One reason we need government: Foster Farms

We eat a ton of Foster Farms chicken. Then I read the following article tonight. 

Foster Farms? More like Salmonella Farms.

I know it’s easy to get on our government about how much they suck at times, which I do, as I can’t stand Congress, except for Senator Elizabeth Warren, but the government does provide some good services. As in policing the companies that provide our food.

Not looking so hot today, Foster.

Not looking so hot today, Foster.

On top of the Salmonella concern, once again the continued use of antibiotics in our food supply rears its head. How long is this going to continue? Does anyone still think it’s a good idea? Years from now, this is one of those actions people will look back at and shake their heads, wondering how we could have been so stupid.

Worst of all, the example above is just one of many stories each week of companies pushing the boundaries of what not to do. Without government, though far from perfect, we’d be hosed and puking chicken casserole into a toilet while the banks took crazy risks with our money.

Hold it? What the hell. That’s already happened. Our government sucks. Never mind.

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One simple Obamacare thought for the day that I’m probably completely wrong about

I guarantee this isn’t a political post – I dislike all politicians these days except for Elizabeth Warren who I think we should clone and elect as Senator in every state. And clone and vote in as President and Vice-President as well.

Senator Warren, please accept my invitation to join my family for dinner anytime you'd like. Call me.

Senator Warren, please accept my invitation to join my family for dinner anytime you’d like. Call me.

So, aside from my 100% E.W. government fantasy, another thought keeps going through my head and I wonder if anyone else has had it or if it’s just me.

Here is it: I wonder if those in our government who oppose Obamacare do so because if the program is allowed to stay in place, it frees those who work for corporate America to be choosier about where they work, and even grants them more freedom to start their own businesses.

This theory centers around the thought that many people stay with their corporate jobs because of the benefits, specifically health care. But now with the opportunity to buy health insurance free of a company job, what will that do to the power of corporations over our lives? And, would it make it easier for people to quit a job they didn’t like and move on without the fear of losing benefits in the process?

So, that’s my thought for the day. I’m pretty sure I have it wrong.

Occupy Wall Street and the lesson I learned from Stella Liebeck

Do you remember the case of the woman who spilled hot McDonald’s coffee in her lap and was awarded close to 3 million dollars by a jury?

What do you remember about it?

Do you remember everyone talking about what a scam it was and how this was the shining example of tort reform and legal system abuse?

I thought that to be accurate because everything I saw or heard about it backed up that opinion. Major media even reported on it but with incorrect facts.

This movie is an eye-opener, but also one that shows how the deck is stacked against us. http://hotcoffeethemovie.com/

Then I started watching the documentary Hot Coffee, a must-see, which reviews and analyzes the facts of the case. The key word here being “facts.”

Remember, truth does not equal fact. And in this case there is what people perceive to be the “truth” and there are the facts.

Some of the facts: Stella Liebeck, 79, wasn’t driving the car – she was in the passenger seat, parked, when she opened the lid of her coffee and spilled it in her lap, suffering burns so severe that even I, a long-time guest of hospitals, couldn’t look at them when I replayed the segment on HBO GO. Burns so severe Mrs. Liebeck needed skin grafts.

How could I have been so wrong? How could I have joked that the case represented the evils of large jury awards?

And it made me wonder what else I think I know now to be “true,” but is not “factual.”

And the movie in its entirety reminded me that there is a large group of powerful people, media outlet owners, businesses, organizations, and the government officials they promote and purchase, who will stop at nothing to strip away the rights of the common man and woman in this country while they tap our wallets and fatten theirs.

I know I may sound like a conspiracy nut, but if it feels like it’s harder to get by these days because we’re paying for more of everything and wondering why our taxes don’t cover the expenses of this country. Well, it’s not our imagination. Big business continues to manipulate the system to pay less.

These powerful people have done a masterful job of imposing their will on us while we work our asses off to earn a living because companies won’t hire more people, telling us we have to “do more with less” during these tough times. And we do it because we have no choice. There are fewer jobs, which helps keep productivity high.

And that’s why the Occupy Wall Street movement is so important. It’s not about money, it’s about exposing corrupt power – the powerful who set a direction for the country that favors the rich and big business.

But the power-hungry have pushed people too far, grabbed too much of the pie and imposed their will to the point we finally looked up from our iPads to realize we had fewer rights than we did yesterday and the truth they promised was best for us, was not best for us. It was best for them.

Which brings me back to Liebeck v. McDonalds Restaurants. How is it possible any of us condemned and made fun of a 79-year-old woman with disfiguring burns and backed a large corporation that heated its coffee water to 180 to 190 degrees and could have settled for pennies before going to trial?

Was it by accident that the facts of the case got twisted and communicated to portray an elderly woman as the villain and a corporation as the victim? Or was there a greater force at work dropping incorrect facts in the wind?

It makes me wonder what other truths are getting distorted in this country by those in power and those who control the media.

I’ll remember the lesson I learned from the case of Stella Liebeck when I hear and read the truth the rich and powerful feed us as to why they are the victims, and how unions and the poor, the tired, the hungry and the sick are really at fault.

Should we occupy Wall St. or Washington? Or does it matter?

I’m fighting a cold tonight, which followed the usual course of starting with my daughter, then my wife, then me. So, just a short post and a link.

I read this excellent piece on how the rich get rich and take advantage of our government’s generosity.

When Being Rich Makes Us Poor, People Should Occupy Wall Street

I don’t fault anyone for making money. Hell, I wish I knew the secret and have only myself to blame for failure. Unfortunately, this country doesn’t function as well when wealth is disproportionately distributed and the top one percent horde the majority of the cash. And until the situation is fixed, expect more “American against American” occupations and battles.

“Class Wars 2011” will be the title of chapter in a history book one day.

The view from the Reagan Library. (I can't find the photos I took of the plane.) Check out the web site: http://www.reaganfoundation.org/

All of this relates to my epiphany that one cannot hate the government and love capitalism. They are lovers entwined, and one without the other wouldn’t provide the great opportunities to make cash these days. (Think Iraq War, the moneymaker of all moneymakers for movers and shakers.)

I’ll leave you with this final thought before I go flush my sinuses.

A couple of years ago, we went to the Reagan Library in Simi Valley. Regardless of politics, Ronald Reagan lived an impressive life. And the library matched the man’s incredible journey with its own impressiveness. Heck, Air Force One is inside the building if that gives you a sense of its scope and size.

But one of the most telling moments I’ll never forget was coming to the end of the tour, walking out of the gift shop and seeing the list of those who donated and made the library possible.

It wasn’t the poor.

I should be deported

Creative Commons: zazor

I’m feeling un-American today because I don’t believe in unlimited and unchecked capitalism.

I fully expect the government will break down my door at any moment and deport me to Mexico, Canada or Australia, the latter being warmer and my first choice. Australia has a beautiful ocean to swim in, though it’s filled with American-eating sharks and Californian-hating jellyfish.

But every location has something that will kill you. We have gangs, wildfires, bad drivers and earthquakes here in L.A.

I don’t believe when banks and other financial institutions gamble their customers’ money on risky schemes – so complicated that their top executives can’t explain them – the government should bail them out – an action some might call temporary (and convenient) socialism.

I also don’t believe these executives should avoid jail time for shady investment and loan practices and for robbing us of our tax dollars.

Hold it, now I’m confused. Does that make me a capitalist and true American because I’ll let the free market play out? Businesses that go broke, like Bank of America, would fail?

Can I stay in the USA now?

Hold on, Unknown Idiot, here’s an even more confusing thought: How can anyone hate the government and love capitalism when they’re almost the same these days?

Democrats and Republicans continue to strip mine regulations to encourage capitalism at any cost – don’t forget what allowed banks to go to Vegas with your money. But the icing on the money cake is that many of the banking and Wall St. scoundrels are working in the Obama administration right now or are still in congress.

I feel like a man alone rowing his boat in the middle of an ocean full of dollar-worshipping hogs.

I don’t believe companies will do the right thing with zero regulation. Most of them will always choose profit at any cost over the welfare of their human capital and health of U.S citizens (fracking anyone?). And I understand that’s blasphemy to point out. (Fox says not to mention my respect for unions right now.)

But here’s the real reason I’ll be deported to a shark-infested beach in the South Pacific Ocean: I suck at getting rich.

Despite our income being in the top 5 percent of earners, I have failed at every attempt to get rich.

Creative Commons: AKphotos

You see, anyone can become a millionaire in this country, they say, especially millionaires who started with a million dollars.

And though I feel like I’ve worked hard and invested, and my wife and I have been frugal by not buying many new clothes, or living in a large house beyond our means, or freeing our kitchen of its shabby Home Depot cabinets and crumbling grout, I am a failure at getting rich.

And that’s not to be tolerated in this country where anyone can be part of the elite one percent of earners if they work hard. It bothers me every day of my life and I feel like a loser.

I should tattoo a big “$” and “L” on my forehead.

Or I could paint “I sold my Apple stock at $40” on my chest and ask Congress if they’d let me have a do-over. Something tells me that’s not going to happen.

Immigration Department, I’m ready. Come get me. Take me away. Feed me to the jellyfish down under. At least, they’re transparent.

******

[Here’s a great movie on the subject discussed: Inside Job, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inside_Job_(film)%5D

[A great essay on one percenters in NYC. Long but great. http://www.truth-out.org/reign-one-percenters/1317665855]

Monday’s Confession: Hopeless and powerless in the USA

I have a confession: I feel hopeless and powerless when it comes to what’s going on in this country.

I probably read too much, or read too many stories of Americans who have fallen on hard times while the rich enjoy their lowest tax rates in 50 years. There’s a whole lot of wealth resting in the richest Americans’ hands. Well, not in their hands, actually, more like their brokerage accounts where it does little to grow this country.

Fox panicked when he read this post and rounded up all his cash, lest it be taken away by the government. Then he started screaming "FU, you socialist bastard." Now he's locked up in his cage and I'm cleaning the wounds on my arms. Never keep a fox as a pet. It will come back to bite you one day.

And then there’s our Congress who protects the rich like they’re endangered baby seals and heaven forbid someone club their bank account to shake loose a few dollars. The rich and large businesses own the congress and fund their careers so it shouldn’t be a surprise who they answer to. And to top it off, they serve up a load of crap about “Job Creators” being taxed creating fewer jobs. Here’s a nice op-ed on that:

\”Tax Rich More, Patriotic Millionaires Urge\”

I wish I had a new spin on all of this other than to say I once believed in Gordon Gekko‘s mantra: Greed Is Good. But I don’t anymore.

Greed is good for the few, but not the many. We need Captain Kirk to beam down and put a little hurt on the people in our government who protect Paris Hilton’s savings account over the welfare and well-being of middle class families hit hard by the recession (the one that never went away for a large portion of the population).

Years ago, I gave up watching the local news because I couldn’t take the bad news it served up each night. I may have to give up reading on the Internet. The “machine” built to convince people to vote against their own interests and protect the interests on the “machine” is just too great to fight. I don’t have the energy to argue anymore.

I know some people will disagree with me. That’s fine. I do have one question: If the rich, aka job creators, are enjoying historically low tax rates, why aren’t we overwhelmed with jobs in this country and why isn’t the economy booming?

I know it also has to do with companies outsourcing jobs and it’s a complicated issue, but that’s what I wonder everyday when I read a story of a middle-class couple with two kids, who lost their jobs, then their house, then their car and who now live in a homeless shelter. Why aren’t the job creators creating jobs with the money they’re saving in taxes?

Could the rich be lying to us about taxing the rich?

Anchors disguised as people

Have you ever worked with a person who has nothing to contribute to a situation or project? The type who lives to criticize work and never offers any constructive feedback? Who sits in meetings quietly and only speaks up to point out why action is a bad thing, why change brings risk, and why sitting on your ass doing nothing is always the best course of action?

People who “don’t” not “do”?

I hate these people.

I work with a lot of good people. And yet, I work with a few who the universe dropped on the planet with the sole purpose to point out flaws and imperfections, or  why something won’t work or isn’t right or who knows what. I like to call them “anchors” because they keep projects from moving forward by creating obstacles to dodge and hurdles to jump.

There's one of them now, hanging out, making life difficult. Creative Commons: Michael Wilson

I see this quality in many of our current politicians and the people who follow them.

They have no plans of their own and they hate everyone else’s plan.

Don’t give Americans the right to purchase healthcare, they say.

Then what should we do instead to solve the challenge of affordable healthcare for all?

Well anything but that plan?

Okay, what about this plan?

Well, not that plan either.

What’s your plan?

[silence]

So, you’re just going to say “no” to anything we come up with?

[silence]

Nothing is ever right with these people. It’s all wrong.

My daughter was like this when she was two-years old. I would build a tower with her blocks and she would come along and take a swipe at it like Godzilla walking the streets of Tokyo and down it would go. She’d laugh and it was quite a game we played. But then she grew up and understood it wasn’t so cool to destroy something someone took the time to build, especially if she was the builder.

Here’s my remodeling math: It took me a day to demolish my bathroom to the studs, and six months to rebuild it. So, anything politicians or others want to blow up, like Social Security, takes a long time to rebuild. It’s easy to remodel when you have some structure in place. From scratch is hard and takes a long time.

If we really want to “fix” this country, we have to stop listening to the people who tell us why we can’t do something before it has ever been tried, and who have no original ideas of their own. It doesn’t matter what party they’re from – they live in both.

If we don’t cover our ears to these Eeyores with half-empty glasses, we’re going to find ourselves peeing in a bucket asking when the bathroom is going to be finished while these knuckleheads debate the color of the tile.

Or, to borrow from Facebook: Done is better than perfect.