Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pop Quiz For The Christian Nation Living Within America

(Answers below) Four points for writing your name. Eight points each for correct answers.

High over the entrance to the Supreme Court is a frieze filled with statuary. Seated in the middle is Moses with two tablets.

1) The tablets represent:
a) The Ten Commandments
b) The Bill of Rights
c) Moses' endorsement of Tylenol
d) Not a stinkin' thing

2) On either side of Moses are the Greek law-giver Solon and:
a) Homer
b) Homer Simspon
c) Confucius
d) Cotton Mather

Inside, on the south and north walls of the courtroom itself are two other friezes.

3) There are how many Jews depicted?
a) None
b) 2
c) 5
d) 6, but they are reformed Jews so they don't really count

4) How many Catholics?
a) 5
b) 10
c) 100
d) Just St. Francis of Assisi to soften the tone of the joint

5) How many Muslims?
a) None, Muslims aren't really Americans
b) None, Muslims aren't really human beings
c) You're not allowed to depict Muslims in picture or sculpture
d) 1

6) There is one Babylonian, Hammurabi. How many pharaohs?
a) King Tut is up there and a couple of others who have pyramids and stuff
b) 1, but you'll never guess his name
c) Pharaoh's daughter is depicted because she was known as Little Lady Lawgiver
d) Steve Martin

7) How many famous ancient Greeks and Romans?
a) 2
b) 3
c) 5
d) none

8) How many Protestants?
a) 3
b) none - they refused to appear with members of other faiths on the frieze
c) 19
d) zillions, 'cause this is a Christian nation

Who said the following?

9) "The Constitution of the U.S. forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion."
a) Billy Graham
b) Graham Nash
c) James Madison
d) Barack Hussein Obama

10) "Every other sect supposes itself in possession of the truth, and that those who differ are so far in the wrong. Like a man traveling in foggy weather they see those at a distance before them wrapped up in a fog, as well as those behind them, and also people in the fields on each side; but near them, all appears clear, though in truth they are as much in the fog as any of them."
a) Ben Cartwright
b) Diderot
c) Ben Franklin
d) Joe Don Baker

11) "Whoever shall introduce into public affairs the principles of primitive Christianity will change the face of the world."
a) Newt Gingrich
b) Knute Rockne
c) Ben Franklin
d) Franklin Pierce

12) "There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy.  Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness."
a) the Dalai Lama
b) Dolly Parton
c) Salvador Dali 
d) Thomas Jefferson

1) b, Bill of Rights - according to the sculptor
2) c, Confucius
3) b, 2: Moses and Solomon
4) a, 5: Justinian, Charlemagne, King John, Louis IX and Napoleon
5) d, 1: Mohammed
6) b, Pharaoh Menes
7) c, 5: Lycurgus, Solon, Draco, Octavian and Justinian
8) a, 3: Hugo Grotius, John Marshall and Sir William Blackstone
9) c, James Madison
10) c, Ben Franklin
11) c, Ben Franklin
12) a, the Dalai Lama. Astoundingly enough he said it to Dolly Parton...

Monday, August 30, 2010

What Cicero Had To Say About Traitors - The Radical Right Wing Cashing In On Hatred And Fear

 Everyone should be angry, anxious and ready to counter any and all challenges from the extremist right wing after the fear and hatred extravaganza this weekend at the Lincoln Memorial.

The effrontery to the memory of Martin Luther King and all he stands for is self-evident. The insensitivity is beyond calculation. King had a dream. Beck offers America an Ayn Randian nightmare where radical individualism - the worst of Social Darwinism - will rule our lives.

Should the radical right seize much power, from cradle to grave even the well-educated let alone the poor and struggling, will struggle for a shirnking piece of a shrinking pie.

It sounds like hyperbole, but in all seriousness, this right wing is dangerously anti-American. They are the anti-patriots.

Cicero, in the late 1st century B.C. in one of his speeches, said of different traitors in different times:

A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. 

But it cannot survive treason from within.

For the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. 

For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims,  and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. 

He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist.

A murderer is less to fear. The traitor is the plague

Speaking of baseness, here are some thumbnail sketches of "Tea Party" type candidates:
  • There's health industry executive Rick Scott, the Republican nominee for Governor in Florida whose former company was forced to pay $1.7 billion in fines for Medicare fraud committed during his tenure and who led one of the most birulent anti-health reform groups last year. He's already spent $50 million of his own money to buy the race.
  • There's Joe Miller, running for Senate in Alaska. He's questioned the constitutionality of unemployment insurance and wants to phase out Social Security.
  • There's Dan Maes, Republican candidate for governor in Colorado, who asserted that efforts in Denver to promote bike riding could "threaten our personal freedoms." (Seriously, he said it.)
  • There's Sharron Angle, running for Senate in Nevada, who said she believes there are "domestic enemies" serving in Congress and has urged using "remedies" under the Second Amendment to change that. (Why use ballots when you can use bullets, eh?)
  • And then there's Rand Paul, the nominee for Senate in Kentucky, who has said he wouldn't have supported key provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans With Disabilities Act. (Spoken like a true son of privilege.)
  • Carl Paladino, the Tea-Party-backed Republican candidate for governor of New York, sent an email that shows a video of an African tribal dance, entitled "Obama Inauguration Rehearsal," while another depicts hardcore bestiality.
  • A leading Tea Party funded Republican candidate for Tennessee's 6th congressional district, Lou Ann Zelenik, condemned the plans for a mosque's expansion in Murfreesboro.
According to a University of Washington study, 46% of Tea Party'ers believe "if blacks would only try harder, they would be just as well off as whites." That racist sentiment, held by nearly half of all Tea Party supporters, had already been established by a USA Today poll, and WU study strongly confirmed their findings from July:
Nearly half say blacks lag in jobs, income and housing "because most African Americans just don't have the motivation or willpower to pull themselves up out of poverty."
Over half of all Tea Party'ers believe that immigration (not illegal immigration, mind you) is "changing the culture in the U.S. for the worse" (54%), compared to 32% for everyone else.

When asked if we should single out Muslims or Middle Easterners for airport security stops, 63% of Tea Party supporters said we should, compared to 43% of all voters, a disturbing percentage of all Americans.

Over half of Tea Party'ers believe gays "have too much political power" compared to "the size of their group."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dr. Pepper's Bad Prescription For People - More Union Busting

The man who has his millions will want everything he can lay his hands on and then 
raise his voice against the poor devil who wants ten cents more a day.  
               - Samuel Gompers

Dr. Pepper-Snapple owns Mott's Apple Juice among its 50 brands. (7-Up, Hawaiian Punch, Sunkist, Stewart's Root Beer, etc. Go to their site and click "Our Brands" to see the others)

Stop buying and drinking their products.

The company, which saw record profits of $550 million in 2009, is hammering union workers in its Rochester, NY, area apple juice plant, asking for give backs and pay cuts, and hiring scab workers in the depressed, job-hungry upstate region. The union is the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union International (RWDSU, for short).

What is at issue here is whether people with 15 years experience who are making around $19 an hour in skilled jobs should give back $3 an hour to a corporate giant making more than a half billion dollar a year profit.

What is also at issue are livable wages for a dedicated, profit-producing group of UFCW workers with families, children, hopes and dreams. The mega-corporation wants to take back gains the workers have struggled for over decades, and throw them into the crocodile pit of cheap labor. Shamefully, the company has already begun replacing some of the workers who have been striking since May.

The $40,000 per year wage is a decent living for a Rochester area worker (the plant is located in Williamson, NY). But no one is getting rich on it and, if you calculate a working life of 25 years, you'll see that one can buy a modest house, 3 or 4 cars, take some non-luxury vacations but never save enough to send the kids to college. And probably a worker can go bankrupt in a flash if some unforeseen catastrophe should hit. So this is the kind of life that the barons who own Dr. Pepper-Snapple want for their workers - 16% less in pay and benefits, and no retirement fund.

The underlying issues concern corporate greed. Keep in mind that when that $550 million dollar profit is divvied up, it goes to shareholders of Dr. Pepper-Snapple, who we can rest assured are not generally of the blue collar class. The corporation's logic tells us that people in the ownership class need the money more than the workers at the Mott's plant.

And how much will it mean to the greedy shareholders?

By our calculations, this oppressive restructuring of wages would save about $1.5 million per year on the backs of the 300 workers who could be affected at the plant. This would redistribute about 6 cents per share to the owners, while it cuts back on worker earnings by about 16%.

6 lousy cents.

Meanwhile the Dr. Pepper-Snapple stock has gone up in value over 42% in the last 52 weeks.

This is the America we want to leave our children and grandchildren? Decline in earning power so someone can have a cheap, over-sweetened drink from Dr. Pepper?

According to the New York Times:

Tim Budd, a 24-year employee who belongs to the union’s bargaining team, said he was shocked by one thing the plant manager said during negotiations. 

“He said we’re a commodity like soybeans and oil, and the price of commodities go up and down,” Mr. Budd recalled. “He said there are thousands of people in this area out of jobs, and they could hire any one of them for $14 an hour. It made me sick to have someone sit across the table and say I’m not worth the money I make.”

Have a glass of water from your tap the next time you feel like reaching for one of Dr. Pepper's products.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Radical Right: The Great Dismantlers

Tomorrow is the 90th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. It passed the Tennessee legislature by one vote, its approval ushering in the era of equality between the sexes in the voting booth. The amendment's journey was slow and painful and was thwarted for decades by reactionary, anti-social elements in America. These have not disappeared entirely as we know from the behavior of Palin, Gingrich, Kyl, et al. And they are as dangerous to the ture American way of life as ever.

Everywhere, in every way, the radical Republicans are intent on tearing things down. No wonder they are so fanatical about their handguns and assault rifles. They seek to dismantle so many things important to our social fabric that we will surely descend into anarchy if they get their way even on just one of them.

Let's start with the brouhaha du jour, the Islamic Center in lower Manhattan. Is there something actually wrong with the First Amendment? And is there something inherently unpatriotic about defending it? It's been around since 1791 and was written and shepherded by one our greatest Presidents and political philosophers, James Madison. Of all the amendments it is the most fundamental to our national identity.

Yet, like termites at the foundation of our 220 year-old spiritual and political house, the radical right gnaws and gnaws at. Their message? If you're white, Protestant and conservative, fear nothing. If you're anything else, be very afraid.

Next there's the attack on the Fourteenth Amendment, the one that confers automatic citizenship upon individuals born on American soil, with a few technical restrictions such as children of foreign ambassadors. The fourteenth is a mere stripling at 142 years old. And what is really awful about the reactionaries' attack is that it is just an attack - there's no new text for us to sit down and discuss, just raw and ugly emotion aimed at foreigners. The only thing we're left with is a contemplation of xenophobia.

But the Fourteenth Amendment is also known as the "equal protection" amendment because it states unequivocally that "no state shall... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Such as the right to marry whomever you want? Such as the right to go your way unhindered without fear of random stops by local police looking for undocumented people from south of the border? (The amendment's history is deeper and broader than today's controversies, so a full discussion would actually take a book to cover it all.)

Switching gears a bit, how about the propsed dismantling of Social Security? Sane, civilized people can surely understand the need to gradually raise the retirement age for benefits collection since people are now, and will be, living longer than when the program was first instituted.

To completely privatize the system, however, is the hope only of madmen and women. If the system had been private in 2008 when the crashing began, 40% of all value would have been wiped out and would still be wiped out. So, a person who was expecting $1400 per month would be receiving only $840 per month, IF there was still a decent yield on his or her principle to be had. Consider the chaos that might have ensued.

Let's talk about the Presidency. No one can make an argument that George W. Bush was attacked in a vociferous and occasionally virulent way. He was not, though, held to be any of the following: non-American, un-American, a member of a Muslim terrorist sect, a Socialist, a Communist, a monkey, the Joker, Mao, Che or Satan. George Bush was compared to Hitler quite a number of times, although not as many times as Obama. Bush was never depicted as either eating or growing watermelons on the White House lawns.

If a more centrist President had been elected - such as a Bill Clinton - the hue and cry would have hit different notes, but it would have been as ugly, because at bottom, the radical right, (which pretty much now runs the Republican Party), despises the Presidency most of all among government institutions. It's hated it since Abe Lincoln, whom the reactionaries murdered. They stepped it up when Theodore Roosevelt began forcing through sorely-needed reforms. FDR? Well, talk about the Great Satan! They killed Kennedy, whipsawed LBJ, laughed at Carter, and tried to depose Clinton. We shouldn't be surprised at how our first African-American progressive President has been treated.

What else has the radical right wing (and I include Republicans, Dixiecrats and Blue Dog Democrats under that banner) dismantled? The Glass-Steagall Act which kept banks and investment banks from speculating with deposits, mixing their functions. They've been hammering at Medicare and Medicaid since Richard Nixon's administration, an era that now seems moderate compared to the extremism his party now deploys. The right to a speedy trial guaranteed in the Sixth Amendment. And don't even get started with the Sixteenth Amendment, which allowed for the levy of an income tax.

They don't believe in government, which means they don't believe in society. They believe in an Ayn Rand steroidal nightmare of a viciously individualistic social order.

Out with all of this civilization stuff and nonsense says the right wing.

Shall we go on to campaign finance and the Citizens United case? Or how about removing environmental safeguards that might well have prevented the Gulf oil catastrophe?

What the radicals want is for all people without a huge income or super strong assets to begin a war against each other day in and day out. (Think of the dismantled unions which directly put workers to struggling against globalization and low wage illegal aliens.)

They welcome the disarray, the anarchy, the divisions among Americans because it will further drive down wages and distract us from the real inequalities running uncontrolled in our society. They seek nothing more than law and order and a complete dismantling of the middle class.

If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Manhattan Islamic Center, American Religions and the Presidency - Some Other Bigotry Worth Contemplating

There has been but one Roman Catholic President of the United States: John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Aside from JFK, there have been two other Roman Catholic candidates for President: Al Smith in 1928 and John Kerry in 2004.

There have been 3 Roman Catholic Vice-Presidential Candidates: William Miller (R-1964), Ed Muskie (D-1968), and Sargent Shriver (D-1972)

There has been one Greek Orthodox Catholic candidate for President, Michael Dukakis.

There have been no Jews nominated.

No Mormons. No Atheists (that we know of).

Certainly no Buddhists, Hindus or Muslims.

Thus far, the score is:

WASPs 42
Catholics 1
Black Protestants 1

A bit lopsided?

That it is primarily white Protestants leading the charge against the Islamic Center in lower Manhattan should speak volumes to the rest of us about the priorities of the (barely) majority Protestants. Of course many Protestants do not fall into this hysterically xenophobic group. And, sadly, there are many Catholics - led by the likes of xenophobe-in-chief, Pat Buchanan - who are lining up against the center.

If you fall outside the pale of mainline white Protestantism, however, recall that you, or your near ancestors, suffered this exact same kind of intolerance. Think long and hard about what your forebears suffered and poke around in the vast computer knowledge files to see how similarly they were portrayed in the press as are Muslims now. 

Meanwhile, even with the election of a black President, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for a Catholic or a Jew, among others, to move into the White House.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

On The Matter Of The Islamic Center in Manhattan

 James Madison, known as the Father of the Constitution, made clear the difference between Liberty and toleration in religion. Toleration is a grant made by a majority to a minority, giving the minority some sort of permission to build, meet, worship, believe. Liberty, said Madison, is a self-evident, natural right. It cannot be denied by the majority because the right to so deny does not repose in the majority.

Writing from Montpelier, Vermont, in 1823 in a letter to Edward Everett he said: "...if new sects arise with absurd opinions or over-heated imaginations, the proper remedies lie in time, forbearance, and example..."

Note the words "forbearance" and "example." Forbearance encompasses patience and understanding. Example is an answer to those who argue that many - but not all - majority Islamic countries restrict the freedom of others. That argument says we should stoop to their intolerance, become not even better in our Western beliefs, but wallow in the mud of backwardness. Surely that is no argument at all.

Perhaps we should amend the First Amendment to read "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, except for Islam and other religions we might find somehow offensive at any time for any reason."

Among other things, the hysterical response to the Islamic center is a proxy for protest against the failed policies of two administrations in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

There are a number of constituencies against the Islamic center. One has a barely valid claim - the families of victims of the attacks. Another constituency is the vehement new Nativist Movement that seems to despise anyone and anything that is not completely embraced by the myths of white Christian America. The third, and possibly the most despicable, is the cynical right wing of the radical Republican Party.

First, the families. While I appreciate their continuing anguish, a society cannot always take into account the ongoing feelings of all families of murder victims at all times. It is an impossible task. A better way to remember the dead beloved would be to recommit ourselves to the bedrock of American rights: freedom of choice in most important matters. Hard? Yes, of course. Our Founders had that courage, but apparently, we have so little faith in our way of life that some are looking to reform the 1st Amendment. But one certainly cannot believe that all 1.2 billion Muslims are evil, or even vaguely support terrorism. In reality, most Muslims are dead set against it, having witnessed first hand terrorist acts in their own countries. Would we as Americans want to be judged on the behavior of a William Calley who, along with his men, murdered 500 Vietnamese civilians? I think not. Would we want to be known as supporters of Timothy McVey? Of course not. How do we feel as a people about the ruination of Native American Indian peoples, or how about slavery? Are we collectively responsible? We know the answer because it is written in our traditions dating to ancient Greece, Rome and Medieval Europe and refined and set in stone by the thinkers of the Enlightenment. We are individually responsible for our own actions. Holding all of Islam responsible for 9/11 is absurd even if tens of thousands of their coreligionists are sadistic, nihilistic fiends. Each of the murderers and whoever provided support or comfort and those who continue to hide the masterminds are responsible. That might number thousands of people, but it surely is not ALL of Islam. And the huge majority of Islam deserve a place at the table in the same way most of our ancestors were given their place.

The next group against the Mosque - the people who are stirring every ethno-religious pot in sight since President Obama was elected - rest their arguments on hate and their strategy upon neutralization and possibly annihilation of their "enemies." In other circumstances and places today, illegal immigrants are their target, or poor black people. In the past, Know-Nothings and Klansmen targeted blacks, Jews, Catholics, Irish, Italians, Greeks, Mormons, and the Amish. (The largest mass-lynching in this country was in New Orleans in 1891 and its victims were Sicilian/Italian-American laborers and fruit merchants.) Eradicating this kind of hate thought and speech remains a challenge. The arguments of hate-mongers deserve no hearing in a democratic society and we would all do well to watch over their incitements to violence. They demean and debase our liberties in the most insidious ways.

Finally, and I say the worst, are the right wing politicians who hope to make electoral hay on this matter. The John Boehners and Sara Palins of this scurrilous gang of political hooligans use the arguments of both the survivors and the hate-mongers in order to further cripple what is currently a fragile national unity. Their motives are clear, their ends are contemptible. "Raise my party up swearing patriotism upon the graves of the honored dead," so the x-ray of their minds would show.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Illegal Workers And $600 Million More On "Border Security"

The highway is alive tonight
But nobody's kiddin' nobody about where it goes
I'm sittin' down here in the campfire light
Searchin' for the ghost of Tom Joad
           - Bruce Springsteen

Tom Joad: They're workin' away our spirits, tryin' to make us cringe and crawl, takin' away our decency.  
                  - John Steinbeck

The problem of illegal workers in this country has one primary fount: the employers who hire them.

No jobs, no work. No work, no illegal workers. No illegal workers, better employment prospects among lower level American workers and legal immigrants.

Employers who hire illegal workers are by definition predatory, anti-American-worker, and cheat the system in many ways while exploiting people who are in dire need of work. Let it be remembered that, before and now especially during the Great Recession, many American workers have been shut out of low and middle-level jobs because of nefarious hiring practices.

Which workers suffer the most? African-Americans, legal immigrants, and poorly-trained whites.

Once unions had been castrated, the path was clear for this kind of anti-social economic predation. (And the following in no way is meant to denigrate the lives and efforts of the workers who come to the United States seeking jobs, leaving countries that offer little in the way of opportunities. While we are busy solving this problem, they must be treated humanely and with dignity. Developing Mexico and the rest of Latin America is a larger discussion.)

Let's choose a couple of industries to draw examples from - construction and light regional manufacturing.

The employer scam works this way:

1. Determine that the wages paid American workers can be halved or even cut by two-thirds by hiring illegal workers. Send word via the immigrant grapevine that such jobs are available. A laborer would earn $10 per hour versus his/her American counterpart's $15 to $30, while an unskilled assembly line worker without documentation would earn $8 versus $12 to $25 per hour.

2. Gloat that because the U.S. has relatively humane laws concerning free health care, the employer does not have to cover the item while the American taxpayer does. 62% of illegal immigrants have no health coverage at all. Another 30% have inadequate coverage.

3. Further off-loading of costs are accomplished through not paying disability insurances, unemployment insurance, and by not heeding workplace safety rules. Because, who can protest it? Certainly not the illegal worker.

4. Have a firm understanding that illegal workers not only have no right to organize, but, in fact, have almost no rights at all.

5. Work closely with smugglers who have a call on some portion of the illegal workers' pay, so the worker further is in thrall to the employer's rules of non-law. Numbers 4 and 5 are modern versions of some aspects of the padrone system that victimized Italian immigrants, and the Irish gang labor practices prevalent until banned in the early-middle part of the 20th century.

6. Learn how to cry out in great consternation over the clamping down on illegal workers because it would "hurt the economy."

7. Exploit Nativist sentiment that states, in a nut shell, that the illegal workers are really leeches and should be repressed even more. This spreads fear and cowardice not just in the illegal group but those legal workers seeking better pay and conditions. The fear factor.

8. Off load more expenses onto tax payers such as lost local, state and Federal revenues that go toward facilities that not only the illegal workers but their families use as well: roads, sewers, water, schools, recreational facilities, etc. If illegal workers had a state of their own, it would rank right behind Ohio. An entire state that doesn't pay taxes only to the benefit of rapacious employers.

9. Create and perpetuate the myth that American workers "don't want these jobs." Look at ANY hiring site, job fair, or any other place that offers positions and you will see hundreds of applicants for low and middle skill jobs.

10. Count profits that are partly the result of the savings on wages and benefits, partly on taxes and fees the employer would be liable for if they paid American workers.

11. Utilize local and state law enforcement agencies not to "send them back," but rather as instruments of fear. The illegal worker now has to become more of a phantom in our society due to state initiatives such as the one found in Arizona.

Today, the Obama administration announced the appropriation of $600 million to "secure the border." Troops, fences, electronic surveillance. So, once again, we are forced to subsidize employers who will continue to wave around the honey pot promise of good jobs to nationals from countries where there are none.

There are rather stringent penalties under existing law to put the hammer down on the employers. Yet disturbingly, the average penalty is roughly at 10% of the strength of the maximum allowable by law.

Sec. 274A of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and 8 U.S.C. 1324a, makes it unlawful for any person knowingly to hire, recruit or refer for a fee any alien not authorized to work. An employer that violates these laws can face penalties of:

· $250 to $2,000 fine for each unauthorized individual;
· $2,000 to $5,000 for each employee if the employer has previously been in violation; or
· $3,000 - $10,000 for each individual if employer was subject to more than one cease and desist order. 

The employer can also be fined $100 to $1,000 for each individual “paperwork” violation. 

The criminal penalties for a pattern and practice violation can be up to $3,000 for each unauthorized alien, imprisonment up to six months, or both.

The rub is this - it is very hard to prove such allegations against an employer. Only about 1% of illegal employers are ever convicted.

Illegal workers benefit by the system on the macro level to some degree. The bigger winners are the employers. 

If you own a construction company that employs 10 workers at $10 rather than $20 per hour,  you are saving $800 per day. Over the course of a 10-week project, that's a savings of $40,000. 

Meanwhile, taxpayers pick up that remaining difference that should be going toward taxes, health costs, and other costs. 

Now multiply all that by thousands and thousands of illegal employers. How many billions does it make per year? How many trillions over 10 years?

And to put the cherry on top of this sinister sundae, stir in the impoverishment, demoralization and degradation of our fellow citizens who cannot get even those lower pay jobs.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Coked Up Winged Monkeys Fly In From The Right

 Rarely did the film version of The Wizard of Oz reach the level of real darkness. But when those bellboy-suited winged monkeys were unleashed by the Wicked Witch of the West, there was an undeniable creep factor. In L. Frank Baum's novel, the Winged Monkeys were incredibly destructive - shredding the Scarecrow and using his innards as bedding, dropping the Tinman into a craggy ravine, degrading and enslaving the Cowardly Lion as a dray animal. And let's not forget the kidnapping of Toto, too.

Enter the Republicans, authors of the 1 trillion dollars-worth of wars in southwest Asia and a $1.5 trillion tax cut for the super rich, with their critiques of stimulus spending. A sort of political version of winged monkeys themselves, the arch-conservatives, as we already know, have no regard for any of the following:

Economic justice
Plain old facts
Civil rights beyond the 2nd Amendment
Normal politicial dialogue

The right-winged monkeys are led by the once quasi-honorable John McCain, embittered and mortified by his presidential election loss, as they seize upon a few sometimes bizarre-seeming awards under the huge stimulus plan. (McCain is ably assisted in his mindless lashing out by Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.)

As one would expect, they are off base about almost every single project they buffoonishly criticize. The truth, indeed, is always the first casualty.

Let's start with an unhappy accident - no pun intended. BP America was awarded a $308 million grant for a clean energy project in California. That was before the ghastly Gulf disaster. But, the project has attracted 7x the amount in private investment that the goverment is investing and will directly create at least 1,600 jobs.

A pause here to note that the numbers bandied about when discussing employment impact almost exclusively discuss the direct creation of jobs, never minding the fact that there is a multiplier effect because materials, shipping, provisioning the workforce, taxes paid and consumer dollars spent spin off even more jobs.

Forward to the "exotic ants" study to be conducted by the California Academy of Sciences in the Indian Ocean. Of course, like a bunch of high school boys, the right wing thinks this is a waste of money. (Hey Charlie... how about them exotic ants, heh, heh? ) It appears that exotic insect species, because of brisk global trade and transportation, pose a particularly dangerous threat to agriculture. Studying the insects in their native habitat is crucial to understanding how they breed, behave, etc. California is the largest agricultural state in the Union.

There is also Fort Jefferson (1846) in the Dry Tortugas 70 miles west of the southernmost Florida Keys that has been deteriorating through lack of funding for the last 35 years. It is known as the Gibraltar of the Caribbean. The fort is the main tourism attraction on the little island that lives exclusively by tourist dollars and is served by a modern ferry that employs dozens of people. It is also one of the most magnificent pieces of military architecture in the country. Is their argument that we should just let this piece of history and prime tourist destination crumble into dust?

Then there is a $762,000 grant to design a computer program that can monitor and subsequently recreate on screen (and eventually on line) the movements of a particular choreography. Students and faculty will design and build the entire system from scratch. On the surface it sounds like an arts program - dreaded amongst the anti-cultural right wing - but in reality it is a computer project that will have applications far beyond dance - such as orthopedics, sports medicine and performance, gerontology and human-centric design of products. This is exactly the kind of basic research and application an intelligent government should be funding.

In Glassboro, New Jersey, $1.2 million will go for the restoration of a wooden train station that dates from the 1860s and operation of a museum within. The station will also make for a stop on a planned light rail system that would connect Delaware Valley towns with Camden and Philadelphia. Currently the only way to navigate to those places is by car. Moreover, the Delaware Valley is reliant on tourism to keep its economy humming. Glassboro - once the East Coast's center of glass-making, as one could have guessed - is in the process of an enormous rehabilitation of its downtown area focused on Rowan University's various constituencies. Finally, Glassboro was the site of President Johnson's historic meeting with Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin in 1967 - a key moment in Cold War detente, and was also the site of an American President's first address to a high school graduating class (by Ronald Reagan, 1986). What's history got to do with anything?

Know Nothing ignorance, the cynicism of the defeated, the lack of alternatives all further taint the right wing radicals. Make no mistake: they despise the America that most of us love and they want to turn it into a second-rate nation. They are destructive - the Winged Monkeys of a very dark movie.