I hardly know what to say about this

from eponymous comes more stories of how the Veep’s Former Employer is failing to provide basic services to the troops, while reaping billions in profits.

Nick’s a Marine corporal. He was in Afghanistan last year, where there was enough to eat. He’s in Iraq now even though his enlistment was up last year.

He’s one of those Marines who can’t walk away. His unit, the 3rd Battalion of the 3rd Marines, was headed for Iraq and he just couldn’t head for civilian life while those he had served with were heading to their second war.

“He extended,” says Karen. “He told me, ‘I really have to go. I can’t let my guys go alone.’ ”

There are a lot of stories like that. We don’t hear them much. They’re kind of personal.

So Nick Andoscia went to Iraq. And hunger soon followed.

“I got a letter,” says Karen. “And he had called me before that. He said, ‘Send lots of tuna.’ ”

Nick told his mother that he and the men in his unit were all about 10 pounds lighter in their first few weeks in Iraq. They were pulling 22-hour patrol shifts. They were getting two meals a day and they were not meals to remember.

“He told me the two meals just weren’t cutting it. He said the Iraqi food was usually better. They were going to the Iraqis and basically saying, ‘feed me.’ “

Yay, us.

I’d like to punch this guy

Get a load of this lickspittle at CNN/Money:

I’d like to speak in defense of oil companies.

It’s not a position I generally like to take but here it goes: I’m SO tired of all this whining! I’m talking about gas prices.

First the oil companies scour the freaking globe, going to the most gosh-forsaken dangerous places on earth to find the stuff. Then they pump it. Then they ship the stuff in huge, complicated ships halfway across the world. Then in giant, expensive plants they refine the stuff through amazingly complicated processes and turn in into gasoline. Then they distribute it to rural Nebraska and Vermont and all over the USA.

And if you’re not good little boys and girls, Santa “Big Fucking Oil” Claus will just take his oil to little children in India and China.

This guy’s suggested solution?

Buy their fucking stock?

Don’t like the ass reaming we’re giving ya? Well, why don’t you suck our dicks, too?

eponymous, reading over my shoulder, points out that perhaps we should stop subsidizing Big Oil’s adventures in the “gosh-forsaken dangerous places on earth” with our military and massive tax breaks and let them compete with Venzuela and Bolivia on even terms…. wouldn’t that be an interesting experiment in this whole capitalism thing?

Teach the children well…

Oh, my…. Doghouse Riley with the takedown of some random idiocy from the NY Times and Nick Kristof….

Yes, it’s time for another round of America’s Favorite Parlor Amusement, “If We Captured a Terrorist and Had Only Thirty Minutes To Find Out Where He’d Hidden a Nuclear Device, and the Only Way To Get That Information Was To Let Him Sodomize Nick Kristof on Coast-to-Coast Television, Would You…”

Otherwise known as “Gee, I Could Get To Work So Much Faster if I Didn’t Have To Stop for All These Red Lights.”

Suppose Colin Powell tires of giving $100,000-a-pop speeches and wants to teach high school social studies. Suppose Meryl Streep has a hankering to teach drama. Alas, they would be “unqualified” for a public school. Elite private schools would snap them up, of course, but public schools that are begging for teachers would have to turn them away because they don’t have teacher certification. That’s an absurd snarl in our education bureaucracy. Let’s relax the barriers so people can enter teaching more easily, either right out of college or later as a midcareer switch. Sure, there are lots of other problems in the U.S. education system. But this is one of the easiest to solve.

And one of the most difficult to solve is the Armchair Quarterback problem. Everybody who went to high school in this country seems to think he could run them. All of them.

I don’t know about New York, but in Indiana, which has one of the stricter codes in the country (teachers are not supposed to teach outside their areas of accreditation, for example), Colin and Meryl (she’s married to a Westside boy, btw, Steve Gummer) would be welcome to apply for teaching jobs. They could get provisional licenses for a year, after which they’d have to work on gaining full accreditation, and they’d have to comply with the new NCLB-era requirements.

So like many another “snarl in our bureaucracy” so beloved of sidewalk educational reformers, this one is caused, at least in part, by sidewalk educational reformers.

I think it’s worth mentioning, as someone who went through the whole microwave teacher program, that several things jump out at me at once-

1. While everyone claims that we’re critically short of teachers, I sure did see a lot of people with freshly minted teaching certificates in hand standing around at the Dept. of Ed waiting for a job assignment. The problem is that a bunch of the places where there are teaching jobs available happen to be in places where there are terrible schools. The schools themselves are failing institutions, because the counties are SO POOR. Places like Metro Atlanta have a few openings, sure, but the schools that are critically understaffed are places like Talbot County

The median income for a household in the county was $26,611, and the median income for a family was $35,208. Males had a median income of $29,186 versus $19,438 for females. The per capita income for the county was $14,539. 24.20% of the population and 19.90% of families were below the poverty line. 39.10% of those under the age of 18 and 19.70% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.

The starting pay for a teacher there was something under $25,000, and the closest city of any size was Columbus, GA, which was, as I recall, just under an hour away.

So. I don’t see Colin fucking Powell beating down the door to get a job there any time soon. Or, for that matter, ANYBODY ELSE with more than one option in the bag. The problem with these kids today! They want to make a living wage and live in a place that has a movie theater and a restaurant or two! Decadent hedonists!

2. Those private schools Kristof mentions with such affection? They don’t pay shit, either. Sure, if you’re some high profile celebrity or scholar with some credentials, a private school will pay you a living wage to teach, but outside of a few (and I mean a VERY few) high profile schools in urban areas, private schools don’t pay much better. Starting wages at private schools in Georgia are significantly less than the already meager starting wages at public schools. That’s because most of the private schools are run by the Crackers Creek Baptist Church, y’know, so your kids don’t get their heads filled with any of that (D)Evolution Science-y BOOK LEARNING…. Academies of Truthiness have sprung up all over the Southeast, and I would guess, the country, in order to funnel kids away from the public schools in the interest of avoiding topics that might disturb their parents’ worldview. Wonder what the whole School Voucher controversy is about? And the whole reason for No Child Left Behind? It works like this:
Step One– the Federal Gubmint, led by the Bush Administration, implements a set of byzantine requirements for public schools to meet. The criteria for meeting these requirements is evaluated on a pass/fail basis.
Step Two– Cut Funding.
Step Three– After a suitable interval, have state-level Republican politicos (governor, State Rep, whomever) announce that X-percentage of schools in Y-county are failing. Hem, haw, gnash teeth. Establish panel to “look into possible solutions.”
Step Four– “Discover” local private school which is doing a heckuva job of educating the community’s children. (Note: This private school should be exempt from NCLB requirements, so that heck quotient of job performance is unquantifiable.)
Step Five– Begin furiously thumping tubs to redirect public money away from “failing” public school (by new, arbitrary standards) to Christian or otherwise exclusive private school.

This is how the Country Club set would like to make sure that the Wingnut Welfare system pays for their kids to go to private school.

While we’re on the topic of May Day

And what it means to be a worker in the US, I think it’s worth mentioning that there are several great pieces of writing in the web about the disappearing working-middle class.

First, it appears that Billmon gets a little misty-eyed about seeing working class people marching to protect their rights, just like me.

Additionally, there’s some serious fur flying over at the TPM book club. David Sirota is blogging about his book Hostile Takeover.

From the lede:

As I note in a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed today to kick off the formal launch Hostile Takeover, our government has been the victim of a hostile takeover by Big Money interests. That has meant the elimination of the boundary between Big Business and government to the point where government has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Corporate America.

Oh sure, pundits, political operatives and other Establishment apologists like to come up with all sorts of theories about why lawmakers do this or that, what the political ramifications will be, and what it means for both parties. They incessantly focus on gossip, horse races, or perhaps most vapidly, decry supposed partisan polarization – even though the hostile takeover that drives American politics is quite bipartisan. But, then, that flood of distracting chatter is the Matrix at work. The fact is, most of that nonsensical political discourse is designed to hide the two fundamental truths that nobody wants to talk about, but everyone knows: that our “democracy” is really a legalized bribery, and that every outcome in this system of legalized bribery is one that exclusively serves the interests of Big Money.

Additionally, this is the sort of gut-check that Steven Colbert would be proud of, but I am seeing more and more coverage of the fact that real wages aren’t keeping up with inflation. Gas prices have been the catalyst in the coverage, but it’s something that has been brewing since the economic downturn immediately post 9/11.

And finally, Mrs. Dog and I were checking out the Make Work Pay site, last night. Follow that link and find out how long it takes the CEO of a Fortune 500 company to “earn” your salary. It takes them about a day and a half to earn what I make in a year.

I was wondering as I was falling asleep last night, What does a semi-radicalized (or at least, a group of people who work for a living and who aren’t ashamed to say “And I deserve a good life!”) immigrant working class bode for workers’ rights in this country? Could this be the beginnings of an awakening of the American people, realizing the the purpose of government is NOT to protect the CEO class? Is the Democratic Establishment in DC too neutered to capitalize on this?

Imagine the impact of a Democratic Party running on the slogan “Putting Working Americans First.” I mean, yes, I know that they WON’T, but dream with me for a minute….

Are people really this stupid?

Someone put a freakin’ TV in the breakroom here at work. Since I don’t spend much time in there except to buy Nekots or peanuts from the vending machine, then it hasn’t really affected my life all that much. I don’t have a TV at home, so I am hardly EVER exposed to commercials.

Today, I was buying peanuts, and there was a commercial blaring in my right ear. It was for some SUV or another, and the tagline was “I’d rather be…”

There were voiceovers of people saying “I’d rather be hiking,” and “I’d rather be kayaking,” and “I’d rather be camping…” and then loving shots of this big, shiny SUV tearing down some US Forest Service road alternating with shots of some guy flying off a waterfall in his kayak.

People are smart enough to know that buying a new SUV means that they aren’t going to be spending their time in the woods, right? They know that it means more time spent at work making enough money to pay for the thing, right?

I mean, I used to work in outdoor retail. I know that folks buy outdoor gear to make themselves feel better about spending so much time at work. Go to REI any Saturday and notice that the people who are in REI are there…. ON A SATURDAY.

REI!=woods.

Most of the people who I know that actually fish, camp, hike and kayak drive vehicles that look like this.

Someone help me out here. Are people really stupid enough to think that buying a new SUV will help them camp more?

doing battle with your health insurance provider

We have the best healthcare in the world here in the United States… if you’re training to be a ninja and need to practice your ultimate fighting techinique.

Angry Old Broad is doing battle with the goons at her insurance company. She mentioned it on the Alternate Brain today:

I hate insurance companies.While I’m dealing with a traumatized kid(it took me almost an hour yesterday to get him to stop crying hysterically before I could even take him home from school.And even then,there were several more times yesterday where the poor little guy just fell all to pieces)I should NOT have to contend with all this insurance bullshit.WTF are we paying all these premiums for if the insurance company makes thngs more difficult than they should ever be?This is yet another example as to why we need a national,SIMPLE healthcare plan.Seems to me that it really shouldn’t matter what doctor or dentist one goes to,just that you go to someone who is qualified and does a good job.

I responded in the comments:

you have my deepest sympathy. The missus and I have been battling the insurance company (who get about $14k a year from me and my employer) to get my torn rotator cuff fixed. Still not sleeping very well at night because of the pain.

Here are some things we have learned when dealing with insurance companies:

1. Document EVERY call. Date, time, who you’re speaking with, EVERYTHING that you discuss.

2. Make an org chart if you can. When someone says “I am going to transfer you to my boss,” then draw a little box around their name on the chart, draw a line up, and write their boss’ name down in a new box. It took Mrs. Dog about a week to figure out who worked for whom and what their hours were(!) at our insurance company. Now when someone says “Well, I don’t know if you’re covered for that,” Mrs. Dog shoots back, “Well, your boss, Janet Smith, said we were last week at 9:25 am on Tuesday April 18th.” You’d be amazed what happens when you do this.

3. Every state has an insurance commission, I think. Here is a link to the various state insurance commissions. These are the people whose job it is to provide oversight of the insurance companies operating in your state. If you have a complaint, you can go to them and get a case manager. It’s nice to be able to say “I wonder how [your insurance commissioner]’s office would rate the service you’re giving me” to someone at your insurance company.

4. Finally, hang in there. They make plenty of money. Your new job is to make sure they cover you and pay you some of it back. It’s a war, but it’s winnable.

Anyone who has more tips, please email me since at some point, everyone gets sick. We need to make a bible for battling the insurance companies. Oh… maybe a Wiki….

The Emerging Scandal

I wonder if AT&T was the only corporation involved in this….

AT&T Inc. and an Internet advocacy group are waging a privacy battle in federal court that could expose the reach of the Bush administration’s secretive domestic wiretapping program.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation said it obtained documents from a former AT&T technician that shows that the National Security Agency is capable of monitoring all communications on AT&T’s network.

“It appears the NSA is capable of conducting what amounts to vacuum-cleaner surveillance of all the data crossing the Internet, whether that be people’s e-mail, Web surfing or any other data,” whistle-blower Mark Klein, who worked for the company for 22 years, said in a statement released by his lawyers.

Words fail me. Someone help me out here.

Bring it on home, Mr. Lee

Interesting article from the NY Times:

SHENZHEN, China — Persistent labor shortages at hundreds of Chinese factories have led experts to conclude that the economy is undergoing a profound change that will ripple through the global market for manufactured goods.

Hey, guys… y’know, I know some places in rural North Carolina where folks will work cheap… and you wouldn’t have to burn all that diesel fuel getting the stuff from China to Wal-Mart… I mean, there’s Wal-Marts everywhere here…

Cognitive Dissonance in a nutshell

from Candide’s Notebooks:

In 1995, Jose Guttierez was a 14-year-old orphan in Guatemala when he decided to do what 700,000 other Guatemalans had done — enter the United States illegally. Two thousand miles and 14 freight trains later, Guttierez crossed the Rio Grande. He was promptly arrested by the Border Patrol. Being a minor and without a family, he was spared deportation and turned over to California’s welfare system. He spent the next four years in foster homes, learning English, attending and graduating high school, getting his medical needs taken care of by the public health system. As the lexicon of neo-flag-wavers would put it, Guttierez was freeloading on the American taxpayer.
When he turned 18, Guettierez got himself a Green Card. He planned to be an architect. Not quite having the means yet, in 2002 he joined the Marines. A year later he found himself shipping off to Kuwait. And in the first hours on the first day of the Iraqasion, he was killed on the outskirts of Umm Qasr, just inside the Iraqi border. He was the first of 2,322 Americans (so far) to be killed in the war. He is, as the lexicon of neo-flag-wavers like to say, a hero, a patriot, among America’s finest.

So. Which is it? Freeloader? Illegal immigrant? Criminal? Or hero?

The rest of the entry is just as interesting, and I highly recommend it.

Bronco=Gone

The guy came and got the Bronco, last night. You should have seen us winching that thing up on the car trailer with a couple of come-alongs. We were very careful not to let the truck be held in place by just one come-along. Neither of us wanted to get his head cut off by a flying cable.

At the end of it all, only one of us was bleeding. (He got pinched.) He paid me cash and was on his way.

Nice to get rid of that thing. With its bad transmission, no keys, iffy engine, it was a 4000 pound grass-killing paperweight. Fortunately, he’s planning on parting it out. I don’t know what it would have cost to to get it running again.

After I pay for the auction and toss the previous owner of the truck his share, I will have just under $450.00. I was planning on putting AC in the Dart, but now I am thinking about the future. Mrs. Dog is going to not take any acting jobs out of town after the end of May, and we’re trying to pay our mortgage down asap.

OK, my esteemed and very smart readership- if you were going to do the smartest thing you could think of with $450, what would it be? Buy Toyota stock? Convert it to Chinese Yuan? Just throw it at the mortgage? Put it in some sort of disaster fund for the summer coming up with Mrs. Dog making less money?

Let’s hear it… what was the smartest (or dumbest) thing you ever did with a windfall?