Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Class Warfare?

I always was astounded at how Republicans kept critisizing Democrats for daring to bring up "class warfare". 
The subject was completely offbounds.  
Why does the subject keep coming up?
There is no class warfare
There is no war.
We (the people) done lost!
Frank
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January 27, 2009
OP-ED COLUMNIST

The Same Old Song

What’s up with the Republicans? Have they no sense that their policies have sent the country hurtling down the road to ruin? Are they so divorced from reality that in their delusionary state they honestly believe we need more of their tax cuts for the rich and their other forms of plutocratic irresponsibility, the very things that got us to this deplorable state?

The G.O.P.’s latest campaign is aimed at undermining President Obama’s effort to cope with the national economic emergency by attacking the spending in his stimulus package and repeating ad nauseam the Republican mantra for ever more tax cuts.

“Right now, given the concerns that we have over the size of this package and all the spending in this package, we don’t think it’s going to work,” said Representative John Boehner, an Ohio Republican who is House minority leader. Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. Boehner said of the plan: “Put me down in the ‘no’ column.”

If anything, the stimulus package is not large enough. Less than 24 hours after Mr. Boehner’s televised exercise in obstructionism, the heavy-equipment company Caterpillar announced that it was cutting 20,000 jobs, Sprint Nextel said it was eliminating 8,000, and Home Depot 7,000.

Maybe the Republicans don’t think there is an emergency. After all, it was Phil Gramm, John McCain’s economic guru, who told us last summer that the pain was all in our heads, that this was a “mental recession.”

The truth, of course, is that the country is hemorrhaging jobs and Americans are heading to the poorhouse by the millions. The stock markets and the value of the family home have collapsed, and there is virtual across-the-board agreement that the country is caught up in the worst economic disaster since at least World War II.

The Republican answer to this turmoil?

Tax cuts.

They need to go into rehab.

The question that I would like answered is why anyone listens to this crowd anymore. G.O.P. policies have been an absolute backbreaker for the middle class. (Forget the poor. Nobody talks about them anymore, not even the Democrats.) The G.O.P. has successfully engineered a wholesale redistribution of wealth to those already at the top of the income ladder and then, in a remarkable display of chutzpah, dared anyone to talk about class warfare.

A stark example of this unholy collaboration between the G.O.P. and the very wealthy was on display in the pages of this newspaper on Jan. 18. The Times’s Mike McIntire wrote an article about the first wave of federal bailout money for the financial industry, which was handed over by the Bush administration with hardly any strings attached. (Congress, under the control of the Democrats, should never have allowed this to happen, but the Democrats are as committed to fecklessness as the Republicans are to tax cuts.)

The public was told that the money would be used to loosen the frozen credit markets and thus help revive the economy. But as the article pointed out, there were bankers with other ideas. John C. Hope III, the chairman of the Whitney National Bank in New Orleans, in an address to Wall Street fat cats gathered at the Palm Beach Ritz-Carlton, said:

“Make more loans? We’re not going to change our business model or our credit policies to accommodate the needs of the public sector as they see it to have us make more loans.”

How’s that for arrogance and contempt for the public interest? Mr. Hope’s bank received $300 million in taxpayer bailout money.

The same article quoted Walter M. Pressey, president of Boston Private Wealth Management, which Mr. McIntire described as a healthy bank with a mostly affluent clientele. It received $154 million in taxpayer money.

“With that capital in hand,” said Mr. Pressey, “not only do we feel comfortable that we can ride out the recession, but we also feel that we’ll be in a position to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves once this recession is sorted out.”

Take advantage, indeed. That, in a nutshell, is what the plutocracy is all about: taking unfair advantage.

When the G.O.P. talks, nobody should listen. Republicans have argued, with the collaboration of much of the media, that they could radically cut taxes while simultaneously balancing the federal budget, when, in fact, big income-tax cuts inevitably lead to big budget deficits. We listened to the G.O.P. and what do we have now? A trillion-dollar-plus deficit and an economy in shambles.

This is the party that preached fiscal discipline and then cut taxes in time of war. This is the party that still wants to put the torch to Social Security and Medicare. This is a party that, given a choice between Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, would choose Ronald Reagan in a heartbeat.

Why is anyone still listening?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Didn't take long for some action on this "social contract" issue (see earlier blog titled "Obama to update the social contract), and for Congress to right the wrongs of the Supreme Court in their Lilly M. Ledbetter" decision!  I like it!
Frank
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January 10, 2009

House Passes 2 Measures on Job Bias

WASHINGTON — The House voted on Friday to give women powerful new tools to challenge sex discrimination by employers who pay women less than men for the same or substantially similar work.

The action shows how Congress, working with President-elect Barack Obama, intends to make a swift, sharp break with civil rights policies of the Bush administration.

“In the first week of the new Congress, this is the legislation we are putting forward: pay equity, fairness to women in the workplace,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California. “These are our priorities. This Congress has heard the message of change in the election.”

The House passed two related bills on Friday. One, approved 247 to 171, would give workers more time to file lawsuits claiming job discrimination.

The bill would overturn a 2007 decision by the Supreme Court that enforced a strict 180-day deadline, thwarting a lawsuit by Lilly M. Ledbetter, a longtime supervisor at the Goodyear tire plant in Gadsden, Ala. Three Republicans voted for the bill.

The other bill — passed 256 to 163, with support from 10 Republicans — would make it easier for women to prove violations of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which generally requires equal pay for equal work.

President Bush threatened to veto both bills, saying they would “invite a surge of litigation” and “impose a tremendous burden on employers.” Congress will not give him the opportunity.

Mr. Obama is eager to sign the bills, and it appears he will be able to do so. Supporters of the legislation said they believed they could come up with the 60 votes needed to ensure passage in the Senate, after two vacant seats are filled.

The United States Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers opposed the bills. Jeri G. Kubicki, a vice president of the manufacturers group, said the bills would “open the floodgates to unwarranted litigation against employers at a time when businesses are struggling to retain and create jobs.”

In the Ledbetter case, a jury found that Goodyear had paid her less than men, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But the Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 decision, threw out her complaint. It said she should have filed her claim within 180 days of “the alleged unlawful employment practice,” the initial decision to pay her less than men performing similar work.

“The Ledbetter decision is unacceptable and must not stand,” said Representative George Miller, Democrat of California and chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor. Under the decision, Mr. Miller said, employers can get away with years of pay discrimination “if they hide it for the first 180 days.”

The bill would relax the statute of limitations, making clear that each new paycheck violates the law if it results “in whole or in part” from a discriminatory pay decision made in the past.

Representative Howard P. McKeon of California, the senior Republican on the committee, said: “This bill would allow an employee to bring a claim against an employer decades after the alleged initial act of discrimination occurred. Trial lawyers, you can be sure, are salivating at this very prospect.”

Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, said that while women had made gains since passage of the Equal Pay Act, pay disparities persisted.

“The Paycheck Fairness Act closes numerous loopholes that have enabled employers to evade liability,” said Ms. DeLauro, the chief sponsor of that bill. “It stiffens penalties for employers who discriminate based on gender. And it protects employees from retaliation for sharing salary information.”

Under the 1963 law, an employer can justify paying women less than men if it shows that the disparity is based on any factor other than sex. Employers have successfully used this defense in many cases, arguing that unequal pay was justified by the education, training or experience of male employees.

Some courts have also held that a company can legally pay men more than women because of “market forces” or the higher salaries that men received in previous jobs. Democrats said those factors — market forces and prior salaries — were themselves sometimes tainted by discrimination.

The bill would make it harder for employers to use such defenses. Employers would have to show that the pay disparity was based on “a bona fide factor” other than sex, and that the factor was “consistent with business necessity.”

The bill would also allow women to obtain compensatory and punitive damages from employers who violated the equal pay law.

The White House said the bill would allow “unlimited compensatory and punitive damages, even when a disparity in pay was unintentional.” Under the new standard, it continued, “judges and juries would supplant the free market system” in determining wages.


Friday, January 09, 2009

Neoconservatism....Dead Wrong!

I sure hope they stay dead!

Frank

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Juan Cole: Neoconservatism dies in Gaza

SOURCE: Salon (1-8-09)

The Gaza War of 2009 is a final and eloquent testimony to the complete failure of the neoconservative movement in United States foreign policy. For over a decade, the leading figures in this school of thought saw the violent overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the institution of a parliamentary regime in Iraq as the magic solution to all the problems in the Middle East. They envisioned, in the wake of the fall of Baghdad, the moderation of Hezbollah in Lebanon, the overthrow of the Baath Party in Syria and the Khomeinist regime in Iran, the deepening of the alliance with Turkey, the marginalization of Saudi Arabia, a new era of cheap petroleum, and a final resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on terms favorable to Israel. After eight years in which they strode the globe like colossi, they have left behind a devastated moonscape reminiscent of some post-apocalyptic B movie. As their chief enabler prepares to exit the White House, the only nation they have strengthened is Iran; the only alliance they have deepened is that between Iran and two militant Islamist entities to Israel's north and south, Hezbollah and Hamas.

The neoconservatives first laid out their manifesto in a 1996 paper, "A Clean Break," written for an obscure think tank in Jerusalem and intended for the eyes of far right-wing Israeli politician Binyamin Netanyahu of the Likud Party, who had just been elected prime minister. They advised Israel to renounce the Oslo peace process and reject the principle of trading land for peace, instead dealing with the Palestinians with an iron fist. They urged Israel to uphold the right of hot pursuit of Palestinian guerrillas and to find alternatives to Yasser Arafat's Fatah for the Palestinian leadership. They called forth Israeli airstrikes on targets in Syria and rejection of negotiations with Damascus. They foresaw strengthened ties between Israel and its two regional friends, Turkey and Jordan.

They advocated "removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq," in part as a way of "rolling back" Syria. In place of the secular, republican tyrant, they fantasized about the restoration of the Hashemite monarchy in Iraq, and thought that a Sunni king might help moderate the Shiite Hezbollah in south Lebanon. (Yes.) They barely mentioned Iran, though it appears that their program of expelling Syria from Lebanon and weakening its regime was in part aimed at depriving Iran of its main Arab ally. In a 1999 book called "Tyranny's Ally: America's Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein," David Wurmser argued that it was false to fear that installing the Iraqi Shiites in power in Baghdad would strengthen Iran regionally.

The signatories to this fantasy of using brute military power to reshape all of West Asia included some figures who would go on to fill key positions in the Bush administration. Richard Perle, a former assistant secretary of defense under Reagan, became chairman of the influential Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, a civilian oversight body for the Pentagon. Douglas J. Feith became the undersecretary of defense for planning. David Wurmser first served in Feith's propaganda shop, the Office of Special Plans, which manufactured the case for an American war on Iraq, and then went on to serve with "Scooter" Libby in the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.

The neoconservatives used their well-funded think tanks, including the American Enterprise Institute, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP, an organ of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee), the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, and the Hudson Institute, among others, to promote this agenda of the conquest of Iraq as a solution of all ills....

As a result of the deliberate destruction of the peace process by the Israeli right and by Hamas, a two-state solution seems increasingly unlikely. This tragic impasse, one phase of which is now playing out with sanguinary relentlessness, was avoidable but for the baneful influence of the neoconservatives and their right-wing allies in the U.S. and Israel.

The neoconservatives had prided themselves on their macho swagger, their rejection of namby-pamby Clintonian multilateralism, and on their bold vision for reshaping the Middle East so that the Israeli and American right would not have to deal with existing reality. In the cold light of day, they look merely petulant and arrogant. The ancient Greek poet Bion said that boys cast stones at frogs in sport, but the frogs die in earnest. The neoconservatives were the boys, and the people of Iraq, Israel, Palestine and Lebanon have been their frogs. The biggest danger facing the United States is that there will be no true "Clean Break" -- that the neoconservatives will somehow find a way to survive the Bush administration, and continue to influence American foreign policy.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Obama to "update" the social contract

Seems like we need to fix this attack on civil rights, with a little common sense from the Congress of these United States. 

Let the Bushshits do all they want (with the help of the conservative Supreme Court) to empower the employers, while we the people (with the help of our congressional representatives), make right the idea of a "social contract" that enforces fairness and civility.  

Haven't we all had enough of the Bush Doctrine of .....give them employers everything the hell they want!

Anyway,

That's how I feel about this issue! 

Frank
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January 5, 2009
Justices’ Ruling in Discrimination Case May Draw Quick Action by Obama

By ROBERT PEAR
WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress are planning swift action to overturn a Supreme Court decision that made it much harder for people to challenge discrimination in employment, education, housing and other fields.

The decision, involving a woman named Lilly M. Ledbetter, who had accused her employer of sex-based pay discrimination, was issued in May 2007. Since then, courts around the country have gone far beyond the facts of that case and cited it as a reason for rejecting lawsuits claiming discrimination based on race, sex, age and disability.

In some cases, after initially ruling for employees, judges have reversed themselves and ruled in favor of employers. The judges said they had to switch because of the Supreme Court decision.

Ms. Ledbetter, who worked at a Goodyear tire plant in Gadsden, Ala., for 19 years, spoke at the Democratic National Convention in August, campaigned for Mr. Obama and made a television commercial for him. She became a hero to many Democrats, their answer to “Joe the Plumber.”

As a senator, Mr. Obama was a co-sponsor of a bill to overturn the Supreme Court decision. In the final presidential debate, he said he would appoint judges who understood the struggles of “real-world folks” like Ms. Ledbetter.

The legislation would essentially relax the statute of limitations under various civil rights laws, giving people more time to file charges. President Bush threatened to veto the bill, but Mr. Obama is eager to sign it.

“Obama said he would see me in the White House when he signs the bill,” Ms. Ledbetter said in an interview.

Mr. Obama describes the bill as part of a broader effort by his incoming administration to “update the social contract,” reinvigorate civil rights and close the pay gap between men and women.

At issue in the Ledbetter case was the deadline for filing charges under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Supreme Court did not deny that Ms. Ledbetter had suffered discrimination, but said she should have filed her claim within 180 days of “the alleged unlawful employment practice” — the initial decision to pay her less than men performing similar work.

The Supreme Court rejected the argument that each paycheck was a violation of the law.

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said the statute of limitations must be strictly interpreted to protect employers against “stale claims” and “tardy lawsuits.”

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Ms. Ledbetter’s pay fell behind that of men because of “a long series of decisions reflecting Goodyear’s pervasive discrimination against women managers in general and Ledbetter in particular.”

Justice Ginsburg invited Congress to correct the court’s “cramped interpretation” of the law.

That is exactly what Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats say they plan to do.

Their bill states that a violation occurs each time a person receives a paycheck resulting from “a discriminatory compensation decision.”

The House passed a similar bill, 225 to 199, in July 2007. In the Senate, supporters fell three votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster, but they will almost surely be able to clear that hurdle in the new Congress.

The United States Chamber of Commerce opposes the bill, saying it “would lead to an explosion of litigation” against employers. Under the bill, “it is possible that claims could be filed decades after an allegedly discriminatory act occurred,” said R. Bruce Josten, executive vice president of the chamber.

In the last 19 months, federal judges have cited the Ledbetter decision in more than 300 cases involving not only Title VII, but also the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; the Fair Housing Act; a law known as Title IX, which bars sex discrimination in schools and colleges; and even the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which protects prisoners’ rights.

Lower-court judges have been influenced by two particular aspects of the Ledbetter decision. The Supreme Court drew a sharp distinction between “discrete acts” of discrimination and the continuing effects of past violations. Employers, it said, do not necessarily violate the law when their recent actions have no discriminatory purpose, but perpetuate the adverse effects of pay decisions made in the past.

The Ledbetter precedent has stymied a wide range of civil rights plaintiffs.

In March 2007, Judge Paul L. Friedman of the Federal District Court here allowed employees at the Federal Aviation Administration to challenge the agency’s pay scales as biased against older workers.

A year later he reversed himself and ruled for the government, saying, “The import of Ledbetter for this case is clear.”

F.A.A. employees cannot sue on the theory that each paycheck constitutes “a discrete act of discrimination,” the judge said.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reached a similar conclusion in a lawsuit by blacks who had applied unsuccessfully for jobs as firefighters in Chicago. Judge Richard A. Posner cited the Ledbetter case in rejecting their contention that they were victims of a “continuing violation” of the civil rights law.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit extended this logic to a housing discrimination case in Idaho. The ruling significantly limits the ability of plaintiffs to enforce their rights under the Fair Housing Act.

The Idaho plaintiff, Noll Garcia, uses a wheelchair. He said his apartment violated federal standards because it was not readily accessible. Under the law, he had two years to challenge a “discriminatory housing practice” in court.

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, writing for the majority, said this two-year period began when construction of the building was complete. Mr. Garcia lost out because he filed suit in 2003 — within two years of renting the apartment, but 10 years after it was built.

Three dissenting judges said the decision showed how “statutes of limitations have been twisted by courts to limit the scope and thrust of civil rights laws.”

A federal district judge in Sacramento also relied on the Ledbetter case in rejecting claims by female wrestlers who said they had been denied athletic opportunities at the University of California, Davis.

The women missed the deadline for filing suit — one year after the last “discrete act” of discrimination — and cannot breathe new life into their claims by pointing to the continuing effects of prior discriminatory decisions, the court said.

Congress and the courts have been tussling over the scope of civil rights for more than a century.

In 1883, the Supreme Court struck down a law that barred racial discrimination by hotels, theaters and railroads, saying Congress had exceeded its power. In 1988 and 1991, Congress expanded civil rights protections that had been curtailed by the Supreme Court.

In September, Congress repudiated several Supreme Court decisions that had undercut the Americans With Disabilities Act.

“There’s a historic pattern of the court’s being hostile to civil rights statutes and Congress stepping in to overturn those narrow court rulings,” said Deborah L. Brake, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

A Party of Whinners

Here is a nutshell is a summary of what has happened in politics for the past five decades, starting with Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy", and ending with the pathetically failed George W. Bush years of disgrace!
Frank

January 2, 2009
OP-ED COLUMNIST

Bigger Than Bush

As the new Democratic majority prepares to take power, Republicans have become, as Phil Gramm might put it, a party of whiners.

Some of the whining almost defies belief. Did Alberto Gonzales, the former attorney general, really say, “I consider myself a casualty, one of the many casualties of the war on terror”? Did Rush Limbaugh really suggest that the financial crisis was the result of a conspiracy, masterminded by that evil genius Chuck Schumer?

But most of the whining takes the form of claims that the Bush administration’s failure was simply a matter of bad luck — either the bad luck of President Bush himself, who just happened to have disasters happen on his watch, or the bad luck of the G.O.P., which just happened to send the wrong man to the White House.

The fault, however, lies not in Republicans’ stars but in themselves. Forty years ago the G.O.P. decided, in effect, to make itself the party of racial backlash. And everything that has happened in recent years, from the choice of Mr. Bush as the party’s champion, to the Bush administration’s pervasive incompetence, to the party’s shrinking base, is a consequence of that decision.

If the Bush administration became a byword for policy bungles, for government by the unqualified, well, it was just following the advice of leading conservative think tanks: after the 2000 election the Heritage Foundation specifically urged the new team to “make appointments based on loyalty first and expertise second.”

Contempt for expertise, in turn, rested on contempt for government in general. “Government is not the solution to our problem,” declared Ronald Reagan. “Government is the problem.” So why worry about governing well?

Where did this hostility to government come from? In 1981 Lee Atwater, the famed Republican political consultant, explained the evolution of the G.O.P.’s “Southern strategy,” which originally focused on opposition to the Voting Rights Act but eventually took a more coded form: “You’re getting so abstract now you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is blacks get hurt worse than whites.” In other words, government is the problem because it takes your money and gives it to Those People.

Oh, and the racial element isn’t all that abstract, even now: Chip Saltsman, currently a candidate for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, sent committee members a CD including a song titled “Barack the Magic Negro” — and according to some reports, the controversy over his action has actually helped his chances.

So the reign of George W. Bush, the first true Southern Republican president since Reconstruction, was the culmination of a long process. And despite the claims of some on the right that Mr. Bush betrayed conservatism, the truth is that he faithfully carried out both his party’s divisive tactics — long before Sarah Palin, Mr. Bush declared that he visited his ranch to “stay in touch with real Americans” — and its governing philosophy.

That’s why the soon-to-be-gone administration’s failure is bigger than Mr. Bush himself: it represents the end of the line for a political strategy that dominated the scene for more than a generation.

The reality of this strategy’s collapse has not, I believe, fully sunk in with some observers. Thus, some commentators warning President-elect Barack Obama against bold action have held up Bill Clinton’s political failures in his first two years as a cautionary tale.

But America in 1993 was a very different country — not just a country that had yet to see what happens when conservatives control all three branches of government, but also a country in which Democratic control of Congress depended on the votes of Southern conservatives. Today, Republicans have taken away almost all those Southern votes — and lost the rest of the country. It was a grand ride for a while, but in the end the Southern strategy led the G.O.P. into a cul-de-sac.

Mr. Obama therefore has room to be bold. If Republicans try a 1993-style strategy of attacking him for promoting big government, they’ll learn two things: not only has the financial crisis discredited their economic theories, the racial subtext of anti-government rhetoric doesn’t play the way it used to.

Will the Republicans eventually stage a comeback? Yes, of course. But barring some huge missteps by Mr. Obama, that will not happen until they stop whining and look at what really went wrong. And when they do, they will discover that they need to get in touch with the real “real America,” a country that is more diverse, more tolerant, and more demanding of effective government than is dreamt of in their political philosophy.

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About Me

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Native of the Philadelphia "Kensington and Alleganey" northeast area. I spent 4 years in the Air Force (Titan-II missles in Tuscon Arizona). I Am currently retired, and among other adventures I spent 28 years working for AT&T in Telecommunications. I've lived in Florida for 33 years....20 years in Hollywood Fla., and 13 years North Florida. I've been married 42 years, and am a proud father of three adult offspring. All of them contributing to society in a very useful and creative manner.