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Archive for January, 2014|Monthly archive page

THE HEIRS OF HITLER

In History, Politics, Social commentary on January 31, 2014 at 4:19 am

It seems so long ago now.

Eighty-one years ago–on January 30, 1933–Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Nazi Germany.

Six years later, on September 1, 1939, he ordered the invasion of Poland–and inintentionally ignited World War II.

Six years later, on April 30, 1945–in a war-ravaged Nazi Germany and facing certain defeat–Hitler shot himself in an underground bunker.

Adolf Hitler

But Hitler may be having the last laugh after all.  His methods and goals are very much alive and flourishing–among the Americans who once drove literally drove him into the earth.

If you doubt it, consider the following from MSNBC’s “Hardball With Chris Matthews” for August 15, 2012:

MATTHEWS:  Here is a group of less than average Joes.  Joe the Plumber [Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher], Sheriff Joe Arpaio of [Maricopa County] Arizona, and [Illinois Congressman] Joe Walsh all spew insanity.  But rarely do they go back to back to back.

Well, first up, you have Joe the plumber telling an Arizona Republican fund-raiser that he wasn’t worried about being politically correct.  He was going to tell it like it is.  The way to protect the border, he says, is to build a fence and then start shooting.

Samuel Joseph “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher

At that same fund-raiser, Sheriff Joe Arpaio…said his investigation [into] the president’s birth certificate is proceeding and [he] is convinced the document from Honolulu is a fraud.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio

And a few days earlier, Tea Party favorite Joe Walsh told a town hall audience in Illinois there were radical Islamists in the Chicago suburbs trying to kill Americans every week.

Congressman Joe Walsh

What do these Joes have in common?  They [are] all trying to be as incendiary as possible and they all succeeded.

Turning to David Cantanese, a reporter for Politico, Matthews says:

MATTHEWS: These are heroes in the Republican culture.  These are people like Donald Trump, he knows how to make money as least.  They love these people, David.  They’re the heroes.

DAVID CATANESE, POLITICO: I would actually put Joe Walsh in a bit of a different category….I think he’s a true believer.

This is a guy who says things on the record that most politicians would never do off the record.  And again, he is an elected congressman in a very tough race.  When he says something, I think he believes it.

I think…the Plumber and the sheriff are more showmen.  They’ve got books to hawk.  Joe the Plumber was revealed that he gets paid sometimes to go into these congressional districts.

Remember, Joe the Plumber is a congressional candidate running in Ohio, what is he doing in Arizona if he really wants to win that race?  You know, it was revealed after her endorsed Herman Cain last year, Herman Cain campaign paid him $10,000.

MATTHEWS: We’ll skip ahead to Joe Walsh and what he’s been saying.  He’s an elected an official, a United States congressman.

Let’s hear what he has to say about the near threat of radical Islam in this country.

REP. JOE WALSH (R), ILLINOIS: In this country, it’s not just over there, trying to kill Americans every week.  It is a real threat.  And it is a threat that is much more at home now than it was right after 9/11.  It’s here. I’s in Elk Grove, it’s in Addison, it’s in Elgin. It’s here.

MATTHEWS: The specificity of this insanity, I guess it`s the old Joe McCarthy trick.  The more specific you sound, the more credible you are.  If you give a lot of details about the near threat of Islamic terrorism in this country plotting against us as a real threat — I guess it rings true to those people watching his pointer there as if he was the mad professor.

Well, there’s one common thing here.  There’s a common thread in this insanity and it’s racial and ethnic.  I mean, they go after people, Mexican-American, and other people who have come here to this country from Latin America, South America, they attack them.  That’s Joe the Plumber.

Arpaio does the same thing.  He’s going after the president because he’s African-American, go after his birth certificate.  Let’s face it, he wouldn’t do it to a white guy.

* * * * *

Candidates like Joe Walsh, Joe Arpaio and “Joe the Plumber” (who isn’t a licensed plumber) don’t get on the ballot by accident.

They do so through the support of men and women whose hates and resentments they share–and exploit.

These voters are seeking a representative who will inflict their hatreds onto those they despise.

Adolf Hitler, for example, did not create anti-Semitism in Germany.  He simply shared it–and exploited this poisonous hatred within his audiences to attain political power.

Postwar Germany, however, had an advantage that America now lacks.

The United States was determined to root out Nazism among the Germans.  And, to a large extent, it succeeded: Germany today is a far different country from the one Hitler ruled.

But who will exorcise America’s own Fascistic elements?

HISTORY LESSONS FROM HOLLYWOOD

In History, Military, Politics on January 29, 2014 at 12:30 am

January 26, 2014 marked the 129th anniversary of the fall of the Sudanese city of Khartoum to the dervish hordes of a fanatical Muslim leader.

Mohammed Achmed had proclaimed himself “The Madhi”–the “Expected One.”  He had raised an army and sworn to sweep the Islamic world clean of “unbelievers.”

Standing in his path: The 30,000 citizens of Khartoum, led by the famous British general, Charles George Gordon.

In 1966, this clash of historical personalities was vividly depicted in the movie, “Khartoum,” starring Charlton Heston as Gordon and Laurence Oliver as The Madhi.

It’s a film still loaded with drama and meaning–and lessons for the possible intervention of the United States in the lethal mess that is Syria.

What began as a popular revolt against a brutal and ossified dictatorship, Syria has now degenerated into a bloody civil war.

On the one side, is the Shiite Ba’ath regime, headed by “President” Bashar al Assad and supported by Russia, Iran, Hizbullah, and elements in the Iraqi government.

Opposing them Syrians–including defectors from the armed forces and others who have formed private militias–and thousands of foreign Sunni fighters (including elements of al Qaeda).

The neocons of the George W. Bush administration plunged the United States into an unprovoked war against Iraq in 2003.  After Baghdad quickly fell, Americans cheered, thinking the war was over and the troops would soon return home.

They didn’t count on Iraq’s descending into massive inter-religious strife, with Shia Muslims (who comprise 65% of the population) squaring off against Sunni ones (who make up 35%).

Suddenly, American soldiers found themselves fighting a two-front war in the same country: Fighting an Iraqi insurgency to throw them out, while trying to suppress growing sectarian warfare between Sunnis and Shia.

Today, American politicians such as U.S. Senator John McCain are urging President Obama to militarily intervene in the Syrian civil war.

Once again, Americans are being urged to plunge headfirst into a conflict they know nothing about–and in which they have absolutely no stake.

Which brings us back to the lessons to be found in “Khartoum.”

In 1884, the British Government sends Gordon, a real-life hero of the Victorian era, to evacuate the Sudanese city of Khartoum.  Mohammed Achmed, a previously anonymous Sudanese, has proclaimed himself “The Madhi”  (The Expected One) and raised the cry of jihad.

The Madhi (played by Laurence Oliver) intends to drive all foreigners (of which the English are the largest group) out of Sudan, and exterminate all those Muslims who did not practice his “pure” version os Islam.

Movie poster for “Khartoum”

Gordon arrives in Khartoum to find he’s not fighting a rag-tag army of peasants.  Instead, the Madhi is a highly intelligent military strategist.

And Gordon, an evangelical Christian, also underestimates the Madhi’s religious fanaticism: “I seem to have suffered from the delusion that I had a monopoly on God.”

A surprised Gordon finds himself and 30,000 Sudanese trapped in Khartoum when the Madhi’s forces suddenly appear.  He sends off messengers and telegrams to the British Government, begging for a military relief force.

But the British Government wants nothing to do with the Sudan.  It had sent Gordon there as a sop to British public opion that “something” had to be done to quell the Madhist uprising.

The siege continues and tightens.

In Britain, the public hails Gordon as a Christian hero and demands that the Government send a relilef expedition to save him.  Prime Minister William Gladstone finally sends a token force–which arrives in Khartoum two days after the city has fallen to the Madhi’s forces.

Gordon, standing at the top of a staircase and coolly facing down his dervish enemies, is speared to death.

When the news reaches England, Britons mourn–and then demand vengeance for the death of their hero.

The Government, which had sought to wash its hands of the poor, militarily unimportant Sudan, suddenly has to send an army to avenge Gordon.

As the narrator of “Khartoum” intones at the close of the film: “For 15 years, the British paid the price with shame and war.”

Americans have been fighting in the Middle East since 2001–first in Afghanistan to destroy Al Qaeda, and then in Iraq, to pursue George W. Bush’s vendetta against Saddam Hussein.

The United States faces a crumbling infastructure, record high unemployment and trillions of dollars in debt.  It’s time for Americans to clean up their own house before worrying about the messes in other nations–especially those wholly alien to American values.

WORDS MATTER

In Business, History, Politics, Self-Help, Social commentary on January 23, 2014 at 10:02 pm

“Hitler gave good speeches, too.”

That’s what many Right-wingers say in disparaging the oratorical effectiveness of President Barack Obama.

It’s a slogan that’s misleading on two counts.

First, the people saying it are exactly the type who would have voted for Adolf Hitler.  And who vote for his wannabe dictatorial successors such as Joseph McCarthy, Newt Gingrich and Ted Cruz.

Second, the slogan dismisses the power of language–as though words are entirely divorced from action.  On the contrary: Words–effectively used–can and usually do lead to action.

A classic example: During the desperate months of the Battle of Britain and the London Blitz, Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s soaring rhetoric armed his fellow Englishmen with the will to resist Nazi aggression.

The truth is, words matter.  For good and ill.

Republicans, for example, have long used the power of language to gain and hold power.

Take their use of the phrase, “the death tax.”

The correct term used to be “the estate tax.”  And it applied to a relatively small number of citizens who die leaving large estates.

But Republicans, struggling to make the world a better place for the ultra-rich, convinced millions of ignorant voters who don’t have estates that the tax applies to them.

The result: A Republican-introduced bill to the House of Representatives–”The Death Tax Repeal Act of 2013.”

Its goal: “To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to repeal the estate and generation-skipping transfer taxes, and for other purposes.”

In short: Relieve the ultra-rich from the unfair burden of paying taxes.

So far, the bill has not been passed.

Or take the 2001 “USA Patriot Act,” which did pass by overwhelming margins after 9/11.

Republicans crammed this full of Orwellian changes they knew Democrats wouldn’t like–such as vastly expanding the powers of the National Security Agency to collect files on American citizens.

So how did they get Democrats to support it?

By calling it the “Patriot Act.”  By choosing this title, Republicans easily put Democrats on the defensive.

Anyone who dared oppose the bill would be attacked: “Why don’t you support the Patriot Act?  Are you unpatriotic?”

The Left has also made use of language to obtain its political objectives.

Consider the highly popular and Politically Correct term, “People of color.”

This is used by blacks, Hispanics, Asians and American Indians when referring to members of their own particular ethnic group.

On the other hand, members of these groups become enraged if they’re referred to as “colored people.”

But what’s the difference?  It’s like saying “jeans of blue” instead of “blue jeans.”

And, in either case, it totally hides what they really mean: “Nonwhites.”

Because to the Politically Correct crowd, “white” is not a color.  Which is another way of saying, “Whites aren’t really part of the population.”

And here’s another Leftist-language achievement: “The Dream Act.”

This is a phrase conjured up by those who essentially want to remove all barriers to illegal immigration–at least as it applies to those mostly in Mexico and other Latin and Central American countries.

Its effectiveness lies in the magical word “dream.”  As in the Walt Disney Cinderella song: “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.”

Thus, the United States now has millions of illegal aliens (the Left prefers to call them “immigrants,” which sounds nicer) who claim to cherish their Mexican heritage and love their native land.

But if they cherish Mexico so much, why have so many of these “Dreamers” fled this “paradise”?

And why is their “dream” to never live in Mexico again?

A final word: At election time, the TV airways are clogged with ads supposedly sponsored by “Citnzens for….”

As in: “Citizens for a Responsible Energy Policy.”

Whenever you see the word “citizens for” or “people for” in a televised ad, don’t believe it.

The only “citizens” who can afford to blitz the airways with millions oof dollars’ worth of propaganda are “citizens” who own wealthy corporations.

And when you read/hear words like “responsible,” watch out:  Who is defining what as responsible?

When greed-based companies are the ones defining responsible, it means: Whatever creates greater profits for them.

You know, like gutting environmental protection laws and allowing behemoth corporations to pay no taxes.

So keep that in mind the next time you see a slick ad that claims your fellow “citizens” seek your support on an important issue.

 

FETUS FANATICS FACE 41

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on January 22, 2014 at 12:05 pm

January 22, 2014 marks the 41st anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, which effectively legalized abortion throughout the United States.

Every year since on this anniversary, Washington has been Ground Zero for anti-abortion protests.

And, for the last 41 years, Republicans and their Right-wing allies have savagely attacked the decision and the right of women to control their own bodies.

So what’s responsible for all this fetus fanaticism?

Several factors.

First, there is an energized constituency for politicians willing to wave this red flag.  Almost every major Republican Presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan has tapped into this voting bloc.  And each has found plenty of votes to be gotten from it.

Second, many fetus fanatics simply dislike women.  They fear and resent the women’s movement, which has given women the right to enter the workforce and compete directly with men.

And what they hate most is the legal right of a woman to avoid becoming pregnant via birth control–or to abort the result of a male’s sperm if they do.  They see this as a personal rejection.

Perhaps it reminds many of them of their own failures in romance/marriage.

The Right is made up overwhelmingly of white males.  And many of these men would feel entirely at home with a Christianized version of the Taliban.  They long for a world where women meekly cater to their every demand and believe only what their male masters approve for them to believe.

The trouble for these men is they don’t speak Arabic.

Third, many fetus fanatics are “pro-life” when it comes to fetuses, but hypocritically refuse to support the needs of children from low-income families.

Fourth, many fetus fanatics are “family values” hypocrites.  For example: Representative Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), an anti-abortion, “family values” doctor, had an affair with a patient and later pressured her to get an abortion.  He also agreed that his wife should have two abortions.

People like this subscribe to a philosophy of: “Do as I say, not as I do.  And if I do it, it’s in the service of a Higher Cause and therefore entirely justified.”

Fifth, many fetus fanatics feel guilty about their own past sexual transgressions–especially if these resulted in pregnancy. And they want to prevent others from living the same life they did.

Some of these people are well-intentioned.  Even so, they usurp unto themselves a God-like right to intrude on the most intimate decisions for others–regardless of what those people may need or want.

Sixth, many fetus fanatics embrace contradictory goals.  On one hand, most of them claim they want to “get government off the backs of the people.”  That usually means allowing corporations to pollute, sell dangerous products and treat their employees as slaves.

On the other hand, they want to insert the government into the vagina of every woman.  That means empowering State and Federal authorities to prevent women from getting an abortion–even in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.

Seventh, many leaders of the fetus-fanatics movement are independently wealthy.  This means that even if abortion could be outlawed for the vast majority, they could always bribe a willing doctor–here or abroad–to perform such an operation on their wife, daughter and/or mistress.  For them, there is always an escape clause.

Eighth, many fetus fanatics are not truly “pro-life.”  They totally oppose abortion under most–if not all–circumstances.   But they also fully support:

  • making military-style assault weapons available to nutcases;
  • capital punishment;
  • going to war for almost any reason;
  • wholesale massacres of wildlife;
  • despoiling of the environment; and
  • even nuclear war.

And many of those who fanatically defend the right of a fetus to emerge from the womb just as fanatically oppose welfare for those mothers who can’t support that newborn.

Lucy, the famous cartoon character in Charles Schultz’ “Peanuts” series, once said: “I love humanity.  It’s people I can’t stand.”  With fetus fanatics, the line runs: “I love fetuses.  Everything else is expendable.”

Ninth, many fetus fanatics believe that since their religion teaches that abortion is wrong, they have a moral duty to enforce that belief on others.

This is especially true for evangelical Christians.  These are the same people who condemn Muslims–such as those in Saudi Arabia–for segregating women, forbidding them to drive and forcing them to wear head scarfs or chadors–loose, usually black robes.

Taliban: Islam’s version of the “Right-to-Life” movement

But while they condemn Islamics for their general intolerance of others’ religious beliefs, they lust to impose their own upon those who belong to other churches.  Or who belong to no church at all.

Tenth, many fetus fanatics are just as opposed to birth control as they are to abortion. Thus, when Georgia University law student Sandra Fluke asked Congress to require insurance companies to cover birth control, Rush Limbaugh branded her a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

CHRISTIE COULD HAVE BEEN A VICTIM…OF ROMNEY

In Bureaucracy, Law, Politics on January 15, 2014 at 1:49 am

“Bully!” is the charge now being hurled at New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

The reason: On September 9, 2012, two months before Christie’s re-election, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey closed two of the three lanes that lead to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, across the Hudson from Manhattan.

The result?  Days of massive traffic jams in Fort Lee, where Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich had refused to endorse Christie.

Christie has fired his former aide, Bridget Kelly, “because she lied to me” about her role in causing the shutdown.

Chris Christie

The U.S. Attorney’s office in Trenton is investigating whether any federal laws were broken. Both the Port Authority’s inspector-general and state Sen. Barbara Buono, Christie’s opponent in November, have asked federal authorities to step in.

And State lawmakers on the General Assembly’s Transportation Committeeare still holding hearings into the bridge scandal.

Many politicians–both Democratic and Republican–believe the scandal has endangered Christie’s hopes for winning the Republican Presidential nomination in 2016.

Democrats, of course, are thrilled by this possibility.  But even many Republicans–who feel Christie isn’t Right-wing enough–have refused to defend him.

So far, no evidence has surfaced to prove that Christie ordered or knew about the shutdown.  But if it does, Christie could face civil lawsuits and even criminal prosecution.

Ironically, Christie himself almost certainly would have become a target for political revenge in 2013.

His nemesis?

Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts and Presidential candidate.

True, Christie gave a major address on behalf of Romney at the August Republican Convention.

And, true, Christie said he planned to vote for Romney on November 6.

But that might not have been enough to save him if Romney made it to the White House.

The reason: Romney and his handlers were angry that Christie had dared to praise President Barack Obama for his help after Hurricane Sandy ravished much of New Jersey on October 30, 2012.

Mitt Romney

During a briefing with emergency personnel, residents and press, Christie thanked Obama for holding a conference call with him and governors of other states expected to be impacted by the storm.

“I appreciated the president’s outreach today in making sure that we know he’s watching this and is concerned about the health and welfare and safety of the people of the state of New Jersey,” said Christie.

And–to the rising anger of Romney and his campaign staff–there had been more such praise.

Christie said that he and Obama had a private phone conversation to discuss how the federal government could help New Jersey. Obama told Christie that he could call him directly over the next 48 hours if the state government had issues with federal response to the hurricane in New Jersey.

“I appreciate that type of leadership,” Christie said of Obama.

For Romney and Right-wing Republicans, any praise of Obama was tantamount to treason.

With news reports saying that Romney’s campaign “bounce” had ended and that Obama was actually leading in several swing states, Romney’s handlers decided it was time to strike.

At Christie.

A November 3 article in Politico outlined the following:

  • Romney insiders said that Christie had been Romney’s first choice for the vice president.
  • But then Romney decided that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would be a safer choice due to some problems with Christie.
  • Some Romney friends and donors were irked by Christie’s embrace of Obama, which one referred to as “over the top.”
  • “If Romney wins, it won’t be forgotten,” a Romney adviser warned. “If Romney loses,  it doesn’t matter.”

Throughout the 2012 Presidential race, Romney displayed an arrogant sense of entitlement to the Oval Office.

Asked during an ABC News interview if he had anything to say to President Barack Obama, Romney said: “Start packing.”  As if the most powerful leader of the Western world should snap to attention at Mitt’s command.

And his wife, Anne, chinned in: “I believe it’s Mitt’s time. I believe the country needs the kind of leadership he’s going to offer… So I think it’s our turn now.”

John McCain, during the 2008 Presidential race, refused to stoop to race-baiting and slanderous attacks on Obama (such as claiming him to be from Kenya when Hawaii has a birth record with his name on it).

But Romney employed surrogates–like Donald Trump–to do his slander-mongering for him.

When Trump charged that Obama was not an American citizen or was “selling out” the United States to radical Islamics, Romney let the slanders stand.

So if Romney had been elected, it shouldn’t have surprised anyone if a fellow Republican–Chris Christie–became one of his primary targets for “revenge.”

The most likely form this could have taken would have been to deny Federal assistance or projects (such as highway construction) to New Jersey.

During his January 9 press conference where he announced the firing of his former aide, Christie repeatedly referred to himself as a “victm.”

Ironically, had Romney gained the White house, Christie might well have deserved that status.

JOBS, YES; TEMPORARY BENEFITS, NO: PART FIVE (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on January 14, 2014 at 12:00 am

Among the remaining portions of a nationwide Employers Responsibility Act:

 (11)   Employers who continue to make such overtures would be prosecuted for attempted bribery or extortion:

  1. Bribery, if they offered to move to a city/state in return for “economic incentives,” or
  2. Extortion, if they threatened to move their companies from a city/state if they did not receive such “economic incentives.”

This would protect employees against artificially-depressed wages and unsafe working conditions; protect the environment in which these employees live; and protect cities/states from being pitted against one another at the expense of their economic prosperity.

(12)   The U.S. Departments of Justice and Labor would regularly monitor the extent of employer compliance with the provisions of this Act.  

Among these measures: Sending  undercover  agents, posing as highly-qualified job-seekers, to apply at companies—and then vigorously prosecuting those employers who  blatantly refused to hire despite their proven economic ability to do so.

This would be comparable to the long-time and legally-validated practice of using undercover agents to determine compliance with fair-housing laws.

(13)   The Justice Department and/or the Labor Department would be required to maintain a publicly-accessible database on those companies that had been cited, sued and/or convicted for such offenses as

  • discrimination,
  • harassment,
  • health and/or safety violations or
  • violating immigration laws. 

Employers would be legally required to regularly provide such information to these agencies, so that it would remain accurate and up-to-date. 

Such information would arm job applicants with vital information about the employers they were approaching.  They could thus decide in advance if an employer is deserving of their skills and dedication.

As matters now stand, employers can legally demand to learn even the most private details of an applicant’s life without having to disclose even the most basic information about themselves and their history of treating employees.

(14)   CEOs whose companies employ illegal aliens would be held directly accountable for the actions of their subordinates.  Upon conviction, the CEO would be sentenced to a mandatory prison term of at least ten years.

This would prove a more effective remedy for controlling illegal immigration than stationing tens of thousands of soldiers on the U.S./ Mexican border. With CEOs forced to account for their subordinates’ actions, they would take drastic steps to ensure their companies complied with Federal immigration laws.

Without employers eager to hire illegal aliens at a fraction of the money paid to American workers, the invasions of illegal job-seekers would quickly come to an end.

(15)   A portion of employers’ existing Federal taxes would be set aside to create a national clearinghouse for placing unemployed but qualified job-seekers.

Embedded image permalink

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All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it. 

If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason; and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself.  But time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light.

–Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

For thousands of years, otherwise highly intelligent men and women believed that kings ruled by divine right.  That kings held absolute power, levied extortionate taxes and sent countless millions of men off to war–all because God wanted it that way.

That lunacy was dealt a deadly blow in 1776 when American Revolutionaries threw off the despotic rule of King George III of England.

But today, millions of Americans remain imprisoned by an equally outrageous and dangerous theory: The Theory of the Divine Right of Employers.

Summing up this employer-as-God attitude, Calvin Coolidge still speaks for the overwhelming majority of employers and their paid shills in government: “The man who builds a factory builds a temple, and the man who works there worships there.”

America can no longer afford such a dangerous fallacy as the Theory of the Divine Right of Employers.

The solution lies in remembering that the powerful never voluntarily surrender their privileges.

Americans did not win their freedom from Great Britain–-and its enslaving doctrine of “the divine right of kings”-–by begging for their rights.

And Americans will not win their freedom from their corporate masters–-and the equally enslaving doctrine of “the divine right of employers”-–by begging for the right to work and support themselves and their families.

And they will most certainly never win such freedom by supporting right-wing political candidates whose first and only allegiance is to the corporate interests who bankroll their campaigns.

Corporations can–and do–spend millions of dollars on TV ads, selling lies–lies such as the “skills gap,” and how if the wealthy are forced to pay their fair share of taxes, jobs will inevitably disappear.

But Americans can choose to reject those lies–and demand that employers behave like patriots instead of predators.

JOBS, YES; TEMPORARY BENEFITS, NO: PART FOUR (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on January 13, 2014 at 12:10 am

Among the provisions of a nationwide Employers Responsibility Act:

(1) American companies that close plants in the United States and open others abroad would be forbidden to sell products made in those foreign plants within the United States.

This would protect both American and foreign workers from employers seeking to profit at their expense. American workers would be ensured of continued employment. And foreign laborers would be protected against substandard wages and working conditions.

Companies found violating this provision would be subject to Federal criminal prosecution. Guilty verdicts would result in heavy fines and lengthy imprisonment for their owners and top managers.

(2) Large companies (those employing more than 100 persons) would be required to create entry-level training programs for new, future employees.

These would be modeled on programs now existing for public employees, such as firefighters, police officers and members of the armed services. Such programs would remove the employer excuse, “I’m sorry, but we can’t hire you because you’ve never had any experience in this line of work.” After all, the Air Force has never rejected an applicant because, “I’m sorry, but you’ve never flown a plane before.”

This Nation has greatly benefited from the humane and professional efforts of the men and women who have graduated from public-sector training programs. There is no reason for the private sector to shun programs that have succeeded so brilliantly for the public sector.

(3) Employers would receive tax credits for creating professional, well-paying, full-time jobs.

This would encourage the creation of better than the menial, dead-end, low-paying and often part-time jobs which exist in the service industry. Employers found using such tax credits for any other purpose would be prosecuted for tax fraud.

(4)  A company that acquired another—through a merger or buyout—would be forbidden to fire en masse the career employees of that acquired company.

This would be comparable to the protection existing for career civil service employees. Such a ban would prevent a return to the predatory “corporate raiding” practices of the 1980s, which left so much human and economic wreckage in their wake.

The wholesale firing of employees would trigger the prosecution of the company’s new owners. Employees could still be fired, but only for provable just cause, and only on a case-by-case basis.

(5)  Employers would be required to provide full medical and pension benefits for all employees, regardless of their full-time or part-time status.

Increasingly, employers are replacing full-time workers with part-time ones—solely to avoid paying medical and pension benefits. Requiring employers to act humanely and responsibly toward all their employees would encourage them to provide full-time positions—and hasten the death of this greed-based practice.

(6) Employers of part-time workers would be required to comply with all federal labor laws.

Under current law, part-time employees are not protected against such abuses as discrimination, sexual harassment and unsafe working conditions. Closing this loophole would immediately create two positive results:

  • Untold numbers of currently-exploited workers would be protected from the abuses of predatory employers; and
  • Even predatorily-inclined employers would be encouraged to offer permanent, fulltime jobs rather than only part-time ones—since a major incentive for offering part-time jobs would now be eliminated.

(7) Employers would be encouraged to hire to their widest possible limits, through a combination of financial incentives and legal sanctions. Among those incentives: Employers demonstrating a willingness to hire would receive substantial Federal tax credits, based on the number of new, permanent employees hired per year.

Employers claiming eligibility for such credits would be required to make their financial records available to Federal investigators. Employers found making false claims would be prosecuted for perjury and tax fraud, and face heavy fines and imprisonment if convicted.

(8) Among those sanctions: Employers refusing to hire could be required to prove, in court:

  • Their economic inability to hire further employees, and/or
  • The unfitness of the specific, rejected applicant.

Companies found guilty of unjustifiably refusing to hire would face the same penalties as now applying in cases of discrimination on the basis of age, race, sex and disability. Employers would thus fund it easier to hire than to refuse to do so. Job-seekers would no longer be prevented from even being considered for employment because of arbitrary and interminable “hiring freezes.”

(9) Employers refusing to hire would be required to pay an additional “crime tax.”

Sociologists and criminologists agree that “the best cure for crime is a job.” Thus, employers who refuse to hire contribute to a growing crime rate in this Nation. Such non-hiring employers would be required to pay an additional tax, which would be earmarked for agencies of the criminal justice system at State and Federal levels.

(10)  The seeking of “economic incentives” by companies in return for moving to or remaining in cities/states would be strictly forbidden.

Such “economic incentives” usually:

  1. allow employers to ignore existing laws protecting employees from unsafe working conditions;
  2. allow employers to ignore existing laws protecting the environment;
  3. allow employers to pay their employees the lowest acceptable wages, in return for the “privilege” of working at these companies; and/or
  4. allow employers to pay little or no business taxes, at the expense of communities who are required to make up for lost tax revenues.

JOBS, YES; TEMPORARY BENEFITS, NO: PART THREE (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on January 10, 2014 at 12:00 am

Here’s another reason for America’s unemployment miseries:

More than 12 million Americans are now unemployed because many employers have designed “hiring” systems that simply don’t work.

So says Peter Cappelli, the George W. Taylor professor of management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.  He is also the author of  Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It.

Amazon.com: Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It

Why Good People Can't Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It

Employers often whine that they can’t find the talent they need.  Today’s applicants, they claim, lack skills, education and even a willingness to work.

The truth is altogether different.  According to Cappelli, the fault lies with employers, not job-seekers:

  • Hiring managers create wildly inflated descriptions of the talents and skills needed for openings: “They ask for the moon.”
  • Computer technology eliminates many qualified people for consideration when their resumés don’t match the inflated qualifications demanded by employers.
  • Employers aren’t willing to pay for the education and skills they demand: “What they really want is someone young, cheap and experienced.”
  • Online applicants are often told to name a salary expectation.  Anyone who names a salary higher than what the company is willing to pay is automatically rejected.  There’s no chance to negotiate the matter.
  • About 10% of employers admit that the problem is that their desired candidates refuse to accept the positions at the wage level being offered.
  • Employers are not looking to hire entry-level applicants right out of school. They want experienced candidates who can contribute immediately with no training or start-up time.
  • Employers demand that a single employee perform the work of several highly skilled employees. One company wanted an employee to be an expert in (1) human resources, (2) marketing, (3) publishing, (4) project management, (5) accounting and (6) finance.
  • When employers can’t find the “perfect candidate” they leave positions open for months. But if they were willing to offer some training, they might easily hire someone who could quickly take on the job.
  • Companies have stopped hiring new college graduates and grooming them for management ranks. They no longer have their own training and development departments.  Without systems for developing people, companies must recruit outsiders.
  • Employers’ unrealistic expectations are fueled partly by their own arrogance.  With more than three jobless people for every opening, employers believe they should be able to find these “perfect people.”

According to Cappelli, the hiring system desperately needs serious reform:

  • Review job descriptions.  If they’re inflated, bring them down-to earth.
  • Don’t expect to get something for nothing–or next to it.  Offer competitive salaries.
  • Scrutinize the hiring process.  Make sure that the automated systems aren’t screening out qualified candidates simply because they don’t have all the brass buttons in a row.
  • Beef up the Human Resources section.

A 1996 cartoon by Ted Rall, the no-holds-barred cartoonist–entitled “Something for Nothing”–brilliantly sums up how most corporate “job creators” actually regard and treat their employees and applicants:2-28-96

Cappelli worries that the complaints about a labor shortage caused by an unwilling, unskilled workforce will be repeated enough that they will be accepted as truth:

“It’s a loud story … that could become pernicious if it persists.  It does have a blame-the-victim feeling to it.  It makes people feel better. You don’t have to feel so bad about people suffering if you think they are choosing it somehow.”

But America can end this national disaster–and disgrace.

A policy based only on concessions–such as endless tax breaks for hugely profitable corporations–is a policy of appeasement.

And appeasement only whets the appetite of those appeased for even greater concessions.

It is past time to hold wealthy and powerful corporations accountable for their socially and financially irresponsible acts.

This solution can be summed up in three words: Employers Responsibility Act (ERA).

If passed by Congress and vigorously enforced by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Labor, an ERA would ensure full-time, permanent and productive employment for millions of capable, job-seeking Americans.

And it would achieve this without raising taxes or creating controversial government “make work” programs.

Such legislation would legally require employers to demonstrate as much initiative for hiring as job-seekers are now expected to show in searching for work.

An Employers Responsibility Act would simultaneously address the following evils for which employers are directly responsible:

  • The loss of jobs within the United States owing to companies’ moving their operations abroad—solely to pay substandard wages to their new employees.
  • The mass firings of employees which usually accompany corporate mergers or acquisitions.
  • The widespread victimization of part-time employees, who are not legally protected against such threats as racial discrimination, sexual harassment and unsafe working conditions.
  • The refusal of many employers to create better than menial, low-wage jobs.
  • The widespread employer practice of extorting “economic incentives” from cities or states in return for moving to or remaining in those areas. Such “incentives” usually absolve employers from complying with laws protecting the environment and/or workers’ rights.
  • The refusal of many employers to provide medical and pension benefits—nearly always in the case of part-time employees, and, increasingly, for full-time, permanent ones as well.
  • Rising crime rates, due to rising unemployment.

JOBS, YES; TEMPORARY BENEFITS, NO: PART TWO (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on January 9, 2014 at 12:01 am

Millions of Americans continue to blame President Barack Obama for the nation’s high unemployment rate. But no President can hope to turn unemployment around until employers are forced to start living up to their responsibilities.

And those responsibilities should encompass more than simply fattening their own pocketbooks and/or egos at the expense of their fellow Americans.  Such behavior used to be called treason.

It’s time to recognize that a country can be betrayed for other than political reasons.  It can be sold out for economic ones, too.

Employers who enrich themselves by weakening their country—by throwing millions of qualified workers into the street and moving their plants to other countries—are traitors.

Employers who set up offshore accounts to claim their American companies are foreign-owned—and thus exempt from taxes—are traitors.

Employers who systematically violate Federal immigration laws—to hire illegal aliens instead of willing-to-work Americans—are traitors.

And with a new definition of treason should go new penalties–heavy fines and/or prison terms–for those who sell out their country to enrich themselves.

In its June 8, 2011 cover-story on “What U.S. Economic Recovery?  Five Destructive Myths,” Time magazine warned that profit-seeking corporations can’t be relied on to ”make it all better.”

Click here: What U.S. Economic Recovery? Five Destructive Myths – TIME

Wrote Rana Foroohar, Time‘s assistant managing editor in charge of economics and business:

American companies “are doing quite well,” but most American workers “are earning a lower hourly wage now than they did during the recession.”

Corporations, in short, are doing extremely well.  But they don’t spend their profits on American workers.

“There may be $2 trillion sitting on the balance sheets of American corporations globally, but firms show no signs of wanting to spend it in order to hire workers at home.”

In short:  Giving even greater tax breaks to mega-corporations–the standard Republican mantra–has not persuaded them to stop “outsourcing” jobs. Nor has it convinced them to start hiring Americans.

While embarrassingly overpaid CEOs squander corporate wealth on themselves, millions of Americans can’t afford medical care or must depend on charity to feed their families.

Yet there is also a disconnect between the truth of this situation and the willingness of Americans to face up to that truth.

The reason, writes Foroohar:

Republicans have convinced most Americans they can revitalize the economy by slashing “taxes on the wealthy and on cash-hoarding corporations while cutting benefits for millions of Americans.”

To restore prosperity, America will need both tax increases and cuts in entitlement programs.

Now, fast-forward one year later–to a June 11, 2012 CNNMoney investigation, which raised the question: “Why is the jobs recovery still so sluggish?”

And the answer?  “These 8 companies recently announced layoffs in the thousands.”

8 job killing companies – Hewlett-Packard slashes 27,000 jobs (1) – CNNMoney

The companies:

  • Hewlett-Packard – cutting 27,000 jobs.
  • American Airlines – slashing 13,000 jobs–with most of the cuts affecting maintenance and ground workers.  That’s something to think about the next time you’re thinking of flying American.
  • Sony – eliminating 10,000 jobs.
  • Proctor & Gamble – axing 5,700 jobs.
  • PepsiCo – slashing 8,700 jobs.
  • Yahoo – wiping out 2,000 jobs.
  • First Solar – cutting 2,000 jobs.
  • Kraft Foods – slashes 1,600 workers.

Of course, some companies have legitimate reasons for cutting back on employees:

  • Sony has failed to revive its losing television business, which hasn’t turned a profit in eight years.
  • And PepsiCo has suffered a fall-off in customers as Americans switch from soda to healthier drinks.

But there are also sinister reasons why millions of willing-to-work Americans remain unemployed.  Or remain trapped in part-time, no-benefits jobs far below their levels of education and experience.

Chief among these is the refusal of Congressional Republicans to create job opportunities for their fellow Americans.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I, Vermont) made just that argument to guest host Ezra Klein on the June 12 edition of “The Rachel Maddow Show.”

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders

SANDERS: Everybody knows you have to invest in infrastructure. We can create millions of decent paying jobs in the long term and I speak as a former mayor, you obviously save money because you don’t have to do constant repairs as we’ve just seen.

The simple reason is I’m afraid that you have a Republican mindset that says, “Hmm, let`s see, we can repair the infrastructure, save money long time, create millions of jobs, bad idea. Barack Obama will look good.  And we’ve got to do everything that we can to make Barack Obama look bad.”

So, despite the fact that we had a modest bipartisan transportation bill, roads, bridges, public transit pass the Senate with over 70 votes, Inhofe, the most conservative guy in the Senate, working with Barbara Boxer, one of the most progressives, we can’t get that bill moving in the House of Representatives.

So if you’re asking me why, I would say 100 percent political. If it’s good for America, if it creates jobs, if it’s good for Barack Obama, we can’t do it.

JOBS, YES; TEMPORARY BENEFITS, NO: PART ONE (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on January 8, 2014 at 3:04 am

On January 7, the United States Senate voted to allow debate to go forward and avoid a filibuster.

The topic under discussion: Reinstating temporary unemployment benefits for 1.3 million long-term unemployed Americans.

The federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program was created in 2008 and has since been reauthorized 11 times.  But those benefits expired on December 28 and have not yet been renewed.

For renewal to occur, the measure must clear the Senate by 60 (out of 100) votes and then the House of Representatives by a majority of its 435 members.

At present, there is no set time by when lawmakers in the House plan to reinstate unemployment insurance.

And even if Congress votes to restore the benefits, those payments will run for only three months.  Then, once again, more than one million jobless Americans will be on their own.

The battle lines have been clearly drawn.

Democrats claim:

  • They want to help Americans struggling to pay their bills until they get back on their feet; and
  • Failing to pass an extension will reverse the reviving economy.

Republicans claim:

  • Such extensions encourage the unemployed to not look for work; and
  • To offset the $6.4 billion price tag for extending benefits, there must be cuts elsewhere in the Federal budget.

Republican Senator Susan Collins (Maine) said she wanted to see changes to the unemployment system:

“If someone has been unemployed for more than a year it is very likely the job they once had is not coming back.  It would be better if a condition of continued unemployment benefits after a year … [was linked] to a job training program participation.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he told President Barack Obama in December, 2013, that another extension of temporary emergency unemployment benefits “should not only be paid for but include something to help put people back to work.

“To date, the president has offered no such plan. If he does, I’ll be happy to discuss it, but right now the House is going to remain focused on growing the economy and giving America’s unemployed the independence that only comes from finding a good job.”

Collins’ and Boehner’s support for job-retraining programs ignores several brutal truths:

  • The national unemployment rate has declined by seven percent.
  • But the unemployment rate among the long-term unemployed remains persistent.
  • At least 4.1 million Americans have been out of work six months or longer.
  • And if you’ve been unemployed six months or longer, the vast majority of employers refuse to even consider hiring you.

Boehner is correct, however, when he says the country needs “something to help put people back to work.”

And that “something” is a nationwide Employers Responsibility Act.

According to Right-wing Republicans, every employer is now a “job creator.”

But if that’s true:

  • Why are so many employers not hiring at all?
  • Or, if they are hiring, why aren’t they hiring American workers?
  • Why are they hiring mostly part-time employees on a no-benefits basis?
  • Why are so many employers shutting down American plants and starting new ones in China, Mexico or the Philippines?

Meanwhile, U.S. corporations sit on nearly $2 trillion in cash.

Among the monies they sit upon are those that could be used to hire those millions of qualified, willing-to-work Americans who can’t find fulltime, permanent employment.

An article in the March, 2011 issue of Reader’s Digest gives the lie to the excuses so many employers use for refusing to hire.

Entitled “22 Secrets HR Won’t Tell You About Getting a Job,” it lays bare many of the reasons why America needs to legally force employers to demonstrate as much responsibility for hiring as job-seekers are expected to show toward searching for work.

Click here: 22 Secrets HR Won’t Tell You About Getting a Job | HT Staffing

Among the truths it reveals:

  1. Once you’re unemployed more than six months, you’re considered unemployable.
  2. It’s not what but who you know that counts.
  3. If you can, avoid HR and seek out someone in the company you know. If you don’t know anyone, go straight to the hiring manager.
  4. Don’t assume that someone will read your cover letter. Many of them go straight into the garbage can.
  5. You will be judged on the basis of your email address–especially if it’s something like “Igetwasted@aol.com.”
  6. Athough age discrimination is illegal, it’s still widespread. If you’re in your 50s or 60s, don’t put your year of graduation on your resume.
  7. Many employers defy the law and discriminate against applicants who have children. Many managers have gone to illegal lengths to find out applicants’ parental status–like checking a job-seeker’s car for child safety seats.
  8. It’s harder to get a job if you’re fat. Hiring managers make quick judgments based on stereotypes.
  9. Many managers will assume you’re a loser if you give them a weak handshake.
  10. Encourage the interviewer to talk–especially about himself. Ego-driven interviewers love hearing the sound of their own voices and will assume you’re better-qualified than someone who doesn’t want to listen to them prattle.
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