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1:33 am EDT        73°F (23°C) in Whiteland, IN

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It never ceases to amaze, shock, sicken, and stupefy me. Just when you think that Dumbya can’t possibly get any more anti-Christian, anti-American, and utterly idiotic, he manages to sink to levels even lower than I previously thought possible. At this rate, he’s so low that he’s well on his way toward the earth’s core — he’s way the hell below ground by now.

On Thursday (although it didn’t make the media until yesterday), Dumbya signed an executive order suspending the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931, a law that stipulates that any company that is granted federal-government contracts to build, expand, or rebuild public-works projects (which, undoubtedly, will encompass much of the rebuilding of New Orleans) must pay at least the “prevailing wage” paid to construction workers in the surrounding local area. It should be reasonably obvious from that description of Davis-Bacon that this law protects, really, the entire American public; the workers and/or employees of these federal contractors are guaranteed that they will be paid a decent, proper wage for their work, and the public is protected against “fly-by-night” contractors who hire un-trained, unskilled labor and perform shoddy work in order to be able to under-bid their competitors. For now, at least, the suspension of Davis-Bacon only applies in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, the four states hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina, but knowing how Dumbya and the Republicans operate (incrementally and by stealth), there’s a very good chance Davis-Bacon’s days are numbered nationwide.

(Perhaps the best newspaper mention I was able to find about this was in Friday’s edition of the Hartford (Connecticut) Courant, in a section called “Morning Briefing.” You can read that article by clicking this link.)

The prevailing wage for construction work in New Orleans, even with Davis-Bacon in effect, has been determined to be $9.00 per hour. Nine bucks an hour? Are you fucking kidding me? Even at that “prevailing wage,” we’re talking less than $1,500 gross income per month for a 40-hour work week, and even if the worker in question pulls 20 hours of overtime, the net take-home pay after taxes is just a shade over $2,000 per month! Maybe New Orleans has a depressed housing market, but in a lot of average places, a two-bedroom apartment (assuming there are a couple kids, like the average family has) runs at least $750 per month. The average family of four probably spends about $400 each month on food and basic necessities, so we’re already down to $850. If the employer even offers health insurance, that’s another $200 per month for a family plan; if not, kiss the rest of the month’s income goodbye to afford a single-payer family plan, or go uninsured — those are the only two choices.

There are still plenty of other places where that money has to be spent. Even to keep a “beater” of a car around, we’re talking pretty close to $200 per month to cover insurance, the $3.00 per gallon gasoline needed to get to and from work, and basic maintenance. Want a new car? Triple that figure. Utilities are probably going to run about $150 per month, assuming that the family makes use of the most basic conveniences of modern life — maintaining 75°F in summer and 67°F in winter inside their dwelling, owning a TV and computer (and hooking those up via cable or, God forbid, dial-up), and carrying on reasonable amounts of bathing, cooking, and other tasks that require some form of heat via propane or natural gas. The kids are growing like crazy, and even if we skimp, it’s probably still going to pro-rate out to $50 per month to keep the family sufficiently clothed. Assuming a number of other unrealistic living conditions — nobody in the family has any chronic illness requiring medication, etc. — a family like this might clear $250 when the month is all said and done.

Let’s assume the hypothetical husband here is, like most men, a horny bastard, and that the Republican-majority state government makes it damn near impossible to get an abortion or access birth control. At some point, he’s gonna knock his wife up, and nine months after that, here comes a $6,000 hospital bill for the childbirth services. Remember, the husband’s employer doesn’t offer health insurance, and the family obviously can’t afford it on their own. That $6,000 bill represents a full TWO YEARS’ worth of the family’s ability to save money after paying all the monthly bills. Honestly, you think they can afford to pay TWO YEARS of savings for that bill? Fuck no. Are you smoking something? You know who ends up paying that bill? The answer is quite simple: the government. Who funds the government? Oh yeah, that’s right, hard-working taxpayers like you and me.

It is blatantly obvious that Republicans are truly working against American citizens. Instead of thinking of the worker and legislating a true living wage as the minimum, they keep the minimum wage down to destitute poverty levels to help out their corporate buddies. And the Democrats aren’t that much better themselves; I haven’t heard a whimper from them about the federal minimum wage in a long time, as they have taken the “Republican Lite” approach to government. It is absolutely, positively, guaranteed impossible to survive on 40 hours per week of the $5.15 per hour federal minimum wage, even for a single, childless individual — just do the math: even working three jobs totaling 100 hours every week at $5.15 per hour, a single person is still in fairly dire straits with a net monthly income of maybe $1,500.

Call me a commie and a socialist, but we as a nation wouldn’t have to have our working poor people be so dependent on government social-welfare programs if we would cut out the corporate welfare bullshit like the $5.15 per hour minimum wage. If we had a living minimum wage, somewhere on the order of $12.00 per hour (considering inflation since the last minimum-wage increase), our low-skilled workers suddenly would no longer be too poor to be able to “pull themselves up by the boot straps,” as the great neo-conservative economic mantra goes.

The worst part of all of this is the death of any kind of coherent opposition to this system in which the wealthy get everything and the poor and middle-class get what little they have stolen from them. Where are the Democrats when you need them? Where has the Democratic Party of Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy disappeared to? This country’s decline into the ninth level of hell is just as much the fault of cowering, compliant Democrats as it is ravenous, destructive Republicans. As long as the “opposition” stays as quiet as it has been for a long time, average Americans everywhere are just going to get further and further anally raped by what amounts to a theo-aristocratic government.

Unfortunately, I don’t foresee any great finding of spines and testicles by the Democrats in the foreseeable future. By the time they get their act together, the Wacko Satanic Anti-American Righties will have shredded the Constitution and created a strange cross-breed of present-day Iran with the eighteenth-century France of Louis XVI. If true progressives like myself don’t succeed in the endeavor of becoming a legitimate, potent political force on the left, overtaking the spineless “liberals” who comprise much of today’s Democratic Party, in time for the 2006 mid-term elections and the 2008 presidential election, then the United States of America as built by our Founding Fathers will die — as if it’s not already comatose and on a ventilator after five years of that dumbfuck.

After I head home tomorrow, I’m going to take a very serious look into emigrating to a more progressive, ideally English-speaking nation. This country has been almost totally destroyed by the shithead currently in the White House, and nobody who is able appears to possess the fortitude necessary to begin repairing all of the damage done by this mis-administration. Believe me, I know there is great valor and heroism in “fighting the good fight,” but when the outcome is pretty much decided against you, what’s the point of continuing to fight for a doomed cause?

And finally, nerd that I am, I am going to spend a little time explaining how the time difference between U.S. Eastern time and New Zealand time varies between 16 and 18 hours depending on the season, as I mentioned yesterday. New Zealand observes GMT+12:00 (Greenwich Mean Time plus 12 hours) as its Standard Time, and Eastern Standard Time is, as I’ve mentioned before, GMT-5:00. This is a 17-hour difference when both New Zealand and the U.S. are observing Standard Time. However, New Zealand sits south of the equator, and its “summer” (warmest temperatures, longest days) occurs from roughly November to March. As a result, New Zealand’s observance of Daylight Saving Time begins on the first Sunday in October, and ends the third Sunday in March — almost diametrically opposite the times of year when DST is observed in the U.S..

To summarize, when both nations are on either Standard Time (for two to three weeks in late March and early April) or DST (three to four weeks in October), the difference between New Zealand time and U.S. Eastern time is 17 hours. When the U.S. is on DST but New Zealand is on Standard Time (early April to early October), the time difference falls to 16 hours, and when New Zealand is on DST but the States are not (end of October to mid-March), the difference becomes 18 hours. Currently, the United States is on DST and New Zealand is not, meaning the current time difference is 16 hours. That is to say, the 1:33 am EDT time of this update would be 5:33 pm NZST.