The State of the Union

The State of the Union — if, by Union we mean that confederation of interests and outlooks joined together more than two centuries ago to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity — is not nearly as good as the President assured the assembled members of Congress and an increasingly disapproving public tonight.

Of course, many and powerful are those within the union who wield — and receive — the benefits of justice, who enjoy lavish domestic tranquilities, feel well-defended by the greatest military force ever assembled, are skeptical that the general welfare couldn’t stand a good deal more austerity than it suffers today, and who seem pleased as punch with their lives — and with their government — in what everyone is constantly reminded is a fearful and dangerous time.

Others aren’t so sure, but remain too hopelessly addicted to drugs, to tv, to shopping, sex, celebrity, or to themselves to have an effect.

Such a view, however, ignores deep divisions now rending the fabric of a society rapidly divesting itself of hard won freedoms, and of its fundamental openness and optimism, in favor of one rooted in secrecy, in security, and in the concentration of power among the few as opposed to the many.

The State of the Union has the Republican party, specifically, and the progeny of our essentially Calvinist forbears generally running roughshod over the Democratic party and what remains of a once slow-moving, but largely progressive, liberal-minded establishment that served for nearly a century as caretaker of the American Dream.

Gone is the sense in America that an injustice to one of us is an affront to the autonomy of us all. Today we submit to routine invasions of privacy, and to institutional abuses of rights once held to be self evident, under a delusional faith that only the duly suspicious and inherently dangerous among us will be affected.

Gone is the idea that people make an enterprise great and worthwhile, or that their labor and dedication deserve appreciation. Today the interests of bankrupt corporations, and of their directors and executives, supercede those of not only the labor force, but of even society itself.

The State of the Union sees the Executive laying claim to a wide swath of the government’s Legislative function and quite successfully co-opting the Judicial branch in the process. It sees a news media barely able to wrest itself from the lures of voyeurism and the enchantments of celebrity for more than the briefest stretches of time.

The President stood before the nation tonight, as he has for each of the four previous State of the Union addresses he has given, and lied. He lied about the progress we are making in Iraq and about his commitment to support the troops he has consigned to fight there.

He lied about the health of the domestic economy and about his commitment to end the nation’s addiction to oil.

He lied about investing in education and about his commitment to being a “good steward” of taxpayers’ money.

The State of the Union is such that one of the most unpopular Presidents of all time can get a standing ovation standing at the podium on the floor of the House of Representatives, pretending all is well, smirking, and joking, and bluffing his way through a speech that completely ignores the harsh realities of the precarious moment in history at which the country finds itself.

The State of the Union is such that an invited guest wearing clothing deemed “inappropriate” for the occasion can be arrested and whisked from the room in handcuffs in order to preserve the managed sense of propriety and decorum under which the government deigns to show its public face.

Ours may be the greatest nation in the annals of human history. We may have achieved the highest standard of living for the greatest number of people ever in the course of time. All of that, however, is due to past performance and not a result of current practice.

Comments

  1. Michael Herdegen - February 1, 2006 @ 7:10 am

    Others aren’t so sure, but remain too hopelessly addicted to drugs, to tv, to shopping, sex, celebrity, or to themselves to have an effect.

    Just so.
    American society could be a lot different, but it would require that more attention be paid – which would be a reversal of a decades-long trend.

    Such a view, however, ignores […] the concentration of power among the few as opposed to the many.

    The “many” still have ultimate authority, they just generally choose not to use it.
    There are exceptions, however, as Gray Davis and Max Cleland found out.

    Gone is the idea that people make an enterprise great and worthwhile, or that their labor and dedication deserve appreciation.

    Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, Pixar, and Google are nothing BUT people making enterprises great, and whose labor is well appreciated, assuming that “large monetary rewards” = “appreciation”.

    The State of the Union is such that one of the most unpopular Presidents of all time…

    Measured how ?
    By number of times elected ?
    By poll numbers ?

    If the last, then it’s easy enough to look up historical polling data for 20th century politicians…
    And guess what ?

    Ours may be the greatest nation in the annals of human history. We may have achieved the highest standard of living for the greatest number of people ever in the course of time. All of that, however, is due to past performance and not a result of current practice.

    Correct; correct; watch and learn.

  2. half-mooned - February 1, 2006 @ 12:46 pm

    did anyone hear the pots & pans banging?

  3. Butler Crittenden - February 1, 2006 @ 1:11 pm

    Thanks, Lonnie. Except for a minor quibble about the “liberal-minded establishment that served for nearly a century as caretaker of the American Dream,” I see little to challenge. Which century do you have in mind?

    Re “one of the most unpopular Presidents of all time,” that’s what I’ve read as well, so your pal Herdegen will have to be clearer if he wants to inform me. His choice of corporations leaves a lot to be desired as well. A couple of guys get a monopoly on the equivalent of water and then rip everyone off and now we’re to respect them? Others help create the dribble that became so important to Disney (whose founder was an unapologetic fascist) that they were bought out. The Yahoo boys were there first but lost it due to a bad business model, later to be rescued by the sheer brawn of the Internet. Ditto Amazon. And Google is trading at 7000 times the cost of a summer breeze, which is sure to turn to winter when the crash comes. Let’s not forget Apple, there first and soon almost out of business due to another bad business model, only to be rescued by the fickle finger of the youth consumers who are so afraid of experiencing quiet or talking to their neighbors that they zombie-out with their iPods.

    People tell me that Gates has made up for imposing a huge tax on the world’s computer users by taking a good slug of the recent $80Bn stock dividend to fight HIV. Which means I’m to accept that private whims are to replace public policy. And I’m to accept that Google’s compliance with the Chinese requirement of censorship is a way of getting the foot of democracy into that authoritarian country. You can imagine that I don’t accept either proposition.

    Without falling into the “all government is no damn good” trap, with reluctance I “just have to say” you weren’t hard enough on the Dems. As a friend in Texas wrote to me: “Virginia governor, right-to-lifer, Tim Kaine’s Democratic response to the State of the Union Speech was a recital of Republican objectives: have faith in God, uphold family values, put more cops on the beat, oppose reductions in troop strength, balance the budget, advance no child left behind, manage the war better. No mention was made of universal health care, living wage, the pension crisis, an Iraq exit strategy, campain finance reform, the political culture of criminality, Big Brother. Kaine hoists Democrats on a Republican petard, upon which we get skewered and shish ka bobbed due to the absence of red meat issues. JM”

    Leaving the question: What are we to do, we who care and think that a better society is possible?

  4. Vince Meghrouni - February 1, 2006 @ 2:12 pm

    In response to:

    “The State of the Union is such that one of the most unpopular Presidents of all time‚Ķ

    Mr. Herdegen writes:

    “Measured how ?
    By number of times elected ?
    By poll numbers ?”

    I would answer: By exit poll numbers.

  5. Tam O’Tellico - February 1, 2006 @ 6:01 pm

    I confess — I tried to watch the State of the Union speech, but I fell asleep. I guess I just can’t handle any more punishment — call me Citizen Caned.

    Before dozing off, I did observe that Bush has improved considerably as a “speechifier”. Guess my expectations have been lowered, given the fact that he has nothing left to say beyond “stay the course”.

    The only real excitement at this increasingly contrived event was the ousting of Cindy Sheehan before Bush’s processional. Sheehan had the audacity to wear a T-Shirt which listed the American body count in Iraq. I guess sacrificing a son doesn’t warrant the privilege of expressing your opinion in America anymore — at least not anywhere near the Prez.

    Washington begins more and more to resemble Wonderland — a place where fantasy has replaced reality. Things are already unbelievable, and it looks like they’re about to get worse:

    New Patriot Act Provision Creates Tighter Barrier to Officials at Public Events
    By Kelley Beaucar Vlahos
    Fox News

    Tuesday 31 January 2006

    Washington – A new provision tucked into the Patriot Act bill now before Congress would allow authorities to haul demonstrators at any “special event of national significance” away to jail on felony charges if they are caught breaching a security perimeter.

    Sen. Arlen Specter , R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sponsored the measure, which would extend the authority of the Secret Service to allow agents to arrest people who willingly or knowingly enter a restricted area at an event, even if the president or other official normally protected by the Secret Service isn’t in attendance at the time.

    The measure has civil libertarians protesting what they say is yet another power grab for the executive branch and one more loss for free speech.

    “It’s definitely problematic and chilling,” said Lisa Graves, senior counsel for legislative strategy at the American Civil Liberties Union , which has written letters to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, pointing out that the provision wasn’t subject to hearings or open debate.

    Some conservatives say they too are troubled by the measure.

  6. lonbud - February 1, 2006 @ 10:39 pm

    Michael:
    Gray Davis and Max Cleland suffered the collateral damage of a system coming unhinged from its very moorings. The real power in every sector of society is being concentrated, not shared or disbursed.

    Six high-tech corporations with an average longevity of maybe18 years forms your
    rebuttle to my assertion that people are being crushed under the weight of the massive “success” of our economic model? Please. When those giants of American ingenuity and know-how have paid for a decent living and retirement for two or three generations of the people who make them great, then we can talk.

    As for your feigned coyness regarding Dubya’s popularity, were his term to end tomorrow he’d rank tied for next-to-last among presidents since Eisenhower.

    Butler:
    Thanks for adding your eloquence and wit to the proceedings. I hope you’ll post often.

    I made a gesture toward acceptance of the idea that we at one time enjoyed a more progressive establishment than we do today because I’m acutely aware how we here in the Bay Area have a special understanding of the deeply psychopathic nature of the current regime.

    I think it’s important to acknowledge the generally progressive nature of the things FDR was responsible for, and to recognize the slow but inexorable rise of rights consciousness that inforrmed our social path through the 40s and 50s, into even parts of the 90s.

    But, in the end, you are right. Not near enough of the blame for the state of the union is laid at the doorstep of the Democratic party. Nor, in my view, that of the media.

    As for what we who care and believe a better society is possible can, or ought to do, I think one aspect of the president’s message had the indelible ring of truth: we’re on our own.

    Tam:
    One way to prevent the little boy from exclaiming the emperor has no clothes is to clear the path of the cortege.

  7. Tam O’Tellico - February 2, 2006 @ 6:35 am

    Lon, you and I stand corrected — the Emporer isn’t naked — he’s wrapped himself in the flag and armed himself with the Bible. So armored and so armed, millions of people continue to see him as a courageous warrior leading America against the Muslim hordes. Have we learned nothing in a thousand years?

    As Charley Rangel recently put it, “so much for white supremacy”.

    None of this should come as a surprise, however. The Religious Right has planned and executed this semi-quiet revolution since the Seventies. Having failed in their initial attempts to get fanatics elected to high office and turn America into a theocracy, they decided to begin their assault with local school boards and work there way up. They succeeded well enough to make a serious attempt to press for Creationism in schools. But in that they were still premature, such a notion being all too obviously idiotic. Thus they decided to cook the books like Cheney and Tennant, and they have returned with a much more insidious scheme called Intelligent Design.

    One may well ask how an Intelligent Designer could create such obviously defective organisms as Pat Robertson and his minions, but that is a subject for another time.

    Lest anyone doubt that this is a planned attack and that it is succeeding beyond belief, read this week’s Newsweek. Wanna know who has the number one debate team in America? Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, and they just whipped Harvard’s ass. Wanna guess what will happen when these folks start populating our courts and legal system? They’ll make Sam Alito — or Antonin Scalia for that matter — look like a commie.

    The sad truth is that it is not Islam that is the enemy, it is Fundamentalism, and that cancer does not have to be imported from the ignorant East — we have more than enough ignorance right here in America. And it’s growing everyday.

    What disturbs me is that millions of true Conservatives cannot see the wolf that has come clothed as a lamb. Either they are blinded by pathological distrust of government or by their unmitigated greed. Why else would they wish to undo seventy years of social progress and return America to the Hobbesian jungle?

    Whatever the cause, true Conservatives are the functional equivalent of the Jews who align themselves with these same Fundamentalist Christians. In that case, both share a love of Israel, but Fundmentalist Christians are bent on restoring the Temple in Jerusalem so that Christ can return and burn those same Jews for having crucified him. Apparently, six million wasn’t enough, and Christ will return as the next Hitler.

    So much for friends, and so much for Christian peace and love. And if something doesn’t happen to awaken the rest of America very soon to this very real threat, so much for America.

  8. lonbud - February 2, 2006 @ 7:53 am

    In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, George W. Bush said that it’s important for fledgling democracies to have “accountable institutions,” for young people to live lives of “personal responsibility,” and for public officials to “never forget, never dismiss and never betray” their “pledge to be worthy of public responsibility.”

    It was a lot of accountability talk for a guy with drunk driving and corporate bankruptcies in his dossier.

    And just two days later it’s revealed for what I called it at the time — all talk.

    The New York Times reports this morning that Mr. Bush has instructed the Justice Department to refuse release of documents requested by the Senate Judiciary Committee investigating the legality of Dubya’s Domestic Spying Program.

    As Tim Grieve at salon.com put it well, accountability is a wonderful thing right up until that moment when you’re the one being held to account.

  9. Tam O’Tellico - February 2, 2006 @ 8:19 am

    There will also be no release of information regarding W’s dealing with Abramoff or Cheney’s collusion with Enron. The fact of the matter is that Washington, always a den of back-room bartering, now has been turned into a gigantic insider trading scheme.

  10. Michael Herdegen - February 3, 2006 @ 4:04 pm

    Butler Crittenden:

    Gates has made up for imposing a huge tax on the world’s computer users by taking a good slug of the recent $80Bn stock dividend to fight HIV. Which means I’m to accept that private whims are to replace public policy.

    Nobody MUST buy or operate any Microsoft product to use their cellphone, PDA, personal computer, minicomputer, server, mainframe computer, or supercomputer.
    The fact that most people find it easier to do so IS NOT THE SAME as “taxing” people, although one might call it a “cost of convenience”.

    Gates isn’t “replacing” public policy, he’s merely supplementing it.
    America has committed to spending $ 15 billion to fight AIDS in Africa, which is a pretty large public committment.

    Are you really saying that Gates spending money, however acquired, to lessen human suffering around the world, is objectively BAD ?

    Vince Meghrouni:

    By that standard, (and that standard only), we need only go back to Clinton to find a less-popular President; Bush the Younger had higher exit-poll numbers in both ’00 and ’04 than Clinton did upon being elected in ’92, and Clinton NEVER won the majority of votes, despite winning two national elections.

    lonbud:

    No “feigned coyness” – you were simply saying that YOU really don’t like Bush, and I just pointed out that most people don’t agree with you. We don’t have to argue over polls to agree that such is so. Still…
    “[O]ne of the most unpopular Presidents of all time” becomes almost the least-popular “since Eisenhower” ?!?

    LOL
    Way to backpedal. I’m going to have to chalk that up as “one for me”.

    BTW, even “were [Dubya‚Äôs] term to end tomorrow he‚Äôd rank tied for next-to-last among presidents since Eisenhower” is hyperbole, since clearly at least LBJ, Nixon, and Carter were LESS popular than Bush is now.
    If you’d like to declare that “Bush the Younger is the least popular President since Reagan”, then I’ll agree with that, but defining “all time” as “twenty-five years” is rather heterodox.

    [P]eople are being crushed under the weight of the massive “success” of our economic model ?!?

    What, exactly, do you mean by that ?
    American unemployment in Jan. ’06 was 4.7%, and initial jobless claims are well under 300,000, which bodes very well for future job growth…
    That doesn’t sound like anyone’s being “crushed”.

    So, OK, you don’t like my examples of successful American companies that are making millionaires out of their employees – but, you fail to provide ANY examples.

    How about naming some older, failing companies that you believe champion “the idea that people make an enterprise great and worthwhile, [and] that their labor and dedication deserve appreciation”, and explain why their failure is due to them adhering to those concepts.
    If their failure is due to some other factor, then that’s bad luck or poor management, not noble people being crushed by the system.

    Welcome to the Machine is a fun, dystopic fantasy, NOT an accurate depiction of 20th century America, (although it does somewhat describe 18th and 19th century mining and manufacturing, in some places), and it CERTAINLY doesn’t describe 21st century America in any way whatsoever.

  11. lonbud - February 4, 2006 @ 12:16 am

    Without getting into the gory details of what Bill Gates does with his money (or the even gorier ones of how he comes by it), I think Butler’s larger point is spot on: the ruling oligarchy want no part of a government with the funding, the power, or the notion to set public policy. And they want a public conditioned to look solely to private initiative and private charity for anything resembling shelter from the storm.

    You are right, Michael, that I don’t like Dubya. However, contrary to your assertion (according to the latest polling data, anyway), the majority of people do agree with me.

    In addition, Dubya is in a statistical dead heat with Carter as the next-to-least popular president since Eisenhower, with Nixon, of course, being the undisputed champion of that dubious distinction. LBJ left office with higher popularity numbers than Dubya has today.

    Three years is a long time in politics, though. And since the Democrats lack the collective spine (even if they had the numbers) to impeach him, your commander-in-chief will stew in the fetid, poisoned waters of his own fear and incompetence right up until the bitter end.

    If the full weight of his criminality and malfeasance come to light before the Fall of ’08, by Inauguration Day in ’09, Boy George could well sport popularity numbers in the single digits and finally unseat Tricky Dick as the most despised president since Hoover.

    I won’t get into another discussion of the utter worthlessness of Labor Department statistics, but I’ll say this: when an airline mechanic, who two years ago made $35 an hour, with full health benefits for himself and his family, loses his job so his former employer can remain competitive, then picks up part-time work at WalMart for $10.50 per and no benefits at all, he can be conclusively said to have been crushed under the weight of the success of our economic model.

    You love to accuse me of trading in hyperbole but please, Apple, Google, and Yahoo are NOT companies…making millionaires out of their employees. Officers, Directors, and investment bankers, most assuredly. But the vast number of employees of those companies and of any of the other NASDAQ darlings you might point to as the new champions of American social security will be lucky to see anything more than their bi-weekly paycheck no matter how long they work there.

    The were a buch of employees at Enron who thought they were millionaires at one time, I hear.

    Your new-age company towns are going to have to put a lot more miles on the odometer, and a lot more children through college, before they can be touted as bedrock supporters of the American Dream, I’m afraid.

    And finally, did you awaken from some Van Winklean slumber to peck out the words in that last paragraph?

    Welcome to the Machine…somewhat describe[s] 18th and 19th century mining and manufacturing, in some places [but] it CERTAINLY doesn‚Äôt describe 21st century America in any way whatsoever.”

    Tell it to the folks in West Virginia. Or here.

  12. Tam O’Tellico - February 4, 2006 @ 9:42 am

    Microsoft is indeed a phenomenon as a business model. In many ways, it is like the old dollar-bill on-a-string ploy in that customers keep expecting to grab something which always remains just out of reach. The company has succeeded wildly in spite of never living up to its promises; it has succeeded in the high-tech industry while innovating nothing. But let‚Äôs give credit where it‚Äôs due — Bill Gates has demonstrated a genius for superior marketing of inferior imitations of other company‚Äôs innovative products.

    To wit: one-page of text in WordPerfect is a 5kb file, while the same file in Word is 5 times the size. Transitions in Corel Presentations are as seamless and smooth as video, while transitions in PowerPoint are a herky-jerky, “pixilated” motion. But try to find anyone who is still using either WordPerfect or Presentations. Sorry, Corel; it’s not about building a better mouse-trap; it’s about owning the cheese factory.

    But let’s leave aside the argument about whether Microsoft represents capitalism at its finest or at its worst. Let’s look at Bill’s generous capitalistic heart instead.

    Someone calculated that Gates 25 mill donation was the functional equivalent of the average taxpayer donating $13.47. Now I’m sure any charity would much rather have Bill’s 25 mill than my 13 bucks. On the other hand, Bill obviously received some practical advantage from his donation since we are discussing his much-publicized generosity and not yours or mine.

    We can debate whether a collective consciousness of capitalism exists among robber barons like Andrew Carnegie and his latter-day incarnation Bill Gates, and whether their generosity represents enlightened self-interest or mere conscious balm; we can argue about the relative merits of capitalism as an economic and/or moral system, and whether it bodes ill or well for the common man, but it seems inarguable despite Michael’s mountains of statistics that for the average worker in America, the trend is clearly downward.

    Millions of Americans have been outsourced and down-sized (deep-sixed would be more accurate), health-care and pensions are becoming a thing of the past, the minimum wage has not been raised in years, real income growth is at its lowest point in nine years, and unions are in decline — if it’s not clear what that means, just compare accident statistics from union and non-union coal mines.

    These facts are acknowledged even by traditional economic conservatives like Lou Dobbs, who are not pandering to the masses to get elected. Only dinosaurs and greed-mongers on the far right continue to deny this reality.

    This reality is why the average American remains pessimistic about the future in spite of the cooked statistics out of Washington. The average American worker doesn’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows – or that this ill-wind blows no good.

    To those at the top of the economic pyramid, this decline is merely market capitalism at its finest, the economic jungle thinning the herd. But this view reduces economics to particle physics, and offers “market forces” which leave humans subject to random senseless brutality — though such a term is of course useless in this sort of godless, valueless hell of a universe.

    I find it ironic that the same people who proffer such a cold, cruel calculation most often also claim to be Christians who spout “family values” and a “right-to-life” – though all too often it seems that means only for “me and my kind”. And certainly, they are unwilling to pay for others “quality of life”. They seem to be saying, “we insist that you be born, but after that, you’re on your own.”

    I have long asked a question which so far no free-market capitalist has satisfactorily answered: How is it possible to rationalize the basic tenet of capitalism – every man for himself – with the basic tenet of Christianity – I am my brother’s keeper?

    Logic insists no such reconciliation is possible.

  13. Michael Herdegen - February 4, 2006 @ 12:41 pm

    Dubya is in a statistical dead heat with Carter as the next-to-least popular president since Eisenhower…

    Yeah, this is where we’d start to argue about WHICH poll to use.
    You can point to one that says Bush is at 30%, I can point to one which says 50%. In any case, “third-worst President since Ike” is somewhat different from “worst Prez EVER“.

    [W]hen an airline mechanic, who two years ago made $35 an hour, with full health benefits for himself and his family, loses his job so his former employer can remain competitive, then picks up part-time work at WalMart for $10.50 per and no benefits at all, he can be conclusively said to have been crushed under the weight of the success of our economic model.

    What “crushed” ?
    If an airline is uncompetitive because they’re paying their employees too much, it’s not the company that’s exploiting the workers, it’s the workers who are exploiting the company.
    That’s why GM is about to go bankrupt – did the autoworkers think that they could kill the Golden Goose and still get the Golden Eggs ?
    Judging by the UAW contracts, yes, that’s EXACTLY what they thought.

    Perhaps your hypothetical airline mechanic should have agreed to work for $ 25/hr, and then he’d still have a job.
    That’s precisely the agreement that Southwest has with its employees – less pay, more job security – and Southwest gets 100 applicants for every job opening.

    Southwest is a union shop, by the way.

    But the bigger picture is that hypothesizing about airlines or their employees is not the best example, since the American aviation industry is notoriously poorly-managed, as well as having a huge overcapacity. They’re going to be in bad shape for years to come, and many more airline employees are going to be looking for Wal~Mart greeter jobs, or possibly investigating opportunities at McDonald’s.

    [P]lease, Apple, Google, and Yahoo are NOT “companies‚Ķmaking millionaires out of their employees.”

    Except that THEY’VE ALREADY DONE IT.
    It’s very hard to argue with a done deal…

    Perhaps you’d like to assert that future employees won’t fare as well as past employees ?
    The “GM argument” – past and current employees sucked out all of the juice, with no regard for the future…

    Tell it to the folks in West Virginia.

    Do you mean the miners, the ones making 50% more than the average West Virginian, as I detailed in a previous thread ?
    Please, oppress me some more !!

    How is it possible to rationalize the basic tenet of capitalism – every man for himself – with the basic tenet of Christianity – I am my brother’s keeper?

    Capitalism is a system of trade, no more.
    Christianity is, in part, a moral philosophy.
    While Christianity or Judaism provides an ideal social environment for capitalism to flourish, it’s not strictly necessary.
    However, capitalism alone provides NO BASIS for a society or culture. It would be like basing one’s society on everyone having a fully-equipped machine shop.

    Many Christians have problems reconciling religion and capitalism – there is a strong centuries-old tradition of Christian religious groups trying to set up communist societies.
    Problem is, religion turns out to offer only slightly more motivation to individuals to sacrifice for the good of all than does humanitarianism, and many of those communities fail within the first generation, and almost ALL fail within the second generation.

    The Amish seem to be the most successful communitarian society, and they’re a Christian sect.
    They’re also capitalists.

  14. lonbud - February 4, 2006 @ 2:05 pm

    Michael, if you’d bother to read what I actually wrote, it was “one of the most unpopular presidents of all time. That’s a broad enough generalization into which the current occupant of the White House may easily be placed. The question is why you seem so intent on making him out to be something far more than even those who believed in him at one time are now willing to do?

    I’m happy to let the next three years run their course. As the magnitude of Dubya’s criminal incompetence comes to light, we may end up seeing a run on tar and feathers around Foggy Bottom.

    The bigger picture is that hypothesizing about airlines or their employees is not the best example, since the American aviation industry is notoriously poorly-managed, as well as having a huge overcapacity. They’re going to be in bad shape for years to come, and many more airline employees are going to be looking for Wal~Mart greeter jobs, or possibly investigating opportunities at McDonald’s.

    Yes, well, why do you think that might be the case? And how come the airline industries of countries in Europe and Asia are quite prosperous, supporting very well-paid labor forces with fine job security? Might it have anything to do with America’s blind obesiance to the demands of the free market? Maybe anything to do with the idea that we ought to treat the transportaition industries as a public utlity rather than a sandbox for greedhead MBA grads?

    There is much rotten in the State of Our Union and the sooner people disabuse themselves of the idea they’ve been sold by the Republican party that all government is bad and incompetent and wasteful, the sooner we can start sharing the wealth and opportunity of our society equitably and avoid the bloody revolution toward which our current leadership has us on a path.

  15. Tam O’Tellico - February 4, 2006 @ 5:21 pm

    Michael, you teeter on the edge of absurdity again — maybe even insanity. Blaming the unions for GM’s failures is like blaming students for a poor educational system or nurses for the healthcare disaster. It’s almost as bad as blaming me for Bush’s disastrous policies in Iraq.

    As I’ve said before, unions, through featherbedding and other actions resulting in low productivity, share some responsibility for the condition of GM. But the principal failure is on the part of management; after all, they agreed to those contracts. More importantly, management chose which cars to produce, which ads to promote them, and what prices to charge for them. In short, they mismanaged in every area and by every measure.

    And now they have the balls to blame the workers for their failures. Well, let’s look at just one example of the truth of the matter.

    Management, led by the infamous Roger Smith, chose the disastrous policy of attempting to convert GM to total robotic production, an idea dismissed by the Japanese because they understood the importance of contented and involved human beings on the assembly line. This from CNN:

    “It’s been two decades since Roger Smith explained how robots–so reliable they could bolt up a transmission in the dark–would make General Motors as efficient as its rivals in Japan. But Smith’s infatuation with so-called lights-out manufacturing quickly went the way of the Chevy Chevette; GM couldn’t get its machines to work properly, even with the lights on.”

    Well, it looks like the lights may go out on GM before it’s all over, but Roger will still receive his huge retirement compensation and health benefits even if GM goes under. Apparently, so will his successor, the man who is presiding over the deathwatch. This from AutoBlog:

    “GM CEO Rick Wagoner will be receiving a $4.6M retirement package, courtesy of a Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan that has been set up for him. This plan comes from funding that is separate from GM’s vastly underfunded pension plan and is said to be payable even if GM files for bankruptcy. Is it just not possible to properly fund one’s own retirement on $4.8 million a year? Or is the goal to just eliminate whatever sympathy the public might still have for GM’s management? Wow.”

    So, my capitalist friend, please explain to me how under the tenets of “survival of the fittest” capitalism, a man is rewarded so handsomely for failure? I’ll tell you how, because under the perverted system capitalism has become, Mr. Wagoner is “one of our kind” and not one of the dirty little people who make it possible for executives like him to be unreasonably — nay, irrationally compensated. And saddest of all, these bastards think they’ve earned it — as if anyone is worth 4.6 million a year in retirement. Only Secretariat.

    I’m certain Roger Smith never gives a second thought to the ruined lives of the people whose hard work made him wealthy in spite of his failures. I’m equally certain that if his policies had been a success instead of a monumental failure, he would now proudly point to the fact that his robots had eliminated every human being from GM’s production lines.

    As for the airlines, Michael, what a shining example you offer of the superiority of free market capitalism. I suppose you salute the bastards running the show at United for gutting worker compensation while giving themselves bonuses for doing so. By the way, I seem to recall the airlines doing pretty damn well until Reagan deregulated them.

    I have previously recommended the book In Search of Excess to help explain why all this is a big part of what’s wrong with America. The executive compensation ratio in America is now at an all time high of 400 to 1 and still rising. Executive greed makes Adam Smith look like a fool, since he postulated a 17 to 1 ratio as more than sufficient to inspire the best and the brightest to extend themselves.

    Personally, I wouldn’t hire anyone who couldn’t be motivated by a ration of 10 to 1, but hey, I’m a communist, right?

    For an example of a company that understands the negative effects of the great compensation divide, go here:

    http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/company/makingadifference.ht

    If you’re too busy to take the trip, this is a quote from the website of Whole Foods Market: “A salary cap limits executive compensation to 14 times the average total of all the company’s full-time team members”.

    Michael, like so many of your ilk, you continue to spew out the preposterous notion that capitalism is just some value-neutral system of trade, when it fact it, not Christianity, is the de facto religion of the land. That is exactly the kind of delusion or obfuscation that gives Republicans such a bad name among those of us who have to live in the real world.

  16. Michael Herdegen - February 4, 2006 @ 6:01 pm

    lonbud:

    The question is why you seem so intent on making him out to be something far more than even those who believed in him at one time are now willing to do?

    Your position is seriously that most people who were once for Bush now believe that he’s one of the WORST Presidents ?
    LOL

    Let’s nail down what you mean by “one of” the most unpopular Presidents. Bottom half ?

    That seems like quite a lot of people. Are all of the people who earn less than the U.S. median income “among the least-successful people of all time” ?
    No, of course not, and so “bottom half” is too broad a standard.

    Most people would say that to be “one of the most unpopular”, Bush would at least have to be among the ten least-popular Presidents of all time – but I can come up with ten Presidents who were less-liked, and you can too, which is why you so quickly retreated to “third-least-popular-since-Ike”.

    My point is simply that YOU don’t like him, but many others do, and you’ve agreed that such is the case.
    Since you cannot cite any polls to bolster your position, because you don’t believe in statistics, and I can convincingly show that Bush is in the top two-thirds of Presidents in terms of popularity, what more is there to talk about, regarding this point ?

    Your position regarding airlines is aggravatingly elitist.

    In the U.S., air travel is so cheap that students and lower middle class families travel by air regularly and without giving it a second thought.
    However, cheap long-distance mass transit is apparently of little value – instead, you want all taxpayers, regardless of whether they’ve EVER travelled by air or not, to spend money to guarantee a few lucky people a cushy life.

    Why should we value the pocketbooks of a few thousand airline workers, ALL of whom make MORE than the American median wage, over the pocketbooks of millions of Americans, many of whom make far less than do the airline employees ?

    Seriously.
    What’s the reasoning for guaranteeing cushy jobs for a few, at the expense of the masses ?

    Shouldn’t we be doing EXACTLY what we are now, which is saving the masses billions of dollars, collectively, even if doing so means that thousands of airline employees can no longer maintain their upper-middle-class lifestyles ?

  17. Michael Herdegen - February 4, 2006 @ 6:43 pm

    Tam O’Tellico:

    GM will be bankrupted by their retiree’s medical costs, which the union obviously doesn’t want to discuss reducing.

    GM tried a non-union experiment, Saturn, which turned out some of the most reliable and safe vehicles assembled in America, and at a fair cost, too.
    The UAW promptly gutted Saturn.

    GM management is and was poor, but the UAW has had a greater role in GM’s decline than you appear to believe.

    As for the airlines, Michael, what a shining example you offer of the superiority of free market capitalism.

    Try re-reading what I wrote.

    By the way, I seem to recall the airlines doing pretty damn well until Reagan deregulated them.

    Yeah, and people used to dress in their Sunday best to fly, too.
    The airlines did well, and the public paid through the nose.
    Like lonbud, your favored policies entrench the hegemony of the elites over the unwashed masses.

    I say, Power to the People !!

    The executive compensation ratio in America is now at an all time high of 400 to 1 and still rising.

    Personally, I wouldn‚Äôt hire anyone who couldn‚Äôt be motivated by a ration of 10 to 1…

    [T]his is a quote from the website of Whole Foods Market: “A salary cap limits executive compensation to 14 times the average total of all the company’s full-time team members”.

    Ben & Jerry’s tried to hold the line on executive compensation, too.
    It can be done by small companies, but once a certain level of complexity is reached, the company NEEDS to be run by a talented person, and they don’t come cheaply.

    As you may recall, Ben & Jerry solved their moral dilemma by…
    Selling out for millions to a huge international corporation, Unilever, which promptly hired a CEO with a million-dollar paycheck.

    Talking the talk is cheap entertainment, but walking the walk is very difficult.
    We’ll see if Whole Foods can hold the line. My money says no.

    Michael, like so many of your ilk, you continue to spew…

    Yes, I’m filth, I’m scum, I’m deluded (possibly insane), I’m the King of Refuse; whereas you are like unto a god, a colossus bestriding the Earth.

    [It is a] preposterous notion that capitalism is just some value-neutral system of trade, when it fact it, not Christianity, is the de facto religion of the land. That is exactly the kind of delusion or obfuscation that gives Republicans such a bad name among those of us who have to live in the real world.

    Your position is that Republicans are deluded about what their religion actually is, but you’re willing to assert that you “live in the real world” ?!?
    Truth really is stranger than fiction.

    America is a predominantly Christian nation, and is capitalist.
    Israel is a predominantly Jewish nation, and is capitalist.
    Turkey is a predominantly Muslim nation, and is capitalist.
    Japan is a predominantly Shinto nation, and is capitalist.
    India is a predominantly Hindu nation, and is capitalist.
    France is a predominantly non-religious nation, and is capitalist.

    Notice anything ?

  18. Tam O’Tellico - February 4, 2006 @ 10:21 pm

    Michael, Michael, Michael, where oh where do I begin to try to help you see the truth? I keep trying to offer you the truth from the vantage point of a Colussus bestriding the Earth, but you seemed bound like Prometheus, chained for eternity in your Caucasian delusions.

    Yes, Republicans, and plenty of Democrats, too, are deluded about what their religion actually is. They may claim to be Christians, but damned few of my acquaintance understand that requires more than lip service to the faith. Christianity demands pacifism and what any fair reading of the text can only call communism.

    But unlike so many of these supposedly God-fearing Christians, I actually believe in the First Amendment and respect their right to practice their faith as poorly and ignorantly as they choose — as long as they don’t try to subvert the Constitution and turn America into a Falwellian theocracy.

    As for GM, you only insult your own intelligence by attempting to lay the blame at the feet of the unions. If GM fails, it will not be because of unions that had no say in the misundermanagement of the company. If GM fails it will be because management failed to succeed under the very capitalist system of which you are so optimistically and unreasonably fond, failed in spite of having every economic advantage in its industry — including the quiet acquiesence and often the overt cooperation of the U.S. government. If GM fails, it will be because its Neanderthal leadership devoted far more energy to politics and public relations than it did to producing cars that satisfied the needs of its customers. This from Jim Motavalli:

    “General Motors’ investment of vast amounts of capital and energy in manipulating public opinion and state law may seem unprecedented, but this is, after all, a company’s whose executives could proudly proclaim, “What’s good for General Motors is good for America.” Indeed, GM’s campaign against electric cars has an eerily similar precedent.

    In 1922, when only one in 10 Americans owned a car, GM launched an undercover campaign to destroy the then-dominant public transportation system. The campaign, which took 30 years to fully implement, focused on the country’s clean (powered by electricity) and safe (accidents were infrequent) streetcar system.

    GM, in partnership with Standard Oil of California and Firestone, began by buying the largest busmaker in the U.S. It then secretly funded a company called National City Lines, which by 1946 controlled streetcar operations in 80 cities. Despite public opinion polls that, in Los Angeles for instance, showed 88 percent of the public favoring expansion of the rail lines after World War II, NCL systematically closed its streetcar systems down until, by 1955, only a few remained.

    A federal antitrust investigation resulted in both indictment and conspiracy convictions for GM executives, but destroying a public transportation network that would cost hundreds of billions of dollars to reproduce today cost the company only $5,000 in fines.

    Destroying the rail lines and replacing them with buses was only the first step. If private cars were going to dominate American transportation, they needed new roads to run on. GM also stands behind creation of the National Highway Users Conference, otherwise known as the highway lobby, which became the most powerful pressure group in Washington. GM promotional films from the immediate postwar years proclaim interstate highways to be the realization of “the American dream of freedom on wheels.”

    GM President Charles Wilson, who became Secretary of Defense in 1953, used his position to proclaim that a new road system was vital to U.S. security needs. He was assisted by newly appointed Federal Highway Administrator Francis DuPont, whose family was then the largest GM shareholder. Acting on a bill introduced by Senator Albert Gore, Sr. (the current vice president’s father), Congress approved the $25 billion Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. “The greatest public works program in the history of the world,” as Secretary of Commerce Sinclair Weeks called it, contained the seeds of our current gridlock.”

    I would think you would find GM’s policies and practices far more odious and despicable than those I advocate. In any case, your argument seems to be that public policy should be established by corporations and free market forces. While the folly of such a view is all too obvious and an intelligent refutation far too long for a forum such as this, I will point out what should have been all too obvious in your previous post.

    America is a predominantly Christian nation, and is capitalist.
    Israel is a predominantly Jewish nation, and is capitalist.
    Turkey is a predominantly Muslim nation, and is capitalist.
    Japan is a predominantly Shinto nation, and is capitalist.
    India is a predominantly Hindu nation, and is capitalist.
    France is a predominantly non-religious nation, and is capitalist.

    Notice anything?

    Yes, I noticed that all these nations save ours have nationalized air lines, and many if not all have nationalized communication systems and nationalized healthcare. The simple fact is that some things are far too important for a nation to leave them in the hands of greedy, self-serving capitalist pigs.

  19. Michael Herdegen - February 5, 2006 @ 4:10 am

    [Many] claim to be Christians, but damned few of my acquaintance understand that requires more than lip service to the faith.

    I agree that most people don’t live their lives as though they truly and deeply believed in the religions that they profess to adhere to, or even in the philosophies and worldviews that they defend and hold.

    We probably all know people who claim to be deeply worried about running out of oil, or about pollution, or who promote recycling – but they drive an SUV or large luxury auto, and/or live in a house larger than 1,000′ sq.

    Christianity demands pacifism and what any fair reading of the text can only call communism.

    Christianity demands that one not act rashly, but that’s not at all the same as pacifism.
    In any case, if we are to believe Biblical stories, God has asked and at times ordered humans to kill, even sometimes to commit genocide. We are commanded not to murder, but we are allowed to kill.

    Christianity encourages communitarianism, which is short of communism.
    While I believe that communism is essentially how the Celestial Kingdom works, and also that it’s the ultimate destination of human affairs, nobody has succeeded in making it work terrestrially up ’til now.
    I don’t expect it to be workable until material goods are produced in such abundance that the more-productive half of humanity can support the less-productive half without feeling any sense of loss whatsoever – the Star Trek paradigm, if you will.

    Since God knows that, I don’t feel any sense that She expects us to be communists at this time. Everything in its season.

    But unlike so many of these supposedly God-fearing Christians, I actually believe in the First Amendment…

    The First Amendment is an anti-religious clause, and so what’s surprising isn’t that some Christians don’t support it, it’s that so many DO.
    There’s a reason that scant few Muslim-majority nations have similar protections for free speech.

    As for GM, you only insult your own intelligence by attempting to lay the blame at the feet of the unions. If GM fails, it will not be because of unions that had no say in the misundermanagement of the company. If GM fails it will be because management failed to succeed under the very capitalist system of which you are so optimistically and unreasonably fond…

    As I’ve said many times, twice in this thread alone, I think that GM has been poorly run.
    However, the UAW is far from blameless, and you have stated that you agree that such is so. So really, we’re just wrangling over whether the union was half-responsible, or only one-third responsible.

    Think about this: Over the past twenty years, many foreign and some domestic auto manufacturers have opened non-union plants in the American South.
    Those plants and their employees have been turning out quality goods, including luxury and high-performance vehicles, at a considerably lower cost than do the Great Lakes plants. This is in part because the workers are satisfied with lower wages, due to the lower cost of living in the American South.

    The manufacturers are satisfied, the employees are satisfied, and the costs are lower.
    Why would any reasoning person conclude that the autoworkers at the older plants would be able to keep demanding the same higher wages that they were used to getting ?
    It’s simple common sense to foresee that Southern workers would gain jobs at the expense of Great Lakes workers, unless the latter offered to work for lower wages.

    The UAW knew that.
    They simply decided to play for time, to try to keep wages as high as possible, for as many members as possible, for as long as possible, even though it would mean many fewer jobs in the future.
    Well, the future has arrived.

    Current GM management cannot be held responsible for the sins of their grandfathers. Whatever GM did in the past, in the present they’ve spent a BILLION dollars on developing hydrogen-powered transportation technology, which is hard to argue is a bad thing – unless you’re a GM shareholder.

    I may somehow have given the impression that I feel that GM’s impending bankruptcy is a tragedy, or even that I care at all if the company fails.

    On the contrary, I think that if GM becomes a couple of smaller car companies, it will be a net positive for America, in the long run.
    Additionally, I’ve made a few dollars recently by shorting GM stock, and I wouldn’t mind making some more.

    Finally, I’m fond of capitalism because it provides the highest standard of living for the largest number of people, compared to any other economic system.
    Why else has China cast off Marxist Communism, and wholeheartedly embraced capitalism ?

    Oh, right, the Chinese people are “greedheads”, who selfishly like to eat every day.
    Besides that, I mean.

    And then we have the examples of the Czech Republic, Hungary, and the former East Germany, three former Soviet Marxist Communist states that have prospered by introducing market economies.
    They all had long experience with non-capitalist systems – why do you suppose that they dropped those economic models the instant that the USSR stopped holding a gun to their heads ?

    Even within the ranks of capitalist societies, it’s clear that the more socialist the societies are, the worse-off they tend to be.
    France, Germany, Italy, and Sweden are all much more inclined to socialism than are the U.S., with many of the features that American Leftists think make a society great – universal gov’t-run health care, heavily subsidized aviation industries, month-long annual paid vacations, generous retirement benefits…

    And, they all share two other dovetailing characteristics: All of their economies have grown at MUCH slower rates than has the U.S. economy, over the last fifteen years, and all of their governments are GOING BROKE.
    Those universal health benefits are going to start resembling the Cuban health care system, where every Cuban can see a doctor for free, but can’t get any drugs, including aspirin; and as for the cushy retirement – only if they plan to die by 2025.

  20. Tam O’Tellico - February 5, 2006 @ 7:07 am

    Lonbud, you may recall my previous post regarding this administratiion’s suppression of information about malfeasance in the the Abramoff, Enron, Plame and other affairs. I suggested the administation would not only not make these documents public, but that they would deny the existence of them. In case you haven’t heard, SP Fitzgerald had the same suspicions; thus this:

    “More than two dozen emails sent to various senior Bush administration officials between May 2003 and early July 2003 related to covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, are missing, and the special prosecutor investigating the case suspects that the communications may have been destroyed, according to high level sources close to the two-year old probe.”

    In this continuing saga of deja vu all over again, Nixon’s missing minutes on the tapes have now found their functional equivalent in the missing missives of this administration. It appears likely that many of these emails may have been purged during the 12-hour window of opportunity conveniently provided by AG Alberto Gonzales in late 2003. One wonders if Gonzales isn’t also vulnerable to a charge of aiding and abetting. Will he become the next John Mitchell?

    The problem for the perpetrators of this destruction of evidence is some of the other rats don’t relish the thought of prosecution themselves and are testifying to both the existence and content of the missing documents. This was so obvious an outcome, even I predicted it here months ago.

    It seems the powerful will never learn that the truth will eventually come out, and the bad guys must eventually pay for their misdeeds. Instead, they continue to fall into the same old trap — the cover-up that is worse than the crime itself. Had Bush and Company been better readers and familiar with a little poetry, they might have known better.

    “O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

  21. half-mooned - February 5, 2006 @ 3:57 pm

    There was one airline that did do well under Reagan’s deregulation. FedEx Express now boasts a Global presence. And even now, with very slow growth domestically, Express is in position to compete in the Global Market. God Bless China, and Reagan! Otherwise, I and my employees would be wearing German yellow and red. And – at least here in Memphis, all those out of work mechanics get hired on at FedEx starting out at 6 figures. Free market system works just fine, folks.

  22. lonbud - February 5, 2006 @ 10:06 pm

    half-mooned: FedEx isn’t exactly an airline. It’s a freight and commerce transport company that happens to utilize a lot of airplanes in its operation. As such, it benefits more from whatever freedoms it’s allowed by the Commerce Department than it does by anything done through the FAA. I’m not so sure it’s accurate to pin the success of Mr. Smith’s endeavour on deregulation of the airline industry or on Reagan. In addition, I’d like to know how many six-figure mechanics FedEx has hired in the last two years. Several thousand have lost jobs or been outsourced from the transportation sector.

  23. lonbud - February 5, 2006 @ 10:27 pm

    For Michael, re: employment statistics —

  24. Tam O’Tellico - February 5, 2006 @ 10:30 pm

    Look, Guys, I’m not really a Communist — in fact, most of my friends will tell you I’m too damned independent for my own good. But I think it is utterly impractical to suggest that free market forces alone should be allowed to determine a nation’s policies.

    As I said, there are certain areas where government needs to fill basic needs. I think everyone in this forum can agree on at least one: to provide for the common defense. The operative word here, however, is defense, and that does not include being the world’s policeman. Certainly, it does not mean forcing democracy on other nations at the point of a gun. That is particularly so when democracy in many of those countries means the election of Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood. Or as other observers have succinctly put it, one man, one vote, one time.

    I believe most on this forum have no problem with the government providing basic necessities like public highways. But I think the government has several other legitimate obligations to its citizens: quality education, minimum healthcare and at least subsistence living for the aged to name a few.

    Do any of you free-marketers actually believe our healthcare system is made more efficient because hospitals are forced to comply with 500 or more different standards forced on them by insurance companies and government providers, standards that are often adopted to slow or subvert payment? I would certainly hope your answer is no.

    Just as it is reasonable to expect the government to provide highways, I believe it is reasonable to provide communication and information highways as well. Instead, our free market system has ISP’s suing cities like Philadelphia for daring to provide city-wide access to the Internet. I keep hearing it said that we citizens own the airwaves, but I don’t see much evidence of that assertion.

    Let me give you one example of the kinds of problems created by our reliance on hodge-podge, unregulated free-market system. I own a year-old Motorola i830 cellphone, a wonderful device that is also Internet and even GPS capable. Unfortunately, it is a Nextel phone which uses the IDEN system, and it is therefore incompatible with any of the carriers in my area. Granted, owning such a phone under the circumstances is my mistake, a mistake which I will pay dearly for.

    But stop and think for a moment, would any of you seriously propose that every provider of landline service be allowed to adopt it’s own standards? Wouldn’t you be outraged if your hard-wired phones were incompatible in the next county or state? And unlike the landlines companies with their heavy in-place costs, cellular companies are taking advantage of our airwaves to play this foolish game.

    It seems reasonable to me to suggest a uniform standard, and perhaps even government-provided or minimum-fee cellphone and Internet service. There would still be a place under such a system for Verizon, et al, to provide extra services.

    Call me Communist or call me crazy, but a reasonable analysis of our healthcare system or our cell-phone and Internet system leads me to include that we can do a whole lot better and operate a whole lot more efficiently than through this hard-headed reliance on a frontier trade system.

  25. Tam O’Tellico - February 6, 2006 @ 6:23 am

    PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY DESTROYED BY FLOOD

    Crawford, Texas
    A tragic flood at the personal library of President George W. Bush destroyed both his books. The flood began in the presidential bathroom where the books were kept.

    A White House spokesman said the president was devastated, since he had almost finished coloring the second one. The spokesman added that the tragedy could probably have been averted, but repeated calls to FEMA went unanswered.

  26. Tam O’Tellico - February 6, 2006 @ 10:34 am

    More on Mines

    Anyone who wants to really educate themselves about the Sago mining disaster should read this. Yes, I know it’s long, but you’ve got lots of time, unlike the dead miners who now have none:

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/1/6/174858/8840

    For those of you too lazy or greedy to spare the time, here’s an excerpt which pulls no punches about who is responsible:

    “So why didn’t ICG keep Sago safe? Because these guys are vultures. Outfits like this exploit corporate bankruptcy laws to take over mines that are on the ropes, then squeeze their bones for every last cent. In the case of Sago, ICG’s corporate shell game managed to avoid safety and environmental citations, to escape black lung payments, and break a union contract. Then they got to sell coal into the highest priced market ever. How nice for them, huh?

    What killed those men at Sago? Stupid corporate laws that make corporations into “super citizens” and allow shell companies to come and go at will — companies that squeeze out union support and ignore safety to make another dime. An MSHA that has been gutted and weakened (the mine where I use to work had an MSHA inspector on site ever single day, and sometimes as many as six). And they were killed by men like this:

    Wilbur Ross, the New York financier and Palm Beach socialite who swallowed up the company, has been seen squirming before the cameras in the aftermath of the Sago disaster. Maybe he should have gotten his ass down there to rescue the Sago miners — they’re his workers. Well, OK, maybe he shouldn’t have. But like other mine owners, he and his company didn’t want the expense of keeping a rescue squad on the scene, which some speculate is why it took almost a full day to get the effort going. In any event, the Sago mine, like many others, had numerous citations for safety violations.

    That’s right. Sago Mine had no rescue team, a fact so astounding, I still have a hard time grasping it. But hey, if it saves Wilbur another dime…”

  27. Tam O’Tellico - February 6, 2006 @ 8:38 pm

    From the “have you at long last no shame” file on corporate compensation:

    WASHINGTON – Chief executives at U.S. defense contractors have seen a 200-percent pay raise since the Sep. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, widening the chasm between compensation in the corner office and wages on the factory floor, a new report said Tuesday.

    Average CEO pay–$11.8 million in salary, stock options, bonuses, and incentives–rose last year to 431 times what the average worker earned, $27,460, according to the report from the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies and Boston-based United for a Fair Economy. In 2003, CEOs had made 301 times their average employees’ pay.

    The ratio had peaked at 525-to-1 in 2001.

    ”If the minimum wage had risen as fast as CEO pay since 1990, the lowest paid workers in the U.S. would be earning $23.03 an hour today, not $5.15 an hour,” the research and advocacy groups said.

  28. lonbud - February 6, 2006 @ 9:42 pm

    Tam:
    I Just Have To Say the presidential library post was a bit of a cheap shot, but you raise an excellent point with respect to executive compensation.

    Michael opined earlier that corporations must pay top dollar to retain the kind of executive talent that will create a Google rather than spawn a GM, and he expressed his skepticism that a company like Whole Foods will be able to make it with an artificial cap on executive salaries.

    I think the equation ought to be turned on its head. We should be asking ourselves why the American labor force can’t come to grips with its natural hegemony over the system and collectively refuse to work for corporations that don’t enforce a cap on the ratio of executive:shop floor salaries.

    I blame not only poor management for the failure of many of America’s once-great companies, but also union leadership in this country that has allowed corporate interests to divide and conquer the interests of the American worker. Given the relative costs of shelter, food, energy, clothing, and (perish the thought) entertainment, there is no reason why anyone over the age of eighteen working a full-time job in this country should be working for much less than $15 – $20 an hour.

    If workers (union and non-union alike) would recognize their solidarity and shut a few industries down for a while, we’d see just how fast shareholders and boardrooms would act to bring down executive compensation ratios.

  29. Michael Herdegen - February 7, 2006 @ 2:53 pm

    lonbud:

    Very funny cartoon.

    However, the Dept. of Labor, when doing its Household Survey, does NOT decide who is “self-employed”; that designation goes only to those who self-identify as such.

    I (naturally) agree that the American labor force itself is partially responsible for what might be termed “sub-living” wages – if few were willing to work for those wages, then employers would have to raise compensation.

    It’s part of the same paradigm that I spoke of in an earlier thread. It has NEVER been easier or cheaper to acquire great reams of knowledge, even to become an expert in any given field, than it is in modern-day America. In many cases, it’s literally FREE.
    And yet, only roughly 25% of American adults have a working layperson’s knowledge of science, despite the fact that American greatness rests in large part upon technological superiority.

    If we assume that perhaps 25% of adult Americans are incapable of advanced knowledge, then we must realize that two out of three adult Americans DON’T CARE TO KNOW any more than they must know to get by, regardless of how cheap or easy is the acquisition of additional knowledge.
    Similarly, most Americans would like to get paid more, but rather few are willing to do much to make that happen.
    Besides refusing to work for low wages, two other time-tested means of increasing one’s income are to become more educated, and to move to where wages are higher. While plenty of Mexicans are willing to do the latter, rather few Americans do so, and we’ve already established that Americans generally shun education.
    For instance, after Hurrican Katrina, there were roughly 8 million unemployed Americans, and employers in New Orleans were offering $ 30K/yr, plus lodging, no questions asked.
    Despite that rather generous offer, two-thirds of those who were hired appeared to be illegal immigrants from Mexico. Those terms weren’t enough to tempt many unemployed Americans.

    Tam O’Tellico:

    I think it is utterly impractical to suggest that free market forces alone should be allowed to determine a nation’s policies.

    Speaking only for myself, I’ve never advocated such a policy. As I wrote before, “free markets”, i.e. “capitalism”, are just a system of trade, and are particularly weak at pricing the costs of indirect damage to “the commons”.
    When we move outside of commerce, other systems need to be used.

    Certainly, [providing for the common defense] does not mean forcing democracy on other nations at the point of a gun.

    The only example of that, that I can recall, is in Haiti.
    In places like Germany, Japan, Afghanistan, and Iraq, we didn’t go in to establish democracy, we went in to depose the current governments. Then, the question was, what to replace them with? In those four cases, we decided to attempt to build democracies, rather than just to install “our” dictator.
    However, the primary purpose was NEVER to create democracies. That was a secondary effect.

    I think the government has several other legitimate obligations to its citizens: quality education, minimum healthcare and at least subsistence living for the aged to name a few.

    I agree.
    However, we differ greatly in defining “quality”, “minimum”, and “subsistence”.

    Do any of you free-marketers actually believe our healthcare system is made more efficient…

    Our healthcare system does NOT work optimally, but in inspecting the gov’t-run systems of Canada, France, and the UK, it becomes clear that universal, gov’t-run systems have their own sets of problems, including huge cost increases and long waits for actual care.
    Whatever an “optimal” healthcare system looks like, it’s probably closer to the current American system than the current Canadian or UK systems.

    Let me give you one example of the kinds of problems created by our reliance on hodge-podge, unregulated free-market system. I own a year-old Motorola i830 cellphone, a wonderful device that is also Internet and even GPS capable. Unfortunately, it is a Nextel phone which uses the IDEN system, and it is therefore incompatible with any of the carriers in my area.

    Wouldn’t you be outraged if your hard-wired phones were incompatible in the next county or state?

    I can understand that your digital format is incompatible, but can’t you get analog service ?
    I’ve used my Sprint phone in every contiguous state in the Union, and except for most of Nebraska, I haven’t had any problems.

    [A] reasonable analysis of our healthcare system […] leads me to conclude that we can do a whole lot better and operate a whole lot more efficiently than through this hard-headed reliance on a frontier trade system.

    Perhaps, but as I wrote above, universal gov’t-run healthcare is no panacea either.
    Check out the problems that Canada, France, and the UK are having with their healthcare systems, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

  30. Tam O’Tellico - February 7, 2006 @ 8:36 pm

    My sister married a Canadian and lived for many years under that system and found it vastly superior to ours. Canadian experts attribute much of their present difficulties to physicians leaving Canada for the greener pastures in the U.S. But if present trends continue, it may be that U.S. physicians will start fleeing to Canada.

    However, it is worked out, everyone inside the health care industry knows we will eventually HAVE to convert to some type of single=payer system. But that’s a tall order, given the greed of insurance companies, physicians and now with the added idiocy of HMO’s.

  31. Tam O’Tellico - February 7, 2006 @ 8:38 pm

    Lonbud, yes the Prez Library was a cheap shot, but certainly no worse than watching the Attorney-General stretch the truth beyond all recognition. Talk about contempt of Congress!

  32. lonbud - February 8, 2006 @ 2:38 pm

    It’s clear this administration will stonewall and obfuscate for as long as the media and the public let them. Until there is some sort of organized expression of outrage, the dog & pony medicine show will continue to roll on.

    I think it’s time people stopped even trying to get any response out of congress itself; now we have to turn our ire onto the media. If the 4th Estate was doing its job we wouldn’t be where we are today. BushCo has got to be called on the carpet for its lies, stonewalling, and obfuscation on the front pages of every major daily and in the lead story of the network evening news.

    Tom Brokaw, or whoever the F reads the news at 5 o’clock has to say something like, “Attorney General Alberto Gonzales went before the Senate Judiciary Committee today and despite his not being required to testify under oath, still refused to give a straight answer to questions seeking a plausible explanation why the Bush Administration believes it should not be required to follow the law as it pertains to domestic surveillance of American citizens.”

  33. Tam O’Tellico - February 9, 2006 @ 9:16 am

    Brokeback America: Where the Truth Lies

    Note: I’ve coined these words to save your valuable time:

    Wright: a body of believers so conservative they are perpetually wrong
    Wirecrap: to continually lie about wiretapping

    Lon, I’m sorry to have to break the news to you, but Tom Brokaw retired some months ago. But even if Uncle Walter Cronkite or Honest Ed Murrow returned from the grave and gave out with the news, the Devoted Wright would not believe it.

    Besides – does anyone with a brain need to be told that Gonzales is lying through his teeth. The determinant here, of course, is “anyone with a brain”.

    No, if you’re expecting the “Leftist” corporate media to “break” this or any other news, you haven’t been paying attention.

    Corporate TV news (that is to say all TV news) is the only source of news for the masses – in the all-too-brief moments when they can be distracted from reruns of Desperate Housewives or American Idol. It has been clear for some time now that corporate news reports only that “news” which is by definition no longer news. That is to say, they report only that information that has been so thoroughly and extensively disseminated by other means that it is no longer possible to completely ignore it.

    And once having done its belated “duty”, corporate TV news quickly and quietly drops the subject with no further investigation and moves on to “report” the next all ready worn-out story. And all the while, they continue to broadcast the wildly exaggerated claims or outright prevarications of this administration under the shameful guise of being “fair and balanced”. But why bother with this cloak of ‚Äúobjectivity”, if there no longer is an objective truth to report?

    Again, I am amazed that those on the Wright screamed for the head of Clinton for lying about his sexual peccadilloes, but find it perfectly acceptable, nay commendable, for Bush et al to continue to grossly exaggerate (at least) about WMD and the tenuous (at best) Al Queda/Saddam connection, to brazenly wirecrap as Bush did in his now infamous “you still have to have a court order” pronouncement, and to misunder-represent (at a minimum) as Gonzales did under oath in his confirmation hearings and again (conveniently not under oath) in his most recent testimony in the Senate.

    For the ten-thousandth time, this is not to excuse Clinton’s boorish and illegal behavior. It is to observe that if people are willing to accept the rationalization that it’s okay to lie and grossly exaggerate simply because in some cases the liars aren’t under oath, then I think we’ve reached the point where the truth no longer matters.

    But I suppose all this is to be expected when Doublespeak becomes the official language in this Clear Skies Initiated and No Child Left Unrecruited land. Given the acceptance and prevalence of doublespeak, perhaps we should realize that “breaking” the news has come to mean the opposite of what we have for so long understood it to mean. That is to say, the news has been broken just as has the will of many Americans to resist the easy lie.

    Welcome to Brokeback America.

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