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Archive for the ‘Things That Suck’ Category

You just can’t stop the images from flooding into your mind.  The death and destruction.  The faces of fallen friends.  The faces of the women and children killed.  You see danger behind every tree or wall or fence.  The fear grows with every step you take.  Your eyes are glancing from side to side looking for the danger.  You are on edge.

That isn’t taking place in Iraq or Afghanistan or even Vietnam.  It is happening as you take a walk down your street in your hometown.  Something triggered all of the memories of those conflicts.  Sometimes it isn’t even war that brings these memories.  It is natural disasters or plane crashes or even boating accidents you worked.  Something that you have witnessed while serving is suddenly flooding back into your conscious memory.

Even after you realize you are home, the dread lingers.  The guilt of having survived while others were not so lucky.  The thought of your friends killed while you lived haunt you.  Survivor’s guilt is what they call it.  It is real.  It is affecting everything you do.  It affects your ability to sleep or work or even laugh.  It affects every fiber of your existence.

You begin to feel like “damaged goods”.  You begin to feel like you aren’t worthy of living anymore.  You begin to feel like your family don’t want you around in “polite” company anymore.  You begin to shrink from society and shelter yourself away from others, including those who love you.  You never fully realize what is going on.  You think that somehow you are the cause of the problem.

Far too many times, you settle these internal conflicts with what you believe to be the only answer that is best for all.  You commit suicide.

That is just a very brief and incomplete example of what is called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  PTSD affects millions of our veterans everyday.  It is something that haunts memories and lives.  There are many ways veterans cope with PTSD and most of them are self-destructive.  Many will seek help from the VA.  Others too often turn to alcohol or drugs.  Anything that will “make me feel better” at least for a while.  But, they don’t help, they make things worse.

According to statistics, 22 veterans commit suicide every day!  That is 154 veteran suicides every week or 8000 per year.  Why, you ask, don’t these troubled souls get the help they need?  That is a fair question.  Many don’t get the help they need because they don’t fully understand what is happening to them.  Many don’t seek help because they think it is admitting a flaw in their personality.  Real vets don’t feel this way, they think.

Most try to cope with PTSD by themselves.  As a result, they don’t seek the help they need, and eventually push their families aside.  Especially when their family tries to convince them to seek help.  Psychological problems are difficult for anyone to accept.  People with psychological problems have been shunned by society for hundreds of years.  Besides, they don’t need help because they are “heroes”!  Heroes don’t need to be helped.  They are above all of these problems.

How do they know they are heroes?  Because every single day, someone is calling them a hero.  Every single day they hear the term used like “we want to thank all of our heroes for their service”.  In their own minds they start to become mythical.  They buy into the hype and never get the help they need.

That is how a simple word “hero” can affect people.  I know that everyone who uses the word thinks they are paying a compliment to those who have served.  They have risked everything in defense of our country.  They deserve the compliment.  But, sometimes, the simple word “hero” actually de-humanizes veterans.  It puts them on a pedestal that they are afraid of falling off.  They start to believe that if they seek help, they will no longer be a “hero”.  Heroes don’t have flaws.  They suck it up and move on.

We need to see our veterans for what they really are.  They are humans who served our country in some of the most god-awfull circumstances.  They have seen things that most people will never see.  They have lost some of their friends.  They have seen carnage we don’t want anyone to see.  It will affect them!  It will change them!  It will haunt them!

When people start using words like “hero” to describe our veterans, they don’t think about what that may mean.  They don’t understand that it can taken an excuse to “thank you” and then forget you.  No one means to be like that.  No one means to forget veterans.  But, all too often it happens.

I know very few veterans who need hero-worship.  We need respect.  We need jobs.  We need to take care of our families when we finally hang up the uniform.  We simply need to be a “normal” part of society.   What we do not need is to be called a “hero” and then forgotten.

 

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Yesterday was primary day in six states.  The two states most watched were Kentucky and Georgia.  In Kentucky, Mitch McConnell won the primary over his Tea Party rival.  In Georgia, the “establishment Republicans” again ousted the Tea Party candidates.  All of the pundits are claiming that the Establishment Republicans” are winning the battle over the Tea Party.  Thus, they believe that the Republicans have a definite advantage in gaining control of both houses of congress.

But, in actuality, the Republican Establishment no longer exists.  All you have to do is look at Mitch McConnell and know that the moderate Republican is dead.  The Tea Party has won the battle for the Republican Party.  If they had not already won, moderate Republicans wouldn’t be sounding like ultra-conservatives.  Which is exactly what they sound like.

So what we have is a party that has been successfully hijacked by the most radical lunatics around.  The real problem that the news media isn’t covering is that the real losers in all of this is the American People.  Specifically, any American who works for a living.  There are all sorts of laws being quietly passed that will either make it harder to get unemployment insurance checks, form a union, or speak up for your rights.  I will give a few examples later.

The Republican Party has called itself the party for business, especially “small business”.  They have touted for generations how they want “small business” to succeed in the economy.  They claim that the “small businessman” is the backbone of our economy.  Yet, they continually allow large conglomerations to put small businesses out of business.   They allow this to happen by offering property tax incentives and corporate tax incentives for larger companies to open business in the communities.

I know that Wal-Mart is the poster child for everything wrong with the pay inequality and worker’s rights issues.  But, let’s be fair.  They earned that title.  When Wal-Mart wants to move into an area, they first seek property tax breaks on the property they want to build on.  Then they demand that they receive tax breaks on their profits for several years.  Then they pay their workers far below the poverty line.

As a result, small businesses in the communities find themselves on the brink of collapse.  Why?  Small businesses don’t get the property tax breaks that Wal-Mart gets.  They don’t get the tax breaks on their profits like Wal-Mart gets.  Finally, through their tax dollars, they are forced to subsidize Wal-Mart because they keep their employees below poverty forcing them to utilize the social safety nets.

For example, there are several studies that estimate that Wal-Mart employees receive food stamps, Medicaid, and subsidized housing.  They get all of this because Wal-Mart keeps hours low so they don’t have to offer benefits.  Pay low so they can make more profits.  These reports show that each Wal-Mart store costs the taxpayers approximately $1.25 million dollars each year.  You read that correctly.  Each Wal-Mart store costs the taxpayers approximately $1.25 million dollars each year.   The numbers do not include the warehouses they operate or contract out either.  It is just the stores.

These same studies show that if Wal-Mart were forced to pay their employees around $14 per hour and have all employees at 40 hours per week, they would have to raise their prices about 1.4 percent.  That means that box of Mac and Cheese you buy there will go up one penny!  But, it would also mean that most of that $1.25 million dollars per store would be saved by the taxpayers because Wal-Mart employees wouldn’t need so much assistance just to live.

That would make it more fair for the small business owner in town.  It means they would have a better chance to compete with the giants that are removing the small business from our economy.  We are not just talking about Wal-Mart either.  Other giants of the retail and fast food industries are just as guilty as Wal-Mart.  Maybe it isn’t fair that Wal-Mart gets the most exposure, but since they brag about being the largest employer in the country, they do deserve more scrutiny.  Especially when you consider that Wal-Mart earns about $16 billion in profits each year while the taxpayers are subsidizing their operation by over a billion dollars per year.

With all of this in mind, the Republicans are still against raising the minimum wage.  Many of them are actually trying to reduce or eliminate the minimum wage altogether.

Now let’s get back to how the workers of America are about to be screwed by the Republicans.  a recent study from Gordon Lafer, a political scientist from the University of Oregon published a paper for the Economic Policy Institute on bills affecting workers all over the country.

One example, employers are allowed to pay waiters and waitresses less than the federal minimum wage because they get tips. But they are required to pay the non-tipped staff — busboys, dishwashers, etc. — the full minimum wage.  In some states Republican lawmakers are getting around this by allowing restaurant owners to force their employees to pool their tips, thereby turning the busboys and dishwashers into tipped workers and allowing owners to pay them below the minimum wage as well.  As a result, every employee loses money — but not the employer.  Their argument and the way the sold this was that of being “fair” to the non-tipped workers. After all, those waiters and waitresses had been getting the big bucks, right?  Not according to the report which said “the poverty rate among waiters and waitresses is 250 percent higher than it is among the general work force.”

In other states they passed laws allowing employers to pocket the tips for themselves, which makes it much simpler all around.  So what they really did was legalize wage theft. Employers are stealing their employees blind.  I guess the Republicans believe they deserve that right.  They are the “job creators” after all.

Furthermore, there appears to be an eagerness of Republicans to use the power of the state to stifle local control.  You know, the party that claims government needs to get out of the way?  There are the famous examples of cities enacting a higher minimum wage only to have it struck down by conservative state legislatures. They have done the same with paid sick leave laws throughout the country.

The worst examples are against the unemployed.  Some states have attempted to mandate that unemployed must undergo forced drug testing before they can receive any unemployment insurance checks.  And, it gets even worse because now you may have to jump through more hoops than a hula-hoop factory makes:

[A] bill sponsored by ALEC members that was passed in 2012 stipulated a series of deadlines at which an unemployed worker would have to start accepting a lower-paying job or lose unemployment benefits. After 13 weeks, she would have to accept any job paying at least 75 percent of her previous wage; after 25 weeks, 70 percent; and after 38 weeks, 65 percent. To ensure compliance with these byzantine regulations (the red tape Republicans so often claim to oppose), the bill required anyone receiving unemployment insurance to submit detailed weekly reports showing that she had applied for at least three jobs per week. It also mandated that the State Department of Labor to audit 1,000 recipients per week.

What they are really saying here, is that if you had a good paying job and lost it, you must take a lower paying job if you are out of work for 13 weeks.  Then, you must accept an even lower paying job as time goes by.  All that experience and cost of education you have doesn’t count anymore.  So, if an employer needs someone to fill a position, all they have to do is pick out the applicant who has been out of work the longest and then lower the salary.  Nice trick!

It goes goes on to say:

The overall thrust of this state legislation is to create workers who are docile and employers who are empowered. That may be why Republican legislators in Idaho, Wisconsin, Michigan, Maine, Ohio, Minnesota, Utah and Missouri have been so eager to ease restrictions on when and how much children can work. High schoolers should learn workplace virtues, says the conservative commentator Ben Stein, like “not talking back.” Early exposure to employment will teach 12-year-olds, as the spokesman of an Idaho school district put it, that “you have to do what you’re asked, what your supervisor is telling you.”

This is not something out of 1984 either.  This is really happening in this country!  This is all taking us back to the “good old days” when we lived in factory towns and coal towns.  You know, when the rent was owed to the company.  We all had to shop at the company store.  When the “company” actually owned us because we needed a job.

This is the reality of what the Republican Party has become.  It has become a party that no longer is interested in freedom.  It is no longer interested in the “American Dream”.  It is no longer interested in preserving small business.  It is only interested in lining the pockets of their multi-million dollar masters.  The next time you hear people like Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, or Mitch McConnell talk about “we the people”, please remember they are not talking about the American Worker.  They are only referring to the 1% crowd.

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As expected, the Republicans have once again stalled the Fair Paycheck Act.    Scott Walker, that wonderful Governor who thinks unions are Satanists, says that pay inequality is a “bogus issue”.  Another “screw the poor” Governor, Rick Perry, says that the debate about fair pay is “nonsense”.  Then there is Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute, and supporter of GOP Governor hopeful Gregg Abbot, says that inequality pay is nonsense and backs up his statement  saying:  “Women prefer to stay home with their children.  And they also choose lower-paying jobs.”

Unfortunately, both sides of the argument are missing the whole point.  This isn’t just about pay inequality, it is about discrimination that has a lifelong effect on the people receiving less money than their counterparts.  Conservatives argue that the pay inequality is based on comparing apples and oranges.  They like to show how congresswomen receive the same pay as congressmen.  Of course, they fail to mention that is because it is the “law” that says women and men in congress get the same pay.

Liberals often cite reference material showing that women make as little as 77 cents per dollar compared to men.  Women of color make even less than their male counterparts.  These statistics are based on comparing like jobs among men and women.  Women often get less money for doing the same work as men.  That is pay inequality.

But, it goes even further than that.  Lower pay for women costs a whole lot more in future earnings than just their pay.  By making less money, women receive less money in their 401K plans, if they have one, and they receive less money from Social Security because their wages are so low.  If a woman makes less pay than a man does for doing the same job, their contributions to their 401K plan is automatically less than the man’s because they don’t have the money to put into the plan.  Plus, matching contributions from the company are less as well.  Since Social Security is based on lifetime earnings, they will receive less money in Social Security payments because they make less money.

That is a big deal.  Anyone can see that women who will be getting less income in their retirement will be forced to rely more on social service safety nets.  That means you can be forcing them to live in poverty their whole lives, including during retirement.  All because you don’t believe a woman should make as much as a man.  That is absurd!

Conservatives argue that there are already laws about equal pay.  But, they won’t let anyone enforce them.  They continuously cut budgets for the Department of Labor.  They continuously enforce archaic laws that require silence about pay among employees and no reporting of differences by the companies.  They continuously argue for “tort reform” which will limit the damages a company must pay for violating any laws.  They also have been arguing that these laws will cause “frivolous law suits”.  They are only frivolous if you think that women and men should be paid differently.

Besides, talk about frivolous, wouldn’t trying to eliminate a law of the land over 50 times be considered “frivolous”?   That is how many votes the house has held to reduce or completely repeal the Affordable Care Act.  That only proves that “frivolous” is solely dependent upon your view of what is right and what is wrong.  According to them, it is “right” to vote out a law that helps millions of people, but it is “wrong” to sue for equal pay for equal work.  That should tell you all you need to know about the Republican’s worldview.

Liberals need to change their tune when they argue for equal pay.  We need to stop just pointing out just the pay inequality at work, and start showing everyone how much it will affect women when they retire, or try to retire.  This isn’t just a woman’s issue either.  It is a family issue.  Married women are also affected.  Their comfort in retirement is on the hook, as well as their partner’s.  If a woman receives less than she should have during retirement because their pay was lower, then the whole family is affected.

No, pay inequality is not just a workplace issue.  It is a lifetime discrimination issue.  Republicans don’t seem to think that is a problem.  But, then what do you expect from a party who just passed a budget that cuts all safety nets for the poor, elderly, disabled, and veterans.

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The right-wing of the Republican Party is at it again.  This time the crying is over the “clean” debt ceiling bill that passed the House last night.  It passed only because of the Democrats and about 25 reasonable Republicans who don’t want to go through all that nonsense again.  199 Republican members of Congress voted to default on the nation’s debt! 

That wonderfully patriotic Canadian Senator from Texas is threatening a filibuster in the Senate against the bill when they try to vote on it.  Which means that his patriotism is for the country of Senator Ted Cruz only!  Mr. Cruz said :  “Under no circumstances will I agree to the Senate’s raising the debt ceiling with just 50 votes. I intend to object and force a 60-vote threshold. They don’t have to vote for it, I think Republicans should stand together and do the right thing. We should have every Republican stand together and follow the responsible course of action, which is to insist on meaningful spending reforms before raising the debt ceiling.”

Okay Mr. Cruz.  What “meaningful spending reforms” are you talking about?  It was always my understanding from Civics Class that was what the budget talks were supposed to be all about.  Isn’t it incumbent on those negotiators to work out “meaningful spending reforms”?   Didn’t Congress recently pass a two-year budget?  Besides, the yearly national debt is lower than it has been in over 12 years!

But he is not alone.  The Tea Party lost its cool big time last night.  Some even before the vote was held.  They are calling on their members to “throw John Boehner out of his office as Speaker of the House” and elect a “real conservative” in his stead.  One example:

Freedomworks’ Matt Kibbe dubbed the vote the “Boehner debt hike,” and marked it as a key vote in their score card for members as well.

“Governing with Democratic votes to raise the debt limit with no reforms attached is an all-time low for Speaker Boehner,” Kibbe said in a statement. “Based on reports, the Boehner debt hike spends money we don’t have to increase entitlement spending and grow the debt. In other words, with the money they spend today, they’ll come back and borrow to pay for tomorrow.”

There is that wonderful lie the right keeps throwing around.  “the Boehner debt hike spends money we don’t have to increase entitlement spending and grow the debt”.  How should I say this nicely, Mr. Kibbe, We the American People are not that @#$%^&* stupid!  Raising the debt ceiling does not spend money to increase entitlement spending!  Raising the debt ceiling merely allows us to pay on the debt Congress has already run up!

As you can see, the conservatives, the Right-Wing, the Tea Party, or the Wackos, whichever description best suits you, have learned nothing from shutting down the government!  They are merely interested in their own wacko, 19th Century economic ideals.  They don’t care if they crash the entire world’s economy!  They don’t care about the American People!  They don’t care about working people!  They don’t care about the poor!  They only care about lining their own pockets!

They only reason they want to “shrink” the government is so they can hand out lush contracts to their cronies by privatizing everything the government does!  Then, they can “retire” from government office and take a nice seven-figure salary from these very same cronies.  Just ask Jim Demint over at Heritage, it worked for him!

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Everyone knows all about the Republican Party’s attempt to restrict voting rights.  Quite simply they believe that if you cannot convince Americans to vote for you, change the laws so only those who do agree with you can vote.  They also have skirted the anti-corruption laws by chipping away at the law with actions like Citizens United.

Some of you may already know about this case, but I am betting that not many do not.  They are at it again.  This time it is almost unbelievable what they are attempting to do.  Republican lawyers are going to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court later this year that it is a “constitutional right” to deliberately lie in campaign ads!  You may want to read that sentence again.

The case concerns a challenge by a national anti-abortion group, Susan B. Anthony List (SBA),  which tried to put up a billboard in 2010 attacking Rep. Steven Driehaus, D-Ohio, saying that he was pro-abortion because he supported Obamacare.  Mr. Driehaus stopped the billboard by threatening to sue the billboard company.  He also filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission (OEC) that the ad would have violated a state law making it a crime to knowingly lie in a campaign ad. The OEC found probable cause to proceed with a case, which, in turn, prompted a series of court challenges that is now before the Supreme Court.

The SBA list president, Marjorie Dannenfelser said:   “We are thrilled at the opportunity to have our arguments heard at the Supreme Court and hope that not only will SBA List’s First Amendment rights be affirmed, but those of all Americans. The Ohio Election Commission statute demonstrates complete disregard for the Constitutional right of citizens to criticize their elected  officials.”

I am afraid you read that correctly.  Ms. Dannenfelser claims it is her group’s constitutional right to knowingly lie in campaign ads.  This is yet another potential knife in democracy’s back because if the Supreme Court says the SBA has a constitutional right to say  anything— overruling state law that requires truth in political campaigning—it will surely encourage more lowbrow behavior in elections, as opposed to campaigns based on facts and real  debate.

Of course that is the Republicans objective.  They don’t want to be held to proper standards.  Think about this for a minute.  If you go to court in a law suit or criminal case, if you lie during testimony, it is called perjury.  If you are convicted of this crime, you are sent to jail.  Now, this group specifically, and the Republican lawyers who are speaking on their behalf, want you to vote into office the very people who will write those laws based on lies.

But of course that ties in with Citizens United as well.  In the same court case, you would have to divulge the “source” of your evidence for it to be upheld.  Yet, in campaign dark money, you do not need to disclose who is paying for the ad.  If we are going to truly fight corruption in our election process, wouldn’t it be a good idea to hold elections to the same rules as court cases?

Wasn’t it a Republican Congressman, who during the ACA Roll-out hearings, that said “lying to the American People is not a crime, but it probably should be”?  But then, he wasn’t referring to his supporters who outright and deliberately lie in their ads.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of SBA List, there will be no holding back the mudslinging.  The difference will be that the mudslinging won’t even have to be close to the truth.  Candidates and their supporters will be able to say anything they want.  Yes, I know that it already takes place, but a favorable ruling by the Supreme Court will make it legal.

I really didn’t think it could get much worse than it already is.  This case shows the complete resentment of the Republican Party towards a true democratic process.  Yet, they expect us to give them the reins of government.  I do hope the American People wake up to the tyrannical practices of this deranged Republican Party and soon!

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The last five years has seen an increase in the so-called “white victim syndrome”.  2013 expressed that more than even the four previous years.  More specifically, the “white victim syndrome” has often included the “white Christian victim syndrome”.  The far right-wing, namely people like FOX News, the Tea Party, Mike Huckabee, Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, and Rep. Steve King from Iowa have been pounding away all year at this “white victimization”.

That has led to the “defending” of people who make racist and/or homophobic remarks.  Megyn Kelly and her infamous Santa “is just white” comment.  Phil Robertson and his racist and homophobic remarks in GQ magazine.  Steve King and his “big thighs because they are hauling 75 pounds of drugs” comment.  FOX’s fantasy “war on Christmas”.  And of course, all of those “us against them” comments made by a whole host of people.

Most people in the media are rightly pointing out this “white victim syndrome” as part of the “Southern Strategy” the Republicans adopted after the Civil Rights Bill was passed.  Targeting minorities as “them” and telling white people “them” are taking their jobs and changing America is the cause of the white’s struggles.  Unfortunately, it worked all too well.

But, I have a different theory.  All of this “white victim syndrome” has a far more sinister twist to it.  This isn’t really about whether or not white Christians are being discriminated against in an ever-changing demographic.  Rather it is intended to keep the working class in this country from coming together and fighting back against the wealthiest.  It is intended to keep unions from gaining a stronger foothold in defending the working class against record profits that are kept by the wealthy.

When I was just out of high school, I got a job making about $2.35 per hour.  That was in 1968.  With that pay, I was able to pay my rent, get a car, and even go out for some fun.  I was also able to attend college part-time.  The job I had was considered an “entry-level” job.  If I were to have that kind of job today and still be able to afford the same life-style, I would need to make about $17.20 per hour.

Today, those arguing against raising the minimum wage claim that these jobs are “entry-level” and are not intended to support a family.  That is ridiculous.  Entry level jobs in the past paid a living wage.  Today they do not!  Why such a disparity?  Unions!  In the 1960′s and 1970′s unions had a huge positive impact on the labor market.  They were willing to fight for the worker’s share of the profits. Even non-union companies had to pay better to keep their workers from going to union companies.  But, that started to change in the 1970′s.

Let’s take a look at one example of the fall of wages for the working class.  Another area I know something about is slaughterhouses.  No, I didn’t work in one, but Chicago was the capital of slaughterhouses in my younger days.  Today, slaughterhouses hire mostly immigrants.  They claim that is because the work is so unpleasant Americans won’t do the work.  That is a complete falsehood.  You may not remember, but between 1925 and 1965 immigration was mostly banned in the U.S.  So, who did the work in the slaughterhouses?  American born workers making middle-class wages!  But things changed.  As Mother Jones explains:

“Starting in the early 1960s, a company called Iowa Beef Packers (IBP) began to revolutionize the industry, opening plants in rural areas far from union strongholds, recruiting immigrant workers from Mexico, introducing a new division of labor that eliminated the need for skilled butchers, and ruthlessly battling unions. By the late 1970s, meatpacking companies that wanted to compete with IBP had to adopt its business methods — or go out of business. Wages in the meatpacking industry soon fell by as much as 50 percent.”

I knew people who made up to $18 per hour slaughtering pigs, hogs, cows, etc.  Now, slaughterhouses pay an average of about half that.  Would Americans slaughter these animals for $18 per hour?  I bet they would.  Problem is that with the cut in pay, safety in the workplace also went down.  Slaughterhouses are some of the most dangerous places to work.  Many of the companies running these slaughterhouses cut all benefits, including health coverage, as well.

The South Side of Chicago saw its share of violence over unionization.  In 1894, President Cleveland sent 2,500 troops to break a strike at the Pullman Palace Car Factory. On Memorial Day, 1937, Chicago police killed 10 striking workers outside the Republic Steel plant.  The names of those dead are cast on a brass plaque bolted to a flagpole outside a now-defunct steelworkers’ hall.  There were other “battles” over unionization in Chicago that resulted in a lot of deaths.

The biggest problem in this country has always been the difference of thought between “blue-collar workers” and “white-collar workers”.  The blue-collar workers were the ones who unionized.  White-collar workers seemed to believe they were just one step below their bosses.  This led to the belief that they weren’t part of the “working class”.

The real battle in the country should not be between blue-collar and white-collar workers.  It should be between the working class and the owners.  Unless you own the company you work for, or are one of the Executives of that company, you are working-class!  It doesn’t matter what color your collar is.  It is this division that the right is really trying to perpetuate.  They know that if the white-collar workers started partnering with the blue-collar workers, their power and profit hogging would be in jeopardy.

In Capitalism there are only two classes of people.  The wealthy and everyone else.  The everyone else is the working-class!  They are the people who built these business for their employers.  They are the ones who bust a gut everyday to make the company successful.  They are the ones who are the face of every company in America.  They have earned the right to make a livable wage.  They have earned the right to share in the profits of the company in fair wages and benefits.

The next time you hear one of these right-wing entities talk about “white victim syndrome” or “white Christian victim syndrome” remember they are placing all working people in the “them” category!  You are part of “them” regardless of your race, ethnicity, religion, or gender.  If we are going to get completely out of the Republican caused economic collapse of 2008, all working-class workers must stand together and fight the upper class.  That is where the real economic war needs to be fought!

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2013 is swiftly coming to an end.  During this year, we have seen virtually nothing accomplished that helps the average American.  Over 73% of Americans in a new poll state that this Congress has been the worst in memory!  That says a lot.  There are grumblings about income inequality.  There are grumblings of stalemate in Washington.  There are grumblings across the board from the ACA to Tax Loopholes.  With 2014 being an election year, there are even some grumblings about the lack of transparency of election funding especially the so-called “soft money”.

Several states have passed “Voter ID Laws”.  These are supposed to prevent the “widespread voter fraud” across the country.  There have been less than 100 cases of voter fraud in total over the last six elections.  Really widespread.  But, the one thing that is not being addressed is the effect special interest groups are having on our elections.  Since Citizens United, the real voter fraud in elections is special interest groups spending billions of dollars without having to disclose their motives, intentions, or sometimes even who they are for or against.

An FCC ruling in 2012 announced that commercial TV stations in the top fifty US media markets had to make available on-line data about who was paying for political advertising and how much was being paid.  But, according to a new study by the non-partisan Sunlight Foundation among the records newly available online, “TV stations often fail to report even the most basic information about the political ads that outside groups buy on their airwaves… There’s no way to total reliably how much is being spent for or against a candidate, or, in some cases, who is doing the spending. A systematic review of 200 randomly selected ad buys made by outside groups found that fewer than 1 in 6 ads targeting federal candidates disclosed the name of the candidate or election mentioned.”

“Such omissions deprive the voting public of important information. TV ad files have become an increasingly important tool for tracking otherwise undisclosed political spending by groups that run the gamut from well-known trade associations and unions to lesser-known operations whose innocuous names offer little information about the financial or political interests behind them: “Americans for Job Security,” for instance, or “Checks and Balances for Economic Growth.” In the wake of court decisions making it easier to route big money through outside groups, broadcast political TV ads jumped to  an estimated $5.6 billion in 2012 — up 30% from 2008. Yet in spite of this massive payday, stations still find it hard to fill out paperwork about their benefactors.”

The weird part is that there isn’t even a standardized form to be used for these filings.  As a result, omissions in the required documents abound.  This is true for Republicans and Democrats, organizations affiliated with them, and other special interest groups.  On top of this, the FCC rarely enforces penalties for failure to fully disclose.

Why?  As journalist and former FCC adviser Steve Waldman has said, “When it comes to political stuff, there’s extra sensitivity at the commission because it’s the one area where Congress jumps up and down and says, ‘If you do that we’re going to come and slap you in the head.’” It has become so political, the nomination of Tom Wheeler as head of the FCC was temporarily held up by Ted Cruz.  Seems Mr. Cruz would only allow a vote on his nomination if Mr. Wheeler agreed to make political ad disclosure “not a priority.”

Things at the Federal Election Commission are even worse.  Remember, the FEC was established after Watergate and all the corruption of elections it presented.  But bitter ideological warfare inside the commission, together with Congressional and White House indifference have led to an agency less able to fulfill its stated mission: to “prevent corruption in the federal campaign process by administering, enforcing and formulating policy.”

An analysis of thousands of records and interviews with more than 50 current and former commissioners, staff members and associates reveals:

  • The commission over the past year has reached a paralyzing all-time low in its ability to reach consensus, stalling action on dozens of rule making, audit and enforcement matters, some of which are years old.
  • Despite an explosion in political spending hastened by key Supreme Court decisions, the agency’s funding has remained flat for five years and staffing levels have fallen to a 15-year low.
  • Analysts charged with scouring disclosure reports to ensure candidates and political committees are complying with laws have a nearly quarter-million-page backlog. Commissioners themselves are grappling with nearly 270 unresolved enforcement cases.
  • Staff morale has plummeted as key employees have fled and others question whether their work remains relevant. Among top FEC jobs currently unfilled or filled on an “acting” basis: general counsel, associate general counsel for policy, associate general counsel for litigation, chief financial officer and accounting director. The staff director doubles as IT director.

More than four years after the Citizens United ruling, the FEC has not issued any rules that interpret that decision.  Plus, the White House and the Congress has failed to help with any regulatory assistance or increased funding for the agency.  During the government shutdown in October, with the exception of Presidential Appointed Commissioners, all 339 staff employees were furloughed!  This was shortly after an independent auditor commissioned by the government warned that the FEC’s information systems were at “high risk” to infiltration — a charge the FEC roundly disputed, saying its “systems are secure.” This “high risk” was confirmed by three government officials including the Department of Homeland Security who were conducting an ongoing investigation.

To show just how bad the infighting has become, Frank P. Reiche, a Republican who served as an FEC commissioner form 1979 to 1985 said “The commission just seems to look inward and almost wonder aloud if a decision has an ideological impact, and if so, they shy away from it,”  “It’s sad — very sad — and the agency is almost doomed to failure for carrying out its statutory mission unless reform measures are implemented and adopted by Congress.”

Is it any wonder that Eliza Newlin Carney writes in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, “Perhaps invariably, elections continue to march toward less transparency and more deregulation, and lawmakers and federal agencies remain too paralyzed by discord to respond… If 2013 is any indication, the next wave of big money will draw plenty of headlines but little regulatory response.”

So, as you can see, the real “Voter Fraud” is not who shows up at the polls to cast their vote, it is the special interest groups and PACs that are the true fraudsters.  By hiding in shadows, using open threats on voting records, and hidden agendas, they have quietly, or not so quietly, been buying elections to favor themselves.

We don’t even always know who is behind a particular candidate.  We don’t know from where they are getting their contributions, or particularly from where the “soft money” is coming.  That opens the door for corruption of the highest form.  What backroom deals are being brokered for candidates to get this backing?  The only way democracy really works for the voting public is through transparency of the election process.  Citizens United brought that to and end.  The Grover Norquist’s and Koch Brothers are the true winners in all of this.  And, since corruption can affect all governmental departments, that is voter fraud at its worst.

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Yesterday President Obama gave a speech about the economy.  One of the points he brought up was that income inequality is a bigger problem to our economy than the rapidly shrinking deficit.  He is calling on Congress to raise the Federal Minimum Wage.  Also, today, fast food workers in 100 cities are holding a one-day strike demanding a $15 minimum wage.

As in the past, Republicans are crying that raising the minimum wage would hurt small business and cost jobs.  As in the past, this is a false argument.  Jobs were not lost the last time the minimum wage was raised.  And, many small business benefited because they already paid more than the minimum wage and did not have to subsidize their larger competitors.

There is always an argument about how much a non-skilled worker should be paid.  Most conservatives think that $7.25 is too much to pay a non-skilled worker.  But, what really is a non-skilled worker?  I have heard arguments that if Home Depot had to pay someone $10.50 to help carry heavy purchases to the customer’s car they would simply eliminate the position.  But would that really happen?  Would a company like Home Depot really take the risk of losing customers simply they refuse to offer customer service?  I don’t think so.  Especially if their competition had to pay the same.

Mother Jones today has an article, with charts, showing why minimum wage doesn’t go as far as it used to.  They also have an interesting chart showing that if minimum wage had increased as much as the personal income of the top 1% since 1968, the minimum wage would stand at over $25 per hour.

When speaking of people making minimum wage, we have a bad tendency of saying that the majority of people making the minimum wage are teenagers working part-time after school.  Well guess what, the average age of someone working for minimum wage is 29!!  The average age of women making the minimum wage is 32!  36% of fast food workers over 20 have children.  Yet, the change in real value of the minimum wage since 1968 has decreased by 22% while the average personal income growth of the top 1% has risen 271%.

The article at Salon also has a calculator to help you see the plight of fast food workers where you live.  To see what it would mean for me I went ahead and used it to see what would happen.  I live in a small town in North Carolina.  The calculator allows you to narrow down by ZIP Code where you live.  It also allows you to pick your actually family size.  So, I chose the ZIP Code I live in and put that we are two adults without children.

According to them, a typical household like mine in North Caroline would need to make $29,821 annually to make a secure yet modest living.  A fast food worker in our area would need to make $14.29 per hour to reach that annual income.  At current median wages, a fast food worker in North Carolina would have to work 64 hours per week.

The family poverty line for a family of 3 is 17,916 per year.  In order to exceed that by less than a thousand dollars per year, a fast food worker would need to make $8.94 per hour and work 40 hours per week.

The weird side to all of this is that according to a recent Pew Survey, the Elite actually identify the current inequality between the rich and poor as a major flaw in the system.  Yet, they are unwilling to do anything about it!  One thing they are concerned about is that when people are too poor to buy goods and services the whole economy lags.  Meaning their profits lag!

Let’s face some facts.  Fast Food Companies make billions of dollars in profits!  Large retail outlets like WalMart make billions of dollars in profits.  Small business owners who pay more than the minimum wage to their workers are subsidizing companies like these.   The short-fall of making ends meet is so bad, many of these large companies are actually showing their employees how to sign up for Government Subsidies like Food Stamps and holding food drives for their employees!  Really?  Their competition is footing the bill so they can keep their wages low!

Capitalism is not based on the theory of the rich getting richer.  It is based on the simple rule of supply and demand.  If demand falls, prices drop, profits drop, and small business go out of business!  By paying the workforce a livable wage, these employees have more money to spend, demand goes up, and profits go up.  Furthermore, fewer people will be living below the poverty line meaning more people will be paying more taxes meaning the revenue stream into the Government Coffers will increase! Since fewer people will be living below the poverty line, fewer people will require government subsidies just to live reducing dependency and costs to the government, thus helping reduce the deficit.

Yet, the Republicans are stuck on the premise that Capitalism is supposed to make the inequality between rich and poor greater!  They continuously blame the poor for being “lazy”.  They keep the nonsense about “wealth redistribution” alive with their talking points.  Problem is that conservative voters fall for this nonsense hook-line-and-sinker!  They don’t understand that they are part of the “lazy subsidy grubbers” the Republicans are talking about.  Let’s face it, if the minimum wage has decreased 22% since 1968, the stagnation of the middle-class income has also decreased earnings since 1968.  That means you are making less actual money than your fathers did!

I wrote once before that I believe the Republican Party is guilty of committing a drive-by-shooting of the American Dream.  From all of the facts pointed out here, looks like they hit their target.  Economic inequality is a cancer that affects all of us, not just those working at minimum wage!  By depressing buying power, the economy cannot grow at a sustainable rate.  That means more outsourcing, more factory closures, and more people being forced to depend on government subsidies just to survive!  Mr. Boehner, is that your vision of the “American Dream”?

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Yesterday was Veterans Day. All across the country, people were honoring those who have served our country. As a veteran, I appreciate those who have given thanks to everyone who has served our country. Contrary to some people’s belief, we do not serve because we don’t have anything else to do. We are not looking for an easy pay check. We serve because we firmly believe it is the right thing for us to do.

Like everyone else, I also thank everyone who has served.  But, I am going to be a little selfish here.  I want to send out a very special thank you and appreciation to our smallest service, the U.S. Coast Guard.  The Coast Guard is an elite group of men and women who selfishly serve our country in more ways that I can even mention here.  So, to all of my shipmates in the Coast Guard, I want to thank you for your service and for continuing our excellent tradition.

Even though it may be a little early, I wanted to pass along some things that you can do to show your thanks to our servicemen and women during the holidays.  These men and women are working and/or away from home even during the holidays.  Their family members are left to celebrate the holidays without them.  But, there are things that you can do to show a little support.

If you live in an area where there is a Basic Training facility, please check and see if they have a holiday program.  Great Lakes for example, has a program where local families can invite a recruit to Thanksgiving Dinner.  It gives the recruit a chance to get off base for a short period of time and enjoy the holiday with someone else.  These programs usually take some time to set up, that is why I am mentioning it now.

Whether or not you live in these areas, there is still something you can do to show appreciation.  Most of us have ornaments we place on the Christmas Tree with family names on them,   This year, when you decorate your tree, spend a little money on an ornament with the simple words: Service Member Who Cannot Be home for Christmas.

When you have your family dinner, set up an empty place at the table.  Put down the plates, glasses, silverware as if someone was going to sit there.  Then, when you toast the holiday in your own way, say a special toast to the empty chair as a “thank you” to our service members.  The empty chair will remind you that all across this country, there will be empty chairs belonging to a service member who cannot be home for the holidays.

Contact the USO and find out if they can help you put together a package of food stuffs to send to our troops in combat areas.  They really like the snacks they get in these packages.  You can’t find them in Afghanistan.

These are small things we can do, but they will remind us of all of the sacrifices they and their families make on our behalf.  Please remember, for every service member who cannot be home for the holidays, there are families who will miss them tremendously!  They won’t see you make a toast at dinner, or see the ornament on the tree, but they may feel a little better just knowing you care enough to do them.

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The Republican Party infighting has more at stake than just who runs the Republican Party.  It may determine if we keep the freedom we have enjoyed for over 200 years!  No, I am not being facetious either.

Yesterday was election day in several areas of the country. There were a number of ballot initiatives and three state elections that were very closely watched. The race in Virginia was probably the most watch election of the day. There the Democrat Terry McAuliffe defeated the Republican Ken Cuccinelli. Cuccinelli was the Pee Party favorite.

In New Jersey, Chris Christie easily won reelection. Christie is considered by many as a “moderate conservative”. I personally find that term contradictory. How can one be a moderate and a conservative. I also believe that Christie is more of a “closet Pee Partier” than he lets on. Only time will tell.

The real shocker to me was in Alabama. There in a Republican runoff for a special election Dec 7 for the First Congressional District, former state Sen. Bradley Byrne defeated Dean Young. Byrne used to be a Democrat, but changed parties. He also had the backing of the Republican establishment and business groups. Young was the Pee Party favorite. He is also the genius who three days before the election declared that he believed that President Obama was born in Kenya. Maybe there is hope for Alabama.

The lines have been drawn for the infighting in the Republican Party. Already the establishment is touting Christie as the model to follow in coming elections. While the Pee Party is whining about not getting enough support for Cuccinelli from the party in Virginia.

As a bystander in this infighting, I believe it is in the best interest of the country for the establishment Republicans to grow a backbone and defeat the Pee Partiers.

Ken Cuccinelli was not just a Pee Party candidate. He was everything that the majority of Americans have turned their back on. He is in favor of eliminating abortion rights for women. He is in favor of making it almost impossible for married women with children to get a divorce. He is in favor of voter suppression laws.  He is against gay rights. He is against gay marriage. He is against contraception. He is against the Violence Against Women Act. He is against Immigration Reform. He is against the ACA and in favor of people not having health insurance. He favors cutting food stamps. And the list goes on and on.

Why are his views important in this infighting? Because he mirrors what the Pee Party is all about. The Pee Party, claiming to be for a smaller government who stays out of people’s lives, have an agenda that takes away more liberties and freedoms than any other party in recent memory. It wants to eliminate any safety nets for the elderly and poor. They want to wipe the middle class out of existence. And, they want to rule the lives of anyone who is not a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP).

And don’t be fooled by people like Cuccinelli who claim to be devout Catholics and thus against a WASP dictatorship. Too many so-called devout Catholics want ruling power too. Besides, how can you be a devout Catholic and be against helping the poor. The Catholic Church, through Catholic Charities, is one of if not the biggest helpers of the poor and elderly in this country.

The Pee Party is constantly decrying the President for taking away our liberties. I asked one the other day to name one liberty that the President has taken away. Naturally, he couldn’t give me one. After a minute, he simply said the President is a “socialist dictator” from Kenya. I knew I was simply listening to the Foreign Owned Xenophobia News network tape recording.

No, if anyone would take just a few minutes and just look at the platforms of these groups, you will discover that the only people who are looking to limit liberties and freedoms from the American People are the Pee Party. Since they are currently part of the Republican Party, one can say the Republican Party is the real guilty party in limiting liberty.

It is the actual freedom and liberty that we enjoy in this country that is really at stake in the Republican infighting.  If the Pee Party prevails and the establishment Republicans fade away, we will be one step closer to real chaos.  Economic growth, personal liberties, and personal freedoms will slowly disappear.  That is not the vision of America I served!

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