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Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Invisible Americans

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship had an OpEd on Truthout Sunday titled Invisible Americans Get the Silent Treatment Sunday in which they made reference to a group that nobody wants to talk about.  This isn’t about the Native Americans although many of them are definitely part of the group nor is it about immigrants, legal or otherwise although again, many of them are by circumstance, members of this group.  It’s about America’s poor and it’s the poor that these gentlemen refer to as  Invisible Americans.

As a bona fide card carrying member of the League of Invisible Americans I was actually surprised to see that someone of their stature had even noticed us, such is the degree of transparency under which we shadowy figures exist and live our daily lives.

As much as I admire these two gentlemen as masters of their craft, I was nonetheless struck once again by the fact that it would appear that each of them view the poor from the lofty standpoint of someone who has reached the apex of their craft, made a comfortable if not extravagant living from it but who is definitely NOT poor, never been poor and doesn’t face the prospect of ever having to go without something.  This is not to say that they’re in the same league as the radical right wing blowhards who are quite certain that the only reason anyone would “choose” to be poor is that they’re too damned lazy or ignorant to be rich, but only that there is simply no way their perspective allows them to truly understand the day to day plight of the people they wrote so eloquently about.

They did however, make some very pertinent points, one of them being the very title of the piece in which they refer to the “silent treatment” with which the majority of these ghostly figures meet when they try to get someone to listen and understand that it isn’t just about the middle class but about all of us who make up the ninety nine percent and that the poor have occupied the deepest hold of the boat we’re all in together since before the middle class even came aboard.  We simply do not need the same bullshit class distinctions on a sinking ship that we have on dry land.

According to the article (emphasis mine):

It’s just astonishing to us how long this campaign has gone on with no discussion of what’s happening to poor people. Official Washington continues to see poverty with tunnel vision – “out of sight, out of mind.”

And we’re not speaking just of Paul Ryan and his Draconian budget plan or Mitt Romney and their fellow Republicans.  Tipping their hats to America’s impoverished while themselves seeking handouts from billionaires and corporations is a bad habit that includes President Obama, who of all people should know better.

Remember: for three years in the 1980’s he was a community organizer in Roseland, one of the worst, most poverty-stricken and despair-driven neighborhoods in Chicago. He called it “the best education I ever had.” And when Obama left to go to Harvard Law School, author Paul Tough writes in The New York Times, he did so, “to gain the knowledge and resources that would allow him to eventually return and tackle the neighborhood’s problems anew.

This is the very fact that, during the first two years of the president’s term, had me ready to just toss the whole thing and walk away from the process.  After all, he had on numerous occasions during the campaign promised to bring us all together and give us a united voice against the predations of the Wall Street oligarchs and their congressional wienies and then, once elected, it was again all about the middle class as we were labeled, and dumped into the same bag as the “Firebaggers” and “Emoprogs” and went back to our little non-existence while the “Pragmatists” once again took up the battle solely for the middle class.

Your first reaction to a snub… in ANY situation… is anger and anger is what I felt at what I considered an outright betrayal by the one person I thought had an inkling we were even out here.  We have no reason to have any loyalty to the middle class but I do feel a responsibility to the class I’m a part of and for us to exercise that responsibility we NEED a strong middle class so that’s what I fight for now.  But as the authors of the article state in no uncertain terms, if you ask anyone in the current administration about what is being done or will be done to ease the burden on the poor, you’d better be a big fan of cricket concerts, because that’s all you’re going to hear.

Oddly, though, for all his rhetorical skills, Obama hasn’t made a single speech devoted to poverty since he moved into the White House.

Five years ago, he was one of the few politicians who would talk about it. Here he is in July 2007, speaking in Anacostia, one of the poorest parts of Washington, D.C.:

“The moral question about poverty in America — How can a country like this allow it? — has an easy answer: we can’t. The political question that follows — What do we do about it? –  has always been more difficult. But now that we’re finally seeing the beginnings of an answer, this country has an obligation to keep trying.”

Barack Obama the candidate said he wanted to spend billions on a nationwide program similar to Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children Zone in New York City, widely praised for its focus on comprehensive child development. In the last three years, only $40 million have been spent with another $60 million scheduled for local community grants.

Obama’s White House team insisted their intentions were good, but the depth of the economic meltdown passed along by their predecessors has kept them from doing more. And yes, billions have been spent on direct aid to families in the form of welfare, food stamps, housing vouchers and other payments. What’s needed, as Paul Tough at the Times and others say, is a less scattershot, more comprehensive program that gets to the root of the problem, focusing on education and mentoring. Not easy to do when a disaffected middle class that votes says hey, what about us? — and the wealthy one percent who lay out the fat campaign contributions simply say, so what?

I don’t know if the irony of that last sentence struck Mr. Moyers and Mr. Winship when they were putting the piece together but if you’ll notice, it’s once again about a “disaffected middle class” and the wealthy one percent.  The Invisible Americans have once again faded entirely from view.

They finish up the piece with the following:

Just a few days ago, The Chronicle of Philanthropy issued a report on charitable giving. Among its findings: “Rich people who live in neighborhoods with many other wealthy people give a smaller share of their incomes to charity than rich people who live in more economically diverse communities.” Responding to that study, social psychologist Paul Piff told National Public Radio, “The more wealth you have, the more focused on your own self and your own needs you become, and the less attuned to the needs of other people you also become.”

Those few who dedicate themselves to keeping the poor ever in sight realize how grave the situation really is. The Associated Press reports that, “The number of Americans with incomes at or below 125 percent of the poverty level is expected to reach an all-time high of 66 million this year.” A family of four earning 125 percent of the federal poverty level makes about $28,800 a year, according to government figures.

That number’s important because 125 percent is the income limit to qualify for legal aid, but although that family may qualify for help, budgets for legal services have been slashed, too, and pro bono work at the big law firms has fallen victim to downsizing.  So it’s not surprising, the AP goes on to say, that there’s a crisis in America’s civil courts because people slammed by the financial meltdown — overwhelmed by foreclosure, debt collection and bankruptcy cases –  can’t afford legal representation and have to represent themselves, creating gridlock in our justice system — and one more hammer blow for the poor.

We know, we know: It is written that, “The poor will always be with us.” But when it comes to our “out of sight, out of mind” population of the poor, you have to think we can help reduce their number, ease the suffering, and speak out, with whatever means at hand, on their behalf and against those who would prefer they remain invisible. Speak out:  that means you and me, and yes, Mr. President, you, too. You once told the big bankers on Wall Street that you were all that stood between them and the pitchforks of an angry public. How about telling the poor you will make sure our government stands between them and the cliff?

Indeed gentleman, that is a very good question for the president of all of the people but my question to you would be why we’re also invisible to folks like yourselves on all weekdays and most weekends except when we’re trotted out to provide a means for chastising Mr. Obama over his own benign neglect?  Why aren’t the few honest journalists we have left including the plight of the poor… which after all IS the plight faced by the middle class… as an integral part of their narratives on a daily basis.  Inquiring minds really do want to know.

In the meantime, those of us already living the kind of  life planned for all but the upper reaches of the middle class will sit here, quietly doing what we can… which admittedly is very little… to help stave off the yammering jackals that are beating on your doors and when the time comes, it will be as it always has been… it will be the serfs and the raggedyassed poor who rise up and kick the living crap out of the oppressors and given the lessons of history, the middle class… the gentry if you will… needs to rethink which side it wants to be on.  No revolution… peaceful or otherwise… was ever instigated or won by those interested only in maintaining their own position in the existing hierarchy at the expense of those below them.

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Posted by on August 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

How Did We Wind Up Here?

If you’re a regular reader here (and I actually think there are a couple) you know that one of my pet bitches about America today is the sorry state of political discussion and political rhetoric that political extremists have drug this country down to.  I make no bones about it.  It sucks and it doesn’t make a pinch of monkey crap who’s doing it to who.  And don’t take me for a hypocrite for saying so.  True,I take my jabs at the other guys right along with everyone else because it’s really the only way you can play the game and manage to stay in it.  I think Romney is the worst presidential candidate in decades if not centuries  and I won’t hesitate to say so, the difference being that I can give you chapter and verse reasons for thinking that while all his supporters can say… in trying to convince people that he’s not only qualified for the job but the best man for it… is that “He’s not Barack Obama”.

I watched this present state of affairs begin to unfold way back in the Reagan days when the administration’s two stock answers every time they got caught shoveling bullshit at the American people was either to ridicule and demonize those calling them out or to play the “I don’t recall” card,. a ploy that perhaps reached it’s zenith during George W. Bush’s administration and which played a huge part in keeping Alberto Gonzalez’s smarmy little ass out of jail.

The nineties brought us new faces in the political arena, people like Newt Gingrich, perhaps one of the slimiest reptiles ever to tread upon the political stage who led the battle to demonize Bill Clinton over his private life while he himself was cheating on his second wife.  We went through four years of pure hell in this country while the right did everything in its power to keep Clinton from accomplishing anything and when it didn’t work we went through four MORE years as Clinton made one concession after another concessions that we still are reaping the consequences of today.

But nothing that happened in the past can even hold a candle to the shit storm of invective, innuendo, ill informed bullshit and outright lies that erupted in November, 2008, when Barack Hussein Obama was elected 44th president of the United States.  When the Majority Leader of the US Senate looks the American people right in the eye and tells them that from this point on his ONLY agenda… and one would assume those of his Republican colleagues…  is to make damned sure that Obama doesn’t get a second term, when indeed he hasn’t even started his FIRST term, tells you all you need to know about why they try to claim that  nothing has gotten done since Mr. Obama took office.

A lot of the persons who pass for conservatives these days love to cut and paste funny little cartoons and “I hate Obama” references, I often think mainly because it gets them attention from the others like them but at the end of the day they know they have made no contribution whatever to any kind of informed political discourse and that those who infallibly “like” those kind of posts are simply the choir that doesn’t need preaching to and that people who take their discussion a little more seriously.  They also do it because it relives them of any requirement to do any kind of research to determine whether or not what’s being said in those cutesy poo little slogans is true or not.  They deem it “funny” so they post it for others who share that sense of humor and it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not,

Think of Rush Limbaugh who actually  once had a vast audience for his radio show but who, in order to keep it going, had to come on every day and be even more outrageous and hateful than he was the day before.  As is always going to be the case in situations like that he eventually “jumped the shark” completely and today all he has left is wholly meaningless and often totally disconnected hate and invective, tons of which are just lame rehashes of talking points he was using when Clinton was president.  In other words, not only a total shit sandwich but a stale shit sandwich, which of course is eaten up by those diehard ditto heads that are all he has left.

I must admit to having dabbled in the practice myself.  A few months ago I had let myself get particularly offended by one of those “All Liberals Are ( Insert favorite Rank Insult Here) goodies posted by an ex son-in-law  and which are the epitome of political humor among the 40 something types these days.     I was informed that it was only humor and that I was overreacting and it had nothing to do with me, yadayada followed by more of the same.

So I decided I was going to try it myself and see what satisfaction there could possibly be in it.  While I had long made my feelings about the arrested development of certain kinds of people know on these pages, I had never done so on Facebook, preferring to keep politics out of my only form of communications with my family but as the posts got nastier, that got harder.

To make a long story (that I’ve already told before) short, it was fun to post an anti-Republican shot and watch it be followed immediately by a barrage of anti-Obama slogans and and jingoistic patriotic homilies.  You could tell that much it was counter battery fire and that the people doing the firing had nothing else to bring to the war.  I knew that it was meaningless and that there were a lot better ways I could have been spending my time but it was the only way I was allowed in the game.

At least it was fun until I got to the part about racism possibly motivating a lot of the downright offensive anti-Obama gibberish permeating my Facebook home page these days.  Now, out of the four of my kids that were involved in it daily, I have three who basically won’t speak to me at all (one of whose kids won’t speak to me either), and one who will answer if spoken to.  One of them even slapped me upside the head over the “hate” and “negativity” she found on this very blog never once equating what I was saying about Republicans and conservatives with what they were saying about Democrats and liberals.  I suspect I’m not the only one… I imagine it happens to any “old fogey” who dares to stand up and say, Hey, you guys know this is all just a humongous sack of childish bullshit, right?”.

Anyway… in the words of Blake Zeff at Buzzfeed:

Barack Obama was a first-term United States senator back in 2008, a few years removed from the State Senate. Now he’s an incumbent president of the United States who’s led the nation for nearly four years. And yet — or, perhaps, as a result — the climate for invective and attacks on his core competency is more hospitable now.

Racial coding was alive and well in the 2008 campaign — in ways Ta-Nehisi Coates’ excellent new essay in the Atlanticlays out — but criticisms of Obama’s readiness and core competence were nonetheless scrutinized and mediated to a degree. This time around, when it comes to direct attacks on Obama’s intelligence and capability, the sidelines have gotten further apart.

All of which raises the questions: When did the rules change? And why?

Why indeed? Why did we go from being a nation of reasonably intelligent adults to a howling pack of foot stamping, tantrum throwing juvenile delinquents just because the “{other guy” got more votes than “your guy” did and why is the only agenda for the opposition party to make sure that the other guy only has one term?  How the hell does that serve the interests of the people, more than half of whom actually CHOSE the “other guy”

When did we become a nation of hateful, spiteful little children that believe their side should rule even if they’re in the minority and no matter who wins elections?  It makes a mockery of the entire system when they can’t get over the fact that more people wanted the “other guy” than wanted “their guy” and that there are limits to “loyal opposition” that they have overstepped by miles during the last four years.

Check out the link  especially the mini tutorial on the Overton Window.  If nothing else it provides the emos, of which I used to be one, an explanation of why President Obama has done some of the seemingly inexplicable things he did during his first term.  Maybe you won’t be so anxious to make that total meaningless gesture of staying home on Election Day.

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Where Does The Hate Come From?

Just got another of those emails from an old friend describing how he had received a request for a contribution from the Obama campaign and how incensed he was that they would dare to ask for a handout and expect him to use his own stamp to send them the money.  Or something like that.  It became somewhat confusing as I read on.

He included his “response” to PBO which cited the economy as his reason for not sending bucks but he didn’t stop there.  He went on to chastise the president because a man was arrested, supposedly solely for daring to say his prayers on the sidewalk in front of the White House, thereby making it a religious issue.  The inference was that Obama had somehow cast a presidential thunderbolt at this innocent little civilian for daring to exercise his religious freedom in sight of the White House.  He also made the bald statement that until our government adopted the Bible as the foundation for governance in the US, he wasn’t supporting any part of it which I’m sure gives you an idea what his real beef is all about.

That whole thing about the arrest simply for praying didn’t sound right to me.  However it DID sound vaguely familiar so I researched the case which wasn’t hard since every radical right wing site out there had published their version of the official right wing fundie version of the story.  Here’s an example.

Turns out he was referring to the instance where the Reverend Patrick Mahoney, leader of the Christian Coalition and five other people out of a group of about thirty were busted… not by any federal agency but by the DC Municipal Police Department for blocking the sidewalk during an organized protest demonstration “in opposition to the Obama Administration’s mandate compelling groups of faith to provide insurance to employees that would cover abortion-causing drugs”, which of course puts a much different face on the whole affair.

Also urns out that not only were no federal agencies or any “Obama Gestapo” involved but that the AG’s office simply blew the arraignment off and left it to the city to deal with, realizing that there had been no federal crimes committed and that there had been no threat either to anyone connected with the government or to government property.  The subjects paid a $100 fine for violating the “keep moving” clause and thereby obstructing the sidewalk and went on their merry way.

So different from the treatment received by hundreds of OWS protesters  at the hands of police in most of the larger metropolitan areas of the country which had 99% of the same conservatives… who are so up in arms about the “mistreatment” of this priest and his fellow protestors… cheering the police on as they gassed, beat and even shot those “dirty f*cking hippies” that dared to protest against the Masters of the Universe on Wall Street.

So what leads someone to basically fabricate a story (even though this one was built around the tiny kernel of truth that someone WAS arrested outside the White House) that supposedly justifies an attack on the President of the United States?  Once again… given all the facts that lead me to believe that Barack Obama, whom I consider a Centrist at best and who would have been looked upon as a conservative 20 years ago, along with the gains made in our economy in the past four years that have yet to even be acknowledged by the right wing… I can only come to the same conclusion I come to every time I try to rationalize the behavior we’ve witnessed over the past four years.  Blind, unremitting, unconditional and totally irrational hate for the man himself.  A hatred so strong that these folks would sacrifice their future and the future of their country to keep him from being reelected.

I also asked him why… in all the rank bullshit and cute little cartoons posted on my Facebook timeline by self styled “conservatives”, there had yet to be a single word identifying Romney’s actual plans for the country and how those plans would benefit the average American.  Every single post is anti Obama and directed at the president personally.  You’d think nobody knew a damned thing about this Romney guy or that he’s even running or that more simply, it doesn’t make any difference who gets in as long as Obama gets out.  Know what his response was?  He asked ME why I didn’t make posts in favor of Romney if I wanted favorable posts about Romney on Facebook.  Said he HATED Romney.  I guess he just hates Obama worse, that’s all but the question of why is one I’m still waiting to hear the answer to.

Whatever the case folks, once again this is the mindset were up against in November.  Better be wracking your brain for the tiniest little thing you might be leaving undone that would bring Romney and Ryan into the range that the damned crooked voting machines and the equally crooked Supreme court could once again be the deciding factors.  Otherwise you can stick a fork in America because it’s damned sure done.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Privatization Hurts Everyone

Well… almost everyone.  It certainly doesn’t hurt the private company or corporation that gets the juicy government contracts but in the long run it sure as hell hurts everyone else.  I’ve got two words that should stop a privatization advocate dead in his tracks… Walter Reed.  I say should stop one in his tracks.  Unfortunately, the attention span of your average conservative voter has been shrunken to the point of nonexistence these days by the constant barrage of propaganda roaring at him from all directions as the corporate noise machine unleashes its full fury going into election season.  So now a conversation between me and a guy we’ll just call T.P. Jones (T.P. standing for Tea Party) who thinks we ought to outsource all government functions kind of looks like:

TP:  Private enterprise can do anything more cheaply and efficiently than government can.

ME:  Walter Reed.

TP: Huh?

Now at this point you’re faced with having to explain the Walter Reed, KBR, Halliburton, Arlington and numerous other privatization debacles to this guy in words of not more than two syllables in a Facebook status comment or simply giving up on the whole thing and leaving him to simmer in his own delusional juices.  Believe me, the second choice will save you a lot of wear and tear on your own brain cells, but let’s say you decide to explain to this guy and you go to all the sources for pertinent data and you put together this well thought out, properly sourced document with links to all of the information contained therein and present it to him with an offer to explain anything he doesn’t understand… and you know what happens then?

TP:  I don’t care about all that crap.  Private enterprise can do anything more cheaply and efficiently than government can.

You cannot teach a person who does not want to learn any more than you can depend on facts to carry your argument when the person your arguing with doesn’t want to be bothered with facts.  A closed mind is a closed mind and a wantonly closed mind will never be anything else.  But here’s what the guy above is missing:

According to Paul Buchheit at Common Dreams there are Five Ways Privatization Degrades America .  I’m sure that with just a few quick glances at some stats and at least a fourth grade reading comprehension level we could probably come up with a lot more than five but let’s just go with five MAJOR ways privatization degrades our fair republic,

1. We spend lifetimes developing community assets, then give them away to a corporation for lifetimes to come.
The infrastructure in our cities has been built up over many years with the sweat and planning of farsighted citizens. Yet the dropoff in tax revenues has prompted careless decisions to balance budgets with big giveaways of public assets that should belong to our children and grandchildren.
In Chicago, the Skyway tollroad was leased to a private company for 99 years, and, in a deal growing in infamy, the management of parking meters was sold to a Morgan Stanley group for 75 years. The proceeds have largely been spent.
The parking meter selloff led to a massive rate increase, while hurting small businesses whose potential customers are unwilling to pay the parking fees. Meanwhile, it has been estimated that the business partnership will make a profit of 80 cents per dollar of revenue, a profit margin larger than that of any of the top 100 companies in the nation.

See more examples at the link.  While the emphasis here is that public entities are selling off assets that belong to the people… often against the express wishes of the people… for a short term gain in revenues, there is also the theme that will be evident in all of these examples and the others available at the link, that being that privatization almost always results in a degradation of whatever goods/services that have been turned over to private interests and an increased cost to the consumer/taxpayer.

2. Insanity is repeating the same mistake over and over and expecting different results.
Numerous examples of failed or ineffective privatization schemes show us that hasty, unregulated initiatives simply don’t work.
A Stanford University study “reveals in unmistakable terms that, in the aggregate, charter students are not faring as well as their traditional public school counterparts.” A Department of Education study found that “On average, charter middle schools that hold lotteries are neither more nor less successful than traditional public schools in improving student achievement, behavior, and school progress.”
Our private health care system has failed us. We have by far the most expensive system in the developed world. The cost of common surgeries is anywhere from three to ten times higher in the U.S. than in Great Britain, Canada, France, or Germany.
Studies show that private prisons perform poorly in numerous ways: prevention of intra-prison violence, jail conditions, rehabilitation efforts. The U.S. Department of Justice offered this appraisal: “There is no evidence showing that private prisons will have a dramatic impact on how prisons operate. The promises of 20-percent savings in operational costs have simply not materialized.”
A 2009 analysis of water and sewer utilities by Food and Water Watch found that private companies charge up to 80 percent more for water and 100 percent more for sewer services. Various privatization abuses or failures occurred in California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.
California’s experiments with roadway privatization resulted in cost overruns, public outrage, and a bankruptcy; equally disastrous was the state’s foray into electric power privatization.

Again there are more examples at the link.  The upshot of this segment is that no matter how many times you demonstrate that privatization is a failed policy as far as the common citizens are concerned, our leaders at all levels of government just keep on keepin’ on when it comes to contracting out of services that we pay our taxes to receive.  California has carried blithely on with major privatization projects in spite of the the examples cited and it has reached the point at which even out state park system is being proposed for auction to the highest bidder, threatening to turn pristine beaches into little more than cash cow theme parks.

3. Facts about privatization are hidden from the public.
Experience shows that under certain conditions, with sufficient monitoring and competition and regulation, privatization can be effective. But too often vital information is kept from the public. The Illinois Public Interest Research Group noted that Chicago’s parking meter debacle might have been avoided if the city had followed common-sense principles rather than rushing a no-bid contract through the city council.
Studies by both the Congressional Research Service and the Pepperdine Law Review came to the same conclusion: any attempt at privatization must ensure a means of public accountability. Too often this need is ignored.
The Arizona prison system is a prime example. For over 20 years the Department of Corrections avoided cost and quality reviews for its private prisons, then got around the problem by proposing a bill to eliminate the requirement for cost and quality reviews.
In Florida, abuses by the South Florida Preparatory Christian Academy went on for years without regulation or oversight, with hundreds of learning-disabled schoolchildren crammed into strip mall spaces where 20-something ‘teachers’ showed movies to pass the time.
In Philadelphia, an announcement of a $38 million charter school plan in May turned into a $139 million plan by July.
In Michigan, the low-income community of Muskegon Heights became the first American city to surrender its entire school district to a charter school company. Details of the contract with Mosaica were not available to the public for some time after the deal was made. But data from the Michigan Department of Education revealed that Mosaica performed better than only 13% of the schools in the state of Michigan.
Also in Michigan, an investigation of administrative salaries elicited this response from charter contractor National Heritage Academies: “As a private company, NHA does not provide information on salaries for its employees.”
Education writer Danny Weil summarizes the charter school secrecy: “The fact is that most discussions of charters and vouchers are not done through legally mandated public hearings under law, but in back rooms or over expensive dinners, where business elites and Wall Street interests are the shot-callers in a secret parliament of moneyed interests.”
Beyond prisons and schools, how many Americans know about the proposal for the privatization of Amtrak, which would, according to West Virginia Representative Nick Rahall, “cripple Main Street by auctioning off Amtrak’s assets to Wall Street.” Or the proposal to sell off the nation’s air traffic control system? Or the sale of federal land in the west? Or the sale of the nation’s gold reserves, an idea that an Obama administration official referred to as “one level of crazy away from selling Mount Rushmore”?

Left this one intact because those examples bring up a question that I’d like our privatization junkies to answer… candidly for once… that being, “If these privatization schemes are so wonderful and these private companies CAN do the job so much better than the public entities involved, why isn’t there more public discussion and information made available that would allow the people to decide.  Why are most of these contracts being drawn up and awarded virtually behind closed doors? 

And here are some of those facts that old T.P. Jones doesn’t have time to be bothered by:

4. Privatizers have suggested that teachers and union members are communists.
Part of the grand delusion inflicted on American citizens is that public employees and union workers are greedy good-for-nothings, enjoying benefits that average private sector workers are denied. The implication, of course, is that low-wage jobs with meager benefits should be the standard for all wage-earners.
The myth is propagated through right-wing organizations with roots in the John Birch Society, one of whose founding members was Fred Koch, also the founder of Koch Industries. To them, public schools are socialist or communist. Explained Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast with regard to private school vouchers in 1997, “we have come to the conclusion that they are the only way to dismantle the current socialist regime.”
But the facts show, first of all, that government and union workers are not overpaid. According to the Census Bureau, state and local government employees make up 14.5% of the U.S. workforce and receive 14.3% of the total compensation. Union members make up about 12% of the workforce, but their total pay amounts to just 9.5% of adjusted gross income as reported to the IRS.
The facts also strongly suggest that wage stability is fostered by the lower turnover rate and higher incidence of union membership in government. The supportive environment that right-wingers call ‘socialism’ helps to sustain living wages for millions of families. The private sector, on the other hand, is characterized by severe wage inequality. Whereas the average private sector salary is similar to that of a state or local government worker, the MEDIAN U.S. worker salary is almost $14,000 less, at $26,363. While corporate executives and financial workers (about one-half of 1% of the workforce) make multi-million dollar salaries, millions of private company workers toil as food servers, clerks, medical workers, and domestic help at below-average pay.

And yet the answer as far as most of these people are concerned is not to raise private sector median income to that of public employees but to either bring public employees down to their own level or eliminate them altogether.  Since when did the American people become so whipped and cowed that their only solution to a bad situation was not to drag themselves out of it but to drag more people into it with them?  The oligarchy is nothing if not expert at exploiting the petty little jealousies of petty little people, eh?

I have to laugh when someone I know posts one of their little cut and paste jibes against public sector workers and I… having spent 35 years in public safety and therefore BEING one of those workers… call them out on it.  “Oh no, Tom, I didn’t mean YOU!  I meant all those OTHER public sector workers.  I’ve never known you to be ANYTHING but honest and hard working and…”.  Heh!

5. Privatization often creates an “incentive to fail.”
Privatized services are structured for profit rather than for the general good. A by-product of the profit motive is that some people will lose out along the way, and parts of the societal structure will fail in order to benefit investors.
This is evident in the privatized prison system, which relies on a decreasing adherence to the law to ensure its own success. Corrections Corporation of America has offered to run the prison system in any state willing to guarantee that jails stay 90% full. “This is where it gets creepy,” says Business Insider’s Joe Weisenthal, “because as an investor you’re pulling for scenarios where more people are put in jail.”
The incentive to fail was also apparent in road privatization deals in California and Virginia, where ‘non-compete’ clauses prevented local municipalities from repairing any roads that might compete with a privatized tollroad. In Virginia, the tollway manager even demanded reimbursement from the state for excessive carpooling, which would cut into its profits.
The list goes on. The Chicago parking meter deal requires compensation if the city wishes to close a street for a parade. The Indiana tollroad deal demanded reimbursement when the state waived tolls for safety reasons during a flood.
Plans to privatize the Post Office have created a massive incentive to fail through the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which requires the USPS to pre-pay the health care benefits of all employees for the next 75 years, even those who aren’t born yet. This outlandish requirement is causing a well-run public service to default on its loans for the first time.
Also set up to fail are students enrolled in for-profit colleges, which get up to 90 percent of their revenue from U.S. taxpayers. Less incentive remains for the schools after tuition is received, as evidenced by the fact that more than half of the students enrolled in these colleges in 2008-9 left without a degree or diploma.
And then we have our littler students, set up to fail by private school advocates in Wisconsin who argue that a requirement for playgrounds in new elementary schools “significantly limit[s] parent’s educational choice in Milwaukee.”

And on we go.  I’d send old T.P. an invite to come and read this entry but you know what would happen? 

A.  He wouldn’t understand it.

B.  He’d understand it but refuse to believe it.

C.  He’d simply say, “I don’t care about all that crap. Private enterprise can do anything more cheaply and efficiently than government can.”

Knowing T.P. the way I know T.P. I’d bet the farm on the last one.

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

America’s Most Vicious Criminals

And Not A One Of Them Will Ever See The Inside Of A Jail Cell

Yesterday we talk some about Privatization and the damage it has done to the country and most of its citizens.  We looked at how The big Wall Street banks deliberately drove thousands of government jurisdictions across the country into bankruptcy or near bankruptcy and what they gained… other than billions of dollars for their own coffers which is obvious… by doing so.  In case you’ve forgotten or (more likely) didn’t see it, this excerpt sums it up about as well as anything could.

With perverse irony, the corruption and incompetence of private industry has actually furthered the cause of privatization, as the collapse of the financial markets has deprived state and local governments of necessary public funding, leading to an even greater call for private development.
As aptly expressed by a finance company chairman in 2008, “Desperate government is our best customer.”

It certainly doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out that MAKING governments that desperate was a primary goal in the actions taken by the banks during the Bush regime’s time in office.  The members of the Banker Gang knew exactly what the fallout from the meltdown was going to be and they had plans in place to to exploit every situation that was going to arise from it.  This is organized crime on a scale unimaginable to little people like me who grew up believing that this was a nation of law and that we were all equal under that law.  I simply did not… in fact COULD not… believe that I was laboring under any kind of delusion until the emergence of the modern Republican Party in 1980.  The awakening has been rude if I might indulge myself in a bit of understatement.

The idea that the people running and working for the big banks might be more than a little willing to bend or even  the common concepts of relatively unimportant things things like ethics, morality and even the law itself just never occurs to most people.  Or if it does, it’s just a necessary byproduct of the capitalism that has made America great. the jingoistic slogan du jour happens to be.

We’ve known for the past three decades that on Wall Street money and profit trump EVERY other consideration and that a loose cote of ethical behavior plays a large part in getting these people to where they are.  We’ve known that very few of these people have any sense of responsibility to the society upon which they prey and that they suffer from a massive entitlement complex that has them convinced that it is their ordained right to simply take what they want and consequences be damned as long as they befall someone else.  America’s ruling class has become the 21st century version of the “Mafia” except that their particular brand of organized crime, over the past 12 years alone, has cost the average American many times more than the “mob” ever has during the entire time of its existence.  At least the Mafia never brought down the strongest country in the world (nor did they ever try to).

Phil Angelides, in an Op Ed p for the San Francisco Chronicle makes the case that like Bart Simpson, the banksters can’t recall what they did, they don’t remember why they did it and they can’t explain why they’re going to do it again.  The one thing they and we can be sure of however, is that given the level at which evil permeates the financial services sector in this country today… and not only the lack of any consequences for their actions but the fact that they’ve been REWARDED with trillions of dollars stolen from the pockets of the taxpayers… just like any child who continues to go unpunished or is rewarded for his misdeeds, they WILL do it again.

Money laundering. Price fixing. Bid rigging. Securities fraud. Talking about the mob? No, unfortunately. Wall Street.

These days, the business sections of newspapers read like rap sheets. GE Capital, JPMorgan Chase, UBS, Wells Fargo and Bank of America tied to a bid-rigging scheme to bilk cities and towns out of interest earnings. ING Direct, HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank facing charges of money laundering. Barclays caught manipulating a key interest rate, costing savers and investors dearly, with a raft of other big banks also under investigation. Not to speak of the unprecedented wrongdoing that precipitated the financial crisis of 2008.

Evidence gathered by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission clearly demonstrated that the financial crisis was avoidable and due, in no small part, to recklessness and ethical breaches on Wall Street. Yet, it’s clear that the unrepentant and the unreformed are still all too present within our banking system.

A June survey of 500 senior financial services executives in the United States and Britain turned up stunning results. Some 24 percent said that they believed that financial services professionals may need to engage in illegal or unethical conduct to succeed, 26 percent said that they had observed or had firsthand knowledge of wrongdoing in the workplace, and 16 percent said they would engage in insider trading if they could get away with it.

And there you have it.  “If I can get away with it, I’m going to do it.”  because my position as a financial services exec requires me to do so in order to be successful.  And if their success as a manipulator of other people’s money depends on throwing your granny in front of a speeding train, you might as well find yourself a plastic bag and hie on down to the train station and hope there’s enough pieces left to bury, because they’ll do that too. 

These are people whose lives revolve exclusively around their sense of self and their sense of self revolves around being either part of the 1% or at least a bootlicker for the 1% which is where our elected “leaders fit into the picture.  The inability of the Tea Party rank and file to grasp these simple facts and that these simple facts should be trumping their hate for any single individual or ideology is what will eventually spell the end of the republic as we have known it, not any threat from outside.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Hey Ryan, Privatize THIS!

Was reading an article by Paul Buchheit at Common Dreams the other day that pretty much solidified my opinion on the privatization of our Republic which continues pretty much apace as we speak.  There’s little left that hasn’t been privatized… and then subsequently monetized… and what there is left is being gobbled up like the Fascists at an alarming rate.  There’s a very good chance that when the smoke clears in November and it’s time to put about actually saving what’s left of the country, there won’t be anything left to save.  It will all be part of the obscenely bloated financial sector and our noble experiment in democracy… or at least the attempt to found a true representative republic… will just be something else to erase from the history books along with why no dinosaurs were ever mentioned in the Bible and the contributions to our society made by people who weren’t rich white Christian males 

The simple fact is that there is not one shred of empirical evidence out there that suggests that private industry can do the government’s job better than the government can and indeed over the past 12 years, a period during which privatization has made its greatest gains, exactly the opposite would appear to be true.  I’ll spare you the stories of Walter Reed and the VA and the national cemeteries and KBR/Halliburton, mainly because I’ve talked about them so much over the past couple of years that even I’m tired of listening to me.  But Mr. Buchheit’s article exposes a heretofore little noticed flaw in the whole run on government being made by the corporate oligarchy, a whole new angle of attack.

A grand delusion has been planted in the minds of Americans, that privately run systems are more efficient and less costly than those in the public sector. Most of the evidence points the other way. Private initiatives generally produce mediocre or substandard results while experiencing the usual travails of unregulated capitalism — higher prices, limited services, and lower wages for all but a few ‘entrepreneurs.

With perverse irony, the corruption and incompetence of private industry has actually furthered the cause of privatization, as the collapse of the financial markets has deprived state and local governments of necessary public funding, leading to an even greater call for private development.
As aptly expressed by a finance company chairman in 2008, “Desperate government is our best customer.”

A lot of people have this mistaken idea that when they pay their taxes, those dollars go into some account somewhere where they just lay there waiting to be spent maybe drawing a couple of percent in bank interest along the way.  Doesn’t work that way.  In fact it’s been a long damned time since it MIGHT have worked that way.  That money is invested in the various funds that exist out there for the purpose in the same way that government trust funds  such as the one serving Social Security is and that it’s the return on those investments that fund many local and state government operations including the retirement funds for most public employees.. 

And it should be clear that in committing the crimes against society that led to the financial meltdown beginning in 2007/2008 one of the results would naturally be that those state and local governments that were invested heavily in the Wall Street Ponzi schemes were going to find themselves in deep trouble when the doodoo hit the rapidly spinning air circulation device and the bottom dropped out of Wall Street’s unethical, immoral and should have been illegal derivatives schemes in which the banks stood to make billions by betting against those very governments whose money they were taking.  This is why the City of Oakland, California… recently famous for having it’s cops use paramilitary weapons and tactics against unarmed and mostly peaceful protesters during the Occupy Movement… has gained a further gibbet of fame by telling Goldman Sachs to go piss up a  rope and is refusing to pay for the worthless paper it got from GS as return for its investment.

Once you get your mind wrapped around the fact that none of what those banks did to bring about the financial collapse of not only the country itself but the virtual bankruptcy of the thousands of individual state, local and municipal entities that had every dime their respective jurisdictions could muster tangled up in what was nothing less than a raid on the federal treasury, it’s almost impossible to believe it was an accident.  Watching California’s developer type moguls already jockeying around for places in the lines that will be forming for concessions to run the parks and scenic attractions that the state won’t be able to maintain should be enough to convince anybody that our greatest danger wasn’t terrorism from without but Fascism and that comes from within.  Again, I’ll quote Pogo because it’s damned near always apt: “We has met the enemy and he is us.”..

These people knew EXACTLY what they were doing every single minute of every hour of every day they were doing it and if you still have any doubt in your mind on that score then you’re a dumb sonofabitch and deserve whatever happens to you as a result.  Unfortunately, the rest of us don’t deserve it and our kids don’t deserve it and their kids don’t deserve it.  You go ahead and turn the country over to the Scott Walkers and the Rick Scotts and most importantly the Mitt Romneys and the Paul Ryans. 

But if and when you do, always remember this: Don’t ever let me hear you utter so much as a goddamned whimper about how bad things are and I DAMNED sure don’t want to hear about how it’s Obama’s fault and all the crap that dribbles onto your shirtfront today.  Not one flipping WORD, else I’m liable to drop you right in your damned tracks because I’m old, I’m sick and by then I won’t have a damned thing to lose by it.

Oh and will someone explain to Rick Santorum… y’all is singular, all y’all means a group.  Biden obviously didn’t know that either but he didn’t go on national TV and try to make it into something it wasn’t when he didn’t even know the proper usage of the terms. 

More on the ways Privatization ill serves America, hopefully tomorrow. 

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

It Has NOT Been A Good Week

First health problems kept me away from the keyboard and when I was finally able to get up and around a couple of days ago a major hard drive crash took most my system down for the second time in three months and I’ve spent the last two days restoring it… yeah, I neglected to back up again… and fighting with Microsoft over the fact that I was unable to reinstall WLE, which contains my favorite blogging software  because the Install flipping “Wizard” kept telling me it was already there when it damned well wasn’t.  Luckily a good hearted techie type took pity and provided me with a standalone uninstaller to get rid of the bits and pieces and a likewise standalone installer to keep Microsoft from giving “Trusted Installer” control over anything and I’m finally up and running.

So what’s been up this week?  Joe the plumber and apparent tax dodger (although he’s gonna have to go some to make Mittens’ class) managed to get his face in front of the cameras again by saying something utterly stupid. Twice.

“For years I’ve said, you know, put a damn fence on the border, going to Mexico and start shooting,” he insisted.

And to put the icing on it after making the statement to an Arizona Republican state legislator, Lori Klein, he reiterated it at one of her campaign rallies.  Klein you may recall, is the dipshit who pointed a shocking pink Ruger .380 directly at one  Richard Ruelas, a reporter for the Arizona Republic, by whom she was being interviewed at the state capitol.

“Oh, it’s so cute,” Klein said of the .380 Ruger that she carries in purse at all times.

While the loaded pistol had no safety and the laser pointer was centered on the reporter’s chest, Klein explained that there was no need to worry.

“I just didn’t have my hand on the trigger,” she said.

Just two days after a gunman in Tucson killed six and wounded 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), Klein surprised security guards by first trying to bring the firearm onto the Senate floor.

“They said, ‘You can’t go in.’ I said, ‘Oh, yeah, I can. I have a right to carry,’” Klein recalled.

In March, the freshman state senator found herself in hot water again for reading a letter on the Senate floor that claimed Hispanic students “hate America” and only want to become “gang members and gangsters.”

Guess we can just chalk this one up to the old “birds of a feather” routine or maybe “stupid seeks it’s own level” .  That’s one thing I’ve gotten used to over the past 12 years of watching this whole slide to the right thing… morons campaign for morons.

Wanted to say something about Paul Ryan this week but it’s too late.  About everything that could be said about that slick haired little prick has already been said.  That’s me… always a day late and ten bucks short (allowing for inflation).  I did want to share  this little tidbit, found  at a blog called Romney The Liar, which has apparently taken on the formidable task of keeping track of the Romney/Ryan lies so the rest of us don’t have to.

Paul Ryan has stated that because of his strong opposition to President Obama’s stimulus program in 2009, that he requested NO funds for his district from the program.  Well, take a look at this:

Yes, folks, that’s right: Ryan is requesting FEDERAL MONEY for his district,  to help create or retain 7,600 jobs. But–but–but–I thought the Federal government wasn’t capable of producing or saving jobs. Paulie Boy says so.  Now he says that he didn’t know this sort of thing was coming from the stimulus program, but if he did he would NEVER have asked, and golly gee gosh, the program failed anyway, don’t ya know, and besides, it was my staff that did it! Yeah, that’s the ticket! It was my staff.  (Some more details may be found here)

Megaprops to Soledad O’Brien for kicking New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu’s ass rather soundly.  I’ve always liked that young lady but since she’s showing herself to be one of the few people at CNN with any journalistic integrity left, I think I may actually be in love.  MoveOn calls it nothing less than…

The Best Darn Display Of Real Journalism On A Major Network We’ve Seen In A Really Long Time

and I certainly have no quarrel with that.  It’s definitely the best I’ve seen in years.  Click on the link to view the exchange.

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2012 in Uncategorized