Sunday, January 13, 2013

A sabbatical of sorts from social media?

Back to "real" work am I. Sorta. Grad school was out there for me, and I jumped in. Thanks Uncle Sugar! My GI Bill eligibility was surely earned, and yet it's a gift I appreciate. I can't believe how expensive tuition has become. I suppose all the nice new buildings and technology explains some of the numbers. However, how regular folks can afford to attend, or send their kids, is a mystery to me. Then again, I do see some fancy little cars or tricked out trucks about town. There's stylish clothes and such too on many of the kids I see up on campus.

While I surely love (most of the time) school, I'd looked high and how for mere meaningful work. However, what was out there was often wage slave stuff that seemed hardly fun or beneficial for pretty much anyone involved. Many of the better jobs were rather competitive and/or far, far away. I've had a few interviews lately for positions I'd likely like, but I'd decided back in the summer that if nothing opened up, I'd saddle up. I'll continue to look for the right work I suppose, but school in going to be my main focus. If those interviews pan out, I'll have to make a decision on taking them or staying in school on a full-time basis.

Right now, I'm doing a joint program toward an Ed.S. in Adult Education and another Masters out of the Rural Sociology program, an interdepartmental effort. I'm at Auburn University, of course, and I surely do love how short a drive I have in. And so far, I like the new Tiger Transit system where we park on the far fringes and then catch a shuttle bus into the heart of campus. I'm taking a scary Stats course that, after taking my last math classes - all low level ones - nearly three decades ago, has me pretty terrified. Still, it's an area in which I know I'm weak. So I need it. It's going to be a slog in that class especially, and I imagine I'll work pretty hard in the balance of the others.

I've also taken a position with the local Democratic club. And I'm trying to get in better shape, despite my little injuries. The bride is buying another house for an investment and/or to stash her young adult daughter and some of her roomies. It's time to get the garden ready, and some other work around the manse needs attention too. There will be some time costs in all of those areas beyond merely getting back in the academic world.

Thus, I'll be scarce on, perhaps totally absent from at times, social media. I'll try to keep up with the news and politics, but I'm going to rarely post, tweet, comment, ... at the pace I've held for some time now. It's going to be a tough withdrawal, but it's likely best to accept my limitations, at least until I see how tight time is.

Thanks to all who've engaged with me, and even those who've tolerated me. I've learned from the process and it's filled up some slow periods when there wasn't much else to do. In Alabama especially, what I've learned about how power and media often works troubles me. It's not that I didn't know squat before, but realizing how often there's much more to what appears in our papers and on our news stations has been an eye opener. I imagine there will be plenty of times I'll want to jump in and cry foul on some stuff. But, I'm going to generally keep my powder dry. People that I really know will be able to get in touch with me, and I'll try to keep up to speed on the most critical areas.

On the image I shared, I do like the WPA and the New Deal period. There's something to the idea of doing simply for doing's sake. Yes, it does make people feel better just to be busy and build. I used social media in part to do my little part as to the discourse. I am finding new, and likely better, ways to be involved. Social media is part of our life in today's world, but it's going to be less so in mine.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

See y'all in November?


Around noon on September 5th, I'm heading north for just over two months of political work. I should be home in time to hear the crowd at Jordan-Hare as Auburn hopefully whips Georgia. I sure was looking forward to being home for the whole of football season. However, duty calls. Once back, I want to find something meaningful to do beyond just trying to make a dollar here and there.

My hours will be brutal while I’m gone. Thus, I'll likely limit my shares and comments. I'll be busy engaging in a very different type of activism. Also, I want to make sure my own views aren't associated with any campaigns I’ll be helping. Then again, I might just shift my online efforts to more strategic communication. We’ll see.

I’ll honestly miss sharing and interacting across different mediums. I am a unabashed news junkie who reads reporters and bloggers on and off nearly every day. I can get into the policy weeds as well. I may, in fact, start a doctoral program this January. I suppose I dig into politics, law, policy, and such just because that’s how I’m geared. However, I also care about what all that means to my world. I’m anxious about our current situation and certainly the future. We can address the challenges we face. It’s actually quite doable. But, I fear an almost pathological resistance to a role for government and common cause is hindering us.

It's an exciting time for political junkies. However, 24/7 news coverage, and even more so the almost instantaneous updates via social media, especially Twitter, can at times seems like both a blessing and a curse. While I was surely frustrated over the summer’s silly season where the chattering class maintained the buzz, things might not get much better. I actually don't think the top of ticket is going to be too close of a race. However, it's good for the boob tube's bottom line to make it look tight. There will be plenty of horserace coverage, even down into the Senate and House (the few seats remaining competitive due to gerrymandering) races. That’s especially so if the trend on the Presidential race is too obvious for the media and insiders to ignore. However, we’ll see few actual policy stories. I could rant over how infotainment may ruin us all, but I’ll push on.

As for the next few months, I really look forward to getting on the ground in a political fight, hopefully several, rather than just being a Chairborne, keyboard commando who tries, woefully at times I'm sure, to use social media for constructive activism. I feel somewhat lame doing mostly shares and micro-blogging but since I've been home am doing more direct contact and engagement. I tend to mix it up more over on Twitter as @JuntoGunto but try my best to tread carefully when on Facebook, either directly or when it’s required to comment on newspaper stories and such.

(As a quick aside on Facebook, there’s some stuff that’s shared which amazes me. I’m past understanding why things can’t be run through the Google before it’s posted up on a wall for the world to see. Also, quit sending me game requests!)

As for the trip north, I depart with some trepidation. I’m no rookie and yet I’m sure some of the ground game technology has changed since 2006. And this is a coordinated campaign where I’ll be working with many different, at times conflicting, groups. I’ve been in part of this next state for a few days, but it’s a new part of the world in which I’ll live. It will be cold by the time the election is over. And I surely don’t like driving in the snow.

As for what I’m giving up, I hate to be away from the bride, boy … and surely the critters. I’ll put a few more miles on Raull, my trusty little green CR-V. I’ll likely exercise little and eat poorly. And then there are the ales and spirits to fuel any decent campaign. Might I find a fellow cigar aficionado?

Maybe I’ll do a little hunting once I’m home but I’m liable to miss some good fishing this fall. There’s a tile job and several other projects around the manse to knock out once I get back. I’d held off doing some stuff outside until the weather cooled off. Woops! Yet, after being way up north, it might seem pleasant weather-wise once I’m home and start stacking rock and moving dirt. There’ll be no reports or volunteers or … to knock me off stride. And the holidays are right around the corner! If I get caught up, I’ll just start the outdoor kitchen with the cool bread oven thingie.

I remember being slam worn out after 2006 but I surely was proud of what we’d done. I think I’ll feel pretty good this time, too. If not (or, to be honest, even if we whip all comers) I’ll be digging into the analyses and data to see what might apply to the next time we all lock horns. Again, we shall see.

So why leave home for two months? There's the Abraham Kuyper quote I have on the back of my business cards that I think covers it. It reads,
When the principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then the battle is your calling, and peace has become sin. You must at the price of dearest peace lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy with all the fire of your faith.
Won the day? They've won the last three decades! 

While one brand has its own problems, hardly related to its leaders actually being too liberal, the other has largely forfeited a role. And they've shifted things more and more to the extreme right. What's become of the modern GOP could have offered principled opposition. But principle is where many seem to struggle. How Paul Ryan lied so much on the national stage at the RNC stuns me. Then again, he perhaps felt like he had to hit the themes their message machine has been telling their base. His lying about his sub-three hour marathon time might indicate this man-child of privilege has some issues beyond mere political license with pesky facts. Maybe he really is a hard core Ayn Rand Objectivist where selfishness is celebrated.

And what’s with all the straw men? For a group who likes to rant about postmodernism, they sure do rely on truthiness. I get that they’ve invested much in bashing “the liberal media” - owned largely by for-profit corporations - and building a counter-intelligentsia but, outside of Glennbeckistan, reality intrudes every so often. Honestly, there are also these things called “antecedents” applicable to pronouns which also need some studying. Then again, common sense should also apply.

They've offered little beyond platitudes and posturing. Details are as scarce as Mitt Romney's tax returns. Let’s just double down on what got us in the current mess is exactly their solution. Tax cuts/policy geared to the affluent, plus deregulation, solves all which ails us. It’s gospel! But it’s mostly magic! For their base, conservatism never fails but can only be failed. When they lose, it’s because their candidate wasn’t sufficiently conservative and/or because the Godless liberals and/or brown people stole the thing.

As for the image above, I think the overalls and rolling up the sleeves is what I like most. Still, it's admittedly with a "fighting" angle. However, as much as I enjoy sparring, I'm more interested in respectful dialogue. I often find common cause with all but the most ideologically hidebound. As I've offered before, I'm a propservralist. And I've never persuaded anyone of anything by telling them how stupid they are. The same applies to folks telling me I suppose but I've got rather thick skin. 

Additionally, I truly believe many in my tribe hold to their ideas less certainly. Many on my team seem to seek out information and embrace a little cognitive dissonance. In fact, lefty sorts are notorious for fussing with each other. I'm rather certain ideological purity and loyalty are more valued among the authoritarian set. Pleased be assured I'm not saying conservatives and/or libertarians lack a role. I appreciate their perspectives, at least for the most part. I know many of all persuasions disgusted with the national parties.

Many in the modern GOP are hostile to science. Thanks, but I’ll pass on the theocracy. I don't get these people. In fact, I culled a couple of folks I grew up with, and the mother of another, from my Facebook "friends" just last night who were caterwauling about how "God" was dropped from DNC platform (apparently "faith and religion" isn't sufficient) and how 20K Muslims are coming to Charlotte for some sort of ritual prayer at the convention. Jesus Christ, do these people not know how to work the Google? Glenn Beck will tell them something and they'll not only swallow it hook, line, and sinker but also parrot it. WTF? I've no way to engage these sort of people but they are truly a big chunk of the modern GOP's base.

I didn't mention it anywhere I suppose, but I recently listened to a little "Christian" radio when the bride was up in Anniston. Good grief! A couple of God Squaders had this rather sharp young academic based out of the Discovery Institute (they're peddling intelligent design) talking about how Jesus really loved modern ideas of capitalism. Then again, Dr. Jay Richards also keeps his bread buttered at Heritage, AEI, Acton, ... as if there's one thing the right does well, it's wingnut welfare. Truly, you can be a total hack and there's work for you in movement conservatism.

Also, I can accept that the modern GOP has a fragile coalition made up of some rather hidebound ideologues. These groups (that they’ve kept cobbled together far beyond what many might have imagined back in the late 60s or early 80s) often hold completing conflicting world views. Thus, I can appreciate that it’s a tough task to keep them all in the harness. Maybe that’s why the grownups among them can’t let go of the damn lies and divisiveness. You can unite people out of fear much easier than out of positive consensus building. I can imagine many at the top of the food chain just thinking one more election. Others know that tapping into anger, religious fundamentalism, and fear is their only path to power. It’s “Little Red State Fundie” though for some I’m sure with those they’ve long relied on to win elections. Yup, the inmates are now running much of the operation. Mr. and Mrs. Fringy McFringison represents them.

Also, the mess the last administration made in letting the neoconservatives get us engaged in military adventurism can’t be forgotten. Poor Mitt Romney barely mentioned our deployed men and women in his acceptance speech!

Neither should we forget how their judicial appointments have opened up the flood of funny money into politics via the Citizens United case. The whole Federalist Society effort has paid off handsomely. The modern right gets the long game and they surely develop talent and reward loyalty.

Conservation doesn’t get much better treatment. I can’t figure out how “conservatives” so often leave this out of their program. Maybe in their minds, pollution isn’t allowed to cross private property boundaries and externalities don’t exist. Climate change isn't anything to sweat, or so says the well-funded denialists and businesses worried they'll face more regulation.

Perhaps the most priceless thing is that the modern GOP's ideas run up the deficit, allowing them to slash spending in programs which help keep the society moving forward. Please note how subsidies to obscenely profitable oil companies and our bloated defense budget are sacrosanct. Truly they’ll bash welfare all day long, except when they are defending the corporate versions doled out to big business and war profiteers.

Modern movement conservatism is so bent up that when the current administration floats ideas they actually once advocated, as has been done in health care for instance, or considers reviving “cap and trade” on carbon, they'll claim it’s socialism and/or unconstitutional.  The “Party of No” has obstructed efforts to get past the problems their very own Friedmanism and neoliberalism, which, to be fair, did have some bipartisan backing, caused us. It’s been their strategy to a comeback from 2006 and 2008. Well, that and dressing up in funny hats with tea bags hanging off them. They’ve tried to wipe their collective hard drive of any history before January of 2009.

The same applies to three plus decades of Reaganomics. Supply side economics, especially when coupled with structural challenges from globalized capital chasing cheap and docile labor in minimally regulated locations, just doesn’t work except for those at the top of the food chain. Sure, it’s nice to be able to buy a cheap TV at Wally-mart. Yet and still, building an economy off low-cost, disposable consumer goods doesn’t seem like too promising a strategy to me. And I’m putting Jeff Faux’s new “Servant Economy” book on the reading list come mid-November. It’s nice to think that I might be able to read on it by a nice fire on some cold days when I’m not laboring about the house.

Additionally, any decent student of American history, especially the southern flavored version, knows how the bossmen and landed often worked to make sure commonfolks didn’t unite across racial lines. The same applies to some religions and other cultural differences all too easily exploited by the Big Mules. Also, don’t ignore how the mill owner moved down South and soon set up a preacher to talk about how good Christians stored up rewards in the next life and needed to mind their place in this one.

Demographics are going to change things as well, assuming we can just hang on a little longer. Old geezers yelling at an imaginary President can’t carry the day. At some point, all but a rare few will figure out that Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and … are lying liars paid handsomely to distract people from looking up the food chain. And Lord knows we’ve plenty of local versions across the land who imagine they might be the next Glenn Beck crying all the way to the bank.

So the gig’s up. Or it soon will be. I hope. And, either way it goes, I’m going to be able one day to tell grandkids or somebody that I was there. Maybe I’ll have some way of preserving bytes but I surely have my books and some notes. The camera is heading north as well and I’ll try to keep it handy and also use the darned thing.  I already have stories to tell but I’m about to go get me some more. As to when I might be able to share them, well, it beats me. We shall see.
                                     
Respectfully, john gunn

Friday, January 20, 2012

Governor Bentley and the sad state of Alabama education policy

Perhaps fourteen hour days are too taxing for Alabama Governor Robert Bentley yet his Thursday evening talk with the Greater Gardendale Chamber of Commerce has me motivated enough to actually take the time to write a proper post. Via "Bentley speaks about jobs,health, other topics to Gardendale chamber" from Lisa Osburn, we find:
As for education, Bentley said he was tired of the bureaucracy that has held the state back for too many years. He plans to propose a limited number of charter schools, perhaps even a single-sex charter school, to see if they work for Alabama. He said he also wants performance to be part of teacher evaluations.
Bureaucracy holds us back? A single-sex charter school? And what do teacher evaluations consist of, if not performance? Huh?

I guess it's conservative gospel that bashing bureaucrats is proper for a Governor's evening on the town.  I expect folks attending the Greater (Is there a Lesser?) Gardendale Chamber of Commerce banquet ate this up along with their rubber chicken.  That G-dale is the home of Alabama State Senator Scott Beason, actively seeking even higher office despite his fumbles and bumbles, might be worth recalling.  Seriously, doesn't this local chamber of commerce have members who are bureaucrats?

I'm especially troubled by Governor Bentley talking up a single sex approach to education.  Sharing "The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling" and the work of "The American Council for CoEducational Schooling" out of Arizona State University is obligatory.  Seriously, what's Governor Bentley getting for our $70K he's paying to his new Education Director?  Doesn't Emily Schultz need to make sure her boss understands some actual policy? To be fair, it's likely she wasn't asked. After all, her job is to explicitly promote a certain "reform" isn't it?

Still, I'm most confused how our dermatologist in chief can be this loosey goosey with another profession.  Then again, politicians, the business community, and other arguably well-meaning citizens frequently do frequently impose their ideas into our schools.  And, since it's a taxpayer-funded and critical effort, that's appropriate up to a point.  Educators actually want citizens to understand the hard work they do and the circumstances under which they labor.  Many have long felt I'm sure that if the biz whiz politicians would walk a mile or two in our shoes then most of their "solutions" would improve.

However, let's not ignore the reality that many in the "education reform" community are acting out of unadulterated self interest. Ayn Rand would be proud. The chance for various management firms, real estate developers, and such to make a fortune is undeniable. "The Big Enchilda" is how Jonathan Kozol described the way the big money desperately wants into the education business.  Furthermore, I am somewhat uncomfortable with billionaires dictating and promoting public policy.  The thing is that our schools are often starved for resources and the problems of endemic poverty are such that every dollar helps.  I just don't know that funding a narrow agenda is always done simply for philanthropic reasons.

Movement conservatives are surely eager to wound any public sector effort and especially one where unions hold some influence.  We know the new Sheriff of Goat Hill and most of his team is chapped with AEA, with many who favored the Gubernatorial candidate who wasn't Robert Bentley being especially steamed.  Recently, we even have the Alabama Policy Institute taking the memory of Dr. King and turning it into a call to loosen the market magic upon Alabama schools.  This is the group who was nailed for manipulating statistics so I suppose they have not shame in twisting MLK's legacy into their bent agenda.

This policy shop will, just like Governor Bentley and many others in the conservative camp, tell us how we ought to reward "high performing" teachers but yet they'll avoid the inconvenient fact that no purely objective measure exists upon which this policy prescription is based.  More than likely there will never be such an instrument and, even then, how do we measure in neat, business type terms how a teacher inspires a student, teaches them to critically approach information, and otherwise become stellar citizens.  It's more of the top-down accountability movement that was flawed from the get go but now is even lamented by once strong supporters like Dr. Diane Ravitch.  We've a system where a #2 pencil on tests and material that make a few companies a mint drives a curriculum that's often an inch deep but a mile wide. We're data obsessed not data driven. And it's as wrong a nine-eyed rat.

Of course, the Alabama Policy Institute is just one of the many state level "think tanks" in the State Policy Network's realm.  I recently stumbled across the documentary "Flunked" providing a nice list of these Friedmanite, neo-liberal, market fundamentalists groups interested in education "reform."  I'll confess to never hearing of "Flunked" yet the length Washington State's Evergreen Freedom Foundation (yup, a State Policy Network baby) went to hide its role in the production is interesting.  For what it's worth, the more well known and very successful "Waiting for Superman" also didn't exactly publicize the Gates, Broad, hedge funds, and ... money upon which it was funded.  Truly, if we want to be ready to work against all this radicalism in education and other critical public policy areas impacting the commons, it's smart to be aware of how well funded and coordinated are many of these groups.

As the Goat Hill gang prepares for the new session, we still don't see the new charter school legislation do we?  I've surely looked on Alison to no avail.  Perhaps they'll recycle last year's version?  You'd think they'd make sure citizens had a chance to look at such a critical "reform" to education.  After all, there's a charter school piece almost every day or so in Alabama media.  Yesterday, I learned that Senator Dick Brewbacker (R-Elmore) is going to lead the charge.  That he's a third generation car dealer who went to and briefly taught in private schools seems about par for the course.  His work with the noted education reformer Fob James is also perfect preparation.

For what it's worth, and it's a bit of a rabbit hunt away from the topic, Governor Bentley lamented the woes to our General Fund now that "federal stimulus money is gone."  Mercy heavens, we surely do love Uncle Sam's cash even while any politician we elect in Alabama pretty much must master the art of fussing about the "fedril gubmint."  Governor Bentley is still asking us to borrow $2 billion to build and repair infrastructure.  Borrowing?  Billions?  Infrastructure?  If he's not careful, the Madison County Republican Committee is going to kick him off the ballot.  And he's pressing for a comprehensive effort aimed at obesity like he's some sort of Michelle Obama.

Lastly, and back on track, the research on charter schools seems to be rather clear.  And I still don't know much that charter schools can do than traditional schools can beyond hire uncertified staff with limited protections as profiteers take a cut from taxpayer money.  Seriously, why not just make it easier for school boards to roll out magnet schools and such?  That innovation occurs in classrooms across our nations and we're doing pretty good all things (like poverty, family chaos, or even over-stimulated and under-motivated students for instance) considered is something these ideologues conveniently ignore.

I'm beat as I truly had to avoid outright ranting from a pedantic posture as education "reform" gets my Scots up. I kept having to cull material as the "reform" movement is prolific in the propaganda they push.  How mooncat and some of the others at Left in Alabama pound out regular content impresses me even more.  I can't fathom how I once blogged regularly. I do welcome comments, both positive and otherwise but I'm going to head over to Twitter where short and sweet suffices.  Respectfully, john gunn


Update ~ 1348 on 20 Jan 12 ~ This post was put up on  Left in Alabama  first and there's even a silly poll in the tradition of narrow answers recently illustrated by State Senator Cam Ward should you got that route.  Darned if this old computer of mine isn't on its last leg plus I can't seem to get the hang of .html editing after all this time.  The best thing about old Blogger is that it's free but it's also surely user friendly for just one lone voice.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Jobs Agenda my Ass

Alabama's House Speaker Mike Hubbard and Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh have just released their "Jobs Agenda" for the 2012 session.  It's essentially the same slop slung from right wing and centrist weenie politicians in the last three plus decades.  Seriously, it's disaster capitalism in many respects as the economic crisis provides an opportunity to push through the usual tax cuts for the swells and deregulation.  It's  corporate welfare couched in crumbs for the proletariat. I'll take it just like they released it and hope to raise some decent questions.  Here goes:

Streamlined Tax Incentives to Recruit and Retain Jobs  
This constitutional amendment would give the Alabama Development Office and the Governor more flexibility in offering tax incentives to land major economic development projects, and retain those companies that might otherwise relocate outside Alabama
Should we just go straight to a dictator of a fascist persuasion to suit these rascals? Handing out incentives to often incredibly profitable businesses needs to be even easier according to these super successful and thoroughly team oriented politicians? To better bypass the pesky citizenry and what passes for the press in this benighted state is labeled as "flexibility" but it's essentially a blank check isn't it?  Given all the shenanigans of the Riley administration getting Abramoff funny money, his picking a real ladies man to head some sort of small business consortium which is currently the subject of a federal trial even now, and of course his infamous $13 million Paragon Source dealings, I'm surely soothed that a Governor can be looser with his or her largess.  And hell, all an established outfit has to do is threaten to bolt Alabama and that's all the Guv needs to start handing out the concessions I suppose.
“Made in Alabama” Job Incentives Act 
* Recommended by the Speaker’s Commission on Job Creation and passed into law in the 2011 Regular Session, this measure allows the state to offer temporary state income tax incentives to offset build-up phase tariff costs for international companies bringing jobs to the state.
* As a direct result of this legislation, literally hundreds of foreign-based companies representing thousands of jobs expressed interest in locating their North American facilities in Alabama.
* Unfortunately, the Alabama Education Association is suing to block the law, creating uncertainty for businesses that could take advantage of the incentive.
To ask Alabama taxpayers to pay the fines which trade cheats get from dumping their products to destroy American made competitors seems a bit ballsy even for Hubbard or Marsh.  I suppose there's a bonus in getting in a swipe at AEA but paying duties placed on  foreign firms who've demonstrated a willingness to cheat might strike people solidly on their team as wrong.  I suppose there's enough desperation out there for working folks to accept much but this one strikes me as surely a bridge too far.  I suppose time will tell but I still bet Joe and Jill Sixpack will see this one as rather poor policy if it's clearly covered by our compliant media.  For me, this "pay the trade cheats" is more of a race to the bottom than anything I've ever witnessed.  While we've long attracted industry via limited regulation, low wages, and docile labor, to go this far reveals much.
Data Processing Center Economic Incentive Enhancement 
* Data processing centers are unique components of a 21st century economy.  These centers employ a skilled workforce, provide high-paying jobs, and have a low environmental footprint.  This proposal would expand the scope of certain tax incentives in order to focus on recruiting more data processing centers to Alabama.
That "a low environmental footprint" matters for these two is interesting.  However, I'm lost on how call centers need special corporate welfare.  At least subsidized industry, as opposed to retail especially, might spawn second and third tier plants.  I don't see much spinoff from call centers.  We shall see I suppose.
Tax Incentives for Hiring Veterans Returning from War 
* With wars winding down in Iraq and Afghanistan, thousands of Alabama veterans will soon return home to a stagnant economy in which it is difficult to find a job.
* This proposal would offer Alabama businesses a $1000-$2000 tax credit for hiring a veteran recently returned from war.
Isn't this somewhat like the limited proposal President Obama pushed but the GOP US House long resisted?  Whatever the case, why did the economy crash and burn Mike and Del?  Might it have something to do with unfettered capitalism and the deregulation fetish that makes up the current GOP?  We've had three plus decades of neo-liberalism and you yahoos want to just try more of the same?  And y'all will create yet one more give away for business via the young men and women that Cheney, Rumsfeld, Feith, and ... sent on their misadventures? Bless their hearts! 
Making Workforce Development Work for the Unemployed 
* Thousands of unemployed Alabamians are able – but not trained – to enter into available good-paying skilled-labor jobs, such as construction, welding, plumbing and machine maintenance.
* We will make the necessary investments that afford our two-year college system the resources they need to meet Alabama’s jobless with Alabama jobs.
* It would also offer veterans a $1500 tax credit for starting their own business.
Investing in education?  Shut the front door!  In Alabama, we know better.  And we've a deficiency as to this sort of training?  Huh?  Something I read suggested Hubbard and Marsh wanted businesses to pretty much be able to dictate what technical training programs are offered by Alabama's community colleges.  That's fine I suppose up to a point but why not just fully pull down the facade of education simply for education's sake.  Worker bees do I guess need to be capable but again I'm guessing the most important trait your people want is that they'll work cheap and mind their place.
Alabama Regulatory Flexibility Act
* The Alabama Regulatory Flexibility Act would require each state agency to prepare an economic impact analysis as well as a regulatory flexibility analysis prior to the adoption of any proposed regulation that may have an adverse impact on small businesses.
Here's the serious meat for Representative Hubbard and Speaker Marsh.  If there's anything Alabama needs, it can't be less regulation.   And how might "small business" be defined?  We've already a state where industry and agriculture are among the biggest of the Big Mules.  Alabama has ADEM arguably fully captured by the agencies they supposedly control.   Y'all might as well say "We don't need no stinking regulation!"  Protections for citizens and consumers as to pollution, financial dealings, safety, ... are loathed by the interests Mike Hubbard and Del Marsh serve. 
Legislation Establishing a Small Business Financing Authority 
* One of the top inhibitors small business development and growth is access to capital. Loans are increasingly difficult to come by even for good candidates with solid business plans.
* A key recommendation of the Speaker’s Commission on Job Creation, this authority would assist small businesses with financing issues by making direct loans, helping small businesses attract more banking partners, and meeting a variety of credit-related needs.
* Other states have created small business financing authorities.  In Virginia, for example, the return on investment has been $5.81 for every state dollar loaned to a small business. Using that calculation, a one-time appropriation of $5 million would allow the state to assist more than 200 small businesses and generate $35 million in private equity and credit in the first year the loans are made.
Lord have mercy! And these are the ideologues who tell us repeatedly that the free market should just be loosened and all sorts of wonderful results will follow?  And again, what was it that killed many lending options for our small businesses?  Might it have been policies that favored Wall Street speculators and the investor class over the interests of Main Street?  Really, tell us Cons!  Y'all can't run from history and yet these ideologues just keep on pushing their ideology.  After all, for the true believers, conservatism never fails but it can only be failed.  They want to make it more pure and push on with the facts be damned.  A related fact would be that big banks and big biz are sitting on tons of cash.  The GOP has relied so long on supply side voodoo economics that they've forgotten demand perhaps.
Creation the Alabama Sales, Use, and Lease Tax Simplification Task Force 
* The Alabama Sales, Use and Lease Tax Simplification Task Force would be a twenty-member panel required to study the issue of streamlining and simplifying the administration and remittance of sales, use and lease taxes.
Bet you a beer that this panel will not touch Alabama taxing our poor more than any other state. And taxing food, fuhgetaboutit!  News just today revealed the same pattern of soaking the least among us for the thousandth time in just my lifetime.  No worries as to simplification I suppose but I bet that goes to more than just the biz whiz crowd interfacing with various state and local governments.

As for the summary, we already have big money landing some serious favor from what Alabama already does.  What Representative Hubbard and Senator Marsh want to do is just add to the long established pattern that so called "Business Progressives" have long worshiped.  Let's just fall in line with whatever business interests want and the rest will work out is I guess what the bosses have long wanted for Alabama.  Then again, it might just be that these two politicians are selling us a load of spit.  Truly, truly to favor business interests has long been the label applied to the GOP.  To wrap what they want to do for those who've brought them to the dance and call the tunes in some sort of "jobs agenda" is arguably as fine a selling setup as I've witnessed.  Respectfully, john gunn

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mercy Me Miss Martha!

I know Rep. Roby just arrived in D.C. yet she’s shilling the same slop in her Dothan Eagle column of 21 March 2011 that Conservatives (hereinafter Cons) always do. Over the past three decades, we’ve seen debt spiral out of control except for one brief period when the Centrist Clinton occupied the White House.  Predictions of gloom and doom from modest tax increases and frankly rather limited investments in our citizenry of course proved false.

Our current mess was caused by Wall Street financiers being allowed to run wild in a deregulated climate where bizarre derivatives and such made some folks obscenely wealthy. Main Street bailed Wall Street out, a rather bipartisan decision as Corporatists in “my” party went along with the deal, and even now the Cons are beating back ever so trivial reforms to reel in the banksters. Following Bu$hCo’s two wars largely off the books, tax cuts geared toward the economic elite, and a global economic meltdown I’d suppose we do have a load of debt Rep. Roby.

Please notice the partisan tone of Rep. Roby’s submission. “... all the damage done in the last two years.”  Are you kidding me?  Do you wish to insult your constituents’ intelligence? For example, didn’t the GOP pass Medicare Part D with it being absolutely unfunded and clearly a give away to Big Pharma? I understand Rep. Roby wasn’t there but she’s plenty smart enough to know its history.

The issue now is whether the austerity state is the proper course. Keynesian theory is that government spending can help settle the storm.  The dreadfully inadequate stimulus perhaps helped some. Further, all but the most obtuse know it helped prop up Alabama for a couple of years. Rep. Roby offered, “The threat of new taxes and regulations is keeping small businesses from investing and creating jobs.” The record of job creation in the prior administration was the poorest in our history wasn’t it?  There were “tax cuts” (especially for the swells) and Lord knows Bu$hCo wasn’t into enforcing regulation. So wouldn’t it stand to reason that there should have been a boom if Rep. Roby’s logic is applied? 

Whoa!  Huh? Rep. Roby truly want to STOP regulating small business and farmers?  Seems like a rather dangerous step to me as to safety for consumers, workers, the environment, etc.  I also wonder if her audience with the Alabama Farmers Federation covered the issue of agricultural subsidies.  The Environmental Working Group reveals Rep. Roby’s district has received $984,083,606 in subsidies from 1995-2009.  Might this be where we could start cutting?

I don’t know what “conservative values” means to Rep. Roby.  Having the government intruding by imposing pesky regulations where we could be harmed absent the same is bad but having it meddle in a person’s private sexual life and relationship choices that do us no harm is good? DOMA is so old that it was passed under the leadership of serial adulterer Newt Gingrich!  And the courts have often ruled on issues relating to equal protection under the law as relates to same-sex couples ever since. The actual decision of DOJ to stop defending DOMA was a reasoned one given the current law and the move toward equality.  I trust then Ms. Roby was just as offended when Bu$hCo ignored FISA and our 4th Amendment in intercepting communications of ordinary citizens.  That he and his lied about this gross violation of our civil liberties until caught I would hope would be a problem even for the 2nd CD’s new occupant.  Then again, the new administration isn’t much better on these sorts of privacy issues.

In closing, Rep. Roby wrote, “It is my honor to represent the many military men and women serving and stationed throughout our Second Congressional District.”  I trust she is aware that these folks won’t get paid if the ideologues in her party manage to shut down the government. 

Just my thoughts as an individual appear above. Respectfully, John Gunn

Monday, February 28, 2011

On the eve of destruction?

All eyes back home, save perhaps the ones belonging to those who've given up or never knew enough to understand the way this benighted state works, a population that's rather large in Alabama I'd argue, turn to Goat Hill this week. What is different this time is there is total domination by the GOP down in Montgomery. Factionalism within their ranks, which George Talbot recently covered, plus the fact that plenty of alleged Democratic "leaders" of the past were rather right leaning, hardly unified, or even marginally competent, notwithstanding, the new team in charge merits watching very closely.

So we turn to the print media at least in part to do the watching. Coverage of the upcoming session and the personalities involved was truly bountiful in papers across Alabama yesterday and recently. So perhaps the time is right to jump back into blogging. Thoughts? No promises of regular content, or even to fix my outdated links to the left, yet my labors for Uncle Sam may come to end a little earlier than the term I signed up for. Therefore, I might have a little more freedom and a whole lot more time to do the hard work required to craft a tolerable post. Here, and I'm rather rusty please note, goes ...

In the Montgomery Advertiser, Sebastian Kitchen shared "A new look: State GOP leaders have new priorities" where the following appears:
"Priorities for the new Republican leadership in the Legislature are varied: balance budgets, fight illegal immigra­tion, push for charter schools, promote state's rights and help small business. "Any bill that doesn't create a job takes a step backwards in terms of im­portance," said Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn."
Creating jobs is the role of gov't? While that is just fine I suppose up to a point, I thought the Conservatives. hereinafter known as the Cons, thought only their magic market, what drives blessed free enterprise, could create anything of worth.
"(Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston Marsh) expects the Republican-controlled Legislature to pass a measure that allows charter schools or vouchers, or offers some alternative to address shortcom­ings in education in the state, in­cluding the dropout rate."
Bring market forces and profit motives to public education! Shortcomings? Would this flow from all that we've been told about from a good three decades of messaging about what ails our schools?  Truly the right and increasingly centrist sorts (looking at you Obama Education Secretary Arne Duncan) are front and center in the debate.  Millionaires like Bill Gates and the Walton (Wal-Mart) family have their foundations hiring "scholars" while generating "research" and positive press but they still require politicians like Del Marsh to make changes happen. 

The charter school legislation proposed last term was such that non-qualified teachers could be a significant part of a faculty and profiteers could get a piece of the action.  They hide the legislation until the last minute and put a whole bevy of operatives to work trying to make the plan law. That charter schools don't generate better results and have plenty of questions is largely irrelevant.

Vouchers?  Would that include for religious schools Mr. Marsh?  Constitutionally suspect, vouchers would also Balkanize all too many communities. 
"Hubbard said immigration leg­islation modeled after Arizona, which "has been tested in court," would likely be introduced this ses­sion. He said the legislation would "really give police the authority to do their jobs" and that Republicans do not want legislation that would be punitive toward employers."
I thought our law enforcement personnel were there to enforce our laws. Isn't than enough?  That they exempt employers from any responsibility reveals enough for me. That they'll absolve those drawing those lacking proper papers to our state says much about the motivation of the Alabama legislature. If they were serious about this issue they'd be willing to pop those hiring this cheap, docile labor.
"For states to have success pushing off federal government control, a large group of states has to stand up and say, 'Hey, this is not acceptable,'" Marsh said."
Doesn't Alabama reap much more from the federal government than we pay in? And we, like most states, have kept the ship of state afloat lately due to help from Uncle Sam.
"In their "Handshake," Republi­cans said they want to expand the small business health insurance credit from 150 percent to 200 per­cent of the amount that employers and employees pay for coverage premiums. (Sen. Brian Taylor, R-Pratville) hopes to sponsor a Sen­ate version of the bill that would in­crease the tax deduction for businesses. Passing the measure would free up money for small businesses to hire more employees, Taylor said.  He said a hardware store owner in his district told him that the de­duction kept her from being in a higher tax bracket. Taylor said that was thousands of dollars that could be reinvested in the business."
Hold on counselor! Aren't we talking about a marginal rate? If only her earning above a certain point were subject to a higher percentage of taxes, I suppose your hardware store owner was making some serious bank. And would she necessarily use her gains to reinvest in her business? Might she now blow it as easily as put it into hiring? Perhaps I'm reading more into what Senator Taylor is suggesting as if it is merely incentives he references then perhaps his example works. Then again, health care is surely also a national issue and one that could likely be best handled with I'd argue a single-payer system or at least a robust public option. What these incentives arguably do is let Blue Cross-Blue Shield and such bank more and more profits on the taxpayers' backs.

In the B'ham News, Kim Chandler provides "Alabama Legislature: Pro-business agenda predicted by Senate pro tem Del Marsh" where some history seems relevant.
"I've always loved business, and that is truly what I prefer to do," said Marsh, R-Anniston.  The 54-year-old said that changed in the mid-1990s, when he became concerned by what perceived as an anti-business climate of lawsuits and government regulation.

When the Alabama Legislature convenes March 1, creating a pro-business climate will be front and center on the agenda of the new Republican majority. Marsh takes the helm of a Senate with a supermajority of Republicans that, if they stick together, have the ability to pass bills at will.

"In this climate that we have, and so many people unemployed, we want to do anything that we can to create a better atmosphere for business and create jobs," Marsh said. "It is going to be a very pro-business agenda. Anything we think that can help create a job, that is what we are going to concentrate on." 
While a "pro-business" agenda is hardly new for Alabama, as it has dominated for decades, I still can't fathom how these Cons think that government can create jobs.  It's a fundamental talking point that government 'aint worth a damn. I can, however, accept that they, as illustrated by Senator Marsh's experiences, believe that regulations from environmental protections to labor rights hinder profit taking.  As for his focus on lawsuits, I have to turn to today's opinion piece from the Montgomery Advertiser's Josh Moon shouldn't be overlooked. "Alabama Supreme Court serving as a safety net for big business" where he wrote:
"No matter the screwup, no matter the negligent, borderline criminal acts committed by big business, the state's highest court has acted as quite the magician's top hat the last few years -- making big problems and big verdicts simply vanish. And it's using some awfully flimsy excuses to pull off its tricks."
Truly the money the Business Council and others have poured into our incredibly partisan and expensive appellate court races has paid off.


The Anniston Star's Tim Lockette serves up "Del Marsh ready to turn business principles loose in political arena" as yet another look into who'll be largely in charge.
"Today, Marsh’s engineers toil in glass-walled offices, designing repairs, while workers on a brightly lit factory floor fix valves and fittings. The hallways of Aerospace Coatings International are lined with the flags of the dozens of countries where Marsh does business. 
It’s the kind of global, high-tech business people expect to find in Seattle or Silicon Valley, not in Alabama. To Marsh, it’s a success story that needs to be replicated across the state. 
"We’re in a world economy," he said. "I think the state is well aware of the opportunity to prosper in this economy. We’ve seen Thyssen-Krupp, Honda, Hyundai and Mercedes choose Alabama. We understand that we need to think internationally."
Thinking internationally is I suppose part of the mix today and yet each and every one of the examples cited by Senator March involved massive tax breaks and subsidies to profitable multi-nationals.  And how his impressive effort can be easily replicated is a mystery to me. Then again, I can't afford a 3200 acre island and a hunting lodge on the Mississippi. Obviously Del Marsh is a superior soul to me.  As to his international work, would some of that be outsourcing jobs to places where wages are cheap and regulations scarce? 
"But while Marsh says he’d be fine with cutting all arts funding, that cut isn’t likely to amount to a lot of cash. He’s more hopeful about cutting waste with his plan to merge state agencies.
Asked whether that would cost jobs, he said it might indeed. Marsh hopes to make up for that loss with jobs in the private sector — small-business jobs he expects to generate by cutting back on bureaucratic red tape. He cites the example of a local locksmith who called him, upset that the state licensing board requires him to take continuing education courses and pay a fee.
"Special interests want to eliminate competition, so they create these boards to regulate their industries," Marsh said."
This bureaucratic red tape seems like a pipe dream to me. I understand it is Con gospel that regulation harms yet his example of a locksmith being required to stay on top of evolving technology seems hardly too much to expect. That the arts are not worthy of support is no surprise and yet I'd want to know what mergers Senator Marsh proposes. How already tapped out state agencies can consolidate services seems rather the stretch. I guess the Troopers could do health inspections as well.  And Mental Health is easy enough where pretty much anyone can handle that work.

Also in the Star is editor-at-large John Flemming with "Republican Speaker Hubbard is all business" with 
"For Hubbard, the budget challenges ahead are about shrinking state government and making what is left of it more like private business.  Business as government naturally is where Hubbard drifts to, because he knows how to run one, and he’s good at it. The mantra, “the private sector does not tolerate waste, therefore, why should the state?” is not vacuous to him. Efficiency and maximizing profits are what he thinks about when he runs his multi-million-dollar Auburn-based media companies."
As private business is about returns on investment measured in relatively immediate returns, I am not so certain it ought to be the model for government.  Like millionaire Marsh, Mike Hubbard has hit the jackpot. However, Mike Hubbard has done this via his connections with public education.  His folks were both government employees. Yet he's an ideologue.  He promised he'd be a short term citizen legislator when he ran for office and yet he's now prepared to run for governor?  The stable of right wing talkers he transmits via his WANI-AM 1400 is also worthy of noting. 
"And for Hubbard’s approach to that reality, he takes issue with the suggestion that the opportunity for change he sees ahead is somehow ideologically driven."
However, the Charles J. Dean piece in the B'ham News titled "Mike Hubbard plans reign as Alabama House speaker without apologies" as well. In this piece we find:
"Rep. Arthur Payne, R-Trussville, does not hide it that he thinks Hubbard is largely responsible for making the Legislature a far more partisan place. "Mike sees everything through partisan glasses and I hope he can put that aside as he moves into the speaker's job, because as speaker you need to be someone who brings sides together," Payne said."
Dana Beyerle, an experienced regional New York Times reporter, appears in the Tuscaloosa News twice. His "Leftover issues await new GOP majority" is where we'll start.
"Along with that support for small businesses, union issues will be addressed. “We will fight to ensure that Alabama remains a right-to-work state in order to keep employment costs low and demand legislation that protects the right to a secret ballot in union elections so that no worker may be harassed or intimidated for voting his or her heart and conscience,” the ‘Handshake’ paper said."
That any of these masters of the universe would want the working class to be able to get ahead by having employment costs that weren't "low" should be no surprise. I also trust their concerns about worker intimidation do not extend to what the bosses might do to the serfs when a union vote is pending.  Workers being fired or disciplined by management for union organizing is something that never happens in Mike's mind.
"Other issues will include ... thwarting unpopular federal mandates like cap and trade and ... The ‘Handshake’ also includes prohibiting the federal government from requiring mandatory health insurance."
Lord have mercy! Cap and trade is of course a market-oriented solution forwarded by those on the right to address concerns over climate change that most on the right wrongly reject.  And the idea of avoiding "free riders" who don't exercise personal responsibility in having health insurance was straight out of the conservative think tanks.


Beyerle's "Legislators to try to slash state budgets" contains:
"On Wednesday, the House Education Appropriations Committee has scheduled a public hearing on a bill to establish benefit liability funds and create an Education Trust Fund rolling reserve. The new system would take the average of 15 years of education tax receipts and base future funding on the averages."
That this insurance will cost almost $10 million in tough times I suppose didn't make the cut. Using money we don't have to damage AEA seems like it ought to outrage folks but I suppose we'll have to wait and see. I did like that the following did appear:
"Proposed cuts are the result of reductions in state revenues caused by the economy and loss of billions of dollars of federal stimulus money spent over the past three years."
Yup. The economy was wrecked from unfettered capitalism and we've now the reality that Uncle Sam is not going to save our hides. But let's put the team which loves the first and loathes the latter in charge.

The following also appeared:
"Athens State University government professor Jess Brown said hot budget items will be reducing paid state holidays, which Bentley already said there are too many of, eliminating DROP, a restructuring of the entire retirement system to possibly move from fixed benefits to 401Ks, and increasing the number of years required for state retirement from 25 to 30."
Darn the defined compensation pension plan says the ideologues. Those 401Ks are working out so well. I assume that bumping the retirement age up and handing profiteers public employee retirement funds will apply only to new hires. Any savings would be way, way down the road.

A few days ago Beyerle reported "BOE seeks easier way to fire poor teachers."
"The state school board approved a 2011 legislative agenda Thursday that includes amending the Fair Dismissal Act for public education employees, an action that will be opposed by the powerful Alabama Education Association. The board resolution calls for shortening and simplifying the process for firing poorly performing teachers, but it does not say specifically how to amend the law to accomplish that. State board vice president Randy McKinney said dismissing ineffective teachers is too hard and expensive under current law. The average arbitrated Fair Dismissal case takes 221 days to complete, according to the Alabama Association of School Boards. The cost is directly related to the time it takes to handle a case, primarily because of the legal expenses."
I'd surely love to see the legislation.  While I can accept that slight reforms could be acceptable, I also can perceive risks in changing tenure protections. The rationale for tenure is of course to make it difficult for scheming political appointees and their minions to hire and fire.  Also, educators need the freedom to speak plainly as they confront the increasingly business oriented views consuming the practice of teaching.  Making it all the easier to silence those voices scares me and I expect thrills the Cons.

Last Friday, Bob Lowery of the Huntsville Times "Republican, Democratic senators offer different plans to alter Alabama's 1901 constitution" where the whole "raise your taxes" fears and such are covered.

Alabama's most Conservative of the Newhouse Triad offers up an editorial titled "Discipline vs. denial in the legislative session" with
"The good news is that Alabama, a “right-to-work” state, isn’t likely to experience the same fierce battles seen in Midwest states like Wisconsin, where Democratic senators literally headed for the border in protest rather than vote on measures that would affect state workers’ unions."
The whole "right to work" angle is celebrated.  However, we surely enjoy rights the unions delivered.  Weekends, child labor restrictions, workplace safety, the forty hour work week, ... are all part of what unions have accomplished.  They remain a way to balance out the power relationship where the bosses aren't always eager to give a fair day's wage for a fair day's work.  They also provide ways to increase the professionalism of a workforce.  To laud the ability of some folks to have a free ride in a union shop seems a stretch for me.

The Anniston Star's Editorial Board gives us "Goat Hill's many missions" which
"First-year Gov. Robert Bentley is new to his office, a political longshot now sitting in former Gov. Bob Riley’s chair, but already he has set the stage for what’s to come. “Cut,” he says, emphatically. The Legislature, friendly to a fellow GOPer, is sure to follow that directive with zeal. That’s the gloomy part. But on a grander scale, our wish is for the 2011 session to be more than a byproduct of the obvious. Our wish is for this historic, Republican-controlled Legislature to become a chef of healthy, good-tasting laws that give Alabama the nutrients it needs: jobs, industries, educational advancements and a heightened concern for the impoverished and the young."
Hope springs eternal as well for me.  But I'm nervous too.  However, the following idea they have certainly ought to be considered:
DO REQUIRE LEGISLATORS TO PASS THE HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION EXAM IN HISTORY, GOVERNMENT AND ECONOMICS.No, this isn’t a joke. We’ve often wondered if legislators truly understand the basic tenets of civics, finance and state history. Now that they’re elected, it would be good to know the truth. Teachers are held accountable. Students are held accountable. Why not legislators?
We'd likely cull out several of the Goat Hill gang with this one.  It would cut across parties and regions I suspect. More to follow as I'm able.  There will likely be several updates and corrections as I'm posting this before darting off to work.  John Gunn