Wednesday, February 23, 2011

On Wisconsin!

Winconsin Democrats are still in an undisclosed location, while Republicans in the state legislature vote to implement a VoterID system that will negatively affect Democratic registrations.

You can send a pizza to the protestors in Madison by going here: 

Balloon Juice via Jack & Jill Politics:
A few days ago, Josh Marshall over at TPM published a map of how various States treat collective bargaining for public employees’ unions:
There are some obvious patterns when one considers this map (including the Red State/Blue State memes of recent years).
Deeper pattens emerge when you look at a map of Free States and Slave States as of 1857 when the Dred Scott Decision opened all US Territories (and all Free States) to Slavery:
slavery in 1857
What thing becomes clear—as you consider the modern Republican Confederate Party’s effort to attack workers, Unions, the Middle Class and their rights—is that their focus is all about the theft of labor. Stealing the labor of folks is a sure fire way to get rich and it has been since, well, forever. Fighting efforts to protect people from the theft of their labor is what the modern so-called Conservative and/or Gliberterian movements are all about.
What made slavery so damn profitable was the theft of labor. It served two important purposes: 1) Free labor from your slaves, and 2) the labor you steal from your slaves helps to suppress the demand for higher wages from the labor of workers that you must pay.
Slavery offered an elite class multiple ways to cut cost and steal labor. This system of labor theft has experienced two great threats in the last 150 years. The first was the Civil War, which ended the above ground buying and selling of humans and the theft of their labor. This was a major victory in the long fight for justice, but it was not long before gains were pushed backed.

Then there's Ezra Klein, who correctly identifies the problem in Wisconsin: "it's about power, not money":
America's various governmental entities are looking for ways to avoid defaulting on their debt -- or at least defaulting on their debt to the powerful. That addendum is important, because one of the strategies that's emerging is to default on debt to the less powerful, the people who don't have the power to wreck our economy.

This is a crucial fact about the economy, and one often underplayed by economists: power matters. It's worth more, in many cases, than money. And that's what's really at issue in Wisconsin. It's why Gov. Scott Walker is uninterested in taking concessions from the unions on wages and benefits if they don't come alongside concessions on collective bargaining. What he wants isn't a change in the balance of payments. It's a change in the balance of power.

The deal Wisconsin made with its state employees was simple: Accept lower wages than you could get in the private sector now in return for better pensions and health-care benefits when you retire. Now Walker wants to renege on that deal.

Rather than stiff the banks, in other words, he wants to stiff the teachers -- but the crucial twist he's added, the one that's sent tens of thousands of workers into the streets, is that he wants to make sure they can't fight back once he does it.
Ending on a lighter note, Jonathan Grey via the MaddowBlog takes note of the pop culture influence in the Madison protestors:

Monday, February 21, 2011

For President's Day

Once called "Washington's Birthday," today's holiday is now known as "Presidents' Day"--"if you want to buy a mattress," as Chris Mathews said earlier tonight during Hardball. In honor of this day, I felt it would be appropriate to post Gil Scott-Heron's "B-Movie." Although written during and about the Reagan years, it's as prophetic and perceptive now as it was in 1981, maybe even more so now, amidst the far right's ongoing attempts to canonize Reagan:

"The idea concerns the fact that this country wants nostalgia. They want to go back as far as they can even if it's only as far as last week. Not to face now or tomorrow, but to face backwards. And yesterday was the day of our cinema heroes riding to the rescue at the last possible moment. The day of the man in the white hat or the man on the white horse, or the man who always came to save America at the last moment--someone always came to save America at the last moment, especially in B movies. And when America found itself having a hard time facing the future, they looked for people like John Wayne. But since John Wayne was no longer available, they settled for Ronald Reagan. And it has placed us in a situation that we can only look at like a B movie.


This ain't really your life,
Ain't really your life,
Ain't really nothing but a movie."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wisconsin Really Does Suck

"Why is Minnesota so cold? Because North Dakota blows, and Wisconsin sucks." --traditional Minnesota jibe.

I've been keeping an eye on doings in Wisconsin this week. The Badger State's new Tea Bagger governor, Scott Walker, has decided that stripping public employees of their right to collectively bargain is the best way to reduce the state's deficit. In other words, let's screw the middle class!--gee, why didn't I see that as the quickest and best way to balance the budget?

Unfortunately for Walker, Wisconsin state employees have a differing opinion:

All week, workers have flocked to the capitol in giant waves of protests. On Wednesday, they were rallying on the capitol lawn and picketing the streets on the capitol square. Crowds numbering as many as 13,000 have at times have shut down traffic. Unions contend Wednesday's crowd is closer to 30,000.
So many Madison public school teachers called in sick today that the district closed down.

Inside the capitol, protestors(sic) in the capitol's hallways and rotunda are chanting "kill the bill." The bill would patch a $137 million hole in the state's current budget, but in the process, it would rework collective bargaining laws that were written 50 years ago.

Walker has even threatened to call in the National Guard to stop a walkout of state employees. The National Freaking Guard. What are they going to do, have drill sergeants teaching geometry to high schoolers? Or, perhaps, have artillery officers perform as replacement workers for nurses? Hey, maybe Gov. Walker would use infantry troops to replace highway workers!

Simply put, this is nothing more than union-busting, a classic rightwing strategy designed to destroy opposition to their policies, enrich their corporate masters, and screw workers. But I thought that the Tea Party voters who put Walker in office were against the encroachment of the government on individual liberties? Ohhh, I see: only when it's a Democrat supposedly doing it! Digby elaborates on this:

I continue to be amazed that the Tea Partiers, who are allegedly willing to take up arms against the despotic socialist government at the drop of a hat, are backing this fellow. If anyone has even a shred of doubt left that these so-called libertarians are nothing more than sad, confused, ideological drama queens, this should eliminate it. After all, what we are seeing in Wisconsin is a "leader" who is stating that he will bring in the army to stop American citizens from exercising their rights. This is the very definition of the "men with guns" libertarian boogeyman.

The cognitive dissonance is mind-boggling, and further proof that the Tea Party is nothing more than a collection of frightened, uninformed, hypocritical, and well-manipulated people. If a Democratic governor threatened to send armed troops to enforce his "radical" ideas, he'd be pilloried by the professional Right. If Pres. Obama said that he's going to send the 101st Airborne to Texas to ensure that health care reform is enforced there, we'd hear calls for his impeachment and lynching--and not necessarily in that order. Most of the Tea Party adherents are people just like the teachers, nurses, and highway workers in Wisconsin who are fighting for their basic rights. So why aren't they out there in the streets of Madison with them?

I guess I have to ask it: Why does the Tea Party hate America?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Anniversary to Uncle Clarence!

Today is the fifth anniversary of the last time that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas spoke aloud during court arguments. For five years, during dozens of cases appearing before the Supreme Court, Uncle Clarence has not opened his mouth, has not asked a single question, not made any remarks, or done anything to dispel the rumor that in actuality he's a hand puppet with Antonin Scalia's hand up his ass.

If he is true to form, Justice Thomas will spend the arguments as he always does: leaning back in his chair, staring at the ceiling, rubbing his eyes, whispering to Justice Stephen G. Breyer, consulting papers and looking a little irritated and a little bored. He will ask no questions.
In the past 40 years, no other justice has gone an entire term, much less five, without speaking at least once during arguments, according to Timothy R. Johnson, a professor of political science at the University of Minnesota. Justice Thomas’s epic silence on the bench is just one part of his enigmatic and contradictory persona. He is guarded in public but gregarious in private. He avoids elite universities but speaks frequently to students at regional and religious schools. In those settings, he rarely dwells on legal topics but is happy to discuss a favorite movie, like “Saving Private Ryan.”

It makes people wonder; especially since 74 House Democrats have called for Thomas to recuse himself from the near-certainty that the Court will be asked to decide on the legality of the health care reform laws. Then there's the flimsy excuse Thomas offered when it was revealed that he had "failed to report his wife's income from a conservative think tank on financial disclosure forms for at least five years."

What is Thomas doing? Why is he so silent during Supreme Court sessions? How can he be willing to talk about movies, but not about issues concerning the Court and our society? Why won't he go to top universities, but restricts himself to obscure, second-rate schools? I think the answer is quite simple; he's taking Mark Twain's advice:

"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."

Friday, February 11, 2011


Many years ago, I met the comedian/writer/activist Dick Gregory, and I've always remembered one thing in particular that he told me: "If democracy is so great, people would steal it."

Well, it seems that that day has come at last. May God's blessing be upon the people of Egypt.