|August 24, 2001 10:10 p.m.
-- One of the best measures of the obscene and ever-growing income
inequality in this country is this: in 1980 the typical CEO of a large
40 times what a factory worker did. By 1998, that ratio had ballooned
to 419 (yes, four hundred nineteen) times. (In Great Britain, by
contrast, the ratio is still 35
times, and in Japan 20 times).
sports -- or at least major league baseball -- has also experienced such a
greatly widened income gap.
In this past Sunday's New
York Times, an anthropology professor was comparing
minor league baseball during his brief career some 30 years ago to
now. One of the differences is that the current average major league
baseball salary of $2 million is more than 100 times greater than the 1967
average of $19,000. But most minor league players, after adjustments
for inflation, make less than what the professor and his minor league
teammates made 30 years ago.
And analogous to the way
entry level service industry jobs don't today pay a living wage (as Barbra
Ehrenreich has recently documented), in minor league
Except for the few who receive large signing
bonuses, rookies earn so little ($900 per month) that some depend on
their parents' credit cards to get by.
So even in this professional
sport, it seems, those at the top aggrandize unto themselves such a huge
share of the available resources that there's not enough left for a living
wage for those at the bottom.
2001 10:05 p.m. -- After suffering a defeat last year in
their valiant attempt to stop a little boy from being reunited with his
loving father, the hard-line element of the Cuban-American community has
finally scored a major victory.
According to The
New York Times,
Months after announcing
to considerable fanfare that the Latin Grammy Awards would move to Miami
from Los Angeles, event organizers have pulled the show from South
Florida over fears that Cuban-American protesters would disrupt the
Why would some
Cuban-Americans object to the Latin Grammy Awards being held in Miami?
Critics of having the
show here argued that the ceremony could provide a platform for
pro-Castro Cuban artists.
But according to the Miami
Several Cuban musicians
are nominated this year, but none were scheduled to perform and it was
unclear whether any would be attending the ceremony.
Even if a
"pro-Castro" singer or band leader did attend, and did get an
award and did say something favorable about Castro, this fanatical element
of the Cuban-American community is so insecure that they need to prevent
And so much for free speech.
But we already know how much
this hard-line element of the Cuban-American community cared about such
things when they were the big shots in dictator Batista's Cuba, and, after
they came to the U.S., how much they have concerned themselves about such
Constitutional niceties here.
[see Cuban-American "Democracy"
2001 9:35 p.m. -- Yesterday,
Newsmax.com graced its home page with the wisdom of the eminent
African-American leader the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, who demanded that Jesse
Jackson drop his Reverend title.
Today, the American public
should again be grateful to Newsmax.com, this time for making room not only
for the insights
of another well-known "civil rights leader" in the
African-American community, Kevin Martin, but also for the further words
of Rev. Peterson, who called for all Americans to boycott the NAACP.
I understand that tomorrow,
Rev. Peterson and Mr. Martin will be holding a joint press conference to
announce the formation of a committee to build a memorial honoring that
great champion of African-American civil rights, Sen. Jesse Helms, who will
be retiring from the Senate after his current term.
2001 8:15 p.m. -- The headline on wacky-right Newsmax.com
reads "Black Leader to Jesse Jackson: You're No Reverend." The article
goes on to quote someone called the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson:
Now is the time to stand on moral
principle and demand that Jackson drop the title 'Reverend,' and [to]
speak out against this immoral man.
To the question, "Have they no
shame?" the answer as to Newsmax.com and Rev. Peterson is, clearly,
"They have no shame."
Newsmax.com, which has a large and
fast-growing conservative audience, is here shown in a pathetic attempt to
elevate one bigmouth with a phantom following (called Brotherhood
Organization of a New Destiny) into a legitimate African-American leader.
Rev. Peterson doesn't have the authority to call for a pizza delivery on
behalf of anyone, let alone to call for Jesse Jackson to drop the title
earlier, Newsmax.com and Fox News are both attempting to discredit the
established African-American leadership and substitute individuals of their
own choosing. Who's buying this con game is anyone's guess.
[more on others who need to shut up about Jesse Jackson]
2001 9:10 p.m. -- As many of us are aware,
the people who pick our fruits and vegetables are among the most exploited,
poorly paid workers in this country. Anyone who still receives
literature from the United Farm Workers
union understands that the plight of many of these workers -- who do some of
the most unpleasant, back-breaking work imaginable -- has not improved
significantly since the Cesar Chavez-led grape boycott way back when.
What most people don't
realize is how easy it would be to remedy the situation, at least as far as
Did you know that according
to a study by a researcher at
the University of California at Davis
...if a 35 percent farm
worker wage increase were fully passed through to consumers, and if
there were no productivity improvements in response to the farm worker
wage increase, the farm worker wages and benefits embodied in a $1 head
of lettuce would rise from about 7 to 9 cents, and the retail price from
$1 to $1.02.
Two cents for each head of
lettuce seems an awfully small price for American consumers to pay to insure
that those who pick this vegetable are paid enough to themselves be able to
feed and otherwise take care of their families.
What about other crops?
For all fresh fruits and
vegetables, the average American would spend about $34 a year more if
farm worker wages rose 35 percent, and $67 more if they rose 70 percent.
Gee, who among us can't
afford ten or even twenty cents a day!
All the more reason why
paying such pitiful wages to these hard-working people is an outrage!
2001 8:00 p.m. -- One of the central goals
of the Republocrat party is to increase the share of the nation's income and
wealth held by the rich, at the expense of the middle class and poor.
And that goal is being achieved.
The government's own data show that the
increasing inequality of income that everyone noticed in the 80's under
Reagan/Bush Sr. continued during the Clinton years. Indeed, it
may even have accelerated then. Democrat or Republican, it doesn't
matter. They both govern in the interests of those at the very top
rung of wealth and income.
Look at this chart...
...and this text excerpt:
[T]he share of the national income
after taxes that the top one percent of the population received nearly
doubled between 1979 and 1997. The CBO data indicate that by 1997, the
2.6 million Americans with the highest incomes — the top one percent
— had as much after-tax income as close to 100 million Americans with
the lowest incomes. Similarly, the 20 percent of Americans with the
highest incomes received as much as the other 80 percent of the
population. [chart and excerpt from Inequality.org]
Such findings are always
criticized by right-wing pundits, who seek to deny what is apparent to
anyone with eyes, ears and an increasingly empty wallet compared to the
rich. A detailed analysis,
however, shows that these findings of a continuing increase in income
inequality are valid.
The stealing of our nation by
the wealthiest few should be the number one economic story every night on
the news. Yet how often have you heard about this ever?!
Such lack of coverage is not
surprising, of course, given who owns the mass media.
2001 11:25 p.m. -- What could be more
infuriating than hearing bigmouths who never risked anything for anybody
continually criticizing the peccadillos of people who risked everything for
The bigmouths I refer to are
those like Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and others of their
ilk who continually criticize Jesse Jackson for alleged financial
irregularities and/or for having an affair. Sure Jackson can be
criticized if he acted improperly. But perspective and a sense of
proportionality are key.
Hannity, O'Reilly et al
elevate the wrongdoing to the sum total of the man, and then ask questions
about whether Jackson is through as a leader, blah blah blah.
People with half a brain and
an ounce of decency take into account that Jackson has for decades devoted
himself to speaking out for the voiceless. Do the conservative pundits
not realize that Jackson risked his life over and over again doing
civil rights work in the Deep South with Martin Luther King, Jr.? It
could have been Jackson who was shot on that balcony, not Dr. King. It
could have been Jackson, not Medgar Evers, who was shot to death.
Such courage and long-term
dedication mean a whole lot to unbiased, not-blinded-by-ideology people.
And what have Sean Hannity or
Bill O'Reilly ever done for anybody? I don't know every detail of
their lives, but I'd wager they've never risked their lives fighting for
social justice. I'd wager they've never risked even getting beaten by
a hostile police force, or bitten by dogs, or water hosed, fighting on
behalf of others.
Oh sure, they may claim
they're speaking for "the average American," for "the little
guy," for "working Americans." Well, even if they were,
talk is cheap, and speaking from the comfort of an air-conditioned TV set
for a huge salary doesn't go very far in granting criticism rights against
others who do far more.
But of course, they don't
really speak on behalf of those they claim to. Quite the contrary, the
policies they espouse and the guests they have (and exclude) show that in
reality Hannity, O'Reilly et al are just shills for big bucks corporate
America, befitting the status these hosts enjoy as part of the top 1% of
income earners in the country.
I wish they'd shut up and
realize their criticisms merely emphasize how small they really are.
Jackson has more courage and integrity in his pinky than Hannity, O'Reilly
et al have in their entire being.
Hannity, go risk your
life on behalf of others.
O'Reilly, go put it all
on the line.
Until then, you and the other
bloviating fraud conservatives should SHUT UP about Jesse Jackson!
African-American "Leader" Should Also Shut Up About Jesse Jackson]
August 17, 2001 9:55 p.m. -- One of the most
repeated mantras of conservative Christians on the talk show circuit -- and
of talk show hosts like Sean
Hannity -- is "No sex before marriage." A related
admonition frequently voiced by these moralists is "No cohabitation
This theology defies all
common sense. It would require that people bind themselves to a
lifetime commitment to have sex with only one person, and to live their
entire life as man and woman with only that person, without ever having had
sex with that person or having lived with that person. In what other
area of human endeavor would anyone make such a lifetime, irrevocable
commitment with so little basis to believe it will work?
Perhaps the moralists don't
even know that sexual preferences and compatibilities differ from person to
person. If your lifetime sole sex partner and you have vastly
different sexual needs, desires and capabilities, such a match will create
only a lifetime of sexual unhappiness.
Likewise with sharing living
quarters with someone. Common sense would dictate that there at least
be a trial period of living together before the lifetime commitment is made.
The moralists often respond
that a pre-marriage living together situation is not the same thing as
living together as man and wife once the commitment is made. That's
true, but it's certainly a better approximation of it than nothing at all.
Would you sign an irrevocable
lifetime contract to work for a company, or with a specific co-worker,
without ever having worked for such a company, or with that
Equally absurd is marrying
someone without even knowing if you are sexually compatible, and if there is
some basis for believing you can happily live together.
I'm not talking here so much
about promiscuity (which for some may be a good thing in any case) but
rather about two people in love who feel they may want to get married, and
who may already even be engaged.
And all this is not to say
that there aren't people who do want to wait until they are married to have
sex or live together. Fine for them.
But don't make that an
iron-clad "moral" rule that everyone is supposed to follow.
For those who do want to test
the waters before plunging in forever, such a course of action certainly
makes sense and should be supported.
2001 9:25 p.m. -- Our economic system used
to be set up so that if people worked full-time jobs, they would earn enough
to support themselves. No more.
Author Barbara Ehrenreich
proved that in her new book Nickel
and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. As she described her
findings in a recent article:
I spent a total of three
months, in three different cities, attempting to support myself on the
wages I could earn as an entry-level worker - as a waitress, a hotel
housekeeper, a maid with a housecleaning service, a nursing-home aide and
a Wal-Mart floor clerk. I could not make ends meet, not with one job
anyway. I averaged $7 an hour, an amount that fell tragically short of my
bare-bones expenses - gas, food and, above all, rent.
If someone is trying to
support a family, forget about it. Even with both parents
working. Even with both parents working more than one job -- which by
itself wrecks havoc with the family and one's own personal health.
While Ehrenreich is a saint
for doing this research, it's amazing to me that it was even
necessary. No college-level calculus is necessary to figure out that
$7/hour doesn't cut it. It's the deliberately thick-skulled,
closed-eye nature of too many Americans that necessitates research like
How have we allowed an
economic structure to be created that violates a most basic tenet of the
social compact? Again Ehrenreich:
Almost everyone - 94
percent of Americans, according to a 2000 poll conducted by Jobs for the
Future, a Boston-based employment research firm - agrees that "people
who work full-time should be able to earn enough to keep their families
out of poverty." When that proposition no longer holds true, then the
social contract, at least as I always understood it, is no longer in
force. And it is hard to imagine a more serious abrogation of
"America's core moral values" than that.
August 15, 2001 8:55 p.m. -- Someone I know
-- who shall remain anonymous to protect the guilty, as well as to avoid
open warfare between us -- left me speechless the other day. That's
not, as visitors to this website may have already surmised, an easy thing to
This person (whom I'll call
by the false name Don) had flown out to California from New York with one of
his children. He used frequent flyer miles to upgrade both their
tickets from coach to first class.
Don was quite impressed with
first class -- the space, the food, the choice of movies, the attentiveness
of the flight attendants. Fine. Don usually, like most of us,
travels in the cramped, noisy and altogether unpleasant quarters of coach.
Then Don started to tell me
how he had felt a bit ill at ease to be sitting in first class with his
child. As Don relates it, whenever he boards a plane bound for coach
in the rear, and walks through the first class section and sees the people
sitting there, he always mutters to himself something about all the
"rich" people enjoying such comfort. Now that he and his
child were sitting there, he was worried other coach passengers passing
through would think the same thing about him and his child.
After a moment or two of
speechlessness, I quipped that perhaps Don and his kid could have worn
buttons that read "Frequent Flyer Update" or some such slogan that
would clearly distinguish them from the truly rich people in that first
Now why was I
speechless? Because I know Don's household income has to be at least
500K a year, and other than a mortgage, the family does not have any
Let's see, the median family
income in this country (that income which half the people earn more than and
half the people earn less than) is $49,497.
So Don earns at least 10 times more than half the country. Seems
pretty rich to me.
Well, maybe you're not rich
until you're in the top 5-10%. According to the Census Bureau, to be
in the top 5% of families by income you have to make at least $155,040.
Don more than triples that.
Well, maybe you have to be in
the top 1% to be rich? The cut-off point for that is an adjusted gross
income of $269,496.
I'm pretty sure Don makes this cut-off point, unless he has deductions to
adjusted gross income totaling nearly 50% of his gross income, which is
All this is to say, Don is
"rich" by any definition of the word. Maybe not Gates-level
super-rich, but still rich enough for it to have left me speechless when Don
made his comments about sitting in first class.
Until those who are rich like
Don -- who make more money than 99% of the rest of the country --
acknowledge that they are rich and that the amount of money they earn and
the wealth they possess is part of the problem, there's no hope of stopping
and reversing the rising level of income inequality and economic injustice
in this country.
August 14, 2001 9:05 p.m. -- Even as a
little kid I had a sense that teachers were doing something very important
in their jobs of teaching the country's children. And I wondered why
they seemed to be not particularly well paid.
It still strikes me as
completely bizarre -- and probably one of those free market distortions of
what we would ideally like to see -- that the people who create cartoons for
our children to watch on Saturday morning are paid many times the amount we
pay our teachers.
In most other industrialized
countries, teachers are paid at a level relatively higher to other jobs than
in the United States.
A recent report by the
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, summarized in The New York
Times, showed that in the United States teachers are paid just under the
average U.S. per capita income. In South Korea they are paid 250% (2.5
times) the average per capita income of that country. A chart in
the newsprint version of the Times article had the figures for
Switzerland at 188%, Mexico at 178%, Germany at 163% and France at
Out of all the member nations
of the OECD, 21 pay teachers a salary relatively higher to other jobs than
the U.S.; only four pay a relatively lower salary.
Relatively meager salary
levels indicate a lack of value accorded a job. What kind of priorities is that?
No wonder the United States
faces a shortage of teachers.
2001 2:05 p.m. -- There is a widespread
notion in the country that the Bush presidency is somewhat less than
legitimate, since he lost the popular vote, and gained an Electoral College
victory only through a Supreme Court diktat.
apparently desperate, have enlisted a ridiculous T-Shirt to counter
Country" T-shirt shows a map of the United States coded not state
by state, but county by county -- the now-familiar red for Bush, blue for
Gore. On a county by county basis, the nation is indeed awash in
red. All this red "Bush Country" must have looked very
exciting to the T-shirt designers and their conservative backers.
But what does this map
actually mean, given that the popular vote and the electoral college were
virtually evenly divided? It merely means that a large number of the
most sparsely populated areas of the country voted for Bush. What this
bizarre fact proves to the right-wingers about the legitimacy of the Bush
presidency is anyone's guess, but it doesn't prove much to me.
2001 10:50 p.m. -- Two medical-related
stories appeared in The New York Times the other day: "Diet
and Exercise Are Found to Cut Diabetes by Half" and "Anticholesterol
Drug Pulled After Link With 31 Deaths." The obvious link
between them is invisible to too many people.
In the first story, patients
who ate less fat, exercised two and a half hours per week, and lost a
moderate amount of weight cut the incidence of diabetes by more than half
among those most at risk. These results were better than obtained by
use of drugs.
Well, if you don't poison the
body with fats, burden it with too much weight, and if you combine that with
moving around a bit like the body was designed to do, of course the body
will function better and be much less likely to develop diabetes.
Since the vast bulk of the
fat which people ingest is contained in animal-derived foods -- meat,
poultry, fish, dairy, eggs -- one way to avoid diabetes is to eat in a more
As far as the other story
about the anticholesterol drug being pulled, most people don't really need
that drug at all. The body produces cholesterol on its own. You
don't need to ingest much, if any, to be healthy. Only people with a
genetic problem which causes their own bodies to produce too much
cholesterol perhaps need a cholesterol-lowering drug.
But for most people, wouldn't
the obvious solution be -- stop eating so many foods containing
cholesterol. Then you won't need a cholesterol-lowering drug that may
Cholesterol is found, in
practical terms, only in animal-derived foods -- the same foods implicated
in diabetes. People insist on eating huge amounts of these foods every
day, and then want a "magic pill" to cure them of the poison that
they have ingested.
Well, even if another
cholesterol-lowering drug works for them, that wouldn't take care of the
problem that eating animal foods is, as the companion story reported,
linked to the incidence of diabetes -- as well, I should add, to the
incidence of many types of cancers.
The common lesson of the two
stories is: take care of your body by exercising and avoiding animal foods,
and your chances of living a longer, healthier life will be greatly
Unfortunately, people are
lazy, and it's true most would rather pop a pill than alter their
"lifestyle." But the proven, dramatic benefits of such
lifestyle changes are rarely given the prominence they deserve in the
medical advice that most people receive.
If patients adopted
preventative measures involving lifestyle changes, the
medical/pharmaceutical establishment would make far less money from selling
people its magic pills and treating them for heart disease and cancer.
Could that be the reason why such preventative measures seem to take the
back seat to the magic pills in the medical advice and treatment that most
2001 10:00 p.m. -- Do you share my
bewilderment at what has got to be one of the worst penny ante corporate
After you dial local
information and -- without the involvement of a live human -- the recording
gives you the requested telephone number, a different recorded voice comes
on the line and sweetly asks if you would like to be connected automatically
for 45 cents.
Every time I hear this
recording, I shake my head in wonder. The directory and local calls
are free (or rather, there are no additional charges, the costs of these two
automated services being subsumed in your monthly fee). But for the
software to automatically connect you, the phone company wants 45 cents.
If it were 5 cents, I say to
myself, sometimes I would, if in a real rush, do it. A dime, and
I'd hesitate. Twenty-five cents, and I'd laugh at the thought.
But when I hear 45 cents requested, I wonder what the phone company is
They offer long-distance for
5 cents a minute, but want you to pay 45 cents to be automatically connected
on a free local call?
Who would do this, especially
on a regular basis? Even were I quite wealthy, I still wouldn't take
advantage of their kind offer, given the blatantly rip-off nature of the
What makes it sad is, I bet
the reason the phone company has continued to offer this service is because
a lot of (non-rich) people really do utilize this automatic connection
August 10, 2001 9:30 p.m. --
[I}n the early
hours of July 22, 92 young people were dragged from their beds by squads
of Italian anti-riot police officers who beat and jailed them.
described students crouching as they were kicked, pummeled with clubs and
thrown down stairs, and emergency room doctors said a number of the
injured would have died without treatment. Television crews arriving on
the scene later filmed pools of blood and teeth knocked out during the
At least two
dozen [students] were hospitalized.
New York Times, August 8, 2000]]
When police brutality against
protesters occurs in the "heat of battle" -- during the actual
demonstration when emotions are high -- the police often use the excuse of
having been provoked.
That excuse is not available
in this Genoa raid.
Moreover, while it turns out
that these students were not -- as the police initially claimed -- of the
anarchist, violent type, but belonged to the majority of peaceful
demonstrators, even if these students had been anarchists, the police still
would have had no right to brutalize them.
This police atrocity brings
to mind the 1969 murder by the Chicago police of Black Panther leader Fred
Hampton while he slept in bed.
Thank goodness no one was
killed in the Genoa raid, even though as indicated in the excerpts above,
the police apparently inflicted wounds on a number of students that would
have been fatal if left untreated.
There has been some of the
usual official hand-wringing over the police action:
Affairs Secretary, Ramon de Miguel, called the scenes a replay of
fascism. Hans- Christian Ströbele, a European deputy from Germany,
said the Genoa police reminded him of "the military dictatorship in
Perhaps not surprisingly, the
Bush administration has not joined in the outcry:
demonstrator's] family has complained that the United States government
has not done nearly enough in speaking out against what went on.
"The U.S. is
conspicuous by its absence in the list of nations that have protested to
the Italian government over the imprisonment and the behavior of the
Italian police in their handling of the protests in Genoa," her
father... said in a message on the family's web site.
A spokesman for
the American Consulate in Milan said, "We're doing all we can."
I'm sure they're doing all
they can. All they can to refrain from gloating in public about the
brutality against the demonstrators.
If you challenge the powers
that be in a serious way, the message of the police action seems to be,
you're going to suffer dire consequences. One must expect that would
be the case most of all when you challenge the people who own and control the world.
2001 9:35 p.m. -- The Colombian government has
just broken off peace talks with the second largest rebel group in that
country. According to the newspaper account,
the U.S. State Department supported this move. A better wording would
likely be "ordered" this move. The U.S. has pumped over a billion
dollars into Colombia, including a huge amount of military aid. As in
the past, the infinitely powerful Northern uncle calls the shots.
Equally alarming is the report
yesterday that an ultra-violent right-wing paramilitary force, the United
Self-Defense Forces of Colombia:
- numbers 8,000 men
- is extremely well-financed
to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, by donations from large
landowners, ranchers, industrialists and financiers
- enjoys the collaboration
of certain military units
- has killed nearly 1,300
people this year, including trade unionists, peasant leaders and human
According to the Colombian
Attorney General, the Self-Defense Forces are waging "a war without
quarter against the Colombian left."
officials in Washington" are pressuring Colombia president Andrés
Pastrana to dismantle the organization. Sure. How much would
anyone like to wager that the U.S. military/CIA/NSA is deeply involved
in the activities of these paramilitary killers?
Indeed, we have here in
Colombia a Contras-type terrorist organization. Just like the Contras,
the Self-Defense Forces earns huge sums from the cocaine trade. And,
of course, just like the Contras were fighting to restore the Somocista
oligarchy in Nicaragua, the Self-Defense Forces are fighting to maintain the
privilege and extreme wealth enjoyed by the Colombian elite at the expense
of the impoverished citizens of that country.
I earlier wrote
about how Coca-Cola and some of its bottlers in Colombia have been accused
of utilizing right-wing paramilitary groups to intimidate and
assassinate labor organizers. I discussed
elsewhere how the Bush administration has "re-hired" hard-line
Reagan-era diplomats like Elliott Abrams, John Negroponte and Otto Reich,
and has set up a well-funded effort to interfere in Nicaragua's upcoming
Doesn't this all sound
Despite the end of the Cold
War, the United States is continuing its murderous ways in Central and South
America. Our southern neighbors have a saying, "so far from God,
so close to the United States." All I can say is, God help the
suffering poor in Central and South America.
2001 9:00 p.m. -- The front page lead story in The
New York Times the other day was headlined "Census
Data Show A Sharp Increase in Living Standard." This seems to
be one of the least justified headlines in recent memory.
The evidence the article
gives for a "sharp increase in living standard" basically
boils down to:
- more high school and
- more people owning cars,
with 18% owning three or more
- bigger homes, with a
"slight" increase in the number of houses with seven rooms or
- growing family incomes
More high school and
college graduates: What does this have to do with standard of
living? Perhaps the assumption is that more well-educated means higher
income. The article doesn't give any data about this.
More people owning cars,
with 18% owning three or more: The article doesn't tell us if the
increase in the number of people owning cars is "sharply" higher
or just a bit more. 18% owning three or more cars fits in with the
proposition that those in the top income brackets are doing far better
proportionately than the rest of the country, not with the proposition that
there is a broad-based "sharp increase in living standard."
Bigger homes, with a
"slight" increase in the number of houses with seven rooms or
more: How much bigger, and whose homes?
Growing family incomes: Adjusted
for inflation? Growing how much? Spread throughout the population, or
only in the upper income brackets? The result of more and more families with
two or more parents/others working? The result of working many more
hours? The article doesn't give us a clue.
You may well be thinking of a
host of other measurements that go into "standard of living" which
the article doesn't touch upon, such as access to decent health care, the
quality of housing, how clean is the air and water...
Beyond the fact the the
article's headline is not borne out by the article itself, isn't it the case
that many Americans feel they are working harder than ever and have less
to show for it?
If The New York Times
was a Republican-oriented newspaper, I'd just assume the publication was
engaging in some pro-Bush spinning. But since the newspaper is
traditionally Democratic-leaning, the headline is quite puzzling.
2001 9:05 p.m. -- If you grew up in the 1950's and
1960's, or if you've studied that era, you know that the political spectrum
has shifted rightward a great deal since then. Bill Clinton and others
from the Democratic Leadership Council segment of the Democratic Party --
because of the policies they espouse -- would have been "Rockefeller
Republicans" back then.
This rightward shift has
meant that those of us with a progressive bent have been increasingly
marginalized during the Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush Republocrat administration
of the past 20 years. How ridiculously far this process has taken us
is deliciously illustrated by the inimitable Tom Tomorrow in "Are
You a Left Wing Wacko."
2001 8:45 p.m. -- Have you ever seen one of these
self-consciously amusing signs posted where there are animals on display?
PLEASE DO NOT
Abuse, aggravate, agitate, alarm, anger, annoy, badger, beset, bother,
bullyrag, disquiet, distress, disturb, exasperate, fluster, frighten,
frustrate, goad, harass, harm, harry, hassle, heckle, hound, hurt,
intimidate, irritate, jeer, maltreat, molest, nettle, persecute, perturb,
pester, plague, provoke, rattle, ruffle, scare, shock, tantalize, tease,
torment, torture, tousle, upset, vex or worry
While the sign is probably
meant to be a bit tongue-in-cheek, I took a moment and thought about each
admonition. Even without having been a pet owner, I can readily
imagine the applicability of each of those verbs to a non-human creature; in
other words, animals can experience all of these emotions.
Go back and read the sign
again. Isn't what I just wrote true?
How can some people maintain
that animals are some sort of automatons, which we should feel free to
imprison, experiment on or kill for food as we see fit?
2001 10:25 p.m. -- In his "On the Contrary" column
today in The New York Times, Daniel Akst makes an attempt to -- in
his own words -- "figuratively" "crush" the
anti-globalization protesters. Akst utilizes a classic three-pronged
strategy: make ad hominem attacks; set up and cut down straw men;
and, finally, cast the villain as hero.
Ad hominem attacks: With
sneering condescension, Akst starts off by labeling the protesters
"ardent young people" living in the "balm of extended studies
lasting well into adulthood," who "arrive by jet" (oh! the
horror of that!) and throw "public tantrums."
What does this remind you
of? How about the catcalls to "Grow up" and "Get a
job" hurled by construction workers at anti-Vietnam War protesters in
the mid-1960's. Akst's fancier words are no more valid a response to
the Genoa protesters than were the construction workers' catcalls back then.
(And we all know how unwarranted those protests against the Vietnam War
On a factual level, Akst
paints all the protesters with the same broad brush, one applicable, if at
all, only to the violent anarchists who the protest leaders themselves wish
would go away. Akst ignores the existence of a broad coalition of
"adult" labor unions and human rights and environmental
organizations, which comprise the leadership and vast majority of the
Cutting down straw men: Akst
next opines that the protesters "have no coherent idea what they're
after," "appear unable to even articulate" an economic
vision, and "appear to be against the only thing giving the world's
poorest nations any hope at all: continued global economic growth."
Perhaps Akst didn't do his
homework? Perhaps Akst formed his opinions of the protesters' goals by
listening to 20-second sound bites from CNN?
If Akst had bothered to
consult the web sites of any of the organizers of the demonstrations -- for
example, the Fifty
Years is Enough campaign -- he could have quite easily found out the
protesters' goals. Simply put, the protesters want internationally
what most people want within their own country: an open, inclusive and
democratic decision-making process; economic fairness for all segments of
the population; and protection of the environment.
Moreover, by doing a bit of
research, Akst would have realized that the media-christened term
"anti-globalization protesters" must be seen as shorthand. No
rational person doubts that the world will become increasingly integrated.
These groups make it perfectly clear that they are not trying to stop the
process of globalization. They make it perfectly clear that they are not
against global economic growth.
What they are against is the
globalization process as presently constituted. What they are for is a
process of globalization and economic growth which adheres to the aforesaid
The Villain as Hero: Finally,
Akst writes of the protesters that "their ideas are a threat to the
very people they seem bent on helping." It is not the protesters,
Akst would have us believe, but rather the G8 nations whose "economic
vision...is infinitely more plausible and more humane."
Permit me to be a bit
skeptical. Aren't the G8 nations the same folks who imposed upon the
world 500 years of slavery and colonialism? Didn't the formal end of
colonialism (if not the lasting effects) come just 40 years ago? And
now these same folks have suddenly decided to reverse course 180 degrees and
implement a global economic structure that will help the former colonies and
slaves? I don't think so.
Even more bizarrely, Akst
criticizes the system of "huge foreign loans" that was part of a
"litany of failures." But who devised that system of
"huge foreign loans?" None other than the G8 nations after
World War II. This system has led since then to an ever-increasing
inequality of wealth and income between the G8 nations and the Third World.
Does he really think that the
intention of the G8 nations is to now decrease their share of income and
wealth in the world?
counter-argument would be the "global economic growth" he offers
as the answer to the world's suffering poor. This is, of course, the
"rising tide lifts all boats" concept. Well, Reagan's failed
policies showed trickle-down economics wouldn't work domestically in the
U.S., and there is no reason to suppose it would work internationally.
Quite the contrary. The inequality of wealth and income in the United
States has vastly increased since 1980.
Of course, even if a rising
tide would lift all boats, that wouldn't be the case if the owners of the
yachts were surreptitiously blasting underwater holes in the hulls of the
smaller boats. That is exactly what the protesters fear is happening
behind the closed doors of Genoa and other such locations.
Akst's column claims it
"tilts at conventional business wisdom." Not in his column
today. He simply repeats the long-established talking points of those
who own and control the world's wealth.
August 4, 2001 9:30 p.m. -- As discussed yesterday, Joe Lieberman shamelessly attempted to
ingratiate himself with Bill O'Reilly the other day when Lieberman appeared
on O'Reilly's cable talk show. Yet there's something even more objectionable
about Lieberman's appearance.
O'Reilly was at one point
criticizing Lieberman's contention that in addition to people who paid
income taxes, people who paid payroll taxes should also have been sent the
recent tax "rebates."
O'REILLY: [Y]ou would be taking money
away from other people to give them money because they didn't pay tax in
the first place.
And that's the redistribution of income that many working Americans don't
like the Democrats for.
LIEBERMAN: Yeah, no. We always say, I said it last week at a Democratic
Leadership Council meeting, we're not for redistribution of income. We
want to grow the economy.
"redistribution of income." Let's call it ROI.
Any economic system that is
not totally static winds up redistributing the relative proportion of income
and wealth that different segments of the population enjoy. Even when
the economy grows. The question is, from whom -- and to whom -- will
the money flow.
Lieberman and his ilk who
condemn ROI use that term to mean a money flow from the middle class and/or
the rich, to the poor. O'Reilly says "working Americans"
don't like it, with the assumption that the ROI is from them to those who
But that's not what has ever
happened, certainly not in the last few decades. In other words, what
about ROI the other way, from the poor and/or the middle class, to the rich?
Any economic system designed
by the wealthy will be set up to transfer an increasingly higher percentage
of income and wealth from all others to them. That's how the wealthy
became so, and they certainly aim to continue that process. That's human
And that's exactly what has
[O]ur economy has
been getting increasingly unequal. Whether measured by wages, income or
wealth, for 25 years the share of the privileged has increased, and
everyone else (a roughly 80 percent majority) has become relatively worse
off. [from United
for a Fair Economy]
In future days I'll present
some numbers illustrating this outrageous ongoing process.
For now, however, let's open
our eyes and understand that when those like Lieberman and O'Reilly express
their opposition to ROI, they are really only opposing ROI that would come
from the rich and go to the middle class and the poor. They are quite
happy with ROI in the other direction -- from the poor and the middle class
to the rich -- which is precisely what has been happening, and which is a
subject that Lieberman, O'Reilly et would make verboten.
August 3, 2001
8:15 p.m. -- Joe "The Pious Prude" Lieberman guaranteed his
place in the Ass-Kisser's Hall of Fame with his performance yesterday on
Bill O'Reilly's Fox News talk show "The O'Reilly
Factor." As you read these bits of the transcript, keep two
things in mind:
First, these written transcript
excerpts can't even begin to convey Lieberman's fawning tone. If these
excerpts were dialogue in a screenplay, each of Lieberman's subsequent lines
would have the stage directions "(obsequiously)", "(more
obsequiously)", and "(even more obsequiously)."
Second, this conversation took place
in the face of O'Reilly's usual overbearing, pompous egomania, which
Lieberman was so clearly eager to feed.
Now the excerpts:
A harbinger of things to
O'REILLY: So, Senator Lieberman, welcome
to THE O'REILLY FACTOR. [sarcastically] I'm glad you finally made it here.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: Bill, I am too. Thank you
Lieberman works in a
congratulations to O'Reilly for how well his program is doing in the face of
LIEBERMAN: That's the problem... [W]e
say to them, you used to have a code of conduct in movies, television.
You drew the lines on which you would compete so you wouldn't go down into
the gutter. Why don't you do it again?
O'REILLY: No, they can't because there's too much competition now. The
industries are wide open. There's too much competition to get the
LIEBERMAN: You're doing OK.
O'REILLY: Yeah, we're doing fine.
Lieberman's "shocked, shocked"
that he had been invited on the program and didn't know about it:
O'REILLY: And that brings me to my other
question. You guys, Gore and you, you'd be sitting in the White House
right now... if you'd come on THE FACTOR. Now...
O'REILLY: ... no, you would have, and here's why.
O'REILLY: We had so -- we have a very large audience in Florida. And many
of those people are independents or libertarians, a lot of people.
And you guys flat out would not come on this program. We were stunned.
LIEBERMAN: Seriously? Seriously?
O'REILLY: We were stunned.
LIEBERMAN: I've got to tell you the truth. I never knew that I was
He likes Bill, he really, really likes
him, and he'll certainly keep coming back:
O'REILLY: Oh, come on. Then fire your whole staff
because we kept calling and calling and calling, and the Gore guys not
only would they say no, he's not going to come on, they'd say, "We
hate you, we hate you," because they thought were rooting for Bush,
LIEBERMAN: Yeah. Well, I like your show and I like you. And, you know,
I'll keep coming on, because (INAUDIBLE)...
Again, he's glad he came on the show,
in fact so glad, he jokes maybe he should use O'Reilly as a consultant:
O'REILLY: Listen, Hillary Clinton is going to run
for president. Did you know that?
LIEBERMAN: No, I hadn't heard that.
O'REILLY: Oh, yeah. She's been sneaking over to Iowa... and she didn't
think that we knew. But we do know.
And she's been having her caucus groups like this. And she says she's not
going to run, but she's running. Now...
LIEBERMAN: All right, I'm glad I came on the show.
O'REILLY: Would you run against her? Could you see that, can you envision
LIEBERMAN: Oh, look, it's early, a lot closer to 2000 than 2004... I'm
keeping the doors open.
O'REILLY: Yeah, but she's raising all kinds of money with Hill PAC and
she's going out to Iowa, I know it's early, but if you don't get on the
stick, she's going to have a big advantage.
LIEBERMAN: All right, maybe we should consult. You can give me some advice
And a parting kiss-up to O'Reilly:
O'REILLY: Hey, good to see you. You're welcome
anytime. You tell that Al Gore I'm looking for him too.
LIEBERMAN: All right. We've been trying to figure out why we didn't do
better in Florida. And now I know why.
O'REILLY: Now you know. OK, nice to see you,
O'Reilly is by now grinning ear to
ear, even more pleased with himself than usual.
It's understandable that Lieberman
would like access to the eyes and ears of O'Reilly's one million viewers,
but have you no shame, Joe? It was embarrassing to watch.
Please, Joe, do your most obsequious
ass-kissing in private.
[other Fox-related articles about: O'Reilly;
August 2, 2001
9:15 p.m. -- The
level of U.S. interference in the upcoming Nicaraguan presidential election
is much worse that I previously thought.
a week ago that based on the differential in population size between the
United States and Nicaragua, the $5.6 million earmarked by the U.S. State
Department to "assist" in the Nicaraguan presidential election is
the equivalent of a foreign country spending over $356 million to
"assist" in a U.S. presidential election.
However, there is not just a
big difference in population between the two nations. The United
States is incredibly wealthy, and Nicaragua is horribly impoverished, one of
the poorest nations on earth.
In 1999 the U.S. Gross
Domestic Product was $7.6
trillion, 525 times Nicaragua's GDP of $14.6 billion.
So in terms of the impact
that spending $5.6 million in Nicaragua will have, that's the equivalent of
a foreign country spending $2.9 billion to "assist" in a U.S.
Everyone is well aware of the
corrupting effect of money on U.S. politics. Imagine how $2.9 billion
would distort election results in this country.
It will be no less so in
the United States makes it very clear which candidates it does and does not
want to win in Nicaragua, the money we are spending there is likely to
hinder, not advance, the cause of democracy there.
[for more detailed info]
[to oppose U.S. intervention]
August 1, 2001 9:35 p.m. -- In its recent report detailing how Fox
News is anything but "fair and balanced," the progressive media
watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting documented Bill O'Reilly's
obsession with Jesse Jackson. O'Reilly's The Factor program has
run 56 negative segments on Jackson since late 1998. This focus on
Jackson goes deeper, however, than a personal fixation on O'Reilly's part.
Fox News seems to have
undertaken a concerted, network-wide campaign to anoint new leaders of the
African-American community, through a constant drumbeat of negative pieces
on the established leaders, and the allocation of huge amounts of prime time
exposure to the conservative African-American individuals Fox would prefer
For example, "Does Jesse
Jackson Represent the Whole African-American Community" was a major
segment on Hannity & Colmes yesterday. From that program
you expect this sort of thing.
But even The Edge with
Paula Zahn has been pressed into the service of this agenda, running a
recent piece entitled "Is the NAACP Selling Out Black America?"
"leaders" of the African-American community such as the Rev. Jesse
Lee Peterson of an organization called Brotherhood Organization of a New
Destiny, and Kevin Martin of a group called Project 21, are repeatedly given
an amount of airtime by Fox far out of proportion to their positions, if
such exist at all, as African-American leaders.
Fox allies like the
ultra-conservative Newsmax.com get into the act also, running
"stories" like "Civil Rights Leader Questions NAACP's
Legitimacy." And who is that "civil rights leader"? You
guessed it, the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson.
Interestingly, Fox also gives
airtime to spokesmen for the New Black Panther Party, from the opposite end
of the political spectrum as Martin and Rev. Peterson, but still highly
critical of the established African-American leadership.
One of the criticisms leveled
by Martin and Rev. Peterson concerns the close relationship of the
established African-American leadership to the Democratic Party. It
doesn't take a genius to point out that 90% of African-Americans voted for
Gore. Clinton was, and still is, wildly popular in the
African-American community. Any close relationship would seem to be
called for, not something to criticize.
Another constant refrain is
that when Jesse Jackson threatens to lead boycotts of companies which refuse
to end unfair racial practices, he's engaging in "shakedowns" and
"extortion." These Fox-selected African-American
"leaders" don't explain how what Jackson is doing is any different
than what advocacy groups on both the Right and the Left have done for
decades in their respective efforts to correct what they see as corporate
Fox News is owned by
ultra-conservative, Australian-born media mogul Rupert Murdoch. I
can't recall seeing a single African-American host or news anchor on Fox
News. (Come to think of it, I can't even recall seeing an
African-American reporter, although I may have missed one.) It thus
seems doubtful that Fox has its finger on some significant current in the
African-American community that the rest of the media have missed.
This whole effort by Fox is
just one more example of its "unfair and unbalanced" reporting.