Monday, May 9, 2011

What's Wrong With This Picture?

A story first broken by "FailedMessiah.com" (LINK) shows that the ultra Orthodox Hasidic newspaper "Der Tzitung" used Photoshop to edit history on Friday when they published THEIR version of the now-famous situation room photograph.


Translated from the Hebrew, the photograph was published with this caption beneath it (emphasis added)…
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. Seated, from left, are: Brigadier General Marshall B. “Brad” Webb, Assistant Commanding General, Joint Special Operations Command; Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough; Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Standing, from left, are: Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; National Security Advisor Tom Donilon; Chief of Staff Bill Daley; Tony Binken, National Security Advisor to the Vice President; Audrey Tomason Director for Counterterrorism; John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Please note: a classified document seen in this photograph has been obscured. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.”
Do you notice the empty holes where they edited out the women in the room? Apparently since publishing photographs of women is apparently not permitted in their backward, misogynist “newspaper” they had to be removed from this moment in history.  So although the women in the photograph were actually NAMED in the caption, they had someone take the time to physically sit and Photoshop the U. S. Secretary of State and our Director of Counterterrorism out of this historically significant photograph just because they are female.

Also, although the caption makes note that the photograph was edited to have a DOCUMENT obscured, they chose not to mention editing out PEOPLE, even though they ARE publishing the admonition that the photo is NOT to be “manipulated in any way”.

Now just to be clear, I feel it is necessary to point out that this is not even a paper that is published in the barbaric and backward Middle East. This “newspaper” is based right here in America…in Brooklyn, New York.

Rabbi Jason Miller of Jewish Week in his article on the subject (click here) explains the publication’s “reasoning” by writing that they “will not intentionally include any images of women in the paper because it could be considered sexually suggestive,” but he also points out that from his viewpoint the altered image violates a central tenet of the Jewish faith, “Der Tzitung edited Hillary Clinton out of the photo, thereby changing history. To my mind, this act of censorship is actually a violation of the Jewish legal principle of g'neivat da'at (deceit).”

Pesonally, I fail to see how our Secretary of State sitting there looking deeply concerned and another woman peeking out from behind a man is in ANY way “sexually suggestive”. In case you need a reminder of what the ACTUAL photograph looks like…



I wonder…what did these misogynistic men at Der Tzitung do when Golda Meir (bio) was the Prime Minister of Israel??



Additional reading:
http://jezebel.com/5799724/hillary-clinton-photoshopped-out-of-situation-room-photo

______________________________________________________________________

EDIT - posted at 4:30 p.m. on 5/9/2011 -

Due to the attention this issue has been getting, Di Tzeitung has sent out a prepared statement. Here is their response:


On manipulating the photo against the White House's wishes -

Our photo editor realized the significance of this historic moment, and published the picture, but in his haste he did not read the "fine print" that accompanied the picture, forbidding any changes. We should not have published the altered picture, and we have conveyed our regrets and apologies to the White House and to the State Department.

On the accusations that Di Tzeitung disrespects women in power -

The allegations that religious Jews denigrate women or do not respect women in public office, is a malicious slander and libel. The current Secretary of State, the Honorable Hillary R. Clinton, was a Senator representing New York State with great distinction 8 years. She won overwhelming majorities in the Orthodox Jewish communities in her initial campaign in '00, and when she was re-elected in '06, because the religious community appreciated her unique capabilities and compassion to all communities. The Jewish religion does not allow for discrimination based on gender, race, etc. We respect all government officials. We even have special prayers for the welfare of our Government and the government leaders, and there is no mention of gender in such prayers.
On the editorial policy that forbids images of women -

In accord with our religious beliefs, we do not publish photos of women, which in no way relegates them to a lower status. Publishing a newspaper is a big responsibility, and our policies are guided by a Rabbinical Board. Because of laws of modesty, we are not allowed to publish pictures of women, and we regret if this gives an impression of disparaging to women, which is certainly never our intention. We apologize if this was seen as offensive.
Source:  http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2011/05/hasidic-newspaper-defends-its-decision-wipe-hillary-clinton-out-famous-photo/37501/

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Interesting Times

So much has happened in the last week that it makes me think of the old saying..."may you live in interesting times"...

First the ridiculous Birth Certificate sideshow (click here for my previous post on this silliness) was finally put to rest when President Obama finally went to the trouble to get the state of Hawaii to make an EXCEPTION to their LAW in order to release this unnecessary document (who am I kidding…it won’t actually be “put to rest” because with some of these lunatics there is literally NOTHING that would convince them. In fact, I’m coming to believe that even if we found a way for them to travel back in time so that they could actually WATCH the baby President being born in Kapiolani Maternity Hospital in Honolulu, it still wouldn’t be good enough for them).

When this document was released last week, the right thing for Donald Trump to have done would have been to be humble (fat fucking chance, the man doesn’t know the meaning of the word) and admit that he made a huge deal and whipped up a fury over absolutely nothing. He should have said that he was embarrassed that he acted like such an absolute fool and distracted the nation and the President of the United States with this ridiculous TRIPE, because the standard short form birth certificate that had already been released IS the legal document that is currently recognized in every state and that this President should not have been forced into having to go to extraordinary measures to provide a document that has never been required of any other President.
 
But instead, the arrogant son-of-a-slumlord chose to say…“I’m very proud of myself, because I accomplished something that nobody else has been able to accomplish.”


To me, this is like a fly being proud of itself because it had managed to be such an annoying pest for so long that it finally forced the human to actually get a fly swatter, “LOOK how important I am!! I made him actually have to DO something that he shouldn’t have had to!! Doesn’t that make me smart and wonderful??!”

But hopefully THAT little sideshow really will be put to rest now that President Obama not only provided the superfluous document, but then he followed that up by making the Donald look really foolish at the White House Correspondents dinner on Saturday night.




...but then the real clincher came when the President announced late Sunday evening (coincidentally the network interrupted Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice" to break the news) that his administration had managed to do something that the Bush administration had given up on long ago...



So...we got a birth certificate on Thursday, a Royal Wedding on Friday, a big party on Saturday, and then a death certificate on Sunday...I wonder if Trump is going to demand to see the long version of that too?




Interesting times indeed...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

ABC yet again

As regular readers know, I have written some posts in the past regarding occasional anger at ABC for what I perceived to be decisions designed to intentionally sabotage their daytime serial programming (aka, soap operas), (First postSecond post), but that previous anger was NOTHING compared to the fury I have at them currently.

On Thursday (4/14/2011), claiming to be “guided by extensive research into what today's daytime viewers want and the changing viewing patterns of the audience,” ABC TV has cancelled two literal icons of the soap opera genre which have both been on for over 40 years, “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” (Link to story) which I have been watching for 37 and 20 years respectively.

“All My Children” will broadcast its final episode in September (I guess they want to cash in on one last summer of teens off school...the school year begins, we lose our show) with “One Life to Live” scheduled to end in January of 2012. (link to story). 

ABC’s website (Link) claims this decision will be “evolving the face of daytime television”, but personally I see it as the absolute worst programming decision I have ever seen in my life.

They will be cancelling these two award-winning programs, both of which have loyal, dedicated audiences which number in excess of 2.5 million viewers each, in order to launch two new shows which they claim will “expand ABC Daytime's focus to include more programming that is informative and authentic and centers on transformation, food and lifestyle -- cornerstones of programming that resonates with daytime viewers as evidenced by the success of The View.”

If ABC is under the impression that what is making The View successful is just the format and the catchy two word name, they’re SORELY mistaken. What makes The View great can be summed up with a few specific names and those are primarily Whoopi Goldberg, Barbara Walters and Bill Geddie, as well as Joy Behar who has been there from the beginning and even Elizabeth Hasselbeck who brings a necessary counter-point to the discussions, as frustrating as she may be for some of us.

But these two new shows, as they are being described by ABC, don’t sound to me like they’re anywhere even close to being in the same league as The View.  In fact, quite the opposite, they both strike me as rather being rather ridiculous, unnecessary and completely uninteresting.

The first of them, the one which will be replacing All My Children, is going to be called “The Chew” (which is, without question the WORST name for a program I’ve ever heard…a lot of “worsts” in this post, eh?) and is described as follows: “The Chew will be produced by Gordon Elliot (Paula Deen’s Home Cooking) and is a one-hour series that enables viewers to “get the dish” on anything and everything related to the world of food and beyond. Hosts will include Mario Batali (Iron Chef America), entertaining expert Clinton Kelly (What Not to Wear), Carla Hall (Top Chef), Michael Symon (Iron Chef America), and nutrition expert Daphne Oz.” My thoughts on this are…”The CHEW”…REALLY?? Why? Because it rhymes with “The View”? Because someone thinks it sounds “edgy”? Frankly, if I wanted to watch food/cooking shows, I would turn to the experts at “The Food Network” (Link) but I don’t have any interest in cooking shows, and have therefore never watched the Food Network and I promise you I will NEVER watch “The Chew”.

The second new show, which will be replacing One Life to Live, has the working title “The Revolution” and is being promoted as follows: “The Revolution, from Executive Producer JD Roth and 3 Ball Productions (The Biggest Loser), will be a daily show about health and lifestyle transformations. The show is hosted by a team of experts and rotating guest contributors and will feature a “unique concept.” ABC says: “Each week one woman’s five-month weight loss journey will unfold in just five days, with daily results and a final transformational reveal on Friday.”

Again, another show that holds absolutely NO interest whatsoever for me. If I want that kind of information, I would look it up on the internet. I had no interest in “The Biggest Loser” (and actually, found the title rather offensive), never watched that show and again, promise I will NEVER watch “The Revolution” (or whatever its final title ends up being).

Brian Frons
In discussing the new programming, Brian Frons, the head of ABC Daytime (who is responsible for this terrible decision) said, “While we are excited about our new shows and the shift in our business, I can’t help but recognize how bittersweet the change is. We are taking this bold step to expand our business because viewers are looking for different types of programming these days. They are telling us there is room for informative, authentic and fun shows that are relatable, offer a wide variety of opinions and focus on ‘real life’ takeaways. A perfect example of this is The View, and that factored into our decision. The Chew and The Revolution are in the same vein and will be great additions to the lineup, with The View serving as an ideal foundation from which to launch these programs. They will also provide enormous opportunity for the creation of ancillary businesses and growth.”

Again, this man seems to think that these two new shows will be on a par with The View, but from the descriptions ABC has made available, these new shows don’t sound like they will come anywhere even close to what they have with The View.  I would be willing to bet that President Obama, Vice President Biden, or any of the other remarkable individuals who have appeared on The View, would NEVER appear on “The Chew”, and if they actually did, well then perhaps the criticism that was wrongly leveled at President Obama for his View appearance might be a bit more apropos (my post on THAT incident).

Both of these shows sound absolutely horrible to me and certainly not like something that I (or even anyone that I know for that matter) would be the LEAST bit interested in watching. Also, I certainly do not believe that they will draw anywhere even CLOSE to the number of daily viewers that are watching the two shows they are replacing. Even Brian Frons, acknowledges that in regards to the ratings “initially we actually expect a little lower and then we hope for growth as time goes on. You take a look at the history of “The View,” you know the ratings were low at the beginning and it took a while for them to be what they are today.”  Well, Mr. Frons, personally, from the descriptions your network put out, they sound to me like they will both be total flops, so I think he should expect the ratings to be more that just “a LITTLE lower”.

In order for the ratings of these two new shows to compete with the audience of the shows they are replacing they would need to have a daily viewing audience of 2.5 million each. Just for a frame of reference, the 2010 population* of each of the following states is LESS than the audience of either program: New Mexico, West Virginia, Nebraska, Idaho, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Montana, Delaware, South Dakota, Alaska, North Dakota, and Vermont. In fact, the combined population of Alaska, North Dakota and Vermont (2,008,563*) is still a half a million less than the viewership of either show. However the head of ABC Daytime, apparently still doesn’t feel that is enough (but if he believes he’s going to get anywhere close to an audience like that for either “The Chew” or “The Revolution”, he’s delusional).

Frons was quoted by “TV by the Numbers” admitting that “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” are both “iconic pieces of television that have made an indelible mark on our culture’s history.” He even acknowledges that, “each of the shows has touched millions and millions of viewers and informed the social consciousness.” He then further stated that “It has been a privilege to work with the extraordinary teams who brought the residents of Pine Valley and Llanview to life each day, and we thank the cast, crew, producers and most especially the fans for their commitment to the shows through their history.”

First, I think Frons needs to look up the meaning of the word "indelible"...it means "impossible to remove, erase, or wash away."  I wish he would stop trying to remove the indelible. 

Second, I don't believe for an INSTANT that Frons cares one iota about "the fans" because IF he did, he wouldn't be doing this.  I also find it very difficult to believe that Mr. Frons gives a damn about the cast, crew and producers of either of these shows, especially considering that he did not even inform them that their shows were being cancelled until a mere 20 minutes before releasing the information to the press and by the horrible method by which he told them.

The All My Children cast and crew, who had been forced by Frons to completely uproot their lives and relocate to the West Coast from New York (where the ABC soaps have ALWAYS been based) about a year ago, was actually given the bad news by Mr. Frons in person. The OLTL folks (who had been allowed to stay in New York) only got a video feed.  The Frons-demanded AMC move from New York to California was part of the reason that AMC had to kill off a very popular character because he didn’t want to leave New York (where his real-life wife is part of the OLTL cast). This of course, hurt the ratings and therefore was partially responsible for the show’s ultimate demise. By contrast, OLTL was just about to bring back Roger Howarth, one of the most popular actors who had ever been on the show, who was scheduled to begin taping in May. (Link)

Frons further claims that in order to “honor the core, passionate audience and their rich history with our soaps,” that they would “conclude each series in a manner that respects their legacies and the longstanding hopes of many of their viewers.” (reference)

Well, I have news for you Mr. Frons, if you want to respect the legacies of these award-winning shows and the devoted viewers who have been loyal to these programs (and their network by proxy) for DECADES, the way to truly honor them would be to NOT make this horrible decision! But it seems that Mr. Frons is determined (in fact, I personally believe that he has been trying to accomplish exactly this for quite some time) and I don’t think anything (other than being fired himself) could dissuade him from this path, especially since when he was specifically asked if fans lobbying to try to get the shows back would have any chance of success, Frons replied,

“No. We really spent a lot of time learning from our success with "The View," talking to viewers about what they're looking for and we have tremendous respect for the passion of our serial fans. But we're at a point with these two shows, as much as they've done for the network, and as much as we appreciate them -- their time here has come to an end. And we're going to spend our efforts trying to make a success out of the two new shows, "The Chew" and "The Revolution," which are in genres that, as we talk to viewers, they want more of.”

Well, Mr. Frons, I wish that you WOULD talk to the viewers, like the ones who are inundating ABC with phone calls, e-mails, comments on ABC web sites, and postings on various ABC social networking sites who are begging you to not inflict these horrible shows on us and let us keep the award winning entertainment that all 2.5 million of us want, and have been loyally watching for decades. But since you seem just as stubborn as certain politicians who also don’t give a damn about what the people want, I suppose all I can do is hope that ABC/Disney comes to its senses before September and decides that instead of the casts and crews of two fantastic shows losing their jobs, only one job should be lost…and that is the one currently occupied by Mr. Brian Frons.

I also sincerely hope that when the Daytime Emmy nominations come out on the 11th of May that both All My Children and One Life to Live do well in all categories for which they qualify, to make Brian Frons look even more like the wrong-headed fool that he clearly is. In lieu of that, I desperately hope that some other network (SoapNet; Oprah’s OWN, etc.) picks up these fine programs AND their 2.5 million dedicated viewers...after all, what's better than 2.5 million people looking for a new home because the old one has been destroyed by a greedy man who puts excessive profits above people?

To sign a petition to ABC/Disney urging them to fire Frons (who I am affectionately calling "The Butcher of Daytime"), go here:  SIGN



* according to 2010 Census figures (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_populations)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Trump

“The Donald” is pushing the Tea Party’s ridiculous “birther” claims to try to cash in on their “Obama wasn't  born in America” insanity.


Now, I would never say that Donald Trump doesn’t know how to best cash in on a golden opportunity, after all, he’s been cashing in all his life, ever since he took over his father’s multi-million dollar real estate empire in the 70’s.  He then took advantage of the financial problems of the City of New York to cash in yet again, getting massive tax abatements and other aid to build his massive, multi-billion dollar Manhattan empire.

Well, now it seems that he wants to cash in on the hatred and naïveté of the “Tea Party” loons who are SO desperate to believe that Barack Obama is not the legitimate President of the United States that they keep spreading their ridiculous birther lies about the President and his birth certificate.  Lately Trump has been taking up their mantle and going on every television show that will have him, to continue to spread this outrageous fiction and keep this fabricated controversy alive. 

“The Donald” then even produced his own “birth certificate” to apparently somehow attempt to show up the President….




Well, Mr. Trump, like all the rest of the birther loons, is off his rocker. President Obama’s birth certificate was produced years ago during the campaign. If Mr. Trump has never seen it, it’s because he hasn’t LOOKED, no other reason. For those who, like Trump, have not seen it, the official Hawaiian certificate can be viewed at any number of sites. In fact, a simple google images search for the phrase “obama birth certificate” pulls the following large number of listings: http://www.google.com/images?hl=en&source=hp&biw=976&bih=503&q=obama+birth+certificate&btnG=Search+Images&gbv=2&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=

But to save yourself some web-surfing time, you can also just look at it right here:


In both 2008 and then again in 2009 officials in Hawaii have confirmed that they had “personally verified” the existence of the original document in the official files for the state of Hawaii. Even the REPUBLICAN (at the time) Governor of the State of Hawaii, Linda Lingle, verified this fact as well.

FactCheck.org has done an extensive investigation of the ludicrous birther claims regarding President Obama’s birth certificate (which includes a lot of close-up photography of various elements of the validated certificate) which can all be viewed at: http://www.factcheck.org/elections-2008/born_in_the_usa.html

Even the obstetrician who delivered the infant who would one day become President has made a detailed recollection of the birth which can be read online at this link:  
http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/birthcertificate.asp


 
But instead of facing facts and dealing with the proven reality that President Obama certainly is a “natural born citizen” of the United States, Mr. Trump seems to prefer to use his claimed intelligence to go on a media blitz and use the delusions of the far right in order to try to ingratiate himself with these crazy people, rather than to clear up this lunacy, because he now wants to be President.  I suppose he figures that if the Tea Party made all those other unqualified and completely out of control republicans (like Walker, LaPage, Scott, Kasich, Snyder, etc.) Governors, surely they can make him PotUS.

In fact, on one of his recent appearances, Trump recently came to the defense of the birther movement overall by saying: “I don't like the name birther. I think it's very unfair and derogatory to a lot of good people that happen to think there is a possibility that this man was not born in this country.”

I couldn’t disagree more, Mr. Trump. It is NOT “derogatory” to call those who deny the Holocaust crazy, or to state that those who claim that the moon landing was “faked” are delusional. When people deny reality, they deserve to be mocked and called by whatever label the sane members of society choose to lay upon them.

See, Donald, what *I* think is very “unfair and derogatory” is for a lot of folks who CLAIM to be “good people” to constantly put forward things that have been repeatedly PROVEN FALSE in an attempt to claim that the President of the United States wasn’t born in this country, just because they don’t like him personally. As I sure that most of these "good people" would call themselves "Christians", I suggest they look up the Commandment about bearing "false witness".  I also think it’s very damaging and detrimental to our country overall, so could you and your tea-bagging friends please stop doing that?

Trump further stated that, “If it were true, [that Obama wasn’t born here] it'd be the greatest scam in the history of this country.”

Again, I disagree. What I think would be the “greatest scam in the history of our country” would be if the multi-billionaire son of a slum-lord cashed in on proven lies to try to ingratiate himself with the crazed Tea Party lunatics to try to take the Presidency of the United States.

Now THAT is what I call a scam!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

250,000 Jobs Where?

According to information provided by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, (link) the following companies have announced their intentions to close and/or layoff workers since Governor Scott Walker has taken office, as well as the number of employees who will lose their jobs as a result:

1/5/11 - Kmart Store #7100, Sheboygan; Retail store; Closing: 62 employees
1/11/11 - Patrick Cudahy Inc.; Cudahy; Layoff: 388 employees
1/13/11 - US Bancorp; Milwaukee; Banking; Layoff: 64 employees
1/13/11 - NewPage Corporation; Whiting; Paper Mills; Closing: 366 employees
1/14/11 - Robin Manufacturing USA Inc.; Hudson; Engine Mfg; Closing: 29 employees
1/14/11 - Unified Solutions, Inc.; Pleasant Prairie; Packaging Services; Layoff: 228 employees
1/24/11 - Federal-Mogul Corporation; Schofield; Piston Ring Mfg; Closing: 183 employees
1/27/11 - Wisconsin Food Gift Company; Sun Prairie; Closing: 102 employees
1/27/11 - Quillin's Village; La Crosse; Grocery Store; Closing: 99 employees
1/31/11 - Aerial Company, Inc.; Marinette; Service; Layoffs: 77 employees
1/31/11 - Everbrite LLC; La Crosse; Sign Mfg; Closing: 9 employees
1/31/11 - Ruan Logistics Corporation; Eau Claire; Freight Trucking; Closing: 63 employees
2/16/11 - Portage Daily Register Div.; Madison; Newspaper; Layoff: 33 employees
2/25/11 - Zalk Josephs Fabricators; Stoughton; Fabricated Structural Metal Mfg; Layoff: 20 employees
3/3/11 - West Asset Management; Wausau; Collection Agencies; Layoff: 163 employees
3/3/11 - Ultra Mart Foods, dba Pick n' Save Foods; West Bend; Grocery Store; Closing: 96 employees
3/10/11 - JCPenney - Asset Recovery Center; Milwaukee; Mail Order Houses; Closing: 52 employees
3/14/11 - CSM Bakery Products; Oak Creek; Commercial Bakery; Closing: 100 employees
3/17/11 - Nice-Pak Products, Inc.; Green Bay; Sanitary Paper Product Mfg; Closing: 68 employees

The total of that list thus far is just over 2,200 jobs lost since the start of this year…

Keep in mind first that this list only includes companies that employ more than 100 workers, as those are the only ones that are legally required to notify the state of layoffs/closings in advance.  Second, remember that this list does NOT include all the jobs that will be lost due to both Talgo (the train manufacturer - link) and Invenergy (wind farm developer - link) who have both announced their plans to pull numerous jobs out of Wisconsin as a direct result of the policies/positions of Governor Scott Walker, not to even mention all the other rail-related employment (both construction and maintenance) that we lost when he rejected the $810 million in federal rail funding.  It also does not include the potential jobs that will be lost due to his planned school closings/mergings as well as the shutting down of public transit systems in various Wisconsin cities (such as my own, Sheboygan, which will likely be losing its bus lines, putting numerous drivers and other employees out of work - link.)  And we can't even begin to calculate the impact on those who depend on public transit to get to their jobs. Nor does it consider the planned $32 million cut in funds to statewide recycling programs (link) which will not only damage the environment but could potentially cost several thousand more jobs.

Hell…they’re even trying to abolish the positions of State Treasurer and Secretary of State here in Wisconsin (link). But then…those last two aren’t jobs they actually want to eliminate, they just want to get rid of the current citizen oversight (via election) on these two positions.

Treasurer Kurt Schuller summed up his reasons for theoretically wishing to abolish his own job, while he does admit that the work done by his office is important, "We don't elect a president of the DMV. There are many, many offices that are just handled administerally, and are serving the people of Wisconsin. This is one of those offices that can continue to do the good work that it does and does not need an elected constitutional officer to run it." (link) (Also, please note that "administerally" is not a word [see dictionary]- but then, I guess we should be used to republicans making up words by now, right?)

When he was candidate for the Governor’s office Walker often talked about the importance of “creating jobs”…who else assumed (apparently wrongly) that he meant here?




“When Scott Walker promised to create 250,000 jobs, I mistakenly assumed he meant in Wisconsin.  He’s certainly turning out to be a great neighbour.” ~ Illinois Senate President John Cullerton

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Hopper Doesn't Live Here Anymore...

Republican Randy Hopper was elected to represent District 18 in the Wisconsin State Senate back in 2008, by a margin of only 163 votes. This week, like every other Republican (but one, thank you Senator Schultz), Senator Hopper sided with Governor Scott Walker and voted “yes” on his polarizing “Budget Repair Bill”. As a result, he is one of those against whom there is currently a recall effort to try to remove him from office.

When a crowd of angry protestors showed up outside his Fond du Lac home in order to voice their displeasure at his vote and their support of the efforts to recall him, they were met by Hopper’s estranged wife, Alysia.

The soon-to-be-ex Mrs. Hopper informed the crowd that her estranged husband was no longer living in his former home with her and their two children in the district, but rather had moved into an apartment in Madison with his 25 year old mistress, Valerie Cass.  Ms. Cass, who now has a state job, had formerly worked as a lobbyist for a right-wing political consulting firm called “Persuasion Partners”, (http://www.persuasionpartners.com/) which coincidentally works with the Koch brothers funded “Americans for Prosperity”.  However, Cass left the firm when the news of her relationship with Hopper broke, and the company has since removed her name from their web site, but there was a screen shot of her bio taken before the site was scrubbed of all references to her...



Randy Hopper, (who served on the Senate Economic Development Committee, on which Cass did staff work for the ranking member), filed for divorce from his wife last August.  Sources say that the Hopper family maid has already signed the petition to recall Hopper and that his soon-to-be-ex-wife would be willing to sign the petition as well.


Sources:
http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Randy_Hopper
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/03/13/wi-repub-lives-outside-district-with-mistress-says-wife/
http://bloggingblue.com/2011/03/11/randy-hopper-family-man/
http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/2011/03/11/wi-gop-sen-randy-hoppers-wife-tells-protesters-hopper-living-with-25-year-old-mistress-in-madison/
http://www.recalltherepublican8.com/

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wisconsin Lost

Needless to say, I'm disgusted about what has happened in my state and the way that it was brought about.  I'm sure that after the initial shock wears off, I'll have more to say on the subject, but for right now, I just wanted to post two things, this video look at what the last few weeks in Wisconsin looked like...




And then this chart, which shows what this "budget crisis" is really all about...




Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Backup DNA?

See, this is the problem with Fox & Friends...

They're idiots.  Watch this video of them (falsely) reporting that the TSA is planning to start doing DNA testing on airline passengers.  Especially pay attention at around the 2:14 mark where you can hear this doofus Steve Doocy point out that swab DNA testing would be "easy to fake" because “all you gotta do is put someone else’s DNA in your mouth.”




I don't really want to think about how Mr. Doocy intends to get "someone else's DNA" inside his mouth, and I certainly don't want to think about what form that DNA might take.  The one clear thing is that this guy has absolutely NO understanding whatsoever how DNA works.  In fact, it is SUCH a ridiculous statement that even the amazingly silly blond bimbo on the set even uttered a shocked, "huh??" at the comment. 

Apparently, "fair and balanced" Fox News HAS since issued an apology for incorrectly reporting that the TSA was even considering actually doing this DNA testing, rather than for the idiocy of saying that you can "fake" a DNA test by having "someone else's DNA in your mouth". 

Is there no end to the idiocy of these fools?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Demands of Society

Recently I saw two opposing viewpoints that made me once again consider the strangeness of all the things that are happening here in my state and in the country as a whole. The first basically pointed out the incongruity that is plaguing our society when someone mentioned how completely bizarre it is that people who make over a million dollars a year have managed to convince people who make under $30,000 a year that the real problem in the country is because of people making $60,000 a year, rather than those making $60,000,000.

Somehow these billionaires have managed to convince the middle class (what’s left of it anyway) that since other workers aren’t getting screwed quite as badly as they are, that those fairing just a bit better are the enemy, rather than those doing the screwing (with solid gold screwdrivers).  The enemy isn't the fat cats...it's the nurses, and the teachers, the folks working on the garbage trucks and the snow plows, the EMTs and the clerical staff at government offices.  The problem is the children in need of education and the elderly and disabled in need of health care.

Someone I know recently wrote the following…
“To highlight the offensiveness to liberty that democracy and majority rule is, just ask yourself how many decisions in your life would you like to be made democratically. How about what car you drive, where you live, whom you marry, whether you have turkey or ham for Thanksgiving dinner? If those decisions were made through a democratic process, the average person would see it as tyranny and not personal liberty. Is it no less tyranny for the democratic process to determine whether you purchase health insurance or set aside money for retirement?”
In my opinion what this person fails to understand is that those decisions are already generally made by a majority rule (of sorts), UNLESS one either leads a solitary existence or already lives in tyranny. The decisions about what kind of car to drive, where to live, what to have for Thanksgiving dinner (or whether or not to even celebrate “Thanksgiving” for that matter) are generally made as a JOINT decision BY THOSE WHO WILL BE AFFECTED…so the questions in those examples would likely be decided by family consensus (between the husband and wife, parents and children, etc.), unless of course one lives in some sort of tyrannical household where only one person’s word is law (be that patriarchal or matriarchal) and other viewpoints are not considered…if that is the case, I’m so sorry for you. The decision about whom to marry is also generally made of consensus of varying sorts as well, first of all the couple themselves (we don’t have forced marriages after all, not anymore anyway)…the parents of both the bride and the groom are usually considered, as are any children the potential groom or bride may already have, or siblings and other family members and even friends in some cases are often consulted…again…THOSE WHO WILL BE AFFECTED.

When it comes to the question of health care and retirement, our society is far too compassionate and DECENT to just allow someone to simply die in the streets because they were foolish enough to NOT buy health insurance or properly prepare for their old age (or were somehow unable to do so). Therefore, since that society WILL end up footing the bill to care for you even if you didn’t care for yourself, this is a decision in which society as a whole WILL BE AFFECTED, so yeah…they get a say.

If folks don’t want to participate in a society in which people care for one another, but rather somehow believe that we're all just on our own and people SHOULD just be allowed to die in the streets if they didn’t properly prepare for their retirement, or didn’t have the means with which to pay exorbitant amounts of money to the multi-billion dollar insurance industry so they can get needed health care, then perhaps they should try moving to one of the third world states or some banana republic(an)…but I want America to be better than that.

Personally, I’m rather fond of civilization and want us to move forward to a better world and if folks are going to come along (which they just automatically WILL unless they choose to physically leave our society), I believe that society gets to demand a certain level of participation.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Quorum Denied

In the Illinois State Legislature in 1839 the Democrats had sponsored a bill requiring the state’s central bank to “make payments in gold or silver, rather than paper money.” The members of the Whig Party (the precursor of today’s Republicans) were strongly opposed to this measure (my…how things change…now it is the hard right folks like Beck calling for a return to the gold standard).

The chosen strategy of the Whigs to block the bill, as they did not have the votes to actually defeat the measure, was to stage a walkout in order to deny the Democrats the quorum necessary to vote on the bill. With the numeric breakdown of the Illinois Legislature at the time, two of the Whig members were able to be present and there still be no quorum, so two stayed in order to officially point out that there was no quorum.

However, the Democrats had managed to secretly bring in another Whig, thereby creating the necessary quorum. One of the two that had originally stayed actually literally jumped out the window of the state house in an attempt to block the vote.

That individual was to eventually become the first Republican President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.

Now that it is Democrats that are attempting to essentially do the exact same thing to the modern day “Party of Lincoln” here in Wisconsin (deny them a quorum) that Lincoln himself did to the Democrats in 1839, the Republicans want them literally arrested. I guess that means that they believe that Lincoln should have been dragged into the Illinois State house in handcuffs back then, as they would like to see with the “Wisconsin 14”?

Time and time again, the Republicans prove that hypocrisy is what they’re best at.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Citizens United

Back in January 2010, President Obama spoke in his State of the Union address about the damage that he believed the “Citizens United” ruling would do to our country and our democracy, to which most of the members of the Supreme Court just stoically listened. But one, Samuel Alito (whom I call “Scalito”…a miniaturized version of Scalia) had the nerve to shake his head in denial and mouth the words “that’s not true”…




Now, over a year later, it’s even starting to look like the Citizens United ruling may have actually been literally BOUGHT…




This corrupt ruling, which does EXACTLY what President Obama said that it would, has allowed the multi-billionaire Koch brothers and others like them, such as Peter G. Peterson – (who I write about here) and Ira Rennert (whom I discuss in this article - read it here), and numerous others like them to use fake organizations like “Americans for Prosperity”, “Club For Growth” “Tea Party Express” and “Freedom Works” to buy the most recent midterm election cycle. The obscene amounts of money that they pumped into the elections allowed their “Tea Party” crazies to take over state houses from Wisconsin to Ohio, from New Jersey to Minnesota.

Nationally, their deep pockets also allowed the GoP to take over the U.S. House of Representatives, bringing us to this place where they have defunded NPR, PBS, Planned Parenthood…basically any organization that anyone with a “(D)” after their name might think is doing good work, but whom republicans have notoriously hated. Currently the nation is still operating under threat of them shutting down our government completely (just like Gingrich and the rest of the republicans did back in 1995, which didn’t work out so well), though we have apparently bought a couple more weeks.

And on local levels their bought-and-paid-for Governors are now ready to do what their multi-billionaire financiers have always wanted, the destruction of organized labor, so that even MORE of the country’s wealth gets funneled to them as the middle class is even further decimated.  After all, it was the rise of organized labor that created the middle class in the first place, against the wishes of the robber-barons.  The unions are the very soul of the middle class and their decline is directly related to the rise of the earnings of the super-rich as everyone else's income flat-lines...see this article from CNN Money

The official propaganda mouthpiece of the Repubillionaires (my term for republican billionaires, sort of like “Brangelina” and “Benifer”, etc.), Faux...errr...FOX News even ran footage of a protest that they pretended was in Wisconsin when the footage clearly depicts palm trees and an obvious lack of the snow that currently blankets Madison, Wisconsin…





As this fight wages on, the Kochs and the other hard right Repubillionaires (along with the “Republican Governor’s Association” which is running a particularly dishonest ad, which I was unable to find video for) are still utilizing the Citizens United ruling to dump massive amounts of money into the matter as they currently blanket Wisconsin with a lot of completely inaccurate commercials in support of Scott Walker’s union destruction plan, like this pack of lies…



This spot calls the protestors “labor union mobs led by Barack Obama’s Organizing for America” and claims that they “are trying to intimidate and harass Governor Walker and lawmakers in Madison” when quite to the contrary, President Obama has pretty much stayed out of this matter (much to my chagrin, see my post On Wisconsin) and far from being “mobs” the City of Madison has publically thanked the protestors for their good behavior.  The police are even down on the line with the other protestors. In fact, a friend of mine who attended one day of the Madison protests told a story about meeting an older woman (old enough to have been protesting in the 60’s) who commented, “It’s incredible, after all my years of protesting, for the first time, me and the police are on the same side!”




The commercial then goes on to say that the president and public employee unions need to “grow up” and “knock off your selfish campaign of intimidation”. SELFISH?? Multi-billionaires who are hoarding almost all our nation’s wealth actually have the NERVE to call our nurses, teachers, EMTs, snow-plow drivers and other state workers SELFISH?

Kettle…have you met pot?

The FACT of the matter is that the “selfish” ones in this equation are the big money interests that want to make sure that they keep everything and we just keep quiet about having nothing. They use their big money to buy commercials to brainwash the common people into believing that making sure that the rich get richer and the rest get poorer is what’s best for the country, when in fact, that's only what is best for them. They’re cutting transportation funds, because the rich don’t need busses, and they’re cutting education funds, because they don’t want us educated, nor do they want us unionized…because ignorant and standing alone…? Well…we work cheaper that way.

Former Senator Russ Feingold (who I personally believe is the finest Senator I’ve seen in my adult lifetime), who had his Senate seat taken from him by one of those “Tea Party” candidates (a millionaire named Ron Johnson, who is now unfortunately my state’s Junior Senator), has written a wonderful piece called “The Second Gilded Age” which clearly spells out what is happening in Wisconsin (and the country) in relation to the current assault on worker’s rights, which he published at the website of an organization he founded called “Progressives United”…read it here.

I firmly believe that the Citizens United ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court was probably the most dangerous decision that has ever been handed down in the history of our nation…



…and I also believe that the surfacing evidence that certain members of the Court accepted money and other gifts/favors from the Repubillionaires (and therefore SHOULD have recused themselves) should get the matter reheard and overturned.

Here's hoping anyway...

Monday, February 28, 2011

Video Opinions



So today I've tried something new...rather than just put what I wanted to say in writing here on my blog, I used my recently aquired web cam (thanks Tai) and made a few short "op-ed" type video spots.  Sort of my own personal version of "The View"...after all, the location is my little "nest" in my bay window from which I view the world...




Anyway...here are my video experiments:






This one is the story of my conversation with one of Wisconsin's republican "Representatives"...


I'd be quite interested in hearing what folks think...


Friday, February 25, 2011

On Wisconsin

Back when he was campaigning for the White House, President Obama made the following statement:




I feel that in light of all that has been happening here in Wisconsin over the last two weeks, and considering the fascist nature of last night's "under cover of darkness" unexpected vote, (story, in case you hadn't heard) which lasted only a matter of seconds (SO short a time in fact that two republicans who meant to vote "yes" didn't even have THEIR votes counted - view that story)...I think that the time has come for the President to go into his closet, get out his basketball shoes and head over to Andrews. Once there, he needs to get on Air Force One - destination Madison, Wisconsin. Upon landing at the airport in Madison, he needs to step out the door of that airplane with his "comfortable shoes" in his hand as he waves them and says..."I'm here to fulfill my promise!"

Then he should head down to the capitol and stand with the workers of Wisconsin while he steps to the microphone and points out to the rest of the country that the union workers are NOT the enemy here!


The unions are not “trying to destroy the Middle Class" as Governor Christie of New Jersey tried to claim in a clip I saw last night. Instead, the unions are what CREATED the middle class. In actuality, it is (in my humble opinion at any rate) the current crop of oligarchs who are seeking to destroy the middle class through the destruction of organized labor (as they have wanted ever since the workers first had the audacity to organize rather than just accept the crumbs that dropped from the tables of the robber barons). Thank the unions for the minimum wage, the 40 hour workweek, holiday pay, health benefits, sick days, safety regulations and most of the other benefits that American workers currently enjoy.

Far from the “enemy” trying to take down the middle class, union workers ARE the soul of the "middle class" (or what's left of it anyway) just struggling to get by like the rest of us. They're our our family members, our neighbors, our friends...not this faceless 'enemy' that the far-right is trying to convince us that they are. They are NOT to blame for the budget problems that the Right has created. 

The true problem in this country is wealth disparity and the fact that the super-rich just hoard all the benefits that come from the hard work provided for them by the workers, while they move jobs overseas (yet remain supposedly "American" companies), refuse to pay reasonable taxes and just demand lower wages for workers, tax cuts for themselves, service and program cuts for the people, and deeper business deregulation that allows them to inflict even more damage on the people and the planet, all while their profit margins are at record levels...these are the true enemies of the middle class, and the country as a whole. 

It is no coincidence that the outrageous rise of the wealth of the super-rich is directly connected to the rise of the power of the Right and the decline of organized labor in this country (see the chart near the end of this post) which is, of course, their goal.  They are “capitalists” that want to privatize profits and socialize losses, as was proved recently with the bailouts in the financial services sector. When times are good, everything is theirs, when things are not so good, they want to spread the loss around and expect tax cuts, subsidies and bailouts along with calls for the middle class to "sacrifice".  Well, when do they have to sacrifice?  There seems to be aboslutely no end to their greed.

The enemies that are destroying the middle class are not the teachers, nor the nurses, nor the EMTs. They're neither the snow plow drivers nor the garbage men. If you're looking for the enemy here...for what is truly destroying the middle class, one need look no further than the likes of the Koch brothers (New Yorker Story / Koch-Suckers), Ira Rennert (whom I discussed in a previous posting – read it here), Peter G. Peterson (my post on him), and their ilk.  People like the Walton family that saw their ancestor, Sam Walton, create an empire based on the principles of “buy American” but then forced manufacturing to get outsourced to Asia in order to improve their profit margin (even “All-American” manufacturers like Levi Strauss and Radio Flyer). The oil companies making obscene, record profits while still getting subsidies from the U. S. Government.  The hedge-fund traders and bankers that create absolutely nothing but spend outrageous amounts of cash via a Right-wing money machine that spends millions on advertising by groups like Citizens United, Americans for Prosperity, The Cato Institute, The Club for Growth, the Heritage Foundation, and even the Chamber of Commerce (among numerous others) in support of political campaigns that will work to their personal advantage (and in most cases in direct opposition to the best interests of the majority of the people).

These groups used a flawed Supreme Court ruling, which it's starting to look like they also bought…


This ruling allowed the multi-Billionaires to inject millions of dollars into the last election in order to brainwash the middle class of this country…to convince the American people to vote against their own best interests in favor of the best interests of the multi-billionaires that are trying to destroy them and turn them into nothing but the peasant class that is here to serve them and help them get richer while we stay FAR beneath...where we belong (in their self-important minds at any rate).

How the Middle Class became the underclass -
http://money.cnn.com/2011/02/16/news/economy/middle_class/index.htm


And maybe after we stop them from destroying organized labor, perhaps we can do something about the rest of the horrors that are in this "budget repair bill" that will allow this corrupt republican administration to slash health care for children, seniors and the disabled as well as allowing the GOP to sell off valuable assets (like our state's power plants) to private corporations without bids and make deep funding cuts to education and transportation that will probably cost my city our public transit system (story - after all, what do rich people care about busses?  They'd never actually lower themselves enough to ride one).  The time has come to stop the oligarchs, before it's too late...and President Obama needs to stand with us, like he said he would.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Collective Bargaining

A few different news stories here in Wisconsin have me extremely concerned when taken in conjunction with one another…

On Friday, the AFL-CIO began mobilizing to stand against Governor Walker’s newly released, draconian proposal (http://www.620wtmj.com/news/local/115926614.html) to remove the collective bargaining rights of state workers (other than the police, fire and State Patrol employees…curiously the same unions that supported his election...MERE coincidence, I’m sure). http://policelink.monster.com/news/articles/150697-wi-government-workers-miffed-about-police-contract-exemptions




That same day, Walker made it known that he was willing to mobilize the National Guard to deal with potential repercussions to this proposal. (link)

There are currently walk outs being planned at schools all across the state and a large rally being planned for tomorrow in Madison (link). For this two day event, the organizers (AFT-W) will be bussing people in from Milwaukee, Racine, Eau Claire, LaCrosse, Wausau, Green Bay/De Pere/Appleton, Manitowoc, and eight other cities throughout the state.

Perhaps it’s just the natural worrier in me, but these stories taken together seem to me to be a potential disaster just waiting to happen and are currently conjuring up recollections of the events at Kent State University…hopefully I’m worrying for nothing, but frankly, I put nothing past Scott Walker.

As far as I see things this whole crop of recently elected “tea party” republicans (Scott Walker, Ron Johnson, etc.) are nothing but tools put in place to further benefit the multi-billionaires. As I mentioned in a previous posting (link) I have a serious problem with that term and concept. When I was a young child, for someone to be a “millionaire” was a VERY big deal! But then suddenly, it wasn’t that big a deal anymore to be a millionaire, because there were “multi-millionaires”, which was a REALLY big deal. But then suddenly, that wasn’t that big a deal anymore either, because there were now “Billionaires”…which was absolutely AMAZING!  But, then yet again suddenly even that wasn’t such a big deal anymore, because now there are “multi-billionaires”, and as far as I see it, most of them are pretty disgusting. Folks like Mubarak who is going to leave his impoverished nation with a personal fortune in excess of $80 billion; Bernie Madoff, rightfully serving a prison term; the Koch brothers; Peter G. Peterson and Ira Rennert both of whom I’ve written about before; just to name a few that immediately pop into my mind.

These multi-billionaires used the “Citizens United” ruling to let them make unlimited anonymous contributions into the federal election process, setting up phony “foundations” like “Americans for Prosperity”, the “Peter G. Peterson Foundation”, etc. which allowed them to effectively buy the most recent election (and we have recently come to learn that it seems that the multi-billionaires pretty much bought the ruling itself as well - click here) and seemingly all to ensure that they don't have to pay the 39% in taxes that they had to during the prosperous Clinton years.  Further, if Congressman Ryan and his "Republican Roadmap" gets their way, that figure would drop to a mere 26%...because that is when they would finally really create all those jobs that they were promising all through the Bush years if only we gave them those cuts.

I read a very interesting article today in "The Nation" entitled "How to Build a Progressive Tea Party" (read it here) that started out with a very intriguing concept. It begins:
"Imagine a parallel universe where the Great Crash of 2008 was followed by a Tea Party of a very different kind. Enraged citizens gather in every city, week after week—to demand the government finally regulate the behavior of corporations and the superrich, and force them to start paying taxes. The protesters shut down the shops and offices of the companies that have most aggressively ripped off the country."

"Instead of the fake populism of the Tea Party, there is a movement based on real populism. It shows that there is an alternative to making the poor and the middle class pay for a crisis caused by the rich. It shifts the national conversation. Instead of letting the government cut our services and increase our taxes, the people demand that it cut the endless and lavish aid for the rich and make them pay the massive sums they dodge in taxes."
Yes….Imagine…

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Commercialized Racism?

On Sunday, February 6th Pepsi Max ran a commercial during the Super Bowl that has started a bit of a shit-storm. As I generally enjoy weighing in during shit storms, I’ve decided to chime in on this issue.

The commercial in question involves a wife who is acting out in various negative ways regarding her husband’s bad eating habits. He tries to hide from her to engage in unhealthy eating but she finds him every time. Then he tries to hide in the park to enjoy a can of Pepsi Max and suddenly his wife is at his side, also drinking it. He is surprised to learn that Pepsi Max is “zero calories, maximum taste”. Then a pretty girl jogs up and flirts with him and he smiles back. The wife throws the Pepsi Max at him, but he ducks and it hits the pretty jogger instead, knocking her out. The couple is shocked and they hold hands and slink off together as the wife mumbles an apology at the unconscious jogger. (Note, I would have embedded the video here, but embedding is not allowed on this one, so here is the link to view it if you wish: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y09z8lwOEYA&feature=related)

When I saw this commercial, the above narrative is how I viewed it. The races of the individuals in this spot were completely irrelevant to my viewing (in fact, once the furor started, I was surprised and I even viewed the commercial again so I could see the races of the people involved, as I hadn’t even really NOTICED the first time through).

But there is now a “petition” going around which is urging people to “boycott Pepsi” because of the “racist” ad that they ran, (http://www.change.org/petitions/boycott-pepsi---racist-superbowl-commercial-stereotypes-black-women#comments) and PepsiCo was even condemned from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee…



Like the furor over editing the “N-word” out of the Mark Twain classic, (http://arismusings.blogspot.com/2011/01/editing-n-word.html) I feel that this is political correctness run amok.  This commercial wasn’t about an “angry black woman” it was about a woman who happened to be black, getting angry at her husband for smiling at a flirtatious pretty girl.  It would have been just as funny had the races been reversed.  I honestly fail to see the point in making this huge deal out of it other than calling attention to the hypersensitivity which is, in my opinion, a contributing factor to us NOT being able to move past the racial issue in this country.  To me, the ideal is for race to be completely irrelevant, an individual's race not even a consideration...not this hypersensitivity that we're currently experiencing.

If leaders of the African American community want to make a stink about injustice, there’s plenty of REAL injustice for them to rail against, like the lack of jobs and education in the inner-city African American communities, like the wealth disparity that is destroying the middle-class in this country, like the fact that “experts” are saying that in order to fix our nation’s fiscal crisis the “American people need to know that cuts in entitlements are necessary” rather than making the billionaires pay a larger percentage of their obscene fortunes.  The serious problems in this country are NOT about “black and white” anymore…they’re about “rich and poor” and the “black/white” fight is really just a distraction to keep the working class separated and fighting amongst ourselves...to keep our focus off the oligarchs that are our true (common) enemy.

I’m getting SO sick of smoke and mirrors.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The National Anthem

As most people in this country know by now, whether they watched the game or not, Christina Aguilera screwed up the lyrics while singing the Star Spangled Banner at Sunday's Super Bowl. http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/06/aguilera-flubs-national-anthem/

This subject has been being discussed on news programs (and likely around office water coolers) for three days now, and today, the ladies on my favorite TV show discussed it in "Hot Topics".  (For those who are not regular readers and don't know my favorite show, feel free to look at previous posts like http://arismusings.blogspot.com/2011/01/editing-n-word.html; http://arismusings.blogspot.com/2010/12/i-am-having-weirdest-day.html; and http://arismusings.blogspot.com/2010/07/presidential-view.html)

Once again I have learned that Whoopi Goldberg and I are in complete agreement.  I have long been saying that I much prefer "America the Beautiful" to the "Star Spangled Banner" and feel it would be far more fitting a national anthem for our country.  I much prefer the tribute to the beauty of our great country put forth in "America the Beautiful" than the glorification of war that is the focus of our national anthem.  Of course everyone knows the first verse of "America the Beautiful", we all learn it in school...but very few people know more than that.  In fact, America the Beautiful has four verses and one of them does reflect the honor the country has for those who fight for her...



Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Another Fitzgerald...

Governor Scott Walker has appointed the father of his closest political cronies, the Fitzgerald brothers (see my previous blog post on these two - http://arismusings.blogspot.com/2010/11/brothers-grim.html), to be the new head of the Wisconsin State Patrol (at an annual salary of $105,678).

Steven Fitzgerald, who is now 68 years old, had tried to run in this past election cycle to attempt to regain his old position as Dodge County Sheriff, but was defeated by a 2-to-1 margin in the Republican primary by the current Sheriff, Todd Nehls. While Fitzgerald was serving as the Dodge County Sheriff back on April 28, 1995, one of his deputies shot and killed Scott Bryant when SWAT kicked in the door of his Beaver Dam home after finding marijuana seeds and stems in his trash. The 28 year old Bryant, who was unarmed and did not resist in any way, died in front of his seven year old son. The county ended up having to pay $950,000 to Bryant’s family to settle for the wrongful death.

According to reports, five current officials at the State Patrol were passed over in order to name Fitzgerald to this post. Those officials are the current Superintendent David Collins, Col. Ben Mendez, Maj. Sandra Huxtable, Maj. Darren Price and Maj. Daniel Lonsdorf.


Sources:
http://www.wisn.com/news/26792106/detail.html
http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_5dbcb93c-3394-11e0-8091-001cc4c03286.html
http://www.examiner.com/norml-in-madison/father-of-top-wisconsin-lawmakers-gets-top-state-patrol-job
http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-69596120.html
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-backroom/743827/posts

Friday, February 4, 2011

Socialism?

I fear I may be becoming a Socialist.

I was watching the news this morning and they were talking about the state of the American economy. They were discussing the fact that although the official unemployment rate has dropped to 9%, implying things are improving, only 36,000 new jobs were created in January. They didn't mention at all the likelihood that the drop in the unemployment rate with that low a number of jobs created was more likely simply a result of people no longer qualifying for unemployment benefits, rather than any genuine improvement.

An economist mentioned that although American businesses “have stopped firing, they have not started hiring.” He then said that although business is more profitable than ever and the Dow keeps rising, businesses are not committing to actually hire employees, they’re depending on temps and overtime instead. I know that a friend recently told me that this is exactly what’s happening at his company. They’re using mandatory overtime to work their employees to near breaking point and bringing in temps…but not hiring.

On Wall Street, which the American taxpayers bailed out, the huge profitability and bonuses are back, but do you honestly think that AIG and the others are ever going to REALLY show their gratitude to the people of this country that has been SO good to them? Of course not…they’re too greedy for that.

The wealthy sit their in their ostentatious mansions and squawk about how they can’t possibly pay the tax rate that they paid during the prosperous Clinton years when the entire country was doing fantastically…in fact, they don’t even want to pay the reduced rate that they paid under Bush and then extorted Obama (with threats of removal of tax cuts for people that actually NEED them and refusal of unemployment benefit extensions which would have caused an even deeper depression) to keep. If the uber-rich had their way, their rate would drop to the 26% being advocated by Congressman Paul Ryan (R – WI), author of the Republican “Road Map” for America (which my republican congressman recently tried to deny to my face even is the position of the Republican Party), and if we'd only give them THAT tax break they really WOULD create all the jobs that they promised in order to get the cuts in the first place.  You know...all those jobs that didn't materialize all during the Bush years while they were crashing our economy.

I see people like Peter G. Peterson (http://arismusings.blogspot.com/2010/11/who-in-fuck-is-peter-g-peterson.html) and the other multi-billionaires (that’s a term that I don’t think I’ve ever used before...it used to be almost unheard of to be a “multi-Millionaire, then it was completely unheard of for a single individual to be a Billionaire, but not anymore) and I literally feel physically sick. All of this ostentatious, literally obscene wealth has just gone too damn far and I’m definitely coming to the conclusion that there needs to be some leveling.

For example, let’s take the case of Ira Rennert. I bet you may even be thinking (like with Peterson), who the fuck is Ira Rennert? Well…I’ll tell you...

Ira Rennert is a 76 year old man who amassed a multi-billion dollar fortune through trading “junk bonds” (he worked and trained with criminal Michael Milken and took over the trade when Milken went down in scandal, defaulting on over $1 billion in bond debt) and cannibalizing companies that were going through hard times. I actually find myself curious if the utterly despicable character of “Gordon Gekko” is based on him. It’s certainly based on someone exactly like him.



Rennert’s company, Renco, is one of the nation’s largest privately held empires and has amassed significant holdings in many industries, including mining and metals, lead smelters, coal mines, magnesium producers and vehicle assembly lines (thank him for the gas guzzling “Hummer”). Apparently profiting off companies that rape the earth is no problem for Ira. His personal fortune is estimated to be $20.3 billion.

Ira Rennert and his wife live on an estate that is larger than most luxury hotels. Their “home”, named “Fairfield” in Sagaponack, NY is set on 63 acres, has ocean frontage and is valued at over $190,000,000. The buildings total over 110,000 square feet with 66,000 of that being in the main house which includes 29 bedrooms, 39 bathrooms, a $150,000 hot tub and a formal dining room that is 91 feet long. The grounds also include three swimming pools, two tennis courts, two squash courts, a basketball court, a bowling alley, and a private theater which seats 164.


The couple does have three children, but they do not live at the estate. Ira reportedly gave his two daughters matching apartments on Park Avenue in Manhattan that cost over $30 million each. So other than staff, this tremendously huge place is occupied by TWO people. In addition to this palace, the Rennerts also own their own Park Avenue duplex as well as a home in Israel and a private Gulfstream jet.

The annual taxes on this monstrosity in 2007 were only $397,559.

Personally, I believe that if someone is going to live like THIS, the annual taxes on such a thing should be a hell of a lot more than only $398,000 a year. This kind of obscene ostentation should be discouraged…no one NEEDS to live like this. I would be ASHAMED to live like this.

Which brings me back to the premise upon which I started writing this entry…I think I’m starting to become a socialist. I desperately want to start seeing some things equalize in this country. This is NOT supposed to be the era of the “robber barons” who get to amass this kind of repugnant wealth on the backs of the people doing all the actual work while the workers suffer in squalor. America is becoming more and more like a third world country every day in terms of disparity of wealth and I find it completely unacceptable.

I’m so tired of seeing good, decent, kind, hardworking people struggling by with next to nothing while people like the Rennerts and the Petersons just keep sucking all the lifeblood out of the middle class for their own enrichment, and constantly whining that it’s not enough. No amount would ever be enough for the likes of them.

I’m starting to think that it’s time to start seriously leveling the playing field. Personally, I'd like to start by turning multi-billionaires into just billionaires and having the property taxes on places like Fairfield be at least $1 million.

I just wish I knew how to make it so.