Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Republicans’ Phony Meme

There have been a number over the years. “Tax and Spend Democrats,” and “Death Tax” are a couple of examples. About the time “Tax and Spend” was launched the Republicans were slashing tax revenues and borrowing and spending to support our two ruinous wars.

But that was then and this is now.

The latest slogan the Republican word magicians want us to swallow as God’s truth is “Job Killing Tax Increases.” Say that often enough and people will believe that it’s true; that increased federal income will (or has) stifled job creation.

There is not a jot of evidence that this is true. Think a minute, people. No jobs are being created now, when the tax laws are as forgiving as any in the modern industrial world. Forgiving taxation hasn’t done thing to produce jobs. Corporate America is sitting on record amounts of cash and we have 9.2% unemployment.

In the current debt limit debate the Republicans have fought any suggestion of tax reform that would increase revenue by closing loopholes, or removing some selected tax exemptions.

The Republican solution to the debt crisis is to slash expenditures in the area of the social safety net. If they don’t want to raise taxes, let’s cut 200 billion out of the defense budget instead.

Cross Posted from:

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Independence Day

The Fourth of July is my favorite holiday. I love the picnics and fireworks, the parades and marching bands-- but what I love most are the words of the day; the words of Jefferson and Paine, of the founding documents and the passionate speeches.

English is the mother tongue of democracy and no better political prose has ever been written. It’s muscular, direct, clear. It appeals to the mind as well as the heart and it expresses what we are as a nation. When we fall short of its ideals it reminds us what we ought to be.

The movements to deconstruct and reconstruct American history, to reveal the hidden hypocrisies at the heart of the nation’s founding, have tempted some into an attitude of world-weary dismissal of those ideals.

But imperfect men may yet have perfect thoughts, and slave owners may recognize the moral imperative of the rights of man.

On the morning of July 4th I’ll take my coffee out on the patio and read the Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

These truths are the axioms of our political geometry. The assertion of them is not a scientific proposition, nor the deduction from some simpler or more evident truths. They are the bedrock on which we build a government. They are the commandments of a political faith.

Although all men have these rights, in a material and imperfect world they must be secured to us.

… to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

The preamble to the Constitution echoes the theme. The Constitution is written to… establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.

Democratic government is not a burden, it is the condition of our liberty. Without it, as Thomas Hobbes earlier observed, we live in a state described as “the war of all against all” and lead lives that are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

Government cannot be left simply in the hands of others, as Thomas Paine reminded his fellow citizens in “The Crisis” (December 1776).

These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of men and women.

Not every crisis that our nation faces has the chilling dimensions of that winter in Valley Forge. Some may be purely local, springing up only in our own moral neighborhoods so to speak, but each to some degree requires that we shoulder the responsibility for protecting our fellow citizens’ unalienable rights, and promoting the general welfare.

To fail in this is to be no more than summer soldiers, espousing the right but not defending it.

Circling the interior of the rotunda of the Jefferson Memorial is the following quotation.

I am quoting it from memory, and perhaps I have some single word wrong, but if I do, so be it.

I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.

This is the great commandment of our political faith. Of course it implies freedom of speech, the press, expression… because a truth thought but not expressed is nothing.

There are other forms that tyranny over the mind can take, subtle, elusive, not always recognized for what they are: Hunger, prejudice and bigotry, poverty, the closing off of access to knowledge, the simple refusal to listen…all of these may stunt or cripple the mind by denying it the conditions to develop fully.

Finally, it is good to keep in mind that we are a country born of revolution.

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure. .( Jefferson.)

As a nation we might well remember this and take a more understanding and supportive view of other people’s revolutions.

Have a great Fourth of July.

The Republican Party vs The Rest of Us

There are two stories in today’s Arizona Daily Star that mesh nicely with yesterday’s “Loading Dock Manifesto” post.

The first was on the front page of the business section and headlined. “Recovery is most off-kiter since ’30s.”

Not surprisingly the rich have gotten richer and the rest of us have been done the dirty. There are still 9.1% of us unemployed, but none of the 9.1% happen to be the CEOs of major corporations. .

An associated Press analysis found that the typical CEO of a major company earned $9 million last year, up a fourth.

In the meantime worker’s wages have slipped from where they were in the mid 2000s (64% of the economy) to 57.5 percent and any new jobs being created pay less than the ones that have been lost.

As this wealth-shift has gone on Republican legislators have persisted in their refusal to include tax increases in a program of budget balancing; and at the Federal level they have fought controls on the financial industry whose rascality got us into the recession in the first place.

Have our masters kept an eye out for the welfare of their workers?

Au contraire, mon frere...they have pushed for more tax cuts (the Laugher Principle...they cut taxes and laugh all the way to the bank) and cut the services that constitute the workingman’s safety net.

Mark Dayton, the governor of Minnesota, has shown remarkable courage in digging in against his Republican legislature’s refusal to make tax increases a part of the state’s budget. Absent a new budget the state is now idle.Turn out the lights...for now the party’s over.

The soft-spoken Dayton refuses to cave to the GOP's stance that higher taxes are verboten. Since taking office, he has championed tax hikes on rich Minnesotans - or at least some form of new state revenue - as a necessary part of any solution to closing the state's $5 billion budget deficit.

Read more

The Loading Doc Manifesto---John Hyduk

The Loading Dock Manifesto by John Hyduk

America isn’t long on working-class intellectuals, but surely John Hyduk is one of them...although he would sure be scornful of my calling him one. He’s a working guy who happens to write. Not a lot, not enough to quit his night job on a beverage company loading dock

“You want something higher, a prickly Everyman speaking half-truths to power, go scare up Joe the Plumber. All I know is this: I am a schlub walking a high wire between paydays in steel-toed shoes. And my name is legion.”

His wonderful essay on what the working life is, and its values, was recently published in Esquire.

“I grew up in a blue-collar Cleveland neighborhood, a little bit of Old Europe transplanted onto a bend of the Cuyahoga River. The men — Poles, Slovaks, Czechs, Ukies, Hungarians — were scrappers and needed to be. Their wives stayed home, had gardens and babies, and could see the future in the bottoms of teacups.

I never needed a fortune-teller to see mine. It came shuffling past our porch every evening at 5:25, toting a lunch pail. At eighteen you were swallowed by the python and made your way through the beast like a lump. At the other end was a mill pension, casino trips on a bus charter twice a year, and church bingo every Wednesday.”

You don’t always have work. After losing a job, five months went by before the loading dock job came up.

Once a month I update my résumé. Why, I don't know exactly. When I was looking, five months spent on orange plastic interview chairs, with my livelihood hanging on reliable transportation and a willingness to pee in a stranger's cup, that was the mantra. "Make sure you keep your résumé updated," some hiring clerk would tell me.

So I walk the hall of mirrors. There I am at the beginning — my hair is black and my back is straight, and I'm sliding into my first Ford, heading off to work. "Honky Tonk Women" is on the radio. Then I'm gone, pushing, pulling my way down a tunnel. A page later you look up and that gray-haired daddy o' mine is ... you. That's the working life.

No illusions: The only way I will ever see Paris is on the Travel Channel. I will never taste cassoulet unless they put it on the menu at Sheetz. I'm okay with that. One day you stare into the bathroom mirror and Willie Nelson is staring back at you. I'm okay with that, too.

You tote a lot more to work in a lunch pail than Ring Dings. You pack alimony and autism diagnoses and car notes and the rest of the workingman's grind. Baby needs a new pair of shoes. Also braces, a better school, and a down payment on that spring field trip. And you chew whatever has been dumped on your plate in silence.

You don't go into therapy. You go to work.

Read More:

Friday, July 01, 2011


July 1, 1863

Our correspondent in the field reports the BMI (Bureau of Military Information) has confirmed Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia has crossed the Potomac River and after its march north into Pennsylvania has wheeled east. Units of the rebel Third Corps ( Lt. General A. P. Hill commanding) are approaching Gettysburg.

Two brigades of the Federal First Cavalry Division (Brig.Gen. John Buford commanding) are drawn up to interdict the advancing rebel army. Buford’s two brigades number just under 3,000 men.

With the approach of July Fourth we naturally focus on the great events of 1776 and the Revolutionary War. That war was our great founding conflict.

But less than one hundred years later the nation was to be in another war, as important to the founding and character of our nation as the events of 1776.

We were “engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”

The key battle in that war, the one that marked its turning point, was a series of savage engagements fought around the small Pennsylvania town Gettysburg on July 1st, 2nd and 3rd.

One of the great ironies of the war was that Lee didn’t really want to fight the federals there, but on some other ground of his own choosing where he could defeat The Army of The Potomac under Maj. Gen. George Mead. Mead, for his part, had found the battle more or less forced on him (as it was on Lee) when A.P. Hill’s engagement with Buford’s cavalry grew out of hand.

It had been Lee’s hope to defeat federal forces and threaten Washington, forcing the North to recognize The Confederate States of America. Lincoln, for his part wanted Mead to crush the Army of Northern Virginia and pursue it to Richmond, ending the war. Although Gettysburg was a great victory for the North, Mead did not pursue the victory and Lee slipped away back to Virginia.

I’ve been reading two excellent books about Gettysburg as I holed up against the 110 degree heat.

The first, and probably most accessible to the average reader is Michael Shaara’s “The Killer Angels” for which he was awarded the 1975 Pulitzer Prize. This is a novelized but extremely accurate account of the battle told from the perspectives of major participants, among them Chamberlain, Buford, Longstreet, Armistead and Freemantle. Freemantle was a British observer with Lee’s army and Chamberlain was the hero of the Little Round Top defense. A Maine man, he survived serious wounds and lived to become the the Governor of Maine.

The second book is Stephen W. Sears’ “Gettysburg.” This is a serious book of historical scholarship, meticulously researched with detailed notes and bibliography. But don’t let me put you off, in it’s way it’s as much of a page turner as “Killer Angels.”

Gettysburg was a series of engagements which are collectively “the battle.” George Skoch’s maps of the stages of the battle are a big help in visualizing the events. My suggestion is to read Shaara first.