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Archive for the ‘Things That Suck’ Category

It has happened bit by bit.  We have seen little breaks in the seams of our fabric.  As time has gone by, we have more and more of our liberties taken away from us.  We have seen NSA spying on our phone conversations and gathering huge amounts of data on everyone.  We have seen anti-abortion activists place huge burdens on the process that in many states it is almost impossible to even get to a doctor that performs abortions.

We have seen the anti-LGBT movement start calling discrimination a “religious liberty” so they can discriminate against LGBT marriages simply because they “don’t believe in it.”  We have seen public education under attack and have seen their budgets slashed to the bare bones.  This even includes higher education budgets at our state universities.

We have seen attacks on pay equality.  Women are expected to do the same job as a man and get paid less for their labors.  We have seen attacks on contraception measures designed so women can choose when to have a family.

We have seen attacks on the poor.  Welfare cuts, SNAP cuts, WIC cuts, even cuts to the agencies that are supposed to protect us from bad foods and drugs.  There has been a constant attack on the less wealthy, blacks, Latinos, gays, and women for over 30 years.

At the same time, we have seen the top 1% wage earners get richer all the while claiming they are the ones under attack.  They claim they pay too much in taxes when in fact, their percentage of income going to taxes are lower than the people who work for them.

Some say this is a “conservative movement” that has gained traction.  They claim that people would not vote for politicians who are forcing these issues on the American people if they did not agree with them.  I say it is something far different, and far more insidious than that.  It is a marriage between Conservative Christians and what is quickly becoming the American Aristocracy!

It is no coincidence that the Conservative Christian movement gained strength at the same time the American Aristocracy began to become more of a reality.  In fact, it is the American Aristocrats that are actually funding the Conservative Christian movement.  That funding does not come because the Aristocrats actually believe in all of that guff.  It is because they want to use Conservative Christians to gain power, and nothing more than that.

When our country was founded over 200 years ago, the world was made up of kingdoms.  Our own “mother country” was a kingdom.  These kingdoms were left over relics of the “dark ages” when it was determined that “God ordained” certain people to be kings and lords.

The simple act of being born into a certain family proved that God had ordained you to become the king.  That fact proved that God had ordained you to be a lord with life and death powers over your serfs.  Religion backed this notion.  They told their followers that it was their duty to follow their ruler because he was “ordained by God.”

Our founding fathers believed this to be nonsense.  They believed that who was governing was up to the people who were being governed.  They turned away from the “God ordained” leaders and set up a government meant to be run by the very people who are to be governed.

The “separation of church and state” in our First Amendment was to insure there would be no “God ordained” leader in America.  They went even further to ensure that no Aristocracy was able to rise in America.  In England, the “old families” owned most of the country’s property and money, and still do.  They made up their own rules.  The founding fathers decided that was not good for the country.

As a result, they established the “estate tax” in America.  By placing a high tax on inherited wealth, they planned to make sure that Aristocrats could not wield so much power.  In their opinion, being born to a rich family did not make you “ordained by God” to be rich for the rest of your life.  You had to earn your own way.

And it all worked for over 200 years.  Yes, there were a lot of hiccups along the way.  But by and large, the non-aristocratic government they established worked.  Then came along Ronald Reagan in 1980.  Ronald Reagan did not see why it was so bad to let an aristocracy rise in America.

He wrapped his message in what was to be known as “trickle-down economics.”  He said that if the really rich were given huge tax breaks, they would invest in business.  He said that if the estate tax was cut, or better yet, eliminated, these rich brats would invest in business.  Of course it never happened that way.

At the same time, the Conservative Christian movement began to gain traction.  Their preachers went to the pulpit every Sunday claiming that we should all be thankful to the very wealthy because they made our miserable lives possible with jobs.  They preached that these wealthy people should not have to pay any estate taxes because God had blessed them by putting them in their family at birth.

They also preached that not blindly following these “leaders” of industry, we would be guilty of disobeying God.  Since these people were all blessed by God with their wealth, we must follow their lead or face eternal doom after we die.  It all sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

During the “Dark Ages” these lords and kings didn’t give a damn about the poor.  They did nothing to ensure their lives got better.  Instead, they relied on keeping them uneducated and poor.  That was the best way to keep control.  And, since these “lords” were ordained by God, it was not a sin to kill off their serfs if they didn’t obey the lords.

Today we see similar comparisons to those times.  We are told that the wealthy control our lives.  They are the ones who should determine “fair wages” because they are th ones with the money.  Since they were “blessed by God” we don’t have any right to fight them.

Furthermore, if you don’t make a living wage, you are on your own.  Well, that is what they want things to be like.  That is why they are continuously slashing budget items associated with the “social safety net.”  If you are poor, it is because God wants you poor.”  So, just shut up and do as you are told.

Conservative Christians and the Aristocracy are behind the cutting of education funding.  They are terrified of an educated population.  Just like the “Dark Ages” if the people are kept uneducated, they won’t be able to think for themselves and realize that this is all nonsense.

The Conservative Christians preachers are telling you all of this because it the Aristocracy that is funding their churches and allowing them to live in luxury.  But you shouldn’t worry.  According to their philosophy if you suffer in this life you are sure to have it better in the next.  That does a lot to help feed your children now.

That is what this is really all about.  People like the Koch Brothers and the Walton Family are only interested in power over the minions of the world.  They are not alone either.  You can find these vultures around almost every corner.  You can especially find them behind most conservative politicians and all of the Conservative Christian politicians.

Democracy is hard.  People actually have to pay attention to what is happening around them in order to make an informed decision on who to vote for or against.  Having more than a fourth grade education helps too.

The Conservative Christians and the new Aristocracy have teamed up to deny you your freedoms.  They have wrapped themselves up in religion to scare the shit out of believers.  They don’t want educated people.  They don’t want unions.  They don’t want equal rights.  They want an aristocracy in America because they believe themselves to be that aristocracy.

The elections next year will have a direct impact on which direction we go.  Will we return to our democracy or will we allow the American Aristocracy to rise even farther.   If they win we will see Christianity as the “official” religion of the nation.  More freedoms will be stripped, and we will become no better than the serfs of the Dark Ages.  That is not what our founding fathers envisioned for America.

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The death toll is rising.  We are seeing more and more Americans die when all of these deaths can be prevented.  We are also seeing huge amounts of money being wasted repairing damages from a very preventable crisis.  I am not talking about the riots in Baltimore, Ferguson, and other places.  I am talking about the very sorry state of our infrastructure.

On Tuesday an Amtrak train derailed near Philadelphia.  At least seven people died in that crash and several others were seriously injured.  Initial reports indicate that the train was speeding at approximately 106 MPH in a 50 MPH zone.  However, there is a system called “positive train control” (PTC) that automatically slows or even halts trains that are moving too fast or heading into a danger zone. Under current law, the rail industry must adopt the technology by the end of this year.

The section of track where this crash took place is not equipped with this system.  If the PTC had been installed, the train would have automatically been slowed down by the system.  Meaning this crash would not have happened.

To be fair about this, this technology is new, and needed to be built from the ground up.  The Association of American Railroads has said it wants PTC in place but blames logistical challenges like acquiring radio frequencies and placing transmitter towers for the delay.

“This is not off-the-shelf technology; it has had to be developed from scratch,” said Ed Greenberg, spokesman for the trade group.

Installing radio towers and other hardware at congested rail junctions, like the site of the Philadelphia accident, poses unique challenges, according to former and current officials.

As a result, delays in implementation have been requested.  In March, the Senate Commerce Committee voted to extend the deadline for implementing PTC until at least 2020. The bill will now go to the Senate floor.

Then on Wednesday, Republicans in the House voted to chop about a fifth of Amtrak’s budget, less than a day after the deadly train crash.  On Wednesday evening, National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt told reporters:

“Based on what we know right now, we feel that had such a system been installed in this section of track, this accident would not have occurred.”

Sumwalt, who is leading the crash probe, spoke hours after the House Appropriations Committee voted down a Democratic amendment that would have offered $825 million for PTC.

Republicans say the cuts are necessary to stay under the spending cuts put in place four years ago.  And, they argue that if there is to be more money in the transportation bill, it would have to be offset somewhere else.  Yet, Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.), whose district includes parts of Philadelphia, noted that the House voted just last month to repeal the estate tax, with no offsets for the $260 billion the Treasury would lose over next 10 years. “I think we should be wiser than that,” he said.

This issue is about a lot more than Amtrak and this tragic accident.  It is about priorities that the Republican Party gets wrong every time there is a “budget” vote of any kind in Congress.  Back in about 2004, a group of engineers rated our country’s infrastructure for safety.  They gave it a grade of “D”.

We have seen major highway bridges fall down killing people.  We see our highways overly congested and strewn with huge pot holes and other structural flaws causing traffic accidents and damage to vehicles.  Our electrical grid is antiquated and just waiting for another chance to cause another huge blackout somewhere.  Our rail system is about 30 years behind the rest of the world.  Our airports are old and runways are becoming more and more unsafe.

We are relying on old pipes to provide our drinking water.  There have been huge pipe breaks causing street flooding and other damage, including killing people.  Not to mention the health dangers it will cause in the near future.  And, Congress is doing nothing about this situation.

As part of the economic recovery plan the President proposed a bill called the Transportation and Infrastructure Bill.  This bill would have provided money to fix our infrastructure problems.  It would have created millions of good paying jobs that would last at least 20 years.  And, more importantly, it may have been the tool needed to keep this latest train accident from happening.

But, as usual, the Republican controlled House would not even bring the bill up for debate, much less a vote.  They said it would “cost too much.”  Since that time, there have been at least seven high-profile train accidents involving not only Amtrak, but oil trains.  We have had more bridges collapse.  The list goes on.

If fixing our infrastructure is too expensive, how can cutting taxes be less expensive?  If creating good paying jobs that will last a generation is too expensive, how can repealing the estate tax be less expensive?

Some may ask if we need to offset the budget somewhere else to stay within the “guidelines” how come the Department of Defense is getting a huge increase in its budget without the offset?  The vote the other day on this transportation bill shows where the offset is.  Safety of our general public does not compete very well with the Defense Budget.

The Republicans are always talking about reducing the debt.  They are always talking about keeping spending under control.  They claim that things like the social safety net, transportation, safety, and infrastructure are sucking the budget dry.  Yet, they keep trying to reduce revenues that flow into the government coffers.

According to them, it is better to cut $260 Billion dollars from the government coffers by repealing a tax that only affects less than 1% of the population than to ensure safe travel.  They continue to argue that corporate taxes need to be cut all the while letting our infrastructure that supports these corporations fall apart.

They fail to understand that more people working at good paying jobs will increase revenues due to those people paying more taxes.  They fail to understand that they are taking a country that once was the envy of the world in terms of infrastructure and making it no better than a third world country.

The Republican Party has pushed the same failed fiscal policies for over 30 years.  In the meantime, our bridges are collapsing, our drinking water is in danger, our food quality is in danger, our electric grid is falling further behind demand, and people are dying.  All in the holy name of “tax cuts.”

Maybe that is why our economy has done better under Democratic control than Republican control over the last 50 years!  Unless Republicans wake up to the damage they have done to our country, more people will die because of our crumbling infrastructure.

 

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Deflategate has hit the pages again.  This time the Wells report was unveiled, and Tom Brady has been suspended for four games for his role in “deflating” footballs after the officials inspected them.  Also the two equipment managers have been suspended and the New England Patriots have been fined $1 million and have had two draft picks taken away from them.

According to the NFL this is all being done to protect the integrity of the game.

“Your actions as set forth in the report clearly constitute conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the game of professional football. The integrity of the game is of paramount importance to everyone in our league, and requires unshakable commitment to fairness and compliance with the playing rules,” NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent wrote in a letter to Brady.

Case closed, right?  Well not exactly.  Obviously Brady is going to “appeal” his suspension.  Critics of the Wells report, including Brady’s agent, call it dubious at best and a sham at worst.  They claim that the incident “did not affect the outcome of the game in question.”

On the other hand, supporters of the suspension argue that the “outcome of the game is not the central issue.  The fact Brady cheated is the central issue.”  The NFL is very quick to shout out “integrity” when it is dealing with rules violations.  Suspensions are all in the name of the “integrity of the game” or “protecting the shield.”

The really funny part in all of this is that the NFL has shown absolutely no integrity at all.  Yes, they are very quick to suspend a player for wearing the wrong colored shoes during a game, or having a logo other than NFL on a headband, or for deflating game balls in order to gain and advantage.  But that is as far as their integrity goes.

In the last year and a half, several players in the NFL have been accused and in some cases convicted of domestic violence.  Ray Rice’s case hit the headlines really hard.  But, the problem is that domestic violence was a problem in the NFL for years, and they did nothing about it.  After all, that person being abused is really a nobody in terms of the game!  And, she probably had it coming.

Several players have also been accused of rape.  But that isn’t an integrity problem for the NFL either.  It is just a few bad apples.  Including the number 1 draft pick this year who not only was accused of rape, but convicted of stealing crab legs.  And how did this draftee show his integrity?  He “selfied” himself and girlfriend eating crab legs to celebrate his selection as number 1.  Talk about rubbing it in.

Then we can take the issue of CSE.  Literally hundreds of former, and even some current players, are suffering after effects of concussions.  The sport of football is a violent game and injuries do happen.  But instead of putting a lot of emphasis on reducing the number of concussions, the NFL has put together a very highly paid legal team to fight against the argument that the NFL is responsible for these injuries.  Besides these concussions are caused by “faulty equipment.”

Then there are the other players who have had several knee operations, hip replacement surgeries, and a myriad of other surgeries that have made them disabled.  The pension plans for these former players who mostly played before a union is measly at best.  And the health coverage they get is even worse.  But, that doesn’t seem to fit into the NFL’s definition of “integrity.”  Not to mention that these players are all injured because the “fundamentals” of the game aren’t being taught anymore.  So, blame those coaches not the NFL.

I used to play football.  I loved the game.  But, as I think I mentioned before, I have stopped watching the game.  Every time I see even a highlight of a game, I am more reminded of the old Roman Gladiators in the Coliseum.  The game has stopped being a game of football, and has become a gladiator match.  The only question during a game today, is how many players will be carted off the field due to a serious injury.

What is even worse is that every Sunday during the season, and now every Monday and Thursday, millions of people tune in to watch this gladiator spectacle.  The NFL and their sponsors make billions of dollars off of these players injuries.  Then, like the rest of our “throw away society” simply throw away these players and say “they chose to play the game so it is not our fault.”

The NFL will suspend players to “protect the integrity of the game.”  But, someone should write Commissioner Goodell and let him know where he can find the definition of the word “integrity.”  I think he will be surprised to learn that it covers a whole lot more than just “playing by the rules.”

Unless people stop watching the game until the NFL cleans up its act in many areas, this stupidity will continue.  The NFL and its sponsors only understand one thing.  Money!  We need to cut off the money before we can expect any real changes in the NFL’s behavior.  Until then, the NFL will have very little to do with “integrity.”

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What do you think?  Is it possible that we are now living in a “Police State?”  Is it possible that we have been so eager to give up our civil rights that we no longer have any?  The Patriot Act is one of the easiest targets against a “police state” mentality.  Under the Patriot Act, we have given up many of our rights in the name of security.  But, the Patriot Act isn’t the only thing that affects our rights.

There is another law that is used by Federal Agents and State, county, and local authorities.  It amounts to billions of dollars stolen from average people every year.  It is also something that doesn’t get talked about very much, and you almost never hear about it on the news.

Let us look at this.  After scraping together enough money to produce a music video in Hollywood, 22-year-old Joseph Rivers set out last month on a train trip from Michigan to Los Angeles, hoping it was the start of something big.   Something big did happen, but it wasn’t what he expected.

Rivers changed trains at the station in Albuquerque, NM.  He was carrying his bags containing clothes and a bank envelope with his $16,000 in cash.  DEA agents also boarded the train there as well.   According to Rivers and other witnesses, the agents started questioning passengers at random asking for their destination and reason for traveling.

In this case, Rivers was the only black person on this particular car, according to witnesses.  When the agents got to Rivers, the questions took the interrogation further, asking to search his bags. Rivers complied. The agent found the cash — still in a bank envelope — and decided to seize it on suspicion that it may be tied to narcotics. River pleaded with the agents, explaining his situation and even putting his mother on the phone to verify the story.

The agents refused to take into consideration what Rivers or his mother said and seized the money.  “These officers took everything that I had worked so hard to save and even money that was given to me by family that believed in me,” Rivers told the Journal. “I told (the DEA agents) I had no money and no means to survive in Los Angeles if they took my money. They informed me that it was my responsibility to figure out how I was going to do that.”

How, you may ask, can the government seize this person’s money?  That is a fair question.  Turns out that Rivers fell victim to civil asset forfeiture, a legal tool that has been criticized as a violation of due process and a contradiction of the idea that criminal defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Asset forfeiture allows police to seize property they suspect is related to criminal activity, without even charging its owner with a crime. The charges are filed against the property itself — including cash, jewelry, cars and houses — which can then be sold, with part of the proceeds flowing back to the department that made the seizure.

“We don’t have to prove that the person is guilty,” Sean Waite, the agent in charge at the DEA’s Albuquerque’s office, told the Journal. “It’s that the money is presumed to be guilty.”

Even though it is true that Rivers was the only black person on that particular car on the train, I am not suggesting that his money was taken solely because he was black.  I am merely pointing out that if you are stopped by any law enforcement official, and that official determines that what our are carrying in cash, or maybe driving a car that is “too” rich for your blood, they can simply claim it must be due to drug selling and seize your property.

Rivers was never arrested nor even charged with a crime.  The agents just took his money.  If, you think this is just another case of the Federal Government “overreaching” again, remember any state trooper, county sheriff, or local police can seize your property under the same conditions.

The only way you can get your possessions back is to get involved with a costly legal challenge.  Take the case of Matt Lee, 31, who in 2011 was pulled over by police in Nevada while on the last leg of a cross-country move from Michigan to California. In an ensuing K-9 search, police discovered $2,400 in cash, loaned to Lee by his father. Though officers had no proof of any connection to a crime — Lee had never even been arrested before — they seized the cash and left Lee with $151. Lee later hired a lawyer, and the county eventually agreed to return his money. By then, his legal fees had reached $1,269, leaving Lee with less than half of the money that had been taken from him.

In February, a report by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian group that focuses on civil liberties, showed how widespread civil asset forfeiture has become. The federal program led to nearly $6.8 billion in seized cash and property from 2008 to 2013, the report says. The Washington Post published a series last year that showed since 2001, $2.5 billion had been seized in cash alone — all from people who were never charged with a crime and without a warrant being issued.

The forfeiture of assets originally came about to punish drug dealers from gaining materially from their crime.  That may be honorable.  However, the fact that police agencies can simply seize your assets simply because, “you must be a drug dealer” and not even charge you with a crime, is atrocious!

I have written before.  Giving up civil rights or liberties in the name of security is a bad idea.  Even Benjamin Franklin said “If you give up freedom in the name of security, you will soon discover that you have neither freedom, nor security.”

In my opinion, this is all happening because of paranoia.  We hear stories about how bad things have gotten, and all of a sudden we are willing to let the government steal our assets, listen in on our phone conversations, read our emails, etc.  All in the name of being more secure.  But, in reality, we are not more secure.  We are less free.

 

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There is a case before the New Jersey State Supreme Court that I think shows how states totally disrespect their government workers.  But, it goes even deeper than that.  States believe that the promises they make to those who work tirelessly for the government don’t need to be upheld.

The case is over New Jersey Pension reforms.  In 2011 the state passed a law, which Gov. Christie claimed to be his biggest achievement.  The 2011 pension law cut benefits by increasing employee contributions to the state pension fund and eliminating cost-of-living adjustments. When Christie signed it his office pledged that it would “bring to an end years of broken promises.”

That hasn’t worked out so well.  Just four short years later, the state is facing a huge shortfall.  Tax revenue in the state has fallen below expectations.  As a result, the Governor has unilaterally withheld state pension fund contributions to the tune of $1.57 Billion.  But, that doesn’t square with what is written in the law.

The law has language that says “members of the public-pension systems shall have a contractual right to the annual required contribution amount.”  This has prompted state public employee’s unions to file the suit that is now before the state’s Supreme Court.

In court on Wednesday, New Jersey Assistant Attorney General Jean Reilly argued that use of the word “contractual” didn’t guarantee a binding contract because the New Jersey state constitution didn’t allow that. In response, Justice Barry T. Albin asked why, if the Christie administration believed the state constitution prevented such contractual obligations, it signed into law a bill containing them.  “The language is not aspirational,” Albin said. “The language is saying this is a contract.”

Most “experts” seem to think that this law suit will be upheld by the State Supreme Court.  Meaning that Christie will have to pony up the $1.57 Billion by July 1.  That is just the tip of the iceberg so to speak.  Next year’s budget is short as well.  It is allocating only $1.3 Billion to the pension system.  That is about 30% of the state’s required contribution.

What this shows is why state pensions are always in trouble and always being blamed on the workers.  I can’t count how many state pension funds are in trouble.  The fault is not because the employees don’t contribute to their pension funds, it is because states do not contribute their share to the fund.  As a result, over the years, state employee pension funds are falling billions of dollars short.

This is not just a one party problem either.  In New Jersey the last nine administrations, five Republican and four Democratic, failed to properly fund the pension system.  When all of this happens, who gets the blame?  Not the State Legislatures and State Governors who won’t fully fund the pension funds.  NO, they are innocent.  It is all the fault of the State Employees and those damn Unions who help ensure the futures of their members are assured.

The usual argument in these cases, like being used in New Jersey is that these laws and pension funds are “not contracts.”  According to this argument, “promising them a pension is not the same as giving them one.”  But, I believe you will find that there is also what is known as “verbal contracts.”

Governments, Local, State, and Federal, all use pensions to help recruit people to work for them.  The salaries of government workers is usually below the private sector’s pay.  But, when things get tight because of bad economic policies by Governors, like cutting taxes without paying for them, these same workers who were promised a pension when they retired get screwed.

Most of the media is missing the point on this case.  They are claiming this will hurt Christie’s Presidential hopes.  I don’t give a damn about the bully’s presidential hopes.  I care about the millions of State of New Jersey government employees who are once again being screwed by politicians.  Oh, by the way, the Legislature’s and Governor’s pensions are NOT affected by all of this.

I find it truly offensive for any politician to defend this hanky-panky, voodoo economics that only effect those who need it.  Pensions are part of the pay packages in both the public and the private sectors.  It is the responsibility of each State Legislature to ensure their pensions are fully funded and viable.

Sorry, but this type of behavior by politicians is nothing less than criminal in my eyes.  This is nothing short of theft from retired government employees.  All we can ask is “Who’s next?”

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I will admit, I have been relatively quiet about the Trans-Pacific Protocol (TPP) agreement.  This is not because I don’t have an opinion about it, it is because I just can’t get enough information about it to make an informed decision.  I have listened to each side of the equation and still can’t figure out what is in the damn thing.

I looked it up on the internet (I know the internet isn’t always the best place to do research, but it does help from time-to-time) and the only information I can get about the TPP is years old.  The President wants Congress to “fast-track” the TPP so there isn’t any debate about it on the floor.  He also says it is necessary to “harness” China.  He claims it is the TPP or China’s way.

That may all be true.  But, until we can actually read what is in the TPP, and not just excerpts that are “leaked” about it, there will be no way to make certain that it is something that will help the American Worker.

With all of that said, I am beginning to believe that the TPP will not be good for the American Worker.  There has been no “Free Trade” deal that has helped the American Worker.  In fact, under NAFTA, Korean Free Trade Agreement, and the Preferred Status deal to China, America has lost over 4.3 million manufacturing jobs.

If you listen to the right, these free trade deals are designed to help American Companies export to other countries.  They bring down tariffs and help us reduce the “trade imbalance.”  That all sounds really nice, doesn’t it?  The problem is that these “free trade” deals also make it easier for American Companies to shift their manufacturing to those other countries.

That means American Jobs are lost!  For example, while the 2012 elections were taking place, we saw a perfect example of the problems with these “free trade” agreements.  In Illinois there was a company called Solendra.  This company was making a very healthy profit.  Everything looked up for the factory and its employees.

Then Bane stepped in and decided that the company would make far more profits if it just shipped the jobs overseas to China.  They would be able to make the same products cheaper all the while keeping the price where it was.  That would result in maximizing profits for the share-holders.

To help the profits even more, they were able to take a tax break by shipping all of the manufacturing equipment to China as well.  See, if a company ships their equipment overseas, our tax laws gives them a “moving expense” break.  Forget about the 2 or 3 thousand employees of the plant and the local economy they put into shambles.  The share-holders were getting richer.

At the same time, candidate Mitt Romney was waxing lovingly how those “walls and barbed wire around China’s factories weren’t to keep people in, it was to keep others out.”  If anyone believes that, I know of some bridges for sale.

You may ask why any lawmaker in their right mind would even consider voting for such “trade agreements” that actually hurt American Workers.  Isn’t it their job to protect their citizens and not someone else’s?  That is your first mistake in politics.  The primary job of the American Politician is not to protect your jobs and the future of your children, it is to protect their jobs and the future of their children!

In addition, Republican Politicians, as proven by their continued love for failed economic policies, only care about the profits of CEO’s and share-holders.  It is the avowed belief of today’s Republican Party to establish a two-tiered citizenry.  The very wealthy and everyone else.

But, it isn’t just the politicians fault.  I am saddened to say that it is the American People’s fault as well.  Take Nike.  It makes “Air Jordan” shoes in China.  It costs Nike about $25 per pair of Air Jordan shoes.  They then import the shoes to America and sell them at around $150 to $200 per pair.  And the American People buy them!  So, you can take some blame for these “free trade” agreements.  Problem is that by continuing this behavior, your job may be the next to go overseas.  Think about that!

Furthermore, I am always amazed that the Republicans all talk fondly about how they “swept the floor in my father’s bar” as proof of their middle-class upbringing and support for small businesses.  Yet, their economic policies are killing small businesses everywhere.  Huge conglomerates like Wal-Mart, Big Lots and others are making it almost impossible for small businesses to compete.  These huge conglomerates are allowed to pay poverty wages and get their profits subsidized by the federal government through the “social safety net” needed by their employees.

Combined with the buying power these conglomerates have due to their size, small businesses cannot compete.  As a result, you will find small towns without a main street business district anymore.  Once these conglomerates are allowed to move in, they kill their competition.  It isn’t just department stores either.  It is everything.

These are the same policies that Republicans use to help get through these so-called “free trade” agreements.  It is all in the name of making the rich richer and everyone else poorer.  The real unfortunate side to this is that many Democrats are just as guilty in these “free trade” agreements as Republicans.

As you already know, I usually support the President.  However, when it comes to TPP, I must ask him: “If the TPP is going to be so good for the American Worker, why is it so secretive?”  Let’s face facts, when any trade agreement comes up and no one wants to tell the people what is in it, it NEVER is good for the American Worker.

As a result, even though I cannot find out exactly everything that is in the TPP, I must express my opposition to it.  It is time politicians actually do their job.  Which is to protect our working class!

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We have heard the paranoia time-and-again.  Especially from North Korea.  Every time the U.S. and South Korea plan a training exercise, North Korea claims that it is really a cover for an invasion of the north.  We hear all sorts of bellicose rants from their “leader” about how the North will defend itself against these aggressive moves.

Unfortunately, we are now hearing the same paranoia from our own right-wing wackos.  That is right, we are hearing that a military exercise designed to train our special forces, as well as other parts of our military, that is being conducted in seven states this summer is really a conspiracy to enforce “martial law.”

This summer, the military is planning a training exercise in seven states.  In five of those states, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado special forces troops will be training.  In a statement, the U.S. military said:

Members of U.S. Army Special Operations Command will train with other U.S Armed Forces units July 15 through Sept. 15 in a multi-state exercise called Jade Helm 15.

USASOC periodically conducts training exercises such as these to practice core special warfare tasks, which help protect the nation against foreign enemies. It is imperative that Special Operations Soldiers receive the best training, equipment and resources possible.

While multi-state training exercises such as these are not unique to the military, the size and scope of Jade Helm sets this one apart. To stay ahead of the environmental challenges faced overseas, Jade Helm will take place across seven states. However, Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) will only train in five states: Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. The diverse terrain in these states replicates areas Special Operations Soldiers regularly find themselves operating in overseas.

The training exercise will be conducted on private and public land with the permission of the private landowners, and from state and local authorities. In essence, all exercise activity will be taking place on pre-coordinated public and private lands.

The public can expect nothing much different from their day-to-day activities since much of exercise will be conducted in remote areas. The most noticeable effect the exercise may have on the local communities is an increase in vehicle and military air traffic and its associated noise.

Military training exercises are nothing new.  They have been going on since there was a military.  It is the only way to make sure our troops are properly trained in performing their duty.  But, over at Infowars, Alex Jones, infamous for his conspiracy theories doesn’t believe the military.  His Infowars has started a crazed attack on the exercise.

For example, The Drudge Report aggregated a number of stories about the exercises, directing readers to Infowars—including a March 24 story that said the trainings in Utah and Texas led observers “to fears that traditionally conservative areas may be a simulated target for future domestic operations.”  Yeowee!

What their fears really boil down to is that the administration is secretly preparing for an “invasion” of Texas!  Don’t believe me?  Take this from a frightened Texas citizen’s reaction:

The idea that training among small towns in the USA is supposed to provide “realism” for operating in Afghanistan or Iraq is utterly absurd. For one thing, small towns in America don’t have teams of local rebels setting up roadside IEDs to destroy humvees and their occupants. Special Forces operatives are more likely to encounter people hurrying their way to Starbucks than trying to run any sort of armed resistance actions. No, military training on the streets of America isn’t “realistic” training for fighting wars overseas. It’s only “realistic” for military action that takes place on the streets of America itself.

Or how about this gentleman from “The Common Sense Show” who has become convinced that this is far more insidious even than a practice for the day the U.S. military launches martial law throughout Texas:

In recent days, I have learned that the reason that we are seeing Jade Helm activity in so many areas and we are also witnessing the prepositioning of massive military equipment, is because Jade Helm forces will isolate certain geographic areas, thus trapping a segment of the population and keep them from fleeing to other areas. The second part of Phase III of the Jade Helm operation will be the insertion of Special Forces death squads among the civilian population which will target key dissident leaders.

Really?  The military is going to insert Special Forces “death squads” to target key dissident leaders?  Just who might these “dissident leaders” be?  God-fearing Patriots, that’s who.  Groups like the Tea Party of course!  This gentleman from “The Common Sense Show” went on to say:

“Patriot groups across the country are preparing to launch a ‘Counter Jade Helm’ operation to keep tabs on a controversial U.S. military exercise that some fear is part of preparations to train troops for civil unrest and martial law”. Among those protesting the Jade Helm 15 drills are former Special Operations forces as well as many veterans groups. Along these lines, I am beginning to receive invitations to speak about Jade Helm to various groups including the Oath Keepers.

In case you don’t know who the Oath Keepers are, they are former and current members of the military who take an oath to disobey orders which violate the constitution. Who decides what the constitution says in these matters is apparently left up to Alex Jones.

Then there is this:

“It’s the same thing that happened in Nazi Germany: You get the people used to the troops on the street, the appearance of uniformed troops and the militarization of the police,” Bastrop resident Bob Wells told the Statesman after the meeting. “They’re gathering intelligence. That’s what they’re doing. And they’re moving logistics in place for martial law. That’s my feeling. Now, I could be wrong. I hope I am wrong. I hope I’m a ‘conspiracy theorist.’”

The really scary part of all of this nonsense, is that the Governor of the State of Texas, Gregg Abbott, has bought into this stupidity.  Or, maybe he has always believed these conspiracy theories all along.  Anyway, yesterday, the AP reported:

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday asked the State Guard to monitor a U.S. military training exercise dubbed “Jade Helm 15″ amid Internet-fueled suspicions that the war simulation is really a hostile military takeover…

“It is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed,” Abbott wrote. “By monitoring the Operation on a continual basis, the State Guard will facilitate communications between my office and the commanders of the Operation to ensure that adequate measures are in place to protect Texans.”

So we now have a governor of one of our own states who is spurting out the same paranoia that North Korea spouts every time there is a training exercise in South Korea.  I guess paranoia is not the sole domain of North Korea.

In order to put this in proper perspective, Glenn Smith, the director of the Progress Texas PAC said:

“Abbott’s pandering to paranoid, secessionist fools would be comical if it wasn’t so costly and frightening.  Abbott has the state military confronting the U.S. military because some nut cases fear, what, armed U.S. takeover of Texas? Seriously? What next? Will Abbott call out the troops to protect us from alien abduction, abominable snowmen and Bigfoot, or should I say an invasion of Bigfeet?”

There you have it.  The U.S. military is conducting a training exercise that is really a  covert operation that is intended to “invade” Texas and impose Martial Law on its citizens.  Forget the fact that there are 15 military bases and hundreds of thousands of military personnel already stationed in Texas.

Remember one thing about Texas.  They are not about to give up on their paranoia anytime soon.  Just the other day, a Congressman from Texas announced that the riots in Baltimore were really being caused by “same-sex” marriage.  I am certain that Alex Jones and Abbott will be able to link this “invasion” of Texas to same-sex marriage too.

This is what happens when a major political party let’s their fringe take control.  Paranoia becomes mainstream!

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