Monday, February 07, 2011


Muammar Gadhafi is a throw-back. He's a freak and he's one of those middle eastern dictators who has held power for decades, against the best interests of the people of Libya and the rest of the world. It was his government who tried and convicted a half dozen or so foreign (mostly Bulgarian) nurses, along with the Pakistani doctor who supervised them, for intentionally infecting 450 Libyan orphans with the AIDS virus. When their original convictions, which resulted in decades long prison sentences, were overturned, they were re-tried, convicted again, and this time they were sentenced to death. Then a huge hubbub ensued, $450 million dollars were paid, supposedly to the families of the orphans (isn't that a neologism?), and the nurses and the doctor were released in some diplomatic dance which never managed to assign blame or illuminate what happened. It was an international kidnapping and extortion, with a half-billion dollar ransom paid by national entities and NGO's. No one ever publicly pointed to Ghadafi and said, "you are wrong, and you are an international terrorist and scum bucket." The administration of George W. Bush actually wrote him a letter of appreciation and sucking up.

Now there's this news from MSNBC, basically saying Tony Blair and Gordon Brown spent years wooing his Ghadaffy-ness, because he was in control of several lucrative oil exploration contracts issued by Libya, including at least one for BP Oil. They couldn't bow low enough to the inbred whack job who runs Libya with an iron fist, even going so far as to help him with arrangements (and probably a huge fraud) to release the only man who was ever convicted for the Lockerbie bombing. The bomber, a former Libyan police operative, was released from Scottish prison on humanitarian grounds because doctors attested he had less than three months to live because of advanced prostate cancer. Well, it's now 18 months later, and our putatively dying terrorist is still alive, living with his family and retinue in luxury in some Libyan seaside villa.

Today, our president Barack Obama met with the US Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber folks were somewhere between unimpressed and downright hostile, because they don't think the president is doing enough to clear the way for business to function successfully. They're piqued by banking and credit card regulations, and they don't like business taxes, or environmental regulations, or trade policies, or the health care legislation.

Let's pretend we don't see through the Chamber of Commerce's greedy testiness. Let's pretend they're bargaining in good faith. Do we want these greed-businesses to have sway over presidential policy? Do we want presidents bowing and scraping before neo-medieval religious cretins (or the US Chamber of Commerce-- not that different), in order to enable businesses' sick and bottomless greed? Do we want Obama to promote the business interests of BP Oil, or Bank of America or Goldman Sachs? Let's forget about "setting businesses free to create jobs" and start insisting that businesses create civic mindedness and model responsible citizenship. And let's stop talking to Ghadaffi-Duck. He's an evil man who has stolen his country's precious resources, and is now auctioning them off while forcing the leaders of the West to perform a vile dance of flattery. It's ugly. It only benefits the already rich. It's disgusting. Where is our pride, and where is our morality? Greed took it. And ate it. And greed is still, always and by definition, hungry.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Don't Believe in Class War? What About This Skirmish?

My previous post mentioned a class war without much to back it up. In it I talked about how the growing interest in the possible relief available through state bankruptcies was partly fueled by a desire to jettison unfunded pension debt, force restructuring of union employment agreements, and generally de-fund pensions and employment contracts in the public sector.

Well, that was last week. This week there's a new initiative, this time involving governors attacking teacher tenure in public school employment. Doesn't this just add to the problems states are facing? There are some crazed ideas in the air, including a jointly signed op-ed piece in the LA Times signed by Jeb Bush and Newt Gingrich, a remarkable GOP brain trust, involving how the state pays workers. I would call it stinginess, but it's a deeper and more virulent reaction, to which "stingy" (which I usually understand to mean an impolite way of acting, and which I probably learned in grade school back when values of sorts were taught) doesn't do justice; it's more like mean, and grasping, the way a dog will snarl if you near its meal-- only this is purely anti-union. It's not difficult to turn the beleaguered tax payer against a union employee, especially if the public employee may make more money, have better benefits, or in any other way is better off financially than the taxpayer. No discussion of education requirements, work rules, length of service, or competitive market conditions at the time agreements were inked. Nope, this is just a grab back of concessions made long ago, perpetrated on people with less power than when they negotiated the original deals.

The problem here is, labor-targeted backlash doesn't benefit our beleaguered taxpayer. It benefits business interests who have everything to gain from weaker unions and fewer, less organized workers. CEOs can reap dollar-for-dollar pay increases based on reducing labor costs.

More crucially, defunding labor contracts now adds to the number of poor. If the states pauperize former workers who saved for their retirement, instead of the worker paying for their care from their benefits, they're likely to be subsidized by the state. You may be on one side or the other of our class war, but don't for a minute doubt it exists.