Seize the Bonuses

After the massive Trump Tax Cut Cut Cut Cuts, a headline from the print edition of the pro-business Chicago Tribune  crowed the other day, “Workers Pleased with Big Bonuses.” Personally, last year I received two bonus checks. Neither of which sufficed for anything but a little extra survival money, but still… nice, right? On the overall, I was pleased with the bonuses. Who would be upset to learn they got a few extra hundred dollars lining their pockets, especially if their bank account isn’t big enough to hurdle the minimums at Bank of America?

The sweets bakery Hostess–after several layoffs and a-bottom-barrel-chase restructure to Mexico which slashed its US workforce by 6/7ths–gave  a one-time surplus of up to $1,250; 500 in the form of retirement funds, of course. Employees are also gifted with some Twinkies, I guess. Other generous companies giving $1K bonuses include BoA, Starbucks (which now lets its sick employees take the day off instead of infecting your Unicorn Frappes), American Airlines, AT&T, and Home Depot. (Is it conspiratorial to suggest that the Trump administration pushed for these bonuses as a way of storing up good favor with the Working Class for the tax cuts? No, not really.)

These are good companies, right? I can no longer call them Evil Corporations if they’re so nice, right? And we should be pleased.

Nah. Freak this ploy. We deserve so much more.

Recall that the only way Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, the Waltons, the Kochs, the Gates, the Carnegies, the Prince/DeVos’s, and the Trumps can get so goddamned rich is from extracting excess labor from workers and from the commodification of the public goods through exploitation. Through colonialism and worker exploitation. Add in the fact that the capitalists and their corporations are tremendously under-taxed despite the fact that the largest government expenses go to cover their needs. These expenses include the costs for a super-military needed for material extraction, market conquering, and other imperialist purposes;  for an infrastructure that makes doing Free Market business possible (and we see upfront evidence of this in how the new infrastructure plan will directly benefit the most wealthy); and for a welfare structure that, while presently being gutted as much as possible, is necessary so that the capitalist system can  afford to underpay their workers (cf, Bezos’s Amazon and the Waltons’ Walmart).

The deregulation of the welfare system, the dismantling of union power, and the privatization of the public sector under the post-Cold War Neoliberalism led by Thatcher, Reagan, the Bushes, Blair, the Clintons, and Obama has led to a stagnation in wages. Part of this stagnation in wages is due not only to a loss of gains in minimum wage, but also due to the reliance of benefits packages. This is where employers get to gloat over what the state should guarantee. Essentials such as sick time, maternity leave, retirement funding, and health insurance function as deterrents to raising wages, as funnels for tax support, as anchors to keep workers from considering leaving on their own terms, and as excessive points of contention for union negotiations. If the union is too busy hammering out deals for insurance, it loses leverage fighting for fairer hours, cash raises, and safer working conditions.

Of course, the package is altogether missing in the Gig Economy. Whether driving for Lyft, freelance writing, or teaching as an adjunct, so-called independent agents not only have no working rights, their wages are still depressed. So setting up full-time employment as the means towards these necessities rather than the state means that an increasing component of the working American society does not even have access to these bare necessities. That’s even if they have enough money to survive every month’s living and transportation expenses with a little left over for emergencies.

But the benefits package also serves another important function for these stank-dirty corporations: To make you feel grateful. Even if the feeling doesn’t last or necessarily conscious, it’s still a factor. And that factor increases when we consider these seemingly random or regularly-occurring gifts. They are presented to us as something above and beyond what we earned. And when you get a gift–whether it be coffee and doughnuts or cash bonuses–you instinctively feel you should return the favor.

But that’s just it, right? You’ve already earned much more than those doughnuts are worth. That cash bonus is but a mere fraction of the profit you’ve made for that company in the past few months, above your wages and other benefits.

You’ve been cheated out of tens of thousands of dollars every year, but yet you’re made to feel that your bosses are generous with your own money? That generosity emotionally tethers you to companies and bosses who exploit you, steal your labor, give you meaningless cog work, put you to work before you clock in and after you clock out, block you from organizing, and deny you workplace safety and rights as often as they can. But we should feel grateful for a $500 check once a decade or so. Right.

Add to this the fact that the tax breaks enriching these corporations by billions of dollars are also coming out of your pocket! Not just in the form of increased taxes (which will happen soon) but also in the face of a decreased welfare state and an increased bourgeois military state. A military that protects corporate interests does not protect the people, and the US military has always been about that corporate interest. The Department of Defense is functionally a publicly-funded private paramilitary.

In every conceivable way imaginable, the working class is paying the expenses for the Bezos’s of the world. Maybe we should be mad that we’re getting these crumbs.

Tweet from Representative Paul Ryan, Idiot. In it, he quotes from a story about the bonuses: “I have heard time and again that the middle class is getting crumbs, but I’ll take it.”

Seize the means and settle for nothing less.


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Suppression, Revolution, and Commodification: On Baby Boomers and Millennials

The ongoing flame wars between Greedy Baby Boomers and Entitled Millennials is not only  tiring (its roots lay some 25 years ago when mainstream media dubbed us Gen X’ers “Slackers”), it lacks deeper analysis in need of some old fashioned dialectical materialism. Because the problem isn’t so much the people, but the conditions.

Let’s start with the coming-of-age of Boomers. The Post-War years brought along unheralded prosperity due in no small part to added productivity in the global economy (what with the US sitting out most of this war between Empires only to clean out on top at the tail end) and a large swath of the population missing. Semi-skilled labor, due to the work or threats of unionization, finally delivered living wages and a level of comfort unknown for the Working Class. Or, shall we say, the White Working Class, as Black and other non-White populations were denied entrance to many of the mechanizations of prosperity–such as drastically increased wages, accessible higher education, and the expansion of home ownership in the sprawling suburbs. The fact that the suburbs were sprawling and that home ownership there was so available was the work of a federal government once again expanding the terms of settler-colonialism through the mechanisms of the nation-state including reduced fuel prices and expanded interstate projects coupled with a new form of Homestead Act.

The benefits of the White Working Class mediated a distinction brought about by commerce and the bourgeois government that would lead to the creation of a large and placated White Middle Class to buffer against dispirited Working Class people. Higher social mobility through the GI Bill coupled with geometric mobility, allowing a large White Flight from the urban areas, where the new White Middle Class and industries were able to transport wealth gotten through wage theft of the working class Black and White people of the city. The same remnant working class people were stagnated in urban ghettos such as, in Chicago, Uptown or Bronzeville. Meanwhile, higher-paid White WC and Black Entrepreneurs moved to their own racially and class-segregated neighborhoods to act as yet another buffer. Because White Supremacist Capitalism thrives on buffers and interruptions. And so it’s important to note that any critique of the Baby Boomer generation as a whole is woefully inadequate, as it misses many of those purposefully left behind in this new ecology.

This social and capital mobilization was imprinted for the benefit of welcoming a White Baby Boom for the manufacturing and consumption of consumptive goods, the bread and butter of American capitalism. The rising Middle Class Baby Boomers were raised in this atmosphere, but globally and locally something else was happening: revolution was in the air. While many people give White hippies (the children of the rising White Middle Class in the US) credit for the burgeoning revolutionary spirit of the 1960’s, the reductionism is particularly nationalistic and racist. Revolutions against imperialist capitalism were happening throughout the under-developed world and were finally coming to a head in the 1950’s. Whether China, Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, or India and the entirety of the European colonized in Africa, people of color throughout the world were unshackling themselves from Western hegemony, often at great cost. The Washington, Belgian, and corporate influence could be felt at the peak of the bullet and bomb through Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Black America in the US South and Urban North. Other formerly-colonized began to rise up and stand their ground, including the Chicano and American Indian Movements while women (famously-but-not-solely White women in the US) were simultaneously struggling for social, economic, and sexual liberation (as all three are interconnected).

It was in this frame of the liberatory organizing of the Black and Brown proletariat that the occasional White ally would arise and, due to the power of Whiteness, would somehow amass a substantial amount of the credit. While not in the same vein as the FBI taking credit for dismantling lynching White Supremacist vigilante groups during the Civil Rights Movement, it’s clear that dues owed White allies such as the Weathermen during this time may be overrepresented.

Yet, the rise of radicalism in White Middle Class Baby Boomers was an effect of the times that were a-changing. Being White and affluent, they had more direct influence and it was harder to ignore these would-be class-and-race-traitors (in the most complimentary of tones). The way they would be silenced would be different from the silencing of Black and Brown radicals throughout the world and domestically. Key leaders of the Black civil rights, anti-war, and liberation movements were assassinated and the movements as a whole underwent severe repression on all fronts that the full lethal force of the federal and local police (and aiding vigilantes) and judicial system as well as economic depression, psychological and social warfare. It’s increasingly easy to argue that they had a hand in flooding our neighborhoods with illicit drugs and guns (while maintaining .the strict prison industry that severely punishes Black and Brown communities for obtaining or holding such).

The White Middle Class retreated back to the life they were raised to occupy, to take over the mechanizations of industry. To further expand the unsustainable economic growth they sought, they helped to usher in Ronald Reagan’s Neoliberal state (aka, the Final Stage of Capitalism).  They commodified public works and turned stable and previously accessible goods into get-rich schemes. They dismantled the welfare state, the collective organizing, and the infrastructure which had enabled their transition into the comfortable Middle Class. They also helped to dismantle Affirmative Action which had temporarily expanded a Black Middle Class.

So this exponential growth necessitated the dismantling of the means to that growth. Once the capitalist class established enough buffers and re-stole all the wealth they could (in a time of tremendous economic growth, the top ten percent came away with 99% of it, leaving the working and middle class with one percent) while exponentially increasing the cost of living.  The very stolen wealth has become its own buffer. And the Petty Bourgeois White Baby Boomers, who have already entered into a comfortable retirement, seem blissfully unaware that the next generation faces the void of the disparity between the standards of living of the Baby Boomer generation and the cost of living in the new millennium.

You see, a dialectical materialism will tell you that it’s not Boomers or Millennials you should be angry with, it’s Capitalism and Whiteness.

Affirmative Gutting

Four initial thoughts on the efforts of the Jeff Sessions-led Justice Department to end collegiate Affirmative Action practices:

1) I know that liberals spent the last few weeks defending Sessions from getting fired by Donald J. Megalomaniac in order to defend both the ongoing Russian investigation and, probably more centrally, some sense of order and precedence in the White House cabinet. True, perhaps we’ll get further on the Russia investigation with Sessions protecting Mueller, et al, then we would if the AG post became a revolving door. And maybe, after a while, the trade off will be worth it just to see Trump packing his bags and the GOP panicking. But the way that Sessions acts while at the head of the single most powerful policing and legal agency in the world doesn’t give me any hope that any investigation into Trump will stand anyway, let alone that anything of value will come about from it. Furthermore, any chance for any procedural decorum is clearly out the window in Mar-A-Lago & McConnell’s stints. Democrats wasted opportunities to blow through filibusters when Obama was in office thinking they could use the procedure when they become the minority power, and to what end? Perhaps we’d be better off with no Attorney General than to stick with Jeff Klansmans.

2) Remember that Trump, like Bushie before him, is a legacy child. Affirmative Action doesn’t mean shit to people who’ve been born into wealth, into connections, into the racist family business. If Affirmative Action is truly a threat to the Myth of Meritocracy, then why are these legacies and inheritances not? Could it be that the Meritocratic Myth is simply a manifestation of and protectorate of White Supremacy and Capitalism? Maybe it’s time to acknowledge that property and trust funds should not be handed down to children of wealthy people; the kids didn’t earn that. They should go out into the world with a clean slate like the rest of us poor suckers and make their own way. Maybe, in fact, we should begin this process at birth. Since over one-fifth of all children live in poverty in the United States, it’s not fair that Barron Trump got to shit in gold lame diapers while 400,000 innocent children are placed in foster homes. Send him to the streets to earn his keep!

3) In the post Black Wall St era, the best hope for build-up for Black and Latinx wealth has been through AA programs–not just in college acceptance but in hiring. But then those programs began to be gutted under Reagan and both Bushes, particularly under their judges, and Black wealth subsided. The Republican administrations and legislators also worked to kill federal unions, where the Black middle class was rising. The demolition of welfare under Republican and neoliberal Democratic administrations then took the bottom out of poverty. In fact, this notion that somehow Trump is a different breed of Republican is fully repulsive. He and his are merely trying to finish what their heroes got primed. He’s following the business ethos that Reagan and Thatcher pushed to its logical conclusion: Always Be Closing.

4) If anything, this final swig at Affirmative Action demonstrates we need full-on socialism and reparations anyway. Universal preschools and daycare, guaranteed income, an infrastructure that reaches to the working and permanent underclass, abolition of debt and prisons… It’d also be nice if we can stop relying on prestigious college education to be the determiner of worth.

Capitalism and Charity

Socialism is about the worker being paid justly for his or her work. That’s the gist of socialism.

Why do American Christians have such a hard time with this notion? We tend to revel in capitalism as if it were not intrinsically sinful – paying into and glorifying a system that is energized by, fueled by, and kept in motion by greed and avarice.

How capitalism works is essentially taking “surplus” (the gains gotten from reducing wages given to workers) and storing it towards upper management (that being a generous term) and investors. This process creates a need to go back and give charity towards those who are not paid properly in the first place.

And that charity comes with strings and conditions. And the charity is extremely limited, rather arbitrary, and only supplies little of the need created by the lack of power and access to resources created by the injustice of the capitalist system in the first place.

MN: Coleman "No Bandage Solutions!" to Health Care Crisis
1000s of signatures from MN residents urging Coleman to stop offering bandage solutions to the health care crisis 

We don’t need more charity. Charity is a band aid for a crisis of the bludgeoning. We need to stop the bleeding at the source. We need to end the cycles of violence. 

We need justice.

Reposted from CommiePinkosWroteMyBible

You’re My Brother, You’re My Sister

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 
Galatians 3:28 (NIV)

When did the all-guiding, moral-making Free Market work?

In 1492, when Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue and found himself what he thought were Indians? And enslaved them in efforts to find gold? And worked them to death until the population was a few percentage points what it was before?

Or when Cortes and his crew of marauders scampered through the Americas, wholesale slaughtering anyone who stood in his way of finding vast resources of gold, which would economically enrich his burgeoning capitalist country?

Or when the intercontinental slave trade was in full swing? It must have been then, because it brought tremendous ROI’s to the traders, despite the fact that they lost a third of their “goods” on the sea route.

Or when the tribes and societies in eastern Africa captured and sold slaves from deeper within the continent?#

Or when the pious New Englanders made some pretty bucks using their ships for the trade? They were also beneficiaries of the capitalist system of chattel slavery. The free market seemed to work wonders for them…

Or when those working for Nike, Apple, WalMart, Target, or any number of fine contemporary capitalist corporations that are raking in billions of dollars are paid a couple dollars a day (if that) while chained to their desks?

Capitalism didn’t start with Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. It started with Machiavelli’s The Prince. The idea that to build and accumulate wealth through competition through any means was now accepted as a virtue.

This is not to say that communism – as practiced by states – is the solution or so much better. In efforts to throw off serfdom and capitalist systems of oligarchy and oppression, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro and others have turned to excessively violent force – sometimes committing outright genocide themselves, killing millions. And repressing, as authoritarians make their practice, any form of dissent by expulsion, criminalization,

This is also not to say that capitalism doesn’t work. Obviously, it’s worked quite well for a lot of people over time. And it may be argued that it’s benefited the vast majority of individuals in both the US and the world.

But I don’t buy that. Capitalism, at its core, is about the necessities of inequality. In order for it to work, some will get most, most will get some, others will get just enough to survive on – if they’re lucky. Capitalism is about the fact that we are not all equals.

And I have nothing but embarrassment for my fellow Christians who would argue that we aren’t all of equal value. That some people are worth more than others.

That kind of imperial thinking has crept deeply into the American church. And surprisingly, I see it mostly amongst contemporary Baptists. The same movement where members introduce themselves and greet others as Brother or Sister. The same meta-congregation that has refused a hierarchical institutional structure. The same one where church government tends to be a democracy within the congregational members.

This is the movement, however, in its White American incarnation, that has long had the largest association with slavery and Jim Crow. And now, in its most prominent form in the states (as the largest non-Catholic denomination), woman are not allowed to preach or share their gifts. And they are encouraged to strictly take homemaker’s courses. In seminary.

Jerry Falwell, long before his political days, used his pulpit to preach against the evils of racial integration. In doing so, Falwell was also preaching against communism. Not so much because of the gulag. Nor because of the massacres or the repressions of free worship or free speech.

But because communism fundamentally teaches that we are all equal.

To Falwell, all people are equal as souls before God. But that’s where equality ends. For him, being made in the likeness of God and being people ready for the salvation pitch (like the Africans that his church sent missionaries out to preach to and convert) did not equate, in the

To Falwell, a capitalist Christian who saw his faith as an activity of marketing, branding and broadening his reach – marking his city on a map at the beginning of his pastoralship like a salesman marks out his territory – equality is wrong because equality breaks down the art of capitalism and the structure he had learned, as a young man and the son of a businessman, to be essentially moral.

Even though it wasn’t.

And isn’t.

Ban The Teletubbies
Ban the Teletubbies – DidbyGraham on Flickr

#Note that while Africa also practiced slavery, their forms of slavery were not comparable to the European slavery in the New World. It was more like the classical slavery of ancient Greece or Mesopotamia. Which is to say it was bad, but not effing inhumane. So the Africans who who engaged in this slave trade – for personal gain – were doing something immoral for profit. But they were misled, to put it succinctly. Some argue that they wouldn’t have done it if they had an idea

Those Pinko-Commie Packers

I know it’s heresy to suggest this, but I may have to root for the Packers in February. Partly because of pride. After all, I want to be able to hang my head high and say that my team was barely beaten by the Super Bowl champions.

But more because they’re a darned good organization even though, from a financial standpoint, they’re the underdogs. Unlike baseball’s Yankees, they don’t have nearly the funds nor nearby fans to pull off all the championships and championship appearances that they have. Five Super Bowls in fifteen years. The only other comparable team in major league football is the Patriots. But they have all of New England rooting for them (much like the Red Sox, who also have immense funds from which to draw). Greater Boston alone has four and a half million people. All of Wisconsin has roughly five and a half million, with Green Bay’s Brown County clocking in at a quarter million.

Green Bay, however, owns their football team. Although their players and staff make a decent amount of money, it’s (to the shock, I’m sure, of most fans ) a socialist* enterprise.

This is the same Packers that sport the lowest median salary in the NFL at $440,520. The ousted Seattle Seahawks are at $959,200, the departed Dallas Cowboys are at $699,000, and those nasty Giants are at $724,000.

Somehow despite the small market, somehow without paying the highest salaries, somehow the Green Bay Packers will sit atop the National Football Conference Sunday night on their way to the biggest market share of the year, an appearance in the Super Bowl.

Based in a city of 100,000, the Packers are owned by 112,000 shareholders and the stock is worthless.

Packer stock has never paid a dividend, it cannot appreciate in value, and anyone who buys a share does it for sentiment, not their retirement.

It is a non-profit company.

The Green Bay Packers have won more Championships than any other NFL team and their total championships equals that of about half the league.

Packers vs. Raiders 2007photo © 2007 Chad Davis | more info (via: Wylio)
Take a good look, Timmy. They’s un-Americans….

And from David Sweet:

Though the majority of sports franchises in the United States are owned by a group of private investors, with one serving as the public face, control of the Green Bay Packers is divvied into about 4.7 million shares with no chance of anyone taking over. No person can buy more than 200,000 shares. Four stock sales have priced shares from $5 in 1923 to $200 in 1997 — the last one helped increase the capacity of Lambeau Field by 10,000 seats.

Despite their popularity, the Packers’ stock would never be touted by brokers. In 85 years, a dividend has never been paid and the stock does not appreciate in value. Shares can only be sold back to the team, and then at a fraction of the original purchase price. Who would ever assign a buy rating with that kind of historical return?

Yet shareholders would not trade their illiquid investment for anything. Who can beat the annual meeting? In 2006 and 2007, owners could gather in the summer at Lambeau Field (general admission seating) to hear about the state of the non-profit company. Concession stands were open, private boxes were toured and — even though the meeting started at 10 a.m. — Curly’s Pub didn’t close until 12 hours later. Even Warren Buffett can’t offer such amenities.

That’s some smart socialism there, buoyed by some more socialistic endeavors within the NFL. Can’t argue with success, though…

* Post-Note:
Obviously, a word like ‘socialism’ has a mighty history behind it. Many people confuse the general term with certain specifics under which it applies. When I use the term here, I’m referring to its most basic form. As Wikipedia puts it:
Socialism is an economic and political theory advocating public or common ownership and cooperative management of the means of production and allocation of resources.

Weekly Links We Like to Link to: OK, you can call this a comeback.

And yes, these articles are at least a month old! Got a lot of catching up to, kids.

I want me some bookshelves like these! And then maybe I can get me some readin’!

Tips on why Obama is not a socialist. “Obama properly belongs in a specific anti-socialist movement on the left, Social Democracy, which accepts a capitalist economy but demands a state strong enough to moderate its failures and excesses.

Why newspapers can’t be saved but the news can.”

When someone demands to know how we are going to replace newspapers, they are really demanding to be told that we are not living through a revolution. They are demanding to be told that old systems won’t break before new systems are in place. They are demanding to be told that ancient social bargains aren’t in peril, that core institutions will be spared, that new methods of spreading information will improve previous practice rather than upending it. They are demanding to be lied to. There are fewer and fewer people who can convincingly tell such a lie.

Christianity had taken root in some non-European locales that we don’t tend to associate with Christianity at all. Philip Jenkins (not the Left Behind guy, but an author who studies the movement of Christianity in non-Western world – lastly looking at the astronomic rise of conservative churches in the Global South) is interviewed about why these ancient churches died out. The answer may surprise you (well, maybe not. But it did take me under):

PJ: Churches die by force. They are killed.

CT: But what about the old saying, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church”?

PJ: That was said by Tertullian, who came from the church in North Africa, where the church vanished. If you were to look at the healthiest part of Christianity right around the year 400 or 500, you might well look at North Africa… It was the land of Augustine. Then the Arabs, the Muslims, arrive. They conquer Carthage in a.d. 698, and 100 years later—I don’t say there were no Christians there, but there certainly was only a tiny, tiny number. That church dies.