Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Need I Say More?

Solidarity Begins at Home

I first sang this song two years ago, when the USPS tried to fire Tom because of his union work. (Of course, that's not what they said, but who are we kidding?) It was—and is—my love song to him. I know, I know, freedom doesn't require "getting you a man," and many have written more woman-empowering, woman-friendly verses to substitute for this one, but I can't help it. I love this verse just the way Woody wrote it. Tom was so tickled when I first sang it to him. He threw his head back and laughed and laughed with his huge bark of a laugh. I'm behind him a bazillion percent, and being in this together makes us both very much stronger.

Tom has spent most of the month of August in Norman, Oklahoma. The USPS sent him there to learn how to fix a machine that doesn't work and that they probably won't ever use. This kind of management decision is not remotely unusual at the USPS. Over and over and over again low-level managers (and by "low-level" I mean "slithering-on-the-ground") make ludicrous decisions that make no sense and just piss money down the drain. There are absolutely no negative repercussions for them, and sometimes there are even rewards. And yet the USPS is crying to Congress about its supposed fiscal crisis.

It sure looks to me, and to many others, like the folks in charge are deliberately running the USPS into the ground. I reckon they can't wait for it to go belly up so they can chop the remains up into little pieces and sell them at a bargain to their cronies. The workers be damned. The people who count on their small rural post offices be damned. The U.S. economy be damned. Somehow they think that if they line their pockets and those of a few of their buds, nothing else matters. I feel sorry for those bastards living their sad little miserable lives. They don't have a clue about what's really important.

While I'm waiting to pick Tom up at the airport on Saturday morning, this will be running through my head:
You gals who want to be free, just take a tip from me;
Get you a man who's a union man and join the ladies' auxiliary.
Married life ain't hard when you got a union card,
A union man has a happy life when he's got a union wife.
Woody was right in one really important respect: Solidarity begins at home! Maybe someday I'll post a video of me singing it, but for now, here's a clip of Woody himself singing my favorite verse.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Reeling Toward Privatization

If the United States Postal Service is "reeling toward default," it's not for any of the reasons stated in yesterday's editorial in the New York Times. It infuriates me that the NYT editorial staff would just repeat the USPS's lies verbatim, when the truth isn't at all difficult to uncover. Repeating a lie over and over again won't make it fact. Congress must not acquiesce to the USPS's "imminent disaster" demand to break contracts with the postal unions and lay off more than a third of its workforce.

According to the National Association of Letter Carriers, the mandate forcing the USPS to prefund future retiree health benefits 75 years in the future, costing $5.5 billion per year, accounts for all of the USPS's losses in the last four years. A la Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine, this is part of a deliberate strategy to bankrupt the USPS, with a view to breaking the postal unions and ultimately to dismantling and privatizing the very lucrative U.S. postal service.

At a time when we're supposed to be adding jobs, we can't afford to be losing them, especially not more than a third of the jobs at the country's second-largest nonmilitary employer. If Congress acquiesces, we will all be losers—people living in rural areas, former postal employees adding to the legions of the country's unemployed, and the U.S. economy.

Please, sign and share the petition at And challenge the lies, no matter how often they're repeated.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Late-Night Wavelengths and Saving the USPS

On Wednesday night of last week I tried to go to bed early. And failed. Tom is in Oklahoma this month for training, and it seems like I never sleep as well when he's gone. So I got up and took my usual post in front of the computer. I had just posted about the post office's so-called fiscal crisis, and I was feeling agitated. So I went snooping around the interwebs looking for more info. I found a bunch and added that to the earlier blog post. I did so primarily because I wanted Tom to read the stuff I was finding, and he checks the blog fairly regularly when he's away (when I don't read the posts to him out loud over the phone, that is).

Meantime, Facebook imported the blog post to the FB Worley Dervish page. (I'd love it if you'd go there and click "Like." Thanks!) My friend Luz, who lives on the west coast and so wasn't up quite as late as I, read the imported post on Facebook. I hope she won't mind if I quote her here: "It is horrible what they are trying to do with the postal service! we can not let that happen!!! privatizing the postal service would be really bad!" I allowed as how "if the postal workers are screwed, the whole country is screwed. Deeply, deeply screwed." Luz replied: "Oh God! we need to make a lot of noise about this. . . . What else can we do Mary?" A most excellent question! So because of my dear friend Luz's timely question, it occurred to me that we should put together a petition on if there wasn't one already. So I nosed around there, and I found one about saving all the post offices that are being closed. But that wasn't quite what I was after. So I started my own, and then put the link to the petition on that same blog post I'd already added a bunch of stuff to.

Now remember, Tom (the treehugger in the photo) is hundreds of miles away in Oklahoma. And I figured he was asleep and that I'd tell him about the petition the next day. After I plunked the link for the petition onto the blog post and put the widget on the right-hand column, I went back to to have another look. And whose name do you suppose I saw there? Remember, this is only minutes after I had created the petition. All those many miles away, Tom couldn't sleep either. He had already signed it and posted the first comment. He couldn't have done it any faster had we been talking on the phone while I created the petition. How's that for being on the same wavelength? I can't even begin to tell you how flabbergasted I was when I saw that Tom was the first person to sign the petition after me, and immediately after I'd created it. Nor can I begin to tell you how awesome it is to have a partner whose vision, determination, and talents complement my own so beautifully that it's almost magic.

Sooooooo. . . . If you haven't already signed the petition, please, please do so. We have collected 550 signatures in just four days. Our goal is 120,000—that may be a bit ambitious, but it's the same as the number of layoffs there will be at the USPS if Congress agrees to their request. After you've signed it, please share it, post it, repost it, and ask your friends and family to sign it. Make sure especially to share it with anyone you know who works at the USPS or who has a family member that does. There's a whole lot at stake for a lot of families, for a lot of good folks who love their small-town post offices, and for the whole dang U.S. economy. And many thanks to all of you for your support and encouragement!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Class Warfare and Flying Pigs

Tom and I have turned off the television. I know. Crazy, isn't it? Veritably un-American. But hey, I'm happy to announce that it's entirely possible to live without watching the boob tube. Not only did we cancel the cable, but we quit watching the networks as well. Can't say we miss it much, especially because our friends share much of what's worthwhile online. (And how else do you think I'd have so much time to prowl the Internet to figure out what's actually going on in the world?) And given yesterday's post, in which I tallied up the class warfare battles taking place in Wisconsin, at Verizon, and at the United States Postal Service, count the following clips from the Daily Show as the next installment on the war on the poor and the middle class.

Although these clips have way more of Fox Noose than I can watch without gagging, it's revelatory to hear what the propaganda machine is churning out these days. Jon Stewart handily pillories the FN talking heads.

[If you're reading this on Facebook (which doesn't let the automatic blog importer import video), the links to the videos are here and here.] Sorry about the commercial at the beginning of each clip. Enjoy!

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
World of Class Warfare - Warren Buffett vs. Wealthy Conservatives
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
World of Class Warfare - The Poor's Free Ride Is Over
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

The part about not assuming that all rich people are billionaires made me giggle. I suppose we shouldn't assume that all billionaires are billionaires either. And I love the bit about Warren Buffet's billionaire cleaning lady.

One of the most galling comments is the one about "the moocher class" as opposed to the "productive class." That actually made me gasp out loud. I mean, really? The people who watch their portfolios are the "productive class"? And the people who actually work for a living (or want to) are the "moocher class"? Unbe-fricking-lievable! Do people actually believe this stuff? If they do, it's because they have deluded themselves into identifying with the billionaire class, even when they themselves are struggling economically and are watching their piece of the pie shrink to a pile of crumbs. After all, they might hit pay dirt someday and become billionaires themselves, right? Sure! When pigs fly.

Tom was carrying his "Tax the Rich" sign downtown one day during the Wisconsin Winter (as opposed to the Arab Spring), and a panhandler—a panhandler!—told him, "Don't say that! Don't you want to be rich?" Tom pointed out the unlikelihood of that eventuality. The panhandler just wasn't buying it. As a matter of fact, he wasn't buying much. . . . With that, I leave you for today with this lovely thought from John Steinbeck (who knew some things about class warfare). And many thanks again to the creative wits at Armchair Patriots!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Attacks on the Middle Class Busting Out All Over

Forty-five thousand Verizon workers are on strike because the company, although it is "swimming in cash," is demanding that they give up a substantial amount of their earnings, benefits, and job security. But just like the USPS and the state of Wisconsin, the "budget crisis" is sheer fabrication. "In the first quarter of this year, Verizon tripled its profits compared with the previous year. Since February, when it began its new deal with Apple to market the iPhone, the company has signed up an astounding 2.3 million new iPhone customers."

According to the Communications Workers of America, "In the last four years alone, Verizon made more than $19 billion in profits and compensated their top five executives more than a quarter of a billion dollars. But apparently that’s not enough. Now they want to outsource more jobs, including sending jobs overseas, slash sick days, eliminate benefits for workers who get hurt on the job and cut the healthcare benefits they promised retirees."

Once again, Ed Schultz, inveterate advocate for middle-class workers that he is, focuses on what Verizon is up to (link to video here):

Stand up and speak out for the middle class in Wisconsin, at the USPS, and at Verizon. Demand respect and fair treatment for workers everywhere. Organize, mobilize, and whatever you do, don't give up!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ed Nails It: USPS Workers Against the Wall

Unsurprisingly Ed Schultz gets it right about what the United States Postal Service is really up to. (If you're reading this on Facebook, go here to see the video.)

The U.S. Postal Service is the largest civilian employer in the United States, second only to—wait for it—Walmart. So you can bet that the ripple effect of the USPS going down will be felt across the country. It will not have a positive effect on the U.S. economy, to say the least. And that will not reflect well on the Obama Administration.

More about the USPS in the news:

Please sign the petition at Don't Let the USPS Be Destroyed

You keep using that word...

In his statement on the Democratic victories in the Wisconsin state senate recall elections, Mike Tate, chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, had this to say: "Democrats . . . shifted the balance of power in the state Senate away from conservatives. . . . Only now is Walker—who has acted unilaterally to advance a staunchly conservative agenda throughout his Administration—talking about 'bipartisanship.'"

Mike! You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means!

We have conservatives??? In the Wisconsin state senate? Really? Coulda fooled me! You couldn't possibly be referring to Walker and his cronies, because they are anything but "conservatives." I expect, though, that Walker et al. really appreciate your calling them that. No doubt they would like nothing more than for those who truly are conservative among the good people of Wisconsin to believe that they can be numbered among them and will look out for their interests.

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed., defines "conservatism" as follows: "1 capitalized a: the principles and policies of a Conservative party b: the Conservative party 2a: disposition in politics to preserve what is established b: a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change 3: the tendency to prefer an existing or traditional situation to change"

Don't we wish! Walker and the other power-grabbing, overreaching Republicans in the state legislature have a disposition to destroy what has been established in Wisconsin. They subscribe to a political philosophy that is based on greed and upheaval rather than "tradition or social stability," undermining our established institutions, and forcing abrupt change on the people of Wisconsin.

The unprincipled despots who have turned Wisconsin into Fitzwalkerstan are not conservatives in any sense of the word. Please, call them what they are: radical right-wing demagogues intent on undermining everything that is good about Wisconsin, determined to set themselves and their billionaire masters up as plutocratic feudal lords and to make the good state of Wisconsin into their private fief and its people their serfs, not to mention making this great state a subsidiary of Koch Industries. There is nothing remotely conservative about them or their agenda. They are utterly destructive.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wisconsin: Vote from Your Happy Place

Dear Wisconsin,

I love you. I really, really do.

So I'm begging you, folks in Districts 12 and 22, please do the right thing. Vote. Vote for Jim Halperin (District 12) and Bob Wirch. Help the working families of Wisconsin keep the advantage they gained last week.

To find your polling place, go here:

When you go to vote today, you will be asked to state your name and address and sign the poll book. However, if you show your driver's license (which you don't have to), the address on your license does not have to match where you are currently registered.

You don't need an ID to vote today, even if you are asked for it. It's not required until 2012.

If someone tries to force you to re-register, call Wisconsin Election Protection at 1-866-OURVOTE, tweet them at @EPWisco, or post on their Facebook page.

If you have some extra time today, you can volunteer to participate in the Wisconsin Democrats' Virtual phone bank here:

Many, many thanks to the Armchair Patriots (Oath Smellers) for the great poster!

Monday, August 15, 2011

What If...

In his most excellent blog, "Blogging Blue," Zach W asks a question that has crossed my mind from time to time: "What if the Democratic Party treated the netroots with the same respect and awe the GOP shows the tea party?"

Here's what I think: To have the same kind of treatment from the Dems as the tea party gets from the Repubs, the progressive base would have to have a 24/7 propaganda machine comparable to Faux News and monied backers like the Koch bros. and their ilk. We'd have to be willing to throw giant tantrums whenever anyone crosses us. We'd have to be willing not only to dispense with the truth but to lie proficiently and prolifically. In other words, we'd have to become the thing we hate.

Fortunately, we have truth and justice on our side, so we don't have to lie or pump bazillions of dollars into a giant misinformation campaign. Mobilization, education, strategic use of social media, grassroots power are where it's at for the progressive base.

The Democratic Party may have gotten away with ignoring its base until now, but the great swing to the right that U.S. politics has experienced in the last few decades will not last forever, and I believe that it's gone as far to the right as it's going to go. The clearer it becomes who the tea partiers are, what they actually want, and who is backing and manipulating them--and it becomes clearer all the time--the less tolerant the rest of America will be, in spite of the great Faux News propaganda machine. The Dems will continue to ignore their base at their own peril.

I'm not at all advocating just waiting around until the pendulum swings back the other way. Already here in Wisconsin we have given it a great big ol' push, and we're only just getting started. Here's hoping that we do some more pushing back in tomorrow's recall elections in Kenosha and the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

What Ailes Us

Many of us find ourselves wondering how U.S. politics got into such a sorry state—sorry enough to produce the Tea Party downgrade and the radical extremism rampant in the Republican party. Certainly one answer to our puzzlement can be found in the 24/7 propaganda machine that calls itself Fox News. The paranoia, fearmongering, manipulation, and distortion that beleaguer us all emanate from the twisted vision of one man: Roger Ailes, the chairman of Fox News. He peddles his influence on a staggering scale. His "dear friend" Rush Limbaugh "is a reflection of him." And Ailes is not content that Fox News and the Republican Party should be made in his image. He is determined to remake the United States in his image as well, and he is doing a damned good job of it.

As nauseating as it is, it's worthwhile to bone up on the Ailes juggernaut. Tim Dickinson has a thorough piece that first appeared in Rolling Stone as "How Roger Ailes Built the Fox News Fear Factory." I don't even know how to begin to fight such extraordinary power, but I do know that fight we must. And one of the first steps is knowing the enemy.

Friday, August 12, 2011

From the "U Frame It" Files: Moral Imperatives

Radical right-wingers are really good at framing the debate ("the presentation of political ideas and principles so as to encourage one interpretation over another"), in part because they're good at coming up with catchy, sticky, snarky frames and in part because the right-wing-owned mass-media propaganda machine loves those catchy, sticky, snarky frames and repeats them incessantly until all of us are repeating them without ever giving them a second thought.

So I propose to do just that—give them a second thought—as a now-and-then feature of the Worley Dervish. We'll call them the "U Frame It" files.

Today's installment: entitlements, as in "entitlements are the greatest domestic challenge the nation faces" (straight off the Heritage Foundation's website).

Really? Really? Not joblessness. Not our imperiled economy. Not the rapid disappearance of the middle class. Not our crumbling infrastructure. Not three—count 'em, three—wars. Not poverty. Not homelessness. Not corruption. Not out-of-control military spending. No, "entitlements" are our greatest domestic challenge.

More from the Heritage Foundation website (I'm still cringing from actually having gone there. It feels like I mighta got some on me. Ewwww...): "The middle class retirement programs, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, will cause federal spending to jump by half, from the historical average of twenty percent of the economy to thirty percent by 2033. This tsunami of spending is a major threat ..."

"Tsunami of spending." Yowzer. That's truly elegant. And completely twisted.
We must protect the prior earnings of American workers set aside in Social Security or private pensions. They have been earned through hard work and discipline. Taking these earnings away is theft, despite the Right’s use of the word "entitlements." (George Lakoff, emphasis mine)
Calling those programs "entitlements" makes their privatization and the theft that that entails more palatable, much less morally reprehensible than it actually is. It enables greedy, morally reprehensible people to dismantle our democracy for their own profit. It takes us that much further down the road that turns the middle class into feudal serfs.

Medicare, if made available to all Americans, would not only save us money; it would make us, well, healthier. And for many, it would truly be a matter of life and death. Life and health are not "entitlements." The Common Good is not an "entitlement." Life, health, and the Common Good are moral imperatives.

Your mission for today (or this week, or this month), should you choose to accept it, is to read Lakoff's recent column "Why Democracy Is Public." When you're done, read it again. Bookmark it. And then recommend it to everyone you know. It's really, really, really that important.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dear Congress,

We here at the United States Postal Service are requesting your approval so we can violate the contracts we negotiated with our employees via the postal unions. We know that the elimination of the layoff protections in our collective bargaining agreements is an extraordinary request, and we do not make this request lightly. In fact, we’ve been working our way toward making this request for many years now. And we're proud to announce that at last we’ve managed to create the “exceptional circumstances” that we hope will inspire you to approve these “exceptional remedies.”

"Thanks to our [mis]management policies—for example, making sure to charge less for services than they actually cost—the Postal Service is facing dire economic challenges that threaten its very existence. [Oh my!] If the Postal Service was a private-sector business, which we hope it very soon will be, it would have filed for bankruptcy and utilized the reorganization process to eliminate, er, uh, restructure its labor agreements to reflect the new financial reality (so brilliantly modeled by Walmart).

We need to reduce the USPS workforce by, oh, say, 120,000 career positions by, let's say, 2015, in addition to the 100,000 we expect to lose through regular attrition and the ones who, you know, go postal. Never mind about all the jobs that will be lost. We can hire some of those people back as casual employees (lower wages, no benefits, no unions!). We suppose that some of the 120,000 could come through buyouts and such, but we would really enjoy laying some of them off, especially those blasted union people. Man, are they ever a pain in the butt!

Unfortunately, the collective bargaining agreements between us and our unionized employees contain layoff restrictions that make it impossible to reduce the size of our workforce by the amount we want by 2015, so we are asking you to wave your legislative magic wand to make what is now illegal legal. After all, some of our best friends contribute generously to your campaigns. And besides, these USPS employees don't need layoff protections when every other self-respecting American enterprise is happily laying people off left and right and shipping their jobs overseas. And if private-sector employees have to put up with that kind of stuff, it's only fair that USPS employees should have to too.

We're hoping that the critical financial situation we've got going here will convince some of you waffly Democrats to go along with our union-busting, privatizing, lining-our-pockets plan. After all, what could be more effective in reducing costs than dismantling the postal service altogether? You wouldn't want another BAILOUT, would you? That would be so upsetting for all those little people who pay taxes. (Never mind that the postal service doesn't use a dime of taxpayer money. That'll just be our little secret, k?).

We expect that with enough per$uading, you good folks in Congress will agree that the present crisis warrants these extremely lucrative, er uh, these extreme measures.

The [mis]managers of the USPS

Please sign the petition to keep the USPS from being destroyed! Thank you!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chin up, Wisconsin! It's a Long Uphill Fight

We knew it was a long shot, and given all we were up against, we did great and we made real progress. We did not lose. We just didn't win quite as much as we were hoping for. But the fight isn't over, and it won't be over for a long time. Consider how much "dark money" poured into Wisconsin for these recall elections. Mike McCabe of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign estimates that a total of nearly $31 million was spent on the Wisconsin recalls in about four months, whereas $3.75 million was spent on all of the state races in 2010. The obstacles are formidable indeed.

So today is a good day to shake the dust off, renew our resolve, reassemble our forces, and rescrew our courage to the sticking place, as it were.

Ian Millhiser at Think Progress reminds us of how truly remarkable yesterday's accomplishments are, given that the the recall rules stipulate that only those who have been in office for one year or more are eligible for recall.
All of the Republican state senators who were eligible for recall in yesterday’s elections were Republicans who held on in 2008 despite the fact that they had to stand for election during a Democratic wave. Likewise, all of the Republicans who were elected in 2010 only because they were fortunate enough to run during a Republican wave were immune from recall. Come 2012, however, all of this changes.
John Nichols of The Nation appeared today on Democracy Now! and rightly asserted that Walker took a serious hit last night. (Take that, you big bully!) Mike Tate, chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, proclaimed that yesterday's recall elections amounted to "an accomplishment of historic proportions" and "showed just how vulnerable Republicans are in the November 2012 elections—and how vulnerable Gov. Walker is to a recall election himself."

So chin up, Wisconsin! We have a long, hard haul ahead of us, but we have proven ourselves to be fierce and formidable, and we've got them shaking in their boots. So here's to you, Wisconsin, and Scotty, we've put you on notice. We're coming for you!