It’s Too Bad That We’re All Living Under Obama’s Socialistic Tyranny

If you believe the Republican and Tea Party rhetoric, we’re all suffering under the tyranny of socialism. It that’s true, then perhaps socialism isn’t as bad as we’eve been conditioned to believe.

Case in point:

“U.S. stocks closed mixed Friday, with the Dow and S&P 500 ending the best first quarter in over a decade, as investors weighed a report on consumer spending and a boost in the eurozone bailout fund.

Friday’s gains capped a stellar three months for stocks, with the Dow and S&P posting the biggest first-quarter gains since 1998. Despite Friday’s decline, the Nasdaq had its best first quarter since 1991, according to the Stock Trader’s Almanac.

For the quarter, the Dow gained 8.1%, the S&P 500 advanced 12% and the Nasdaq rose a whopping 19% since New Year’s Day.”

And according to the Republican attack machine from Mitch McConnell to Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan, we’re “living under the Obama economy.”

Can these and other Republican whack-jobs enunciate the word, “whoops?”

Probably not. Their hatred of Obama and their closeted racism is just too strong to admit the obvious, let alone embrace it.

The Truth Behind the Postal Service Financial Woes

For the past several months, assorted corporate front groups and a howling pack of congressional right-wingers, have been beating the drum to warn that our postal service faces impending doom. It’s “broke,” they exclaim; USPS “nears collapse”; it’s “a full-blown financial crisis!” 

They claim the national mail agency is bogged down with too many overpaid workers and costly brick-and-mortar facilities, so it can’t keep up with Internet services and such nimble corporate competitors as FedEx. So, in their version of conventional wisdom they tell us that the Postal Service is unprofitable and is costing taxpayers billions of dollars a year in losses. Wrong. 

Since 1971, the postal service has not taken a dime from taxpayers. All of its operations, including the remarkable convenience of 32,000 local post offices, are paid for by peddling stamps and other products. 

The privatizers squawk that USPS has gone $13 billion in the hole during the past four years. But the truth is, the Postal Service is NOT broke. Indeed, in those four years of loudly deplored “losses,” the service actually produced a $700 million operational profit, despite the worst economy since the Great Depression. 

So what’s really going on here? Right-wing sabotage of USPS financing, that’s what. 

In 2006, the Bush White House and Congress whacked the post office with the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. It requires the agency to PRE-PAY the health care benefits, not only of current employees, but also of all employees who’ll retire during the next 75 years. Yes, if you’re doing the math here, that includes employees who are not yet born. 

No other agency, and certainly, no corporation has to do this. Worse, this ridiculous law demands that USPS fully fund this seven-decade burden by 2016. Imagine the shrieks of outrage if Congress tried to slap FedEx or other private firms with such an onerous requirement. This politically motivated mandate is costing the Postal Service $5.5 billion a year — money taken right out of postage revenue that could be going to services. That’s the real source of the “financial crisis” squeezing America’s post offices. 

In addition, due to a 40-year-old accounting error, the federal Office of Personnel Management has overcharged the post office by as much as $80 billion for payments into the Civil Service Retirement System. This means that USPS has had billions of its sales dollars erroneously diverted into the treasury. Restore the agency’s access to its own postage money, and the impending “collapse” goes away.

You might be asking yourself why the Republicans are so hell bent on destroying the USPS.

The answer is both simple, and disgusting. They are represented by one of the most powerful unions in America (the APWU), which is also affiliated with the AFL-CIO, a union that the conservatives have been trying to disband for decades.

Apparently it is worth it to the Republicans to destroy an American institution, that helps connect loved ones all around the world, if it also means damaging a political foe. 

What We’re Really Eating

Sunscreen in Salad Dressing
Many fast food salad dressings include titanium dioxide. The same chemical that is found in various paints and sunscreens, as well as in typical computer semiconductors.

Fertilizer in Sandwiches
When you have a sandwich at your local diner or fast food restaurant, you might be eating fertilizer. The chemical fertilizer, ammonium sulfate, is added to many commercial sandwich breads and buns in order to feed yeast in the baking process. I mean, what’s a little fertilizer in your food?

Yoga Mats and Shoe Soles
What does a bread bun have in common with your yoga workouts? Why, it’s azodicarbonamide, a chemical found in fast food buns, yoga mats, and the soles of sneakers. But that’s just the tip of the plastic iceberg. Some fast food meals are made up of 70-plus ingredients — most are hard to pronounce, and some are banned as food additives in Europe.

Antifreeze Salad
Propylene glycerol is found in antifreeze and, can cause skin and eye irritation. Fast food places use it in their pre-packaged salads to keep the greens crisp.

Beef and Pork in Yogurt
There are many benefits to be had by eating yogurt. It can keep you regular, supply some of your daily calcium and protein, and still tastes like dessert. But no one talks about how many popular brands of yogurt contain stearic acid and glycerin, which come from beef and pork by-products.

Ammonia in Hamburgers
Tainted beef isn’t just disgusting, it’s deadly. The fatty, low-quality meat served at fast food joints is more likely to contain E. coli and salmonella, so it’s treated in ammonia before being cooked and served. Yes, the same ammonia used to clean ovens and floors, and the same ammonia that can be poisonous if ingested, and harmful to exposed skin. If you think a burger smells gross when it’s cooked, imagine the chemical fumes when it’s raw.

Beef Fat in Snacks
When it comes to snack cakes, you really don’t want to know what you’re eating or where it comes from. They’re full of ingredients meant to last at least a month on the convenience store shelf, and can do so because they don’t contain any actual dairy products. Unlike, you know, actual cakes. That creamy center is actually made of animal shortening that contains beef fat.

Wood in Cereal…and Everything Else
Most of what you buy at the grocery store, from syrup to cereal, is made of wood. Cellulose comes in a variety of forms, but it all works the same way. It’s a cheap, organic filler used in place of real ingredients. Plus it adds fiber to meals, so it can be advertised as healthy. The issue isn’t that cellulose is bad for you. It’s that you’re paying for food, but eating wood.

Bread Head
The good news is that L-cysteine, a flavor enhancer and dough softener used in many breads, is all natural. The bad news is that it comes from hair and feathers. If you’re still reading this, the great news, or maybe it’s bad, is that the majority of the hair used, usually comes from humans just like you.

Sandy Wings
Most of the weird additives in our food are designed to keep them edible, or at least, salable, longer. Some food survival is the product of using silicon dioxide as an anti-caking agent. It is typically used in fast-food buffalo wings, and chili so they can stay in a heater for days at a time.

Sticky Rice
Many people think that takeout tacos taste like cat food laced with MSG and artificial flavoring. But it’s the rice you should be worried about. It’s covered in dimethylpolysiloxane, a clear, non-flammable chemical also found in adhesives and caulk. Talk about sticky rice.

Shellac in Candy
The shellac found in furniture polish and varnish gets its shine from the secretions of the sap-sucking shellac beetle, Laccifer lacca. That wouldn’t be too gross, if shellac weren’t also used in stuff we ingest. The polish is used to shine apples and give candy, like jelly beans, a nice gleam. Pills and tablets are also coated in shellac so they’re easier to swallow.

Bug Poison in Condiments
Love those fast food condiments? What about glazes for fast food salads? Well, it turns out that many condiments contain propylene glycol alginate. The additive is commonly used as a food thickener and stabilizer, as well as a killing and preserving agent in insect traps and a lubricant in a bunch of inedible treats, like massage oil. Propylene glycol is thus deemed safe for human consumption, but it is illegal to put it in cat food. Sounds like cat food may have higher standards than we thought.

You Just Can’t Make This Stuff Up

The right wing blogosphere and talk radio nuts, in addition to the trolls on Faux News have been beating the drums lately over the fact that Trayvon Martin was wearing a hoody the night he was shot to death. Some have implied that the wearing of a hoody is a sign of gangsterism, with the further implication that somehow wearing a hoody makes it inevitable, if not politically correct that such attire could cause one to be shot. Geraldo Rivera did more than imply those things, he came right out and blamed Trayvon’s death on his choice of attire on that fateful night.

Now we have the gangster connection done one better. The National Rifle Association, that bastion of all things right wing, are offering a hoody for sale on their website. Not just any hoody, however, but one with a built in holster and clip pouch for your favorite side arm.

I wonder what might happen if two NRA members, each wearing one of these hoodies, came upon each other on a dark city street one night. Would it be justifiable for them to each pull a pistol from their concealed, built in holster, and shoot each other? After all, hoodies are the chosen attire of street thugs and teen gangsters according to Geraldo. Two justifiable shootings in one fell swoop. That should make the news.

Lyles Station, Indiana and the Remarkable Vertus Hardiman

Lyles Station, Indiana is one of the last remnants of one of the earliest free African American settlements in the U.S. 

Founded by freed Tennessee slave Joshua Lyles, the town’s best years were from 1880 to 1912. At its peak, there was a railroad station, a post office, a lumber mill, two general stores, two churches, an elementary school, and 55 homes in the town. After a catastrophic flood of the White, Wabash, and Patoka rivers in 1912, the town began a slow decline. Its turn-of-the-century population of 800 has dropped to about 50, nearly half descended from original settlers.

Lyles Station got its start sometime around 1840 when a benevolent Tennessee slave-owner freed two brothers named Joshua and Sanford Lyles, gave them money and urged them to seek freedom in a northern state.

They journeyed up the Tennessee River to the Ohio, and finally up theWabash River to where they stopped in far southwestern Indiana, on the border with Illinois.
The brothers walked two miles east of the Wabash and bought a chunk of government land. The brothers cleared their ground and planted crops. Eventually, they accumulated more than 1,200 acres of fertile river bottomlands.

Following the Civil War, Joshua returned to Tennessee and encouraged newly freed slaves to join him in this Indiana Garden of Eden, where cantaloupes and tomatoes grew big and plentiful in the sandy soil.

Students and Teachers at Lyles Station School

Lyles Station flourished in large part because, in 1870, Joshua donated five acres to the railroad on the condition it build a train station here. The train allowed Lyles Station farmers to export their produce without making the tough, 5-mile, uphill wagon trip east into Princeton.

In 1886, a post office opened. A school started. Two grocery stores, a lumber mill, bandstand, blacksmith, and 55 homes followed. By the dawn of the 20th Century, 800 people lived and farmed in and around Lyles Station, a financially independent community.

Slowly the population began to wander off in search of steady paychecks in places like Chicago and Detroit. Many left after the flood rather than rebuild, taking it as a sign to move on for other opportunities. But Lyles Station lives on yet today, though it is no longer vibrant, and is well off the beaten path.

But I think the real story that needs to be told about Lyles Station began in 1927. The parents of 10 children at the local elementary school were approached by county hospital officials. The parents were told that there was a new experimental treatment for dermatophytosis, a fungal infection commonly known as “ringworm.” What the parents didn’t know was that the children were actually part of a human experiment on extreme radiation, probably chosen because they lived in such an isolated location, and probably because they were all black. The children were exposed to high levels and many were left with disfiguring scalp scars and head trauma.
The effects of the experiments were mostly hidden from the townspeople of Lyles Station. Many of the children wore wigs and hats to cover up the results of the experiments.

Vertus Hardiman, one of the children, who was five years old at the time, finally broke his silence more than 70 years later, to a friend, Wilbert Smith, who partnered with Brett Leonard to produce the documentary, “Hole in the Head: A Life Revealed.” The 2011 film is the amazing story of Hardiman and the nine other children who were affected by the horrible experiment in Lyles Station.

Hardiman was physically affected the worst by the radiation. As a result he experienced a slow dissolving of the bone matter of his skull for the rest of his life. The ensuing deformed head and gaping hole at its top were disguised by a succession of hats, toupees, and wigs. Every day of his life he spent an hour changing bandages and dressing the wound. Through research, the film producers located four other remaining survivors of the Lyles Station experiments.

Vertus Hardiman in 2006

Hardiman nonetheless led a full and productive life, graduating from high school with the highest honors. In 1945 he moved to California where he worked as a hospital orderly for over forty years. He was honored at his retirement, not just for the long years of service, but also because in all those years he never missed one day of work.

He became a homeowner early on after moving to the coast, and dabbled in real estate on the side, eventually amassing a personal fortune in excess of $8 million.

Hardiman died in 2007 at the age of 85 without ever seeing his remarkable story told on the screen.

“Hole in the Head: A Life Revealed” was nominated for a Best Feature Documentary Award at the 2011 Pan African Film Festival. A trailer for the film can be seen below.