A deal was made, neither new nor fair

By Thomas Wark

 

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when the deal was made to assign a prominent speaking role to an obscure Illinois state legislator at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

There had to be a deal. Whoever made it, wherever it was made, there must have been enormous amounts of money involved, and a most cleverly constructed conspiracy. That boy Barry was being groomed for the presidency. He spoke (and wrote) good Democrat. Deeds, it turns out, were another matter.

The plot worked to perfection. “Democrat” Obama achieved the presidency, but from the outset his administration was very . .. Republican. Rightward Republican, right of Eisenhower, almost Reaganesque.

If we knew when that deal was made, and who made it, we’d know why.

As a candidate, he said more than once that single payer was the best solution to America’s sad health care mess. But as president he immediately sold his soul to the pharmaceutical industry, whose “Harry and Louise” TV ads had torpedoed the Clinton efforts at health care reform. Half a loaf, we were told, is better than none, but the health care bill he finally nudged through a Democratic-controlled Congress was barely a slice, moldy and sans butter.

His war posture is closer to the neocon hawk than to Ike; he has continued the worst policies of the Bush administration on civil liberties at home, human rights abroad, torture, detention and secret black hole prisons. Even some moderates on the left consider Obama to be impeachable for 1) ordering military attacks on sovereign nations without Congressional authorization; 2) issuing Executive Orders for the extra-judicial assassination of U. S. citizens in violation of the constitutional guarantee of due process; 3) presiding over military, paramilitary and intelligence service use of torture in violation of prohibitions against cruel and unusual treatment; 4) ordering attempts to assassinate foreign heads of state; 5) obstructing justice by failing or refusing to investigate credible allegations of torture brought against the previous administration.

As a candidate he promised relief for over-mortgaged home buyers but as president he bailed out the bankers who brought the economy down and didn’t lift a finger to stop foreclosures, which continued at record rates.

He has done nothing to solve the nation’s greatest economic problem — unemployment — while watching CEO and executive pay and bankers’ bonuses soar into the stratosphere.

In public he can still talk good Democrat but in private he folds to every right-wing Republican whim and folly. Trickle-down economics? Do the voodoo, baby! Extend tax cuts for the super-rich? My pleasure, sirs.

Every time Republicans say “Boo!” he pulls in his horns still further. This week he decided not to nominate the obvious best choice to head the new Consumer Protection Agency, Elizabeth Warren, because Republicans and their corporate masters hate and fear her. His nominee, former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, actually has a fairly good record of pro-consumer litigation, and already Republicans are crying “Boo!” again: emasculate the agency or we’ll block this nominee, too. The stage is set for a double cave-in: stripping the agency of power and dumping Cordray in favor one of Timmy Titmouse’s Goldman Sachs pals.

Of course a deal was made. Perhaps we’ll never know the particulars: who, when, where. But we can guess. Just consider who has profited most from the Obama presidency so far.

‘Tweren’t us common folk.

 

Read more by Thomas Wark at http://bordellopianist.blogspot.com

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The fire this time

By Steve Klinger

As a newcomer to Santa Fe (though it is the second time around), I’m a little puzzled about how things work up in this neck of the Land of Enchantment.

There is a fire burning in the Santa Fe National Forest. As of 11 am on Sunday it had grown to 900 acres, six miles northeast of Tesuque and nine miles north of Santa Fe. The plume of smoke seen yesterday is back, there’s a red flag warning for virtually the entire state, with winds expected to gust up to 50 mph this afternoon, with sustained winds 25-30 mph. The humidity is in single digits, the forest is bone-dry, a tinderbox ready to ignite, as it obviously has. And though this fire was no more than 5-7 acres when reported, crews were unable to keep it from erupting; containment remains at 0 percent.

But the attitude toward this fire seems to be as ho-hum as if it were a quarter of an acre in the middle of the monsoon. After a front-page story yesterday the New Mexican has nothing new today, in fact nothing on its web site at all, unless you click on most-read stories. Instead, it’s all about Father’s Day, the Buckaroo Ball and the Railrunner Groupon. Television news stations flew their copters over the area, but their reports were basically hearsay and endless repetition. They managed to buttonhole no one in authority and likely would not have known what questions to ask them if they had.

Forest Service officials, according to New Mexico’s official Fire Information site http://nmfireinfo.wordpress.com/2011/06/18/pacheco-canyon-fire-update-6182011-430-pm/ are maintaining Stage 2 fire restrictions for the entire Santa Fe National Forest. Hyde Park Road is closed at the forest boundary and campers in the area are supposedly on alert – but no evacuations and no closure of the forest.

I’m no expert on the moisture content of the combustibles, but there seems to be widespread agreement these are the worst conditions in the state in recent memory. Already crews are stretched thin, and equipment is scattered all over the Southwest as the Wallow Fire continues to spread along the Arizona border and fires burn near Raton, Carlsbad, Ruidoso and Estancia.

I love the opportunity for forest recreation as much as the next guy, but does it make any sense to leave this forest open under these conditions?  I realize no structures are threatened as the blaze heads toward the Pecos Wilderness. I understand that Santa Fe thrives on tourism, but is anyone taking the even moderately long view that a forest with thousands of acres of blackened aspens and mixed conifers won’t have much appeal to visitors for a long time to come, let alone for fall colors? What about the wildlife that will die and the watershed that will take years to recover from the major wildfire this is quickly becoming, or a new fire that could start while the forest remains open?

I understand that protected forests build up too much undergrowth and overly dense stands of trees ready to explode in the crown fires that are most damaging and hardest to control. But this does not seem like the time to make amends for overzealous stewardship, when conditions are tantamount to tossing a bag of gasoline-soaked rags into your 120-degree garage.

How about some answers from those who make these decisions? Better yet, how about some questions – the right questions – from those in the media whose job it is to ask them?

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Shut up. Stop Whining. Vote Republican. Especially, shut up.

By Thomas Wark
Once again the Republican party, including the Worst Congressman in History who is named Stevan Pearce and purports to represent southern New Mexico, is calling its jackass a pony and putting a feather in its cap.  But that’s not Macaroni.  That’s equine excrement.

They’re trying to bully television stations into refusing to air an ad by a progressive group that asserts — accurately — that the House Republicans’ infamous “Ryan Budget” would end Medicare.

It is a clear and obvious fact that House Republicans would end not just Medicare, but also Medicaid and other social programs that benefit  the aged, the sick, the unemployed and the impoverished.

The Republicans say they are not, either, ending Medicare; they would still call their program “medicare,” even though it would NOT pay for your medical care the way Medicare does.  Confusing?  The Republicans want it that way.  What they call “medicare” is in fact a system of providing vouchers that you could use to pay a private insurer for medical coverage — if you can find one that will accept your vouchers as payment in full for a policy, which of course no private insurer will do since they’d all be free to raise premiums far above the value of the vouchers. It would legalize robbery by insurers from the people who can least afford to be robbed.

This is the basic Republican philosophy: government exists to serve the interests of only the richest and most powerful people and institutions in the land. The most powerful institutions in the land, of course, are corporations, which, according to the Worst Supreme Court in History are people, too.  Real people — workers, family farmers, small businessmen, the unemployed, the sick, the tired, the poor, those who speak with funny accents, those whose skin is the wrong color — are not entitled to suck at the teat of government because that causes the richest and most powerful people to  pay taxes, which are sinful, evil things that only the sick, the tired, the poor and the afflicted should have to pay because they can’t afford multimillionaire lawyers and accountants and lobbyists to create loopholes that allow them to pay virtually no tax.

So stop whining.  Crawl off somewhere and suffer in silence, you lazy unemployed  slobs, you welfare queen sluts, you baby-factory refugees, you ignorant  non-English speaking leaches, you tree-hugging enviro nerds, you bleeding-heart Commie ratfink libruls, you  . . . well, you know who you are.

This is Merka, by God, the land of the Red, White and Blue, the flag-waving, tea–bagging, race-baiting, other-hating, war-making, bloodthirsty, world-ruling home of the brave and land of the free.

Love it or leave it.

 

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An Eye for an Eye

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one,
not even an enemy.”
–Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Steve Klinger

“Today we are reminded that as a nation there is nothing we can’t do,” a gloating Barack Obama said last night after a team of Navy SEALS gunned down Osama bin Laden in his Pakistan hideout. I beg to differ.

We may be able spend billions of dollars to fight al Qaeda and track the mastermind of the 9-11 attacks. Obviously, we can engage in at least three wars at the same time. We can rationalize the need to hold anyone accountable for torture and extraordinary rendition. Clearly we can continue the Bush policy of targeted assassination, as demonstrated yesterday in a gambit Reuters described this morning as a pure “kill operation” with no attempt to capture. (Obama administration officials said we’d have captured bin Laden if he hadn’t resisted.)

On the home front, we can bail out Wall Street, sell out Main Street and cop out of holding anyone accountable for the rapacious corporate excesses that are destroying the middle class.  In fact we can anoint corporations with the rights of human beings and then watch as the megabucks of the former methodically dismantle two centuries of social progress to protect the latter.

But what we can’t seem to do, and Obama should remind himself of it once in a while as he gazes fondly on his Nobel Peace Prize, is rise above the perpetuation of violence.

The rhetoric of U.S. political leaders and the voices emanating from the lamestream media are dripping today with patriotic fervor, übernationalism and vengeance of biblical proportions. “Justice has been done,” Obama proclaimed in his television address late last night, concluding his address with numerous references to God. Said South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham, “The message of this event is that if you choose to do harm to the American people and try to destroy our way of life, there is no place to hide and no passage of time will keep you safe.”

The sanctimonious high-fiving extended all the way to Rush Limbaugh, who gushed at one point, “Thank God for President Obama.”

I would like to inquire, how many of the 2974 Americans killed on Sept. 11, 2001 were brought back by the assassination of bin Laden? How quickly will we now disengage our forces from Afghanistan, having eradicated the object of our invasion? How soon will our human dignity be restored in airports and border crossings, where treating everyone as a potential terrorist only underscores the victories terror and violence continue to win on a daily basis at the expense of civil liberties?

Glasses will be raised by the millions this evening as even Republicans begrudgingly acknowledge this triumphant moment when our Special Forces showed the world you don’t mess with America. Obama will no doubt get a boost in the polls as he heads into his re-election campaign. But in the minds of hate-filled fanatics who see their own bloody self-sacrifice as the most exalted path to heaven, there will be no panic and no stampede to lay down their arms. Not only did we hand them the master martyr’s death to avenge, we taught them a lesson about western civilization and Christianity. How sweet a victory it is when your enemy can no longer claim the high ground, having shown he is just as barbaric as you are!

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Is There Anything These People Don’t Hate?

By Thomas Wark

 

Do you have to hate everything in order to be a new Republican?

You’ve got to hate women: the Republicans in Congress refused to accept any budget that funds the health and social services that millions of American women need just to eke out an existence. These are the kind of people who came up with “barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen.”

You’ve got to hate animals: my Republican congressman wants to kill all the wolves in the southwest and other Republicans want to gut wildlife protections and endangered species laws.  These are the kind of people who would shoot Bambi between the eyes, feed poison to Lassie, put Flicka in hobbles and filet Flipper.

You’ve got to really hate poor people.  In a land where the richest one per cent of the are getting richer still by leaps and bounds, while the rest of fall further and further behind, the Republicans want to cut funding for programs to help the poor.  When Barry Goldwater, the godfather of neoconservatism, was running for President, Bill Mauldin drew a cartoon depicting an impoverished woman in tattered clothes on a church step, with B.G. towering over her saying, “Quit whining.  Go out and inherit a department store.”

You’ve got to really hate the planet we inhabit.  Let the filthy rich mining companies turn Grand Canyon and Arches National Parks into slag-filled swamps of bile and rot.  Drill, baby, drill!  Put the tree-huggers in concentration camps and make them drink from the streams befouled by mountain-top removal.  These people never met a landscape they didn’t want to defile.

You’ve got to really hate good health.  The Republicans want to destroy the Environmental Protection Agency.  Never mind that it prevents the polluters from causing cancer, diabetes, asthma and emphysema in millions of Americans.  It’s a damned nuisance for industries with billion dollar profits that don’t pay a nickel of income tax. These are the kind of people who would make matchsticks out of Tiny Tim’s crutch.

You’ve got to really hate the old and the sick.  Republicans want to end Medicare and Medicaid as we know it.  They detest what they call Obamacare.  They think primitive tribes had it right: when you’re old, infirm or sick, you should just crawl off into the wilderness and die.  Except that if the Republicans had their way, there’d be no wilderness to crawl off into.

You’ve got to hate real people and love corporations.  (See Supreme Court decision in Citizens United.) No wonder women are beginning to incorporate their uteruses: “It’s a person, not a choice.”

You’ve got to really hate liberals. Liberals, by definition, are open to new opinions and progress; they favor  individual liberty in political and social affairs.  Next thing you know they’ll be wanting to inflict stuff like  habeas corpus on us.

You’ve got to really hate working people.  Republicans have already put 27 million Americans out of work, and now they’re zeroing in on  the unions that protect workers’ rights.  A variation on the idea in the Mauldin cartoon. These are the kind of people who would strangle the canary in the coal mine because it costs too much for birdseed.

But Republicans still love motherhood and apple pie.  Unless, of course, mother is a liberal.  Then, well, send her out into the wilderness!

 

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But thanks for the e-mail anyway, Barry

By Thomas Wark

 

President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC

Dear Pres:

Thanks for the recent e-mail about your 2012 campaign, which mentioned my financial and other support of your election in 2008, and requested that I redouble my efforts on your behalf this time around.

Unfortunately, I cannot do that.

You wrote:

We’ve always known that lasting change wouldn’t come quickly or easily. It never does. But as my administration and folks across the country fight to protect the progress we’ve made — and make more — we also need to begin mobilizing for 2012, long before the time comes for me to begin campaigning in earnest.

A quick review of the progress you’ve made turns up:

* continuation of the wars we elected you to end and the addition of a new one, initiated with the same kind of subterfuge and deception your predecessor used before invading Iraq. (A shady deal with Saudi Arabia to look the other way if it invaded Bahrain, provided the Saudis would muscle their Arab League cronies to support a bid for a UN “no-fly zone” over Libya.  For shame!)

* continuation of, and then worsening of, your predecessor’s denial of constitutional rights to citizens illegally detained at Guantanamo.

* continuation of your predecessor’s illegal surveillance of U.S. citizens under the unconstitutional so-called Patriot Act.

* strengthening the corporate hold on all branches of government, until the last faint ember of democracy flickers and dies.

* total cave-in to a Congressional minority on health care, the economy and unemployment.

* summoning John Boehner to the White House, presumably to sell out to Tea Pot Republicans on funding for social services in order to pay for the sins of the filthy rich bankers who are raking in record bonuses on Wall Street since you bailed them out of a crisis of their own making.

Barry, old buddy, I fell for your eloquent line of bovine excrement once.

As your predecessor once tried to say, but typically messed up, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

My conscience will not permit me to support your re-election.

 

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Notes to a friend on an Open Letter to the Left

By Thomas Wark

 

A friend who is as passionately anti-war as I am — and has been for the same, long time — has engaged me in a friendly disagreement regarding the war in Libya.

As part of the dialogue he has sent me Juan Cole’s recent internet posting, “An Open Letter to the Left on Libya.”

Most of Cole’s arguments are reasonable, his assessments of the situation sound, his sincerity indisputable. The case he makes is essentially what weighed heavily on my mind as I considered what President Obama and his advisors finally decided to do in Libya.

Cole, however, fractures his own case for a reasoned, dispassionate discussion on the left with this paragraph:

If the Left opposed intervention, it de facto acquiesced in Qaddafi’s destruction of a movement embodying the aspirations of most of Libya’s workers and poor, along with large numbers of white collar middle class people. Qaddafi would have reestablished himself, with the liberation movement squashed like a bug and the country put back under secret police rule. The implications of a resurgent, angry and wounded Mad Dog, his coffers filled with oil billions, for the democracy movements on either side of Libya, in Egypt and Tunisia, could well have been pernicious.

Neither I nor Dennis Kucinich nor many others who share our views “acquiesce in Qaddafi’s destruction of a movement embodying the aspirations of most of Libya’s workers and poor.” Cole’s accusation is baseless and insulting.

As for the rest of the paragraph, I compliment Mr. Cole on his ability to see into the future. Perhaps some day he will help me pick a few stocks to invest in.

My concern about President Obama’s action involves the United States Constitution. It placed the war-making power solely in the hands of Congress. In 1973 the Congress itself muddied the waters with a War Powers Act that presidents have used ever since to make war whenever they damn pleased. Obama has done this in the case of Libya.

The United Nations Security Council cannot repeal the United States Constitution or any part thereof. Even in the muddied water of the 1973 Act, President Obama overstepped his authority on this matter.

The humanitarian objectives of the United Nations resolutions could have been met in time to prevent “destruction of a movement” for democracy in Libya by using the armed forces of those nations that endorsed the resolutions and were able to act immediately under their own laws and constitutions.

President Obama could have joined them in support of the anti-Qaddafi forces after consulting with Congress as required in the 1973 law.

I still have questions in my own mind about the initiative for the Arab League request to the U. N. that resulted in the Libya resolutions by the Security Council. The fact that none of the Arab League members rushed to join the combat caused me to wonder if arms were twisted — perhaps unethically, perhaps even illegally — in the deep diplomatic background before the UN action. My friend points out that Qatar recently joined the affray, which still to me smacks of the quasi-legitimacy of the Bush II “coalition” in the invasion of Iraq.

But the real concern is the addition of yet another precedent to support the notion that Presidents of the United States have war-making powers. The framers clearly did not intend that he or she should have such power. They vested it solely and absolutely in the Congress.

If that Constitutional mandate is outdated in today’s world, there is a process for amending it. The 1973 War Powers nonsense does not fulfill that process. A constitutional amendment, with ratification by two-thirds of the states, is what it takes.

Obviously that hasn’t happened. Instead, the door has been wedged open a bit further for this President and subsequent ones to bomb and otherwise make war upon any head of state who disagrees with U. S. policy. This in turn tends to prolong the endless war policy of the United States corporatocracy that I, Cole and my anti-war friend all oppose with every fiber of our being.

 

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What will be the lesson of Fukushima?

By Thomas Wark
Posted March 16, 2011

 

As someone who lived a gentle breeze away from Three Mile Island when its nuclear emergency took place, I have long been concerned about the proliferation of the technology to meet our increasing energy needs.

All of the chemical engineers I have known — particularly my own brother, who was not a nuclear expert, and my favorite hiking companion, who was — tried to persuade me that nuking was safe, clean, efficient and, while not perfect, still the best alternative to fossil fuel energy.  Their arguments — particularly regarding improved safety technology since TMI — were cogent.

Once, atop a mountain in southwest Virginia, my hiking friend and I looked eastward where once treed peaks filled the horizon, and were horrified to see moonscapes of mountaintop removal projects to obtain coal to fuel power plants. At that  moment the arguments for nuclear energy seemed particularly compelling. After all,  Chernobyl could never happen again.  Nor could TMI.

Now, tragically, we know otherwise.  We know that something unspeakably terrible can happen even in a technologically advanced society that has employed the best available science to make its nuclear plants safe.  Surely our hearts bleed for the people of Japan, on whom we inflicted Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as they now suffer the horrors of a powerful earthquake, a tsunami and new nuclear disaster.

Today we know not how all of this will end.  Workers have returned to the Fukushima nuclear plant to attempt to prevent the unspeakable from happening.  None of the world’s nuclear experts who have been commenting on the disaster in Japan knows if this can be done.  Like us, they can only hope.

But this much is clear: Nuclear power is neither safe nor clean.  And, as the slogan elsewhere on this page reminds us, “Nature bats last.”  Our planet has a fiery core; it has fault lines; its thin envelope of compatibility with human life has been tampered with by the very humans it protects.  We will have earthquakes; we will have tsunamis; we will have hurricanes; and we will pay the price of our tampering with Nature.

Nuclear plants  leak radioactive waste from underground pipes and radioactive waste pools into the ground water at sites all over the world. Science has yet to devise a method for adequately and safely handling long lived radioactive wastes.  Nuclear waste disposal was my hiking companion’s  particular sub-specialty.  He spent the twilight of his working career trying to deal with the waste problem at the Hanford site where the first atomic bombs were created.

Despite his faith in technology and his fellow scientists, there is still no safe, satisfactory way to deal with nuclear waste.

Several nuclear plants in this country are sited on, or perilously close to, fault lines. Perhaps that fact alone will prod us away from further nuclear dependency, away from filthy fossil fuels, and toward safe, renewable energy sources. Technically feasible renewable energy sources in the world are capable of producing up to six times more energy than current global demand.  Even now, nuclear plants around the globe deliver less energy than renewable sources of power.

Consider the recent coal mining disasters.  Consider the cost in money and wars of sucking a finite supply of petroleum out of the earth.  Consider the environmental consequences of gas and oil drilling.  Consider TMI, Chernobyl, Fukushima.

Wind farms and solar panels do not kill.

 

Read more by Thomas Wark at http://bordellopianist.blogspot.com

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How Blatant Lies Become “Fact” in These United States

By Thomas Wark

 

A cartoon in today’s local newspaper (March  8) represents the outright lies a gullible electorate believes, partly because the mainstream media repeat them as fact without bothering to do basic journalism checking them out.

It depicts a thuggish, bloated figure labeled “unions” riding the back of a small, overburdened figure labeled “taxpayers.”

Its creator accepted as fact the blatant lies that have been repeated countless times in print, on the radio and on television, especially since the Wisconsin public employee protests began.

The media have parroted without challenge Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s wildly untrue statements in support of his so-called “budget repair bill,” a thinly-disguised attempt to destroy unionism in one of the states where it began.

Here is David Cay Johnson, multiple Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, best-selling author, distinguished university lecturer (and registered Republican) :

“(Walker) says he wants state workers covered by collective bargaining agreements to “contribute more” to their pension and health insurance plans.

Accepting Gov. Walker’ s assertions as fact, and failing to check, created the impression that somehow the workers are getting something extra, a gift from taxpayers. They are not.

Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin’ s pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers.

How can that be? Because the “contributions” consist of money that employees chose to take as deferred wages – as pensions when they retire – rather than take immediately in cash. The same is true with the health care plan. If this were not so, a serious crime would be taking place, the gift of public funds rather than payment for services.

Thus, state workers are not being asked to simply “contribute more” to Wisconsin’ s retirement system (or as the argument goes, “pay their fair share” of retirement costs as do employees in Wisconsin’ s private sector who still have pensions and health insurance). They are being asked to accept a cut in their salaries so that the state of Wisconsin can use the money to fill the hole left by tax cuts and reduced audits of corporations in Wisconsin.”

There are foolproof and longstanding laws of economic cause and effect that make this arrangement beneficial to both sides.

Understanding them requires a bit more time, study and effort than simply repeating what politicians like Walker say, as too many journalists today are wont to do. But here, from the economist Dean Baker, is an easy-to-grasp explanation:

“At the center of the right’s story is the view that governments are somehow being reckless or irresponsible when they provide guaranteed pensions for their workers. They tell us that these guaranteed benefits will bankrupt state and local governments, imposing impossible burdens on future taxpayers.

This story can be easily shown to be untrue. While the right has been scaring the public with talk of a trillion dollars in unfunded liability in state pensions, this sum can also be expressed as about 0.2 percent of state income over the time-frame in which the liabilities will have to be paid.

In other words, if states raise 20 cents in taxes or cut 20 cents in other spending for every hundred dollars of future income, they will be able to meet their current pension obligations. This is not a trivial sum, but it doesn’t seem likely to bankrupt our youth either.

Furthermore, the vast majority of this shortfall was due to the plunge in the stock market that followed the collapse of the housing bubble. Overly generous pensions were not the problem. The problem here were the greedy Wall Street types who profited from the housing bubble and the incompetent economists who did not see it. Of course the market has recovered much of its losses, so future years’ pension reports are likely to show that most of the shortfall has already been eliminated.

But it is important to understand the basic logic of defined benefit pensions, since many are trying to eliminate them altogether. Defined benefit pensions are in effect a form of insurance. They guarantee workers a level of retirement income based on the years that they work.

This guarantee of future income is more valuable to workers than getting the same amount of money in salary since it would be very expensive for workers to buy the same insurance from the financial industry. From the standpoint of the government, the insurance is virtually costless.

State and local governments will survive into the indefinite future. If the stock market is down any given year or set of years there is little consequence for a government offering a pension fund. Of course, a down market would be devastating for an individual worker if it happens at the point where he/she retires.

This simple logic means that governments can give workers something that is of great value – a guaranteed retirement income — at very little cost. (Research shows that even after adding in pensions, health care and other benefits, public sector workers are paid slightly less than their private-sector counterparts. This means that because governments offer defined benefit pensions they can either attract better workers at the same pay, or the same quality workers at lower pay, than if they did not offer pensions. This is as basic as economics gets.”

Facts, basic economics, logic, legal precedent, even the Constitution — – none of these seem to modify in anyway the bullying anti-intellectual nonsense of the prevailing Tea Pot element of the Republican party. And far too many members of the voting public believe their lies.

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Long live the Duke

By Steve Klinger

A grown man is not supposed to cry when a retired baseball player of 84 dies in a convalescent hospital in southern California, but this wasn’t just any old baseball player, it was Duke Snider, and I can still remember hearing the cheers in the apartment where I grew up, eight block from Ebbets Field, when the Brooklyn Dodgers mounted a rally back in the mid-50s, and the wind was blowing right.

This was the graceful, gliding centerfielder who rivaled Mays and Mantle in his heyday, before he stepped in a hole in Wrigley Field and tore up his knee, who was described by one sportswriter as having “steel springs in his legs.”  There was even greater torque in his hips and shoulders as he drove the ball out of the park on 407 occasions – or perchance struck out, which he did a lot as well.

But he was the Duke, probably the greatest of the Boys of Summer, and I kept a scrapbook of his exploits, only to leave it behind when I went away to college and my parents moved to Florida. It wound up, like most of my belongings, flooded in my aunt’s suburban basement a couple of years later.

The memories of Snider’s heroics in the 1955 World Series and numerous pennant races of that era were strong, however, and I couldn’t forsake the Duke and his cohorts even after Walter O’Malley uprooted them for more lucrative pastures in Los Angeles. While some of my friends became Yankee or, later, Met fans, I finessed the AM radio dial late into the night, searching for an LA Dodger broadcast. I even wrote to Vin Scully, who actually answered me, to relate that there were no radio stations from LA sending Dodger games back to Brooklyn. Where was MLB.com when I needed it?

About 15 years ago, I happened to be driving up the Florida coast on my way to the Orlando airport during spring training, and on an impulse I stopped at the Dodgers’ fabled training camp in Vero Beach to take in a Grapefruit League game. The crowd was sparse that day, but I spotted Snider, then about 70, sitting all by himself in the stands up behind third base. It took all the courage  I could muster, but I approached him and introduced myself. He was gracious and willing enough to talk about the Dodgers’ days in Brooklyn and their controversial departure, which he blamed not on O’Malley but on Robert Moses, a New York City official with great power over land use in those days.

Be that as it may, we had a pleasant chat and I drove off to the airport, tearful then as I was today, with those innocent days of baseball hero worship fresh in my heart.

I can’t think of anything more traumatic in my childhood than the day the New York Post announced the Dodgers were abandoning Ebbets Field — not for Jersey City, which would have been bad enough, but for California, and taking the Giants with them!

A couple of years later, the wrecking ball smashed into the 50-year-old bricks of that hallowed ballpark so that a man named Marvin Kratter could demolish it to build apartments.  I clipped out the photo and put it in my scrapbook.

Snider grew slow and fat and mercifully retired after a year with the Mets and another, inconceivably, with the San Francisco Giants.

But my boyhood bond was strong, and I was elated when he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1980.  In retrospect, his career statistics don’t measure up to those posted by the other New York centerfielders of his day, but for a few seasons he could run and field and throw with the best of them and blast the ball as high and far as anyone. In fact, he hit more home runs than anyone in the National League in the decade of the 1950s.

He was the Duke of Flatbush, and today I wept for him and, I suppose, for the dreams of childhood, so irrevocably replaced with adult realities, where greed trumps glory every time.

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