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New York IWW: Support FW Corey Wright

May 12, 2011

New York IWW: Support FW Corey Wright.

Starbucks barista Corey Wright was fired Tuesday, May 10th, for
pressing void on the register when a customer changed their mind and decided
not to purchase a bottle of Starbucks brand Ethos water. This 25yr old,
father to 3 young children, gave 7 yrs of his life in service to Starbucks
Coffee & Tea. Just months ago, Corey was responsible for going against
District Manager Adler’s wish to keep the Union Square Starbucks open after
EMS warned of exposure to an airborne flesh-eating virus in the store.
Corey protected New Yorkers health & safety in his bravery that day. In
gratitude, the company terminated his job over a void of $2.17. Starbucks
believes that voiding products means the employee is pocketing the money
from the transaction and giving the customer the product. The company was
unable to provide Corey with physical video or photo proof that he pocketed
any money.

ACTION:

CALL OR TEXT THE COWARDLY BOSS THAT FIRED HIM, District Manager Adler
Ludvigsen at 917-497-6183

and CALL THE CUSTOMER COMPLAINT LINE at 1-800-235-2883. You can site
Starbucks Retail Store 7378, located at Union Square East in Manhattan, NY.

Corey is supported by the IWW Starbucks Workers Union

Any questions please email Liberte.angrybarista@gmail.com

With A Big Red Bow

May 2, 2011
The magnolia tree

The magnolia tree next to my house in Mount Carroll is in full bloom; I’ve loved magnolia blossoms ever since I lived in New Orleans. I’ve been waiting for it to bloom because that tells me it’s finally Spring. One of the things I’ve had to remember since moving to the Midwest is that just because the calender says it’s supposed to be Spring doesn’t make it so. Just because you have a day or two of warm weather doesn’t mean it’s Spring, either. Around here in corn and god country, there’s one other indicator of the seasonal change that actually predates the magnolia bloom… the farmers. They’ve been out for a few weeks now, getting the fields ready for crops. But for me, it’s the magnolia tree and the slight change in the hue of the sunset. (Have you ever noticed how even the colors of a Spring sunset are a warmer color?)

I also know it’s Spring because I finally had to break out the fucking lawn mower… but that is another topic for another day.

Last night while I was working on my deadline articles for the paper, the President broke into programming — into Celebrity Apprentice, no doubt, which makes me wonder just how intentional the timing actually was — to announce that Osama bin Laden is dead, shot in the head during a U.S. Operation in Pakistan. The NBC talking head broke the news to me first; and even before President Obama gave another of what some people are calling a Historic Speech, the multiple talking heads were doing what the talking do best… which is to say, they do very little exceptionally well, but the one they do with some degree of finesse (No, it’s not reporting the news) is to put current events into an easily digestible framework that in no way contradicts the previously framed pieces of events that most kids my daughter’s age learn as history.

The talking head on the ground in Libya was speaking to the regular talking head via telephone and said something about how the death of Osama bin Laden was the end of an era… an era he defined quite neatly in terms of decades. The last ten years, he maintained, have been defined by The War on Terror. This decade packaging is nothing new, of course. The people who like to sell us stuff have been packaging time that way for years. Since hearing that the ring leader of the 9/11 attacks has gone the way of worm food, I’ve been wondering what the Time Life DVD Collection recounting the first decade of the 21st century will look like… because that’s how we remember things. Time Life Books, Time Life Music, Time Life Video. Of course, no one reads books anymore and no one listens to full music albums anymore; so what we’ll end up with is a Time Life DVD box set (that will, in all likelihood, be available for download on iTunes) that will tell those of us who lived through it what it was REALLY about, what it all meant, and what we are supposed to remember. It will be conveniently packaged and discounted for educators so that the children who were either too young to remember or who aren’t yet born will be able look back at the tumult that was the first decade of the 21st century and consider themselves lucky… just like we count ourselves blessed to have avoided the Black Death.

The problem is, of course, that in spite of the way we package time, time operates according to it’s own methods and druthers. I might prefer to think that Spring starts in March, but it never really arrives until the magnolia tree begins to bloom.

I’m not going to pretend that I understand what the death of a terrorist – a terrorist who had financial ties to two former Presidents and who, prior to being at the top of the U.S. Most Wanted Hit List, was trained and armed by the CIA to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan – will mean for the future. I assume that after all the chest thumping is over, the corporate owned news will go back to not reporting real news and focus on some other bit of fluff to keep the American people preoccupied and not paying attention between commercials for vacations no one can afford, new toys no one understands, and clothes that look suspiciously like the shit my classmates wore during the Reagan years.

Little House Dreams and Modern Day Problems: School Facilities Occupation Tax Defeated

April 13, 2011
1974_little_house_on_the_prairie_004

With the defeat of the School Facilities Occupation Tax – the ominously misnamed 1% sales tax increase – the three Carroll County School Districts will have to find some other way to pay for future capital improvements and building repairs. The options are pretty much the same, and pretty much the same mixed bag of bad, sad, and pie in the sky dreamland solutions that West Carroll, Chadwick-Milledgeville, and Eastland School Districts had before; if there is an upside to the defeat of the proposition, it is that the Carroll County Board won’t have to worry about whether to impose the tax and run the risk of either disenfranchising the county’s Chambers of Commerce or falling over it’s own rhetoric regarding the will of Carroll County voters.

The defeat of the proposition is in no small way the result of more than a decade of county residents’ frustration with the school districts – West Carroll in particular, since it is the largest of the three. Small town rivalry, a botched consolidation, and the lingering impact of an economic recession – that has lasted longer than this recent sub-prime started, multiple war driven, big business bail out debacle that the entire country has been dealing with for better than four years – all congealed to create a bitterness among the electorate and a panic among the local Chambers of Commerce.

Out of the 2,698 total votes on the proposition – around 22.6% of the 11889 registered voters in Carroll County – 1,826 votes were cast striking down the proposition that would, if the tax had been implemented by the county board, have gone towards property tax abatement and capital – that’s brick and mortar – projects. That’s 67.68% of the voters who turned out, or roughly 15% of the total registered voters in the county.

Most anyone who was paying attention to the election could get a sense of how it was going to be. The red “anti-tax” signs significantly out numbered the green “support our children” signs. The fight or flight reaction people have when they hear the word “tax” fully enforced by the Savanna and then the Lanark Chambers of Commerce, rang out loud and clear. When people talk about how to fix schools, they tend to rely on the same phrases they use when asked how to improve Carroll County government

“Control the budget!” has become the rallying cry for those who either remember with fondness the one room school house (that they may or may not have actually attended) or for those that would remove education from the public sphere entirely – setting back a couple hundred years of Democracy and relying on some other model that promises better – or at the very least different – results.

The problems come, however, when the one room school house needs to be fixed. And unlike on The Little House on The Prairie Michael Landon isn’t going to show up with Victor French to fix it. Now some of the people who show up to do the work may, in fact, be friends and neighbors; but rather than working for Ma’s homemade fried chicken and a sense of community pride, these friends and neighbors work to support their families. They will work for a contractor, who will charge same amount he would charge if the School Facilities Occupation Tax had passed. He will be paying his workers prevailing wage. And the work – which West Carroll Superintendent Craig Mathers said will get done one way or the either, because school districts are required by law to make periodic Health/Life/Safety updates and repairs to its buildings – will still have to be paid for.

And the same connected issues will still exist. Unless or until the Thomson Federal Penitentiary becomes reality, the money that Carroll County’s School Districts get from the state – which is measured by butts in the seats – will still be low. And until the state of Illinois gets its financial house in order, those payments will then, like now, be in arrears. And even if the Thomson Pen really does happen – even the most casual observer is still waiting on it with the same expectation of waiting for flying pigs – that means West Carroll, Chadwick-Milledgeville, and Eastland are all waiting for the swarms of new employees with their gaggle of offspring to appear. Mathers has said that one of the things people asked him to do when started as Superintendent was to try and lower property taxes. The School Facilities Occupation Tax was a measure designed to do just that.

One of the alternatives are Senate Bill 1737, which is almost exactly like Public Act 095-0675 , except that it would give school boards the power to raise sales taxes in their districts up to 1% at quarter percent increments. Another alternative will be that in a couple of years a bond referendum will show up on the ballot and the district will have to sell bonds in order to complete the work. When school districts sell bonds, property taxes go up. The other alternative is Governor Quinn’s idea to consolidate each county’s districts to a single district… a move that was heartily contested some years ago when it was tried at the county level. A leaner, meaner Carroll County School District – which would mean more bussing and a few more building closed, maybe even Mount Carroll – might give who ever the Superintendent is then the funds to make sure that the roof doesn’t fall in.

Carroll County Illinois 1% Sales Tax Referendum Facts and Fictions

March 30, 2011

[This is the UNEDITED version of an article I wrote that can be found here. It was, as I understand it, edited due to space concerns. Enjoy.]

By Mick Parsons, for The Prairie Advocate News

Ever since the West Carroll School District voted to go ahead and put the 1% sales tax referendum on next week’s ballot, the discussions have ranged from the statistical to the virulent, to the absurd. Area Chambers of Commerce – most notably the Savanna Chamber and the Lanark Chamber – have come out against the proposed sales tax, while the Mount Carroll Chamber is either unwilling or unable to come to enough of a consensus to say either way. West Carroll Superintendent Craig Mathers, who has become the reluctant but steady spokesman for the sales tax has been adding mileage and burning gas going from Chamber to Chamber, city to village, and once or twice to the Carroll County Board, trying to make the case that the sales tax will not only help the schools, but will be a benefit to home owners living in the West Carroll School District. The Chadwick-Milledgeville school district has said that, if the sales tax passes, it will use the money the same way West Carroll intends to – which, according to Mathers, is for future Health/Life/Safety and building repair and for the abatement of property taxes by paying down the bonded debt. Eastland has been sitting the fence on this issue since it was first brought up several months back and has made no official statement either way. But if it does pass, by statute, Eastland would be obligated to use the money in the exact same manner.

 

The problem is two fold, and the first one is fairly obvious. Whenever people hear the word “tax,” an interesting physiological and psychological event occurs – some people’s sphincters tighten and their brains go into a blind panic. This is usually accompanied by the usual fight or flight instinct responses – which means that blood flows away from the brain and other extremities, and the adrenaline kicks in. In more contemporary parlance, this is also referred to as General Adaptation Disorder. Simply put: people hear the word “tax” and they get ready to fight it out in whatever socially acceptable way there is – over coffee, at the bar, or in the voting booth.

 

The second problem is a bit murkier and more problematic. While the need for a quality education is generally accepted as a necessary component for success in America, the fact is, there are people who simply don’t want to PAY for public school. As a country, we were sold a bill of good several years back – The No Child Left Behind Act – that was supposed to fix all of our educational woes. All it did was hand down unfunded mandates to public schools, regardless of their ability to pay. The Obama Administration’s answer to this was Race to The Top, which Illinois schools ended up seeing nothing of in spite of several painful – and again unfunded – mandates from Springfield. Then, throw in the Walker’s falderal in Wisconsin over collective bargaining, and it’s spread to Michigan and Ohio, as well as the general misconception that teachers only work until 2:30 and have summer off.

 

What you end up with is a caustic environment in which teachers are branded failures if the students don’t pass the test but are critisized when they take a more holistic or comprehensive approach instead of teaching the test; an environment in which school administrators are called liars in open Chamber meetings, and in which parents, who remember with no small bit of nostalgia and the tempering of time what it was like “when I was in school” are susceptible to the massive amounts of misinformation available in the grocery store check-out, at church, at the coffee-shop, the salon, and the bar.

 

But the fact is that while these issues might be tangentially related, they are– to use a budgeting term – on different line items. The School Facilities Occupation Tax has nothing to do with any of things mentioned above; but when people talk taxes and schools and get their dander up, these are the things people throw in that tend to confuse and cloud the issue. So let’s begin with the facts.

 

The Facts: By Statute

 

As Mathers has stated – repeatedly – the money generated from the 1% School Facilities Occupation Tax is earmarked by law (Public Act 095-0675 enacted in 2007, if you care to look it up) for “the acquisition, development, construction, rehabilitation, improvement, financing and installation of capital facility projects.”

 

Also by law, the funds can also be used to pay down outstanding bond debt resulting from bonds sold for facility construction. The money to pay that debt back comes out of the property taxes West Carroll residents pay every year. So while a significant amount of your property taxes do go towards the schools, a fair percentage of that goes to simply paying off bond debt.

 

Mathers has said that in West Carroll, money generated from the School Facilities Occupation Tax – which could bring in between $650,000-$830,000 (53% of which will go to West Carroll since it’s the largest school district) depending on how and whether the county board decides to implement the tax would be split between rehabilitation/repair costs and to pay down the bonded debt. Reducing the district’s bonded debt would mean that property taxes within the district would go down.

 

Mathers calls this a “tax swap.” Funding for all three of the county’s districts come from a combination of property taxes and state funding which depends on the number of students. This is the twofold problem in funding schools – not only in Carroll County, but in the entire northwestern corner of the state. Populations are going down. Fewer people means fewer students, which translates to less money from the state – which is, at current count, more than $1 million behind in it’s payments to West Carroll ALONE for this academic year. Fewer people means fewer property owners and a shrinking tax base. At the bottom end, if the county board decides to implement the tax at 1/4% – that’s 1/4 of a cent out of every dollar spent on tangible items as described by the Public Act – West Carroll could see around $344,500… not a penny of which would go towards pesky things like teacher salaries, benefits, textbooks, computers, or kick balls.

 

As Mathers has explained, what it would go towards, besides paying down bonded debt, is the inevitable Health/Life/Safety repairs that will come up. West Carroll goes through a Health/Life/Safety inspection every ten years or so, and chances are good that issues will come up. And never mind that brick buildings always need tuck-pointing and that structural repairs are inevitable.

 

The list of so-called tangible items that will be impacted by the sales tax is also prescribed by the Public Act. Among the things EXEMPT from the tax: car, truck, and motorcycle registrations; groceries, except for alcohol and pop; and prescription and non-prescription medicines, drugs, insulin, syringes and needles used by diabetics. Manufacturers and wholesalers who do not market directly to consumers are also exempt from the School Facilities Occupation Tax, as are lottery tickets and insurance policies.

 

Food bought in a restaurant – including fast food – is NOT exempt, and neither is gasoline. Retail goods – those sold to directly to customers – are also not exempt and would be taxed.

 

What this means that anyone who eats at restaurant in Carroll County will be contributing to Carroll County schools. Anyone. If someone drives into Mount Carroll to see a show at Timber Lake Playhouse and then stops to eat a meal or go shopping, they will be contributing to Carroll County Schools. If someone drives into the region to buy antiques at, say, the Heritage in Mount Carroll, or at Pulfords in Savanna, and they stop to shop, to eat, or to buy gas, they will be contributing to Carroll County Schools.

 

The Fictions

 

Fiction #1: This tax will negatively impact local business

 

One of the things I’ve heard people say – from county board members to members of area Chambers of Commerce, to the coffee shop crowd – is that any new tax would discourage business; that, in effect, people would choose to spend their money in Stephenson, Whiteside, or JoDaviess County, or even go over to Clinton, IA, if the sales tax in Carroll County goes up one iota.

 

At a recent meeting of the Mount Carroll Chamber of Commerce, Chamber member Rich “Ozzie” Frey stated “Now is not a good time to take a chance” by raising the sales tax in Carroll County. (Mount Carroll City Council Candidates Speak To Chamber; Chamber Indecisive On Sales Tax Issue, 3/9/11) Paul Tobin, the WCHS Athletic Director, pointed out that when he travels, one of the questions he doesn’t ask is “What’s the sales tax?” At that time, when Chamber President Mike Lenz called the matter to a vote, there weren’t enough votes for the Chamber to be able to come out one way or other. Some have suggested to this reporter that one reason for this was that many of the businesses cater to teachers in the West Carroll School District, and they don’t want to have to explain a stance – any stance at all.

 

This clearly wasn’t the case in the Savanna Chamber of Commerce, which has come out heavily against the sales tax. They also came out against it two years ago, when it was first suggested; as a matter of fact, the Savanna Chamber came out so strongly that they cow-towed and intimidated the West Carroll School Board out of even bringing the issue before the voting public – which, one could argue, counters every Democratic idea the country is founded on.

 

Here’s another interesting tidbit. While Public Act 095-0675 has been around since 2007, there’s currently a bill working its way through the machinations in Springfield – Senate Bill 1737, sponsored by Mike Jacobs – which would allow each school district with a population less than 500,000 to do individually what Public Act 095-0675 allows the entire county and all three school districts combined to do – that is, add a sales tax within the individual district, not to exceed 1%, for the exact same uses as the currently proposed School Facilities Occupation Tax.

 

The only difference is that, if SB1737 were to become law, the power to tax would reside with the school board and not the county board. The question then becomes this: would people choose not to shop in Mount Carroll or Savanna if the West Carroll School Board had the power to tax? That would mean driving to the Quad Cities, to Sterling in Whiteside County, or to Freeport in Stephenson County, or crossing the river into Clinton. Given the current trend in fuel prices, this smacks of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

 

And if you’re going to spite your county and its students by crossing the river into Clinton, anything you buy there supports Iowa schools. The state of Iowa has had a similar tax for the past 20 years. If you drive through Clinton and pass the high school, you will see construction happening – construction supported by their School Facilities Occupation Tax. And, if that doesn’t annoy citizens of Illinois, I’ll go one better. One of the things they’re building there is a brand new swimming pool.

 

The question then becomes: Why is the Savanna Chamber of Commerce so vehemently against the sales tax?

 

Fiction #2: The School Facilities Occupation Tax will push businesses out of the county

 

There is a bit of fact to this particular fiction, but only at face value. Palatine Oil has threatened to move it’s office located at 421 1st Street – which is little more than a telephone relay station to it’s headquarters 62 miles away in Roscoe – from Savanna if the sales tax is passed. The advantage to Savanna is that with Palatine having a local office, the city does see some tax revenue as a result. Of course, half of that money is rebated back to Palatine Oil, which calls into question just how much money is brought in and what is actually kept.

 

And then there’s the fact that, according to the language in Public Act 095-0675, the only tangible goods that are subject to the tax are retail items – items to consumers. Business to business items are not subject to the School Facilities Occupation Tax. And while you may pump gas at a gas station that contracts with Palatine Oil and that gas station will end up increasing the cost at the pump as a result of the tax, Palatine Oil would not be paying a cent more in taxes.

 

This calls into question what the company’s motivation is for what amounts to a scare tactic that has set more than one jaw in the region on edge. There may be four people working in the Savanna office. And yes, to lose any jobs in this economy is tragic. And yes, the threat of losing potential tax money for a city that has it’s share of problems with no real solutions, is more than troublesome. Such a threat has been enough to convince some people in the midst of a fight or flight response that it’s better vote down the sales tax than it is to lower property taxes, redistribute the burden of the schools in a more equitable way, and ensure that West Carroll, if faced with Health/Life/Safety repair and rehabilitation issues, won’t be boxed into a corner with no choice but to accrue more bond debt in order to pay them.

 

Stranger Than Fiction

 

The general atmosphere of mistrust around this issue, generated in large part from what started out as serious concerns about the impact of the School Facilities Occupation Tax, has become so exaggerated that it might be comical if it were only the West Carroll School District that is impacted or if the Public Act weren’t so clearly worded – which is unusual for any piece of legislation coming out of Springfield. At a recent meeting of the Lanark Chamber of Commerce, West Carroll Superintendent Craig Mathers was straight out called a liar when he reminded the Lanark Chamber that the money could be used for tax abatement. It has been suggested that part of the reason that the Lanark Chamber came out so strongly against the sales tax is that they took their cue from the Savanna Chamber; and in fact, Mathers had not been out to talk to them prior to their vote to against the ballot item. Again, it begs the question: what are community leaders – which the members of any Chambers of Commerce surely are – thinking when, rather than read the Public Act and consider the full impact of their vote, they choose to vote based on what amounts to hearsay?

 

We’re back to that fight or flight response. But it would seem that in dealing with an issue that impacts schools and the education of the next generation of Carroll County leaders,voters, workers, and property owners, levity would reign rather than name calling. That vitriol – which, while it lacks forethought or maturity is at least honest – is part of what ends up dividing the electorate, who looks towards its community leaders for guidance as much as it looks to its elected officials to act in its best interest and follow its democratically established will.

 

Several months ago when the West Carroll School Board elected to go ahead with the sales tax referendum, the next step was to for the county board to sign off on allowing on the April 2011 ballot. And although Board Chairman Rod Fritz and county board member Annette Rahn, both expressed individual support for the sales tax – since it would mean lower property taxes – the general feeling among the board has been that even if the voters agree to the sales tax that the county board would not vote to implement it. This is other piece of the puzzle that people sometimes overlook when discussing the School Facilities Occupation Tax.

 

Calling the tax a 1% is something of a misnomer. Yes, it’s true that the county board could, if county voters give the referendum its stamp of approval, implement the tax at the full 1%. But going back to the language of the Public Act, the county board can vote to establish the tax in quarter percent increments ranging from 0% to 1%. At a full 1%, consumers can expect to pay an extra $10 for every $1000 spent on applicable items. If the School Facilities Occupation Tax is set at 1/4 %, consumers would be spend an extra $2.50 for every $1000. In real life terms, a pack of cigarettes – even a cheap pack – costs more than $2.50. So does a gallon of gas. By the best estimate, property taxes on a home valued at $50,000 would decrease by approximately $30, and on a home valued at $75,000 property owners could see their tax bill go down by $45.

 

Whether the county board would refuse to enact the sales tax remains to be seen; and depending on the outcome of next week’s election, it may be a pointless discussion anyway.

 

There is another thing to consider; and because it’s Craig Mathers out doing most of the talking, it’s often overlooked. Chadwick-Milledgeville would see, based on the percentage of county students in the system, 20% of that $650,000-$830,000, and Eastland would see 27%. One of the issues that tends to be on people’s minds when they talk about the School Facilities Occupation Tax is some of the bad taste left in people’s mouths dating back to the consolidation. There are no easy solutions there, since it’s clear that the promise of the consolidation hasn’t worked out the way people thought. But there’s also difference between learning from the past and living in it. And, as Mathers points out, the West Carroll School District has run on balanced budgets for the past three years.

 

What this means is, in spite of the misconception that Mathers is out beating the drum because the schools are in trouble, the schools aren’t in trouble. The sales tax isn’t about saving the district; from his perspective it’s about planning ahead and about making improvements that benefit everyone: students, their families, and Carroll County property owners alike.

 

The School Facilities Occupation Tax could even generate more than the projected amounts. With Thomson Prison looming somewhere on the horizon, along with initiatives by JoCarroll Electric and NIU and Blackhawk Hills to increase broadband internet access in the northwestern corner of the state, and with TCEDA’s regional approach to economic development maybe starting to see some positive impact in Carroll County, there’s a very real possibility that the tax could help fulfill some of the promises of the consolidation without having to ask property and business owners to pony up more than they already are. Mathers has also said that because the half of money generated would go towards tax abatement, West Carroll’s tax rate – 560 – could improve by 30 points or more. This would make the district and the county more competitive in attracting people to live, work, and do business. This would also help keep more local money… well… local. Taking the sales tax out of the equation, the price of fuel isn’t expected to drop anytime soon, which creates more of an incentive to buy local as much as possible. And knowing that one cent of every dollar spent in a restaurant or at the gas pump would be going towards the schools rather than being funneled through Springfield might make the referendum a bit more appealing to an electorate frustrated with the downstate mentality of state government.

 

In the end, though, it comes down to the voters: who they believe, what they choose as a priority, and what they do when it’s them in voting booth without the coffee shop, the beauty shop, or bar in there

whispering in their ear.

 

Small Town Sexist Cheerleaders

March 18, 2011
angry_old_woman

[This is dedicated to the sour cunt who called our house at 7:45 this morning and put my wife in a bad mood.]

If I sound unfair in my critiques of small town life, it’s only because I grew up in one and I actually know what I’m talking about. The town I grew up in and called home for the first 18 years of my life, Bethel, Ohio, has a couple of largely pointless but interesting distinctions:

 

  1. It’s close to the birthplace of President Ulysses S. Grant.
  2. It spawned a high school drop out who walked around the world, wrote a book about it, and then proceeded – maybe justifiably – to thumb his nose at all the people who didn’t think he would ever amount to anything.
  3. It was founded by Baptists, overrun by the Methodists, and bent into a sanctimonious pit of despair by the Church of Christ. By the time the Presbyterians showed up, there was nothing left for them to do. And don’t get me started on the Apostolics, Evangelicals, and Charismatics.

Now it has more churches than restaurants, is still a dry town in the middle of a dry township – although you can also still drive 10 minutes in either direction and buy booze, and, as most everyone in my graduating class will point out, without the tedium of actually buying a legitimate fake ID. Once upon a time, Bethel was predominately a farm community, much like where I live now, Mount Carroll, Illinois. But that was in the process of changing when I lived in Bethel; and now most of the big farms were inherited by children who had no interest in farming and so sold, spliced into quarter-acre lots for houses for people who work in Cincinnati but want country living without the smell of cow shit.

There are some marked differences between where I grew up and where I now live and work, and those differences are crucial distinctions. For one, Mount Carroll, more so than Bethel, has embodied in it much more potential for growth and survival. This is partly a question of geography. While IL-78, the main North-South artery, runs right through the middle of town, this is a two lane highway. It takes at least 45 minutes to find an interstate, and an hour and 20 minutes to the nearest urban area. (Chicago is 3 hours away.) Bethel has a four-lane rolling right up to the incorporated town limit sign and is 40 minutes from Cincinnati. Because of this, Mount Carroll will not be a commuter hub. I see this a a good thing. And while I hear some farmers around here still bitch about the plight of the American Farmers, the ones I hear bitching are also some of the largest landowners, and – on paper – among the wealthiest people in the county. If there was ever an example demonstrating that farm subsidy legislation needs to be revisited, it is here. (By the way – did you know that 80% of federal subsidies go to the wealthiest 10% of farmers? Millions of dollars.) Mount Carroll is in the bread basket. Bethel is the buckle of the rust belt. These are crucial distinctions. Because in addition to the death of farming around my old hometown, the steel industry bottoming out had a soul killing impact on Bethel and the surrounding communities.

Bethel has become what it has become – and while I know people still live there, I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why. I was a kid there, and in all honesty, I think I turned out well in spite of living there, not because of it. Mount Carroll’s population is dying off – literally – and the ones who are still here are split amongst those who want to save the town, those who want to save it the way they remember it from 50 years ago, and those who don’t give a damn and are willing to let it sink into the dirt. There are people in positions of power and authority in the county who really think that if the factories will just come back, that everything will be okay. That these people have been continually re-elected is only an indication of how out of touch some people are – at latest count, around 20% of the falling population, since that’s the percentage of people who voted in the midterm election – and how unaware they that their lack of connection with what’s happening in the world is impacting the place they claim to care about. They love this place, their home, in way a stalker loves his target. If they can’t have it the way they want it, they won’t let anyone else have it either.

One of the things that people tend to want to “preserve” in a town like this is the reliable gender roles that have served us so well as a species and a country. This is often coupled (think animal husbandry) with “family values,” which strikes me as odd. This paradigm comes into play often around here. I run into old men at the bars who make dogging and denigrating their wives behind their backs into an Olympic Sport and who make chipping away at their wive’s self-esteem a daily sacred mission. I must have been fortunate, since in my house there was no question that while my old man was The Man of House that my mom was equal, if not more important. He didn’t have to put her down to make himself feel better. He didn’t have to talk down to her to prove his intelligence. I wish I could say that all the members of my extended family were also this enlightened; but they were not. When my mom went back to school, a significant number of her side of the family roundly objected.

And what was interesting about it was that the loudest critics were the women.

Living in Mount Carroll, I’ve noticed this kind of thing play out. When a woman is intelligent or successful here, she is immediately sanctioned. Men will make droll sexist comments that are neither inspired nor interesting nor even funny, really. My wife has endured some of this in the time we’ve lived here, and it still – thankfully – offends her. It should. It offends me. I have offered to go around and kick in the teeth of all the Jethros who make these comments, but she either thinks I won’t or she’s afraid that I actually will. (And yes, I know. I am still meditating on my capacity for violence. I am still trying to be a pacifist. But it’s not easy… which is, of course, the whole point. If it were easy, then there’d be no point.)

By far, however, the women are worse. They are spiteful, sour cunts who, because they’ve been kicked down their entire lives, take offense when another of their gender isn’t.

Now, I’m not talking about ALL the women here. I’m friends with a few and they are not spiteful sour cunts. On the other hand, they’re intelligent and articulate women with brains and various things they are passionate about… which is probably why I like them and consider them friends. This sounds silly, I know… but I actually LIKE talking to people who challenge me intellectually, and I’m pretty comfortable with how thought out my opinions are as well as with the size of my penis and I don’t need to put someone else down to feel better about either.

Maybe because I’m a guy and I know that most other guys are slobbering baboons – or, like me, in the process of turning back into one – I will only on occasion dig into a dumbass at the bar for being a dumbass. This, amazingly enough, makes me few friends. But, I also have to deal with the fact that I don’t like people much, anyway. At some point, I will meditate on this, too.

Don’t confuse what I’m saying. There’s nothing wrong with guys acting like guys. In fact, if most women were being honest, many of them like it when we act…well… like baboons. I’m not saying that men ought to over compensate for all the piggies running around by trying to be less … for lack of a better word … manly. The PC tendency for men to become apologists for the twig and berry gender is bullshit.

But there IS something wrong when women are clearly more violent in their sexism against their own gender than men. And save me all that cultural relativism crap. I don’t care if “that’s just how it is here,” or “that’s how they were raised.” Bullshit. People tend not to change, but that’s not the same thing as having the ability to grow and change. If we didn’t evolve, we would have never survived as a species. People can change. Mostly they choose not to.

 

Requiescat In Pace

March 9, 2011
pig-rip

Beer open, cigar lit, my ass in my chair. Beethoven playing in the background. Yes. Now is as good a time as any, I suppose. The nights pass just as well here at my desk as they do anywhere else; my wife forgives my need to be up here, and anywhere within the confines of my house, there is better company than at the local bars at this hour. Not that the hour is late; it’s not. At least, not for me. I don’t feel a particular rush of insomnia coming on, so that means at some point, I WILL sleep – which is good, since I have to cover a meeting in the morning and these county politicians have to get their business done before noon since they’re in bed by 3 in the afternoon.

Events in Wisconsin make me wish I was there writing about it, but I suspect I will be writing about here before too long. The backlash from the High Crimes and Misdemeanors of one Governor Scott Walker, Republican, of the state of Wisconsin has been felt in Ohio and other points of interest. I have no doubt it will come here – especially since a few high ranking members of the Carroll County Board have demonstrated quite clearly that they have no love of unions and would like nothing better than to destroy what small union presence there is here.

Now, I have proclaimed myself a peaceful man – that is to say, I am aware that I am not one by nature, only by hope, hard work, and inclination. Like the other men in my family, I have a short fuse and a large chip on each shoulder – which is why, god love her, my wife would probably prefer I avoid blood warming liquors like bourbon. Especially bourbon. That’s not to say I get rowdy… but it does sharpen my tongue and let out some of the little beasties I have locked up in cages down in my gut. I sometimes act the fool, but it’s always with the best of intentions. But there is no bourbon here, only beer, and fairly cheap beer at that… yes, there are times when drinking must be economical to be useful. And I’m not even really drinking to get drunk; it functions merely as lubricant to help my fingers dance and my brain skip it’s usual plodding deliberation. There are times when the words must come for themselves… or, at the very least, times when I should have the good grace to get out of their way. And because I have proclaimed myself a peaceful man, as much as I would like very much to see the enraged citizens and union supporters drag that idjit of a Wisconsin Governor from his comfortable bed by the ears and try him after the fashion of the French Revolution, I know that’s not a solution. [Note: idjit, adj: an individual whose behavior is so horribly atavistic that to call him or her an idiot is to do an immoral disservice to that particular word. From The Parsons Dictionary of Often Used Words and Phrases]

Walker and his cabal of corporate-tit sucking lackeys have side-stepped the filibuster in absentia of the 14 Democratic Senators who, in order to keep the union killing bill off the floor, fled across the state line into the Land of Lincoln. I’m not defending the 14, really – at this point I take Democrats to be cowards and corporate automatons as much as the Republicans are carpet-bagging, back-stabbing, corporate automatons. To leave in order to bring attention to the issue is one thing; but they’ve been hiding here so long that their presence was no longer required to screw over the people of Wisconsin and by extension, the American people. The 14 should have stayed gone long enough to get people’s attention, then grew balls and/ or backbones and gone back and fought the good fight for the people who elected them. If they carried the strength of the conviction they claim to have, they would have stepped up to the front line with the demonstrators and demanded that Walker compromise when the unions agreed to all concessions except for the stripping away of collective bargaining rights.

But they didn’t. They took the politician’s way out, skulking like wounded raccoons – which allowed the GOPer controlled legislature to do what they do best. They found a back door way to get their dirty deed done and made it home in time to watch the season premiere of MTV’s The Real World: Las Vegas.

Damn their eyes. Every single one of them.

Now, if it seems I’m not digging into the GOPers very much, it’s not because it’s not deserved. There aren’t enough stick pens for the voodoo dolls of the Wisconsin Republicans. The truth is, though, they have pretty much behaved the way I have come to expect them to behave – like circus geeks with their heads planted firmly up their own asses. And if we’re being honest, that’s what this political falderal in Wisconsin has been – a circus. And if it seems like I’m letting the slimy bastards off easy, it’s only because I recognize that a toad will always act like a toad and to expect otherwise is to expect the rules of nature to turn upside down.

In many respects, the Democratic Party is more responsible for this abortive legislation than the GOPers. It’s not such a stretch of the imagination. The Republican sweep of the midterm elections from Congress to state and local governmental positions because the Democrats neither pointed out what few accomplishments they managed to make happen nor did they try and defend any real position. Yes, the Obama Administration has accomplished some good things – though in my opinion, some of the measures, like Health Care and the regulation of Wall Street, didn’t go nearly far enough. Anything less than a Public Option makes the Health Care Law a joke and anything less than putting those Wall Street jerks in the zoo on public display as the thieves who steal from old people and children is patently offensive. To be honest, I haven’t expected much in terms of an immediate turn around of the economy, because it was so hopelessly fucked by Gee Wubya that it will take time and some savvy MacGyvering to get it back to normal. But to go back on his campaign promise to close Gitmo is inexcusable.

And it’s that kind of thing that made the Democrats lose the midterm, swing the control of the House to Boehner and the greedy GOPers, and usher an idjit like Scott Walker into the Wisconsin Governor’s mansion. And Obama’s public silence on this issue will, in all likelihood, come back to bite him in the ass when he has to go to what remains of unions in this country and ask for their support in 2012… and since the field of greedy GOPers wanting to be President is as dismal as their party platform, the next ten years of political life in this country will be as caustic as the previous ten.

Updated Definition from The Parsons Dictionary of Often Used Words and Phrases

March 7, 2011

Good Ol’ Boy noun phrase, adj: A white male in any community who despises every U.S. President since Eisenhower (except Nixon and Reagan) and claims to believe in god, country, and family while spending a majority of his free time at the bar complaining about his kids and denigrating his wife, skips church to watch NASCAR, and refuses to accept that Bill of Rights is one of America’s Founding Documents. This phrase can either be a pejorative or a compliment, depending on who’s saying and who it is said in reference to.

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