Friday, August 26, 2005

Let's get government off our backs!

A veteran returning from Korea went to college on the GI Bill; bought his house with an FHA loan; saw his kids born in a VA hospital; got electricity from the TVA, and later water from an EPA project. His parents retired to a farm on Social Security, got electricity from REA and soil testing from USDA. When his father was laid off and his mother became ill, the family was saved from financial ruin by Medicare and another life in his family was saved with a drug developed by NIH. His children participated in the school lunch program, learned physics from teachers trained in a NSF program and went through college with guaranteed student loans. He drove to work on the Interstate and moored his boat in a channel dredged by Army engineers. When floods hit he took Amtrak to Washington, D.C. to apply for disaster relief, and then spent some time visiting the Library of Congress.

When he returned home he wrote a letter to his congressional representative demanding that the government get off of his back and stop raising his taxes to pay for all of those federal programs created for ungrateful people.

(author unknown)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Pay me now and pay me later

Big retailers' employees are on N.J. insurance rolls

By Jon Shure
Philadelphia Inquirer
Tue, Aug. 23, 2005

One reason people like to shop at big-box retailers like Wal-Mart and Home Depot is low prices. But consumers might not realize that they often pay twice: once at the cash register and again when they pay taxes. That's because some of the largest, most profitable retailers in the state also have the largest numbers of employees or family members covered by the state-run, taxpayer-funded health insurance program for low-income New Jerseyans. . . . The report finds that the company with the most employees or employee family members in FamilyCare is Wal-Mart, the state's eighth-largest employer. Among New Jersey's top 10 employers, three others are on the list: Wakefern/ShopRite; A&P and Home Depot.

Remember the Republican Party motto: "Socialize the costs; keep the profits private."

A tip of the hat to Jessica at AFSCME FYI for this.

Monday, August 22, 2005

You sure Hank done it this a-way?

Wal-Mart's low prices come at a high cost to working people. Way too many American manufacturers are willing move "offshore" to provide cheap goods for Wal-Mart. Meanwhile, back here at home, Wal-mart is the poster child of bad employers. But, the Wal-Mart executives squeak, "We treat some of our employees well." You're treating Garth pretty well, but how about your other employees, you know, the ones who qualify for public assistance?

So Garth, why would a singer like you who poses as pro-America, pro-working person come to such an agreement with Wal-Mart?

I don't know. But it seems like you’ve given us another reason to call you the anti-Hank (thanks to Kinky for the epithet!)

Garth's New Friends In Wal-Mart Places

By Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 20, 2005; Page C01

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A Progressive’s Wishes

May the party that convinced Americans that George W. Bush is an outsider remain sensitive to the needs of America’s outsiders: the poor, the elderly, the children, and the homeless.

May the party of Wall Street throw the crooks out of the casino and raise the Dow Jones average to restore the solvency of millions average people’s stock-based retirement accounts.

May the party of CEOs ensure that no corporation will ever again lie to its shareholders and defraud its retirees.

May the party of military armament contractors ensure that the government gets weapons that work at a fair price.

May the party of bosses permit the employees a fair share in the financial successes of their companies.

May the party of religious conservatism honor the right of women to control their own bodies.

May the party of the chemical and oil interests maintain the planet’s soil, air, and water.

May the party of law enforcement observe all of the Constitution, most especially the Bill of Rights.

May the party of war hawks who dodged the draft during Viet Nam remember that when General Patton said: “Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country,” The “other poor dumb bastard” meant an enemy soldier and not a poor American boy without social connections.

May the party that has declared “war” on a concept (terrorism) remember that it is unpatriotic to profiteer from homeland security. May that same party also desist from calling homeland security employees unpatriotic when they ask for legal union representation, fair pay, and working conditions.

May the party of agribusiness remember and care for the small farmer.

Finally, may the party of Lincoln remember its roots in the abolition movement and work towards healing the wound of racism in America.

May those who read my simple wishes look to their hearts and add wishes of their own to this list.

The Social Compact

(a tip o’ the hat to Robert Reich)

In the quarter-century following-World War II, most working Americans had specific expectations in the workplace. Though seldom put into words, these public expectations included the belief that as (organizations) do better, their workers should, too. Wages should rise, as should employer-provided health and pension benefits, and jobs should be reasonably secure.

We were all in it together and as a result grew together. It would be unseemly for (an organization) that was doing well to fail to share its prosperity with its employees and the communities in which they lived.

It is important to understand what this social compact was and what it was not. It defined our sense of fair play, but it was not primarily about redistributing wealth. There would still be the rich and the poor in America. The compact merely proclaimed that at some fundamental level we were all in it together, that as a society we depended on one another.

The unraveling began in the late 1980s, and continues today. The university has downsized staff, reduced benefits, and twiddled with job descriptions and the salary schedule. Full-time workers have been replaced with independent contractors, temporary workers and part-timers. The university has subcontracted work to private firms offering lower wages and benefits. State-provided health benefits are declining across the board, and health costs are being shifted to employees in the form of higher co-payments, deductibles and premiums. Maryland’s defined-benefit pension plan has been replaced with 403(c) plans with ever-dwindling state contributions.

The relentless drive to reduce costs is understandable. Economies of scale longer guarantee competitive advantage and universities are no longer considered “ivory towers” but rather “players in the economy.” Yet it is also the case that the compensation of upper management has escalated in recent years.

It is the core belief of AFSCME Local 1072 that “we are still all in it together.” University staff has both the expertise and the unique vision to help this institution Zoom! Pop management fads such as “shared governance” have failed to get our point across. Only collective bargaining gives our voice the strength to communicate our knowledge and vision.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

God gave man reason . . .

. . . and expected man to use it!

In Stealing God's Thunder, Benjamin Franklin's Lightning Rod and the Invention of America, Philip Dray provides us with a strong corrective to the "religious right's" fanciful history of America. Look at the first paragraph and count the times Franklin blasphemes today's Evangelical/Pentecostal catechism.

"[Benjamin] Franklin wasn't irreligious; he believed in a Creator who paid some attention to what His creatures were up to. But he had no patience with theology; he considered sectarianism a blight and judged reason the appropriate measure of faith rather than vice versa. His parents, solid Puritans, lamented his lapse from orthodoxy; he responded with his own statement of faith: "At the last Day, we shall not be examined [by] what we thought but what we did; and our recommendation will not be that we said Lord, Lord , but that we did GOOD to our Fellow Creatures." One of Franklin's revisions to Jefferson's draft Declaration replaced "sacred and undeniable," in reference to the truths the Americans were defending, with "self-evident." The difference was crucial: "sacred" summoned the authority of God, "self-evident" the authority of human reason."

"At a critical moment of the Constitutional Convention, Franklin uncharacteristically -- or so it seemed to most of those present -- moved that each morning's session begin with a prayer to the Almighty for guidance. Dray reads this as suggesting an eleventh-hour reversion to Franklin's parents' belief in divine intervention; more likely Franklin simply wished to remind his opinionated colleagues that they didn't have all the answers. Significantly, Franklin would no more have looked to Heaven for political guidance than he would have consulted the Bible in fashioning his lightning rod. God gave man reason, he believed, and expected man to use it. Franklin did so with confidence, as did his colleagues."

-- From H.W. Brands review of Stealing God's Thunder, Benjamin Franklin's Lightning Rod and the Invention of America by Philip Dray. Washington Post Book World, Sunday, August 7, 2005


". . . the convention rejected the motion . . . that each morning's session begin with a prayer to the Almighty for guidance. Alexander Hamilton reportedly declared that this was no time to seek 'foreign aid.'"

Well, is it any wonder God let Burr kill Hamilton?

Neocon Lip service

The "conservatives" cut VA Hospital funding, pay their cronies billions to provide "security" in Iraq while soldiers' families endure economic hardship, and now this: "America supports You"

Yes, America supports you, just don't ask Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld for armor, materiel, money, or the Dixie Chicks.

"Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks his whip," George Orwell observed, "but the really well-trained dog is the one that turns his somersault when there is no whip."

Now repeat after me:
  • Ignorance is strength
  • Freedom is slavery
  • Spending is saving
  • National security
  • Western values
  • The world community
  • War against terrorism
  • Collateral damage
  • American interests

All hail Lee Atwater

A note from Harry:

Did you see this in today's Post? All hail Lee Atwater.

Can the Dems learn to frame economics in moral terms?

Jihad is an economic loser for those involved, but they don't care.

The Nazi movement was an economic loser for the Germans, it didn't matter, they followed Hitler anyway.

The GOP is an economic disaster for the working man, but it doesn't matter, that workin' man is sending a message by voting GOP.


"Sure, I ain't got a job, pension, or health insurance, but the menace of same-sex marriage has been stopped in its tracks."

Maybe those working folks who voted for Bush/Ehrlich would consider sending their next message by way of Hallmark? I'm sure we can dream up some form of communication that's a little less toxic to the nation and our offspring.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Flying Blind

Perhaps our fellow Marylanders don't realize this, but Comcast Cable no longer provides Maryland television stations to subscribers in the Maryland counties that border the District of Columbia.

What does this mean? Well, the only news of Maryland we now receive comes from television stations located out of state--in Washington, DC and Virginia. Consider for a moment the impact if Comcast were to provide say, only the Philadelphia TV stations for their Baltimore subscribers.

If you are unfamiliar with their output, DC television stations seem to think that they are broadcasters to the world. In addition to local car crashes, house fires, and gunplay; the DC stations all carry international car crashes, house fires, and gunplay.

Driven by the tiresome "if it bleeds it leads" formula, the portion of DC television news currently devoted to citizenship information is dwindling and the Maryland portion of that information has become infinitesimal.

I except here weather reporting. Tailored to capture that portion of the viewing audience weary of partisan rancor, DC weather reporting rises to the Ph.D. level. Nevermind that weather is generally of no consequence in the Mid-Atlantic states (moderate semi-maritime climate); DC weather is reported with the gravity normally associated with a Papal visit.

But I digress--here's the problem: we residents of Prince George's and Montgomery counties are Ehrlich-deprived, Steele-deficient, and in general get as much news of Annapolis as we get of the inner workings of Uzbekistan's Oliy Majlis (parliament).

Why is this?

About two years ago, Comcast dropped from our local lineup WMAR-2 (ABC), WBAL-11 (NBC), and WJZ-13 (CBS). They also dropped WNUV-54 (WB), WBFF-45 (FOX), and WUTB-24 (UPN). I suppose the reasoning was that all of these Maryland-based stations essentially duplicate the programming of their network brethren in DC.

Plus, dropping Baltimore stations freed up Comcast bandwidth for more infomercials, home shopping, quack doctors, and hillbilly televangelists, all of which fork over upfront cash money to reach out and bilk us gullible rubes.

I am here to tell you that there is one thing that the DC stations do NOT provide--that is, news of Maryland from a Maryland point of view--no Stan Stoval, no Don and Marty, no Vic and Denise, no Marybeth and Del.

I don't mean to imply that any of the aforementioned Baltimore news readers challenge H.L. Mencken's place in the history books. However, from a DC news director's perspective, College Park is just another sports venue, Maryland politicians are indistinguishable from a thousand other local pols, and we Marylanders are little more than a picturesque bunch of seafood eaters.

Where is Michael Olesker now that we really need him?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Trust but verify

The Maryland Board of Elections has asked both UMBC and UMCP to investigate allegations of the corruptibility of Maryland's Diebold-made electronic voting machines.

After yesterday's squeaker election in the reddest corner of Ohio, we all need to know how well the Diebold Corporation keeps the democratic covenant with the citizens of our country.

Remember, Walden O'Dell, chief executive of Diebold Inc. was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year." [2004] More questions for Diebold here, too.

Not that Maryland Republicans would ever allow themselves to be bought, of course.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Turn back the Gov's attacks on representative democracy

Voter Rights Rally in Baltimore
11:30 AM this Thursday
in front of the Clarence Mitchell Courthouse

"This year, the Gov vetoed three bills (passed overwhelmingly by the state legislature) that would have expanded and protected our voting rights.

One bill would have made it illegal to suppress voting through misinformation and intimidation, clarified what identification could be used to establish a voter's identity, and ensured that provisional ballots were counted appropriately.

Two other bills would have made it easier for voters to access the polls through absentee ballot reforms and early voting programs, such as those found in dozens of other states across the country."

Here's an Op Ed piece from the Maryland League of Conservation Voters about the bills being addressed at the rally.

Stand Up for Brian Frosh and Good Government

(I confess -- I'm lifting this from Peter Franchot's blog. Lesson learned: If the White House paints policy critics as "traitors," the very least Bush's Mini-me, er, I mean, the Gov can do is ensure that his surrogates characterize Brian Frosh's investigation as "partisan bias.")


Dear Friends -

Once again, Governor Ehrlich and his allies are seeking to impede a balanced and fair investigation of the administration's personnel abuses. The Governor and members of his staff are trying to harass and intimidate legislators who speak out on this important issue. The latest target of their smear campaign is State Senator Brian Frosh, a man of unquestioned rectitude and integrity, a former colleague of mine in the House of Delegates, who is highly respected by both sides of the aisle for his fairness and moderation.

The Governor is using every weapon at his disposal to obstruct efforts by the Special Committee on State Employee Rights and Protections to get to the bottom of the abuse of power represented by his personnel practices. We need to speak out in favor of a balanced and bipartisan review of the hiring and firing scandal. Please send a letter to Governor Ehrlich at the following address:

Office of the Governor
Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr.
State House
Annapolis, Maryland 21401-1925

We need to strike a blow for confidence in state government and our public institutions. The Karl Rove type tactics being exercised by the Governor's Chief Counsel, Jervis Finney, need to stop. From our Governor, we expect evenhandedness and professionalism, not harassment and intimidation. Now is the time to speak out and demand accountability, fairness, and bipartisanship from the Governor. Please visit for more information.

Thank you,

Delegate Peter Franchot

Ehrlich Warns Democrats on Questioning Integrity (7/24/05)

Ehrlich Aide Demands Frosh Respond to Bias Claims (7/26/05)

Ehrlich Aide Wants Frosh to Quit Panel (7/30/05)

Steele Complains of Bias in Firings-Probe Panel (7/31/05)

Democrat Wants Finney to Skip Inquiry (8/1/05)