Archive for the ‘WTF moments’ Category

Hostages

August 31, 2011

This year has been a tough one for the US. We’ve seen tornadoes plow through population centers with devastating results. Snow falls that set records both for their totals and for the cost of cleaning up after them gave rise to floods that cause a great deal of damage. Large swathes of the Southwest, already hit hard by drought, saw huge and uncontrolled fires scorch tens of thousands of acres. Now, large areas of the East Coast have been hammered by Hurricane Irene. These disasters effect not just the areas that were immediately hit, but also the nation at large. So the federal government, largely in the form of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has stepped in to help those who have, in many cases, lost everything. The task of helping out has been huge, as has the cost, and therein lies the problem. With so many major event to respond to, FEMA has seen it’s emergency funds drain away quickly, and those funds are not infinite. The most recent figures give FEMA somewhere around $800 million left in its budget. That’s not pocket change, but when you look at the damage Irene has left in it’s wake, it’s an almost pitiful amount, because even current rough estimates run into the $3-4 billion range. Given the fact that many of these estimates are based only on what has been directly observed, and the fact that in many spots, officials haven’t even been able to get in and find out just how bad things really are, it is unlikely that those figures are going to go down.

There has been an effort to get FEMA supplemental funds, and that story is what I write about. The funding itself is nearly insignificant given the damage we already know of, roughly $1 billion. If the small size of the increase in funding weren’t enough (and given that this year still has four months yet to go, part of which is the peak for the hurricane season) that small amount finds itself tied up in Washington’s current fixation of “balanced” budgets. You see, the current increase comes from the House, where the “Tea Party” has written language into the bill demanding that, in order to fund this increase in emergency funding, offsetting cuts must be made in other federal programs first. Which programs, they are unwilling to commit themselves to for fear (I think) of facing a backlash from the victims of these natural disasters.

That their feet should be held firmly to the fire for even suggesting such an insane act goes without saying. Conservatives love to liken the federal budget to a family budget, but I doubt they’ll use that particular simile in this case. After all, how many families would worry about where to find the money to pay for a sick child before deciding to seek treatment? There are some things you pay for, then figure out how to find the money, that’s why we call them “emergencies”.

Holding help to people who have suffered through a natural disaster hostage to ideological ideals is just plain wrong, and the “Tea Party”, plus it’s allies in Congress, should be ashamed of themselves for doing so. This is a nation that looks out for it’s own, or it should be. By demanding cuts before any funds go out to help people who are often without even the basics of life, these people show themselves to be not only heartless, but blind to anything but their own agenda. Hopefully people will remember these shameful actions come 2012.

(addendum: as of tonight, estimates are that Hurricane Irene has caused over $12 billion in damages, lifting it into the ranks of the most destructive storms in history. Thanks for watching our backs on the economic front, Eric Cantor, nice to know money and ideology come before people.)

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Living in the Land of Unreason

August 26, 2011

Last year, a small college in Indiana made a decision to change it’s traditions. You see, through it’s history, Goshen College, a small college founded by the Mennonites, had never played the national anthem at it’s sporting events. So when they decided to start playing an instrumental version of “The Star-Spangled Banner”, it was something of a shift for them, a shift that, it turned out, did not go down well. After a year’s worth of playing, the school had heard from many sources. The student body spoke up and gave it’s opinion. The alumni of the school also voiced their opinion. The input wasn’t unanimous, but the voices saying that the school should not have changed it’s traditions were much louder than those who thought the playing of the national anthem was something the school should be doing. The objections to “The Star-Spangled Banner” was simple and specific: it describes a battle, and the Mennonite faith is one based on pacifism. By playing a song that glorified a battle, it was felt the school was going against it’s deepest religious traditions. The school did feel that a song that spoke of pride in our nation was not out of place before sports events, so the decision was made to replace “The Star-Spangled Banner” with “America the Beautiful”.

All of this would amount to pretty much next-to-nothing in a world where reason prevailed. Unfortunately, we live in modern America, and as soon as the decision was announced, the conservative wing of American politics cranked up it’s venom machinery. I first read of this whole story in a story (which I didn’t bookmark and can no long find) on Yahoo. Like most online outlets, the story had an attached comments section, and the pure hatred and malice that was expressed by people on the Right was a shock even to myself, who’d seen it many times. All the traditional insults, “traitors” “anti-American”, “PC ‘liberals’”, you name it, it was there, along with much far worse. In their minds, this was an assault on “American values” and another sign of “what’s wrong with this country”.

But how is that so?

A group listened to it’s members, and the majority’s opinion was heard. That opinion was that the group’s religious beliefs should not be shunted aside to please others. So democracy, the will of the majority, standing up for one’s principles and beliefs, all these things are now “un-American”?

When a group can condemn another group for upholding the ideals it professes to hold dear, what does that say of us? Have we, as a nation, become so polarized, so set in our ideas of “Right” and “Wrong” that we can’t see when opinion leads people to stray into the absurd? If it has, then democracy, that most basic of our tenets, is dead, and it will have been killed by those who claim to hold it most dear.

Does anyone else see the irony in all this?

Posturing for the “Home Crowd”, or Republicans Fiddles while America Burns

July 15, 2011

There are times when it seems the only thing some politicians can do in the face of a crisis is find something else to think about. This was brought home very strongly to me recently by the actions of the House of Representatives.

The House is the source of much of the sound (and more than a little fury) over our budget deficit. Republicans there have all but demanded that Something Be Done, and soon! Their “something” has revolved exclusively around cutting spending on “wasteful” programs (read any program they don’t like), and, to an extent, the White House has agreed with them. Multiple meetings have been held, without any positive developments, but this isn’t what drew my attention. No, what caught my eye was how, while they cry out about how the ‘national edifice’ is in danger, they’ve been occupying their time with…….amending HR-6, the Energy Independence and Security Act.

HR-6 was originally passed in 2007. When it was originally voted out of the House and passed onto the Senate for their consideration, it garnered 264 votes in favor and 163 votes against, with 8 members not voting. 36 Republicans voted with 228 Democrats to pass the bill, and when the Senate had made it’s changes and sent the bill back to the House for final approval, 95 Republicans were part of the 314 members who voted for passage. Then-President George W. Bush signed the bill into law, and it was heralded as a major step on the road to making America more energy independent.

Like every bill these days, HR-6 had many provisions in it. One of these was a requirement that all light bulbs be at least 30% efficient, that is, that they waste no more than 70% of the power the consume in the form of heat. Given the amount of power that’s used in America to simply light things up, that makes a ton of sense. It also means the death of the “traditional” incandescent light bulb.

When he invented it, Thomas Edison was breaking new ground with his light bulb. Before then, if you wanted light, you either worked outside in sunlight, or you burned something, be it oil, kerosene, tallow, beeswax, or whatever; and used the light given off by that burning to light your work. Edison came up with the simple but brilliant idea that, if he could put a metal filament into a clear glass bulb, then suck the air out of it and apply an electrical current to it, the filament would reach a white-hot state. In that “incandescent” state, it would give off a bright white light that could be used for illumination. The problem was, what it was really doing was generating a lot of heat in order to produce a little light, with the most efficient incandescent bulbs never getting above 10% efficiency. So, if you want to cut the amount of electricity used to light things up, one of the simplest ways to do it would be to replace incandescent lights with newer, more efficient lighting technology. Simple, right?

Well, it’s simple if you’re not engaged in a bit of political posturing.

You see, in their ‘anti-Washington’ fervour, the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party decided that trying to cut the amount of energy wasted on lighting things up amounted to “government interference” in Our Daily Lives. So they decided, with the government on the brink of defaulting, that the best use of the House’s time would be to debate a repeal of the provision of HR-6 setting a minimum efficiency standard for light bulbs. The provision failed to pass, but there is already talk of trying to amend a bill currently making it’s way through the House to include much the same language.

No one engaged in this asinine effort is claiming that there is no need to cut our energy consumption. Nor, for that matter, is there anyone claiming that America shouldn’t be doing everything it can to make itself more energy independent. And no one is claiming that incandescent light bulbs are somehow vital to American ‘national interests’. No, we get the same tired ‘keep government out of our private decisions’ talk we hear from the same folks who want to ban abortions, outlaw same-sex marriages, and tell us all to believe America is a “Christian nation”.

So, here’s what I wish I could say (preferably in a loud voice, from about half-an-inch from their noses) is this:

There are more important things to worry about! So get your head out of your butts and get to them!”

A disturbing development.

June 7, 2011

Politicians are people, just like you and I. Given that, it is not a shocking idea that they might occasionally screw up. How they respond when they screw up says a lot about them. What’s more important, though, is how the folks who support them react. Take Sarah Palin as for instance.

As you know by now, while on her non-campaign bus tour, she in Boston, where someone asked her about Paul Revere. Almost everyone knows the poem, and many of us know the actual facts of what happened that night on the eve of Concord. Ms. Palin, though, either because she does not know, or because she suffered an all-too-human ‘brain cramp’, managed to make a total muck of telling what happened. All well and good, she proved she’s human and made a mistake. However, she made that mistake in front of a TV camera, and it was all captured for broadcast. Again, no big deal, politicians have shot their mouthes off in all manner of different and “creative” ways in front of cameras since, well, there have been cameras capable of capturing those foul-ups. What happened next, though, is the story that has to be remembered.

Ms. Palin, as you no doubt know, is also a television personality, specifically, a commentator on Fox. That means she has access to the media that a lot of former politicians would not have. That would be a great avenue for her to admit her mistake and explain how it came about. Instead, she has used her media platform to deny that she screwed up, and to insist that all the history books are wrong, that her version of “history” is, in fact, the real one. That she is so unwilling to admit error is a dangerous hint at what sort of mindset she possesses, and should give pause to anyone who’s watched these events unfold.

An even more disturbing outcome of this, though, has been the reaction of the people who support Ms. Palin and her political ambitions. There are confirmed reports that Wikipedia, the online information site, has seen numerous attempts to change it’s entry covering Paul Revere. Those attempts to rewrite history have, almost universally, been attempts to portray Sarah Palin’s telling of the story as the “true” one. What does it say about a group that it will willingly attempt to change the past so that what we think of as “truth” is merely a reflection of a politician’s mistaken pronouncement?

Hubris, that most dangerous of all afflictions that politicians can fall victim to, has brought many political careers to an end. By her actions, Sarah Palin is demonstrating that she is already deeply in the grip of hubris. That those who follow her are willing to do anything to make her look good speaks less of a political movement, and more of a cult. Which one is more of a danger to America and our body politic, I am not sure. That they are a danger to those institutions, I have no doubt whatsoever, because when any politician is placed above the truth, then we are all in danger.

Dishonoring Memorial Day.

May 30, 2011

Some folks can’t seem to deal with reality. I’m not talking about the folks you see in a big city, the unfortunate ones who wander the streets in something of a perpetual haze. No, I’m talking about the ones who seem to be willing to forget the world around them, and everything that happens, or has happened, in it.

One of the biggest culprits of this sort of self-delusion are the people who love to pontificate about how today, America is “paying” for all the various and sundry “sins” of what they often refer to as the “Me” generation. In their minds, America is wallowing in lassitude, governed more by some sort of desire for more and more for less and less work. It’s morals have supposedly deteriorated from some earlier, higher state; and unless we can “return” to those ‘higher’ values, we’re doomed.

What a load of crap.

I wonder how many of these fine folks have been to see a young man or woman come home from Iraq or Afghanistan in a metal box. None of them had to go and die, there being no draft to compel them. No, they, often held as symbols of the “failings” of our current society by these same ‘concerned’ folks, volunteered to defend their nation. In the end, they laid down their lives for that nation and put the lie to the idea of a generation of selfish do-nothings.

They aren’t alone. One of the things that stands, perhaps more than anything else, from this Spring and it’s savage outbreaks of tornadoes, is the willingness of people to help. In both Alabama and, more recently, Joplin, within as little as a day of the true scope of the damage was known, people have arrived, willing to help in any way possible. None of them is looking for a job or any sort of reward, they just saw some others who had suffered terribly and came to do what they could to help. They spend their own money, use their own vacation time, to do nothing more than help others. They too put the doom-sayers, the folks who deride the current society as somehow less than it was in some mythical past.

America’s not perfect, that is something I would never claim. The problem is, it never has been, and when people try to pick a past era as somehow representing a “more perfect” state of our nation and society, shows nothing so much as their own ignorance and willingness to engage in wishful thinking. The thing that is truly great about America isn’t our perfection, nor how we are ‘greater’ than any other nation. It’s how we can can rise above the imperfections present in us all and be something better, even, occasionally, something great.

A final sort of “pet peeve” in the vein of rewriting reality occurred today, and it truly pissed me off. I was flipping around, looking for something to watch on the TV, and I came up on the start of a baseball game. The Chicago Cubs were getting ready to start a game, and it being Memorial Day, they were in full ‘patriotic fervor’ mode. It wasn’t really over-the-top, or even very offensive…..until the announcer told everyone to stand for the national anthem. I do not know who the woman was who they has asked to do the honors, but someone should set down with her and have a good, long talk. You see, rather than answer that announcement by stepping up to the mike and opening with the stirring lines of “The Star Spangled Banner”, she decided to open with “God Bless America”, THEN she decided to actually sign our national anthem. I know, many conservatives these days want to do away with “The Star Spangled Banner” and replace it with a song that reflects (in their words and pathetic little minds) “our nation’s Christian roots”. Until they accomplish this idiotic task, I would hope they would have the decency to remember what song we all do rise to.

Simple murder.

May 27, 2011

I read a lot, some of it in books, some of it in newspapers, some of it from on line sources. I recently ran across a story that stopped me in my tracks. It wasn’t the story itself, but the response people had to it, that really stopped me cold.

This is the story:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_pharmacy_shooting

The facts are simple: a pharmacist is working in a drug store in a “bad” section of town. Two teenagers walk in, one of them armed, and attempt to rob the drug store. The pharmacist has a gun behind the counter, which he pulls and shoots one of the would be robbers. The other robber flees while the pharmacist follows him to the door, then he returns to the counter. Now comes the part that changes the story. The remaining robber is now on the floor, unconscious with a bullet in his head. The pharmacist goes behind the counter, retrieves a second gun he has there, then come back around the counter. He then proceeds to fire five shots into the unconscious robber’s abdomen, killing him in the process.

When the story first broke, people hailed the pharmacist as a hero, he was seen as defending himself and his coworkers. When video surveillance from the store was examined by the police, they notified prosecutors, who charged the pharmacist with murder. The case was tried before a jury, who heard both the prosecutor’s argument that the shooting was murder, and the defense’s claim that it was simply a matter of self defense. The jury took around three and a half hours to decide that it was, in fact, murder; and to further recommend that the pharmacist be sentenced to life in prison.

It’s all pretty straight forward, the evidence was in no doubt what happened, and the jury would have been hard pressed to come to any other verdict. What amazed me was what I read when I scrolled down past the end of the story.

One after another, people had weighed in, denouncing the jury and hailing the pharmacist as a hero. The level of hatred, of anger, that most of those people expressed should be enough to make anyone shudder, if not openly blanch. It’s like once the kid walked in the door, he was fair game, no matter whether he was actively attacking anyone or not. It makes one wonder, what would these people have considered a response on the robber’s part that would have justified not shooting him. Would it have been enough if he’d been gasping out pleas for mercy? If he’d managed to get on his knees and beg for his life? When does a person cross the line from defending themselves to, as the prosecutor put it, becoming “judge, jury and executioner”?

For myself, I think the jury did the right thing. Shooting someone who’s actively trying to harm you is an act that isn’t hard to justify. Shooting someone who’s lying defenseless in front of you, that’s murder, plain and simple

The IRA’s shame.

May 17, 2011

Being part Irish, I try to keep up on what’s going on in Ireland. Right now, Queen Elizabeth of England is on a state visit to Ireland. She’s laid a wreath at the monument to the Irish who died fighting against English rule and planted a tree in a garden in Dublin dedicated to peace in that island nation. From early reports, it seems that more than a few Irish are quite happy to have her visit. That is not, however, a universal sentiment.

In the run-up to her visit, several IED’s were found scatted around Ireland, all of them linked to a group trying to ‘bring back the armed struggle for freedom’. Many of the members of this group are former IRA members who are dissatisfied with the current peace process. As to why they’re dissatisfied, I do not claim to know, but I would be willing to hazard a few guesses.

When English rule or ‘the North’ was at it’s worst, the IRA were heroes to most Nationalist for their actions against a government that was aimed very much at keeping them ‘in their places’. They were seen as ‘striking a blow’ for all the people who could do little to nothing to change things on the ground. Later, as the IRA began to move more towards bombings and other acts of more indiscriminate terror, those same people began to have doubts. Since the Good Friday Accord came into being, many people, on all sides of the Northern Ireland political scene, have begun to see that the time for violence has passed, that it’s time to find a way forward together. The main terror groups, both the groups sharing the IRA’s views and those who had fought against them, turned in and/or destroyed their arms and began to try to move back into society. By all accounts, while it hasn’t been an easy transition, it has been happening. The local government has come to reflect the make up of the community it represents, and the various parties have managed to work together to keep it that way.

And therein lies the rub.

When “The Troubles” were on, the people who were fighting were heroes, but now, no one cares. They’re having to accommodate The Others, the people they once fought against. Worst of all, the world they knew is changing. The comfortable old hates are no longer accepted. The “us versus them” split that once defined their world is disappearing. In other words, they’re in danger of becoming footnotes in history.

So, they lash out and try to bring the world they once knew back. No ‘peace’ with “The Enemy”. No fading away into obscurity. No more being ignored.

People like this are the worst cowards. That’s because what they fear is the future, a future that they don’t understand and will do everything they can to stop from happening. The saddest thing of it all is, the harder they struggle, the more violent they become, the more they’re likely to end up being despised by the very people who’s adoration they hope to regain. It’s what happens to people who try to ignore the future, they just become sad relics of a past no one want to remember.

Some people can’t see the truth in front of their faces.

April 28, 2011

Of all the non-issue “issues” that have been raised since Barak Obama announced his intention to run for the office of president, the idea that he was not born in the United States, and as such, was not eligible to be president, has been one of the most long-lived. Officials testified to the fact he was born in Hawaii, newspaper clippings from the time showing his birth notice, even the so-called “short form” of his live birth certificate being released, none of it had any effect on the proponents of the “Birther” conspiracy. No, Obama had to release his birth certificate, and do so NOW, or in their minds, he wasn’t President. So Obama, in an effort to just get the whole lunatic idea put to rest, released his “long-form” certificate of live birth. This has all the details the “birthers” claimed they needed to see to prove that Obama was, in fact, born in the US. Case closed, right?

DON’T YOU FUCKING WISH!

Instead of accepting what’s in front of their face, the “Birthers” are now spinning new conspiracies. The document is a fake/forgery! It has “inconsistencies” in it! It’s not a birth certificate! The list goes on and on, but it all boils down to one thing: these people have convinced themselves that Obama can’t be the “legitimate” President, and no amount of proof is going to convince them otherwise. Back when Bush the Younger was president, there were liberals who refused to accept him as the “legitimate” President (I will admit that I myself am not terribly sure the 2000 election was “decided” correctly). Conservatives loved to heap scorn on them and their views. Isn’t it strange how now, when it’s their own people raising similar outlandish claims, they choose to remain pretty much silent on the matter? I guess it’s only fun to ridicule people when they’re the opposition.

The loons ride again!

March 6, 2011

There are days when I wonder if America has finally reached the point where politics can’t get any loonier. Then I read the morning paper, or get online, and I find that, no, the loons are still out there. A few cases in point:

 

When he ran as part of the 2008 presidential field on the Republican side of the ticket, Mike Huckabee took issue with the attention paid by some media outlets to Bristol Palin’s unwed pregnancy. He was full of praise for the child of his fellow Republican for taking on the role of motherhood in a world where abortion was available. I guess a couple of years and a need to get his name remembered by a new crop of conservative voters have changed Mike’s mind. You will, no doubt, have heard of his slam at Oscar-winning actress Natalia Portman for being a single mother. During a radio interview, he commented that “it’s unfortunate that we glorify and glamorize the idea of out-of-children wedlock.” . If Mike was hoping to raise his profile, he certainly did so. A none-too-small firestorm erupted over Huckabee’s comments, and he must have felt the fire even down in Arkansas. Huckabee, in a statement straight out of the conservative playbook, slammed “Hollywood media” types for supposedly distorting his comments. It did not help that this was the second controversial statement the former Arkansas governor had made in a single week. Just days before, Huckabee had denounced President Obama’s outlook on the world by claiming that it stemmed from his childhood in Kenya. He went so far as to claim that childhood stories of the Mau Mau revolt against British rule of that nation had shaped Obama’s world view. That President Obama didn’t visit Kenya until he was in his twenties is a tiny details that Mr. Huckabee seems more than willing to overlook. His spokesmen have since tried to insist that the comments were meant to refer to President Obama’s childhood years spent in Indonesia, though they refused to explain how the Mau Mau revolt could have played a part in that experience.

Good story link: http://www.suntimes.com/entertainment/4141263-421/mike-huckabee-denies-criticizing-natalie-portman-for-unwed-pregnancy.html

While we’re ‘down South’, it bear mentioning that Tennessee has officially stepped off the deep end politically. Bills have been introduced in both the state House and Senate that would make “material support” for the Islamic code known as Shariah punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Shariah is akin to the rules that observant Jews and Catholics follow: a set of moral guidelines that are supposed to direct the follower’s daily practices in life. It is, according to the sponsors of this legislation, also a threat. The bill leaves open the definition of what constitutes “material” support for Shariah, and the sponsors also claim that it is not intended as a move to criminalize Islamic beliefs, just as a way to give state police and other officials a way to go after those “who take Shariah law to the other extreme”. To give yo an idea of how broadly the statute is worded, and the extent of it’s general wrong-headedness, here’s a link to an excerpt of some of the bill’s language:

http://www.tennessean.com/article/20110302/NEWS06/103020365/1972/NEWS02

Thirteen states have laws under consideration that would bar courts from considering even the impact that following Shariah law might have in any case before them. While these are not nearly as over-reaching as the Tennessee law, they still speak to ignoring the role faith might play in a person’s life, which seems an odd attitude from modern conservatives, who often bemoan the lack of faith in our modern society.

Good link to a story on the law from a Tennessee-based newspaper:

http://tennessean/article/20110305/NEWS0201/103050354/1972/NEWS02/TN-Republican-lawmakers-open-discussions-anti-Shariah-bill

A final tidbit for your consideration…..heeee’s baaaaaack! That’s right, Newt Gingrich has decided to explore the waters for a possible run for the White House in 2012. Just when you thought politics was as strange as it could get. Newt has been on the conservative version of the ‘rubber chicken’ trail, addressing rallies and attending forums, speaking of all thing conservative, and he’s been building a consulting and media mini-empire for himself in the process. So he has a lot of cash, and tons of already-in-place contacts to draw on. The problem for him, though, might just be that he won’t be able to touch the money he already has. Much of it was given to so-called non-partisan political organizations he’s set up, and if he decides to go all-in on a run for future political office, that money suddenly goes off-limits, as using it would violate the federal law that governs how those sorts of organizations are established. Mind you, Newt has left a trail of statements behind him over the last couple of years that are not a whole lot better than some of the utterances of Mr Huckabee, but you may rest assured, Gingrich will be around to haunt the airwaves, expounding his version of the world, for years to come, no matter whether he runs for the presidency or not. Oh, joy……..

another nice story link: http://www.npr.org/2011/03/03/134233053/gingrich-explores-potential-presidential-run

Are we seeing the beginning of the enslavement of the American worker?

February 11, 2011

You expect when things are tough in the economy, businesses will take as much advantage as they can of their workers. I think, however, that the current economic downturn has brought out some of the worst parts of this management strategy. A couple of cases to point:

Chrysler has had a hard time of it in the car market, and has been hanging on by it’s fingernails for quite some time. It was purchased last year by Fiat, and as a European concern, you might think it’s attitude towards it’s workers would be more accommodating.

WRONG!

We had a major snowstorm around these parts a couple of weeks ago. Conditions were bad enough that many towns were brought to a standstill for all of the following day, in some cases, more than a day. Schools in many cases ended up closing early on the day the storm hit, Tuesday, and in many cases were closed for the rest of the week. The area saw snowfalls from 13 to over 20 inches, and winds blew in the 30-40 MPH throughout most of the period. Many local companies either closed early or sent their workers home before conditions deteriorated too badly. Chrysler’s plant in Belvedere plant is a major facility, and they run three shifts most days. On that Tuesday, their second shift reported for work as scheduled and worked while conditions outside got worse and worse. Workers began to ask about leaving early, due to concerns that they might not be able to get home if the roads were closed. Company officials came back with a simple message: anyone who left early would be fired. So everyone kept working. By the time the shift ended, conditions were severe enough that all the roads out of town were closed, leaving many workers with no place to go. The company, after the fact, said they had arranged for housing in local hotels for those workers who were trapped in town. Workers on the shift tell a very different story, that when the shift ended, they were left to dig their cars out on their own, and that no one from management passed along word of the hotels being available. This lead to many having to arrange lodgings for multiple days and pick up the cost out of their own pockets. No reimbursement was offered to these employees either, and feelings were hard enough that the company scheduled a meeting to discuss the matter. In a second exhibit of how little the company cared for it’s workers safety, just as the meeting was to start, a gasket on a valve in a fuel line carrying gasoline through the plant ruptured, leading to something around 300 gallons of fuel being spilled. Gasoline fumes are highly flammable, and when ignited, can cause extremely powerful explosions. 300 gallons would be more than enough to generate a very large explosion, and an equally impressive fire. Rather than move the workers out of the plant, though, management moved the employees to a “safe” area. How “safe” it was might be judged by the fact that several dozen eventually ended up going to the hospital complaining of nausea. While they were confined, many workers asked if it might not be safer to just have everyone leave the building. Management’s response? Anyone who left would be fired!

In another instance of ‘We’re in charge, and we can do what the fuck we want!’, there is a story in the papers that the new governor of Wisconsin will ask the legislature to strip all public service employees of their collective bargaining rights. The governor, who is a ‘Tea-Party’ style Republican, says he was talking about this on the campaign trail, and no one should be surprised with this request. He claims that this is the only way the state stands a chance of balancing its budget. In this writer’s mind, whether such a move is even legal should be Question #1 on the minds of those legislatures who might even contemplate such a radical move. If they vote to pass such a bill, they would be unilaterally terminating a contract they agreed to, which in and of itself is legally questionable. Whether it is even constitutional to deny people the right to free association, which is the heart of the right to bargain collectively, is something else they might wish to consider.

What these examples illustrate is a thing to be feared by anyone who works for someone else: the beginning of the enslavement of the American worker. If our employers can tell us to stay on the job, no matter the risk to our safety, what comes next? Will the conditions we work in slowly but steadily get worse as employers decide to save the money “wasted” on workplace safety? Will we be told to work on, regardless of how long we’ve been there, because our replacements can’t make it in? Will the agreements we thought we were working under suddenly become just so much toilet paper for our “betters” to wipe the asses on when it become convenient for them? Where WILL it end?