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Social Wealthism Dec 13th, 2008 8:52:22 pm - Subscribe
Mood | blogged and critiqued

The economic collapse has been on my mind a great deal lately. I wrote a post debating a slanted anti-labor GOP email sent to me by one of my Good Orange County (CA) Republican [GOC(CA)R] coworkers, but my editor felt that it had too many problems for posting on Blogcritics. First read this post, then read the original here and you can decide if he was right about it.

Meanwhile, back in the reeling world, columnist Robert Scheer has some issues with the Bush administration bank bailout. Scheer defines this Final Bush Days Action as "a betrayal of free-market capitalism". At the same time, Scheer questions (as I do) Obama's selection of so many acolytes of The Great Triangulator, Bill Clinton, for his Cabinet. Scheer asks cogently, "why have a poverty program for troubled corporations?" when instead "we should [extend] health coverage to all Americans".

Might this be why "Joe the Plumber" is bashing John McCain after having campaigned for him? But I digress.

We have the money. All we need do is take it back from those companies which are abusing the bailout. Take AIG (Please!). After receiving more than $152 billion of Your Money, AIG is in the process of snubbing its collective nose at its major shareholder of 79.9 percent of its stock (We, the People - as "represented" by the US Government) as it distributes “cash awards” ranging between $92,500 to $4 million to retain employees whose poor performance put AIG into a de facto receivership while "earning" salaries ranging between $160,000 and $1 million. Per year.

Since I began working in 1965, I reached the $1 million in lifetime earnings just a couple of years ago. I am angry. So are some of our elected representatives, as I caught while a GOC(CA)R was switching channels to watch the History Channel refight WWII again. but none of us is as angry as a group of Chicago workers who borrowed a page from the movie Gung Ho! and took over their plant when their employer shut its doors without meeting the legal requirements of a 60-day notice and payment of earned vacation. The CEO of the company claimed that there was “no choice but to shut our doors” after Bank of America refused a loan due to declining sales right after receiving around $25 billion of Your Money intended to cover such loans to small businesses.

Richard Berg, president of Teamsters Local 743, responded to this fallacy with “If this bailout should go to anything, it should go to the workers of this country.”

Professors Nelson Lichtenstein of UC Santa Barbara and Christopher Phelps declare the national mood is with workers as many American workers are "suffering during a severe recession". President-elect Barack Obama noted that this situation "is reflective of what's happening across this economy."

Maybe because they want to remain on Obama's good side in an attempt to evade reporting on what they ARE doing with their bailout, B of A announced that they would consider figuring out what is owed to the former employees and floating the employer a loan for that amount.

Perhaps only as a gesture of "Up yours, B of A!", JPMorgan Chase & Co - which wrote off last July a $7 million investment in the employer's company along with a $5 million loan and resigned from the board of directors - announced that they offered $400,000 to help settle the debt owed to the laid-off workers. JPMorgan has received $25 billion of Your Money, and I'm sure they also seek to avoid being forced by an increasingly angry Congress to account for it.

But the real issue is what these workers - and the hundreds of thousands of others who have already lost their jobs - are going to do in the future. An emloyee of the Philadelphia chain of GM Dealers operated by the Bergey family explained to Dave Lindorf of BuzzFlash that "There's no problem getting car loans from the small community banks around our dealerships. The problem is that people are too worried about the economy and about their jobs to go out and buy a new car."

In some cases, not being able to buy a car is the least of their worries. Judy and Larry Vardon of the Detroit suburb Oak Park are about to lose their home, which was featured on Extreme Makeover, if Mr. Vardon gets laid off by Chrysler.

Milton and Patricia Harper of Lake City, Ga. are another Extreme Makeover family in danger of losing their home after using it to fund a construction business which failed. JPMorgan Chase put a hold on their foreclosure, but the hold has by now expired and I haven't found any newer news to indicate their fate.

Yet another Extreme Makeover home is in trouble. Sadie Holmes of Altamonte Springs, Fla. is in contention with the city government over numerous code violations, and claims she can't pay both the $29,000 lien the city filed against her property and the $6000 in annual property tax.

These situations have all occured in the recent past, but with the end of the annual holiday of orgiastic materialist expenditure, I expect the major retailers to slash their work forces just as they are currently slashing their prices in a failing attempt to entice us to spend like there's no tomorrow.

In some ways, there won't be, and it may prove necessary for soon-to-be-former Wal-Mart employees to emulate their Chicago bretheren. Wal-Mart - already infamous for abusing their workers and skimming as much of their pay as possible - has again gotten on the wrong side of the law for requiring about 100,000 current and former Wal-Mart employees to work off-the-clock more than 2 million times as far back as 9/11/1998. Wal-Mart has been ordered to provide these Minnesota employees $6.5 million in back pay. They might have been liable for as much as $2 billion in back pay, but the stipulated agreement kept this decision away from a jury fo the employee's peers.

This is only one of more than 70 pending cases against Wal-Mart, according to Bloomberg News.

Before those of you interested in my rejected post traipse off to read it, the situation I present in that post would take place in about another six months and involves someone who is already unemployed as I write today. There is a lot of angry tongue in my cheek, so read it in that context. It might make more sense then.

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The Days of Lines & Bruises Dec 10th, 2008 7:29:24 pm - Subscribe
Mood | Shutdown & Occupied

The following crap I got in an email sent to me by one of my Good Orange County (CA) Republican [GOC(CA)R] coworkers blames the working victims for the callous economic crimes committed against them:

John Smith started the day early having set his alarm clock (MADE IN JAPAN) for 6 am. While his coffeepot (MADE IN CHINA) was perking, he shaved with his electric razor (MADE IN MALAYSIA). He put on a dress shirt (MADE IN SRI LANKA), designer jeans (MADE IN INDONESIA) and tennis shoes (MADE IN VIETNAM).

After cooking his breakfast in his new electric skillet (MADE IN KOREA) he sat down with his calculator (MADE IN TAIWAN) to see how much he could spend today. After setting his watch (MADE IN THAILAND) to the radio (MADE IN MYANMAR) he got in his car (MADE IN GERMANY) filled it with GAS (from Saudi Arabia)
and continued his search for a good paying AMERICAN JOB.

At the end of yet another discouraging and fruitless day checking his Computer (Made In ABU DHABI), Joe decided to relax for a while. He put on his sandals
(MADE IN BRAZIL) poured himself a glass of wine (MADE IN FRANCE) and turned on his TV (MADE IN INDONESIA), and then wondered why he can't find a good paying job in AMERICA.

By shafting the American worker out of his living wage through downsizing, outsourcing, and offshoring, employer executives seek to use these liberated funds to enhance their corporate profitability (and their own compensation packages). After all, the workers grow on trees and will work cheap for bananas. right?

Who cares about the little guy who labored mightily to provide that profitability? The real story goes much more like this:

As John Smith's cost of living rose, his employer decided that it wasn't cost-effective to raise employee wages. The dividend obligations to shareholders had to be met, and the only business cost that wouldn't have a negative repercussion on profits was wages. Thus the employer held the line against requests for raises and other economic relief, such as no increases in health care premiums and copayments. This left their employees with less money to spend on American-made products, but they still had needs that had to be met. The employees had no choice but to buy what they could afford, usually a product that was imported. This meant that the employers sold fewer products in their domestic markets. Lower domestic sales meant lower total revenue, and the executives decided to lower the wages and benefits of their employees while raising the financial obligations those employees already carried to compensate.

This cycle continued for many years, until the loss of domestic sales revenue forced the manufacturers to abandon those employees who had remained loyal and on the job despite what few low raises they were granted over the years. These employees came to work one day, only to be greeted by locked doors and a printed notice with the employment redevelopment office address on it. Not even a kiss after being screwed!

Let's see how this worked out for these newly unemployed after their unemployment benefits had run out:

Rather than shopping at Sharper Image for that new alarm clock (Made in SWITZERLAND) needed to rise early for job hunting, John Smith the former employee had to settle for one purchased from a little KOREAN lady for $2 (collected by recycling discarded aluminum cans) at the swap meet. It went off as he was dreaming of dumpster diving and actually finding something he really needed - and it wasn't rotten or otherwise spoiled! EUREKA!

He was just reaching for his tote bag that he'd found in another dumpster a while back to carry it home and - BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!

Prying his disappointed eyelids apart, Smith desperately needed coffee. But as his coffee pot had broken a while back, he instead heated some water in his grandmother's teapot on his propane grille (which he had picked up at a yard sale with what was left of his last unemployment check) and poured it over some instant coffee (which had only earned the GUATEMALAN a single dollar for a day's bean harvesting) that he bought on sale at the closeout store. He couldn't afford eggs, so he didn't need his mother's old iron frying pan. Besides, it was still in the sink waiting for Smith to buy some dish soap and clean it. Smith could only locate some stale day-old bread and a little greasy peanut butter, which he made do for his breakfast.

Smith needed a new cord for his electric razor, but the model was discontinued when its manufacturer left the country seeking lower-wage workers for higher profits. No replacement cord was available at any price, so he instead used a straight-edge razor that he'd bought from the ILLEGAL ALIEN street vendor who came down his street one day. It didn't cut too badly if one didn't apply too much pressure - and if the peanut butter hadn't dried yet!

Smith didn't bother wearing one of his few remaining interview dress shirts (Made in BANGLADESH for pennies each by an AMERICAN Label) as he didn't want to have to wash them again so soon just to drop off another hundred resumes at the usual locations. The shirts were already getting a bit threadbare, like his sport shoes (made in VIETNAM for pennies each by an AMERICAN label) Smith had bought when he still had a job as an automotive parts assembler (the job got moved to EL SALVADOR by an AMERICAN automaker), and laundry soap didn't grow on trees. Smith needed what little money he still had to cover the cost of paper and printing time tomorrow, so he put on that old team jersey (made in HAITI for pennies each) he'd bought when he could still affort season tickets in the nosebleed section at the stadium, and went out again on his daily errand of constant futility and frequent rejection.

Upon return from his day's travels, Smith found a bank statement in his mailbox. Since he knew there was no money in this account, Smith didn't bother firing up the old calculator (assembled in MEXICO with AMERICAN parts manufactured in INDONESIA, SINGAPORE, MALAYSIA, and INDIA for pennies each) that he got from the bank when he signed up for that adjustable-rate mortgage deal which included a free (at the time) checking account. The checking account had been overdrawn for a long time now, and Smith was sure the latest statement was yet another empty threat to pry blood from the completely squeezed turnip that his life had become. He did wonder briefly if the bank had yet managed to sell the house that was once Smith's after they had foreclosed on him. He stopped making the payments when his job went South. With the Chinese now sniffing around the US for good investment opportunities, Smith thought the bank might finally have a chance at recouping something of their investment in domestic domiciles - if they were even still in business that long. Banks were failing with increasing frequency, and Smith thought he recognized some of the people in line at the employment development office recently as having once been tellers and loan officers.

Smith's feet were sore from walking all day. There was no other option. Not only was there no affordable public transportation, his AMERICAN car needed smog components that cost more than the car was worth before it could be repaired - not that Smith had the funds for that expense. "I should have bought that import like my ex-wife told me to," he mused, remembering THAT car was still purring like a kitten for that ungrateful @#$%^ with minimal maintenance - and still recording lower pollution numbers - than any brand new AMERICAN-labeled "World Car" (created with components that were made and assembled in many nations EXCEPT AMERICA around the world, hence the name) could match. Smith unguardedly began in his mind to read once again that last letter she wrote him, the one that began "Dear John...", but he quickly shook it off. He couldn't afford to waste his time pining away over lost love, and time was of the essence.

Smith needed to know what time it was, but he'd long ago pawned the cheap Timex that he was once given by his former bosses as a production incentive reward. He needed to get to the library to use the free-access computers for checking the resume site for any new interview notices, and to print up a few more copies of his resume for tomorrow's distribution. But since there was a power failure in the building that day (the landlord claimed he couldn't afford AMERICAN ELECTRICIANS, and whoever did do the job didn't do it right), the swap meet alarm clock only flashed "12;00" constantly.

Unsure for sure now that he still had enough time, Smith chugged the remains of a flat Coke (MADE EVERYWHERE) rather than spend the time to make another peanut butter sandwich (assuming that he still had enough edible bread) and raced to the library as fast as his tired feet could fly. The strenuous effort gave him GAS (made in his UNEMPLOYED AMERICAN stomach). but he had to ignore that problem. His medical insurance was canceled even before his employment was, and the Free Clinic had to close due to a loss of funding. All of this effort in behalf of his future employment was for nothing, as the library had a notice taped to the door (made from trees that used to grow in OREGON) that announced that operating hours had been cut due to the recent tax cuts pushed through the legislature by the elected representatives of the state's wealthiest citizens.

Forlorn, our erstwhile employee-errant stopped by the electronics store to watch a few minutes of sports news on the vast selection of foreign-made HD televisions (made for a couple of hundred dollars each in countries which still asked for THOUSANDS of AMERICAN DOLLARS per unit), but the minimum-wage security guards began to gather around him as if Smith was about to steal one. This wasn't going to happen, because the HDTVs weighed much more than someone with only a peanut butter sandwich and some Coke under his belt for the day could manage. And even if Smith was going to steal a TV, he couldn't also take the stand and the heavy power supply modern televisions needed. In fact, it would take an organization of Smiths to achieve the feared action.

But rather than antagonize nervous guys who were unemployed themselves not that long ago, our rejected and dejected citizen left the store and made his way slowly home, once again going over all those lame job hunting and morale-boosting tips Smith had received at the employment seminars he had to attend before the unemployment ran out. Smith tried to remember if the seminars had covered how to deal with those who cut into line instead of waiting their turns like he had to, for he had already decided not to risk losing his straight razor trying to cut their throats in the tussle.

Upon reaching home, with nothing edible left to fill that increasingly empty space beneath his navel, our former member of the middle class took off his old team jersey (made in HAITI for pennies each), and hung it on the chair (scrounged out of a garbage pile left behind after a local eviction) to air out the armpits so he could wear it again tomorrow. After sniffing it, Smith decided that he'd have to wear something else tomorrow.

Smith doffed the sport shoes (made in VIETNAM for pennies each by an AMERICAN label), and noticed that one of his soles had a hole in it. He made a mental note to watch for card stock on the street tomorrow. Old six pack cartons were best. They were made thicker so the beer (made in America by FOREIGN OWNERS who laid off much of their American staff to cover the costs expended in purchasing the American brewer) remained cold longer. This material also resisted dissolving in wet weather, and didn't that weather tease seen just before tonight's sports news segments mention something about rain tomorrow?

Lying down on a mattress (retrieved from another apartment after the tenant abandoned his belongings when he found a girlfriend with a job and her own place), our hero John discovered the eviction notice on his makeshift pillow (made in DESPERATION from his only other pair of pants with the torn crotch stuffed with old newspapers), feeling it crackle loudly beneath his sleepy head before it was seen. The old flashlight (found on the street next to an old abandoned gas can) flickered just long enough for Smith to read "THIRTY DAYS NOTICE..."

Sighing, our hopeful job seeker laid back, entrusted his fate to the deities of the universe, and fell asleep, hoping to dream of better days and munificence instead of trash containers and deprivation.

You guys in the UAW especially need to pay attention to this tale, for it toils for thee. No matter how much of your package Gettelfinger gives away, your jobs are still toast. The Republican party that too many of you voted for over the years are about the stick the stiletto between your clavicles just because you are unionized. Listen especially to Senators Richard Shelby, Bob Corker and Robert Bennett, who are leading the charge to rescue the automakers on the back of your pay scale (even though it isn't going to work). Then get prepared to live like your grandfathers and great-grandfathers did as they chased rumors of jobs across this nation during the Great Depression v1.00.

Just remember - your poor voting choices did this to you.

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Stifling Dissent In Living Color Jul 19th, 2008 6:47:09 pm - Subscribe
Mood | q65

One of the biggest problems the United States has overseas is the dichotomy between what values we preach versus what values we practice, and one of the most blatant examples demonstrating that we don't really walk our talk here in the United States is about to be spewed across television screens all over the world: the major political party conventions.

While too many American citizens are "too busy" following the latest reality and performance contest series to bother with all that "boring political crap" (as one of my Good Orange County (CA) Republican [GOC(CA)R] coworkers recently put it), my research utilizing foreign media sources tells me that the world is very interested in our politics. As the US military is based in something like 700 bases in over 130 countries, and as US corporate interests infest the remainder under the protection of US-paid and trained military forces designed to keep the indigenous work force under control, a logical person can understand why a thinking citizen of a foreign land would pay attention to the events in our nation. They too often know better than American citizens about the important happenings of our nation, and how they will affect the affairs of their own.

One of the events which has to be attracting interest from foreign observers is the throttling of the Bill of Rights through the illegal actions of the two major parties in the name of Homeland Security. We've all heard a lot recently about FISA trampling on the Fourth Amendment, and even more about how the US Supreme Court has "protected" the Second with its recent ruling intended to throw a bone to the aged junkyard dog known as the NRA. (After all, the government is hardly worried about a bunch of self-styled Davy Crocketts and Daniel Boones when an Apache helicopter can take them all out with impunity at a range of two miles {maybe more} in total darkness. YouTube has lots of videos - look them up.)

But I'm not here today to stoke those particular fires. It's the damage being done to the First Amendment that concerns me.

According to Wikipedia, "free speech zones" were first created by the City of Atlanta to protect the 1988 Democratic Conventioneers from having to endure seeing and hearing We, the People express our outrage. That strategy seemed to work so well that it was repeated for the benefit of both major party conventions in 1992 and 1996. Those successes led to the active suppression of public protest becoming a standard component of political convention planning.

There should be a serious outcry over these plans, but to date that has yet to occur. The National Lawyer's Guild, in a publication entitled "The Assault on Free Speech, Public Assembly, and Dissent" [PDF], attempts to remind the American public that "Dissent is what rescues democracy from a quiet death behind closed doors." Red flags of warning are waving intensely when the convention doors have been closed and barred, and patrolled by the political police, to defend the political elites from the influences of those they allegedly represent under the dictates of the US Constitution. You know, that thing George W. Bush deemed "merely a piece of paper" and thus of no consequence.

So put yourself into the shoes of a foreign citizen concerned about the growing lawlessness of American entities. Is there any hope that a respect for the rule of law will again peek out from under the secret sites of rendition? It's very doubtful based on current events. Not even Obama and the Democrats are providing much hope for the return of the rights of redress of grievance.

In Denver, the Democratic? National Convention {sic} will meet behind numerous protective layers. The ACLU is attempting to defend the Constitution by seeking legal direction to the City of Denver and other authorities regarding disclosure of protest restrictions and whether the restrictions are unconstitutional. In addition, with Denver Police planning as many as ">1200 protester arrests, the ACLU is demanding publication of arrest procedures to avoid the temporary disappearance of those detained.

The Denver Post has joined the fray, declaring in an editorial: "what must not happen is controlling protesters to such an extent that their free speech and assembly rights are infringed."

Sorry - that's already a done deal. Limiting where and how one can express oneself is, by definition, an infringement.

Those entrusted with the enforcement of the unconstitutional restraint of free expression intended to protect the elites from the Voice of the People are a major part of the problem. Bill Johnson of The Rocky Mountain News relates his past convention experiences, including discovering that "avoiding jail at any political convention is often a matter of sheer luck" and:

"...if I had a quarter for every completely innocent convention-goer I've seen ... hauled off to jail, I would be sitting right now with a mai tai on a beach somewhere.

Johnson was covering a public seminar on dissent and the First Amendment held by the Colorado Chapter of the National Lawyer's Guild at the University of Denver's Sturm College of Law. Denver attorney David Lane told observing civil rights attorneys that "what (police) often mean by lawful order is 'Stop watching me beat this person!'" Sean Dingle, a former 10th Judicial District prosecutor, explained that "rank-and-file officers are not well-trained in First Amendment issues" and "law enforcement often clashes with free speech." Summing up the likely result of the legal battle, David Lane told Johnson at the end of the gathering that the operating rule of the day will be "arrest everyone and let the courts sort it out."

And when Barack Obama stages his personal Nuremberg Rally at Invesco Field on the last day of the Convention, the Secret Service is leaning toward designating 53,000 square feet of Lot A as the unconstitutional confinement area - I mean, the free speech zone.

Similar plans are underway in St. Paul, Minnesota, despite the serious lack of cooperation from area police agencies to thwart the poor from marching anywhere near those defenselessly wealthy GOP delegates.

Still think this is a nation of free speech? Ask retired Pittsburgh steelworker Bill Neel about his experience in 2002. Stefan Presser, head of the Philadelphia ACLU chapter, had then defined the strategy as defending "political security." It hasn't changed any since then.

Blogger Bob Avakian nails the problem on the head: "We don’t need change that we are allowed, and told to believe in — change that won’t really change anything fundamental — we need fundamental, revolutionary change."

Blogger Charley Underwood of Minnesota issues the call:

We want our country back. ...we already know what the New York police think of civil liberties. Stop buying all those expensive weapons and lining up all that statewide police overtime. Be our police.

Just don’t get in the way of our free speech.

So there it is. Will Americans finally notice that the time to take action has arrived? Or, will we continue to allow "the mis-channeling of our outrage" merely into complaining about who most recently got kicked off our favorite reality show?

This is the reality: actions speak louder than words, and all the world is watching - intently. They know they are next, because they read the PNAC Manifesto for World Dominance even if you didn't. If you don't act to defend your own rights, they will act to defend theirs - and you aren't going to like it one little bit.

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Quo Vadis Timmeh Jun 14th, 2008 5:15:15 pm - Subscribe
Mood | singularly repetitive

Friends, Blogcritics, countrymen, lend me your eyes;
I come to bury Russert, not to praise him;
Come I to speak in Russert's funeral ...

Any regular viewer
Hath told you Russert was partisan:
As it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Russert answered to it ...

He was no friend, faithful and just to open discourse:
Tim hath brought Bush many viewers in their homes,
Kings' ransoms did the NBC coffers fill:
And men have lost their reason…

The evil that men do lives after them through reruns;
The good is oft interred into the archives.
So let it be with Russert ...

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Satan Won May 19th, 2008 6:23:07 pm - Subscribe
Mood | indescribable v5.5

I've gotten fed up with the continuous successes enjoyed by evil in this world. It's gotten me to wondering if maybe even our so-called sacred texts aren't lying to us.

For example, if Lucifer rose up against God and was defeated in battle with all of his followers, how was it one of them was able to corrupt Adam and Eve?

We keep hearing about how good will always triumph over evil, and yet it is evil which grows in power. It's as if when it loses, it abandons its minions and transfers to the winning side. There has never been a nation as evil as Nazi Germany, and yet its conquerors have taken on the role of the heavy in the world.

I no longer have any faith that good has any power at all. Evil is running - and ruining - everything! I will enjoy what I can while it lasts, and I will be sorry when it's all gone.

I will be among the last to do so.

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