breivik is, in short, following the grand tradition of Western Christianity, which is written in blood.
But what really gets under my skin about this is how Christianity's defenders so easily shrug off this fact. I mean, it's all like the standard response when you tell a fundamentalist about how you hate Christian hypocrisy: "Well you know, Ron, we're all hypocrites; it's just that some of us are trying to make themselves better." And of course "some of us" are Christians. So the argument is something along the lines of "don't judge Christianity by the actions of Christians; rather, judge Christianity by its principles and values." But there doesn't really seem to be any universal agreement about what those principles and values actually are. Southern Baptists support the death penalty and torturing POWs; Catholics don't. Both Southern Baptists and Catholics oppose women in key clerical positions, but increasingly lots of other Christian denominations embrace women in leadership roles. Some churches ordain gay clergy; others think this is a sign of the end times. Orthodox Christians reject the trinity, and therefore Christ's divine nature; Catholics and Protestants think this is heresy. And on and on and on.
Christianity is a big tent religion. Whether you like it or not.
So it's kind of impossible to refrain from judging the actions of individual believers and Christian groups in lieu of judging the philosophy. I mean, for all intents and purposes, all you have to do is grab a Bible and declare yourself a Christian and that's that. You're a Christian. Indeed, the only way humanity has to judge Christianity is by the actions of people who call themselves Christian. Because that's what Christianity is, people who call themselves Christian.
Now don't get me wrong. There's no way I'm going to say that Breivik's actions are in any way representative of most people who are self-described Christians any more than I'm going to indict Muslims for the actions of Al-Qaeda, or Jews for the actions of the Israeli government. My whole point is that it's a complicated situation. We must necessarily take a nuanced and sophisticated point of view if we're ever going to understand violent religious extremism.
But make no mistake: as various Muslims and Jews, most notably Israeli settlers in the Occupied Territories, have become more violent in defense of their religious views in recent years, so, too, have Christians. And that's a problem that denial will only make worse.
Posted by Ron at 2:38 AM
Monday, July 25, 2011
GOING OFF THE GRID FOR A COUPLE OF NIGHTS
Carly and I are getting a room in the French Quarter for Monday and Tuesday night, one of those "staycations" they talk about on the internets. It'll be fun drunkenly prowling the dark corners in the wee hours, especially if we don't get mugged.
Anyway, I should be back for more blogging late Wednesday night. In the meantime, here's a great Duke Ellington song, one that, before I actually lived here, I would always play as I neared NOLA on I-10. It really does capture the spirit of the city:
Posted by Ron at 1:55 AM
U.S. wastes $34 billion in Afghan and Iraq contracting
From Reuters via the Huffington Post:
The United States has wasted some $34 billion on service contracts with the private sector in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a study being finalized for Congress.
The findings by a bipartisan congressional commission were confirmed to Reuters by a person familiar with the draft of the study, which is due to be completed in coming weeks.
The report blames a lack of oversight by federal agencies for misuse of funds and warns of further waste when the programs are transferred to Iraqi or Afghan control as the United States withdraws its troops.
A couple of brief observations.
First, this is something of a supplement to my post from Thursday night highlighting Ralph Nader's assertion that if we really wanted to get serious about debt and deficit reduction, we could and should go after military expenditures for our useless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as for our constant readiness to fight the Soviet Union in WWIII--of course, because there is no Soviet Union, such preparation, like our Middle East wars, is useless, and therefore a massive waste of tax dollars. But this Reuters article isn't even about money actually used to fight or to prepare to fight: it's about money lost to simple mismanagement. That is, it's more money than you and a thousand of your friends could ever hope to earn in their lifetimes just lost, gone without rhyme or reason, because the US establishment loves to throw money at the military, and doesn't really give a shit if it does anything useful.
Why aren't we looking first to the most frivolously spending arm of the government, the Pentagon, when it comes to deficit reduction? Answer: the deficit hawks aren't really concerned with the deficit; they just want to cut social programs because they think all that money goes to black people.
Second, this news presents yet another real-world problem with the cherished economic notion that the private sector always does it better than the government. The reality is that often the government is absolutely the best way to go about accomplishing national goals, while private sector ventures often crash and burn. Remember that the vast majority of new businesses fail, and that's pretty much all you need to understand that the conventional wisdom regarding the private versus the public sector is not an honest discourse.
Posted by Ron at 1:30 AM
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Study: U.S. Flag 'Primes' Voters Toward Republican Viewpoints
From Fox News courtesy of Digg:
Just a glimpse at the American flag can sway voters, even Democrats, toward more Republican voting behavior, attitudes and beliefs, a new two-year study says.
The authors, from the University of Chicago, Cornell University and Hebrew University, say the research proves the American flag has a powerful effect on voters.
"A single exposure to an American flag resulted in a significant increase in participants' Republican voting intentions, voting behavior, political beliefs, and implicit and explicit attitudes, with some effects lasting eight months," reads the study titled, "Long-Term Effects of U.S. Flag Exposure on Republicanism."
Leaving aside the fact that the University of Chicago, what with its professors emeritus Milton Friedman and Leo Strauss, was an incubator for both neoliberalism and neoconservatism, as well as the fact that this is being reported by "fair and balanced" Fox News, it looks to me like this flag effect, if true, does nothing but reflect the now decades of relentless conservative propaganda that only they are true Americans. That is, in your face nationalism and arrogant American exceptionalism are the primary domain of the Republican Party, not the Democrats. No surprise that Old Glory makes people gravitate toward the party of "we're better than you." We've been socially conditioned to do so.
I mean, the GOP has been literally draping itself in the American flag since the Reagan era, while Democrats, hammered by even more years of Republican red-baiting, as well as a continual flow of media images connecting them to anti-American hippies and other 60s fun, just don't seem so serious in their nationalistic zeal by comparison. It is as though there is nothing they can say or do which will make them out to be the stars-and-stripes armband wearers their conservative opponents are.
Propaganda really does work.
In the end, this is just another example of how the Democrats simply don't understand the modern political environment.
Posted by Ron at 11:20 PM
Friday, July 22, 2011
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Ralph Nader’s Solution to Debt Crisis
From Democracy Now:
RALPH NADER: Now we have the situation with the deficit and the debt and spending and jobs. And it’s not that difficult to get out of it. The first thing you do is you get rid of corporate welfare. That’s hundreds of billions of dollars a year. The second is you tax corporations so that they don’t get away with no taxation. The Citizens for Tax Justice put out a report recently. They had 12 major corporations, like Honeywell, Verizon, General Electric, and in three years, Amy, they made $167 billion—with a "B" —dollars in profit, paid zero tax, and got two-and-a-half billion dollars back from the Treasury. So you can see, if you return the tax rates and the effective tax payments back to the prosperous 1960 level, there would be hundreds of billions of dollars. You get out of Afghanistan, Pakistan, stop being engaged in these criminal wars of aggression, and get out of Iraq, you’ll save another $150 billion. So, there are a lot of ways. Cutting the huge amount of redundancy and waste and out-of-date weapons programs in the Pentagon, again, another one. Bringing back the soldiers from Europe and East Asia, 65 years after World War II. What are they doing? Defending prosperous countries, like England and Germany and Italy and Japan, against what? Inner Mongolia or Moldova?
So, we know what the answers are. But we don’t have the power in Washington, because the liberal, progressive base appears to have no breaking point with the Democrats here in Washington. And that’s true for—that’s also true for the liberal intelligentsia. They have no—when you ask them, "Do you have any breaking point? How bad do these Democrats have to be, even though the Republicans are worse, for you to begin conditioning your vote, demanding more vigorous debates in the presidential primary, demanding more candidates, demanding rights for third parties, as the Center for Competitive Democracy has been pushing for? They have no breaking point. And if you have no breaking point, you have no moral compass, and people like Barack Obama know that you can be had. And indeed, they’ve been had.
Click here to read, watch, or listen to the rest.
Of course, there is no debt crisis. I mean, we do have an enormous federal debt, and given the loss of tax revenue from the recession, we're also into some big time deficit spending at the moment. But it's not a crisis. None of the dangers that can come from deficit spending are imminent. This is all a fake "crisis," manufactured by Republicans in order to ram massive social experiments down the throats of the American people. Just because everyone seems to be talking about it doesn't make it true. And everyone's not talking about it, actually. Just go read some Krugman. But I think the reason Nader and Amy Goodman refer to it as the "debt crisis," even though they both know well what's really going on, is to point out how much tax money is spent on stupid bullshit that does not in any way benefit the American people.
Indeed, our taxes go to pay off giant corporations, through welfare and legalized tax dodging, and through the Pentagon, in return for the campaign contributions they give their politicians. And it's so easy. Just stop paying the corporations. They don't need the money; after all, they're corporations, capitalist enterprises. If they can't survive on their own, can't pay the taxes that real live human citizens do, then they don't deserve to survive. Of course, it would never come to that. These very same corporations altogether spend billions on political donations, lobbying, and lawsuits in order to shape the political environment for their own benefit: that is, they're cheating right now, but I'm pretty sure they have the wherewithal and gumption needed in order to compete on a fair playing field, you know, to be capitalists, instead of crony capitalists.
Unfortunately, for this kind of sanity to happen, there would need to be a lot of upward pressure on the body politic from the left, and, as Nader observes, there is seemingly nothing so offensive to them that would make them bolt the Democratic Party. Expect our national decline to continue for the foreseeable future.
Posted by Ron at 11:56 PM
Why do Americans claim to be more religious than they are?
From Slate courtesy of AlterNet:
Finally, in a brand new paper, Philip Brenner at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research compared self-reported attendance at religious services with "time-use" interviews in the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Norway, Finland, Slovenia, Italy, Spain, Austria, Ireland, and Great Britain. Brenner looked at nearly 500 studies over four decades, involving nearly a million respondents.
Brenner found that the United States and Canada were outliers—not in religious attendance, but in overreporting religious attendance. Americans attended services about as often as Italians and Slovenians and slightly more than Brits and Germans. The significant difference between the two North American countries and other industrialized nations was the enormous gap between poll responses and time-use studies in those two countries.
Why do Americans and Canadians feel the need to overreport their religious attendance? You could say that religiosity for Americans is tied to their identity in a way that it is not for the Germans, the French, and the British. But that only restates the mystery. Why is religiosity tied to American identity?
I think it was Gandhi who once said,“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” This notion has been on my mind a lot lately. If America really was the Christian nation all the right-wingers claim it to be, wouldn't there be some evidence of that? Wouldn't more people go to church? Wouldn't people talk about Jesus more publicly? Wouldn't our politics be more compassionate and loving? I see none of these things, but we're supposed to be a Christian nation.
The reality is, of course, that we're not a Christian nation. I mean, not in the sense that we are a nation which takes Christianity seriously, and the studies noted in the above linked essay puts this thought on some fairly solid ground: people say in polls, again and again, that they go to church every Sunday, but deeper studies find that most people are straight up lying about their church attendance. After all, religious belief doesn't amount to much if it's not paired with action. And going to church is an action we usually associate with belief in Yahweh, the Christian God. Sure, it's possible, I suppose, to be a rabid believer, one of the fearless faithful, without going to church. But it just seems so odd that so many people who self-identify as Christian sleep in on Sunday morning. And then lie about it for anonymous polls, which is also decidedly non-Christian behavior.
So we have this strange dynamic. Millions of Americans insist that they're Christians, but don't act like it at all. Christian politicians legislate policy from a seemingly Christian perspective--indeed, you can't be elected dog catcher in this country if you don't express deep loyalty to Christ. But many of these same politicians end up being caught with their hands in the cookie jar, or, as the case may be, with their dicks inside a male prostitute. All of these politicians push legislation that is harmful to the poor. Athletes, singers, and other celebrities give thanks to Jesus when they accept their honors at awards banquets. It's all Jesus Jesus Jesus. But only a fifth of the population actually goes to church on a regular basis. And a whole lot less than that seemingly even attempt to live their lives in emulation of their Lord.
Clearly, as the excerpt above asserts, Christianity is part of the American identity, as a concept, or a symbol, but definitely not in any real philosophical way. And I don't really know why that's the case, either.
But, make no mistake, this is a problem. Lip-service Christianity has taken us down some very dangerous paths. It has allowed the "abstinence based" sex ed people to effectively put an end to real sex education. It has ferociously chipped away at abortion rights. It has given theological cover for xenophobia, homophobia, Muslim hatred, war mongering, and bizarre attitudes about global warming--throw in some "prosperity gospel" and you also have cover for fucking the poor and rewarding the rich. Being a Christian nation, in name only, is not some benign identity thing. It's downright harmful.
Actually, we might be better off in many ways if America really was a Christian nation. At least we'd try to care for the poor and the sick.
Posted by Ron at 2:26 AM
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
THE NUGE IS A BIG FUCKING IDIOT NAZI
From Media Matters for America, courtesy of Eschaton:
Ted Nugent's History Of Inflammatory Rhetoric
In his latest Washington Times column, Ted Nugent suggested that the Democratic Party is a "modern-day slave master" to low-income Americans. This is just the latest in Nugent's long history of violent and inflammatory rhetoric that has often targeted President Obama and other Democrats, as well as gays, Muslims, and environmental activists.
Nugent further wrote that "[i]f the NBA had any true gay convictions, the NBA should host a Homosexual Night" during which "homosexuals could come down on the court, hold hands and prance around the court to music by the Village People. The NBA could then give each homosexual a pink basketball as a symbol of solidarity." [The Washington Times, 4/19/11]
In a March 21 Washington Times column, Nugent claimed America should not intervene in the "Dark Continent" of Africa because no country there "truly respects freedom or the rule of law." Nugent claimed, "Once we swat one of these African cockroaches or intervene in their civil war, where do we stop?"
In a January 13 Washington Times column, Nugent wrote that "[i]n the wake of violence perpetrated by a Tucson lunatic, liberals and others who should know better are calling for political rhetoric to be toned down." He later declared, "I say conservatives should turn up the rhetoric," and that "[o]nly softheaded, feel-good fantasizers from the cult of denial could believe that toning down the political rhetoric will somehow keep lunatics from doing loony things."
Like the loudmouthed drunken good old boy down at the local watering hole mouthing off on topics he is obviously unqualified to think about, let alone discuss, Ted Nugent is a stupid fucking moron who only merits attention because he was famous forty years ago for five minutes. The nicest thing I can say about him is that he is just about the best candidate I've ever seen for a frontal lobotomy. Which probably wouldn't reduce his IQ all that much, anyway.
Usually, because his entire purpose in life appears to be annoying civilized people, I just try to ignore the Nuge, which is difficult enough what with the way he runs his mouth nonstop. But from time to time, I do like to go on the record to state that Ted Nugent is an utter imbecile who should have either been aborted before he was born, or had his brains bashed out as an infant on rocks near the river by his embarrassed and disgraced parents. Actually, I prefer the latter option. Unfortunately, neither of those two scenarios came to pass, and so we instead have to endure the philosophy and witticisms of a guy who really should have ended up pumping gas for a living.
Oh well. Life isn't always pleasant.
Fuck you Ted Nugent. The idiot asshole jocks I put up with in middle and high school were smarter, classier, and more nuanced and sophisticated than you could ever even contemplate. I prefer dog shit smeared on my face to hearing your racist, homophobic, and xenophobic drivel, not to mention your utterly derivative arena rock vomit. And, oh yeah, "Cat Scratch Fever" is a blatant and uninspired ripoff of Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water."
How could rock and roll go so wrong?
Posted by Ron at 1:07 AM
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Monday, July 18, 2011
Liberal group threatens to pull Obama support
From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution courtesy of Digg:
About a dozen people representing the Progressive Change Campaign Committee delivered what they said were 200,000 pledges from people who will refuse to donate or volunteer for Obama's re-election campaign if he cuts the entitlement programs.
"It's not a question of who they're going to support for president, they're going to vote for Barack Obama. It's a question of where their time and money is going to go," spokesman T. Neil Sroka said.
Obama has been taking heat from the left over the debt ceiling negotiations, in which he has been willing to target the long-standing programs. His approach is certain to sit better with independent voters, many of whom have told pollsters they want Washington politicians to work together to solve the big problems.
Sroka said the 200,000 people represent more than $17 million in donations to Obama's campaign in 2008 and about 2.6 million volunteer hours.
Okay, this is good news.
Actually, I've been waiting for something like this for years. I'm not really going to get my hopes up yet, though. What liberals desperately need to understand is that guys like Obama are not on their side. Indeed, most of the Democratic Party is not on their side, and it's high time to cut and run to see what we can do on our own. I mean, as you know, after feeling like a fool for allowing myself to be talked into voting for Kerry back in 2004, I vowed to never vote for the Democrats unless and until they start acting like a liberal party--since then they've only moved further to the right.
But like I said, one group does not a changing tide make. It's a start, yes, but I still get the sense that most American liberals continue to tribally identify with the Democrats, and it's going to take more than Obama's now characteristic throwing of the left under the bus to rile them enough to flex their muscles.
What will it take? Hell if I know. Extending the Patriot Act didn't do it. Continuing the Middle East wars didn't do it. Handing over hundreds of billions of tax payer dollars without strings to the banksters who nearly toppled the economy didn't do it. Mandating that citizens directly fork over hundreds of billions to private health insurance corporations didn't do it. Making sweet love to BP didn't do it. And offering the Republicans steep cuts in Democratic self-identifying cornerstone programs Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security doesn't seem to have done the trick, either.
Maybe liberals just like to be in abusive relationships. I don't know. It'll probably take news footage of Obama along these lines to turn it around:
Posted by Ron at 1:07 AM
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Palin movie debuts to an audience of empty seats
From Salon courtesy of Digg:
The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf found himself one of the only viewers at a late night debut of "The Undefeated" in Orange County, California. Four other people joined him in the audience, including a brother and sister who stumbled upon the viewing when they were unable to get Harry Potter tickets and then left after 20 minutes.
This is really f'ing funny. Palin has proven herself irresistible to television newsers. She's controversial. She's attractive. Everything the media love to swarm. She's successfully created a brand the entertainment corporations just have to run with. Unfortunately for her, and for the mass media, too, nobody really gives a shit. I mean, if she can't get a full house in fucking Orange County fer chrissakes, she can't get a full house anywhere. And this isn't even about filling a theater: nobody was there. Ha! Nobody!
This is refreshing. Fools may be running the House right now, talking up a storm on the idiot box shows every evening, but when it comes to getting off your ass and taking in a movie about one of your presumed heroes, the nazis just aren't showing up.
Maybe they'll stay home come election time, too.
Posted by Ron at 11:10 PM
Friday, July 15, 2011
How Kroger Is Socially Conditioning You
From Eat the State courtesy of Dr. Menlo:
They hate people so much that they are quietly socially conditioning the populace and union-busting at the same time. I am talking, of course, about auto-checkout machines.
Listen, do you get extra money for checking out your own purchases? No, you do not. By opting in to do this task yourself, you are letting Kroger use less actual manpower, and they get to pocket the difference. You are doing their work for them. They are punking you like a real sucker.
When you go to a restaurant, do you go back into the kitchen and cook the food yourself? When you go to a movie theatre, do you go into the projection booth to start the movie, only after using their popcorn popper to make your popcorn?
But Kroger wants this group mental mind shift to be as innocuous as possible, so they quietly herd people like sheep.
Yeah, this is at the Winn-Dixie, too, which is where I shop now, but back in Houston I was a regular Kroger guy, and I still very much remember what I thought when they first introduced these automatic checkers: this is an uncompensated transfer of cost to me, the consumer. Sure, yeah, it was a bit fun at first, playing with the technology, figuring it all out, but it got boring fast, and it always takes longer than when you have one of the professionals doing it. Especially when something scans incorrectly, or the weight gauge in the bagging area malfunctions. You've always got to wait for the monitor person to come over, swipe their card, push some buttons, etc. Checking out is something of a hassle now, and an even bigger hassle later in the evening when they've shut down all the human run checkout stands.
Indeed, a year or two ago at the Winn-Dixie, during a late night rush, I had the woman behind me aggressively "offering" to check my groceries ostensibly because she "used to be a checker," but really because she was short tempered about the fact that she had to wait in line. I told her I was fine on my own. I thought about telling her the real problem wasn't me; the real problem is the company eliminating the jobs of people who used to do the same thing for us, efficiently and competently, for free. Instead, I kept my mouth shut. Others behind her were grumbling, too. Closest thing to a consumer riot I've ever seen.
The other day, I watched a great Q&A session with Noam Chomsky on democracy and public universities, and he kept hitting on the notion of economic "efficiency." Generally, "efficiency" means efficient for a given business, not the overall economy, not consumers, not the general welfare, not workers. So from that point of view, these automated checkout stations are very efficient indeed; they've replaced countless workers and saved the grocery stores using them lots and lots of overhead. But it's not very efficient for me, and you, too, for that matter. Actually, as currently configured, the only people they're efficient for are the people who own the stores. They've successfully transferred some of their labor costs to their customers. And hardly anybody has complained about it.
I try not to think about it too much, but when I do it's like somebody taking their "fuck you" finger and ramming it onto the bridge of my nose. Fucking capitalists.
Posted by Ron at 1:56 AM
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Greed, Excess and America's Gaping Class Divide
From Matt Taibbi's blog over at Rolling Stone, courtesy of digg:
All of this is a testament to the amazing (and rapidly expanding) cultural divide that exists in this country, where the poor and the rich seldom cross paths at all, and the rich, in particular, simply have no concept what being broke and poor really means. It is true that if you make $300,000 in America, you won't feel like you're so very rich once you get finished paying your taxes, your mortgage, your medical bills and so on.
For this reason, a lot of people who make that kind of money believe they are the modern middle class: house in the burbs, a car, a kid in college, a trip to Europe once a year, what's the big deal? They'd be right, were it not for the relative comparison -- for the fact that out there, in that thin little ithsmus between the Upper East Side and Beverly Hills, things are so fucked that public school teachers and garbagemen making $60k with benefits are being targeted with pitchfork-bearing mobs as paragons of greed and excess. Wealth, in places outside Manhattan, southern California, northern Virginia and a few other locales, is rapidly becoming defined as belonging to anyone who has any form of job security at all. Any kind of retirement plan, or better-than-minimum health coverage, is also increasingly looked at as an upper-class affectation.
That the Tea Party and their Republican allies in congress have so successfully made government workers with their New Deal benefits out to be the kulak class of modern America says a lot about the unique brand of two-way class blindness we have in this country. It's not just that the rich don't know the poor exist, and genuinely think a half a million a year is "not a lot of money," as one "compensation consultant" told the New York Times after the crash.
It also works the other way -- the poor have no idea what real rich people are like. They apparently never see them, which is why the political champions of middle America are at this very minute campaigning in congress to extract more revenue from elderly retirees and broke-ass students while simultaneously fighting to preserve a slew of tax loopholes for the rich, including the carried-interest tax break that allows hedge fund billionaires to pay about half the tax rate of most Americans
It really bugs me whenever right-wingers dismiss liberal observations that the wealthy are really screwing up the nation with responses along the lines of "Well that's just class warfare." Never mind the fact that the rich have been waging class warfare continuously since the founding of the republic. Never mind the fact that the rich are almost always winning the class warfare they wage. Never mind the fact that the poor, working, and middle classes almost never fight back. What really bugs me is that such statements actually have resonance across the American class spectrum. That is, it is as though Americans actually believe that America really is a nation without economic class, taking something that was a goal of some of the founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson for one, and simply believing it to be reality.
Of course, anybody who reads a newspaper can see that we are not a classless society, if they choose to see it; sadly, all too many of us prefer the fiction over the reality. And this really serves greatly the interests of the super-wealthy who own and operate the country. I mean, if you refuse to acknowledge that this nation has great wealth disparity, that such disparity not only impoverishes millions, but also radically undermines our democratic system, and you consequently tend to sympathize with the amazingly rich as though they lived down the block from you, then the political battle is all but over. The rich have won our hearts and minds.
Like that great Baudelaire quote that "the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn't exist," the greatest trick the wealthy ever pulled was convincing Americans that we're all in this together. Obviously, we are not all in this together, and it will become increasingly clear in the years to come as ten percent unemployment becomes the new normal, the super-wealthy retreat into their plush gated and security guarded enclaves, crime skyrockets, resources and food become ever more scarce, and we become essentially a banana republic third world nation.
As victors over a conquered people, the monied class warriors will dance and drink and rape on top of our misery.
Hey, as long as I'm comparing the wealthy to the devil, it's as good a time as any to dust off this fine passage from the Bible (Mark 10: 17-25):
17And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?That's right. Personal wealth is so immoral that no less than Jesus himself asserted that you cannot go to Heaven if you are wealthy. Hey, I totally agree, myself, but this is Jesus H. Christ here! Everybody should take him seriously. And what the fuck is up with all this "prosperity gospel" shit anyway? Like I said, it's actually the wealthy who wage class warfare, continuously, and they've pretty much already won: Jesus, the pauper-god who angrily threw the money changers out of the temple, is now an infomercial bauble hawker adored by millions.
18And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
19Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.
20And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
21Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
22And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
23And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
24And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!
25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
Posted by Ron at 12:40 AM
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Police reports show different side of Michele Bachmann
From the Miami Herald courtesy of the Huffington Post news wire:
She and her staff over the years have requested police protection or investigations when her house was egged; when protesters threw glitter on her or held up critical signs; when her campaign yard signs were stolen; when a man wrote an email perceived as a threat; and when she screamed that two women were holding her hostage “against my will” in a city hall restroom.
The series of police reports from the Stillwater Police Department and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota show a side of a candidate rarely seen on the campaign trail, where Bachmann has described herself as having a "titanium spine."
Bachmann’s campaign and congressional offices wouldn’t comment, but her fellow Minnesota Republicans say they’re not surprised by the reports.
“Michele Bachmann is someone who tells it like it is with the courage of her convictions,” said Tony Sutton, state chairman of Republican Party of Minnesota. “There will be people on the other side who will react in an inappropriate that way. There are a lot of liberals who can’t cope with the fact that she’s an outspoken conservative who sticks by her guns.”
But those who have been a target of her calling the cops say Bachmann doesn’t walk the talk.
“She seems paranoid,” said Brad Trandem, a Lakeland, Minn. resident who excoriated Bachmann in an email this year, only to face investigators. “She does all this criticism of other people’s lives and talks about how people should be ‘armed and dangerous.’ But then someone says something critical about her and she calls the police.”
Hmmm. Extraordinarily misleading title. I'd say that such behavior shows pretty much the same side of Michele Bachmann we've been seeing for some years now. I mean, she is, after all, the woman who said:
"I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out: Are they pro-America or anti-America?"And who said:
"There are hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel Prizes, who believe in intelligent design."And who said:
"If we took away the minimum wage -- if conceivably it was gone -- we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level."And a whole lot of other nutty shit, too.
Really, such paranoia on her part isn't so strange. If you're constantly mouthing off with total bullshit that you expect everyone to believe, and get pissed off when people, understandably, don't believe, then, well, you're probably going to be pissed off more often than not. And this is not an unheard of dynamic: Fox News Butthole Bill O'Reilly acts like this all the fucking time. I mean, I've never heard of him calling the cops the way tiddy baby Bachmann does, but he does freak out a lot when people challenge his bullshit.
Remember son of 9/11 victim Jeremy Glick? Check it out:
Anyway, Bachmann's running to the cops for trivial crap comes as no surprise. This is a known right-wing personality type, authoritarian, angry, bullying. Certainly not all conservatives are like this, but plenty of them are, and Bachmann is definitely on of them.
In short, she's a stupid butthole, just like O'Reilly.
Posted by Ron at 12:48 AM
Monday, July 11, 2011
Nine Out of Ten Climate Denying Scientists Have Ties to Exxon Mobil Money
From Good courtesy of Digg:
Recently, you've also almost definitely seen links to this website—"900+ Peer-Reviewed Papers Supporting Skepticism of "Man-Made" Global Warming (AGW) Alarm"—created by the Global Warming Policy Foundation.
The problem is, of the top ten contributors of articles to that list, nine are financially linked to Exxon Mobil. Carbon Brief, which examined the list in detail, explains:
Once you crunch the numbers, however, you find a good proportion of this new list is made up of a small network of individuals who co-author papers and share funding ties to the oil industry. There are numerous other names on the list with links to oil-industry funded climate sceptic think-tanks, including more from the International Policy Network (IPN) and the Marshall Institute.It's well worth reading the rest of the Carbon Brief analysis. According to the GWPF, the purpose of the post is to "provide a resource for peer-reviewed papers that support skepticism of AGW or AGW Alarm and to prove that these papers exist contrary to widely held beliefs." It's true that supporters of real climate science too often trot out the "peer-review" argument. While an essential cornerstone of science, peer-review "is not foolproof," as the founders of Real Climate explained a long while back.
Compiling these lists is dramatically different to the process of producing IPCC reports, which reference thousands of scientific papers. The reports are thoroughly reviewed to make sure that the scientific work included is relevant and diverse.
Facebook, amazingly enough, is good for something. After I found this article on Digg, I immediately posted it on fb, and quickly got into some rousing debate with my older brother on the topic--here's the link if you're already "friends" with me there. Generally, I really like arguments because you learn more about your own position if it's not just mud slinging and being an asshole. My older brother is really sharp. I mean, I disagree with him on many issues, but discussing this article with him forced me to refine my point of view:
It's not that oil industry funded research somehow biases the scientific work. Rather, it's that the oil industry finds scientists who are already on the fringe and then uses its vast resources to magnify what is decidedly such a minority position that it might as well be incorrect into something that looks like it's worth using in the public discourse. That is, scientists who are global warming skeptics are a tiny minority, and, even though they pursue their research in good faith, the debate is over--they lost. But the oil industry, and plenty of like-minded conservatives, cannot possibly accept this outcome, so they keep on fighting for a lost cause. Because public debate is much more slippery than scientific research, bringing in scientific views which have been rejected by the vast majority of climatologists, and then calling these views "peer reviewed" even though it's not really "peers" doing the reviewing, confuses the political discussion just enough to make a dangerous point of view seem somehow reasonable.
I mean, science isn't nearly as messy as political debate, but then it's not as tidy and neat as people want it to be. Remember from grade school how science works at its most philosophical level: observe, hypothesize, experiment, repeat ad nauseum until you're ready to submit your findings to the greater scientific community; then everybody else does the same thing a billion times until you've achieved such massive consensus that the vast majority of scientists is ready to call your findings a fact. And that's essentially what we have with the notion of man made global warming. The vast majority of climatologists regard it as a fact, but there are still a few holdouts--these holdouts aren't fucking around; they just disagree with pretty much all their peers. Indeed, there are still some scientists who doubt evolution for whatever reasons, but that doesn't stop evolution from being the organizing principle behind all of biology.
So there are a few tiny "holes" that come with science, a minuscule little bit of uncertainty always there that's just part of how science functions as a philosophy for understanding physical reality. This is no big deal to scientists. It's just how things work. But this aspect of science, that there's always a very small bit of doubt, has, for the science of climate change, been taken and blown up into an enormous political fiction by forces that have a major interest in the science being proven wrong. And because most Americans don't remember their grade school lessons on the scientific method, or, at least, are unable to apply such knowledge to the world in which they live as adults, people get genuinely confused.
But make no mistake: man made global warming is a fact. There is no real debate on this issue. Not now. Not for at least a decade, if not more. What debate exists in the public realm is nothing but an exercise in rhetoric that serves to delay action until it is too late.
Actually, I think they've succeeded in doing just that. I think it's too late. I think we're fucked.
Posted by Ron at 11:00 PM
June's Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Jobs Report
From the American Prospect:
According to the actual jobs report, the economy added 18,000 jobs and the unemployment rate rose to 9.2 percent. Employment in most private-sector industries was stagnant, and public-sector employment dipped down, with a total loss of 39,000 jobs. Unemployment for blacks and Latinos remained at a respective 16.2 percent and 11.6 percent, and 272,000 people dropped out of the labor force and thus out of the calculation for unemployment – keeping the overall rate lower when it should be a bit higher. Finally, as icing on the cake, job growth for May was revised down from 54,000 to an abysmal 25,000 jobs created.
In a sane country, a jobs report like this would send lawmakers into a deep panic as they scrambled to do something for the growing mass of unemployed people. As it stands, Democratic lawmakers aren’t willing to expend energy on new efforts to reduce unemployment, and Republican lawmakers have staked their ground against federally funded job creation. Instead, the entire political class is trapped in a fantasy world where deficits are the greatest threat to the health of our republic, and spending cuts are the necessary cure. Even President Obama has taken leave of reality; in his most recent weekly radio address, the ostensibly Democratic president endorsed the worst of right-wing economic fallacies:
Government has to start living within its means, just like families do. We have to cut the spending we can’t afford so we can put the economy on sounder footing, and give our businesses the confidence they need to grow and create jobs.More here.
So things aren't getting better. Things aren't going to get better because all of Washington is headed in the opposite direction. That is, our leaders are hell-bent to make things worse.
A few notes about the notion of unemployment:
The rate of job creation has to keep a certain pace in order to simply keep up with population growth. Because a number of new workers enter the economy every month, and eighteen thousand new jobs doesn't even come close to employing the people who are already in the economy but not working, cutting government spending, which necessarily entails cutting government jobs and private contractors, does nothing but compound the problem.
We're going backwards. But wait. It's actually worse than you think. Remember that unemployment numbers are massaged by two important glossings-over: official jobless statistics don't count people who have stopped looking for work, usually due to despair; official jobless statistics don't count people who are working, but for well below the pay that their skill sets earned from previous jobs, you know, accountants working as cashiers at Walgreen's and the like. In short, the 9.2 percent figure makes it look like only a tenth of Americans are desperate: indeed, when you add in people who aren't looking for work anymore and people who have taken shit jobs just to keep a roof over their heads, the real number likely doubles the "official" number, as this report from last year suggests. It's more like eighteen percent unemployment, a fucking fifth of the population in dire straits.
So the government not only isn't going to do anything about it, but they're also working hard to make it much, much worse. All for fixing the deficit. But guess what? When people don't work, they're not paying taxes. That means unemployment makes deficit spending worse. Indeed, the biggest factor running up the deficit recently is, you guessed it, unemployment. And it has a sort of magnification factor. Out of work people not only don't pay taxes: they also buy a whole hell of a lot less stuff. And when people are buying less stuff, business must necessarily scale down and lay off workers, who, as the new jobless, don't pay taxes, either. Furthermore, when businesses are selling less, they are necessarily making less profit, which, in turn, means that they're paying less taxes. Suddenly, the government is having to borrow much more simply to keep up the spending they're already doing.
In short, what we need to do, to both reign in the deficit, and put people back to work is, well, put people back to work. But no one in Washington is even considering this. Welcome to the continuing collapse, compounded and abetted by our wise leaders.
Really, we're ruled by fucktards. I mean, it's pretty sick and twisted that I, a humble restaurant server, get this shit better than most of the political class. We should all be very afraid.
Posted by Ron at 1:06 AM
Saturday, July 09, 2011
Bad Teacher and Why We Need Her
From CounterPunch, a counterintuitive look at the new movie Bad Teacher:
Cameron Diaz is the bad teacher and she’s very funny. She went into teaching for “all the right reasons,” like summers off. In fact, the best teachers I know say that helped motivate them and I don’t see what’s bad about it: everyone deserves decent holidays. Nor how it differs from CEOs getting bonuses for making profits or athletes for making the playoffs. Oops, is that the problem?
She yearns for a boob job so she can snag a rich husband in a singles bar and quit teaching, but it costs too much. She doesn’t know her kids’ names (“You and you: hold that girl.”) Then she finds out there’s a big money prize for the teacher whose students score best on statewide tests so she steals the test, gives her students the answers, and wins the money.
I ask you: Is this an attack on teachers? No, it’s an attack on the rotten system that overstresses test results and undermines real teaching, as if education is a competitive marketplace like the stock exchange that you can quantify in numbers and dollars. It’s satire, stupid. It’s in the tradition of classical theatre like Molière’s plays in the 1600s. He wrote about religious hypocrites and inept doctors to expose the forces that produced and encouraged them. He portrayed his targets in order to dissect them. I’ve always felt the best U.S. sitcoms, from Mary Tyler Moore to Two and a Half Men, are Molière’s equal. Try the episode where Charlie’s family has dinner at his housekeeper, Berta’s, for a brilliant comedy of manners. Bad Teacher is big-screen sitcom.
Positive or inspirational films tend to be boring and to leave you (or at least, me) feeling manipulated. That warm gooey feeling is also slimy.
I really need to see this one. The previews I saw a few weeks back looked funny, but what really stood out is that the Cameron Diaz character didn't appear to be too terribly different from how I was when I was teaching. I mean, wildly exaggerated, of course, but I felt some kinship with the notion of the regular ordinary adult person who has utter contempt for the authoritarian and anti-educational culture and organizational structure of the public school system. Sure, her character probably differs from me in that, I'm assuming, she couldn't care less about her students' educational welfare, but like the above excerpt asserts, it is very nice indeed to see such an assault on the system brought to life on the big screen.
That is, I very much like the idea of a contemptible person trying to survive the contemptible system we call "school." Kind of like School of Rock. I'd throw in Dead Poets Society, too, but the Robin Williams guy really appears to be a paragon of virtue in addition to being a rabble-rouser. I could be wrong about all this, of course; Bad Teacher could be without any redeeming qualities at all.
But I don't think so. Maybe I'll check this out on Monday.
Posted by Ron at 9:39 PM
Friday, July 08, 2011
"ONE FOR YOU, NINETEEN FOR ME"
And no, this isn't about taxes.
88% of Post-Recovery Income Growth Has Gone to Corporations, Just 1% to Workers
It’s going to the pocketbooks of the richest of the rich. The Guardian reports: “The globe’s richest have now recouped the losses they suffered after the 2008 banking crisis. They are richer than ever, and there are more of them — nearly 11 million — than before the recession struck.” According to the annual world wealth report by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini, the wealth of high net worth individuals — those who have more than $1 million in free cash — rose nearly 10% last year and surpassed 2007’s peak of $40.7 trillion, topping out at $42.7 trillion. It was even better for “ultra-high net worth individuals,” those with $30 million to spare, as their numbers surged by 10% and the total value of their investments rose by 11.5% to $15 trillion.
Where is it not going? To wages and salaries. As compared to corporate profits, household incomes only saw 1% of the $528 billion in national income growth, or $7 billion. The NYTimes reports, “The share of income growth going to employee compensation was far lower than in the four other economic recoveries that have occurred over the last three decades.” In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that average real hourly earnings declined by 1.1% percent from the beginning of the recovery to May 2011. This comes on top of the fact that real wages have been faring worse in the last ten years than during the Great Depression — incomes fell by almost five percent and wages barely budged. These facts don’t escape the public. In a recent poll by Democracy Corp, 43% of likely voters said that either they or someone in their family had experienced “reduced wages, hours or benefits at work” in the last year.
The conventional wisdom embraced by the entire Republican Party and most of the Democratic Party: grow the economy by favoring business with laws, lower taxes, and loose regulations, and this will result in increased hiring, and higher wages and benefits--legislatively favoring business over workers is the same thing as favoring workers. President Kennedy summed it up this way, "a rising tide lifts all the boats."
The reality: it's their fucking money, so why in hell should they ever give it to you?
Actually, that's not even the reality. It's your money, too. After all, without your work, they couldn't possibly be so productive. I mean, it's very nice and all to own all that capital, to own the businesses, but none of it would amount to jack shit if they didn't have workers to make it happen. Of course, you'd never get the capitalist class to admit this because if they did their whole concept of the "labor market," you know, the market that buys and sells human labor, that is, human fucking beings, and which ostensibly dictates what a fair wage is for a given job, would be severely compromised, and they'd have to start paying wages more in keeping with the fact that workers, like capitalists, create great wealth, too.
Did you get that? Workers, in association with capitalists, create wealth. All wealth. That's why labor strikes are so effective; they expose the fact that without workers capitalists are nothing. But the way our society is set up completely ignores this. In our society, capitalists and only capitalists create wealth, and workers are lucky to be along for the ride. It's total bullshit, of course, but that's what Americans believe. Consequently, overall wealth growth goes not to us, but to the people who own and operate the nation, the wealthy elite and their corporations.
Meanwhile, rent costs go up. Health care costs rise. Fuel and power bills increase. But our wages stay the same, even regressing. In essence, they're squeezing blood from a stone, and doing quite well with it.
There are several ways of dealing with this. We can tax the fuck out of the rich and spend the money on numerous social welfare programs to make up the difference. Or we can give enforcement teeth to already existing labor law and unions can force business to fork over what workers are actually owed. Or a combination of both. Unfortunately, the wealthy elite and the corporations own the government. So none of this will ever happen.
Posted by Ron at 12:23 AM
Thursday, July 07, 2011
Shed family say poverty cost them their kids
From the Houston Chronicle:
Inside the 12-by-25-foot shed are hand-built shelves where children's clothes are folded neatly next to canned goods, boxes of cereal and a stack of family photos. On another shelf, beside two king-size beds, textbooks lie next to board games.
Despite the cramped conditions, it overflows with love, said Charlomane Leonard, 35, as she stood in front of the shed that she, her husband, Prince Leonard, and six children have called home for years.
"That's what makes it comfortable," she said.
But to Child Protective Services, the shed is an unsafe environment for the children. After receiving a phone call about the Leonards' living conditions, agency caseworkers removed the couple's children last month.
The Leonards said their children were safe and happy and felt they were targeted by the agency because they are poor.
CPS spokeswoman Gwen Carter said poverty was not an issue and that the agency does not remove children from their parents' custody based on the family's economic circumstances, but on other factors such as unsafe living environments, abuse and neglect.
While it's small and can seem crowded, the Leonards said the storage shed is the safest place they've lived in a long time. Prince Leonard said management is aware the family lives there, as are others who rent space at the facility.
"No one can get in and no one can get out without the remote," Charlomane Leonard, a stay-at-home mom, said as she pointed to the automatic gate at the front entry.
The couple said they have done their best to turn the shed into a suitable living environment for their children — Sabrina, 12; Prince Leonard II, 10; Raheem, 8; Saleem, who turns 7 today; Abdullah, 4; and 2-year-old Jamil.
Prince Leonard built all the shelving and a makeshift loft. There's a refrigerator, an air conditioner and wood-burning heater. On land behind the storage units, the children and their mother plant a garden every summer, harvesting squash, tomatoes, okra and peppers.
Lacking in the shed is running water, but Prince Leonard fills a 55-gallon barrel daily from a spigot at the end of the storage lot so the family can take baths. They fill jugs of drinking water at grocery stores and use a "compost" toilet, Charlomane Leonard said.
Without addressing whether CPS is doing the right thing here, it is impossible for me not to note that such a story is an unpleasant reminder of one of the many reasons I'm a liberal.
In a country as rich as ours, a country that can spend hundreds of billions destroying and killing Muslims abroad for years and years, a country that rewards the bankers who nearly ruined our economy with hundreds of billions in bailout money, a country that hands over by way of mandate hundreds of billions of citizens' dollars to private health insurance companies, which may or may not provide adequate health care for such extortion, a country that refuses to tax the wealthy elitists who sit on the lion's share of our bounty, nobody, nobody, should have to live in a shed, no matter how nice or safe it is.
This situation simply should not exist.
Republicans and Libertarians falsely justify our tolerating this bullshit by attacking the poor, calling them stupid, or lazy, or both, or even daring to suggest that they actually drive Cadillacs while getting fat on food stamps. Democrats like to talk the talk but do nothing. Same difference. So-called Christians disqualify themselves from using the word for self-identification by doing nothing. Or, at least, what charitable efforts they do make amount to nothing in the long run, except for the self-aggrandizement and satisfaction that comes from tossing a few dollars in the direction of the poor, who remain poor because charity cannot change the unjust and entrenched economic system that guarantees chronic poverty.
Only the government has the power to end such injustice. Indeed, we've done some good on this front before: LBJ's Great Society programs went a long way toward reducing poverty, but they hit a massive road block in the Reagan era, when the Gipper successfully introduced racism to America's conceptualization of poverty. Sure, there were problems with housing projects and such, but that's a reason to reform and retool, not to give up.
It makes me sick to my stomach that poverty is not the number one priority for this nation. Indeed, it is our great moral failing as a people that we do not emulate Jesus by embracing his profound compassion for the poor. Some Christian nation we are.
Posted by Ron at 1:19 AM
Wednesday, July 06, 2011
But what I am constantly amazed at is how these "patriotic" holidays are observed ONLY by honoring the military. What about other people who have more directly defended our liberties, such as civil rights lawyers and the parties in civil rights cases, and, yes, even the parties and lawyers in criminal procedure cases?
These people often fight without fanfare, alone, and even as outcasts. Ultimately, though, they fight for all Americans' freedom from oppression.
Many Americans don't seem to know that the Constitution protects our rights from infringement by OUR GOVERNMENT. The right of free speech, religious freedoms, freedom from unreasonable search, etc., are rights the Constitution keeps our government from infringing.
The Constitution wasn't written to limit other governments, or private parties.
Sure, the military protects our borders, but we have not been under the danger of enslavement by a foreign power for years (yes, due in part to our powerful military). But whether we have freedom inside our borders is not entirely up to the military.
Yes, yes, we need a military to defend our nation from potential invasion, yadda yadda. Everyone gets that. Everyone gets war, fighting, violence, victory. After all, war is a favorite subject for Hollywood movies and video games. We're continually deluged by WWII images, Vietnam, too, if only to show what happens when the American people don't have enough bloodlust, you know Forrest Gump, Rambo, and on and on. War is easy to conceptualize, and we conceptualize it all day long, every day of the year.
What's harder to conceptualize is freedom and democracy. It's harder still when the notion of "freedom" is conceptually tied to war--that is, "freedom" is what happens after you've kicked the other guy's ass, not an abstract notion played out in the real world in countless ways that matter to countless people, at home, at work, on the street, in the alleys. The public schools have profoundly failed us. We have a citizenry that has very little working knowledge of what the word "freedom" means, at least in terms of American history. And without such knowledge, Americans are totally vulnerable to jingoist false equivalencies between freedom and the armed forces.
Indeed, for the last decade or so, this nation has been descending into a culture of military fetish. Since 9/11, we've watched as any latent cultural notions about our country being populated by builders and thinkers were replaced by our new self-image as a warrior people, even though the vast majority of us don't serve at all. I mean, it probably goes back to post-Vietnam WWII glorification as a sort of politically driven psychic salve, but it kicked into overdrive once Bush was in office. Now "freedom" means "war."
I, for one, don't accept this. Being warriors is only a part time job for the American people. Our full time job is continuing to figure out how to be the greatest nation in history, building, researching, contemplating, caring, loving. War doesn't simply get in the way of our full time job. Rather, it's a total disaster for our full time job. It drains resources and makes us bloodthirsty. I'm not saying we should avoid it at all costs--we must, after all be realistic.
But war is truly the worst case scenario. I'm all for honoring the men and women to whom we must resort as a last ditch effort, but we really ought not confuse them and what they do with the principles and culture for which they do it. That is, the military does not equal freedom. They protect it when it is necessary. But they aren't what makes us great.
Posted by Ron at 12:00 AM