Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Fix It Yourself

one of several new inlets

Mr. Perry vows to make the Federal Government invisible when he gets to the White House.  My guess is that this pledge will not include our overseas military footprint, nor will the Federal Government be invisible to women in need of medical services.  Minorities will also notice the Federal Government.  But how about folks like those living on Hatteras Island.  Think you could get your shovel and fix this, Mr. Randian Superman?  It's a certainty your Randian brothers--the ones who don't live on Hatteras--will not come to your aid.  Solidarity is not in the Randian dictionary, and even if it was, you simply can't get to Hatteras any more: the church bus will not float across the Pamlico.  In Raleigh, our Governor had to argue that since folks on the Outer Banks pay taxes, they deserve to have their roads repaired.  That's a pretty simple equation, and one that used to go without saying.  After all, it's not like the Outer Baniks don't contribute a lot to the economy (although making that point immediately takes us to a slippery slope).  I'd at least like to hear what OBX Randians are saying this week.

While we're at it, let's hope the next hurricane flattens Rush Limbaugh's Florida estate.  His message this week--that Irene wasn't a disaster and that it was just the usual liberal news media hyping a situation requiring big government intervention--is about as close to the can't trust your lying eyes argument as it gets.  What's going on is a strategy.  Since it's pretty much impossible for everyone to actually be in a disaster area at the same time, that is, disaster victims are always a minority of us, why not diminish them and the whole idea of a disaster.  Because the problem with a disaster is, it requires a large solution--something a Federal Government has the ability to provide.  If we can just reduce the capability for people to feel empathy, we'll keep more money for ourselves.  And so they toil on.  Talk about exposing children to pornography. 

Mr. Paul referred to the Galveston Hurricane of 1903 the other day.  We didn't have no big gubment intervention back then, he said.  Yet somehow Galveston survived.  What a load.  Check out the fine book "Issac's Storm" for the details of that disaster.  One part of gubment we didn't have was good weather forecasting.  Spanish weather folks on Cuba, which we'd just conquered a couple of years before '03, told our folks that the storm was going to go straight across the Gulf.  Our folks brushed their cautions aside, believing that hurricanes always turn north at Florida.  After the disaster, which killed over 6,000 people, they had to burn funeral pyres.  Free whiskey was passed out to the survivors to help them cope.  That is gubment you can drown in a bath tub.  

It's about time we started seeing the Right Wing for what it is.  A radical anarchical program aimed at destroying the country we've slowly created since them thar good old days that never were.  The fact that this program is conceived by venal and shockingly stupid people doesn't mean it can't succeed.  Ms Rand, after all, succeeded in becoming a best-selling third rate philosopher, and they made a movie of one of her bad novels which starred the very good actor Gary Cooper, and the very good actress Patricia Neal.  What will follow the Tea Party success, however, is an utter unknown.  Just because you blow something up doesn't mean whatever replaces it will be better in some sense.  And if you have any doubts about that, do some more reading.  About the French Revolution, and about Stalin.  Rick Perry?  He's the beast, slouching towards Golgotha to be born.  And right now he's leading the race, rolling down hill like a snowball headed for hell, as a better philosopher than Ms Rand once aptly put it.

(I made some additions to this post on 9/1/11.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

& how do you like your blue eyed boy

Jimmy Roland

Way back when, I thought I ought to try out for the highschool baseball team.  I rode my bicycle over to the field near the highschool, and signed up.  They were doing batting tryouts, and pitching was Jimmy Roland.  He, together with a kid named Jimmy Hussey, were the two star pitchers of my youth.  Eventually I got my turn at the plate.  Jimmy threw me curve after curve.  They probably weren't the really serious curves he could throw by then, and certainly he wasn't the major league lefthander he became a few years later, pitching for the Twins and the Yankees and several other teams for a nice long major league career.  Jimmy wasn't quite Catfish Hunter--maybe Catfish is the most stellar NC pitcher in the firmament--but Jimmy, he was damn good.  You know how highschool is, maybe.  If you leave home, those people, who were your universe, mostly disappear on their various trajectories, never to be seen again, or at least not until way later (like now, dude), when your 50th Reunion is coming atcha.

Like one of Jimmy's curves.  So I kept jumping back from the plate, certain the ball was going to wack me between the shoulder blades, and then I'd watch it float over the plate.  This went on for several pitches.  Finally Jimmy relented, or probably the coach gave him the signal to let up, and he tossed a few straight, easy pitches to me, which I proceeded to hit well south of the third base line and out into the street, so excited to get one I could see that I couldn't wait.  And thus endth my highschool baseball career, which was probably as as-it-should-be as is conceivable--an apogee of fairness.  Plus, I got to bat that one time against the great Jimmy Roland, who ten or more years later I happened to see on the teevee, pitching for the Twins, and winning a game in the major leagues.

So we have this website featuring all our classmates, and some of them have put up little bios and pictures from their lives, and many others haven't been "found", and there's a departed section, which I was checking after I read one bio by one guy lamenting all the departed, too soon, too soon.  And there's Jimmy.  He died last year.  After his career he had a nice family, and worked in sporting goods, and was called to work in a hospice, and he'd gotten some kind of cancer, and died.  It looked from the little obituary like he'd found a fine, centered life, and had become a very commendable person with his head screwed on straight--which would probably be something of an achievement if you were in the Major Leagues for a long time, although it's happened before certainly, including to Catfish.  But damn if I'm not sorry I can't go up to him next month and ask him if he remembers ending my major league career.  That would have been really fun.  And that moment at the plate--it's as real as yesterday, and sparkles like the air after a hurricane.

And here's a footnote which I find simply breathtaking:

I found out about Jimmy's passing on Sunday, as late as I was for his curveball.  Last night a friend of mine called with the news that Bob Barrett, the guy who gave me the wonderful hook for my most notorious song, a song which when I first performed it with the Red Clay Ramblers in 1974, at the Cats Cradle in Chapel Hill, caused people to literally fall out of their chairs, that Bob had died of a heart attack Monday night while driving home from Chapel Hill.  He'd felt bad, pulled off to the side of the road, and his body was found later by police.  It was his 2nd heart attack, his first coming last winter.  I'd had dinner with him last week, and we'd had an enjoyable conversation, with much wry comment from him on the current political climate.  His wryness was renown--and was evident well before he gave me that hook at his wedding reception, where he married Margaret Ellen, back in 1973, when the Ramblers were just getting started on a marriage that did not last nearly so long as his.  I can report, however, that Bob did not expect Rick Perry to succeed in his presidential ambition.  Perhaps optimism was coming on in his older, wiser years, I don't know.

Bob was a noted residential contractor in these parts.  I have, through the years, built many a foundation for his very well built houses.  He was a man who believed in over-building.  His stuff stood up to weather, and falling trees.  When hurricane Fran came through in '96, he and I did some nice repairs on some good houses in the Chapel Hill area.  He said last week that at least he wasn't in debt, like a lot of the building community around here.  He'd gotten out at the right time.

Margaret Ellen had died of breast cancer three or so years ago.  Bob and Margaret Ellen were as sweet a couple as you could imagine.  Now there's just their 30-something daughter left, who went to school back when with my 30-something daughter.  I think when Margaret Ellen died, that's what broke Bobby's heart.  Eventually the old muscles just couldn't cope with the broken stuff.   There is in fact very little that isn't in the end ephemeral.  I think of Bob's nice, quirky, self-built house, full of his life, Margaret Ellen's, Sophie's.  The piano, which he and I moved in my old green F-150, which nearly fell plumb out of the truck on the sharp curve on his driveway.  The many books.  The wood stove sitting on a pedestal smack in the middle of the living room, the beautiful sun room past the kitchen, all those windows facing the steep hillside, which bloomed with bulbs each spring, the big shop building up on that hill, with Bob's tools, and a second floor to that, like a hayloft, with a pingpong table and an old refrigerator with beer, and windows looking out on the tree tops.

Now all of that, every bit of it, is memory.  What's there today is what's left.  I don't know what will happen to it all.  Sophie lives far away, with a sparkling life of her own.  Maybe she can rent the place out somehow, or there'll be a distress sale.  Otherwise, the desperate will eventually find it, and it won't take long in these times.  There ought to be a plaque or something though.  Maybe I'll have to have one made myself.  Sneak over there some night and drive it deep into the red clay up by that shop.

The man who conceived "You were only fucking, while I was making love" lived here.  A true country genius, who never went to Nashville and made it rich.  Not "Awww, too bad." though.  He lived as well as is possible, and grew wiser and kinder with every passing year.  He was uniformly generous.  He was a  good friend.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

And Furthermore

scary ain't it

Doghouse today concludes as follows, with advice to the three rational Republicans left on the bus:

Why are you not making common cause with the moderate 'conservative' in the White House? The goddam Democratic party is yours for the taking, and there's little risk Barack Obama is going to do anything in the next five years. The Other Party refused to stomp a mudhole in your snake handlers' cult. Suck it up and do it yourselves. 

It is perhaps yet another symptom of the problem the former other party, the GOP, has, that this very wise remark could have been made all through the Clinton years as well.  As my wife and I agreed, in 1992, the real Democrat in that race was Tom Harkin.  Mr. Harkin, who somehow manages to survive in Iowa of all places even to this very moment, was greatly concerned about our tremendous loss of jobs overseas.  He understood that without consumers, a consumer-based economy wasn't going to work too well.  Mr. Clinton, however, was more dashing, more the pol, and in some ways more "moderate."  Or as we thought at the time, a "Rockefeller Republican."  Why, then, I kept wondering as the Clinton years passed, didn't the Republicans work with him?  All they seemed to do was complain that he co-oped "their" ideas.

But as we all know in our rational moments, ideas aren't really "owned," except in the sense that you'd best not put your name on somebody else's book and then sell it for your own.  Policy, on the other hand, is policy.  If politicians owned ideas and policies, there could be no bipartisanship, in principle.  If a particular policy was a good idea, then everyone should support it.  Yes, Clinton was a master "triangulator."  Maybe that's an issue when there are real principles at stake (as there are now, in Obama's case, viewed from my perspective).  But if you believe deep cuts in entitlements is the only thing that can  be done to "save" the country, and if the President of the opposing party agrees pretty much--well what the hell is the problem?  For example I mean.

Apparently the GOP is just plumb tired of incrementalism.  Mr. Perry wants it all, as I said yesterday.  He'll bring the jobs home, and sell the shiny stuff to the rest of the world.  Made in USA will be a selling point, for sure, in Bangalore and Beijing.

Of course, actually, as has been the case since Eisenhower at the least, the GOP doesn't care to show its hand, but prefers candidates who keep the public interested in the side show part of things.  As Ed Schultz correctly pointed out last night, Democrats would never lose if they just stick with working people and look out for their interests.  Because almost all of us, in the end, are working people.  Current events in Ohio are bearing this out too.

One day after the Wisconsin recalls are over and the Ohio governor, as radical as Walker in Wisconsin, is offering to "talk" if Democrats will not simply run a campaign to repeal his nasty anti-union legislation this fall.  One hopes that Democrats will not fall for it.  One hopes that Mr. Obama will even, maybe, perhaps, take note of what taking a stand looks like.  It's obvious, it's been obvious.  Republicans have no interest at all in simply achieving policy results that they allegedly believe in.  If they did, they would already have achieved what they say they want.  Obama says in his current stump speech that he gives Michelle 90% of what she wants.  It's a mind-mannered domestic joke in the speech of course.   But the Speaker of the House gloats that he got 98% of what he wanted in the just past negotiations, and he's not joking.  And at the same time, the Republicans toil on.  Mr. Perry is in the wings, ready to crush all entitlements and all environmental regulations, while (no doubt) willing to do battle with Iran and at the same time, return to the Gold Standard.  If Bush could run wars off budget, so can Perry.

First Reagan.  Now Steve Cochran.  In my own family I had a wonderful aunt who lived to be 86.  A member of the first graduating class of Duke University, She always drove a red car and favored a Duke baseball cap on a sparkling fall day when she was out raking leaves in her yard.  She idolized FDR.  She also idolized John Wayne and Ronald Reagan, to the point of hanging framed pictures of them on her living room wall.  She voted in every election, and taught school until well past 65. She left little piles of peanuts on her porch for the squirrels to find.  She took care of her invalid sister until her sister died in her '70s, after caring for her mother till she died.  When she got so aged that she could not care for herself, my aunt refused to eat until she died.  And that's the damn truth, about her, and about the voting public upon which this gigantic engine we've built floats, a feather in a monsoon. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Brick Laying

there was never a more romantic moment

A few decades ago, probably about the same moment that Congress passed the 1965 Voting Rights bill, people in the shadows started building a step by step agenda to somehow return America to a fantasy golden past where everything was, in some vague way, perfect.  You can view this past in any number of Hollywood movies.  I'd suggest, for starters, Picnic.  And William Holden?  He's the future, and the embodiment of all that the shadowy right wingers wanted to hold back, or turn back, or destroy. 

Flash forward to today.  Here's a link:

[A lot of my links you have to copy and paste into your browser, sorry.]

It's a small bit of news, just a little local story.  Teacher union in Wisconsin lays off staff.  It's just one more brick in the wall.  For all of the bad press, for all of the recalls, for all of the outraged public turnout in Wisconsin, the attack on unions there is working.  This little event, the layoffs, is a victory for the Kochs, for Governor Walker, for all those once shadowy people who started work on this way back when.  (And by the way, in North Carolina we were way way ahead of this particular curve, passing a "right to work" law way back in the '50s which has kept union strength at a minimum in NC ever since.  There's talk of union boycotts of next years Democratic Convention because it's meeting in Charlotte.  Nice move, Mr. Obama. 

It's sad that too many progressive minded folks just think they need to engage with the political every now and then, such as when a promising black candidate happens to be running against a doddering senator and his crazy-lady veep candidate.  All these little bricks add up.  Before you know it, you get a bridge all the way to President Rick Perry, and his landslide Congress supporters.  My guess is, there are still way more than a majority of American voters who do not want a return to the world of the '30s.  Only in the movies were hobos as romantic as a young William Holden.  And there was never anything romantic about bringing out the tanks against strikers.  Nor, for that matter, about strikes themselves--a gutwrenching last resort response to working conditions which the owner elite thought were merely what was needed to make a profit.  Complain about working conditions?  No problem, somebody else will take your job.  Mr. Perry has called for an end to all regulations, on the grounds that they are job-killers, one and all.  Get out the peach crate, lil sis needs it to stand on so's she can reach the levers on the machine. 

I read the other day that Mississippi is now being touted as an alternative labor market to China, that workers in Mississippi will now go to work for a wage only 30% above wages in China.  That's one plan for bringing jobs back to America.  It's Rick Perry's plan, long term.  It's the Koch plan, long term.  It's the iron will of owners who see their labor component as just one lump of coal, interchangeable with any other, a part of the process to be combusted towards the result: shiny products that pop out the other end of the building, one after the other.  For a good long time American government has held that vision at bay, because unions were strong enough to gain the ear of government, and because strikes and even bloodshed were too wrenching to the community to remain the solution to impossible working conditions. 

The people in the shadows did not agree, never agreed, toiled night and day to find new solutions to their problem, and today are succeeding.  That's what's happening. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Balance Thing

from Digby

David Gregory: You know, Perry talked about potentially seceding from the union. You think that's extreme. Well people on the other side think that introducing health care reform for the whole country is akin to European Socialism.

The quote comes from Digby, and was made on Meet the Press yesterday.  It illustrates pretty well why Americans who simply watch the occasional Sunday opinion show to find out what's going on remain in a state of confusion or even decide they'd better go to the next Tea Party rally to make their voice heard.  What Mr. Gregory did in that quote was to suggest that secession and a flawed but needed reform of the American health care system are pretty much equivalent, because there are people who think that's so.  In the same way, the idea that in the recent Republican created debt ceiling crisis it was actually both parties who were causing the crisis and endangering the economy and the well-being of millions of Americans is pretty much what Americans now think--because that's how it was reported, pretty much.

The American tragedy is that essential to a working democracy is an informed voting public.  A vibrant journalism is essential for an informed public.  But weaknesses in our system have now allowed a Lord Haw Haw media to develop and blossom over the past thirty so years, unchecked, and even in less doctrine driven media outlets (such as David Gregory's), the balance muddle in fact distorts the truth of our political situation.

As someone pointed out over the weekend, the best President we could elect in 2008 was an Eisenhower Republican.  All the Republican candidates running against him next year assert that Mr. Obama is a radical socialist, and some even hint that he isn't even an American.  This state of affairs is extremely dangerous to the future of America.  As Digby also pointed out recently, some people saw Governor Rick Perry's execution of an innocent man as a positive character trait.  "It takes balls to execute an innocent man," a constituent is reported to have remarked at the time.  (And Bill Clinton, let us recall, pretty much made his chops the same way in 1992, as did George W. Bush in 2000.)  Meanwhile, the practical result of our more and more militarized foreign policy is permanent war, and in that regard both our major parties can be called simply "The War Party."  You doubt?  Mr. Gates.  QED. 

Tuesday morning update:
It's not like the Ayn Rand Cult has utterly eaten the brains of all our "job creators."  Warren Buffet offered this in the New York Times recently.  It's worth a read, if only for the statistics about jobs created in more taxing eras.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

LOW-EL LOW-EL as the kids say

Maybe they'll just leave Tina Brown alone now.  It's the least they can do.  

Update: of course the Rude Pundit would have even more on this significant story which as usual has been left mostly uncovered by the main stream media.  And heck, might as well have some fun, since we're heading for President Rick Perry, who is going to make America and the world totally forget the Worst President, George W. Bush.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Seals

Riding to work Monday I learned that to become a member of Seal Team 6 requires at least 5 years of training over and above all the training a person has already received to become a capable member of the military, and that even people who have already become Seals frequently wash out of the program which leads to Team 6 qualification.  There were also stories available everywhere concerning the remarkable individuals who made up the group killed in the Chinook crash--people who knew them told of their leadership qualities, their focus and desire.  Some wanted to be Seals from early childhood.  All seemed to be exemplary Americans.

I have to wonder why in the world anyone thought it was a good idea to pack twenty-two of these highly skilled "resources" into a closely packed target and run them into enemy territory?  This seem like a fundamental mistake of all combat--never bunch up, because a group is a bigger and better target.  Read Captain Dick Winters' story in Holland, in World War II.  He killed some fifty German soldiers with a rifle because they huddled together in a small group.  Isn't this simply basic in our high-tech modern military?  And worse, is this a symptom of the too many terribly long years our people have been at this Afganistan War? A question for later on I guess, and another feature of our Presidential inertia, which may in historical terms be the overarching feature of the Obama years.

And as a minor footnote--and because I've given Brad Keslowski a hard time for appropriating the American flag in his post race celebrations--cudos to his guts last weekend, and a tip of the hat to his obvious sincerity concerning the loss of the Seals.  Maybe we should all see his flag-waving as a genuine salute to the young soldiers who labor on, and thank him for reminding us that their labor continues, even in obscurity.  As in all war, it seems like the gruesome absurdity is always ignored at the start, but becomes more and more apparent as time passes.  I do not understand why we (and the rest of humankind) do not learn this age-old lesson, which is written in blood across the sky.  Mr. Bush's shocking amnesia was one of his most remarkable features to me, back when he cranked up these two wars, a gigantic and open-ended commitment in response to Mr. bin Laden's audacious political theatre of blood.  Historical perspective vanished on September 12, 2001.  Vietnam was no more, not to mention Inchon, Iwo Jima, Gallipoli, Paschendale.  Oh, I forgot.  Shiloh, Antietam, Gettysburg.

The deal is, courage and valor and bravery are tragically honorable human qualities, and perhaps the more so for being so frequently enlisted in the dimmest of larger causes.  Reckon we'll ever manage to elect politicians who get this?  It seems more and more doubtful, doesn't it.  Even after eight years of the obvious, the current crop trudge on and on, in the same bloody footsteps.  Like my old fiddling buddy says, "we're just primates muddling through."  There's way too much wasted in our American adventure. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011


image © mishka henner

In an article in the New York Post, Linda Chavez reports and muses on the big interview Eric Cantor did recently with Peggy Noonan:

‘‘It’s almost as if the president and his party really are bent on promoting a welfare state and then thinking about . . . our free enterprise system second,” Cantor said. “And their emphasis . . . has been in trying to promote programs of economic redistribution. And if you hear them speak, it’s always about ‘everybody should pay their fair share.’ And I think the difference is, we believe everyone should have a fair shot.” That succinctly describes the different worldviews of liberals and conservatives.
Liberals are always trying to come up with programs and policies that even out the differences between individuals. Liberals want to take a bigger chunk of money from those who earn more because they’re harder workers, are brighter or more skilled, have invested more in education or just happen to have been born into a wealthy family. And they want to use that money to create programs to help the less fortunate. Our federal income-tax system is based on this principle.
Conservatives aren’t as concerned about evening out inequalities between individuals and would rather encourage individuals to pursue their own interests, for better or worse. Most conservatives believe that government shouldn’t penalize hard work, risk-taking and success by insisting that government take a larger share of the fruits of those efforts.

Kinda funny coming from a man who talked himself into a government job that includes premium health care support in perpetuitity, and a life-time pension--all on the taxpayer's Roosevelt dime.  But this is the weird and fundamental contradiction at the foundation of the "modern" Republican Party and its powerful supporting cast of rightwing pundits and a whole television network, Fox.  These alleged representatives get into office riding the stale cant of boilerplate such as "government shouldn't penalize hard work."  It sure doesn't apply to them though, now does it.  What "hard work"?  Mr. Cantor's on vacation again, after an grueling summer of sitting in air conditioned rooms with his elite peers and refusing any compromise with reality until a contrived but real deadline forced the Administration to accede to a "Satan Sandwich" of a bill which didn't even stop S&P from pronouncing the US credit status to be less than AAA.  He toils on, night and day, vacation or not, upholding the right of every American to be an "entrepreneur."  Even in his sleep, Mr. Cantor toils on, for all of us.

Does the typical voter even think about this "entrepreneur citizen" idea, or does this voter just register some below consciousness tickle of warmth at the mention of the phrase.  I've done construction work--masonry mostly--for 25 years or so.  It has been nice, a perk even, to have been working for myself, an entrepreneur citizen.  That meant I could keep my own schedule, and in particular, keep my hand in the music world, where gigs come along as they do, and to be able to play professionally you really do need to be able to play--both available and with your physical skills intact.  Masonry too--particularly when it was accomplished using stones--was its own reward as well for me, the reward of being able, for hire, to fashion beautiful objects out of stones, the reward of being in some small sense in contact with the ethos that gave us all the Lion Gate at Mycenea, for just one example.  Not that any of the stones I worked with weighted 12 tons.

So maybe the folks up in Richmond who voted Mr. Cantor his lifetime health care and pension did it because the artist in them is soothed by his support of entrepreneurship.  But there's another side to this entrepreneurship.  When I entered the building trades nearly everyone was becoming an "independent contractor," which is another term for entrepreneur.  And what this nice term meant and means is that working people do not get any benefits, are not officially "hired" by anyone except on a day or job basis, usually pay for their own health insurance (if they have any), and can depend at best on the good will of a network of independent general contractors (most of them with no or very few employees) for a continuing supply of work (or, as us musicians might call this supply, gigs--since construction has become exactly like the music biz, which is possibly why I found transitioning back and forth in the two worlds a reasonably confortable experience).  The advantage of this world of entrepreneurs, aside from how nice it feels sitting on a horse, on the open range, sun casting purple shadows on the Sierras in the far distance, dogies nursing, the murmur of the herd as it beds down, the smell of wood smoke and beans as cookie sets up the campsite, the...

Well as I was saying, the advantage in this dreamy work of entrepreneurs is that employers save quite a lot of money.  When times are good they can stash more money away, or buy an SUV or a beach house or a boat, go on vacations just like Mr. Cantor.  When times are really good and they've been really lucky (or worked so goldarn hard they have had to manufacture more hours in the day and more days in the year to even manage to get the job done) some of these entrepreneurs can even give money to Mr. Cantor to assure his commitment to a nation of entrepreneurs.  And conversely, when times are bad (as they are these days), these entrepreneurs can simply hunker down, with no concern for employees with nothing to do, or retired employee pensions, or any of that stuff.  Because there were no employees, just subcontractors, other entrepreneurs.  And at a more abstract level of talking, the savings come with and are part and parcel of a removal of any responsibility to the folks who are making the employers the big bucks.  Everyone's an entrepreneur, after all.  Instead of official layoffs and accompanying unemployment benefits, it's just "sorry boys, ain't no droving today, we'll give you a holler in the spring." 

Back in the good years, the Clinton '90s, quite a few subcontractors I knew expanded, "hiring" their own crews of sub-subcontractors.  When this area began to see a sizeable influx of Mexicans and Central Americans, primarily due to big chicken processing plants coming to the area and advertising for the cheapest labor available, some of these people got the hell out of chicken processing and into better jobs, such as sheet-rock installing, and plumbing, and house painting, and masonry.  Often they were "hired" (or even actually hired in some cases--this story is not monolithic) by established subcontractors, who then in some cases became managers of a labor force, made more money, bought SUVs and beach homes.  And so forth.

Meanwhile, in the bigger picture, millions of American jobs went far, far away.  Construction has to happen pretty much where the objects being constructed reside.  Meat processing has to happen, pretty much, in places where the meat can arrive alive, blinking its eyes at the wonder of a world on wheels.  Shirts and televisions and microwaves and computers, on the other hand, can originate far far away, where people work for pennies a day.  As a guy (an American no less) in a PBS documentary about the textile industry in Guatemala said with a straight face back in the late 1980s, the workers down here don't get brown lung. The workers down there mostly don't get older either.  Passing strange, that. 

I know a couple of "entrepreneurs" who spend every working day driving around my county in an elderly small pickup hunting for scrap metal, which they sell for about $65.50 average cash money.  Some days, if school isn't in session, their kids ride around with them all day.  That way the kids learn the entrepreneurial spirit I reckon.  What with the disciplining S&P has just administered to President Obama, Congress,  and our economy generally, could well be the price of metal is going to rocket down to where it was two years ago, and these folks will be "earning" half or less what they're making this summer.  If the damage is severe enough it'll drive gas prices down again.  If not, not.  Hey, it's the cowboy life, and S&P might end up looking a lot like Clevon Little in a cowboy hat. 

But the fundamental question is, why do people like Mr. Cantor, people who believe so deeply in the spirit of American entrepreneurship, strive for careers in the government they hate and want to destroy?  Mr. Cantor is a success--but not at entrepreneurship.  Unless what he does can be translated, with a deeper analysis, an MRI so to speak, into one of the world's oldest "trades."  We all know what that is.  Like Hazel used to sing, "Don't put her down, you helped put her there."  Yep. 

Note: the photograph is from Mishka Henner's collection of google map photos, a controversial ebook called "No Man's Land" about which much can be discovered by operating the google:

Friday, August 5, 2011

Working People, Remember Them?

Nimrod Workman

Emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler) has gone back on its own, away from Firedoglake.  Here's a recent post:

I'm not lobbying for sitting it out next year, please understand.  But how much disgust can a person stand?  The answer is unclear, but remains a psy-ops issue, doesn't it.  On the moral plane the question will remain what it is, like gravity.  D or R.  

Go back and watch Harlan County, USA once a month.  It's worth it just to hear Hazel, Dave Morris, and Nimrod again, but it's not just a history lesson, it's the same battle going on right now in Wisconsin. 

[photo is from   ]

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Next Year, Pamplona
Hey, first thing today I get an email from some Obama functionary which has in it a video of the President explaining the situation re the Great Compromise just past.  Delete.  Whew, that wasn't so hard.  As to the general situation, as it stands.  Well, personally, McCain would still have been even worse, and on top of that, Mrs. Palin would have had a national office instead of a tour bus. 

On the other hand.  Mr. Obama has proven to be profoundly naive when it comes to dealing with the Republican Party and long-time professional politicians.  This was actually one of the criticisms of him going in--it came in the form of, "he has no experience."  We saw this same problem in the protracted Health Care Bill negotiations.  Yes, eventually something called a Health Care Bill got passed.  In the mean time, the whole process came to look anything but transparent, and millions of voters were galvanized to put in power the raging no-nothings who have just been the engine of yet another piece of murky legislation posing as a solution to something or other that might have been a crisis or not.  Even Lawrence O'Donnell, who was Mr. Obama's biggest supporter, said last night that "the President blinked." 

Continuing to make every effort to look at the world as we find it realistically, I have to say that at the very least, Mr. Obama lost sight of the forest while studying certain particular leaves with the intensity only a 5th year botanist grad student can bring to a leaf.  And a body of elected Congresspersons have successfully held our economy hostage, and are even as we speak making plans for the next heist.  As to the Presidential choice which looms next year, it's looking more and more like a sunny day in Pamplona.   No one on the GOP side should ever be elected to anything, since they all believe in the destruction of the government and all its functions save possibly running aspects of a military industrial complex that prove structurally resistant to all out privatization.  That is--how can anyone seriously run to destroy the office they seek? 

But on the other hand.  Four more years of this kind of "leadership?"  What a tragedy that is.  Mr. Obama was probably suited to lead a body of people will true common interests who in fact all wished to achieve good outcomes.  He can give a good speech, and without a teleprompter.  He would probably be the greatest Secretary of State ever, under the command of a leader with a vision.  But Mr. Obama has now proven to be unable to lead against forces of malevolence and ill will.  And that capability is what America desperately needs today.  Mr. Obama is Polonious.  (That he didn't dither with regard to the bin Laden assassination or the Somali Pirates rescue says precious little about his skills at statecraft--a decent county sheriff could have made those two calls, let's face it.) 

These facts do not change another fact--in the United States we have a two-party system, and in the end we have to choose a Democrat or a Republican.  The so called third party option is in reality a fantasy vote, soothing the psychological discord which comes with internal conflict while masking the fact that voting for the third guy usually gives aid to the guy you would never vote for.  In other words, Nader not Gore = Bush. 

Next year, Pamplona. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Out of the Past

From Franklin Roosevelt's speech at Madison Square Garden, October 31, 1936:

We have not come this far without a struggle and I assure you we cannot go further without a struggle.

For twelve years this Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing Government. The Nation looked to Government but the Government looked away. Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair! Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent.

For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred.

I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master.

The American people know from a four-year record that today there is only one entrance to the White House—by the front door. Since March 4, 1933, there has been only one pass-key to the White House. I have carried that key in my pocket. It is there tonight. So long as I am President, it will remain in my pocket.

Those who used to have pass-keys are not happy. Some of them are desperate. Only desperate men with their backs to the wall would descend so far below the level of decent citizenship as to foster the current pay-envelope campaign against America's working people. Only reckless men, heedless of consequences, would risk the disruption of the hope for a new peace between worker and employer by returning to the tactics of the labor spy.

Here is an amazing paradox! The very employers and politicians and publishers who talk most loudly of class antagonism and the destruction of the American system now undermine that system by this attempt to coerce the votes of the wage earners of this country. It is the 1936 version of the old threat to close down the factory or the office if a particular candidate does not win. It is an old strategy of tyrants to delude their victims into fighting their battles for them.

Every message in a pay envelope, even if it is the truth, is a command to vote according to the will of the employer. But this propaganda is worse—it is deceit.

They tell the worker his wage will be reduced by a contribution to some vague form of old-age insurance. They carefully conceal from him the fact that for every dollar of premium he pays for that insurance, the employer pays another dollar. That omission is deceit.

They carefully conceal from him the fact that under the federal law, he receives another insurance policy to help him if he loses his job, and that the premium of that policy is paid 100 percent by the employer and not one cent by the worker. They do not tell him that the insurance policy that is bought for him is far more favorable to him than any policy that any private insurance company could afford to issue. That omission is deceit.

They imply to him that he pays all the cost of both forms of insurance. They carefully conceal from him the fact that for every dollar put up by him his employer puts up three dollars three for one. And that omission is deceit.

But they are guilty of more than deceit. When they imply that the reserves thus created against both these policies will be stolen by some future Congress, diverted to some wholly foreign purpose, they attack the integrity and honor of American Government itself. Those who suggest that, are already aliens to the spirit of American democracy. Let them emigrate and try their lot under some foreign flag in which they have more confidence.

The fraudulent nature of this attempt is well shown by the record of votes on the passage of the Social Security Act. In addition to an overwhelming majority of Democrats in both Houses, seventy-seven Republican Representatives voted for it and only eighteen against it and fifteen Republican Senators voted for it and only five against it. Where does this last-minute drive of the Republican leadership leave these Republican Representatives and Senators who helped enact this law?

I am sure the vast majority of law-abiding businessmen who are not parties to this propaganda fully appreciate the extent of the threat to honest business contained in this coercion.

I have expressed indignation at this form of campaigning and I am confident that the overwhelming majority of employers, workers and the general public share that indignation and will show it at the polls on Tuesday next.

Aside from this phase of it, I prefer to remember this campaign not as bitter but only as hard-fought. There should be no bitterness or hate where the sole thought is the welfare of the United States of America. No man can occupy the office of President without realizing that he is President of all the people.

It is because I have sought to think in terms of the whole Nation that I am confident that today, just as four years ago, the people want more than promises.

Our vision for the future contains more than promises.

This is our answer to those who, silent about their own plans, ask us to state our objectives.

Of course we will continue to seek to improve working conditions for the workers of America—to reduce hours over-long, to increase wages that spell starvation, to end the labor of children, to wipe out sweatshops. Of course we will continue every effort to end monopoly in business, to support collective bargaining, to stop unfair competition, to abolish dishonorable trade practices. For all these we have only just begun to fight.

Of course we will continue to work for cheaper electricity in the homes and on the farms of America, for better and cheaper transportation, for low interest rates, for sounder home financing, for better banking, for the regulation of security issues, for reciprocal trade among nations, for the wiping out of slums. For all these we have only just begun to fight.

Of course we will continue our efforts in behalf of the farmers of America. With their continued cooperation we will do all in our power to end the piling up of huge surpluses which spelled ruinous prices for their crops. We will persist in successful action for better land use, for reforestation, for the conservation of water all the way from its source to the sea, for drought and flood control, for better marketing facilities for farm commodities, for a definite reduction of farm tenancy, for encouragement of farmer cooperatives, for crop insurance and a stable food supply. For all these we have only just begun to fight.

Of course we will provide useful work for the needy unemployed; we prefer useful work to the pauperism of a dole.

Here and now I want to make myself clear about those who disparage their fellow citizens on the relief rolls. They say that those on relief are not merely jobless—that they are worthless. Their solution for the relief problem is to end relief—to purge the rolls by starvation. To use the language of the stock broker, our needy unemployed would be cared for when, as, and if some fairy godmother should happen on the scene.

You and I will continue to refuse to accept that estimate of our unemployed fellow Americans. Your Government is still on the same side of the street with the Good Samaritan and not with those who pass by on the other side.

Again—what of our objectives?

Of course we will continue our efforts for young men and women so that they may obtain an education and an opportunity to put it to use. Of course we will continue our help for the crippled, for the blind, for the mothers, our insurance for the unemployed, our security for the aged. Of course we will continue to protect the consumer against unnecessary price spreads, against the costs that are added by monopoly and speculation. We will continue our successful efforts to increase his purchasing power and to keep it constant.

For these things, too, and for a multitude of others like them, we have only just begun to fight.

All this—all these objectives—spell peace at home. All our actions, all our ideals, spell also peace with other nations.

Today there is war and rumor of war. We want none of it. But while we guard our shores against threats of war, we will continue to remove the causes of unrest and antagonism at home which might make our people easier victims to those for whom foreign war is profitable. You know well that those who stand to profit by war are not on our side in this campaign.

"Peace on earth, good will toward men"—democracy must cling to that message. For it is my deep conviction that democracy cannot live without that true religion which gives a nation a sense of justice and of moral purpose. Above our political forums, above our market places stand the altars of our faith—altars on which burn the fires of devotion that maintain all that is best in us and all that is best in our Nation.

We have need of that devotion today. It is that which makes it possible for government to persuade those who are mentally prepared to fight each other to go on instead, to work for and to sacrifice for each other. That is why we need to say with the Prophet: "What doth the Lord require of thee—but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God." That is why the recovery we seek, the recovery we are winning, is more than economic. In it are included justice and love and humility, not for ourselves as individuals alone, but for our Nation.

That is the road to peace. 

Thanks to Digby for the link.