Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Union is the measure

What a great @#$%^&* piece by Mark Sumner. Straight. Up. (click title for original post)

Union is the measure
by Mark Sumner
Sun Feb 20, 2011

There's a word in the very first line of the Constitution of the United States that describes the instrument through which freedom is held. It's a term for people acting in concert to secure their liberty and hold those rights against any opponent. That word is union.

From its founding, the story of this nation has been the story of union. It is the story of two centuries spent in building up the ability of ordinary citizens to treat with wealthy, powerful, politically connected entities. That story contains instances of tragedy. Thousands died in the struggle, many thousands more suffered poverty or were outcast from communities. But the story of union also contains far-reaching triumphs. Every paid vacation, every weekend, every overtime dollar, every protection from arbitrary dismissal and unfair treatment, everything that makes your working life tolerable, came because people stood together in union at risk to their own livelihoods and often their own lives. Some of those laws exist only because workers stood in union when not only corporations but their own government attacked them not just with guns, but with bombers. They paid the price. You reap the benefits.

When we talk about "the greatest generation" that brought the nation through World War II and built America into a post-war powerhouse, we're speaking of a population where nearly a third of workers were union members. It's no coincidence that the peak period of growth and progress coincides with the peak period of union membership. When people act in union, there's nothing they can't accomplish. When people cannot join in union, when everyone must face the powerful alone, all rights are nothing more than words.

Whether in a union of states and nations or a union of workers and citizens, only by working in concert can rights be wrested from oppressors and held against despots. That's why tyrants quake at the sound of union. That's why the right to act in union is the ability that the downtrodden most desire and authorities first attack. Union is the measure of freedom.

The outlawing of independent unions is the clearest and most consistent marker of despotism around the world. When Gaddafi seized control of Libya in 1969, his first speech proclaimed the end of labor unions. No sooner had he secured control of Cuba than Fidel Castro banned the ability of unions to strike or to bargain over salary and benefits, saying such demands were detrimental to "the national economy." In Colombia today, right-wing militias work together with corporations to keep down costs and demands for decent working conditions in the most effective way they know–they execute union leaders.

There's a good reason why governments and corporations alike show trepidation when people are able to organize. Union is effective. For all the pretty speeches and all the ham-handed threats, the signal that the Iron Curtain was finally rising didn't come in Berlin or Washington, D.C., it came in the shipyards of GdaƄsk, when men dared to wave the flag of an independent union. Want to determine where governments are actually concerned about the rights of their people? You only have to look at how free people are to organize for a cause. Without that, no other rights matter. With it, all other rights will follow.

The First Amendment to the Constitution enshrines a number of freedoms including religion, speech and the press, but this amendment should not be read as a random list of disconnected items. Everything in it directly depends on the liberties held out in the closing words: the ability of the people to peacefully assemble and to petition for redress. When the Constitution extends the right of assembly, it's not just giving us the right to gather together for no purpose. What's protected is the right to join together in common cause, and to seek as a group to move institutions that would not respond to individuals acting alone.

The American dream—the dream that an average citizen can enjoy a decent life, raise a family, and hope for the future—was created in union, sustained by union, and is dependent on union. That dream stands on a knife edge. Already the forces that oppose union have torn away the hopes of many Americans. As union membership has fallen, decent pensions have disappeared. As union membership has fallen, health care costs have increased. As union membership has fallen, pay for workers has stagnated. As union membership has fallen corporate profits—and executive pay—have soared. The decline of union is the birthplace of inequity.

At this moment, the same forces that have ripped union away from most workers are acting against those few who still share the ability to speak with a collective voice. They want to wreck this last bastion, burn it down, stomp it, bury it, extinguish it forever, so that they can sleep safe knowing their power will not be challenged. They want to erase the work of two centuries, turn the American dream into a subject for nostalgia, and make the Bill of Rights into a sheet of paper.

That is what's on the line in Wisconsin.

Nothing has changed since the time that first line of the Constitution was written. Union is not just a means to oppose tyranny, it is the only means.

....the storming of the Wisconsin Statehouse.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Kanye, dude. Great new record, but your lyrics have gotten even worse, yo!

a comment I made on a website earlier today, in lieu of "proper review"...

In case you're wondering, the new Kanye West record is very good, like all his records (the first 3 are great). I repeat: very good. the problem I have w/ giving this one "great" status, however, is his juveni...le lyrics/assertions/allusions are the worst they've ever been on any records; and there a lots of them on this one. they're just finally annoying me. since day #1 he's had a certifiable 'wack' style (one of the reasons many don't like him, and I do), and truth be told, has never strung together a complete record w/out some amount of weak-azz/bad lyrics. but the music/beats/vocals/songwriting/production and even good lyrics always overshadowed those. once again, the songs/vocals/guest contributions/beats & arrangements are off the charts/great on this new one. but it's littered w/ more bad/weak/immature lyrics than ever before. so many, it gets in the way, for me. was kind of hoping he'd get better in that regard. plus, Jay Z's on it (still), who's terrible, as usual.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Our Great Sin - by Devin Coldewey

I just came across this today. It's fabulous. Have no idea who Devin Coldewey is, but i like him immediately. sj

Our Great Sin
Devin Coldewey
Feb 1, 2011

I recently watched, like many of our readers, the interview (1, 2) with Mike Daisey regarding the conditions under which Apple products are made in China. And at the risk of fomenting conflict with Mr. Daisey, I would like to editorialize on the topic in slightly broader and harsher terms.

Actually, it’s not that I disagree with the man, exactly. It’s that he doesn’t go far enough, and in doing so conveniently avoids requiring himself or anyone else from doing anything but being concerned. If you’re going to take on ideas like globalism, corporate responsibility, and cross-cultural morality, you don’t get off that easy. You can’t establish a predicate like “the way our lifestyle is made possible is immoral” and somehow avoid unpleasant conclusions.

The “great sin” isn’t Apple’s, or any one of the other major international corporations that use Foxconn or similar megafactories. And it isn’t Foxconn’s either. It’s clearly, inescapably, ours.

Now, I’m not going to get all Das Kapital on you. The idea here is simpler and closer to home than some grand idea of political and economic metatheory. The basic fact is this: an “ethical” iPhone would be too expensive. That’s literally all there is to it (replace iPhone with your device of choice). Everything follows from our own unwillingness to pay for the true cost of a device. People want a better world, but they don’t want to pay for it. Nothing new there, really.

To pretend otherwise is plain hypocrisy. The question is whether we are willing to take responsibility for our own immorality? We’re too cheap to care where our goods come from. Admitting to anything less is ridiculous.

There are three primary responses when confronted with incontrovertible proof of your own immorality:

Claim moral status and adjust actions
Claim moral status and justify actions
Claim no moral status and continue actions

There are precious few who will take door number one. It means giving up nearly everything that makes up the life of a first-world citizen. Very little in the way of consumer electronics, cars, and other status symbols is manufactured ethically. Door number one is abandoning the pleasant inequality inherent to the modern world. Can we be expected to do that? I guess it depends entirely on what we expect from ourselves, so I’m going to guess that no, we won’t be doing it.

Door number two is where you’ll find most people. I’m not sure how one does it, but you can apparently take the moral high ground while continuing the actions you condemn. Politicians have no trouble doing this, but their airport-bathroom dealings aren’t usually public (public information, rather). And millions of people will buy bottled water while deploring the state of the third world, and not feel the hypocrisy leaking from every pore. Last year everyone made a lot of noise over the supposed iPhone 4 suicide. The outrage was quickly forgotten and everyone became angry instead at Apple for a design flaw in the device. Easy come, easy go.

click HERE to see original piece and finish reading article (including the link to video interviews Devin is responding to). you'll be glad you did.

Kickspit Underground Rock Festival!!!

just watch.

for those in the dark, Saturday Night Live is back to it's awesome form, the last several years.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I drank 763 beers last year. how many did you drink?

As 2009 came to a close, out of nowhere, I had this thought: “I wonder how much beer I drank this year?” Too many, probably, I guessed. A day or two after I had that thought, I happened upon this article detailing how heavy drinkers, as well as just moderate drinkers of beer, have significantly higher risks of developing multiple cancers, such as esophageal, stomach, colon, liver, pancreatic and lung. Sobering, to say the absolute least:
“In general, the odds increased in tandem with the men's lifetime alcohol intake…with several cancers, men who drank at least one beer per day tended to have higher risks than those who drank on a regular, but less-than-daily, basis….when it came to esophageal cancer, for instance, men who drank one to six times per week had an 83 percent higher risk than teetotalers and less-frequent drinkers, while daily drinkers had a three-fold higher risk.”

Just one beer per day? A six-pack per week? Whoa. It’s not like I want to live forever, but I’d prefer to maximize the one life I have on this planet (if it’s not too much effort), and spend my old and alone years suffering in as little pain as possible.

“So,” I thought, “It’s simple: I’ll cut down in 2010, keep track of how much beer I actually drink, and then at the end of the year, I’ll take stock. If need be, I’ll cut down even more, in 2011.”

The very next thought I had was, “I need an easy way to keep track of every beer I drink in 2010. Perhaps there’s an app for this?” Sure enough, there was. Took me 4 seconds to find it. It’s called “Beer Counter.” Brilliant!

So in the first several minutes of 2010, with the press of a finger, I tapped on miPhone, entering the first beer I drank that year. Then another. And another.

I kept track of every single beer I drank last year, whether I was at home, out for dinner, at a rock show, a sports event, out of town, or hanging at a friend’s house. Every single one.

I finished my 763rd beer, as the clock struck midnight, ringing in 2011. That’s an average of 2 beers a day; 15 beers a week; or 64 beers a month. It’s roughly 32 cases a year. I also took pictures of every case of beer I bought. Here are just a few:

A few days into this year, I decided it would be awesome if I could decrease my beer intake from last year, by around 25%. This seemed like a do-able goal, I thought, and I’d be building on the previous year’s decrease.

Well, I’m just finishing my 47th beer right now, 31 days in. That’s just 1.5 beers a day – right on target!

I’ll check in with y’all this time next year for an update…

I always knew she was the cool one...

After dozens of agonizing and horrific generations of Bush family members, one of them finally - mercifully - breaks the mold and does something compassionate, reasonable, positive, and with people's best interest in mind.