Monthly Archives: October 2008

Sarah Palin hates freedom (especially the 1st Amendment)

Before I get to Gov. Sarah Palin, and how she doesn’t understand the fundamental liberties granted us by our constitution, please take 30 seconds to read the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America (from US Constitution (dot) net) :

Amendment 1 – Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. Ratified 12/15/1791. Note

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

OK. Thanks. Carry on.

Today Gov. Sarah Palin did a radio interview on WMAL-AM, Washington, DC. In the interview, she suggested that her First Amendment right to free speech was being restricted by the press when they called her invocation of Ayers, Wright, Acorn and socialism in her stump speeches “negative attacks” on Sen. Barack Obama. From ABC News Political Radar:

Palin told WMAL-AM that her criticism of Obama’s associations, like those with 1960s radical Bill Ayers and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, should not be considered negative attacks. Rather, for reporters or columnists to suggest that it is going negative may constitute an attack that threatens a candidate’s free speech rights under the Constitution, Palin said.

“If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations,” Palin told host Chris Plante, “then I don’t know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media.”

Glenn Greenwald at Salon tells us (correctly) why Palin is off her rocker, again:

The First Amendment is actually not that complicated. It can be read from start to finish in about 10 seconds. It bars the Government from abridging free speech rights. It doesn’t have anything to do with whether you’re free to say things without being criticized, or whether you can comment on blogs without being edited, or whether people can bar you from their private planes because they don’t like what you’ve said.

If anything, Palin has this exactly backwards, since one thing that the First Amendment does actually guarantee is a free press. Thus, when the press criticizes a political candidate and a Governor such as Palin, that is a classic example of First Amendment rights being exercised, not abridged.

This isn’t only about profound ignorance regarding our basic liberties, though it is obviously that. Palin here is also giving voice to the standard right-wing grievance instinct: that it’s inherently unfair when they’re criticized. And now, apparently, it’s even unconstitutional.

According to Palin, what the Founders intended with the First Amendment was that political candidates for the most powerful offices in the country and Governors of states would be free to say whatever they want without being criticized in the newspapers. In the Palin worldview, the First Amendment was meant to ensure that powerful political officials such as herself would not be “attacked” in the papers. Is it even possible to imagine more breathtaking ignorance from someone holding high office and running for even higher office?

This whole deal reminds me of the post I did awhile back on the birth of a free press in America and the defense of a small New York newspaper publisher named John Peter Zenger by Andrew Hamilton, Philadelphia lawyer and uncle of Alexander Hamilton. Zenger criticized the British-appointed Governor of New York (we were only British colonies then) and his business was unjustly shut down–and he imprisoned. In arguing for freedom of the press under British common law, Hamilton said “the loss of freedom to a generous mind is worse than death”. I encourage you to read the entire post–or at least Hamilton’s argument, which became the inspiration for the right to a free press outlined in the 1st Amendment.

Here’s Hamilton’s conclusion:

The question before the Court and you, Gentlemen of the jury, is not of small or private concern. It is not the cause of one poor printer, nor of New York alone, which you are now trying. No! It may in its consequence affect every free man that lives under a British government on the main of America. It is the best cause. It is the cause of liberty. And I make no doubt but your upright conduct this day will not only entitle you to the love and esteem of your fellow citizens, but every man who prefers freedom to a life of slavery will bless and honor you as men who have baffled the attempt of tyranny, and by an impartial and uncorrupt verdict have laid a noble foundation for securing to ourselves, our posterity, and our neighbors, that to which nature and the laws of our country have given us a right to liberty of both exposing and opposing arbitrary power (in these parts of the world at least) by speaking and writing truth.

Let’s hear that last part again, the free press, now guaranteed to us by the 1st Amendment, means we have “. . . a right to liberty of both exposing and opposing arbitrary power (in these parts of the world at least) by speaking and writing truth.”

Gov. Palin, by her words today on WMAL, would like to revisit the case of Zenger, and this time rule in favor of the Governor of New York, and find that a newsman can’t criticize his Governor. She wants to restrict, to muzzle, the press and increase the power of our political ruling class. After which, any statement she makes, no matter how provably false or ludicrous should not and will not be questioned and will instead be left to stand at face value. This is not how democracies work, it’s how democracies die.

Governor Palin hates America.

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Theodore Roosevelt and the Square Deal for Labor

Awhile back I quoted President Lincoln and his belief that Labor was superior to Capital because it preceded Capital. Here’s some more thoughts on labor and capital from the dawn of the Union movement by President Theodore Roosevelt from Harold Howland’s Theodore Roosevelt and His Times, A Chronicle of the Progressive Movement (you can read the whole book for free at fullbooks–the copyright has long expired).

Chapter 8: A Square Deal for Labor

It should go without saying that Roosevelt was vigorously and
deeply concerned with the relations between capital and labor,
for he was interested in everything that concerned the men and
women of America, everything that had to do with human relations.
From the very beginning of his public life he had been a
champion of the workingman when the workingman needed defense against
exploitation and injustice. But his advocacy of the workers’
rights was never demagogic nor partial. In industrial relations,
as in the relations between business and the community, he
believed in the square deal. The rights of labor and the rights
of capital must, he firmly held, be respected each by the other–
and the rights of the public by both.

Roosevelt believed thoroughly in trade unions. He realized that
one of the striking accompaniments of the gigantic developments
in business and industry of the past few generations was a gross
inequality in the bargaining relation between the employer and
the individual employee standing alone.

. . .

He was fond of quoting three statements of Lincoln’s as
expressing precisely what he himself believed about capital and
labor. The first of these sayings was this: “Labor is prior to,
and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor,
and could never have existed if labor had not first existed.
Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher
consideration.”

This statement, Roosevelt used to say, would have made him, if it
had been original with him, even more strongly denounced as a
communist agitator than he already was! Then he would turn from
this, which the capitalist ought to hear, to another saying of
Lincoln’s which the workingman ought to hear: “Capital has its
rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights . .
. . Nor should this lead to a war upon the owners of property.
Property is the fruit of labor; . . . property is desirable; it
is a positive good in the world.”

Then would come the final word from Lincoln, driven home by
Roosevelt with all his usual vigor and fire: “Let not him who is
houseless pull down the house of another, but let him work
diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring
that his own shall be safe from violence when built.”

In these three sayings, Roosevelt declared, Lincoln “showed the
proper sense of proportion in his relative estimates of capital
and labor, of human rights and property rights.” Roosevelt’s own
most famous statement of the matter was made in an address which
he delivered before the Sorbonne in Paris, on his way back from Africa: “In every civilized society property rights must be carefully safeguarded. Ordinarily, and in the great majority of cases, human rights and property rights are fundamentally and in
the long run identical; but when it clearly appears that there is
a real conflict between them, human rights must have the upper
hand, for property belongs to man and not man to property.”

That’s all Labor’s looking for in a president, a person with a proper sense of proportion in the relations between the Government, Business, and Labor. Since Reagan, corporatism has reigned in DC and Labor’s governental protections have been weakened or eliminated bit by bit. I think of the relationship of the three as the three legs of a stool (I stole this meme from conservative pundits–they love them some three-legged stool), if one leg is too short, or another too long, the stool isn’t comfortable to sit in–its unbalanced. If you try to saw off one leg, as business and government have tried to do with labor the last 30 years, the stool will fall over, and you’re left with feudalism, or fascism.

Labor’s belief is that the Employee Free Choice Act will level the playing field and restore a balance between the three legs. But maybe Labor’s wrong. Maybe it will tilt the balance of power too far to Labor. If it is the latter, a modern-day Theodore Roosevelt will have to act to correct the imbalance. And while John McCain likes to compare himself to TR, Barack Obama seems more likely to take a truly fair and balanced approach to labor/management relations.

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Republicans don’t hate Hollywood, they hate working actors

I’ve posted the Will.I.Am “Yes We Can” video, and more recently the Ron Howard, Henry Winkler and Andy Griffith Obama endorsement video. I did so because I thought they were (1) really powerful, (2) incredibly moving, and (3) extremely well done. There’s a flip side, though: shabby, thoughtless, throwaway Ads. And here’s a real doozy. It stars Cliff Clavin, a woman who was on SNL in the late 80’s and early 90’s, the burnout Baldwin, some character actor who used to play mafia-types and general lowlifes on TV, and Pat Boone. Quite possibly the saddest collection of misfits ever assembled–except for Cliffy, and all (sorta) endorsing Norm Coleman, or at least taking shots at Al Franken. Here’s your message Minnesota voters: Has-beens, never-will-bes, and John Ratzenberger don’t want you to vote for Al Franken. I hope they got paid well for this Ad, as some of them haven’t worked in years.

Here’s a sense of who these people are, using selections of the wit and wisdom of Victoria Jackson:

“I hope that America realizes that Obama is a communist before it’s too late.”

“Thank you President George W. Bush (along with God above) for keeping us safe these last 7 years, from terrorist attacks on our homeland. I really appreciate it very much. xxoo You did a Great job! And, Thank you God above for giving us George W. Bush, and for giving us John McCain and Sarah Palin.”

“I don’t want a political label, but Obama bears traits that resemble the anti- Christ and I’m scared to death that un-educated people will ignorantly vote him into office.”

Communist? Our Homeland?? Anti-Christ??? Who’s calling who un-educated and ignorant? At least I know that the earth isn’t flat and 6000 years old, you whack job. XXOO.

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Electronic Voting Machines: "I’ll just re-calibrate the machine and everything will be . . . OOPS!"

Here’s a video starring a West Virginia County Clerk named Jeff Waybright and an electronic voting machine (made by ES&S, if I heard Mr. Waybright correctly in the video). Mr. Waybright is demonstrating that votes for Obama/Biden aren’t automatically being flipped to McCain/Palin, as has been conjectured by some West Virginia voters, because the whacked out machine he touches flips Obama votes to Nader too as well as to McCain. In doing so, he demonstrates only how much of a sham electronic voting is. Watch for yourself. The “kicker” comes when Mr. Waybright calibrates the machine, declares it “fixed”, and watches as it malfunctions again seconds later.

From qmastertoo at Dailykos:

A commenter to the post at Dkos mentioned that the problem with the machine in the video was software-related, not a calibration problem. The original problem(s) remain though: The voting machines are very easily hacked; there’s no paper trails or receipts; the software is proprietary–so in essense a private company is in complete control of vote tabulations and no one in the Government is allowed to see how the votes are counted.

As always, when it comes to election fraud, Brad Friedman at Bradblog has it covered from A to Z. According to Friedman, there’s been vote-flipping from Obama/Biden to McCain/Palin in 4 states so far.

From Bradblog:

We’ve been reporting for the last week or so on the ES&S iVotronic touch-screen voting machines which are flipping votes from Democratic candidates to others in, so far, at least four states. We’ve showed you actual footage of it and how even after being “recalibrated” these machines still continue to flip votes.

(See our special coverage page here for links to our many recent stories on this issue, and advice on what to do if the problem happens to you.)

Unfortunately, it’s not just the error-prone, hackable, wholly unverifiable iVotronics from ES&S which are failing. Error-prone, hackable and wholly unverifiable Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touch-screen) voting systems made by Hart InterCivic, Diebold and Sequoia Voting Systems are also having the same problems across the country. And the Democrats, who have the most to lose, continue to do nothing about it…

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Fascism in America alert: Palin wraps herself in the flag

I saw a photo a while back of Sarah Palin literally wrapped in the American flag–she’s actually wearing it like a shawl or a blanket. Most of her supporters would think this is a show of patriotism but I’m in the camp that the only respectful time to drape a flag over something is at the funeral of a military veteran. (And yes, I don’t like those American flag jackets either.)

There’s a quote by Sinclair Lewis (attributed to something Huey Long said) that goes: “When Facism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” In that spirit, here’s a video by pn2543 called Sarah Palin and the rise of Christian American Fascism:

And, yes, the photo is legit, it’s not photo-shopped like the infamous “bikini and rifle” pic. According to Alaska Stock Images, it was taken in Southeastern Alaska in the fall of 2001, (Is this Palin’s response to 9/11, I wonder?) and is right’s protected. Since I derive no money from this blog, I think I’m safe to reprint it here (If not, I’ll gladly take it down).

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APWU William Burrus sent an “open letter” to the Postmaster General John Potter, and printed it in the current issue of the American Postal Worker magazine. Some of the clerks at work had read it, and one Burrus-basher in particular was very impressed and said so. With that in mind, I decided to reprint it here.

President’s Viewpoint

An Open Letter to the Postmaster General

(This article first appeared in the November/December 2008 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

Dear Mr. Potter:

I take this unusual step of communicating with you in a public forum because the issues at stake are so important to our country and to our nation’s dedicated postal employees. The 270,000 employees I represent have an institutional interest in your decisions as postmaster general, but under normal circumstances I would refrain from telling you how to operate the Postal Service as long as you refrain from telling me how to run the union. However, present circumstances have potential consequences of such magnitude that I feel I must depart from that philosophy.

“The Postal Service is facing the most serious challenges in its 220-year history.”

As you are aware, the Postal Service is facing the most serious challenges in its 220-year history: We have a slumping economy that is causing dramatic drops in mail volume and a new law, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which — although it was heralded two years ago as the Postal Service’s legislative savior — is having calamitous consequences.

In addition to these objective realities over which the Postal Service has little control, we are grappling with strategic management blunders: an unhealthy and unproductive relationship with major mailers; a misguided policy that relies on work-hour cuts as a response to financial difficulties; and your expressed reluctance to use every available means to maintain the fiscal solvency of the United States Postal Service.

The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act

It is undeniable that the legislation passed nearly two years ago has been a disaster for the Postal Service. (To your credit, you joined with the APWU at the 11th hour in opposition to many of the suggested changes.)

History will show that changing the structure for rate increases from a three-year cycle — which permitted the recovery of prior-year losses — to annual adjustments limited to the rate of inflation will have disastrous consequences for the Postal Service. (Do you recall that advocates of the PAEA said a benefit of the law was that it granted the USPS the authority to “bank” surpluses?)

In addition, the 2006 law saddled management with enormous financial liabilities for its employees’ future healthcare costs. These liabilities would become relevant only if the Postal Service ceases as a functioning institution. (The law also imposed changes to the Workers Compensation program, which have a negative effect on injured workers.)

I do not have a degree in business administration from a prestigious university, but my half-century of service qualifies me as a knowledgeable observer of our revered institution. Throughout these many years, I have never seen the level of uncertainty now confronting us. Without significant adjustment to its business strategies, the Postal Service will not survive as a government institution and a public service.

You recently announced that mail volume has declined 12 percent and that the deficit for Fiscal Year 2008 exceeded $2.3 billion. The struggling economy is expected to further depress mail volume in 2009, and you have warned that we should anticipate an additional $2 billion or more in expenses over revenue next year. In other words, under the rosiest of scenarios, you expect to experience deficits of $5 billion as we enter Fiscal Year 2010, with six years to go before the USPS will satisfy the healthcare liability.

“Without significant adjustment to its business strategies, the Postal Service will not survive as a government institution and a public service.”

There are options you can pursue to avoid this race to oblivion, but some of them require the concurrence of others. To win relief from the oppressive payment of $5.6 billion annually (from 2006 to 2016) for future healthcare liabilities, you would need approval from Congress. Of course, any such relief would contribute to the nation’s deficit at a time when the federal government is bleeding red ink. If you can pull a rabbit out of the hat and evade these stifling obligations you have my support, but it is clear that the odds are stacked heavily against us.

Even if the Postal Service is given the opportunity to delay payment of the healthcare liability, you must weigh the benefit of satisfying this debt over a 10-year period versus stretching it out – with corresponding long-term debts. With future rates tied to inflation, will you be able to afford the inclusion of $1 billion or more in financial commitments on annual budgets far into the future?

A Possible ‘Exigency’

Another short-term solution to postal woes may be to invoke the “exigency” clause in postal law that would permit an increase in postage above the rate of inflation because of “extraordinary or exceptional” circumstances. It is not known what effect such an increase would have on mail volume and whether volume losses (if they occur as expected) would be reversible in the future. If you decide to follow this path, you must be prepared to repeat the step in 2010 and — in the face of future deficits, which are to be expected — in the years beyond. I am not certain that you would be able to convince others that “extraordinary or exceptional” circumstances are legitimate responses in successive years.

Short- or long-term, these options are likely to meet with resistance. Even if they could provide a measure of relief, it would be unwise to depend on their adoption. So it would seem that the Postal Service has little recourse but to resolve its crisis internally.

The Plan Isn’t Working

If there is any hope for such a momentous achievement, the effort must begin with the recognition that the current USPS business plan is not working and cannot be expected to work in the future. There must be an acknowledgement that subcontracting, outsourcing, work-hour reductions, workshare discounts, and an unhealthy level of cooperation with major mailers and their agents have been ineffective.

Although each of these so-called strategies standing on its own can be trumpeted as having saved money, the focus is much too narrow. The savings associated with subcontracting and worksharing should not be viewed in isolation, because the effect is not limited to the costs (or savings) associated with the contracted activity. For example, the $10,000 cost of a subcontracted highway route must be added to the expense of ongoing postal activity. In most circumstances, the reduction of postal productivity more than offsets the reduced labor costs achieved through contracting.

The same applies to workshare discounts. Removing mail volume from the postal system through discounts does not eliminate the USPS need to purchase equipment, maintain sorting facilities, and utilize postal employees to perform distribution. Too often your associates have focused solely on the contracted savings as though the USPS costs have disappeared. In fact, the total costs often increase.

The long-term effect is to make your most highly compensated employees (postal workers) less productive, while making your lower-paid employees (contract employees) more productive.

Ill-Pledged Allegiance

You must evict the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC) from postal headquarters. It is unhealthy to have individuals whose allegiances are to their private-sector employers located inside postal headquarters. There is no similar arrangement elsewhere in our society, where by sheer proximity a major customer has unlimited access to the nerve center of a company. Do you believe that UPS or FedEx would permit a customer to set up shop inside its headquarters? Can you imagine providing the APWU with offices at postal headquarters? Evicting MTAC will change the psychology of the relationship, and shift them from partners to valued customers.

You must also reject every theory that says energy costs or the economy are responsible for USPS deficits. These are factors you have no control over, and they should be accounted for when designing a business plan. After-the-fact whining is nothing more than an excuse offered by inefficient and irresponsible managers who should be replaced with individuals who can be held accountable.

Work hours have been reduced by 36million and yet the institution is still suffering a deficit of at least $2.4 billion, so it should be obvious that work-hour reduction does not lead to solvency. And those who cite labor costs as the driving force behind the deficit should be reminded that postal rates are increasing at the rate of inflation, while wages lag behind.

No institution can survive through cost cutting. When you choose to measure efficiency by the number of work-hours reduced, you have failed before you begin. Progressive and vibrant organizations have business plans that promote growth, not cuts. Work-hour-reduction plans and consolidations are measures of desperation that ultimately will lead to bankruptcy.

If I still have your attention, I would like to make one final point. Perhaps the most important advice I can offer is that you must dispel from your mind the notion that rates or mail enhancements such as (Intelligent Mail) drive volume. When measured against inflation, U.S. postal rates are at a historic low, and comparisons to rates in every other country show that ours are far lower. In fact, when workshare discounts are taken into consideration, our rates are only 50 percent of the rates charged in other countries.

If rates generate volume, why haven’t your friends at MTAC — who pay the lowest rates — generated more volume for you in your time of need? Large mailers are not doing you a favor when they use the mail. They have made a calculated decision that mail is competitive with other types of communication in cost; it is vastly superior in targeting; it reaches a wider audience for each dollar spent, and has great name recognition — U.S. Mail!

Mailers use our services because we serve their interest. Rate manipulation and personal relationships reduce revenue while failing to add a single piece to the mail stream. As the political mantra has it, “It’s the economy, stupid.” The economy drives volume; every decision should reflect this reality.

Focus on USPS Strengths

I suggest that there should be a shift of your focus from the Postal Service’s negatives to USPS strengths – and there are many.

You have a monopoly. You may increase rates without direct competition. You have name recognition and a national presence. You have state-of-the-art mail processing capabilities. People accessing your services must come to you — as opposed to you going to them — and as the economy and the country grow, you automatically gain more customers. You have an army of letter carriers visiting every American home every day, wearing the USPS uniform.

Every decision you make should be directed toward a goal of maximizing these strengths. Instead of establishing a new configuration for retail sales that follows the people, why not funnel retail traffic to locations that add value to your network? Have you ever seen a Wal-Mart in a shopping center? Citizens do not use the mail simply because it is convenient. They use the mail because it is a cheap and efficient means to send messages and transport goods.

Why dilute your monopoly through contracting when you can apply the strength of numbers in all of your activities? You can purchase 1,000 vehicles at an appropriate discount; your typical contractor purchases only 10, at a higher cost, and passes on the inflated costs to you. Why not maximize the volume through your automation program instead of providing incentives for mailers to avoid USPS facilities?

And as you so often have said in public forums, your greatest asset is your workers. Why not maximize their use as agents of a growing enterprise instead of promoting uncoordinated ad hoc programs that often fail to increase overall volume?

I hope you realize that I am offering this perspective in the interest of saving the Postal Service and without a selfish motivation of simply trying to preserve postal jobs. I believe if we are successful, jobs will follow. As the Postmaster General, you have the responsibility to ensure the future viability of the United States Postal Service. It’s a tough job, and these are exceptionally tough times. We are heartened that you come from a family of postal employees, because our future is in your hands.

I think Potter and Burrus both are banking on a more-friendly administration in DC come January, and so I don’t see much action being taken before then. But if McCain somehow wins, we should prepare for the worst: I think the USPS will eventually be broken into pieces with the most profitable being sold (at discount prices, of course) to Fed-Ex, UPS, and anyone else who contributed heavily to McCain/Palin 2008. The leftover crap (the smallest Associate offices and rural delivery, for example) will be kept to run poorly, inefficiently and at a loss by an understaffed, underfunded, shell of it’s former self USPS. This, of course, is only one man’s opinion.

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Opie, Andy, and the Fonze endorse Obama

Here’s a neat video from acclaimed director (and former actor) Ron Howard. Howard dons a toupee and goofy clothes and enlists friends and former coworkers Andy Griffith (Mayberry RFD) and Henry Winkler (Happy Days) in a deliciously hammy appeal for Americans to vote for Barack Obama.

OK, fence-sitters, if Colin Powell’s endorsement doesn’t do it for you, maybe the endorsement of Obama by the icons of America’s Golden Age of culture and values (Happy Days and Mayberry RFD are idealized versions of the innocent and wholesome 1950’s America) will do it.

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die

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