Breaking the Koch Habit

The Koch family has a long history of funneling money to the most extreme right-wing organizations and think-tanks. Fred Koch was a founding member of the John Birch Society, and his sons Charles and David are sponsors of the Cato Institute, Americans For Prosperity, and the new crop of crazy Tea Party Republican politicians.

The Koch brothers get all of their money thru Koch Industries, the largest privately held company in the United States. They’re into coal mining, oil refining and pipelines, and they own Georgia Pacific and Invista. They’re also into climate change denial, dismantling of environmental regulations, and union busting.

We don’t want to give any money to the Koch brothers, but we recently discovered we were inadvertently giving them money when we spotted the GP logo on our toilet paper. Needless to say, we now buy a different brand of toilet paper.

After the jump, I’ll take you on a tour of the brands to avoid if you don’t want to give the Koch brothers any money either.

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Dooh Nibor

Scott Walker claims that he must bust unions because “Wisconsin is broke.” Actually, the only reason we have a $137 million deficit is because he gave away $140 million to corporations in the form of tax breaks. So in order to pay for gifts to the rich, he wants to steal from programs that help the poor.

That makes Walker into a modern-day Dooh Nibor… Robin Hood in reverse. Newly elected Republican lawmakers nationwide are acting like an army of Dooh Nibors, giving away the treasuries to rich people, and then crying that there’s no money to help poor people.

After the jump, there’s a great chart showing how we can pay for important parts of the social safety net by rolling back specific giveaways to rich people.

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CEOs, Tea Partiers, Union Workers, and Cookies

A tale of our times that’s been making the rounds…

A CEO, a tea partier, and a union worker are sitting around a table where a platter of 12 cookies is delivered.

The CEO instantly chows down 11 of the cookies. He then turns to the tea partier and says, “Watch out for that union guy, he wants part of your cookie.”

This perfectly describes the political and economic forces at work, where the rich are playing one group of exploited workers against the other. But since the average CEO makes 1000 times what the average worker makes, to be mathematically accurate the plate would have to contain 500 cookies, of which the CEO eats 499. That would not only illustrate the greed and arrogance of the current CEO class, but also its grotesque gluttony.

Hat tip to Thom Hartmann.

Busting Democracy

For groups of people to elect representatives to advocate their interests is a foundational principal of American democracy.

Imagine a scenario in which a president dictates how tax money is to be spent, and then announces that he is dissolving Congress and stripping citizens of their right to vote. The population would be unified in its outrage, and rightly so.

This is why Scott Walker’s proposal to strip public employees of collective bargaining rights is so disturbing. Unions are nothing more than groups of employees who elect representatives to advocate on their behalf. Republicans in Wisconsin are trying to eliminate┬ádemocracy in the workplace.

The right wing claims that this must be done to balance the budget. Bovine excrement! For one thing, the governor inherited a surplus, gave money away to his rich corporate buddies, and the”hole” in the budget is exactly the size of those giveaways. In spite of this, the state employee unions are willing to make the economic sacrifices outlined in this proposal in exchange for retention of their collective bargaining rights.

Walker greeted this gesture of compromise and accommodation with the words, “nothing doing.” This proves that the “save the budget” reasoning was a lie. This is all about crushing unions – dictating working conditions and shutting down any possibility of future negotiation.

This is mean-spirited and un-American, and it must not stand. I am ashamed of our governor for proposing this, but I am proud of our fellow citizens who are resisting.

Third World Wisconsin

Politicians like to drop bad news bombs on Friday afternoons, and last Friday Wisconsin’s Governor Walker dropped a big one: abolishment of collective bargaining rights for all state, county and local government workers. He claims it’s to save money in the budget, but to most of us it’s obviously the fulfillment of a right-wing wet-dream and payback to the corporatists that funded his campaign.

Oddly, this bit of union-busting wouldn’t apply to police, firefighters, or the State Patrol, whose unions were coincidentally Walker supporters. To their credit, the leaders of these unions are standing in solidarity with the teachers and other school staff, road maintenance crews, university workers, building and facility staff, social workers, prison guards, administrative teams, and all the other unionized staff that make our state function. A group of current and former Green Bay Packers players (all union members) also issued a statement of support for public employee unions.

(Disclosure: One of my family members was once a unionized public employee, and a couple of others still are.)

Under Walker’s plan, unions would no longer be allowed to negotiate for anything other than wages, and wage increases would be limited to the official cost of living index. So no negotiation over hours or working conditions, pensions, health care, sick leave or vacation days. Workers would be immediately required to contribute more to their pension plans and health care, effectively cutting their take-home pay by 8%.

As an upwelling of public anger developed over the weekend, Walker turned it into an eruption by playing the “National Guard card.” He said that he briefed the Wisconsin National Guard “in preparation for any problems…”

The area around the state capital in Madison is starting to look like Egypt right now, as angry citizens converge by the tens of thousands – numbers that have grown every day this week. But Walker is dismissing the concerns of “a handful of protesters” while doing the bidding of the monied elites that elected him. He intends to railroad this proposal thru the right-wing legislature (strange behavior for someone who despises railroads) by the end of this week.

This proposal dismantles contracts that have been negotiated in good faith by public workers, who sacrificed wages in order to preserve the benefits that Walker now intends to take away.

I have never met a “rich” union worker (some exist, but I haven’t met any Packers players ­čÖé ). Contrary to mythology, most union workers do not make exorbitant salaries, but they do┬ámake enough to live comfortably, take care of their health, and save for retirement. I keep hearing right-wing pundits howling about “greedy union workers” and how they make so much more than the rest of us. They should be screaming about how the rest of us aren’t making enough.

Scott Walker now wants to crush the one group of workers that hasn’t already been crushed: public employee unions. After years of starving the treasury through tax cuts, our new right-wing dictator claims the state is too broke to provide a dignified pay and benefits package to the people who make the state function.

For a generation, the wages and benefits of the average worker have been stagnant while the expansion of wealth has been hoarded by those at the top. This latest proposal accelerates that process, which can only lead to a state where a handful of the wealthy elite luxuriate in their lush gated communities, and rule over the rest of us who are left to live in destitution with a toxic and crumbling infrastructure.

That is the vision of right wing Repugnantans like Scott Walker and his rich corporate backers. It is mean-spirited and un-American, and it will condemn the forward-looking people of Wisconsin to live in a third world state.

The Green Bay Packers Are Good For America

There’s a viral email going around (at least around Wisconsin) with the same title as this post. It says that the Packers are great because they beat the Bears, so now President Obama won’t be going to the Super Bowl to root for the Bears, thereby saving taxpayers millions of dollars in presidential travel expenses, yadda yadda yadda.

Why is it that, when the president is a Democrat, it’s a big deal whenever he decides to go (or not to go) someplace?

Funny thing, when Bush was emperor, we didn’t see any viral emails rejoicing that the Cowboys weren’t in the Super Bowl (though many of us WOULD find that to be something worthy of rejoicing), and how we’d save millions of dollars by not bringing Bush and his entourage to the Big Game.

That said, here’s the REAL reason the Green Bay Packers Are Good For America:


They are owned by the community as a non-profit. Any money they make goes back to building the team, NOT to stockholders nor to a greedy billionaire owner. They are the only major sports franchise in the country that’s like that.

Now, send THIS to everybody in your address book. ­čÖé

The Shoddy Stadium Rant

For the second time in its brief history, the roof of the Metrodome collapsed last weekend. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

When designing an indoor football stadium for Minneapolis, one would think the roof should be designed to withstand the weight of a whole bunch of snow. After all, this part of the world is no stranger to big snowstorms, so it’s not hard to anticipate a really huge snowstorm sometime during the life of such an expensive building.

Yes, 16-20 inches (40-50 cm) is a lot of snow, but this is Minneapolis for crying out loud. Whose the engineer that thought it was OK to build a roof in Minneapolis that can’t handle 20 inches of snow? Did they really think it would never happen in the next 50 years? In MINNEAPOLIS?

That’s like assuming it’ll never get to 120 degrees in Phoenix, or that there’ll never be a big hurricane in Miami, or that there’ll never be a tornado in Topeka, or that you can skip the earthquake-proofing in San Francisco. Somebody wasn’t thinking ahead. Or somebody wasn’t thinking, period.

I heard somebody on the radio today call the stadium “old.” I’m sorry, Wrigley Field and Fenway Park are “old”. A stadium that was built 30 years ago is relatively new. There’s something wrong with having kids grow up watching games in a new stadium and not be able to bring their kids to watch games in the same stadium. There is no history or heritage in a crappy stadium built to last only 30 years.

If there is a God, I think It’s telling the Minnesota Vikings that they should play their games outside… y’know, like Real Men. In Wisconsin, we play football outdoors in January, and there’s not a single empty seat at Lambeau Field even though it might be cold enough to freeze hard liquor. Are Minnesota people really a bunch of softies that can’t watch a football game outside if it gets a little cold?

A couple of years ago, we were hanging out with some friends in Minneapolis, having drinks at a bar looking out at the Metrodome. I asked them if ┬áViking fans hold the same kind of reverence for the Metrodome that we Packer fans hold for Lambeau Field. The emphatic “no” came with no hesitation whatsoever.

Ironically, it’s now called “Mall of America” stadium. It’s named after the monstrosity that now stands on the site of the stadium this one replaced. The “old” stadium, built in the late 50’s.

Am I the only one who thinks it’s insane to build a new stadium every thirty years?

Yes, we can!

Twenty-one quarts of tomatoes from the 2010 canning season

The first twenty-one quarts of tomatoes from the 2010 canning season rest on the shelf of our storage cellar.

We like tomatoes. During the summer, we eat tomatoes from our back yard and from local market gardeners.

If we want organic tomatoes during the off-season, we have the choice of fresh tomatoes from California, Mexico, or South America; or canned tomatoes from corporate “organic” farms in mysterious unknown locations.

(Fun fact: When you see those canned organic tomatoes with the “Muir Glen” brand, remember that Muir Glen is owned by General Mills, who proudly claim to be the world’s sixth-largest food company. These are the same people who brought you Lucky Charms, Hamburger Helper, and the Pillsbury Dough-boy.)

There comes a time in the summer when our garden is producing tomatoes faster than we can eat them. That’s when we round up the surplus, stuff them into sterilized jars, and pressure cook them for 15 minutes. Sometimes our farmers at the market have excess or “seconds” (tomatoes that’re not cosmetically perfect) for a good price, so we buy a whole bunch and can those, too.

We found ourselves using about one quart-sized can of tomatoes each week for things like salsa, pasta sauce, and casseroles. Rather than buy these corporate mystery tomatoes, we much prefer to have tomatoes from our cellar.

We know where they came from.

Transportation Liberation

Save the Planet, Save Money, and Save Your Sanity by Not Driving

Hybrid vehicles and bio-fuels may help, but they are not the solution. Solving the global warming problem will take dramatic action, and becoming car-free is an action with a lot of impact.

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