February 2011

Note to readers... the Unknown Editor was once a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters... at an obscure restaurant in New Jersey that was eventually bought out by Nathan's Famous. This microwave comrade must be practically a communist!

2011 seems to be the year we get serious about fixing those pesky deficits, at least according to the Tea Party. So where is the first place to look? Seems like there are a lot of governors out there with one thing on their minds: union busting. Coming out of a recession, who better to blame and punish than teachers and other collective-bargaining public employees? Excuse me, but this seems a little misplaced... especially when the antagonists all are well paid, have health care and lucrative retirement benefits...

Before we shed some blame on the recession, let's examine the Union Hall's place in music: it's been the subject of many a good musical effort. Sure, Pete Seeger probably sang dozens of songs about unions (which side are you on?), but let's consider an extreme Chicago blues number sung by Koko Taylor in 1967, Wang Dang Doodle. Koko, born Cora Walton, was the daughter of a sharecropper, and later moved to Chicago where she became the Queen of the Blues. The harmonica is played by Little Walter (born Marion Walter Jacobs in 1930). He was perhaps the finest Chicago-style blues harmonica player of all time, but died in 1968 at the age of 37, from injuries suffered in a fight. You can get his biography, Blues with a Feeling, on Amazon. The song was written by Willie Dixon. The guitarist in the video is Hound Dog Taylor, he had six fingers on his left hand. The video was recorded in 1967 by the American Folk Blues Festival, a group that toured Europe.

Koko Taylor, Wang Dang Doodle

Tell Automatic Slim , tell Razor Totin' Jim
Tell Butcher Knife Totin' Annie, tell Fast Talking Fanny
We gonna pitch a ball, a down to that union hall
We gonna romp and tromp till midnight
We gonna fuss and fight till daylight
We gonna pitch a wang dang doodle all night long
All night long, all night long...

Tell Kudu-Crawlin' Red, tell Abyssinian Ned
Tell ol' Pistol Pete, to tell everybody he meets
Tonight we need no rest, we gonna really throw a mess
We gonna to knock out all the windows,
We gonna kick down all the doors
We gonna pitch a Wang dang doodle all night long
All night long, all night long...

Tell Fats and Washboard Sam, that everybody gonna jam
Tell Shaky and Boxcar Joe, we got sawdust on the floor
Tell Peg and Caroline Dye, we gonna have a heckuva time
When the fish scent fills the air, there'll be snuff juice everywhere
We gonna pitch a Wang dang doodle all night long
All night long, all night long...

Trust me, you don't want to get on the wrong side of Automatic Slim and his pals...

Now let's ask some investment bankers who's to blame for the mess we're in. Not us! All that TARP money is being paid back! We're blameless!

Not so fast, Mr. Howell. Maybe you paid back some federal loans, but the mess is much deeper. Thanks to your shell games, millions of people lost jobs, everyone watched their home equity and retirement savings disappear and a million loans were defaulted. Tanking global real estate and stock markets killed off massive tax revenues; this mess was caused by the federal government and the banking industry in concert. Teachers and other union employees didn't cause the problem, and they should be the last ones to pay for it. The education system has its share of problems, but high pay and extravagant benefits are not two of them. What are you going to do, cut 1,000,000 $60K paychecks down to $50K? Wow, that's $7B in savings after taxes. That number used to impress me, before we bailed out Wall Street...

Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin is taking the unions to the mat. This follows Governor Christie of New Jersey and his treatment of the Teacher's Union. The support of these governors and legislatures comes from the Tea Party, which is played like a puppet by the billionaire Koch Brothers. The brothers' shtick is drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. Read more in the New Yorker article on these two wonderful human beings. The Tea Party wants to make sure that tax rates for the Koch Brothers don't revert to pre-Bush tax-cut rates. To paraphrase Dick Cheney, "tax cuts on rich people pay for themselves." That's a good one, so far these tax cuts have "paid" us an increase in the deficit of one trillion dollars.

Meanwhile, the governor of Arizona has formed her own version of a death panel by denying organ transplants (two dead so far, two more soon). Arizona state legislature is so anti-brown-people that the southern half of the state is looking at seceding.

Now let's examine lyrics from the Dropkick Murphys Workers Song, in honor of Saint Paddy's Day! Do we detect a little Celtic anger in the Bay State?

Workers Song

Bouncing momentarily to the subject of gingered friends, relatives and actresses, Arlene, your words are too kind, but I am proud to be on the same page with you!

If you work at a top tier defense contractor, chances are you've see the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers cave in on their demands each time a new collective bargain is agreed. Maybe you've watched your union buddies shiver at the end of the driveway while scab labor is snuck in to keep the line running. Meanwhile your CEO has enjoyed an enormous increase in compensation. As the AFLCIO web site points out, a chief executive officer of a Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500 index company was paid, on average, $9.25 million in total compensation in 2009. At the same time, millions of workers lost their jobs, their homes and their retirement savings in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Let's consider the pay of six bank KEOs (klepto-executive officers) in 2009 (which was supposed to be a year of reduced compensation because of the 2008 bailouts).

  • Bank of America Corp., Thomas Montag: $29,930,431
  • JP Morgan Chase & Co, James Dimon: $15,518,794
  • Citigroup Inc., John Havens: $11,276,454
  • Morgan Stanley, Walid Chammah: $10,021,969
  • The Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Lloyd Blankfein: $9,862,657
  • Wells Fargo, John Stumpf: $21,340,547

Don't you think perhaps these gentlemen could afford just a few more percent in taxes? After the enormous mess their companies foisted on the world economy, and the favors we taxpayers provided so they could finish cooking the books in their favor?

Those are some pretty good figures considering their companies are the cause of so much misery. But their's is short money compared to the head of Liberty Mutual. In 2009, Gregory B. Maffei received $87,493,565 in total compensation. By comparison, the average worker made $32,048 in 2009. Gregory B. Maffei made 2730 times the average worker's pay. When he blows his nose, Greg's snot must be solid gold. He should change his title to "Pharaoh". It's amazing to hear the outrage when a cop retires and somehow gets $100,000 income for life. If he lives until year 2886 he will collect as much as Greg. It would be my preference that the aforementioned seven executives become eligible for parole that same year.

Busting unions is a misplaced priority. Where is the outrage against Wall Street, the banking and insurance industries, and the government that allowed them hose us all? Don't listen to the Tea Party, listen to me: its time to raise taxes. Let me put this into words that even Republicans can understand... this isn't about raising your taxes, its about raising their taxes. Remember the primal scream of all Republicans... this is going to cost me money! No it's not, don't worry, if you are reading this, it won't cost you a dime!

So where were we... we were going to post a couple of songs about Union Hall parties!

Specialty records released an album of Little Richard's hits in 1996, titled Shag on down by the Union Hall. The titles comes from the lyrics of Rip it Up, a story of a Union Hall dance...

Here's Little Richard singing with Welshman Tom Jones... no, we are not worthy of such delights!

Got me a date and I won't be late

I picked her up in my 88.

Shag on down by the Union Hall

When the joint starts jumping I'll have a ball!

Rip it Up by Little Richard

A third song that takes place in the Union Hall is Chubby Checker's Pony Time. Get with it!

Pony Time by Chubby Checker

Thanks to Peter who pointed out that Rip this Joint takes place in a Union Hall. It's an awesome tribute to some of the early R&B. Short Fat Fanny is on the loose!

(M. Jagger/K. Richards)

Mama says yes, Papa says no
Make up you mind cause I gotta go
I'm gonna raise hell at the Union Hall
Drive myself right over the wall

Rip this joint, going to get down low
Round and round and round we go
Rip this joint, going to get down low
Start my starter, going to stop the show
Oh, yeah!

Mister President, Mister Immigration Man
Let me in, baby, to this fair land
I'm Tampa bound and Memphis too
Short Fat Fanny is on the loose

Rip this joint, going to get down low
Round and round and round we go
Roll this joint, going to get down low
Start my starter, going to stop the show
Oh, yeah!

Ying yang, you're my thing
Oh, now, baby, won't you hear me sing
Flip Flop, fit to drop
Come on, won't you let it rock?
Oh, yeah! Oh, yeah!

From San Jose down to Santa Fe
Kiss me quick, baby, won'tcha make my day
Down to New Orleans with the Dixie Dean
Across to Dallas, Texas with the Butter Queen

Rip this joint, gonna rip yours too
Some brand new steps and some weight to lose
Gonna roll this joint, gonna get down low
Round and round and round we'll go

Wham, Bam, Birmingham,
Alabama don't give a damn
Little Rock fit to drop
Ah, baby won't you let it rock

Songwriters: Keith Richards / Mick Jagger

So what is the real problem? Could it be that a New Nobility has emerged? A class of people that has come to overvalue their place on the planet at the expense of the rest of us? Partisan talk show hosts, government leaders, lobbyists, lawyers, bankers all have profited immensely in the past decades. Remember all the complaints about being seriously underpaid when Wall Streeters had their average pay cut from $1M to $800K in 2009? If it's so bad, why don't you jump off a 10 story ledge?

Could this New Nobility an international phenomenon? Having just spent some time skiing around Davos (go ahead and snicker, comrades, I used frequent flyer miles...), I spent some quality time with Portuguese bartender. He told a joke with a smile, but no laughter. Everywhere you go in Europe, there's always a German on vacation, and a Portuguese working...

There are regressive taxes on working class people, such as the lottery, and tobacco and liquor taxes. It's time to create some "pregressive" taxes on the wealthy. Here's one: taxes on dry cleaning. If your job requires that you play dress-up each day, with no regard to where carcinogenic dry cleaning fluids are handled and disposed of, you can afford this. To all of the 10,000,000 people that wear a suit each day, pay $20 in taxes each week and we'll raise $10B each year. It's not much, but it is more than you will wrangle from teachers unions. We'll call it the PERC tax!

In terms of income taxes, how about we increase taxes only on two classes of people: those that make money from our money, and those that make money from politics? In addition to doubling down the taxes on anyone who makes $250K or more from Wall Street, we can go after Sarah Palin, all of the ex-generals that become lobbyists, and talk show "talent?" While we're at it, double the taxes on this web site, it would be a privilege to pay a few hundred bucks more to help out!


Check out the Unknown Editor's amazing archives when you are looking for a way to screw off for a couple of hours or more!