Monday, September 5, 2011

Last Call

We end Labor Day tonight with this E.J. Dionne piece on the end of Labor Day as we know it.

Let’s get it over with and rename the holiday “Capital Day.” We may still celebrate Labor Day, but our culture has given up on honoring workers as the real creators of wealth and their honest toil — the phrase itself seems antique — as worthy of genuine respect.

Imagine a Republican saying this: “Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

These heretical thoughts would inspire horror among our friends at Fox News or in the Tea Party. They’d likely label them as Marxist, socialist or Big Labor propaganda. Too bad for Abraham Lincoln, our first Republican president, who offered those words in his annual message to Congress in 1861. Will President Obama dare say anything like this in his jobs speech this week?

I hope he does.  But even the idea that labor can create is anathema to the Republican worldview.  Today, we celebrate the American worker.  The other 364 days of the year, we celebrate the Almighty Job Creator Class that owns us.  And even that one day is too much for some.

Hope everyone had a good day today.

It's A Teenage Wage Land

Raise your hand if you think the problem with our economy right now is that teenage workers making minimum wage are in fact making too much money. Guess what?  That's exactly what FOX News analyst Gary B. Smith believes.

In Smith's world we could employ a hell of a lot more cheap teenage wage slave labor for peanuts if we got rid of the minimum wage. Stupid workers wanting to be paid! CUT TAXES!  BLARG!

Republicans Drop A Special Delivery

Here's an example of the Republican jobs program: a US Postal Service on the verge of collapse in mere months and the GOP is happy to see it go.

The United States Postal Service has long lived on the financial edge, but it has never been as close to the precipice as it is today: the agency is so low on cash that it will not be able to make a $5.5 billion payment due this month and may have to shut down entirely this winter unless Congress takes emergency action to stabilize its finances. 

Yeah, and the odds of that are pretty much next to zero.  Add postal carriers and mail sorters to the list of evil, immoral government employees and retirees that are the bane of America's existence and must be made to pay.  Meanwhile, let's eliminate corporate taxes!

Seriously, Republicans now have the opportunity to extract even more concessions from middle-class America in order to transfer untold billions to the top of the pyramid.  But the problem is all those welfare queens delivering your mail, right?

[Postmaster General] Donahoe’s hope is to cut $20 billion of the $75 billion in annual costs by 2015. To do that, he wants to close many post offices and slash the number of sorting facilities to 200 from 500 and trim the agency’s work force by 220,000 people, from its current 653,000. (A decade ago, the agency employed nearly 900,000.)

Wait, we've already cut 250,000 postal workers over the last decade and now we have to cut 220,000 more?  You're telling me the problem in America is that we can't afford a postal service?  Seriously?  It's almost like massive tax cuts are a problem in the long run or something.  Here's the kicker:

Meanwhile, Representative Darrell Issa, the California Republican who is chairman of the House Oversight Committee, says the pension proposals would amount to an unjustifiable bailout that would not solve the agency’s underlying problems. He is pushing a bill that would create an emergency oversight board that could order huge cost-cutting and void the postal service’s contracts — a proposal that not just the unions, but Senators Carper and Collins oppose. 

That's the backbreaker, right there.  If that's allowed to pass, then Republicans will use the oversight board to void all government worker provisions and fire millions in an effort to privatize and monetize as many government services as possible.  It'll also mean the end of organized labor in America, for good.

And that's the real memo to be delivered.  PS, $75 billion a year, the entire bill for the Postal Service, is roughly one quarter of the average yearly cost of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last nine years.

But what we really need is more tax cuts.

Flaming Bank Statement

In which an artist shuts down stupid cops with a dose of common sense:

Twice they've come to investigate why the 41-year-old Eagle Rock artist is painting an image of a bank building going up in flames.

Schaefer had barely added the orange-and-yellow depiction of fire shooting from the roof of a Chase Bank branch when police rolled up to the corner of Van Nuys Boulevard and Sylvan Street on July 30.

"They told me that somebody had called and said they felt threatened by my painting," Schaefer said.

"They said they had to find out my intention. They asked if I was a terrorist and was I going to follow through and do what I was painting."

No, Schaefer said. He explained that the artwork was intended to be a visual metaphor for the havoc that banking practices have caused to the economy.

A terrorist certainly would not spend hours on a public sidewalk creating an oil painting of his intended target, he told the officers.
Not one visit.  Two visits.  Twice he had to answer subtle questions such as whether he intended to blow up a bank.  Because his art is slated to hang in a gallery, but made someone uncomfortable.  This is as depressing as it is stupid, which ranks a solid "Pretty Damn" on the Stupid-O-Meter.

A visual metaphor for how the banks burned us, and they just don't see it.

Happy 65th, Freddie!

Today would have been Freddie Mercury's 65th birthday.  Many remember him from Bohemian Rhapsody or maybe even the Flash Gordon theme (ahhahhhhh!).  His popularity often excluded him from the "classically sound" musicians, a mistake the he took with as much grace as possible.  A talented singer, he was really one of the best composers of our time.  He took risks and accomplished the true mark of success - his music transcended genre.

My friend Kate posted this in Google+ and I  knew I had to share it.

The GOP Assault On Voting

I firmly believe that the Republican war on voting is the biggest political story of 2011.  Nothing else comes close to the far-reaching and profound effects of the GOP efforts to reshape the electorate to suit their needs.  TPM's Ryan Reilly has an excellent piece recapping the Republican assault on voting rights in 2011 at the state and federal level.

It all started in January, as many new Republican state legislators who had been swept into statehouses across the country in the 2010 elections started pushing like-minded legislation soon after they took office.

"These bills started popping up everywhere and what started as a trickle almost seemed like a flood," Carolyn Fiddler of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee told TPM.

Altogether this year, 20 states which did not have voter ID laws and 14 states that already had non-photo ID laws have considered legislation requiring citizens have a photo ID to vote, according to the latest figures from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Of those 34 states which considered voter ID legislation, six of them enacted laws: Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

It's impressive on some level.  In just eight months, Republicans in 34 states pushed efforts to restrict voting.  That's what these efforts are, the quest to make voting more difficult.  Considering everything past Americans did to secure the right to vote for future generations, the notion that we have to restrict voting to "protect" it should be laughed out of the room.  It's completely obvious what the Republicans are truly up to on this issue.

Conservative columnist Matthew Vadum is just going to come right out and say it: registering the poor to vote is un-American and "like handing out burglary tools to criminals."

"It is profoundly antisocial and un-American to empower the nonproductive segments of the population to destroy the country -- which is precisely why Barack Obama zealously supports registering welfare recipients to vote," Vadum, the author of a book published by World Net Daily that attacks the now-defunct community organizing group ACORN, writes in a column for the American Thinker.

"Encouraging those who burden society to participate in elections isn't about helping the poor," Vadum writes. "It's about helping the poor to help themselves to others' money. It's about raw so-called social justice. It's about moving America ever farther away from the small-government ideals of the Founding Fathers."

It really is that simple.  Conservatives believe that voting, and participation in government itself, should be restricted to the elite, the wealthy, and the powerful.  It's no longer John Birch fringe to believe that the underclass, those who don't belong in the lofty presence of the job creators, have no place in politics.  Conservatives are increasingly blaming them for all of society's ills, and are just wondering how hard they have to push in order for the dwindling middle-class to declare war on the poor, and leave the lords at the top to reap the spoils.

In short, Conservatives don't think everyone in America should have the right to vote, period.  They discovered their mistake in 2006 and 2008, and it was allowing the unwashed masses the right to vote.  And should they get back into 2012, they will eliminate that right.

Keep that in mind this Labor Day, and into November 2012.

Holy Hypocrisy, Batman!

Apparently, the Westboro group can dish it out but can't take it.  Surprise, surprise.
The Westboro Baptist Church has set its hateful sights on the movie, "Red State" -- which will be released in theaters later this month -- calling director Kevin Smith "a God-hating clown."
The Church spokesperson says, "God hates fags, God hates fag enablers, therefore God hates Kevin Smith."
The movie puts the spotlight on a fanatical church whose members kill "sinners" -- many say it bares a resemblance to Westboro.
Neener neener, assholes.  I guess it's hard to ignore the stupidity when forced to actually look at it.

Labor, Dazed, In America

McClatchy's Tony Pugh points out this Labor Day that the millions of long-term unemployed in America are the new untouchable class, and Republicans are wasting no time in demonizing them as the country's 21st century "welfare queens".

Many companies now shun the long-term unemployed when filling positions, fearing their skills have eroded or their talents don't measure up.

America's jobless also face increased hostility from conservative lawmakers, as more states cut the amount and duration of unemployment benefits, while making them harder to get and easier to lose.

In South Carolina, where state-funded jobless benefits were cut from 26 to 20 weeks, Republican state senator Kevin Bryant blogged in April that "Part of the unemployment problem is that our human nature is to take advantage of the ability to get paid to not work. ... I'm very sympathetic to those out of work desperately seeking it, but I'm disappointed that we have a significant segment of our society leeching (off) the system."

Similar comments from a variety of conservatives reflect a sneaking suspicion that 99 weeks of extended benefits have taken the urgency out of job searches.

"Two years is a long time. At some point you've got to provide more incentives to get people to do things," said Frederick Tannery, an associate economics professor at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania.

Leeches.  Welfare queens.  Lazy.  Immoral.  Evil.  Republicans are putting forth the illusion that there is no job creation crisis, that tens of millions of "good, high-paying jobs" are out there going unfilled because people are simply too shiftless to work.  Everything's a zero-sum game for them.

But it's head scratching.  Real corporate taxes are low.  Major corporations are making record profits.  It's absolutely an employer's market out there for labor as companies can hire people with four-year degrees for entry level positions.  It should be a boom time for hiring.

But it's not, because the problem is demand.  Even the Moonie Times admits the problem in the US is demand:  the middle-class consumer in the US has been so utterly crushed by the New Gilded Age that they're not buying anything because they can't afford to.  And if they can't afford to buy more, why hire more?

“There are no quick fixes on the horizon for the millions who are still unemployed,” said Richard Wahlquist, president of the American Staffing Association. “Until businesses see a significant and sustainable uptick in demand for their products and services, we will not see a meaningful increase in the number of new permanent jobs.”

According to surveys conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business, small businesses, which employ the most Americans, have complained for months that “poor sales” are their biggest problem and the reason they aren’t hiring.

Large businesses also have seen little reason to add to staff in a stagnant U.S. market and collectively are sitting on more than $1 trillion in profits that they otherwise could deploy to beef up employment and expand if new sales opportunities arose.

Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, said Friday’s jobs report showed that businesses have no reason to hire. In fact, they even cut back the hours of their existing workforces last month.

“The main issue is lack of demand,” she said. Employers have “substantial room to meet unmet demand by increasing hours of existing workers; if private-sector employers were to simply restore the hours of their workers back to pre-recession levels, that would be equivalent to adding over 1.2 million jobs.”

This is the real issue in our economy:  lack of demand.  And Republicans see the government as having to tighten its belt too as millions of local, state, and federal government employees get furloughed and laid off completely, instead of the government being the demand generator of last resort.  Republicans have tied our hands on this, and more than a few Democrats have gone along.

You'd think pro-corporate Republicans would want to boost businesses in order to get more money into the economy, but they could care less.  All they see is the opportunity to yell and scream that "America can't afford to help the poor" anymore and to throw them down the nearest open manhole.  Not only are jobs being cut, but hours, overtime, benefits and wages as well for those of us that do have jobs.

No wonder corporate profits are sky-high...and yet we're told businesses are being crushed under taxes and regulations that are driving jobs offshore and putting companies out of business.  The truth is these companies are going where the demand is, and they are taking their jobs with them, while this Labor Day the American worker is being put out to pasture...and then the glue factory.

StupidiNews, Labor Day Edition!

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