Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Health care markets

So a friend got this email from Patrick Leahy about supporting the effort to remove big health insurance companies' exemptions from anti-trust laws. I saw it on an email list, but only after some Libertarian smartass had chimed in:

[under construction]

Monday, December 22, 2014

Don't leave the ACA out of Xmas

Sorry, it's been a while.  Work, work, work.  But I have been arguing with a friend of mine (both of us are members of Labor for Single-Payer, but he's more active in it), and here's my latest spew:

First let me say I do think the ACA is "woefully inadequate."  Single payer is what we need, or nationalized health care, but some business interests (and not others, interestingly enough) and their lapdog politicians have blocked anything close to that (along with much that is not even close).  And since we failed to get either of those things, it would have been nice for elected representatives (especially Democrats) to at least include what was called "the public option" at the time.  I don't think any of those things would have necessarily solved the problem this poor guy [see below] is bringing up, but I'll get back to that.  I still have to say the ACA helped millions of people get coverage, and that is nothing to sneeze at.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Black Lives Matter

At first I thought, why write about all the police killings and other violence toward African Ameicans, so much in the news lately.  At first I thought Black Lives Matter is keeping the problem on the front burner, where it should be, so what's to say?  Arguing with ignoramuses so often reduces to, "You are an ignoramus."  And that's not much of  contribution really.

So here's the thing.  As a Southerner I am well aware of the long history of police attacks on black Americans.  "Blue by day, white by night," we used to say.  I've witnessed some police asshattery, myself, and I'm not even black.  Too, now that I've lived in the North awhile, I know for a fact it's not confined to the South.  That is exactly zero excuse for Southern bigotry, which is very real and sometimes shockingly unabashed, even brazen.  Moreover, the violent racism that continues throughout the South is the real story there, not some idiot with an un-potty-trained mouth.  We white Southerners have a very special responsibility to work against racism, without excuses.  But don't let me hear white folks anywhere say it's not their problem.

Next thing: I have a low tolerance for bullshit.  People like to talk out the side of their neck.  Is every police shooting a genocidal conspiracy against African people?  No.  A man was shot in the area here last week.  He had a gun earlier when he committed robbery.  He holed up for hours and then came out waving something and ran towards some cops.  Maybe he was delusional, and maybe - probably - the effort to talk him down could have been better, but no outrage here, just human tragedy.

Even Michael Brown in Ferguson may not be the best rallying point in my opinion.  While the ensuing outrage is certainly justified, if only by the long history and broad context of police violence that African American communities and other people who care what happens to our fellow human beings are rightly furious over, too many questions remain for me to feel certain that the police murdered this man in Missouri.

But Eric Garner?  You must be kidding.  The choke hold they used was against regulations, even if we didn't have video evidence that the police were the aggressors.  And they escalated the situation on purpose.  The response of the official system responsible for protecting human life is only further proof of the endemic nature of the sickness.  Eric Garner was murdered on camera by the very people charged with protecting and serving him.  That's just a fact, no matter what the grand jury says.

But let us be abundantly clear: it is not about Eric Garner, or Michael Brown, or Rodney King, alone.  It's about an ongoing slaughter.  And these killings do not represent a 'crisis.'  A crisis is a turning point.  The long file of African Americans into the mortuary ushered in by police violence is an old story just breaking into the newsmedia.  The crisis is political: the rioters and the Black Lives Matter movement have forced politicians to pay attention.  At long last.

But it's still being seen in a fairly liberal (nonthreatening) context, divorced from the broader issues of inequality and incarceration in which racism serves the fat cats quite well.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Really, Grand Jury?

Let me just say, when George W. Bush gets it (well, sorta), it is not rocket science, friends.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Shortly on taxes

Many people are under the simplistic impression that tax cuts are automatically a good thing.  A lot of people say this is just right-wing propaganda, but I think not entirely.  It's also because of a very real fact: taxes historically have been foisted exclusively or at best disproportionately on the working population by the rich to pay for ruling class adventures in faraway crusades (if we are lucky) and for their other institutions on the theory that they protect us (from other rulers who are pulling the same scam on their people) or more recently that they provide us with jobs.

Besides the obvious facts that they provide fewer and worse jobs as our more money is shifted from us to them (in various forms - tax cuts to them, shifts in the tax burden to local government, sales taxes which the rich mostly avoid and working people largely cannot, etc), and that "they" "protect" "us" in modern times even more cleverly than before - by getting the young peasants to risk their lives while the knights stay home and play golf, they have also figured out a way to use the democratic institutions that we demand - supposedly to wrest power from them - to actually take power from ourselves and give it to them, including money (which is not speech, but power).  They've lowered their taxes and raised ours (relatively).  Now when they demand lower taxes, we are right there with them.  Ingenious!

Fear and ignorance are the enemy.  Organize!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Back to the Future

Dean calls it again.  And as usual, the man behind the curtain is -- you guessed it! -- rich people trying to take your money!  We now have an economy wherein working people pay taxes (and the rich pay some, too, although less and less and less and less) to subsidize big businesses, which decrease wages, and to cut social services we need.

At least it's not the Medieval Period, when the Lords and Kings ran the show and lived it up while demanding taxes from the poor serfs and craftsmen, you know, as "protection money" and for other services, which were pretty meager ... wait, maybe it is a lot like that.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Civil rights? Oh, no!

The Democratic Party is so full of contradictions they can't even approve their own nominations now.  The Democrat-controlled Senate just rejected Obama's nomination of Debo Adegbile to head the US Justice Depts civil rights division, because ... well, he's a qualified civil rights attorney.

The best quotes, as usual, were from Republi-cons: that's what you get for helping a cop-killer, slap in the face of law enforcement, blah, blah, blah.  But seven Dems are what killed the nomination. 

Yeah, that Obama, it's all his fault, right?  Well, he has been a major disappointment, but as to the question of why he doesn't do more -- we need look no further than his own party.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I crane, you crane, we all crane our necks to the Ukraine

When people in any country start getting rowdy with respect to their economic or political overlords, I am generally one who smiles.  Rebellion, revolt, and talking back are messy, flawed, ugly-beautiful, human-all-too-human enterprises.  They usually need to be done, and usually need to be done differently, but they usually still need to be done.

That said, we shouldn't be babes-in-the-woods cheerleaders, either. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Remember Black labor history

Black History Month is not widely viewed as labor's biggest commemoration, with all that implies.  Right or wrong, there is clearly a profound wrong embedded in it.  We always say labor built this country, but that foundation of labor is significantly slave labor, and slaves in North America have been -- not all but -- almost all of African descent.  And when I say "significantly," consider this:

Friday, February 7, 2014

Talk is Cheap, Biden

So Joe Biden wants to defend collective bargaining now?  Or rather, he wants us to believe that he wants to defend collective bargaining now?  The point is a good one, and the chart is instructive, but whither this VP tweet?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Do we "care"?

Paraphrasing Dean Baker, this article on the real impact of ObamaCare is no reason not to criticize its many flaws, but it is already helping real people, like Mary, ...
"the 41-year-old call-center worker [who] headed to the health clinic on Highway 15 [and] saw a doctor about her chronic stomach ulcers, had her blood drawn for tests and collected referrals for all the specialists she had been told she needed but could never afford."

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Power of Irrationality

Is this why we keep losing?  What happens when one group of people gets all logical and another group just screams, "CHARGE!" - and down in the break room you've got one going, "Well, all the facts aren't in yet, let's wait and see..." and five guys around the table are laughing, "Are you crazy?  Are you blind?  Are you telling me you don't already know?!?"  What do their silent co-workers get out of that?

Limbo and his ilk were 110% sure Clarence Thomas was innocent because he's conservative.  Sure, there were liberals who were sure he was guilty because he's conservative.  (I estimate not many, but any is too many.)  But not just that.  Many many people - including many liberals - in daily practice often assume that accusation equals guilt.  In many cases, anyway.  But not all.  And here's exactly where prejudice rears its shaved head: which cases?

Do we feminists sometimes believe that any accusation of sexual harassment is automatically true?  Be honest.  Do folks look at the mug shot of the accused and laugh out loud, "Naw, he didn't do it.  Sure!"  I see a banker, a CEO, or like suit, on the news standing accused of embezzling, cutting corners that have led to workers' or nearby residents' illnesses and deaths, and I tend to think it's probably true.  But I like to think I check it out before I open my big cakehole.

"Character," says Limbo.  That does it for a lot of people, maybe especially for us rednecks.  In large part we are an uneducated bunch, but does that mean we think less critically?  I claim no -- although we may live in environments that are more hostile to critical thinking.  But I claim no, and to those who claim yes, I say, aha! where's your evidence?  George Orwell and Noam Chomsky both write a lot about the "disciplined  minds" (Orwell doesn't call 'em that) and the limiting effects on critical thinking.

But where's this going?  I argue the following: (1) if believe that we have some dispensation from the gods of reason because the deck is so often stacked against us, and Maoist justice says it's okay when it's them, we fail; and (2) emotion is fine for us organizers alongside reason, and reasons, and reasoning (treating people like grown-ups), but it is a privilege the rich and powerful retain to themselves to be irrational, because they do not need to make sense -- they have the power to skip that step (in fact, in some very real sense that's what it means to be powerful) -- but our place, the worm's eye view, requires the clearest thinking available to us at all times. 

So, no, the power of irrationality is not why we keep losing.  It's the irrationality of power. IMHO.