Monday, December 27, 2010

DSNY at Their Worst

In New York, the sanitation department is in charge of snow removal. They put snowplows on all of the garbage trucks and they also have a few salt spreaders, front end loaders, and other big machines.  They don't seem to know how to operate the heaviest equipment though. I'm no expert; I've never been at the controls of anything larger than a U-Haul, but I think I could do a better job getting out of this jam.

These guys have a pretty strong union, so they probably won't get fired, though they should.

[via Joe.My.God.]

Snowbound in Maine

Not that I'm complaining; an extra day of vacation is something that makes me perfectly happy.  K and I were supposed to be on the 2:30 bus this afternoon, but we will take a bus on the morning instead.  I get an extra day off, and one less day to make rent in time. But, I worry about that next week.

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 20, 2010

On the Repeal of DADT

Well, about fucking time.  DADT (Clinton's first major mistake) was an embarrassment and a disgrace.  We are well rid of this discriminatory policy, and its repeal is a reason to cheer.  But, a lot of work needs to be done, for we have a long way to go.  The repeal of DOMA (another major mistake from Clinton), full marriage equality, right to adopt, and protection from job place discrimination are still lacking.

A great step forward, but still, gays are second class citizens in the eyes of the law.  For shame.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Modern Technology

Back when I was a kid, my step-father was a building contractor. Our house was his office and our phone was his business phone. Therefore, we had strict rules regarding the use of the phone. So clients could get through, we kids were a allowed to use the phone for a maximum of fifteen minutes at a time. This was the days before call waiting. We also were expected to drop whatever we might be doing and run to answer any ring. This was also the days before answering machines. At least answering machines that regular folk could afford.

We had an outdoor ringer hanging under the eaves of the house, so we could hear the phone and run to answer if necessary. Once I was in the barn shoveling manure when the phone started to ring. I muttered a mild curse (those were the days before I would dare mutter an actual curse, even when alone, shoveling shit) and started running for the house. I kicked off my muck boots on the front steps (the phone must be answered, but one must not track cow shit on the kitchen floor) and ran inside. Of course, the caller hung up just as I answered.

I got a new phone today, which is why this old memory comes to mind. My old phone was experiencing some minor but annoying problems, so T-Mobile gave me an early upgrade. I chose the myTouch 4G (stupid fucking name), a step up over my old phone, a myTouch 3G (stupid fucking name). This amazing machine does email, games, and has access to the interwebs. All stuff that my old phone had, but this new toy has one cool feature that blows my mind.

I can use it as a wifi hotspot. I turn the program on, connect my laptop, and away I go. And it's fast, almost as fast as the cable internet I am getting from Time Warner, if not faster. I know that one can do speed tests for their internet connections, but I do not know how. But, I am currently streaming a movie from NetFlix, and the quality is just fine. I think I'll give it a week to see if there's any problems and then cancel my Time Warner service. I figure that the savings will pay for the phone in five months.

And to think, less than thirty years ago, I had to interrupt my shit shoveling because we did not have an answering machine, a device that has already become obsolete, and now I am writing this post on my phone as a Dudley Moore film streams on my laptop with an internet connection from the same phone.

How far we have come, and where will this technology bring us in the next thirty years?
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

In case you haven't noticed, I've been neglecting my blogging duties lately.  I offer three excuses.

  1. I work twelve hour days.  I'm tired.
  2. I got weed. While weed my be amotivational, that's not the problem.  After all, perhaps you've noticed that stoned people tend to pontificate, especially once they get going.  And what is a blog, but pontification writ large, or writ down. The problem is the internet. While stoned, I tend to become ADDish, and the internet is one giant playground for the ADDish types. If I attempt writing a post while stoned, I get no further than a paragraph or two, before I find that I just spent two hours roaming the back halls of Wikipedia. That's no way to get work done. Fear not, I'll run out of shit in a week or so.
  3. I got a new video game. I'm not a hard core gamer, but when I get a new game that I love, I tend to play obsessively. Fear not, I'll finish the game in a week or so.
But, excuses aside, perhaps some truth. I'm lazy. I could elaborate, but I'm lazy.

OK, enough blogging for the day.  I'm off to partake in a few hours of points 2 & 3, which go together beautifully.  Then sleep before another day of point 1.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

World Income Disparity Visualized

I have never seen a better visualization of the massive discrepancies in income and health.  This problem is solvable.

UPDATE:  I posted this after seeing it at Pharyngula, and then I went back and read the comments.  The data presented came from, which is one fascinating site.  I strongly urge you to check it out.  A word of warning though, you can easily spend a few hours there.

They have a number of videos, including this one on the effects of democracy on wealth and health.  I found the results to be astounding.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Run, Johnny, Run!

So, I took my piss test a couple weeks ago, and now I'm free to indulge without worry until next year.  I haven't smoked since maybe June, and my tolerance has left me completely.  I smoked a half a bowl the other night, and I was baked for hours.  It's also really good shit.  So, that coupled with the lack of tolerance, I was, as K puts it, on the other side of the universe.

One reason that I haven't smoked since June is that until now, I didn't have a connection, as in a source, supplier, weed guy, the man, Johnny, delivery.  I met a new Johnny in my cab the other day (not really how I met him, but good enough) and he hooked me up with a bit of bud for forty dollars.  Seems a bit steep, but as I said, it is good shit.

Connections are rather tough to find in the city.  Most are extremely cautious, and keep their circle of costumers on a tight, referral only basis.  The NYPD spends far too much of their valuable time chasing down pot offenders, so it can be tough to meet a trustworthy guy. But, I may have found one finally.  I will give him a call occasionally.

In the spirit of the season, I would like to give thanks to the men and women who risk their freedom growing and selling this (mostly) harmless plant.  This drug has never killed anyone, is about as addictive as caffeine, and is pretty damn pleasant.  Yet, in New York City, cops spend $90 million a year arresting 40,000 people for marijuana offenses.  All this despite the fact possession of up to an once was decriminalized in the 70's.  The cops here like to play a nasty trick in order to inflate their arrest numbers.  While possession has been decriminalized, possession or use in public view is still a misdemeanor.  While stopping and frisking someone (itself blatantly unconstitutional) cops will order them to empty their pockets and place everything on the hood of a squad car.  If any weed turns up, it's then considered in public view, and an arrest is made.  Rule #1, never trust a cop.

Despite our last three presidents all being former pot smokers, the feds also spend far too many precious resources chasing down pot growers.  Take the case of John Robert Boone, a 67 year old farmer who has been on the run for the last two years.  Feds recently found 2,400 plants on his Kentucky farm, and he has been on the run ever since.  This arrest, if it's ever made, would be his third federal rap, so he is facing the rest of his life behind bars.  He isn't accused of killing anyone or being violent, yet he still faces the loss of his freedom for providing the toking public with a flower that one third of Americans have tried.

Being in the weed business all of his life, he has become something of a legend.  As of this writing, his Facebook fan page has 2,211 fans, and local Kentuckians can be seen sporting "Run, Johnny, Run!" T-shirts.  Some of his tactics to avoid getting busted has added to his fame.
Boone's 1980 wanton endangerment charge was anything but a run-of-the-mill felony, and the details of the arrest are the stuff of lore.

Deputy Habib says Boone caught wind that the cops were planning to raid his substantial marijuana crop, so he and two friends climbed into a black pickup truck and drove wildly through the small town until they arrived at the police station.

After driving up on the sidewalk and nearly clipping a police officer, the bandits, as they were often referred to as, led the local cops on a wild chase through town until they ultimately lost the tail.

But the bandits weren't done yet.

According to Deputy Habib, the bandits then drove around until they found an off-duty state trooper's home, and they proceeded to ram into the trooper's cruiser.

The trooper called in all the Kentucky State Police units he could muster, and Boone's group led them on yet another wild chase through Lebanon.

Eventually, Boone and his crew were arrested, but they had accomplished their mission -- while the cops were busy chasing after him, Deputy Habib says Boone had his cronies, all members of the notorious Cornbread Mafia, move his cache of marijuana out of the farm before the lawmen could get their hands on it.

The charges against Lebanon's bandits were ultimately dropped, however, because the pickup truck alleged to be involved in the joyride had never been recovered.
So, as I kick back and light my bowl, I've got only one thing to say:

Run, Johnny, Run!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I Took My Yearly Drug Test the Other Day

In order to maintain my hack license, I am required to take a yearly drug test.  I went to a medical office, filled out a bunch of paperwork and peed into a plastic cup.  I hate this annual assault on my rights.

Even before I started smoking weed, I was against drug testing.  As an American, I am a firm supporter of our civil liberties, and drug testing is a major violation.  Testing whole groups of people in order to find a few lawbreakers is flat out wrong.  It is the same as the police going door to door and conducting searches.  People would not consent their employers searching their homes, but for some reason, the majority is content to have employers searching our urine.

Drug testing is not particularly effective.  With the exception of marijuana, most drugs leave the system and become undetectable after a few days.  So, one can party hard on a Friday night, smoking crack and shooting heroin, and pass a drug test on Monday.  Weed on the other hand is fat soluble and is detectable for up to a month.  So the drug that testers are most likely to find is the one that is mostly harmless and affects work performance the least.  Alcohol, the drug most likely to affect one's job performance, isn't even tested for.  It's legal.

Besides, peeing in a cup and handing it over to a nurse is undignified.

The method of testing that the TLC uses is almost completely useless.  We are required to take our test in the month before our license expiration date.  We know this ahead of time, and we schedule the test ourselves.  It's pretty damn easy to plan ahead, and abstain from our drug of choice long enough for it to become undetectable.  Unless of course our drug of choice is booze.  We can have a couple of beers before the test if we want.

The test for cabbies costs $25.50 and with 40,000 cab drivers in the city, it comes out to over a million dollars year spent on drug testing for cabbies.  That's a pretty good gross for LabCorp, the testing company, to pull in on a completely useless test.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Religions of the World

Back in college, this was one of my favorite T-shirts.  I'm happy to have found it again.  Despite being an atheist, my favorite entry is the last.

[via this isn't happiness]

Friday, November 12, 2010

Christmas Tree at Rockerfeller Center

The tree is 74 feet tall, 40 feet wide, and weighs 12 tons.   It is, or was, 75 years old.  Now, it's dead.  After Christmas, it will be turned into mulch and donated to charity.

I am not one of those atheists who is against Christmas.  I celebrate every year, and I love it.  But is killing this tree a really necessary part of the festivities?  I don't think so.  Perhaps Rockerfeller Center can try something else, and let next year's tree live.

Why Was Yusuf Islam at the Rally to Restore Sanity

Back in 1989, when asked about the fatwa against Salmon Rushdie, Islam responded, "He must be killed. The Qur'an makes it clear - if someone defames the prophet, then he must die."  Two months later, on a British TV show, he was asked if he would appear at a demonstration where Rushdie was to be burned in effigy.  Islam replied, "I would have hoped that it'd be the real thing."  Islam attempted to backtrack from his comments by claiming that he was joking in bad taste, but I don't buy it.  The fatwa against Rushdie is not really a laughing matter.

So, why was he invited to perform at Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity?  Yusuf Islam does not strike me as one to be promoting sanity.  

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Good Riddance to Blue Rubbish

I won't miss these guys.
In a fell swoop, the once-powerful Blue Dog caucus of conservative House Democrats was reduced from 54 members to 26 in Tuesday’s midterm election.
The caucus lost two members to retirement and two others who ran for higher office, and out of the remaining 50 members, 24 Blue Dogs lost.
Remember Howard Dean complaining about "Republican lite" in the 2004 race?  The Blue Dogs were some of the people he was talking about.  They voted with the Dems some times, but they demanded too many concessions, and they were a bit too obstructionist.

As Dan Savage (who I happily stole my headline from) said:
One of the most frustrating things about the last two years was watching Obama and real Dems bend over backward to appease faux Dems. 
I'm happy to see them gone.  Maybe in two years, we can replace the Republicans who took their seats with actual progressives.

Fare Increase For NYC Taxis?

From CBS New York:

Fleet owners have asked the TLC to increase taxi fares by 19%. They ask for an increase raising the drop from $2.50 to $3.00 and the travel from $0.40 per 1/5 mile to $0.40 per 1/6 mile. Some New Yorkers are ready to complain. After all, this is an expensive city to live in. No one wants yet another service to increase in price. Even some cabbies don't like the idea. A driver named Sandy posted this comment on an industry blog:
I’ve been driving a yellow cab since 2001 and I am totally against any fare increases right now because in my experience, those increases are always at the expense of the driver and passenger and benefit nobody other than individual medallion and fleet medallion owners and brokers. Every time there is a fare increase, lease rates are raised accordingly by fleet owners and medallion brokers complaining of “higher costs.”
I, on the other hand, support the idea of a raise. We cabbies don't make much, and we could use a little bit more. We drive 12 hour shifts, five or six days a week. And, we get absolutely no benefits. No paid vacation, no sick days, no 401K, no health care, and no respect. Sandy's complaint of raises always going to the fleet owners is not entirely true. While the owners will definitely get a share (and too large, in my opinion), we drivers will see an increase in our take home pay. And, frankly, we deserve it.

Taxis in New York are a bargain compared to most cities. has done a survey recently, and the results are interesting. The cost of a 3 km trip in new York will cost $7.00 - $12.00. Melbourne taxis charge $9.00-$12.00. London costs $11.29 – $14.52. Monaco is $15.28 – $19.44. The same 3 km in Zurich will run a whopping $18.18 – $24.24.

New York cabbies haven't gotten a raise in the last six years. We deserve one.

What the Fuck Has Obama Done So Far?

Thanks to Sarah from Here & Now for sharing this.

What the fuck has Obama done so far?

Friday, November 5, 2010

The 40/40 Split

Jon Cohen from The Washington Post guested yesterday on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show, and shared some interesting stats from the exit polls.

45% of voters voted for Obama in 2008.
45% of voters voted for McCain in 2008.

58% of voters had an unfavorable view of the Democrats.
57% of voters had an unfavorable view of the Republicans.

41% of voters described themselves as conservative.
39% of voters described themselves as moderate.
20% of voters described themselves as liberal.

40% of voters said that the deficit was the number one issue.
40% of voters said that jobs was the number one issue.

40% of voters said that health care should be repealed.
40% of voters said that health care should be strengthened or kept.

40% of voters said that the Bush tax cuts should continue for everyone.
40% of voters said that the Bush tax cuts should continue only for those earning less than $250,000.

40% of voters said that they supported the Tea Party.

Obviously, we are a deeply divided nation. And, also, the Republicans do not have the clear mandate that they claim. The Dems should realize that and not give an inch.

Not one fucking inch. Fight you wusses, fight.

A Question From My Dad

Back in 1787, when the Constitution was ratified, the standard medical treatment for drowning was to hang the victim upside down by the feet and tickle their ribs with a feather. This treatment was considered effective for up to four hours after a drowning. Now, Dad wonders if political science had kept pace with medical science these past 223 years, would we be in this same mess now?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Lexington, KY Elects Gay Mayor

Election news is not entirely bleak.  Lexington, KY (yeah, the same state that elected Rand Paul) has elected an openly gay mayor.  Congratulations, Mayor-elect Jim Gray.  I'm glad some Kentuckians have sense.

[via Joe.My.God.]

Wisdom From HP Lovecraft

PZ Myers at Pharyngula posted this quote from HP Lovecraft yesterday.  I am a day late, but I liked it so much, that I decided to post it myself.  I'll repost it next election season.
As for the Republicans — how can one regard seriously a frightened, greedy, nostalgic huddle of tradesmen and lucky idlers who shut their eyes to history and science, steel their emotions against decent human sympathy, cling to sordid and provincial ideals exalting sheer acquisitiveness and condoning artificial hardship for the non-materially-shrewd, dwell smugly and sentimentally in a distorted dream-cosmos of outmoded phrases and principles and attitudes based on the bygone agricultural-handicraft world, and revel in (consciously or unconsciously) mendacious assumptions (such as the notion that real liberty is synonymous with the single detail of unrestricted economic license or that a rational planning of resource-distribution would contravene some vague and mystical 'American heritage'...) utterly contrary to fact and without the slightest foundation in human experience? Intellectually, the Republican idea deserves the tolerance and respect one gives to the dead.

Female Atheists? Hell, yes!

Some twit at MS Magazine recently wrote a horrible piece bemoaning the sexism in the "New Atheist" movement.  Jen McCreight ripped her a new one.
I was so hopeful when I found Ms. Magazine's piece "Will 'New Atheism' Make Room for Women?" It's exciting enough when the media covers atheism (and is nice enough to put "New Atheism" in the silly quotes it deserves), but media coverage of female atheists is a rarity. Ms. Magazine has the potential to reach oodles of women who aren't familiar with us atheist activists. If we want more women to be involved with secularism and skepticism and more atheist men to realize how many great atheist women are out there, we need coverage like this.

Then I actually read it.

To say it was disappointing is an understatement. It seems like this was the extent of the research the writer put into the article:

  1. Google "female atheists"
  2. Read titles on first page of results
  3. Play up posts that sound negative, downplay posts that are positive
If you care about equality in the atheism movement, go read Jen's whole post.

Friday, October 29, 2010

NYPD - New York's Finest, But Maybe Not Brightest

From the gothamist:
Sometimes the NYPD's inanity is so perfect, so immaculately risible, that you just want to burst into applause and toss a bouquet of roses onto the hood of a squad car. Today is one of those days. According to a tipster, a cop parked in the bike lane on First Avenue near 23rd Street proceeded to write tickets for cyclists who weren't using the bike lane, because they had to ride around him to get by.

Monday, October 25, 2010

View of Herald Square

Herald Square, 34th and Broadway, Manhattan. (July 16, 1936)
From the New York Public Library.  The large awning at the top center is the entrance to Macy's.

Sharon Angle is Playing the Race Card

I've lived in NYC on and off for fifteen years now, and I've met quite a few illegal immigrants. But, I've never met any that look as scary as the guys in this video.

[via ThinkProgress]

Bundle of Joy

My new niece was born today, and, by happenstance, Bill at posted this:

Now, my sister is not one to saddle her daughter with such baggage, but I liked the timing.

To Hell with Medical Science, Let's Go with Religious Superstition

People often ask why I am so against religion.  They are fine with my being an atheist, but they wonder why I actively dislike the faiths that so many have.  I have a few reasons.  I think that people should be able to think for themselves, and not follow the arbritary rules that religion hands down.  I don't like that many religious folk are intent on pushing their religion and morals onto the rest of us.  I am angry that religious leaders often get away with raping children.

Religion is also responsible for the retarding of scientific progress. For close to a thousand years the Catholic church halted the advance of scientific knowledge. Today, we are still witnessing battles in our schools over the teaching of evolution, a theory that is as true as the theory of gravity. Stem cell research, which holds incredible promise, has been slowed. Many evangelicals still believe that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. Science is a major cause of humanity's advancement over the last 300 years, and religion is still getting in the way.

Religious superstition runs rampant in some societies, with often tragic results.  When people turn to a god, or any other superstition to heal those who need doctors, people suffer.  And often needlessly.  Take this story reported in
A 29-year-old Saudi in Makkah has been living in chains for over six years because he is, according to his father, possessed by a female jinn who refuses to leave him.

“Medical doctors and religious sheikhs have failed to diagnose my son. When he has fits, he has convulsions and his entire body twists and his eyes become completely white. Then the voice of a woman can be heard coming from him,” said the father of the young man identified only as Turki.

“When my son first began suffering from this problem I took him to sheikhs to recite Qur’an on him but most of them became scared when they heard the female voice telling them that she was a royal jinn and that no one can exorcise her unless Turki dies,” he said.

The father said a sheikh advised him to tie his son’s arms and legs with iron chains and to read Qur’an on him. “We did this. My son became quiet but is totally unaware of what is happening around him. He does not talk and is now unable to harm anyone,” he added.
This poor man needs hospitalization, not religious fakery.  But, the sheiks gave their treatment plan, and now this poor man has been chained for six years.  Some of the comments are astounding in their faith in woo and allah.
It is very unbeliveable something like this can happen to Turki. As they live in makkah, my advice is to take him to the Kaaba and make him drink zamzam water. There is no better place to cure yourself in front of the Kaaba. At least you are lucky you live next to the Kaaba. I hope you follow my advice and then you can see that how Allah helps him. Just trust in Allah.
My advice to the family of this man to bring some sheikh from India or Pakistan, who are mastered in removing of theses kind of jinns. the family should contact local Darul Ulum of these countries. They will advice the family and will surely assist you in this matter.
It may be real jinn or shaitan inside him or a metal disorder.Brain functions all parts i have seen people with slight metal disorder and there mouth is turned due to that or some other changes.If it is jinn or rooh than definetly there is any story behind that.may be someones body is dumped inside the house or turkis ancestors have done some thing very bad to any girl and dumped her brutally.without any information to her relatives... ALLAH KNOWS WE DON'T KNOW...

Scary what superstition can do to one's reason.

CSPAN's BookTV Can Get Interesting Sometimes

Some guy, obviously not over the breakup, humiliates his ex-girlfriend on live TV. Who said CSPAN was boring?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

In Defense of Juan Williams

I presume you have heard of the firing of Juan Williams by NPR over comments he made on the Bill O'Reilly Show. ThinkProgress, a liberal news blog, was the first to post this video clip with an article. The clip then spread throughout the blogosphere before being picked up by the mainstream news. Note that the clip is 46 seconds long.

But, here are his full remarks.

So, he goes on to make an analogy by saying that blaming the Oklahoma city bombing on Christians would be wrong and that George Bush said that we were not at war with Islam. This selective editing that ThinkProgress did reminds me of the Shirley Sherrod incident. If a news site, liberal or conservative, is going to show video harmful to one's reputation, they ought to provide the whole damn tape. Failure to do so is dishonest.

Brooke Gladstone of WNYC's On the Media did a report on this incident with Slate's William Saletan. It's worth a listen. WNYC is a NPR affiliate.

Jack Conway Makes Cheap Emotional Appeal

A campaign commercial from Jack Conway, the guy running against Rand Paul.

OK, issues are boring. Let's win anyway possible.

Really, this might help move Conway up in the polls, but this is pretty low. If using emotional appeals is what it takes to win, fine, go for it. But, there ought to be some honor. Dems should at least attempt to be fair and somewhat honorable. Rand Paul's religion, or lack thereof, has nothing to do with the campaign. And, the tied up woman herself said that it was basically a hazing stunt. I'm not defending hazing, but don't make it look like some kind of Satanic cult thing.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Reason Versus Emotion

Micheal Gerson wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post recently.
"Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now," [Obama] recently told a group of Democratic donors in Massachusetts, "and facts and science and argument [do] not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we're hard-wired not to always think clearly when we're scared. And the country is scared."

Let's unpack these remarks.

Obama clearly believes that his brand of politics represents "facts and science and argument." His opponents, in disturbing contrast, are using the more fearful, primitive portion of their brains. Obama views himself as the neocortical leader -- the defender, not just of the stimulus package and health-care reform but also of cognitive reasoning. His critics rely on their lizard brains -- the location of reptilian ritual and aggression. Some, presumably Democrats, rise above their evolutionary hard-wiring in times of social stress; others, sadly, do not.

Though there is plenty of competition, these are some of the most arrogant words ever uttered by an American president.

The neocortical presidency destroys the possibility of political dialogue. What could Obama possibly learn from voters who are embittered, confused and dominated by subconscious evolutionary fears? They have nothing to teach, nothing to offer to the superior mind. Instead of engaging in debate, Obama resorts to reductionism, explaining his opponents away.
He goes on to call Obama a snob.

But, Obama has a point. The Republicans and the teabaggers are using fear and emotion to scare the American people to vote Republican. The level of hatred on the right has reached truly frightening proportions. For instance,

This video is nothing but emotional appeal, with no logic or reason involved. The right must resort to such tactics because if they tried logic or reason, they would lose. And, unfortunately, emotion works in this country. Most people make their decisions in life emotionally, and Republicans know it. Perhaps the Dems, should try it. After all, reason isn't working.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Interesting Graphic

From the New Civil Rights Movement:

President Obama: It Gets Better

I think Joe.My.God. says it best,
It's a heartfelt, well-written, and sincerely delivered message. Let's try to divorce this effort from "the other issue" and talk about what a message like this from the president of the United States might mean to a young queer kid. And once again, let's thank Dan Savage and his husband Terry Miller for what is easily the most successful and widely-heard pro-gay campaign in the history of our movement.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Teabaggers Are Mad For The Wrong Reasons

The teabaggers are angry, and they want changes. But, because of their ignorance, they do not know why they are angry. They watch the demagogues on Faux News and like sheep, they prattle on about the deficit, health care, immigrants and Muslims.

Well, a news flash for all of you teabaggers:

The economy doesn't currently suck because of deficit spending or ObamaCare or the Mexicans coming in and stealing our jobs.  The economy sucks because the rich are taking too big of a piece of the pie.  The richest 1% currently earns about 24% of the national income.  The last time the richest of the rich took so much was 1928.  The Great Depression started the following year.  Sort of the situation we are in now.

Why this matters is simple.  If the poor and working class do not earn a fairer share of the pie, they cannot afford to buy many goods and services.  The purchasing of these goods and services is what grows our economy.  If people have more money to spend, companies will have to hire more people to make and sell stuff.  Those newly hired folks will also start spending more money on stuff, so companies will have to hire even more workers.  See how it works?  The economy grows.

So, the solution?  Tax the rich more, and the poor less.  That, my teabagging friends is what you should be screaming for.

Face It, Teabaggers Are Just Plain Ignorant

A snippet of the debate between Chris Coons ans Christine O'Donnell.  He schools her on the meaning of the First Amendment.  Watch her embarrassment at the end.

The sheer ignorance of these teabagging types is mind-numbing. The First Amendment is basic stuff that we all learned (or should have) in grade school.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
And this O'Donnell woman is running for the Senate.  She, like so many evangelicals, wrongly believes that we are a Christian nation, and that Christianity should be taught in schools.  She is a fool, and a lot of people believe as she does.  Sad.

Fortunately, she hasn't a snowball's chance of winning.

[via Pharyngula]

Monday, October 18, 2010

Serious Accident Narrowly Avoided

Before the story, a definition.  The lights are timed on most avenues, so we can travel at thirty MPH and hit each intersection as the light turns green.  Traffic tends to get in the way, for the cars that are stopped at the light take awhile to get up to speed.  So, aggressive drivers look for empty lanes, so they can hit each light at thirty MPH, and shave a few minutes off their travel time.  We call this trick "riding the lights."  It is dangerous.

I was stopped at the light at 43rd and 3rd, about three cars back and in the center lane.  Just before the light changed, a group of women started running across the intersection, hoping to beat the light.  They didn't make it.

As the light changed, a cab was racing up 3rd in the far left lane, riding the lights.  I couldn't see the crosswalk in the left lane, for my view was blocked by a minivan, but it looked as if the cab and the women were about to have an unfortunate meeting.

I was horrified realizing that these young ladies were just split second away from their possible deaths.  And, painfully violent deaths.  I heard the screech of the cab's tires, and winced, waiting for the thud of steel against flesh.  But, no thud.  Traffic started moving forward, and I looked over and saw the women, all having the look of frightened relief one has at a horror narrowly escaped, but still standing.  With no one hurt, I kept heading uptown, relieved I didn't see a body lying in the street.

And, today's lesson:

First, for the pedestrians.  The walk/don't walk signs are pretty clear.  The white figure walking means "walk."  The orange hand means "don't walk."  And, contrary to popular belief, the flashing orange hand does not mean "run like hell and hope you can make it."  It means "traffic is going to start racing up the avenue any second now, so stay the fuck out of the street."*  Pedestrians die all the time in New York, often through their own damn fault.  Jaywalking is considered a sacred right here, and people can become quite arrogant about claiming that "right."  But a jaywalker versus a 3,000 pound hunk of steel moving at 30 MPH is no contest.  In the worst case scenario, the jaywalkers' "rights" die with them.  Traffic is dangerous, people.  Treat it with the respect that your life deserves.

And, for the cabbies and other motorists.  Riding the light may save you a few extra minutes, but it is dangerous.  Even if you have a green light, and the right of way, it is your responsibility to make sure an intersection is clear before proceeding.  Even if the pedestrian is jaywalking, your diligence can prevent a tragedy.  And, sometimes, the pedestrians aren't even jaywalking.  There are plenty of elderly and disabled who cannot move fast enough to cross a five lane avenue in the time a light gives them.  Show them the respect they deserve.  Slow the fuck down.

*Official definition.  You can tell because you just read it on the internet.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Glenn Beck Worried that Cartoon Making Fun of Him Might be Government Propaganda

This awesome cartoon remix was crafted by Jonathan McIntosh at Rebellious Pixel, using clips from fifty classic Disney cartoons and audio of Glenn Beck.  Check out his site for the complete details on this video.  Also, they have a clip of Glenn Beck's response where he worries "If I'm not mistaken, some of these remix videos, it's very interesting, I believe, get federal funding."

Beck's full response:

So, some dude named ikat381 made another remix with Beck's response.

I would not be the least bit surprised if Beck waves a piece of paper on the air claiming it is proof that this remix was funded out of stimulus dollars.

The guy is that nuts.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fascinating Map from 1710

John J. McKay posted this map with an incredibly detailed analysis on his blog, archy.  If you are a map geek, like myself, you will definitely want to check out his post.  I'll just quickly mention that the island on the left is California, and the one on the right is Japan.

Can Wright Be Any More Wrong?

I am often confused by the screeching of so many Christians complaining about the concept of universal health care.  I would think that followers of some guy who earned his fame by supposedly healing the sick would be into the idea of health care for all.  But, quite a few fundamentalists and other wingnuts are dead set against it.  And some of them go to absurd extremes to argue against health care.  One wingnut, Wendy Wright, wrote a piece recently for American Thinker, a site for teabaggers and wingnuts.  In it, she attempts to show how ObamaCare violates all ten of the Commandments.  And she's not kidding.
#10. You shall not covet.

As with many bills, politicians sold ObamaCare by stoking envy. It goes like this: "What other people own -- what they earned -- you are entitled to." Covetousness, wanting what others have, is cloaked as a "right." But a "right" to a product (like insurance) or service (like health care) means others are forced to pay for or provide it, with no concurrent "right" to be justly compensated.
I am disturbed, but not exactly shocked that Ms Wrong Wright would call one's desire for affordable health care a sin.  And, one of the ten biggies at that.  Her argument is an old one trotted out by the conservatives.  If one is poor, it is their own damn fault, and they do not deserve any government handouts to ease the burden of poverty.  What would the teabaggers and neocons do with the poor?  Allow them to suffer?  Apparently so, and that does not seem particularly Christian to me.
#9. You shall not bear false witness.

Remember when President Obama made the wild accusation that doctors were removing children's tonsils and amputating diabetic patients' feet to make money? Virtually no mainstream media found it worth reporting that Obama's malicious false witness was debunked.
Her link leads to a NewsBusters report that quotes Obama directly.  He said:
[L]et's take the example of something like diabetes, one of --- a disease that's skyrocketing, partly because of obesity, partly because it's not treated as effectively as it could be. Right now if we paid a family -- if a family care physician works with his or her patient to help them lose weight, modify diet, monitors whether they're taking their medications in a timely fashion, they might get reimbursed a pittance. But if that same diabetic ends up getting their foot amputated, that's $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 -- immediately the surgeon is reimbursed. 
It is obvious that Obama is saying that investing in preventive care will save money in the long run.  And, it's also better for the patient's health.  But, Ms Wrong Wright is trying to claim that Obama was accusing doctors of performing unnecessary operations in order to make extra money.  So, in accusing Obama of bearing false witness, she, um, lies.  A bit of advice, lady.  If you are going to lie, don't provide a link leading to an article that proves you to be a liar in the same sentence.
#8. You shall not steal.

Stealing is not only pointing a gun and demanding, "Give me your money." It's also taking money under false pretenses -- frauds and scams like Bernie Madoff's, where money willingly handed over is used for something other than what was promised.

You know where the bulk of the money taken for ObamaCare through taxes, fines, and raiding other accounts will go -- not to actual health care or insurance, but to 159 new bureaucracies, and tens of thousands of new government employees. 
Um, yeah, her link goes to a press release from a Republican Congressman.  Real authoritative source there, Wendy.  Government is big, bloated and inefficient.  I'll grant Wendy that, but the solution isn't to get rid of the government.  Governments are necessary.  They provide roads, police protection, education, and other essential services.  Raising revenue to pay for these services is not stealing.  If Ms Wright Wrong doesn't want to be robbed taxed by any governments, perhaps she would be happier in Somalia, where they don't have a functioning government.
#7. You shall not commit adultery. 
ObamaCare channels millions of dollars to graphic sex education programs which instruct kids as young as kindergartners to be sexually active. Read what some of the comprehensive sex education programs teach. This sets children up to take marriage vows lightly since "it's just sex."
OK, at this point, I'm thinking Poe's Law.  I mean, she's gotta be kidding, right?  Abstinence only education does not lead to abstinence.  It leads to teen girls letting their boyfriends ass fuck them so they can remain "virgins."  I'm not kidding, check the link.  Comprehensive sex education does not lead to adultery.  It leads to teen girls insisting that their boyfriends put a condom on first.
#6. You shall not murder.

ObamaCare allows government funding of abortion, the murder of the most innocent.
Does this lady remember the Stupak Amendment?
The stated purpose of the amendment was to prohibit the use of federal funds "to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion" except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother.
So, she lies again.  For the record, I think that abortion should be covered by health care.  A fetus is not a person.  Abortion is not murder.
#5. Honor your father and mother.

As parents age, it oftentimes falls on their children to make their health care decisions. It can be heart-wrenching. But it is our responsibility and duty as their children.

Under ObamaCare, that privilege will be stripped from us and given to unaccountable bureaucrats. They will ultimately decide what health care our parents can get. Medical advances will be stymied, and what is available will be rationed. The elderly will be denied hip replacements and heart surgeries, medical wonders that provide full and productive lives. This will lead to unnecessary disabilities and untimely deaths. Parents will be at the mercy of bureaucrats tasked with calculating costs, rather than a family motivated by love and honor.
More of the "death panel" crap.  There is nothing in the bill that calls for the rationing of health care.  This insidious lie was created to scare people into thinking that the feds will "pull the plug on Grandma."  The only thing even remotely close is that the bill provides compensation to doctors to discuss end of life care options with patients.  It does not call for bureaucrats, or anyone else, to make those decisions.  That is left up to the patient.

Oddly, we currently have rationing.  The rich get tremendous care, with the best doctors and the best hospitals.  Tests are done immediately, and procedures are scheduled at the earliest possible convenience.  Regular folk who have insurance need to wait.  A cab driver buddy of mine, in his sixties, once found a lump in his throat.  Having smoked most of his life, he was rather worried.  He went to his doctor, and was told that a biopsy was needed to check for cancer.  The earliest test that my friend could schedule was for three months later, and he had no choice but to wait.  And, for three months, he waited to check to see if this lump was cancerous, and perhaps growing over that time.  And, this man had insurance that he paid a good amount of money for every month.  Fortunately, it was only a cyst, and he was fine, but three months?  The rich get the care they need.  The rest wait.  And those of us without insurance, wait even longer.
#4. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.

Why was Congress compelled to hold the final vote on ObamaCare on a Sunday? No looming deadline demanded immediate action by the House of Representatives. It's as if they went out of their way to thumb their noses at God and prove their disrespect. The Senate vote was held on Christmas Eve.
Now this comment is just whining.  Congress is a secular body, and has no responsibility to respect the sabbath of somebody's religion.  Besides, if the Republicans hadn't spent so much time playing delaying tactics, the vote could have been held during the regular work week.
#3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.

Many people limit this to avoiding using God's name as a curse word. Jewish scholars, however, so solemnly followed this commandment that they wouldn't even write out the full name of God. They were cautious not to take His name lightly.

President Obama gave a pen with which he signed ObamaCare to Sister Carol Keehan, the nun who runs the Catholic Health Association. Why? Her seal of approval appeared to give a Catholic blessing to a bill that her superiors, the bishops, rejected. Among the "Religious Left" credited by Nancy Pelosi were United Methodists and the "Faithful Reform in Health Care," a coalition of liberal religious agencies.

Their titles as religious leaders, ambassadors of God, were shameless props used by politicians to give the thin veneer of God's approval. In effect, they used God's name, His reputation, to promote something that contradicts His commandments.
Oh, my fucking God, is this halfwit even half serious? Jesus, is she really saying that if another Christian doesn't agree with her, then that person is taking the lord's name in vain?  Christ, what an arrogant fool.
#2. You shall not make for yourself a carved image (false gods).

What do those who worship false gods do? They sacrifice to those gods, even despicable gods, in hopes that they will get something in return. Of course, these gods can't deliver.

ObamaCare became a holy grail that surpassed a desire for health care reform, morphing into an obsession to pass a bill. Congressmen sacrificed their reputations and careers to pass a bill -- a despised bill. It became a false god. And it isn't delivering.
Umm, what?  I'm not insane enough to understand what she is saying.
#1. There is only one God.

ObamaCare sets up government as the one who will supply our needs and provide for our health. It places us on the path of socialist countries, where people expect the government to provide for them and then riot when governments cut bloated spending.

In contrast, Americans throw Tea Parties to stop government expansion and spending. Most Americans know that their faith is better-placed in the true God who loves them more than any government official can.
And, here we get to the crux of the matter.  The biggest reason why so many fundamentalist Christians fear universal health care.  Competition.  They can't handle it. If government provided a decent safety net, people might not need religion or the charity it provides quite so much.  And the religious establishment fears not being needed.  If people don't need them, their enrollment numbers might drop.  Fighting to deny universal health care to those who need it, in order to keep organized religion popular, is just plain evil.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tim Gunn Says that It Gets Better

I moved the other day, and with all the packing, unpacking, and moving, I've been busier than usual.  Hence, I haven't posted in a while.  Please forgive me, and I'll attempt to post a bit more frequently.  In the meantime, a quick post of something that I think is worth seeing.

Remember the "It Gets Better" Project that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago?  Well, Tim Gunn has posted his video, where he mentions his own suicide attempt.  It does get better, kids.  Remenber that when life seems hopeless.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Sometimes You See Some Strange Shit in New York

Driving up Elizabeth Street yesterday, I saw something rather strange.  A car, a very colorful car.

The entire vehicle was covered with a crochet car cover.  Even the wheels and bumpers were covered.  Everything except the antenna.  The yarn used was very bright and colorful, though you can't really tell from my poor photos.  It was night, and my cheap-ass camera phone does not have a flash.  I have no idea what kind of car it is, though I am curious.

I think it is art.

Friday, October 1, 2010

No God We Trust

Construction fencing is constantly found all over New York.  With this being built, and that being torn down, the blue plywood fencing is always there.  Construction workers are often God-fearing patriotic types, and usually hang flags on building going up, and paint slogans on the fencing.  Some joker decided to edit this particular slogan.

I heartily approve.

Teabag Candidates Gone Wild

Within days of each other, Teabag Gubernatorial Candidates from Maine and New York both threatened reporters.  Paul LePage of Maine, at least, does appear to be joking.

Watch the full episode. See more MPBN News.

New York's Carl Paladino, on the other hand, appears to have lost it completely.

These are the candidates that the teabaggers have chosen in their attempt to "take back America."  Take us back from what, civility?  The teabaggers are increasingly angry, and are demanding change.  But, is this the change they want?  Will candidate like Paladino and LePage actually help their states at all?  I don't think so.  Electing them will not bring about the kind of change that will help the pissed-off teabagging masses.  After four years of these outburst prone fools, all the teabaggers will have are more reasons to be angry.

Stick with the Dems, people.  LePage and Paladino won't help anyone.

Old Fashioned Soda Shop in Brooklyn

Farmacy, an old style soda fountain, like the ones you remember from your childhood, has opened in Brooklyn at the corner of Henry and Sackett.   K and I checked the place out recently, and we were impressed.  They serve egg creams, a Brooklyn specialty, as well as sodas, shakes, and ice cream.  I especially recommend the Rocket, a coffee shake made with ice coffee instead of milk.  Highly caffeinated, so beware.

The place is a 100 year old pharmacy that had been closed for about ten years.  The proprietor, Peter Freeman, started restoring the place, and was given some invaluable help from the Discovery Channel's "Construction Intervention."  The crew did a wonderful job, preserving the antique feel.  Original wood floors and shelving are intact, and the whole place has a relaxed, charming atmosphere.

Check the place out if you get a chance.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

UK's Labour Leader Comes Out as an Atheist

Labour Party chief Ed Miliband has announced his atheism in an interview on Radio 5 Live.  He joins Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, as an open atheist.  I wish we had a few more atheist politicians on this side of the pond.  The only one I know of in Congress is Pete Stark of California.  But, with the fundies exerting so much influence in American politics, I don't think we'll see any more soon.  Which is too bad.

Fellow atheists, we need to learn a lesson from the gays.  The first step towards earning respect is to come out of the closet.

Teabagger Carl Paladino is a Racist Pervert has posted a bunch of emails forwarded by New York Teabag Gubanatorial Candidate Carl Paladino. All of the images are from his emails.  The staff at WNYmedia authiticated them, and they have others posted. They are kind of sick and rather fucked up.

I didn't watch the video with the horse, for I haven't the stomach, but I do wonder if any teabagging is involved.

And, some artist decided that Paladino needs new campaign posters:

I am dumbfounded that this man might be New York's next governor.  But, then again, with the Spitzer, Patterson and Hevasi scandals, maybe Paladino will fit right in at Albany.

Bigots Complain that School Anti-Bullying Programs Push Gay Agenda

Russell Goldman for ABC News reports that Focus on the Family, that group of intolerance, is complaining that anti-bulling laws are pushing a gay agenda.
Focus on the Family has accused gay-rights groups of using tolerance and anti-bullying programs to introduce curricula and books into schools that promote political aims such as same-sex marriage. The same groups, it says, lobby for gays and other minority groups to be specifically mentioned in anti-bullying legislation and try to depict Christians opposed to such treatment as bigots.
"What parents need to be aware of is there are activist groups who want to promote homosexuality to kids because they realize if they can capture hearts and minds of our children at the earliest ages they will have for all practical purposes won the clash of values that we are currently experiencing," Candi Cushman, education analyst for Focus on the Family, said on recently launched website 
Focus on the Family takes particular issue with recent curricula adopted in Alamdea, Calif. The school board there last year adopted an anti-bullying program for elementary school students that specifically mentioned gays and lesbians.
The Colorado-based organization says the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network has targeted thousands of school districts nationwide with literature. "Schools are only allowed to provide one message about homosexuality; that it's normal and should be embraced," Focus on the Family said of the gay group's message.
"The school introduced anti-bullying lessons but really they're teaching elementary school kids about gay marriage," Cushman told ABC "We think parents should have the right to teach kids about it in their own way." 
Their complaint kind of makes sense.  I mean, if I was a bigot, I wouldn't want schools teaching my kids that bigotry was wrong.  That might confuse the kids.  If the schools taught my kids that homosexuality was "normal and should be embraced," it would be difficult teaching them at home that God hates gays.  This is why so many Christians are into homeschooling.  It's easier to keep kids away from such blasphemy as tolerance, decency, respect, and, for that matter, evolution.  I get the feeling that fifty years ago, these same people would have complained about Dr. King pushing the "Negro agenda."

The article does end on a positive note:
"I am a Christian. I am conservative. Some would call me right-wing," said Brenda High, whose son, Jared,committed suicide in 1998 when he was 13 after being routinely bullied and beat up at his Washington state middle school.
"The problem is our schools are not teaching kids to become responsible adults. When you allow kids to call people names or bash them because they think they might be gay and make assumptions and judge people, that's when kids get hurt.
"There's nothing wrong with a little religion: Teach them the Christian idea 'to do unto others,' everyone gay or straight, any religion, even atheists agree with that one," she said.
That's not such a bad idea, to "do unto others as you would have others do unto you."  I often wonder if these Christians (the hateful ones, not those like Brenda High) have ever read the Sermon on the Mount, or studied Jesus's teachings of love and compassion.  Why do they cling so desperately to a rule put down in a book that also bans shrimp.  I really don't get it.

What is it that they fear?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Who Knows the Most about Religion?

Would you be surprised if I said atheists and agnostics?  According to the Pew Research Center, Mormons, Jews, and atheists top the list of those who know the most about religion. This is not particularly shocking, of course. Most atheists were raised in a religious home, and lost their faith later in life. Many studied their religion, and in the process, realized that it made no sense, so they gave it up.  There has been a lot of blather on the blogosphere lately that atheist do not know enough about religion to criticise it, but this report shows that the average atheist knows more about religion than the average christian.

Besides, it doesn't take all that much schooling to realize that the story of a travelling preacher nailed to a cross coming back to life after three days is rather silly.

Where is the Outrage?

One week ago today, some jackass from Senator Saxby Chambliss's Georgia office left a comment on Joe.My.God., a gay right's blog, saying "All faggots must die."  Chambliss's staff have yet to determine (or announce) the perpetrator.  This death threat was mentioned briefly in the news (here, here, and here), but it has generated little news coverage.

I want to know where the outrage is.  If some anonymous senate staffer posted "All n*****s must die" on a civil rights bog, all hell would break lose.  Al Sharpton would be protesting in front of the office the very next day.  Every news show in the country would use the story as their lead, demanding answers from the Senator's office. Congressional leaders would issue statements and hold press conferences denouncing the comment, and demanding action.  The Senator whose office the remark was traced to would make a tearful apology and fire the offending staffer.

But, this was a gay rights blog, and the offending comment was hateful to gays, and, apparently, hate speech towards gays, even from the office of a Senator, is still acceptable to much of this country. We are still a long way from the point when f***** is considered just as offensive and hateful as n*****.

And that is a problem.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Republican Economics as Social Darwinism

So says Robert Reich on his blog recently.  I strongly recommend you read it.  In fact, you should read him everyday, for he clearly articulates what our nations economic problems are, and how to fix them.  In case you fear that he may be too dry (economics, yawn), he can also be funny.

Ben Stein Whines about Taxes

Oh, whine, poor Benny doesn't want his taxes to go up.  And not up by much, only an additional 3% on whatever he makes over $250,000.  That's all, 3%.  Life is tough.

He doesn't like paying taxes for schools, but does he realize that if people did not pay school taxes, then only the children of the rich would be able to afford school.  That's the way Haiti does schooling, and it hasn't worked well for them.

He makes some complaint that raising taxes during a recession will only make things worse, but he doesn't mention that the recession is over for the rich.  The richest 400 Americans had their combined net worth increase by 8% this year, while the poverty rate is at a post-war high.  So, it's only fair that the taxes for the rich go up.  They have reaped the benefits of our jobless recovery; they should pay the extra taxes.  Taxes that are needed to help pay for the stimulus, unemployment insurance, and lower the deficit.  That is not punishment, Ben, it is simply fair.

The income disparity in this country is becoming larger and larger each year, and our tax code is partially to blame.  Capital gains are taxed at a much lower rate than the income tax on wages, but the working men and women work awfully damn hard to make those wages, while investing in stocks and collecting dividends doesn't take much sweat.  Social Security tax caps at $106,000, meaning that every dollar one makes over that is not taxed for Social Security.  Therefore, a hedge fund manager who pulls in a billion dollars in one year pays Social Security tax on only a small percentage of their income, while school teachers and mill workers have to pay the tax on 100% of their income.  This is fundamentally unfair, yet Ben, and the Republicans, whine about the income tax rate for top earners going from 36% to 39%.  And that's only on the money they make over $250,000.

So, Ben, quit whining like a fucking baby, and pay your taxes.  You can afford them a lot easier than the rest of us.

P.S.  Ben, if you're only making 35 cents on the dollar, you need to renegotiate with your agent.

P.P.S.  Forgive the commercials.  It's CBS's video, and they can put them in if they want.

P.P.P.S.  Bill Maher has written about Benny, also.  Only his post is better.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Jon Stewart on the Pledge for America

To sum up, Stewart is saying that the Republicans are promising to return to the same policies that got us in so much trouble to begin with.  And, he's funny.  Enjoy.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Postcards From the Pledge
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Friday, September 24, 2010

Don't Blame the Public Sector

WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show has a new weekly segment for this month called Wonk Wars, where two policy wonks debate a particular issue related to the campaign season.  This weeks topic was a true/false question: Public employees have too many benefits.  James Parrott of the Fiscal Policy Institute started the conversation.
It is truly remarkable that some commentators can so readily look past the continued polarization in how we compensate labor in this country to argue that public sector workers might be doing “too well” relative to their private sector counterparts. Most workers generally, as opposed to CEO's and the highest-paid executives, have not fared well over the past two decades in terms of sharing in the prosperity their efforts create. If they had, wages and benefits would be much higher for the typical worker and our middle class would still be broad rather than shrinking.
Private sector workers have really taken it on the chin. Inflation-adjusted real hourly wages for men are less today than 30 years ago, despite substantial productivity growth that should have made possible commensurate gains in wages and living standards. Many fewer private workers have employer-provided health insurance or pensions than in decades past. And now, those with a “winner-take-all” mentality want public sector workers to give up their hard-earned health and pension benefits.
We need to take a step back from this debate and ask where have all the gains in the economy gone since the 1980s? And how do we restore an economy that shares prosperity among all workers?  We shouldn’t be making scapegoats out of our public employees. They certainly didn’t cause the economic collapse, nor are they responsible for the erosion in the wages and benefits of private sector workers.
Steve Malanga of the Manhattan Institute follows with some stats about the bad shape of New York's budget, but doesn't mention the crux of Parrott's point.  The public sector seems to be doing so much better than the private sector, because the private sector has lost so much ground over the last thirty years.  Union membership has plummeted, and wages have remained flat.  Meanwhile, the super rich have made enormous gains, and the middle class has shrunk.

Many people who have lost jobs during the Great Recession are angry and envious of the public sector's strong unions and legally guaranteed benefits, but their anger is misplaced.  The should be mad at corporate America that is doing all it can to reduce costs and drive up profits.  They should also be angry at the government, especially Republicans, who are happy to be pro-business and anti-worker.

And, finally, the angry workers should be mad at themselves for continuing to vote against their own economic interests and for the politicians who care more about the corporations than they do the people.

Instead of demanding that the public sector suffers like the private sector, we should demand that the private sector receives the benefits and pay that they deserve.

This November, vote Democratic.