« January 2004 | Main | March 2004 »

February 29, 2004

Moving on..

No, I haven't updated in a while. Its not that I haven't had anything to say. There is a constant monologue in my head that I could be transcribing. None of it is good though, and for once, I am censoring myself. I have no thoughts on what to do now and feel that to post my thoughts would just make things worse.

Posted by wonko at 10:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 14, 2004

Conservatism vs. liberalism: What do we believe?

As many of you know, I was once very much a conservative republican. Since then I have changed my views quite a bit. I'd like to believe that these changes have been due to careful analysis and consideration of alternative viewpoints. I've come to a point where I, like many others on both sides of the isle, do not like the terms republican and democrat or conservative or liberal. If you feel that way, I can hardly blame you, these varying terms and their definitions have caused a tremendous amount of confusion. What does it mean when someone says, "I am a conservative?" In all likelihood, there is no one definition of any of these terms anymore. What I am particularly interested in is our differing opinions on the matter, since I know they differ. To this end, I have a favor to ask of you, the reader. I rarely ask for favors so I expect you to comply, if for no other reason, than the pursuit of knowledge.

The first part of the favor is to answer the following questions, honestly.
1. What does it mean to be a conservative?
2. What does it mean to be a liberal?

Here is a bonus, optional question.
If you are a conservative, how do you think liberals would answer the question of what it means to be a conservative. If you are a liberal, reverse the question.

The second part is to ask someone or someones you know the same questions. Preferably people that differ in opinion from you on the matter. I will do the same and post my results, however, I will only post mine after some others have posted, so as not to completely give away the views of the author.

I really appreciate this, and I'm not just saying that either. What you are about to do is important to me...

Do it for America!

Posted by wonko at 11:18 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

February 12, 2004

Carson City Blues

I'm in Carson City going to the Home Depot here for the first time as a home owner. Scary thought.

And thanks to peoples open airport networks, I can bring this live to you, the reader. Thanks Sierra Land Realty.

Posted by wonko at 09:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 10, 2004

The working impoverished.

This article entitled Working and Poor in the USA in The Nation talks about the problem of the working poor in the US. It isn't necessarily the best article and spends too much time on anecdotal evidence, but still makes some good points. Most of the time when we think about or read about those living in poverty, we think about the unemployed. This article talks about the larger problem of the impoverished employed who do not receive fair wages or benefits.
"There is a reigning American mythology that blunts any concern: that holding a low-wage job is a temporary situation, that mobility and education and time will solve whatever problem exists."

It also talks about how we got here.
"Over the past quarter-century, a variety of political, economic and corporate decisions have undercut the bargaining power of workers, especially those at the lower end of the work force. Those decisions included the push to increase global trade and open global markets, government efforts to deregulate industries that had been highly unionized, tight monetary policies and a corporate ideological shift away from the postwar social contract with employees and toward the principle of maximizing shareholder value."

The quote on focusing on increasing shareholder value really hit home for me as I can remember the old President of my last company repeating this over and over. "The highest goal of any public company is to increase shareholder value," he would say.

"In 1995 less than half of workers making under $20,000 a year were offered health insurance by their employer. Only one in five workers with incomes below $20,000 has pension coverage. For low-wage parents with children under 6, one-third do not get paid vacations or paid holidays. And most low-wage jobs fail to provide sick pay or disability pay. "

These are real issues we can not ignore. Nor can we continue to believe the American Horatio Alger lie that everyone in this country has the same chance for success regardless of race, color, religion, or class. We have to admit we DO have a class problem in this country and that the current system seeks to perpetuate this unbalanced system.

Posted by wonko at 07:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 09, 2004

How the Vons Strike Relates to Workers Rights in a Global Economy.

I was leaving Vons, seeing a larger than normal number of strikers and listening to CNN in my car when I had a thought. I know it isn't an original thought and seem to remember hearing it before, but I'm not sure where. The news was talking about how more and more jobs are going overseas. At first it was only manufacturing jobs. Professional jobs were believed safe. In the last years this has proven to be untrue. Professional technology jobs are fleeing the country at an alarming rate. The reason manufacturing jobs starting going oversees is because of how much cheaper it was. With manufacturing jobs, little formal training is necessary. So its just a matter of how many people you can hire at the cheapest rate. Many countries, such as India, saw there was an opportunity to take professionally trained jobs in the same manner. All that was required was training.

Our current administration has sought to make it easier for corporations to send jobs overseas through policies such as NAFTA and supporting the WTO. Opening up these types of trade agreements benefits large corporations a tremendous amount. It benefits the average American very little. Those in support of these types of arrangements claim it benefits everyone using a modified 'trickle-down economics' explanation. Cheaper labor means cheaper products. More people buy those products, it helps the whole economy. Unfortunately, we've seen that trickle down economics doesn't work. Maybe its too simplistic to say it doesn't work because it does help some people, just not everyone. In this instance, lower-class and increasingly, middle-class Americans lose their jobs. They didn't tell us that would happen. Did they know?

So what do we do? We're the great America. We're adaptable right? We've been through this before when the foreign auto makers started schooling us on price and quality. We fought back then right? Yup, and we're fighting back now. How? We're competing on benefits and pay in order to compete on price. That is to say, we're paying people less and offering fewer benefits, just like our foreign counterparts, in order to compete on the global market. Not so ironically, this echos the Vons vs. Walmart issue that lies at the hart of the strike. Walmart is paying less and offering fewer benefits. Vons is saying that in order to compete they must do the same. Walmart is so big, they can control the entire industry. Walmart went from not having a grocery store, to commanding over 50% of all grocery sales in under 5 years. Walmart is so big, they can control their vendors as well. A perfect example is Walmart's demanding its top 100 suppliers start using RFID tags in all of their products by 2005 or be dropped, despite public outcry against them. In this way, Walmart will single handedly make RFIDs standard in everything we buy. (Read about it here.) We are not the only ones suffering from this world leveling of employee treatment. Other countries are reducing their vacation time, retirement, and other benefits in order to compete with us.

America is the single largest consumer of goods on the planet. The USA alone, with only 4.5% of the world's population, consumes 25%-50% of its resources. (ref) We also spend more money than any other country, individually and as a country. When the US demands something of our 'suppliers', they listen, just as Walmart's suppliers listen when they demand something. We've done it before. This massive buying power is one of the things that keeps us safe. Other countries might loath us, but they need us for our deep pockets.

Taking all of these facts into account, here is the idea. America should come up with a workers bill of rights that extends to any employee of any American company no matter where that employee is. We could go further and say that any company that wants to buy or sell goods in this country must obey these same rules. In Kim Stanley Robinson's Blue Mars he talks about how the Bill of Rights makes America unique, but that our Bill of Rights fell short as it did not extend to the workplace. Though laws and conditions for employees have improved a tremendous amount over the last century, most employees are still basically slaves to their employers. He suggests a workers Bill of Rights just like we have a regular Bill of Rights. I am proposing the same thing, but requiring all companies who want to do business with America adopt the same policies. These rights would deal with how many hours an employee can work, overtime pay, benefits, minimum wages, minimum vacation, sick pay, maternity leave, etc... If all companies had to obey these rules, it would level the playing field and American companies could choose to keep jobs in this country, or outsource them globally depending on who would do the best job.

I'm not naive enough to think this type of change could actually become a reality, but it is intriguing to imagine the resulting world. Companies would be forced to adopt these policies in order to keep US dollars flowing, and they would. These laws would affect lower and middle class citizens more than anyone and would result in reduction of negative class distinctions throughout in many many countries. The millions who really ARE slaves to their employers in third world countries would suddenly be given an opportunity to rise above. It would be an extension of the original American dream brought to the rest of the world.

We COULD do it.

But we won't...

Posted by wonko at 09:19 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The deluding of America

Watching CSPAN the other day, I caught the president giving one of his first campaign... I mean public addresses to the Coast Guard. A lot of things struck me as bullshit like his talk about how good the economy is doing and why we were justified into going into Iraq even though they did not present an imminent threat. I could go into those issues and more, but it wasn't those things he said that blew my mind. At one point, while blaming Iraq, Libia, Syria, etc., for the immediate threat of terrorism in this country he reminded us that, "No free nation creates weapons of mass destruction." I'm paraphrasing, but that IS what he said. My eyes went wide as I said out loud, "Uh, except America! The country we live in! The country you are the president of!"

If you didn't already know, America is the largest holder of weapons of mass destruction. What types of WMD? Chemical, biological and nuclear, thats what kind. In fact, we just had a leak at a chemical weapons incinerator in AL. We're destroying them because they are old, it doesn't mean we're not making more.

I can't believe people believe what is told to them!

Am I crazy or has the whole world gone mad!

Posted by wonko at 09:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 06, 2004

We made it!

Don't even ask.

Posted by wonko at 02:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 05, 2004

The Sherwins: Redemption!

I'm back from the Sherwins and received the redemption I so desperately sought. It was a fantastic and safe run, despite the avalanche danger being moderate. Brando and I used common sense and the things we learned from the avalanche clinic to minimize the risk as much as possible.

Tonight is round two, as a large group of us plan on hiking up the Sherwins under a full moon starting at around 10pm. I work until 9. We'll be back and asleep by 2am. The next morning I'll get up bright and early and go ice climbing. Hopefully I'll get some sleep when I get back from that as I work at 7am on Saturday.

Posted by wonko at 02:05 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

In brief summation...

I make no excuses. Friends, adventure, snow caves, cold, wet, casinos, blackjack, long blizzard drives, almost ice climbing combined with forgetfulness = 24 games of ping pong, 14 cornish game hens 2 ducks and a goose all deep fried for the big game, closing escrow, getting the keys, pages and pages of writing, all not necessarily in that order. Now I'm off to the Sherwins to redeem myself after my last accident, also on the Sherwins. Tonight, there are plans brewing to do the Sherwins again under the full moon and tomorrow, ice climbing. Is there any thought of slowing down?


Posted by wonko at 10:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 02, 2004

Super Bowl Fry-off

Last Thanksgiving, we bought a giant deep frier to fry a turkey, which came out fabulous. We decided to have a big super bowl party and fry up some chicken. When we went to Vons they were out of whole chickens, so we decided to get creative. We bought 14 Cornish Game Hens, 2 ducks and a goose, with the intention of frying all of them. After some initial problems with our 10 gallon deep fryer, we got all the hens fried up. Later that night we fried up a duck. We still have 2 ducks to fry up tonight. We had a vegetable platter, a cheese and cracker platter, guacamole, and plenty to drink. It was a fantastic time with lots of good friends. I'm almost ashamed to admit it was the first superbowl I'd ever watched. I'm lucky it was such a good one. A lot of the people there were saying it was the best superbowl they'd ever seen.

We closed escrow on the new place today, so this party was also a sort of farewell bash as Sarah and I will begin moving in in a week or so.

Its snowing pretty hard outside and I have to get Obigabu to the airport in Reno tonight. Its been great having him visit and I'll have lots to ruminate about in the next day or so. We're hoping the roads to Reno aren't that bad right now.

Posted by wonko at 11:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack