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... 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 -

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 ( 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).

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."

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:

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, ( 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, ( 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 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.

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;; and

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 -, 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.


Friday, February 4, 2011


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 ( and the other multi-billionaires (that’s a term that I don’t think I’ve ever used 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.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Even with the amazing numbers that are turning out in the streets of Cairo in protest, Mubarak still refuses to step down and seems to hope that making “reforms” will be enough to calm the people. It seems to me that it is WAY too late for that.

As far as I see it, Secretary Clinton needs to tell Mubarak that he absolutely must do the following things:

Get rid of Omar Suleiman who was named the nation’s new Vice President since Mubarak dissolved Egypt’s cabinet on Friday. This hated man who headed up the Egyptian version of the CIA and helped the United States with the “extraordinary rendition” (read “torture”) program that helped launch the US invasion of Iraq was a TERRIBLE choice. Mubarak should replace Suleiman immediately and name Mohammed El Baradei to head the transition which will include free, fair, and internationally monitored elections. These elections will take place in the VERY near future (PERHAPS it can wait till the regularly scheduled election in September if the PEOPLE are willing to settle for that, which will have to remain to be seen). The United States needs to inform this dictator (whom we have been helping and supporting, much to our shame) that he needs to then STEP DOWN.

We need to tell him that if he does not do these things, the United States will immediately withdraw ALL support that we give to Egypt (the US currently provides over $1.3 Billion in aid to Egypt, second only to Israel in American aid). On the other hand, if he does do this, we will provide escort to make sure that he and his family can get out of Egypt alive (assuming they can find a country that will take them…perhaps Mubarak should start asking around?).