Friday, August 31, 2012

Coup Rove

This is Karl Rove, erstwhile adviser to George W Bush and now big money Republican financier, who some are saying is now bigger than the Republican Party itself. I've seen pictures of Rove before and in this one he somehow looks different. Maybe it's the green tie. It was posted on the web site Down With Tyranny.

Author Craig Unger, who has followed Rove's career for years, was interviewed this week about his latest book about Rove (scroll down for a transcript). It's a startling story of big money, dirty tricks, ruined careers and big money. Rove and those around him are not interested in democracy, only power. Many of the tactics Republicans are now using to win elections by cheating originated in Karl Rove's brain. Those methods include launching criminal investigations against political opponents, purging voter roles, and requiring voters to obtain a "voter id" before voting. New Mexicans are familiar with some of these tactics. Prominent Republicans Heather Wilson and Pete Domenici have participated in them. Governor Susanna Matinez this week was enlisted to speak at the Republican National Convention, which is said to have been designed by Rove.

Republicans, especially Rove, know they have a huge demographic problem as the US moves toward being a White minority country. Cheating by Republicans could only be the beginning as Whites begin to feel their power and privilege slip away.

Meanwhile here are some pictures I came across on Facebook of beautiful sunsets.

Pictures except Karl Rove from Albert Taylor's Facebok page.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Seeing With Smaller Eyes

I was parking my truck one morning this week, out behind the warehouse where I park it between runs. Someone from one of the big over-the-road companies was parked back there and as soon as I set the air brakes the driver jumped down out of his truck and came over and stood looking up at me waiting for me to open my window.

"How you doin' young man?" he began, in a Southern accent. "They told me I could back in when you pulled out."

He was about my age, or he may have been older. It was hard to tell. He had that pinched up, wrinkled face many working class Southerners of Scotch or English decent seem to have.

I'd just come in from Holbrook, where I meet the truck coming from Phoenix. He's got stuff headed east, I've got stuff headed west. We swap trailers and take the stuff back in the direction we came from. Our company delivers time sensitive freight and we do the bulk hauling part. What I bring back to Albuquerque is immediately sorted out and loaded into vans and delivered around New Mexico.

After we unload my truck, there's still a lot of activity still going on in the warehouse; counting freight, scanning freight, loading freight. I told the over-the-road driver it would be a few more minutes, that our local delivery truck had to load up a few pallets, which meant he'd be needing the dock next.

"It won't take long," I said, "but the people who'll unload you aren't here yet. They've probably already called them in though."

He contemplated for a few seconds, screwing up his mouth in a way that highlighted his wrinkled and pinched up look, a look that may have been exacerbated by a lifetime of smoking, or maybe by being pinched by the caveat emptor Southern culture, in which everyone is responsible fore getting their own needs met, and what the hell if it's at the expense of people less equipped for needs meeting, like he may well have been.

"Do they know you're here?" I asked, They meaning my boss or his assistant.

Those were just about the last words I contributed to the conversation, because he set off on the kind of rambling monologue truck drivers launch into when they've been driving all of a long night with no one to talk to but the radio and are strung out from lack of sleep and are beset with the kind of anxiety that making a delivery at a place you've never been to before can engender.

It soon became clear to me, as he rambled on, that he was new to trucking. The big over-the-road companies have a lot of turnover and hire a lot of new drivers, men or women who are just starting out. Some more experienced drivers work at those companies -- I've gone to work at them when I've needed a job in a hurry -- but it's largely newer drivers, and despite this guy's age it was obvious he was new to truck driving.

The first giveaway was that he had approached me, not waited for me to approach him, and the next was that in the first paragraph of his monologue he told me he'd been driving a long, long time.

"I've been out here 41 years," he'd said at one point. "There's no point in getting upset about waiting."

Newer truck drivers often exaggerate the years they've been driving, even wildly sometimes. Once a guy who couldn't have been 30 told me he'd been driving for 19 years. Seniority doesn't get you much in truck driving, better pay at some companies, but the old pay scales are on their way out, replaced by one low rate for everyone. Seniority gives you a measure of status, but seniority primarily matters as it gives you credibility in the brief, fleeting conversations between truckers when they encounter each other in situations like this one, where everything, including your perceived status, lasts only until you part company.

But the most obvious sign that he hadn't been driving very long came when he told me how he planned to back into the dock. He'd been saying how he had arrived last night and found out he couldn't get unloaded, and how he went to the truck stop and had a meal and came back early this morning, and now he launched into an explanation of how he was going to back into the dock, which was going to be a somewhat difficult maneuver, from where his truck was parked.

"I guess I'll just go out on the street and then back it up and pull in from that way," he said.

In other words, he planned to turn around in the street and approach the dock from the other direction.

This is what was really on his mind. This was what he was concerned about, and he wanted my validation for his idea. An older driver wouldn't have told me how he planned to back in. He'd have simply sized up the situation and backed in, thereby demonstrating that making a difficult maneuver didn't bother him. But this guy was telling me he was going to go out on the street, back up in street past the entrance, then pull back in and back up to the dock.

It really was a pretty ignorant idea, and I didn't have the heart to say so. He hadn't driven very long and I couldn't expect him to do it like I do it, every evening when I load up. It wasn't so much that his way was going to be a big waste of time and effort, either. It was that he planned to back up in the street. He'd be backing up a 70-foot long semi tractor-trailer rig on a pretty busy street, during morning rush hour, when people who are late for work would be careening down on you, swerving around you on whatever side they can get by you, and if you're lucky not running into you. You don't back up a semi any more than you have to, and surely not in a situation like that, and if you've driven for more than a few years you know why, from experience.

I did mention to him that he could drive around the building, the implication being that he could come in again the same way he came in the first time, and avoid having to back up in the street.

That didn't interest him. He'd been giving some thought to backing into the dock and had apparently already considered circling around the building. He'd probably walked to the end of the building to look things over and saw that there'd be be a gamut of parked cars to drive between, and two tight turns to make.

He dismissed my suggestion by again telling me how he was going to do it, and from there he merged back into rapid-fire monologue mode, free associating from topic to topic, the way people do who have the gift of gab and the way other people do when they're keyed up or nervous.

I let him go. I let him have his backing up scheme and his 41 years of driving trucks and whatever else he put forth to get his emotional, social needs met, or for whatever reason he put it forth, and maybe he kept talking because he just couldn't stop, couldn't go back and sit in his truck and wait patiently.

With those big companies, you're always under pressure to get unloaded. If you're not unloaded when they want you to be, they start harassing you, sending you messages wanting to know why not. And then when you do get unloaded, they might not even have another load for you. The way the system works, that all the big companies use, it isn't told to you what you'll be doing next. They just want you to get unloaded and be ready for the next load.

It results in a situation where you're always on call, 24/7, and unless you can figure out how to game that system a little, you have to be ready all the time, so that when they get around to finding you a load, you're ready to go pick it up and deliver it, and they expect you to have gotten enough rest to do it.

Truck driving's not a warm, cuddly environment. He'd already found out that there weren't too many people in the society of truck driving, either at the companies or among the other drivers out on the road, who warmly welcomed you into the fraternity. There are plenty of ornery sons of bitches out there who are tired and ornery and sons of bitches, and who know that after the brief encounter they have with you they'll very likely never see you again.

When I meet up with someone like this guy, I wonder how somebody like him ended up in truck driving, at his age. People generally get into truck driving when they're young. Most don't stay with it, and there is a constant influx of new, mostly younger drivers. Staying in is trucking is one thing, but it's not difficult to get into it.

He could be one of those people who move from job to job, and with jobs now scarce he ended up a truck driver. Either way, it's likely that he's one of that shrinking so-called middle class you hear about, the one that's going away. His factory was closed down, his job eliminated. No jobs to be had, but trucking.

There have been a number of stories this week in the media about a new Pew Research study that shows how the standard of living of the American working class, which includes the so-called middle class, is in decline. I'd just heard one that morning, about an hour before I met him.

All the stories highlight what the Pew outfit calls a "lost decade," referring to the fact that over the past ten years the wealth of the average middle income American has declined.

The stories, and, to be fair, the narrative of Pew's press release accompanying the study, link this decline to the recession, and also to the decline in house prices after the "housing bubble" burst, since middle income peoples' homes usually account for the biggest share of their wealth.

But buried in at least some of the stories was the fact that the decline began before the recession, and before the housing bubble burst. The decline certainly has been exacerbated by those two things, but it wasn't caused by them.

It's been caused by Neoliberalism. By trickle down, Reaganoics. It's caused by the massive redistribution of wealth upward, by, in a time of increasing profits, the profits going to the rich and not the working class. It, wealth, is being redistributed by way of pay scales that don't go up with seniority, for example, and by lower starting salaries, and by fewer raises and by more cuts in benefits.

But it's more than that. The redistribution is being accomplished by wealth the working class already owned being redistributed upward, through tax policies mainly, but also through things like foreclosures, by homes and small businesses being seized.

People may eventually catch on to what's been done ot them, and there may be an outbreak of a huge revolutionary moment, something that has occurred at times like this before, and which happens spontaneously, but don't count on the news media to help the people catch on. The story I'd heard that morning came from our illustrious National Public Radio. As I write this, two days later, the story has already disappeared from their web site, although other important stories remain, like one about wine tasting. Another story about the Pew study is on the NPR web site, but on a blog entry, not on the main web site.

Stories about a shrinking Middle Class don't fit with the NPR narrative, which is, 'I'm doing great, but did ya hear what happened to those other people?' Stories don't fit in with the NPR narrative that don't serve the interests of the people who provide NPR's funding, which is government and big business, and the few wage earners who still have disposable income.

But on some level of consciousness, people have caught on. Barak Obama, a young Black man with little experience at anything but self promotion, who, because he's very good at playing to the anxieties of a majority of Americans, because he can conjure up images and feelings that seem like a way out or at least offer a respite from their anxieties, was elected US president once, by a large margin, and will be elected again, probably by a wide margin again.

The truck driver I met the other morning, as part of his rambling monologue, had included what is a fairly common trope you hear from truck drivers, a favorable characterization of the company he works for, which is Knight, of Phoenix. If you drive much you'll see their red tractors pulling trailers with the name Knight in big red letters.

"They treat me good," he'd said, nodding toward his rig. "They get me plenty of miles."

Saying that a Capitalist corporation treats you good, an organization that exists solely to extract as much of the wealth that your labor creates as it can, is a truck driver thing but first it's a Southern thing. Southerners are taught from birth to think of their employer as their benefactor, and the truck driving milleau, the society of truck drivers, the ideas about what you should do to be a real truck driver, is heavily influenced by the Southern world view, because an overweighted share of truck drivers and most trucking companies are still based in the South. For much of the 20th century, for vast segments of the population in the South, the best paying job one could hope to get was in trucking.

Trucking is changing, in the meantime, with more minorities in the mix, and more punkish young men wearing earrings, and short pants, who have tattoes and shave their heads to make themselves look like pirates. There are more and more Sikhs in trucking. They don't work for the big companies. They buy their own trucks. Since 9/11, they go about their business avoiding eye contact with other truckers. They aren't unfriendly, but they're not friendly. They just try to stay out of the way of angry rednecks who on the CB radio, under cover of anonymity, refer to them as towel heads.

Trucking is changing, but not for the better, because at the same time, the mood of the country is changing. Trucking society is more contentious and hostile and more fractured than ever, what with the overall situation in the country, the polarization and the decline.

The fraternal aspects of trucking, such as flashing your headlights off and back on to signal to another truck when it has passed you, and him flashing his marker lights as a thank you, have nearly disappeared. Many drivers, when you're passing them, now wait until you look into your rear view mirror and flash their high beam headlights in your eyes, as if to say, 'Take that.' The thank you flash, if it's given at all, is minimal, often just one little blink. 'Sorry, it's all I can spare.'

Good will, and the self esteem that makes acts of generosity possible, are declining along with wages, wealth and home values. There are the acts one performs out of principle, but how long will such principles hold up under the onslaught of the principles of conservatism, of selfishness and greed and ever more pervasive hostility?

As living standards continue to decline, there has to be an effect, and we're seeing it now. People simply don't have as much to spare, in good will or material goods, with wealth and wages headed downward. It couldn't be otherwise, in a society where the drive to fulfillment is directed into obtaining material possessions, and where people's sense of status is relative to what they perceive others posses.

Like the 41 years of being on the road the other driver thinks I think he has.

I let him have his 41 years. I let him have his good Capitalist corporation and his solution for backing up. People want to belong to the fraternity of truck drivers, even if truck driving is only an idea they carry in their head, some lines from a country song or scenes from a movie, some ideas they conjured up when a bright red truck barreled through their small town and disappeared into the unknown, some ridiculous notion that they brought with them when they hired on.

It was a generous act, perhaps, to let him go on and on about himself, but it's not what I could have done, what I have done, in the past, and I was very aware of having to resist the impulse to tell him how he'd back up to the dock if he really did have some experience and knew the hell how to do it, and how sick I am of the bullshit and the lies people like him tell me to my face all the time, every day, all day long.

As for the disappearing so called middle class that the Pew study talks about, the Wall Street Journal account of that is short and to the point.

"The American middle class continued to shrink last year while also falling behind in its share of the nation's wealth as more affluent citizens take an ever larger piece of the economic pie, according to a report released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center.

In 2011, the middle income tier -- those making $39,000 to $119,000 a year -- comprised just 51% of all adults, down from 61% in 1971. Over the same period, the upper tier rose to 20% of adults from 14% while the poor are now 29% as opposed to 25%.

And, over the last 40 years, only the rich increased their share of the wealth, now taking in 46%, up from 29%, with the middle tier getting 45%, down from 62%.

"The middle class has shrunk in size, fallen backward in income and wealth, and shed some -- but by no means all -- of its characteristic faith in the future," Pew said in announcing the results of its study." 

The newspaper of Wall Street, whose editorial pages have for 30 years preached the economic scheme that caused the decline they are describing, doesn't even fear telling the truth about it.

The only two political parties allowed to participate in the US are on board with this scheme, and the two candidates for president won't do a thing to change it, and they say as much. Democrats may now feel the need to preach a little class politics, which to them means raising taxes on the rich, but that will do absolutely nothing to alter the structures, that remain in place, that allowed the rich to skew things so much in their favor.

Recall that at the beginning of the Reagan Era the income tax rate on the super rich was 91 percent. That made them shift income from consumption to productive uses, such as investing in their factories and in pay and benefits, but they still owned the media and the politicians, and more importantly they owned all the factories and vast amounts of the land, all of the most valuable land, and in 30 short years they returned America to where it was in the 1920s and to the huge disparities in wealth and income we see now.

The Democrats are not your salvation. They are part of the problem and the problem is Capitalism. We can tell ourselves that we're doing alright as we build ourselves up in our minds' eye over our sisters and brothers, we can look at the positive, as we accumulate unto ourselves the few remaining scraps of material wealth our class is permitted to possess, or we can put an end to it.


Here are several stories about the Pew Research study, and the study itself

Wall Street Journal

NPR Blog

CNN Money

Pew Research Study


(note: New Socialist Kitchen Tips added:

Chicken Lizard Soup
Bonus Tip, pourable jars

see Pages in the right-hand column)


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Bain Capital Makes Workers Train Chinese Replacements
Romney's company moving profitable factory overseas

Updated 8/23/2012

Mitt Romney's company Bain Capital is making workers at a car parts factory it owns train their replacements, who are being flown in from China by Bain. See these stories in Daily Finance and The Guardian.

Freeport workers protest Bain Capital- Progress Illinois
Workers at the Freeport, IL, Sensata Technoligies, which Bain bought two years ago, recently protested and delivered a petition containing 35,000 Freeport residents' signatures to Bain offices in Evanston, IL, asking that their jobs be saved. The 170 jobs at stake would put another dagger in the heart of Freeport's struggling rust belt economy, according to Progress Illinois.

As Daily Finance reports:

"Although Romney left Bain around the turn of the century -- pinpointing the exact year is difficult, which has itself become a source of controversy -- he maintains financial ties to the company, receiving millions of dollars annually in profits from buyout and investment funds. Which means that Romney stands to gain if Bain's plan to cut costs at Sensata by eliminating U.S. jobs succeeds in increasing profitability."

In other words, Romney is one of the major owners of Bain Capital.

Republicans whole-heartedly love this kind of Capitalism, in which factories and jobs are moved to China, where abortion is legal and encouraged by the government. As long as it makes more money for rich people and suppresses wages -- which throwing another 170 people into the job market will certainly do -- that's all that  matters. This is standard Neoliberalism, trickle down Reaganomics. They've been saying for more than 30 years now that it will improve overall efficiency for the benefit of all, but we're still waiting.

We'll be waiting until hell freezes over. Neoliberalism is simply a scheme to redistribute wealth upwards. Nothing more, nothing less. 


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Neurosis, Ass Kissing, And Honor

Case Study in International Diplomacy Involving the US, Its Vassal States, and Ecuador: Sweden's handling of the case against Julian Assange, Bradley Manning's torture in US custody, and US attempts to oust Rafael Correa

"The common thread among the whistleblowers, Assange, and Manning is that all of these innocent, courageous people were only exposing what shouldn't be kept secret anyway, namely, what our government does in our name, presumably on our behalf, with our money."

(Albuquerque, NM) - Will a team of US Navy Seals and possibly British Navy Walruses (or whatever the Brits call the people they turn into murdering robots) storm the Ecuadorean embassy in London and assassinate Wikileaks founder Julian Assange? Even if Assange has no wives and children there to witness the event as in the case of Osama bin Laden?

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa stood up to the bullying of the US and Great Britain this week and granted political asylum to Julian Assange. Correa was subject to all kinds of threats and pressures, both publicly and, you can bet, by secretive means that will come out eventually, and by one we do know about, because it was leaked: The British government threatened to storm the Ecuadorean embassy and physically abduct Assange.

Assange has been the subject of a "witch hunt" as he correctly called it today, by President Obama, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Attorney General Eric Holder.

"Witch hunt" isn't an exxageration. Obama has a neurosis about secrecy. He has prosecuted twice as many government whistleblowers under the Espionage Act as all other presidents combined. Remember that whistleblowers, those who expose government fraud, corruption and waste, are protected under US law.

They are supposedly protected, anyway, because they perform a valuable public service, and because another neurotic president, Richard Nixon, went after whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg in ways that were illegal, immoral and shamed his presidency, prompting congress to specifically enact a whistleblower protection act.

But Obama has gone after them, and Assange, and Assange's presumed source, US Army private Bradley Manning, with all the tools at his disposal, legal or not, just like Tricky Dick Nixon did. The common thread among the whistleblowers, Assange, and Manning is that all of these innocent, courageous people were only exposing what shouldn't be kept secret anyway, namely, what our government does in our name, presumably on our behalf, with our money.

Assange, as he always does when he speaks publicly, today called for the release of Manning, who has been held in military prison in the US under Guantanamo Bay like conditions for two years now.

New details have emerged revealing that Manning's torture -- which is how the UN special rapporteur on torture has characterized his treatment -- in US military custody was even worse than was known. Forced nudity, sleep deprivation, forced to sleep locked in a straight jacket like device. Being denied covers to sleep under, laces for his shoes, a belt to hold his pants up. He was never allowed to sit on his bunk with his back against the wall. He was under constant surveillance, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, went everywhere in hand and leg shackles, never saw the light of day for months.

Manning was receiving this kind of treatment from day one, long before he was formally charged. The government says it was because Manning was a suicide risk. Not true. It was punishment. Pre-trial punishment.

Rafael Correa's decision to grant asylum to Assange ultimately was because he knew Assange wouldn't receive a fair trial in the US, where Obama has already publicly declared him guilty. Obama's top foreign diplomat, Clinton, has been busy arranging for charges to be filed against Assange in Sweden so that he can be extradited there and from there whisked off to the US, where Holder has been busy assembling secret grand juries which have issued probable indictments against Assange for high crimes against the US, indictments that can only be prosecuted if they can get Assange to the US.

New details have also emerged about the Assange case. He has not been charged with a crime, either. The case was once dismissed, after Assange spoke to Swedish authorities. He left Sweden with their knowledge. The case was later resurrected.

Assange is wanted for questioning about allegations made by two women in Sweden. The older woman, who once published a legal guide for getting revenge on a cheating boyfriend, is said to belong to a CIA-funded anti Castro group in Sweden. it's been reported that she contacted the younger woman and convinced her to file charges, too. Coincidentally, it appears, she is also connected to figures involved in the coup attempt against Correa.

The charges against Assange provoked a lot of discussion about sex and sexual assault, about "boundaries," about whether men or even women know where they are. Many have commented on Sweden's sexual assault laws and whether Assange would be wanted for questioning in other countries for the same behavior. It's been asked whether feminism has gone too far.

"Feminism is a mainstream concept in Sweden and the country has among the toughest sex crime laws in the world. In fact, lawyers have been known to joke that a man must get written permission before having sex," wrote Brinley Bruton on an NBC web site.

But as it pertains to the Assange case, with the facts not being known, the talk is irrelevant and premature. All that's clear now is that where the governments of the US, Sweden and the UK are concerned, this is not about the rights of two Swedish women. As Michael Moore wrote in an open letter to the Swedish government, "Actually, many see right through you. They know what these "non-charge charges" are really about. And they know that you are cynically and disgustingly using the real and everyday threat that exists against women everywhere to help further the American government's interest in silencing the work of WikiLeaks."

And as Naomi Klein remarked, "Rape is being used in the #Assange prosecution in the same way that women's freedom was used to invade Afghanistan."

Assange's lawyers have repeatedly offered to make Assange available for questioning by Swedish prosecutors in England, both before and after Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy. Sweden refused, although it has questioned other suspects in the same way, including a Serbian wanted for suspicion of murder, as recounted by Vaughan Smith, the British journalist who opened his country home to Assange when he was under UK house arrest in this interview conducted this week by New York public radio. Smith, a founder of the UK journalism organization Frontline, also says in the interview that there is precedent for Assange to worry about extradition to the US -- two asylum seekers who tried to get refuge in Sweden in 2001 were handed over to be tortured at one of the CIA's infamous "black sites" in Egypt.

Correa, before he made the decision to grant asylum to Assange, also asked for assurances from Britain and Sweden that Assange would not be extradited to a third country, and was refused them.

If Sweden, or the US, wanted justice for the two women, allowing Assange to be questioned in England would have prevented the current situation, in which it may never be known what happpened, but it wasn't justice for the two women that Sweden and the US wanted. It was Assange. The US wants his head and Sweden's leaders wanted to please the Americans.

This is not the first time, incidentally, that Rafael Correa, the Ecuadorean President, has stood up to the US. Soon after being elected he cancelled the lease on a US air base in Ecuador, and later refused to back down when threatened with a US backed revolt by parts of the Ecuadorean police forces.

Correa later expelled the US Ambassador to Ecuador at the time, Heather Hodges, who had already played similar roles in subverting other country's governments, when a cable leaked to Wikkileaks revealed that she had made derogatory comments about the police who supported Correa and that he used the police for social control. When Correa demanded that she explain her comments she refused and replied in what he considered an arrogant manner, saying she had nothing to explain. Out she went.

Correa also ordered another US senior diplomat to leave Ecuador, US Customs attache Armando Astorga, after he was caught trying to use US aid intended for the drug war to set up a system of control over elements of the Ecuadorian police force, under which the US would have been able to approve the hiring of heads of narcotics units. Using aid money intended for police or military operations in this way is a technique the US has long used in Latin America.

Correa also has stood up to multinational bankers and oil companies, negotiating larger and more equitable concessions from oil companies that, until he took office, exploited Ecuadorean oil for pennies on the dollar. He has declared invalid foreign debt incurred by previous administrations under "austerity" terms imposed by the World Bank and IMF, the global enforcers of Neoliberlaism and as a result obtained terms more favorable to Ecuador.

Bangladeshi Photographer and Writer Rahhuma Ahmed relates Correa's background of principle and courage at his blog and at New Age of Bangladesh.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)
 Note: The media's slavishly slobbering hype about Paul Ryan, the politician who is so anal retentive that it affects the hair on his forehead, and the already fading "bump" his selection gave to Mitt Romney's poll numbers, hasn't raised anyone's hopes that Obama won't be re-elcted -- at least not anyone whose feeble brain doesn't require electronic stimulation by Rush Limbaugh or Fox News before a bowel movement is possible.

CNN has the all important state by state, electoral totals about where they were last time I reported on them two weeks ago, 237-206, Obama over Romney. Larry Sabato has it 247-206 and at Political Wire it's 284-241. Nate Silver at the NYT says Obama's probable electoral vote total has slipped 1.5 votes in the last week, hardly a cause for anyone to celebrate or have a bowel movement.

And this is all before working people really start to find out that if a Paul Ryan ever gets into a position of real power they'll be living the rest of their lives in abject poverty and misery, paying a bigger share of the cost of government services while the rich pay even less than the almost nothing they pay now, with no medical care, no Social Security, and America will be like it was before Franklin Roosevelt made it possible for millions of Americans to retire with some dignity, when between one third and one half of senior citizens, depending on what kind of statistics you use, lived below the poverty line.

And never forget. Obama wants to privatize Social Security, too.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Let Us Most Definitely Twist Again
New addition to the Greatest Rock and Roll Since Moses page

Checker in 2008 - Phil Konstantin photo
Chubby Checker's The Twist hit #1 on the charts twice, first in 1960, then after being released again the following year, again in January, 1962. The Twist, the song and the dance as a combined phenomena, swept the nation and indeed, much of the world, and literally transformed the way people danced -- apart, individually, for the first time, instead of holding on to each other.

Checker has sold more than 250 million records. The Twist initially sold more than three million copies and the album it was on was the first ever to go platinum. The Twist was named the number one chart record of all time by Billboard Magazine.  So it's understandable that Chubby Checker is most known for The Twist, and for the series of dance tune songs he released over the next few years. But he has recorded a wide range of music, and much of it is represented in a collection of 52 songs at When you're ready for a Chubby Checker Fest, tune in here.

You can let the embedded player roll through every song, or scroll down a little and download individual songs, all for free since the music is in the public domain, meaning the copyright has expired.

His big hits are all here -- Limbo Rock, Peppermint Twist, Slow Twistin' (with Dee Dee Sharp), Pony Time ("Hey now everybody, in the union hall, it's Pony Time, when you hear this call") and a couple versions of The Twist. I always loved Let's Twist Again even more than The Twist, and it's here, too.

The collection also has some surprises, had for me at least. Victoria, from a 1971 album recorded in Europe, is in the vein of experimental music that came after the British invasion and was being done by groups like Procul Harem, after Tommy James' Crimson and Clover expanded the limits of Top 40 music. Burn Up The Night and Harder Than Diamond can be classified as Rock, as Checker, who has spent much of his career living and performing in Europe, advanced with the times.

The 50s music lover in me dictates that I love the hard driving Fly, and Dancin' Party. Checker was born in South Carolina but grew up and learned music in Philadelphia, the epicenter of early Rock and Roll, and of the rock and roll hits he covers he seems to particularly enjoy Runaround Sue, which is in the Doo Wop style he knew well, having performed a cappella Doo Wop with friends on the streets of South Philly. Let's Twist Again is in a modified, upbeat Doo Wop style.

Doo Wop, incidentally, is still popular in the Philadelphia area and especially right across the Delaware River in South Jersey, kept alive by various clubs, and by a few small radio stations that I'm always looking for when I head south from New York City on the New Jersey Turnpike, like WIBG, 94.3 FM, where, coincidentally, one of the Chicago disc jockeys I grew up listening to across Lake Michigan from Chicago now works, John "Records" Landecker.

This collection even includes the novelty single that first got Checker noticed by a big time record label, a song Chubby recorded privately for American Bandstand host Dick Clark, on whose Philadelphia based program he often appeared, in which he imitates various artists singing Mary Had A Little Lamb.

There are many delights here (including the original Blueberry Hill by Fats Domino, apparently included by mistake), songs like Cu Ma La Be Stay and Hoola Toola, and a cover of La Bamba in which he seems to make up lyrics in English, to this song written in Spanish, as he goes along.

Checker has expressed dismay over always having been closely, almost exclusively associated with The Twist and his other dance songs, to the extent that his talent has never been truly recognized. Well, here's your chance to not only listen to and download all Chubby Checker's classics for free, but to see what else he can do, too. This is really good, really fun stuff.


Note: Chubby Checker doesn't hesitate to talk about the cultural impact he has made, and about his lack of recognition for it. For more on that aspect of his life see:

Columbia, South Carolina's The State newspaper did a nice layout on the 50th anniversary of
The Twist. Checker was born in the small town of Spring Gully, SC, near coastal Georgetown, an area interlaced by the vast swamps along the Pee Dee River and its backwaters.

And in an interview with Gary James posted at

And in a Bill Harry article at in which the artist who first recorded The Twist, Hank Ballard, weighs in.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

The 23 Democrats

A bill that would raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour, the level it was, when adjusted for inflation, in 1968, introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr (D-IL) on June 6, 2012, was co-sponsored by the following House Democrats.

Rep Bass, Karen [CA]
Rep Cleaver, Emanuel [MO]
Rep Conyers, John, Jr. [MI]
Rep Edwards, Donna F. [MD]
Rep Ellison, Keith [MN]
Rep Fattah, Chaka [PA]
Rep Fudge, Marcia L. [OH]
Rep Green, Gene [TX]
Rep Gutierrez, Luis V. [IL]
Rep Hastings, Alcee L. [FL]
Rep Honda, Michael M. [CA]
Rep Jackson Lee, Sheila [TX]
Rep Johnson, Henry C. "Hank," Jr. [GA]
Rep Lee, Barbara [CA]
Rep Lewis, John [GA]
Rep Moore, Gwen [WI]
Rep Norton, Eleanor Holmes [DC]
Rep Rangel, Charles B. [NY]
Rep Roybal-Allard, Lucille [CA]
Rep Rush, Bobby L. [IL]
Rep Schakowsky, Janice D. [IL]
Rep Towns, Edolphus [NY]
Rep Waters, Maxine [CA]

No New Mexicans. No Martin Heinrich. No Ben Ray Lujan.

No House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. No Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Democratic National Committee chairwoman. No Dennis Kucinich, champion of the White, Middle Class Left.

There are 191 Democrats in the House. Only the 23 listed here co-sponsored Jackson's bill, which would lift some, not all, of working Americans out of poverty. Notice how the list contains mostly Blacks and Latinos. Notice how it includes the only Muslim House member, Keith Ellison.

Ralph Nader in writing about this lack of support, asks:

"What would President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who signed the first minimum wage law in 1938, say about today's pathetic Democrats (with few exceptions like the more than twenty Representatives who signed on to Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s H.R. 5901 bill to raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour)? Remember how FDR pushed his Democrats in the 1930s? He would not have tolerated today's Democratic Party of caution, cash and cowardliness."

In another article about the bill, Nader gives the answer:

"The explanations go back some years. The Democrats have long receded from the Harry Truman days of “give ‘em hell, Harry.” But their political castration occurred in the late seventies when the Democrats were persuaded by one of their own, Congressman Tony Coelho (D-Calif.), to start aggressively bidding for corporate campaign cash."

The chart above is from Bloomberg Business News, which is owned by billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and is hardly a Liberal mouthpiece. It shows the decline in the purchasing power of the minimum wage since 1967. The "nominal" amount, in gray, is the actual dollar amount of the minimum wage. An article accompanies the chart.

The chart below is from the Humboldt Economic Index, a project of the Economics Department at Humboldt State University in northern California and covers the minimum wage from 1954. There's an informative article there about the history of minimum wage and "living wage" struggles.



Henri Markku Mikael Lentonen, from Finland, posts cool things on Facebook. He just posted a bunch of photos. Here are a few of them.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Romney Cuts His Losses

By choosing white male Christian Reaganite Paul Ryan as his running mate, Mitt Romney is attempting to secure the votes of at least the Republican base, the 35 percent of the population who vehemently hate and fear Barak Obama and only support Romney because he's a Republican and is running against Obama.

US Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI
Republicans face a possible landslide defeat in the presidential election and the loss of the House of Representatives. Democrats already control the US Senate. Seeing President Obama cement a lead in the polls over the summer, and being given a nine percent lead in the latest nationwide Fox News poll, many Republicans had been urging Romney to chose Ryan. Although they didn't want to say so, they saw the handwriting on the wall and in effect wanted Romney to cut his losses, and to avoid the 'go for broke" mistake John McCain made in choosing Sarah Palin. In a sign that his position is weakening within the party and not just with voters, Romney conceded.

It's a pathetic statement of the facts as they are for the Romney campaign. Obama has consistently out-polled Romney by comfortable margins in many of the so called battleground states, where campaigning has been intense and voters know the candidates. As voters nationwide have begun paying attention to the candidates, Obama has extended his lead nationwide. Romney, knowing that voters are in no mood to elect a president who campaigned on the kind of principals Ryan represents, had recently begun to moderate some of his positions in an attempt to seek broader voter support. He and his campaign had begun to talk about the universal health care program Romney implemented as Massachusetts governor. Now he has cast his lot with those who believe that if you happened to be privileged it's because you deserve it, and if you're not, too damn bad. The I've got mine to hell with you philosophy of life.

Obama and his campaign staff must be smiling and rubbing their hands together with glee. They had already been trying to tie Romney to Ryan and to the draconian federal budget proposal that Ryan, as chair do the House budget committee, has put forth, which will end Medicare and gives huge, deficit ballooning tax breaks to the rich.

I'm reminded of the 1992 election when George Bush Sr, having been beaten about the head and shoulders during the campaign by young whiz kids Bill Clinton and Al Gore, was falling further and further behind in polls and made his last campaign swing before the election through the US South in an attempt to hang onto the Republican base and avoid a humiliating defeat, an attempt to cut his losses.

Like Bush Sr, Romney grew up in the relatively more liberal US Northeast. Like Bush Sr, Romney has adopted ultra conservative positions only to gain the support of the Republican base. Bush Sr was never seen as being comfortable with his party's base, but pandered to them for personal gain. Now it's Romney who's whistling Dixie.

(Note: Paul Begala here lists the main specifics of the Ryan budget, which cuts taxes for the rich, increases them for the rest of us, and would, indeed, destroy Medicare and leave seniors who depend on it screwed. Also, Ryan is the most conservative member of congress ever selected to be the vice presidential nominee according to this interesting chart which compares VP nominees going back to 1900.)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

And Republicans Know It

Having predicted that Barak Obama will easily win reelection I've turned my attention to other things like East Timor and getting out of this apartment I've been renting for the past four years, which is owned by the poster children for Vulture Capitalism and run by a woman who implements their objective of getting ever more money out of the tenants in a way that satisfies her masochistic tenancies -- in other words she's a typical member of the managerial class.

An article by a conservative writer says Mitt Romney is losing because of the ultra conservative positions he had to take to win the Republican primaries over ultra right wing nut jobs like doddering Rick Perry and quivering Rick Santorum. True, and the Occupy Wall Street movement woke enough Americans up to the fact of the royal screwing they've gotten that they are not going to bend over and grab their ankles this time around.

In East Timor, which had been brutally colonialized and occupied for hundreds of years and won independence ten years ago, they recenly held their third elections and the parties are now negoatiating to see who forms a coalition government with whom. The elections were free of fraud, according to international observors.

The last two US election have not been free of fraud, and the Republican Party has been at it again already, trying to disenfranchise as many Democratic voters as it can with mass voter roll purges and voter i.d. laws. I'd be tempted to offer to my Obama wins prediction the caveat that the Republican Party won those last two elections through fraud. But those were close elections. This election would have to be close for the Republicans to win again by fraud, and it isn't going to be very close. There are indications already that Obama is starting to pull away.

Remember that Obama is smart enough to have gone from a pot smoking community organizer to a one-term US Senator to being the first Black president in a country that is steeped in racism.

 (note: Learn more about East Timor from the Latin Radical podcast. Subscribe at the web log where there is also information about East Timor.

When I started listening to the Latin Radical podcast he was in Venezuela talking about the Bolivarian Revolution. He's from Australia, and in East Timor he's been interviewing, besides the East Timorese people, other Australians who are part of the East Timor solidarity network. It's a delight listening to the Australians. They are very well informed and unlike many Americans, what they do is not all about themselves. When they go to a place like East Timor they are not already imagining what they will say and look like in news reports about them going there.

I've been listening to the Latin Radical for five years or so and I don't even know the guy's name. He never mentions his name and his name and photographs of him aren't not splashed all over the web log. There are a couple of names on the "About" page, and one of them could be him or it could not.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

It's Over - Obama Will Win

Projected electoral votes - New York Times

If you're a Democrat and frightened about a President Romney, read this and then head down to the Dairy Queen for a nice strawberry sundae, or even a banana split.

New York Times
Forget about those polls that come out every week that lump the whole country together and say the race is within two percentage points. Those are useless, but the media enjoy them because they make it seem like there's a reason to go to work every morning. They keep people interested, which helps advertising revenue.

But a careful analysis of state-by-state polls over the past several months by Michael Tomasky, who writes for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, indicates things have trended toward Barak Obama, and that he will have a fairly easy time winning re-election.

Obama could well win 330 electoral votes, a landslide. Only 270 are needed, and in looking at which states each candidate can expect to win, and at the ones still up for grabs, it's increasing difficult for Mitt Romney to reach 270.

The Obama administration has managed to hold off implementation in some key states of the odious voter i.d. laws, the Republicans' underhanded scheme to hold down the Democratic vote. Obama will win New York and California, with 55 and 29 votes. A key swing state, Pennyslvania, with 20 votes, is looking better and better for him. As in some other key states, demographic trends since the 2008 election have helped Obama. Florida's big 29 votes are still up for grabs, but they aren't enough to give Romney the win.

Tomasky is no flake. This is not wild speculation. I've taken an occasional look at some of the web sites that follow the electoral map, and from that perspective, the important one, it's not hard to conclude that it looks favorable for Obama. Tomasky bases much of his article on poll analysis done by Nate Silver of the New York Times, at whose blog there are some interesting charts and maps including one where you can hover your mouse over a state to make recent poll trends pop up, but other sites like Silver's follow more or less the same predictive model -- Obama will win, because he has a comfortable lead in electoral votes. Larry Sabato has Obama leading 247 electoral votes to Romney's 213. CNN has it 247 to 206 for Obama. Political Wire has Obama winning 332 to 206.

Recall that in 2000, George W Bush won the election despite coming in second to Al Gore in the vote total. It's the electoral map that counts.

So there will be no government of and by the super rich, for the super rich. At least not so much as we have had under Obama. Hopefully a second term Obama will have learned some lessons. The big Wall Street money changers have deserted him and are supporting Romney, despite everything Obama has done in his first term to get them to like him. Depending on how the congressional elections turn out, we may actually see Obama try to do something for the rest of us in his second term.

Never forget that in his first term, he bailed out the big banks but did nothing, virtually nothing save for a pathetically few token gestures, to bail out working class Americans who were being thrown out of their homes by the millions, who couldn't find work, who saw their future disappearing into a black hole, all while the profits of the rich soared. Recall that there have been no prosecutions -- zero -- of the Wall Street tycoons and big bank thieves who time after time stole from us and from our government and sent our economy down the road to hell.

There was speculation that Republican working class Whites, the tea baggers and the rest of the unreconstructed racists whose fears the Republicans continually stoke and whose votes they rely on, hate Obama so much  that there would be a massive turnout against him, and it was mightily was hoped so by the conservative media of this country, which includes not just Fox News, who have all worked tirelessly toward that end, but the polls say that's not going to happen.

My feeling is that people have been shaken so much by the severity of the country's economic condition, by how long the unemployment rate has remained as high as it has, by the realization that their standard of living is in decline, by an acute awareness that the deck is stacked ever more against them, that the rich have won and aren't looking back at the hellhole they've left us in, that they would rather go with the flawed entity they know than with one they don't and trust even less.

Also, I expected that the unlimited amounts of money the rich can now spend on attack ads would hurt Obama. The money and the attack ads have been coming and will continue to come, but Obama has shown that he can give as good as he gets. He can play dirty, just like the Republicans, and although he has forsaken the working class in the most deplorable ways, when it's the difference between winning and losing he's not afraid to play the class card, the most powerful one of all but which corporatist Democrats like himself don't like to play.

The worst fear for Obama and for millions of his supporters was that he would have failed, failed in that he would not be validated by a second term. He won't fail in those terms. He might even realize that, when he wins, it was us, we the people, who saved his sorry ass, and who forgave him when he didn't save ours.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Clothing Allowance

I'm driving along this morning, minding my own business, transporting, doing what I do. I transport. Parcels, pallets, plastic shrink wrap. I'm driving along and the national public radio station is talking about atrocities in Syria. I think, atrocities? What about the people who own this company I work for? They commit them every day, in the name of productivity. Productivity my ass. Profit. My pocket to their pocket. My hide to their offshore account. What about those atrocities?

All of a sudden New Mexico public radio comes on and reports that Republican Governor Susanna Martinez is going to give a $50 clothing allowance to certain school children whose parents are on various public assistance programs.

Clothing allowance? Work boots? Uniforms? What, has Republican Governor Susanna Martinez managed to do away with child labor laws? Many Republican would like to, Michele Bachmann said that on the campaign trail. And the minimum wage, too. Rick Perry, campaign trail.

As it turns out, it's a $50 allowance for school clothes, says New Mexico public radio. New Mexico public radio quotes Republican Governor Susanna Martinez as saying that the new clothes will help the children concentrate in class. That's true. Your concentration will improve when the other children aren't making fun of you for wearing ratty old clothing your mother bought at the Salvation Army or that your brothers and sisters wore the year before because your mother doesn't have a job because of permanent high unemployment and the jobs are in China and India.

I was waiting for New Mexico public radio to ask Susanna Martinez if she intends to take back the clothes if the children don't improve their test scores.

Republican Governor Susanna Martinez hired an education director who learned her stuff working under one of the most well known education reformers in the country. By education reform they mean destroy the public schools and the teachers unions, which are one of the few remaining unions they haven't destroyed already. By reform they mean destroy the common wealth, the commonwealth. Anything we do together, as a society, because together we are stronger, not so easy to keep down, which is where we're headed. Together we do it better, we end up having more, of course, but that doesn't matter. They've got theirs already.

I was waiting for New Mexico public radio to ask Republican Governor Susanna Martinez how she thinks giving the parents of school children $50, after they jump through a bunch of hoops, I'll bet, to sure they aren't cheating the taxpayers, because that happens all the time, just like voter fraud, all the damn time, people will cheat you, people will take a big chunk of the little time and energy they can spare from their daily struggle for survival and spend it on concocting elaborate schemes to cheat you, how does she think $50 is going to help after you've destroyed the industrial base with your Neoliberal, trickle down, Reaganomics economics.

I was waiting for New Mexico public radio to ask Republican Governor Susanna Martinez if she thought $50 was going to make up for declining wages, declining standards of living, schools that need fixing up and students who need good books and teachers who have so many students now because structural adjustment has decimated public sector employment in this country that they can't each these students anything, because you have them teaching to your damn tests, not learning how to think critically, not learning how to appreciate literature and art and wonder about the ridge that runs along the surface of the moon.

I was waiting for  New Mexico public radio to ask Republican Governor Susanna Martinez if she thought her $50 clothing allowance scheme would further her political ambitions, put her back in the vice presidential nomination spotlight again, the political ambitions she left the Democratic Party for when she joined the party that's leading the relentless assault on American working people. If they would ask her about the tremendous disparity of wealth which Reaganomics has left us with, which Reaganomics was always intended to bring about, which results in a lesser country, a weaker country, a country where people have lost the purchasing power that gave the US working class the highest standard of living of any working class in the history of the world, but is now in steady, ever more rapid decline.

I was wondering if  New Mexico public radio would ever say anything or ask any questions that might make people start to wake up to what's happening to them, what has already happened.

I was wondering if people still have the capacity to wake up, and admit to what has happened to them, and even if they do, if they will do something about it.

Or if they're like me, and don't have the capacity. If they know what's happening, if they know the system is rigged, if they know the rich will win, know they're already won, know that getting $50 tossed to us once in awhile is the best we can hope for, and just shrug their shoulders and turn on the TV.