Sunday, April 27, 2008

* Republican pride ~ an historical phrase – As I waited to enter the voting booth this past week the man behind me was checking in at the registration desk. I heard him ask the clerk if he was registered as a Democrat. When told he was registered Republican I saw his shoulders slump. He then asked if he could vote for the Democratic candidates in this primary and his shoulders slumped even further as he was told not until next year if he subsequently changed his party affiliation. This was a man about 60 years old and I began thinking what it must be like to have been a Republican for decades and realize where this political party is today. The Republican Party of small government, low taxes and a balanced budget has been hijacked by special interests, war fever and a unitary executive. It advocates torture, the demise of the working class, huge deficits, attacking and divisive politics and the integration of church and state. The Grand Old Party (GOP) is no longer Grand, the philosophy and principles it once stood for are an Old memory and aPart would best describe its connection to the ideas and ideals that once made America a great country and a world leader. The GOP never entered the 21st Century

* Does a woman count? ~ not to Republicans – The Supreme Court, in a recent 5 to 4 decision, ruled that Lilly Ledbetter could not sue Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. for wage discrimination because she had not sued within 180 days of the discrimination. After working for Goodyear for 20 years she retired and subsequently learned that “while she earned $3,727 a month the lowest-paid male working in the same position earned $4,286 and the highest-paid earned $5,236. Ledbetter proved that this disparity was because of her sex, and a federal district court in Alabama found Goodyear liable for sex discrimination.” The less than Supremes overruled the decision. In response to an inadequate law and a lame ruling by the court the House passed a measure to improve workers’ rights in this area and the Senate was about to do the same. There was one obstruction, and it goes by the name “Republicans”. It is worthwhile noting that John McCain wants to appoint more Supreme Court Justices in the mold of Scalia, Roberts and Thomas. The Republicans and this court have set back workers rights and unions decades while enabling corporate America to operate with impunity. The next president and the next congress will have a huge impact on whether this shameful trend continues. If John McCain is elected president do not expect any help on sex discrimination in the work place. McCain said that “he opposes a Senate bill that seeks equal pay for women because it would lead to more lawsuits.” This is reasoning I would expect from a rutabaga. His solution to gender-based pay discrimination is that women “need more education and training”. My solution for McCain is to have his Bush brain transplant reversed.

* Does your vote count? ~ not to Republicans – Much has been written about the unreliability of electronic voting machines and the ease with which they can be hacked (manipulated). Unless there is a paper trail of a voter’s decision, uncertainty remains. This is not a good development for the democratic process. Voting rights activists hoped that the federal government would help local governments pay for paper trails and audits for electronic voting machines. Their disappointment is palpable. Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) introduced legislation, Emergency Assistance for Secure Elections Act, intended to help ensure that elections are as secure and reliable as possible. The legislation was blocked by Republican congressmen. Holt said, “The bill’s failure will mean that millions of voters will leave the 2008 election questioning the process and whether their vote means anything.” Today all eyes are focused on the presidential election hoping for better leadership in the White House. That will be step one but America’s leadership problems also extend deeply through the House and the Senate. America is beyond a quick fix. If you would like to stay informed about bad election management, questionable voting machines and partisan tricks to influence elections the news organization AlterNet offers a free subscription to the weekly newsletter Democracy and Elections.

* More illusions from Iraq – The Bush administration continually tells us that it will draw down American troops as the Iraqi forces stand up. This has been the mantra for several years in this interminable war. An audit by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, Stuart Bowen, found “Iraq's government has kept thousands of dead, injured or absent policemen and soldiers on the payroll as a way to compensate or care for their families.” I have no problem with families being cared for out of the $20 billion the U.S. is spending to train Iraqi forces. I do have a problem with the U.S. and Iraqi governments’ accountability, including phantom troop levels that belie the reality of conditions in Iraq. Additionally, the Iraqi troops that are in place leave much to be desired. When the Iraqi government recently moved militarily against the forces of radical cleric Sadeq al-Sadr we were told how admirably they performed. This Time magazine article discusses how 1300 of the Iraqi troops refused to fight as well as other examples of poor performance that subsequently required US troops to be called in. The eventuality of US troops being able to stand down is no closer now than it was one or two or three years ago. From day one of this war the American people have been lied to or misled and that is the constant in Bush and Cheney’s Iraq war.

* More illusions from the nation’s capitol ~ meet the Pentagon – For quite some time we have known how the Bush administration sold us the Iraq war in a similar way that a pharmaceutical company sells the next miracle drug to cure male erectile dysfunction. And like a drug company the sales pitch continues. This week the NY Times exposed a Pentagon program designed to manipulate the news. It is known as the Pentagon military analyst program. Basically, the program recruited retired high-level military officers, in most cases now employed by defense contractors, and indoctrinated them as to what to say as “experts” when appearing on TV and radio networks such as CNN. Hidden behind the appearance of military analysts, “It is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance.” The program “has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.” So the next time you see the likes of Col. Ken Allard, Gen. Wayne Downing, Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney, Maj. Gen. Bob Scales, Gen. Montgomery Meigs and Maj. Gen. Don Sheppard pontificating about the war and policy and covering the Pentagon’s ass, think of Michael Jordan selling you a line of underwear that covers your ass.

* Blood from a stone – An ironic smile occurred when I received an email from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). She was requesting that I sign a petition to President Bush “taking him to task for his failure to lead on global warming and urging him to step up.” For seven years Bush has ignored overwhelming scientific evidence about mankind's impact on global climate change and the Bush Administration has done everything it could to block, delay, and rebuff efforts to stop global warming. In a major speech last week Bush’s solution for global warming was to end the growth of greenhouse gases by 2025. Bush did not attempt to cut emissions or to develop a multi dimensional approach. Unlike the rush to invade Iraq our leader wants to wait another 17 years to help the environment! I would characterize his approach as spitting a chaw in the ocean to raise sea levels. Does Sen. Boxer really think that Bush cares about 25 thousand or 25 million people signing a petition? Does anyone really believe that anything positive on any issue will be achieved in this country before January 20, 2009?

* Blood from a migrant worker ~ Burger King has it their way - Wages for Florida tomato pickers have stayed the same for nearly 20 years. In 1980, the going piece rate was 40 cents per bucket. Today, twenty eight years later, workers are paid an average of only 45 cents per bucket. They work 10 to 12 hour days with no overtime pay. They earn about $50 per day and much of this money goes toward paying for trailers where 8 to 10 workers live together. There is evidence of physical abuse and wage fraud by crew leaders, supervisors, and growers. The workers have asked for a one penny more per pound but Burger King and their lobbyists have fought this request. The insensitivity and inhumanity on the part of BK goes way beyond bottom line concerns and is contrary to what I believe was once a fundamental American value. I have added Burger King to the list of companies I will not patronize that includes Exxon/Mobil and Wal-Mart. I also signed a petition available at that “calls on Burger King to end exploitation in the fields and modern-day slavery in the 21st century”.

* “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”
Thomas Jefferson (1743 to 1826), 3rd President of the United States of America


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the petition sign-up about human rights violations with tomato pickers in FL. I don't frequent Burger King as I don't poison my body with what BK considers food. Like you, I also boycott Exxon/Mobil and Walmart. As far as good news, I was an election inspector in Willow Grove suburban Philadelphia where I did see democracy in action. Altho there were, as you mentioned, disappointments b/c people couldn't switch parties, everything was handled well. This was my first time working at the polls and also becoming interested in politics. You, Stephen, are a major force in guiding me to be a concerned and aware citizen. Thanks so much! Ruth Z. Deming of said...

Excellent post. Excellent points. The 180 day limit on filing for discrimination is totally rediculous and impossible. They might as well just pretend it's a training issue. Oh! McCain did! And the information about Burger King was entirely new to me. Thanks as all for your vigilence and intelligence.