Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Like Hope .... but different

...and, just in case you wanted to ...
No You Can't!

...'cuz John is George's 3rd term.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

American Values

...Worth fighting for, worth dying for, worth living for.
It's long past time to again assert what is truly American,
and to loudly renounce the nightmare of the past eight years of traitorous Republican venality.

"No Torture. No Exceptions."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Class War in America

by Senator James Webb
This editorial was originally published in the Wall Street Journal, Wednesday, November 15, 2006.

The most important--and unfortunately the least debated--issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes.

Incestuous corporate boards regularly approve compensation packages for chief executives and others that are out of logic's range. As this newspaper has reported, the average CEO of a sizeable corporation makes more than $10 million a year, while the minimum wage for workers amounts to about $10,000 a year, and has not been raised in nearly a decade. When I graduated from college in the 1960s, the average CEO made 20 times what the average worker made. Today, that CEO makes 400 times as much.

In the age of globalization and outsourcing, and with a vast underground labor pool from illegal immigration, the average American worker is seeing a different life and a troubling future. Trickle-down economics didn't happen. Despite the vaunted all-time highs of the stock market, wages and salaries are at all-time lows as a percentage of the national wealth. At the same time, medical costs have risen 73% in the last six years alone. Half of that increase comes from wage-earners' pockets rather than from insurance, and 47 million Americans have no medical insurance at all.

Manufacturing jobs are disappearing. Many earned pension programs have collapsed in the wake of corporate "reorganization." And workers' ability to negotiate their futures has been eviscerated by the twin threats of modern corporate America: If they complain too loudly, their jobs might either be outsourced overseas or given to illegal immigrants.

This ever-widening divide is too often ignored or downplayed by its beneficiaries. A sense of entitlement has set in among elites, bordering on hubris. When I raised this issue with corporate leaders during the recent political campaign, I was met repeatedly with denials, and, from some, an overt lack of concern for those who are falling behind. A troubling arrogance is in the air among the nation's most fortunate. Some shrug off large-scale economic and social dislocations as the inevitable byproducts of the "rough road of capitalism." Others claim that it's the fault of the worker or the public education system, that the average American is simply not up to the international challenge, that our education system fails us, or that our workers have become spoiled by old notions of corporate paternalism.

Still others have gone so far as to argue that these divisions are the natural results of a competitive society. Furthermore, an unspoken insinuation seems to be inundating our national debate: Certain immigrant groups have the "right genetics" and thus are natural entrants to the "overclass," while others, as well as those who come from stock that has been here for 200 years and have not made it to the top, simply don't possess the necessary attributes.

Most Americans reject such notions. But the true challenge is for everyone to understand that the current economic divisions in society are harmful to our future. It should be the first order of business for the new Congress to begin addressing these divisions, and to work to bring true fairness back to economic life. Workers already understand this, as they see stagnant wages and disappearing jobs.

America's elites need to understand this reality in terms of their own self-interest. A recent survey in the Economist warned that globalization was affecting the U.S. differently than other "First World" nations, and that white-collar jobs were in as much danger as the blue-collar positions which have thus far been ravaged by outsourcing and illegal immigration. That survey then warned that "unless a solution is found to sluggish real wages and rising inequality, there is a serious risk of a protectionist backlash" in America that would take us away from what they view to be the "biggest economic stimulus in world history."

More troubling is this: If it remains unchecked, this bifurcation of opportunities and advantages along class lines has the potential to bring a period of political unrest. Up to now, most American workers have simply been worried about their job prospects. Once they understand that there are (and were) clear alternatives to the policies that have dislocated careers and altered futures, they will demand more accountability from the leaders who have failed to protect their interests. The "Wal-Marting" of cheap consumer products brought in from places like China, and the easy money from low-interest home mortgage refinancing, have softened the blows in recent years. But the balance point is tipping in both cases, away from the consumer and away from our national interest.

The politics of the Karl Rove era were designed to distract and divide the very people who would ordinarily be rebelling against the deterioration of their way of life. Working Americans have been repeatedly seduced at the polls by emotional issues such as the predictable mantra of "God, guns, gays, abortion and the flag" while their way of life shifted ineluctably beneath their feet. But this election cycle showed an electorate that intends to hold government leaders accountable for allowing every American a fair opportunity to succeed.

With this new Congress, and heading into an important presidential election in 2008, American workers have a chance to be heard in ways that have eluded them for more than a decade. Nothing is more important for the health of our society than to grant them the validity of their concerns. And our government leaders have no greater duty than to confront the growing unfairness in this age of globalization.

United States Senator Jim Webb, a former life-long Republican and former Secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan, was elected as a Democrat to represent the state of Virginia in 2006.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Laying down beats with the lies

featuring vocals by Bill O'Liar

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Swine Nation

by Donna Chapin
September 26th, 2007,
as published on Dissident Voice.

We are a nation of pigs. Having just returned from the post-Labor Day beach, I can reach no other conclusion.

Will Rogers State Beach, the jewel of Pacific Palisades, California, looked like a garbage scow. Never, ever, ever – not growing up at the Jersey Shore, not in twenty years combing Southern California beaches – have I seen a public beach so callously trashed. From jetty to jetty, water’s edge to parking lot, the sand was strewn with brightly-colored rubbish. Bearing witness were legions of tall, covered trashcans. Empty ones.

Amidst the wreckage sat an elderly couple sipping cocktails. Perched on their sand chairs, surrounded by garbage, they looked like an ad for an anti-litter campaign. “Have you ever seen such a mess?” I greeted them. “Well,” said the so-proper woman, “it was a three-day weekend.”

I don’t care if it was a thousand-day weekend. When did it re-become okay to toss our trash around?

“They don’t know any better,” explained her husband. Really? Do we really need a PhD to grasp the plainly visible fact that trash left on the beach gets blown into the sea, or washed out to sea, and that trash left anywhere near the sea is a very bad idea?

I spied a large, plastic sand pail with a broken handle. Apparently that made it disposable. I picked it up and filled it with the bottles, juice boxes, and fast food wrappers poised for take-off on the next wave.

A young girl watched closely. She asked if I worked for the city. I said no, but I lived in the city, and I hated it when people trashed it. She, no taller than a barely-used trashcan, nodded.

On my third bucketful of rubbish, a fortyish woman grabbed a plastic bag and joined in. “Remember ‘Keep America Beautiful?’” she said. In the 1960’s, Lady Bird Johnson’s campaign to de-litter our highways was a rousing success. In 2007, according to Caltrans, L.A. County freeway trash is up 30 percent.

“Keep America Beautiful” has been out-shouted by “Keep America Afraid – Very Afraid.” Which explains why perfectly nice people see not-so-nice people toss their trash into the street or the ocean, yet say nothing: we may be appalled, but we’re afraid to say Boo.

This past July 5, Will Rogers State Beach was covered in red, white, and blue trash. On my way to a swim, I picked it up. “I’m with you!” a weathered lifeguard yelled. “It just kills me when people throw their crap around.”

“What do you say to them?” I yelled back. This would be good. The beach was Brawny Bob’s turf. Moral high ground, big biceps: he had to have a “Toss it in the Can” message no one could refuse. But Mr. Muscles looked suddenly squeamish. “I, uh, I don’t say anything. It’s, uh, not my place.”

But it is his place, and it’s our place too. We live here. Yet when I ask litter-haters how they confront litter-makers, they uniformly protest, “Oh, I can’t do that. I don’t want to start anything.” Or, as my mother used to warn, “Don’t say anything! Somebody might get mad.”

Well, somebody is mad, and that somebody is me. Littering is disgusting and rude and completely unnecessary. Asking someone to stop it is not only reasonable, it’s civilized.

What in the world are we so afraid of? We might, what, hurt the feelings of a self-centered boor who’s trashing our beach, our city, our planet? And yes, litter is as urgent an issue as global warming, because it’s the same issue. Hummer drivers and laissez-faire litterers will keep guzzling and littering until we stand up and announce that it’s really pissing us off. Like we did with dog owners who didn’t scoop the poop – and now they do. Like we did with smokers who clouded our airspace – and now they don’t. Peer pressure compels us to be crazy consumers. It can also compel us to be sane disposers.

As the sun went down, I saw that young girl pack the remains of her family picnic and personally escort it to the nearest trashcan. As she lifted the lid and dropped it inside, she looked very proud of herself. This wasn’t the magic hour I’d had in mind, but it was a very nice moment.

Donna Chapin is an ambivalent advertising writer and a committed environmental activist. She can be reached at: dlchapin@mac.com.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Is it Art, Graffiti, or something else?

Iraq is Arabic for Viet Nam

...only Banksy knows

We're not really any safer in our brand new police state...

...know Banksy!