Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ho Ho Ho

The Patriot has been very busy around the holidays and hasn’t had much time to post. I’m taking some time off from work starting today and won’t be back until early January, so I’m going to throw the blog on hiatus until then. Here’s something to tide you over:

"Lawrence Livermore Laboratories has discovered the heaviest element yet known to science.

The new element, Governmentium (Gv), has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons. Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert; however, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A tiny amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction that would normally take less than a second, to take from 4 days to 4 years to complete.

Governmentium has a normal half-life of 2- 6 years. It does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places. In fact, Governmentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes. This characteristic of morons promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass. When catalysed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons."

And remember to celebrate Christmas the way the Founding Fathers did, by getting blind drunk and beating people up. In the early 1800s, Christmas was, as one historian once noted, "like a nightmarish cross between Halloween and a particularly violent, rowdy Mardi Gras."

The founding fathers would no doubt be appalled by our obsession with lights, tinsel, singing chipmunks and revolving credit card balances. In fact, the U.S. government didn't even recognize Christmas as a holiday until 1870. Prior to that, Congress routinely met and conducted business on Christmas day. It was, in fact, just another workday.

Newspapers of the 19th century are filled with disturbing accounts of what Christmas was really like: widespread rioting, sexual assault, vandalism, drunkenness, street violence and general lawlessness. Most of these "traditions" were carried over from Europe, where, dating back to the Middle Ages, Christmas had been regarded by the wealthy classes as a safety valve for releasing the peasants' pent-up frustrations.

So peasants, release your inner frustrations! You have nothing to lose but your chains.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Here We Go Again...

Obama is fast proving that when it comes to rewarding your corporate donors, no price is too steep, including larding the cabinet with industry friendly right-wing hacks. Correct me if I’m misstating, but one of the centerpieces of Obama’s campaign (“Change We Can Believe In”) was the complete restructuring of our energy policy to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil and advance new technologies for greener power. So, to accomplish this end he appoints to head the scandal plagued Department of the Interior ………Ken Salazar from Colorado? What a sell-out. Here’s the Times describing the traditional energy sector’s reaction to the appointment: “Oil and mining interests praised Mr. Salazar’s performance as a state official and as a senator, saying that he was not doctrinaire about the use of public lands. “Nothing in his record suggests he’s an ideologue,” said Luke Popovich, spokesman for the National Mining Association. “Here’s a man who understands the issues, is open-minded and can see at least two sides of an issue.” Meaning, of course, more drilling on public lands, more concessions to power companies and more coal mining. Besides his obvious bias towards industry the guy is also a buffoon. “Salazar, wearing his customary ten-gallon hat and bolo tie, said (at the announcement of his appointment) that his job entails helping the nation address climate change through a “moon shot” on energy independence……..” which he pointedly stated also required, “the continued domestic development of coal, oil and natural gas, fossil fuels” which, one might note, generate copious amounts of greenhouse gases when they are burned.

Environmentalists are feeling burned. Kieran Suckling, executive director of Center for Biological Diversity, which tracks endangered species and habitat issues described Salazar as“[A] right-of-center Democrat who often favors industry and big agriculture in battles over global warming, fuel efficiency and endangered species. He is very unlikely to bring significant change to the scandal-plagued Department of Interior. It’s a very disappointing choice for a presidency which promised visionary change.”

So far Obama has failed to appoint a single progressive to any top cabinet level position. Liberals who were expecting anything more than another Republican-lite administration are going to be very disappointed. Cynics like me are reluctantly dusting off the “I told you so” and readying its imminent deployment.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Tooting my Own Horn

For those of you who expressed skepticism that the Republicans were using the fight against the auto bail-out as a platform to destroy organized labor, I give you this, from Krugman's Op-Ed piece in the Times today:

"(Why was the plan blocked? An e-mail message circulated among Senate Republicans declared that denying the auto industry a loan was an opportunity for Republicans to “take their first shot against organized labor.”)"

And so it goes.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Sin of Wages

“It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning. “
-Henry Ford

I feel like I have been living in the Twilight Zone the last few days. Will someone explain to me why is it fair to demand immediate cuts in wage and benefit packages for union workers, cuts that would amount to an average of 30% of a worker’s salary, without requiring similar cuts in the wage and benefit packages of the white collar employees and management? Kind of shows you what the real agenda is. And what about all those high-cost union jobs? The reality is that all new GM employees hired in the last year initially were brought on as temps or contract workers. If they eventually are hired on full-time, they make a whopping $14 per hour on the line with no full benefits for 2 years. How much more can the UAW give? Those wages are bullshit.

The biggest waste in that company is sitting in the CEO’s office. Wagoner got a 15 million dollar bonus for running GM into the ground yet he and the politicians are pointing the finger at the UAW. Please.

From the Times letters section: “For the last couple of weeks all one hears regarding the auto industry problem is the media drumbeat, "the unions", "labor", "the contracts", as if the workers who manage to make the only living wage left in the blue collar class are responsible for the complete lack of innovation or decent product design by an industry led by air-headed millionaires. It's not the fault of people making 40 bucks and hour with, OHMYGOD, health benefits and pensions who are at fault for the fact that Americans buy Hondas and Toyotas because they last, have few repair problems and get great gas mileage.” The UAW and its members have been fighting for years for a standard of living that allowed a middle class to flourish in America. Isn't that the American dream? Isn't it what we all want?

It is so much easier to blame the worker. For whatever reason, envy, jealousy, Americans identify more with those above them in the class structure. Plus, once you start blaming the system you are confronted with the reality that the (capitalist free-market) system has failed. This is frightening. Nevertheless it is a reality that has to be faced eventually. Clearly, our government & monetary system no longer work. It's time for re-invention, Thomas Jefferson style.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Killing the UAW

14 Billion dollars is roughly the amount of money spent by the United States in Iraq in five weeks. It is also the amount the big three automakers are requesting in an effort to forestall the collapse of the US manufacturing system. While the Republicans refuse to even discuss exercising fiscal discipline in the conduct of the Iraq war, when it comes to the elimination of the jobs of workers in this country, they are more willing to take a strong stand. Their resistance to the House plan that was passed yesterday is a transparent attempt by the Republicans to kill the UAW and by extension, the larger labor movement. Congress is ok with 700 million for the big bankers, but none for the unions.

While it is true that a bail-out of the auto industry makes little long-term sense without requiring significant change from the companies, the relatively small amount of money needed to tide them over until a more far-reaching plan can be implemented won’t bust the treasury any more than it’s already busted. Remember, we just doled out billions to financial institutions that created this crisis without a single string attached. Why aren’t American workers due the same consideration as Wall Street?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Happy Friday!

You can't run a consumer-based economy without consumers. From a letter-writer to today's Times in response to the unemployment report:

"Ever since Reagan and his band of "voodoo priests" began breaking the backs of American workers, we've seen a steady decline in the incomes of the majority of Americans. This was aided and abetted by Bill Clinton (NAFTA, etc.) and a compliant Congress, both Dem and Republican-led. This decline was masked by the relative availability of credit, enabling average Americans to stave off the wolf at the door as long as they could refinance or get another credit card. But simply loosening credit won't end this crisis. Most people are way over-extended and giving them more credit is like crack to an addict. The ONLY solution to this crisis that has been building for almost four decades is the creation of good paying, dependable jobs. To paraphrase Mr. Clinton: "It's the JOBS stupid!".

Indeed. The solutions being floated down in Washington all have as their common denominator loosening up the credit markets and encouraging Americans to go deeper into hock. Who in their right mind is going to buy a house, car or even a big TV if they think they aren't going to have a job next year? And speaking of Washington, what's going on down there? Congress had no problem committing a few trillion dollars, without condition, to prop up the balance sheets of large banks who now sit on this money. Nevertheless, when three very large, possibly indispensable manufacturers representing thousands of high paying American jobs approach them for what is a drop in the bucket compared to that assistance we get to watch ridiculous show trials. The bankers already got their money. The workers are fucked. The feds already claim to have no idea where billions of the initial bailout have gone. Fun stuff. A naked grab for money without pretense of accountability.

I do not believe that even the saintly Barack Obama will be able to stem the tide of destruction wrought by the Wall Street titans, should he have the time between walking on water and curing the sick, but he may be our best hope under the current system.

Speaking of the current system, it's all been quite funny to read the comments section of the Times where irate readers are blaming Republicans or Democrats for this economic mess. The true blame, my friends, belongs at the feet of capitalism. This is how the system works. Marx knew it and you all know it too, even though you're too indoctrinated by phony propaganda to actually say it. The post WWII economic boom is a blip in our history. For most of the last 238 years the workers and middle class have scrabbled in the dirt just to survive while the rich hoard all the money. We're just getting back to our robber-baron roots.

The power elite sold us on the idea that the elimination of civil rights and a bigger domestic police force are necessary to keep us safe from radical terrorists and everyone bought it. Forgive me if I think there was a larger agenda at work. What do you think the government is going to do with all those expanded powers and robo-cops when it starts to get ugly in the streets? Dark days ahead.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Food for Thought-Pie Graphs

Remember the bailout? The one Wall Street, uh, I mean Congress, passed despite near universal opposition from the people? Here's what it cost relative to some other fairly expensive American projects of the last few centuries. Remember this visual the next time a lying sack of shit politician tells you there's no money in the budget to extend job benefits or food stamps. Courtesy of Consumerist.com

Road Trip

Michigan is coming back to Congress, hat in hand, and they’re taking the family station wagon to get there. The suddenly chastened CEO’s of the big three automakers are driving to Washington from Detroit in an effort to show that they really, really need the bail-out money that Pelosi has been withholding. This cartoonish display of faux populism is almost comical, but for the fact that all three retrenchment plans on offer essentially rely on gutting the workforce, thus sacrificing the very jobs that Congress claims to be interested in saving.

The Times reports that, “G.M., the world’s largest automaker for decades, said Tuesday that it was in such dire straits that it would deeply cut jobs, factories, brands and executive pay as part of its plea to get $12 billion in federal loans and an additional $6 billion line of credit. G.M. also promised that it could be competitive on labor costs with Toyota by 2012… G.M. (also) said it would cut more than 20 percent of its remaining jobs, shut nine factories, seek to renegotiate the terms of $66 billion in debt, and push to reopen contract talks with the United Automobile Workers to reduce labor costs.” Excuse me, but what is the point of saving the American auto industry with taxpayer money if the end result is still the loss of thousands of American jobs? Who, exactly, is benefiting by this government subsidy? Principally shareholders, I suppose. If Congress really wants to benefit the American worker they should nationalize the auto industry and eliminate the executive officers whole cloth. Needless to say, this option isn’t being considered.

For its part, the UAW isn’t taking this obvious attempt to put the nail in the coffin of organized labor quietly. “The U.A.W. can’t be the low-hanging fruit,” said UAW chairman Ron Gettlefinger. “While we’re at the table, we’re asking that others come in and sacrifice as well.” The sacrifice presumably means more than a chauffeured drive to Washington in a SUV hybrid. If I were the UAW or in Congress I’d be looking to recoup some of that $22,000,000 in compensation that Ford CEO Alan Mulally was paid last year and which he haughtily claimed entitlement to in his Congressional testimony. Seriously folks, it’s easy to make a token concession like accepting $1 in compensation for 2009 when you were paid $22 million in 2008. That money should be seized by Congress and redistributed to the line workers.

30 year veteran GM line worker Doug Hanscomb pretty much summed it up the other day when he said, “I know one thing. If I lose my pension, I bet you Rick Wagoner” — the G.M. chief executive — “and all those guys won’t lose theirs.” Clearly, here in America, we take care of the top first and let the people who do the actual work fend for themselves. It has been ever thus.