Class Warfare Blog

July 23, 2014

If Then … Why Not Now?

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 11:54 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Imagine the Earth in the fairly near future (something media moguls are doing with great regularity). The environment has gone to pot and we are looking to a technological bailout. At that point in time we have invented a viable space craft and had located and scouted a habitable planet around our nearest neighbor, Alpha Centauri. So we built a space ark. Every able bodied American was invited to go. Some didn’t, most did. And the trip was on!

When we got where we were going we checked in with the scientific rovers which had been mapping the surface and analyzing the ecosystem of our new home. Apparently the soils would accept our seeds and the water was clean and the skies clear enough, so we landed and began to till fields and build shelters. We built dormitories to live in. We built medical facilities and schools for our kids. Everybody chipped in, doing either what they were best at or just what needed doing. Ph.D.s swept floors, English teachers cooked, Sanitation workers built things. Whatever it took.

Scrounging teams located materials to make bricks from and mortar. Others found trees suitable for timber for additional building projects. The race was on. The colony had to be self-sustaining before the supplies on the ship ran out.

Priorities were placed on identifying sources of medicinals and nutrients and dealing with human wastes safely. Local flora and fauna were characterized by threat level. When anyone was hungry they were fed. If anyone got sick, they were treated and examined carefully because of the fear of infectious diseases with which we were unfamiliar. When anyone tired, they had a cot to sleep on.

We were all in it … together.

This is a not uncommon science fiction scenario. I have read this story dozens of times with various twists, but the core, as described above, stays pretty much the same because to do otherwise would be abysmally stupid. It is the only way to save a viable gene pool and provide for our continuing existence.

So … if we would do this then, why not now? Why do we not treat every living person as valuable in some way. I have taught college students chemistry and I have cleaned toilets, both for pay. I am not more proud of one than the other. Both were things that needed doing. I have tried to live my life honoring people for what they contribute. If you think some contribute less than others, you are right. Children are particularly useless, but we keep them anyway. We should not be abandoning “others” for the bullshit reasons we currently have.

We are all in this together. Currently our “space ark” is the good ship “Earth.”

July 22, 2014

Accident, My Ass!

I am reading too many statements about the downed Malaysian airliner like this one “And so what this chain of reasoning leads us to is the conclusion that if Russian- or Russian-backed forces shot down the aircraft, it was very likely a tragic accident.”

Accident, my ass. The only way this was an accident was if somebody tripped and fell on the launch button while the missile was oriented in exactly the direction that would lead it to the plane. The odds on this being an accident are almost exactly zero. That missile had to have been set up, prepared, aimed, and launched deliberately. The misidentification of the plane, if there was one, was a mistake, but not an accident. People who make mistakes that injure other people are criminally liable. Accidents and acts of god, etc. are not.

This was criminal.

July 21, 2014

Self Baring Time (An Exposé!)

On the jumbledmind blog, a poster was shared with a simple message supplied by a quotation:

“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.”
Dr. Paul Farmer

When I read this I felt a strong urge to explain where my posts come from and to define myself a little better. Basically this quote is close to the root of who I think I am. And I do not want to get into a “would you trade your life with someone in Bangladesh” discussion as those are quite fruitless. But something I would vote for, support, and gladly pay the taxes for is a guarantee to American citizens of shelter, food to eat, and basic medical care as a right of citizenship.

Oh, I can hear the conservatives howling already. Words like “undeserving,” “unworthy,” and “sending the wrong message,” and … well, you know. “Sending the wrong message …”: like if you are hungry, we will feed you; if you are cold, we will provide a warm, safe, place to sleep; if you are ill, we will give you medicine. That message? Isn’t that the message we give to our own children, that we will protect them and feed them, and heal them, etc.?

So, why would total strangers merit something like the treatment we provide our kin?

Well for one, it would probably be cost effective. Consider the measles outbreaks we have had because of stupid middle class people not vaccinating their children. Yet, we have allowed all kinds of poor people to wander around with flu, measles, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases for decades; how is that not the same kind of mistake? Do we not pay a price for that in excessive health care costs and unnecessary illnesses with their loss of productivity?

Hungry children clearly do not do well in school and because of that they often fall behind and end up with an ineffective education. Their job prospects are then slim and poor people (working or not) are tempted into crime and end up in jail or prison. What do you think the cost of that is? The U.S. has one in every 100 of its citizens in jail right now. We are feeding. and clothing, and housing them in really expensive institutions with around the clock service. And when we let them out (if we do) we ban them from voting (in many states) and make it really, really hard for them to get a job and sustain themselves so they are tempted back into crime. Think of what we would save if we cut our prison population to half, or a third, or a quarter of what it is now?

Consider how many fewer policemen we would need if there were less crime?

Feeding hungry children would allow them to do better in school. And if the anti-abortion folks argument of “the fetus aborted might be the next Einstein” is any good, what good is it to make sure he is born and then starve him so he can’t learn enough to become special?

How different would it be if we all grew up in a culture where we all felt that everybody (really, everybody) cared about us?

What about the incentive not to work? What about “turning the social safety net into a hammock?” I have a problem with that phrase. First of all, unless you were a sailor in the Navy, you probably associate hammocks with leisure and with good times or vacations. Consider the basic support I am suggesting: a safe, warm place to sleep (probably communal), something to eat, and medicine if you are sick. Does that equate to a vacation to you? Or “the good life?” Would you settle for that as your day-to-day existence? No? Then why would you think anybody else would equate that to “having it made?” Can you find any examples of people who would be happy to live that way? I don’t think so. And if you did find a few, they would be a tiny, tiny fraction of the entire citizenry. Studies of the homeless before the Great Recession showed the average length of time someone was homeless was about six months. Experience that for a while and it really motivates you to get out of that situation. This is the reality of it, not the “happy to be living on the streets” meme promulgated by conservatives.

I am not saying there would be no limitations to our largess. If someone in these circumstances needed a heart transplant, well, that would be sad, because there are real limits on our abilities to support our fellows. But, think about what would happen if all of the shelters, food banks, and free health clinics would find themselves out of work. Would that not create a situation where new groups would crop up, groups that would be offering job training, education, English language lessons, all of the things people who are on hard times would need to move up a notch on the socio-economic ladder? Wouldn’t everybody be better off?

But this is socialism, isn’t it?

No, conservatives, this is not socialism. This could happen under Communist, Socialist, or Capitalist systems. It is simply the extension of certain rights under citizenship. Hey, Swiss citizens have the right to go to any of their embassies in foreign countries and explain that they cannot afford a trip home and their government will get them home. I think they have to pay for the trip when they get back but no Swiss citizen will ever be stranded abroad because of their policy. It is a right of Swiss citizenship. What I recommend would just be rights of American citizens.

And, what I recommend makes me what? I don’t have a name for it, I just hope it is “someone who cares enough,” or “someone who thinks that all lives matter.”

Now, about living wages. . . .

July 19, 2014

It’s Time for Liberals and Progressives to Stop Embracing Free Trade

Too often I hear liberals and progressives singing praises of free trade as part of a preamble for minor concessions they want in the securing of it. This is sadly another case of drinking the Conservative Kool-Aid. Conservatives have been beating the free trade drum for decades now and it is easy to fall into the false equivalence of free trade = good.

We need to stop this and oppose such efforts.

The term “free trade” just sounds so very good. “Free” is good and “trade” is good, so put them together and what have you got? What you have is an aggressive policy that is only promulgated because of the rampant self-interests of plutocrats and corporatists.

Consider this bit of history. There has never been a significant global economy created based upon free trade. History, in fact, says quite the opposite. All of the major economies (Great Britain, France, Germany, the U.S., Japan, China, etc.) were created through various forms of protectionism. Remember Korea after the Korean War? A little country with fewer prospects, all torn up from a devastating civil war. Yet, now South Korea is a much greater economy that those of larger countries. (Incredibly, so was North Korea, but they have fallen upon hard times due to megalomania.) How did South Korea do this? Free trade? Nope, protectionism. The government controlled the banks and thereby controlled the funds going to any business. They had no capacity to make automobiles, so native car makers were given loans and protective tariffs to get on their feet. Ditto for much of the rest of the economy.

China was, check that, China is doing it the same way. It wasn’t that long ago that it was very hard for foreigners to sell anything in China. China had decided to make its economic bones on exports. At the same time they couldn’t allow all the money they made that way to flow right back out of the country to buy foreign goods, so they basically denied those goods to their domestic markets. Currently, they have got enough of their domestic productive capacity going that they are just beginning to allow a trickle of foreign goods to come in. (This is why China owns a pile of our debt. They were sitting on huge piles of cash that had been saved because the Chinese people had very little they could buy with it.)

Free trade is exactly what we thought it was: an aggressive attempt to flood foreign markets with your goods, so they don’t develop their own capacities and become dependent upon ours. (Wanna Coca-Cola, little girl?)

We need to start using terms like anti-competitive when we speak about free trade. Rapacious, too. And, oh my goodness, we have already seen what free trade means to American jobs. Free trade means that American manufacturers and other companies can seek out cheap labor anywhere in the world to make their “American Made” goods. Since the signing of the NAFTA, we have lost millions of manufacturing jobs.

The latest ridiculous “free trade” agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has “free trade” plastered all over it, yet only a small fraction of the total agreement has anything to do with trade (<10%, can’t say exactly because it is secret, even from the politicians who have to vote on it). There is a large section on patent protection and extension, though. Now I ask you, why would a free trade agreement seek to bolster patents which are restrictions of free trade? Again, history tells us why. In this country, for example, we had a Patent Act in 1791. But we didn’t sign the global patent treaty until almost 1900. Why was that? Because we viewed patents as protections of our own inventions. We had no interest in protecting other country’s inventions. In fact, commercial history is rife with how one country pilfered products from others. At one point Germany was using English proof marks on their knock-off goods. England retaliated by requiring all goods to have the country of origin listed. So, Germany printed it on the packaging, which once thrown away left a knock-off with no indication it was made in Germany. When the British outlawed that, they stamped Made in Germany on the bottom of heavy pieces of machinery so it would not be visible or made it so small as to be invisible, etc.

Patents are protectionist measures and aren’t compatible with real free trade, but currently “free trade” is defined as trade and other agreements that are “good for my company,” which is why the TPP negotiators have had corporation lawyers sitting in on their negotiations. It is all about them and their damnable maximization of profit and has nothing to do with you or really with free trade. You are your job are “acceptable collateral damage.”

Liberals and Progressives: Stop Accepting Free Trade as a Good Thing!

Our New Foreign Policy

In a news conference yesterday about the mess in Ukraine President Obama announced a new foreign policy. He explicitly stated that countries have the right to pursue their own destinies without foreign intervention. This principle, called the right of self-determination, is a bold new initiative on the part of the Obama administration. Strangely, the President stated this principle as if it had been part of our national beliefs since the beginning of the country, which is a strange tone to take when announcing a new policy.

The United States has been invading and taking over foreign countries for centuries. One need only think of Hawaii, Cuba, Panama, or the Philippines. In addition, we have had our foreign services (including the CIA for some reason) mount coups to overthrow legitimate governments to put our puppets in. Iran in 1953, Chile, Egypt, etc. come to mind. And, we have supported brutal dictators over democratically-elected officials in myriad countries. Think of Egypt, Viet Nam, Nicaragua, Cuba (Batista, who got elected President but when he lost an election staged a military coup; we still are mad at Castro for throwing out the “legitimate” government of Batista), and many other countries. Some forget that Sadam Hussein was our tool in Iraq before he became our whipping boy.

I thought the right of self-determination belonged just to us an a few closely held allies, but President Obama has declared that it is now a general right.

I guess that’s progress.

July 15, 2014

Conservative Confusion Over Women

Part of the conservative’s War on Women is the general berating of working mothers as mothers who do not truly care for their kids. Of course, the data show that mothers now spend substantially more time with their children than they did fifty years ago. And if you are unaware, the explosion of women into the work force occurred on Ronald Reagan’s watch, so that “50 years ago” was before that, so the mothers now are generally “working mothers.” And the reason for that explosion of women into the work force? The typical Republican mishandling of the economy leading to a recession on top of deliberate corporatist policies designed to disadvantage unions and erode wages.

So, as far as I can decipher, the conservative position wants women to stay at home with their children, but they don’t want their husbands to have decent wages, certainly not enough to afford an at-home mom. In fact, they don’t want wages high enough that a working couple can handle the costs of a reasonably-sized family.

Oh, and they don’t want women to have reliable, affordable access to contraceptives or abortions, so that they will have even more children to care for, which they cannot afford, either.

And the GOP thinks they have a messaging problem with women … I think it maybe they ought to rethink that.

July 11, 2014

Please ‘Splain To Me …

I keep asking how it is that the education reformers get to claim that for-profit charter schools will improve school by extracting profits from them. Explain that to me, please.

In an article by Paul Buchheit (Five Facts for the Dangerously Deluded Education Reformers) the author states “Eva Moskowitz makes $72 per student as CEO of the private Success Academy in New York City. Carmen Farina makes 19 cents per student as Chancellor of New York City Public Schools. More salary shock: The salaries of eight executives of the K12 chain, which gets over 86 percent of its profits from the taxpayers, went from $10 million to over $21 million in one year.

“A McKinsey report estimates that education can be a $1.1 trillion business in the United States. Forbes notes: ‘The charter school movement [is] quickly becoming a backdoor for corporate profit.’ The big-money people are ready to pounce, like Rupert Murdoch, who called K-12 ‘a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed.’”

Meanwhile, Head Start was recently hit with the worst cutbacks in its history. Arts funding overall is lower than ever, with a National Endowment for the Arts budget barely accounting for two percent of the National Science Foundation budget. Spending on K-12 public school students fell in 2011 for the first time since the Census Bureau began keeping records over three decades ago.”

Explain to me how a “a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed” is going to be improved by the removal of significant revenue, in the form of profits, from its operating budget. How the replacement of inexpensive administrators with expensive ones, the replacement of experienced teachers with cheaper inexperienced teachers, the displacement of our public school programs from our better school buildings into even more crowded ones (to provide the charters with the space to operate) are going to improve the education of our children.

‘Splain that to me.

July 7, 2014

Corporations are People? Not Nearly Enough, I Say!

Our Supreme Court seems to be finding more and more rights of natural people to transfer onto artificial people, aka corporations. (I didn’t make the terms up, those are the legal terms used by jurists.) SCOTUS has recently given corporations (APs) the right of free speech, the right of virtually unfettered political speech (meaning money placed in politician’s pockets), and most recently religious sensibilities. How a corporation could possibly feel its religious sensibilities is hard to say, but that’s what SCOTUS did.

My point is that APs seem to be getting more and more rights and natural persons, like you and me, are having our rights diminish. So, if they are going to go that route, they ought to go all of the way.

No Get Out of Jail Card Currently corporations can violate the law and pay fines so small as to make criminal activity profitable. Plus nobody, even criminal corporate officers, goes to jail. Corporations should have to go to jail like NPs. Corporate jail shall be a time in which all employees are put on paid leave and the corporation must close it’s doors and do no business for X months. If they lose perishable assets or market share or sales momentum, so be it, they should have thought of those repercussions before they committed their crimes. NPs being sent to jail can plead about what their loss of liberty will do to their families, to their occupations, etc. but judges do not have to feel pity. So, let APs plead like NPs.

If Corporations Die, their Estates Must Pay their Debts Currently if a corporation disincorporates, that is it dies, all of its obligations and debts disappear. All of its labor, pension, and other contracts are null and void. If you or I die, our estate can be sued and forced to pay our debts from when we were alive. The same should be the case for corporate citizens. We should be able to pick over the corporate carcass of the business in probate court.

APs Should Have the Same Welfare as NPs Corporate welfare must no longer be separated from welfare for natural persons. APs should get the same benefits as NPs. Whatever the largest welfare benefit an individual NP gets, that should be the cap on corporate welfare.

APs Should Have the Same Tax Rates as NPs Just as individual NPs cannot be singled out in tax law or other federal policy, neither should corporations. They should be treated like individuals, including the tax rates they pay on their income. So, if they make over $15,000 in profits (earnings/wages), they should pay 28% on what they earn above that, like the rest of us. And if they make much more, they should be in the 39% bracket. Otherwise Mitt Romney would feel stiffed.

What do you say? Let’s petition SCOTUS to finish the job!

July 5, 2014

No, No Regulations Needed Here, Just Move Along

Republicans have gotten what they asked for and the obvious result shouldn’t shock anyone. The Charter School Movement has been highjacked by the “corporate education reformers” and sold as a way to “fix” the “failing” public schools. (The number of lies in that one claim is quite shocking.) The key element for conservatives is that these charter schools, which provide “choice” for parents (See, we aren’t “anti-choice.”), be free from all of those pesky regulations that represent governmental interference in the process.

Pop Quiz: You give billions of dollars (nationwide) to a group of “educational entrepreneurs” to run charter schools, with no state oversight or regulation, what do you think you will get?

Answer: A system of schools no better and often worse than the public schools, that discriminate racially, and which squander millions and millions of dollars unaccountably.* (I am sure the criminal trials will begin soon.)

The GOP is okay with that. They don’t expect good results from “Guv’mint” and are quite happy that the “movement’s” ideology aligns with theirs.

The question is: are you happy?

* a Cleveland charter operator was tried for funneling over $1 million to his church and other businesses. The charter founder was a pastor, not an educator. His attorney said “his client had good intentions when opening the school on East 55th Street but then got greedy when he saw easy opportunities to make money.…”

The leader of California’s most celebrated charter school, with outstanding test scores, stepped down when an audit revealed that nearly $4 million had been diverted to his other businesses.

In Arizona, the Arizona Republic exposed charters that were family businesses, giving contracts to family members and board members.

In Chicago, the head of the city’s largest charter chain resigned after the media reported large contracts given to family members of school leaders and other conflicts of interest and misuse of public funds.

The CEO of one of Connecticut’s most celebrated charter organizations was revealed to have a criminal past and a falsified résumé. Two top executives immediately resigned, and legislators and journalists began to ask questions. No background checks? Accountability? Transparency?

Etc, etc., etc.

 

July 3, 2014

Okay … Three Catholics and Two Jews Form A Closely Held Corporation (Hobby Lobby!)

Once again our beloved (or is it befuddled) Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has driven its intellectual train off of the rails. They have decided that closely-held corporations (those with five or fewer owners) have religious rights. These are now to be added to the corporation’s free speech rights and political donation rights.

Nobody has asked SCOTUS to demonstrate a corporation talking or adopting a political agenda. If one had, what one would hear is an officer of that corporation espousing something, but that officer is not the corporation. No single officer is the corporation. The speaker would be speaking about his own personal opinions but could not possible be speaking for the corporation because it has no brains, no voice box, no speech center, etc.

“Sharia Law is finally being implemented in the U.S. … by order of the Tea Party wing of the Supreme Court.”

So, three Catholics and two Jews form a closely-held corporation. The Catholics do not believe in artificial birth control, the Jews do not believe in Christ but do believe in artificial birth control. What is going to happen if the three out vote the two as to their corporation’s religious beliefs? Are the courts prepared to hear such cases? Can corporations have schizophrenia (I hear contradictory voices all of the time!)? Can corporations be declared mentally incompetent? Will corporations with six or more owners sue for gross and arbitrary discrimination?

The only solution to this problem is to never elect a Republican as President or as Senator because they keep nominating and confirming morons to the Supreme Court who are wrecking what little religious peace there was in this country.

If a corporation is closely-held by Muslims, has the SCOTUS just endorsed Sharia Law? I think they have.

Well, the Tea Party has finally gotten their wish. Sharia Law is finally being implemented in the U.S. … by order of the Tea Party wing of the Supreme Court.

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