Friday, November 29, 2013

New poll: Obamacare alive and well

President Barack Obama. (photo: unknown)
President Barack Obama. (photo: unknown)

By Charles Pierce, Esquire

28 November 13
new CNN poll seems to indicate that a sizable bloc of voters aren't entirely buying the notion that the Affordable Care Act already has been rendered a dead parrot by its own internal contradictions. The poll also suggests an additional argument could be made by any Democrat ballsy enough to make it.

I know, I know. But play along, OK?

According to the survey released on Wednesday, four in 10 say they support the law, with 58% opposed. Those figures are little changed from a CNN poll a month ago, just two weeks into the rough start up of and mostly before the controversy over insurance policy cancellations due primarily to the new health law. But 41% say they oppose the law because they think it's too liberal, with 14% saying the measure doesn't go far enough. That means that 54% either support Obamacare, or say it's not liberal enough. Is the new law a success or failure? Nearly four in 10 say it's a failure, with 53% saying it is too soon to tell. Will the current problems faced by Obamacare be eventually solved? Fifty-four percent express optimism on this question, with 45% saying that Obamacare's flaws will never be fixed.

That 14 percent is the key. One of the main selling points that the administration used to peddle the ACA to progressive voters was that it was a first step along the road to a serious proposal for single-payer national health-care. The administration abandoned that argument a) once the law got passed, and b) once the mindless 2009 public hysteria translated itself into the election of the worst Congress in the history of the Republic. However, that notion still seems to be alive in the country. It ought not to be that difficult for a Democratic candidate to take advantage of the fact that the public is still overwhelmingly willing to give the law a chance, and that the public is still hankering for continued progress on the issue. Almost nobody is in favor of returning to the status quo ante, and that's really all the Republicans have to offer.

Moreover, it seems that young people, while more likely to be frustrated by technical glitches are, by the same token, more able to understand that things can be fixed.

Younger Americans are much less likely to express negative views of the new health care law. "Only 25% of 18-to-34 year olds say that the new law is a failure, compared to more than four in 10 in any other age bracket. Seven in 10 younger Americans think the current problems faced by Obamacare will eventually be fixed.

Corporate-financed beer pong, it appears, is not enough.

Can right and left rally against Walmart?

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader. (photo: Meet the Press)
Consumer advocate Ralph Nader. (photo: Meet the Press)

Megachain holds food drive
for its very own employees

By Ralph Nader, Common Dreams
28 November 13
ne of the most profitable corporations in America is having a holiday food drive. Sounds good - it's the least Corporate America can do for those struggling to make ends meet while big companies rake in record profits and give so little back. But wait… there's a catch. The food drive is for the company's own underpaid, poverty-stricken workers. You really can't make this stuff up.

Earlier this week, it was reported that a Walmart store in Canton, Ohio is asking for food donations for its own employees. Photos of the food donation bins circulated online showing signs that read: "Please donate food items here so associates in need can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner." (That's if they even have a chance to - Walmart stores are open on Thanksgiving and are beginning their "Black Friday" deals at 6 PM on Thanksgiving Day to get a jump on the holiday shopping madness.)

Walmart is America's largest employer with a workforce consisting of 1.3 million "associates." The company made nearly $17 billion in profit last year. So why can't Walmart afford to pay its own store workers enough for them to enjoy a holiday meal with their families? The answer is Walmart doesn't really care about its workers.

If the Walmart food donation drive doesn't get you properly steamed, then consider that Walmart CEO, Mike Duke, makes approximately $11,000 an hour - he took home about $20.7 million last year, plus ample benefits. Still not mad? It has also been recently been reported that Duke has a retirement package worth more than $113 million! That is 6,200 times larger than the average 401k savings of a non-executive level Walmart employee! (Check out this recent report which charts other massive CEO pensions in relation to those of average workers.)

One final fact to really get your dander up - The Walton family, heirs to the Walmart fortune, have accumulated more financial wealth than the entire bottom 40% of the population of the United States or 313 million Americans. That's six Waltons worth a combined $102.7 billion!

No matter what one's political leanings may be, the problem of massive income inequality and insatiable corporate greed is worsening year-by-year as CEO salaries rise, overall corporate profits soar and worker salaries stagnate. Liberal or conservative - all Americans should be outraged by this trend.

I recently wrote to conservative anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist to bring both sides of the political spectrum together on this troubling issue. In the past, Mr. Norquist and I have backed popular, reasonable policies, such as putting the full text of government contracts online, rolling back corporate welfare and opposing the civil liberties restrictive Patriot Act. As someone who claims to care about taxpayer protection, the issue of poverty-level wages and their major effect on taxpayers should be an important issue for Mr. Norquist.

Here's why - low wages at the ten largest fast food chains cost taxpayers $3.8 billion per year. Fifty-two precent of families of fast food workers have to rely on government assistance. McDonald's' "McResource" help line goes so far as to advise workers who cannot make ends meet from their poverty-level wages to sign up for government food stamps and home heating assistance. Is it fair that taxpayers have to shell out $1.2 billion a year to subsidize McDonald's paying its workers while the fast food giant rakes in $5.5 billion in profit?

Walmart is even worse - according to a study from the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce study, a single Walmart Supercenter store in Wisconsin can cost taxpayers upwards of $1.75 million in public assistance programs. If taxpayers have to cover over $1 million for just one 300-employee superstore, consider how much Walmart is costing taxpayers each year at their 4,135 stores in the United States. According to the 2012 "Walmart Associate Benefits Book", which is distributed to employees, the company also advises its workers about getting on public assistance. Is this a fair or reasonable burden on taxpayers as Walmart reports $17 billion in profits? 

Over the past five years, Walmart has had enough excess funds to buy back billions in its own stock. Walmart reportedly spent $7.6 billion last year buying back its shares. These funds are enough to raise the salaries of the lowest paid workers by $5.83 an hour. Catherine Ruetschlin, policy analyst at Demos, stated in a recent release: "These share repurchases benefit an increasingly narrow group of people, including the six Walton family heirs. But buybacks do not improve the fundamentals of the firm. If the funds were used to raise the pay of Walmart's 825,000 low paid workers, it would not harm the retailer's competitive ability and would add no cost to the consumer." 

(See the recent report from Demos titled "A Higher Wage is Possible")

The quickest way to lessen reliance on food stamp, EITC and Medicaid outlays is to raise the federal minimum wage. Raising the wage has the backing of 80% of Americans, 69% of Republicans, and even writers from The National Review and The American Conservative magazines. So why isn't their more rage from the other end of the political spectrum? Even Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney both supported raising the minimum wage to keep up with inflation - at least until Mitt Romney flip-flopped on the issue during the 2012 election.

The support of Grover Norquist and the Congressional followers of his no-tax pledge would be a significant boost for thirty million struggling workers who make less today than workers made in 1968, inflation adjusted. With a doubling in both worker productivity and the cost of living, there is no excuse for such a decline in their livelihoods.

Mr. Norquist, join this fight to protect taxpayers. Underpaid workers (who are also taxpayers) and their families need your support.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

P-S water board resignations accepted

The PSWID Board Recall is now officially over.
On Tuesday, November, 25th, the Gila County Board of Supervisors
accepted theresignations of the five PSWID board members, which
DISSOLVED the entire board including Sam Schwalm and Tom
Tommie Cline Martin had stated that she wanted to host a TOWN
discuss the PSWID district optionswith the community. She then
postponed that meeting due to a conflict of timingwith a CBOS
function. On the website, a meeting was scheduled for
the Dec. 19th, and has subsequently postponed, too, with the
possibility that the meeting will not occur until the regularly
scheduled January Water Board meeting. An update will be sent
out when the meeting will actually take place. Whatever the date
of this proposed meeting, the Pine Strawberry Community
needs to show solidarity on the issues by showing up. This 
is EXTREMELY important.
We encourage you to write letters to the CBOS (Gila County Board
of Supervisors)! The Pine Strawberry Community needs to be in
charge of its own water issues. It's important the community be heard
by emailing the CBOS respectfully asking thata board is either
appointed from the PSWID BOARD RECALL COMMITTEE list of
candidates or elections are scheduled AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!.
The CBOS needs to be aware that the Pine Strawberry community
IS involved with the issues. Pleasemake time in your busy holiday
schedules to write and send these emails. For theCBOS to hear
the community, this is the only way to communicate the communities'
concerns and wishes.


BE AWARE! The figure proposed for the bond issue
has been RAISED from the already absurd 7.5 Million Dollars,
to 12 Million! (PSWID Board Meeting, NOV 2013

It is of the crucial importance that the CBOS be aware that the
Pine Strawberry community IS involved with the issues. Please
make time in your busy schedules to write and send these emails.
For the CBOS to hear the community, this is the only way to
communicate the  communities' concerns and wishes.
The email addresses:
Michael Pastor,
CBOS Chair

Tommie Cline Martin,
CBOS Vice Chair

Bradley Beauchamp,
Gila Cty Atty

If you're looking for presidential whoppers...


Patience needed on health law

I'm not sure where "You can keep your policy, period," ranks among presidential whoppers.  The competition is pretty steep:

"I am not a crook."

"I did not have sexual relations with that woman."

"Weapons of mass destruction."

"Mission accomplished."

"Enhanced interrogation methods."

History can be the judge.

I do know that our president started with the most expensive and least effective health care system in the industrialized world and has been trying to make it better.

With insurance, a flu shot is better than an emergency room visit, a mammogram can save a life, a blood test can prevent diabetes.

Without insurance, people suffer and die while we pay the costs.

A little patience and open-mindedness might help us all.

Ralph Atchue

(The above letter originally appeared in the Nov. 21 Arizona Republic, the Rim Country's best newspaper value.  For home delivery, call 1-800-332-6733.  Because the news happens seven days a week.  The big Thanksgiving Day issue is on my lap as I write - biggest issue of the year.  You could be enjoying it too.)

A cruel Walmart Thanksgiving by Charles Dickens

Richard Eskow

“A pretty high energy day” for employees. That’s how a Walmart executive described Thanksgiving after the corporation announced that this year’s “Black Friday” would begin on Thursday evening, leaving many of its workers (known as “associates”) unable to spend the holiday with family or friends.

Walmart’s wages and employment practices can rightfully be described as “Dickensian.” What, we wondered, would the Victorian author make of this latest development? 

It was the night before Thanksgiving. Walmart’s top brass had assembled in the executive boardroom for a last celebration before heading home to their families. Amidst the din of laughter and chatter, nobody noticed the thin figure silhouetted in their doorway.

“I am a Walmart Associate,” the figure finally called out, “and I beg your pardon for the intrusion.”

The revelers stared in amazement. “A Happy Thanksgiving to you all!” added the shadowy Associate.

“Happy Thanksgiving? Happy Thanksgiving?!?” came an answering voice from inside the boardroom. “What right have you to be happy? Why would you be be happy? You’re poor.” 

The stranger’s request. 

“Why are you even here?” the shadowy figure was asked.

“I’ve come to request better wages and working conditions,” came the reply. The shocked silence was finally broken by the Chairman of the Board, one Mr. Rob Walton.

“Are there no food stamps?” Walton asked.

The figure stood silently.

“And housing subsidies for the poor?” he demanded. “Are they still in operation?”

The silhouette nodded its head.

“Medicaid is still in full vigor, then?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop these government programs in their useful course,” said the Chairman. “I’m very glad to hear it.”

“I, too, am glad that taxpayers are bearing the cost of our miserly wages,” added the company’s CEO. 

A lesson in gratitude. 

“I was hoping you would behave more wisely and kindly this holiday season,” the figure said. “You, sirs and madams, run the largest corporation in the nation, employing more than two million souls. Your behavior shapes the entire labor market, for good or for bad — “

“Then bad it will remain!” said a Board member to enthusiastic nods all around.

“We are proud to be the worst paying company in America!” said another Board member.

The figure stood, silent.

“And we did something for our employees. We held a food drive for you, so our customers could give you their charity while giving us our profits!”

“What is Thanksgiving, anyway?” another executive ruminated. “A time to be grateful for all that this land has given — “

” — to us!” another injected to general merriment.

“Do you understand, Associate?” said the first executive. “We will be thankful tomorrow. But you have nothing to be thankful for, therefore you have no reason to spend Thanksgiving with your family.” 

The corporation’s humbug. 

“You know what I said to a reporter?” said an executive who sounded like a salesman. “I said ‘Walmart associates are really excited to work that day.’ I really said that.”

“Good one!” another executive replied.

“Thanks! I even told the reporter that employees could decide for themselves whether to work on the holiday. But I didn’t tell them we’ve manipulated their hours so that they’ll be docked if they don’t work that day, or that we’ve rigged their work schedules so that they’ll make less than they should even if they do.

“I even said,” he added, “that employees who work on Thanksgiving will get 25 percent off on any single item they purchase.”

“As if our employees could afford anything valuable!”

“You out there!” a voice summoned imperiously. “Associate! Are you going to buy something expensive with your discount? A flat-screen TV, perhaps?”

“Food, sir,” the figure responded. “and barely enough for that.”

“Well, then,” came the answer, “you’ll have to learn to economize.”

“Economize?” the figure said gravely. “Do you believe in ‘family values’?” The assembled executives nodded.Then come, good people. Come, and see how your Associates’ families must spend the holiday!” 

The ghost of Thanksgiving present. 

The boardroom was suddenly shrouded in darkness. The executives and Board members found themselves looking in at a walk-in kitchen and dining area. The biting winds of a Chicago snowstorm slipped through the worn insulation around the apartment’s single window.

“Your mother and daddy will be home later,” a grandmother said to a crying child, “when the late shift ends.”

“More than seven million American children live in minimum-wage homes,” the figure told the executives. “That’s nearly one American child in ten.”

“I’m worried about their health,” the older woman said to herself. The figure turned to the people in the boardroom.

“Minimum-wage workers experience high levels of stress,” said the Associate, “especially when they’re also the parents of small children.”

An older child, a girl, walked into the room. “Where’s the turkey?” she asked. Her face fell at the sadness in the old woman’s eyes. “No turkey again this year,” she said with a sigh. “Will we at least have enough to eat tonight?”

“I hope so,” said the older woman, “if we’re careful.”

The figure turned toward the hushed assemblage in the boardroom. “A food bank here in Chicago found that 61 percent of Chicago’s working poor experience food insecurity,” the Associate said, “and figures like that are common all across the country.”

All around the great oak table, the executives hung their heads. 

Our story concludes. 

“So,” said the shadowy Associate, “can I count on all of you to have a change of heart, pay us a living wage, and give us back our holidays with our families?”

There was a moment of silence in the darkened boardroom. Then a voice rang out — it might have been the salesman, or the Chairman, or the CEO — and answered in a booming voice.

“Nah,” he said.

“I don’t think so,” another voice said.

“Stop bringing us down,” someone else chimed in. “We have parties to attend.”

The figure shook its head in disbelief. “You’re supposed to become somber,” it said, “and have a change of heart.”

“No way,” said the executives and Board members.

“But it worked for Scrooge.”

“Scrooge!” scoffed the CEO. ”We’re more bottom-line driven than that sentimental old softie. And he had to look his employees in the eye. We don’t… not usually.”

“Well, if all this human suffering doesn’t make you somber,” said the silhouette in the doorway, “maybe this will.” The silhouetted figure drew itself up to a full and commanding height.

“Walmart workers and their supporters will be demonstrating at Walmart stores on Black Friday. We’re taking charge of our own destinies, like generations of workers have done before us.”

A gasp arose in the boardroom as the figure vanished into the November night, its final words lingering in the crisp boardroom air:

“Look for us at Friday’s demonstrations. It’s going to be a pretty high energy day for us.”

(For more information on Walmart workers, see Go here to find a Black Friday demonstration near you.)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Chelsea Manning: On Giving Thanks

Chelsea Manning gives thanks in this holiday season. (photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Chelsea Manning gives thanks in this holiday season. (photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

By Chelsea Manning, TIME
26 November 13

'm usually hesitant to celebrate Thanksgiving Day. After all, the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony systematically terrorized and slaughtered the very same Pequot tribe that assisted the first English refugees to arrive at Plymouth Rock. So, perhaps ironically, I'm thankful that I know that, and I'm also thankful that there are people who seek out, and usually find, such truths. I'm thankful for people who, even surrounded by millions of Americans eating turkey during regularly scheduled commercial breaks in the Green Bay and Detroit football game; who, despite having been taught, often as early as five and six years old, that the "helpful natives" selflessly assisted the "poor helpless Pilgrims" and lived happily ever after, dare to ask probing, even dangerous, questions.

Such people are often nameless and humble, yet no less courageous. Whether carpenters of welders; retail clerks or bank managers; artists or lawyers, they dare to ask tough questions, and seek out the truth, even when the answers they find might not be easy to live with.

I'm also grateful for having social and human justice pioneers who lead through action, and by example, as opposed to directing or commanding other people to take action. Often, the achievements of such people transcend political, cultural, and generational boundaries. Unfortunately, such remarkable people often risk their reputations, their livelihood, and, all too often, even their lives.

For instance, the man commonly known as Malcolm X began to openly embrace the idea, after an awakening during his travels to the Middle East and Africa, of an international and unifying effort to achieve equality, and was murdered after a tough, yearlong defection from the Nation of Islam. Martin Luther King Jr., after choosing to embrace the struggles of striking sanitation workers in Memphis over lobbying in Washington, D.C., was murdered by an escaped convict seeking fame and respect from white Southerners. Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician in the U.S., was murdered by a jealous former colleague. These are only examples; I wouldn't dare to make a claim that they represent an exhaustive list of remarkable pioneers of social justice and equality - certainly many if not the vast majority are unsung and, sadly, forgotten.

So, this year, and every year, I'm thankful for such people, and I'm thankful that one day - perhaps not tomorrow - because of the accomplishments of such truth-seekers and human rights pioneers, we can live together on this tiny "pale blue dot" of a planet and stop looking inward, at each other, but rather outward, into the space beyond this planet and the future of all of humanity.

Pope urges rich to share wealth

Pope Francis kisses a baby handed to him as he is driven through the crowd in St. Peter's Square. (photo: AP)
Pope Francis kisses a baby handed to him as he is driven through the crowd in St. Peter's Square. (photo: AP)

By Reuters
26 November 13
Pontiff's first major publication calls on global leaders to guarantee work, education and healthcare

ope Francis has attacked unfettered capitalism as "a new tyranny", urging global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality in the first major work he has authored alone as pontiff.

The 84-page document, known as an apostolic exhortation, amounted to an official platform for his papacy, building on views he has aired in sermons and remarks since he became the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years in March.

In it, Francis went further than previous comments criticising the global economic system, attacking the "idolatry of money" and beseeching politicians to guarantee all citizens "dignified work, education and healthcare".

He also called on rich people to share their wealth. "Just as the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills," Francis wrote in the document issued on Tuesday.

"How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?"

The pope said renewal of the church could not be put off and the Vatican and its entrenched hierarchy "also need to hear the call to pastoral conversion".

"I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security," he wrote.

In July, Francis finished an encyclical begun by Pope Benedict but he made clear that it was largely the work of his predecessor, who resigned in February.

Called Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), the exhortation is presented in Francis's simple and warm preaching style, distinct from the more academic writings of former popes, and stresses the church's central mission of preaching "the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ".

In it, he reiterated earlier statements that the church cannot ordain women or accept abortion. The male-only priesthood, he said, "is not a question open to discussion" but women must have more influence in church leadership.

A meditation on how to revitalise a church suffering from encroaching secularisation in western countries, the exhortation echoed the missionary zeal more often heard from the evangelical Protestants who have won over many disaffected Catholics in the pope's native Latin America.

In it, economic inequality features as one of the issues Francis is most concerned about. The 76-year-old pontiff calls for an overhaul of the financial system and warns that unequal distribution of wealth inevitably leads to violence.

"As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world's problems or, for that matter, to any problems," he wrote.

Denying this was simple populism, he called for action "beyond a simple welfare mentality" and added: "I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor."

Since his election, Francis has set an example for austerity in the church, living in a Vatican guest house rather than the ornate Apostolic Palace, travelling in a Ford Focus, and last month suspending a bishop who spent millions of euros on his luxurious residence.

He chose to be called Francis after the medieval Italian saint of the same name famed for choosing a life of poverty.

Stressing co-operation among religions, Francis quoted the late Pope John Paul II's idea that the papacy might be reshaped to promote closer ties with other Christian churches and noted lessons Rome could learn from the Orthodox church such as "synodality" or decentralised leadership.

He praised co-operation with Jews and Muslims and urged Islamic countries to guarantee their Christian minorities the same religious freedom as Muslims enjoy in the west.

AZ holiday highway and travel info

Stuff you need to know if you're 
headed to Grandma's house

Interstate 17 north of the Phoenix area, one of the state’s busiest highways during holiday weekends, will be the focus of a safe-driving campaign at the start and end of the extended Thanksgiving weekend, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

A coalition of agencies, including ADOT, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and local fire departments, is teaming up in an effort to limit serious crashes and respond to incidents along the busy stretch of I-17 between Black Canyon City and Camp Verde.

By Wednesday afternoon, when holiday traffic picks up along northbound I-17, DPS officers will increase the agency’s traffic enforcement efforts while also using freeway service patrol members to assist motorists in need of help. Officers will continue those efforts over the weekend, especially on Sunday when many holiday travelers are returning home.

Extra efforts to promote highway safety

As it did over the Labor Day weekend, ADOT will post safety and highway condition messages on its overhead message boards along I-17, position equipment that can be used to help clear the highway and have personnel ready to respond when incidents impact traffic. Portable electronic signs also will remind motorists to drive safely, with messages such as “Stay Alert, Stay Alive” and “Drive Hammered, Get Nailed." The signs also can display traffic information if necessary.

The Black Canyon City Fire Department and Daisy Mountain Fire Department are part of the expanded safe-driving efforts. Drivers are urged to obey speed limits, and be cautious as well as patient while on the road over the holiday weekend.

There were no fatal crashes along I-17 over last year’s Thanksgiving weekend. However, 11 people were killed in 11 fatal crashes on local roads and highways across the state from Wednesday evening through early Monday morning over last year’s holiday weekend.

No construction closures along state highways

As with other holiday weekends associated with travel, ADOT will hold off on any construction-related closures along state highways this weekend. Drivers are urged to be prepared for unscheduled closures due to disabled vehicles or crashes.
For the latest highway conditions across Arizona, travelers can visit the ADOT's Travel Information site at or call 5-1-1 (outside Arizona call 1-888-411-ROAD). ADOT's public information number for state highway conditions is 602-712-6513. You can also track closures and other highway conditions at

Drivers also should get a good night’s rest before heading out on a holiday weekend trip and check that their vehicles are in good working order. For example, maintaining the correct tire pressure can help prevent blowouts and increase gas mileage.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Division of chores depends on mess tolerance

Does this trigger your threshold level? A series of photos was shown to individuals to measure at what point they would act.

By Julie Newberg

Not that anyone is pointing fingers, but one individual went three weeks without noticing that dirty laundry had piled up.

The division of household labor is an issue that cuts across countries, genders and all types of relationships, from married couples to roommates.

“This is one of the top three conflict issues couples fight over,” said Jess Alberts, Hugh Downs School of Communication President’s Professor. “Wives who feel like the division of labor is unfair are more dissatisfied and more likely to think of divorce.”

Strategies to cope are varied and inventive, said Alberts, who has conducted research on this issue for the past several years.

“This is the ongoing issue in my marital life and currently my favorite research project,” she said.

Inspiration to address this most basic issue with universal effects was inspired by ASU School of Life Sciences President’s Professor and entomologist Jennifer Fewell, who studies the division of labor between ants and bees.

"Fewell argued that ants and bees have specific threshold levels or tolerance for disorder in the hive. When they are bothered by their threshold level being violated, they are motivated to act,” Alberts said.

This realization inspired Alberts’ integrated theory of the division of labor that is currently in a testing phase and working “really well.” Her theory argues that people will act according to their threshold levels for household clutter or disorder.

“People possess a tolerance threshold for various tasks in the home. If one person has a low threshold for disorder, then the person with the higher threshold may never do anything because his or her threshold is never reached. Through repetition, the person with a lower threshold becomes more experienced and better at it,” she said. 

“Usually, the person with a lower threshold is not willing to wait for the person with the high threshold to be motivated to act.”

Women typically tackle the majority of chores and evolutionary psychology research explains why this may occur. For example, research shows that although parents equally respond to a baby in clear distress, they often vary their pattern if the baby is merely fussy. If mom responds faster to a fussy child, this becomes a reinforced pattern in which mom becomes the only one tending to the baby, Alberts said.

“Research suggests that females do about 50 percent more of household chores than males. Some people say it is an economic issue, but even when the woman makes more money, often she still does more housework. Sometimes the woman does more labor even when the husband is retired,” she added.

If you’ve ever felt unappreciated for handling the housework, consider the “economy of gratitude” that refers to the fact that people are grateful for gifts when they are in a relationship. However, gifts are defined as receiving something more than is expected. If one person does a task all of the time in a relationship, then their effort is not seen as a gift. Yet, if the other partner does the task only occasionally, they expect to be thanked for doing it because they see their contribution as a gift, or something added.

“It’s kind of like adding insult to injury,” Alberts said.

In a survey they conducted, Alberts and former graduate student Justin Boren found that gay couples have an easier time in general with the division of labor because they talk about it more readily. Female roommates also talk about chores while male roommates typically don’t. Instead, males may resort to passive-aggressive techniques, such as piling dirty dishes on someone’s bed.

“Some men with a low threshold level expect women to do most of the household work and are bothered because their partner is not motivated to do so. This expectation may come from the fact that, for social and evolutionary reasons, women pay more attention to and have more awareness of detail. They also have a keener sense of smell,” Alberts said.

Kendra Knight, a former ASU graduate student, measured individuals’ threshold levels by showing them a series of increasingly messy photos to discern at what point they would be motivated to act. Knight’s work is being recognized at the National Communication Association Convention in November when she will receive the Gerald R. Miller Outstanding Dissertation Award.

How does one avoid the chore trap?

“At the beginning of a relationship, try not to do a task more than three times in a row, if you don’t want be seen as owning the task,” Alberts advises.

If someone has a lower threshold for messes, thank your partner for their efforts.

“If you don’t feel that your partner is grateful for your efforts, especially if you perform the lion’s share of domestic labor, that’s likely to exacerbate feelings of inequity and dissatisfaction, making a difficult situation even worse,” according to an article in The Greater Good that Alberts co-authored with Angela Trethewey, Hugh Downs School of Communication director and professor.

Keep in mind that some people are simply oblivious until it reaches a crisis point, such as when someone runs out of underwear after three weeks.

“If it doesn’t trigger your threshold, it doesn’t register,” Alberts said.

Why Republicans should be very, very afraid

Speaker of the House John Boehner. (photo: AP)
Speaker of the House John Boehner. (photo: AP)

By Walter Shapiro, Yahoo! News
24 November 13
ashington runs on hype. We live amid an almost daily onslaught of defining moments, game changers and never-before-in-human-history blather. No one has ever been banned from cable TV talk shows for overreacting to political stimuli. Skeptics are often right in the end, but, boy, are they treated like tedious killjoys along the way.

That’s why it’s tempting to play contrarian, as everyone in politics — aside from tea party true believers — is agog over polls showing support for the Republicans melting like a snowman in the Sahara.

A Thursday NBC News/Wall Street Journal national poll found the GOP’s approval rating down to (gulp) 24 percent. This came on the heels of an Associated Press/GfK poll that revealed the thumbs-up verdict on Congress (5 percent) is only slightly higher than the survey’s margin of error (3.4 percentage points). Small wonder that the liberal New Republic headlined a Friday article, “The Last Days of the GOP.”

Irrational exuberance can be as misleading in political soothsaying as it is on Wall Street. Polling analyst Nate Silver may have had a valid point when he wrote, “The media is probably overstating the magnitude of the [government] shutdown’s political impact.” It is also worth remembering that after two of the biggest presidential defeats in modern history (Barry Goldwater for the Republicans in 1964 and Democrat George McGovern in 1972), the loser’s political party rebounded to win the White House four years later.

But despite all those cautionary notes, there is a strong justification for a cry of, “This time it’s different.”

With the government shutdown and the dancing-on-the-edge-of-a-volcano gamesmanship over the debt ceiling, Americans rightly believe that things have become unmoored in Washington. A Gallup Poll, released on Friday, found that 60 percent of those surveyed believe a third party is needed. More ominously for both Democrats and Republicans, only 26 percent of those surveyed believe the two main parties are doing “an adequate job of representing the American people.”

Imagining a vibrant third party is a political fantasy that ranks right up there with a deadlocked national convention going to a ninth ballot. But two decades ago, there was the out-of-nowhere emergence of Ross Perot. Before Perot became known for his paranoid claims and his bizarre (and temporary) withdrawal during the 1992 Democratic Convention, he touched off an outsider populist movement with a centrist cut-the-national-debt ideology.

Indeed, the NBC News/WSJ poll asked whether voters would be willing to check a box on the ballot that would defeat everyone in Congress, including their own representatives. Sixty percent of those surveyed were willing to play 52-card pickup and start all over again with 535 new members of Congress.

For all the built-in advantages that should favor the Republicans in 2014 (from gerrrymandered one-party House districts to a daunting Senate map for the Democrats), I have yet to find a GOP strategist totally convinced that the party will hold its House majority. In similar fashion, Democratic consultants talk nervously about “the funky atmosphere” among the voters who soundly re-elected President Barack Obama less than a year ago.

Two factors could acerbate voter frustration with two-party politics as usual.

A strain of self-righteousness and stubbornness could prompt the president to overplay his hand during the government shutdown by refusing to accept the GOP’s eventual terms of capitulation. Just because the voters are rapidly losing patience with the Republicans does not automatically make Obama a winner. Sometimes politics can be a lose-lose game.

But the more likely outcome is that, even in defeat, the tea party wing of the Republican Party will draw the wrong lessons from its repudiation by a lopsided majority of voters. Instead of recognizing that House Republicans went too far in their implacable and implausible demands to defund Obamacare, the right wing of the GOP may perversely conclude that its congressional leaders hoisted the white flag too soon. The NBC News/WSJ poll picks up this split: 72 percent of tea party backers approve the scorched-earth tactics of the congressional GOP, while only 42 percent of non-tea-party Republicans hold similar views.

Not too long ago it would have been easy to predict that the 2014 elections would be a referendum on the rollout of Obamacare. Today, a better guess would be that the health care law will prove to be one of those partisan issues in which supporters and critics cancel each other out. There will be the inevitable clash of testimonial ads: Democrats will favor weepy spots featuring Americans getting health insurance for the first time, while Republicans will go with small-business owners wailing about how Obamacare forced them to cut jobs. And most voters will wisely hit the mute button.

What this suggests is that the after-effects from the government shutdown and the debt ceiling dance of doom are apt to become the dominant voting issues of 2014. That is why, despite the down-with-all-incumbents mood among the voters, Republicans are disproportionately at risk. Voters are accurately blaming the Republicans for the government shutdown — and that stigma will be hard to escape.

It is telling, in the NBC/WSJ poll, that 65 percent of voters think the government shutdown is hurting the economy and 63 percent describe a failure to approve a debt ceiling bill as “a serious problem.” These are memories that are not going to be erased with a handshake deal at the White House and the reopening of the national parks.

What has been happening, in effect, is that the Republicans have been re-enacting the centennial of World War I a year early.

In 1914, cheering throngs all over Europe sent their boys off to war confident that victory could be achieved in a few months with limited casualties. Instead, for the next four years, armies on both sides endured horrible death tolls in the trenches of France. And, increasingly, soldiers found it impossible to recall what they were fighting for.

So it was when the House Republicans shut down the government confident that they could win major concessions from the White House in a few days. Now they are hunkered down in the trenches, with public opinion turning against them, desperate for any rationale to abandon the battlefield. But they cannot simply surrender because … well … that would mean that they have been bleeding in the polls for nothing. Rarely has a political party lost so much so rapidly from a series of strategic blunders. So, for a change, I believe the hype. Republicans will need a long time to recover from their biggest Capitol Hill debacle in memory.