Monday, February 28, 2011

Goodbye to all that

Let's begin with the obvious: Without unions there would have been no viable American middle class. Apparently this has been forgotten by a large portion of the populace. The mere existence of unions--call it the threat of unions if you like-- forced even non-union employers to increase their wages and benefits. With the security of a good job you could buy a house and send your kids to college. America's middle class became both the envy of working people everywhere and a force that drove much of the world's economy. Americans consumed products from everywhere. They bought cars from Japan, Germany, Italy, Sweden, England and France. (The cars from France, Italy and England were pieces of crap--but that's another story...) They took trips to every exotic destination they could find. And they spent US dollars at every stop. The foundation of all of this was an American manufacturing base that kept jobs and production in the U.S. Life was good and it seemed like it would go on that way forever...

The attack on unions that began full force during the Reagan years, and has continued unabated since then, began the decline of the middle class in this country. Couple that with the plague of outsourcing, the amorality of the multi-national corporations that now play such a prominent role in our everyday lives, and the unregulated and unrepentant cowboys of Wall Street and you have a perfect storm aimed at destroying all the progress working people have made during the last century. The events in Wisconsin show that we have reached a tipping point. If unions are weakened to the point of irrelevance, then all bets are off for our future as a nation. Oh, there will still be a United States, but it won't be recognizable to anyone with a memory.

In Arizona the assault on unions began long ago, while Reagan ( a union member by the way--Screen Actor's Guild) was still a shill for G.E. This is a 'right to work' state--or 'right to starve', as the guys I worked construction with called it... And the people here, who have no knowledge of anything that happened last year, let alone last century, have been bombarded with nothing but fear and loathing for anything even remotely related to unions. Unions are evil and corrupt and they smell bad too. Think of Jimmy Hoffa and the Mob! They force you to pay dues and they drive up costs for everyone. Besides, why do you need a union? Your boss will always take care of you, so shut up and get back to work.

People who move to Arizona are shocked by the low pay--but why should any employer pay a penny more than they have to? And without a strong union presence wages remain stagnant, or even decline. Naturally, people who are chronically underpaid see any tax as an unfair burden. And are easily whipped up into a frenzy against the few unionized jobs that still exist. "Why should they have a living wage, guaranteed raises, health care, and pensions when I don't?" People like that honestly believe that getting rid of the unions will improve their lives. To this toxic mess add a large pool of undocumented workers willing to do any kind of work for meager pay, and the fact that laws against hiring illegals are seldom if ever enforced, and you'll begin to understand why Arizona is the way it is.

Music video of the day

The Wisconsin labor battle has had me in such a pessimistic mood lately (along with the fact that I live in a state with Jan Brewer as my governor, but that's for another day), that today I feel the need to cheer myself up. Therefore, this video. The day I graduated from college in 2005 we must have played this song 15 times at my graduation party, it never fails to cheer me up!

Beautiful Day -- U2

Ah, show business...

Is Charlie Sheen the craziest freakin' person on the planet? I've probably seen every episode of Two and a Half Men, my brother got me started watching it and I thought it was funny as hell. I tend to like Chuck Lorre shows in general.

I now guarantee I will never watch this show, or any TV show or movie with Charlie Sheen in it, ever again. He joins my personal boycott list, which now consists of two people -- Val Kilmer and Charlie Sheen.

I really have a problem with a**holes.

A letter to Scott Walker from a Wisconsin teacher

A good friend at Greasy Lake just posted a link to this and I think it's too important to be missed -- so I'm just going to post the whole damn thing. If any conservatives reading this can show me where this teacher is wrong, please do. My bet is that you can't, because as I've said before -- Walker's stance isn't about fixing the budget, it's about busting the unions, pure and simple.

To the Duly-Elected Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker (and anyone else who gives a hoot):

It has only been a week, and I grow weary of the political struggle that your Budget Repair Bill has caused. I am tired of watching the news, though I have seen many of the faces of those I hold dear as they march on the Capitol. I am tired of defending myself to those who disagree with me, and even a bit tired of fist-bumping those who do. I am tired of having to choose a side in this issue, when both sides make a certain degree of sense. And so I offer you this desultory (aimless or rambling) philippic (angry long-winded speech), because at the end of the day I find that though this issue has been talked to death, there is more that could be said. And so, without further ado, here are my points and/or questions, in no particular order.

1. You can have my money, but. . .. Ask any number of my students, who have heard me publicly proclaim that a proper solution to this fiscal crisis is to raise taxes. I will pay them. I have the great good fortune to live in a nation where opportunity is nearly limitless, and I am willing to pay for the honor of calling myself an American. Incidentally, Warren Buffett, the second richest man in the nation (and a Democrat) agrees with me. Your proposed Budget Repair Bill will cost me just under $3000 per year at my current salary, with the stated goal of saving $30 million this year on the state budget. I say, take it. You can have it. It will hurt me financially, but if it will balance the budget of the state that has been my home since birth, take it with my blessing. But if I may, before you do, I have some questions.

•According to the 2009 estimate for the U.S. Census, 5,654,774 people live in the state of Wisconsin. Of those, 23.2% are under the age of 18, and presumably are not subject to much in the way of income tax. That still leaves about 4,342,867 taxpayers in the state of Wisconsin. If you wished to trim $30 million off of the budget, that works out to about $6.91 per Wisconsin
taxpayer. So I must ask: Is it fair that you ask $3000 of me, but you fail to ask $6.91 of everyone? I know that times are tough, but would it not be more equitable to ask that each taxpayer in the state contribute an extra 13 cents a week?

 •Would you please, kindly, explain exactly how collective bargaining is a fiscal issue? I fancy myself to be a fairly intelligent person. I have heard it reported in the news that unless the collective bargaining portion of this bill is passed, severe amounts of layoffs will occur in the state. I have heard that figure given as 6,000 jobs. But then again, you've reportedly said it was 10,000 jobs. But then again, it's been reported to be as high as 12,000 jobs. Regardless of the figure, one thing that hasn't been explained to my satisfaction is exactly how or why allowing a union to bargain collectively will cost so much money or so many jobs. Am I missing something? Isn't collective bargaining essentially sitting in a room and discussing something, collectively? Is there now a price tag on conversation? How much does the average conversation cost? I feel your office has been eager to provide doomsday scenarios regarding lost jobs, but less than willing to provide actual insight as to why that is the case. I would welcome an explanation.

 •Why does your concern over collective bargaining, pensions, and healthcare costs only extend to certain unions, but not all? Why do snow plow drivers and child care providers and teachers and prison guards find themselves in "bad" unions, but firefighters and state police and local police find themselves in unions that do not need to be effected by your bill? The left wing news organizations, of course, state that this is because these are unions that supported your election bid, while you seek to punish those unions that did not; I would welcome your response to such a charge. You have stated that the state and local police are too vital to the state to be affected. Can I ask how child care, or prison guards, or nurses or teachers are not vital? Again, I would welcome a response.

 •Though you are a state employee, I have seen no provision in your bill to cut your own pension or healthcare costs. The governor's salary in Wisconsin was about $137,000 per year, last I checked. By contrast, I make about $38,000 per year. Somewhere in that extra $99,000 that you make, are you sure you couldn't find some money to fund the state recovery which you seem to hold so dear? As you have been duly elected by the voters of Wisconsin
, you will receive that salary as a pension for the rest of your life. I don't mean to cut too deeply into your lifestyle, but are you sure you couldn't live off $128,000 per year so that you could have the same 7% salary reduction you are asking certain other public employees to take?

 2. Regarding teachers being overpaid and underworked. I don't really have many questions in this regard, but I do have a couple of statements. If you haven't already figured it out, I am a teacher, so you may examine my statement for bias as you see fit. I admit I find it somewhat suspect that teachers are mentioned so prominently in your rhetoric; those protesting at the Capitol are indeed teachers. But they are also students, and nurses, and prison guards, and plumbers, and firefighters, and a variety of other professions. If you could go back to "public sector employees," I would appreciate it. But as far as being overpaid and underworked . . . I grant you, I have a week's vacation around Christmas. I have a week off for Spring Break. I have about 10 weeks off for summer. With sick days and personal days and national holidays and the like, I work about 8.5 months out of every year. So perhaps I am underworked. But before you take that as a given, a couple of points in my own defense.

 •The average full-time worker puts in 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year, with two weeks' vacation time. That makes for a grand total of 2000 hours per year. Part of the teachers' arguments regarding their time is that no one sees how many hours they work at home to grade papers, or create lesson plans, or things of that nature. I am in a rare state, in that I am not one of those teachers. I work an hour from where I live, and I like to keep my work at work. I, therefore, do not bring work home with me, but rather stay at school, or come in early, so that I can grade papers or create lesson plans while at school. So I am more prepared than most to explain the hours it takes to do my job. I also supervise an extra-curricular activity (as many teachers do), in that I serve as the Drama Coach for my school. The school year, so far, has lasted for 24 weeks. I have, in that time, averaged 78 hours per week either going to school, being at school, or coming home from school. If you remove my commute, of course, I still average 68 hours per week, thus far. That means I have put in 1,632 hours of work time this year, which works out to over 80% of what your average full time worker does in a calendar year. If you include my commute, I'm over 90%. If ikeep going at my current pace, I will work 2,720 hours this school year (or 3,120 hours if you include my commute). That means I work 136% to 156% as much as your average hourly worker.

•As to underpaid -- I'm not sure I am underpaid in general, though I do believe I am underpaid in terms of the educational level expected to do my job. I have two Bachelor's Degrees, and will be beginning work toward my Master's this summer. By comparison, sir, you never completed college, and yet, as previously stated, you outearn me by almost $100,000 per year. Perhaps that is an argument that I made the wrong career choice. But it is perhaps an argument that we need to discuss whether you and others like you are overpaid, and not whether teachers are.

 3. Regarding the notion that teachers that are protesting, or legislators currently in Illinois , are hurting the state. Very briefly, if I may:

•Teachers have been accused of shirking their duties by protesting for what they believe to be their rights instead of being in school. The argument has been, of course, that no lessons have been taught when classes aren't in session. I must submit that lessons in protest, in exercise of the First Amendment right to peaceable assembly, in getting involved as a citizen in political affairs, have been taught these past few days. The fact that they haven't been taught in the classroom is irrelevant. Ultimately a very strong duty of the school system is to help students become citizens -- I think that has clearly happened this week.

 •As to the legislators, it seems to me as though they feel their constituents deserve to have a length of time to examine the proposed bill on its merits, not vote it straight up or down three days after it was presented. As the current budget does not expire until June, this seems to me like the only response left them in light of your decision to fast-track the bill without discussion. Give them another option, and perhaps they will come back. I can't say that I agree with their decision, but I can say that I understand it.

4. Regarding the notion that protestors at the Capitol are rabble-rousers and/or thugs. Such name-calling on the part of conservatives in the state and the conservative media could be severely curtailed if you would speak out against it. True, most of the people protesting, if not all, are liberals. Historically, liberals have always tended to think that they have far more support than they actually do. They also (in my opinion) have a tendency to get extremely organized about three months too late, if at all. So you can fault them for their decision-making, but I would ask you to speak out against the notion of thuggery. Again, very briefly:

 •So far, 12 arrests have been made. Estimates say there were about 25,000 people at the Capitol today, and about 20,000 yesterday. Let's be conservative (mathematically) and say that 40,000 people protested over two days. That would mean that officers arrested .0003% of all protestors. By almost any definition, that is an extremely peaceful demonstration, and of course you are aware that the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of peaceable assembly for a redress of grievances. So in the main, these people have done nothing wrong.

 5. If I may provide you with a sense of history. You work in the largest and most magnificiently appointed state capitol in the nation, built by Bob LaFollette (a Republican). You work in the same building where Phil LaFollette (a Republican) helped guide Wisconsin
out of the Great Depression. You work in the same building where Gaylord Nelson (a Democrat) was the first in the nation to offer rights to unions of state employees, rights that you now seek to overturn. And you work in the same building where Tommy Thompson (a Republican) provided more state funding to education than any other governor before or since. Are your current actions truly how you would choose to be remembered?

6. Finally, Governor, a note of thanks. Whatever the outcome of the next several days, you deserve a certain degree of credit. As an educator, I understand how difficult it can be to get young people interested in politics. You have managed to do this in the space of one week. A number of Wisconsin
's youth support you. A number of them do not. But whatever else can be said of you, you have them paying attention, and thinking about voting, and walking around the Capitol, and turning out to be involved. You have taught your own lessons this week, Governor, and that has its own value.

 Thank you for your time,
 XXX XXXXXX Street> Endeavor, WI 53930

Here's the link from the facebook page where this was originally posted:

And Diane, thanks for your original post at the Lake. I would hate to have missed this.

Worst Oscars ever?

Last night's Academy Award telecast was quite possibly the worst Oscar telecast in history. Seriously. James Franco and Anne Hathaway tried hard to appeal to the younger demographic, but they ended up appealing to no one. There were virtually no surprises in the awards -- I even guessed right about every major award, and I almost never get them right. The only real surprises of the night were Melissa Leo dropping the "F" bomb and Hathaway actually looking like a gigantic blue beer can in one gown.

I am telling you. This was bad.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Land of 1000 Scams

Sometime last summer, while we were all distracted by the hypnotic sight of Mark Reynolds striking out yet again (rekindling fond memories of Dave Kingman for those of us of a certain age), Governor Jan Brewer* (* a wholly owned subsidiary of Russell Pearce Inc.), did away with the Arizona Department of Commerce, and replaced it with something called the Arizona Commerce Authority. This is another of those public/private partnerships that the "free market, unchain the engines of capitalism, and stand back in wonder" folks are so enraptured by. For those of you who don't understand how a public/private partnership works, in essence a bunch of businessmen (that's the private part) get their hands on your tax money (that's the public part) and use it for..well, that's a secret until they decide to tell you where the money went and why, but trust them, it's all for the best. Crony Capitalism is always a good thing, and anyone who says otherwise is a god damn socialist.

The Arizona Commerce Authority. Just the name conjures up images of unlimited prosperity, a chicken in every pot, and extra gravy for everyone. So shut up and don't ask any questions. They know what they're doing. After all, Jerry Colangelo is involved. What could possibly go wrong?

Someone named Don Cardon was appointed by Brewer to run this thing. I will now pause while you thumb through your copy of Arizona Hack Pols, 2011 Edition, to try and figure out who he is...Couldn't find him? Me neither. Never mind, Colangelo is the name that matters.

Jerry Colangelo has achieved a level of fame and respect that is mind boggling. That he is thought of as some sort of business sage strains my powers of comprehension. His great 'successes', the Suns and the Diamondbacks, where both monopolies. There was no competition. His stadiums were built with public money. His basketball career was 30 plus years of almost, but not quite. (I've been waiting for 43 years for the Suns to have a legitimate NBA starting center. I'm still waiting. And no, the Shaq experiment doesn't count. But, I digress.) 50 win seasons stacked up to the ceiling. Listen to the cash register ring! After all, it's the only game in town. But championships? Not so much. Of course, it's impossible for a small market team to compete with the big boys. That's why San Antonio has never--oh, wait.

Colangelo's baseball career consisted of spending other people's money indiscriminately. His business model for the franchise was based on maintaining completely unrealistic attendance figures, and deferring as much payroll as he could. Guess what--attendance started to fall after the first year and has fallen almost every year since. My own favorite Jerry Moment was when the Diamondbacks announced they were raising ticket prices on Fan Appreciation Day. Stay classy JC. Even though Jerry was the public face of the franchise, and basked in the glory of the 2001 title, he didn't have a lot of his own money invested, and when the people who had real money in the franchise started to feel the pain of seeing their investment repeatedly devalued, Colangelo was shown the door. Naturally, his departure was met with great lamentation by the local media.

But you can't keep a good man down for long. Somehow Jerry, against all odds, and with an underdog team stocked only with the creme de la creme of the NBA, managed to restore America's lost honor by winning the world basketball championship and Olympic gold medal, defeating along the way those titans from Argentina, Spain, and Lithuania. USA! USA! USA!

And now it's time to give back to the state that made him a legend. The Arizona Commerce Authority couldn't be in better hands. Here is a quote from the man himself: "In my business, when I went after free agents, why did we get them? We made them feel like this would be a great place for them to live, to do business, and raise a family. So it's about recruiting." No Jerry, it's about the money. It is always about the money. How much tax money will you have to give away to entice businesses here? And at what long term cost? Unfettered capitalism seeks out the path of least resistance. That means low wages and no regulation. How many sweetheart deals will be cut on the golf course of the Phoenix Country Club? Naturally, in the interest of confidentiality, the public will learn about these deals only after the fact. So who's going to be keeping an eye on you? Jan Brewer? Ha! The Legislature? Double Ha!

The icing on the cake is that the Arizona Commerce Authority was funded with $10 million of Federal stimulus money. You know, that tainted lucre that Obama (my favorite Kenyan Socialist Muslim ever, I think) was handing out so recklessly. The money that any Governor who was a true-blue patriot concerned about the deficit, and not in fact a complete hypocrite, would refuse to accept. Yeah, that money. Which will be supplemented by $25 million more from the state. So, all of you people on AHCCCS waiting for organ transplants should keep your Country Club memberships current and hurry up and send in a business plan to Jerry and Don. Who knows, maybe you'll get lucky.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The more things change...

Is it just me, or would the Koch brothers have fit in really well in 1930's Germany? Let's see, break the unions? Check. A handful of super rich industrialists? Check. A small managerial class? Working on it. An inexhaustible pool of scared, desperate people, willing to work for less, with few benefits, and little chance for advancement? Check, check, and check. Throw in fear of the 'other' and a homicidal anger toward the weak and 'deviant', add a handy scapegoat or two and mix well...all to a soundtrack of Richard Wagner's greatest hits.

Us v Them

Saw the great Lewis Black last night and his remarks about Republicans and Democrats being essentially the same--that is ineffective--when it comes to dealing with the major issues of our time, got me to thinking. Forget the idea of monolithic political parties, perhaps the true division has always been between Progressives and Regressives.

(Regressive seems a more accurate description than Conservative. After all, there are some conservative values that even the most progressive amongst us hold. Few of us desire, or thrive, in anarchic chaos. The bourgeoisie holds the center together, and gives us something to rebel against.)

But regression implies not stasis, but a turning back. If you think about America, the one constant has been progress. Away from monarchy, towards democracy. Away from slavery towards freedom. Up until very recently, however often we stumbled as a nation, the thrust was still forward, always searching for that new frontier, that better way to do things. Think of the major social achievements of the last 100 years: labor laws and civil rights, social security and Medicare, the GI Bill, the woman's movement, and many, many more. Progressivism is the true rising tide that lifts all boats.

If we tend to think of Progressives as being exclusively Liberal Democrats, that's probably because there have been few if any Progressive Republicans in our lifetimes. The Party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and 'Fighting Bob' La Follette is now the party of Sarah Palin, Mitch McConnell, and Rand Paul. Eisenhower, Nixon, even Reagan would have a hard time passing the entry exam, let alone the loyalty test. Don't hold your breath, there are no new ideas coming from these people. There never will be. They are incapable of original thoughts. They believe in an Arcadian past that is pure delusion. Anyway, you can't go back. That's not an option. You either go forward or you stay where you are--while everyone else goes forward.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Shared sacrifices

Why does it seem that the Republican's idea of a "shared sacrifice" is for the middle class to give up more and more in benefits, services, etc. while the wealthy folks and the corporations sacrifice by getting huge tax cuts? Why does Scott Walker believe that the "shared sacrifice" in Wisconsin is for the public sector unions to give up their collective bargaining rights in addition to the concessions they've already made in order to solve a budget "crisis" that he helped to create with his tax cuts for the wealthy and the corporations?

Oh's because they're all bought and paid for by corporate America. As for the bottom 98%, good freakin' know, get to work and all that. Pull yourselves up by your own bootstraps. I guess you better pull yourself up, because you sure as hell aren't going to get a job if you don't already have one, and if you're a union member don't count on keeping that job too long unless you're willing to give up everything your union has gained over the past 80 or so years...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fashion tips

Say what you want about Moammar Gadhafi, it takes a certain kind of man to even attempt that whole Sophia Loren over-sized sunglasses look. Throw in the pencil thin mustache, a la Bob Dylan circa Love and Theft , and we're talking a personal style that transcends mere politics. Bravo Colonel, bravo.

The Road to Damascus

As I sit here, sipping my sambuca and pondering the glory that was Rome, I'm starting to warm to the whole Republican Tea Party "I got mine--@%#&* You!" mantra. Because, like any good Patriot, I have grievances.

First of all, I've been paying for the public schools through my property taxes for years and my kid goes to a private school. He's doing just fine--thanks for asking--and I really don't care what kind of education your kid gets. In fact, to hell with your kid. So, I'd like all that money back.

Secondly, I don't need a freeway to Mesa. I have no intention of going to Mesa, so don't tax me to build roads to Mesa. Or Gilbert, or Surprise, or any of those sad little places. I only need roads to places I go. To hell with all those places I don't go, and the people who live there. I don't need them.

I don't need libraries either. Close them all, sell the buildings and the books, and send me a check.

I don't need police--I have a gun. Don't need the fire department either. So give me that money back, too. If your house catches on fire, as far as I'm concerned that's your problem. And don't bother me with your problems.

Poor people need my help? @%#&* 'em. That'll teach them to be poor. They get what they deserve. Hungry children? @%#&* 'em, too. They should've picked wealthier parents. And don't even start with all those 'desperately ill' people looking for a handout. Is it my fault they're sick? No, it is not. Just keep them away from me, OK? I have rights, too, you know?

The whole idea of community and a public commons is socialist bullshit. Me, me, me, me. Mine, mine, mine, mine. Gee, this is fun!

A couple of late night thoughts

It's late and I just feel like getting a couple of things out there into the ether. On Thursday I'm planning to write more about Wisconsin, Scott Walker, John Kasich and Ronald Reagan, but tonight I just want to make a couple of points.

First, bravo to the Obama administration and the Department of Justice for the announcement that they will no longer defend the DOMA in appellate court. I can't help but think this is the beginning of the end for DOMA, an act that along with Don't Ask Don't Tell has always seemed to me to be both unconstitutional and repellent in its discrimination against roughly 10% of the American public. The right has already begun its assault on this decision, with that harridan Monica Crowley leading the way on Fox calling Obama "Mubarak Obama" and stating that this is a dictatorial decision by the administration. This only leads me to believe that Crowley needs to get a dictionary and try to find out what the word "dictatorial" actually means, because it's pretty apparent that she doesn't understand it right now.

Next, the Presidential election of 2012. Which Republican is actually going to try to run? One would think by their rhetoric that the Republicans would be lining up to face a socialist dictator who by their account is the most unpopular President in history, but the early frontrunners already seem to be dropping out. John Thune, that handsome dude from South Dakota? Nope. Mike Pence, that erstwhile defender of liberty from Indiana? Says he ain't gonna try. Let's see -- who else is out there. Oh yeah. Chris Christie, Anne Coulter's dream of a boy toy. Will he run? According to him he will commit suicide before running, just to convince people that he's not running. Who does that leave now? Mitt Romney, the plastic master of change (he can change his opinion in an instant depending on which way the political wind is blowing) who got slaughtered just two years ago? Mike Huckabee, the evolution denier who tries to come across as somewhat moderate -- a stance that disappears upon any close appraisal of his policies and words? Newt Gingrich? Give me a break.

Nope, none of those could possibly beat Obama and I believe they all know it. Who does that leave? Please, please, by all that's holy, let the last two candidates I can think of please run. That's right, ex-Governor half-term, Sarah Palin, and crazy lady who seems to have frostbite of the brain, Michele Bachmann. If she were to actually run and be forced to face actual reporters at some point and not just the droids at Fox, Palin's approval rating by November 2012 would probably hover at somewhere around 15%. And is there really even anything to say about someone who believes that Glenn Beck can solve the nation's financial crisis? Enough said....although if anyone in the country would be happier than me for Presidential runs by these two idiots, it could only be Jon Stewart and the writing staff at Saturday Night Live.

I'll be back later with my thoughts on Walker and labor, particularly regarding the influence Ronald Reagan has had on them. For now, good night.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

That's the way we became the Brewer Bunch!

Arizona has an interesting history with its Governors. Some are indicted, some impeached, some die, some resign. Jan Brewer is the latest in a line of Secretaries of State who first assumed the position after something happened to the elected governor. In Brewer's case, Janet Napolitano jumped ship to join the Obama administration. You can't really blame Janet! (as her campaign signs proclaimed her) for getting out at the first opportunity. It couldn't have been much fun battling the hillbilly factions over everything. And the prospect of more of the same probably had her sitting by the phone, desperately awaiting something--anything--to free her from the purgatory of being a Democratic governor in a state run exclusively by and for Republicans. To understand how she managed to get elected in the first place, you have to hearken back to a time when a now extinct species, the moderate Republican, roamed the earth. Enough of these gone but not forgotten creatures preferred Napolitano to her opponent, and they joined with the Dems and Independents to swing the election in her favor. Unfortunately, the legislature itself remained staunchly right wing Republican, so poor Janet could do nothing to help the state except veto their more outlandish proposals. Anything, even being the Homeland Security pinata, would be preferable to that, and so adios Janet!, hola Jan.

Now, Janet Napolitano was not a great, or even perhaps good governor, but compared to her successor she seems almost Olympian in retrospect. And that's because Jan Brewer is yet another career politician who doesn't think government provides any benefits that couldn't be better served by the private sector . Government apparently only exists to provide her with a job to pay for her scotch and face lifts. Oh, and to grease the wheels for her cronies in the private prison business. That's the one thing that government under Brewer can and must do: redirect the wealth of the people to a select few. By God, let's privatize everything! Sell the buildings we do the people's business in, and then turn around and lease them back? Why not! Gut AHCCCS? Can do! Overturn the 14th Amendment? You betcha! States' Rights Now, States' Rights Forever! Spending years being paid to do something you don't agree with or even fundamentally believe in might cause ethical issues for some people, but Jan has come through unscathed and untroubled. And because she was soooo tough on those damn illegals, who are, let us never forget, the cause of all our problems, the hillbillies chose her over the eminently more qualified Terry Goddard.

We've had ciphers in the Governor's chair before. Rose Mofford comes immediately to mind. But dear, sweet Rose wasn't surrounded by the venal and craven cabal that props up Brewer. Here's a clue: when you see the phrase "former adviser to Fife Symington" in someone's resume, keep one hand on your wallet and head for the nearest exit. Of course, the real power behind the throne is the de facto governor, the odious Russell Pearce, but I'm afraid that tales of the Grand Imperial Wizard of Mesa must wait for another time. Just typing his name has made me nauseous, and I must retire to the nearest bar to collect myself...

One last thought for today: Ayn Rand was a mediocre novelist and a truly awful playwright whose ideas only appeal to the most selfish amongst us, and the worst angels of our nature.

Music video of the day

With the whole Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, etc. labor messes going on, this video seemed appropriate. Here's Bruce's words regarding this song, from the Seeger Session CD...

"The most important political protest song of all-time, sung around the world when people fight for justice and equality. Originally a Baptist hymn, brought into the labor movement in the 1930s, popularized among civil rights workers in the 1950s at the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee."


American wealth in one graph!

Ezra Klein at the Washington Post published this today and I thought it was worth posting here for everyone to see. Remember this next time you hear the wealthy folks talk about how they're paying an inordinate share of the tax burden. Remind them it's because they have an even more inordinate share of the wealth!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Joe Scarborough -- Is he really this stupid?

I have spent years wondering why MSNBC gives Scarborough a platform. Are they really trying to be the true "fair and balanced" network? That's the only reason I can think of, because it's fairly obvious that Joe's schtick would play much better on CNN than on MSNBC. The funny thing is that Joe, one of Newt's brigade in the '95 Republican congress, is now seen as a moderate! He is far too left for Fox, which eviscerates him at every turn.

This week Moderate Joe has decided that it's time to end 100 years of labor gains in America. Obviously the only problem in Wisconsin is those damned unions, which in Joe's opinion are totally responsible for the state budget crisis (which isn't really a crisis, but why let facts get in the way). Monday morning he did actually acknowledge that the unions were willing to give in on every single issue in the debate except the right to retain collective bargaining -- but that wasn't enough for governor Walker, who swears that the only way to save the state is to eliminate the unions. Other than the ones that support him, of course. And poor Moderate Joe, he's now in trouble with the right for suggesting that the unions, not the state, have been willing to negotiate.

Joe Scarborough, America's number one guy for being wrong on any issue, no matter which side he picks. He always gets it wrong!

Wisconsin labor battle

With the Wisconsin labor battle raging this week, I was wondering this morning what the conservative take really is on labor unions, so I did what anyone would do -- I went to Conservapedia. Here's what that bastion of knowledge has to say about labor unions:

"A labor union or trade union is an organization formed for the purpose of collectively representing the interests of a group of workers. In particular this can include collectively bargaining with employers in order to agree rates of pay and other conditions of employment. Conservatives tolerate the right of workers to form unions but recoil when they become too liberal, too corrupt, or too authoritarian over their members. Liberals aggressively support them, and use their influence with labor leaders to force rank-and-file union members to support liberal causes and candidates financially, despite the fact that those members strongly and unequivocally oppose those causes and candidates. Most unions are run by liberals."

You like that? Conservatives "tolerate" labor unions, and liberals force those folks to financially support candidates and causes the members "strongly and unequivocally oppose".

You can't make this shit up people....

Monday, February 21, 2011

Welcome to the funhouse

About a year ago, I was holed up in a foreign land, far far away, waiting to see if the Icelandic volcano would leave me stranded,and the only news of Arizona I could find was in USA Today, which is, let's face it, just barely a newspaper. And what news was it that I found? Why SB1070 of course! I sat there, in the disarray of my hotel room, thinking 'well, you really can't put a price tag on that kind of advertising, can you?' I mean here we are, in the worst recession in 80 years, in a state that depends on tourism for a large part of its economy, and we announce to the rest of the world that if you come to Arizona, and look or act suspiciously foreign (i.e. non-white), you might just end up in jail. And today, a year later, I can happily announce that nothing has changed. The reason for this is simple: Arizona is at heart a southern state and it is run, for the most part, by a gang of angry, stunted hillbillies. Now, hillbillies can be very entertaining. I'm thinking of the first part of Deliverance or the delightful antics of Jed, Jethro, and Granny. But you really shouldn't let them govern you, because, well, they're hillbillies. And they're still re-fighting the Civil War every chance they get, in the hopes that someday they might win.

Every story needs a villain, and so let's blame the Mexicans, their 'liberal' enablers, the Federal government in general, and Barack Obama in particular, for every problem Arizona has. Forget for a moment that the Republicans have controlled the state government for the last 30 years or so. Forget that they've cut taxes to the bone already, which increased the state's deficit and still didn't attract business. Forget that without tons of Federal aid there wouldn't be a modern Arizona as we know it. (Try imaging the place without the Salt River Project, the CAP, the interstate highway system, and all those military bases pumping billions of dollar into the local economy. Pretty bleak, huh?) (Also forget that if your state takes in more Federal aid than it pays in Federal taxes you are benefiting from a form of, yikes, SOCIALISM!!!) Forget that we're in a race to the bottom in education and health care, and that someday soon, the old punchline "thank God for Mississippi", as in "we would be last in a lot of quality of life categories--except that Mississippi is always worse", will be replaced by "thank God for Arizona." No, it's easier to just say "it's all the Mexican's fault--build the dang fence."

Well that's enough for today. I'll leave you with one last thought: anybody who thinks Ronald Reagan was a great president, let alone the greatest president, is either a moron or a defense contractor.

Hello to everyone!

Hello all! My name is Mission Man (actually Don, but what the hell) and my friend David and I have started our new blog here, Friendly Fire. We will be posting about all sorts of things, but the emphasis will be on politics. I'll be concentrating mostly on national events while David will be primarily looking into all things Arizona. Other things that might cross our minds? Mostly books, movies, theatre, music, maybe even sports on occasion.

So again, welcome. I hope you'll all feel free to post your comments about what we write, pro or con. Thanks everyone!