Views on politics and current events

Monday, December 18, 2006

The War Against Christmas...BAH HUMBUG!

The things associated with the holidays such as Christmas trees, lights, decorations, gifts, has been added to. Every year the 'War Against Christmas' crowd comes forth. I get emails like the following:

Dear Family & Friends,

This is a reminder that it is time to send those Christmas cards (NOT "season's greetings" or "happy holidays" but a Christmas card!) to the ACLU. Maybe this will remind them that this country was founded on Christain (sic) principles by Christain (sic) people, and that the silent majority is speaking out regarding OUR RIGHTS. It won't take long or cost very much, and who knows? It might get someone's attention!

Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004

So my random thoughts about the War On Christmas:

  • The ACLU has also defended the rights of Christians. Some examples can be read here, and the Internet has many more. While I do not agree with every case the ACLU takes on, for me it is a sign that our country is healthy that such an organization exists. The 'War Against The ACLU' is prompted by those who do not know the full story about what the ACLU stands for.
  • Protesting the ACLU in this manner is another indication that in this country, we all have the right to peacefully protest. But it seems to me that the spirit of the holiday, which some Christians feel is so in jeopardy, might be better served by sending Christmas cards to others that may not get any. Shut-ins, folks in nursing homes, hospitals. At the very least for every card sent to the ACLU there could be a card sent to someone all alone for the holidays.
  • For those who insist that this country was founded on Christian principles, I ask whose Christian principles? Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc.? With countless denominations and non-denominations that profess that they are Christian, there is a multitude of differences in belief. Perhaps a slightly better case could be made that the founding fathers believed in God, but even that is tenuous. I offer no examples. Those that wish to investigate can do so through many avenues, but I have a feeling those that are promoting the myth that this country is based on Christian values won't bother.
  • There is no one actively engaged in denying a Christian their right to express their beliefs. There is always much ado made over the displaying of nativity scenes on public and government property, for example. Whether this is truly a case of separation of church and state can be argued, and has been argued on both sides. But at least where I live, most of the decorations I see in people's yards and on their houses do not reflect any religious part of the holiday. If a person is so adamant about a nativity scene being rightly displayed at city hall, I would think there would be one in their yard also. The 'right' that many seem to think is being denied them is actually their preference for what they want.
  • There is no one denying a Christian's personal right to say Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays. If a business makes the decision to use 'Happy Holidays' instead of 'Merry Christmas', it is a decision made by the ones in charge. By all means a Christian can protest those decisions, but that decision has nothing to do with any perceived 'War On Christmas', and the Christian has the right to respond with a 'Merry Christmas' to whomever and wherever they want. Also, if an employee in a business is ordered to say 'Happy Holidays', is it a violation of their rights, or a condition of employment like any other company policy?
  • The term 'silent majority' is a misnomer. The evidence that Christmas is just as much a secular holiday as a religious one is obvious. Whether a person sees it as secular or religious is a matter of their own choice.
  • Some Christians lament the lack of observance for the 'reason for the season'. Of course that is their right. But I offer the Christmas season of 2005 up for an example. Christmas day fell on Sunday. Some churches, including fundamentalists where I live offered up no services that morning. It's a time for family, opening gifts, very few would attend services, the excuses were many. Christmas and Easter are the two most important Christian holidays, and it is incredible that because the 'birthday' of the one that the entire church is built on happens to fall on a Sunday, that services would be cancelled.
  • And a word for the extremists that want to eliminate any influence of religion on society: Ain't gonna happen. Religion, like it or not, in one form or another will always be a part of society. We can make sure that a certain religious belief does not become a weapon against ones that do not believe the same. To my mind, that is the purpose of the separation of church and state.
  • This is purely nit-picking, but I could not resist. Whomever wrote the email sent to me, if their objective is to promote the rights of Christians, really should learn how to spell CHRISTIAN.
So the War On Christmas is but another myth put forth by ones that wish us all to believe as they do, to toe the line. People like Bill O'Reilly, the king of the no-spin zone. Christmas has become a secular as well as a religious holiday. Whether someone wishes me Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Ramadan, whatever, they are wishing me well. I am not about to scold them for not saying specifically what I wish to hear. Honestly wishing someone well is becoming a rare thing. Far be it from me to complain when it happens to me.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A New Year Letter To Congress

I await the New Year and the meeting of the new congress with great interest. Now that the playing field has been leveled somewhat, with Democrats having a slight majority, expectations from myself and the country in general are high.

In my opinion, the number one priority is Iraq. In addition to the horrendous loss of life and destruction, there has been billions and billions of dollars spent on Iraq. The recent documentary ‘Iraq For Sale’ shows where much of that money has gone. So many actions done in Iraq are not done by our military, but ‘defense contractors’. For reasons I will never understand, the outsourcing of traditionally military obligations to defense contractors are looked upon as being more efficient and less costly. The monies spent in Iraq show the fallacy of that belief.

With contractors such as Halliburton and Blackwater, to name but a few, the U.S. Government is in essence supporting mercenary forces. Not forces under direct control of civilian authority as our military, but forces that are controlled solely by business executives whose primary concern is profit. Profit motive, when applied to armed conflict does not serve the best interest of our country. Blackwater alone has seen an increase in profit of 600% from 2002. Indeed, approximately 30 miles from where I live in Mt. Carroll there is being built Blackwater North. A facility that, despite what Blackwater’s website says, is a private army military training base.

I urge the new congress to re-open the investigations of war profiteering. With so much money being squandered in Iraq, there is no way that anything can be done regarding affordable health care for all, assured funding of Social Security, education, and the other issues that need addressing. The war in Iraq and the subsequent occupation is bleeding this nation white. The revelation that defense contractors are making huge profits at the cost of human life and the welfare of citizens is absolutely criminal.

I agree with Gov. Howard Dean when he says that the recent election results are not a mandate, but a temporary giving of power. Rest assured, if the new congress does not perform any better than the preceding one, that loan of power will indeed be temporary, and short.

The issues that need addressing are varied and wide. With so many years of neo-conservative control, I fear it will take some time to correct the damage that has been done. But in the two years before another major national election, the Democrats need to show that they not only recognize what needs to be done, but put forth legislation to actually address those issues. If this is not done, it will not bode well for the Democratic Party. But more importantly, it will not bode well for the nation.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Iraq For Sale...A Most Disturbing Documentary

To wage a war, whether in antiquity or the modern world, takes money. Money to equip and pay troops, for the weapons of war, and for many other things. There are those that profit politically and economically from war. The documentary Iraq For Sale lays the current war profiteers bare for all to see. The video can be found here, for viewing online or downloading.

Some of the things featured on the video:

  • Much of the actual diplomatic security in Iraq is done by outside contractors, not the U.S. military.
  • There are many military personnel that do not re-enlist because they can work for one of the contractors at a greater rate of pay. What a soldier makes in one month is surpassed by what he can make as a contracted employee in a week. There are representatives from these contracting firms that actually are in Iraq and actively 'recruit' soldiers out of the military and into their company. A contractor can make more money in a week, doing the same job, as a soldier makes in a month.
  • Civilian contract workers are routinely put into harm's way unnecessarily. There are interviews with former contract employees that desribe this in gruesome detail.
  • Contractors are in charge of doing military personnel laundry. They use small net bags that laundry is put into and washed. The fee for this service? $99 a bag. There is an interview with an Army Seargent where he says that his clothes don't get clean in the washers, so he washed his own in a sink. He was reprimanded and given an order that he was not to do this. All clothes must be washed by the contractor.
  • Most mess halls are run by contractors. These contractors keep strict schedules oftimes for meals. The insurgents have figured out when these times are, and take advantage of the long lines of soldiers to attack. When this was pointed out to the contractors and a request was made by the military to stagger the meal times to avoid this, the contractors refused, as that would be less cost-effective.
  • Contractors provide many vehicles, such as tanker trucks. The cost of these is around $75,000. When a truck needs repair, or even gets a flat tire, there are no spare parts. The vehicle is subsequently of no use, and is burned to avoid theft by the insurgents. It is then replaced by a new vehicle.
And that's just a few instances. Every American, regardless of their position on the issue of Iraq, should see this documentary. This is what much of the taxpayer's money is really going towards: The gaining of obscene economic benefit by war profiteering corporations, with the cooperation of our government, at the cost of human lives. Support the troops? Indeed!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Random Thoughts On The Aftermath Of Election '06

With Democrats having a majority now in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, the American electorate has spoken. It tends to happen that congress switches controlling parties, many times congress switches to the opposite party of the sitting adminstration. This in itself can be looked upon as evidence that the American electorate prefers a division of power between the parties. And is most evident in this current election result after six years of one party controlling two branches of government.

So now the question is, what does this mean? After one of the greatest do-nothing congresses in American history, does the shift of power mean that finally some much-needed legislation will be forthcoming from the new congress? Being a born-again skeptic, the best I can be is cautiously optimistic. Some reasons for that optimism:

  • The 'resignation' (more like a boot out the door) of Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. Rumsfeld in my opinion, along with Vice-President Cheney is one of the torch-bearers of neoconservatism. In one move, President Bush has removed one torch-bearer, and gone against the influence of another. Perhaps for the first time in his presidency, Bush made a decision that is counter to an ideology that was taking this country down the road to fascism. Some analysts have taken this to be the death-knell of neoconservatism. Time will tell if that is a fact. If it indeed is a fact, everyone in this country, including conservatives, should celebrate. Neoconservatism has been the wolf in sheep's clothing, for there is nothing 'neo' (meaning new) or 'conservative' about it. It is but a reclothing of undue corporate influence in government, erosion of freedom, militarism, and power-mongering.
  • The President's jab at Karl Rove. Asked about an apparent 'book reading contest' between Bush and Rove, Bush replied that since he was busy campaigning, Rove had more time to read. This may not look like much, but as Rove is also a torch-bearer of neoconservatism, it was significant, and it implied that Rove didn't 'come through' this time. Rove's predictions of Republican victory in the election did not hold true. Has Bush finally seen the writing on the wall?
  • The President's agreement that comprehensive immigration legislation will be easier to accomplish with a Democratic congress. For a Republican president to say any legislation would be easier to arrive at with the opposition party in power is huge.
  • Bush's 'We took a thumpin' statement. Actually, what he said was a 'collective thumpin'. Admitting that many of the races were close, collectively it was a thumpin'. Perhaps Bush realizes that he has to work with the opposition? Time will tell.
  • Absence of much of Bush's previous swagger and arrogance. Have the neoconservative ideologues' failure to 'bring home the bacon' in this election caused the President to feel a loss of power? Again, perhaps. Again, time will tell.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that I am now a full supporter of Bush. He has been the President after all, and has either gone along with the neoconservatives out of personal conviction or convenience. Either way, Bush still has much to atone for in my book. And this one press conference could have been an anomoly for an otherwise arrogant President. But with power comes arrogance, and without control of congress perhaps that arrogance will be stifled.

The liberal/progressive community has had a long dry spell. The Republican-controlled congress and executive branch have accomplished very little, if anything, constructive for the country as a whole. The dry spell is over. The Democrats now are in a position to lead instead of being led. Hope springs eternal.

I sincerely hope that the Democrats use their power for the constructive solving of issues, that they leave room for compromise where there is an opportunity for compromise. And let's not go off on the use of the word 'compromise'. Compromising can only be done when there is room for compromise. I am not suggesting that Democrats need to kow-tow to anyone or sacrifice basic liberal/progressive beliefs. Not every issue is compromisable to be sure.

I would hope that the Democrats will offer a hand to the opposition, realize that a loyal opposition is vital to the working of our government, work towards changing the incredible nastiness that the Republican majority have injected into politics. It may be a tall order, after so many years of being in the minority, to not lapse into the same rut of power politics and vindictiveness. We have seen how the opposite side of the political fence operates, and it was not good for anyone. It will not be good for anyone if the Democrats do the same.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

I'm A Bradult Too?

A blogger with some definite opinions about your truly. The original post can be found here. I include the original post in plain text, my reply is in italics:

No one in America should feel more blessed by the Warhol syndrome – our 15 minutes of undeserved fame – than Alan Beggerow. You might remember Mr. Beggerow from his front page appearance in the July 31, 2006 edition of the New York Times (Times Select subscription required). The article’s title is, “Men Not Working, And Not Wanting Just Any Job.”

Blessed? Do you think I agreed to the Times interview to promote myself, or out of some sense of ego? No, I was approached to do the interview and I have some definite feelings about the changed workplace. That was my motivation. 15 minutes of fame, or a lifetime of anonymity are all the same to me.

The Times, attempting to portray a growing underclass of unemployed workers victimized by compassionless big business, made Beggerow its poster boy. Having worked for 30 years as a union steelworker, Mr. Beggerow found himself, at age 53, unemployed, his mill closed. But instead of finding another job, any job, to put food on his table, Beggerow used his layoff as an excuse to retire to a life of unproductive leisure.

Are you certain that my life is full of ‘unproductive leisure’? You seem to know a lot of my daily activities by reading a short article and a short TV interview.

While one’s initial reaction to Beggerow might be sympathy, what is revealed in the NYT article is a level of personal immaturity best described as self-determined emotional adolescence. Listen to his adolescent-like irresponsibility as he defends his refusal to pursue a mature course in life.

So, after 30 years of working 10-12 hrs a day, swing shift, in a steel mill in NW Illinois, I am now considered immature and irresponsible because I have chosen to live on a shoestring and accept retirement because of the present situation within the workplace? As for sympathy, I have no need of yours or anyone elses. There’s a lot of folks in worse shape than me.

''I have come to realize that my free time is worth a lot to me,'' he said. To make ends meet, he has tapped the equity in his home through a $30,000 second mortgage, and he is drawing down the family's savings, at the rate of $7,500 a year. About $60,000 is left. His wife's income helps them scrape by. ''If things really get tight,'' Mr. Beggerow said, ''I might have to take a low-wage job, but I don't want to do that.''

In an accompanying audio interview on the NYT web site, Beggerow says he saw a want ad for a full-time graphic designer at a local newspaper and it interested him. He even said he was qualified. But then he confessed that the job wouldn’t afford him the creative free time to which he had become addicted. So he chose not to pursue the job opportunity.

My free time is very valuable to me. What is so heinous about saying that? It makes no difference any more how valuable my time is to anyone else. I have spent 30 years working very hard. I exchanged those years for wages and benefits. I now choose to make my way differently.

Last Friday ABC-TV’s 20/20 gave Mr. Beggerow an extension on his 15 minutes of fame, featuring him on a segment about laziness. Again, as he did with the NYT, Beggerow proclaimed himself the renaissance man who has made the mature decision to pursue quality of life instead of materialism brought by earned income. For this we are supposed to applaud him. Reality? Alan Beggerow is a bradult; an adult brat. At age 53 he embodies all the classic signs of an adolescent.

Keep your applause for ones you deem worthy of it. I have no use for it. As for your accusation on adolescent behavior and your term bradult, you are entitled to your opinion on that. This quote from your profile “The lessons about human nature that Ron learned from these youth provide him with the principles he shares with corporations worldwide. His expertise is on the role that employee behavior plays in work team dynamics, particularly people interaction.” Makes me wonder how much about adult human nature you are aware of. I worked as a problem solving team facilitator and coordinator the last 3 years in the mill, worked directly with over 50 teams. While I have no degree or diploma,I had a world of experience in those three years, and 27 years in the plant, to know that most people that have spent most of their lives working for a living are not adolescents. Perhaps if you had the actual work experience I have, you would see things differently.

Sociologists define adolescence as the pursuit of two questions: “Who am I?,” and, “Who will I be?” Men like Mr. Beggerow beg that a third question be added: “When will I be?” Clearly, he has not grown past emotional adolescence because he’s still seeking answers to the fundamental questions asked by them.

Again, because I have chosen a different path because of workplace changes I do not agree with, I am immature? I have not answered the essential questions as defined by you? Actually, I have answered those questions, but I doubt you would understand or agree.

The immaturity of adolescents is characterized, among other things, by unrealistic expectations of what is due them, postponement of long term good for temporal fulfillment, and irrational thinking designed to excuse the pursuit of responsible behavior.

I worked 30 years in a steel mill, so my pension is an unrealistic expectation? I saved what money I could, and these funds are assisting my chosen lifestyle. Is that an unrealistic expectation? I paid into SS for over 30 years, and when I reach the qualifying age, is it an unreasonable expectation to think I should receive the benefit?

Welcome to the world of Mr. Beggerow, adult adolescent. He should be ashamed. One day, perhaps soon, when his financial resources run out and he finds it too late to get a job, he will become a burden to society. The 15 minutes of fame he now proudly possesses will turn into a till death load to the taxpayer.

I have no need to feel any shame for what I have done, what I have worked for, and what I think I am entitled to. My wife and I live very frugally to preserve our funds as long as possible. It is already too late for me to get many jobs due to my age, previous union affiliation, and various physical problems I have. If you really understood the plight of worn out laborers of my age, you might understand that. So go ahead and pat yourself on the back for being ‘productive’, and label me a burden to society. Make your remarks about 15 minutes of fame that is inconsequential, and worry about the poor taxpayers that will have to take care of me til death. You have no understanding of the situation, you have but extended the myths that the NY Times article was investigating, and you are perpetuating the ‘Great American Work Ethic’ of a bygone era. For many, that work ethic no longer applies because of globalisation, poor economy, etc.

If you’re interested in actually learning about me further, here is a link to a post on my blog:Random Thoughts. I invite you to explore other things I have written there that may give you further insight. That is, if you’re interested. If you’ve already made up your mind about me, by all means don’t bother.

The Bradult,

Alan Beggerow

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Some Random Thoughts About Internet Message Boards

I will be specific. I'm talking about message boards that espouse liberal/progressive views. I have posted on the following five boards within the past three years:

  1. Randi Rhodes Message Board.
  2. Mike Malloy Message Board.
  3. Liberal Posters Union Message Board.
  4. Air America Radio Message Baord.
  5. Unfiltered News Network Message Board.
Being boards of the progressive/liberal persuasion, it would be a reasonable assumption that these boards would promote open and honest discussion, opinions stated with passion and conviction, acceptance of differing views, and a minimum of personal attack. But the reality is quite to the contrary, to my mind. So much for a reasonable assumption.

The common thread with these five boards has been what is called in internet language 'board meltdowns'. The inevitable conflict that arises between human beings, instead of being managed by posters, moderators and administrators with compassion and calmness, has been allowed to run rampant. And it is the doings of a group of people, a relatively small group of people, that migrate from board to board like a band of vandals. Their only concern is with being right, having the last word, and the verbal abuse of others. So many times when a good discussion is in progress, these vandals invade the topic with their own special 'style' of harrasment, intimidation, spin, closed mindedness, and intolerance.

If these vandals were only topic invaders spouting nasty comments, it would be one thing. But it usually is reduced to personal nastiness. Humans being what they are, often times the drama slops over to otherwise decent posters that have a need to defend the ones being ganged up on, or they just plain get tired of the verbal abuse. Some observations:

  • These vandals are board-hoppers. Not all board-hoppers are vandals to be sure, but every vandal I've noticed has been one. After creating so much chaos, either the vandals are banned outright and can no longer post, or the drama dies down to a level where they no longer are having their 'fun'. On all five message boards mentioned, these vandals have participated. They sow their seeds of destruction, and then move on.
  • These vandals tend to endlessly quote previous messages, sometimes creating a long line of quotes, only to have their actual response being a short, one-line personal jab at someone. The really good ones sometimes have one word responses.
  • These vandals also tend to have tremendously high post counts. Not all high post count people are vandals, but vandals usually do. Their objective must be quantity of responses instead of quality, for seldom does the vandal bother with a post of substance. (See previous bullet point).
  • These vandals are not stupid. On the contrary, many are very intelligent. They also instinctively know which buttons to push. Some take it as a personal challenge to try and push the buttons of an otherwise decent poster. It takes a great deal of willpower to not be suckered in by them, for they are very good at what they do.
  • The vandals are also really good at creating other vandals. Posters go over to the dark side of vandal behavior for many reasons, with self-defense as the most common reason. But for those that go over to the dark side far enough to agree with a vandal, don't be fooled. You can only agree wtih a vandal for a very limited amount of time. Then they will turn on you. A true vandal is a lone parasite that doesn't desire anyone on their side. And the truth be known, they can't have anyone on their side. Each individual vandal already knows it all, and is the one that is always right. There can't be TWO people that know it all.
  • And what if a 'normal' poster calls a vandal on their behavior? You will see righteous indignation like you've never seen before. You will see a spin job that would make Bill O'Reilly green with envy. All of a sudden the vandal becomes the persecuted. The vandal accuses the normal poster of all the things that the vandal does themselves. A classic case of 'NOW who's the vandal?' The vandal's remarks are so hypocritical, fantastically fabricated, so completely over the top, that it can boggle the mind. And that is their purpose. There's nothing anyone can say to a vandal that will convince them of anything pertaining to their behavoir. They lack the ability of self-awareness, thus also lack empathy for anyone else.
  • Not all those who believe in free speech are vandals, but most vandals are. But it is a specific form of free speech. That is, free speech without any responsibility for what is being said. Free speech to a vandal means the right to call anyone anything they so choose. If the person takes offense, then the vandal counters that the offended is a wimp, or that the offended wants to deny them their right of free speech.
  • I am going out on a limb here to make a value judgement: Vandals are in essence cowards. They hide behind the cloak of internet anonymity to spout their malicious words. How would a vandal react in a face to face conversation? Would they be nearly as nasty? Interesting to think about.
Why do vandals act as they do? At the risk of sounding like an outhouse psychologist, perhaps it is an indication of low self-esteem that drives them to prop up their own fragile egos by trying to bring others down. But I do know that the very tactics and actions that the progressive/liberal vandal uses mirror those of their avowed opposition: The ultra-conservatives. And those actions time and time again force the administrators of message boards to act in ways that no one in the progressive/liberal community agrees with.

So whatever motivates a vandal to act as they do, the end results are high levels of conflict, in-house fighting, civil discourse being ground to a halt. Among the boards mentioned, there's only one where there is any kind of 'push' to deal with the vandals besides outright banishment. That is the Unfiltered News Network board. There are enough posters that have seen the vandals in action that want to do something about it. The discussion is happening right now. Of course, the vandals are obstructing this 'push' with their usual tactics. But enough posters have had a belly-full of such behavior that as a community they demand that something be done. What that 'something' is, is not exactly known. But decisions will be made. The dynamic of the board, the true dynamic of progressive/liberal thought and action, in my opinion will at least make an honest attempt at making the message board a place for civil, and yes sometimes quite impassioned, discussion. The parasitic vandals will be shaken off of the 'host'. Where they end ujp is strictly up to them. Enough folks realize that to continue to tolerate the parasites will bring about the ruination of the board itself, and enough folks do not want that to happen.

Gee, sounds like the progressive/liberal struggle against the current ultra-conservative war mongers, doesn't it?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Fascism Doesn't Apply To Our Current Enemies

A great letter in the local newspaper that debunks the term 'Islamo-fascist".


In recent weeks, the cheerleaders who would like us to believe that the occupation of Iraq is part of the greater war on terror have been inaccurately referring to our Islamic fundamentalist enemies as 'Islamo-fascists', a new word in our lexicon.

While it is all too true that we are fighting fanatical Islamic fundamentalists in this 'war on terror', fascism is not really the term that would best apply. Benito Mussolini, the founder of Italy's Fascist Party, defined fascism as "Corporatism, for it is the marriage of government and corporations." We should consider Mussolini an expert on the subject.

Unless al-Qaida has started taking money from Exxon, Nike and McDonald's, fascism would not, therefore, appear to apply to our current enemies.

Maybe we should stick to the old word that referred to religious nuts - theocrats. Personally, I didn't have a problem referring to our foes as Islamic fundamentalists.

We can only assume that those who chose to re-cast our enemies into the shape of yesterdays' enemies are either ignorant of what fascism is, or are purposefully using the word as a distraction -- "we can't be the fascists if they are the fascists."

You see, besides fanaticism, some of the hallmarks of fascism are torture, pre-emptive and perpetual war, and domestic spying -- and of course, a cozy relationship between government and corporations.

That would best describe our current government.

Del Wasso
Freeport, IL

Friday, October 13, 2006

Appearing On National Television? Big Deal!

I was at the local gas station the day after I appeared on ABC 20/20. I go down there most every day, buy a soda pop and shoot the breeze for awhile with folks. A man walked in, looked at me and did a double take. He got what he came in for, and as he checked out he looked at me again and said, "Hey, didn't I see you last night on TV?"
"You got a rotten tomato in your hand?" I replied.
He got a funny look on his face and said, ""
"Then yeah, I'm the guy you saw on TV last night."
He didn't seem to get my attempt at humor. "Wow, that was really something, seeing someone from Rock Falls on national TV," he said. He seemed to be genuinely impressed.
"What did you think of the show?" I asked.
"Oh hell, I was sitting in my chair half asleep when I heard 'Rock Falls'. I woke right up," he said. "I've never seen anyone from Rock Falls on TV before."
"But what did you think of the show?" I asked again.
"Damn, I don't even remember what it was about. Soon as your part was done, I fell back asleep," he said as he chuckled. "But man, I never saw anyone on TV from Rock Falls before. Can I have your autograph?"
I laughed and said, "You must be joking...aren't you?"
The look on his face assured me he was not. "No, I'm serious," he said as he fumbled in his pocket for a piece of paper and a pen.
"Well, I gotta tell you, since I don't know you and I'm such a celebrity, it'll cost ya five bucks. But that's just for my signature. If you want a personal greeting too, it'll be two bucks extra," I said with my tongue planted firmly in cheek.
"Man, everybody's out to make a buck!" he said as he walked out the door. "To hell with that!"

Since then I've had a few more people recognize me, and believe it or not, a couple more requests for my autograph. Granted, most of those requests were from folks that I know. But two were from folks I never saw before. I offered the same deal to all of them that I did to the fellow in the gas station, but to date I have not had anyone accept my offer. So much for fame AND fortune.

I've been on local TV a couple of times, in the Chicago Tribune newspaper, on the Tucker show, and now ABC 20/20. All of these appearances have been about working people in one way or another. It is an issue that I lived through as a steelworker for 30 years, and an issue that is still very close to my heart. The workforce in this country continues to take it on the chin, and if there is anything I can do to bring this before the public, I'll do it. I do it not out of an over-inflated sense of ego, but to attempt to tell the other side. A side that is being ignored and swept under the rug by this administration and the main stream media.

It's seldom that an ordinary citizen like myself gets an opportunity to state their opinion. And like I tell folks, I'm not stuck up, I'll talk to anybody. So when people ask me why I do it, I answer 'why not?' Too bad that others don't speak out about this issue and so many others in this country. I understand to a certain extent why they do not. But without the voice of the public being heard, nothing will change. Not to be too hifalutin about it, but I do consider it a responsibility and duty to be vocal.

So it isn't about me. It is about the issues that need to be talked about. I write letters to the editor of the local newspaper, and I've found out how many folks read them. And my purpose with all of that is to not to try and change anyone's mind, but to perhaps give them a different viewpoint, help them to think the issue through so they can make up their own minds.

So being on television may be a momentary ego booster, but it never lasts with me. I'll never get used to seeing my big old punkin head on television anyway. It is the message that matters, and my two experiences with the main stream media has shown that the message can be edited to suit whoever for whatever purpose. So being on TV? No big deal. I am not impressed.

A Powerful Essay by Charles Sullivan

The Assassins of Truth
By Charles Sullivan

It is evident to me that the United States government believes that any individual or group of people that works to prevent it from implementing its agenda are terrorists. Furthermore, I contend that the government's plan is not the people's agenda; but some of us will be required to sacrifice our lives in order to help them execute their ill, and all of us will be
required to sacrifice our freedoms.

I also contend that the government overwhelmingly represents the interests of wealth and power; that its strength is derived from corporate bribes, rather than from grass roots populist support; that it exists to execute a Plutocratic agenda of world domination, while neglecting the needs of the overwhelming majority of the people.

I charge that the government is engaged in immoral and criminal conduct on a global scale. That it does not conform to the norms of civil society; that it is sociopathic, and flagrantly violates domestic and international law. The form of government that we have does not serve the citizenry -- it preys upon them. It is not a government of the people, for the people. It is
government of the corporations, for the corporations, by the corporations -- a corporate Plutocracy.

The sole purpose of Plutocratic government is to spread the gospel of free market economics and privatized wealth, and to extend the hegemony of capitalism to every corner of the earth. Its god is the almighty dollar. Championed by right wing extremists, it is equally endorsed by cowering neo-liberals in Congress. Its funding is derived from corporate sources and extorted tax contributions from the citizenry.

I contend that the government routinely breaches the Constitution and the
Bill of Rights that it was sworn to uphold; and that it circumvents domestic
law through the frequent use of presidential signing statements that
effectively render civil law null and void. The recent passage of the
Military Commissions Acts that resulted in the suspension of habeas corpus,
passed into law with the aide of fourteen Democrats, is beyond onerous -- it
is morally vacuous and criminal.

The executive branch of the government, in particular, has run amok; it disdains the daily struggles of ordinary citizens, and is engaged in class warfare against its own, and the world's working people. It conducts terrorist attacks on its own citizens, and against civilians abroad.

It is widely known abroad that the U.S. government is practicing extraordinary rendition in order to torture, maim, and kill its suspected enemies; it imprisons innocent people all over the world indefinitely, without due process and without charging them with any crime.

We bear witness to the crimes of a rogue government that invades sovereign nations, bombs their cities into piles of rubble, murders with impunity, imposes harsh economic sanctions, denies women and children life saving medical treatment, and steals their oil and mineral wealth. Hypocritically, it calls those who resist occupation, terrorists.

I further contend that the government is engaged in a campaign of unlawfully monitoring the communications of its citizens, including the infiltration of Quaker religious orders that preach doctrines of peace over those of war, and is increasingly stifling free speech and the right of peaceful assembly. Our hard won civil liberties are giving way to an emerging police state. The
prying eyes of paranoid government are everywhere.

Thus we are left with an illicit government that routinely commits crimes against humanity under the pretense of executing a war on terror. To its eternal shame, it has unleashed the National Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Pentagon upon its own citizens without just cause. These agencies are monitoring our
computers, tapping our phones, and tracking our movements not to protect America from terrorists, but to protect the Plutocracy from those who would expose it.

What does it say about a government when those who uphold the Constitution and the rule of law are targeted as enemies of the state or as terrorists? Is this what Thomas Jefferson and the framers of the constitution intended?

The assassins of truth have the audacity to feign faith in god while daily committing unholy acts of terror against peace loving people at home and abroad. With the deftness of a public relations firm, they are using religion as a weapon against a guileless flock that blithely follows its every command, even as it leads them to the slaughter of an Armageddon of its own creation.

By these acts and worse, the U.S. government defines Democracy. It has been empowered to do so by Republicans and Democrats alike.

I hereby assert that the hidden purpose of the U.S. government is not to serve the needs of the people or to make the world free and democratic, as it so boldly claims; it is to accrue ever more wealth to the obscenely rich, the global elite. Its intent is to do to the U.S. what it has done to Iraq; to revoke the Constitution and the rule of law; to bankrupt the federaltreasury and to privatize everything that is publicly owned. Ultimately, its objective is to pursue the religion of unregulated free market capitalism, and to establish global corporate rule.

It seems to me that any government that does not serve the people and treats those who uphold the Constitution as terrorists is not a Democracy; and we should refrain from calling it by that name. Governmental power that is not derived from, and subservient to the people, is illegitimate -- a form of authoritarian dictatorship as vile as Communism.

When an institution that was purportedly created to serve the needs of the people is no longer accountable to the people, and operates in secrecy, we can be sure that sinister powers are in motion. Those responsible are not only obscuring truth and revising history; they are knowingly and willfully assassinating truth, and mocking the very idea of Democracy.

Government that is controlled by capital, rather than a moral imperative to serve the public good, is a danger to the world. Such government is not only misguided and inherently unjust; it is hostile to Democracy and opposed to peace.

A government of the people would have a very different agenda than a Plutocratic regime. It would provide no cost health care to its citizens, free higher education to anyone who wants it; and it would not squander the federal treasury on unprovoked war that will not end in our lifetimes. Such a government would not overthrow democratically elected governments abroad.
Nor would it throw its support behind terrorist states like Israel, and it would not finance brutal dictatorships like Saddam Hussein and Augusto Pinochet, as has been the history of the American government.

Democracies do not betray its citizens by outsourcing jobs to sweat shops in other parts of the world in order to maximize corporate profits and to drive down wages. They do not wage war on sovereign nations based upon lies and innuendo; they do not occupy other countries, and they do not plan additional wars and occupations at the behest of corporate lobbyists against
nations that pose no threat to them.

Democracies do not sentence their youth to fight and die under false pretenses in order to open sovereign nations to corporate plunder and capitalism.

Plutocracy, I contend, is the outgrowth of the capitalist system that values private profits above all else. Under this sickly paradigm people are dehumanized; reduced to mere commodities on a par with a lump of coal or a pool of oil. It is a system that knows the price of everything but the value of nothing; and it is driven by insatiable greed.

Democracies derive their power from the people, all people being equal, and the distribution of wealth being equal. Plutocracies derive their power from the private ownership of immense wealth and property that represents a small percentage of the aggregate population. In the capitalist system, only those with wealth and property have legal standing and representation in
government. All others are second-class citizens with second-class rights and subservient to the Plutocracy. It is about time that we learn the difference.

Charles Sullivan is a photographer, freelance writer, and social activist residing in the hinterland of West Virginia.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


The broadcast of ABC's 20/20 on October 6th was part of an ongoing series on the 7 deadly sins. The theme of this program was 'Sloth'.

I was a part of that program. A 4-man camera crew, a producer and an interviewer were at my house for 6 hours. They interviewed me for 2 hours, my wife for 1 hour, took extensive footage of various activities we do. The result? There was none of my wife's interview used, and about 2 minutes of my interview used which was interspersed with a story about a 12-year college student whooping it up. As far as the 12-year college student? We all have our lives to live as we see fit, the 'American Work Ethic' be damned. Most of the segment about him focused on his 'good time Charlie' attitude, with but a very short section that told how he plays guitar in a band for money, and that he has a hollywood agent. The implication was of course that he's a bum. Seems to me he's paying his own way, so who cares if he has a life filled with good times?

I was misled as to the premise of the show itself. As the interview took place two weeks before broadcast, the premise of the show was already set. If I knew that the show was to be about 'Sloth', I would not have agreed to the interview. My understanding was that the interview was to be used to inform people that I have chosen retirement over the current workplace, and what has forced me to make that decision. When the interview questioned me as to why I don't 'flip burgers' at a fast-food restaurant, the only footage used was my comment "I don't want to flip burgers". Whomever edited the footage decided not to use what I said prior to that comment. That because of age discrimination and the fact that I am a former union member, the chances I would be hired are practically nil.

It is not out of ego or any sense of being-on-television-euphoria that I complain. I don't care about any notoriety. It is that I was mis-led, that the program did nothing but reinforce an 'American Work Ethic' that on the surface means that you must work hard, work long hours, live the American dream. But dig into this ethic a little deeper. Here is what I see:

  • If you are of the working class, you must work. Whether the work you find pays your bills or suits your needs doesn't matter. To avoid the 'sin' of sloth, you MUST work.
  • If you are of the working class, realize that you owe the wealthy a debt of gratitude for giving you the opportunity to work. Without them, you are even less than you already are.
  • If you are of the working class and want to improve your lot in life, there will be many barriers. And rightly so. There's nothing more disgusting than someone that does not 'know their place'. It can be done, but it's mighty difficult to improve your lot in life when most of your time is taken up by working at jobs that only provide you with a subsistance existence. But don't complain. Remember, you are the burden of the wealthy, and be grateful.
  • If you are of the working class and lose your job, understand that it is your fault. Entirely. You did not work hard enough, weren't loyal enough.
  • If you are of the working class and can't find a decent paying job, that's your fault too. You aren't smart enough, ambitious enough, worthy enough. Your labor is just another market commodity, and if the market deems your labor not worthy of a decent wage, it must be true. And if you used to work in a decent paying union job, forget it. The unions were the cause of plant closings because they were too powerful and demanded wages and benefits beyond the true value of labor.
  • If you are of the working class and don't work? There is a special place for you in hell. You will be thrown into a pit of snakes, so sayeth the Lord.
The 20/20 interview was an interesting experience. The technical crew was very professional and courteous. They worked non-stop the entire time, and transformed my front porch and most of the house into a television studio. The producer and interviewer were also courteous, but less than honest in their intentions. The bottom line is that whenever you deal with a show such as 20/20, you are at the mercy of the executives of the show, the editors of the footage, and of the actual premise of the show that is not honestly discussed beforehand.

I will give them credit for teaching me some things about the sloth (the animal) that I didn't know. But the rest of the show was a waste of time. As for the plight of labor in this country, ABC 20/20 has shown that all they are interested in is the perpetuation of the 'American Work Ethic' in a futile attempt at improving their ratings. If the show broadcast on October 6th is any indication, their ratings will continue to go in the tank. And deservedly so.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Old Work Ethic, The New Reality

If you work hard, are loyal to your employer, budget your money wisely, and save all the money you can, you will be able to retire and live out your senior years in relative comfort.

In a nutshell, that is the work ethic that was taught to me and most others in my generation. It is a good work ethic, one that I followed for 30 years of labor in a steel mill. It was applicable during the 1950's, 1960's, 1970's, and started unraveling in the 1980's, approximately. The unraveling continues. The Old Work Ethic no longer applies to many.

The economy has changed due to globalisation and many other factors. Loyalty to an employer is still stressed by some, but there is no loyalty returned from the empoyer to the employee. There are more and more people that have to budget money drastically just to lead a subsistent life. There is no spare money for most people to save. Many never get the opportunity to work at a job with decent pay. The plight of blue collar labor and more and more white collar labor is either to be forced to work until you physically can't work any more, or if you do happen to lose a well paying job, it must be your fault and thus you are not a very good prospect to be rehired. In either case, the workplace casts you out like a worn-out machine, and your life gets even worse.

But the Old Work Ethic continues, and is even quite vigorously supported. Sometimes by the very folks that are affected the most by its inapplicability. I have seen the result of the New Reality. Not only in an economic sense, but in a psychological sense. For the Old Ethic implied that if you did not work, you were not a productive member of society. If you worked at a low paying job, you weren't hard-working enough, or smart enough, or ambitious enough to better yourself. And that if you lost a job, it was your fault. Despite the continuing promulgation of these ethics, I do not believe this holds true for all of the millions of people out of work or working at low paying jobs with no benefits.

Until the people affected the most by this Old Work Ethic realize that it no longer applies, it will indeed continue. It needs to be examined, discussed, debated. It is my belief that until these things happen, and that awareness of the issue is increased, labor will continue to falter, politicians will continue to create legislation that benefits the already wealthy minority, employers will treat employees worse than a machine. In the long haul, the very core of what makes The United States great will continue to lose ground. The demise of this country will not come about militarily. It will come about economically. The beginning of that demise has already begun with the minimization of the value of labor in real and intrinsic terms.

A Letter To The Editor, And My Reply

The area where I live has a large Hispanic community, and for longer than I can remember there has been a Mexican Fiesta Day celebration and parade every September. The community supports these festivities, and a large crowd always gathers for the parade. The local peace group has had a float in the parade for the past five years. Following is a letter written to the local newspaper by a Sergeant in the Army after witnessing the parade, and my reply:

Saddended By The Crowd's Cheers For Anti-War Parade Marchers


On Sept. 16th, I had the misfortune of being offended as both soldier and an American at the Fiesta Parade.

As the Color Guard passed, those who stood in support of the American flag could be counted on one hand. I consoled myself that perhaps my fellow citizens were simply ignorant of this centuries-old act of respect for Old Glory. But when the crowd rose to its feet in celebratory glee for the anti-war protesters, I felt a wave of shame and the sting of insult to myself and all that have served in the Armed Forces.

I wonder whether this was the protesters' first march in favor of fascism because, make no mistake, to march against the war is a public statement of "I wish we had never toppled the regimes of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban." It is a public affirmation - indeed, a public longing for - state sponsored rape rooms for political prisoners, mass genocide, "honor' killings, and the illegality of women in schools, at work or out of stifling burkas.

With dogmatic insistency, protesters evoke the reliable standby, "I oppose the war, but support the troops." I wonder, then, why I never see or hear of these protesters marching in pro-troop rallies? Why can they never be spotted at airports welcoming home soldiers back from the third world hell that we are trying to free?

Those at the Fiesta Parade and around the nation who stood in support of homocidal Islamofascism can be called ignorant, little more than the frenzied throngs of Orwell's 1984 shouting their "minute of hate' - but those who actively marched are guilty of inciting that hate, not for the evil that plagues the world, but for the men and women of the military who fight evil.

B. R. Tompkins, First Sergeant, United States Army

My reply to First Sgt. Tompkins:


  • The peace group’s float represented opposition to the foreign policies of this administration, not to those who faithfully carry out orders. I have seen no disrespect shown for anyone in the military, nor would it be tolerated within the group.
  • The word fascist is used far too often by one group that does not agree with another group. This goes for pro-war, anti-war, liberal, conservative. It is an attempt to demonize the opposition at the expense of any kind of dialogue.
  • The local peace group as a group has donated items for our soldiers in Iraq. Most have also done so as individuals. We have worked towards trying to reverse the cuts in veteran’s benefits. We recognize the immense debt this country owes to our military, and believe that if they are asked to fight in a war, regardless of whether we agree or disagree with administrative policy, they should be duly compensated and cared for. There is much more to showing concern for our troops than having a yellow ribbon magnet attached to your car.
  • I agree it is a sad state of affairs when a color guard receives less accolades than a peace float, but I do not look upon it as disrespect so much as disenchantment with foreign policy. It would be wise for this administration to take these opinions in consideration.
  • You have every right to call the promoters of peace anything you wish. But there are veterans within the local peace group, and people with family members serving in Iraq that are members also. There are an increasing number of retired and active military people that oppose current foreign policy. Are all of these people that have first-hand military experience to be accused of such things also?
I hope that the things I have mentioned have given you food for thought. In any case, the fact that you could freely express your opinion shows the freedom we all have to do the same. The advocates of peace are no different. I accord you the honor you deserve, and bid you peace.

Alan Beggerow

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

An Interview With Warren Buffet

An Exerpt From An Interview By Lou Dobbs With Warren Buffet

DOBBS: In point of fact, the Congressional Budget Office, which is considered to be the bipartisan objective standard of such things, has research that suggests that the deficit in Social Security would be only 0.4 percent of our GDP over 75 years as compared to the other large deficits percentages that associated with trade in the budget deficit. Do you have, we're talking about fixing the fixes we're in, a quick answer for Social Security?

BUFFETT: I personally would increase the taxable base above the present $90,000. I pay very little in the way of Social Security taxes because I make a lot more than $90,000. And the people in my office pay the full tax. We're already edging up the retirement age a bit. And I would means test ... I get a check for $1,700 or $1,900 or something every month. I'm 74. And I cash it. But I'll eat without it.

DOBBS: You will eat without it. So will literally more than a million other Americans, as well. Means testing, the idea of raising taxes, the payroll tax. In 1983, Alan Greenspan, the Fed chairman, he had a very simple idea: raise taxes. That's what you're saying here.

BUFFETT: Sure. But I wouldn't raise the 12-point and a fraction payroll tax, I would raise the taxable base to above $90,000.

DOBBS: That's a progressive idea. In other words, the rich people would pay more?

BUFFETT: Yeah. The rich people are doing so well in this country. I mean, we never had it so good.

DOBBS: What a radical idea.

BUFFETT: It's class warfare, my class is winning, but they shouldn't be.

DOBBS: Exactly. Your class, as you put it, is winning on estate taxes, which I know you are opposed to. I don't know how your son Howard feels about that. I know you are opposed to it.

At the same week the House passed the estate tax, Congress passed the bankruptcy legislation, which they had the temerity to call bankruptcy reform, Democrats and Republicans passing this legislation, which is onerous to the middle class. Half of the bankruptcies in this country take place, because people fall ill, serious illnesses result in bankruptcy. Nearly half of the people involved. How do you -- you have watched a lot of politics. What is going on in this country?

BUFFETT: The rich are winning. Just take the estate tax, less than 2 percent of all estates pay any tax. A couple million people die every year, 40,000 or so estates get taxed.

We raise, what, $30 billion from the estate tax. And, you know, I would like to hear the congressman say where they are going to get the $30 billion from if they don't get it from the estate tax. It's nice to say, you know, wipe out this tax, but we're running a huge deficit, so who does the $30 billion come from?

DOBBS: And it is, it's $300 billion in lost tax revenue over the course of the next decade if the estate tax goes through.

You say the rich are winning. The rich are winning in some cases, because they are cheating. The corporate corruption scandals, which burst full upon the country at the end of 2001, Sarbanes-Oxley, new regulations, new efforts to achieve transparency. Has enough been done? Or does more need to be done?

BUFFETT: I think the climate has been changed on that for the better, Lou. Mae West said, "I was Snow White but I drifted." Well, I think corporate America drifted some. But I literally think what has happened has changed the culture somewhat, and for the better. I think that's probably more important than the laws.

DOBBS: Yet we hear the Business Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, whining that it's so onerous, so difficult to obey the law and to meet these regulations. What's your reaction?

BUFFETT: Well, right now corporate profits as a percentage of GDP in this country are right at the high. Corporate taxes as a percentage of total taxes raised are very close to the low.

DOBBS: Historically we're talking about.

BUFFETT: Historically. So, you know, corporate America is not suffering, I'll put it that way.

DOBBS: Corporate America is not suffering. In point of fact, those same organizations that I just mentioned, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable representing some of the largest companies are saying "You tax us, you are taxing our consumers, our customers." Do you think corporations in this country should be paying more? Taking some of that burden?

BUFFETT: I think that ... you have seen companies be able to repatriate earnings with a very small tax that were taxed at very low rates abroad. Corporations are doing better in the total tax picture than the people I'm going to walk by on the street when I leave here.

DOBBS: And some of the people you are going to meet are going to say, perhaps this evening and otherwise in business circles, are going to say, Warren, what are you talking about, raise our taxes.

BUFFETT: They are still friends of mine, Lou.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

An Article And My Rebuttal


An article by Thomas Sowell (in bold) and my rebuttal (in italics)

Pacifists Versus Peace

One of the many failings of our educational system is that it sends out into the world people who cannot tell rhetoric from reality. They have learned no systematic way to analyze ideas, derive their implications and test those implications against hard facts.

I agree totally. Critical thinking, the ability to analyze an issue from more than one perspective needs to be taught and practiced as a part of education. In the representative form of democracy that this nation has, it is absolutely critical for the population at large to be able to see through the rhetoric of politicians and the government. To allow yourself to be blindly led, to invest total confidence and trust in our leaders is folly. Power that is derived from the people demands that the people themselves need to be informed and aware, otherwise we get the kind of government that tells us what to do instead of the opposite.

"Peace" movements are among those who take advantage of this widespread inability to see beyond rhetoric to realities. Few people even seem interested in the actual track record of so-called "peace" movements -- that is, whether such movements actually produce peace or war.

Every type of movement and organization takes advantage of this. The government, special interest groups, politicians, religions, salesmen, businesses, individuals. So of course peace movements take advantage of people’s ignorance, but no more than any other entity. It is this ignorance that is the problem that allows the ‘widespread inability to see beyond rhetoric to realities’. That goes for peace movements, pro-war authors, and manufacturers of toothpaste.

Take the Middle East. People are calling for a cease-fire in the interests of peace. But there have been more cease-fires in the Middle East than anywhere else. If cease-fires actually promoted peace, the Middle East would be the most peaceful region on the face of the earth instead of the most violent.

A cease-fire in and of itself does not cause peace. But for any kind of negotiations to take place, the killing must stop. Regrettably, the intensely complex situation in the Middle East has deteriorated to the extent that perhaps constructive negotiations can’t happen. The most opportune time to work towards peace is not while a war is being waged, but before conflict boils over into war.

But then what is the alternative? History shows that war itself does not bring peace. The aftermath of any war always contains the seed of another struggle. So is the only way to have peace is by fighting an eternal war? And as a cease-fire is not an option unless a war of some sort is being waged, can the converse be true? There have been more wars in the Middle East than anywhere else. If wars actually promoted peace, the Middle East would be the most peaceful place on earth.

Was World War II ended by cease-fires or by annihilating much of Germany and Japan? Make no mistake about it, innocent civilians died in the process. Indeed, American prisoners of war died when we bombed Germany. There is a reason why General Sherman said "war is hell" more than a century ago. But he helped end the Civil War with his devastating march through Georgia -- not by cease fires or bowing to "world opinion" and there were no corrupt busybodies like the United Nations to demand replacing military force with diplomacy.

The United Nations has failed primarily because the nations that comprise it never really bought into the idea. Instead of using the UN to explore the differences and search for possible solutions, nations have used it to push forth their own interests, regardless of the consequences.

There was a time when it would have been suicidal to threaten, much less attack, a nation with much stronger military power because one of the dangers to the attacker would be the prospect of being annihilated. "World opinion," the U.N. and "peace movements" have eliminated that deterrent. An aggressor today knows that if his aggression fails, he will still be protected from the full retaliatory power and fury of those he attacked because there will be hand-wringers demanding a cease fire, negotiations and concessions.

History proves you wrong. There have been many instances of a ‘weaker’ nation challenging a ‘powerful’ nation, and winning. Our own Revolutionary War is but one example. This was way before the UN, and during a historically different world opinion.

That has been a formula for never-ending attacks on Israel in the Middle East. The disastrous track record of that approach extends to other times and places -- but who looks at track records? Remember the Falkland Islands war, when Argentina sent troops into the Falklands to capture this little British colony in the South Atlantic? Argentina had been claiming to be the rightful owner of those islands for more than a century. Why didn't it attack these little islands before? At no time did the British have enough troops there to defend them. Before there were "peace" movements and the U.N., sending troops into those islands could easily have meant finding British troops or bombs in Buenos Aires. Now "world opinion" condemned the British just for sending armed forces into the South Atlantic to take back their islands. Shamefully, our own government was one of those that opposed the British use of force. But fortunately British prime minister Margaret Thatcher ignored "world opinion" and took back the Falklands.

This is an example of blatant militarism for the sake of empire.. What makes the Falkland islands the property of Great Britain? Are the Falkland Islands that important in a political, military, or economic sense? Or was this a vain attempt by Thatcher to hold on to a miniscule remnant of a ‘great’ British empire? Was maintaining control of the islands worth an all-out bombing and destruction of Buenos Aries? And while the ‘official’ opposition of the Reagan government was the case, how much covert support was given to Britain? By the way, isn’t the Monroe Doctrine still a matter of foreign policy for the U.S.? If indeed it is, then should not the U.S. condemned what the British were doing?

The most catastrophic result of "peace" movements was World War II. While Hitler was arming Germany to the teeth, "peace" movements in Britain were advocating that their own country disarm "as an example to others." British Labor Party Members of Parliament voted consistently against military spending and British college students publicly pledged never to fight for their country. If "peace" movements brought peace, there would never have been World War II. Not only did that war lead to tens of millions of deaths, it came dangerously close to a crushing victory for the Nazis in Europe and the Japanese empire in Asia. And we now know that the United States was on Hitler's timetable after that. For the first two years of that war, the Western democracies lost virtually every battle, all over the world, because pre-war "peace" movements had left them with inadequate military equipment and much of it obsolete. The Nazis and the Japanese knew that. That is why they launched the war.

To blame World War II on pacifism is to neglect the fact that there were totalitarian governments at the time that were hell-bent on war. Which started the war, pacifism or totalitarian governments? Each played a part, along with world economics and myriad other causes. One of the greatest causes of World War II was World War I, in fact.
Whenever an ‘enemy’ is defeated, it causes a vacuum of power. Did the end of WW II bring peace to the world? It brought about a very sinister type of war, the ‘cold’ war, which with the revelation of historical documents of the time show was more ‘hot’ than most remember. The war in Iraq is over, and the vacuum of power is still in effect after two years. So the total defeat of an enemy is never total, unless of course the ‘enemy’ is obliterated. But that only stops that specific enemy, and may indeed inspire others.

"Peace" movements don't bring peace but war.

This is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. Without war, what would be the need for peace movements in the first place? The author has focused on all possible negative aspects of the peace movement, and has defined the peace movement as consisting only of people who oppose war and want to appease an enemy.

To be sure, there are some negative aspects about demanding negotiations and cease-fires in certain cases. No doubt some of my fellow peace workers would argue to the contrary. But for me there remains the fact that no matter how we may try, there will always be people who wish to do us harm. Sometimes war, defensive war, is the only alternative. But those instances are very few and far between. If people could somehow come to terms with the issues and policies that may cause others to wish us harm, it would be better than blindly following a foreign policy with no regard for unintended consequences.

So what is the peace movement? Is it only about the protesting of war, any war, and a demand for it to stop, at any cost? No. You cannot ‘wage’ peace like you ‘wage’ war. You ‘live’ peace. You practice it with your family, your friends, your enemies, (when possible). Peace is a way of life that entails every aspect of your life. The peaceful resolution of inevitable human conflict in all its forms is the goal. Is this attainable? In an absolute sense, probably not. But it is a way of dealing with conflict without resorting to violence that will make the world a more just and safe place. This I truly believe. It isn’t whether the lofty goal itself can ever be reached, but how much the human condition can be improved in the process of working towards the goal, that is important.

We have had war as long as there has been more than one human on earth. That doesn’t mean we can’t rise above our animal instincts and work for the common good. Indeed, isn’t that what society and civilization are all about? War itself causes peace movements.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Economy's Good, Unless You're The Lazy Semi-Rich

From The Sundries Shack

Am I supposed to feel sorry for this man or what?

ROCK FALLS, Ill. — Alan Beggerow has stopped looking for work. Laid off as a steelworker at 48, he taught math for a while at a community college. But when that ended, he could not find a job that, in his view, was neither demeaning nor underpaid. So instead of heading to work, Mr. Beggerow, now 53, fills his days with diversions: playing the piano, reading histories and biographies, writing unpublished Western potboilers in the Louis L’Amour style — all activities once relegated to spare time. He often stays up late and sleeps until 11 a.m.

Back in the day, this man’s neighbors, who had been helping him in the lean times when he wasn’t working, would have stopped their help and pointedly hinted that it was high time he acted like a man and took whatever job he could find to provide for his family.

But that’s a day long gone. Now, he can just borrow some money without much worry about paying it back, leach off the income of his wife, maybe snag some money from you and me courtesy of the government, and look down his nose at the jobs that are available.

Again, back in the day (well, further back in the day and on another continent), the people carried pitchforks and torches against the elites who acted like this. Anyone remember Marie Antoinette?

Today, it’s the people who can more or less afford to act like this and, since their sense of shame seems to have evaporated like spit in the noonday sun, they’ve decided that pitchfork and torch-carrying are jobs that are beneath them.

Just call it another job that Americans won’t do.

UPDATE: Ezra Klein also wrote about this article and made a couple assertions that seem to me ridiculous. I’ll let you judge.

First, he writes:

But on another level, this is related to the decline of unions, the breakdown of the manufacturing sector, and the shift to a service economy. Where once blue collar jobs offered the sort of benefits and salaries that allowed for a sense of dignity and purpose, a greeter at Wal-Mart is low-skill labor that refuses to masquerade as anything else. That, of course, was the primary use of unions: to force employers to treat even lowly employees as valued labor deserving of respect and all that goes with it. But in a stagnating market where most of the blue collar growth lies in non-unionized sectors, many men simply can’t bear to follow their lost job by letting go of the dignity it afforded them.

His conclusion may be accurate, though I don’t believe it is, but the route he took, through labor unions, isn’t even close to the mark. Labor unions never existed to make sure that your boss or mine as to say “please” to you and to make sure they never make you feel like pond scum. They exited to make sure that your boss and mine didn’t work us to death when we were 14 years old for a buck a day. There’s a wide gulf between the actual reason labor unions have existed and what Klein thinks they should be doing today and it skews his thinking badly.

Because if you believe that a vital component of a job is to give you a warm fuzzy, then you have to believe that the men in the article are tragic figures deserving of our sympathy and perhaps a big government program instead of spoiled people who would much rather put their families’ financial security in jeopardy than go find a job with less dignity than they feel they deserve.

Which leads us to Kleins wrap up:

And try to do so without judgment — these men are making terrible financial decisions in order to forestall worse personal admissions. If the left still possessed a labor consciousness, we wouldn’t rest until the service economy offered the dignity and compensation to ensure that the scores of workers who will migrate to its industries in the coming years could do so without grievous psychic damage.

Grievous psychic damage? What on Earth is Klein talking about. Who among us hasn’t taken a “joe job” for a little while to pay the bills until they could find a better one? Who among us hasn’t had to occasionally step back in our careers in order to move forward again? I sure as heck have and, while I didn’t like doing it, I don’t wake up with gas station booth flashbacks and I don’t weep uncontrollably every time I drive past a QuikShop.

I think that Klein coddles these men far too much, but that’s a vital difference still etween left and right. One believes that the only life worth living is one that never knows a moment outside the warm bath of self-regard and the other knows that sometimes life involves hard and unfulfilling work.

Pity The Poor American Male

The Stranger / Seattle Slog

According to the New York Times , 15 percent of American men between 30 and 55 are not working despite being employable and in their prime. Instead, the Times reports, they are “turning down jobs they think beneath them or are unable to find work for which they are qualified.” That’s up from 5 percent in the 1960s, a difference the Times says “represents 4 million men who would be working today if the employment rate had remained where it was in the 1950’s and 60’s,” when women started moving into the work force.

So let’s see if I’ve got this straight: The unemployment rate for men was once much lower. Then women came along and took jobs that would have gone to men. As women get more educated, the jobs that are available to them improve. As a result, men in the newly competitive marketplace have trouble finding work that isn’t… ummm… “beneath them.”

The Times goes on:

Many of these men could find work if they had to, but with lower pay and fewer benefits they once earned, and they have decided they prefer the alternative. It is a significant cultural shift from three decades ago, when men almost invariably went back into the work force after losing a job and were more often able to find a new one that met their needs. … Even as more men are dropping out of the work force, more women are entering it. This change has occurred partly because employment has shrunk in industries where men predominated, like manufacturing, while fields where women are far more common, like teaching, health care and retailing, have grown. Today, about 73 percent of women between 30 and 54 have a job, compared with 45 percent in the mid-1960’s, according to an analysis of Census data by researchers at Queens College.

So it’s not that the men can’t get jobs. It’s that the jobs that are available are women’s work, and thus “beneath” men’s dignity.

But at least that frees men up to take care of housework and child care, right?


Many women without jobs are raising children at home, while men who are out of a job tend to be doing neither family work nor paid work.

So what are they doing? Reading, sitting around, and sleeping, the Times suggests:

[Former steelworker Alan Beggerow)] has not worked regularly in the five years since the steel mill that employed him for three decades closed. He and his wife, Cathleen, 47, cannot really afford to live without his paycheck. Yet with her sometimes reluctant blessing, Mr. Beggerow persists in constructing a way of life that he finds as satisfying as the work he did only in the last three years of his 30-year career at the mill. The trappings of this new life surround Mr. Beggerow in the cluttered living room of his one-story bungalow-style home in this half-rural, half-industrial prairie town west of Chicago. A bookcase covers an entire wall, and the books that Mr. Beggerow is reading are stacked on a glass coffee table in front of a comfortable sofa where he reads late into the night — consuming two or three books a week — many more than in his working years. He also gets more sleep, regularly more than nine hours, a characteristic of men without work.

Meanwhile, while Mr. Beggerow sleeps, lounges, re-mortgages his family’s house and declines to look for work, his wife has taken on three part-time jobs, all traditional women’s work, and is looking for another:

She is taking in work as a seamstress, baking pastries for parties and selling merchandise for others on eBay, collecting a fee. Still, she says, she hopes to land a part-time clerical job. “The comfort of a paycheck every week would take a load off my mind,” she said.

So it seems the real story here isn’t so much that men aren’t working, but that men are piling onto their wives (in addition to the housework and childcare that remain American women’s primary responsibilities) one additional burden: Earning a paycheck, often at a crappy job, while they lounge around, remortgage the house, and burn through their family’s remaining savings.


  • Sounds like Mr. Beggerow and his peers need to start getting their nine hours of sleep out at the curb. This is so ridiculous it almost smells like a setup. Mental health issues? There's SOMETHING wrong with him, and her for putting up with it.
  • So am I supposed to read this and think: "Gee, we need a government-sponsored social-engineering campaign to re-educate men to behave differently"? Because all I am thinking is: "Gee, that guy's wife needs to leave him."
  • The layabouts described notwithstanding (and this is surely not a new phenomenon--look at Joe Gould!) couldn't some of this increase be ascribed to a greater number of men participating in the "alternative economy," i.e. the drug trade?
  • Allowing these "women" into the workforce is taking away jobs from our middle-class white men, and depressing the wages they should expect to earn. This administration needs to wake up, smell the coffee, and deport all of the working women right now.
  • White men are lazy pigs. Their wives should leave them. Women are smarter, better educated, and deserve more money. If we had a woman as president and more women running industries and government there would be no global warming or wars.
  • what horse shit. i've got a father (white male, 56, all white hair) who lost his job working a white collar type deal. He ended up losing several jobs opptorunities to people who were either 1) a woman or 2) younger. is that the fault of women? No. But do you know what he ended up doing for almost two years until he was able to find a similar job? he sold fucking uncle, white male, late fifites, lost his job for volvo working in their printed materials division (manuals, etc.). lost his job, and know what he did for several years until he found a "real" job? he drove a fucking school bus. do you have any idea how hard it is for someone to do that? honestly? to be basically admitting to themselves and their family they are supposed to be looking out for that they are like some kind of failure? i think its entirely reasonable to think that anyone would not want to take a job that is "beneath" them because it strikes right at their own identity. its not a fucking "vacation" and all fun. It sucks. Neither my dad or uncle quit "trying" to find a job. For those several years they were sending out resumes and interviewing and the whole nine. While you may be able find examples like the dude above, the implication of this whole post is that this is what all "white men" are like. Thats sexist bullshit. Seriously. Fuck that. You'd sleep 9 hours a day and read books if you couldn't find a job for several years, too. What the fuck else are you going to do?
  • The laundry?
  • I read the entire article this morning. Granted the headline and the first men featured could get the blood boiling (at least they could do some housework). However the rest of the story explains that the vast majority of non-working working-age men fall in one or more of the following categories: a)were already trapped in the economic underclass of our country and lost a minimum wage job b)too old or disabled to take a physically demanding job c)have a prison record that disqualifies them from most positions d)are African American and continue to face discrimination based on their race. The article further details how they are often estranged from families(no wife paying the bills), struggle to keep their disability checks, and take under-the-table work to keep more money for basic food and shelter. Too bad that 3/4 of the article will be overlooked, because of the headline and first paragraphs.
  • Uhm, yeah. Demeaned by having to do under-paid or "women's" work. Good thing I'm a woman, 'cause being over-qualified and under-compensated in the workplace isn't an issue for us anymore.
  • What do they think is going to happen while they're not even looking for a job? That the perfect job is going to look for them?
  • Back when men did all the paid work, it only took one paycheck to raise a family. Now it takes two working full time - so who's around to take care of the kids? Don't blame American men, - blame American corporations. Now they get two for the price of one.
  • Umm... to pick a nit... Mr. Beggerow had a 30 year industry job. Sounds like Mr. Beggerow is enjoying a union (maybe even a "forced") retirement check. The wife of a retired union worker making money on the side by sewing in the sewing room, putting junk from the garage on ebay for sale, and baking cakes for parties is not exactly the same thing as working in a tailor shop, holding down a few shifts at Value Village, then working grave-yard at the Hostess cupcake factory. There is nothing sexist with either part of the "married" husband/wife, husband/husband, wife/wife union earning more money then the other half. Maybe "anti-feminist" is the correct word dynamic. There is nothing sexist if a married couple chooses that one half of the union earns or labors at a labor less then equal halfs. As long as both people are cool with it, happy with it, then all is good. That's what an LTR is about, compromise between the people involved. I find the point of this article to be very old fashioned, and out-of-date as far as to prove a point about how "married" couples should act.
  • assuming that that wives three jobs are less valuable and somehow less legitimate because they are done at home is very old-fashioned and sexist. Work at home is still work and shouldn't be considered less legitimate. Just because someones sewing is done at home does not alleviate the strain of the work. The problem here is that the inherent work of the household tradionally womens work is not being considered into this marriage equation. Its fine for one member of a union to earn more or work more than another but not to the extent where they find themselves with three jobs, especially when the other member has supposed skills and capability.
  • According the story, the majority of the non-working men are blue collar and live alone, so I'm not sure how the real story could be that they're living off their wives/families. Men tend to get their sense of social status from their employment -- that might mean they think some kinds of work are beneath them, but it also means that not working at all has a terrible impact on their self-esteem. (And "beneath them" as a catch-all is likely to include jobs that don't pay enough to keep up with bills, jobs they feel they aren't qualified for, or entry-level jobs that represent starting over at 53 years of age.) For these guys to have given up looking says something trenchant about our "booming" economy and the importance of what kind of collar you wear to work. In short, you don't want it to be blue.
  • A real reporter would have taken the original story, read the entire thing to despin it, and then done a search on one of the science paper sites to read the original study and read the original conclusions, instead of trusting the Bush-inspired snippet headline. Luckily, we just figure you had a really really good weekend at the block party, and know you're a really good reporter 99.9 percent of the time ...
  • Hey, if $14-16/hour office jobs are 'beneath' working class men, I'll be more than glad to take those jobs in your stead.
  • It's one thing to not want to take a job that is "beneath you." It's another to not take that job. When I was between jobs, I had no qualms about looking for minimum wage work to help support me while I lived off my savings. I feel sorry for people who can't find jobs. I feel sorry for people who can't find a job that is nothing like what they deserve. I don't one bit sorry for someone who can find a job and refuses to accept it because s/he thinks his/her pride is more important than personal responsibility. I think there could be more to the issue than what is reported here, and so there could be a legitimate financial (or other responsible) reason for turning down work, but that's not discussed.
  • Why can't these guys help around the house while they are between jobs? Why can't they volunteer in their community or take a blah job until they can find the right thing? I understand that job-hunting SUCKS and it's horrible to take a lame job when you used to do something that was much more meaningful. But one has to to survive. That's what the women are doing and the men need to step up. It's called pulling your weight.
  • White males are lazy and dumb. Most of them couldn't hold a job if it wasn't handed to them and then don't work that hard if they do get a job. Women are finally taking over the workplace and you're going to see this country get better, and better. If you compare how good things are in last decade to what it was like in the 1950's you can see where we're headed. We have women in the military, in industry, and in government and soon we'll have a woman president. When that happens there'll be no more war, or global warming.
  • This is really sexist! This is crushing my theory that women are smarter than men. They don't call it HIStory for nothing, let's not repeat it!
  • Some questions for the judgers out there? Why can't you all stop judging a guy you don't know anything about? Why can't you all stop treating Ms. Beggerow as if she is a child and can't voice her needs to her husband? Why don't you all butt out and stop drawing false conclusions from an anecdote? Why is genrealized sloppy thinking tolerated in the press? Oh yeah, I know, becuase media that makes us feel superior sells more than the media that reports the news.
  • Also, women fail themselves when they stick with deadbeat men.
  • Man-hating is not true feminism. It is petty and impractical, at best.
  • "If we had a woman as president and more women running industries and government there would be no global warming or wars." Listening, Condi?
  • I hate to break it to everyone, but 53 year old man who lost his manufacturing job doesn't really have the option of getting a job at Starbucks, Chili's or Barnes and Noble that most 20-30 somethings enjoy. Getting any job is difficult. Now that obviously doesn't excuse the fact that he isn't helping out around the house.
  • It's stories like these that make me glad I am a lesbian. Sorry my straight sister's.
  • Let me get this straight... white men are lazy bums because a fraction of 15% of them seem to be disenchanted with work? Some after having been kicked around at crappy jobs for 30 years? Ok you can nail us for genocide and slavery and war and economic depressions and polution and pro wrestling and yadda yadda, but we did not accomplish all that mayhem by being lazy. sheesh.
  • More power to these guys. If their spouses aren't on them about it, and they're not mooching off the government, then let 'em do whatever the hell they want. And do I detect a hint of hypocrisy here? When women do this, it falls under far less scrutiny than when a man makes a conscious decision to work less or leave the workforce short or long term. These men have recognized that corporations and employers are screwing workers now more than ever, forcing them to accept more more concessions on wages on benefit while CEO pay skyrockets. They've chosen to rebel and live off the grid- more power to 'em.

Site Meter