Confiscate it all

Here we go again. Republicans cut taxes on the wealthiest Americans, which will sink the nation deeper into debt. When Democrats retake the government, Republicans will wail and scream that Democrats are fiscally irresponsible, that raising taxes on the wealthy is theft, and so on. It’s the same old cycle that’s been going on for longer than I’ve been alive. Except this time the con doesn’t even pay lip service to tax relief for the lower and middle classes.

We need to retake the government. Elect Democrats in a wave in 2018, then again in 2020. Replace the pervert in the White House with someone intelligent, honest, and sane.

And then we need confiscatory levels of taxes on the wealthiest. We need at least a 90% marginal tax rate on the one percenters. Almost that high for the top five percent. We need an inheritance tax that breaks up the wealth of families like the Kochs and Mercers. Let their offspring fend for themselves in the free market they purport to worship. Use their money to level the playing field for the bottom 80%, and to pay off the massive debt the nation will incur for their benefit.

We need to break up the giant media conglomerates so that they don’t control the national discourse. Enshrine net neutrality in law, so that it’s not a matter for the next Ajit Pai to overturn at the command of his corporate masters. No company should own more than one media outlet in any given market. No more vertical integration between news sources, so that there is only one voice in the community.

Destroy the power of the rich by taking their wealth. It’s the only way we regain our freedom.

Open Season


After writing two posts that took a lot out of me, emotionally, I planned to grant myself a day or two of light-hearted topics. Then some dickhead shot up a school yesterday, and my mood took a less sanguine turn.

Mass shootings happen so often now that conservatives barely have time to draw breath between instances of screaming that it’s too soon to talk about it. After the Sutherland Springs massacre, flags were lowered to half-mast for three days. What will we do when the shootings start happening faster than we can raise the flags back up? Lower them to quarter-mast, I guess, and then to one-eights, and so on, in a Zeno’s paradox of mourning.

Were I a conspiracy theorist, I might imagine some shadowy cabal setting the cadence, so that massacres occur regularly enough that it’s always “too soon,” but not so often that the funeral industry can’t keep up with the demand for caskets.

That’s absurd, of course. Cremation is a perfectly acceptable alternative.

Seriously, though, there’s no cabal fomenting gun violence in the shadows. They’re operating right out in the open. The Republican Party perpetually blocks any attempt to enact sensible gun regulations that most Americans want. America’s largest terrorist organization, the NRA, regularly releases ads that not-so-subtly encourage political violence, and the approval of political violence (toward the left only, natch) permeates conservative culture.

A case in point is this ad, which I screen-grabbed earlier this week:

Dingleberry carrying a military-style assault weapon, next to the caption: Open Season on Political Correctness.

There’s your conservative mindset in a nutshell: if you can’t win an argument, shoot your opponent. And if you think this is merely hyperbole, consider this. How do you think conservatives would react if you posed Rachel Maddow holding a Super-Soaker next to the caption, “Taking Aim at Intolerance?” There wouldn’t be enough Imodium in the world to keep up with the ensuing right-wing pants-crapping.

This is why the right can only offer “thoughts and prayers” each time there’s a massacre. Because their thoughts are of murdering anyone who disagrees with them, and their prayers are that they’ll get the chance. If innocents have to die so that they can indulge their fantasy, that’s a price they’re willing for you to pay.

(Photo by Max LaRochelle on Unsplash)

Sorry, Charlie

On the day Charlie Crist was sworn in as a member of Congress, I saw a video clip of him saying he was eager to work with Republicans in the House. Crist ought to know better.

Crist left the Republican Party in 2010 when it was clear that he would lose the primary race for United States Senate to Tea Party darling Marco Rubio. In 2012, a few months before formally joining the Democratic Party, he said that he left the GOP because it had moved “so far to the extreme right … that they’ve proven incapable of governing for the people.”

What has changed in the intervening four years? Only that the Republicans have become even more extreme than the party Crist left. The GOP agenda seeks to destroy Social Security, dismantle Medicaid, and defenestrate the ACA. On which of these issues does Crist think he can find common ground with Republicans?

Or perhaps it is one of the many other items on the Republican wish list—crippling environmental protection, wiping out protection for workers, and reverting decades of civil rights progress. Are any of these issues that Crist feels he can “work with” Republicans on?

There are no “moderate” Republicans in the halls of Congress. There are only extremists determined to enshrine one-party rule for the sole benefit of the economic elite. You can’t work with them. This is not the time for accommodation. This is a time for resistance.

The Bright Side of 2016

This year, according to popular imagination, has been a particularly bad one. Zika. Celebrity deaths. Brexit. ISIL. And, of course, the horror that was the U.S. Presidential election. An annus horribilis, to be sure. And yet, it is a mistake to view the year solely through that lens.

Dwelling solely on these negative events leads to tunnel vision, so that we don’t see what is good in the world and in our lives. For me, it was a very good year:

  • I completed the first draft of Target Striker faster and with higher quality than any novel I’ve written previously.
  • I got to travel, making trips to San Diego, Santa Clara, Atlanta, New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, and Estonia.
  • In Puerto Rico, I fulfilled a long-time dream of visiting the Arecibo Observatory.
  • I experienced professional successes, including teaching well-received workshops on Scrum, attending the Agile Alliance 2016 conference, facilitating meetings of the Tampa Bay Scrum Masters Guild, and finding a new job.
  • I got to attend four Copa America Centenario games, including the final match.

In addition to the major items, the year was filled with smaller joys: good books, evenings spent with Carolyn, and board games with friends, to name only a few.

Was everything in 2016 good? Of course not. But it is too easy to dwell on the negatives, and give in to despair.

2017 promises to be a year full of challenges. Among other things, the United States will install an authoritarian, white-nationalist government against the will of the majority, and good people will have to find the strength to resist it. It’s important not to lose sight of all that is good in our lives, so that we can draw strength from those experiences and memories.

Let’s put the blame where it belongs

For my friends who wonder why Hostess employees refused to take a pay cut in order to keep the company afloat, here are some factors you may not be aware of:

Hostess demanded that workers accept wage and benefit cuts amounting to more than 25%, including massive increases in health insurance payments. Meanwhile, as Hostess was about to enter bankruptcy last year, its top ten executives gave themselves massive raises. Among those:

* One executive got a 75% raise, from $375,000 to $656,000.

* Another executive’s salary went from $500,000 to $900,000.

* The CEO received a 300% increase, from about $750,000 to $2.5 million.

While the executives were rewarding themselves for their poor stewardship of the company, they unilaterally ended contractually-obligated payments to the employee’s pension plan, and reneged on promises to invest in the company’s future. Those promises were made during a previous bankruptcy as part of the exchange for employee pay cuts.

And for the past eight years, the CEO’s office has featured six different people, none of whom had any experience in the mass-market baking industry, each of whom was put in place by Wall Street investors who were more interested in stripping money from the company and cutting worker pay than in restoring it to profitability.

Hostess failed because executives enriched themselves at its expense and by stealing from their employees while running the company into the ground through ignorance and active mismanagement.

But by all means, let’s blame the workers for the company’s demise because they were “too stupid to take a pay cut.”