Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Plan on Voting Teapublican in November? Tell Me Why.

(Disclaimer: I'm not pulling any punches here. Teapublicans plan on destroying America, and I'm going to spend this note both calling them out on their dangerous extremism and on proving that the Democrats are our last hope as a society. Regardless of where your politics lie, I want you to read this over, and if you still disagree with me or any of the dozens of links of evidence I have here, come out in the open about it and tell me why. I expect you to have evidence of your own to back up what you say. And I expect your evidence to come from legitimate sources- i.e. not from FOX News or Andrew Breitbart.)

The Rise of the Teapublicans/The Downfall of the GOP

If nobody has yet coined the phrase "Teapublican," then allow me the honor. I think the word is a lot easier than saying "Tea Partier," or "Republican," since the Tea Party and the Republican Party have become synonymous with one another. Tea Party candidates like Rand Paul and Sharron Angle have seemingly spent the last few months trying to outdo each other in who can be the looniest. Rand Paul believes the president criticizing BP on their handling of the Gulf oil gusher is "un-American," and openly advocates lowering already stagnant and insufficient wages for the middle class, but not for the banksters and oil company executives, of course. In Nevada, Sharron Angle has insinuated that she would be in favor of armed insurrection. Concerning her hard-line stance against abortion, she believes that God always has a plan. And sometimes, God's plan includes rape and incest. Hey, she said it- not me.

Rather than denounce such unpatriotic ideology, DC Republicans are embracing the extremism wholeheartedly. Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, the ranking Republican on the Energy Committee, apologized to the CEO of BP after President Obama told the company to set aside $20 billion to clean up the mess they created. Shortly after that, the Republican Study Committee, which represents 116 Republicans in Congress, couldn't wait to take BP's side, calling the $20 billion escrow account a "Chicago-style shakedown."

House Republican leader John Boehner has openly said that if Republicans retake Congress and he becomes Speaker of the House, he would raise the retirement age by 5 years, and put Social Security, the most successful social welfare program in the history of this country, in the hands of proven professional thieves like Goldman-Sachs and J.P. Morgan. Rep. Paul Ryan, the ranking Republican on the Budget Committee, has proposed a budget that would ration Medicare for seniors.

Despite all of the GOP fearmongering about health insurance reform, Teapublicans, to borrow their language, have actually fronted policy that would leave health care for ailing seniors in the hands of government bureaucrats. Essentially, the "Don't Kill Grandma" party is proposing that we pull the plug on granny to save money. The Teapublicans propose the outright elimination of social safety nets for the poor so we can continue to give tax cuts to the richest 1% who don't need them, and fund two endless wars on countries that didn't attack us. And yes, the Teapublicans are still against a $350 a week pittance for victims of a recession that their policies effectively created. Rep. Boehner compared the financial crisis that left 8,000,000 Americans without jobs to an ant while explaining his opposition to reigning in the Wall Street fat cats who pillaged our 401Ks and pension.

So what's the alternative?

18 Months of Progressivism

Teapublicans claim these regressive policies are necessary to end Democratic policies they compare to "Armageddon." But is the world really ending under the Democrats' watch? Is the "stop the spending" mantra really sound economic policy, or brainless fluff?

-After a $17 billion bailout of the American auto industry, the Big Three have come back in full swing, and are making good on paying the government back. And despite the tough recession, these companies are now in good enough financial standing to start sharing their profits with their hourly workers.

-Speaking of the car market and the economy, people are buying cars again. A lot more. Almost as much as during the "Cash for Clunkers" program. July car sales are set to either equal or outdo all of the extra business car companies had after the wildly successful 2009 program. Despite what the right-scream media (thanks, Monty) may have told you, there is good news on the horizon for the car manufacturers. They can credit their successes to federal government intervention.

-Speaking of federal intervention in the market, economic advisers to both Republican and Democratic administrations have concluded that despite how bad things are now, they would be infinitely worse had President Obama not immediately taken direct action with stimulus spending. A new study, conducted by a formal Federal Reserve vice chairman and by one of John McCain's economic advisers, finds that without federal action in this recession, there would be 8.5 million less jobs than there are now, that national GDP would 6.5% percent less than current levels and that we would be experiencing deflation instead of mild inflation.

After just 18 months in office, President Obama has already enacted health care reform legislation, which 7 presidents from both parties couldn't do. He has signed into law the most sweeping financial regulations since the New Deal. His Democratic Congress has passed crucial legislation that has kept the economy afloat, despite an endless onslaught of Republican filibusters at every single piece of progressive legislation. The Democrats have already made astronomical progress.

But because the country is in such dire straits, there is still a long, long way to go before we've fully recovered from the havoc wreaked by Republicans. And this new breed of Teapublican, where the radical fringe right-wing has effectively taken over a major political party, seeks to undo not just the recent progress made, but an entire century of Democratic achievements that lifted up the poor and middle class.

The Teapublican Plan for America

If Teapublicans win majorities in the House and Senate, they have openly pledged to-

-Repeal Health Insurance Reform.
-Repeal Wall Street Reform.
-Get rid of Social Security and Medicare.
-Cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans.
-Funnel $35 billion in taxpayer money to Big Oil.
-Protect those responsible for the Gulf oil spill.
-Abolish the Department of Education.
-Abolish the Department of Energy.
-Abolish the Environmental Protection Agency.
-Abolish the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
-Abolish the Internal Revenue Service.
-Outlaw homosexuality.
-Take away your right to vote for U.S. Senators.
-Give the middle finger to the unemployed.
-Prevent a vote on legislation aimed at making corporate donors to political campaigns identify themselves.

Despite such an anti-American, anti-Democratic ideology, Teapublicans still boast about the majorities they plan to gain in the midterm elections. Through talk radio and FOX News- the echo chambers of hate and fear- misguided Teapublican supporters likely haven't considered the consequences their votes could have this November. In their desperation and ignorance, Teapublican voters have even started to steal campaign slogans from 4chan, a festering pool of porn, gore and racism.

If you support these views and plan to vote for candidates who proudly espouse these principles, just tell me why.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Trampling of Jdimytai Damour/Corporate Callousness 2.0

Friday, Nov. 28, 2008

(The following story is based on a true event.)

It was a cold, cold New York morning. Jdimytai Damour's belly was still full from yesterday's Thanksgiving Dinner, and his insides had been quite disagreeable since he had woken up that morning for work, for the dreaded Black Friday shift. Damour rubbed a chunk of sleep still glued to his eye, the 2:00 AM din of the alarm clock robbing him of any hopeful feelings about the next few hours to come. The 34 year-old left his apartment in Jamaica, Queens, and boarded the Long Island train, still groggy from the lack of sleep and abundance of food breaking down in his belly. Jdimytai still considered himself young and full of life, and not even an early-morning 12-hour shift could stop him. He'd have plenty of cash to blow after the next check came through, and that kept his spirits up.

Damour, the temporary maintenance worker, had been instructed to arrive at 3:00 AM in anticipation for the 5 AM opening, and stand just inside the door of the Wal-Mart supercenter where he worked to maintain the crowds that were expected to swarm the place for doorbuster deals on plasma screen TVs, video game systems and personal computers. First come, first served. There was a handwritten sign by the entrance clearly marked "BLITZ LINE STARTS HERE." Wooden barricades accompanied Damour at the front.

Damour watched scads of cars fill the parking lot not long after his own arrival. Shoppers clad in thick layers briskly rubbed their hands together, their breath rising in clouds, preparing to wait for hours in the fierce cold of the pre-dawn Long Island November to spend their hard-earned dough on the shiny gadgets that lie inside waiting, marked down for the lucky few who made it there first.

The shoppers got antsy as more of them showed up. The line had started to grow disordely, and Damour nervously chewed his lip, observing his watch as he observed the rapidly increasing crowd, whose patience seemed to dissipate proportionally to the increase of its number.

4:25. Still more than a half hour to go. The Valley Stream Wal-Mart told Damour that the doors would open exactly at 5:00 sharp, and that he would be the one to usher crowds inside. He was, however, but one man. Other security had been hired to stand by, but that didn't ease the growing fear settling in his gut. The handwritten sign and barricades had since been rendered meaningless; the once-orderly line had now turned into a sea of people slowly budging closer to Damour, who firmly held his hands out in front of him.

"Hey pal, how much longer are we gonna have to wait?" One customer angrily shouted through the glass.
"Let us in! It's cold!" Said another.
"Move outta the way!" Another yelled.

The crowd had now swelled to about 2,000 people. The sign was now on the ground, lying under the feet of the pissed-off shoppers. The cold coming through the glass was no longer an issue for Damour; his blood ran hot, and sweat beaded his forehead from the proximity of the crowd, the unsettling ache of his bowels, combined with a slight delirium from a lack of sleep.

"Just wait," Damour yelled out to the shoppers in front. "The store opens at 5. Please be calm, we'll be opening shortly."

Damour's watch read 4:47 AM. Still far too early for anyone to be up on a holiday, yet the Wal-Mart parking lot was full. Cars buzzed by on the road nearby, undoubtedly heading out to grab early bird deals at other stores hoping to capitalize on the Black Friday rush. All the gloom and doom over the recent economic collapses had really caused the media to amp up "Black Friday" into a holiday of its own, business owners eager to get shoppers inside the stores and keep them there until their holiday bonuses were nestled in the cash registers. Damour's manager had told him that he'd be needed until probably 4 or 5 that day, and to expect more 12-hour shifts as Christmas loomed closer.

It was 4:54 AM now, and the crowd had morphed into a mob. Shoppers no longer cared about the words they used in front of children, or about bumping into and elbowing one another. The doorbuster deals were a straight line to the back of the store in the Electronics department, and shoppers looked prepared to fight one another to be first in line to get a $20 discount on the big screen TV. Still the mob pushed and shoved and elbowed and swore. Other employees, notiving the havoc that was escalating outside, had joined Damour and formed a human chain in front of the stoor entrance.


Then, two things happened, almost simultaneously, just before 5 AM.

Damour saw the glass pane in front of him start to bend in the middle from the force of the crowd. He pushed to get it to stay upright, but the glass had bent back too far.

The door burst off its hinges. Damour fell helplessly backward, and the mob pushed on. They no longer noticed the man in the hooded sweatshirt and gloves and blue vest serving as the last barricade between them and the deals that lie beyond the glass. As Damour fell, hordes of boots and sneakers fell upon him, compounded with the weight of the shoppers who wore them. There was nowhere else but the shoppers to go but forward. Shoes continued to pound and squash Damour into the hard tile floor, bloodying his face, breaking his bones, pulverizing his insides as shoppers leapt over one another and on top of the man who lay helplessly on the floor, buried under the feet and weight of thousands.

The doorbusters had been picked up almost as soon as Damour met his swift death. Customers squabbled with each other, punching and shoving those who had made it to the first deals on the shelf. Emergency crews were rushed in to perform CPR on Damour, but even they were not immune to the consumer-hungry rage of the mob still pouring in from the dark, cold New York morning. Even four other shoppers couldn't escape injury from the ensuing mayhem, including a 28 year-old woman eight months pregnant.

Not more than 45 minutes after Damour was trampled, the manager's voice instructed shoppers on the intercom that a worker was killed, that they would have to leave.

"Aw, man! I've been in line since 4 this morning!" One shopper yelled in protest.

The Wal-Mart would re-open that day at 1 PM, and shoppers filled the building within minutes. Damour would not be there this time to help guard the door.

The discounted gifts that customers endured for hours in the cold just for a few bucks off sticker price, like a $798 Samsung 50-inch Plasma HDTV, a Bissel Compact Upright Vacuum for $28 and Men's Wrangler Tough Jeans for $8 would eventually be wrapped and placed under trees, and would be torn apart and opened to excited screams and shouts on a Christmas morning that 34 year-old Jdimytai Damour would never see. A morning that his 41 year-old sister Danielle would spend quietly without him, weeping uncontrollably with other grieving family members like 37 year-old cousin Ernst, instead.

Corporate Callousness 2.0

The Occupational Safety and Health Act was enacted by Congress in 1970 in the event that if something happened like the event above, there would be some accountability. OSHA has the authority to levy penalties to companies who knowingly put their workers in hazardous situations. Such regulations meant to ensure corporations consider the safety of their employees as the highest priority, even above profits.

29 U.S.C. § 654, 5(a)1: "Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees."

But thanks to decades of the corporate special interest lobbying that has been polluting congress relentlessly, and even much moreso since the Reagan Revolution, these corporations are now only responsible for a mere $7,000 pittance if a "foreseeable death" occurs. The penalty for a "willful death" is $70,000. One Wal-Mart store makes about $250,000 per day. That's a conservative estimate.

However, Wal-Mart, in the ultimate act of corporate defiance of laws, has spent $2 MILLION fighting OSHA's $7,000 fine for a Wal-Mart worker dying on the clock. That's $2,000,000. Spent to not pay a $7,000 fine for something they knew could very possibly happen. They claim that OSHA doesn't have the constitutional authority to levy penalties against private corporations. Which is complete nonsense, as corporate accountability for wrongdoing to workers is precisely why OSHA was created. But OSHA's legal department has complained that Wal-Mart, with its infinite resources and money, is draining OSHA's resources to the point that a full third of their legal department is dedicating all of their time to try and get Wal-Mart to follow the law.

Clearly, this isn't about money. This is Wal-Mart waging a war of attrition against the federal government, in an ultimate effort to discourage them in the future from pursuing large corporations and holding them accountable when they put lives at risk for the sake of profit. Wal-Mart, a company that let a worker die while working for them, is challenging the federal government for having the audacity to make them pay for their callousness.

If this isn't enough to get people to stop giving Wal-Mart their money, I don't know what is.