Wage Weasels Ripped Your Flesh

If one is properly attuned, even the most innocuous seeming news story can be rife with outrage.

For instance. I do not usually have the time to read the USA Toady, which is delivered with the local newspaper each morning, but this morning was enjoying a leisurely breakfast out and so had time to do so. Front page, below the fold, the “newspaper” chirpily reports the following:

Pet insurance, at-your-desk meditation services, jewelry discounts and funeral planning — from the quirky to the somber, workplaces are providing a range of unique benefits in 2012.

The options come as many firms try to placate employees frustrated by pay cuts, heavy workloads, high health insurance costs and reduced 401(k) matches.

“Companies are trying to have it feel like it’s not one big take-away,” says John Bremen, a managing director at employer consultancy Towers Watson. “They are trying to find ways to appeal to the workforce.”

Here’s a crazy idea. Pay them money.

Many voluntary benefits — such as reduced-price computers and pet insurance due to group-buying discounts — won’t gouge a corporate budget.

“On the employer side, there’s a recognition that they can’t always add to the benefits program in a way they have in the past,” says Ronald Leopold, national medical director at MetLife. “But they want to offer employees different things and a broader set of (choices).”

Businesses are using these perks to make harried workers feel valued, as well as to help them balance personal and professional needs.

I have a crazy idea on how to make employees feel “valued.” PAY THEM MONEY.

The whole article is like this. Chirp, chirp, lookit the employers trying to get more chintzy, la, la, la. And, by the way, if you’re reading the article waiting for a quote from Dick Trumka or Leo Gerard, you’ll be reading a long time. Why would USA Toady bother to talk to union leadership about this?

This news story flat-out comes out and says, by the way, companies are doing everything they can to weasel out of paying people good wages, and there’s USA Toady, just chirping along as if they’re reporting about Russell Brand’s latest boob job. Isn’t this an issue that’s just screaming for deeper reporting? Hello? Employers in these Untied States cannot find enough ways to screw you out of better wages! And this pathetic waste of newsprint doesn’t have the time to get Dick Trumka on the line?

But that’s where it’s at in this country. Labor issues have been so minimized that “mainstream” news outlets don’t even think to report that side of the story anymore, and in fact these news outlets are so corporate that they wouldn’t dare if it even occurred to them to do so. As a favorite radio talker of mine is fond of saying often: The News Has Been Canceled.

Firms such as S.C. Johnson, TD Bank and Travelocity provide discounted health coverage for workers’ pets through Petplan Pet Insurance. Petplan “has seen tremendous growth in this area of voluntary benefits,”co-CEO Chris Ashton says. “In this struggling economy, employers are increasingly looking for low-cost options to keep their employees happy.”

Yet, it can be tough to meet the needs and wants of a diverse workforce. “No one strategy is going to necessarily impact all employees equally,” Leopold says. “What’s good for one (employee) isn’t necessarily good for the other.”

I know of a strategy that’s good for ALL employees, you weasel. PAY THEM MONEY, PAY THEM MONEY, PAY THEM MONEY.

Dear The Huffington Post

I went to Journalism School. So I spent a good deal of my time studying headline writing. Not just style. I used to write headlines when you actually had to think on paper about how long the headline had to be.

Your headlines suck. Your headlines suck so horribly that if they were a physical object, I would like to piss on them. And then I would like to stomp on them after I have pissed on them.

Headlines should inform. They should not tease. They should not be cute, and they should not be mysterious. What is up with the Huffington Headline Hieroglyphs? Your current lead headline says “END OF THE WORLD.” What the fuck are you talking about? I know you’re not actually talking about THE end of THE world. But I don’t know what the fuck you are actually saying. You have written a completely nebulous headline. Congratulations.

Dear The Huffington Post, I am glad you are here. Your presence and your success has proven that liberal media can work.

But you might want to consider hiring some journalists.

The Real Question, Buried As Usual

The USA Toady breathlessly trumpets, above the fold, the following headline:

“In Wis., private sector pays less.” Wisconsin, the story reports, is one of 41 states where public employees earn higher average pay and benefits than private workers in the same state, this according to an analysis by the USA Toady itself.

It’s on the front page of the USA Toady. Above the fold. This ridiculous Republigoat meme has, as usual, become the generally accepted common wisdom. Those goddamn public employees are just sucking on the public boob, and they’re living it pretty high and might doing it, too, while the rest of us suffer and slave away working for the man and earn peanuts at it. Bastards.

If I were king of the world, it would be a law punishable by clothespins applied to one’s taint that each time a journalistic entity breathlessly reports any discrepancy of compensation between public and private sectors, he must also report on the compensation discrepancy in these Untied States between CEOs and the rest of us.

They would have to report that a CEO makes 200 times more money than your average laborer; that even as Forbes was reporting that CEO compensation had dipped in 2010, they were reporting that the average CEO earns $8 million. A year.

That’s about $666,666 per month. Per month.

If this country all of a sudden has a hard-on to talk about some sort of compensation inequity, why in the wide wide world of sports aren’t we talking about that one?

Unless you’re pulling down $700K a month, you ought to be.

Speaking Of Freakishly Tall, Lesbionic Grace

When Rachel Maddow first started making waves about CNN’s live-time broadcast of Michele Bachmann Overdrive’s lazy-eyed “response” to the State of the Union, we here at the imaginary think-tank the Serious Poo-Poo Institute of Technology thought she making a bit too much of it.

Then we watched Maddow’s last segment of last night’s broadcast, when she was able to report more in-depth, reflecting her objection in terms of exactly how long and how passionately CNN and the Tea Party have been dry-humping one another.

We here at the SPIT have not frankly watched CNN since around 2003, when its reporters employed pom-poms in its reporting of the illegal, immoral, and stupid invasion of Iraq by these Untied States of America. We hadn’t realized it had gotten so damned rotten over there.


Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

It’s almost worse than Fox “News.” At least those screwballs don’t try quite as hard to pretend.

Imus and Fox ‘News’ Deserve Each Other

First of all, let us establish early on that Don Imus is a racist blobfish.

You are probably aware of this improbable broadcast celebrity’s misogynistic, racist, bizarre, mean, and un-funny put-down of the Rutgers womens’ basketball team of 2007. Dig a little further, or become an amateur Howard Stern Show historian as I have, and you will understand that Imus’ record on howling racial epithets is a thick, well-documented file folder.

Let us also establish that Rachel Maddow is a Rhodes Scholar and a professional broadcaster whose journalistic endeavors have at times engendered levels of integrity not even approached since those days when one Walter Cronkite held a microphone. I may be hyperbole-ing all over the place here. But not by much.

So, if you must compare and contrast these two stars of radio and television, there is one stark difference between them: One is a racist asshole who cries to Al Sharpton when his decades-long rant finally looks about to cost him his stupid career. The other is an accomplished broadcaster who has actually studied social ills in college and who imparts herself consistently with integrity and grace—freakishly tall, lesbionic grace. But grace.

So how weird is this Imus explosion regarding Maddow’s immediate comments following Keef’s sudden exit at MSNBC, wherein Imus—whose signature comedy radio bit once featured a gigantic worm that would eat local school houses—calls Rachel Maddow a “coward” and “a gutless, sniveling worm?”

I mean, the whole exchange is weird. See to Imus’ wife Deidre (pronounced “dehr-dra”) call Maddow a “back-stabber.” See Imus inexplicably compare Olbermann’s sunset at MSNBC, which was precipitated by a scuttled contract negotiation, with his own, which, as noted, was precipitated by his own and his sidekick’s misogynistic, racist, bizarre, mean, and un-funny on-air comments.

This man—nay, this whole entire dais—needs to be swept off the air and evaluated by a mental health professional. Stat.

Am I Getting Through To You, Mr. Beale?

I was fond of Keith Olbermann’s “Special Comment” of last evening; I even embedded it here for a moment with a headline that indicated that Olbermann’s soliloquy had provided me with a certain bodily release. This made me laugh quite a bit, and then, for reasons to follow, I killed the post.

Because then I actually read Koppel’s column. And, I have to say, Keith missed the boat on this one.

The bulk of Koppel’s opinion piece isn’t a simple examination of “commentary” versus “he said she said” journalism, which is how Keith framed it last evening. Koppel centrally argues, and I think pretty forcefully, that it’s not simply a matter anymore of whether or not good, credible journalism practices are followed. It’s a matter, says Koppel, that even if a reporter wanted to follow those good old-fashioned 5-Ws, he or she would be structurally prohibited from doing so.

Anotherwerds, it’s not a question about what good journalism is or what it isn’t anymore. It’s that good journalism cannot exist.

Koppel recounts a history that anyone who’s spent any time observing or working in media is familiar with: Once upon a time, the federal government required broadcasters to provide some sort of public interest programming. To keep their licenses, the networks established news divisions, which they never expected to be anything more than a cost of doing business. When this notion changed, and news divisions became expected to bow to the profit motive like any other division, Koppel argues, good journalism became structurally impossible.

Koppel presents one concrete symptom of this new reality in media: The modern dearth of real, fully-staffed news bureaus overseas.

Keith did not refer to any of these points in his commentary. Yet they are the central thesis of Koppel’s article.

It is true, one cannot fairly conflate the journalistic practices of Mr. Olbermann’s employer with those of the Fox “News” Channel. However, to attempt to argue that one of these news networks is more or less beholden to corporate interests is absurd. In our brave new world, news is just another commodity.

That’s Nice and All, But…

Jon Stewart this past weekend gave a barn-burner of a speech adjacent to his “Rally to Restore Sanity.” The embed:

And the transcript, thank you, Huffington Post:

And now I thought we might have a moment, however brief, for some sincerity. If that’s okay—I know that there are boundaries for a comedian / pundit / talker guy, and I’m sure that I’ll find out tomorrow how I have violated them.

So, uh, what exactly was this? I can’t control what people think this was: I can only tell you my intentions.

This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith, or people of activism, or look down our noses at the heartland, or passionate argument, or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear—they are, and we do.

But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus, and not be enemies. But unfortunately, one of our main tools in delineating the two broke.

The country’s 24-hour, political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems, bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen. Or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire, and then perhaps host a week of shows on the dangerous, unexpected flaming ants epidemic. If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.

There are terrorists, and racists, and Stalinists, and theocrats, but those are titles that must be earned! You must have the resume! Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Party-ers, or real bigots and Juan Williams or Rick Sanchez is an insult—not only to those people, but to the racists themselves, who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate. Just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe, not more.

The press is our immune system. If it overreacts to everything, we actually get sicker—and, perhaps, eczema. And yet… I feel good. Strangely, calmly, good. Because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us, through a funhouse mirror—and not the good kind that makes you look slim in the waist, and maybe taller, but the kind where you have a giant forehead, and an ass shaped like a month-old pumpkin, and one eyeball.

So why would we work together? Why would you reach across the aisle, to a pumpkin-assed forehead eyeball monster? If the picture of us were true, of course our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable—why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution, and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own?

We hear every damned day about how fragile our country is, on the brink of catastrophe, torn by polarizing hate, and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done. The truth is, we do! We work together to get things done every damned day! The only place we don’t is here (in Washington) or on cable TV!

But Americans don’t live here, or on cable TV. Where we live, our values and principles form the foundation that sustains us while we get things done—not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done.

Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives. Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do. Often something they do not want to do! But they do it. Impossible things, every day, that are only made possible through the little, reasonable compromises we all make.

(Points to video screen, showing video of cars in traffic.) Look on the screen. This is where we are, this is who we are. These cars. That’s a schoolteacher who probably think his taxes are too high, he’s going to work. There’s another car, a woman with two small kids, can’t really think about anything else right now… A lady’s in the NRA, loves Oprah. There’s another car, an investment banker, gay, also likes Oprah. Another car’s a Latino carpenter; another car, a fundamentalist vacuum salesman. Atheist obstetrician. Mormon Jay-Z fan.

But this is us. Every one of the cars that you see is filled with individuals of strong belief, and principles they hold dear—often principles and beliefs in direct opposition to their fellow travelers’. And yet, these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze, one by one, into a mile-long, 30-foot-wide tunnel, carved underneath a mighty river.

And they do it, concession by concession: you go, then I’ll go. You go, then I’ll go. You go, then I’ll go. ‘Oh my God—is that an NRA sticker on your car?’ ‘Is that an Obama sticker on your car?’ It’s okay—you go, then I go.

And sure, at some point, there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the shoulder, and cuts in at the last minute. But that individual is rare, and he is scorned, and he is not hired as an analyst!

Because we know, instinctively, as a people, that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light, we have to work together. And the truth is there will always be darkness, and sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land.

Sometimes, it’s just New Jersey.

That’s nice and all, but:

I think Stewart’s sentiment here ignores a vital truth about American small-d democracy today, and in fact, which has permeated the political landscape since, oh, I dunno, 1776? And that is, quite simply, that there are and always have been two competing and disparate visions in this country regarding the role of the federal government.

The side I most often find myself on values something called “the commons” and believes that one of government’s most vital roles is to maintain and regulate that shared, necessary infrastructure that is vital to a strong, thriving democracy and, not to mention, a robust economy.

I think, for example, that a strong public school system benefits everyone, including those who do not have children. If my cabbie can read and count, if the waitress can count change, and if a select few of public-educated children develop a method for creating a heart muscle in a test tube, the benefit is for everyone and for sea to shining sea as well. I think as well that a nation’s banking system is part of the commons, and I think that the overzealous privateers in that industry have recently proven to us what happens when it is removed from that designation. I think a nation is only as strong as its shared infrastructure, and that one role of government is to tax its citizens and to use the proceeds to build and maintain that infrastructure.

This is a vastly different viewpoint from the “ideas” that drive today’s weird political rhetoric, the notion that everything and anything should be bought and done for a profit, that ownership is the only virtue, that the “free market” is the One True God, that a person who advocates for the commons is by default a communist.

This is not on-ramp traffic. It is a protracted war, a longstanding attempt by millionaires and billionaires to pave over and to wall into sections the commons, and the peoples’ attempt to prevent them from doing so.

One additional note regarding Stewart’s commentary regarding cable television news: Equivocating Keith Olbermann’s rhetorical style somehow with that of those who are employed by Fox “News” is ridiculous. Not to say that everyone should supplant news sources completely with any cable television news program, but I dare say that at least Olbermann is not cheering on the folks who are leading us into the next dark age.

Public Broad Casting

Public broadcasting. This is one of those issues on which mine very own Papa Bonk used to opine and I’d sort of squint at him and go “HUH?”

Because PB has argued for years that federal support for public broadcasting should be yanked. And, as of recently—even though that is the entity that taught me how to read—I’m rather down with him on that.

The problem with public broadcasting is that it ain’t. If you tune in to “All Things Considered,” you hear commercials just the same. And, as much as my conservagoat buddies want to argue that NPR is a great liberal media sanctuary, sorry, but it ain’t. NPR is nearly as corporate as CNN.

Not digging that idea? When’s the last time you heard Workers Independent News on your local NPR affiliate? Never? But I’ll bet you that you can tune in tonight to hear Marketplace. That is not the peoples’ media, friends. Sorry.

So the question is, with all of these Conservadicks seizing upon the opportunity of NPR’s firing of Juan Williams for speaking with his lizard brain, bitching about the nearly nonexistent federal funding of NPR, the question to me is, do me and PB throw in with them and call for an end to federal funding of NPR, even if the reason is absolutely wrong-headed and foolish and spearheaded by the likes of Prudence Palin?

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?


A reporter is in a corridor in a public school and is trying to ask a question of a man who is running to be a senator in these Untied States of America.

Before I continue, may I offer a brief definition of a “public school” as “an institution of learning that is financed by taxpayer dollars.”

Private security guards for the candidate HANDCUFF THE REPORTER, drag him down the hall and detain him for 25 minutes.

Before I continue, may I offer a brief definition of a “private security guard” as a “goon who is hired by a Senate campaign for money to be a goon.”

This actually happened. The candidate was Joe Miller, who is running for Senate in Alaska. The reporter was Tony Hopfinger, who edits the website Alaska Dispatch. It happened as Hopfinger tried to ask Miller questions at Central Middle School in Anchorage on Sunday.

This is NOT acceptable.