Friday, May 30, 2008

Oh the places you'll go

I'm not sure what it says about either our politics or our sexual culture that you can get from here -

to here -
If one wishes to gaze upon the true face of the furry fandom, then all one needs to do is click their way over to one of the many image boards dedicated to the posting of pictures of hermaphrodite dragons or adorable little cubs getting slipped the meat from an adult furry, just so people can masturbate to it. Truly, there is nothing more sobering and depressing than clicking on one of these images and reading post after post commenting on how a little fox getting raped in the ass is “deliciously erotic". Seriously.

in literally three clicks of the mouse. I'll let the Sadly,Nauts! fill in the hilariously disturbing details.

Borrowing Without Asking?

Senator Gordon Smith (R-Oregon) has a new ad out wherein he comes out against partisan gridlock and for change. *zzzzzzzz* You can view it here, if you must.

It ran frequently last night during Lost. It will be interesting to see if this is going to be a non-stop campaign until November, or if he's trying to catch the last buzz of the primary season before shutting it down for the summer.

The interesting thing about his ad is his new logo.

Does that font look familiar? Maybe you've seen it here:

My tentative understanding is that the font is not proprietary, so no scandal. Instead, one almost has to tip one's hat to Sen. Smith and hope that Merkley can keep up.

RIP Harvey Korman

You'd come into our homes weekly and make us laugh. I hope this world served you as well as you served us.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Saying the quiet part loud and the loud part quiet

If one thing can be said about the lunatic fringe of the right wing, it's that they're not ones to dance around an issue. Take, for instance, their coverage of a recently filed ballot initiative in Colorado:
"This proposed constitutional amendment will define a person in Colorado as a human being from the moment of fertilization, the moment when life begins," according to a statement at Colorado for Equal Rights."


The Colorado plan targets a loophole U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun created when he wrote the original abortion opinion.

He concluded: "(If the) suggestion of personhood [of the preborn] is established, the [abortion rights] case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the [14th] Amendment."

By defining the unborn as a person, supporters believe, voters can simply spread the covering of constitutional protection over them, too.

Not exactly subtle, are they? Not exactly bright either. In the next paragraph, they telegraph their PR strategy, and surprise surprise! it's not about abortion:
As WND reported, a recent Colorado case highlighted what supporters describe as the need for the change.

In the case, a Colorado judge dismissed some charges against a man who caused a fatal car crash, because the victim, at 8½ months of a pregnancy, had not yet been born.

"'Person' is a defined term for purposes of the homicide statutes," wrote Judge Richard Gurley in a March decision in the case involving the death of Lileigh Lehnen, the born-alive daughter of 26-year-old Shea Lehnen.

"The definition states that 'person,' when referring to the victim of a homicide, means a human being who had been born and was alive at the time of the homicidal act," the judge said.

Disingenuous, n’est-ce pas? Because you don’t want to come right out and say, “We’re going to treat ob/gyns and women who seek to responsibly and safely terminate their pregnancies like we treat hitmen and the people who hire them.” The practical effect – and intended outcome – of this constitutional amendment is to lock up doctors and women. And if you ask me, when you spell that out to people, there’s no way in hell something this batshit insane gets approved.

Don't mourn, organize!

It’s with a heavy heart that I pass on the news that last Friday, Utah Phillips sloughed off his mortal coil after a protracted struggle with a bum ticker. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Phillips, the simplest way to describe him would be as a folk singer. But he was much more.

Utah Phillips was a living link to our past. He was a brilliant storyteller. He was a “people’s historian” in the truest sense of the term. He kept alive the oral traditions of tall tales and songs from a bygone era. He was a hobo troubadour. An organizer. An agitator. I would go so far as to say that I learned as much about labor history listening to Phillips’ folksy tenor as I did from reading dozens of books on the subject. His life and the stories he told made him something of a personal hero in a day when individuals of that caliber are exceedingly rare.

A great introduction to Phillips’ and his work can be found on the two albums on which he collaborated with Ani DiFranco, The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere and Fellow Workers (both “must owns,” in my estimation). He also left a body of solo work that is well worth checking out. Here’s a clip of him plying his trade:

Utah Phillips would be the last person to ask us to indulge in “pie in the sky when you die” eulogies. A more fitting tribute would be to continue the important work to which he dedicated his life – helping people remember their past in order to build a better future.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Woman's Place

Putting aside for a moment that the members of AFT have not actually voted to put anyone in office, it's nice to see AFT get a positive mention in the press.

From USA Today:
Delegates to the American Federation of Teachers' biennial meeting here [Chicago] in July are expected to elect Randi Weingarten their new president, along with two other longtime AFT officials: Antonia Cortese and Lorretta Johnson as secretary-treasurer and executive vice president, respectively.

According to the USA today, this would be the first time three women headed a "major" labor union.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The UAW Gets It Wrong (Again)

Apparently, tough environmental standards "discriminate" against the Big Three automakers.

From Salon:
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the UAW is opposing a bill introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D.-Calif., which would overturn the EPA's decision in December to deny California a waiver allowing the state to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Next thing you know, the UAW will be using jingoistic sloganeering to decry Japanese automakers "dumping" their small fuel-efficient cars on the American market...oh wait, the '80s, that's right.

A Larf For You

Goalies. *sigh*

Monday, May 26, 2008

AGEL Spring 2008

We write to affirm solidarity with all people who struggle against state violence. We all understand that within the confines of what we imagine to be the 'United States,' people face various forms of oppression that flow from the institutions of sexism, capitalism, racism, patriarchy, classism, imperialism, and homophobia among many things. We also understand that the logics of these institutions are disrupted and resisted everyday. Some of these struggles make the headlines because they qualify as easily digestible narratives. Others do not.

Given all these understandings, it is critical for us, as members of graduate employee locals, to ask ourselves, who is "we"? How are we going to define "us"? What are we calling for is a re-imagining of what types of actions does re-imagining ourselves demand? We cannot to use the word solidarity without a critical interrogation with whom and for what purpose we are invoking it. What do we do? Are we resisting oppression? Yes we are. Are we challenging the abuses of the state, and its power to create laws and structures that push people toward the margins? Yes we are. Thus, our community consists of those who are engaged in those same struggles. We haven't learned that yet. We need to learn that.

As the "academic archipelago" increasingly becomes a penal site in which our labor exploitation is not only an institutional practice, but a guiding principle of knowledge production, the need for critical engagement between graduate student locals and collaboration with insurgent intellectuals outside of the academy on combating issues of power and privilege is exigent.

It is with the explicit purpose of of challenging conventional understandings of union politics and creating communities of struggle that we are calling for the Critical Action Committee. The goal of the Critical Action Committee is to have a space where activists can discuss and create concrete plans of actions aimed at organizing across borders and boundaries such as "campus" versus "community." These divisions will continue to be meaningful as long as we continue to reify them. Organizing undergraduate students and non-tenure track instructors, working with local activists outside of the academy, or organizing with young people around issues of policing and incarceration, are things we are already doing. The activities are not peripheral to our labor organizing. Instead, it is precisely by working to unmake carceral landscapes that we create a context for fair labor. It is the aim of the Critical Action Committee to explore how we can re-center dismantling carceral landscapes in our labor organizing work. We are proposing that the Critical Action Committee meet for 2 hours at each meeting of the Alliance of Graduate Employee Locals, that each participating local dedicate at least one representative to attend the Critical Action Committee, and that meetings of the Critical Action Committee will be open to the public.

Gadgeting our way to green

Dave's talked about the consumerist approach to environmentalism before. Personally, I'm beginning to think that being green is the new conspicuous consumption, and this piece in the WaPo does little to disabuse me of that notion.

Don't get me wrong - I'm happy to see that people are looking to regulate their energy usage and buying more environmental savvy products (I think we have to minimize the extent of our green accolades until examining the whole process of production). Advertisers have cultivated a wonderful - and profitable - new market niche, and those who can afford it may look down their noses at their social inferiors who have yet to adopt the newest green tech.

But no matter how many people are able to live in solar-powered, compost-heated cob houses with cars run on homemade bio-fuel, it's unlikely to put much of a dent in energy consumption given that many will not be able to afford even the most basic green products, that recidivist assholes will try to more than offset personal efficiencies, and, most importantly, the development policies and infrastructure of the cheap-oil age.

In essence, we're trying to gadget our way out of a problem (and who can blame us, given 200 years of technological fixes to many of life's difficulties!) without trying to redress the underlying social relationships that are causing the problem in the first place. We need to come to the realization that a car-dependent lifestyle is quickly becoming unsustainable and work to mitigate the effects on those most vulnerable to the changes, as well as promote development in communities that encourage energy efficiency without having to buy gadgetry - walkable communities, good public transit, etc. Green technology is a great boon, so long as it's integrated in broader social changes that get at the root problem. But from where I sit, we have yet to have a serious national conversation about the problem.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

ICE with your meal?

Don't want that nasty union taste in your food? Have the workers deported....

The raids in Iowa this past week show what can be accomplished when the government and corporations really work together to Get 'r Done:

from FDL: Workers at the plant were routinely started at $5 per hour for their first three or four months on the job and then raised to $6, still well below Iowa's minimum wage of $7.25. Iowa Labor Commissioner David Neil confirmed to the Des Moines Register that Agriprocessors was being investigated by the state on suspicion of wage violations, paying people off the books and hiring underage workers... It's unclear what the raids' impact will be on the ongoing investigations into the company's workplace violations. With hundreds of workers -- and potential witnesses -- carted away, Jill Cashen, a spokesperson for the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), asked: "how can justice ever be served on these exploitation issues?" Agriprocessor's management must have been pleased with the timing of the raid. Not only did it put at least a crimp in the ongoing investigations of serious allegations of abuse by the company, it also derailed an effort by UFCW to organize the plants' workers and give them a shot at bargaining with management for better working conditions.

Lou Dobbs must be so proud.

(Not) This Date in American History

The last fourteen men alive in the Main West shaft of Centralia Coal Company's Mine #5, knowing that there was no hope of rescue, scrawled their messages of love on what scraps of paper they could find. "My dear wife: Goodbye. Name the baby Joe so you will have a Joe. Love, all. Dad."

At 3:29 pm, March 25, 1947 there was an explosion in the Main West shaft that killed one hundred and eleven men. Coal dust caught fire and spread along the shaft of the mine, killing some men instantly, choking others to death with dust and gas. While a tragedy, the explosion was not a surprise. Reports from an Illinois state inspector of mines repeatedly warned of the excessive dust in the #5 mine. The federal government had also warned of the dust, finding thirty-three major safety violations that could cause a disaster. The local union had written several letters to Illinois political figures and the officers of their parent union, the United Mine Workers of America. Unfortunately for the men of Local 52, their union was deeply involved in the effort to make unions a integral part of America, and the focus on the big picture meant that sometimes the concerns of the individual worker had to be sacrificed for the greater good.

The job of mine inspector in Illinois was a patronage job, usually going to men more concerned with cashing their check than keeping the mines safe. Illinois was the third largest coal producing state in the US at the time and coal was a factor in state politics. As such, most mine inspectors spent their time in company offices talking to company officials. When down in the mine, they were happy to be escorted by company officials, eschewing contact with the miners themselves. But the man responsible for inspecting the Centralia mine was different. Driscoll O. Scanlan rarely talked with mine mangers, preferring to spend his time with the miners in the mines. Scanlan knew that Mine #5 was a disaster waiting to happen. He told his bosses this in every report he sent them from February 1942 to March 1947.

Scanlan's reports hit the desk of Robert Weir. Weir worked under the Director of Mines and Minerals, Robert Medill. Medill's appointment as Director was a payback for political favors done for the Governor, but he was also supported by the United Mine Workers of America and the Progressive Mine Workers. Weir earned his job through the recommendation of the UWMA. When Scanlan's reports detailing the appalling conditions at the Centralia Mine came in, they were stamped "Received" and passed through Weir to a secretary who would type them up and forward them to the owner of the mine with the request that he please comply with the recommendations made. Weir signed the letters and they were mailed off to the Centralia Mine manager. This happened on a quarterly basis for some three years, but the Centralia Coal Company never responded. When they did begin responding, they did little more than issue promises to do better and excuses about manpower shortages.

When the men of UMWA Local 52 turned to their union for help, they got no response. The UMWA at the time was tied up in a high level struggle with the federal government over control of the mines. The tripartite arrangement John L. Lewis, President of the UMWA, had helped negotiate--where the government took control of the mines and the UMWA negotiated a central contract with the largest mine owners through the government--was not working out as he had expected, as the Supreme Court had just ruled that the miners had lost their right to strike when the government took control of the mines. Moreover, at the state level the UMWA was more concerned about enforcing union discipline and working with the state bureaucracy than protecting workers.

In 1932, the fifteen thousand southern Illinois miners, believing that Lewis had betrayed them in siding with coal operators over a contract dispute, had marched in Mulkeytown, Illinois in a attempt to shut down the mines and force the UMWA to consider reforms. Their march was met by a "sheriff's army" that routed the miners and crushed the picket. Soon thereafter, however, the miners would form the Progressive Miner Workers union, a union based on the idea of community-based unionism, with an emphasis on local control and moving the union beyond bread and butter issues. Unfortunately for the PMW, Lewis was a very powerful man in Illinois and had a seat on the newly formed National Labor Relations Board. The Progressive Mine Workers had no luck getting their union recognized in Illinois or by the NLRB, but, instead, faced continued government interference with the operation of their union.

Lewis' response to the trouble stirred up by the PMW was to suspend the right of UMWA's District 12 (Illinois) to elect it's own leaders. He installed Hugh "Spud" White in the president's chair as a proxy. White understood that it was his job to keep internal dissent under control and to maintain the co-operative working arrangement that the UMWA had built with the Illinois Governor's office and the Mining Board. That the UMWA had managed to install one of their own, Murell Reak, on the Mining Board (in addition to having a hand in selecting Director Medill and being able to effectively appoint his deputy) might be seen as a victory for labor. That all of these men, throughout the tragic story of the Centralia Mine #5, ignored all pleas from Local 52 and dismissed all safety reports of hazardous conditions in the interest of maintaining their friendly relations with the state government cannot.

Over a period of two years, from March 1945 to March 1947, the miners of Local 52 repeatedly petitioned the government and their union for help in enforcing the law. The Mining Board did visit the mine and perform a special "inspection," but by all accounts, they merely talked with the mine managers and went on a short ride through the main, cleanest sections of the mine. The Mining Board's subsequent report noted that there were some significant safety violations in the mine, but did little more than send the standard letter requesting that the mine owner see to these issues as soon as possible. When Local 52 would ask Spud White for help, he used the Board's report as a shield, claiming that it was the government's job, not the union's, to enforce mine safety.

John L. Lewis cried at the gravesides of the men killed in the Centralia Mine. He used the occasion to call for a six-day period of mourning, thereby instigating a nationwide strike he could use for leverage in his battle with Secretary King. The Centralia Mine Company was fined $1000, the maximum amount it could be fined for the two safety violations a jury found it guilty of. Mrs. Joe Bryant, who named her newborn daughter Joedy, received $1000 from the UMWA's Health and Welfare Fund, which was a major achievement of John L. Lewis' tripartite negotiations. Her husband's funeral expenses and bills accounted for most of this money. She and her remaining seven children (she also lost a son in the mine) would have $24 a week from the state for five years and then $20 a week from Social Security until Joedy turned eighteen.

Much of the information for this post came from:"The Blast in Centralia No. 5: A Mine Disaster No One Stopped." John Bartlow Martin. Harper's Magazine, March, 1948.

This post should be part of the series "This Date in American History." The (Not) was necessary because a couple of "This Date in History" websites dated this event as May 25, 1947. Not until I was into my research did I notice that the event actually took place on March 25th.