Saturday, June 21, 2008

Saturday five

Per our conversation from yesterday, name five things unions can do to improve public confidence in Organized Labor. I'm looking at this as essentially a PR question, rather than "what can we do to improve the labor movement," although there's obviously some overlap. On top of that, some unions already do some or all of the things I'm going to mention - you can think of this then as a sort of (forgive me) "best practices" type question.
  1. Transparency, transparency, transparency - People should know how unions arrive at the decisions they do, and members should know how to access the decision-making process
  2. Invest in member leadership development - When people think "union," they should think of their co-workers, neighbors, and family members instead of an international president or paid staff person (not that those other two aren't important). People have more confidence in people who are close to them
  3. Push community involvement - while bread and butter issues will always have a central role in the life of a union, they should also find ways to become involved in their communities beyond just collective bargaining
  4. Stop selling out workers - This is directed primarily at Andy Stern
  5. Manage inter-union conflicts better - This one's kind of vague. I'm not suggesting a quieter or less vigorous politics within and between organizations, or shying away from competitive campaigns. But at the point where squabbles overtake the welfare of the workers we organize, we should have a strong cup of calm-the-fuck-down

All right, kids! Add yours and rip apart mine in the comments!

Friday, June 20, 2008

David Harvey, British-American Marx Warrior

David Harvey is a beer-drinking, British Baltimore guy and geographer. He is the author most famously of The Condition of Postmodernity, which together with Jameson's Postmodernism came to pretty much inform a whole sub-cadre of marxist cultural theory associated with other badasses like Stuart Hall, etc.

Now he's doing a righteous set of youtube lectures on Capital. And with all due respect to the lots of sorta embarassing carry-ons and also-rans parading under the drab awning of "Marxism," this shit is real. As is Marx, of course. It's just those guys with the banjos and the newspapers and most of all, the functionalist explanations of political events that really chafe me. I do love me some trotskyist faction action tho.


picked this up from a post to Henwood's Left Business Observer mailing's the newest data set from Gallup re: citizen "confidence" in various institutions. Follow the link for more detailed numbers, but here's the bottom line:

In the latest update, Congress ranks just below HMOs, for whom 13% of Americans express "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence. Big business, the criminal justice system, organized labor, newspapers, television news, and the presidency all receive relatively low confidence ratings.

In contrast, Americans express the most confidence in the military, as they have each year since 1988 (with the exception of 1997, when small business edged it out). Small business ranks second in the current poll, just ahead of the police. These are the only three institutions that for whom a majority of Americans express a high degree of confidence.

From 1973 through 1985, organized religion was the top rated institution. Today, just 48% of Americans are confident in organized religion, one of its lowest ratings ever.
Small Business, the Police, the White House, Organized Religion and the Television News all soundly whupped organized labor's ass on this one. Fun, huh? Where the fuck do we live? I wonder how high the cast of Top Chef would've scored?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

What's in a gaffe?

gaffe also gaff [gaf]
- noun
1. A clumsy social error; a faux pas: "The excursion had in his eyes been a monstrous gaffe, a breach of sensibility and good taste" (Mary McCarthy).
2. A blatant mistake or misjudgment.

[French, from Old French, hook]

Comparative gaffes:

Gaffe #1: Barack Obama, while making a point that fundamental human rights, including that of a fair trial, should be accorded to terrorists, is accused of being inconsistent (and lacking the requisite thirst for blood) because of a connection (made by the McCain campaign) between inmates at Gitmo (who now have habeas corpus rights), Osama Bin Laden (who remains at large six and half years and two wars after his Big Day), and the defendants at Nuremberg (who did not have habeas rights).

Gaffe #2: John McCain, in an effort to ward off these two associated images:

...ignores a request from Iowa state officials to cancel a campaign appearance in order to keep personnel focused on flood recovery efforts rather than providing security for the GOP nominee.

You tell me. Which "gaffe" is more illustrative of the respective candidates?

That About Sums It Up

Noted blog hater Buzz Bissinger on the Founding Fathers and the blogosphere:
You have blogs that proudly parade around saying, ‘We don’t need no stinking credibility or stinking information — it doesn’t matter what you say or do if you know how to write.’ They cover themselves under the mantle of the First Amendment. But if John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had any idea what the First Amendment would have wrought, they would have canceled it.
I pray to Jeebus that this blog can live up to the high standard Buzz has set for us all.

Preferably with a Rope, a Rifle and Blindfold Will Do

A statement from the McCain camp:
Senator Obama is obviously confused about what the United States Supreme Court decided and what he is calling for. After enthusiastically embracing the Supreme Court decision granting habeas in U.S. civilian courts to dangerous terrorist detainees, he is now running away from the consequences of that decision and what it would mean if Osama bin Laden were captured. Senator Obama refuses to clarify whether he believes habeas should be granted to Osama bin Laden, and instead cites the precedent of the Nuremburg war trials. Unfortunately, it is clear Senator Obama does not understand what happened at the Nuremburg trials and what procedures were followed. There was no habeas at Nuremburg and there should be no habeas for Osama bin Laden. Senator Obama cannot have it both ways. In one breath he endorses habeas for terrorists like 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and in the next he denies its logical conclusion of habeas for Osama bin Laden. By citing a historical precedent that does not include habeas, he sends a signal of confusion and indecision to our allies and adversaries and the American people.

Let me be clear, under my administration Osama bin Laden will either be killed on the battlefield or executed. Senator Obama's failure to comprehend the implication of the Supreme Court decision he embraced and the historical precedent of Nuremberg raise serious questions about judgment and experience and whether Senator Obama is ready to assume the awesome responsibilities of commander in chief.
Whaaa...? Does McCain somehow believe that if Osama was captured that the US would have trouble convicting him of a crime? That "granting" him the right to be brought before a judge and have charges read against him is out of the question? McCain is already arguing that he (or the president) be allowed to act as judge and jury and (somehow) order Bin Laden executed without trial. Will the "execution" take place in the Rose Garden? Will it be televised? Is the GOP candidate for president really saying that the Iraqi execution of Saddam is the model he'd follow? Interesting.

Almost lends some credence to the notion that Osama was CIA and the government would be very happy to not have this fact discussed in public.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Set Phasers to Cautiously Optimistic

I think my favorite image so far from this week's marriage bonanza in California is of George Takei (aka Mr. Sulu of Star Trek fame and, more recently, the father of Hiro Nakamura on Heroes) and his intended, Brad Altman. Shucks, that's sweet. The happy couple turned up today in a story in the NYT about the party-planning aspects of the newly-legalized same-sex nuptials. (In case you were wondering, Chekov and Uhura will be the best man and matron of honor, and they will walk down the aisle to "One" from "A Chorus Line.")

While part of me (the realistic part?) is wary of the ballot initiative that could pull the rug out from under the more than 2,700 couples who applied for marriage licenses in the first two days of legal same-sex unions, I remain cautiously optimistic that the state Supreme Court's ruling will stand. I was living in the Bay area when Gavin Newsom began marrying gay couples in 2004. It was such an amazing and exciting thing to witness...until the courts weighed in an annulled nearly 4,000 marriages.

Of course, that setback, while crushing, was closely followed by the Massachusetts decision. My sweetie and I tied the knot in MA soon after to support that state's commitment to marriage equality. We figured, if Massachusetts was where some of our friends would have to go to get hitched, we'd do the same. After all, just over forty years ago we would have been in the same boat, since interracial marriage was illegal in many parts of the country, with some of those laws remaining on the books until 1998 and 2000.

It's been four years since the Massachusetts decision and "traditional" marriage seems to be at least as intact as it ever was. And even though public opinion is divided, I take comfort in the knowledge that at the time the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Loving v. Virginia, polls consistently showed that a substantial majority of Americans were opposed to interracial marriage. In other words, marriage equality won't necessarily have to wait until public opinion turns strongly in favor of gay marriage.

So, for better or for worse (ugh, sorry--that even made me groan), I am holding out hope for California...and beyond.

No news is good news

I think I speak for all of us when I say it's a good thing that our Organization didn't get a mention in this article.

Sizemore Bites

Coming this November, Oregon:

Two more initiatives sponsored by conservative activists have qualified for the Nov. 4 general election ballot.

One would allow bigger deductions on state income taxes, shrinking the state budget by more than $1.7 billion. The other initiative, part of a broader battle over immigration policy, would limit the amount of time non-English-speaking students can be taught in their native language.

'Can't tell you how displeased I am to hear this news. Thankfully, this piece from CAUSA points to the formidable "Vote No" coalition that I'll have the pleasure of (participant)-observing.
A broad coalition of immigrant, refugee, educators and ally organizations are set to fight the ill-conceived measure by educating Oregonians about the additional costs the measure will create, the fact that it will take federal money away from Oregon’s General Fund Budget, the harm it will do to children and the control it will take away from local school boards, families and educators, those whom know best about educate our children.

"We are in the process of educating families in communities around Oregon about the harmful consequences of this measure”, said Aeryca Steinbauer, coordinator of CAUSA. “Oregonians everywhere should be concerned about its damaging effects on children and disruption of local control".

As a Rejoinder to Wobs

How does your so-called "science" education explain this?

Besides did you know that the word "science" is latin for "to know"? How can you "know" that evolution is real when it is just a theory? Ask any serious scientist and they will, after awhile, admit that evolution is just a theory. Like the creation of the Earth by God is a theory. A theory that's been around for 6000 years!

Why can't we teach both theories and let the kids decide?

What are you afraid of Wobs? That Jesus might enter those kids' hearts and reveal the truth to them? If Jesus can trust a baby T-Rex to lay quietly in His arms, even though T-Rex's are known man-eaters, then why can't you trust America's children to make up their own minds?

H/T: Larry Shae

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Odd conventions

Until today, I did not know that the chairman of the Republican National Committee was one Robert M. "Mike" Duncan (I've only belatedly started going through my designated "right-wing propaganda" mailbox again). I have nothing personal against Mike or his delightfully Southern everyman name. I'm only calling him out on this because his e-signature caught my attention. However, you've seen others like him.

Roger L. "Rocco" Malone.

Wallace R. "Bud" Jenkins.

Avery T. "Tom" Patterson.

Why sign your name like that? Mike probably always introduces himself to people as "Mike Duncan," and he made it to the top of the RNC (regardless of it's current appeal as a post of duty), so why fuck with a winning formula?

On the other hand, maybe he prefers the formality of his given name for such serious work as making his candidate seem like a Man for the Times by recycling memes from the 80s. The 1980s, in case there was any doubt. So for that high-(on something)-level communication, go with the solid and officious Robert M. Duncan, etc. etc.

But awkwardly inserting the nickname - in quotes, no less! - into the more long form signature? Why am I picturing an airbrushed State Farm agent's portrait?

Oh - incidentally, I'd like you all to start referring to me as "Jim".


Here's Dean Baker, for those of you wondering what in the devil difference it makes that Obama appoints Rubin-ites to head his economic team. Baker alleges that Rubin and the "free trade" crowd are in fact protectionists when it comes to professionals and their assets:
Robert Rubin has never pushed trade deals that focused on eliminating the barriers that make it difficult for highly educated professionals from developing countries from working in the United States. Has has actively promoted trade agreements that increase protectionist barriers in the form of copyright and patent protection.

I know BTP readers have heard me make these points hundreds of times, but obviously they will have to continue to be made until the media stops asserting that Rubin and his ilk support "free trade."

Trade policy in the last quarter century has been about one-sided protectionism, not free trade. It has been a major factor shifting income upward over this period. It is one of the main misconceptions promoted by the beneficiaries of these policies.

T-Shirt Can(n)ons

I've been obsessed with this record from afar since I was 14 years old, always wondering if I'd ever grow the moral imagination necessary to identify with the sagas and the sexes of Jagger embodied in the glorious, vacuous, sensuous and innocuous cover snap.
Anyway, another 14 years of living passed before I got around to doing the right thing and checking this dog out of the library, and let me tell you, well, shit. Jeepers. 1/2 these tracks feature a GE Smith-y band with GE Smith. but the other half is presided over by MATERIAL, Bill Laswell's no wave squad from downtown nyc.
Who knew?!? And who'd've guessed that even the difference between GE Smith and Bill Laswell could be entirely washed over in Emotional Rescue-ish production values and overwrought, campy affectations from a man who is campy and overwrought even when he's also comatose.

I like it, all told. Of course it's not as good as Emotional Rescue, but then again, neither is college football.

Speaking of no wave, it'd seem that said "genre" is now officially important, as both pitchfork generation and forced exposure generation luminaries have been allowed to hold forth in that glossy, social history manner made famous by Please Kill Me! (If this trend continues, it'll only be a decade or two before you, me and pierre bourdieu's niece are all writing semi-autobiographical novellas about the graduate employee movement.)

As a Sonic Youth fan-boy since prepubescence and a former Knitting Factory employee, I never imagined a moment where Teenage Jesus and the Jerks'd be elevated to coffee table fare. But then, if Bill Laswell was already pulling checks out of Mick Jagger by 1985, clearly I'm the falcon with the wax on his wing here.

Bonus Survey Questions? Sure. Let's tackle new wave.
1) Do you consider Cheap Trick to be a new wave outfit?
2) Who is less overrated, David Byrne or Elvis Costello?
3) Are the Pretenders and/or Tom Petty and/or Television new wave outfits in your mind? M'point, of course, is to say that new wave is as vaguely defined (and awesome) as is no wave.

The Italian Problem

I have a co-worker who is rooting for the Eye-ties during the Euro 2008 Cup. She is doing so largely based on the fact that the Eye-ties are babelicious. This is fine. Attractiveness is a fine reason to root for anyone. Some, but certainly not myself, would argue that it is the only reason to watch women's tennis.

The problem comes in where she seems to be under the impression that I, too, should be rooting for the Italians. My resistance to this proposal is greeted with incredulousness. My protests that the Italians are divingest, cheatingest, most soccer desecrating people on the planet and that no one who is not Italian roots for the Italians are rejected. Apparently, I fail to grasp exactly how awesome looking these men are.

Go France Romania!

Monday, June 16, 2008

The art of rhetoric

You've got to hand it to Wes Vernon - he tells you exactly what he's about in the first two sentences:
First off, this is a column about national security — period.

Wait for it...
It is not about homosexuality per se.

I don't want to know about whatever lawful activity two civilians — in a civilian setting — conduct behind closed doors. It's none of my business.

Wherein the totally not homophobic Mr. Vernon launches into a high-minded discourse about national security (period) that has nothing to do with homosexuality. Except that allowing teh gehys in the military will somehow rapidly cripple that institution, possibly due to the sudden overwhelming influx of toasters.

Harsh medicine

At least one Michigander reads this, so I'll appeal to him for some enlightenment while the rest of us speculate wildly.

The setting Al Gore's endorsement of Obama (to which is due an entirely expected but nevertheless enthusiastic "BOOM!") in Michigan struck me as interesting. Given the UAW's hostility to any sort of legislation or regulation which acknowledges and acts upon the threat of global climate change, I wonder how a Gore endorsement is received by the families in Michigan who are still dependent upon the automotive industry. Likewise, I was also struck by comments Obama made while campaigning in the state:
Obama focused on his plan to improve the economy while in Michigan, which has the nation's highest unemployment rate. He told a crowd in Flint, which had a seasonally unadjusted April unemployment rate of 9.3 percent, that they cannot fear globalization but must embrace it as a reality of the future.

"At critical moments of transition like this one, success has also depended on national leadership that moved the country forward with confidence and a common purpose," he said.

Perhaps I'm reading too much into this, but it seems like Obama sent a pretty big message to Detroit about what his priorities are going to be, and while I think the priorities (attention to energy policy that will necessarily impact automobile manufacturers, new investment spending, possibly as assistance for economically dislocated workers) are solid, I'm wondering if this is a bitter pill to swallow in Michigan.

crap/not crap: Obama on Public Education

from an ABC interview.

TAPPER: But one of the ways that proponents of school choice say that the best way to change the status quo is to give parents, inner-city parents a choice. Why not?

OBAMA: Well, the problem is, is that, you know, although it might benefit some kids at the top, what you're going to do is leave a lot of kids at the bottom. We don't have enough slots for every child to go into a parochial school or a private school. And what you would see is a huge drain of resources out of the public schools.

So what I've said is let's foster competition within the public school system. Let's make sure that charter schools are up and running. Let's make sure that kids who are in failing schools, in local school districts, have an option to go to schools that are doing well.

But what I don't want to do is to see a diminished commitment to the public schools to the point where all we have are the hardest-to-teach kids with the least involved parents with the most disabilities in the public schools. That's going to make things worse, and we're going to lose the commitment to public schools that I think have been so important to building this country.

A Message From Dave and Patrick

They screwed my dad over by shipping him down to Klamath Falls, then firing him two years later. But, hey, it's the fast food trade, they're not gonna make sweet love to ya all night long.

Won't Somebody Please Think of the Children?

Even I think this is inappropriate.

Caution: Blogs May Be Hazardous to Your Health

Wow, who knew we were engaged in such a weighty and potentially perilous venture here? I came across the following on my university's Counseling and Wellness Center web site. Apparently we bloggers have the potential to do grievous harm...

If you or someone you know has been the victim of anonymous online blogging…

What effects can hostile blogging have on someone?
Though it may seem harmless to the poster, the person on the receiving end can feel publicly humiliated and helpless to address it. The unfairness and anonymity of the attacks can cause a sense of being victimized and lead to apprehension and avoidance of social situations and/or classes. We all want to feel safe in public and this includes feeling safe from attacks on our character.

The stress of these attacks may exacerbate other normal stresses and cause the person to feel very anxious or depressed, violated, or irritable. Sometimes the attacks result from conflict or perceived rejection in relationships and the intent of the poster is to harm, though the effects can be more severe than anticipated. This then is a form of relationship violence. No wonder the target of the post has a strong reaction.

What are some ways to cope with hostile blogging?

  • Find supportive friends and let them know how you feel so they can support you and reassure you about your value and importance to them. Don’t allow yourself to get socially isolated.
  • Maintain routines that make you feel good about yourself and give you a sense of order or control in your life.
  • Remind yourself consciously of all your positive qualities. Although the feelings of humiliation can be quite strong, remember that the attacks are unfair, gross distortions and often motivated by feelings of inadequacy or plain insensitivity on the part of the poster. Keep it in perspective.
  • Know the impact of the post will subside, and readers will move on to the next piece of gossip. There are also a large number of readers who regard the attacks as ridiculous and immature.
  • Resist temptation to retaliate against the post by responding or posting about the person you think did it. This backfires as it draws more negative attention to the issue.
  • Avoid reading the posting again, as this will keep the feelings raw and intense.

What supports are available on campus?

  • Consider speaking with a Counseling and Wellness therapist. This is a confidential and private visit than can validate how you feel and help you explore how to cope with this.
  • Contact the Dean of Students’ Office. They’re very concerned about anonymous blogging and can provide additional support.

Feel free to contact Student Legal Services to learn more about your legal rights in this situation.

"Hostile blogging." It's (apparently) a serious problem, people! Let's all be careful not to let our insensitivities or feelings of inadequacy cause us to use our words in ways that might make others feel violated, humiliated, or socially isolated. (Not that any of us are inadequate, of course; we're all special, important people with many good qualities!) After all, we all want to feel safe on the internets, right? And if any of you are feeling anxious, depressed, or irritable, you can always come to me for support! Group hug!