Sunday, September 24, 2006

Too Many Glasses!

Mom came home from Springfield with glasses, lots and lots of glasses. Supposedly, she inherited them from her sister, DoDo, who died a few years ago. Not that Dodo actually designated Mom as the recipient of these glasses, I think it was more that they were passed on to various family members, none of whom wanted them and so, by default, they came to Mom. The family was even so thoughtful that they, eagerly, loaded them into her car. I think they all heaved a huge, collective sigh of relief, knowing they were being sent off to a new home in Indiana.

The thing is, when Mom told me she'd brought back some glasses that were Dodo's, she sort of played it down. I don't know what mental picture the word "some" conjures up in your head, but to me, some means, maybe a dozen, at most. But, this was no dozen - Mom unpacked glasses and unpacked glasses until the influx took up the entire dining room table. There are water glasses and champagne flutes and rocks glasses and wine glasses and pony glasses and a decanter with shot glasses. And they all match - crystal with gold leaves. The White House could ask to borrow our house to host a State Dinner for the Sultan of Brunei and there would be plenty of glasses for all the guests (there wouldn't be enough chairs, parking spaces for limousines or bathrooms but by Gosh, they'd all having matching glasses).

And, we didn't really need glasses because Mom came from the old school when it was protocol that the respectable homemaker should have the "good china", the "next best china" and the "every day china". And we are definitely respectable, at least in the china area, if very few others.

We have a set of fine bone china with matching crystal goblets and silver plate and starched linen napkins to go with it. I remember exactly when we last used these things. It was the Christmas of 1988. Jim knew he was dying and wouldn't see another Christmas. He asked us to go all out for Christmas that year and we did, pulling out all the stops. Mom has threatened several times since to drag out the good stuff for a family holiday but we never have (since it would all have to be washed first). This china is in the china cabinet.

(Incidentally, this "good, better, best" theory of chinaware is now a thing of the past. We tried to pawn the good china/crystal/silver off on John and Lisa. We thought of them rather like a part of our family heritage we were passing on to the next generation, but Lisa, polite as she is, could not hold back a look of horror at to the suggestion that she take on the responsibility for the good china.)

Next, we have a set of "nice" china - a set Dad bought Mom for their anniversary many years ago. (My Dad died on my 27th birthday and I just turned 60). This china is mostly black and Mom bought a set of cut glass-type glasses to go with it. This dishware is in one of the kitchen cupboards. Up on that shelf is also the second set of silver flatware that Jim inherited from his Grandma.

Lastly, we have a set of Pfalzgraf, I bought from Todd Titus when he and Anne were married. His mom had bought it for him and, bachelor that he was then, he rarely used it. I paid him $15 for the whole set. This is what we consider our every day dishes. In the intervening years, Mom has bought every piece of this china she ever found at garage sales - and that's a lot! We have additional plates, cups (both coffee and chocolate), saucers, platters, gravy boats, cereal bowls, salt and pepper shakers, pitchers, soup tureens, etc. As much as will fit of this china has the place of honor in the most easily reached kitchen cupboard shelves. In the high cupboard that you have to use a step ladder to reach, are the extra pieces - because if we should break a plate or cup, don't you know, we could get right up there and have the replacement piece waiting in the wings!

There are two sets of glasses that "go with" the Pfalzgraf. A set of brown goblets that hold approximately one thimble-ful of milk. John always complained about these glasses because he had to re-fill them ten times per meal. So I bought another set of gold glasses, bigger ones, to use with the Pfalzgraf.

We also have glasses that Mom bought once in Colorado - they have pictures that celebrate that state's centennial. I have a set of western-type glasses that have branding iron symbols painted on them. My first husband won them on a tip board (along with a matching cookie jar) in 1967. We have souvenir glasses from various bars and pubs from which one of us once got a pina colada or margarita or specialty ale. We have strays left over from various other sets of glasses we got through the years. We have a set of plastic glasses, which every one sticks their noses up at using but me. I like plastic. I think, somewhere in the garage, we even have a brightly colored set of metal glasses that you used to get as a gift for buying something, I don't remember what.

The bottom line is that we are overwhelmed by glasses, over-run with glasses, being crowded out of our very house by glasses. If our glasses were stacked up on top of one another, they would reach the top of the Empire State Building. We could have a "glasses only" garage sale for people with a glasses fetish. If I ever ran for political office again (which isn't going to happen), I could give every potential voter in Wabash a glass as a little campaign offering.

By crowding other stuff together, I managed to get the new glasses put away in cupboards and on shelves where they will remain, never to be used, just like all the other good and slightly less good china. As a matter of fact, with just the two of us, Mom and I now have 4 sets of china - the best, the next best, the next-next best and, our new favorite, the least best, which are the paper plates and glasses, so convenient to pitch in the trash when you're done, no washing required.

Torturous Strategy

* 16 American soldiers were killed in Iraq last week.

In case anyone is wondering, which it seems that hardly anyone is, the three Republican senators who professed such concern that America should not be a nation that rejects the Geneva Conventions or engages in torture capitulated almost completely to the Bush administration. If their proposed legislation regarding torture ultimately becomes law, it will mean that detainees can forget having the right of habeas corpus. They will not be allowed to challenge the truth of any accusations made against them (if, in fact, the administration even bothers charging them with anything) or the legality or length of their treatment (i.e. torture).

Under the McCain/Warner/Graham plan, the U.S. government can (continue to) "detain" anyone, including U.S. citizens, never charge them with a crime, torture them - forever - while denying them the right to challenge their detention and treatment. And some are innocent, as in the case of the recently released Canadian who was determined not to have any ties with Al Qaida or any other terrorist group. Of course, finding him innocent of wrong-doing was a little late for him since the United States had already picked him up and sent him to Syria (you know, that great ally of ours, Syria?) who kept him and tortured him for ten months. And guess what? He confessed. Confessed to everything they wanted him to confess to, including that he was trained by Al Qaida in Afghanistan although it was later discovered that he had never been to Afghanistan or had any contact with Al Qaida. So, the information we got out of him was really valuable, wasn't it? And this is usually what you do get when you torture people.

This is the kind of stuff we used to read about with horror when it came out of the Soviet gulags. I had no idea that America would so easily give up its ideals and principles out of cowardice. Back when they were trying to impeach Bill Clinton, the Republicans raised such a hue and cry about their respect for the "rule of law" that it seemed to be their driving principle. You got the feeling that if you put your hand on the Bible and swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and then lied about jaywalking, it was just as bad as if you'd told an untruth about murder. It was the principle of the thing, you see. Perjury was perjury and it was all equivalent.

Now they sweep away the very bedrock of America's rules of law as if they were no more than specks of dandruff on our collective collar. Not that the Bush administration has ever committed perjury, I guess. They learned from Clinton so that they simply refuse to ever give testimony under oath (on the few occasions it ever comes up since the Republican-dominated Congress rarely exercizes its oversight responsibility with this particular president.)

Habeas corpus and not engaging in torture and not surveilling its own citizens all form the foundation of who we've always thought we were as a nation but, no more. It was easy enough to have integrity when it was never put to the test but now we're scared and when you're scared enough, principles fall by the wayside and you can justify almost anything. And so, we allow ourselves to become the very thing we abhor. We are back to the days of the lawless wild west, undoubtedly George Bush's favorite American era. Then it was "shoot first and ask questions later". Now it is, "torture first and don't even bother asking any questions".

I have to say, the Republicans set this up perfectly. They remain the masters of political positioning. Now, they can say that these three concerned Senators forged a compromise with the President and all has worked out for the best. They can assure Americans who might have had some doubts about our policies that we are "doing the right thing". They successfully put the Democrats in a Catch 22. Are the Dems to go to into the fire of voting on the McCain/Warner/Graham legislation and in essence, condoning torture or the frying pan of voting no and being labelled as "soft on the war on terror" in ads that will no doubt spring up like poisonous mushrooms as the November elections loom?

I know what I would wish for my representative. I'm realistic about the political world. I know that staying in office requires a certain amount of give and take, sometimes you settle for half a loaf, sometimes you vote with the majority for political expediency. But, there are some issues that so go to the heart of America's soul that your conscience should demand that you fight against it with all your strength and if you lose, well, you can sleep at night knowing you fought for the honorable course.

The Bible says, "for what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" I think that may go for countries too.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Political Perspectives

* 16 American soldiers died last week
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I constantly see new political polls on television or read about them in newspapers on the internet. Bush is up; Bush is down. The Democrats are gaining; the Democrats are falling behind. The number one concern of the American people is terrorism; the number one concern is the Iraq War; the number one concern is gas prices. And on and on - up, down and all around go the polls.

And I wonder who these people are who are polled and how they can be so fickle in their determinations. Bush's poll numbers, for instance. They move higher or lower from one poll to the next. But, why? Who are these people who love him one day and change their minds the next? How can you not have decided about President Bush by now after 6 years? And what could change your mind at this point? Is it really possible to turn on the president, even if you were once a true believer, and then watch him give a speech which causes you to go back to your previous position, only to revert once again a week later?

And the Iraq War. Surely, after all these years, we have decided that we either a) think it was a mistake that has turned into a disaster or b) believe it may not be going well, but it was, over all, a good thing and in any case, it is vital to stay the course or some variation thereof?

I'm not dogmatic about my own beliefs. I'm capable of changing my mind on various issues. I'm not questioning people who move from one position to another based on new information. We all should be capable of and willing to change our minds at times. It is those who, if the polling is to be believed, flip up and down like jumping jacks, believing one thing one week and something entirely different the next that I wonder about.

Gas prices, for instance. Gas averaged about $1.97 in October of 2004, then rose to the neighborhood of $3.00 a gallon in many areas in August of this year. And people reflected their anger in their poll answers. Gas prices were high on their list of outrages. Now gas has dropped down to about $2.50 and lots of us are all happy again. Purveyors of various commodities do this to us all the time. They raise their prices and raise them again and we're mad as hell. Then, voila, the lower them and we forgive and forget that we are still paying 50 cents a gallon more than we were a year ago.

In any case, we are told by the business experts that politics plays no part in gas prices and the president and Congress couldn't do anything about them if they wanted to. If gas prices stay down after the November election, maybe I'll buy that but if they go up again right after we vote......it will be one of those things that makes you go "hmmmm".

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I watched a program on C-Span in which an author of a book about military blogs was interviewed (I was cooking at the same time I listened so I never did catch the writer's name). What suprised me was the number of callers, especially those who are or had been in the military themselves, who are totally committed to the Bush administration's policies, even to the extent of trashing their military brethren. I have been amazed by this in other contexts.

In the last presidential election, for instance. It surprised me how willing soldiers or ex-soldiers were to excoriate John Kerry in favor of an administration consisting mainly of people, who whatever their reasons, passed on the Vietnam War themselves. Many of them were even perfectly in accord with casting doubt on the inherent honesty of the system of awarding honors, such as Silver Stars and Purple Hearts. Okay, maybe they were angry with Kerry about his anti-war stance and statements he made upon returning from Vietnam. But, now this has moved beyond Kerry. It has become a acceptable thing, with some ideological group like the SwiftBoat Veterans for Truth, rushing out to question the awards of anyone whose political stances, they disagree with, like John Murtha.

Do these military people not realize that what they are doing is lessening the value of every single honor given to every single veteran? Can they not see that by questioning the validity of the awards of John Kerry and John Murtha, they cause every award to be looked at with suspicion? It isn't possible that back during Vietnam, the military somehow knew who was going to "grow up" to be a Democratic politician. A commonsense claim can't be made that only Democrats were awarded undeserved honors. If the system was so untrustworthy that it handed out medals willy-nilly, without regard to actual merit, it must means a cloud hangs over everyone who received one (or more). I wouldn't think most veterans would care to slide down that slippery slope.

In the same vein, it also astonishes me that many in the military are even eager to bash those fellow veterans that belong to the same party the soldiers claim loyalty to if they dare to disagree with Bush in any way. It isn't so surprising that the former and current soldiers and sailors that called into the program about military blogs would criticize John Murtha, although he is a former Marine who has devoted his political life to veteran's issues, as a phony and insincere show-boater. He is, after all, a Democrat, but they were eagerly willing to say the same about John McCain and Lindsay Graham and John Warner. John McCain, we all know, is a former P.O.W. Lindsay Graham is a former Judge Adjutant General. John Warner is a former Secretary of the Navy, veterans all. They were concerned about military issues when George Bush was still only worried about where his next drink was coming from. In this particular case, they disagree with the administration on torture and the Geneva Conventions and military tribunals, believing that giving Bush the free rein he wants will, ultimately, hurt both the military and the country. But McCain, Graham and Warner got zero credit on the part of most of the callers. They were unwilling to entertain the possibility that these men could be motivated by genuine principle. Nope, they were just being political, unlike our president, who, presumably, never does anything for political reasons. But, if these three were driven by politics, what about Colin Powell, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Secretary of State, who has never expressed any interest in running for political office as far as I know? He agrees with McCain, Graham and Warner but if he isn't being political, then why is he speaking up? We don't know but certainly not out of sincerity according to C-Span callers.
I don't know for sure but I think if I were a soldier or a former soldier, I would tend to believe veterans inside the system who have proven over and over again their sincere love of the military before I would believe the current crew in the White House.

Some of the callers were even enthusiastically making excuses for the administration and the Pentagon for not sending our soldiers equipped with the proper body armor to protect them! It almost seems to me that the following Bush has in the military is cult-like and not explainable by any of the rules of logic. Maybe I'm wrong. If someone would like to explain it to me, I'd be glad to listen.

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On another call-in show earlier in the week, the subject was "Should We Torture Terrorists?" and only Republicans were allowed to call. I could only listen for a short while before I had to leave for work but in that time, eight out of ten callers were gung-ho for torture.

One man called who said he had been involved in intelligence-gathering for twenty years and had participated in many interrogations. He made the point, quite forcefully, that torture does not work! He said that, sure enough, the tortured will talk their heads off, telling you anything you want to know in return for an end to their suffering but it is unreliable information.

Not one person who called in after him addressed this. It was as if they refused to hear him. It appeared that to the pro-torture people, the intelligence issue was beside the point. Based on statements they made in their calls, I think they are more motivated by emotional vengeance than practical "does it work" logic. In fact, some of their justifications for why they believe America should torture, were themselves rather tortured. Many of them wanted to play down what we've done, just as the President himself always seems to do - but when you have to have doctors standing by to monitor whether a prisoner can stand a few more volts of electricity or another dose of cold water while naked in a freezing room before death is imminent, that is far beyond putting a pair of underpants over someone's head.

What seems so remarkable to me is that the conservative Republicans in recent years have so co-opted Christianity that it almost seems you can't also be a Democrat and a Christian (or for that matter, even a moderate Republican). I think many of the rabidly right-wing Christians truly believe this. But how on earth can they fold acceptance of this kind of brutality into a religion founded by the Prince of Peace? Would Jesus truly have condoned torture? If He would, he surely is not the Jesus I learned about in Sunday school.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Where Will It End?

Three major things happened this week that reinforce beliefs I have had held for years - back when almost no one agreed with me and now, when more people are starting to feel the same.

First, a Senate Intelligence report backed by both Republicans and Democrats announced that there were never any connections between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida. In fact, Saddam rebuffed advances from Al Qaida that there should be cooperation between them. Saddam didn't like Al Qaida because the terrorist organization was made up of Islamic radicals while Saddam was a, essentially, a secularist. He didn't trust the Islamic fundamentalists, like Osama Bin Laden.

About this report, Tony Snow, Bush administration spokesperson, says - "move along, nothing to see here." But the fact is that the administration did try to convince the American people that Iraq and Al Qaida were joined at the hip and pushed that scenerio every chance they got. They did a damn good job of it too as even now, a significant minority of Americans believe it.

It seems pretty evident now that the Bush people knew they were being deceitful in linking Saddam and Al Qaida to build support for the Iraq War.

The second thing that happened was that Army Brigidier General Mark Scheid, who was one of the key people in on the early planning for the Iraq War gave an interview in which he said that Defense Secretary Don Rumsfield flat out forbade military strategists from discussing a post-war plan in Iraq, going so far as to say that he "would fire the next person" who insisted on a need for a post-war plan. If you remember General Eric Shinseki went public with what he saw as a need for hundreds of thousands of troops to secure Iraq after Saddam fell and General Shinseki was forced to retire, so it seems Don Rumsfield meant what he said.

According to an interview with Scheid, who is retiring as the Commander of the Army Transportation Corps, Rumsfield indicated to planners that "everything we write in our plan has to be the idea that we are going to go in, we're going to take out the regime and then we are going to leave." Still, the strategists thought they should at least have a plan for Phase 4 to be prepared just in case it was needed. That was when Rumsfield said the American people would not back the war if they thought it was going to be a long one and he would fire the next person who insisted on an after-war plan.

Two choices here: the administration was either being dishonest (again) with the American people or they were totally incompetent. Either they thought there might be problems in Iraq but kept it from the people because they thought it was the only way to convince them to go along with their war or they truly thought there was no need for a plan. Either way, they sent our troops into Iraq without even a strategy in case the aftermath turned vicious as it has. I honestly don't know which conclusion is worse.

The third thing to happen was three top military lawyers testified before Congress that they had disapproved of the Justice Department's definition of torture and objected to it from the beginning. The judge advocate generals for the Air Force, Army and Marines said they had stated their deep-seated concerns when the policy was first being discussed at the Pentagon in early 2003. The JAG concerns were eventually overruled by the general counsel's office.

A 1994 law bans torture by U.S. military personnel anywhere in the world, however, the Pentagon's working group's 2003 report said that "in order to respect the President's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign....(the prohibition against torture) must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his Commander-in-Chief authority." In other words, the President has the constitutional authority to approve torture and he did, vastly reducing America's standing in the world. (This report has since been rescinded - sort of like locking the barn after the horse is gone from Abu Ghraib and Gitmo).

Senator Carl M. Levin asked the JAGs if the believed the tactics recently reported by investigators were consistent with the Geneva Conventions prohibitions of torture. He asked them if they would want U.S. prisoners of war treated in the same way.

"No, Senator, we would not," answered Air Force Major General Jack Rives.

I was opposed to Iraq from Day One on the grounds that it was a complete distraction from Afghanistan where we were at war with the terrorists who were responsible for 911. I never could figure out the administration's passionate desire to go to Iraq and I still can't. To this day, I have no real idea of the motivation behind the Iraq War, although we know the neo-cons were hot to take on Iraq before 911 ever happened.

In any event, if we'd gone with even a modicum of competence maybe we could have made it work. If we hadn't raced to Baghdad in such a mad rush to get Saddam and declare, "Mission Accomplished", we might have paused long enough to blow up the ammunition dumps that have since been snagged by our enemies and used against our own troops; we might have waited until all of our soldiers had protective armor and all of our vehicles were hardened against i.e.d.'s; we might have sent enough troops to actually secure the country so we could begin the process of restoring electricity and water to the citizens. We might have given a damn about allowing Iraqi infrastructure and historical treasures to be looted; We might not have oh-so-shortsightedly, allowed Abu Ghraib to become a political and moral scandal; we might actually have convinced the Iraqis that we were there as their liberators and not their occupiers. And we might not have created a killing field in which the prevailing governmental force is the Shia, in league with their friends and relatives, the Iranians.

The Bush administration seems to live in a dream world in which reality plays less of a part than their own grandiose dreams of global glory. They seem to listen to no one who counsels a different course. Not George Bush the Elder who had listed the reasons for not going to Baghdad after his own Iraq War, not the career military men who have studied war and tactics their entire lives, not the legal experts, or the historians. They think nothing of trashing moral frameworks, like the Geneva Conventions, that have guided America's policy for decades. They thought they were right and everyone else was wrong. I guess they still think so.

They've done everything on the cheap from the war in Afghanistan to the War in Iraq. Bush was against the Patriotic Act before he was for it. He was against the 911 Commission before he was for it and even now has only half-heartedly endorsed its recommendations. We still do not inspect the majority of cargo coming to America on ships. We still have not regulated strict protections of our nuclear and chemical facilities. We still do not enforce who we allow across our borders.

George Bush tells us that this Global War on Terror or as it is now known, the War against Islamo-Fascism, is the battle of our generation. All the administration big guns have been out talking it up these last two weeks. But if this is our World War II then why are we so half-hearted about it? In World War II, there was a draft so that all able-bodied men could expect to be sent to war to protect our country and our allies (I hate the term The Homeland, which seems to have an authoritarian connotation). Americans were taxed to support World War II. They lived under conditions of rationing so every possible resource could be poured into the war effort. But what does the average American do to sacrifice for this monumental struggle? Pretty much nothing as far as I can see. So few of us are volunteering for the military that the same poor soldiers have to be sent over and over again. We aren't giving up our SUV's in favor of oil efficient vehicles because, you know, we might not be able to make it to Walmart on a snowy day. And God forbid, that anyone, no matter how vastly rich, should kick in more taxes to support the war. Nope, let's just go shopping and let our kids worry about it later.

Hit with the Hungry Stick

If you've ever lived with someone who went hungry in the Great Depression, as I do, then you know that they are, to put it mildly, hoarders. A few year's ago, my Mom insisted that we needed a freezer. John and I argued that buying and running a freezer for a family of three, who rarely ate regular meals together, was simply not practical. But Mom laid out all the reasons why a freezer made sense. She could buy items when they were on sale and save them for later. In the event we were snowed in by a blizzard, we'd have ready access to meat, vegetables and fruits of all kinds. When she made things like big pots of chili or chicken and noodles, we could freeze the leftovers and eat off them again, thus saving money and the world's resources.

In the end, Mom won, of course. When she gets that determined look in her eye, there is no stopping her. So she went out and bought a freezer and it takes up one end of the back porch. She definitely does the things she said she would do: she buys items on sale and put them in the freezer; she freezes all kinds of leftovers; (we haven't been snowed in yet, living only a few blocks from the nearest grocery store, so we haven't been able to test that theory).

The problem with our freezer is that once something gets put into it, it never comes out again. We have on-sale chickens Mom bought in 2001 and on-sale beef roast she bought in 2002 and on-sale pork chops she bought in 2003. We have sacks and sacks of strawberries and cauliflower and peas years past their "best if sold by" date. We have boxes of freezer-burned french fries and packages of age-shrunken steak. We have sandy ice cream and chocolate eclairs so old, the filling has disappeared, leaving behind only a tough shell of ice-covered pastry. We have freezer sacks and plastic containers of ham and beans and beef stroganoff and vegetable soup very carefully labelled as to the day they were put in the freezer three years ago.

You see, the thing with Mom is that she buys her groceries day by day. As long as I've known her, she's never planned meals in advance. My father would never eat left-overs and we rarely eat left-overs either, at least, once they've been consigned to the freezer. Mom's favorite question is: "what are we going to have for dinner tonight?" We discuss it and if we decide on meat loaf, for instance, she will go to the store and buy the makings for meat loaf, although there are 47 packages of hamburger in the freezer.

In fact, the freezer is just a depression-induced security blanket. Not something she actually plans on using but something she could turn to in case of dire emergency. As long as the feezer is there, neither Mother Nature nor political policies could cause her family to be without food. Back when Mom and her brothers and sisters had nothing to eat, they would have not let a little thing like a "sell-by" date or a patch of freezer burn stop them from enjoying the bounties of my freezer.

Mom is currently in Illinois visiting her sisters and I've taken advantage of her absence to clean out the freezer. I've filled four big plastic trash bags to dispose of in one way or another (much of it will go to feed Louise's dogs who will dine tonight on t-bone steak and hash browns and Texas toast and apple turnovers - better food than many families in this town will probably have). It makes me sad to see so much go to waste but I know better than to think I can change Mom's deep-seated insecurity with its need to have a hoard of provisions available.

This is also why we had to put additional shelves upon the back porch to hold enough canned goods to stock a homeless shelter for a month, nine boxes of cereal, 12 packages of pasta of various makes and models (including angel hair, rigatoni, mostaciolli, regular spaghetti, regular macaroni, shell macaroni, lasagna noodles). extra cans of canned milk and sacks of flour and sugar and brown sugar and powdered sugar and bottles of syrup......

And so when she returns, it will start again. She will buy pork chops on sale and put them in the freezer, only to go out and buy fresh pork chops for dinner next week - until the freezer is full to bursting again....because she just can't help it. She was hit with the Hungry Stick when she was young and she's never gotten over it.

Monday, September 4, 2006

Labor Day

Labor Day - I told LeAnn today in an e-mail that I think we should declare Labor Day dead and have a funeral parade because what is there to celebrate about Labor these days? I read on the internet that this week Dupont cut its pension benefits by two-thirds and that's for the older retirees. New hires won't even be offered a guaranteed pension. Dupont will also no longer offer its retirees health care. And is Dupont being forced to do this because they are in financial trouble? Nope, they're just doing it because they can.

Even in little old Wabash County, the County Council decided to rescind its employees' longevity after this year. Longevity is a one-time annual payment based on salary and years of service to Wabash County, a sort of "loyalty bonus". For people with several years of seniority, losing their longevity will be a pay-cut even after whatever raise they may be given. It used to be that employees hung in with working for government because, though it normally didn't pay as well as the private sector, it usually offered job security and some other perks that made up for lower salaries, such as more holidays and longevity. But give-backs are the way of the world these days....

And as these give-backs happen, the cost of living continues to rise. Gas prices, as we all know too well, have soared. It costs more to send your kids to school - primary or secondary. My car insurance increased significantly this year although I've had no tickets or accidents. Food prices are up. So most employers are in the position of watching their employees sink economically but I guess they don't care. I wonder what they think the logical end to all this will be?

You'd think at least younger people would look for other jobs. I mean, the 4.7 percent unemployment rate is essentially considered "full employment" and that implies it should be an employee's market but we all know its not. Because that 4.7 rate is about as honest as a professional wrestling match. The game is rigged - Savage CEO is going to beat the stuffing out of Little Labor every time in the political environment as it currently exists.

If the 4.7 percent unemployment rate were accurate, would Wal-mart open a store near Chicago and having 325 job openings, call forth over 25,000 applicants? Are all these people dying to leave Ford and G.M. because they just think its so darn much fun to work at Walmart?

The Labor Department reports that for the first time since its been keeping records, the top fifth of Americans are receiving over half of all the nation's national income. That same top fifth owns 83 percent of all shares in the stock market and of that, 53 percent is owned by the top one percent! Incidentally (or maybe not incidentally), at the same time Dupont was slashing its employees' pensions, it increased the pension of its CEO to $2.1 million per year.

On the internet, they call us "the sheeple" because we are like sheep being led to market, unprotesting, accepting our lot in life as unchangeable. Maybe it is, but our forefathers didn't think so when they fought and died to create an American middle-class. The fact is that politics rules. We should ask every political candidate what their positions are on the issues that affect working people and vote only for those who give us acceptable answers. The only advantage we have is our numbers.