Monthly Archives: May 2012

Minimum Wage = Maximum Rage

Check out the above graphic. A week only has 168 hours total, including sleep time and weekends. Let’s say that the average person needs a bare minimum average of 6 hours of sleep each night, that would subtract 42 hours so 168 – 42= 126 waking hours available to work. Continue reading

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The Republican Brain – the podcast

Chris Mooney has written a book The Republican Brain, that is getting a lot of attention. I have not gotten a chance to read it yet, but it is on my short list. Mooney is a journalist who takes a special interest in psychology and ideology. He has studied the studies and comes up with some interesting findings – they support the principles from which this blog is founded, mostly picked up from the work of George Lakoff. He supports the values based approach of communication. Mooney does a pretty good job of being respectful, conversational, and realistic when talking about academics – I’ve included a podcast from him below.

“Arguing facts when the divide is about values doesn’t work” Mooney says (start listening around 29min – 31 for a good explanation of this). Think about news sources you actually trust; the news is relevantbecause of that trust, it would be irrelevant without it. When you hear an unbelievable news story cited, the first thing you want to know is “who says so?”, so that you can determine whether or not it is information to believe.

The recording is rather long so I will give you the very shortened version of the Cliff’s notes. Conservatives and Liberals tend to self select stories that support ideas they already believe in, however, liberals are much more willing to accept new information and be open to change. Liberals relish nuance, conservatives crave decisiveness. Liberals are messier, conservatives want order. Mooney talks about belonging to a club of sorts, and how the language we use philosophically indicates what club we’re in. If we can avoid that language, we are more likely to keep minds and doors open to change destructive ways.

The podcast is about fifty minutes, so if you have some drive time or similar – it’s an interesting discussion for armchair political scientists. If you want to hear some of the meat, hit it at about 29 minutes, then try again around 41 minutes for a bit of advice on how to connect from the perspective of a secular group. Here is the piece –  Chris Mooney Center for Inquiry The Republican Brain.

The bottom line is emotion. Everyone first thinks with their emotions. Those politicians that connect on that level will do better than those that don’t. These could be fear based or positive, but nuance and facts are still not winning elections. It is not against liberal values to show emotion, to show passion for what you believe in, even in the case of atheists. We can all find our moral code and work on a language to talk about it honestly and connect with folks no matter their political stripe.

We live in dynamic political times, you never know what meme will catch on – maybe it will be one that you created. Make it one of values, make it count.

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Listen…A Giant Sucking Sound

Ross was right. Ross Perot was right.

1992 was my first presidential election as an eligible voter. I was engaged and trying to figure out where my value system fell and what I believed in. I was already tired of the two party system and could not understand why we continued to have one. I was excited that Ross Perot was running as a somewhat viable third party candidate even though I didn’t know a lot about him. I voted for him.

Today, I am not sure that I would do anything differently knowing what I do. He certainly had one part right, the “giant sucking sound”. He explains:

Economics is not my forté, but Perot put’s things in a frame I can understand. When we take away the levies that keep our wages high, we are going to find a lowest common denominator of a wage along with the rest of the globe. American business is motivated by money to forget about everything but the bottom line – no worker considerations, no health and safety practices, no carbon counting. If Americans want those bothersome things to be considered – fine – but then industry will simply no longer be American.

The 1% and the global corporations that prop them up are taking American workers down a few notches. We (the masses) got a little full of ourselves, kind of empowered, and had a bit too much extra spending money for their comfort. We’ve had our heydey (hope you were alive/enjoyed the 1950s), and now it’s time to return to serfdom (that’s mid-evil speak for a life of servitude to another).

The 1% would prefer it if you were born into poverty, were desperate for the most basic survival essentials (we are so much less mouthy about government when we are focused on being cold and hungry), and weren’t aware of opportunities for expression or liberty (they take up too much time in which you could have been making a profit for them).

I don’t remember a whole lot about that campaign season but I do remember this quip about the giant sucking sound and the point about NAFTA. Ross was right. He may or may not have been a decent President, but he predicted what is happening now. The value of human life and livelihood is nil to the 1%ers. American values of freedom, democracy, expression, and the idea of the commons are being squeezed out in favor of the value of capitalism. What’s the big deal about values? They’re everything. Without American values, we are just a bunch of people at the mercy of those that can bully us.

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Job Fail

As mentioned, I have spent the last few days on vacation. While there I got to do something I rarely do these days which is to read a fiction book from cover to cover in a few days. For this selection I chose a Tom Robbins book I haven’t read – it wasn’t recommended, I just got it at some sale a while back – the book is Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas.

It was amusing enough to hold my interest, I can’t really recommend it for great reading but there were several parts that really did intrigue me – especially because the copyright is eighteen years old and several of the ideas seem extremely contemporary (like the instability of the stock market system and how it’s being gamed by insiders).  I’d like to cite a passage here describing the lecture of the antagonist – a former stock broker star:

… in our society, jobs are an aberration, a flash in the pan…People have always worked, he explains, but they have only held jobs – with wages and employees and vacations and pink slips – for a very short time. And now, with the proliferation of cybernetics and robotics and automation of all types and degrees, jobs are on the way out again. In the context of history, jobs have been but a passing fancy.

Nowadays, he would have you believe, the state uses jobs, or rather the illusion of jobs as a mechanism for control. When there is a public outcry about some particularly vile instance of deforestation, wreckage, or pollution, the “pufftoads” hasten to justify the environmental assault by trumpeting the jobs it allegedly will save or create – and then the protests fade like the rustle of a worn dollar bill. Foreign policy decisions, including illegal and immoral acts of armed intervention, likewise are made acceptable, even popular, on the grounds that such actions are necessary to protect American jobs. Virtually every candidate for public office in the past seventy years has campaigned with the rubber worm of “more jobs” dangling from his or her rusty hook, and the angler with the most lifelike worm snags the votes, even though all voters except the cerebrally paralyzed must recognize that there are going to be fewer and fewer jobs as time – and technology – progresses.

I kept checking the date on this book. This is fiction from 1994.

Jobs are the magical trump card that politicians reach for time and again. Jobs are why we can’t say goodbye to destructive industry, jobs are why we rally at the advent of every new product – no matter the quality or usefulness. Jobs are why we can’t focus on health, safety, or the environment. Jobs are why our military has any civilian support; our military has become a bastion of the job based economy. Without the relatively superior pay and benefits, our all volunteer military would certainly dwindle to a fraction of its size. The military knows that a dependable, high quality work force is impossible without basic benefits of insurance, health, home security, education, retirement plans, and clear working contracts. For all that the military has not gotten right, the one thing it does get right is providing the basics for their employees and their families.

What “job” means in America is a package deal of temporary security – that could possibly lead to longer term security (but the likelihood of that constantly wanes). If someone has a “job” they have a position of usefulness secured for pay, as well as some other securities like the promise of more regular work, a semblance of safe conditions, reasonable shift lengths, healthcare options, retirement plans, building a knowledge or credibility base, as well as a social network of those in similar situations as yourself.  What has happened is that the previously agreed upon social contract of security and longevity is now void. With a global economy, American workers now compete with companies that have built their policy on not providing workers with safe and secure conditions for the short or long term. Our system of distribution and an assembly line that wraps around the globe means that tracing inhumane treatment is a lost cause for the average consumer. The likelihood that some of the workers that processed our food, clothing, shelter, retail goods, and even medical goods were mistreated or forced to work in substandard situations is extremely high. The American workforce has simply joined the legion of mistreated and exploited international workers in a globalized economy.

If we want a permanent solution to our own short term and long term security, our country must establish a minimum standard of living – kind of like the military did for an entry level recruit with a family. If someone goes through life trying, working, contributing to society, they should be able to afford a minimum standard of living – one that allows for dignity in our food, shelter, health, liberties, and pursuits of happiness. We know how to do it – the military is a part of our government – we just have to find the voice to claim that being American means having dignity and compassion, it means that we care about “strangers” because we have humane American standards.

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Mixed Bag: Chinese Electronics, Ghost Town Detroit, Propaganda, Norquist

On this last day of my respite this week, I’ll just share some of the stories that have caught my eye even though I’m not at full attention. I’ll be back on Monday.

Fake Chinese Electronics Used in Military Aircraft from Huffington Post

Almost one million fake electronic parts from China have been found in US military aircraft. A report by the US Senate Armed Services committee found 1,800 individual cases of counterfeit electronic parts being used in military hardware…

More than 70% of the parts were eventually traced to China, after passing through a “complex supply chain”, often involving multiple vendors.

…According to one witness quoted in the report, factories of up to 15,000 people have been set up “for the purpose of counterfeiting”.Failure of any one of these parts could put national security at risk, the report said…

Detroit Going Dark from Bloomberg

Detroit, whose 139 square miles contain 60 percent fewer residents than in 1950, will try to nudge them into a smaller living space by eliminating almost half its streetlights.

As it is, 40 percent of the 88,000 streetlights are broken and the city, whose finances are to be overseen by an appointed board, can’t afford to fix them. Mayor Dave Bing’s plan would create an authority to borrow $160 million to upgrade and reduce the number of streetlights to 46,000. Maintenance would be contracted out, saving the city $10 million a year.

Other U.S. cities have gone partially dark to save money, among them Colorado Springs; Santa Rosa, California; and Rockford, Illinois. Detroit’s plan goes further: It would leave sparsely populated swaths unlit in a community of 713,000 that covers more area than Boston, Buffalo and San Francisco combined. Vacant property and parks account for 37 square miles (96 square kilometers), according to city planners.

“You have to identify those neighborhoods where you want to concentrate your population,” said Chris Brown, Detroit’s chief operating officer. “We’re not going to light distressed areas like we light other areas.”…

The co-owner of a U.S. defense contractor that specializes in Information Operations admitted on Thursday to trying to discredit two USA Today journalists with an online smear campaign.

“I take full responsibility for having some of the discussion forums opened and reproducing their previously published USA TODAY articles on them,” Camille Chidiac, the minority owner of Leonie Industries and its former president, said in a statement.

“I recognize and deeply regret that my actions have caused concerns for Leonie and the U.S. military. This was never my intention. As an immediate corrective action, I am in the process of completely divesting my remaining minority ownership from Leonie.”

Tom Vanden Brook and Ray Locker reported in February on “dubious, costly” propaganda campaigns carried out by contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. The reporters noted that Leonie Industries was awarded a contract from the Department of Defense, even though the company’s owners owed at least $4 million in federal taxes.

Leonie Industries is a relatively small company that specializes in cyber operations, intelligence analysis, psychological operations, and counter-IED explosives operations. The company said that due to the owner’s financial troubles, they were unable to fulfill their “personal tax obligations on time,” but have since been “faithfully paying their tax liabilities through installment plans.”

After reporting on the company, the two journalists were targeted by a online disinformation campaign apparently meant to destroy their reputation. Fake Twitter and Facebook accounts were created in their name, along with websites that purported to be owned and operated by them. Comments quickly sprung up on message boards, Yahoo! answers, Wikipedia, and blogs criticizing the two reporters’ investigation of Leonie Industries. Some comments even suggested the two journalists worked for the Taliban….

Grover’s grip may be loosening.

A small but increasingly vocal group of freshman Republicans are publicly rejecting the idea they are beholden to Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform pledge for their entire congressional careers.

One such member, Scott Rigell of Virginia, has openly rejected the pledge, explaining on his website that it would prevent Congress in some cases from eliminating corporate loopholes or government subsidies because those changes would have to be revenue-neutral. The math, he said, just doesn’t make sense.

And Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) told the Los Angeles Times he wouldn’t be signing the pledge again — or any pledge for that matter — not because he wants to raise taxes but because he wants to close certain loopholes to help pay down the deficit.

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) scoffed at the idea the pledge was some sort of blood oath. A number of other offices of freshman members told POLITICO their bosses had sworn oaths to do what was best for their districts, not Americans for Tax Reform.

“I signed that thing in the desert of Afghanistan,” West said in an interview. “I got home and they wanted me to sign again during my campaign, and I wouldn’t, and Grover started yelling at my campaign manager. Grover is a nice guy, but I think he’s a little misguided.”

“I don’t care if he has my name on his website, it’s meaningless,” West added. “I think my voting record speaks for itself.”

The tax pledge has long been a litmus test for any conservative who wants to be taken seriously in a Republican primary. That some newcomers are repudiating it lends support to critics who argue the document is more valuable as a campaign tool than a guidepost for governing.

Norquist insists he’s not bothered by any hedging on the part of the freshmen.

“I don’t lie awake at night thinking any of these characters are going to vote for a tax increase,” Norquist said. “The leadership is not going to bring it up. All but six Republicans in the House have signed the pledge and they have a 25-vote margin. It’s a moot point.”

But the slip in devotion, however slight, is notable considering how strong a hold the pledge has had over the GOP.

A handful of other freshman members privately told POLITICO they had been struggling with their ATR pledge signatures, as they felt it had become clear the pledge was a hindrance to certain tax reforms they’d like to see happen.

Some members aren’t backing off the pledge, but when asked about it, their offices didn’t glow with praise for Norquist.

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