Saturday, September 29, 2012

Blaming the Victims

Little more than a month before Election Day, Barack Obama today played yet another off-key rendition of Ronald Reagan's Welfare Queen Concerto. Crooning the tired old refrain of "Blame the Victims", he has feebly serenaded the ignored and still-ongoing American housing crisis.

While Mitt Romney is a ham-handed plutocrat stupid enough to shrill his hatred for the underclass in an unsecured fund-raiser, Barack Obama is more deftly circumspect in his disdain for poor people. Instead of placing the blame for the housing mess squarely where it belongs -- on the too big to fail banks and the complicity of his own administration and past administrations -- Obama spreads the guilt around like thin centrist gruel, ascribing it equally to fraud conspirators and banking thieves, lenders, borrowers and property flippers -- carefully dog-whistling to his backers his wink-nod belief in those largely mythical hordes of greedy, low/no-income, speculating McMansion addicts who went on an orgiastic binge of home-buying. Never once does he mention that even qualified buyers often had subprime adjustable rate loans foisted on them. Never once does he mention the Clinton-era enactment of Gramm-Leach-Bliley, which turned banks into unregulated gambling casinos. Mr. Clinton, after all, just gave the current president a huge bump in the polls. So let's just shove that little inconvenient factoid down the memory hole, shall we?

From Obama's address:

Millions of Americans who did the right and responsible thing – who shopped for a home, secured a mortgage they could afford, and made their payments on time – were badly hurt by the irresponsible actions of others. By lenders who sold loans to families who couldn’t afford them – and buyers who knew they couldn’t afford them. By speculators who were looking to make a quick buck. And by banks that packaged and sold those risky mortgages for phony profits.
When the party stopped, and the housing bubble burst, it pushed our entire economy into a historic recession – and left middle-class families holding the bag.

He then went on to the tout that sham of a Mortgage Fraud Task Force headed up by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, with its bank-friendly settlement that did not include one single criminal subpoena. And since "Congress" (including his own party)has selfishly gone on vacation, it's all their fault for not acting on his tepid legislation to help "responsible" homeowners in his voting demographic to save a few grand on their mortgage payments.

The latest Obama address is simply a classier, toned-down version of the infamous Rick Santelli rant of 2009 before the Chicago Board of Trade. That's the speech that blamed unqualified (read minority) people for the whole meltdown and launched the corporate Tea Party movement. Only a small fraction of the billions of dollars in Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) money set aside for struggling homeowners was ever disbursed by the Obama Administration in the wake of pushback against the White House. Neil Barofsky, the inspector general of TARP, subsequently revealed that HAMP was simply a ploy to "foam the runway" to benefit the banks, spreading out foreclosures more evenly so as not to endanger Wall Street's bottom line.

From the transcript of the Santelli rant(or more likely, plant):

How many of you people want to pay for your neighbors' mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills? Raise their hand. (traders boo; Santelli turns around to face CNBC camera) President Obama, are you listening? (Trader goes to Santelli's mike and suggests "how about we all stop paying our mortgage? It's a moral hazard.")

Santelli's words must have never stopped ringing in our conservative president's head. Obama seems never to miss an opportunity to slam the victims of predatory lenders in the same breath that he pretends to slap the wrists of predatory criminal banksters. He implies that the subprime borrowers are sub-"middle class". He subtly uses the typical right wing ploy of pitting the lazy Takers against the hard-working Makers, when the real war is of the top .01% against the rest of us. It seems that the Occupy-inspired theme of gross wealth inequality no longer holds much attraction for the current occupant of the Oval Office. After all, he is pretty much running unopposed. The only mystery is why he is still only ahead by a relatively few percentage points.

This ongoing "blame the victim" mentality has a racist as well as classist origin. The prime targets of predatory subprime mortgage lending have been poor black and Hispanic people -- the "irresponsible" demographic of the president's self-serving phony centrist radio address.

President Obama himself is a master of the false equivalence he and his supporters so passionately declaim. In his centrist world, Goldman Sachs and the poor slobs who signed fraudulent documents on the dotted line and were kicked to the curb when the payment came due are equally guilty complicit partners in crime. The only blameless players reside in the increasingly dwindling monied burbs -- those fine folks who never lost a job, never missed a mortgage payment, never had to declare bankruptcy because of an illness or uninsured emergency room visit.

Obama is setting the stage for the Age of Austerity, in which unnecessary sacrifice is foisted upon the poor, and the rich may temporarily have to forgo a tax loophole or two to make everything seem even-steven. This is what our president means by a fair shot at a fair share, and everybody playing by the same rules.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Diet for Your Country

The Global War on Terror cannot be effectively fought with our young people becoming too globular themselves. Corpulent Millennials just end up bloating the corporate defense budget. Fat people can't fight.

So, the military industrial complex has a message for all you critics of government programs which fight childhood obesity. Forget about the terrible toll that a bad diet is taking on our increasingly impoverished population. We get that you don't care about people living longer, healthier lives just for the sake of living longer, healthier lives. But have you ever stopped to think about the awful truth that our young people are becoming too fat to keep the plutocracy safe and secure?

"Still Too Fat to Fight" is the title of a chilling new report funded by a mish-mash of health care think tanks and defense/homeland security contractors called Mission Readiness. It is apparently a follow-up to that other blockbuster called "Too Fat to Fight" which I had somehow missed. And in keeping with the current fad of blaming public schools for everything that is wrong with our society, the military mavens are putting the onus of obesity right on the public school system.

One in four Americans of military age is now too fat to join up, moan the generals and the admirals. And combined with poor education and crime, that means a whopping 75% are totally unqualified to fight and die for the oligarchy! From the report:

Finding ways to reverse our epidemic of obesity is crucial because the U.S. Department of Defense alone spends an estimated $1 billion per year for medical care associated with weight-related health problems.In a dramatic move to address this problem, the military is bringing healthier foods to its schools, dining facilities, and vending machines, but it cannotwin this fight alone. The civilian sector needs to do its part.

Look at this way, the bigwigs continue. If you counted up all the calories these kids consume and converted them into candy bars, the sweets would weigh more than the aircraft carrier Midway! Without a lean mean fighting machine, our ship of state will sink from the excess weight. Our progeny will have become a sorry nation of Colonel Blimps.

The report also inadvertently acknowledges that our economic recession has actually been a good thing when it comes to desperate unemployed young people joining up as a last resort. And OMG, what'll happen if and when times get better? Who will fight our forever wars then?

The childhood obesity epidemic is still threatening our national security. In fact, the rate of obesity is still climbing among boys age 12 to 19 years. When the impact of the recession is over and fewer people seek to join the military,or if America is drawn into a new conflict, our military could again have trouble finding a sufficient number of well educated recruits without serious criminal backgrounds, or
excess body fat. Even among those who can be admitted, if they are physically unfit from a lifetime of nutritionally weak diets and lack of exercise, they will be more prone to injuries.

The Pentagon retirees urge Congress not to dismantle public education and defund the free healthy meal programs for our impoverished youth. We need to keep them healthy enough to lose their limbs. We need them healthy enough to lose their minds. We need them physically fit so that when they die they can fit more easily into our assembly line of coffins.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Links / Open Thread

Holy Ratched! Chris Hedges likens the two presidential candidates to nasty nurses forcing noxious medicine down our throats in behalf of Austerity Asylum, Inc. He tells us how we are doomed in his uniquely brilliant way -- profound depression is countered with a healthy dose of anger. Like Randle McMurphy in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" we won't stop fighting until the lobotomizer strikes. From the latest Hedges column:

You are, by playing your assigned role as the Democratic or Republican voter in this political theater, giving legitimacy to a corporate agenda that means your own impoverishment and disempowerment. All the things that stand between us and utter destitution—Medicaid, food stamps, Pell grants, Head Start, Social Security, public education, federal grants-in-aid to America’s states and cities, the Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program (WIC), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and home-delivered meals for seniors—are about to be shredded by the corporate state. Our corporate oligarchs are harvesting the nation, grabbing as much as they can, as fast as they can, in the inevitable descent.

And tough luck, maybe, for all the disappointed consumers who didn't score the new iPhone before they ran out. The wage slaves at Foxconn have finally had enough and rioted. The Chinese plant has been shut down. A company spokesman said only certain components of the the iPhone were made at the smashed up factory. Maybe the map components that cheerfully misdirect users looking for directions and show crumbling infrastructure instead of shiny new buildings?

Despite what President Obama likes to brag about, the mortgage industry and the banks have not been reined in. Elderly homeowners are being disproportionately foreclosed on by predatory lenders. These are people who have lived in their homes for decades and always worked hard and played by the rules and deserve a fair shot at a better couple of tomorrows. These are the people, the president assured us, that would be helped by his housing program. The question remains -- what housing program?

Voting fraud is a fraud perpetrated by the fraudsters who are backing the Republican candidates. "In a close election" writes Elizabeth Drew in the New York Review of Books, "the Republican plan could call into question the legitimacy of the next president. An election conducted on this basis could lead to turbulence on election day and possibly an extended period of lawsuits contesting the outcome in various states. Bush v. Gore would seem to have been a pleasant summer afternoon. The fact that their party’s nominee is currently stumbling about, his candidacy widely deemed to be in crisis mode, hasn’t lessened their determination to prevent as many Democratic supporters as they can from voting in November."

This begs the question -- if, as Drew writes, the voter ID scandal is "worse than Watergate", where is the Obama Justice Dept? Oh, I forgot. They're busy not prosecuting banksters and defending indefinite detention.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Kinky Campaigning

I think Paul Ryan got me mixed up with an escort service. He is really taking all the press puffery about his buff bod way too seriously. This is what he propositioned me with today:

Mitt and I will be touring the great state of Ohio on Tuesday and we are looking for some company.

Hubba hubba.

The only catch is, I have to let him know by midnight tonight whether I'll be available for the three-way. Do you think the wives know, or care? After all, Ann Romney is the one who petulantly suggested we should all get in the ring, because "this is hard." Should I notify the Obama Truth Squad? The president has pointedly gone out of his way to call Paulie a fine family man, and I would hate to disabuse him of this notion. Moreover, Ryan will still be a useful idiot in Congress once Mitt loses. Assuming, of course, that the progressive running against him (Rob Zerban) loses too. Ryan and his Blue Dog dem buddy Steny Hoyer are already making plans for a Grand Bargain of cuts to Medicare and Social Security. The president has signalled he can't wait till this Kabuki campaign season is over and he can get into some real serious makeout sessions with his frenemies across the aisle.

One more thing about the Ryan email solicitation. It includes two nights in a hotel at an undisclosed "Destination". Uh-oh... in the fine print it says if I am an illegal immigrant, they won't be touching me with a ten foot pole or any size pole. But as long as I have a Green Card, it's all good. How about a Green Party card?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mayor Shrillionaire Strikes Again

It's really too bad that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is not running as a third party presidential spoiler, as had once been threatened. That is because he makes Mitt Romney look like St. Vincent de Paul.

In a parody of an FDR fireside chat, Bloomberg went on the radio yesterday to advise the burgeoning ranks of the destitute to just wait it out. The sun'll come out tomorrow. You can bet your bottom dollar, but not his 25 billion dollars:

You should not be that depressed, we grow out of these things, we have been through these cycles many, many times before zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

"We don't walk away from the poor," Bloomberg intoned.

He can say that again. Bloomberg dares look poverty straight in the eye. Unfortunately, he throws the baby out with the bath water. He helped close down the city's largest charity hospital a few years ago in order to turn the prime real estate into luxury condos for millionaires. You may remember that place. It was named after St. Vincent, patron saint of the poor. He criminalized food stamp applicants by fingerprinting them. And when Gov. Andrew Cuomo nixed that plan, Bloomberg vowed to make hungry people wait even longer by conducting criminal background checks on them. And if they were so unlucky to live in a homeless shelter, he banned food donations from outsiders. The mayor, we know, is concerned about unseemly levels of salt and sugar in the diets of his indigent subjects.

This is why Mike Bloomberg makes Mitt Romney look merely clueless. Mitt is not all that concerned about the very poor and would simply ignore them. Bloomberg is passionately concerned enough to rub their faces in it.

New York is the income disparity capital of America. More than a fifth of its residents now live below the poverty level, while Bloomberg's own wealth has mushroomed by an estimated 800% since he took/bought office over a decade ago. He won 10th place in this year's Forbes 400 plutocratic beauty contest, up two notches from last year.

Just thinkin about tomorrow clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow. Win the Future. Forward. Yes We Can. Just Stick Out Your Chin and Grin. No War but the Class War. Eat the Rich.

Friday, September 21, 2012

i-phone irony

If the sight the other day of global throngs of greedy humanity lining up to grab the latest i-Phone have you feeling disheartened, take a little subversive comfort. The very first consumer in the Big Apple to score the latest Apple gadget also happens to be the inventor of an app that lets people who still cherish their privacy anonymously send messages to their fellow human beings. Big Brother will still be watching you, but he won't be able to track you down to serve you a subpoena.

Capitalism, meet Occupy.

Hazem Sayed invented the Vibe app in March 2011 after observing one of those pre-Occupy marches on Wall Street that got zero corporate media attention even though thousands of protesters attended. So it's nice to know that while he is helping make an obscenely wealthy outsourcing corporation even richer, he is also doing his bit to fight obscene wealth and social injustice. Twitter does not work well for demonstrators, since prosecutors have successfully been able to wrest the IDs of users from the company. Even though the Vibe app is not encrypted and police can easily monitor communications, anonymity is preserved. At the height of the Occupy protests last year, more than 1000 messages a day were broadcast using Vibe. Sayed was there with his iPad and a projector to magnify all the messages on walls for everybody to see.

Sayed had waited in line for days to purchase the i-Phone 5 at a cost of about $800. As the first person to possess the latest piece of electronic gadgetry, he was immediately declared celebrity du jour and thronged by reporters. The crowd roared every time a new person emerged clutching the piece of plastic made for relative pennies at various Asian sweatshops.

You'll be happy to know that no arrests were made during the relentless march of commerce. Free speech was protected, happiness was pursued, as millions of dollars flowed.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The False Equivalency Blues

Everybody's getting all bent out of shape from the latest eruption of false equivalency. In the wake of the Mitt Romney odium, conservatives like Ross Douthat can't resist tying Mitt's remarks to those of then-candidate Obama at a San Francisco fundraiser in 2008.  Rust Belt types of folks, Obama had been recorded saying, are bitter clingers to their guns and religion. The critics are right -- this particular comparison is false equivalency, because Obama tempered his remarks with a modicum of sympathy for the poor and downtrodden of Swing States, USA. Unlike Mitt. Well, we all know what a crass, clueless, "inelegant" guy he is.

For a better example of how both men hold the hoi polloi in utter contempt for the purposes of point-scoring with their wealthy donors, here's a gem from a 2010 $30,000-a-plate Obama fundraiser held at the home of banking and real estate tycoon Richard Richman in tony Greenwich, CT. Said the President:
Now, the second reason I'm telling you this is because Democrats, just congenitally, tend to get -- to see the glass as half empty. (Laughter.) If we get an historic health care bill passed -- oh, well, the public option wasn't there. If you get the financial reform bill passed -- then, well, I don't know about this particularly derivatives rule, I'm not sure that I'm satisfied with that. And gosh, we haven't yet brought about world peace and -- (laughter.) I thought that was going to happen quicker. (Laughter.) You know who you are. (Laughter.)
Those remarks, dissing his own base as genetically disenfranchised malcontents, were officially released by the White House! So I guess Romney doesn't hold exclusive title to cluelessness, after all. Of course, what Obama later individually told the VIPs at the fundraiser, we will never know. His minions make them check their recording devices at the door, just in case.

The point is that both Romney and Obama suck up to thin-skinned Richie Riches (literally.) They persuade them to open up their wallets by appealing to their snobbishness. Romney used the half of the population which receives some sort of government assistance to make the thin-skinned elites feel superior. Obama makes fun of his own uninsured, bank-victimized, anti-war supporters, making the coddled elites feel superior. The pragmatist kids are so much cooler than those purist nerds, dontcha know.

The true equivalency is in the pandering for elite weighted votes, and the snob appeal. These candidates are not really all that far apart. One of them just happens to be a lot more talented in charm offensive and tasteful contemptuousness. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

We Are Deeply Offended

The royal British bosom is almost getting out-trended by the royal American boob commonly known as Moochie Mitt. He is managing to offend whole swaths of the population today, thanks to that viral video that has him accusing Obama voters of being moochers. Even staid columnist David Brooks is faux-fended. Actually, Brooks is miffed that Mitt finally got caught voicing the derision with which the upper crust holds the rest of us. It is always better for Republicans to speak in code to get their points across. Such as, always refer to the common folk as being "trapped in the culture of dependency" when what you really mean is why can't the wastrels just all die, already.

What with all the recent bad press about an upstart judge slapping him down over his unconstitutional detention policies, President Obama must be breathing a huge sigh of relief today, now that Mitt is grabbing more than his fair share of negative attention. Obama fans are gloating with outrage over the Inept Evil that is Mitt Romney. I love how some of them are fighting back against the slander. Rather than expressing annoyance that Mitt is unfairly castigating the poor and the downtrodden, they're miffed that Mitt is accusing them of being the poor and downtrodden. These people belong to the well-heeled, upper middle class subset of the Obama demographic. It's reverse snobbism. "All of the people I know who are voting for our president are professionals with excellent incomes," sniffed one Times commenter. Harrumph.

They were also incensed at another Times article outlining how President Obama is callously denying health coverage to the young "Dreamers" recently bestowed with deferred prosecution by His Coolness in order to get out the Hispanic Vote. It turns out that just because he's letting young Latino folks stay here till after he's safely re-elected doesn't mean he wants them to be health care moochers, too. The White House has decided that even though they're allowed to stay, they're still here illegally. His Royal Parse-imony has spoken. From Robert Pear's article:

Immigrants granted such relief would ordinarily meet the definition of “lawfully present” residents, making them eligible for government subsidies to buy private insurance, a central part of the new health care law. But the administration issued a rule in late August that specifically excluded the young immigrants from the definition of “lawfully present.”
At the same time, in a letter to state health officials, the administration said that young immigrants granted a reprieve from deportation “shall not be eligible” for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Administration officials said they viewed the immigration initiative and health coverage as separate matters.
Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said in the Federal Register that the reasons offered for the immigration initiative “do not pertain to eligibility for Medicaid,” the children’s health program or federal subsidies for buying private health insurance.
Pear tells the story of a young Dream Act candidate named Ricardo Campos who will not qualify for coverage under the Affordable Care Act for ongoing cancer treatments while he's here attending college. Immigration rights organizations are appalled that President Obama is denying health coverage to the same young people he so recently praised.

But here's a sampling of the most highly recommended reader comments from some of the same liberal Obama supporters who are shocked and appalled at Romney's lack of compassion:
The fact is, these "children" are STILL ILLEGAL ALIENS. Obama's policy change doesn't change that. They're still deportable and still don't have a route to legal status that they didn't have before. They are NOT members of this society--their parents and then they saw to that by avoiding the routes to become legal members of this society. (Ali, Michigan)
If a young immigrant is taking advantage of our President's compassion by not pursuing a legal citizenship, I do not believe they also deserve their health care wholly subsidized by the federal government. Let them become a citizen before they gain that advantage. (Jeff T., Portland ME)
By the way, Mr. Campos has still spent more than half of his life in his home country, the formative early years at that. He had only been here 7 years when at age 18 he made his own decision to remain here illegally. (Ali again, echoing the conservative "self-deport" mantra.)
But then there's this snippet of truth, from Mookie of Brooklyn:
Here is the real Obama. He's all for unions until Wisconsin happens or the Chicago teachers go on strike -- then he's nowhere to be found.
He offers young illegals a chance to stay in the US then denies them benefits.
This President who loves the sound of his own voice is once again silent when it comes to taking a clear stand on an issue.
Incidentally, don't count on a viral video or audio surfacing of President Obama sucking up to rich people. His campaign wisely confiscates cell phones and other recording devices at the fund-raising door. What happens in Jay-Z's bar tonight will stay in Jay-Z's bar.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Happy Birthday, Occupy

The theme today is Resistance. It's being practiced in New York City, as Occupiers have retaken Zuccotti Park and planned to form a human wall around the Stock Exchange.  It's being practiced in Chicago, where teachers are refusing to rubber-stamp a contract without having a chance to read it first. It's being practiced in Spain and Portugal, where thousands of people have rallied against the austerity being dictated to them by the very same financial cabal that destroyed the economy in the first place. It's being practiced in the streets of the West Bank where crowds of people are protesting the high cost of living in a region where the average wages are only $500 a month. And people in scores of Muslim countries have finally had it with the exceptional states of America's puppet regimes and occupations and drone strikes and military bases. And oh yeah, with cheesy movies dissing their religion.  

If there is one country on the planet where people aren't fighting oppression today, I wish somebody would tell me where it is. It's as though everybody suddenly woke up at the same moment in time and realized they'd finally had enough.

Quite a few experts in government and media appear to be in shock that these resistance movements have not met their official expectations and quietly caved. The paramilitary police forces broke up the Occupy camps but they didn't break human spirits. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has just found out that Chicago teachers are willing to keep schools shut a few more days in order to prevent him from closing down hundreds of them forever. His nefarious plan to privatize education and enrich his cronies has been exposed for the world to see.

The global upswelling of outrage is continuing. The contagion of mass revolts, first made apparent in modern times with the Arab Spring and later with the Occupy movement one year ago, appears to be entering yet another phase. As Cornell University historian Ziad Fahmy puts it in a DiscoveryNews piece, each new revolt provides a template for the possible, and chips away at the fear people might have had of speaking up and taking to the streets.

"When people are oppressed," he says, "they will revolt."

Friday, September 14, 2012

She Saw Something, She Said Something, She Got Her Walking Papers

The titans of finance are always looking for new ways to make a quick buck off the suffering and sweat of regular people. They've destroyed the housing market, they've destroyed jobs, they've obliterated trillions of dollars in household wealth since the debacle of 2008. Now they're in Stage Two, which consists of sifting through the national ruins and salvaging the collateral damage. And lo and behold! There's some mighty distressed human capital and bargain basement real estate out there, ripe for the corporate picking. It's called the American public school system.

In the wealthiest country in the world, where nearly a quarter of all children are still deemed officially poor, the circling vultures are smelling the desperation and voraciously grabbing what they can, while they can. They're stealthy, they're sneaky, and they are counting on us not noticing or caring.

But thanks in large part to the Chicago teachers' strike, those of us who weren't paying enough attention are now getting a much-needed crash course in the war against public education. We've already heard more than we can stomach about Mayor Rahm Emanuel's quest to gut his city's public schools and transform them into charters in order to enrich his wealthy cronies. His divide-and-conquer crusade, pitting parents against unionized teachers, is not working. As of this writing, a settlement was reportedly near -- and the teachers are the ones with the smiles on their faces.

But that's just one battle, and the war still rages. Among the casualties is Barbara Madeloni, the director of Secondary Teacher Education at UMass, Amherst. Because she and her students balked at being used as guinea pigs in a multinational corporation's experimental teacher certification program, her contract has not been renewed for the next academic year. The fact that her college happens to be located in one of the most politically progressive areas of the country does not bode well. It is only because Dr. Madeloni is protected by a union that her employer couldn't fire her outright.

The professor and her students decided to opt out of participation in Pearson's Teacher Performance Field Test, which evaluates candidates based solely on a brief videotape and canned essay questions designed to discourage creative thinking. It lets a bunch of corporate suits sitting in expensive office space thousands of miles away make a ton of money by paying retired/laid-off teachers $75 a pop to decide the fate of an aspiring educator they've never even met.

 After the New York Times ran a story about her protest last spring, Barbara Madeloni suddenly found herself out of a job. The corporate overlords and their accomplices in state government and higher public education were apparently not well-pleased that, in her words, she "saw something and said something."
My conviction that I had to resist and speak out has been growing with my increasing awareness of the danger we are in. I see what is happening in K-12 schools, the profound distortions of teaching and learning, the abuse that is testing and its impact on teachers, students, parents and administrators. I sit in meetings with people who have the power and protections to speak out and stop what is happening, and I listen as they make a choice to side with those in power, determine through a twisted rationality that ‘we need standards’ and ‘there has to be accountability’ and ‘our practices need to be data driven’ all while closing their eyes and ears to the evident human misery these measures are creating. My courage comes from my outrage and my fear. My fear for the future of the greater good is much stronger than my fear for losing my job. I also gain courage from the Education Radio Collective, whose members support me, inspire me and give me a place of safety. As well, the national connections in educator activism, both online and at Occupy DOE have helped me to know that I am part of something bigger, that I am not alone. In some ways, however, it doesn’t feel like courage. It just feels absolutely necessary.
(Did I mention that Barbara Madeloni is also a Sardonicky reader/commenter?)

Alan Singer of Hofstra University has written a chilling overview of the Pearson conglomerate for The Huffington Post. Among other tidbits, we learn that Seif al-Islam, son of late Libyan dictator Muanmar Gaddafi, has a major financial stake in the company. The ill-gotten gains of one of the worst human rights abusers in modern history are helping subsidize an epidemic of what amounts to institutionalized child abuse. Because, let's be blunt: the "creative destruction" of public education, Rahm-style, Pearson-style, is indeed a form of child abuse. As the old public service TV commercial said, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste." And the global financial cartel is laying waste to entire generations of young minds, all in the quest of the Almighty Dollar.

Why else do you suppose Rahm sends all three of his own children to a private school where they refuse to teach to the test, and where they have three libraries and seven art teachers to serve a student population of 1,700?

The underserved public school students of Chicago and other financially strapped cities, on the other hand, often don't even have a library. The elites can thereby pivot and blame the teachers for low reading scores! And when brave people like Barbara Madeloni speak out against the injustice, they're thrown to the curb. But they can never be silenced.

"The Chicago teachers know exactly what is up and who they are fighting" Dr. Madeloni emailed me yesterday. "And if they didn't, Obama's man Rahm told them so: these are Obama's Race to the Top policies that he using to try to strong arm the unions, make a land grab with schools closings, and complete the privatization of the public schools. This is a terribly important struggle and we need to be with them all of the way."

There's a petition up at Change.Org asking that UMass renew Dr. Madeloni's contract. You can sign it here.

Postering at UMass.... "I have the most amazing students," says Dr. Madeloni

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Spam of Bam

Even though hip-hop divas rarely email me, this just arrived in my spam bucket today. (parentheses added are merely my own peevish little thought balloons.)

Sender: Beyonce Knowles.

Subject: I Usually Don't Email You. (I, Beyonce, am letting you know right off the bat that emailing common people is beneath me. Consider yourself blessed.)


Karen --

I  usually don't email you (hey-- that's the title of my next hit single!) -- but I have an amazing invitation I have to share. (it's actually just one more variation on the BamScam lottery, but please bear with the pretentious fun.)

Jay (I naturally assume you know who he is) and I will be meeting up ( way cooler than just meeting) with President Obama for an evening in NYC sometime soon. (I can't be bothered to give you the exact date, but Page Six* has the scoop.) And we want you to be there! (the exclamation point signifies that I/my minion is futilely straining to sound sincere.)

I've had the honor of meeting (not meeting up with) President Obama and the First Lady a few times -- and believe me -- it's an opportunity you don't want to miss. (Watching me, Beyonce, from your nosebleed seat in the last row, meeting up with them.)

Until midnight tonight, if you pitch in $15 or whatever you can, you'll be automatically entered to be flown out to join us. (and if Obama for America does happen to pick your name out of the hat, you will be carefully vetted by his operatives to make sure you're not a Code Pinko, have no missing teeth, or are otherwise unfit for our venue.)

Don't worry about the airfare and hotel, it's taken care of. (Phew....I was sweating bullets)  And you can bring a guest. (who will also be rigorously vetted.)

But the countdown is on -- this opportunity ends at midnight:

(more linkage to givegivegivegivegivegive)

Can't wait to meet you!



At the very end, in extremely tiny print is the message that no purchase is necessary to be entered to win, because that would be illegal and unethical in the extreme. Offer void where prohibited and patent pending and we hope you rubes won't read this but givegivegivegivegive. No refunds, no exchanges. This offer cannot be sold to a Third Party because that would be a spoiler. 

*Okay, here's the lowdown. The partay will be at Jay-Z's 40/40 Club on Sept. 18, and with any luck, the Sept. 17th anniversary of Occupy will still be going strong. Because, as you may remember, Jay-Z just dissed OWS, even though he'd made a bundle selling his special Occupy t-shirts.  According to the Post
We hear the event will be intimate and capped at 100 guests who will shell out $40,000 per ticket to dine with the commander-in-chief and hip-hop royals. Earlier the same day, Obama is scheduled to attend a reception where families can pose for a photo with him for a $12,500 contribution. A rep for Jay-Z’s West 25th Street club had no comment. We’re told the campaign stop will be Obama’s last in New York before the election. But does this mean the president will miss Jay’s concerts at Brooklyn's new Barclays Center at the end of September?
Meanwhile, the New York Times is dishing on Bam's big-money donors and his failure to properly "stroke" them during appointments. Apparently, satisfying the thin-skinned elites is a tricky proposition.

Oh, and if you still had any illusions that President Obama is even remotely pro-labor, employees of Jay-Z's bar are suing him over wage and hour violations. At best, the lawsuit alleges, he cheated them out of overtime. At worst, he never gave them a paycheck at all. Even his defense lawyer is suing him for nonpayment. He got shut down by the health department for a day in July. In a separate case, the New York City Workers Compensation Board slapped him with a fine for not paying insurance for his own personal cooks and maids. Jay-Z reportedly earned $80 million last year.  

But givegivegivegivegivegive. They'll fly you right out. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Links / Open Forum

Bibi and Barack are feuding, the crazy Florida pastor is on the loose, people are rioting over a cheesy movie, Mitt Romney is running for president on the Likud ticket, and the Democratic Party is finally outing itself as a group of anti-labor corporate shills by refusing to stand with the public school teachers and the poor kids of Chicago.

The maelstrom of current events reminds me of that old Sheldon Harnick song called "The Merry Minuet." It was written in 1949, and recorded in the 60s by the Kingston Trio -- one of whom remarked in this clip that the lyrics were as timely back then as they were way back then, and even pre-back then.  The crap of life is forever. "The whole world is festering with unhappy souls," the lyrics go. We have been threatening to annihilate one another ever since we first started roaming the earth.


The Chicago teachers' strike has become the national symbol of the battle of corporations against people. It's the best thing to happen since the Occupy movement. It provides irrefutable proof that the two major political parties are two sides of the same corrupt coin. Paul Ryan hearts Rahm Emanuel, and droves of people are calling out the bullshit just in time for the election. But as far as the mainstream media are concerned, this strike proves that there is no incident of social upheaval that cannot be tied to how it will personally effect Barack Obama. Even the neoliberal New York Times has dropped all pretense and outed itself as an anti-union administration mouthpiece But some truly insightful reporting can be found here and here.

The Romney and Obama campaigns are shocked and outraged at the attacks on the American embassies.... or rather, shocked and appalled at each other's shock and outrage.  There is no tragedy that cannot be tied to the presidential horse-race, even on the phony 9/11 holiday truce.

And here's more on the Grade Z movie that started it all.

Yep... as the song says, we can certainly be thankful, and tranquil, and proud.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Eleventh Nine Eleven

What with all the hoopla of the campaigns and party conventions, September 11th kind of snuck up on me. I am ashamed to admit that before President Obama reminded me about the looming celebration of mass murder, glorious Americana style, it had totally slipped my mind. After all, didn't the event reach its orgiastic zenith last year in the wake of the bin Laden assassination? Some irrational part of me just assumed that from then on out, it would just sort of tastefully lurk beneath the surface of our collective super-ego.

No such luck. Obama dusted off his earnest Keeping Fear Alive and Loving It screed again today. Forget about his fiscal scold of an acceptance speech the other night, when he insisted we elected him to tell us the unvarnished truth instead of what we want to hear.  Because it's that time of year again, when politicians let their cynical patriotic fervor go hog wild. It's the time of year when any sense of shame or adherence to the truth goes right out the window. It's the time of year when I really, really cringe in embarrassment. Anyway, here is the transcript of Barry's latest Very Special Sept.11th Retrospective. (he has promised to shut up on the day itself, even though he and the Mittster plan to be there for the usual solemn, touchy feely let's all get along for one day, photo op.)
This week, we mark the eleventh anniversary of the September 11th attacks. It’s a time to remember the nearly 3,000 innocent men, women and children we lost, and the families they left behind. It’s a chance to honor the courage of the first responders who risked their lives – on that day, and every day since. And it’s an opportunity to give thanks for our men and women in uniform who have served and sacrificed, sometimes far from home, to keep our country safe.
This anniversary is about them. It’s also a time to reflect on just how far we’ve come as a nation these past eleven years.
On that clear September morning, as America watched the towers fall, and the Pentagon burn, and the wreckage smoldering in a Pennsylvania field, we were filled with questions. Where had the attacks come from, and how would America respond? Would they fundamentally weaken the country we love? Would they change who we are?
(The very first question that entered my mind when the first plane hit the tower was "Wow, someone must sure hate the Americans in general and our predacious capitalist system in particular. What outrage could we have perpetrated that could have brought them to this extremity?" Also, where is the president's outrage that so many of our first responders have been laid off due to government austerity, and have been unable to access medical care thanks to no universal health insurance?)

The last decade has been a difficult one, but together, we have answered those questions and come back stronger as a nation.

(We started two wars costing over a trillion dollars and at least 50  times more lives than were lost in the 9/11 attacks -- and we're still counting. We will be in Afghanistan for at least another decade. This last decade has been a very profitable one for Wall Street and the Military Industrial Complex.)
We took the fight to al Qaeda, decimated their leadership, and put them on a path to defeat. And thanks to the courage and skill of our intelligence personnel and armed forces, Osama bin Laden will never threaten America again.
(We put them on a path of blowback against the United States that is exponentially increasing with every secret Drone attack that kills innocent people in countries with which we are not even at war. America is in more peril than ever before. With every bombing that kills somebody's innocent mother, father, brother or sister, we create future generations of countless bin Ladens. Our moral standing in the world has taken a huge hit since 9/11. The initial good will and sympathy expressed by the international community has been plummeting ever since. Our very own Nobel Laureate president is no longer viewed favorably by much of the world. )
Instead of pulling back from the world, we’ve strengthened our alliances while improving our security here at home. As Americans, we refuse to live in fear. Today, a new tower rises above the New York skyline. And our country is stronger, safer and more respected in the world.
We are fighting terrorism with terrorism. Far from strengthening our alliances, American bellicosity is creating more enemies. As Americans, we live in a state of manufactured fear every single day. We are patted down and x-rayed at airports. People protesting economic inequality in Occupy encampments and at closed partisan conventions are arrested and put on Terror watch lists. The president has declared that he can extra-judicially arrest or kill anyone, anywhere in the world. The National Security agency is building a brand new repository in the Utah desert in which to store the email and Google searches and data trails and  cell phone conversations of every man, woman and child on the planet. Never before have our civil rights been more jeopardized and trampled upon.)

Instead of turning on each other, we’ve resisted the temptation to give in to mistrust and suspicion. I have always said that America is at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates – and we will never be at war with Islam or any other religion. We are the United States of America. Our freedom and diversity make us unique, and they will always be central to who we are as a nation.

(The United States is attacking and killing Muslims abroad and spying on them here at home. Obama's national security advisor has gone out of his way to praise the New York City police department's illegal anti-Muslim surveillance. The Obama administration has deported more undocumented immigrants than any previous regime and has prosecuted a record number of whistleblowers exposing government waste and corruption. The Department of Homeland Security had turned a blind eye to the growing right wing terror threat in these United States out of a sense of not wanting to offend right wing politicians. This country has not been this deeply divided against itself since the Civil War. Just take a look at the theatrical presidential sweepstakes: mistrust and suspicion are the rule, vicious money-fueled attack ads are poisoning the discourse.) 
Instead of changing who we are, the attacks have brought out the best in the American people. More than 5 million members of the 9/11 Generation have worn America’s uniform over the past decade, and we’ve seen an outpouring of goodwill towards our military, veterans, and their families. Together, they’ve done everything we’ve asked of them. We’ve ended the war in Iraq and brought our troops home. We brought an end to the Taliban regime. We’ve trained Afghan Security Forces, and forged a partnership with a new Afghan Government. And by the end 2014, the transition in Afghanistan will be complete and our war there will be over.
This entire paragraph is a bald-faced lie. The reaction to the attacks bankrupted this country and eviscerated the Bill of Rights. Since only one percent of our population has joined the all-volunteer armed forces, the vast majority of us have no real clue about the horrors the government is subjecting them to: endless deployments, drugging them to keep them awake and alert, irreversible brain damage and mental illness and an increase in suicides, an epidemic of sexual assaults against female troops that is going unaddressed and unpunished. The Afghan Security Forces are turning against us and killing our troops in the field. The transition in Afghanistan will not be anywhere near complete by 2014. The United States has promised a presence there at least through the next decade. Americans are trying retain indefinite control of the military prison on Afghan soil. We will continue to launch drone attacks from our bases in Afghanistan.)
And finally, instead of turning inward with grief, we’ve honored the memory of those we lost by giving back to our communities, serving those in need, and reaffirming the values at the heart of who we are as a people. That’s why we mark September 11th as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. Because we are one American family. And we look out for each other – not just on the difficult days, but every day.
(Instead of turning inward with grief, we have neglected the people here at home and directed our voracious military machine ever outward, with close to 1000 bases worldwide. We have expanded our power and machinery in new narco-wars in Africa and Latin America. We look out for our defense contractors and war profiteers every single day, because we are now in a permanent state of war. There will be no more normal days.) 
Eleven years later, that’s the legacy of 9/11 – the ability to say with confidence that no adversary and no act of terrorism can change who we are. We are Americans, and we will protect and preserve this country we love. On this solemn anniversary, let’s remember those we lost, let us reaffirm the values they stood for, and let us keep moving forward as one nation and one people.
(Oh, would he please just shut the hell up.)

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Audacity of Treading Water

I think I figured out why the party planners decided to move the big bash indoors last night -- and it had nothing to do with the weather. The venue of a football stadium is usually reserved for rock concerts, Papal Masses, sporting events, or happy victory rallies. The most Obama could muster was a full-throated endorsement of Meh. He waxed nostalgic for another centrist grand bargain of deficit reduction. Picture the Emperor in the coliseum drawling the following to the hungry jobless unwashed masses:
Independent experts say that my plan would cut our deficit by $4 trillion. (Cheers.) And last summer I worked with Republicans in Congress to cut a billion dollars in spending, because those of us who believe government can be a force for good should work harder than anyone to reform it so that it’s leaner and more efficient and more responsive to the American people....
Now, I’m still eager to reach an agreement based on the principles of my bipartisan debt commission. No party has a monopoly on wisdom. No democracy works without compromise. I want to get this done, and we can get it done.

Maybe his handlers figured the crowds would go wild, and not in a good way, when he evoked memories of the despised Cat Food Commission. It was Co-chair Alan Simpson who famously derided Social Security as a "milk cow with 300 million tits". And the other co-chair, Erskine Bowles, is a serious Paul Ryan fanboy. As commenter Pearl pointed out, does Obama even want to win the election?

The Secret Service likely was having conniption fits over security anyway, and when they got an advance copy of the speech, the whole shebang went into full emergency lockdown mode. The part of the speech with Obama wind-bagging about all that frackable gas lurking in the earth beneath our feet sent Earth, Wind & Fire running for their lives. 

Charlotte, N.C. had been transformed into a virtual militarized zone in which cops from thousands of miles away outnumbered spectators, handfuls of protesters, and various and sundry marginalized citizens. It was a dystopian scene where journalists attempting to take photographs outside the parameters were being threatened with arrest. Patting down 60,000 ticket-holders to Obama's Bank of America speech would have presented a logistical nightmare. And there would likely have been more than a few catcalls when President Obama embraced catfood, inexcusably ignoring the humanitarian crisis of unemployment, the epidemic of foreclosures, and the fact that one out of every four American children is now officially poor. It would have been embarrassing to have cameras pan over all the dispirited homeless people who were bound to have scored a few tickets.

Better to have several thousand loyal partisans in funny hats cheer in a heavily guarded convention center than a city full of freethinkers boo in an open-air space. A stadium speech might have totally upended the ultra-careful scripting of the previous three days, in which almost every speech by every "rising star" seemed to have been crafted by the same P.R. flack. Nonfiction may have reared its ugly head, roared its terrible roar and gnashed its terrible teeth. And it wouldn't have had anything to do with the president's bland rendering of "Where the Wild Things Are" at the White House Easter Egg hunt this past spring.

I wasn't even going to post today, such was my profound state of ennui -- but my spirits were briefly lifted this evening when I got my very first call ever from the Quinnipiac pollsters! I was able to loudly and categorically state for posterity that, contrary to Obama's delusions, I Do Not Give One Shit About the Deficit! Well, that wasn't the exact question, but you get my drift. I was also able to reveal that I would have no problem voting for a Black Hispanic Muslim Mormon Born Again Christian gay person who also happens to be an atheist and morbidly obese -- but was strongly opposed to both Obama and Romney. As I told the pollster lady, I do refuse to  accept a choice between stagnating with Barry or sinking with Mitt. But since that wasn't an option, I think she marked me down as "Not Sure." Or confused, or uncooperative.

Whatever. Osama bin Laden is underwater, and so are you.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


The dial on the cognitive dissonance meter just went haywire and exploded into the stratosphere. Hordes of otherwise intelligent people have suddenly decided to take political conventions seriously. A religion of the absurd has been born. Its dogma is that Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive. We're all better off than we were four years ago, because the Party Leader has decreed it. Yippee.

A reader commenting on Nicholas Kristof's New York Times column today, which grades President Obama's first term, distilled the zeitgeist nicely: "I am very proud of our President. I will add my voice in agreement to the thousands who shouted 'Yes' at the convention when asked if they are better off today than they were on January 19, 2009. Only those who are brain-dead, memory disabled, or decided to hate the President before he even took the oath of office would answer no to that question."

I get that we are supposed to parse that "better off" meme and define it as the individual miserable parts not counting as much as the glorious sum --  but how do you suppose this new campaign talking point feels to those who've lost their homes, their health insurance, their health, their jobs?  Why more people aren't expressing how insulted they feel is beyond me. I guess I must be really behind the times, not getting with the new make-believe program of happy days are here again.

And Bill Clinton is getting rave reviews for his speech, mainly because he is better at explaining things than Barack Obama, and he is not totally addicted to a teleprompter. He actually praised the failed "Grand Bargain" of trillions of dollars of cuts balanced by a few paltry increases in revenue,  called for a reanimation of the Catfood Commission of austerity, bragged about his heartless Welfare to Work program, and insisted there is such a thing as "structural" unemployment (lots of good jobs, too few qualified people.) And the crowd roared. But I guess the cult of centrism is better than total annihilation by Romney and Ryan. Your choice is between a slow death by a thousand cuts and a quick rub-out.

And while you're picking your poison, or just being a spoilsport by refusing to choose between the two evilisms, let me just share a heartwarming email I received yesterday from Michelle Obama. She got rave reviews for feeling our pain, but suggests that we need to suffer a little more for The Cause. Instead of helping a friend in need or otherwise indulging ourselves, we should send more cash her way.
Karen --
I know your life is full -- with work, or school, or family -- and yet you still find the time to help out when you can.
You may have a tight budget, but you give what you can afford.
A woman recently told the campaign her family skipped a pizza dinner at their favorite place so that they could make a difference in this election.
That is the commitment that drives this campaign..
If you can support Barack with a donation today, please know it makes a huge difference. If we win, it will be because of what you did at moments like this.

And if they lose, I guess it will be all my selfish fault for not forcing my kid to give up pizza night for Lent Obama.

But back to death. Obama has finally been confronted about his "Kill List" by a renegade local reporter. The president dissembles in his usual glib newspeak fashion, simultaneously refusing to confirm that he kills people and bragging that he kills people. Watch the clip here

Need further antidotes to the political propaganda? Glenn Greenwald, Michael Wolff, Matt Stoller, and  Glen Ford are just what the doctor ordered.

Meanwhile, please feel free to vent with all the contrarianism you can muster.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The P Word

Deep within the bowels of the Democratic party platform are a few  gratuitous paragraphs about the need to eradicate poverty in America. The document also pays lip service to gun control and climate change, two other verboten topics in this year's presidential contest between the two apparatchiks of the One Percent.

But this political manifesto, like others before it, is more of a Christmas wish list than a literal agenda. Like the Bible, party platforms are cobbled together and hammered out over time by several different factions with diverse agendas. Also like the Bible, they shouldn't be taken literally. They're aspirational things, peppered with a lot of fiction. What is not in them is often more telling than what is.

But thanks in part to the Democrats' odd choice of Charlotte as its party city, that dreaded P word is in evidence right out in the open. That is because there is a dearth of hotels and motels to house all the conventioneers. So when the rich people came to town looking for lodging, the poor people previously housed in the city's temporary digs have been unceremoniously kicked out of them. Charlotte's homeless population skyrocketed an unbelievable 40% in 2010 and another 20% last year -- an increase caused in large part by impoverished rural families fleeing to the city to take advantage of its shelter system.

News reporters converging on the city can't help but notice all the poor people living on the streets. They are literally tripping over them on their way to the heavily policed elite events.

The New York Daily News tells the story of Lakia Ramsey, who was forced to take refuge in a church when her welfare motel jacked up its rates without warning. "They kicked us out like we were trash," the 28-year-old mother of two small children told the News. Another family had been renting a room and paying for it from the husband's low-paying restaurant job in Charlotte. They are now sleeping on a cement loading dock in order to make room for the out-of-towners.

Poverty is so rampant in what is known as Wall Street South that the Charlotte News Observer even has a specialized indigence beat. Fred Clasen-Kelly, the reporter who writes about poor people, was himself interviewed by Democracy Now! this week. He said that Charlotte is big on boosterism, trying to tout itself as a booming city in the New South. The propaganda campaign has been so effective that struggling people have flocked to this ephemeral Mecca hoping to find a better life. And the same big banks that caused so much misery and hardship in the first place now literally loom over hordes of people sleeping on the streets and waiting in bread lines.
The ironic part (he says) of being here at the convention is all these thousands of people going to very fancy parties with lots of suits on are really less than a mile away from the city’s largest homeless shelters, in places like Crisis Assistance Ministries, where people go for financial assistance to get—to stop eviction and to keep their power on. And so, it provides quite a contrast if you walk just a short distance from the convention site and the corporate towers that are downtown. Every morning, in these places like Crisis Assistance Ministries or the homeless shelter, you’ll see hundreds of people lined up outside waiting for food, waiting for money to be able to stay in their homes.

According to an Observer story co-written by Clasen-Kelly, members of the Occupy movement have been trying to recruit the city's poor people to join in their protests, without much success. The poor often have no faith in politics and may suffer from physical ailments preventing them from marching. Others have to work at more than one minimum wage job just to keep body and soul together, and haven't the spare time to demonstrate. The article didn't mention that the massive police presence in Charlotte also tends to put a damper on resistance by people for whom police brutality is an ongoing reality of daily life. After the Occupiers and conventioneers leave, they'll be stuck there. 

But they're still for President Obama, who despite their disappointment in him, is more palatable than Mitt Romney. For the marginalized minorities, Obama is the thin patina of aspiration covering their layers upon layers of despair.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Hugs, Not Thugs

To give you an idea of how mushy the movement in Labor Movement has become in the past several decades, take a gander at how the unions are behaving in anti-union North Carolina this week. Instead of aggressively demanding stuff like collective bargaining, a living wage bill and job protection, they're eager to demonstrate their "soft side" to the voting public. (Translation: Wall Street, corporations, and slanderous Republicans.) The once-great AFL-CIO has actually set up a "Hug a Union Thug" booth to demonstrate how quietly they plan to go into that good night. And there's a website that couldn't be more conciliatory if it tried:

While several unions are boycotting the convention because the Democrats chose a right-to-work state (with the lowest union density in the entire country) for their quadrennial confab, the heavy hitters  are there with their whiffle balls and bats. People like AFL-CIO Chief Richard Trumka, who often whines that the Democratic Party has betrayed the unions, writes vociferous letters blasting job-killing free trade deals, and vows to withhold contributions -- and then eagerly endorses their candidacies all the same. Where else can they go? Wa-a-a-a-a-h.

The union people on display in Charlotte have sadly devolved into performance artists for the purpose of President Obama's re-election. According to The Hill's Kevin Bogardus, the labor groups are "trying a mix of celebrity, social media and humor to polish up the labor movement’s image in the eyes of everyday people".
MaryBe McMillan, secretary-treasurer for the North Carolina State AFL-CIO, said the state labor federation wanted to break down stereotypes regarding union members by dishing out the hugs.

“We see this as an opportunity to dispel that stereotype that union members are mean, scary and violet. (sic) What better way to disarm folks than to hug them?” McMillan said. “Union members take care of you in the hospital, deliver your packages and sit next you in church. We are just average folks.”
Oh, no. That dreaded phony populist "folks" word has insidiously crept even into the parlance of workers' rights. Give me the Purple Meanies any day.  From Jimmy Hoffa tough to McDonaldland's plummy Grimace character tender, is just about correct. The shrinking violet-not-violent unions are now just fine with people working at temporary minimum wage jobs rather than having no jobs at all. Just think of all the poor unemployed people in Charlotte getting pocketfuls of change from the Hollywood celebrities and professional athletes and A-listers of all stripes converging in town this week, to see and be seen.

North Carolina is so anti-labor that the United Nations International Human Rights Committee has condemned a Jim Crow-era law on its books forbidding public employees to  collectively bargain. And here you were wondering why President Obama did not join the protests against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker trying to do the exact same thing.

Labor journalist Mike Elk, writing for Working in These Times, has an excellent piece about the Democratic Party's sellout of the labor movement. While some workers in Charlotte were putting in dangerous amounts of overtime at low pay to prepare for the convention, he says, the irony is that unions were treated well in Tampa for the GOP orgy of the oligarchs. It seems that Florida still does have collective bargaining rights.

Read the whole article. His description of DNC Chairperson Debbie Wasserman Shultz's canned endorsement of labor and her subsequent running away from his pointed questions would be hysterically funny if it weren't so depressing. The conventional wisdom among the unionists, Elk says, is that they're going for Obama for the simple reason that he is a slower bleed compared to Mitt Romney's "bullet to the head."

Even the unions not attending the convention are careful not to use the word "boycott" for fear of hurting Obama's re-election chances. They're just passive-aggressively not showing up. Among them is the International Association of Machinists, which came up with the idea of Labor Day in the first place.

So, Happy Labor Day, everybody. But when it comes to hugs not thugs, all I can do is shrug.

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your McJobs