Thursday, May 18, 2017

Guest Cartoon: The Highwayman: "The Future Of Trumpcare"

This cartoon reminds me of a line from a Graham Parker song: "I have seen the future of rock, and it sucks." Well, substitute "Trumpcare" for the r-word, and I think you'll be able to see where The Highwayman was coming from on this cartoon...and it may be closer than you think...if they get their way. If. If. If. --The Reckoner

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Benefits Back On The Chopping Block: Now Is Not The Time To Sit On The Fence

<"The ice age is comin', the sun's zooming in:
Engines stop running, the wheat is growing thin...>

They've done it again. The Republican ideologues in the House of Representatives...who couldn't agree on the finer details of screwing the poor (and their low- to moderate-income peers)...jump-started their innocuously-titled monstrosity, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), in all its ghasty glory, by a 217-213 vote today. As expected, the measure passed along party lines, with 29 Republicans voting no, and no Democrats voting for it. The political football back to the Senate, where the math hasn't changed: you still need 60 votes, including eight Democrats, to actually pass this so-called piece of legislation. We'll see how well that scenario plays out.

However, I'm not going to spend time rehashing the ugliness of the AHCA, which is almost stupefying, in terms of who it rewards (the already insanely wealthy) and punishes (seniors,  via the "age tax" that insurers imposed before the Affordable Care Act (ACA); the poor, via the attempted conversion of Medicaid into a block grant program, or the imposition of high-risk pools, which failed spectacularly in states that tried them iduring the pre-ACA era). You can read the links below to see how the screw will bore through your back. Trust me -- no matter who does the analyzing, it's not a pretty picture.

Nor will I revisit the familiar pro and con arguments about the ACA's impact on the average person. Obviously, major issues that need correcting -- starting with the sky-high deductibles ($6,000 and $12,000? who were they kidding?), and double-digit rate increases that stoked resentments against the law. Now that people realize what they might lose, support for the ACA has shot up. If the Democrats ever regain majority control, they'll need to address these issues -- but that's another discussion for another day. If the law vanishes, that discussion is academic.

There's something downright surreal about the House's race to strip so many millions of what coverage they've gained since the ACA passed in 2010. Somewhere in his special little air-conditioned room in Hell, the late, discredited East German Communist leader, Erich Honecker, is high-fiving his equally grimy colleagues, as they observe the anticsnow going on in Washington: "Ja, ja, see? I told you so! I told you so!"

No, today, as we hold our breath, once again -- I'm going to focus on the people who, even now, after all the picketing and protesting, keep saying things like, Give him (Trump) a chance." "He doesn't really mean what he says." "He probably won't finish out his term." "It doesn't matter, and it doesn't affect me." "Whatever he does, we can overturn it at some other time." To all of those excuses, I offer a simple rejoinder: Now is not the time to sit on the fence, and here's why.

<I think we've all seen this movie before...>

Maybe you voted for Trump, thinking he really is some kind of  populist, waiting to tap his inner Bernie Sanders? There's a classic saying in business that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. Granted, Herr Trump zigzags constantly, but the few proposals that he's tried to advance --the AHCA, the massive social services cuts envisioned in his so-called budget, or the proposed tax cuts that would, effectively, soak the rich dreams to unimaginable new heights -- hail from the ultra-right playbook. Yet he's trying to jam all these things down our throats,with an approval rating that hovers somewhere in the low 40s. I don't feel like keeping quiet as he rolls out these evil science experiments. And neither should anybody else.

Maybe you take Trump for the latest clown who'll limp out of Washington with his tail between his legs, without any substantive achievements? Perhaps, but he can still wreak plenty of havoc by default. The best chance to check him  -- the 2018 midterm elections -- is a gut-wrenching 18 months away. Unless we lay the groundwork now, the Democratic dreams of recapturing one (or both) Houses of Congress will amount to no more than that. Ask the rivals who watched Trump stumble in Iowa last year, only to see him walk off with the nomination. Ask them what happens when you don't take a looming threat seriously.

Maybe you're unwilling to stand up, because Trump won't survive the impeachment process, and you somehow won't be affected? Impeaching Trump leaves us vulnerable to his equally batshit crazy VP, Mike Pence -- the same "compassionate conservative" who also presided over massive public health cuts as governor of Indiana. Putting someone like him at the top of the pyramid doesn't buy us relief; protest does, at least some degree, if only because it serve as a rude interruption of Trump's and Pence's narcissisitic fantasies ("Who cares what the media claims? They love me!"). And don't think you'll slip under the radar somehow. How many employers will continue offering the same kind of insurance -- or, for that matter, any kind of insurance -- if the AHCA actually becomes law?

Maybe you're counting on someone else to speak their mind, because you think the damage can be undone later? That scenario only becomes probable if Democrats capture the U.S. House and Senate, which nobody in their wildest dreams is floating right now (Most of the smart money is focused on regaining the former body). Part of the reason we're in this fix is because everybody waited for someone else to do the right thing. The progressives waited for the Democratic establishment to hear them out. Didn't happen. The voters returned the House to GOP control, hoping for relief from ACA premiums. Didn't happen. Trump's rivals, then Hillary Clinton, waited for him to stumble, and commit political hara-kiri. DIdn't happen. 

See where that logic gets us? No matter what rationalization you choose, the result is the same, as the British abolitionist William Wilberforce once observed: "Having heard all of this you may choose to look the other way but you can never again say you did not know." No matter what happens with the House vote today, whatever protesting we do must continue, and we must continue to drive home the message. Now is not the time to sit on the fence. --The Reckoner

Links To Go (Hurry, Before
They Yank The Coverage Rug For Good):
Center For American Progress:
The Upton Amendment To The ACA
Repeal Bill Will Have Almost No Effect:

Huffington Post: Jimmy Kimmel's Humanity
Underscores GOP's Heartlessness Toward The Poor:

Los Angeles Times: All The Horrific Details
Of The GOP's New Obamacare Bill: A Handy Guide:

Los Angeles Times: Seven Ways
The GOP's Obamacare Repeal Bill
Would Wreck Your Healthcare:

Los Angeles Times: The GOP Isn't Replacing
All Of Obamacare -- Just the Parts That Work:

Friday, April 28, 2017

The College Degree Glut (Did Our Ancestors Know Something We Don't?)

This graphic is extraordinary. The caption reads as follows: "A Prospect Of Higher Education. Sixty-Eight Million Dollars Were Given For Colleges Last Year; --if the Mania for College Education Continues We May Soon Expect the Above State of Affairs." I found it in a book entitled, Looking Forward: Life In The Twentieth Century As Predicted In The Pages Of American Magazines From 1895 To 1905. Published in 1970, Looking Forward does exactly what the title says: I picked up for a buck at the library book sale for Squawker, who loves to read about Victorian- and Gilded Age-era life.

Considering that it's a century old, this illustration definitely strikes a nerve with me. Back in 1990, when I returned from my six-month tenure as a clerk, at the University of London, I faced a post-college employment picture that should look familiar to any graduate today. I was still living at home, so I didn't have that pressure of paying rent -- plus food, and laundry, and all that other grown-up rubbish -- over my head. However, my family was struggling financially themselves, so I had to pound the pavement. I couldn't expect them to subsidize me, on top of everything else on their plate.

However, after almost six months of pounding, I couldn't find a job that paid above McJob level (as in, minimum or sub-minimum wage). So I did what anyone in my spot does. I told myself:: if you must work a McJob, make it one you can stand. I went to my hometown paper, where I'd done a 150-customer motor route in the summer of '86. It didn't pay princely sums, but enough to put gas in my car, get a few takeout meals a week, and keep me in records and rock mags (which I was now beginning to score for free, having discovered the magic world of reviewing for comp copies).

I asked the paper if they had any big routes opening up. As it turned out, they did, and I found myself dealing with 200-plus customers through the summer and early fall of 1990. Eventually, after asking around some more, I found an out-of-county newspaper job with one my former college editors, who was now the boss there, and wanted me badly. So, in a sense, I landed on my feet, though not without some tense in the den, when a news report came on about the Gen Xers' struggles to find suitable jobs. I was about to mutter something along the lines of, "Wow, I can relate," when my dad looked over his paper, and said: "Son, the trouble with this place here is that everybody graduates." 

Not having found my second motor route job yet, I quickly changed the subject; I didn't feel like giving a progress report. Looking at today's numbers, though, I think that my dad raised a valid point. As of 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that 260,000 bachelor's degree holders were working for $7.25 an hour or less, along with an additional 200,000 associate's degree earners trapped on the same go-nowhere treadmill.

This issue has produced no lack of anguished rhetorical questions from the likes of Forbes ("If college degrees are becoming more valuable, why are so many graduates either unemployed or employed at low-paying jobs?"), and the National Association of Scholars ("Obama wants to substantially increase the number of Americans who get college degrees, but what does he think they'll be doing?").

However, solutions -- and the long-term thinking needed to produce them -- are in shorter supply than ever, as we see from "Education Secretary" Betsy DeVos's decision to scrap promises of student loan forgiveness to graduates who took low-paying public sector jobs. As my dad suggested so long ago, there are way too many people competing for way too few jobs. The problem is that we're well into a new era of outsourcing and automation that leaves less and less for anybody to do, even though their bills don't ever stay the same for long.

This notion, to coin Lester Bangs's classic phrase, "is slightly inconsistent." As for Obama, I doubt that he's giving the matter much thought anymore, or why else would he feel comfortable with collecting $400,000 to speak at a health care conference this fall? Shame on him for doing it, but that's another discussion for another day. What's needed among grads, though, is a more radical resistance. 

Begging the world at large to ease your path toward a high-paying job only taps into the prevailing narrative that the federal government constantly pushes: college pays off in the end, so if we treat you like a walking profit center, you must be good for it. Every penny. Every percentage point. End of discussion. Deferments, forgiveness, lowered interest -- all of those remedies are fine, but what's needed is a tougher-minded look at the big picture. And that starts with my dad's statement, plus one more that's worth repeating: What do we mean by the golden rule? He who has the gold makes the rules. --The Reckoner

Links To Go (Act Now,
Before Your Loans Go Up)
Common Dreams: Borrowers "Chilled 

To The Bone" As DOE Reneges
On Student Loan Forgiveness

New York Post: Sanders Calls Obama's

Wall Street Speech Fee "Unfortunate":

Student Loan Report
Student Loan Debt Statistics 2017

Think Progress: Half A Million People
With College Degrees Are Working
For Minimum Wage:

Taylor Swift Sleeps In Satan's Pocket (So Satisfy Your Artistic Soul Anyway, OK?)


<When the mimes are heading for the exits, they're trying to tell you something: Taylor Swift ponders her country-pop confections' impacts on a generation...and shudders>

One of the more amusing conspiracy theories making the rounds is the notion that country-pop phenom Taylor Swift is a) a former Satanic cult leader, b) a clone of '90s-era Satanist Zeena LaVey (as in, daughter of the late Anton LaVey, Church of Satan founder), or c) involved in some other unspeakable fashion with "THE PLACE WHERE THE GUY WITH THE HORNS AND THE POINTED STICK CONDUCTS HIS BUSINESS" (to quote Frank Zappa's "warning label" for his 1985 album, Frank Zappa Meets The Mothers Of Prevention).

You know what? I think the theorists are onto something. 

Surely, there's something Satanic about the Orwellian pervasiveness that carpet-bombs Swift's country-pop confections so remorselessly down our throats, everywhere we go. Like so many hyper-commercial phenomenons, she's absurdly overexposed, a situation hardly mitigated by her habit of slapping cease and desist orders on anything that moves or breathes without her approval. And future pop archaeologists will have loads of fun deciphering all those in-joke-laden odes to her exes (that'll require reams of footnotes to enlighten the next generation, if -- and when -- they're due for a reissue.)

But that's not how Discmakers' sees it. From their standpoint, I'm doing it wrong, at least, when it comes to programming my YouTube channel. Instead of posting what excites me on some level, I need to buckle down, and start covering more current artists, like Swift. Charting any other course is simply "flawed and self-indulgent," as Discmakers columnist Johnny Dwinnell suggests:

"You put up videos of your original material, but no one in the marketplace is aware of you, so you get zero views from new possible fans; just views from friends and family.

"You make videos of you covering your favorite obscure songs, but again, the only views you get are from people who already know you because nobody is searching for the original version of the curiosity you decided to cover in the quest to satisfy your artist soul."

"I'm An Artist-Businessman..."

What's the answer? Don't worry, Dr. Dwinnell has the cure: "This is where the cathartic artistic satisfaction comes from, putting your stamp on another artist’s original song. The more distant the original artist’s style is from yours, the more compelling your version can be. Take artistic license and go as crazy as you want to." To be fair, he doesn't suggest focusing on Swiftl full-time, since "every girl and her mother are posting their version of the latest Taylor Swift single."

On its face, such logic is sound enough. Consider how the Clash so indelibly stamped their full throttle punk attack on Junior Marvin's seminal cry of protest, "Police & Thieves." Released in May 1976, the song traveled well beyond its Jamaican origins -- notably, to the Notting HIll Carnival, in London, where it became an anthem for residents who battled a heavy-handed police presence there on August 30, 1976.

Two of the participants, Clash members Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon, decided to record "Police & Thieves." (The experience also reportedly inspired the first major Clash anthem, "White Riot."). The
 main ingredients -- Strummer's passionate vocal performance, Mick Jones's deft arranging, and unrelenting rhythmic attack -- ensured a permanent slot for "Police & Thieves" in the Clash's setlists. To this day, "Police & Theives" ranks among the most successful -- and influential -- cross-genre experiments of all time. (Take the song off the US or UK versions of the band's debut album, The Clash, and see what happens to the running time.)

So, yes, re-interpreting a song you didn't write often ignites greater possibilities. No arguments there. The problem, though, with the constant admonishments and exhortations dished out by Dwinnell, and others like him, is that they're not necessarily offered in that spirit (do these things to burnish your identity a bit more). Really, it's touted in the service of filling shoeboxes with $100 bills, something most music makers never get to experience (unless they fall into the blling-bling-bling hip-hop camp, which is a totally separate discussion). 

"I Can't Even Find Where It Went."
The advice reminds me of a term attributed to Saturday Night Live's creator and producer, Lorne Michaels, who once referred to himself an "artist-businessman." However, as Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad document in their excellent book, Saturday Night (1987), Michaels's business side won out moire often than not. Examples include the second season, when your favorite aliens and mine -- the Coneheads -- blasted off to their home planet of Remulak, apparently for good, only to return for the next season, no worse for wear.

Does that make Lorne Michaels a bad person? No. He's hardly the first creative personality to blink when the wish to take risks (Hey, here's my daring new direction) collides with the desire to keep earning the audience's vote of confidence. There's a reason why Graham Parker once sang: "I have seen the future of rock, and it sucks." But what makes these hyper-career-driven "music-preneur" sites irritating is the broad strokes that they use to paint the big picture. None seem to acknowledge that obscurity is the coin of the realm for genres like metal and punk -- where bands routinely one-up each other by digging up the latest undergorund nugget (like the Northern Irish punk band, At Gunpoint, on whom I stumbled via Dave Fanning's archive site).

This stuff matters. For all the gibing at "satisfying your artistic soul," you don't need to look far for disasters that occurred the minute an artist or band checked integrity at the door. For further reference,read When The Screaming Stopped: The Dark History Of The Bay City Rollers (2016). Then see how much you want to join the dream factory after reading quotes like this one, where the band's lawyer discusses what happened to the Rollers' merchandising money:

"'I can't even find where it went,' he said. 'It certainly didn't go to the band members. I'm not saying the merchandisers didn't pay, everybody paid and it went into the machinery operated by the accountants and professionals. He estimated that including record royalties, publishing incomes, merchandising and touring, the band had during their peak 'probably generated in excess of $1 billion in turnover and at least 25 percent of that was profit."

Locally, I've seen too many performers just going through the motions, slogging through their umpteenth rendition of "In The Midnight Hour" or "Brown-Eyed Girl" without a trace of emotion, feeling, or conviction. I don't care how much they pull in per night, or how much clapping their lead-footed version inspires....against all odds (and common sense). At best, they resemble the walking dead, minus the nifty zombie makeup effects, and painfully aware of it. At worst, they're not aware of what they're doing anymore, because, deep down, they've stopped giving a shit.

Enough of these so-called "artist-businessmen" already! Let us find an ice floe to perch them on, and send it drifting away, where they can't harass the decent folks who want to satisfy their soul (however they define that term artistically). As for me, I'll keep doing what I want, and leave the rest alone. I couldn't play a Taylor Swift song if it hit me on the head. However, if you want my take on that unreleased Clash song, or At Gunpowder -- guess what? You've come to the right place. --The Reckoner

Links To Go (Hurry, Buckle Down
And Learn Those Current Releases) August 30., 1976:
Racial Tensions Run High
As Notting Hill Carnival Ends In Riots:

Discmakers Blog: 
Developing Your YouTube Marketing Strategy:

Police &  Thieves:
Wikipedia Entry:

The Guardian: Junior Murvin Has Died,
But The Story Of Police & Thieves Lives On:

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Guest Cartoon: The Highwayman: "I Got Cut Off (At The...)"

<Courtesy Of: The Highwayman

<For The Full Effect...Click On The Image!>

It's been a tough week at Highwayman HQ, from what our friend tells me...for six days last week, give or take, his phone got cut off, apparently because a) he didn't receive his disconnect notice, nor b) did he get the robo-"courtesy call" that he's been conditioned to dread for the last year or so.

No matter, Mr. Phone Company Manager assured the Highwayman. "Don't always expect that." 

"But aren't those things usually automated?" our bewildered Guest Cartoonist Hero ventured.

"Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't," Mr. Phone Company Manager responded. "We don't always have staffing to do that."

"But how can I make a payment arrangement with you, when I didn't even know I was in trouble? I've been a customer of yours for 10 years. It's not like I ask you for favors every time we talk," the Highwayman sputtered.

"Unfortunately, a promise to pay isn't good enough," Mr. Phone Company Manager responded. "We need at least $87.03 to get you turned back on. Have a good day."


Pen in hand, the Highwayman vented his feelings....and this is the end result. He tinted it blue to match the mood. If you've ever found yourself in a similar strait...I'm sure you can relate. --The Reckoner

Monday, February 13, 2017

Fun With Your Clothes On: Meet Andrew Puzder, Anti-Labor Secretary In Waiting

<The Daily Beast:>
 <"I Want You...To Wear Scanty Outfits And
Help Me Make More In A Day Than You Make In A Year">

Andrew Puzder, Donald Trump's Labor Secretary nominee, epitomizes that old line: "If he didn't exist, you'd have to invent him." Bulging bottom line? Check. Defensive to criticism? Double-check. Ethically challenged? Triple-check. Hostility to those below him, or his department's mission? Quadruple check. Tin-eared to any notion that he, well, crosses a line or two? Quintuple get the idea. Supposedly, America will get its first in-depth look at him during his initial confirmation hearing on Thursday, one that's already been called off four times. We'll see how that one works out.

Although American CEOs, by and large, are hardly a warm and fuzzy bunch, Puzder's public posture suggests an extreme caricature of the tone-deaf prick at the top of the pyramid. His demeanor resembles that of a "Batman" TV villain like, say, Mr. Freeze, who can't fathom why nobody fancies being turned into a human Popsicle. Unlike his relentlessly manic colleagues -- like, say, Joker, Riddler, or Penguin -- Mr. Freeze, er, Puzder, doesn't exude the sense that he's actually enjoying himself.

Unless, of course, he's sticking it to the rest of us. Like most of his tribe, the CEO of CKE Restaurants -- the corporate daddy for the Carl's Jr. and Hardees restaurant chains -- sees nothing hypocritical letting taxpayers pick up the slack for his fast food empire, whether it's forcing his (largely part-time) army of underpaid workers to go on food stamps and Medicaid, while they forgo little things like health insurance, pensions, and savings. (For an analysis of how much this, ahem, slight inconsistency costs the taxpayer, read the National Employment Law Project link below.) But that doesn't stop him from putting his foot in his mouth, all the same.

Don't believe us? Take this Ramen Noodle Nation economy tour of Mr. Puzder's wackier, less nuanced statements, and judge them for himself. There's a saying in the business world that describes the situation perfectly: "Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior." For further snapshots of life in Puzder-land, read the links below, make up your own mind...and then, run like hell.

<I've got the world on a string, sittin' on a rainbow

Got the string around my finger
What a world, what a life, I'm in love!
I've got a song that I sing
I can make the rain go, anytime I move my finger
Lucky me, can't you see, I'm in love
Life is a beautiful thing, as long as I hold the string
I'd be a silly so and so, if I should ever let go>
"I've Got The World On A String"

1. Bye-Bye, Pesky Workers, Hello, Machines"They're always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there's never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case." (Puzder to Business Insider on his dream of pursuing a totally automated restaurant) 

2. Closet Michael Moore Fans, Unite (It's Only Entertainment): "If you were buying products or going to movies based upon the politics of the people involved, well, I probably couldn't go to half the movies I go to."

3. Guess My Talent Tool Got A Little Polluted: 
"In fast food, you sort of compete for the best of the worst. In other words, you're not getting the Microsoft guys. At Hardee's we were getting the worst of the worst. Nobody wanted to work at Hardee's." (Puzder's summary of his talent search troubles in a speech at California State University, as reported in CNN Money)

4. It's Those Horny Young Guys, Stupid
 "I like our ads. I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis. I think it's very American." (Puzder's response to his infamous ad campaigns that featured scantily-clad women hosing themselves with water and riding mechanical bulls in peddling his burgers)

5. Lighten Up, Folks, It's Only A TV Commercial: "We believe in putting hot models in our commercials, because ugly ones don't sell burgers." (CKE's corporate rationale behind its advertising, as outlined in its press release)

6. Look, Parting With A Nickel Of My Bottom Line Would Only Hurt You: 
"This is the problem with Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton, and progressives who push very hard to raise the minimum wage. Does it really help if Sally makes $3 more an hour if Suzie has no job?"

7. McJobs Are Just That...McJobs: 
 "I started out scooping ice cream at Baskin-Robbins at a dollar an hour. I learned a lot about inventory and customer service ... but there's no way in the world that scooping ice cream is worth $15 an hour, and no one ever intended it would ever be something that a person could support a family on. ... Those jobs just don't produce that kind of value like a construction job or a manufacturing job does." (Puzder reflecting, to the LA Times, on his rise to the top of the fast food heap 

8. Oh, That's Why You Want This Gig: "
I think it would be ... the most fun you could have with your clothes on." (Puzder's response to FOX Business in November, on whether he'd want a Cabinet position)

9. Scrooge McDuck Says (Stay Away From My Money Bins): "Low-skill jobs are important because that’s what gives you access to the high-level job. If you focus on redistributing income, you’re not going to create growth.”

10. Trust Me (I've Been Around The Block On This One)
"It sounds good to say we're going to give everybody a raise, but I don't think people think about the implications of that. If the business community doesn't speak up, the politicians who garner votes by making those claims and passing this legislation are just going to keep saying things that just aren't accurate. It's important to speak up, so I did."

UPDATE (1/15): Unhandy Andy withdrew his nomination today, apparently after a growing number of the Republican herd in the Senate couldn't stand the stench that never stopped swirling around him...proof positive, depending on your theological orientation, that a) there is a God, or b) if there is, His sense of the absurd is no less attuned than our own. However, we couldn't allow Unhandy Andy to exit the stage, without one posting more goofy quote to his credit (or discredit):

Oh, That's Why Apu Mans The 7-11 Counter 24/7: "They're very hard-working, dedicated, creative people that really appreciate the fact that they have a job. Whereas in other parts of the country, you often get people that are saying, 'I can't believe I have to work this job,' with the immigrant population, you have the 'thank God I have this job' kind of attitude." (Puzder, apparently waxing lyrical on why immigrants make ideal fast food employees -- versus those ungrateful, underpaid natives)

Links To Go (Hurry, Before Andy Hoses You Down):
National Employment Law Project:
Bilked: How Trump's Labor Secretary Pick
Costs Taxpayers $250 Million Per Year:

The Washington Post: Andrew Puzder
Will Be A Disaster For Workers: I Know He Was For Me:

U.S. News & World Report:
Andrew Puzder Won't Work For Women

Monday, February 6, 2017

Guest Cartoon: The Highwayman: "Out Of Money Experience"

<Courtesy Of: The Highwayman
<For The Full Effect...Click On The Image!>

This latest Highwayman effort slipped over the RNN (Ramen Noodle Nation) email transom yesterday after I got back from my latest trip to Family Dollar. One of the cashiers and I started running over the political situation. I mentioned some local anti-Trump protests are already underway, and she said, "Yeah, it's either when I have to work here, or take my kid somewhere. But I'm hoping I can make one of them."

She further noted that her eldest daughter happens to be good at science, but isn't likely to capitalize on that interest any time soon. "Why's that," I asked. The answer? "Well, she still owes about $45,000 in school (college) debt. That's why she's waiting tables." She paused. "Oh, and they just told us our hours are getting cut." I waited for the punchline. "Guess that minimum wage was just too much!"

I promised to let her how the protests pan out. In the meantime...enjoy the cartoon. If that's the right word for these truly desperate times. --The Reckoner

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Lottery Winners, Your Medicaid Days Are Numbered (So Says Fred Upton)

>Snapshot Of Satisfaction (2014-Style)<

Lottery winners, your Medicaid days are numbered. That's the gist of a news release from U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St.Joseph) that slid over the email transom this week, and -- like nearly all of the current Republic majority's communiques, is a masterful snapshot of satire. That is, unintentional satire. However, I'm being much too modest. Fred's style speaks well enough for itself, Orwellian grey front and all:

"U..S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, introduced legislation, H.R. 829, the 
Prioritizing the Most Vulnerable Over Lottery Winners Act of 2017, in the U.S. House of Representatives that would strengthen Medicaid for those who need it most.

“Medicaid is meant to help the most vulnerable amongst us – not high-dollar Lottery winners,” said Upton. “Our common-sense solution would alter how Medicaid eligibility is determined for those lucky enough to hit it big playing the Lottery, while continuing to prioritize the low-income population the program is meant to assist. I will continue to work on a bipartisan basis to strengthen critical programs like Medicaid to ensure they best serve our communities.”
"Under Medicaid regulations, income received as a lump sum, such as lottery winnings, is counted as income only in the month received. As a result, states are effectively not allowed to dis-enroll lottery winners from Medicaid. This forces taxpayers to bear the burden of paying the health care benefits for individuals who no longer require assistance. H.R. 829 will close this loophole by requiring states to count monetary winnings from lotteries of $80,000 or more as if they were obtained over multiple months, even if obtained in a single month.
In 2015, Upton created a Medicaid Task Force to strengthen and sustain the critical program and has a long record of working hard to ensure programs like Medicare and Medicaid are there for those that need them now and solvent for future generations. "

Got that, then?

Mind you, I don't personally know any Lottery winners living it up on Medicaid, but in UptonWorld, that's who we apparently need protection from -- as exemplified by what he catchily calls his proposed bill (Prioritizing the Most Vulnerable Over Lottery Winners Act). This, of course, is a time-honored Republican trick: slapping some fuzzily-sounding Orwellian euphemism to mask the real purpose, however vague or ill-defined, (Undoubtedly, when Trump and his finks push their bills to put Medicaid and Medicare on the chopping block, they'll be named: The Preserving Medicaid & Medicare For Future Generations Acts, or something along those lines.)

The other issue is, what constitutes a big enough payday: As former Replacements frontman Paul Westerberg once noted, there are times when no amount feels like it's enough: 
“I’ve never really worried about money. I’ve had enough to get by. I was a millionaire for one whole day and then came the manager, the taxman and I bought a house. This was around the ’14 Songs’ album. I signed a deal with Warner Chappell. The money was gone in an afternoon, literally.” (Classic Rock, November 2004)

Some states, like Michigan, have pushed aggressively to protect the Great Unwashed from those lottery-wnning freeloaders, as the clipping below makes plain. In most cases, though, the winners turn out to be elderly, the poor, or people with disabilities, whose lifetime needs are way bigger than any one-time payout. (And, don't forget, those amounts shrink drastically, once the state and federal taxmen take their cut.)

Of course, this is the far right Republican mentality laid bare. (And we can put those phrases in the same sentence, because, many liberal GOP'ers are walking the landscape these days?) When you try to take a buck from them or their overstuffed buddies in business, they howl with outrage: "That's class warfare, man! You can't do that!" But when it's time to take that figurative candy away from a baby, especially one from a poor area, they don't even blink. Out come their greedy, greasy, grimy, grubby little fingers to snatch it away. 

However, if the barrage of boycotts, lawsuits and protests that are already greeting Trump, Upton and the finks who walk, talk -- and smell -- just like them are any indication, this baby is beginning to show distinct signs of keeping a kung fu grip on its lollipop. --The Reckoner

Links To Go (Hurry, Before The GOP
Bumps You From Public Assistance):
800-Plus Michigan Lottery Winners Kicked Off Public Assistance

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Anti-Inaugural Card (Clip & Save For Future Reference)



president trump

& his cabinet!




The savage mutilation of the human race
is set on course
Protest & survive
Protest & survive

It is up to us to change that course
Protest & survive
Protest & survive
Discharge ("Protest & Survive")


Guest Paintings & Artwork: Five Hundred Pound Peep

And now, carrying on with our latest batch of graphic-orientated's a couple of paintings by our friend, and supporter, Five Hundred Pound feast your eyes on these works, from Peep's private archive, and enjoy. --The Reckoner

<Five Hundred Pound Peep>

Says It All, DOESN'T IT?

<Five Hundred Pound Peep>

support oUTSIDER ART!!!