Monthly Archives: December 2012

Blood Money

On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza used an AR-15 assault rifle that held 30-round magazines to massacre 20 children and 7 adults in Newtown, Connecticut. A bill introduced in March of 2011 in Connecticut would have made it a felony to have a magazine that could hold more than 10 rounds of ammo. The NRA organized against the bill and lawmakers got more than 30,000 emails opposed to the legislation so the bill failed. The NRA pushed for a 2005 law that protected gun manufacturers from lawsuits in the event one of their products was used to massacre people like the kids in Newtown, Columbine or the moviegoers in Aurora. Clearly, the NRA’s concern isn’t with children’s safety, but with protecting and fattening the pockets of arms dealers that run the NRA. Bloomberg News reported “More than 50 firearms-related companies have given at least $14.8 million to the National Rifle Association.” The NRA long ago changed from a sporting organization to a political tool. The NRA is not spending millions of dollars per year to protect gun rights as much as it is protecting gun sales.  It is time to wake up and realize that the NRA is just one more corporation that wants to buy our politicians and push their corporate agenda at all costs. The NRA spent nearly $25 million in the last election.

Gun owners claim they need guns to protect themselves. The guns used in Newtown were not owned by the suspected killer they had been legally bought and owned by his mother for protection. As one of the parents in Newtown said in response to this point, that the guns were legally bought “for protection” “How’d that work out, for her?”

Public sector workers including teachers all around this country are under attack from conservative governors and legislatures. These politicians are cutting funds to education and teacher’s wages and benefits are under attack by the Tea Party. At Sandy Hook Elementary School teachers and the principal lost their lives protecting children from a crazed shooter. Shortly after the shooting we had a retired school teacher named, Jane Bilello react to the shooting with a fundraiser. Jane being the Ashville, North Carolina Tea Party chairwoman organized a raffle for the Tea Party. Raffle tickets were for a semiautomatic rifle similar to one used in the Connecticut school shootings that killed 20 children. The rifle includes two 30-round clips and a carrying case. Also to be raffled is a .22 Magnum pistol with a 30-round clip. A previous fundraiser sponsored by the group was called a Machine Gun Social, for this event tickets were sold for a chance to fire an Uzi.

Retired teacher Jane Bilello was unapologetic about the timing of the raffle and expressed her belief that more guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens, including school staff, would decrease gun violence in the U.S., including mass killings at schools. In a speech a few days after the Connecticut shooting the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre echoed teabagger Bilello and urged creation of 100,000-strong new Federal bureaucracy of armed school guards. A note to Bilello and LaPierre, Columbine had an armed guard; Virginia Tech has its own police department. A mass shooting also took place at Fort Hood, an army base that was full of trained soldiers who couldn’t prevent the mass shooting. A recent poll in the Warren Tribune Chronicle asked, “Are you willing to pay taxes to put police in every school?” The results were 39% yes and 61% no. So you see that taxpayers favor their money over children’s lives so LaPierre’s plan will never fly.

LaPierre should have said, “I propose guards at schools will be paid through a tax on gun and ammunition purchases and fees on manufacturers of guns and ammunition. The tax will also pay for the costs of gun crimes and accident victims as well as paying damages to the families of murder victims. “What Wayne did do was, accuse producers of violent games and movies of helping to incite mass shootings. Studies tend to say they have found no connection between video games and gun violence. I’d say they might be wrong as the Norwegian who killed 77 said that he sharpened his shooting skills by playing many hours of Call of Duty. I was surprised actually to hear Wayne take on violent video games because many gun manufacturers (that are NRA financial backers) are in partnerships with the violent video game manufacturers. Some of these violent video games feature a Web site that promotes the manufacturers of the guns, knives and combat gear depicted in the game. These manufacturers like Glock, Browning, Remington and McMillan are corporate sponsors of the violent games. Makers of firearms see video games as a way to market their brands to millions of young potential customers.

Reader Supported news said, “”Firearms and ammunition sales rose 45 percent between 2009 and 2010 alone.” They added, “And the tragedy of Newtown has been great for business all around the country. Just look at a sampling of headlines we’ve seen in the last week: “Tucson Gun Sales Surge after Newtown” (Arizona Daily Star). “New Hampshire sets record on background checks for gun sales after Newtown shootings” (Nashua Telegraph). “Local gun dealers see sales increase after Newtown tragedy” I’m not for taking away the right to own a firearm but I am for getting rid of assault weapons and magazine clips of over 10 rounds. When we talk about rights let’s talk about how our nation’s children’s right to not be shot and killed doesn’t seem to be as important as the right of gun manufacturers to make the sale of a gun clip holding 30 or more rounds. It really is just one more case of Wall Street vs. Main Street and in a capitalist society the blood money of Wall Street wins every time.

My buffoon of the week is Warren Tribune Community Columnist teabagger Dan Moadus. Dan wrote about how the Founding Fathers would want our citizens to have the guns equivalent to those used by our armed forces. He feels that is what we should have by law so we could fight our government if it turns oppressive. Dan you could have an M16 just like our military but they could shoot a drone at you from hundreds (or more) miles away. Sorry, Dan I’m not going to join you in your fight to get a drone because your right-wing rhetoric is scary enough.

An armed man who came to help Gabby Gifford in the Tucscon shooting almost shot the wrong guy.

 Happy New Years!

Michael Franks: Island Christmas

Watching the Snow

“I actually though the NRA would come out with some concessions – closing the gun show loophole, at the very least. I really should have known better. This morning Wayne LaPierre gave one of the most cynical and cowardly speeches I’ve ever heard. Blaming everyone and everything other than guns and access to them.” ~ Andrew Sullivan

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Happy Solidarity Holidays

Mayan Calendar and the GOP

The Mayan Calender prediction of the world ending on 12/21/2012 did not happen. That means that Mayans will be busy last-minute Christmas shopping on 12/22/2012.

In my last post I talked about solidarity. Solidarity is all about building a stronger community. That community could be at your workplace, it could be your family, an organization you are a member of or the neighborhood where you live.  In a perfect world solidarity would be in each of those places and more. I like the ambitious goals of the Occupy Movement to get 99% of the people to realize they should be in solidarity together to make this a better planet. In this Christmas season I am reminded of a time when Christian neighbors joined together in solidarity when they saw injustices happening to their Jewish neighbors. This and other such fights against bigotry happened a number of years ago when people stood up and said, “Not in My Town.” The following video is about that and it shows the kind of solidarity I believe Christmas should be about:

Happy holidays to you no matter what your holiday is!

Remember our troops this Christmas and let’s work to get them home.
American Soldier’s Christmas: “Let There be Peace on Earth”
“He who allows oppression shares the crime.” ~ Desiderius Erasmus

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Solidarity or Poverty

Minimum wage essentially means, I’d pay you less but it is against the law. Food service and big box store employees are the fastest-growing job segments in the USA, and their workers are generally paid minimum wage. Low-wage employees are the working poor and are dependent on Medicare and food stamps. The wealthy that own these corporations are conservatives who want smaller government but expect the government (read taxpayers) to subsidize them and their workers. That means the taxpayers are making up for the low wages that fast food and big box corporations pay their employees. We are told fast food jobs are entry-level jobs for teenagers so paying them only minimum wage is the way it should be. Teenagers make up only 17 percent of food preparation jobs as older, underemployed Americans took those jobs.

Tyree Johnson of Chicago works at two McDonalds and still can’t get 40 hours a week with both jobs added up. With over two decades of seniority he makes $8.25 an hour.  That is a far cry from the $8.75 million that McDonald’s, paid CEO Jim Skinner last year. Twenty years ago, when Johnson started at McDonald’s, the CEO’s compensation was about 230 times that of a full-time minimum wage worker. Current data shows the compensation between CEO Skinner and minimum wage worker Tyree Johnson is 580 times. The pay gap between the average S&P 500 CEO and the average U.S. worker, which was 42 times in 1980, widened to 380 times in 2011. The proportion of fast-food workers who receive food stamps rose to 26.9 percent. McDonalds and other fast food companies company pay substantial amounts to lobby against minimum-wage increases. McDonalds like Walmart has a group of experienced managers, lawyers and executives to parachute into locations where union activity is suspected. In 1998, after workers at a McDonald’s in Ohio went on strike to protest unfair wages and working conditions, the leaders all lost their jobs.

While wages have stagnated or decreased, worker productivity has surged in wealthy countries. Over the last 20 years in Germany,  productivity jumped almost a quarter while monthly wages stayed flat. Workers are getting a smaller piece of the pie around the world due to the trend to technological strides, globalization and the weakening of labor unions. Labor unions brings me to Michigan’s new “right to work” law that lets employees opt out of paying dues to the unions that represent them. I saw it written up in an article with this in the introduction, “A law designed to eviscerate the membership rolls of labor unions in the state in which the mighty United Auto Workers makes its home was rammed through both houses of the Michigan legislature and signed into law.” My first thought was “mighty United Auto Workers?” Did they mean the UAW that approved of a two-tier system where workers with seniority preserved their pay scale, with basic wages of about $28 an hour, while new hires are now paid half as much? Do those on the first tier think that those on the second tier pay half as much less as them for milk, gas, utilities or even a new car? I realize between competition and a poor economy that the US auto industry was hurting. Perhaps the first tier could have taken a cut in wages or benefits so that a second tier wouldn’t have had to be set up. Yes, it would have been hard for the first tier to go backwards but the fact is they have opened the door for future concessions for their tier. If you doubt that you have forgotten about Delphi. Delphi set up a second tier where that tier would at some point reach wage parity; next contract was a third tier that never reaches wage parity. Next contract a fourth tier was stopped but in the end when some plants closed the first tier went to a wage scale ranging from $14 to $19.50 an hour — down from the traditional $27. Tiers for younger workers eventually leads to “tears” for all workers. I know it personally as I saw it happen at a plant I worked in for 28 years before it closed.

I certainly realize that Republican governors and their Republican legislatures want “right to work” states because they want to punish unions for funding Democrat candidates. Republicans also attack public education because teachers unions back Democrats. Trial attorneys back Democrats so Republicans push for tort reform to limit the money the attorneys have to donate to Democrat candidates. Acorn backed Democrat candidates so Republicans destroyed them. Given all this I think “right to work” laws are not the worst thing to happen to unions. One of the worst things causing a suicide to unions is union members who vote for Republicans because of single issues despite the fact the Republicans want to destroy unions. Unions also need to do a better job of selling themselves. It is pretty hard to go up to a new second tier worker and tell him why he should be happy being a union member. He is thinking I’ve got a guy telling me I should thank him because I make less than half of much as him. I’ve seen union meetings where members were not allowed to speak or ask questions because they didn’t sign up at last month’s meeting (if your union is lucky enough to have monthly meetings not two a year) to get a spot on this months agenda. Where the Hell is the democracy and solidarity in that brothers and sisters? If like in the old days a union rep had to go around the workplace and collect dues from workers in person members could at least bring up issues they are concerned about.

I’ve seen unions (that don’t have a closed shop) try to tell their members they should join because of discounts they could get on vacations, sporting events, car insurance etc. Heck, I had one union pass out free membership cards to Sam’s Club. These idiots didn’t even acknowledge that Sams is a union busting store. Sell the union to potential members not B.S. discount trinkets. Explain that the union will democratically respect all members and unite them in solidarity to provide the best life for them and their families. Sorry, but having two or more tiers is not a selling point. Tell potential members that 81% of union workers have job-related health coverage, while only 50% of non-union workers do. Union families pay 43% less for family coverage than non-union families. Let them know that 72% of union workers have a guaranteed, defined benefit pension, compared to only 15% of non-union workers. They need facts about how the wages of union members are, on average, 27% higher than those of non-union workers. Let them know that women, African-Americans and Latinos all make more being in unions. It’s a fact that when unions are strong, wages go up, health care coverage improves and pensions are strengthened. When unions are under attack, as they are in Michigan and elsewhere, the middle-class further deteriorates.

Republicans claim that unions are corrupt so they need to be eradicated. Several studies have shown that less than 1% of unions had corruption problems. On the other hand a 1980 investigation by Fortune magazine found that 11% of corporations are corrupt. I’m betting that corporate corruption is much higher in 2012 but don’t look for Republicans to call for eradicating corporations anytime soon. We’ve all seen corporations who don’t care how much they pollute our children’s Earth or don’t give a damn about exploiting children in Third World sweatshops. I haven’t seen unions who want to destroy our children’s future.

You’ve all heard the lies about how our valley has been destroyed by strong unions. The most complaints I have had with area unions I’ve been in is that they are too weak and in bed with the company. We’ve all heard conservatives claptrap about how unions protect bad workers. That one couldn’t be farther from the truth. I’ll bet you’ve seen in your workplace just like I have that the worst workers are promoted into management. Unions sometimes fail to represent their members. The members then have the responsibility to do what they can to make the union realize that “an injury to one is an injury to all.” If you want a stronger middle-class then you’ve got to fight for stronger unions.

Jorre Parra a UAW member from Columbia is the kind of direct action bad ass I want for a union leader see here why I say that.

A U.S. company that hasn’t paid U.S. income tax since 2008 yet gets corporate welfare and has exported U.S. jobs.

The Strawbs: “I’m Part of the Union”

Tom Morello: “The Union Song”

With all their faults, trade-unions have done more for humanity than any other organization of men that ever existed. They have done more for decency, for honesty, for education, for the betterment of the race, for the developing of character in man, than any other association of men.~ Clarence Darrow

 

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Don’t Box Me In

Thanksgiving is the time we celebrate the immigration of Pilgrims to this country. I won’t talk about the genocide on Native Americans which is the real reason we celebrate Thanksgiving because I covered that last year at this time.  Locally WKBN radio host and teabagger Dan Rivers can be heard daily bashing illegal aliens and our current immigration laws. If only we had immigration laws 300 years ago to keep out white-trash elements like; the Rivers, Limbaughs, Hannitys, Colters, Stossels, O’Reillys, Roves, Nugents, Kardashians, Trumps, Bushes and Reagan families what a better country we would be living in. I’m just sighing over what should have been gladly spilled trash.

Speaking of trash over at WSOM radio show “Tracey and Friends” Jeff and Sticks can be heard talking trash and yelling, “Whoooooa, whooooa, whaaaa, whaaaa, hey, hey, stop, stop, stop every time callers point out the hosts lies. I’m not saying the “Friends” lie 24/7 because I’m sure they spend some hours sleeping. Then again if they talk in their sleep it would also be a lie. Jeff said, “We are not going to sit here and listen to people’s lies.” Sorry Jeff and Sticks but no one would believe you even if you were telling the truth. Then again no jury will ever find you guilty of truth telling.

Bill O’Reilly is now ramping up his annual B.S. lie filled stories how Christmas is under attack. Warren Tribune Chronicle Letter to the Editor writer Pat Zoccoli sent in her annual editorial about how people have forgotten the reason for the season. Those two things mean it is officially the Christmas Season. I’ve decided to start my own Christmas time tradition and see how it goes. I think in the hustling bustling Christmas season a little more humor is needed. I also really need a break from writing about such serious things. So I have taken something I’ve written and posted in a past Christmas season and decided to post it again. I hope you find it amusing. Here goes:

My family is made up of mostly Christians and will be celebrating Christmas. To me that means I will have to suffer with a phobia (one of many weird ones) I have. It is called, Papyrophobia which means I fear boxes. Not just in a physical way, but in a mental way also. To me they represent things like packing up and moving. Moving to me represents change, and I can be slow to accept change. I note every time I have ever moved to a new residence has always been on the hottest day of the year or the coldest with the most snow fall of the year.

At Christmas time, I will be crawling into my attic, dragging out heavy boxes of Christmas ornaments and the artificial Christmas tree. It means spending time helping decorate the tree and house. It seems like a waste of time when I’ll be packing it all back up after a few weeks. It’s not that I’m lazy (OK maybe a little) but it seems like time wasted that could have been better spent. All the time decorating and shopping in the Christmas season would be better spent volunteering to help those less fortunate. Wouldn’t that really be more in keeping with the spirit of the holiday? The first Noel seems to have been replaced by the first one through Walmart’s door on Black Friday gets the Xbox 360.

Here is a poem I wrote a few years back about my box phobia:

I Like My Beer In a Mug…Don’t Box Me In

It’s hot today I comment,

as I open my lunch box

looking for a cool drink

like a thermos of iced tea

but the only thing I see

is a small box of cereal.

Why would my wife pack this?

I refuse to pour milk into a box of cereal.

Cardboard makes a terrible bowl

but it’s not really cereal

it’s actually orange juice.

Orange juice in a single-serving box??

I imagine paper cuts

and very bloody lips.

At home I open the fridge

still looking for a cool drink.

It’s stacked with boxes of Kool Aid.

I like my Kool Aid in a pitcher,

any old pitcher will do.

It need not have a smiley face

but it surely shouldn’t be in a box.

For Christmas, I got a box of wine.

Ask any self-respecting wino and

he’ll say wine in a paper bag yes,

wine in a box—sacrilegious.

Imagine a couple in love

sitting at a Paris Café

at an intimate table,

on it sits a box of wine—on ice.

I ask your opinion,

is that a romantic picture?

Well Christmas is over,

its time to put away

what must surely be

the greatest invention

of the 20th century

the artificial Christmas tree.

My wife says we need

a new box to store it in.

I ask her, “Where do we find such a large box?”

She takes me to a box store.

They sell nothing but boxes,

little boxes, big boxes, white and brown boxes.

It’s actually a franchise business.

I’d sooner own a hat blocking shop.

Insurance costs on employees

must be out of sight,

what with the danger of paper cuts.

My wife recycles boxes

so more boxes can be made.

It’s a vicious circle,

a plot against me.

Scientists now study

the power of pyramids.

Future archeologist will study

the mystery of the box.

They will find

civilization fell

the day a tavern owner

started serving draft beer in a box.

Rev. Billy Choir: What Would Jesus Buy (Shopocalypse)

more Rev. Billy: Back Away From the Walmart

“Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts.” ― Janice Maeditere

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Greed Kills in Sacrifice Zones

Bangladeshi people identify the bodies of their relatives who died in a fire at a garment factory in the Savar neighborhood in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Sunday Nov. 25, 2012. Polash Khan/AP Photo

    Have you been out doing any toy shopping for Christmas? While you get to see the joy on your child’s face when he opens presents what about the children being exploited working in sweatshops making them like in this video?

    Last week I mentioned that Walmart has gotten $1 billion (some sources say $1.5 billion) in corporate welfare. Each 200 employee store costs federal taxpayers $420,750 a year per store. Walmart gets corporate welfare even though in 2011, Walmart reported a net income of $15.4 billion on $422 billion of revenue with almost a 25% profit margin. In 2010 the Economic Policy Institute said the Walton’s family that owns Walmart is worth $89.5 billion. That is equal to the worth of the 41.5% of families at the lower end of the income ladder, or 48.8 million households. Jay Nordlinger of the National Review (a right-wing magazine) argues that Walmart is a “free-market success story.” I find it funny that a corporation on the dole to taxpayers for $1 billion could be considered participating in “free market” capitalism.

    We, as taxpayers, pay for Walmart’s cost-cutting prices. Walmart’s Profit? Privatized. Walmart Expenses? Socialized. Did you know Walmart stores are unionized in many countries outside of North America? Walmart has 8,500  stores in 15 countries. After workers at a Walmart store in Québec successfully unionized, Walmart announced that it would close that store, citing “economic reasons.” In the last week Walmart workers have picketed Walmart stores around the country. Also, in the last week a sweatshop in Bangladesh that makes products for Walmart had a fire killing 112 workers. Given these facts my buffoon of the week award goes to anyone who continues to shop at a Walmart/Sam’s Club store until conditions at this corporation change.

   In the Bangladesh sweatshop disaster fire exits were blocked and workers told to go back to work. Clothes were made there by one of Walmart’s subcontractors. The workers were paid 20 cents an hour. The families of those killed will get $1,250 from the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association. A second fire hit another garment factory in the Dhaka suburb of Uttara on Monday. No casualties have been reported. Walmart is the largest buyer of garments from Bangladesh. Workers Rights Consortium Executive Director Scott Nova said “Walmart is supporting, is incentivizing, an industry strategy in Bangladesh: extreme low wages, non-existent regulation, brutal suppression of any attempt by workers to act collectively to improve wages and conditions.” Nova added, “This factory is a product of that strategy that Walmart invites, supports, and perpetuates.”

    In 2010 there was a similar fire at a sweatshop in Dhaka, Bangladesh. In that fire 124 died (many of those jumping 11 stories to their death) and 100 were injured. Many of those who died were trapped by the lack of fire escapes and locked doors. Since 2006, 600 Bangladesh garment workers have died in fires. Here is a video of the fire. In 1991, Walmart contracted with the Saraka garment factory in Dhaka to make clothes, only one year after the plant had a fire killing 25 children. An NBC report about the same factory in April 2008, said the child workers were locked in the factory until they finished each day’s production. Last Monday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that “the history of labor rights and unions in any developing society is always difficult” and that “there are strong forces that oppose workers being organized.” She added, “We had this in my own country.” She would certainly know that as she sat on the Board of Directors at Walmart for six years. 

    In September 2012 a garment factory in the commercial hub of Karachi, Pakistan caught on fire killing 260. There were no alarms, sprinklers or safety exits and windows had bars on them. Just a few hours before that fire a fire at a shoe factory in the eastern city of Lahore claimed 25 lives. In Punjab province, where Lahore is, authorities abolished labor inspections altogether in 2003 to develop a more “business-friendly environment.” These Third World “business-friendly environments” are killing too many of our fellow brother and sister workers. I heard a “news woman” on FOX NEWS the other day complaining about Egypt’s President Morrissey. She claimed he was an unfriendly to the West dictator. Actually he was elected by the people of Egypt and it seems the “news woman” has no problem with dictators as long as they are U.S. friendly. Who gives a crap that the citizens of a country lose their rights under a dictator as long as the dictator of a country is friendly to the U.S. (read U.S. corporate interests).  Which brings us to the fact U.S. shoppers at Walmart/Sam’s Club don’t give a rat’s ass that women and children suffer terrible working conditions, burn to death, have their countries natural resources exploited and have their air and water poisoned. All these shoppers care about is if they can get things they don’t even need but want anyway at rock bottom prices.

    It’s great to see that many of the Walmart workers in the U.S. are standing up for justice for themselves and picketing. They are fighting for fair wages, benefits and the rights of women to be promoted and paid the same as men. Many union members around the country stand ready to help their fellow workers at Walmart/Sam’s Club. But who will help the sweatshop workers? A boycott of Walmart and Sam’s could do the trick. As it is everyday women who know that women workers at Walmart and Sam’s are not treated equal to the men who work there. Yet, they go in and shop there anyway. They don’t care about their fellow U.S. women so I doubt they will care about one more fire that kills hundreds in a far off poor country. Short of people walking into Walmart/Sam’s Club and seeing their grandmother being gang-raped by the front door by several store managers I don’t know what will keep people from entering. The Walton family that owns Walmart considers places like Pakistan, China and Bangladesh “sacrifice zones.” They are poor countries to be exploited, beaten into submission, stripped, raped and used up until they find a new “sacrifice zone.” Their citizens don’t look like your grandmother so you’re not going to stay out of Walmart and Sams are you? Would videos of burned dead and injured workers who make your products cure your “need” for bargains? How about videos of women and children screaming and jumping 13 floors to their death from a burning sweatshop? What measure of horrors will it take to make you realize that shopping at Walmart/Sams Club has been a “sacrifice zone” to your soul?

    Corporations like Walmart are counting on your complacency. The amount of evil they get away with is based on your tolerance. Our politicians here and around the world (that the corporations own) will comply with the anti-environmental, pro-drilling, pro-spilling, pro-killing, anti-regulating pro-corporate agenda. The world’s children be damned for the corporate short-term gain. Be discriminating about what you buy for Christmas gifts (or whatever your holiday is). Try and buy local, fair trade and humane made products. If you are a Christian ask yourself, “Where would Jesus shop?”

Bangladesh activist faces prison or a death sentence for exposing Walmart’s Bangladesh sweatshops.

Move.meant: Higher

Problems

“The enemy is anybody who’s going to get you killed, no matter which side he’s on.” — Joseph Heller, Catch-22

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