Monday, March 29, 2010

Earth Day April 22

I was recently contacted by Dan Grifen from Everythingleft.wordpress.com regarding his own interest in Green Building and Global Warming/Climate Change or whatever term we are currently using to confuse Republicans.


He submitted this for your consideration and I welcomed his efforts.

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Green Infrastructure, Earth Day and Global Awareness


Spring 2010 is approaching and there ís a lot of buzz around topics like the economy, taxation, global poverty, restoration in Haiti/Chile, and lastly, green awareness. With spring, Earth Day also draws nearer (April 22nd); as individuals, we must remember and realize the importance of global warming and all of its implications. Subsequent topics discussed as of late include space travel/burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and green building. As nations like Haiti and Chile prepare for rebuilding and new construction, there are many things to consider when advancing. Moving towards cleaner, greener infrastructure is vital in ensuring a successful restoration campaign.

TheU.S. Green Building Council is a 501(3)(c) non-profit community of leaders working to make green buildings available to everybody. It ís one of the many organizations playing its role in green progression. Heavy discussion lies on green topics, especially the more recent ones like space travel; others include deforestation, green crops, clothing, energy, and much more.

Itís important that we as individuals/citizens stay up-to-date on important global topics like warming. As organizations like the Clinton Global Initiative, and Architecture for Humanity), and the USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council) conducts sustainability campaigns and enforce strict green constraints, our world will continue to become a better, cleaner place.

Machines behind the CGI, Doug Band and Former President Clinton have been pursuing an emission reduction plan in the San Francisco Bay area. Meanwhile, CEO of Globetrotters Engineering Corporation, Niranjan Shah, is underway with green building projects in Chicago, IL. Despite these few national examples, green infrastructure, particularly in places like Haiti, has become an integral part of restoration and construction.

As polluters continue to buy their way out of Carbon Cuts globally, and large organizations continue to dump their waste into lakes, ponds and rivers, communities and must play their role in ensuring sustainability. Organizations like the CGI, AFH, and USGBC provide repercussion and policy change for acts such as. Most of the results from warming and climate change are miniscule and unnoticeable now, but our youth and earlier generations will experience firsthand the effects of pollutants and unsustainable efforts. Feel free to visit http://www.earthday.org/ to learn more about what you can do to support your world.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Up in the Air

I finally saw that George Clooney film, Up in the Air. Thought it was an outstanding metaphor and example of what America is facing.

The film depicts Clooney as a Corporate Downsizer who rides into towns wearing his black suit of armor and terminates people. He brings along a young trainee who in her zeal has found a way to even downsize the character Clooney plays - termination by Skype. There is nothing more personal and modern in today's age. And I recall an episode of Sex and the City where Carrie was dumped by a Post-it. In this more contemporary way the young trainee is dumped by her boyfriend via text.

Yes we are living in impersonal times. Which brings me to my theory why the Tea Party exists.

Time: Time on your hands. When you are unemployed or underemployed you are sure you are the only one. You feel like shit and so the Internet allows you to reach out and find those like you to share the pain. Misery loves company and the Internet is a great way to find a lot of both.

Anger: Finding an outlet for anger. Going for long walks, talking to therapist, going to a gym, venting to real life friends all seem like good ideas but they require effort, money and well friends. Wait I have all I need sitting at my desk. Friends that is what Facebook is for. Therapy that is what Facebook is for or blogs are for or Tweeeting is for. And with all that I can form a rally or protest and get all the walking I need.

Recognition: For the first time in many of these peoples lives they are "recognized." And that feeling of importance and leadership gives meaning. These are people whose jobs and sole identity were taken from them. Watching Up in the Air you know the words of the downsized are not just script they have real meaning behind them. One woman threatens to kill herself and later in the film that is a reality. I think that might be the case for many in the same situation. But now I can join the tea party and I won't be alone and irrelevant any more.

Fear: Uncertain times bring uncertain feelings. Fear is a big one. By taking control an thinking you are doing something it helps with the fear.

Denial: To you you are not a hypocrite for working for non-profits or in fact for the government at one point or even on Government funded programs such as Social Security, Disability or Medicare. That is YOUR right and YOU PAID into it. Even while protesting the Government's intervention into health care or taxes which if removed would of course cease those rights for you and others who are actually paying right now for your benefits that you receive right now. People its a pay as you go plan. I am actually paying for your benefits and seeing what you are doing with them infuriates me but I still work as I am not quite as short sighted with my stupidity.

Lack of Education: Having minimally been educated you are easily influenced by those who don't seem to intimidate you with words. Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Joe the Plumber, Rush Limbaugh. Symbolic dumb shits that you can connect with. See they don't have the fancy degrees (in fact none of them graduated from college - and I question Ms. Palin's degrees. Forming the "Degreeers" right now to demand copy of said transcripts - if the Birther's can regarding Obama......)

Many of these people are frightened by words and big ideas and the President, a graduate of Harvard, speaks with so many words that is why they are sure its a magic teleprompter and not his own eloquence. (I mean black dudes how they talk, have you heard Snoop Dogg?) Of course the last President was a Graduate of two Ivy League schools and well look at that? And you worry about Education. I would be pissed to pay that kind of money and be that stupid.

Republicans: The Right wing are using them as they used the Christian Coalition years ago. Same tune different dance. Promises and courtship lead to little engagements once in office. But how many of us have heard the sweet whispers only the next day to do the walk of shame home?

Media: The Corporate media is giving these people there 15 minutes plus. There is no substance to the rhetoric its just Hot Air. Angry bursts of the same song repeated over and over again. Every week the New York Times has a cover story on another "leader" of varying Tea Party Groups. As I said to a friend if they were on the Style page it would be what not to wear. Don't look for a Vogue spread soon given Anna Wintour's loathing of fat people wearing man made fabrics. I went to one blog site written by the "Tea Party Leader of the Week" and its a pathetic blog of ramblings repeated and regurgitated from others blogs (with the same things said over and over -sound familiar party of no?). Wow great leadership. Short on ideas and mostly a seeker of attention as another failed "actor" I see nothing there there.

This week the New York Times does it again. Part of it mockery part of it is to give it relevance of the story of the month but it still reminds me a lot of the way they gave way too much importance to the Christian movements of the 80s. And we know what happened to them. Well Pat Robertson has not made his way there yet but one can hope soon.

Denial: Racism, Ageism and Sexism and for the first time a lot of men, white, middle age men out of work. Ego and the proof that these "isms" are alive an well in a country that well just had a black man elected Presidents. And when you look around you are sure that all the jobs you could have are being taken by Mexicans. Yes because ditch digger, fast food worker and maid have all been highly desired by the white class (no matter what class these are the jobs for someone less). We are for the first time acknowledging the elephant in the room and its a big one.

We are Up in the Air. If only are President was George Clooney. A handsome white guy who doesn't seem too smart but smart enough to fix this. But wait he would be the President and that would mean the Government would be fixing this - so how would that work? It doesn't but that is why I don't take the Tea Party seriously and neither should anyone else. Once they get THEIR jobs back they won't care about anyone else's. The 70s were called the ME ME ME Decade for a reason and many of them are a product of it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Energy Star lacks Starpower

Back in October I wrote about some of the failings about Energy Star and their endorsed products.

As the push for Tax Credits under the new stimulus package there are those that apply to upgrading your home with "certified" Energy Star labeled products. At that time I discussed some of the failings of the poorly made CFL light bulbs and other products that were found upon audit to not reserve and therefore save the energy promised.

I like the program and became and Energy Star trained verifier for homes. Then I toured a verified home. And it was then I began to examine what it means to be a third party verifier and why I have elected to opt out of offering that option (regardless of program) for clients. I am still trained, educated and well informed on current changes and Energy Star and the EPA are truly upgrading their home standard process to be far more stringent it doesn't really change my view on the process.

We need strong Federal Regulations, Guidelines and more importantly Enforcement and Accountability. These failures are used to illustrate the growing ire with regards to Government and what it seemingly fails to do. Well yes the Government has failed but it has done so at the result of systemic long term reduction in funding, a lack of hiring qualified personnel by keeping wages declined in relation to the private sector and generally the idea that business was best at regulating, monitoring and supervising itself. That laissez faire notion that well led to few even already established laws being enforced, new laws not getting passed and well massive problems that truly began in the 90s with WorldCom, Enron, the Dot Com bubble and finally the Mortgage Meltdown.

So with Energy Star it doesn't surprise me that there was an issue surrounding Fraud Liability and like any Government program the bureaucracy and complexity of process will continue to have those opportunists willing to do what they can to gauge the system. We all are victims of some type of fraud and fleecing the Government seems to be the biggest one of all.

I am hoping that with a President willing to finally move forward to restore the balance of Government and Business, one who talks a great deal about America the Green it means that having that seal of approval means something. For now this will be another sacrificial lamb and example of how "big Gov fails."


_____________________________________________________________________
Audit Finds Vulnerability of EnergyStar Program

BY MATTHEW L. WALD
Published: March 25, 2010

WASHINGTON — Does a “gasoline-powered alarm clock” qualify for the EnergyStar label, the government stamp of approval for an energy-saving product?

Like more than a dozen other bogus products submitted for approval since last June by Congressional auditors posing as companies, it easily secured the label, according to a Congressional report to be issued Friday. So did an “air purifier” that was essentially an electric space heater with a feather duster pasted on top, the Government Accountability Office said.

In a nine-month study, four fictitious companies invented by the accountability office also sought EnergyStar status for some conventional devices like dehumidifiers and heat pump models that existed only on paper. The fake companies submitted data indicating that the models consumed 20 percent less energy than even the most efficient ones on the market. Yet those applications were mostly approved without a challenge or even questions, the report said.

Auditors concluded that the EnergyStar program was highly vulnerable to fraud.

Maria Vargas, an official with the Environmental Protection Agency, which runs the program with the Energy Department, said the approvals did not pose a problem for consumers because the products never existed. There was “no fraud,” Ms. Vargas emphasized. She said she doubted that many of the 40,000 genuine products with EnergyStar status had been mislabeled.

But in anticipation of the report’s release, the Energy Department has issued two statements in recent days pledging to strengthen the program.

Yet auditors found problems beyond the approval of nonexistent products. They determined that once a company registered as an EnergyStar partner, it could download the logo from the government’s Web site and paste it on products for which it had not even requested approval.

The report is only the latest in a series involving the 18-year-old EnergyStar program, which was set up to guide the public on energy-efficient choices that could both save people money and help reduce the nation’s runaway energy consumption.

Watchdogs within the Environment Protection Agency and the Department of Energy have reported in the past that Energy Star has taken some claims of energy efficiency on faith. Yet the new study suggests that it often does so on remote control.

Congressional auditors said they were told by EnergyStar officials that some of the approvals, including the one for the gasoline alarm clock, had been issued by an automated system and that the details had probably never been reviewed by a human being.

Ms. Vargas added that the automated system that green-lighted the clock was only a preliminary “screen” to evaluate energy figures submitted by manufacturers and to cut out products that did not qualify. Every product that is certified is reviewed by a human being, she said.

But Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, who requested the accountability office study, said in an interview, “I don’t think I’d admit that.”

If a government employee or contractor examined the comical picture submitted of the space heater with a feather duster, or read the description of the gas-powered clock — with dimensions suggesting it was the size of an electric generator — “and red flags didn’t get raised, that’s a really troubling commentary,” Ms. Collins said.

She said the ease with which the auditors had fooled the program suggested that consumers and agencies that rely on the logo were paying extra for products that might not actually save energy. “This program is extraordinarily easy to defraud,” she said.

Ms. Collins also noted that the economic stimulus bill included hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks for people who buy EnergyStar products and that many government agencies were required to choose EnergyStar products if they were available.

In effect, people “are ripped off twice,” as consumers and as taxpayers, she said.

Previous reports have suggested that the EnergyStar label is not always a complete or useful guide to the best consumer choices. Last October, for example, the inspector general of the E.P.A. said that 100 percent of the computer monitors that carried the EnergyStar logo had indeed met requirements. But so did 80 percent of the monitors that did not have the logo; the manufacturers had apparently not sought approval. For computer printers, 95 percent of the ones with the logo qualified, but so did 60 percent of the ones that did not have the logo.

And some consumer products lacking EnergyStar approval consumed less energy than those that had it, the audit found.

And the inspector general of the Energy Department reported the same month that EnergyStar claims were not “accurate or verifiable” for many products. The program requires manufacturers of windows and fluorescent lights to get their products certified by independent laboratories. But companies that make refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers, water heaters and room air-conditioners, in which efficiency is far more critical because they gobble more energy, need only check a box on a form to be certified.

The Energy Department has promised to set up a system of independent verification for all products. Last week, it said it would begin testing refrigerators, freezers, clothes washers, dishwashers, water heaters and room air-conditioners. In October 2008, Consumer Reports magazine reported it had tested refrigerators built by LG of South Korea and found that they were not nearly as efficient as the maker claimed. LG eventually agreed to modify the machines already sold to reduce electricity consumption and to reimburse customers. Last week, the Energy Department said it had found a Samsung refrigerator that did not comply.

The Energy Department does spot check some items with the EnergyStar logo, but mostly the ones that do not use much power in the first place. The department recently announced that several models of compact fluorescent lamps would have to remove the EnergyStar logo because they were not durable enough. It has conducted spot checks on regulated appliances that do not carry the logo and determined that some cannot be legally sold because they do not meet minimum efficiency standards.

The audit to be released Friday did not set out to test any products but focused solely on testing the certification process by submitting bogus products.

Gene Rodrigues, the director of customer energy efficiency at Southern California Edison, suggested that the EnergyStar label suffered from its appeal to manufacturers. “It may be that their ability to properly manage the brand suffered at the fringes,” he said of the program’s overseers.

He argues that a strong federal certification program is vital. “What we in the program industry are looking for is for this to be a wake-up call to whip them into shape,” he said.

In another sign that Energy Star is not dotting its i’s, program officials told the auditors that they sought to assure honesty by warning corporate applicants on some of its paperwork that intentionally submitting false information is a crime, under Title 18 of the United States Code.

But it is a crime under Title 19, not 18, and the warning does not appear on all of the relevant forms, the report said.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

It's my Women's Time

It is funny that I began this blog to discuss my experience in construction as a woman who later in life came in the profession via the back door - literally and figuratively.

But as the world began to burn around me I found myself less enamored with the industry - probably because my income from it declined and instead became enamored with the things that mattered to me personally.

Aside from Health Care Reform I have always been very involved with women's issues. I know that feminism has always been a dirty word for the "modern" woman as like many of this new generation they have not thought they were "experiencing" discrimination in their lives. But I would like to point to the Lilly Ledbetter Law signed by Obama only a year ago that belies it. But when you are living in a bubble (again literally and figuratively) you aren't really seeing the forest for the trees.

Just the recent Health Care reform debate that was almost derailed by the Bart Stupak amendment centering on a woman's right to choose shows that well we women don't always have as many choices as we are led to believe. If you doubt that contact Planned Parenthood or the NARAL regarding where we are with reproductive rights.

But reading Salon today I was reminded that Feminism is still a very dirty word among contemporary women. I was not really surprised that it is word ripe with negative connotation. You can read the article here.

Additionally, Slate provides an interesting article regarding Wall Street; The belief that this meltdown might not have occurred had more women been involved in managing and especially risk management positions. When you read the book regarding Lehman's fall by a former Manager he mentions several women who he greatly admired and were aware of the problems but like many voices silenced. It is the same idea that I often discuss in relationship to Green Building and the Environment that the concepts affordability and accessibility might be more embraced if there were more faces of color present.

And finally a Newsweek article regarding the role of women in the Workplace. I quote...

Newsweek may have a female managing director who climbed the ranks at the magazine, "but just as the first black president hasn't wiped out racism," they argue, "a female at the top of a company doesn't eradicate sexism." And in a "highly sexualized, post-PC world, navigating gender roles at work is more confusing than ever." They write:

The sad truth is that when we do see women rise to the top, we wonder: was it purely their abilities, or did it have something to do with their looks? If a man takes an interest in our work, we can't help but think about the male superior who advised "using our sexuality" to get ahead, or the manager who winkingly asked one of us, apropos of nothing, to "bake me cookies."


We have come a long way baby from our marching in the street for the recognition and respect that has been in debate from when Margaret Sanger or Susan B Anthony stood up and demanded a place at the table but we are not at the head of it by any stretch of the imagination.

I ask young women what have you done for a WOMAN today?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tapped Out

Today (March 22) is World Water Day and on that note I am advising you on this documentary....



The award-winning documentary Tapped is embarking on an eco-aggressive 30- day/30-city cross country tour to get Americans “Off the Bottle.” Beginning World Water Day (March 22nd) Tapped’s Producer Sarah Olson and Director Stephanie Soechtig will take their mobile showroom on the road, collecting pledges from people to reduce their bottled water use and trading empty plastic water bottles for reusable stainless steel Klean Kanteens. This mobile translucent recycling container will begin the “Get Off The (h20) Bottle” tour in Los Angeles with an empty cabin that will be filled with the public’s empty water bottles by the time the team ends up in New York City on Earth Day (April 22nd, 2010).

Director Stephanie Soechtig says about the tour, “1,500 bottles of water end up in landfills every second – that’s 30 million bottles of water a day! We wanted to show people just how much waste is generated by bottled water - so if that means we have to drive city to city to get the point across than that’s what we’ll do!”

The tour - consisting of 30 scheduled screenings of Tapped followed by a town hall Q & A - will kick off in Los Angeles on March 22nd en route to New York City. The Tapped truck can be tracked online as the Tapped website will be overhauled - featuring celebrity guest columns by Ed Begley Jr and David de Rothschild, a public service announcement by Grammy Winner Jack Johnson, and daily videos and bonus clips from the film.



Watch the trailer at: www.tappedthemovie.com.

ABOUT TAPPED

Is access to clean drinking water a basic human right, or a commodity that should be bought and sold like any other article of commerce? Stephanie Soechtig's debut feature is an unflinching examination of the big business of bottled water.

From the producers of Who Killed the Electric Car and I.O.U.S.A., this timely documentary is a behind-the-scenes look into the unregulated and unseen world of an industry that aims to privatize and sell back the one resource that ought never to become a commodity: our water.

From the plastic production to the ocean in which so many of these bottles end up, this inspiring documentary trails the path of the bottled water industry and the communities which were the unwitting chips on the table. A powerful portrait of the lives affected by the bottled water industry, this revelatory film features those caught at the intersection of big business and the public's right to water.

For more information please go to www.tappedthemovie.com



UPCOMING DATES:
(visit our website for more details and showtimes)

March 19 - Mill Valley, CA
March 19 - Montreal, Quebec
March 20 - Sunnyvale, CA
March 20 - Boston, MA
March 20 - Vancouver, British Columbia
March 21 - Prince George, British Columbia
March 21 - Portland, ME
March 21 - Honolulu, HI
- hosted by Jack Johnson
and Kokua Hawai'i Foundation
March 21 - Venice, CA
March 21 - Kelowna, British Columbia
March 22 - Annandale, VA
March 22 - Guelph, Ontario
March 22 - Mill Valley, CA
March 22 - San Diego, CA
March 22 - Burnaby, British Columbia
March 22 - Auckland, New Zealand
March 22 - Manchester, United Kingdom
March 22 - Durham, NC
March 23 - Laie, HI

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Undercover Boss or the Lord vists the Peasants

I had been meaning to write my thoughts on this interesting "reality show" and last week Bill Maher had scathing comments regarding it and now today there are two articles in the New York Times regarding Undercover Boss.

I have only watched one episode, the one where White Castle CEO, works at varying stores and the warehouse in a way of connecting and learning about his company and "his" employees. In the first episode the CEO of Waste Management collected insight with the garbage.

I had a whole Prince and the Pauper vibe going where the Prince finds a twin and switches places with him to learn about his "people." Upon viewing and experiencing the lives of his workers the boss in his empathetic wisdom bestows a better job, a check or a kind word or idea that will somehow resolve the ails and problems that are evident in the company. Its kind of a Parent Trap without the whimsical situations.

The CEO of White Castle is truly a lord in the sense that he has inherited his job and title. So unlike the WM CEO who was an attorney hired into the position, one would assume he would have had a great familiarity with not only the product but the business having been made to work in the stores or warehouse as part of the process. Well that is of course wishful thinking say that Paris Hilton actually made beds in the Hilton instead of filming amateur porn in them.

The staff of White Castle was largely middle age. One would have expected a younger more high school/college kid vibe. Not in this economy. Primarily women and one younger black man with a disabled child try to demonstrate and train this older white male who expresses a desire to learn the "food business." In his one exchange with a young Latino male still in high school who does want to enter the culinary arts does the boss realize that Yes, Virginia real people, the working poor have dreams and ambitions but mostly they have little pay, little reward, no training and fear of the boss. One Manager expressed to the Lord of the Castle how she feared losing her job on a daily basis while gesturing to the cameras trained on the staff reminding him that the "big office is always watching."

Well if that was the case then wouldn't he know how to make a hamburger? Ones made famous in numerous films? Um no. Talk about nepotism where the Lord has never once probably eaten let alone make the ubiquitous sliders of which made White Castle famous.

The producers said it was intended to be a "transformative" series. Well message boards and commentaries alike feel that its quite contrary. Many complaints center that it seems almost produced as a faux PR film and that the bosses benevolence at the end to the beleaguered workers is a single act that does nothing for the greater good of the employees and business as a whole.

I agree. If you are that out of touch with the Management, the way the business is run I wonder why you are well running the business. As someone who used to run a small business with a crew and doing my own scheduling, payroll, etc. I needed information and communication. It affected my bottom line and well in turn those around me. I get that these are big corporations but they demonstrate to me how further disconnected the elite in upper management are from the real frontline and those critical to their success.

Bottom line its the lowest on the totem pole who suffers for the quest for profits. But it also shows that business is as business does. Living in a hotel for a week or two, spending a day or two at a site really doesn't show or teach you anything. But it shows us who watch plenty.

I reprint the Editorial from this mornings New York Times and it expresses my sentiments exactly. As for the only boss I watch is Donald Trump, The Apprentice. That I know is "real" As in entertaining.

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Unreality TV: If the Boss Only Knew, He Would Do Something

o

By ADAM COHEN
Published: March 19, 2010

In the premiere of the new CBS show “Undercover Boss,” Lawrence O’Donnell III, the president of Waste Management — the large trash-collection company — disguised himself as a lowly worker. In these tough times, a voice-over declared, hard-working Americans blame wealthy, out-of-touch C.E.O.’s, “but some bosses are willing to take extreme action to make their businesses better.”

From the ground up, Mr. O’Donnell noticed things that he had missed from the executive suite — problems and injustices that he immediately vowed to correct. By the hour’s end, he had done just that.

“Undercover Boss,” is bad television but a perfect show for our times with its heaping helpings of what politics is increasingly about: false populism.

The “king incognito,” who dresses down and wanders among his subjects, is an old literary device. In “Henry V,” on the eve of the battle of Agincourt, the king strolls among his soldiers in disguise to learn what they are thinking and bolster their spirits.

In the 21st-century version, the bosses leave their lavish homes and move into budget hotels, don workers’ uniforms and hairnets and take on the most humbling assignments. As the cameras followed him, Mr. O’Donnell picked up litter from the ground (so badly he was fired) and cleaned outhouses (too slowly, but a supervisor decided that he had potential).

More fundamentally, the show draws on the old Russian peasant refrain: “If only the czar knew of our suffering, he would do something.”

On “Undercover Boss,” the bosses are genuinely shocked by what they see. Mr. O’Donnell is dumbfounded when a worker rushes out of the lunchroom, because if she is just a minute or two late from her 30-minute break she is docked. He cannot believe, as he learns, that one of his female garbage truck drivers — too pressed by the workload to make bathroom stops — has to pee in a can. “I feel like a male chauvinist,” he says. “I never thought about it.”

Mr. O’Donnell is particularly struck by the plight of Jaclyn, a low-level administrative employee who is — could it possibly be? — overworked and underappreciated. Jaclyn does several jobs, piled on her because her unit is understaffed. And, despite all of her hard work for the company, she is at risk of losing her dream home, in which she lives with three generations of relatives.

Before the episode is over, Mr. O’Donnell calls in the supervisor responsible for docking workers who are a few minutes late from lunch break and directs him to rethink his policy. He appoints the driver who had to pee in a can to a task force to improve the workplace.

The biggest beneficiary of his munificence is hard-working, underappreciated Jaclyn. Mr. O’Donnell takes Jaclyn off her hourly wage, puts her on salary, and tells her she can hire her replacement. As a manager, she becomes eligible for a sizable bonus. She can afford to keep her home.

The show ends with the boss bathed in a warm glow of employee gratitude. “All my hard work has been noticed,” Jaclyn declares. On another episode, featuring the White Castle hamburger chain, an employee named Donna tells the boss, “I’m glad there’s people like you out in this world.”

At its core, “Undercover Boss” sells a false idea of why many workers are in the position they are in and what can be done about it. It is the relentless focus on the bottom line, as well as out-of-touch executives, that causes workplace wrongs to flourish. The czar, as many Russians understood, did know — and chose to do nothing.

The show simply glosses over the fact that it is not corporate benevolence that protects workers but also the legal protections that arose out of the New Deal — minimum wage and maximum hours laws; energetic enforcement of Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules; and strong unions.

Many viewers seem to recognize the faultiness of the premise. One commenter on the show’s official message board noted that Mr. O’Donnell’s solution for Jaclyn might help her, “but what about her ‘replacement’ that she is supposed to hire?” — who would presumably have the same problems she had.

Sounds like a good sequel.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Stephen Moore Masturbates to Ayn Rand

Actually Stephen Moore, an Economist who writes for the Wall Street Journal is probably not the only financial geek who does. No question Alan Greenspan was the head of that circle jerk.

Ayn Rand, the hack writer of The Fountainhead among others is considered the SpokesGoddess of the Libertarian, Free Market advocates of the past 40 years. There are two recent books on this crazy bitch and for those interested in the titillating facts about her I suggest contacting your local library.

But Stephen Moore, this giggling, boring drone of the right wing loves to still quote this idiot writer as if she was a highly respected economic theorist/historian of the 20th Century. And while I don't actually know anything about this man other than via watching him on Bill Maher I suspect he is a single lonely asexual man who fantasizes about the heroes of Rand's books, like John Galt in a sort of homoerotic reality. And if you read any of these book about Ayn Rand sex and sexuality was highly part of her "recruiting" advocates.

What is sad is his clinging to this belief as Alan Greenspan has now in his dotage admitted that what he "knew and believed was wrong" His recent writings now express a desire for stronger regulation and control by the Fed for oversight on banking. A distinct difference of his earlier lassiez faire approach. While not apologizing this "oracle" of the Economy has realized what a load of shit Rand peddled. But well Stephen has not come to this reality.

I let you read the ramblings of this succubus of sadness and see how again his masturbatory fantasies have not transcended his college days. He is for me (as Andy Cohen of Bravo TV says) the JACKHOLE OF THE WEEK.

____________________________________

'Atlas Shrugged': From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years



By STEPHEN MOORE

Some years ago when I worked at the libertarian Cato Institute, we used to label any new hire who had not yet read "Atlas Shrugged" a "virgin." Being conversant in Ayn Rand's classic novel about the economic carnage caused by big government run amok was practically a job requirement. If only "Atlas" were required reading for every member of Congress and political appointee in the Obama administration. I'm confident that we'd get out of the current financial mess a lot faster.


Many of us who know Rand's work have noticed that with each passing week, and with each successive bailout plan and economic-stimulus scheme out of Washington, our current politicians are committing the very acts of economic lunacy that "Atlas Shrugged" parodied in 1957, when this 1,000-page novel was first published and became an instant hit.

Rand, who had come to America from Soviet Russia with striking insights into totalitarianism and the destructiveness of socialism, was already a celebrity. The left, naturally, hated her. But as recently as 1991, a survey by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club found that readers rated "Atlas" as the second-most influential book in their lives, behind only the Bible.

For the uninitiated, the moral of the story is simply this: Politicians invariably respond to crises -- that in most cases they themselves created -- by spawning new government programs, laws and regulations. These, in turn, generate more havoc and poverty, which inspires the politicians to create more programs . . . and the downward spiral repeats itself until the productive sectors of the economy collapse under the collective weight of taxes and other burdens imposed in the name of fairness, equality and do-goodism.

In the book, these relentless wealth redistributionists and their programs are disparaged as "the looters and their laws." Every new act of government futility and stupidity carries with it a benevolent-sounding title. These include the "Anti-Greed Act" to redistribute income (sounds like Charlie Rangel's promises soak-the-rich tax bill) and the "Equalization of Opportunity Act" to prevent people from starting more than one business (to give other people a chance). My personal favorite, the "Anti Dog-Eat-Dog Act," aims to restrict cut-throat competition between firms and thus slow the wave of business bankruptcies. Why didn't Hank Paulson think of that?

These acts and edicts sound farcical, yes, but no more so than the actual events in Washington, circa 2008. We already have been served up the $700 billion "Emergency Economic Stabilization Act" and the "Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act." Now that Barack Obama is in town, he will soon sign into law with great urgency the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan." This latest Hail Mary pass will increase the federal budget (which has already expanded by $1.5 trillion in eight years under George Bush) by an additional $1 trillion -- in roughly his first 100 days in office.

The current economic strategy is right out of "Atlas Shrugged": The more incompetent you are in business, the more handouts the politicians will bestow on you. That's the justification for the $2 trillion of subsidies doled out already to keep afloat distressed insurance companies, banks, Wall Street investment houses, and auto companies -- while standing next in line for their share of the booty are real-estate developers, the steel industry, chemical companies, airlines, ethanol producers, construction firms and even catfish farmers. With each successive bailout to "calm the markets," another trillion of national wealth is subsequently lost. Yet, as "Atlas" grimly foretold, we now treat the incompetent who wreck their companies as victims, while those resourceful business owners who manage to make a profit are portrayed as recipients of illegitimate "windfalls."

When Rand was writing in the 1950s, one of the pillars of American industrial might was the railroads. In her novel the railroad owner, Dagny Taggart, an enterprising industrialist, has a FedEx-like vision for expansion and first-rate service by rail. But she is continuously badgered, cajoled, taxed, ruled and regulated -- always in the public interest -- into bankruptcy. Sound far-fetched? On the day I sat down to write this ode to "Atlas," a Wall Street Journal headline blared: "Rail Shippers Ask Congress to Regulate Freight Prices."

In one chapter of the book, an entrepreneur invents a new miracle metal -- stronger but lighter than steel. The government immediately appropriates the invention in "the public good." The politicians demand that the metal inventor come to Washington and sign over ownership of his invention or lose everything.

The scene is eerily similar to an event late last year when six bank presidents were summoned by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson to Washington, and then shuttled into a conference room and told, in effect, that they could not leave until they collectively signed a document handing over percentages of their future profits to the government. The Treasury folks insisted that this shakedown, too, was all in "the public interest."

Ultimately, "Atlas Shrugged" is a celebration of the entrepreneur, the risk taker and the cultivator of wealth through human intellect. Critics dismissed the novel as simple-minded, and even some of Rand's political admirers complained that she lacked compassion. Yet one pertinent warning resounds throughout the book: When profits and wealth and creativity are denigrated in society, they start to disappear -- leaving everyone the poorer.

One memorable moment in "Atlas" occurs near the very end, when the economy has been rendered comatose by all the great economic minds in Washington. Finally, and out of desperation, the politicians come to the heroic businessman John Galt (who has resisted their assault on capitalism) and beg him to help them get the economy back on track. The discussion sounds much like what would happen today:

Galt: "You want me to be Economic Dictator?"

Mr. Thompson: "Yes!"

"And you'll obey any order I give?"

"Implicitly!"

"Then start by abolishing all income taxes."

"Oh no!" screamed Mr. Thompson, leaping to his feet. "We couldn't do that . . . How would we pay government employees?"

"Fire your government employees."

"Oh, no!"

Abolishing the income tax. Now that really would be a genuine economic stimulus. But Mr. Obama and the Democrats in Washington want to do the opposite: to raise the income tax "for purposes of fairness" as Barack Obama puts it.

David Kelley, the president of the Atlas Society, which is dedicated to promoting Rand's ideas, explains that "the older the book gets, the more timely its message." He tells me that there are plans to make "Atlas Shrugged" into a major motion picture -- it is the only classic novel of recent decades that was never made into a movie. "We don't need to make a movie out of the book," Mr. Kelley jokes. "We are living it right now."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Time is Here

Health care is going to happen. All of my beliefs, letter writing, raging seems to well have been completely ignored. Actually I have no idea but each day I would target some crazed up Republican to remind them that they are to serve the American people. In other words that letter never saw the light of day.

I did write the Blue Dogs as well. And upon occasion I wrote other positive Democrats saying thank you for their efforts to bring this desperately needed service to the American people.

Its been a bad year for me, for others like me and for the world in general. I have experienced the lowest of despair and working odd jobs and subbing to make ends meet. Anytime I got a real client I did not believe it was for real and then months would go by before I would see another.

I walked by a local barbershop this morning. The barber was sitting there watching TV. There was something about it that said this is not a good thing. I recall the days going to the Barber with my Dad and there was always one or two people sitting there as it was the next best thing to a male clubhouse. Now today the hair salon is more common and here in Seattle we have the hipster Barber shops that dot the landscape. However to a certain generation the Barber was the most central focus of the local community. I wanted to walk in and just shoot the shit with her. Yes this barber was a woman, a woman of a certain age in a primarily black neighborhood. I thought there was someone who has seen much and might have much to say. But I have been feeling very "Seattle" lately - meaning more and more insular and less likely to say hello to strangers and talk about the day. This town has that toxic effect on you. They call it the "Seattle Freeze" Whatever it is I might have caught it and that worries me too.

But there is something that does take me out of my malaise and that is that health reform is here. It is happening and it is real. It is inadequate but I have hope that it will be amended and changed for the better but I am happy. It has stopped the Republicans from their obstinate obstructionist ways. I am happy that Obama finally stepped up to the plate and truly intervened and made it happen.

Are we done yet? No. Next up Financial Reform. Expect many blogs devoted to that subject as we move into another round my friends. This fight is a championship and we have many contenders to make it to the finals.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Go Big or Go Green

There is a controversy brewing of the new Green McMansion being built by Mitch Kapor a supporter of Environmental causes and his new 10,000 square foot home being built in Berkeley.

The home is being certified by the local Build It Green program and at this time I don't know how much of this home will embrace a "zero energy" philosophy by adding appropriate renewable energy features and water conservation elements that would compensate for a home of such significant size.

I reprint the article and again highlight why I struggle with the idea of awarding points from LEED, etc. to anything as long as it adds all the required bells and whistles with no real consideration to the size/type and purpose of the building.

Mr. Kapor and his team rejected LEED for Homes as they could not get the platinum status (the highest) award. Upon review of that level it shows they are not pursuing the most rigorous of standards even yes by LEED which isn't all that complex and has little to do with performance. But you have to wonder if it was because even LEED was asking too much? And why not another level - gold or silver? There are many questions that are raised here from a billionaire environmental philanthropist. I mean cost is not a concern right?

I thought the idea of going green was not simply replacing a different type of consumption with conservation. The irony is not lost on an individual who purports to support environmental causes. Interesting that this is his contribution to it. I believe he drives a Prius. Well how green of you.

_______________________________________________

How Green Is My Mansion?
Drew Kelly for The New York Times

Susan and Chuck Fadley, neighbors of the site where Mitch Kapor wants to build a house, at the site. They think the proposed house will be too big to be considered green.

Now Mr. Kapor wants to build a 10,000-square-foot house, complete with a 10-car garage, in Berkeley, Calif.

When the house won planning approval earlier this year, many neighbors were surprised — not so much by the size of the house, or by its sleek design, but by the fact that, under Berkeley regulations, the house will qualify as “green.” In Berkeley, building proposals are evaluated on a “green point” scale, earning credit for such eco-conscious features as low-flow shower heads and insulation. A house with more than 60 points is labeled green, regardless of its size.

Gary Earl Parsons, a Berkeley architect and a member of that city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, called the designation of the Kapor house as green “absurd.”

“That the staff, the owners and the architects indulge in this kind of greenwashing only serves to make a joke out of Berkeley’s environmental aspirations,” Mr. Parsons wrote on the Berkeleyside blog.

Greg Powell, the city’s senior planner assigned to the project, defended the point system. “True, the greenest house is the house you don’t build,” he said. “But we assume people are going to build new homes, and we encourage them to make them better.”

But the system’s failure to account for size enrages some environmentalists, who note that a 10,000-square-foot house is likely to require four times the resources of the average new American house, which, according to the Census Bureau, is under 2,500 square feet.

In an appeal of the Kapor decision to the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board, a group of neighbors, including Susan and Chuck Fadley, who live about 200 yards from where the Kapors hope to build, wrote that “green building begins with using ‘just enough’ and preserving what already exists. Clearly the idea of ‘just enough’ is not part of the design concept.”

Donn Logan, Mr. Kapor’s architect, wrote in an e-mail message that he and Mr. Kapor, the founder of Lotus Development Corp., were too busy to respond to questions. But Mr. Logan, of the firm Marcy Wong Donn Logan Architects, said it is unfair to describe the house as having 10,000 square feet; its living area is 6,500 square feet. (The garage accounts for 3,500 square feet.)

Mr. Logan said the Web site of the Mitchell Kapor Foundation, MKF.org, offered proof of Mr. Kapor’s commitment to environmental causes. The foundation has given grants to dozens of environmental programs in California.

But the controversy over whether a large house can be green has implications far beyond the wooded lot on Rose Street, where Mr. Kapor and his wife, Freada Kapor Klein, the founder of the Level Playing Field Institute, a nonprofit that promotes fairness in educational and workplace settings, hope to live.

Nationally, some 10,000 buildings have been certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program of the United States Green Building Council.

Like Berkeley’s green designation, LEED certification relies on a point system. Buildings get credit for specific eco-friendly features, some of which can be rewarded with tax credits or abatements. The LEED for Homes system “reallocates” points if a house is much larger than average, according to Scot Horst, the green building council’s vice president for LEED. But that reallocation doesn’t prevent very large homes from achieving LEED designations, he said, so long as they include enough green features.

“In other parts of the world, there are government mandates for building performance,” Mr. Horst said. “But we don’t do that in the United States.”

William H. Harrison, an Atlanta architect with a stable of wealthy clients, said penalizing people for building large houses could slow the adoption of green building practices. “The people who can afford the green technologies are going to want large houses,” he said. And those innovations, he said, will trickle down to smaller houses.

Mr. Harrison said that one of his clients is planning to build a 25,000-square-foot house in Los Angeles. But he opted out of the LEED system, Mr. Harrison said, when he learned that it was virtually impossible to get the highest LEED rating, known as platinum.

“He’s a billionaire, and he drives a Prius, for God’s sake,” said Mr. Harrison of his client. “He wants to do the right thing, environmentally. And now he’s being told, ‘You’re not good enough, because your house is too big.’ ”That, Mr. Harrison said, “is about socialism, not sustainability.”

Mr. Harrison said he is working on a 50,000-square-foot house in Kiev, Ukraine. The project, he said, “is going to employ 5,000 people for three years. All those people will have jobs, and feed their families. Should I tell my client not to build it? Or should I participate — try to make it as green as possible? The answer is, I should do what I’m doing. I don’t feel guilty at all.”

Jim Nicolow, the director of sustainability at Lord, Aeck & Sargent, an architecture firm with offices in Atlanta; Ann Arbor, Mich., and Chapel Hill, N.C., credited LEED with making sustainability a part of the discussion between architects and clients. But, he said, “there are a lot of problems with the system.”

For architects, Mr. Nicolow said, there is a constant question of whether to take a bad project and try to make it better. “I don’t fault the architect for making a living,” he said. “If you get a project, you tend to take the project.”

Berkeley’s green point system was developed by a nonprofit group called Built It Green and adopted by the city government. Items on the checklist include: tightly seal the air barrier between the garage and living area; insulate hot water pipes; use Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood; use paint low in volatile organic compounds. About 70 local governments in California have ordinances based on the Build It Green checklist, according to Bruce Mast, an executive of the organization.

The plan for the Kapors’ house received 91 points, 31 more than required for a green designation in Berkeley. Before the couple can start building, they will have to demolish an existing 2,500-square-foot house on the site and cut down mature trees.

But the site of the Kapor house is so large, said Mr. Powell of Berkeley, that even with a very big house, the percentage of the lot that is covered will be low for the area. And, he said, they are proposing the 10-car garage not because they have a lot of cars, but because neighbors expressed concern about on-street parking. They’re addressing the issue “on their own nickel,” he said.

Because the decision to approve the house has been appealed, the city council will review the case in April, Mr. Powell said. The council, he said, could approve the application, set a hearing date or remand the case to the zoning board for reconsideration.

However the Kapor case is decided, it could lead to changes in the checklist approach used in Berkeley and elsewhere. In their appeal to the board, residents proposed a modification to the “green point” system.

Since the house is at least the size of three typical houses, they wrote, “the 91 green points earned should really be divided by three, yielding a score of 30.”

That is far below the number required for a green designation.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Money Grubbing Whores

Actually the title is misleading, whores are rarely money grubbing. The provide a service that I believe is necessary and do so in ways that are less than safe, secure and provide no future.

The real money grubbers are those that remind me of the tale of Jesus chasing the money lenders from the Temple, of Shakespeare's Shylock or of Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone's, Wall Street - GREED IS GOOD.

Whatever analogy you choose it is a time where one wonders what the fuck is really going on. Whatever your feeling about Micheal Moore is his Capitalism film demonstrates a version of what America has become over the last 20 years.

The Wingers are sure to defend their position as that free market economy, business over Government are the cure for all ails. All of "this" meaning whatever you definition of "this" is is not the failings of that belief but of the in act the Government's inability to perform its job. A job that would have you believe in regulation, protection, legislation and apparently hands off when it if affects a Corporations profits. It is a mixed nut bag of bullshit and confusion.

Who is the Guardian at the gate? Who is to protect the average citizenry of the chicanery that is big business and big government - the perceived enemies depending on which side of the fence you stand.

All I know that both Democrats and Republicans have systemically (over the last 20 years) diluted Government laws, regulation and influence to an over ever increasing emphasis and belief on the Ayn Rand concept of "Free Market Economy." That advocacy has led to two bubbles collapsing, numerous frauds and failures (both in businesses and personal wealth) and the deepest recession since the Great Depression.

Whoever you "believe" Whatever you believe. You have to believe that Corporations are insane for profit as profit inflates value and value inflates the stock and the stock shares and/or options is what makes up most Executive compensation. And with the zeal for greater pay comes greater risk. It really is that simple.

I reprint the article below fr from the Huffington Post, by my favorite host and writer, Bill Moyers. His show is at risk of leaving the airways a true INJUSTICE to us all who need such Guardians, such voices to be heard of the clatter of those who believe our voices have no value.

_________________________________________



Bill Moyers
Michael Winship

Ask the Chamber of Commerce: Why Is Too Much Not Enough?


Living in these United States, there comes a point at which you throw your hands up in exasperation and despair and ask a fundamental question or two: how much excess profit does corporate America really need? How much bigger do executive salaries and bonuses have to be, how many houses or jets or artworks can be crammed into a life?

After all, as billionaire movie director Steven Spielberg is reported to have said, when all is said and done, "How much better can lunch get?"

But since greed is not self-governing, hardly anyone raking in the dough ever stops to say, "That's it. Enough's enough! How do we prevent it from sweeping up everything in its path, including us?"

Look at the health care industry saying to hell with consumers and then hiking premiums -- by as much as 39% in the case of Anthem Blue Cross in California. According to congressional investigators, over a two-year period Anthem's parent company WellPoint spent more than $27 million dollars for executive retreats at luxury resorts. And in 2008, WellPoint paid 39 of its executives more than a million dollars each. Profit before patients.

This week, America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the health insurance industry's lobby, announced they'd be spending more than a million dollars on new television ads justifying their costs.

Speaking at their annual policy meeting in Washington -- and without a trace of irony -- AHIP's president and CEO Karen Ignagni declared, "The current debate about rising premiums has demonstrated that, in fact, we have a health care cost crisis in this country. Unfortunately, the path that has been followed is one of vilification rather than problem solving."

Beg pardon? You're lamenting a health care cost crisis and raising your premiums? Isn't that like the guy complaining there's an obesity epidemic in America while ordering a double Big Mac with extra fries?

Of course, a million is a mere bagatelle in the shadow of the $544 million that was spent on lobbying by the health sector last year, plus more than $200 million in advocacy ads. And a million's just the curtain raiser to what will be spent in these final weeks of health care reform debate.

Two weeks ago, The Washington Post reported, "Washington interest groups have burst back into action in hopes of bolstering or defeating a new Democratic push on health-care reform legislation, sparking another wave of rallies, lobbying efforts and costly advertising campaigns.'

This in spite of the projection that over ten years the Obama plan would plop an additional $336 billion into the insurance companies' pockets -- in the form of subsidies given to those who can't afford to buy health insurance on their own.

Okay, this is getting weird: We're going to help the poor by enriching their exploiters?

But apparently even that won't satisfy big business' voracious appetite for more. On Tuesday, Employers for a Healthy Economy, a coalition of 248 business groups, led by the U.S Chamber of Commerce, and including construction and manufacturing interests, as well as health insurance companies, said that over ten days they will spend up to $10 million on ads aimed at putting the screws on members of Congress to vote against health care reform.

Goodness knows, it isn't just because their profit margins may dwindle. No, according to Neil Trautwein, vice president of the National Retail Federation, one of the trade associations involved, "These bills are job killers. Retail simply cannot afford any higher benefit costs or burdensome mandates." (Never mind that extrapolating from baseline forecasts made by the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment Projections Program, the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, projects that health care reform possibly could create an average of as many as 400,000 new jobs a year.)

But beyond the health care fight, and perhaps far more significant in the long run, this effort is just one more example of life, Pandora-style. The Company has arrived, only it's called the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and it's got its sights on anything that moves, damn the natives, full speed ahead.

During 2008, 86% of contributions from the chamber's political action committee went to GOP candidates. The conservatives have found their Avatar, AKA Frankenstein.

Of course there is not actually a Chamber of Commerce, at least the way we might imagine it. This is no confederation of congenial, small town business groups that pass out maps of Main Street and souvenir key rings. The chamber in question is a front group. Yes, yes, it reports a membership of three million businesses, but tax records indicate that in 2008 a third of its contributions came from 19 companies paying between $1 million and $15.3 million. Don't hold your breath: the chamber is not required to reveal who those 19 are.

The March 8 edition of the Los Angeles Times reports that "internal documents suggest the organization's treasury is filled in substantial part by contributions from a couple dozen major corporations most affected by Washington policymakers."

Got it? Predators who prey together stick together.

With all that cash, the Times notes, "The chamber spent more than $144 million on lobbying and grass-roots organizing last year, a 60% increase over 2008, and well beyond the spending of individual labor unions or the Democratic or Republican national committees. The chamber is expected to substantially exceed that spending level in 2010."

This elite organization of oligarchs has been emboldened by the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, which now allows corporations to spend freely on political campaigns right up until Election Day, and by the chamber's recent success contributing a million dollars for ads supporting Republican Senator Scott Brown in Massachusetts.

What's more, writes the Los Angeles Times, "Using trade associations such as the chamber as the vehicle for spending corporate money on politics has an extra appeal: These groups can take large contributions from companies and wealthy individuals in ways that will probably avoid public disclosure requirements."

So with the spring comes anonymous greed run rampant. "In the past a lot of companies and wealthy individuals stood on the sidelines" of politics, a corporate lawyer at Washington's influential law firm Covington & Burling told the Times.

"That cloud has been lifted," he said.

As the sun sets on democracy.

No wonder demonstrators outside that health insurance meeting in Washington this week surrounded the hotel with yellow crime scene tape. The entire country is being mugged.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Bill Maher and Common Sense

Last night after the worst week in my life as a Substitute Teacher - Bill provided his final commentary about the State of Education.

There are no truer words spoken when I heard this rant. I have said it many times but I also come from a place of experience. I do not write about my work as substitute as it is only a means to an end. I keep thinking I will wake up and my real work in the building trades will be restored and I will work with people whom I respect and in turn respect me. In the meantime I hear bastardizations of my name repeatedly, see violence, hear threats and watch the deterioration of the future that the Republicans keep browbeating about... the debt to our children. They don't need to worry because they probably won't make it that long to pay it or worry it about it if one believes in evolution. Thankfully the Republicans don't believe in that either.


New Rule: Let's not fire the teachers when students don't learn - let's fire the parents.

Last week President Obama defended the firing of every single teacher in a struggling high school in a poor Rhode Island neighborhood. And the kids were outraged. They said, "Why blame our teachers?" and "Who's President Obama?" I think it was Whitney Houston who said, "I believe that children are our future - teach them well and let them lead the way." And that's the last sound piece of educational advice this country has gotten - from a crack head in the '80's.

Yes, America has found its new boogeyman to blame for our crumbling educational system. It's just too easy to blame the teachers, what with their cushy teachers' lounges, their fat-cat salaries, and their absolute authority in deciding who gets a hall pass. We all remember high school - canning the entire faculty is a nationwide revenge fantasy. Take that, Mrs. Crabtree! And guess what? We're chewing gum and no, we didn't bring enough for everybody.

But isn't it convenient that once again it turns out that the problem isn't us, and the fix is something that doesn't require us to change our behavior or spend any money. It's so simple: Fire the bad teachers, hire good ones from some undisclosed location, and hey, while we're at it let's cut taxes more. It's the kind of comprehensive educational solution that could only come from a completely ignorant people.

Firing all the teachers may feel good - we're Americans, kicking people when they're down is what we do - but it's not really their fault. Now, undeniably, there are some bad teachers out there. They don't know the material, they don't make things interesting, they have sex with the same kid every day instead of spreading the love around... But every school has crappy teachers. Yale has crappy teachers - they must, they gave us George Bush.

According to all the studies, it doesn't matter what teachers do. Although everyone appreciates foreplay. What matters is what parents do. The number one predictor of a child's academic success is parental involvement. It doesn't even matter if your kid goes to private or public school. So save the twenty grand a year and treat yourself to a nice vacation away from the little bastards.

It's also been proven that just having books in the house makes a huge difference in a child's development. If your home is adorned with nothing but Hummel dolls, DVD's, and bleeding Jesuses, congratulations, you've just given your children the gift of Duh. Sarah Palin said recently she wrote on her hand because her father used to do it. I rest my case.

When there are no books in the house, and there are no parents in the house, you know who raises the kids? That's right, the television. Kids aren't keeping up with their studies; they're keeping up with the Kardashians. We're allowing the television, as babysitter, to turn us into a nation of slutty idiots. By the way, one sign your 9-year-old may be watching too much One Tree Hill: if she has an imaginary friend with benefits.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Mind behind the GOP is now A Greenie too

I have long wondered who or what is the collective brain trust behind the GOP's consistent and well repeated message. I have no idea who funds Frank Luntz - Rupert Murdoch, Fox News/Roger Ailes, Bebe Rebozo, the Wizard of Oz or just the GOP itself. But needless to say Frank has often changed sides which tells me is either a hypocrite, a whore or just simply a clever businessman who decides which side to be on as he or the wind blows.

Frank is apparently advising the Green Movement. And while I oddly agree with many of his ideas I am of course always suspect when it comes from Frank. I know Lindsey Graham was/is/had/isn't (I am never sure with the Republicans anymore) had legislation in the pipeline regarding Cap and Trade. So perhaps its an attempt at that long forgotten belief in compromise or bi-partisanship or maybe Lindsey enjoys the great outdoors. I certainly know his counterpart James Inhofe does not.

I read this article in Mother Jones regarding Frank's current analysis. And I have said for quite some times the "Green Jobs" thing is more a red flag than anything else and I worry that it is not encompassing enough of the real need for jobs and the fact that the green movement is largely white - despite the fact that it was Van Jones who advocates and defined the term as a way to reach out to people of color. But for now it is also associated with a negative connotation and elitist. Fake contrived science as evidenced by "Climategate" and the fact that is not good for business.

I have been saying to dress down the argument, deal with the obvious, Pollution, toxic water, air and soil and the KISS methodology.. keep it simple stupid. Frank apparently knows his audience and no acronym is better when it comes to the right I believe.

__________________________________________


The First Rule of Fighting Climate Change: Don't Talk About Climate Change

— By Kate Sheppard, Mother Jones
|
Republican pollster Frank Luntz—the brains behind Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America" and the man who coined politically potent phrases like the "death tax"—wants to help environmentalists in their push for legislation to combat climate change. His advice? Stop talking about climate change.

The environmental community is "fighting the wrong battle," Luntz announced on Thursday at an event to mark the release of a new report by his polling firm, The Word Doctors, outlining strategies to help marshal public support for a climate bill. "The least important component of climate change is climate change."

Luntz's report, "The Language of a Clean Energy Economy," finds that the majority of the public across the political spectrum is convinced that global warming is happening and caused at least in part by humans. But, Luntz says, talking about the problem won't win support for the legislation that would solve it. Among both Democrats and Republicans polled by his firm, addressing climate change was the least important reason to support a cap-and-trade policy.

So what should environmentalists say instead? Luntz suggests less talk of dying polar bears and more emphasis on how legislation will create jobs, make the planet healthier and decrease US dependence on foreign oil. Advocates should emphasize words like "cleaner," "healthier," and "safer"; scrap "green jobs" in favor of "American jobs," and ditch terms like "sustainability" and "carbon neutral" altogether. "It doesn't matter if there is or isn't climate change," he said. "It's still in America's best interest to develop new sources of energy that are clean, reliable, efficient and safe."

Luntz isn't the first public opinion expert to suggest this course of action—but until recently he was better known among environmentalists for furnishing the GOP with sophisticated strategies to kill any prospect of climate action during the Bush years. In 2002 Luntz authored an influential memo advising Republicans to green their public image while sowing public confusion about global warming. Republicans should "continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate" because otherwise, he warned, "[s]hould the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly." Two Bush initiatives that were vintage Luntz: the timber-industry-friendly "Healthy Forests Initiative" and the "Clear Skies Act" that loosened restrictions on polluters.

Many Republicans still seem to be working from Luntz's playbook. But he acknowledged at Thursday's event that the effort to muddy the public discussion over the science of climate change had failed. "It doesn't matter whether you call it climate change or global warming," he said. "The public believes it's happening, and they believe that humans are playing a part in it." In fact, Luntz warned that if Republicans continue to dispute climate science it could hurt them politically. Instead, he said, the GOP should be engaging in the debate over to solve America's energy problems. "You have to do something new, and you have to do it better," he said. "If you are representing the polices of the past, you will be kicked out."

Now that Luntz has changed course on climate, is his advice to environmentalists any better than his former counsel to the GOP? As it happens, many advocates of climate legislation have already started moving in the direction that Luntz is proposing. The cap-and-trade bill that passed the House last year is titled the "American Clean Energy and Security Act," and the version currently circulating in the Senate version is called the "Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act." (The Senate bill even eschews any talk of cap-and-trade, though Luntz balked at the Democrats' alternative term—"Global Warming Pollution Reduction and Investment"—because it uses the words "global warming.") President Barack Obama rarely talks about climate, focusing instead on jobs and economic growth. So far, though, all the positive spin hasn't made the hard task of passing legislation any easier.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Weather shifts and so do Houses

Be you a proponent of Global Warming or not there are clearly problems and issues with regards to weather that is causing problems with a homes' foundation.

Foundation problems are expensive but they are now fixable. Slab jacking has become a growth industry in the field. Foundations that need this unique fix are finding many more companies that specialize but it doesn't change the fact that much of it is due to the change in weather that has increased water damage and that the building boom also led to sloppy work that means more are on the horizon.

Homes already "under water" metaphorically are finding more problems that will need immediate attention before the damage becomes even more extensive and expensive. The New York Times had a article that discusses the practicality and issues surrounding this and particularly the insurance and damages that may or may not be available to the homeowner.

One of the many tenets of Green build is the way a foundation is laid and the ways to negate water from affecting the foundation and support of the home. Longer roof lines, grade and slope, gravel beneath the cement, landscaping that eliminates water from seeping in and insulation that prevents further cracking and cold damage.

These techniques again are "limited" to green building but again why? If this is a strategy that will enable better stability and sustainability of a home it should be mandatory. Stopping water run off and increasing a homes efficiency are all parts of what is necessary to well actually help stave off the carbon emissions that are causing such weather shifts. It is a win win scenario that is long overdue.

How can you know if your home is a candidate for foundation repair? Well if you are not showing the signs - cracked drywall, visible air spaces, a slope in floor and cracks to exterior foundation are all signs - get a civil engineer to perform an inspection. If you are looking to buy a home this is mandatory. Find out what you need to do. If the recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile should lead anyone living in a region prone to them the necessary adjustments in your homes structure.

I reprint the article below to understand the circumstances that are contributing to this as well as stories about homeowners who are finding themselves literally leaning to.

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Shifting Soil Threatens Homes’ Foundations



By KATE MURPHY
Published: March 3, 2010

COUNTER MEASURES The soil under the home of Psonya Wilson has required some major work and repairs. The two-story garden style house in Brandon, Miss., has required the installation of stabilization piers to shore up the foundation.


It started two years ago when a severe drought contracted the soil beneath the foundation, which caused it to crack and sink, pulling the house down with it. The noise has continued intermittently, becoming more insistent last year when flooding pushed the already compromised foundation and house back upward.

This seesawing effect was noisy and expensive. Mr. Derse has spent more than $10,000 to install subterranean piers to stabilize his foundation, and he expects he will have to install more to prevent further cracking and crumbling. “You lose your sense of security,” he said. “You love your home and then it literally turns on you.”

His is not the only house buffeted by shifting soil. Extreme weather possibly linked to climate change, as well as construction on less stable ground, have provoked unprecedented foundation failures in houses nationwide. Foundation repair companies report a doubling and tripling of their business in the last two decades with no let-up even during the recession

“We’ve seen a tremendous influx of pretty severe cases due to either drought or too much rain,” said Dan Jaggers, vice president of technical services at Olshan Foundation Repair, which has offices in the South, Midwest and Great Plains. “People call panicked because they’ve got gaping cracks in their walls, tile breaking, grout popping and they don’t know what to do.” Other telltale signs of foundation failure include doors and windows that will not close, chimneys or porches separating from the house and bowing basement walls.

After a particularly dry summer followed by deluges in the fall, Psonya Wilson, a lawyer in Brandon, Miss., noticed light streaming in where the wall had separated from the baseboard in the bedroom of her 5-year-old son. “I could stick my finger through it,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. The whole back part of the house had sunk about six inches.” To stop further collapse, not to mention to control the draft, she is having several stabilization piers installed to shore up the foundation of her two-story garden style house; it will cost more than $5,000.

Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association indicates that since the 1990s there has been an accelerating trend nationwide toward more extended dry periods followed by downpours. Whether due to random climate patterns or global warming, the swings between hot and dry weather and severe rain or snow have profoundly affected soil underneath buildings.

Clay soils, like those beneath the houses of Mr. Derse and Ms. Wilson, shrink during droughts and swell during floods, causing structures to bob. And because sandier soil loses its adhesive properties in dry conditions, it pulls away from foundations. Heavy rains cause it to shift or just collapse beneath structures. With both kinds of soil, such sinking, called subsidence, usually happens gradually, said Randall Orndorff, a geologist with the United States Geologic Survey. But, he said, “swinging from very wet to extremely dry weather like we’ve been seeing lately in many parts of the country may be accelerating the effect.”

Experts estimate the cost to homeowners to stabilize or shore up foundations is around $4 billion annually, up from $3 billion 10 years ago, although more houses have also been built in that time period. Subsidence is not covered by most homeowners’ insurance policies in the United States, unlike in Britain, where the increasing number of homeowners’ claims due to foundation failure prompted the Charter Insurance Institute, an industry trade group, to issue a dire warning about the financial drain in its 2009 report, “Coping with Climate Change: Risks and Opportunities for Insurers.”

“The question we need to ask is, are we building to cope with the enhanced weather events related to climate change,” said Brenda Ekwurzel, a climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit group advocating science-based solutions to environmental and health issues. “It’s obvious that we need to look at changing building codes worldwide to deal with this.”

Compounding the problem is that, during the recent housing boom in the United States, houses were built in areas where the soil was particularly prone to shift. “If you think about it, the best ground in cities is usually taken early on, so the builders and developers have often been expanding into less desirable areas, and in their rush to make money, may not have designed structures to deal with it,” said David Lourie, a geotechnical engineer in New Orleans.

Lawyers who specialize in foundation failure cases say states usually have an 8- to 10-year statute of limitations following completion of a house for homeowners to seek relief for inadequate construction given the soil conditions.

Mr. Derse’s house was built in 1992 and Ms. Wilson’s in 1995 so they were out of luck. But Travis Fonseca, a sales manager at a biotech company, was able to sue the builder of his house in Aurora, Colo. The house was built in 2000; shortly thereafter the foundation developed cracks that worsened as the soil shifted through the seasons. “We sued in 2005 and finally settled last year,” he said. “It’s been an ordeal, and what we got is not enough to fix it but we’re better off than we were.”

“Builders can’t say, ‘Oh, look, it’s an act of God,’ and they aren’t responsible if the foundation fails,” said his attorney, Scott Sullan with Sullan, Sandgrund, Smith & Perczak in Denver. “They know how to build on these soils no matter what the weather. They’ve got geotechnical engineers to tell them.”

Fixing a failed foundation usually involves hiring a foundation repair company to install cement or steel piers around the perimeter of the house’s slab or near its existing piers if it is a pier and beam foundation. Once in place, hydraulic jacks lift and level the house and transfer its weight to the new supports. The cost depends on the severity of the problem but generally runs about $1,000 to $2,000 per pier, which should include a lifetime transferable warranty.

“It’s amazing to watch your house get jacked up like that,” said Miguel Rivera, a designer of heating and air-conditioning systems, who had to pay $13,000 to have his 60-year-old house in West Orange, N.J., shored up in January. “It’s just immediate. You’re like, whoa, up it goes.”

His dining room began separating from the rest of his house about five years ago after repeated heavy rains shifted the earth beneath it. The problem was made worse when he removed a nearby tree, which was probably siphoning off excess water and providing structure to the soil beneath his house.

“It often happens that you upset the moisture and structural balance when you knock down or tear out trees,” said Mr. Lourie, the geotechnical engineer, adding that planting trees too close to the house can be harmful. “Plant them at least half their mature height away from the house.”

Landscaping should, as a rule, be installed so that water slopes away from the house and gutters should discharge at least five feet from the house to avoid oversaturating the soil. During droughts, experts recommend placing soaker hoses around the perimeter of the house and turning them on for 30 minutes a day. “The idea is to maintain a constant amount of moisture in the soil,” said Tom Witherspoon, a foundation engineer in Dallas. “If you can do that, your house will never move.”

Don't Wait For Creaking

Engineering and structural-repair professionals say it is relatively easy to spot foundation problems in structures that are more than 10 years old. If you are considering buying a house, look for patched-over cracks in brick or drywall and doors that have been planed. Also notice if there are cracks in sidewalks and streets in the neighborhood.

In newer developments, it’s harder to know if the homes will withstand a shift in soil. Therefore, it might be a good idea to have a geotechnical engineer do an inspection — in addition to having a normal home inspection — before you buy. Home inspectors may not have the expertise to assess soil conditions. (Licensed professionals can be found at the Web site of the Associated Soil and Foundation Engineers, asfe.org)

This is especially important if you are considering buying a home in problematic areas like the Southeast, Southwest, Midwest and coastal states.

“My home inspector said my house had no problems,” said Steven Derse, who bought his house in Nashville in 2002. “Then it started to move and fell apart like a cracker box.”

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Green Insurance

For some Insurers the push for green building is now. I found this article today regarding Firemans Fund belief that retrofitting or building green allows for better long term rewards and in turn will offer discounts to those willing to go green.

Going green can be good for the environment, good for your image, and even good for property insurance rates, according to Fireman’s Fund, a major U.S. commercial insurer.

Fireman’s says there’s a “significant” difference in insurance costs between a building that’s green and one that isn’t. How significant? Fireman’s is giving a 5 percent discount in building insurance to green buildings. That could translate into multi-million savings for the owners and tenants of buildings like the retrofitted Empire State Building, the Condé Nast Building at Times Square, and the newly constructed Bank of America Tower on Bryant Park, all located in New York City. Fireman figures there are 6,000 green buildings nationwide.

Green buildings are more insurable because they require a special third-party signoff on an architect’s drawings, manufacturer’s specifications, and electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling; these are the most likely items to lead to insurance claims.

According to Steve Bushnell, Fireman’s senior director of emerging industries, the biggest positive is the extra care that goes into putting up or retrofitting a green building. “It’s like commissioning a ship,” Bushnell said in a BNET Finance interview. “After the extra inspections, you are a lot more certain that it’s going to float.”

Some aspects of going “green” have to be monitored carefully, Bushnell warns. Cork on walls to deaden noise is fine, but cork on floors can trap moisture. And those attractive rooftop gardens that keep out heat have to be supported or they’ll collapse.

Although its three-and-a-half years of data on insurance costs for green buildings versus conventional ones aren’t conclusive, Fireman’s feels sure it has it right. Its own headquarters in Novato, California are green.



Note where I bolded. In other words the failure rates are high and they believe that when a building is "certified" green (although they don't say LEED its still the only predominant certification being used) its less likely to be litigated?

The belief is that certification it appears is akin to inspection. That presumption is wrong. Certification is simply connecting the dots, meeting standards as established by the Organization providing the credential. The person who does the Certification and signs off is simply inspecting that the work exists and is there to meet that requirement it is not about performance and/or quality of build. LEED AP's can be from many walks of life and I have met them. They should be primarily Architects, Contractors and Engineers. They are not. And when you work for a third party certification company you are not a building inspector, you are not there for the entire time assuring quality and you are not required to.

This is the failing and this is the risk. You are asked by an Organization to follow a protocol you do and you are NOT covered by their liability insurance, you are not paid for by them and you have no connection to their standards. If they make an error and later correct it (which they are currently doing with regards to LEED) you have no one to back you. Your company will and its insurer but in the meantime you somehow by saying yes, this building has a green roof is good (as for the supportive structure that is NOT on the LEED checklist) as for Cork floors yes that meets interior green but the necessary vapor barriers are not part of the checklist. DETAILS DETAILS DETAILS.

So what does it mean?

It means that we need to update the I.C.C. building codes to current and consistent standards that are "green". With one simple coding book and guideline available then there is always assurance that energy and performance are linked. As for the extras - such as green roofs, walls, interior fixtures and finishes well those can be part of a green program. But right now just building green and getting a sign off that all the pieces are in perfect working order is not really a GUARANTEE.

Buildings are a part of a whole. The figures must work and perform together in the equation to get the right solution. Buildings fail, people fail and green programs are not infallible. I question Insurers believing that somehow a third party cert somehow exemplifies this. Look for litigation on this soon I think.

And that is why I just simply refuse to actually SIGN OFF on anything. Advise, consult, find options and do research but it says very clearly in my contract "VIDA VERDE DOES NOT GUARANTEE any or all aspects of the project including design, build and products."

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Future of Build

I get quite a bit of PR sheets touting the latest and greatest LEED project but I am really wondering what the rank file builder or remodeler is doing.

I hear from some who are working but they are truly working harder, longer for less. It does not surprise. Clients are definitely interested in improving their homes but "green" is not the word its "energy". They are very much seeking improvements that will lend to the overall homes performance and future saleability and the salad days of getting maximum return on those improvements have declined.

Remodeling Magazine does an annual cost benefit and return analysis on what each project brings. Bearing in mind that is based on average and that luxury projects as well as green are unique in the market. And while I get many calls from clients they have one or two questions, predominately about flooring and counter top choices. And those options can be quite vast in both expense and shade of green.

The numbers for Construction still look bad. January numbers still show massive shedding of jobs and the projects (therefore jobs) on the pipeline are on hold, some sites are now for sale and others cancelled out right. I see most work centered on Civil Construction and I do see growth in the Commercial sector for renovations that are also energy related.

LEED still the watchword in green is rather interesting. I see immense projects in the pipeline with fewer reaching certification. With ASHRAE coming out with their program, 4 years in development, I think there will be a tremendous interest in what that will bring to the table with regards to cost and efficiency - the new market words.

I really wonder if this self correction in the marketplace and the entire economy will truly bring prices to realistic levels? I do think that is more an emotional and intellectual issue difficult for many to get their head around. Its hard to accept that what you paid 5.00 for is now worth 1.00 and it may be years to regain the value.

This attitude is what is propelling banks to continue to spire on with their bubble mentality, hold onto funds and basically find any sources of income - including fleecing the Government before they will return to business as usual, meaning lending money and offering customers fair market value for their products.

I truly see this as something much longer in recovery than many of my counterparts. I simply disagree with the NAHB that we will have a housing shortage if we don't resume building. What I see is a surplus of housing and its just not affordable. Until that is rectified we will continue to see the ever increasing walkaways from mortgages and homes falling away as builders and contractors in turn suffer.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Dangerous Times in Which We Live

At times there is a soap operatic feel to the current state of affairs. Congress seems to be imploding with further and further insane rhetoric and behaviors that border on disturbing. See Jim Bunning for today's hijinks's.

But on the note of my blog, Agent Provocateur, I read today in Mother Jones another article addressing the tone of late and growth of fringe groups whose access to mainstream population and position could easily push us further towards civil unrest.

I reprint the article below but I urge you to also contribute to Mother Jones Magazine as I know many get their news and information from the Internet and we need to support them as we did with our local dailies or they will end up in the same situation.

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Why Do Some Conservatives Play Footsie With Treason?



Wing nuts no longer: Right-wing celebs are helping anti-Obama militias go mainstream.

— By Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery

March/April 2010 Issue

IN THE FALL of 1964, not long after Barry Goldwater had clinched the Republican nomination for president, historian Richard Hofstadter penned an essay for Harper's called "The Paranoid Style in American Politics." It was an instant classic—not because it was so elegantly written, but because in just a few pages it described with deadly accuracy one of the major strains of our national dialogue.

"The paranoid spokesman," Hofstadter wrote, "is always manning the barricades of civilization...Like religious millennialists he expresses the anxiety of those who are living through the last days and he is sometimes disposed to set a date for the apocalypse...He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised...Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish."

Oath Keepers, the group featured in our cover story, would seem the classic case in point. Its members are cops, sheriffs, and military men and women determined to resist the tyrannical orders they believe are imminent from the Obama administration. The fantasies they spin—a "globalist" leadership intent on declaring martial law, putting God-fearing Americans in detention camps, and asking UN blue helmets to keep order while it imposes health care reform and who knows what else—replicate almost exactly the fears far-right cranks have peddled for generations. Replace "socialism" with "communism" and you are pretty much back to 1964 (or 1934 or 1884, for that matter).

But what was true then is true now: Dismissing one's adversaries as wing nuts is myopic, both intellectually and politically. Like it or not, the Oath Keepers, and the myriad other "patriot" groups now emerging around the edges of the Tea Party movement, are tapping into a real strain of popular anger. And who wouldn't be angry? Unemployment for millions, bailouts and bonuses for a few. A health care reform plan supremely undersold by a Democratic establishment unconcerned with the battle for hearts and minds (see: Martha Coakley). A GOP controlled by pro-corporate nihilists.

But righteous anger is one thing. Manufacturing fear, dare we say terror, is another—and over the past year, we have seen cynical politicians and talk-show demagogues increasingly willing to traffic in it. It's no longer just handfuls of militia types trading overheated conspiracy theories; it's America's most popular cable news network giving gobs of airtime to people who all but advocate armed insurrection. It's the man who is now our newest senator chortling, on live TV, that maybe Barack Obama was born out of wedlock—don't you wish guys still had to face an affaire d'honneur for comments like that?—a scurrilous point we take note of only because it indicates that Scott Brown gets his talking points from extreme-right sites like WorldNetDaily (WND).

When people in positions of great power play footsie with those who advocate treason—or claim that the elected commander in chief is a bastard foreigner with no claim to the office—they are not just engaging in a lively debate. They are actively negating a fundamental principle of American politics: that the government, no matter how much you might disagree with its representatives, is of, by, and for the people.

Indeed, to a growing number of celebrity conservatives, this administration is no longer simply an adversary with whom you cross swords—it is an enemy you must destroy. In a paranoid culture, as Hofstadter recognized, the enemy is "thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable [and] must be totally eliminated." A government as villainous as the one portrayed on sites like WND cannot be debated or negotiated with, or even accorded the most basic respect. It must be vanquished.

If this were all just so much blowhardery—designed merely to drive ratings and bait liberal bloggers—it would be slightly tawdry but perfectly ordinary political theater for the groundlings. But what may have started as tactical rhetoric has become a philosophy of governing. As MoJo blogger Kevin Drum has put it, the congressional minority's guiding principle is now "What part of NO! don't you understand?"

This is the true danger of condoning rhetoric like Oath Keepers': It's not just that it might push some from the paranoid fringe to the terrorist fringe. It's that the political debate becomes corroded to the point where we as a nation no longer have enough common ground to agree to disagree. When one side's goal is to stonewall and destroy rather than discuss and engage, we get paralysis—it takes two to tango, but only one to stonewall. (And stonewall-and-destroy is by no means a strategy unique to Republicans—yes, kill-the-health-care-bill lefties, that means you.) There are many ways to attack democracy, and one of them is to slowly, cynically undermine the founders' mandate: to work together toward a more perfect union.