February 26, 2013

APATHY: It's not the fluoride...

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Minimum Wage Workers Deserve a Raise

One of the goals President Barack Obama outlined in last week’s State of the Union address was a long overdue raise in the minimum wage. Obama proposed increasing the national minimum wage, which is currently an anemic $7.25 an hour, to $9.00.

While a measly $1.75 increase would hardly be sufficient for most working-class Americans, the renewed attention to the minimum wage the president generated is at least encouraging. The simple fact is American workers in low-skilled jobs are not getting paid what they are worth.

Of course, even if enacted, Obama’s proposed minimum wage hike would not take effect until 2015. And, as already noted, $9 an hour, even for an individual worker, is not nearly enough to make ends meet. According to The New York Times’ editorial staff, economic measures—such as “purchasing power, average wages and productivity gains”—dictate the minimum wage should be at least $10 an hour (“From the Bottom Up,” 02/18/2013).

As it is, candidate Obama campaigned on a minimum wage of $9.50 an hour in 2008. So the new goal of $9 an hour is low even by Obama’s standards.

A quick note regarding terms before moving on:

A higher minimum wage should not be confused with a “living wage,” which is roughly defined as the hourly rate an individual must earn to support one’s family if that person is the “sole provider and is working full-time.” Unlike the fixed minimum wage, a living wage would vary from state to state, based on overall living costs. For example, a living wage for one adult and one child living in Portland, Maine, according to MIT’s online Living Wage Calculator, would be $22.50 an hour. It would be $26.99/hour for one adult and two children; $21.22 for two adults with two children; and $9.88 for one adult with no children. (The minimum wage in Maine is $7.50.)

Regardless of what kind of a wage we are talking about, the fact remains the United States has the lowest minimum wage of all the industrialized nations in the world. Australia, France and Ontario, Canada all pay their workers a higher minimum wage—and most of them also provide universal health care not tied to an employer to boot.

In fact, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz in his recent book, The Price of Inequality (Norton, 2012), decades of diminished worker wages have prevented the minimum wage from keeping up with inflation. As a result, Stiglitz writes, “…the real federal minimum wage in the United States in 2011 is 15 percent lower than it was almost a third of a century ago, in 1980” (p. 242, italics his).

Predictably, penny-pinching business owners have already slammed Obama’s proposed minimum wage hike.

A story in The Portland Press Herald last week (“Maine critics say raising the minimum wage has risks,” 2/15/2013) quotes local “small business” owners who drag out the tired conservative argument that higher wages inevitably lead to higher unemployment.

“Opponents of Obama’s proposal say that raising the federal rate to $9 an hour would prevent employers from hiring more workers,” the story states. Staff writer Jessica Hall then goes on to quote Jake Wolterbeek, owner of Jake’s Seafood restaurant in Wells—a wealthy tourist town hardly representative of all of Maine—who bemoans the prospective of having to give his entire staff a raise if the wage-hike were enacted. Judging by the gridlocked traffic in Route One, Wells every summer, I am more than confident Mr. Wolterbeek can afford it.

Actually, the only thing “preventing” employers from hiring more workers would be a lack of business--i.e. demand for their product. Basic supply-and-demand economics suggests higher wages would mean workers have extra money to spend on luxuries (like eating out at Jake’s Seafood, for instance). That’s more money that would circulate in the economy, thus leading to greater overall consumer demand and, therefore, more jobs. (After all, consumers, through their purchasing power, are the true job-creators—not the wealthy as is often claimed.)

Furthermore, the argument that higher wages are a “job killer,” has been thoroughly debunked by a range of economic studies. According to the Times Op-Ed a Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago study concluded, “[A] $1 increase in the minimum wage results, on average, in $2,800 in new spending by affected households in the following year...”

Or, as NYT columnist, Paul Krugman writes in the same issue, “…the main effect of a rise in minimum wages is a rise in the incomes of hard-working but low-paid Americans—which is, of course, what we’re trying to accomplish” (“Raise That Wage,” 2/18/13).

Now, if Wolterbeek and the rest of the business elite are simply too cheap to pay their employees a decent wage that reflects their labors’ worth… well, that’s another thing entirely.

Growing up in Kennebunk (pre-Zumba-era), I had no trouble finding summer jobs at local restaurants. I remember making close to $9 an hour washing dishes and preparing desserts at the Arundel Wharf restaurant in Kennebunkport, a popular tourist stop. As a teenager, that was good money for CDs, rock concerts and filling the tank of my red Eagle Summit—my primary financial obligations at the time. Problem is, some 15 years, a college education and a devastating economic recession later, $9-$10 an hour is the starting pay for the few jobs currently offered. Such a wage was fine when I did not have a monthly rent, a college loan, a phone and electricity bill, and the like.

And those are just my individual expenses. I cannot fathom how families with two or three children make ends meet on such meager wages. I really can’t.

Again, even if enacted, Obama’s anemic increase would likely not make a significant difference in working-class Americans’ wages. But the important thing is the issue has been pushed back into the public dialogue. We need to ensure it stays there until lawmakers get the message: Workers are the backbone of our economy. We deserve to be paid what we are worth.
Adam Marletta is a writer, activist and coffee-fiend. He is the former chair and current secretary of the Portland Green Independent Committee and editor of the political commentary blog, Guerrilla Press. He lives in Portland, Maine and supports all things Green Party.

Meet an Admin! Alex Steed

Alex Steed blogs over at bourbonportlandbeerpolitics.bangordailynews.com

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February 20, 2013

[MUSIC] Jacob Augustine: Frontier

Local musical superhero Jacob Augustine has been sharing a lot of content from The Punk Patriot recently, and I feel the need to return the favor. Everybody should know about Jacob Augustine. This is his album from 2011, "Frontier".

(Also my friends Megan Martelle and Kate Beever appear on the album playing violin and pitched percussion.)

Meet the Admins #PunkPatriot

Katie blogs over at KatieSpeak.com and tweets over at @Katie_Speak

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February 19, 2013

Lee Camp's Moment of Clarity SHOW

Oh my good god this is amazing.

Just in case your faith in humanity had been restored...

Marina Abramović, “Rhythm 0,” 1974

Marina Abramović is best known for her performance pieces, in which she tries to explore what is possible for an artist to do in the name of art. Her best known piece was the recent “The Artist Is Present,” in which she sat motionless for 736.5 hours over the course of three months, inviting visitors to sit opposite her and make eye contact for as long as they wanted. So many people began spontaneously crying across from her that blogs and Facebook groups were set up for those people.

Her bravest piece, however, is my favorite. This piece was primarily a trust exercise, in which she told viewers she would not move for six hours no matter what they did to her. She placed 72 objects one could use in pleasing or destructive ways, ranging from flowers and a feather boa to a knife and a loaded pistol, on a table near her and invited the viewers to use them on her however they wanted.

Initially, Abramović said, viewers were peaceful and timid, but it escalated to violence quickly. “The experience I learned was that … if you leave decision to the public, you can be killed… I felt really violated: they cut my clothes, stuck rose thorns in my stomach, one person aimed the gun at my head, and another took it away. It created an aggressive atmosphere. After exactly 6 hours, as planned, I stood up and started walking toward the public. Everyone ran away, escaping an actual confrontation.”

This piece revealed something terrible about humanity, similar to what Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment or Stanley Milgram’s Obedience Experiment, both of which also proved how readily people will harm one another under unusual circumstances.

This performance showed just how easy it is to dehumanize a person who doesn’t fight back, and is particularly powerful because it defies what we think we know about ourselves. I’m certain the no one reading this believes the people around him/her capable of doing such things to another human being, but this performance proves otherwise.

Dr Jill Stein: Climate Change and Capitalism

video via Travis Shoff

February 16, 2013

White Paper on the Violence Against Women Act

So over on the Facebook, there are some libertarian trolls who are parroting the Heritage Foundations talking points about the Violence Against Women Act.

So if you want to know what's really up, read this white paper from the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women, a lobbying firm for the greedy "Big-Unbattered-Spouse" and "Big-Anti-Rape" industries:

NTF's Response To Heritage Action On VAWA by

February 4, 2013

Infographic: Assault Weapons

Image created by Criminal Justice Degree Schools

The Religion of Permanent War


By Adam Marletta
I greeted last week’s news of the military’s ending its ban on women serving in combat roles—and the hollow, misguided claims of “victory” for gender-equity that followed—with the same mixed sentiments I felt when the equally discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was revoked two years ago. “Instead of allowing more people to join the army,” I joked with friends, “I would prefer to see the exclusionary rules expanded to include men and heterosexuals—thus, preventing anyone from joining the military.”
OK, so maybe I was only half joking.
No doubt the military’s prohibition on women soldiers was sexist and outdated. Women who desire a career in the army should certainly be free to pursue one. But is the fact that women can now take part (and potentially die) in our dubious, illicit wars around the globe—not to mention the horrific instances of torture and barbarous acts of cruelty that have become such a pervasive part of our foreign policy—really something to celebrate?
Well-intentioned as they may be, the inclusion of gays and women in our imperial endeavors does not make them any less immoral. Change the face of war all you like—it is still war.
Then again, with President Barack Obama’s second term focus on gun-laws, imigration and the deficit over prospects of scaling back our military entanglements, or cutting the Pentagon’s bloated budget, Americans remain passively indifferent to our culture of permanent war. And there is currently no antiwar movement in sight to force a change of priorities.
Part of this apparent apathy is due to the fact progressives have fallen victim to what has arguably been the greatest propaganda feat of Obama’s administration thus far: The fiction that the Iraq war is over. It’s not. Some 30,000 “non-combat” forces remain in Iraq to “maintain the peace” (a highly precarious, if not contradictory, effort based on that sentence alone). Hence my skepticism of Obama’s proposed troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by 2014, if not sooner.
Additionally, the U.S. is currently engaged in a number of covert conflicts (many of them utilizing unmanned predator drones) in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. Filmmaker Richard Rowley and Nation reporter, Jeremy Scahill outline these clandestine activities in the newly released documentary film, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield.
Yet, according to the corporate media’s narrative, President Obama has ushered in a post-war-on-terror peace. Indeed, the Afghanistan war and the use of predator drones garnered little discussion during the presidential election. Outside of the lingering remnants of Occupy Wall Street, the antiwar left has virtually shut down under Obama. Little wonder Glen Ford, editor of the online Black Agenda Report describes Obama, not as the “lesser” evil, but the “more effective evil.”
George Orwell, in his dystopian prediction of a nation locked in permanent war, only got it half-right. Rather than a mass-scale World War III used to generate perpetual patriotism and national loyalty, we are instead fighting numerous “cold wars” on various fronts. The ultimate goal of citizen control, however, is largely the same.
“The war is waged by each ruling group against its own subjects,” Orwell wrote in 1984,”and the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact. The very word ‘war’ therefore, has become misleading. It would probably be accurate to say that, by becoming continuous, war has ceased to exist.”
War has become our new religion. Indeed, as membership in traditional religious faiths decreases, Americans remain intimately connected through the language and rituals of, in the words of Glenn Greenwald, “all things military.”
And I am not merely referring to conservatives. “Antiwar” liberals have increasingly proved themselves to be just as hawkish and militaristic when the president is a Democrat. Case in point was last summer’s Democratic National Convention, during which speaker after speaker praised the assassination of Osama bin Laden, which liberal convention-goers greeted with jubilant cheers and banal chants of “USA! USA!” And here you thought only Republicans spoke in such sports-arena sloganeering.
I don’t care how evil bin Laden was. Joyously celebrating the killing of any human being is just sick. Yet this is what happens to those infected by the childish, us-versus-them mentality of war. The language of war—like the iconography of advertising—replaces rational, complex thought with easy symbolism and irrational emotional appeals. Or, in the moronic words of NRA spokesman, Wayne LaPierre, “The only thing that stops a bad-guy with a gun, is a good-guy with a gun.” Such an infantile, yet chillingly pervasive, worldview is a direct product of a culture steeped in the language of war.
Those who voice even the mildest criticism of U.S. imperial hegemony are promptly subjected to scathing personal attacks—a lesson Secretary of Defense nominee, Chuck Hagel learned from his recent battering during his Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday. Hagel’s blasphemous offenses…? He had the audacity, back in 2007, to question the wisdom of the “surge” in Iraq. (And, incidentally, he was right to do so since it failed.) Hagel was also forced to defend his record accurately claiming the militant Israeli defense lobby AIPAC “intimidates a lot of people here [in Congress].”
Remind me again what Orwell said about truth-telling becoming a “revolutionary act” in a time of “universal deceit.”
Speak out against the military as Hagel has and you become a pariah. Now, in the interest of his own career advancement, Hagel is predictably walking-back his innocuous statements about the surge and Israel.
Changing the face of the U.S. military through well-intentioned--but ultimately  misguided--efforts to include groups traditionally banned from military service has made war more palatable to liberals and those who would otherwise oppose military force. As long as the narrow press focus is kept exclusively on the army’s perceived diversity—and not, you know…who the soldiers are actually killing—Americans remain passive and ignorant of global U.S. atrocities.
In the end, it is ultimately the poor, the disadvantaged and those without any other economic opportunities who enlist in the armed forces. No matter how open and inclusionary the army claims to have become, I guarantee you will not see the rich, the privileged, or the college educated flying off to Afghanistan, Pakistan or any of our other 700 or so military bases anytime soon.
Adam Marletta is the former chair and current secretary of the Portland Green Independent Party. He has written for The Journal Tribune, The York County Coast Star, The Hippo Magazine and Kennebunk's Tourist News. You can follow his weekly essays at Guerrilla Press.blogspot.com. He lives in Portland.

February 1, 2013

Shit NRA Supporters Say

If the video has not fully loaded to YouTube yet check back in 30 min.

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A car, a knife, or a hammer are just as leathal as an AR-15.

Oh, ok. So why do you need an AR-15 if you already have a car, a knife and a hammer?

You can’t possibly defend yourself with a hammer against a handgun. That’s why you need assault rifles.

What about an assault hammer? Like a semi-automatic Thor hammer that swings itself? I didn’t want to go through the waiting period or go through a background check, so I went to a hammer show and bought one on a private sale from a Norse God weapons collector-- and the sale was totally legal!

The thing about assault rifles, is that you don’t need them until they try to take them away.

Well, I’ve pre-empted them by not having any to start with. They’ll never be able to take mine!
But seriously, what you’re saying is that you need a semi-automatic rifle to defend yourself against the tyranny of the government, right? The idea that you're going to defend yourself against a national military force that has nukes, signature strike predator drone missiles, LRAD, and microwave guns at their disposal-- and that you're going to defend yourself from all of these things with your AR-15, is a paranoid fantasy detached from reality. Hell, you couldn't do it with a 50cal and an armored tank.

You should stop watching so much Alex Jones.

The reason nobody invades Switzerland is because modern military tactics are focused around polycentric warfare. When every man and woman has a gun, not even the greatest military can hold an occupation.

I’m pretty sure that the reason that nobody invades Switzerland is because we can’t run our cars on Chocolate. In all seriousness, this argument is totally fallacious. It’s based on the following false corrolary: Nobody has invaded Switzerland in a while, a lot of people have guns in Switzerland, therefore having guns means nobody will invade.

Everybody and their grandma having guns didn’t stop the USA from invading Iraq or Afghanistan, now did it?

Also, your analogy assumes that EVERYBODY is chomping at the bit to invade Switzerland, and that the ONLY REASON that Switzerland hasn’t been invaded is because they have guns in their households, and that they are constantly fending off invading hordes who have come to pillage their army knives and swatch watches. And probably their hot cocoa as well.

Moreover, there are lots of countries that haven’t been invaded recently, some of which have all but banned guns. Like England. Nobody has invaded England in a while. Practically nobody in England has a gun. Maybe the reason why nobody has invaded England recently, is because brute force colonialism, like the 2nd amendment, is an antiquated concept that isn’t equipped to deal with the very different reality of today.

Just like neo-colonialism uses trade policy, debt, and international finance to extract resources instead of invading and occupying, today’s interpretation of the 2nd amendment is very different from the State-run National Guard forces equipped with Muskets envisioned by the authors of the 2nd amendment.

I have a RIGHT to a gun. It’s in the constitution!

First, off, the constitution is a contract between the citizens and that government you're so scared of. And there was a lot of stuff that the founding fathers got wrong. Like slavery. Or women not being able to vote. Or people who don’t own land not being able to vote. Or black people being 3/5th of a human being (which some of our founding fathers argued against using the rhetorical question something along the lines of saying, “why should we count black people in our census? If you’re going to do that, why not count every cow and oxen as well?”

And yet, many would have you believe that these men are imbued with holy powers, that they’re like the 12 apostles of Jesusmerica, that each founding father is an infallible pope beyond reproach or questioning.

What’s also weird is a gun is the only product for sale on the market that is imbued with the magic powers of the Constitution Founding Father Jesus America Apostles. There’s no other product on the market that enjoys this sort of treatment. Do you have a right to own a stove? Do you have a right to own a cast iron frying pan? An iPad? No, you don’t. Every single one of these things is just a product. But guns! Guns are imbued with MAGIC!

If you banned guns, it would create a black market, and then you’d have MORE guns! Just look at the drug trade. Prohibition doesn’t work!

You can’t make any meaningful analogy between drugs and guns. Most drugs come from plants, and plants grow out of the ground from seeds. They’re living things, part of nature. And the thing about nature is that nature is EVERYWHERE. Guns, you can’t plant bullets and grow AK-47s out of the soil. Guns, like iPads or automobiles, are a technology, and require human beings to spend a lot of time at a machine, building well engineered parts, and then putting them together. Now I’m not advocating the banning of all guns, but let’s entertain the idea for the sake of argument. If guns were banned, the price of a gun on the black market would be such that nobody could afford one. But what about people building their own black market guns? Even if you had the thousands of dollars of machinery to build your own semi-automatic weapons, and make your own bullets, the amount of time that you would have to spend to build these weapons on any scale large enough to affect the market, would be insane. To affect the price of black market guns, you’d have to be producing guns on an industrial scale, like how they are being produced right now-- reaching the point of making it really easy to detect by authorities. The risk involved would also be large, further increasing the price of guns on the black market, further putting them out of the reach of most people. To avoid detection by authorities, testing probably wouldn’t be very thorough, meaning lower-quality guns would be on the market, which would either be in accurate, or more likely to blow up in your face when used.

Obama’s kids have 11 armed guards where they go to school! My kids go to school in a “gun free zone!”

Gee, I wonder if there is any reason that Obama’s kids might be a target, and nobody cares about kidnapping your kids? Let’s ponder that for a little while... There’s got to be SOME REASON...

It can be argued that if citizens were able to use their 2nd amendment and carry a gun on the plane if licensed to do so, then 9/11 would never have happened. Remember it was box cutters they took over the planes with, not guns

Dude, if you fired a gun on a plane, the cabin would depressurize, and everybody would die of asphyxiation. Not to mention, in a crowded space like that, if everybody had a gun, in the confusion ensuing, people would not know who the actual "bad guy" was, and there'd be a lot of cross fire, and a lot of innocent bystanders.

I have a right to defend myself-- with anything I can get my hands on.

Really? Anything? But if there were no guns on the market, it wouldn’t really be an issue, because they wouldn’t be readily available, now would they? Or do you think that there should not be any limits whatsoever? Like what about a nuclear weapon? Or anthrax? Should you be able to buy a rod of weapons-grade plutonium at Wal*Mart? I mean you could say, “if nuclear weapons were illegal, only criminals would have nuclear weapons” but you’d be full of shit, because people don’t rob banks with nuclear weapons, and nobody can buy them. Because you can’t have them right now. Because those things are illegal, and there’s no market. And sure, you have a right to defend yourself. But not with nuclear weapons. So why should that extend to assault rifles? What we’re really talking about here is what degree of regulation is appropriate. So let’s have that conversation. Or we could continue having the knee-jerk crazy talk conversation. It’s fun for me to make fun of.