Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Fairness = Communism?

Let's return to my posting of March 29, "A Booming Economy for Some, Perhaps." Clearly, not everyone is outraged that Circuit City would lay off 8.5 percent of its workforce because it was earning too much money. In fact, a frequent reader of this blog called me a communist, employing a right-wing rhetorical tactic better suited for 1954 than for 2007, an ad-hominem desperate conservatives pull out when they can't think of anything more mature or constructive to say.

"Why don't you just pack your bags and move to a country where communism thrives?" the reader wrties.

Have you ever noticed that many right-wingers have taken it upon themselves to decide for the rest of us who is fit to live in America and who isn't? What gives them a unilateral right to decide who is a patriot and who is an America-hater? Have you ever heard a liberal demand of a conservative that he or she should leave the country? "If you right-wingers can't stand religious pluralism, then why don't you move to Iran?" "If you wingnuts are so scornful of economic justice, maybe you'd be happier in El Salvador!" We don't do that because we believe that everyone has the right to express his or her thoughts and dream his or her own vision for America. We might disagree, and we might not always be very polite about it, but never once have I heard a liberal proclaim "America: Love it or leave it."

Then I have to ask, what's so communist about demanding that average Americans who work hard and play by the rules be rewarded with a reasonable standard of living and a minimal safety net and hope for a brighter future? Is it communist to believe that corporations bear some responsibility beyond mere profit or stock price? Shouldn't companies pay employees a fair wage and benefits? Should regular folks not expect, barring hard times for the comany, continued employment and not to be thrown out into the street for making too much money while top execs feed at the hog trough? Are those really such radical demands? I'm sure J.P. Morgan or Jay Gould might have thought so, but what about the average American?

Our frequent reader, while applauding Circuit City for terminating rank-and-file employees because they earn too much, is quite adamant that CEO Phillip Schoonover earns every penny of his multimillion dollar salary (An admission: I inaccurately reported his compensation as $2.17 million. Actually, he earned $4.5 million in 2006). According to Frequent Reader, Schoonover deserves it as he allegedly must "work 80 hour weeks, take tremendous risk, and build businesses that employ other people, strengthen the economy, and pay almost all the taxes." Actually, Schoonover has only been with Circuit City since last June after hopping around from one company to another for several years. I frankly don't see how he's taking any risk, whatsoever, and if he's actually built a company from the ground up himself, I see no record of it. He could run Circuit City into the ground and walk away a millionaire, plus a cushy bonus, I'm sure.

Let's take a look at some more inspirational Horatio Alger types that Frequent Reader no doubt worships for their dedication and risk-taking and see how they did over a four-year period from 2001 to 2005 (Source: MSN.com):

-- Gary Smith. While at the helm at Ciena Corp., stocks lost 93 percent of their value. Smith's compensation: $41 million.

-- Jure Sola. His tenura at Samima-SCI was marked by shares falling 78 percent. Sola's compenstaion: $26.4 million.

-- Scott McNeely. Shareholders at Sun Microsystems lost 76 percent of their investment, but McNeely probably isn't feeling their pain. His compensation: $26 million.

-- Larry Johnston. He drove Albertson's into a shell of its of former self, but don't cry for him. Johnston's compensation: $76.2 million.

-- Peter Dolan. If you bought stocks in Bristol Myers Squibb, you're probably not happy that you lost 48 percent of your investment. But Dolan is pretty happy, I'm sure. His compensation: $41 million.

These certainly are not isolated instances. We recently saw executives at American Airlines celebrate its recent turnaround by awarding themselves $175 million in bonuses, while pilots, flight attendants and other average employees got nothing. The turnaround resulted largely from rank-and-file employees agreeing to pay cuts of 15 to 23 percent.

And I'm a communist for believing that something's wrong here?

Apparently, I'm not the only communist here. Warren Buffett, a notorious Bolshevik, and Standard and Poor, notorious for their desire to redistribute the wealth to the poor and people of color, believe that top execs should make no more than about 15 times the average employee's salary. That would put executive pay in the mid-to-high six figures, not eight or nine figures. We can look at companies where this is the rule, such as Whole Foods, where a salary cap was raised to 19 times the avearge salary. Current top salary is capped there at $608,000. CEO John Mackey, who actually did build up Whold Foods, recently accepted a slaary of one dollar plus benefits, saying he's made plenty of money over the years and he simply enjoys running the company.

Nobody said everybody in America should earn the exact same salary. Nobody said that corporations are obligated to maintain fat payrolls it cannot afford. Right-wingers who charge that people say such things merely want to dismiss us with a little juvenile name-calling into a ridiculous margin. I refuse to let them place me there, as convenient as it might be for them. Instead, I'll firmly speak loudly and demand that corporations pay employees fairly and provide them with standard benefits like affordable health care.

Is that really so communist? If so, then the free market is in big trouble.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


Yes to gun rights. No to gun nuts.

Thank God I live in St. Louis. We have the '06 World Series champions, Budweiser, a big arch, toasted ravioli, the nation's highest crime rate and Nelly.

Now our latest edition to this already distinguished list of honors is this year's NRA convention, taking place as I blog. For the past couple of weeks, I've been treated on the way into work with a billboard on I-44 touting the convetion and its "acres of guns." Imagine that. Acres of guns, no doubt transforming the America's Center downtown into a veritable shrine to the Second Amendment. With this armada of law-abiding patriots visiting the Gateway City, the criminals don't have a chance. I bet we'll only be the third or fourth most dangerous city in America next year.

Sarcasm aside, you may be surprised to know I'm really not a hardcore gun-control advocate, beyond reasonable checks on gun ownership. On some level I do believe America would be a far better place without all these guns. But in the end, I can't turn my back on the Constitution, which clearly states that you and I have the right to own a gun (I don't buy that gun control lobby rationalization of the first clause about militias negating gun rights). Beyond that, millions of Americans perhaps legitimately believe they need a gun to protect themselves. Personally, I feel secure without a gun, but who am I to say no one else have one? And without a doubt, the battle over guns is a done deal, and the gun rights advocates have come out on top. As a result, most Democrats have wisely chosen to walk away from this battle and move on to others they have a better chance of winning. In fact, many Democrats are actively courting the gun lobby, which I find a questionable endeavor.

So does that mean I salute the NRA as a noble and worthy defender of all that's right with America? No way. I have about as much love for the NRA as B from D has for the ACLU. Just because I support the right to own guns in no way equates with support for a bunch of extremist gun nuts. I'm sure there are some very nice people who belong to the NRA, who haven't really considered what their membership dues are supporting. We're talking about an organization who squarely defends every white supremecist redneck residing in a fortified compound and every inner-city gang-banger who believes in his right to spray his neighborhood with automatic gunfire.

The NRA has been a true foe of assault weapons bans. These folks think the Second Amendment allows anyone to own a rapid-fire, military-style assault weapon. I suppose next they'll push for the right to carry a rocket launcher. They resent that business owners have the right to ban guns from their private property (So much for a belief in property rights), and they hate that schools, hospitals and churches also routinely maintain themselves as gun-free zones. They also staunchly defend manufacturers of cheapo guns directly and intentionally marketed toward inner-city thugs. They can't stand the idea of background checks, that the public might benefit from gun dealers making sure they're not selling to felons. And they're lobbying hard to repeal the doctrine that one must attempt to withdraw first when under attack, that firing in self-defense is only to be used as a last resort.

In addition to these highly questionable positions, the NRA has been keeping an enemies list of groups who have dared speak out against their goals. They include such dangerous left-wing zealots as the United Methodist Church, YWCA, and American Medical Association, as well as the St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Royals.

How many average Americans, who otherwise believe that law-abiding citizens should own and carry guns if they choose, would really sign on to the NRA's extremist agenda? Most mature adults with a basic understanding of eighth-grade civics undertand that no right spelled out in the Constitution is absolute, that each comes with limits. Surely, you know that yelling "fire" in a crowded theater is not protected under the First Amendment. That eminent domain is an explicit exception to property rights. God knows that folks on the Right enthusiastically support limits on due process during this war on terrorism. Yet, there must be some magic to the Second Amendment, that makes it the single provision in the Bill of Rights lacking even the slightest check, or so the NRA thinks. Do you believe that? I don't believe most Americans do.

The NRA speaks
From the pro-gun control NRAleaders.com website

Ted Nugent
NRA board member and has-been rock star whose career peaked around 1978

"I'm a fun guy, not a sexist or a racist. I use the word nigger a lot because I hang around with a lot of niggers."
-Detroit Free Press Magazine

"Toxic c---. This bitch is nothing but a two-bit whore for Fidel Castro."
-speaking on Hillary Clinton. Westworld Newspaper

Kayne Robinson
NRA President

"If we win, we'll have a president where we work out of (his) office. "
- On prospects of George W. Bush winning presidency, closed meeting of NRA leaders, 2000

Rep. Barbara Cubin, R-Wyo.
NRA Board Member

"My sons are 25 and 30. They are blond-haired and blue-eyed. One amendment today said we could not sell guns to anybody under drug treatment. So, does that mean if you go into a black community, you cannot sell a gun to any black person, or does that mean because my..."
-Cubin's comments were interrupted at that point by Melvin Watt (D-N.C.) who demanded that her words be stricken from the record as inappropriate.

Jeff Cooper
NRA Board Member, Guns & Ammo Editor-at-Large and Columnist

"The consensus is that no more than five to ten people in a hundred who die by gunfire in Los Angeles are any loss to society. These people fight small wars amongst themselves. It would seem a valid social service to keep them well-supplied with ammunition."
- Guns & Ammo

"Already a couple of the faithful have sent in checks for a foundation memorial to the innocents who perished at the hands of the ninja at Waco. ... I have been criticized by referring to our federal masked men as "ninja" … Let us reflect upon the fact that a man who covers his face shows reason to be ashamed of what he is doing. A man who takes it upon himself to shed blood while concealing his identity is a revolting perversion of the warrior ethic. It has long been my conviction that a masked man with a gun is a target. I see no reason to change that view."
-Cooper's Commentaries (self-published newsletter)

"It is certainly difficult to render a calm and compassionate view of our current system of justice. After a legal friend of ours had his car trashed on the street, apparently just for kicks, he suggested that the proper solution to our inner city problem might be the mass drowning of street punks. Every month in a different big city we should sew up a thousand of them in a huge sack and dump it into the Mississippi. Such ideas may appear fanciful, but the decent people of this country are increasingly driven against the wall. ... While the federal ninja drive around in their black uniforms and face masks, we note that they never seem to bother the street gangs."
-Cooper's Commentaries

Paul Blackman
NRA Head Researcher

" In fact, studies of homicide victims -- especially the increasing number of younger ones -- suggest they are frequently criminals themselves and/or drug addicts or users. It is quite possible that their deaths, in terms of economic consequences to society, are net gains."
From "The Federal Factoid Factory on Firearms and Violence: A Review of CDC Research and Policies."

Leroy Pyle
Former NRA Board Member

"That ugly cackler. She pulls her husband around like a pulltoy on a string. My friends and I say that if that ever happened to one of us and our wife did that, somebody would slip into the house one night and slit her throat."
-On gun-control advocate Sarah Brady, husband of Reagan assassination attempt survivor James Brady. Quoted in "Under Fire: The NRA and the Battle for Gun Control"

John Lott
Pro-gun advocate and researcher

"Allowing teachers and other law-abiding adults to carry concealed handguns in schools would not only make it easier to stop shootings in progress, it could also help deter shootings from ever occurring."
- The Wall Street Journal

Charlton Heston
Former NRA President

"Mainstream America is counting on you to draw your sword and fight for them. These people have precious little time and resources to battle misguided Cinderella attitudes, the fringe propaganda of the homosexual coalition, the feminists who preach that it is a divine duty for women to hate men, blacks who raise a militant fist with one hand while they seek preference with the other... I find my blood pressure rising when Clinton's cultural shock troops participate in gay-rights fundraisers but boycott gun-rights fundraisers and then claim it's time to place homosexual men in tents with Boy Scouts, and suggest that sperm donor babies born into lesbian relationships are somehow better served and more loved."
-Speech to Free Congress Foundation

David Duke
Avowed White Supremicist and 1992 Republican Presidential Candidate

"I was astounded to read these courageous remarks by Charlton Heston. I am thankful to hear a man with such high esteem say essentially the same things for which I have been reviled by the liberal media. His words should be reproduced and put into the hands of every American."
-Responding to Heston's speech

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