Daring Depravity

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To Look Skinny…

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In the Movie Back To School with Rodney Dangerfield, his character Thornton Mellon owns a series of “Tall and Fat” Stores, and his motto is “If you want to look thin, hang out with fat people”

Barak Obama is having a similar time right now, as he cruises to re-election.  No left wing challenges and no competent right wing challenger have left him along for the ride.  He is winning just by showing up and not sticking his foot so far in his mouth that he chokes on it.

He will never be called to account for punishing his left wing supporters, eroding civil rights, ignoring labor, the environment, and supporting indefinite detention mostly because Mitt Romney is so incompetent that Obama doesn’t really have to try.

I guess all it takes to look competent is to stand on a stage next to Mitt Romney and say, do you want some of this?

So, there is hope that he will accomplish some good for the country in his second term, but I for one am not holding my breath.  Instead we will get free trade, neoliberal policies, moderate war hawk international stances, and a continuation of where we are now.

Part of that blame lays at the feet of the Republicans, but really it is the Democrats fault.  They won’t push for good policies, just for their own re-election.

But, standing next to Romney, Obama looks like Einstein, Socrates, and George Clooney all rolled into one.

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September 27th, 2012 at 9:57 pm

“9/11 Liberals”

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This past week on Real time with Bill Maher (who I mostly enjoy) he premiered a new premise to justify racism, the “9/11 Liberals. Like usual Maher was very good on class politics, and straight up ridiculous and racist when it comes to Islam.

In his magical world where history and simple cause and effect do not exist, highly politicized and violent forms of Islam are representative of the entire religion, and have no context and backstory. There is no mention or credit given to the US government for igniting the now burning flames of violent Islamic extremism. Instead there is willful ignorance.

In many ways this sounds like the old question of “why do they hate us?”. The answer is both simple and known. “They” hate “us” because the US government for years brutally suppressed democratic movements and propped up dictators all over the world. Violent Islam’s power began with US foreign policy.

Take Iran, whose secular democratic government was overthrown by the US, due to a desire for natural resources for US business interests. This led to a resentment and a movement which culminated in the violent overthrow of the puppet government, and to the rise of a very violent, right wing form of Islam.

Instead, for these “9/11 Liberals” History began on 9/11/2001, the day the world changed.  Why were we attacked?  It was because one religion is particularly more violent than another.  They hate our freedom, our secular western society, and our ideas.

Hitchens, Maher, Rushdie, and other Liberal hawks ignore the history of over 50 years of the US arming Islamic warriors all over the world, and then ask why are all these people armed and mad?

The simple answer is that US foreign policy created the current situation that we are in.  These “Liberals” are far too informed to not know this, instead they are at best willfully ignorant and at worst use these trends to justify their blatant racism against Muslims and brown people.

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September 27th, 2012 at 9:43 pm

Romney’s even bad at cheating on his taxes

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In the Bizzaro wold that we live in, apparently Mitt Romney cheats on his taxes by not taking every deduction due to him so that his tax rate wasn’t super insulting.  So he paid more in taxes than he needed to.

Does Romney cheat at golf by giving himself a higher score?

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September 22nd, 2012 at 4:45 am

Seniors Boo Paul Ryan

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“I had a feeling there would be mixed reactions,” Ryan told the crowd.

http://news.yahoo.com/vp-candidate-ryan-heckled-booed-retiree-event-194856123.html

Also, from the same article, Democrats might have figured out how to explain the concept of social insurance they claim to be in favor of (yet seem to be eager to cut also):

“Given the conversations that have been out there in the political arena lately, I want to emphasize Medicare and Social Security are not handouts,” Obama said. “You’ve paid into these programs your whole life, you’ve earned them.”

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September 21st, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Romney Campaign Rewards Failure

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Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan like to use a lot of tough talk about cutting “entitlements”, debt crushing the country, and rewarding hard work, so wouldn’t they run their campaign based on these principles?

Apparently, not.  According to NPR and NRO, in August the Romney Campaign borrowed $20 Million against their future campaign receipts and is over $11 Million in Debt.  This seems to go against Romeny’s own stated “Cut, Cap and Balance” program that would allegedly force the USA to “live within its means” and only spend money that it currently has.

By Contrast the Romney campaign according to spokeswoman Andrea Saul raised $66.1 million in August and spent $61.2 million.

To top it off the campaign paid out bonuses to its staff after obtaining the nomination, to the tune of over $200,000 for the awesome performance of the convention.

So, in summary, super slick, smart business consultant Mitt Romney’s campaign organization spends more than it takes in, borrows against the future, and rewards failure.

This is how Mitt Romney would run the country, except the bonuses would be larger and the failures for the American people would be graver than Clint Eastwood  yelling at a chair.

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September 21st, 2012 at 10:46 pm

End Corporate Feudalism with Industrial Pensions

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Private Pensions in Crisis

Over the past 2 years of economic crisis the system of workplace benefits in the United States has been under attack from greedy executives as well as prevailing capitalist economics.  Pensions have been devalued and many of the funds have failed.  Health benefits have become increasingly more expensive, with many companies forcing workers to pay more for their healthcare or refusing to offer it at all.

Through this all, the blame for these problems has been placed squarely on the shoulders of the workers themselves.  The myth of the auto worker who makes $70.00 per hour is probably the most popular example, with the capitalist press and government blaming the Unions and the workers for the inability of the Big Three automakers to compete with other companies.  If only the company did not have to abide by the Union Wage and benefit scale, they claim, the companies would be free to compete with Japanese and other auto makers who built their factories in right-to-work states where they would not have to worry about unions.

After the union’s formation in the 1930s, the UAW and other CIO unions of the time were very militant and their sit down strikes set the bar for establishing unions in auto plants.  However, during World War II, the Federal Government moved towards a government-planned war-time economy, and many unions were forced to accept a no strike pledge and a wage freeze to produce for the war.

Despite the wage freeze, many workers continued to agitate and strike and employers needed to find a way to placate thems.  The solution employers found, with the help of the unions, was complimentary benefits, namely pensions and healthcare.  Pensions were supposed to be simple.  Bosses and workers both pay into a fund, and when workers reach a retirement age they receive a monthly payment from the fund, with the amount based on the number of years of service to the company.

When these plans began, there were far more workers than retirees.  So, if a worker was 64 when the pension was created, and they retired at 65, they would receive a full pension despite only paying in for one years worth of benefits.  This creates a shortfall, because current workers are paying in and benefits go to the current retirees.  Companies promised to make up this difference with a lump sum payment sometime in the future.  Instead, the Employers tried to close the gap by investing pension funds for profit and hoping that there would always be more workers than retirees, so the shortfall could be put on the back of the workers, not the company.

During this same time period, the Capitalists worked to find ways to shift production towards highly mechanized factories which needed fewer and fewer workers.  This technological change led to higher profits and efficiency and less workers to pay for all of the retirees.  Eventually, the capitalist system took its toll and the situation reversed.  Now retirees vastly out-number the active work-force and for each person working in the auto industry, there are several retirees collecting pensions.  The system is short a great deal of money, and the companies claim that they don’t have to make up the difference.

The companies that once masqueraded as benevolent patriarchs are now looking for ways to skip out on the check after years of dining at the worker’s table.  Hundreds of thousands of retirees and workers are wholly dependent on these Corporate behemoths, who for years sold the lie that “we are all in this together” and of collaboration between workers and bosses for the benefit of both.  Now the companies want to cut them off and destroy their retirement income as well as their access to affordable healthcare.

Putting Worker’s wealth toward the benefit of the Working Class

This privatized benefit system creates what Wobblies at the time called Corporate Feudalism.  Corporate Feudalism confuses the interests of the working class with those of the employing class and workers and retirees become wholly dependent on the survival of a single corporation.  Corporate failure is tied to the current and future success of working people, and the rhetoric of “we are all in this together” takes hold.  Like the serfs in Feudalism, workers produce all for the company, and when they are too old to work anymore, workers are dependent on the benevolent kings of industry to care for them.

Under the capitalist system of wage labor, workers are forced to work for a wage that is far less than the value of what they produce and the Bosses keep the surplus value.  This is one of the primary relationships of Capitalism.  Under Feudalism, however, there was no currency.  In exchange for labor, workers received food, housing, healthcare, and retirement care.  Corporate Feudalism mixes these systems, with workers generating greater surplus value for their bosses in exchange for benefits instead of higher wages.  If you dare leave the Industrial Plantation, however, your benefits evaporate.

With corporate managed pension funds, this situation gets even worse.  Bosses use the workers’ pension money to support other anti-union enterprises and increase class oppression.  In addition to the surplus value, workers turn over a portion of their wages to the Boss, who then invests it at their whim, sometimes losing money, and always to the detriment of the workers.

Many workers have greatly benefited from these programs; retirees have lived out their lives without having to work and with expansive medical coverage that is very affordable or free.  But now with the system crushing under its own weight and the pyramid turning upside down, it is time to return to the alternative visions that were offered in the 1930s.  Wobblies at that time had ideas for regional-based benefit pools, or pools that covered entire industries, with control of the funds resting in a democratic organization based in local communities.  As a compliment to the struggle for Industrial Unionism, this would be a struggle for Industrial Pensions, a Pension that moved with you from job to job in a fund that is managed by workers and not bosses.

The goal of these funds would be to ensure that workers do not turn over one dollar more of their money than necessary to the capitalists, and to ensure that workers pension money is used to advance the cause of the working class, not the employing class.  Instead, this money could be used to build schools, to make loans to construction projects that use union labor, offer low APR mortgages to union members, or to supply low cost medical treatment in our communities.  The most important principle has to be that if the fund will be used for investment, then workers’ money must benefit the working class and not the employing class.

There are potential pitfalls with these models.  Managing large sums of money can leads to corruption and bitter arguments.  The craft business unions, such as the Carpenters and the Teamsters give us a vision of what that could look like.  The answer to these problems, however, is transparency, democracy, and education.  If workers will manage their own retirement funds, everyone must know what the fund is being used for, how this will benefit all involved, and most of all, have a democratic say in the process.  These other funds lack these elements, and that has lead to drastic problems.

Nonetheless, as we reflect on workers struggle this May Day with the current Corporate Feudalism system collapsing under its own weight, we have an opportunity to look to the future.  We can all imagine a world where all workers are able to retire, live in a home, get enough nutritious food to eat, and have access to healthcare and education.  But only the destruction of the Capitalist system can ensure the end of instability in all workers’ lives.

Destroying this system of Corporate Feudalism will not, in and of itself,  end the capitalist exploitation of workers, but taking back the workers’ wealth and putting it to the benefit of the working class would deal a devastating blow to the capitalist bosses who have profited off of this terrible and manipulative system for so long.  We will never destroy Capitalism unless we also destroy Corporate Feudalism!

Two other interesting articles about Pensions:

http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/08/28/060828fa_fact

http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/03/gms-problems-are-50-years-in-making.html

Written by Walt

April 5th, 2010 at 11:13 pm

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Good Work New Jersey

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Governor Christie is riding into town on a new white horse, vowing to cut spending during the recession.  According to the New York Times, how will this affect the state?

On Tuesday, he made clear that what he had in mind was a U-turn.

Upending the priorities of his Democratic predecessors, Governor Christie unveiled a budget that would hit the poor, elderly, schoolchildren, college students and inner-city residents hardest, while largely sparing the wealthy and businesses.

Great!  Lets balance the budget on the backs of the working people, and give the wealth and businesses a free pass.  I’m so glad that New Jersey residents voted out that slimeball, former head of Goldman Sachs governor in favor of this awesome populist who’s goal is to spare the Wealthy and the Corporations from making any sacrifice .

This is going to be a long 4 years for the residents of the Garden State, as long as you are not super rich or a major corporation.  If you are one of those, then you are golden.

Written by Walt

March 16th, 2010 at 11:11 am

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Scott Brown’s Truck – Reality Check

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So, Senator Scott Brown is bringing his big, manly, regular guy who happens to be a real estate lawyer and former nude fashion model – self to Washington.  He bought it for hauling lumber, and doing manly stuff, which makes him a regular guy.  Except thats not what it is for at all, according to his interview in New York Times Magazine:

“It’s a regular truck.” Yes and no. As Arianna, the younger of his two daughters, told me, he originally purchased it not so he could haul lumber but so he could attach it to a trailer bearing her horse. He soon abandoned that plan. “It’s scary pulling a trailer,”

What a regular guy, you know, driving your daughter to her equestrian events on the weekends, while you are off work as a lawyer, but then getting scared from pulling a trailer?  This is the manly, regular man that the GOP claims is a populist destined to set Washington straight?

Well, certainly he does other activities that the GOP would get behind, like being a fashion model, who wears expensive pink leather shorts?

Arianna told me that he showed up for his first real date with her mother, Gail Huff, a TV newscaster to whom he has been married for more than 23 years, in pink leather shorts. It’s family lore.

The pinkish color drained from his face when I asked him about it during a conversation in his campaign office just before we took off in the truck. He clarified that the shorts weren’t something that he went out and purchased — it wasn’t like that at all. “I did the couture shows, and instead of paying in cash, they paid in clothes,” he said. “And one of the things I had to wear were leather shorts. And these happened to be pink.”

As he told the story, he seemed, almost in spite of himself, to get into it. “If I wore these now,” he said, “I’d get shot. But it was the ’80s. Pastels were in. It was all pastel-y.” The shorts went with his tan at the time and a pair of white shoes that he owned, so he gave them a whirl. “Gail comes out and she’s like, ‘Those are pink shorts.’ I said: ‘Yeah, you like them? They’re great. Comfortable. Feel this leather.’ ” With this last phrase, he slowly stroked the side of one of his thighs, apparently miming the gesture he made in front of her.

He emphasized: “This isn’t cheap leather. This is, like, $750 shorts back then.”

Ok, so he’s a rich guy, who was a fashion model, he’s a lawyer, and he’s scared to pull a trailer with his truck.  He wears $750.00 (circa 1980′s) leather shorts, and works for clothing instead of money.  This is the populist rebuttal to the elitism of President Obama?

On one more note, his wife starred in an awesome music video from the 80s.  Just watch it, its amazing.

Written by Walt

February 28th, 2010 at 12:51 pm

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Here is some more Bipartisanship

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It appears that Republicans and Democrats can agree on one item: spying on the American People is a good thing.  The two groups voted overwhelmingly together to re-authorize the PATRIOT Act for another year, with no modifications.

I am glad that in this tough time of Partisanship, the Democrats dug deep and worked with the Republicans to advance their agenda.  Good work “Liberals”.

Written by Walt

February 28th, 2010 at 12:35 pm

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Bi-Partisanship’s awesome accomplishments

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Chris Caldwell, editor of the Weekly Standard (someone who I typically would not quote) had a thought provoking article in the Financial Times Weekend edition.  In this, he outlines the problems in Washington, that Democrats and Republicans are split into two camps, summarizing neatly:

“For three decades, centrism has been a declining force in American life. Arguments over the sustainability of the postwar welfare state have split politicians into two camps – one keen on consolidating government programmes, the other keen on dismantling them. There is not much room for negotiation here.”

This is a pretty good point that many Liberals cannot seem to grasp.  Although the author above wants to dismantle the post war welfare state, at least he makes no apologies for what he believes.  The Republican Party is not a responsible partner in creating new government policy; Republicans want to destroy government.  They want to dismantle the welfare state, and privatize social security, medicare, and all government services.  There is a range as to how fast the programs should be dismantled, but there is now doubt among their caucus: their first priority is to destroy and privatize the government.

There is not much room for negotiation there.  And the record of Bipartisanship of the past 8 years not stellar either.  As Caldwell points out, the main accomplishments of the Bi-Partisanship of the past 8 years are the following: No Child Left Behind, the Iraq War, and the TARP Bank Bailout, all of which are terribly unpopular with the general population.  One that Caldwell leaves out is the appointment of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, which directly led to the Citizens United election privatization of 2010.  The public disapproves of this by up to 80% in a recent poll.

Bipartisanship has lead to terrible policies, but more so, bipartisanship only appears to lead to Republican Policies.  Working together means doing what the Republicans want: dismantle the government, except for the Pentagon, which needs to find reasons to exist and get more funding.  Not working together means providing healthcare to citizens, protecting social security, and any number of other government programs.

Its time to get past the bipartisan lie, and start to accomplish something for the base on which President Obama was elected from.  It is time to use the power of the government to protect the citizens, and provide them with services, reigning in private power.  If this is being Partisan, then so be it.

Written by Walt

February 21st, 2010 at 2:12 pm

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