Burris Hubris

Gov. Rod Blagojevich nominated Roland Burris yesterday to replace Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate.  An exercise in extreme hubris this move signaled an arrogance unchallenged outside the White House in recent years.  No one nominated by Blago has any credibility and cannot serve.  The automatic assumption is the seat was bought and paid for and therefore only a fool would agree to such a nomination.  The Senate already has enough fools and doesn’t need one more.

Why Roland Burris would ever agree to be humiliated this way is the obvious question.  The Governor tried challenging anyone who contests his appointment by claiming the people of Illinois would be deprived of their voice and full voting representation in the Senate should Burris be rejected.  The Illinois Secretary of State is already refusing to certify the appointment.  

Blagojevich is correct that the people of Illinois are being denied full representation in the Senate due to this scandal.  What he doesn’t realize is that this is wholly, completely his fault and his responsibility.  If he’d kept such high minded principles in mind instead of trying to auction the seat to the highest bidder his concerns might be credible.  As such it seems they only serve as reasons to impeach him as Governor.

The Roland Burris Issue-updated Get Out Roland Burris

It would be easy enough to simply say that because Blagojevich likely engaged in illegal, inappropriate conduct and activities in initially seeking to fill the vacant Senate seat that therefore anybody whom he would eventually seek to appoint would be fruit of the poisoned tree and invalid regardless of that individual’s own background and credibility.  

Unfortunately this way of thinking lends credence to the notion that once tarnished always tarnished and that smacks of how a lot of our society regards people who are convicted felons or offenders, even if they’ve paid their debt and sentence.  

It takes a lot more character, understanding, and maturity to realize that absent some legal earthquakes, an appointment or replacement needs be made, because the people of Illinois and America have every right to proper and full representation per our larger legal foundation of the Constitution.  Prosecute Governor Blagojevich to the fullest extent, sure, no disagreement there at all, but this is where the pound of flesh must stop and other considerations and laws set a boundary that no amount of political party wrankling, media spin, or obstinate defiance by other public officials, should be allowed to surmount.  

I’m sorry but who the hell do the Senate Democrats, the state legislature of Illinois, and other state and federal figures think they are, that because they have anger rightfully aimed at Blagojevich that it somehow is ok to bring that to anyone whom Blagojevich might appoint.  I know the Congress and current President have gotten used to wiping their backsides with the U.S. Constitution over the last 8 years, but it still has clear instructions of how things are to be handled.  Show the people of Illinois, the people and America, those whom you allegedly are supposed to be working for, that you are not above the law, simply because someone pissed you off and did something wrong, but you feel right in taking it out on the appointed person, or the people of Illinois and America.  If it can be verified that Burris had nothing to do with the activities that were part of the Blagojevich improprieties, then you all need to lay the hell off and get back to worrying about things that are a lot more troubling and in need of your precious shallow attention span than this circus.  I’m sorry but the political parties are not the kings and this is a perfect example of showing political party arrogance that sours the average person from believing that people matter more than party.  Here’s a chance to show us that the people do matter more.

Well, well, it seems that after some verification of the situation, Mr. Burris left out one big hole of testimony when he should have provided it.  Had he noted his calls and the substance of them when asked by the impeachment committee and all had been cleared up prior to his seating in the Senate, then I would think these latest accusations and calls for him to step down to be some shameless political grandstanding and much ado about little.  

However, Mr. Burris, you had the opportunity to tell it all when asked to do so and like so many other politicians and public officials, of many parties and ideologies before you, when the time came to come clean, you only washed your hands and not your whole self clean of it.  

This, sir, will not do and I am surprised that you did not think that such information would not come to light in due time.  Why is it that so many political hacks and even seasoned veterans of the public forum and political arenas think they can be forever insulated or withheld from being “found out” or having to answer for anything about whatever they’ve done and should not have.    Granted, a good many of us citizens are quite bluntly dumb sheep and willing to give either benefit of the doubt or buy a good line if we hear it.  However, sooner or later, the truth will come out.  

Mr. Burris, you had a chance to do the honorable and proper thing and it appears you did not.  Now, I call on you to do the only honorable thing and avoid even more scandal following scandal and remove your tarnished figure from the table and allow the good citizens of Illinois a chance at representation that will not be so tainted or unwilling to be forthright and honorable with such a place and role in the structure of governance.  

I stood up for you and gave you benefit of the doubt, but I now believe that doubt was misplaced.  You made the error of wanting the seat more than wanting to represent what that seat is; shame on you, resign.

Saltsman Is the GOP

I’m sick and tired of the talking heads on TV saying Chip Saltsman isn’t representative of Republicans.  The former Huckabee (let’s remember this when Huck runs again) campaign manager is running for Chair of the Republican National Committee and sent an overtly racist cd to RNC members over the holiday.  The music included the Rush Limbaugh “Barack the Magic Negro” outrage and another song titled the “Star Spanglish Banner.”

I interviewed many Republicans at McCain-Palin events this fall and can say, without doubt or hesitation, that this racism IS representative of the GOP.  The Republican “big tent” these days is nothing more than an oversized Ku Klux Klan hat.  I found no one at these events who wasn’t a racist.  Many were proud of that characterization.  To discover that Saltsman, a candidate for their highest Party office sent such a racist item out to his voters did not come as a shock or surprise.

When I outed Adam LaDuca (Pennsylvania College Republicans) as a racist not one Republican official even made a public comment.  When Rush Limbaugh first aired “Barack the Magic Negro” no Republicans condemned the act.  When Mike Morrill and I taped racist Republicans at McCain-Palin events no Republicans responded here condemning their actions.  The pattern is that Republicans tolerate this shit.  Don’t go on CNN and try and tell me this isn’t representative of the GOP when it is.

Israel’s Overreaction

I understand my Jewish friends are going to be upset with this opinion but, at some point, the thought of Jews committing wholesale slaughter of other human beings must repulse them.  Responding to rocket attacks with 300 F-16 bombing missions is not reciprocal, proportionate, defensive or justifiable.  This is wholesale slaughter of civilians.  It cannot be tolerated.

Israel has been conducting a brutal siege of Gaza for three years.  People are starving, barely surviving and the rocket attacks on illegal Israeli settlements are their only means of responding.  Israelis have been building these settlements on occupied territory so it will be more difficult politically to trade land for peace.  They have built a huge wall and every Palestinian is treated as a terrorist.  This has bred distrust and caused much hatred in a region where it’s already too easy to radicalize new terrorists.

Hamas is not without blame.  It is the elected government of Gaza however thanks to the misguided policies of others.  When no other country or NGO would provide basic services for the Palestinians Hamas stepped forward.  They won the support of the people this way and, like it or not, is the democratically elected sovereign government in Gaza.  Israel is not attacking just a terrorist group but the government of Gaza, therefore its people.

The invasion of Lebanon was also totally non proportionate after relatively (gauged against the Israeli reaction) minor intrusions.  This is very bad precedent and allows India, for example, to use nuclear weapons to retaliate against Pakistan for the Mumbai attacks.  No one could argue against such an atrocity based on the Israeli example of nonproportionality.  The levels of this violence in response to rocket attacks is insane, destabilizing and borders on genocide when taken in context of the siege also being conducted.

The $6 Million Social Worker

The $6 Million Social Worker

By Walter Brasch

           The New York Yankees just bought a first baseman for $180 million. For the next eight years, Mark Teixeira will earn about $22.5 million a season. The week before, the Yanks bought seven years of pitcher CC Sabathia’s life for $161 million, about $23 million a season–and five years of A.J. Burnett for $82.5 million, about $16.5 million for each season, according to the Associated Press. None of the salaries include any incentive pay or outside endorsements, which add millions to each salary.

           The three new pinstriped multimillionaires join third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who has a 10-year $275 million contract, and shortstop Derek Jeter, whose 10-year $189 million contract ends in 2010. First baseman Jason Giambi, who won’t be with the Yankees next year, picked up about $23.4 million during the 2008 season. Although the Bronx Bombers bombed this past year, and didn’t even make the playoffs, they are on the fast track to the World Series of Obscene Salaries. They aren’t the only ones in contention.

           America pays major league professional athletes far more than even the most efficient long-term factory worker. For the National Football League the minimum wage is $225,000 a year; for Major League Baseball, it’s $390,000; for the National Basketball Association, it’s $442,000. Almost every athlete earns far more than the minimum, with most earning seven-figure incomes, plus endorsements worth another 6- or 7-figure income. Leading all athletes is Tiger Woods, whose team of accountants and business managers had to figure out where to put his $128 million earned in 2008. “Only” $23 million was from playing golf; the rest was from endorsements and business deals.  

Although about 70 percent of the 120,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild make less than $5,000 a year, A-list movie stars command at least $10 million a picture. Their worth is based not upon acting ability but upon their B.O.–box office, that is. Prime-time network TV stars grab at least $2 million a year. Charlie Sheen leads the list, with a salary of about $825,000 for each 30-minute episode, about $19 million for the 2008¨C2009 season, according to TV Guide.

           Super models, whose main talent is to be anorexic and have high cheekbones, are pulling in million dollar salaries, with Giselle Bundchen netting a very gross $33 million this year. Kate Moss, Heidi Klum, Adriana Lima, and Alessandra Ambrosio each earned $6¨C9 million this year, just for modeling.  Supermodels average about $70,000 a day. That’s well above the average annual salary of teachers, firefighters, and police officers.

           Miley Cyrus, who’s just 16, raked in $25 million this past year, about double what the High School Musical stars each earned in 2008.

           If you’re a rapper, it’s hard to be a part of the ‘hood if like 50-Cent you earned $150 million this year. Jay-Z, who led the list in 2007, trailed with $82 million. The top 20 rappers each earned at least $10 million, and that’s a lot of scrillah fo’shizzle.

           Rush Limbaugh, perhaps radio’s greatest comedian, has a $400 million eight-year contract that will carry his voice on 600 stations through 2016. Far behind are factually-challenged Sean Hannity with a five-year $100 million contract, and Bill O’Reilly, the bloviator-in-chief, who is cashing a measly $10 million a year.

           Oprah leads the list of celebrity income–she got about $385 million last year. Every TV celebrity judge makes more than the $208,000 that a Supreme Court justice makes. Leading the pack is Judge Judy, whose screechy shouting on TV earned her about $25 million last year.

           The president of the United States, even the most incompetent one, earns $400,000. Compare that to the average salary for each of the Fortune 500 CEOs who earns about $13 million a year, about 400 times more than that of the average worker.

           But, it’s the average worker who is the one who actually produces America’s goods, who actually helps other Americans. If life was fair, and people were paid what they were worth, there would be only a very small pay gap between bosses and workers. Here’s some news I think should be published in the new year–but probably won’t be.

           ¡ñ In an exclusive to KBAD-TV, Avarice K. Toadstool, president of Amalgamated Conglomerate Industries, said he will increase the pay of all line workers to at least $175,000 a year. Toadstool also said his company not only will provide full health coverage and college expenses, but will assist the workers to unionize. To pay for the increase, Amalgamated will cut executive salaries, quarterly “retreats,” and stock dividends.

           ¡ñ The federal government today approved the salary cap for all social workers. Although no social worker may now make more than $6 million a year, the base for entry-level social workers was raised to $750,000. Not included in the cap are signing bonuses and work-performance incentives. “We believe in the American philosophy of paying employees by what they’re worth to the advancement of society,” said Hull House director Jane Addams IV, who received a $2.5 million bonus last year for performance in suicide prevention assists, catastrophic disaster relief, and employment reclamation.

           ¡ñ The Humane Society today signed Polly Pureheart to a 10-year $104 million contract, largest in history. “Polly’s a triple-threat terror, and worth every penny we pay her,” said general manager Wolf Greycoat. During a 22-year all-star career, Pureheart is the all-time leader in animal rescue/rehabilitation, arrests for felonious animal cruelty, and lobby influence. Pureheart is personally credited with 1,087 unassisted tackles of recalcitrant legislators.

           ¡ñThe West Wattabago Daily Blab today signed investigative reporter David Bergman to a three-year $17.4 million contract. Bergman, who had been the clean-up hitter with the East Pacoima Tribune the past four years, was granted free agency status in November. During 2007, Bergman led the league in school board meetings coverage and uncovering local political scandals. For each of the past five years, he was a consistent .300 hitter, averaging at least three successes for every 10 news stories he reported.

           In a related story, Phillies pitcher Harry Horsehide became the highest paid player in sports when he signed a three-year contract for $108,000 a year. The new contract will mean general admission ticket prices will rise to about $10, with premium seating at $30, according to Phillies management.

           [Walter Brasch is professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University, and at the top of the salary schedule. After 28 years, his salary now exceeds what he earned before going into higher education. Dr. Brasch is also the author of 17 books, including the critically-acclaimed America’s Unpatriotic Acts: The Federal Government’s Violation of Constitutional and Civil Rights (2004); ‘Unacceptable’: The Federal Government’s Response to Hurricane Katrina (2006); and the 560-page Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush (2008). All books are available at amazon.com, and most bookstores. You may contact Dr. Brasch through his website, www.walterbrasch.com, or by e-mail at brasch@bloomu.edu]

Simulated Drowning

I heard a piece on NPR the other day about the foreclosure disaster.  A couple in hard hit California, underwater in their home, decided to stop paying their mortgage and allow foreclosure to happen.  They made this decision because they thought they were drowning financially.  Being underwater (owing more than the home is currently worth) isn’t cause for financial suicide folks.  The market for these homes will come back and committing credit hari kari doesn’t make sense.

Buying a home is looked upon as the centerpiece of personal financial success.  It is usually one of the best long term assets into which one can invest.  Being underwater now doesn’t mean you’ll be in this situation forever.  The market ALWAYS comes back.  Once this severe recession ends homes and property will again appreciate.

Why throw a good home away for nothing?  These people may never again be able to buy a home after going through what is, basically, a voluntary foreclosure.  This doesn’t make sense.  We all need a roof over our heads and the people on the NPR story have a nice house for which they paid $440,000.  Neighborhood homes already in foreclosure have brought that down to $200,000.  Some homes in their development sold for $690,000 at the peak of the market.

While it may not be realistic to think their home will reach that level within ten to twenty years it is realistic that once the foreclosure crisis is solved (and no one has yet addressed this underlying issue) and the market stabilizes home values will again begin climbing.  They always do.  Throwing your home on the trash heap because of a short term fluctuation is madness.  These people are past just simulating their financial drowning they are using being underwater to drown themselves financially for the rest of their lives. Stupid.

Buying American-made Toys

This is a guest column by Stephen Crockett:

Buying American-made Toys

by Stephen Crockett

I did not buy any toys for the many children in my life this year. Admittedly, money was very tight after the economy collapsed from eight years of Republican mismanagement. However, the main reason I did the scrooge thing this Christmas is that I simply refused to buy Chinese made toys for the American children I love so dearly.

The American children I love so dearly need to inherit, from all of us, a nation with a strong manufacturing base. These children need to grow up in an economy that will pay good wages to all our citizens and that actually makes things. Buying cheap junk made in third world nations for Christmas presents is not doing these children any favors.

I cannot understand why no American toy companies are making toys in America. Obviously, the greed of the corporations and American governmental trade policy has combined to destroy toy manufacturing in this nation. If both our corporate leaders and government officials cannot change their behaviors and start making toys in America, we should boycott completely imported toys and change our elected leaders at the first opportunity.

Making toys in low wage nations does fatten the bottom line of corporations at the expense of the future of the American economy. It helps pay the outrageously bloated salaries of corporate CEO’s but actually does little to reduce the cost to consumers. It often means shoddy and unsafe toys are being given to our children. The corporate CEO’s need to curb their greed and start thinking about the future of the American economy!

One of the first things we can do, starting right after the beginning of the New Year, is to visit as many retail stores as possible and file written complaints about the non-availability of American-made toys this past Christmas. Every Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target and toy store in America should be getting hundreds or thousands of complaints from patriotic Americans. We owe it to our children to demand that the toys that we buy for them actually contribute to a better future for them when they become working adults.

Imported toys do not contribute to a better future for today’s children. They do not contribute tax revenues to provide healthcare and better schools in the way American-made toys do. They do not provide decent paying jobs for their parents in the way American-made toys do. They are certainly not as safe as American-made toys.

American-made toys help pay the national debt and reduce the trade imbalance with foreign nations by reducing imports. American-made products help build the American economy. They help pay for our police forces, emergency services and military.

Retailers who do not sell American-made toys should be boycotted. Toy companies who do not manufacture toys in America should be boycotted. Toy imports should be taxed heavily. Imported, cheaply-made, often unsafe toys are not in the national interest. Our governmental policies should reflect clearly that reality.

Toy companies need to hear from consumers that Americans want to buy toys made in America. I urge consumer groups, labor unions, church groups, political activists and patriotic individuals to organize efforts to get this message to the toy companies. Our political leaders need to hear the same message.

We can all circulate petitions at work and in our communities. We can all write members of Congress and President Obama. We can write our local newspapers, blog on the Internet and call radio stations. A little picketing of toy stores, Wal-Marts, corporate headquarters of toy companies and Congressional field offices might help us deliver the message that American-made toys are one of the many changes we need to make in the American economy.

I will certainly be talking about this subject on my Democratic Talk Radio program in 2009. I hope other patriotic talk radio hosts regardless of ideology will join in these efforts along with writers and grassroots political activists. We owe it to the children of America.

Greedy, unpatriotic corporations should not be forcing me or you to choose between disappointing the children we love or being unpatriotic consumers mortgaging the economic future of those same children. We are willing to buy American.

The challenge to Wall Street and corporate America is simply stated, “Are you willing to manufacture and sell us the American-made products we want to buy?” Those companies smart enough to accept the challenge will certainly have a ready and willing market of patriotic Americans who love our children.

Written by Stephen Crockett (Host of Democratic Talk Radio http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio… and Editor of Mid-Atlantic Labor.com http://www.midatlanticlabor.com) .  Mail: 698 Old Baltimore Pike, Newark, Delaware 19702. Phone: 443-907-2367.

My Christmas List

First and foremost my Christmas list asks for peace on earth and goodwill to ALL!

I’d like Santa to send George W. Bush and Dick Cheney lumps of “clean coal” for their stockings.

I’d like Santa to give John McCain one Sarah Palin to have to live with for three months.  You betcha!

I want Santa to give us more Tina Fey skits on SNL lampooning Gov. Palin.

I’m asking Santa to end the wars and bring our troops home.

Santa, please convince Gov. Rendell to support healthcare for ALL.

Santa should bring handcuffs and leg irons for all war criminals, torturers and Rod Blagojevich.

Santa please, PLEASE give me Chris Matthews as a Senate candidate.  I have so less to write about since we got rid of Rick Santorum…

I also want ten little Gubernatorial candidates to make the 2010 race more fun to watch and cover.

Santa please bring some sane regulation to Wall Street so people can keep their homes.

Please bring relief to the homeowners being shut out of the massive bailout packages.  

And finally Santa please leave something special under the tree.  You know what I mean….


Obama Releases Blago Report

While it doesn’t exonerate Barack Obama or his staff (only the federal prosecutor can do that) the report issued by the Obama office about contacts between his staff and Governor Blagojevich about his successor reveal nothing wrong.  Other than what seem like routine telephone calls which were quite limited.  In fact it seems as if the Obama staff, focused on the transition, took little interest in the efforts to replace him in the Senate.

The right wing conspiracy theorists hoping for Fitzmas must be quite disappointed.  The arrest documents released by Patrick Fitzgerald’s office when Blago was nabbed seemed quite clear that nothing wrong had taken place based on the corrupt Governor’s reaction.  I’m not quite sure why this escapade had them so excited that they could destroy an Obama Administration before it even took office.  Such is the desire of the right wing to destroy this country.  It’s sad and pathetic.