Monday, February 21, 2011

The Wisconsin 14

This is an update on the labor protests in Wisconsin. As reported before, 14 Democratic state senators have fled to Illinois to prevent a vote on a bill that would strip unions of their collective bargaining rights. Well, Governor Walker has dispatched the state police to search them out and bring them back to Madison. That whole situation has been wonderfully protrated in this excerpt from Downfall with new subtitles.

Also, members of Super Bowl champs Green Bay Packers are showing their solidarity with the union protestors as they fight their own battle with NFL owners by marching with the protestors.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The labor movement and America

Our country has reached an important crossroads with the labor protests up in Wisconsin in response to Governor Walker's plans to strip collective bargaining rights from unionized state employees. This plan is outrageous is just part of the right's push to end organized labor in the U.S. And of course the talking heads on the right are vilifying the protestors saying they're nothing but freeloaders working the system. Thankfully labor has a voice on radio and TV in Ed Schultz.

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But of course it's easy for somebody like Limbaugh bash the labor movement. He's able to sit in a nice A/C studio spitting out crap and hate and make millions off it, while being protected under the first amendment guarentee of free speech. It's easy for him to act like a bully because he's behind a microphone and doesn't have to face the people protesting, but I bet he would run away scared the minute he encounters one of the them. But let's not also forget that Rush wasn't able to finish college, failed at being a sportscaster on TV, and had a bout with drug addiction, so he's already pretty messed up anyways. In that video clip above, Rush said that those protestors should earn their benefits. What the hell is he smoking? Firefighters, police officers, teachers, and nurses haven't earned their benefits? They sure as hell deserve them more than the governor does, and without a doubt more than Rush. And apparently Rush hasn't been paying attention anyways, the protestors don't mind having to pay a little for their health care and pention, they only care about their right to collective bargaining.

I'm a future educator and union member, and I stand in solidarity with those protestors in Wisconsin and if it reaches my state, you can bet I will be out there with my fellow teachers protesting the insanity. Our country was built on the back of the working and middle classes, and if you take away our rights, we'll take away your job and vote you out. The right has always spread the fear that a socialist revolution might happen, and little did they know that they're the ones causing it. The workers are rising up against the elite to take back their country, the way it should be.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Thoughts on the proposed 2012 budget

President Obama released his outline for the 2012 fiscal budget a couple days ago, and I have to say I am pretty pleased and disappointed at the same time. I am happy with the proposal to boost funding for education and clean energy along with the proposal for a high speed railroad system connecting major cities across the country. As shocked as you might be, I agree with the Republicans that the cuts proposed aren't big enough to make a real impact. This is however where the agreement ends because the Republicans want to cut funding to Social Security and Medicare while I want to cut the Pentagon's budget.

We are currently fighting two wars in Asia, in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are almost done in Iraq as soon as we pull our last 50,000 troops out of there. Afghanistan is a lost cause since we wasted our resources in Iraq, so we should pull out of there too. We should have learned from the Soviets, British, and Alexander the Great that no one can fight a land war there and win. Along with that, we end the "shadow" wars we're fighting with the use of covert operations. We should also close and sell our military bases in Europe, Japan, and South Korea seeing as we are no longer at war in the those areas and tensions are already high with the North Koreans. We don't need to be the world's police force as we have our own issues to fix here. This will save us the money for upkeep of those facilities and the money we're paying our troops to be there right now. In fact we will make money as we would sell those bases to the governments of the respective countries. If we were to go with the GOP plan of cutting and even eliminating Social Security and Medicare, our economy would get even worse as the elderly would go bankrupt trying to stay alive. The president's proposed cuts are small potatoes and won't really have a negative effect on those programs. Of course Boehner and the GOP are crying foul because they want more so they can reduce the size of government.

Let me digress into a little history lesson for those of you out there that want smaller government. We tried a smaller government at one time, right after we won the Revolutionary War. We were governed by a document called the Articles of Confederation. That document gave virutally all the power to the states and very little to the national government. The national government had to rely on the states to levy taxes on behalf of their behalf, which the states promptly refused. This led to the national government nearly going bankrupt since there was no money to pay back the war debts to France and Spain. On top of that, each states issued their own currency and had their own laws, which conflicted with other states. There were also frequent arguments between states, and the national government had no power to step in and mediate. These problems led the Founding Fathers to convene in 1787 in Philedelphia to draft a new Constitution that would give the national government more power. Thus we have the government we have today. End of history lesson.

The part I love in the budget is the further reforming of the education system, seeing as I am studying to be a teacher. The president wants to essentially throw out the failed program of No Child Left Behind and replace it with a program called Race to the Top, which puts math, science, engineering, and technology at the top so that the U.S. can once again be the leader in innovation. While I will be a history teacher, I'm still in favor of this plan because it also rewards teachers for their hard work. I'm also in favor of high speed rail service across the country, which would free up out interstate highways and take less cars off the road. I would even take it a step further and expand freight rail, like CSX has been advocating, which would take more semis off our highways, once again making them less congested and helping the environment. We have an untapped resource with railroads, and it's time to put it back to use. The high speed rail proposal would a multitude of jobs from the steel mills of Pittsburgh to the GE Transportation train plant here in my town. It would be a definite boost to the economy. Also the president wants to expand wireless highspeed internet to 98% of the country. Again, a brilliant move as it puts more information at the fingertips of more individuals. Many people in the rural communities have limited to no access to internet.

I hope the budget matter can be solved quickly with little change, but we all know that won't happen. Last night it was reported that already over 400 amendments have been attached to the bill, which will slow the process even further. Plus the Republicans will try to make further cuts and take out the expansion of education and the high speed rail proposal. I hope the president doesn't sign the budget if it happens and force a government shut down. This will show how ignorant the Republicans in Congress really are to the issues of today.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Big business and football

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that yesterday was Super Bowl XLV. It was great not only because the Green Bay Packers won, but that the Pittsburgh Steelers, who I loath, lost. And as customary, we begin to look at what might happen next season and the possible contenders for Super Bowl XLVI. The one problem is there might not be a 2011 season and Super Bowl XLVI, that is if the collective bargaining agreement runs out and the team owners force a lockout.

The NFL Players Association, the union representing the players, and the owners of the NFL teams are currently stalled in neogiations for a new contract. The biggest contention like with any contract is money. The owners want to pull more money off the top and force a lower salary cap on rookies. They also want to extend the season by two weeks to be able to rake in more revenues while giving the players less. Sounds very greedy, no? While I typically denounce the high salaries of athletes, I have to side with them on this issue. The players are the ones going out there every week, risking their health to play a sport that they love for the entertainment of their fans. They're earning that money while the owners sit in their climate controlled luxury suites entertaining high end guests. They aren't doing any real work with this, the whole thing is a large investment for them, like buying stock in General Motors or Apple or Wal-Mart. And the players have a valid argument against adding two more weeks into the season, it would increase the risk of injury and shorten their careers. The last thing we need are backups and third string players leading their teams into the playoffs, but it might happen. What would be amazing is if NFL cities followed the business model that has kept the Packers in Green Bay, let the citizens of the city hold majority control of the team, allowing most of the revenue to be funnelled back into the town which would lower taxes and improve education. Green Bay has some of the best public schools in the country and virtually no taxes, because of the all the revenue the team brings in for the town. Imagine if all the NFL cities did that, the economy would rebound almost instantly and people might be compelled to go to more games because they know that they would be benefiting their local economy.

I really hope that NFLPA can win this round with the owners, because I have a feelings 2011 will be just as exciting, if not more, than 2010.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The cold hard truth about the stimulus...

IT'S WORKING! That's right, the Recovery Act that President Obama put into place in 2009 is showing signs that it's actually working (Link). Employment figures for the month of January came out today and 50,000 new jobs were added in the private sector last month, marking the 11th straight month of private sector growth. While it may be small compared to the last two months, we have to take into account seasonal employment around the holidays has most likely ended. What is even more impressive is that for the second straight month, the unemployment number has dropped to 9.0%. While that still a far cry compared to the 5.8% back in 2008, it shows that we're finally getting back on the right track. It's a very impressive drop in just the span of two months, and if it comtinues to drop, then maybe we'll finally be able to get out economic ditch. Around here, it was reported that General Electric will recall 280 workers to the locomotive plant in my town to work on a huge order that came in from China. Imagine what would happen if the President's high speed railroad plan went through, GE would be clamoring for more workers. Unfortunately it also comes at a time when the school district in my town is facing a budget shortfall and will likely have to cut teachers and close a school to make up that difference. Some government assistance would be very helpful since the President wants to reform our educational system in the way that No Child Left Behind was supposed to, but failed to acheive. But as usual, I digress. The important thing to note is that demon spawn of the Democrats, the Recovery Act, is actually starting to show signs that it's working. Also note that while Republicans in Congress will try to take credit for this, they haven't been in power long enough to make a notable difference because the House is still working on H.R. 3. They might have helped, but they didn't do it all.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Boehner and the House GOP have jumped the shark

Well, it didn't take long for the Republicans in the House of Representatives to completely cross the line and draft up legislation that is no only ludacris, but just plain stupid. H.R. 3, or the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, wants to further limit federal funding for abortions by redefining the term rape. They want to redefine what rape is? SERIOUSLY?! They have got to be kidding me. The current legal definition of rape is the commission of unlawful sexual intercourse or unlawful sexual intrusion. It simple, straight forward, and to the point, unlawful sexual intercourse of any kind is rape. Under current federal law, federal funding cannot be used for abortions, with the excemption of cases of rape and incest. 173 House Republicans, including Speaker of the House John Boehner, want to further that restriction to only forcible rape, which doesn't include cases of stautory rape.

I understand that the House GOP wants to trim thr fat of our government spending to reduce the deficit and move us closer towards a balanced budget, but this is nuts. Mother Jones presented this scenario: "If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion. Given that the bill also would forbid the use of tax benefits to pay for abortions, that 13-year-old's parents wouldn't be allowed to use money from a tax-exempt health savings account (HSA) to pay for the procedure. They also wouldn't be able to deduct the cost of the abortion or the cost of any insurance that paid for it as a medical expense." If the GOP wants to save real money, look at the largest sector of the budget, the defense. End the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, close and sell the military installations we have in around the world, and stop the international aid to countries to prop up their governments. Take that monet and reinvest it, but I digress. When will the Republicans realize that they're ideas 1) have ramifications that put people's lives at risk like what Governor Brewer did in Arizona and 2) that anything too controversial will not pass the Senate, and if it somehow does, it will be vetoed by the president. If they continue this, nothing will be passed in the next two years and everyone will blame the GOP for not working with the Democrats. I hope the House comes to their senses, but chances of that happening look slim. I will keep you updated when a vote comes to the floor.