Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Welcome to Bush's America

I know I haven't posted here for awhile. That's because I've been trying to sort out how I wanted to put this latest entry here.

I finally figured out the best way to do it is just be as honest as I can and let the chips fall where they may.

This has to do with my family - specifcially, one of my two sisters and her husband. Except for my brother, all of them live on the Illinois side of St. Louis - in Collinsville, though we all grew up in Granite City. The reasons for the move are many and varied and I don't think I'm at liberty to talk about it all here. I can say for certain part of it is how badly Granite City has fallen apart. It's basically a shell of what it used to be - but that's another topic for another day.

My brother-in-law (also named Brent, believe it or not) had been working for some 30 years at the Federal Reserve Bank in downtown St. Louis. Had a good job there, in fact. Never caused a problem at all.

A few weeks ago, he was fired from his job.

The details are still somewhat sketchy - I've tried to talk to my mom about it but she hasn't said much - but from what I can gather, my brother-in-law was ousted in just a couple of months by someone who had a vendetta against him.

He was written up for (from I can tell) minor stuff three times in two months and basically forced out the door. I wish I knew all the details but no one wants to talk about it.

Now, from what I know, my brother-in-law and sister are thisclose to losing EVERYTHING - the house, cars, the whole shootin' match - because of petty politics.

My brother-in-law was a year away from being able to claim full pension, health benefits, everything. The health insurance is especially important because he's had some heart trouble recently. He passed out because of a heart stoppage a couple of years ago and cracked his skull, causing some serious problems (he's recovered from that). He also had a pacemaker installed in him recently too.

Now they have no health insurance as well. My sister looked into getting private health insurance for him and found out it was something like $800 a month - precisely what she brings home each month from the Head Start center she works at in Edwardsville, IL.

Tell me that's not screwed up.

And don't even bring politics into this, according to my mom. The title of this post is "Welcome to Bush's America," and I said that to her when I found out what happened.

Problem: The women in my family have all embraced what I believe to be the poison of right-wing Christian fundamentalism, as practiced by the Southern Baptist Convention. They go to a SBC "community" church in Edwardsville, where the far-right doctrine is preached and practiced on a daily basis.

Wouldn't surprise me if they all voted for Bush in November - even though it's obvious he will NEVER represent their best interests.

A headline in a London tabloid put it best in November - How can 59,000,000 (can't rememer the exact number) be so DUMB?

I don't think it's a stretch to think my brother and I aren't thought of too fondly by my mom and sisters when it comes to poltiics. We're both the type of guys who listen to "Democracy Now!", support anti-war efforts and think big-ass corporations need to think about people first rather than how much more profit they can squeeze out.

I could be wrong, of course, but I don't think so.

I'm just tired of garbage. My brother-in-law deserved FAR better than he got by Your United States Government.

Hope maybe this will be the wake-up call the women in my family get to see how screwed up their poltiical stances are. But I'm not holding my breath.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Another Day Closer to Rollerball

For those of you unfamiliar with the title of this particular post, it comes from Keith Olbermann, currently the host of "Countdown" on MSNBC and a veteran of CNN (twice), ESPN and Fos Sports Net.

When he was on FSN, he did a Sunday night sports news show called "The Keith Obermann Report," or something like that, in which one of the segments was the latest corporate intrusions into the world of sport.

It was almost like the original 1974 version of the film "Rollerball," in which James Caan starred as a top player named Jonathan E in a violent, futuristic sport called rollerball. In this Norman Jewison-directed vision of the future, corporations had taken over the world and outlawed many things like sex, drugs, war and poverty and imposed a top-down world dictatorship. To give the people a way to release their hostility, they invented this game.

It was a pretty chilling film - unlike the remake - but that film, and "Network," seem to be almost prophetic today.

The reason I mention this is because of something that could affect me indirectly and my brother directly.

My brother works as a suit salesman at the downtown St. Louis Famous-Barr department store, which is owned by May Department Stores, who has world headquarters in downtown - in fact, in the same building Famous has operated in for something like more than 90 years.

Sunday night, May announced it was being acquired for $11 BILLION by Federated Department Stores of Cincinnati, who owns two of the most well-known department stores in the nation - Macy's and Bloomingdale's.

Everyone at the downtown store is worried their jobs are going to be gone after the sale closes out - especially the rank-and-file. I don't blame them.

This, and the recent $1.5 BILLION purchase of Pulitzer by Lee Enterprises of Davenport, Iowa (Disclaimer: I work for Lee through the newspapers in the town I live in) almost seems to be, well, I don't know - almost criminal perhaps?

So many big-ass corporations are swallowing up anything and everything in thier path - and no one can stop them. In fact, I'd go as far as to say Fearless Leader (aka BushCorp) is ENCOURAGING this. The money being thrown around for many of these mergers is so staggering, it's almost like they're playing with Monopoly money.

Why? It certainly can't be for Joe Working Class.

Everytime there's some sort of major (or even mid-major) merger, there's all sorts of job cuts made. And who winds up taking the brunt of these cuts?

It sure ain't the lap-of-luxury guys at the top, that's for sure.

No wonder my brother's worried. He's been with Famous for more than seven years now, just scraping by, getting something like $250 a week after taxes if he's lucky or has had a good week selling commissioned items.

I've tried to tell him to find a better job, but it seems as though he prefers being screwed over by corporate America, even though he knows it deep down.

Now this takes place, and he may not even have a job to go to in a few months. And if he does lose his job, what kind of severance package will he get?

Not a very good one, I think. Meantime, the bigwigs have all sorts of multi-million dollar perks, stock options and golden parachutes to cushion themselves.

I read somewhere that American executives at big-ass corporations are making thousands of times more than their lowest-paid workers are getting.

Something's wrong with this picture. Don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to companies making money, but there has to be some sort of moral responsibility that goes with it as well.

Some sites I go to think we may be heading for a new Gilded Age, when corporate bigwigs lived in luxury and forced the working class to live in near-squalor while being blissfully ignorant of the realities surrounding them.

To me, we already got screwed big-time when the Bush Cartel was re-elected(?), not that John Kerry would have made much difference either. I voted for him but rather reluctantly - I would have rather seen a real reformer or someone like a Dennis Kuchinich, say, on the ballot.

I just hope someday, the people finally wake up and see what's really going on instead of beliving the lies being fed to them by corporate media and worrying not about which celebrity is sleeping with who, but about the bullshit "war" in Iraq and Bush's apparent plans to expand it into other countries and how the average guy and girl out there has to struggle just to make ends meet.

I fear it may already be too late though.