Thursday, March 26, 2009

U.S. Postal Service: We Deliver? Please!

November 1, 2007
Mr. Bill Almaraz, Manager, Los Angeles District
Mr. James Smith, Postmaster, Los Angeles District
As I’m sure you know, I’ve work as a Consumer Advocate for over eight years now. During that time I have had occasion to contact you both on serious matters of customer neglect. Mr. Smith, you have generally returned polite responses and assured me that you were going to handle the matter. Mr. Almaraz, I’ve never received any response from you–not even an acknowledgment of receipt.
Over the years I’ve become increasingly disturbed over some of the hardships that our customer’s have been forced to endure–Cancer patients whose medication has been lost in the mail; elderly people who can’t eat because their Social Security checks are not being received; tenants who have had eviction proceedings initiated against them because their landlords didn’t receive their rent checks; and court documents being delayed or lost due to the improper handling of Certified mail, etc.
I’ve repeatedly brought these matters to the attention of you or various managers lower in the chain of command, but instead of putting your energies into addressing the problems with the mail, the agency seems to view me as the problem for bring them up.
Mr. Smith, on Wednesday October 31, 2007 I wrote you the following memo:
Mr. Smith,
Some of your supervisors don’t recognize the importance of good customer service, or following up on complaints. It’s not only making us look bad, but it’s going to generate congressional complaints. [Name withheld] and I watched one of them standing around talking while she was repeatedly being paged to the window to speak with a customer. She ignored the pages for 15 minutes, until the customer got tired of waiting and left. There’s very little I can do about that kind of irresponsibility, but I would like your permission to put the following notation on issues not being followed up on:

I have followed up on this matter by adding this complaint to the Postmaster’s Hot Sheet (on red paper to make the complaint immediately conspicuous). A copy has been attached to the carrier case, and I have either given a copy of this complaint directly to the unit supervisor or left a copy on the supervisor’s desk. A copy has also been emailed to the unit supervisor. In addition, I have requested that the customer contact me immediately if the problem should recur, in which case, the matter will be referred to the postmaster for further corrective action.
Thereafter, if the problem continues, I’d like to refer the matter to Beverly Young to act in your name, if she doesn’t mind. If we don’t do something, Waxman’s going to close this place down.
Thereafter, all hell broke loose. I didn’t have a problem with that in itself, because as you know, I’ve never had a problem with speaking truth to power, but it did confirm my suspicion that the problems that we’re having with the mail goes much deeper than simple incompetence. It has become abundantly clear that the district is purposely allowing our customers to suffer in order to save money–and I’m not going to allow that to happen.
As I mentioned to you before, week after week I rant and rave in my column about how congress is sitting on its hands and allowing our country to go down the drain. Now, if I don’t take some kind of action about what this agency is doing to our customers, I’ll be doing the same thing–and I can’t be that kind of hypocrite. So I am respectfully requesting that you take the following actions to improve our customer service:
1) First of all, Supervisor [name withheld] disregard for our customers has been grossly unconscionable, and I’ve spoken to you about her before. In addition to the latest incident where she ignored the customer in the lobby, she consistently leaves between 12 and 17 routes vacant per day to be thrown up by hook or crook instead of putting them up for opt or calling in additional carriers to cover them. Some routes, along with their business mail, don’t leave the station until after 4:00 pm. This results in routes not being delivered, mis-deliveries, mail not being forwarded, and mail not being held, or delivered when the customer’s return from vacation. She’s been doing this for years, and it constitutes gross negligence and a severe hardship on our customers. This supervisor should be either put up for removal, or at the very least, demoted.
2). All routes that are open for over 5 business days should be put up for opt, or fully assigned to an employee. And no unit should have over four routes unassigned on any given day. That will ensure the proper processing of the mail.
3). All accountable mail (including Certified) should be listed and signed for individually. That will ensure proper handling and prevent the loss of important mail.
4) .All Certified mail should be listed and distributed on a daily basis, to prevent Certified mail from sitting around the station for two to three weeks.
5). All routes should have a list of all forwards and vacation holds attached to the case, and the lists should be reviewed, and the mail processed, before the route is pulled down for delivery on a daily basis.
6). No parcel or mail item should be left unprotect in the lobby of any apartment building. If the item can’t be delivered to the recipient or a responsible party (manager or security), a notice should be left, and the item returned to the station.
7). Every unit should hold a standup (with a signed roster) on the sanctity of the mail at least once a week.
8). The mishandling or negligent loss of mail should be a zero tolerance matter.
9). All unit supervisors should be available to address customer complaints for at least 2 hours per day in the afternoon.
10). There will be absolutely no reprisals against me for addressing these issues, and I will be made fully whole for the time I’ve lost as a result of the reprisals that have already taken place.
If we can agree on all of these issues, we can resolve this matter within the district. If not, I will continue up the chain of command, and if need be, to Congressman Waxman’s Committee on Government Reform. I’ve brought each one of these items to management’s attention previously, but to no avail.
Gentlemen, we owe our customers much more than we’re giving them, and it has become beyond embarrassing. I’m very sorry it had to come to this, but this seems to be the only way to get anyone’s attention.

------------------------------------ ------------------------
Bill Almaraz Date
District Manager

------------------------------------ -------------------------
James Smith Date


December 19, 2007
On December 19, 2007, between 10:40 and 11:10 a.m., a customer called and said she hadn’t received any mail in two days. She said this was very unusual, and wanted to know if her mail was being held at the post office for some reason. She said she was willing to come pick it up. The customer lived in the 90036 zip code so I transferred the call to [Name withheld], the supervisor for that zip code, to answer the customer’s inquiry as to whether or not her mail was being held, and if so, the reason why. Then just a matter of seconds after I transferred the call, Ms. [withheld] paged me over the intercom. She had placed the customer on hold, and told me that the customer was looking for her mail, so she should not have been given the call. She said I should have gone over to the carrier’s route and searched for the customer’s mail.
I totally disagree with Ms. [Withheld]. If the customer’s mail was not being delivered, it might have been due to a problem at the delivery point–construction, a problem with gaining access to the mailbox, a stray dog, or some other hazard on the route. There could have also been some sort of regulatory problem that prevented the mail from being delivered, or something as simple as a substitute carrier bringing the mail back to the station because he was ordered not to work any overtime, or it got too dark for him to deliver the mail. And in some cases, when they’re short on personnel, they simply don’t send the mail out. Only the carrier, or the carrier’s supervisor can answer those kinds questions. And further, when the mail is not being delivered, it is the supervisor’s responsibility to know where it is located.
But unfortunately, the three latter reasons are exactly why Ms. [Withheld] avoided speaking with this particular customer, and she makes it a point not to speak with any other customer. She knows that the mail is being mis-managed under her supervision, and therefore, goes to great length to avoid speaking with the customer where she will have to take responsibility for her actions, or lack thereof.
Everyone, including all of the window clerks are familiar with this situation, and it has been reported to upper management on several occasions, to no avail. So, while I have no problem with serving our customers, I am both tired, and completely stressed out by constantly having to face their wrath due to Ms. [Withheld] disregard and irresponsibility.
Willie Wilson
Customer Advocate
October 24, 2008
Postmaster Anderson:
I wrote you on Monday, October 20, 2008, to advise you of a very serious matter that needed your immediate attention. My action was taken in what I considered to be the very best interest of the Postal Service. But as I write this memo, four days later, you have yet to acknowledge receipt.
I’ve considered the fact that you may not have responded because you consider me both arrogant and presumptuous for writing you in such a brutally candid manner regarding Manager Connie Brown. If that’s the case, I assure you that I can fully understand your rationale. But I hope you’ll understand that this situation is so long-standing and unconscionable in it’s impact on our customers that corporate decorum was the very last thing on my mind.
I first broached this matter with your predecessor, James Smith, on October 31st of last year, and while numerous auditors have been roaming the station with clipboards, absolutely nothing has changed. So my intent in contacting you was to try to convey the immediate need to address an agency-threatening matter, and a situation that is causing our customers to sustain needless hardships, in an aggressive and forthright manner.
I’ve monitored this situation closely over the past year, and instead of addressing the issue, I’ve watched it be carefully managed to subordinate the needs of our customers, and the postal service, to accommodate the bureaucratic sensibilities of various personalities within the agency. At first I thought the problem was inadvertent, but over the past year it’s become increasingly apparent that we’ve developed a corporate culture that’s giving careers and the personal needs of individuals priority over what’s in the best interest of the agency. The tail is wagging the dog. It seems that moving the mail is no longer our primary concern. It’s gotten to the point where moving the mail is looked upon as an unfortunate nuisance that’s interfering with management’s quality of life.
But when you came to the district, it was rumored that you were of a different breed, so I hoped that the situation would finally be addressed. Like many other employees who have become concerned over the postal service’s image, I was hoping that you would bring some integrity and a sense of mission-first back into the district, and it was with that thought in mind that I wrote you.
With respect to my attitude towards Connie Brown, I want to assure you that I have every respect for the effort that goes into obtaining a position of responsibility in this agency, but at the same time, I must also recognize that while the agency can confer titles and areas of responsibility, it cannot confer character, insight, integrity, or sense of mission. While there are those who take the position that one should respect the title and never bad-mouth one’s manager (generally held by managers), I don’t subscribe to that philosophy. I respect excellence, not titles, symbols, or any other accoutrement of authority. When an individual commands authority, they don’t need symbols to prove it. On the other hand, if an individual is irresponsible, all of the titles and symbols that man can confer won’t make them so. Our president is a prime example of that.
In closing, I’d like to request, once again, some kind of response from you. My request is not a matter of vanity, but an honest attempt to mitigate this matter at its lowest level.
Eric L. Wattree


My name is Eric L. Wattree. I’m an African American male, and I’ve worked for the postal service for 27 years. For eight of those years I worked as a customer advocate at both Palms and Bicentennial Stations, and also as a Consumer Affairs Specialist at the District office.
I worked with Ms. Lily Pamanian while a Customer Advocate at Bicentennial Station for one year, and at Palms Station for approximately two years, and during that time I have always considered her to be one of the most professional, efficient, and customer oriented supervisors with whom I have ever worked. What’s most immediately striking about Ms. Pamanian is her character. She lives by a very strong and unwavering moral code. Unfortunately, however, I’m virtually certain that it is that very quality that has led to her having to stand before you.
When I first became aware of the blatantly disparate action taken against Ms. Pamanian, I was literally astonished, and both embarrassed and angered at the level of disparity that’s being meted out upon her. I am personally privy to facts that will show that she’s being treated differently than either African American or Hispanic personnel under either similar, and far worse conditions.
As a customer advocate I have personal and direct knowledge of the postal service’s irresponsibly lackadaisical and laissez faire attitude towards what can only be considered the criminal malfeasance of at lest one African American manager, Ms. Connie Brown, and an Hispanic Area Manager, Ms. Marcie Luna. In fact, I have waged an ongoing battle against the postal service in that regard–and since I am also a journalist who has always been dedicated to the cause of government accountability, I just happen to have documentation of their customer abuse, which I’ve been compiling for a book.
Ms. Pamanian has been under the gun for years for no reason other than the fact that she’s culturally predisposed to going by the book and doing things properly, as opposed to hiding deliverable mail, underpaying employees who are gainfully employed, and "cooking the books" in order to enhance, or protect, the careers of her superiors. Unfortunately, those activities are an insidious and throughly pervasive part of the post office culture–they are expected as part of the job description of all managers and supervisors. As a direct result, instead of rewarding Ms. Pamanian for her integrity and the conscientious manner in which she carries out her assignment, she’s looked upon as different-- "uppity", and something less than a "team player."
In 2007 Bicentennial Station, under Manager Connie Brown (African American female), and Area Manager Marcie Luna (Hispanic female) was trying to save money by attempting to run the station with a skeleton crew. By trying to run the station with less than a full complement of clerks to process and distribute the mail, they failed to cover vacant routes when the regular carriers were either out sick, on their rotating day off, or on annual leave. This often led to up to seventeen (17) routes being unmanned in just one unit (the station has two units).
As a result of their failing to ensure a full complement of clerks, Certified mail wasn’t being individually listed and accounted for, leading to the loss of our customer’s valuable accountable mail (legal documents, rent payments, medical documents, etc.). In addition, accountable mail was also being delayed, customer box mail was being hidden instead of delivered to the customers’ p.o. boxes, and mail was being distributed to the carriers in an untimely manner, leading to many customers, including businesses, not receiving deliveries on a daily basis.
As a result of failing to cover delivery routes, routes were being thrown up in a haphazard manner and carried by personnel who were unfamiliar with the routes. That in turn, led to mail being both mis-cased and mis-delivered, and mail that should have been forwarded would be delivered to the old address, which were often vacant apartment buildings. That meant that the customer who had moved would never see that mail, because the mail would languish in boxes stuffed with mis-delivered mail for up to a year or more. Of course, part of the carriers’ job was to check those boxes and return that mail to the station, but management would have them so much under the gun to get back and save time, that it was rarely, if ever done.
But when carriers were forced to bring back mail because it was return directly to them by customers as mis-delivered or forwardable, it was never redirected to the proper address or forwarded on. It was simply thrown in a tub and set in the back of the station to be returned to sender as "Addressee Unknown"–and that mail was left in the station to languish, sometimes for up to a year (see attached pictures). I’ve seen, and took pictures, of medical x-rays for Cedar Sinai Hospital marked as "Address Unknown" to be returned to sender (How can they not find Cedar Sinai Hospital?!).
Of course, the customers were in an uproar over this, but when they would call or come to the station, the supervisors would refuse to come to the phone or go to the window, because they didn’t want the customers to have their name when they filed a formal complaint or wrote their congressman, so they’d send an employee to speak to the customer and take the brunt of the customers’ wrath.
Eventually the employees got tired of that, so at the beginning of 2008 one or two employees reported the situation to both Congressman Waxman’s office, and the Inspector General. Then on the morning of February 1, 2008, a team of postal officials arrived at the station at 4:00 a.m. in the morning. They found the mail, including about 14 feet of Certified mail that had been delayed up to six(6) weeks. They then did an audit of the station and Connie Brown got 16% out of a possible 100, and she failed several audits thereafter. She should have been fired, forthwith. But they still didn’t mete out the disciplinary action that they’ve taken against Ms. Pamanian.
And finally, Ms. Pamanian was awarded a bid to another area on December 23, 2006, so she shouldn’t have even been in this area when they took this unwarranted action against her. So it is clearly apparent that they deprived her of her right to assume a lawful bid for no other reason than to take this grossly unwarranted and discriminatory action against her.
Eric L. Wattree
Bicentennial Station
[President Supervisor's Union]
From the Presidents Desk
Damon Leopold
Los Angeles Has No Integrity

This has been the buzz around the Pacific Area since the new Pacific Area Vice President came aboard. Webster’s dictionary defines integrity as "possession of firm principles: the quality of possessing and steadfastly adhering to high moral principles or professional standards, honesty." Wow, if you are like me, you take this personally. All of the hard working EAS employees in Los Angeles are all dishonest and have no moral principles. Even David Stowe and his good ole boy network had the audacity to write in their Pacific Area reviews (audits) that the employees in Los Angeles would rather lie and cheat than to tell the truth. Where are they getting these outrageous claims? I thought long and hard to find an answer.
The answer to that question took me back to the early 1990’s. When I was a PTF carrier still on probation. I returned from the route after my ten hours was up and was informed by the clerk supervisor that I could not hit the clock because I was in penalty overtime and that the supervisor would take care of my time. Not knowing what penalty overtime was (and still on probation) I did not hit the clock. There was the defining moment on how Los Angeles operates. The leadership of the cluster had us all so brain washed that penalty overtime is wrong and if you use it, you will be disciplined. Isn’t penalty overtime part of the contract? Coming up through the ranks, I quickly learned that penalty overtime was a taboo. In Los Angeles, the carriers and the union were trained that we did not pay penalty overtime. After they had reached 56 hours in a week, they knew the supervisor would come up with an ingenious plan to pay you another day. This was just the culture in Los Angeles, that is, until the Long Beach consolidation.
When Long Beach merged with Los Angeles, came the tale of two cultures. We would daily sit on a tele-con for hours and listen while the Associate Offices had 1000’s of hours of penalty overtime and the city had zero. Were we that much better than the AO’s or was it something else to this picture? Later on we found that it was the latter of the two. The leadership in Los Angeles had breaded a culture of lying and deceit that would not come to light until after the Long Beach consolidation.
After some offices were investigated by the Office of the Inspector General for alleged clock ring manipulation, the penalty overtime in the city went up astronomically. Was this a mere coincidence or part of that lack of integrity on the part of the employee’s in Los Angeles? After countless EAS employee’s in the district were put up for removal for manipulating clock rings did our fearless leaders step up and draw the line in the sand. Do not mess with employee’s clock rings. Well my question is why is it a problem now? The leadership created this monster, but when the OIG comes in they claim no knowledge of what has been going on. How many times have you heard on a tele-con "I don’t want any penalty overtime this week." This is a clear violation of the contract, but where is the union at? It all boils down to my theory that the Union is aware and part of that culture that the leadership created. Think long and hard, when was the last time (prior to consolidation) did you have a grievance for penalty overtime? They were pretty much unheard of in the old Los Angeles.
In the beginning of this article I wrote that Los Angeles lost their integrity in the early 90’s, well that was some 15 plus years ago. It is going to take that long for us to regain that back. We have veteran mangers and supervisors that feel like PTF’s all over again. We are learning to do things the right and legal way. Who would have thought just a few years ago when we were the best in the country that one day our integrity would be questioned? Who knew that it was okay to pay an employee penalty overtime if in fact they had worked it? The only way we will regain our integrity is if the membership steps up and do the right things. The next time you are given an instruction from the leadership that is a clear violation of the contract, ELM, MOU etc. I urge each and every one of you to follow the instruction but insist that it is in writing. That one little piece of paper may just be the thing that will save your job when the overzealous OIG agent wants to investigate you about something illegal you did, following the instruction of the leadership. Always remember that once you lose your integrity to this organization, you have sold your soul to the devil.
In closing, I would like to thank each of you for allowing me to serve as your president for a second term. During my term as president, I have increased the membership of the branch and doubled the number of members that attend the branch meetings. But, we are still a long ways away from where we need to be as a branch. I urge all of you to attend the branch meetings and become active in the organization. There is strength in numbers. United we stand and divided we fall.
Damon Leopold
Well, that’s your United States Postal Service, folks–an organization that makes the Bush administration look like a sterling example of efficiency, integrity, and concern.

Eric L. Wattree

A moderate is one who embraces truth over ideology, and reason over conflict.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Chart

The Chart

Things have been kinda heavy around here for awhile, so I thought I'd lighten up a bit and speak of beauty for a change, instead of political fraud and murderous corruption. Sometimes we need a break from those kind of things.

With that in mind, while sitting around idle, I thought I'd do something constructive for a community of people that has made my life a pure joy--musicians. So I've put together a chord chart that serves as the foundational basis for ALL music. Once you've gotten the knowledge herein under your fingers, you're a musician, pure and simple--or if you're already a musician, it'll make you a better one.

The chart lays out all of the basic chords in music chromatically. In addition, at the very bottom there's a key signature chart that goes through the cycle of fifths from left to right, and the cycle of fourths from right to left. It also lays out the sharps or flats in every key. If you're studying the cycle of fifths, find the key you're looking for, then the row beneath it relates all of the sharps or flats related to that key from left to right. The cycle of fourths simply reverses the process going from right to left.

If this modest effort contributes to the development of just one more technically competent musician in this world, it will have more than served its purpose.

This time and effort is dedicated to the memory of Dexter Gordon--both a towering musician, and man--whose powerful tenor saxophone soared mightily over the musical theme that has defined my life:

A Swingin' Affair

Was told as a child
Blacks had no worth,
Not a nickel’s worth of dimes.
I believed that myth
‘Til Dex rode in
With his ax
In double time.

Horn was soarin’,
The changes flyin’,
His rhythm right on time;
My heart
Beat with the pleasure
Of new found pride,
His blood
Flowed through mine.

Took the chords
The keyboard played,
And danced around each note;
Then shuffled ‘em
Like a deck of cards,
And didn’t miss a stroke.

B minor 7 with flatted 5th,
A half diminished chord,
He substituted a lick in D,
Then really began to soar.

He tipped his hat
To Charlie Parker,
And quoted
Trane with Miles,
Then paid his homage to
Thelonious Monk,
In Charlie Rouse's style.

He took
A Scrapple From The Apple,
Then went to Billie’s Bounce,
The rhythm section, now on fire,
But he didn’t budge an ounce.

He just
Dug right in
To shuffle again,
This time
A Royal Flush,
Then lingered a bit
Behind the beat,
Still smokin’
But in no rush.

Then he
Doubled the time
Just like this rhyme,
In fluid 16th notes,
Charlie and Lester,
"your baby boy, Dexter’s,
On top of the
Bebop you wrote.@

Like a banshee,
This prince of saxophone,
His ballads dripped of honey,
His Arpeggios were strong.

Callin’ on his idles,
Ghost of Pres’
Within in the isles,
Smiling at his protege,
At the peak of this new style.

His tenor
Drenched of Blackness,
And all the things we are--
Of pain, and pleasure,
And creative greatness
Until his final bar.

Eric L. Wattree
A moderate is one who embraces truth over ideology, and reason over conflict.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

How Loyal is the Loyal Opposition?


How Loyal is the Loyal Opposition?

From this point on I pledge to stop using the terms "conservative" and "Republican" interchangeably. I'm beginning to realize there's a big difference between the two. Conservatives are loyal and well-meaning Americans of good faith who just happen not to share my opinion of what's in the best interest of America. On the other hand, it has become clear that the Republican Party has crossed the line between the loyal opposition, and subversion.

Am I indulging in radical hyperbole? I don't think so. The American Heritage Dictionary defines subversive as "Intended or serving to subvert, especially intended to overthrow or undermine an established government" (emphasis added).

While I don't mean to imply that the GOP is involved in a plot to overthrow our government–at least, not at this point--it is certainly clear that they are deeply involved in a conspiracy to undermine it. Forces within the GOP like Rush Limbaugh and Tom Delay have literally stated that they want President Obama to fail in his attempt to rescue America from our current economic crisis.

One can sugarcoat that anyway that one likes, but the bottom line is, if President Obama fails, the American people are going to suffer greatly. So what these GOP leaders are actually saying is that they're hoping for additional, and severe hardship, to be visited upon the American people. And considering the fact that America is in the throes of a nation-threatening economic crisis (due to a very large extent to GOP governance), I'd say they've crossed the line, from simple irresponsibility, to what could literally be considered subversive.

One might argue that I'm dealing in semantics if it were not for the fact that the GOP has taken its intent beyond mere words to blatant, and clearly defined obstructionism. They're using every legislative device at their command to sabotage the president's rescue plan. While they claim that their concern is about "pork barrel" spending, their claim is transparently disingenuous.

First, the amount of spending that the GOP is jumping up and down about is less than 1% of the rescue plan. So in essence, they're taking the position that one should allow a baby to starve to death because the local market is charging two pennies more for baby food than the store across town. Their rationale? It's a matter of principle. Oh, really?

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated that making President Bush's tax cuts to the rich permanent, as virtually every Republican wanted to do, "Without offsets, making the tax cuts permanent would increase the deficit and thereby add to the national debt. The interest payments [alone] needed to service this higher level of debt would amount to about $700 billion over the next ten years. Thus, the total cost of making these tax cuts permanent, including the related interest costs, would be $4.4 trillion over the ten-year period" (emphasis added).

In addition, much of the pork in the rescue plan was placed in the stimulus package during the Republican watch, before President Obama even took the oath of office. And beyond that, many of the very Republicans who are complaining, are some of the most excessive spenders.

Republican minority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell complains, for example, that the rescue plan spends more "than the previous administration spent in seven years on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Hurricane Katrina combined." But he fails to point out that he's responsible for more than $75 million of the pork that he's complaining about.

According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, McConnell is responsible for a $950,000 earmark to fund a bikeway for a Western Kentucky University, and $2.9 million to purchase buses for LexTran, and $1.6 million for a forage animal research laboratory.

And for a politician who's so concerned about leaving debt on the backs of our children, it didn't seem to bother him when he landed on CREW's 20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress List for, according to CREW, "accepted donations to his campaign and political action committees in direct exchange for earmarking federal funds to clients of Bates Capitol," a lobbying firm owned by McConnell's former chief of staff, Gordon Hunter Bates.

And now we have Republican governors threatening to refuse the stimulus money. Governors Rick Perry (Tex), Mark Sanford (SC), Bobby Jindal (LA), C.L. "Butch" Otter (ID), and of course, Sarah Palin (AL)--all Republican, and all having presidential ambitions, thus, they all have a vested interest in President Obama's failure, and more than willing to let their people suffer to bring about that end. That in itself should demonstrate how we ended up in our current fix. Now just ask yourself–do you think that President Obama would allow people to starve, election or not, or under any circumstances? Of course not–that's the difference between a statesman and demagogues.

Even Ray Charles could see through the motives of these people–and as we all know, Ray's both blind, and deceased. When was the last time anyone ever heard of any governor telling the federal government that they didn't want more money? You show me a Republican who turns down money, and I'll show you some kind of conspiracy.

Thus, all of these Republican governors are willing to starve the people of their state for personal gain. In the middle of the worse--not just a national, but world--economic crisis of the last eighty years, they're telling the federal government, "No, I don't want you to help the people of my state. Let their unemployment lapse. We have food in the governor's mansion, and I'm sure the people will survive–somehow. " In essence, "Let them eat cake."

Those are not conservatives. They're self-serving, ruthless, and quite literally, anarchists. The American Heritage Dictionary defines Anarchism as, "The theory or doctrine that all forms of government are oppressive and undesirable and should be abolished"-- or as neo-con, Grover Norquist said, "small enough to drown in a bathtub."

No, these are not conservatives, and when we as progressives paint conservatives with the same broad brush as we do people who are blatantly un-American, we do both the nation, and ourselves a gross disservice. We play right into the hands of these demagogues, because their very survival depend on keeping the nation divided. They've prospered for years by keeping us racially divided, but that didn't work in the last election, so now they're desperate–and angry. So it's on to plan B–"By any means necessary."

What has kept America a strong and viable nation over the years is that in times of crisis we've managed to come together--not as Black or white, Jew or Gentile, liberal or conservative-- but as Americans, and that's the way we've got to address this crisis.

These demagogues have a philosophy–"Never let any crisis go to waste." What they mean by that is never miss an opportunity to manipulate the people. But we should take that philosophy and turn it on its head to mean, never allow the hardship of a crisis to go for naught, without making us a more insightful, steadfast, and unified America.

We've got to recognize that our inherent diversity is our strength. It makes us more, rather than less. Just as we need the progressive voices of Martin Luther King, Caesar Chavez, and Malcolm X to make us a more just and compassionate nation, we also need the conservative voices of a Gen. MacArthur and Colin Powell to make us strong. It's called balance.

But what we don't need are divisive voices like Rush Limbaugh's. What he represents is called, self-destruction.

Eric L. Wattree

A moderate is one who embraces truth over ideology, and reason over conflict.


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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Flight Suit George

Flight Suit George

The revisionists are out in force in an attempt to rewrite history regarding the rein of George W. Bush as president of the United States. But fortunately, the internet is brutally tenacious in recording how the vast majority of Americans really feel about this eminently corrupt and incompetent abomination of American governance. So let us set the record straight--not for vengeance, but for posterity:

Sweet patriot, square of jaw, and demeanor of great command, you fearlessly stand in defense of America, and the savior of all God’s chosen men. Anointed by God as his personal envoy to all men, corrupt and blind, and charged with the swift and brutal destruction of heathens of other kind.

You stand vigilant against all our enemies, both foreign and imagined within; you vigorously guard against all that is evil, and all that you see as sin. You define God’s needs and precious values, in the most unambiguous tones, and never once have you erred on behalf of truth, to reveal “God’s values” as indeed your own.

You lead our troops in fearless glory, challenging Death to “Bring it on!” Never thrusting your sword on the field of battle, fearlessly leading the charge by phone.

Sweet patriot, square of jaw, and demeanor of great command, how selfless your will to guard America . . .

While hating the pillars upon which it stands.

Eric L. Wattree, Sr.

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She walks alone, sweet woman-child,
her sobs flow warm against the dark;
Her need is love, not merely passion,
a mighty fortress, her broken heart.

Quivering bodies, and breathless moans,
she remembers with great delight,
but the heat of love is the only flame,
her lusting soul craves late at night.

Hungry arms yearn for her shuddering body,
to embrace her tenderly with all their might,
shivering lips lust for her succulent passion,
as she cries out desperately into the night;
But only true love can quench the thirst
that burns red hot inside,
so she faces the pain, again and again,
and late at night she cries.

Masculine shadows of delusion and lust
caress their egos more than her pain,
for her convulsing body quivers
not for them, but for the fantasy
of a gentle and earnest man.

Thus, head held high, by light of day,
yet, mournful eyes, that do betray,
unspent love, a breaking heart,
and the fear of sobs, when day turns dark.

Eric L. Wattree

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Monday, March 09, 2009

These are the People that Limbaugh and the GOP Represent


Sorry Mr. President, but We’ve Turned too Many Pages Already

President Obama has suggested that we “turn the page” on Republican misdeeds and move the nation forward. The president is a good natured sort, but there is such a thing as being forgiving to a fault, and I think we’ve long since reached that point with the Republican Party. The GOP reminds me of a woman who's been caught committing adultery, then when her husband confronts her with it the next morning, she becomes incensed and tells him that he's going to destroy their marriage if he doesn't learn to stop dwelling in the past.

It’s time for America to take a long, hard, and objective look at the Republican Party. The American people have been played for fools long enough by these people. Once we begin to take a serious look at the GOP an unmistakable pattern is going to emerge. We’re going to notice the same arguments being put forth by the same names, who are engaging in the very same practices, leading to the same kind of corruption being recycled every generation.

On October 29, 1929 the Republican Party ushered in the Great Depression under President Herbert Hoover, and it took Democratic president, Franklin Roosevelt, to bail the nation out.

Then on October 19, 1987, under Republican, Ronald Reagan, the stock market fell 508 points due to the excesses of Reaganomics. Then after that, due to the continued freewheeling fiscal policies of conservative Republicans, between 1986 and 1989, spanning the presidencies of Reagan and Bush Sr., the FSLIC had to pay off all the depositors of 296 institutions at a cost of over $125 billion.

Then in 1988 Silverado Savings and Loan collapsed, costing the taxpayers $1.3 billion. It was headed by Neil Bush, brother of George W. The investigation alleged that he was guilty of "breaches of his fiduciary duties involving multiple conflicts of interest." The issue was eventually settled out of court with Bush paying a mere $50,000 settlement.

Then there was the Lincoln Savings and loan scandal in 1987, involving John McCain. The scandal was very similar to the one that is currently playing out on Wall Street. He was one of a group of senators dubbed "The Keating Five" involved in a scandal by the same name.

In 1976 Charles Keating moved to Arizona to run the American Continental Corporation. In 1984, shortly after the Reagan era push to deregulate the savings and loan community, Keating bought Lincoln Savings and Loan and began to engage in highly risky investments with the depositors' savings. In 1989 the parent company, which Keating headed, went bankrupt, and it resulted in over 21,000 investors losing their life savings. Most of the investors were elderly, and the loss amounted to about 285 million dollars.

After having received over a million dollars from Keating in illegal campaign contributions, gifts, free trips, and other gratuities, the Keating Five--Senators John Glenn, Don Riegle, Dennis DeConini, Alan Cranston, and Sen. John McCain--attempted to intervene in the investigation into Keating's activities by the regulators. Later, they were admonished to varying degrees by the senate for attempting to influence regulators on Keating's behalf.

Charles Keating ended up being convicted for fraud, racketeering and conspiracy, for which he received 10 years by the state court, and a 12 year sentence in federal court. After spending four and a half years in prison, his convictions were overturned. But prior to being retried, he pled guilty to a number of felonies in return for a sentence of time served.

So fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. But if we allow them to continue to fool us every generation with impunity, we’re damn fools. We need to hang these people out to dry, or mark my words, they'll be back feeding from the frough in another ten years--convincing yet a new generation of Americans that they're socialists if they don't hand over their money to the “rich and deserving.”

Eric L. Wattree

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

The GOP: A 'Rush' to Obscurity


The GOP: A 'Rush' to Obscurity

Those of us who pointed out that Michael Steele was elevated to Chairman of the Republican National Committee as both a token, and as attack-dog-in-chief against President Obama should feel completely vindicated. No further evidence need be presented than what recently took place when Mr. Steele had the audacity to say that he was the head of the Republican Party, not Rush Limbaugh. In response Limbaugh all but literally told him to stay in his place.

Limbaugh said, "Yes, said Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, I'm incendiary, and yes, it's ugly. Michael Steele, you are head of the RNC. You are not head of the Republican Party." Limbaugh went on to say, "Tens of millions of conservatives and Republicans have nothing to do with the RNC and right now they want nothing to do with it, and when you call them, asking them for money, they hang up on you."

Then after being verbally pummeled by Limbaugh, Steele responds by groveling. During an interview Steele said, "My intent was not to go after Rush – I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh." He then added, "I was maybe a little bit inarticulate. … There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership."

Sound familiar? It should–it's a dialogue right out of the 19th Century, and that's exactly where the Republican Party wants to keep America. They have absolutely no respect for Michael Steele, and why should they? He's allowed himself to be used.

In my article, "Republicans: Look y'all We Got Us One Two," I point out the following:

"Most Black people have very little use for Black conservatives. It's not that we disagree with everything they say, but because we're suspect of the reasons they're saying it.Without exception, every Black conservative I've come across is an opportunist. Their conservatism tends not to be so much grounded in their actual philosophy as it is an opportunity to gain exposure. They realize that conservatives are looking high and low for Black people who will step forward to validate their views towards the Black community. So they gleefully allow themselves to be used in return for personal wealth, position, and notoriety." Well, they got him–and good riddance.

This time the Republican strategy threatens to backfire. They were so concerned about finding a Black face to put up against President Obama that they didn't take qualifications or simple common sense into account, and it's becoming increasingly apparent that Mr. Steele has neither. In addition, based on an investigation into allegations that he funneled campaign funds into his sister's non-existent company, character has also become an issue. While they can't say they weren't warned, actually, he fits right in with the rest of that Republican crowd.

The problem with the Republican Party is that they've become victims of their own corruption, greed, and sense of entitlement. They feel that they have a God-given right to power, and the American people have a moral obligation to give it to them. As a result, they feel no need to earn the right to govern through competence and integrity. So instead of putting competent people of good character in positions of responsibility, they appoint through cronyism, and in response to short-term goals.

It is that mindset that led to George W. Bush, Michael Steele, the disaster in Iraq, the Katrina catastrophe, our current economic crisis, and why America has to be rescued after every Republican administration. Think about it. The last Republican administration that didn't cause some kind of crisis in America was the Eisenhower administration–and his very last act was to warn us about people like Bush and Cheney. You see, Ike understood the Republican mindset, and he also understood, and told us in no uncertain terms, that they constituted a serious threat to America.

What the Republican Party failed to realize was that the American people didn't elect President Obama because he's Black, they elected him because he's competent, and obviously a statesman of exceptional character, but they just didn't get it. They figured he was elected because Black was the flavor of the season, so they went out and "got them one"--without regard to character, intelligence, or common sense.

But Black comes in many shades of competence just like any other group, so they got the color right, but they came up a little short on brain cells. After all, any man who thinks he's going to bring the hip hop community under the Republican tent is not only out of touch with the world around him, but must also be bordering on psychotic. Most hip hop people hate everything the GOP stands for, and vice versa. When Michele Bachmann told Steele, "You be DA man," it came off as so contrived that it was offensively condescending. He was even embarrassed–and that had to take a lot.

But Michael Steele is not an anomaly. Reckless appointments and governance is a way of life with Republicans. Another example is Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, executive director of the C.I.A. under George W. Bush between 2004 to 2006 who was just sentenced to 37 months in prison for defrauding the government.

The New York times reported that Mr. Foggo used his position, which included directing the CIA's administrative operations and budget, to steer sensitive clandestine contracts to military contractor Brent R. Wilkes, a San Diego businessman and close childhood friend. In return Wilkes "took Mr. Foggo on expensive vacations, paid for his meals at exclusive restaurants and offered him a job after he retired." Under a plea agreement Foggo pled guilty to one count of wire fraud, for which he could be sentenced to no more than the 37 months in prison, which he received.

The Bush administration knew he had a shady background when Mr. Foggo was appointed. CIA Director Porter Goss appointed Foggo to an executive position in the CIA even though they knew that he had a reputation for having affairs with the wives of his colleagues, and allegedly shared a woman with Felix Bloch, a Russian spy. Yet, they appointed this man to the third highest position in the CIA, during a time of war!

We didn't here a word from Rush about that, but now these very same Republicans want us to believe that they want President Obama to fail--and are doing everything in their power to bring that about--because they love America. Anyone who believes that is a fool. The fact is, after what they've done to this country, only a lack of character would allow then to look us in the face.

Eric L. Wattree

A moderate is one who embraces truth over ideology, and reason over conflict.

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