Sunday, November 30, 2008

We Don't Need No Stinking Safeguards

According to the rules Bush is pushing through in the last weeks of his presidency, industrial chemicals are entitled to full civil rights. Why should we rush to ban dangerous chemicals? The Bush administration is saying we need to study their effects on workers over a longer period of time and in more work settings. Observe the harm being done and take careful notes which can be carefully lost or hidden.

Just because a chemical kills one worker or seven or a hundred doesn't meant it will kill the next worker who breathes it or is doused with it. Maybe the dead worker wasn't being careful enough. And why ban the chemical, which was completely innocent? The chemical probably didn't intend to injure or kill anyone.

In any case, why jump to conclusions? It's not fair to assume that a poisonous chemical will actually kill or sicken anyone just because some scientist says so. It's important to prove it by watching while it poisons and kills workers. Safeguards are unfair to the chemicals being safeguarded against.

The Bush administration is also looking at the cost/benefit ratio. Perhaps it's worthwhile for a small number of replaceable workers, a few dozen or a few hundred, to be poisoned in exchange for larger profits. There is no shortage of workers, so why endanger profits which are the envy of the world? Maybe the workers who don't die from the poisonous chemicals right away ought to keep their mouths shut and be grateful they have jobs, at least until the poison kills them or makes them too sick to work. Until that happens they can count themselves lucky.

The Bush administration is also thinking that the chemicals which the overly judgmental and old-fashioned, namby-pamby Democratic safeguards are unfairly condemning might not cause grievous harm for a long time. Maybe the damage is so slow the worker doesn't realize it's happening until it's too late, which is O.K.

Maybe these chemicals won't kill or poison workers so that you'd even notice it, but only cause invisible harm to their chromosomes. Why stop using the chemicals now, harming profits, when the damage won't be known until the children of the workers begin to suffer the various horrible inherited side effects? Those sorts of things are hard to prove anyway, and probably too complicated for a jury to understand. Looked at on a cost/benefit basis, the lawyers fees are trivial next to the profit enjoyed over all those years. And besides any verdict or damages a jury assesses can be easily overturned by the judges Bush has appointed in his two terms in office.

This move by the Bush administration makes sense if you look at it through Bush's eyes. Nobody he knows personally will ever be harmed by it. In a way, these overprotective safeguards are really an insult to workers. Safeguards imply that workers are babies and need to be coddled and sheltered. American workers are the toughest in the world and it is unpatriotic to say otherwise. In pushing through these new lax rules on dangerous chemicals, President Bush would like to show the world once and for all how tough American workers are. American workers are not babies. Every red-blooded American worker ought to thank the president for making this clear.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Is It Bias When Reporters Don't Balance An Imbalanced Contest?

TIME magazines' Mark Halperin seems to think that because Cindy McCain has had a history of drug problems and also had a habit of disowning her own half-sister, it was the press's job to invent something similarly negative to report about Michelle Obama.

Halperin seems to think that before a reporter reports an anger problem in one candidate (McCain) or a gambling problem (McCain) or a problem of disorganization or erratic behavior or poor judgment or recklessness or cynicism or hypocrisy or indecisiveness (McCain) it becomes his or her job to report something equally negative about the other candidate, even if it isn't true.

This is called false equivalency, and it's a bogus standard.

Mark Halperin seems to be calling for some kind of news quota system, a system of affirmative action on behalf of angry, elderly, indecisive, hypocritical, cynical, erratic, reckless white men. Just so we don't have an easy time electing a poised, young, decisive, coherent, idealistic, consistent, prudent African American.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The End of the Southern Strategy?

For a few decades it has been hard to believe the Union won the Civil War.

Ever since Nixon devised it, the winning electoral strategy has been unashamedly Southern-accented and lily white. It may have been mixed in with other calculations––anti-labor, pro-Bible, pro-gun, anti-feminist––but those were all Southern sentiments too.

Business fled south because they could run their shops with lower wages and no union pressure. The South is dominated by Christians who believe in the literal truth of the Bible, never mind the contradictions or the fossil record. Evolution and other troublesome chapters of modern science get short shrift in the Bible Belt. And gun rights are an absolute religion in the South. Never mind about "Love thy neighbor" and "Thou Shalt Not Kill."

This election may actually spell the end of the Southern Strategy as a dominant idea. It may also spell the end of a few other notions. Jesus, for example, might go back to being on the side of poor people instead of against them. In racial terms, what Lincoln suggested in 1863 might finally come to pass. Except in those Southern enclaves McCain worked so hard to please.

Fear, prejudice, ignorance, gullibility, war, male-supremacy, unhelpful government, depressed wages and policies favoring rich people are the stubborn ideas of the Republican Rump. Expect the Republicans remaining in office to continue those themes. The Southern Strategy still works for them, but their region is narrowing, and their numbers are dwindling.

Democrats aren't accusing Americans of unattractive beliefs, the beliefs were drummed up by the Republicans and a majority of Americans have finally decided to repudiate them. Obama didn't oppose these retrograde ideas as much as he made them irrelevant by offering something better, inviting Americans to listen to what Lincoln called our "better angels."

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Norm Coleman's Cupcake

As his lead in the Minnesota Senate race dwindled to 221 votes out of 2.4 million cast, Norm Coleman's campaign's attempt to delay the counting of absentee vote in Minneapolis was denied by a St. Paul judge. In a related story, this statement was released by the Norm Coleman campaign earlier this evening. Possibly.

Norm Coleman wants everyone to understand that the last cupcake belongs to him. He licked it, so nobody else gets to have it, even if nobody actually wrote "Norm Coleman" on it in special icing, and even though November 4th wasn't his birthday, it was a very special day and Norm was really looking forward to it and now it's spoiled and we hope you're all really proud of yourselves for ruining everything.

Never mind. It's HIS cupcake. Norm Coleman's personal property. So shut up. No dibs, no do-overs, no crying to Mom.

And Al Franken is a big baby for saying we need to count all the votes. If those votes say Al Franken on them it's tough toenails because they don't count and Al Franken is a sore loser who should just go home and say he's sorry.

Do we make ourselves clear? NO COUNTING OF ALL THE VOTES! Because that's not the way Republicans play the game in the real parts of America.

If some votes weren't counted on Tuesday before Norm went to bed they don't count. Ever! It's just too bad. They should have thought of that before. Who cares anyway?

If some Communist-appointed judge who doesn't believe in God says those absentee ballots from Minneapolis are allowed then he (or she) is just wrong. Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.

And if Al Franken keeps on trying to get all the votes counted he's going to be really really sorry, because Norm Coleman's got friends who are BIG IMPORTANT LAWYERS and they'll make sure nobody ever takes this senate seat away from him, because it's his and it doesn't belong to anyone else especially Al Franken. So LAY OFF!

And if you don't stop, Norm Coleman will get really really mad and he'll tell everyone you're being unfair, and everyone will hate you because you did this mean thing and made Norm Coleman cry and hurt his feelings.

The really graceful thing would be for Al Franken and his mean friends who want to count the votes to say they're really sorry and they didn't mean it and Norm Coleman can keep his senate seat and say it nicely and go home and mind their own business before Norm gets REALLY mad or has his friends sue them again or beat them up because that's how we do things in America.

So there. Shut up.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Muzzling the Troops

Two groups are not allowed to have political opinions: journalists and soldiers.

The public, of course, makes its own assumptions. Soldiers, being obedience-trained, are Republican; journalists, being skeptical and informed, are Democrats. Because neither is supposed to tip their hand, we never really know.

This year, military leaders, especially those near the top––especially the men in conservative suits advising the President, who, like him, have never experienced battle––were afraid to find out what the ranks really felt. The military managerial class––the middle-aged guys who wear camouflage outfits in their air conditioned offices in Tampa––will always be Republican to a man. But the men and women in theater have minds of their own. And their families showed a marked preference for the Democrat this year.

To mute any outbursts in favor of Obama on Tuesday night, the military brass told the military press to avert its eyes and not report. You can assume that reporting would have been thorough and enthusiastic if they knew their troops were with them, and if John McCain had been expected to win.