Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ronald Reagan is Killing Your Children!

I'm in my fifties. I was born and raised in a coal mining town in western Pennsylvania. I went to school in one of the poorer districts in the state. When I was a child we had eight periods of instruction a day. We got new, revised school books every two years. We had a full program of arts and music education. We had technical education, things like auto shop, carpentry, agriculture, business courses, and cooking. We had full sports programs, and three hours of gym a week. We also had a school lunch program that included either meat, chicken or fish, fresh vegetables, salad, and a pint of milk every day of the week. We also had a full time health nurse, who monitored the weights, diet, and general health of each student.
Ronald Reagan rose to power as the leader of the anti-tax movement. Yes, he had a broad political agenda, but it was opposition to taxes that made him, first, governor of California, and then President of the United States. With the erosion of our tax base under Reagan, one of the things that was defunded was public education. Long gone, in most states, are arts and music programs, new text books, full sports programs, classes that aren't part of core curricula, healthy school lunch programs, and public health nurses. Today's school lunch programs are now governed by the need to provide food as cheaply as possible. I can attest from my personal experience, (I only work part time and have shifted my own diet from quality, fresh foods to starch and fat heavy cheaper foods.) that cheap food is bad food. Too, school districts, desperate to make up lost funding, have turned to soda/junk food, vending machine deals that put extra dollars in school budgets, and high fructose corn syrup in the stomachs of their students.
Sure, I'll admit it; video gaming, MacDonald's and television haven't helped. But remember, next time you see an obese twelve year old with diabetes, hyper tension and heart disease walk down the street, it was the tax rebellion, and Ronald Reagan that helped put him on the path to early death.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

My Predictions-Arms Control

From Article 2, Section 2 of the United States Constitution: He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur. Barack Obama has just announced a landmark treaty with Russia to lower our collective nuclear arsenals by 1/3 each. Every Republican will vote against this treaty. DOA. It doesn't matter that Ronald Reagan's old quote, "Trust but verify" is being bandied about by every senior administration official; it doesn't matter that the joint chiefs, and Republican holdover Defence Secretary Gates will be out pushing for this thing; it doesn't matter that it will provide the treasury a peace dividend. Every Republican senator will vote against it, so that they can damage the Obama administration. No matter that their no votes will also damage the United States. Republican patriotism.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The New Nazis

I've never liked Nazi analogies. Anyone who conflates Saddam with Hitler or George W. Bush with the Nazi Party is an idiot. Still, I'm having a hard time in not seeing similarities between the Tea Party movement and the rise of National Socialism.
No, I'm not saying that the Tea Party is the new Nazi Party of America. What I am saying is that the Nazis rose to power because so many people who should have known better saw the Nazis as useful tools and gave them support. I've always assumed that German businessmen who helped Hitler's rise to power because Hitler was willing to suppress independent unions, the social democrats who stood by because the Nazis would neuter the hard core communists, and the many intellectuals who supported Nazism because of the mystical, nationalistic elements of the movement all assumed that when the time came Hitler and his thugs could be controlled and then suppressed. The similarity I see is that mainstream Republicans, American business interests, and others on the right are willing to champion a fringe, hate movement in order to when a political battle.
Today's news story of Tea Party supporters, standing in the halls of congress, yelling nigger, faggot, and spitting on legislators is truly disturbing. When Barack Obama was running for president and many of the people I knew said that sooner or latter someone was going to shoot the guy, I dismissed those fears. Yes, I admitted, there might be some lone gunman, insane, with some imaginary grievance, who could go off the deep end, but the whole idea that there was a large segment of the American public wanting to kill a president because of either his race or his politics seemed silly to me. Not anymore. Now I'm convinced that it is only a matter of time before some Tea Party supporter makes the attempt. The only question I have is this: Will we blame that lone gunman, or will we blame the movement and it's supporters? People like Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck and even House member Michele Bachmann have walked right up to the edge of calling for violence against President Obama, House Speaker Pelosi, and other Democratic and liberal leaders. I have a great deal of faith in the Secret Service, and am confident that they are up to the task of protecting the lives of our leaders. It just bothers me that when they make the arrest or, unfortunately, are put in the position of having to kill an attacker, that the hate leaders of the far right won't be sitting in a jail cell for inciting such a treasonous act.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Whale's Tale

Well, it's not often that one gets the chance to type whale and scandal in the same sentence, but I have my chance today. As difficult as it is to believe, a Los Angeles area (Santa Monica to be precise) restaurant has been caught serving whale to its customers. Why any business would risk its survival by illegally selling the flesh of an endangered species is beyond me, but the owner and chef of Hump, a fashionable eatery, popular with the rich and famous of SoCal, are in jail for doing just that. Needless to say Hump's business license is probably going to get pulled, and just to make things dicey for Hump, the restaurant's landlord is the city of Santa Monica, and it's highly unlikely that a town once referred to as the people's republic isn't going to cancel the restaurant's lease.
Yes, I am glad that the chef and owner of Hump are likely to serve some time for serving whale. If violating laws meant to protect endangered species result in nothing more than a fine and some community service, well why even have a law in the first place. But what I really want to know is, who was ordering whale? At $600 a meal, there aren't too many working class types eating whale. The customers for such exotic and expensive food have to be the previously mentioned rich and famous. My guess is that there are credit card receipts with some recognizable names on them that can be linked to whale consumption. If an ordinary, poor or middle class person gets caught buying something illegal there are penalties to pay. Depending on what's being purchased and whether or not the purchaser has a criminal record, punishment can range from probation to serious jail time. Why should a famous Hollywood agent, actor, studio chief, or just plain old rich guy not have to go to court and say, "Sorry, my bad." I'm not arguing for major jail time, but a nice fine and a few weeks picking up garbage along the streets of L.A., or more appropriately, coming the beaches for litter, would be a reminder that actions have consequence.

Friday, March 5, 2010

To The Streets

Well, it seems like old times, turning on the television and seeing student protests. This time it's not war or civil rights that motivates American college students, but ever increasing tuition costs as well as a shrinking curricula.
I've written about this in the past, and finally there seems to be a willingness on the part of students to begin the fight.
We can not have a modern economy without a well educated work force, nor can we have any real class mobility with an undereducated population. It's about time that somebody realizes this and is willing to put up the good fight to provide free higher education for all. As of right now, the protests are just about keeping tuition prices at a reasonable level and stopping the loss of classes, but in the long run the real struggle has to be open access, and free higher education. And that includes graduate schools.
Again, this goes back to the short sighted stupidity of Ronald Reagan and the tax rebellion. Always ready with a quick quip, when Reagan was asked why he wanted to get rid of free college education in California, he made a joke about not wanting to pay for the education of students who were going to protest his policies. As fun as Ronnie could be, what it got down to was that low taxes and nonexistent government are the goals of the modern conservative movement. What's that old line about fools knowing the cost of everything but the value of nothing?
This is an idea right of the top of my head and it might not be workable. After all, I ran out of money and dropped out of college, so I'm not educated enough to do the math. A national Internet sales tax, including song downloads. Steve Jobs should be able to figure out the best way to collect it. Then, minus administration costs, redistribute those taxes to the states, based on population, on the condition that all college and grad school tuition be eliminated. Hey Steve, a well educated work force makes more money, so they'll buy more stuff on line. In the long run, those profits are going to go up, up, and up, in return for a little sacrifice (in effort) now.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Don't Have a Heart Attack in Lomita

Just heard a story on the local TV news, and I don't have any information beyond the two minutes, on air report, so take this one with a grain of salt. Lomita, California will be charging $300 for every 911 call from Lomita residents, and if you're driving through town, it will be a hefty $400 charge. My former, next door neighbor's boyfriend used to beat the shit out of her and I had to call 911 a couple of times a month. If L.A. starts to charge for 911 calls, I'll have to think twice about calling the cops. Got to wonder how many people are going to end up dead because the good Samaritans of the world aren't willing to go broke to do the right thing?

The Cult of Apple

Despite the fact that I don't own an I-Phone, I-Pod, I-Pad, or even eye drops, I have a fascination with Apple's marketing. With the always emaciated Steve Jobs, dressed in black, looking more like a monk in the church of Johnny Cash, than a fairly ruthless CEO, as front man, Apple pushes a cult like ad campaign, with Apple's product line positioned as holy objects rather than somewhat useful bits of technology. Apple's latest Zen marketing is an announcement that they've discovered child labor in their Chinese factories and that Apple no longer will have any of their products built by children. Ah, let me see if I understand Apple's core business decision; for years Apple has taken advantage of cheap labor in a country that has a well documented history of allowing children to slave away in factories, making products for western consumers. Apple's wilful ignorance of a business model, so common, that it would be naive to think that any product coming from the People's Republic doesn't have some child labor in the product supply chain allows the always pacific Mr. Jobs to claim morality from former immorality. That is if child labor is to be viewed as wrong.
I'd turn this post into an attack on Apple but, like most Americans, I have a number of Chinese made products in my home, and as such, I'm as guilty of child exploitation as anyone else, though certainly not on the level of western CEO's, including Steve Jobs. I'd much rather ask the obvious question: Why do so many Americans, including many who self describe themselves as liberals, invoke Tom Friedman and his "world is flat" philosophy and smugly point out that American workers need to start competing in a flat world, and if they aren't willing to do so, it's their own fault if their jobs disappear. What does that mean? Should the United states and the EU, repeal child labor laws? Should we start shooting union organizers? Should we abandon environmental and work safety laws? I have a relative who describes herself as being far to the left who at the same time refers to Tom Friedman as being brilliant. If she is right, and if Tom Friedman is so brilliant, than it's time the west embraces slavery, child exploitation, and massive environmental degradation. I can't imagine any other way in which the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, and the EU can compete in a truly flat world. Dare I suggest that Tom Friedman might be wrong? Maybe the world isn't flat, and maybe the side that feels comfortable with 10 year old children working in factories, slave labor, and repressive regimes will win because western, democratic societies want cheap I-Pods. Downloads, anyone?