Remarks And Asides

Native Americans have raised a stink about the use of “Geronimo” as either the code name for Osama bin Laden or for the mission that was designed to get him.  Some folks at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where Geronimo was imprisoned and where he is buried, have asked for President Obama to apologize for the use of the name.

Damn, Obama can’t do anything right.


Reuters reported that the U.S. killed two “mid-level” al Qaeda leaders in Yemen today, in a “remote province where al Qaeda is active.” No doubt, these two terrorists, who were brothers, figured it was okay to stick their heads out for a couple of days, as those boastful Americans would be too busy celebrating the death of bin Laden to notice. 



Fidel Castro, who said it was bad manners to kill bin Laden in front of his family, believes that the way bin Laden perished “has turned him into a much more dangerous man.”  No. That can’t be. CNN has confirmed that bin Laden is in hell, or at least that 61% of Americans believe so.  And everyone knows that if you go to hell, you’re too busy searching for shade to perpetrate any earthly mischief.   However, I’m with Alex Parenne of Salon, who urges President Obama to release the “photographic proof” that bin Laden is, in fact, in hell, so we can settle this pressing matter.


President Obama is in New York City today to lay a wreath at Ground Zero and meet with the families of the victims of 9/11.  He had invited President Bush to come along, but according to reports, Mr. Bush “has chosen to remain out of the spotlight during his post-presidency.”

If only Mr. Bush had chosen to remain out of the spotlight during his pre-post-presidency.


John Kasich, Republican governor of Ohio, who essentially declared war on public employees when he took office, declared this week, “Public Service Appreciation Week.”  Short of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad being let out of jail to lay a wreath at Ground Zero, I can’t think of a worse idea.


Sam Stein reports: “Health Care Repeal Is ‘Dead.’  He says that a “top Republican” concedes that legislative efforts to overturn Obama’s health care law are doomed.  I, of course, won’t believe it ’till I see the photo.


Finally, this shouldn’t go unnoticed:

SYDNEY — Claude Stanley Choules, the last known combat veteran of World War I, died Thursday at a nursing home in the Western Australia city of Perth, his family said. He was 110.

I recommend following the link and reading a little bit about Mr. Choules, who became a pacifist later in life and wrote his first book at the age of 108.

He told ABC in November of 2009:

I had a pretty poor start, but I had a good finish.

Words to live, and die, by.

Jobs Report: Republican Philosophy Hurts

As good news comes today on the job front—the private sector created 222,000 jobs last month—it’s time to look at another aspect of our budget problems. 

Overall, the net increase in jobs was 192,000, despite the excellent private sector number. Why? Because, as Bloomberg reported:

Government payrolls decreased by 30,000 last month reflecting cuts at the state and local level.

Yes, despite Republican philosophy, government jobs are jobs, too.  They count. Those are 30,000 paychecks that someone isn’t drawing.  And part of the reason—other than the sluggish economy—that those job cuts happened is because too many states have been competing with each other in the rush to reduce taxes, both to comfort the wealthy and ostensibly to attract job-producers:  “My corporate tax is lower than his corporate tax so please come here.” Thus, there isn’t enough money in state coffers to keep people on the payroll.

Let’s take Ohio for example.  Governor Kasich and his Republican legislature’s all out war on public employee unions is being justified in order to stabilize the state so that we can have economic growth, job creation and entrepreneurship.” Yeah, that’s what they all say.

But why is Ohio’s budget so unstable?  Could it be the draconian tax cuts passed in 2005 by Republicans?

In 2008—2008!—Mike Bock at DaytonOS wrote that Ohio’s “massive 2005 Tax Reduction Act” “reduced income taxes by 21% and corporate and business taxes by about 50%,” and Bock contended that of most of the then-projected budget deficit of $7 billion, $5.6 billion was attributable to the 2005 Tax Reduction Act.

Bock wrote:

It appears that it was part of the Republican plan all along that deficits would occur and that these deficits would cause a constriction of state spending and state services. The recession has made these deficits more severe, but, the impact of the Tax Reduction Act by itself would have been huge, regardless if there had been no recession.

Such Republican plans are ongoing, as state after state has cut or is preparing to cut taxes to lure in businesses and give wealthy citizens enormous tax windfalls even as their incomes have soared.  And when the resulting loss of revenue manifests itself, the slashers come in and declare they need to cut, cut, cut in the name of our children’s and grandchildren’s future.

But as Paul Krugman pointed out recently,

when advocates of lower spending get a chance to put their ideas into practice, the burden always seems to fall disproportionately on those very children they claim to hold so dear.

He uses Texas for example, a place, Krugman says, “where America’s political future happens first.”  The state is facing a Texas-sized budget gap, hidden during the last gubernatorial election.  Here’s how CNNMoney reported the Republican solution to the problem:

Texas lawmakers unveiled a Spartan budget late Tuesday night that slashes $31 billion in spending to close the state’s massive budget deficit. Education, Medicaid and corrections would be hit particularly hard.

House legislators were forced to rely on spending cuts to close the shortfall — estimated at between $15 billion and $27 billion — because Republican leaders pledged not to raise taxes. They also did not touch the state’s projected $9.4 billion rainy day fund, one of the most flush in the nation.

Krugman notes that taxes in Texas are low, “at least if you’re in the upper part of the income distribution (taxes on the bottom 40 percent of the population are actually above the national average),” and he also notes that spending is low.

He also points out, though, that while “low spending may sound good in the abstract, what it amounts to is in practice is low spending on children, who account directly or indirectly for a large part of government outlays at the state and local level.”  The result:

…in low-tax, low-spending Texas, the kids are not all right. The high school graduation rate, at just 61.3 percent, puts Texas 43rd out of 50 in state rankings. Nationally, the state ranks fifth in child poverty; it leads in the percentage of children without health insurance. And only 78 percent of Texas children are in excellent or very good health, significantly below the national average.

Krugman speculates about this situation:

It’s not a pretty picture; compassion aside, you have to wonder — and many business people in Texas do — how the state can prosper in the long run with a future work force blighted by childhood poverty, poor health and lack of education.

CNN reports that public education will take a 13% cut and higher education a 7.6% cut, and as Krugman notes, public sector unions can’t be blamed since Texas has an “an overwhelmingly nonunion work force.”

Health and human services funding, according to CNN, will fall under the Republican plan by 25%, the same decline, too, for government services;, 9,300 jobs would be eliminated; 60,000 students would lose financial aid for college; funding for public defenders will drop, and on and on.

As anyone who knows conservatives could have predicted, Texans are told that they must “live within their means.”

Funny, though, the “means” never includes raising taxes on those who can afford them.  Krugman:

Given the already dire condition of Texas children, you might have expected the state’s leaders to focus the pain elsewhere. In particular, you might have expected high-income Texans, who pay much less in state and local taxes than the national average, to be asked to bear at least some of the burden.

But you’d be wrong. Tax increases have been ruled out of consideration… The really striking thing about all this isn’t the cruelty — at this point you expect that — but the shortsightedness. What’s supposed to happen when today’s neglected children become tomorrow’s work force?

What will happen is that once again Democrats will be asked to come in and clean up the mess, and when they raise taxes to help clean it up, then Republicans will, as they always do, call them bleeding-heart, tax-and-spend liberals, who are killing jobs and mortgaging our children’s future.

And around and around we will go.

Republicans Declare War On Workers

“That’s a war people will pay attention to.”

Bob Woodward, today on Morning Joe

Forget Iraq and Afghanistan, by God we’re goin’ after the unions!  Johnny, get your gun! 

Some of the talk this morning on Morning Joe was about the seemingly sudden outbreak of war on labor unions. 

Republicans, of course, have always been in Cold War status when it comes to unions, with a fiery skirmish flaring up here and there over the last thirty years.  Remember Ronald Reagan and PATCO?

What’s new these days is that the GOP—drunk on Tea Party power—is ready to start dropping nukes on the unions.

From the New York Times on Monday:

Faced with growing budget deficits and restive taxpayers, elected officials from Maine to Alabama, Ohio to Arizona, are pushing new legislation to limit the power of labor unions, particularly those representing government workers, in collective bargaining and politics.

Wanting to hurry and start the bombing before the economy heats up enough to rob them of their largest justification, Republican reactionaries across America—including here in Missouri—are using the bad economic times and the resulting state budget shortfalls to obliterate unions once and for all time.

It’s true there are some Vichy-like Democrats in the mix, including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and even the President himself, with their salary freezes for public employees.  But that’s small potatoes compared with what the real enemies of labor unions have in mind:

…in some cases — mostly in states with Republican governors and Republican statehouse majorities — officials are seeking more far-reaching, structural changes that would weaken the bargaining power and political influence of unions, including private sector ones.

For example, Republican lawmakers in Indiana, Maine, Missouri and seven other states plan to introduce legislation that would bar private sector unions from forcing workers they represent to pay dues or fees, reducing the flow of funds into union treasuries. In Ohio, the new Republican governor, following the precedent of many other states, wants to ban strikes by public school teachers.

Some new governors, most notably Scott Walker of Wisconsin, are even threatening to take away government workers’ right to form unions and bargain contracts.

“We can no longer live in a society where the public employees are the haves and taxpayers who foot the bills are the have-nots,” Mr. Walker, a Republican, said in a speech. “The bottom line is that we are going to look at every legal means we have to try to put that balance more on the side of taxpayers.”

Before I comment on that idiocy, I wish there was a way for those union members across the country, who in orgasmic delight ran—yes, ran—into their respective polling stations on November 2 and pulled the lever for union-hating Republicans, to immediately suffer the consequences of their actions. These ungrateful union members who supported Tea Party candidates and other Republicans deserve to lose every single benefit they enjoy today thanks to a union. 

It’s just too bad there isn’t a cosmic reality in which a union voter immediately suffers the consequences of voting for a candidate who seeks to destroy the very entity that allows him or her to enjoy what passes for a middle class income in America. 

I know some of these hypocritical union members—I used to be one and later, when I came to my senses, represented them—and I know how excited they were to see the Tea Party come to power under the umbrella of the GOP.  If these pitiful people had one tittle of integrity, after casting their deadly votes last November, they would run—yes, run—to their employers and give back everything unions have won for them, including in many cases their jobs. 

That said, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s threat to “take away government workers’ right to form unions and bargain contracts” is, like the GOP’s Kill Obamacare Act, a political pipe dream.  And his labeling public employees as “the haves” and taxpayers as “the have-nots” should give comfort to the real “haves” in this country, a handful of which make most of the real money and hold most of the wealth in America.

How a man dumb enough to utter such tripe became governor of a state is a testimony to the imputed wisdom of P. T. Barnum.  Apparently a lot of suckers cast votes in Wisconsin a few months ago.

But what really galls me is the following, as reported by the Times:

Of all the new governors, John Kasich, Republican of Ohio, appears to be planning the most comprehensive assault against unions. He is proposing to take away the right of 14,000 state-financed child care and home care workers to unionize. He also wants to ban strikes by teachers, much the way some states bar strikes by the police and firefighters.

“If they want to strike, they should be fired,” Mr. Kasich said in a speech. “They’ve got good jobs, they’ve got high pay, they get good benefits, a great retirement. What are they striking for?”

Good jobs,” “high pay,” “good benefits,” “great retirement.”  How the bleep does anyone think they got these things, to the extent what Kasich said is true?  And who said they were planning on striking? 

Calling this stuff bullshit would insult bulls everywhere.

But what’s really galling about Kasich’s proposals—and he has other middle-class-killing ideas, including eliminating the state requirement that even non-union construction contractors have to pay union-scale wages—is that John Kasich is the son of a letter carrier.

That’s right.  The man who has declared war not just on unions but by extension on middle class wage earners is the son of a mailman, who was represented by—guess what?—a labor union.  The National Association of Letter Carriers represents all of the nation’s more than 200,000 letter carriers—even if they don’t pay dues to the union.

Here’s the way the Ohio Republican Party described the GOP’s newly-elected anti-union governor:

The son of a mailman, John grew up in a blue collar neighborhood in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh. Like many Americans his values were shaped by a childhood rooted in faith, family, community and common sense.

Kasich’s blue collar background has given way to a scarlet conservatism; his childhood rooted in the Catholic faith has given way to evangelicalism; his first family has given way to divorce; and his community values and common sense have given way to the economic philosophy of the Republican Party, which is not only anti-worker, but is more than willing to hold the unfortunate among us hostage in return for billions upon billions of dollars worth of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, many of whom didn’t want them. 

Even now they plot to jeopardize the full faith and credit of the United States and risk economic disaster in order to obtain spending cuts in programs designed to make life better for those folks not fortunate enough to belong to a labor union.

Beyond that, it’s simply unconscionable to solve the nation’s budget problems by attacking the one instrument in our society that has lifted more people out of poverty than any other.  It’s unconscionable, but it’s not surprising.  The Republican Party, after all, has never been a friend of organized labor.  It has never been a friend of those who through collective bargaining seek a bigger piece of the American economic pie because that means less of the pie for the main constituents of the GOP: the wealthy.

Finally, nothing says more about the current state of Orwellian Republican politics these days than the following:

Republicans have decided to excise the word “labor” from the name of the House committee handling education and, yes, labor issues.

It’s time to say so long to the Education and Labor Committee and hello to the Education and the Workforce Committee, the Wall Street Journal‘s Washington Wire reports.

As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, Newt Gingrich did the same thing in 1994.  It’s the Republicans’ way of giving the finger to organized labor.  But it is more than that.  The change from “labor” to “workforce” is, indeed, important.  And revealing. It demonstrates exactly how Republicans view those who work for a living.  As Keith Olbermann put it:

No longer is it your labor. Now it’s big business’s workforce.

Get it?  Republicans see the average Joe as mere cogs in a money-making machine.  A pool from which to pick and choose and then abuse, when the time comes.

And there is no doubt that labor unions, representing the interests of the folks who actually do the work but often don’t reap the benefits, are a problem for businesses that seek ungodly profits at the expense of those who make all profits possible.

And as for public employee unions, they too get in the way of Republicans, who with their small- and often anti-government fanaticism, are trying to starve the government of much-needed revenues so as to reduce not only its size but it’s effectiveness in restraining the we-want-it-all mentality of corporate and other business interests.

It’s just a shame that these days some Democrats are, no matter how gingerly, buying into this philosophy, and are thus marching with Republicans as they make war on the most faithful of Democratic constituencies.


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