Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Mojowire for 01.10.04;
vol. 2, no. 01

MUSIC: Intro/Hendrix, Star Spangled Banner
S9/ Supreme Beings of Leisure, Under the Gun
Exeunt/WildChild, Renegade Master

intro with hendrix star spangled banner

J. Good morning, and welcome to The Mojowire, Vol. 2, No. 01... I’m Mojo...

S. And I’m Sean, it’s Saturday, January 10, 2004, Day 1,014 of the Neocon Captivity, and here’s the news for the week gone-by...

J. Brought to you by Mojohaus-fine journalism, afflicting the comfortable since 1988. Now headlines, from Mojohaus:

S. First this morning, the Labor Department realized that new overtime regulations set to take effect in March might accidentally do some good for American workers, and so sprang into action to prevent that kind of catastrophe from befalling business.

J. Next, when Supreme Court Justice William Renquist calls you out as a judicial thug and political hack, you need some serious introspection. This happened last week when he critiqued last year’s politically-inspired federal sentencing guidelines passed by Congress. Yet another bad idea from the people who are turning bad ideas into an art form.

S. Then, the chickens are coming home to roost for the Bush Administration’s “No-Education-Business-Left-Behind” program as cash-strapped states are looking for ways around the law or just refusing federal money altogether, rather than play the Department of Education’s rigged game.

J. Then Strychnine breaks down the latest horror amid reports that his sky is about to get real crowded soon, but only if the Bush administration can get a handle on their number one earthly problem, namely the stabilization of Iraq, which to this point has been sheer fantasy.

S. Finally, we take a big picture look at the economy, and the guys at the “damnit, we hate being right all the time desk” provide the beat down as we look at what might end up being a pretty grim election year economy for the President.

J. …So stand by to stand by while we get ready to pull the pin on this thing...

fade in more hendrix star spangled banner for five or six count then back out again

J. Over a cetain amount of time, we here at the Mojowire might have expected to grow a tough, crusty carapace under which we would huddle from the ravenous degredations of the Bush Administration in their continuing bachanal of pillage and plunder of our nation’s resources, people, heritage and culture.

Like I said, one *might* have expected that. But then, as if they were crouching down in the Oval Office cloak room, firing up the Space Brothers Zeta Reticuli Death Weed in a giant bong made from the hollowed-out skull of Herbert Hoover seeking some way to make us twitch, we get this from the Assoicated Press this week.

“A proposed Labor Department rule suggests ways employers can avoid paying overtime to some of the 1.3 million low-income workers who would become eligible this year.”

Let me back this one up for you. Do you remember our rant here several months past about how the administration was really screwing people on proposed new overtime rules, now set to take effect in March?

This was where the administration planned to move millions of American workers into “management” so they would no longer be eligible for overtime, while nominally increasing the amount of salary that fell under the requirements for overtime pay.

Well, you gotta say one thing for Bush’s people, when they set out to yank you around by the short hairs, they are at least thorough. The Labor Department is now trying to pimp companies on how to finish hosing everyone who didn’t get specifically drilled by the new regulation.

The Labor Department is forwarding new workplace rules for American companies that specifically state ways comapanies get around paying any overtime at all, by cutting pay, or giving nominal raises to a staggering $22,100 per year, to make people ineligible for mandatory overtime.

And one of my favorite parts about this is the quote from this greasy Labor Department spokes-orc, Ed Frank, that “We’re not telling anyone they *should* do this.”

Does it even bear mentioning that the only reason anyone voted for this is because the freekin’ administration sold it to everyone on the idea that it would create $895 million more per year in salary making its way into the pay packets of Americans, and from there into the nation’s WalMarts, etc...

It was a bad deal even just based on that, but this latest insult to the humanity of every person in America who gets up in the morning and goes to work is almost too much to take.

S. At the same time, though, it really does demonstrate exactly where this administration is in terms of its fiscal policy and how it regards the middle class. As Bush Senior was once reputed to have quipped, you are just O-F-U: One-Fodder-Unit.

But this also has a certain stank of the mendacity that Bush team is becoming known for. Their inability to tell the truth under *any* circumstances whatsoever is becoming systemic.

We also are now learning that despite the original estimates from the Bush team that 644,000 higher paid workers would lose overtime, the Labor Department is now saying at least 1.5 million to as many as 2.7 million will lose over time. And that’s without their handy little primer on how to circumvent the law altogether.

Seriously, why not just start rounding up Americans and herding us off the to the work camps where we can labor for our slice of bread and shot of oily “Victory” Gin per day in the service of the grand and glorious capital enterprises that fuel the New American Mercantile Empire.

It’s not bad enough that we *knew* the overtime pay deal was going to be bad news for workers on its face? They have to turn around and yank the carrot away, too? This is political stoopidity on a level we really didn’t think these guys possessed. How in the *hell* did these guys actually get elected to office...

Oh wait...they didn’t, never mind.

How is it that a guy allegedly as astute as Karl Rove and his team could let the Bush Administration do something this obviously counter to their political survival right out of the gate in an election year.

Yeah, Strychnine, we know, there are some really disquieting -- and not entirely unreasonable --answers to that question, which we won’t get into here.

Bush got a lot of run from unions in 2000, setting himself up as something like the straight-shooting “Son-of-the-Gipper,” instead of “Son-of-the-Gipper’s-Overlord.” And again, in 2002, when he hit the road to help GOP congressional candidates, it was with this same faux-populist message that help win a lot of blue-collar, working class Americans into the ranks of Republican voters.

Well, Mr. and Mrs. wage-slave: CAN YOU HEAR ME, NOW? GOOD! This is what you voted for. You put this guy in office, you can take him back out again. W., and everyone in his administration has had nothing but contempt for you and they are starting to show it publicly.

Voting for Republicans is voting against your own self-interest, and it’s policies like this that prove it. Let’s get out there, get our collective Jesus-on and let’s start clearing the money changers out of the temple!

J. In 1986, hot on the heels of the death by cocaine overdose of Pro Basketball Player Len Bias, Congress enacted a drastic overhaul of the Federal judicial system, instituting draconian mandatory sentences for a broad range of crimes, particularly drug related crimes.

The result, according to CBS News, has been “The population in federal prisons has quadrupled from 43,000 inmates in 1987 to 173,000 today - at a cost to taxpayers of $4 billion a year.” The Federal prison population has quadrupled in the last 15 years. Take a listen at this example that CBS News found:

“In 1991, Valencia was a 19-year-old former high school athlete in Miami who'd never been in trouble with the law until she gave a ride to her roommate's stepmother. Brenda knew the woman was a drug dealer and knew she was going to West Palm Beach to pick up money from a cocaine dealer...In West Palm Beach, federal drug agents arrested Valencia, the woman she gave a ride to, and the two men who set up the deal. Prosecutors charged Valencia with being part of a cocaine conspiracy, and federal law required the judge to sentence her to at least 12 years and 7 months in prison. But he wasn't happy about it, and wrote, ‘Even the low end of the guideline range is an outrage in this case...’”

So tell me, why even have judges? Why did the Founding fathers go to the trouble of creating a separate and equal branch of government if they were denied the ability to actually do their job. The job in this case being able to mete out appropriate punishment based on the facts of the case, not what lawmakers think is going on in neighborhoods and cities they would never even drive through at 80 miles an hour.

This was the essential problem pointed out by Supreme Court Chief Justice William Renquist this week, when he blasted Congress for seizing judicial power for what amounts to cheap political gain on the “law and order” platform.

There are a few glaring problems with mandatory sentencing as a tool to combat the drug trade. First, because of the practice by prosecutors of plea bargaining based on information from defendants on other criminals, the bigger the dope dealer you are, the more information you have to bargain down your sentence.

Therefore, the less culpability you have, the less information you have to offer the government. The cruel irony is that the least involved defendants serve more time than those higher and more culpable in the drug trade. Please let me know when we get to the justice part..

Most importantly, it does nothing, and I mean *nothing,* to deter or reduce the drug trade. The reason why is founded on the basic principles of how markets work. The Drug trade is basically a commodities market, like oil or frozen orange juice.

In fact, it is perhaps the most lucrative market because there are no taxes or other costs associated with legal markets. Because the market is so incredibly lucrative for the producers and distributors, there is intense competition to enter the market and produce and distribute. For every participant in the market caught and prosecuted, a thousand more compete to take his place.

The threat of prosecution is simply a cost factored into the price to compensate for the risk incurred, just like distributors of legal products do. Whatever value mandatory sentencing on the federal or state level provided in the "drug war" has been eroded to nothing by now because it has already been compensated for by the drug market.

Another market factor has been that our ability to affect supply on most drugs is minimal. Supply of most controlled substances, particularly cocaine, heroin, and the Crack of Rural America, meth-amphetimines, has grown so fast that all the drugs seized by law enforcement barely registers in the overall supply of the drugs.

Essentially, mandatory sentences have proved to be completely ineffectual deterring anyone from producing and selling drugs because it cannot compete with the incentive offered by the immense profits offered by participating in the trade. So exactly why are we so committed to mandatory sentencing? Answer: Pure politics.

S. Both Parties have so thoroughly exploited this simplistic approach as a solution to the intractable problems offered by addiction and the illegal drug trade that services it, that it is now dogma it's the only way to keep Al Pacino from showing up at your doorstep to show you his little friend. This is despite the obvious and indisputable superiority of treatment over enforcement in moving people from addiction to lives without drugs.

The value of this approach is obvious to even the most challenged conservative mook still wiping the drool from his grill from viewing last nights Factor. The less addicts you have, the less customers for the product you have, and that directly impacts the bottom line of the distributors and the producers. Profit they cannot recover by increasing the price or improving production efficiency.

And the gravy on top? Its less expensive than locking someone up in some prison hellhole. Humane and Cheap at the same time, a liberal and conservative marriage of ideas.

As you might guess, the horrible losers in the GOP congress and the White House are thoroughly committed to the failed policies of mandatory sentencing and Swat style enforcement. Well, that is unless a hypocritical pig like Rush Limbaugh is revealed to be an addict and cog in the drug trade, than they are all about rehab and moral redemption.

This is despite the fact that Rush was wholly against treatment, and regularly slavered for the brutal treatment of addicts by locking them up in, what was in his view, prisons that were not near tough enough. I hit my knees every night in the hope that Rush has to do a nickel in one of those sweet and easy Florida state prisons.

John Ashcroft has made it even harder for judges and prosecutors to inject any measure of justice into the Federal system by demanding prosecutors seek the harshest punishments in all cases. Even William Reinquist, an alpha conservative whack-job if there ever was one, has spoken out about the injustice of this system.

It is clear, even to semi-sentient conservative judges who have to mete out this mock justice, that mandatory sentencing is cruel and unjust, does nothing to address the crime problems it was meant to deal with, and serves no purpose other than to allow law and order punks on both sides of the aisle to pimp their cred to the electorate without having to do anything about it. And they get to piss your money away on something that will never work, the perfect Bush administration program!

Trust us, when you are getting called out as a judicial thug by William Renquist, you have seriously wandered off the reservation, and it’s either time to reign you back in or just write you off altogether.

It's time to have a serious brawl about mandatory sentences and the horrible lies that support it. It is not making you any safer, not helping the people afflicted with addiction, and just serves as a prop in the horrible farce that is the federal governments war on drugs. War on people is more like it.

Oh, and free Tommy Chong

J. How funny / sad is it that in these times, cash strapped states are telling the Bush Administration and their minions in the Department of Education that if they have to abide by the idotic, and vaguely racist aspects of the “No-rich-white-child” left behind program, then Bush can keep his stoopid money.

But that is what is happening in some states, where they are starting to realize just how badly the deck is stacked against the schools that need help, but instead are being faced with federal take over.

“We're not trying to make a political statement, but this law can just overwhelm a school system's ability to meet its requirements, especially when a district is as financially stressed as we are,” Fred Gaige, a school board member in Reading, PA told the New York Times last week. His school system has been struggling to comply with the law, he said, even as it flirts with bankruptcy because the local manufacturing economy is collapsing.

The scam works like this. A school district is required to meet some federal standards for what the little nippers are supposed to be learning. If not, then the district is expected to lay out whatever money is necssecary to remedy the problem to the Bush Administration’s arbitrary satisfaction.

If federal education officials don’t like the way you are dealing with it, you are dubbed “under-performing” and you get what little federal money is left yanked, and kids are shipped out of your district to “better schools” all on what’s left of your dime.

Or parents can always make a fuss and start asking for federal aid to send their kids to private schools. I mean, hey, it’s not really vouchers, these are emergencies.

Eugene W. Hickok, acting Maximum Deputy UnderCzar for Education, acknowledged that many teachers and school officials thought this was all a really bad idea, but that on the whole, people love this plan. “It exposes them and makes them nervous because it focuses on where the job isn’t getting done. But generally the American public likes the law's emphasis on accountability and results. Over all there's a lot of popular support.”

But apparently, this swell of popular support hasn’t stopped the child-hating extremists in places like Connecticut from telling the Education Department Aparatchik to keep his filthy money. Hell, in Utah, they are about to pass a law that forbids anyone in the state from complying with No-Child-Left-With-a-Public-School” or whatever it is.

Why would anyone take such a radical step? Well, let’s take a look at just one example of this overwhelmingly popular law’s results:

One school that did not make adequate yearly progress this year was Somers High School in Connecticut, where 100 percent of students scored at or above the proficient level on the most recent reading test, and 99 percent on the math test.

Only 94.3 percent of the sophomore class participated in the math test, however, which meant the school failed the requirement that 95 percent of students participate, causing the school to fall short of adequate yearly progress, said Thomas W. Jefferson, the Somers superintendent.

However, that shortfall has no consequence because the Somers Board of Education had already voted to reject $43,000 in federal financing they would have lost under the federal rubric anyway.

S. A big part of the problem comes in big urban districts like Los Angeles or Long Beach, that have a high proportion of immigrant students, many who have only nominal schooling even in their own language when they get here.

The program makes no allowances for that in the requirements for the reading and writing benchmarks, much less provides additional help for districts that find themselves in that kind of situation.

The result is as predictable as the end of a Road Runner cartoon...the school board rushing after the prize with a Department of Education Acme Jet Pack strapped to its back zooms right off the edge of the cliff and falls thousands of feet to the valley floor only to disappear in a puff of dust and a big Coyote-shaped crater in the earth.

That would normally be pretty amusing as an analogy if it weren’t so close to the truth. The administration is literally asking school boards to perform more with less under the most difficult circumstances imaginable, and then penalizing them when they fail to meet unreasonable expectations.

That’s why some places like Reading, PA are now taking this situation to the courts to demand that the insanity be brought to a halt.

From the New York Times: “Reading, PA, is a city in distress. Factories are closing, and property tax revenue declined from $33.8 million to $22.3 million in eight years. The district spends about $2,000 less per student than the average Pennsylvania district. Spending has declined even as the school population has surged, with many new students requiring English instruction.

Thirteen of Reading's 19 schools either missed adequate yearly progress this year or were labeled as needing improvement. Although the district received at least $8.1 million in federal education money for this year, up from $4.9 million in 2001-2002, the increases have not kept pace with needs, partly because of Pennsylvania's budget crisis.”

Why don’t we just come correct and call this what it is: The Bush administration, spurred on by free market snakehandlers and their allies in the religious right have been attempting to dismantle public education for more than a generation.

That is what “No-Child-Left-Out-of-the-Salt-Mines” or whatever, is all about, and that is *all* it has ever been about; the systematic destruction of the nation’s public education infrastructure by “starving the beast.”

I know, you’re asking “what possible good could come of that?” But you have to think like these people. Look hippy, quality education is not for you! It’s for the star-belly sneetches. You need just enough education to be able to read the instructions on the dishwasher at their favorite restaurant or pass the driver’s test so you can work at the valet stand.

Believe me, if God had meant for there to be pulic education, everyone would have been born a Rockafeller. Now, quit whining, get out of bed, and report immediately to the nearest reprocessing center, San Onofre needs a new coat of reactor shielding.

cue JAMES music
And now the music is telling me that we have an incoming transmission from the redoubtable Dr. S9…

J. That’s right. It is time once again for our regular contributor Dr. Strychnine, reporting from his super-secret, ultra-dope, mega-cool, extra-jiggy, Mojohaus spy satellite of love high in geosynchronous orbit above Baghdad by the Bay…take it away S9…

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