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Laelth's Journal
Laelth's Journal
December 15, 2013

Increase the minimum wage!

An editorial appeared in the local paper on December 12 to which I had to respond. Here's what the local hair-on-fire conservative had to say:

Every God-created human being, born of Adam, has the right to have the things that are necessary for life: shelter, food, clothing, etc. No one in this day and time wants to accept the responsibilities of their own actions. If they have a child out of wedlock, kill it or have it and get more food stamps, there is no shame or disgrace associated with their decisions. The lost of reputation and standing in the community doesn’t matter anymore. The moral conscience of our country is on life support and fading fast. Trusting anyone is a thing of the past. Honor is becoming obsolete. Respect is taught, but more than that, young people follow the example we set.

Grandmothers of today raise their children’s children, so the parents can work or do other things. Can you imagine what kind of grandmothers this generation will produce? This generation of “me and mine” will not be raising anyone else’s children for sure. This is what our current society is producing -- not a self-supporting, responsible generation, but one dependent on the government, handouts and the sympathy and kindness of others.

It has been said that the oldest profession is prostitution. That has changed today. It is being on government assistance, a new form of prostitution and another practice of slavery. Once you’re in the system, you do not get out very easily. Will this current pattern change? Only if parents become more responsible and change. Hopefully, they will..

To which I responded as follows:

In the December 12 edition of The Telegraph, J. M. Bass bemoans the irresponsibility and moral failings of today’s youth. I think his indignation is misguided.

For many years now, studies have shown that American workers are the most productive in the world. Because we work very hard in the United States, it’s hard to stomach Mr. Bass’ complaints about dependency and laziness. Many Americans with jobs still have to rely upon government assistance in order to survive. Wal-Mart, America’s largest employer, pays its “associates” so little that most of them qualify for government aid. In this way, taxpayers subsidize both Wal-Mart’s low wages and its obscene corporate profits.

Elizabeth Warren, a former economics professor who is currently serving in the United States Senate, has shown that the 1962 minimum wage, if it were adjusted for both inflation and increases in productivity, would currently be about $22.00/hr. ($44,000/year.). No wonder American families could survive on just one income in 1962. Our world is very different now. I know a couple of college-educated people with government jobs who are making $18,000/year—less than half what a burger-flipper would have made in 1962.

While the stock market is recording new highs, American wages are approaching record lows. Our Federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr. is both embarrassing and exploitative. In France, the minimum wage is the equivalent of $13.00/hr. In Australia, it’s $15.00/hr. Naturally, our business leaders insist that calamity will befall us if we raise the minimum wage. Nonsense! Australia seems to be doing just fine with a minimum wage that’s over double ours, and our economy was thriving in 1962 when the minimum wage was the equivalent of $22.00/hr. Why can’t we return to those economic glory days?

The answer is simple. Greed is keeping far too many Americans impoverished. Increase the minimum wage and Mr. Bass’ Scrooge-like complaints about people who are less fortunate than he is will evaporate.

My editorial appears in this morning's edition of the paper. Let us hope it does some good.

December 5, 2013

This, my friends, is far too typical for my generation.

Not to exacerbate any generational warfare which, I agree, is counterproductive, but to educate my Boomer and Millennial friends, today's Doonesbury explains the frustrations and life experiences of many GenXers. Would those Ph.D holding, hard-working, and intelligent people be waiting tables or working as nannies 20 years ago? Somehow, I doubt it. It's not like we Xers don't work hard. We do. It's not that we lack ambition. We don't. Our world is simply much worse, economically, than the one into which our parents were born.

I don't blame Boomers for giving us Ronald Reagan and supply-side economics. I do blame Boomers for their apparent lack of concern and action on this subject. In their defense, I suspect that Boomers lack a frame of reference to understand how much harder it is to live in this world now. The United States was at its richest in 1973, and it has been getting poorer ever since. Boomers came of age when we were at our richest, and they don't seem to understand why their children and grandchildren are struggling. The lack of sympathy and concern many of us get from some boomers (especially our family members) is disconcerting and depressing.

Thus, I post this strip as a friendly and poignant reminder. Take care of your children and grand-children, Boomers. We've had plenty of "tough love." Many of us now need some real love.

-GenX Laelth

November 24, 2013

Remember this: Iran gave us Ronald Reagan.

Those who celebrate the recent signs that the United States is moving toward a peaceful relationship with Iran should remember that it was Iran that was principally responsible for Ronald Reagan's election in 1980. Had it not been for the hostage crisis, it is likely that James Earl Carter Jr., the 39th President of the United States and the only Georgian ever elected to that office, would have been re-elected in 1980. If that had happened, it is likely that Ronald Reagan would never have risen to prominence and that we would not have fallen into the supply-side, voodoo-economics disaster into which Reagan led us so gleefully. Morning in America, indeed!

I am not a hawk, and I do not favor or advocate war with Iran, but the map below shows that we have been working on isolating Iran and preparing to fight Iran for a long time:

The fact of the matter is that from 1979-1981 (for 444 days) the Islamic Republic of Iran [font color=red]embarrassed[/font] the greatest Empire the world has ever known, and it appears that we vowed (Democrats and Republicans alike) to avenge this embarrassment.

President Obama has given signs that he intends to back away from our plan to seek revenge, and I applaud that move, even if it means that we have angered some allies, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia. Peace is still better than war, and I welcome this peace, even though it also represents a belligerent move on our part--one that Party loyalists are far too happy to ignore. As I have argued elsewhere, this is part of the "pivot" in US foreign relations toward a greater focus on Asia. Iran sells most of its oil to China, and just as the TPP is a move to isolate China, so this peace deal with Iran is a move to threaten China's oil supply. We are changing focus, for better or for worse.

It's very un-progressive to lack respect for foreign countries and their citizens, and I do respect the younger generations in Iran (who want more freedom and have been unjustly sanctioned for the acts of their parents and grand-parents). That said, I have a special kind of loathing for Iran, and I am skeptical of any plan to make peace with Iran because I still blame them for Ronald Reagan and 30+ years of supply-side economics.

Peace with Iran is a noble goal, but I will never love Iran, and I will always remember the effects their Islamic revolution had on my country. America must share the blame, here, for installing and propping-up the Shah as a bulwark against the Soviet Union. In many ways, we caused Iran's Islamic revolution, but part of me wishes (and many people who actually are hawks agree) that we had used Iran to send a message to the world that it's just not cool to take Americans hostage, and, if you do, you will pay a heavy price.

Perhaps that message has been received, and if it was received without our going to war, all the better. I'll still never forgive Iran for giving us Ronald Reagan, even if I do forgive some Democrats for being hawks in regards to Iran.


November 22, 2013

Here's what I can say that might be useful.

Conservatives often claim that those of us on the left hate America. They mistake our continuing desire to create a more prefect Union for hatred of America, itself. On the issue of race in America, we have a classic "glass half-empty/glass half-full" problem. Yes, there's still racism in America. No doubt about it, but we have made enormous progress on this issue--progress that no other country has made (from what I can tell in my limited experience). Rather than criticize the United States for work that is not yet completed, I prefer to celebrate the work we have done and the progress we have made.

1) Race was an issue that was discussed during our Constitutional Conventions.
2) We fought a war over this issue from 1861-1865.
3) We enacted the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments (directly to address this issue) shortly after the conclusion of said war.
4) We integrated our military in the 1940s.
5) We got Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.
6) We enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
7) We enacted the Voting Rights Act of 1965

And we have done a lot more that I did not have the time to research and list. No country on Earth has this long, legal history of dealing with the issue of racism. As a civil rights attorney, I have litigated cases (as an advocate for Plaintiffs) under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and while the law's not perfect, it is a good law, and it has had the desired effect of limiting racism in employment decisions.

I am proud of my country for the progress it has made, and my experience tells me that other countries have not made the progress we have on the issue of race--not even close. It's your choice if you want to continue to see this as a "glass half-empty" problem. Certainly, we have not yet reached the promised land. There is much more we should do to combat injustice. That said, I am quite proud of the progress we have made, and I would like to argue that those of us on the left could benefit from taking some pride in this country and recognizing the progress we have made while we continue to work together to make America even better.

just a thought ...


November 21, 2013

Celebration time!

Forgive me for gushing, but the Senate's decision to erode the filibuster is momentous. Its significance is beyond what most Democrats comprehend, so let me let you see what I see.

First off, the filibuster stinks. It has been a pernicious tool used by low-population states to impede progress in this country since 1787. It wasn't completely destroyed today (I wish it had been), but for the first time in decades, we weakened it, and this bodes well for the entire country.

What most Americans do not understand is that most laws are made by judges. Yes, the Constitution is the highest law of the land, but it's pretty skimpy. It doesn't cover a lot of legal ground. Statutes of the Federal Government are the next highest law of the land, and they cover a lot, but Congress can't pay attention to the minutia. They're too busy. Most laws are what we call case law, i.e. interpretations of statutes--laws made by judges. What the recent change to the filibuster rule in the Senate has allowed is for President Obama to nominate (and, presumably, get confirmation for) any judge he wants to appoint to the Federal Courts (SCOTUS excepted, as per today's rule change). I would have preferred, of course, the complete elimination of the filibuster, but I am quite happy with what we got.

This is a big deal. As an attorney, and as an officer of the Court, I am thrilled that the President now has the power to appoint liberal judges wherever and whenever he sees fit withour the need for any Republican consent. This move will have a lasting effect on our republic. Our laws will change. In the future, conservative laws will be given limited interpretation. Liberal laws, on the other hand, will be given wide latitude and will be given broad interpretation as more liberal judges are appointed by the President.

The judiciary (of which I am a part) is, theoretically, an equal branch of our government. Today, we got a rule that will allow the judiciary to become (quite quickly) much more liberal. I'm pleased as punch! Time to ...

[font size=48 color=blue]CELEBRATE![/font]


November 14, 2013

I have absolutely no interest in defending the TPP.

I will, however, take a stab at defending the President, here.

Here's what I can say:

I like second term Barack Obama a lot better than first term Barack Obama. Now that he's "settled into the job," so to speak, and now that he's freed from worrying about his re-election, he has become a better President. Take Syria, for example. From what I can tell, he was under serious pressure to invade Syria for several years. Our Western European allies wanted it. They're almost completely dependent on natural gas from Russia, and they don't like that. They wanted a pipeline trough Syria to the Mediterranean to bring natural gas from northern Iraq just to ease the pressure of Russia's monopoly. Despite this intense pressure, the President delayed, and when the matter came to a crisis, he managed to keep us out of war. That was impressive, but it seems to be his MO in regards to actions he does not want to take. He delays, and then waits for the right moment to blow up the whole idea.

That's what I am hoping for with the TPP. He may not actually like it, but he's under intense pressure to do it from both our oligarchs and from powerful members of the Party that he leads. Perhaps he's keeping his options open, saying the right things to our oligarchs and to the party faithful who want the TPP, but then quietly gumming up the works behind the scenes. I recall that he was recently scheduled to meet in Asia regarding the TPP, but, somehow, he found an excuse not to go (it may have been the Syria crisis). In any event, I suspect (when I am feeling generous) that the President may, indeed, oppose the TPP. He may simply be delaying and waiting for the right moment to blow up the negotiations and take it off the table, as he did with plans to invade Syria.

That's as much as I can do on this. Of course, if he ends up signing the TPP in something close to its present form, I'll be furious, and I will regret having given him the benefit of the doubt, but, at this moment in time, I am willing to wait and see how this plays out. That said, I encourage all of us to keep our eyes on this and to agitate--i.e. give the President cover in the event that he sees an opportunity to back out.


November 12, 2013

If not Warren, then whom? If not now, then when?

While I appreciate the wisdom of those who regularly remind us to keep our eyes on the 2014 prize, the fact is that many of us on the left want to see a real liberal elected President in 2016, and we're running out of time to recruit a candidate. It must be done now. The machinery of the campaign needs time to grow, and, with only three years left before the 2016 contest, time is running short.

So, I ask DU: If not Elizabeth Warren, then whom?

We need to nominate a woman. This is almost conventional wisdom, now, in the Democratic Party as Noam Scheiber, the Senior Editor of The New Republic, argues in a recent essay. I also think we greatly improve our chances of winning by running women in this political environment, as I argued here.

So, if we need to nominate a liberal woman, whom should we choose? Who's the third best fundraiser in the Democratic Party? It's Elizabeth Warren, who falls right behind Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Before she was even elected, her fund-raising e-mails would net the party more cash than any Democrat’s besides Obama or Hillary Clinton. According to the Times, Warren’s recent speech at the annual League of Conservation Voters banquet drew the largest crowd in 15 years.


To those of you who proudly and definitively announce that Elizabeth Warren isn't running for President, I ask you this: whom else should we try to recruit? Elizabeth Warren is the best shot we've got to get a liberal in the White House. She's liberal, she's brilliant, she's articulate, and her record is, to my knowledge, spotless. She carries no baggage. Plus, she's an excellent fundraiser.

I would also add that she's a savvy politician, and that she keeps her options open. She may have said she wasn't running, but Barack Obama said that too. Big deal. What Scheiber's essay shows is that she is focused on her policy goals, and she doesn't care how she gets there.

The proper interpretation of Warren’s prodigious p.r. efforts, then, isn’t that she’s especially taken with the idea of media stardom. It’s that she is relentlessly, perhaps ruthlessly, maybe even a bit messianically, focused on advancing her policy agenda. Everything else is merely instrumental.

This is what the banking industry and its Republican allies (as well as internal opponents like Geithner) didn’t fully appreciate when they effectively killed Warren’s hopes of permanently heading the consumer agency in 2011. Anyone who knows Warren will tell you she had no particular ambition to be a senator. She decided that the Senate would suffice as a way to agitate for her issues only when Obama stiffed her for the CFPB job—an enormous disappointment after she spent months lining up support among banks. “It’s poetic justice. At end of the day, if the banking community hadn’t been so apoplectic, everyone could have decided it’s this little tiny agency, who really cares?” says Anita Dunn, Obama’s White House communications director in 2009. “Instead, she ends up as a senior senator from Massachusetts on the banking committee, blocking Larry at the Fed.”


What Scheiber shows is that Warren, if she could be convinced that running for President was the best way to achieve her goals, might just do it.

If not Warren, then whom?

And, if not now, then when?

Now is the time to work on recruiting her (drafting her, if necessary) to run in 2016. We can't afford to wait. While I appreciate the efforts of those who want to see the Democratic Party re-take the House and hold the Senate in 2014 (and I support those goals, obviously), the fact is that Elizabeth Warren has to be thinking about this issue now, and she needs our encouragement in order to put in place all the pieces necessary just to preserve her option to run.

So, I invite all liberal Democrats to write, e-mail, or call the Senior Senator from Massachusetts, and let her know how you feel.

If not Warren, then whom? If not now, then when?

The Honorable Elizabeth Warren
317 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-4543

E-mail her here.

Donate here.


November 5, 2013

Few people understand employment law.

All of the following is pertinent only to the state of Georgia (where I am licensed to practice law), but it ought to give you some understanding of how employment law works. Please do not take this post as legal advice. I am not your attorney. For specific legal questions, consult an attorney in your jurisdiction.

Can you fire someone for being a Republican? Yes.
Can you fire someone for being a Democrat? Yes.
Can you fire someone for being a conservative? Yes.
Can you fire someone for being a liberal? Yes.
Can you fire someone for being a Christian? No. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of religion.
Can you fire someone for being gay? Yes. No federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation although a bill addressing this question is currently before the Senate (or has been passed by the Senate--I am not sure which), but said bill will not pass in the House, and Federal law on this subject is clear, at the moment, that it is completely acceptable to hire or fire employees on the basis of sexual orientation.
Can you fire someone for being straight. Yes, for the reason listed above.
Can you fire someone for being a man? No. Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender.
Can you fire someone for being a woman? No, for the reason listed above.
Can you fire someone for being nice? Yes.
Can you fire someone for being ugly? Yes.
Can you fire someone for being a drug user? Yes.
Can you fire someone because they don't use drugs? Yes.
Can you fire someone for being white (i.e. Caucasian)? No. Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of race.
Can you fire someone for having blonde hair? Yes, so long as race is not the true, underlying factor in the employment decision.
Can you fire someone for being a very, very sweet person? Yes.
Can you fire someone for being short? Yes.
Can you fire someone for being tall? Yes.
Can you fire someone for being an Italian? No. Discrimination on the basis of national origin is prohibited by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Can you fire someone for being a really good worker? Yes.
Can you fire someone for being a really bad worker? Yes.
Can you fire someone for having a beautiful smile? Yes.
Can you fire someone for wearing blue jeans? Yes.
Can you fire someone for having a pierced nose? Yes.
Can you fire someone for crying on the job? Yes.
Can you fire someone for having a tan? No. Discrimination on the basis of "color" is prohibited by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended.
Can you fire someone for being a witch? Yes.
Can you fire someone for not being a witch? Yes.
Can you fire someone for having a big schlong? Yes.
Can you fire someone for being a bigot? Yes.
Can you fire someone for being completely tolerant? Yes.
Can you fire someone for owning a Toyota? Yes.
Can you fire someone for being a racist? Yes.
Can you fire someone for not being a racist? Yes.

Can you fire someone for anything that is not proscribed by Federal law? In many states, yes. In Georgia, at least, this is the case. Some states have expanded the protections available to workers, but in the "right to work" states, minimal Federal protection is all you get.

As you can see by the list above, Federal law prohibits "adverse employment action" only against those who belong to specified, protected classes. At the moment, Federal law says employers are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of age, national origin, sex, religion, color, and race (and this is different from color). That's about it. Otherwise, in the right to work states, employers are free to discriminate on the basis of any other criterion they choose.

Hope many find this useful.


October 21, 2013

OK, but. What if I don't want a balanced budget by 2015?

Why should I participate in the right-wing two Santa Claus strategy by pushing for a balanced budget only when Democrats control government? Personally, I don't want to play that game. We're in a recession (most of us are, anyway). I think the Federal Government should be spending more, not less. Interest rates are at historic lows, so it's less painful than ever for our government to borrow (and it should continue to do so until interest rates rise significantly).

So, I'm out on the balanced budget B.S. If and when the Republicans ever come back into power, they can worry about balancing the budget on their own time. You'll notice, however, that they never do. They cut taxes, launch expensive wars, and drive the deficit sky high every time they get into power so that Democrats will have to take the electoral punishment for cuts in government services.

No, thank you. I am tired of playing that game.


October 18, 2013

Bubble mentality.

Seriously, there's a significant portion of this society that is so insulated from reality that they think their cherished and corporate-media-constructed opinions are in sync with the opinions of the majority of Americans. I had serious, intelligent people last year tell me that Romney was going to win in a landslide. They were wrong, obviously, but that was because they live in a media-constructed bubble that insulates them from the truth.

I suspect the woman to whom you refer is merely one of the fully-insulated pawns upon which the political caste depends for its very survival.


Profile Information

Gender: Male
Hometown: Wills Point, TX
Home country: USA
Member since: Sat Oct 16, 2004, 02:36 PM
Number of posts: 32,017

About Laelth

I am a native Georgian who's currently hiding out in Texas. I am a liberal, and I am extremely proud of the imperfect (but evolving) republic that we call the United States of America.
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