Category Archives: Labor Unions

Hot Air

Genius

The MacArthur Foundation has released its 2014 Fellows list and — whaddya know? — graphic novelist Alison Bechdel has scored a prize for, as the org. puts it, “redefining” the memoir.

Bechdel has written a couple of graphic memoirs entitled Fun Home and Are You My Mother? She became known a few years ago for her strip Dykes to Watch Out For.

Book Cover

I’ve hammered on this before and I’ll continue to do so: You have to get into graphic novels. They’re not just superheroes and Watchmen or fantasy cosplay stuff. The first GN I ever read was J. Edgar Hoover: A Graphic Biography by Rick Geary. Trust me when I say it was ten times more compelling and informative than any other conventional biography of one of this holy land’s most evil 20th Century villains.

Large swaths of Bechdel’s story lines concern her struggles as a starving artist. Scoring the Mac. Fellowship happily ought to ease the money crunch for her for a while at least.

The Fndn. also tossed kudos and scratch in the direction of labor activist Ai-jen Poo, who has been a lifelong labor organizer for domestic workers. She co-founded Domestic Workers United and then moved on to executively direct the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Her groups have been instrumental in getting  domestic workers’ protection laws passed in numerous states.

MacArthur 2014

Ai-jen Poo (L) & Alison Bechdel

The annual Fellowships are known popularly as the MacArthur Genius Grants. The Foundation awards the grants to selected US citizens who “show exceptional merit and promise for continued and enhanced creative work.” The grants, now standing at $625,000 to each awardee, are designed to allow artists, thinkers, and activists a very comfortable five-year window to create, think, and be active w/o worrying about next month’s rent.

Past winners include:

  • Stephen Jay Gould paleontologist
  • Robert Penn Warren poet & author
  • Cormac McCarthy author
  • Elaine Pagels historian
  • John Sayles filmmaker
  • Harold Bloom literary critic & humanities professor
  • Merce Cunningham choreographer
  • Marian Wright Edelman children’s actvist
  • James (The Amazing) Randi illusionist & educator

Randi

Randi

  • Thomas Pynchon author
  • Max Roach jazz drummer
  • Erroll Morris documentary filmmaker
  • Susan Sontag author
  • Taylor Branch historian
  • Twyla Tharp dancer

Tharp

Tharp

  • Ornette Coleman jazz musician & composer
  • Adrienne Rich poet
  • Cindy Sherman photographer
  • Anna Deavere Smith playwright & actor
  • David Foster Wallace author
  • Katherine Boo journalist
  • Lydia Davis poet
  • Alex Ross music critic
  • Edwidge Danticat author

Danticat

Danticat

  • Junot Diaz author
  • Karen Russell author

Altogether, there’ve been nearly 1000 MacArthur Fellowship winners with a total take of some $375 million. Money, my friends, that’s been well-spent.

Voter Fraud?

Don’t get me wrong, I love the place — but the Art Institute of Chicago is the world’s greatest museum?

From CNN Online

Has the Louvre been closed down? Any and all of the Smithsonian facilities?

Oh, That Little Thing?

I guess we know where the Indy Star stands on that mini-controversy brewing in Liberty, Indiana.

Liberty is the home of Whitewater State Park where a privately-funded memorial to deceased military veterans stands. The memorial, an eight-foot tall, chainsaw-carved eagle perched on a stump also has a white cross at its base. A couple of humanist groups are making noises about suing the state for displaying a religious symbol. The Center for Inquiry and the Freedom from Religion Foundation both have sent letters to Gov. Mike Pence, objecting to the cross.

Even though private citizens and veterans groups paid for the sculpture, the fact that it stands on public grounds strikes certain folk as a subtle endorsement of the cross religion by the state. The Guv, meanwhile, has harrumphed, “The freedom of religion does not require freedom from religion.”

In an example of how everybody from corporate media types to lowly, humble bloggers can color an argument with subtle wordage, the Indy Star this morning headlined its online piece on the controversy thusly:

Tiny Indiana cross draws lawsuit threat from 2nd secular group

Indy Star 20140917

The cross, see, is tiny. Hardly worth getting all het up over. The implication, natch, is that these “secularists” are nit-picky pains in the ass.

And you know what? The Indy Star is right. Humanists (or, if you prefer, secularists) are indeed nit-picky pains in the ass. If you believe, as I do, in an inviolate wall between church and state, then any cross or Star of David or the star and crescent, no matter how big or small, is an affront when it’s on public property.

Here’s my humanist line: You’re free to worship anybody or anything you’d like. Only don’t expect me to pay for it through my tax dollars. And don’t go erecting even 14-inch tall crosses in my state park, especially when it’s doubtful you’d ever — ever — erect a plaque bearing the Takbīr there.

Hot Air

Retro Atrocity

Here’s a snappy PJ top for you:

Pyjamas

Comfy Sleep Makes You Free

Israeli journalist, photographer, and blogger Dimi Reider Tweeted this. I suppose it can be argued that the designer unintentionally paid homage to the Final Solution. Sort of like someone saying, Hey, that picture of a grinning little black boy eating watermelon looks cute and being unaware of its Jim Crow implications. It’s possible some people might be that ill-informed about world history. OTOH, there is the matter of criminal ignorance.

Taken to its ridiculous extreme, criminal ignorance becomes criminal stupidity. Take Holocaust deniers. Just for the hell of it, I googled Holocaust denial. I found this forum on Stormfront.org, which trumpets the slogan, “White Pride, World Wide.” A poster initiated a thread entitled, “Top 10 reasons why the holocaust didn’t happen” [sic]. He — I assume it’s a he; would a female be this moronic? — only lists five reasons.

I find this fellow’s miscount both funny and reassuring.

Holy Food

Sometimes I think people just don’t understand what food is. Scads of people talk as though certain commonly ingested comestibles are as dangerous as a rifle shot through the skull. The same folks go on to tout the magical properties of other fruits and vegetables that can cure everything from a bad mood to leukemia.

Broccoli

Magic

Websites like the tinfoil hat-ish Natural News espouse loads of this silver bullet/holy grail thinking. Don’t get me wrong — living on a diet of french fries and Snickers bars likely will turn your bod into an ugly corpse, no matter how enticing that eating regimen might be. Similarly, if you fill your piehole with crunchy, multi-colored plants and do your best to stay away from fatty meats and Bugles®, you’ll prob. look and feel great well into your doddering years.

There is, in other words, a middle ground.

Still, peeps gush about things like superfoods.

Hidden away in a piece on how superfoods don’t prevent cancer (in cancerresearchuk.org via IFLS) is this little nugget:

The term ‘superfood’ is used to describe foods with apparently special health-related powers. These include blueberries, broccoli, garlic, raspberries, green tea and many more. Typically, such foods are hailed as having the power to prevent or even cure many diseases, including cancer.

But the term ‘superfood’ is really just a marketing tool, with little scientific basis to it.

Just thought you’d like to know.

Union, Yes!

The Loved One points out a spot-on speech given by Joe Stiglitz, fave son of Gary, Indiana, and a Nobel Prize laureate in economics to boot.

Stiglitz says this holy land and the world which follows it slavishly have rewarded bad guys of late (read: since the dawn of the Age of Reagan). If, Stiggy implies, you’re borderline or all-the-way sociopathic, today’s unregulated, Ayn Rand economy has a bushel-full of prizes for you.

Stiglitz

Stiglitz

He gave the speech last fall at the AFL-CIO convention in Los Angeles and Bill Moyers reprinted it (via AlterNet). Yet another reason to dig Stig: he actually speaks to unionists. Most pols and economists these days avoid them as  they would a plenary session for the North American Man-Boy Love Association. Count me in as a union guy. I’ve been a member of three unions in my life: Chicago’s municipal laborers union back in the ’70s and, later, the National Writers Union and the Newspaper Guild. W/o unions, most of us’d be walking around with only six or seven fingers and our collective lung linings would be a rich bituminous coal ebony.

Stiglitz said:

Two years ago, I wrote an article for Vanity Fair called, “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%,” which really got to the gist of it. For too long, the hardworking and rule-abiding had seen their paychecks shrink or stay the same, while the rule-breakers raked in huge profits and wealth. It made our economy sick and our politics sick, too.

Later, he added:

We have become the advanced country with the highest level of inequality, with the greatest divide between the rich and the poor.

His conclusion? This:

One hundred and sixty five years ago, Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” We have become a house divided against itself – divided between the 99 percent and the 1 percent, between the workers and those who would exploit them. We have to reunite the house, but it won’t happen on its own.

It will only happen if workers come together. If they organize. If they unite to fight for what they know is right, in each and every workplace, in each and every community and in each and every state capital and in Washington. We have to restore not only democracy to Washington, but to the workplace.

It will only happen when workers realize that they own much of our country’s capital, through the pension funds, but that we have allowed this capital to be managed in ways that exploit workers and consumers alike.

I say You go, Joe!

Hot Air

A Law Supreme

I’m very, very lucky I didn’t have internet access yesterday.

If I had, it’s a sure bet I would have written something that would have gotten me into the hottest of water with the FBI, the Secret Service, the NSA, Academi (nee Blackwater), Control, Sgt. Friday, TJ Hooker, Dirty Harry and any other law enforcement cartoon characters you can imagine. I’m hot. And if you’re not, well then, you and I have wildly divergent views on what this free society should look like.

The US Supreme Court Monday not only ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby refusing to pay for slut pills, it also further chipped away at organized labor in this holy land. Some thoughts:

  • Not only are corporations people, acc’d’g to this Court, but they are religious.
  • Justice Antonin Scalia has positioned himself as a strict constructionist ever since he came on the national scene. He’s not; he is a theocrat.
  • The five justices who voted in favor of Hobby Lobby are, natch, white men. They also were nominated by Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush. Anybody, therefore, who bleats that there’s no diff. between the Democrats and the Republicans is an idiot.

Conservative Justices

Boys Club

  • Clearly, the five Republican-nominated justices cherish the right to believe in a mythical creation figure who has issued a laundry list of dos and don’ts for humanity over the right of women to control their uteri. Kids, that’s just bizarre.
  • Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the dissent for the minority. She is becoming a superstar on the interwebs now, with people posting pull quotes from her angry denunciation of the decision all over social media.
  • The Supreme Court also ruled that gov’t employees who don’t want to be members of unions don’t have to pay dues. That means those workers can benefit from collective bargaining w/o sharing the cost. And the Republicans say they’re four-square against freeloaders!
  • Justice Samuel Alito wrote that public employee unions are “lobbyists.” These Reagan/Bush/Bush dudes, my friends, are awfully confused.

In other Supreme Court news last week, the Nine ruled unanimously that municipalities cannot bar anti-abortion protestors from verbally assaulting or otherwise violating the personal space of abortion clinic clients on public sidewalks. As you know, any number of cities had instituted buffer zones to keep “pro-life” zealots away from women trying to enter the clinics. (Read Sara Benincasa’s remembrance of being so assaulted when she went to an abortion clinic some years ago.) I get the reasoning behind the decision, even if I don’t like it. So I was wondering, can atheists now stand outside churches and temples and shout “Suckers!” at worshipers trying to enter therein?

Overall, the importance of the November mid-term elections cannot be overstated. If the Senate goes GOP, we’re going to move even further toward the Radical Right than we have already..

Choose Your Friends Carefully

In other news of late, the influx of undocumented Central American kids in this holy land has resulted in heart-wrenching pix of and stories about the young ‘uns being warehoused in cold, dirty, concrete-floor holding centers. But the self-idolators and tinfoil cap wearers who run the crunchy, conspiracy-theory laden website Natural News have gleaned an even more insidious bit of fallout from this sad state of affairs.

Mike Adams, who’s the “brain” behind Nat. News, wrote that all these dirty immigrant kids are going to pollute our population with all their yucky germs.

Here’s Adams’ headline:

Unloading disease-carrying immigrants in large US cities a ‘perfect storm’ for pandemic disease outbreak

In the body of the piece, Adams writes that one of the reasons we should fear the kids is that they haven’t been vaccinated. A practice, BTW, that Natural News has opinionated time and again is horribly dangerous to our Aryan American citizenry.

I’ve always felt the zealot natural food and anti-chemical crowd has a bit of a Perfect Race streak in it. As in, sure, the Green Revolution has fed hundreds of millions of starving souls in Africa and Asia but, golly gee, are all those saved lives worth it if we get a trace of synthetic fertilizer in our organic cookies? There are trade-offs in every decision, as any adult would acknowledge, but the hyper-natural gang is convinced that American food must be pure, pure, pure even at the cost of a potential mass starvation in India.

Immigrant Detention

Not Perfect

Adams adds:

If infectious disease isn’t bad enough, this immigration wave also consists of “sex offenders, murder suspects and gang members….”

Old Joey Goebbels would have been proud.

BTW: Adams feels the Obama Admin. is way cool with this wave of undesirables because, “[a]fter all, these are future Democratic voters!”

Lots of natural food, sustainable agriculture, anti-Monsanto-ites seem to dig Mike Adams — who calls himself the “Health Ranger” — because, well, he and his peeps are four-square against GMOs and such.

That’s scant reason to hitch one’s wagon to a bunch of crypto-Nazis. It’d be like the vegetarians of America plastering bumper stickers of A. Hitler on their cars simply because he, too, refused to eat meat.

 

Hot Air

Union, Yes!

Sit down. Grab an extra large bottle of Xanax. Prepare yourself for a shocks of shocks.

A US gov’t agency made a pro-labor decision yesterday.

Alright, I’ll wait for the paramedics to revive you.

Yes, the regional National Labor Relations Board ruled that college athletes have the right to organize for the purpose of collective bargaining. They can, in other words, form a union.

Huzzah.

Memphis 1968

Labor

Ever since Saint Ronald Reagan fired the air traffic controllers back in 1981, unions have been under siege in this holy land. It’s reasonable to buy into the theory that the ascendent Right back then wanted to kill off the unions because they’d been a backbone of Democratic Party support throughout the 20th Century. And it worked because, without unions, the Dems had to turn to big money corporations for their bread and butter. To do that, the Democratic Party had to move to the Right itself. That’s why don’t-rock-the-boat center-Rightists Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have been the Dems’ standard bearers in the last quarter century. The Clinton and Obama administrations were (and are) as friendly to Wall Street, multi-national corporations, and the plutocracy as any fuddy duddy GOP-ers were before Reagan declared America safe from the horrors of organized labor.

In fact, the only really successful recent union has been the Major League Baseball Players Association, itself populated by nascent plutocrats. The MLBPA has taken management to the woodshed time and again, proving once again that only millionaires have any real power here.

Anyway, the outgoing QB of the Northwestern Wildcats football team, a lad named Kain Colter, led a group calling itself the College Athletes Players Association in an effort to negotiate with NU. Colter and Co. claimed to be employees of the university. Northwestern meanwhile said they were  student-athletes, the fairy tale designation that colleges use to make us think of young men in gowns and mortarboards dashing off to make it on time for a brief practice after spending the majority of their day reading Proust and memorizing the periodical table. The local NLRB looked at the daily skeds of NU ballers and concluded, very rightly, that their huffing and puffing on the practice field was a full time job with some academics thrown in when there was time.

Colter/ABC News

Kain Colter, Labor Leader

Keep in mind that Northwestern is not even a typical sports factory. In football and basketball, it’s usually the laughingstock of the Big 10, with its fan and alumni base becoming delirious when NU achieves mediocrity. Players at, say, Ohio State University or the University of Florida are under such pressure to perform that to tell them their point guarding or strong safety-ing will be only a full-time job would be akin to telling them they can go on vacation for six months.

Many observers note that the football and basketball programs at big, powerhouse colleges run their teams much as their pro counterparts do, meaning players must think sports morning, noon, night, and even while they dream. Athletes at these sweat factories must do weight training in the morning, study the playbook in the middle of the day, scrimmage in the afternoon, and have meetings with coaches in the evening. They’re assigned ” counselors” who make sure they get up on time and comb their hair properly, and who have private meetings with professors to ensure that, say, the star running back makes it through that grueling and onerous History of the TV Sitcom course.

Sure, college football and basketball players get scholarships — some of them — but that free education means little if the recipient knows what the Triple Spread Option is but can’t quite put his finger on who Henry David Thoreau was.

Indiana University makes scads of dough selling tickets for the general public to see its “student athletes” throw spheroids around. IU sells out the plus-17,000 seat capacity Assembly Hall for its basketball games. Several people have been known to buy tickets to see the Hoosiers football team play. Nobody gives those ducats away. Partisans pay a premium for them. University presidents say this influx of cash helps keep tuition down although they rarely make mention that tuition figures are growing exponentially these days.

IU Assembly Hall

Revenue

That dough is going somewhere but it ain’t going into the pockets of the kids the fans pay to see play.

Let’s hope the new college game players’ union will change all that.

MST3k

One of my five favorite television shows of all time was Mystery Science Theater 3000, aka MST3k.

You either get it or you don’t. The Loved One, for instance, doesn’t. Whenever I click MST3k on Netflix, she either groans or gives me one of those “you idiot” looks. That’s fine. She digs the hell out of soap operas like Six Feet Under and Mad Men, stuff that I consider to be slightly below fingernails on a blackboard in my ranking of pleasurable activities. So, she watches her stuff and I watch mine.

I like to think, though, that I don’t give her “you idiot” looks. I’m such a saint.

Anyway, I round out my top five of all time with The Larry Sanders Show, Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm, the Cubs on WGN, and Seinfeld. Okay, shoot me, that makes six. Whatever. Notice the common thread? They’re all farces. Especially the Cubs on WGN.

Grace Distraught

Farce

MST3k was a troublemaking, utterly irreverent, radical, impudent, insolent, sacrilegious, mocking snark-fest. I’d watch it every single Friday night on Comedy Central and the channel’s earlier incarnations. The writers and performers on it were so flip and derisive that I was certain they thought about the world just as I did. Sure, they considered those hushed, stodgy filmstrips we saw in elementary school as silly as a grown man wearing clown shoes. And they must have thought that, well, Newt Gingrich was clownish as well. They were my kind of people.

MST3k

Joel Hodgson (L), Michael J. Nelson, And The ‘Bots

The rumor mill’s been churning out news that a new version of MST3k is coming back, only it isn’t. You’ll have to go to Happy Nice Time People to find out about it. Apparently, the new version is some sort of trick you play with a movie you get from Netflix or one of those peer-to-peer video file sharing rackets on the interwebs and then you have to buy some audio to synch up to it that’s put out by some of the old MST3k people. It all sounds too jerry-rigged and Rube Goldberg for me so I’m not going to do it. Which is fine because my guess is the MST3k thing is long past its sell-by date. Sorta like the fourth season of Arrested Development.

Leave well enough alone, right?

In any case, in reading about this new development, the Happy Nice Time People made reference to Michael J. Nelson’s “completely reprehensible political beliefs.” Nelson was the second host of the show after founder and first host Joel Hodgson left to carve out a stand-up career somewhere. (I haven’t heard of him since, so I figure he never did wow the comedy club crowd.) Nelson was just as funny as Hodgson — maybe even funnier. He delivered his lines better and was a natural actor. I liked him immensely.

That’s why I was crushed to read about his “completely repreh…,” oh, you know. the HNTP people linked to what amounts to a manifesto of MJN’s poli-junk-sci. Let me repro it herewith:

During a 2004 interview with the fanatic site MST3K Review, Nelson described himself as Protestant and conservative: “I read the National Review cover to cover. Check in at Townhall.com every day. Check the Washington Times daily. Listen to Dennis Prager and Michael Medved on a regular basis. Read Mark Steyn with regularity. Read the Weekly Standard. So, yes, I do vote Republican.”[11] He later referred to the Minneapolis Star Tribune as “the Star and Sickle, or the Red Star Tribune”

I almost broke down in tears. I consoled myself by repeating, mantra-like, that this snippet was from Wikipedia. Now I’m not anti-Wikipedia by a long shot. I think it’s a great resource, only not an authoritative one. It’s a nice place to start learning about something. Its links and references are a good step in the right direction. But god forbid I’d ever quote something from Wikipedia in these precincts as if whatever point I was making was written in scripture.

From Townhall.com

Say It Ain’t So!

So here’s my hope. Mebbe someone with an antic sense of humor equal to the MST3k gang typed in the graf in question. You know, ha hah hah? Or, even more likely, Michael J. Nelson himself was toying with humanity by telling us a bunch of funny lies about his “conservatism.” That’s even ha hah hah-ier.

Man. I’m still bummed, though. It’s as bad as when I first discovered that most sports stars were Republicans. It makes sense now but when I was a kid, I believed none of my beloved Cubs could ever even think of voting for Dick Nixon. But a lot of them did. A lot of them.

I’ve become much more sanguine about the whole thing. For instance, I still love watching Robert Duvall act. Clint Eastwood, too. And John Wayne. I can pretend their real political slants just don’t exist. And by golly, no one who could play Mac Sledge so well in Tender Mercies or Captain York in Fort Apache could actually be — eek! — a Republican. But Duvall is and Wayne was. So there. I’ve just gotten better at suspending disbelief.

But Michael J. Nelson? From the very, very seditious, insurrectionist Mystery Science Theater 3000?

Now that’s unbelievable.

Hey, Remember Me?

Alright, call me a cynic if you want, but this is what television and movie stars do when they’ve faded from the spotlight:

From HuffPo

 

Hot Air

And The Answer Is…

Time for a quiz.

In what year did the following events and actions occur?

Cossacks horse-whipped women.

Kazaki

Citizens reacted to news of FDR’s death.

● At least four state legislatures considered bills to restrict the teaching of evolution and biology in schools.

● Fully one quarter of the nation’s population was unaware that the Earth revolves around the Sun.

● Another state legislature worked diligently on a law to deny certain people the right to marry.

● Lawmakers working hand-in-hand with wealthy donors succeeded in defeating a labor movement.

Plutocrats

● A man running for Attorney General of a large state told victims of domestic violence they should stop complaining and be thankful they have men.

● A learned, accomplished black man was characterized as a “subhuman mongrel” and a “chimpanzee” by a celebrity spokesbeing for a Right Wing political organization.

● A southern state OK’d a Confederate flag display.

● Yet another white man was exonerated for killing a black man whose actions mildly disturbed him.

Lynching

● Athletic team officials worried that a homosexual man may taint their locker rooms.

● A state legislature voted to permit teachers to spank students (so long as they don’t leave any marks).

Choose One:

  • 1907
  • 6 BCE
  • 1892
  • 1066
  • 2014

Salem

1692?

Hurry now and make your selection: Time flies!

Shop Local

Krista Detor’s brand spanking new CD and accompanying book are on sale now at the Book Corner. And she’ll be peddling both the Flat Earth Diary and Notes from the Bridge when she dashes off to Europe for a live tour this spring. She’ll hit Germany, Holland, England, and Scotland.

Flat Earth Diary

Tons o’B-towners dig Detor the most, but it’s a good bet not too many will stage-door-Johnny her all the way across the Atlantic Ocean just to get their mitts on her stuff. So buy it here in So Cen Ind. Whaddya waiting for?

Detor

Detor

BTW: KD and Arbutus Cunningham have tinkered with their sweet musical, The Breeze Bends the Grass, and, in fact, have come up with a whole new shebang of it. The re-designed and re-imagined four-act theater production will debut at the Brown County Playhouse in Nashville on June 6th.

Oh yeah, that Detor gal is a juggler.

Your Hot Air Today

Labor Day.

Celebrate it.

Why?

Simple.

Labor Day

According to a recent study released by Oxfam America, one of every four working Americans earns less than $10 and hour.

$10 an hour! That’s $400 a week. $20,800 a year. You’d better be living alone if you make that kind of scratch. And I do mean scratch. If you have kids, you’re screwed.

At least a quarter of this holy land’s population lives, therefore, in poverty. As Oxfam America concludes, the United States is “The most unequal rich country in the world.”

Need any more reason to support organized labor?

The Limits Of Evil

This nation commits its share of crimes, both great and minor, against humanity. There is no argument. It is in the nature of empire to steamroll individuals and even other nations. If you don’t like it and wish it to change, then you must be prepared to give up cheap gas, air conditioning every single enclosed space you enter, filling your refrigerator enough to feed a small Bangladeshi town, and paying a first baseman $25 million a year.

Gas Europe

I don’t like much of what the Earth’s only superpower does in the name of god and country and I’m not afraid to say so. That’s what this space has been all about for the last five years (we moved from The Third City to The Electron Pencil a couple of years back.)

On the other hand, are we really all that bad? Is America as evil as, say, the old Soviet Union or even, as some on both ends of the spectrum love to shout, Nazi Germany?

Hell no.

To say so is to identify one’s self as a boob.

Tea Party Rally

Our most heinous evils, I daresay, are behind us. The Indian Holocaust and slavery are history and although we still have economic Jim Crow and we relegate Native Americans to sports mascots, the leaders of America are not ordering their mass killing.

An example. I’m reading the book Six Months in 1945, by Michael Dobbs. It covers the endgame of World War II when the leaders of the USSR, the United Kingdom, and America carved up the post-war world. In February of that year, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin met at Yalta, a spectacularly gorgeous stretch of waterfront on the Black Sea in Crimea.

Yalta

“You Take This; I’ll Take That.”

The victors of “The Good War” were gathering in a place that was surrounded by desolation. The Crimea had been ravaged by invading German armies. In fact, as Roosevelt rode through the countryside on his way to the Livadia Palace, where he’d stay during the talks, he watched the passing lifeless landscape and remarked that he must suggest to Stalin that he re-forest the great Crimean plateau. He also said that the scorched and empty lands made him want to visit revenge upon the Nazis more than ever.

The only problem was, as much as the invading Wehrmacht devastated the Crimea, the Soviet Union itself, under orders from Stalin, had destroyed, killed, and razed in the countryside as efficiently and happily as the Nazis had. See, a few Tatars had more or less cooperated with the invading Germans. Therefore, in Stalin’s mind, every Tatar was guilty (at least potentially so) of collaboration.

Stalin

Man Of Steel

In Stalin’s mind, even the possibility that an individual or group might commit treason was the equivalent of guilt. A few Tatars flipping to the enemy was the same as all of them doing so.

Stalin ordered the relocation of the Tatars from their centuries-old homeland to a desert in Uzbekistan. That is, some 190,000 civilians were forced into train cars, locked in without water or waste disposal facilities, and sent off on a days-long journey. Nearly one in five died. While this was going on, the Soviet security forces flattened the land from which they’d come.

This happened in 1944. Anyone who is 69 years old or older was alive when it happened. My mother was 23. George H.W. Bush was 20. Warren Buffet, George Soros, Clint Eastwood, Rupert Murdoch, and Vin Scully all were alive.

The incident is within the lifetime memory of thousands, hundreds of thousands — hell, millions — still alive today.

That didn’t happen here. Nor did the mass killings in Cambodia in the late 1970s. The East Pakistan politicide of 1971. The almost countless genocides of sub-Saharan Africa since the 1950s. The +40 million killings in Mao-ist China.

Cambodian Genocide

Cambodia

The United States often is a bad player. But our evil of late has been finite.

That’s something to remember. Even if we are the the most unequal rich country in the world.

What’s Going On

The full album, right here.

Your Daily Hot Air

Hey kids, just a few quick hits today because I’m in a hurry.

Union Now!

How cool is it that fast food workers in selected cities are going out on a series of one-day strikes this week?

The Big Mike answer and Official Pencil Policy Statement? Very cool.

Chase Guttman photo

NYC McDonald’s Workers On Strike Yesterday

Ever since Saint Ronald Reagan institutionalized this holy land’s policy of crushing labor unions by decertifying PATCO back in 1981, the labor movement has slid inexorably nearer to irrelevance. Dig: by general acclamation, the single most powerful workers group in the United States is the Major League Baseball Players Association. That is, a group of workers whose entry-level annual base pay is for the 2013 season is $490,000. That comes out to cool $30,625 per two-week pay period for the newest, rawest, and, perhaps, least productive worker in the business. Try to find a currency exchange that’ll cash that check.

But the MLBPA has consistently beaten the major league baseball owners at the bargaining table for the last 40 years. Baseball is the only major pro sports operation that doesn’t have a hard salary cap and big league ballplayers are entitled to the most liberal free agency system in all sports. Oh, and all contracts are guaranteed, meaning if a player is cut by a team, the team still owes him all the money due through the end on his contract. Pretty sweet, eh?

Of course, most things are pretty sweet for the 1% in this great nation.

Baseball & Money

Pretty Sweet

Then there’s the poor slob who’s pouring your cup of McDonald’s coffee, maybe even as we speak. He earns minimum wage. Which, as any kindergartner can calculate, is not enough to support a family of one, much less two, three, or more.

The big cheeses at Mickey Ds, Burger King, Wendy’s, and all those other salt-and-fat emporia are wringing their hands and dabbing at their eyes with their Kleenexes [boxes of which they purchased at drug-and-convenience stores that also pay their “valued associates” that same princely minimum wage], trying to convey to us through their subs that their businesses will crumble if they have to pay out a penny more in wages.

Bullshit.

I for one would be more than happy to pay a dollar extra per Big Mac just so’s the single mom flipping the horsemeat over a hot griddle can buy her kid[s] some shoes.

And if you wouldn’t, let me be the first to inform you that you are a jerk.

The Pipes, The Pipes Are Calling

This needs to be said and I’ll be the first: Annie Corrigan of WFIU carries the best set of pipes in all of Indiana broadcasting.

Bernard Gordillo Brockmann photo

The Voice Of Bloomington

She is the consummate professional and her joyous, dulcet lilt wakes me in the morning like the call of the cardinal.

My only fear is she’ll soon follow the scent of real b-casting money to a larger market, a reward of which she’s more than deserving. Oh, Annie girl…!

Not So Fast

Pope Frankie made a big splash yesterday by holding an impromptu press conference on the airplane as his entourage high-tailed it out of Brazil.

Sinatra/Pope

Idols

Among other things, the new Vatican princeps said he wasn’t about to judge anyone for being a homosexual and that women ought to play a larger role within the Church.

Now, before we all start throwing huzzahs around, let’s remember it is still the policy of the of the Roman Catholic executive committee that homosexual acts are sins and women shall never be priests.

Here’s my Latin response to the putative groundbreaking pronouncements by the Pontiff: Facta, non verba.*

[* In English, Actions, not words.]

America Grows Up

Back to coolness. How cool is it that John Kerry is the 68th Secretary of State of the United States of America?

Kerry/VVAW

Kerry, The Antiwar Protester

Honestly! Kerry was one of the faces of the anti-war movement back when this nation was debasing itself and committing crimes against humanity in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in the 1960s and ’70s. In April, 1971, Kerry testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the atrocities and general wrongheadedness of our excellent adventure in Southeast Asia. Later, he and other vets marched to the US Capitol and threw their service decorations at the place. At the time, Kerry said, “I’m not doing this for any violent reasons, but for peace and justice, and to try and make this country wake up once and for all.”

President Nixon and his gang of gasbags would have thrown a party had Kerry, then one of the leaders of Vietnam Veterans against the War, been run over by a bus. It’s a shocker that one of the rat-fuckers didn’t get that bright idea and try to recruit a down-on-his-luck bus driver to carry out the contract.

And now, Kerry is in charge of US foreign policy. We’ve still got a lot to be ashamed of and apologetic for in America, but we’ve come a long way, baby.

[BTW: Speaking of cool once again, imagine that a national talk show would have a civilized, rational, intellectual debate between representatives of opposing sides of a hot-button issue. The Dick Cavett Show was analogous to, say, today’s Conan or Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. I don’t want to slip into that old Things-were-better-in-my-day routine but, jeez, at least some of TV acknowledged that the average American had an organ in her or his skull.]

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“The lack of money is the root of all evil.” — Mark Twain

PAY ‘EM: DAY 2

First things first: The Chicago Teachers Union strike is not about the children. So let’s stop that silly, mawkish pretense this instant.

The teachers are going on strike because management wants to squeeze their pay and benefits, extend their work day, and expand class sizes. These are workplace issues, not We love children and only want what’s best for them issues.

If teachers and management wanted only what’s best for the children, the city would be throwing bushels of money at the teachers in an effort to get them back in the classroom and the teachers would be telling them not to bother because they (the teachers) would be more than happy to work for peanuts.

The kids are getting screwed royally in this mess. They’re missing the continuum of daily attendance in school. It may take weeks for them to get back in their groove, depending on how long this strike lasts.

Parents who work are getting screwed, too. Tens of thousands of families in Chicago are scrambling to make arrangements to make sure their kids aren’t roaming the streets all day while teachers walk the picket lines.

Very little benefit is going to come out of this craziness for anybody other than the teachers.

And that’s okay.

People get hurt in strikes. Customers and clients and vendors and and everybody else who depends on an industry starts hurting when that industry is hit by a strike.

One of the potential hammers either side has in a work stoppage is the collective anger of all those aggrieved parties. If a striking union plays its cards right, customers and clients and all the rest will start putting heat on management to make a deal.

The union has to control the PR side of the contretemps. In this case, the Chicago Teachers Union has to convey the message that its members are not rich, they’re not asking for wheel barrels full of precious metals, and — for pity’s sake — all you out there need them.

If the union does it right, it’ll walk away from this with nice raises for the teachers, a manageable workday, and class sizes significantly shy of the capacity of the Wrigley Field bleachers.

And if the kids and the families of Chicago get their knees scraped in the process, so be it.

I’m behind the teachers 100 percent.

I only ask them and some of their supporters not to try to bullshit me or anyone else. Teachers don’t go on strikes because they’re thinking of nothing but the children. They go on strikes because they’re worried about paying their mortgages and dreaming of sending their kids to college.

Nothing wrong with that as a casus belli.

WORKING

Here are the highest-paid careers in the United States this year, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Pharmacist — $112,160 average salary a year
  • Air traffic controller — $114,460
  • Sales manager — $116,860
  • Airline pilots — $118,070
  • Financial manager — $120,450
  • Industrial-organization psychologist — $124,160
  • IT systems manager — $125,660
  • Marketing manager — $126,190
  • Natural science manager — $128,230
  • Architectural and engineering manager — $129,350
  • Lawyer — $130,490
  • Petroleum engineer — $138,980
  • CEO — $176,550
  • Dentist — $161,750 to $204,670
  • Doctor — $168,650 to $234,950

Who’d have a problem if teachers ranked anywhere in that list?

Me? I’d be thrilled to see teachers knock sales managers or financial managers off. And industrial-organization psychologists? They’re getting paid that much dough just to delve into people’s heads so they can make the workforce more pliant and submissive?!

Not only would I help the teachers throw them out, I’d give those sons of bitches kicks in the ass on their way out the door.

ONE MORE THING

Take a look at this luxury baby stroller:

The Nicest Ride On The Block

I don’t know how many people own one of these baby limousines. I’m willing to bet, though, that tens of of thousands of parents — maybe hundreds of thousands — would buy one if they could.

Now, how many of those people do you think want Chicago’s teachers to stop making trouble and go back to work?

I’M NOT FINISHED YET

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel sends his kids to a private school.

That, my friends, is an outrage.

He is saying, essentially, that the schools — his schools — aren’t good enough for his kids.

The Emanuel Gang

Mayor Richard M. Daley and his old man, Richard J., both sent their kids to private schools as well.

What would people say if Bill Gates, while he was running things at Microsoft, carried a MacBook around with him wherever he went?

Mark it: The day I’m acclaimed King of the United States, I’ll decree that all municipal officials must send their kids to their local public schools.

They just might start seeing things a little differently.

OLD TIME (REALLY, REALLY OLD TIME) POLITICS

The technology already exists to generate video images of dead politicians and celebrities saying precisely what you want them to say in real time.

Big Think contributor Dominic Basulto speculates on the 2016 Republican National Convention when the star of the show will be Ronald Reagan lambasting Hillary Clinton or Julian Castro or Alec Baldwin or whoever will be the Dem standard-bearer.

Click For Full Article

Of course, my feeling is the GOP would be more accurately served by a video image of Homo Neanderthalensis grunting his distaste for women who enjoy sex and his worship of a psycho-sadistic god.

“Sandra Fluke Has Sex!”

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“It was the labor movement that helped secure so much of what we take for granted today. The 40-hour work week, the minimum wage, family leave, health insurance, Social Security, Medicare, retirement plans. The cornerstones of the middle class security all bear the union label.” — Barack Obama

PAY ‘EM!

TOP OF THE HILLER

Congrats to Pencillista Nancy R. Hiller for earning state kudos on her fab tome, “A Home of Her Own.”

The Hiller opus was named a finalist in the Best Books of Indiana: Nonfiction 2012 beauty contest this week.

Hey, I ain’t the only guy who can write around here.

GEEK LOVE

A quick reminder: Bloomington’s Science Cafe fires up again Wednesday, September 12th.

IU experimental nuclear physicist Michael Snow will deliver the first presentation on Antimatter.

Physicist Michael Snow

Brain scientist Alex Straiker, who’s organizing this latest incarnation with lab-mate Jim Wager-Miller, says the shebang will begin at 6:30pm at Rachael’s Cafe.

This fall’s science topics will also include “The First Americans,” “Climate Change and Bloomington,” and “Brain-Machine Interfaces: Eye Tracking.”

FLYNT HUSTLES MITT

Hustler was among the worst porn I’ve ever seen in my life.

I say was because I haven’t seen the mag in years. Maybe even decades.

So I have no idea what unflattering poses its intentionally half-witted looking models are being put into these days. Suffice it to say I recall them reclining akimbo to such an extent that were I so trained, I could proffer them instant cervical exams from afar.

That is, were I moved open the mag’s pages.

I just never found the thing arousing. I consider my tastes in unclad women fairly, um, progressive. I mean I don’t need my pix of naked ladies to feature impossibly long-legged and wasp-waisted, vacant-staring, “hotties” with plastic half-cantaloupes on their chests.

That’s me. Apparently the vast majority of American male-dom (male-dumb?) digs that look. Hustler had it in spades.

Duh

The mag’s circulation stands at around half a million these days, down from a high of 3 million per month in its pre-Interwebs hayday.

Larry Flynt, the visionary behind Hustler, long has been a scourge to the Right, specifically its self-appointed plaster saints like the late Jerry Falwell and the regrettably still-respiring Gov. Rick Perry. That alone earns my grudging respect for him even though I hold my nose while stating it.

And now Flynt has flopped a million bucks on the table, calling for anyone in this holy land to produce Mitt Romney’s tax records.

You know, those things Ann Romney, hands on hips, jaw set, has refused to allow us to see. She says she and her special guy have nothing to hide, therefore they’re hiding the returns.

We’ve Given ‘You People’ Enough!

If someone does come through with the docs that’ll tie Romney in with an arch-criminal, global, underground, crushing tyrannical corporate syndicate looking to addict the world population to dangerous chemicals, financial “instruments,” and magic underwear, then a million bucks’-worth of the dough Flynt made portraying woman as DNA receptacles will have done some good.

Of course, it’ll be just as good if the elusive tax returns simply reveal the Romneys to be richer than the spooky god they worship.

I CAN SEE FOR MILES AND MILES AND MILES….

Here, thanks to I Fucking Love Science (or, for the more skittish among us, Science Is Awesome) is a comparison of the mirror sizes of the Hubble Space Telescope and the proposed James Webb Space Telescope.

Is there an “edge” to the Universe? Maybe, the JWST will allow us to see it.

From NASA: James Webb vs. Hubble — How Do They Compare?

From The Moscow Times we learn that Russkies are dying to sound like bossman Vladimir Putin.

Apparently, Putin is the most accomplished of Russian leaders when it comes to prevaricating in the language of his land.

Silver Tongues

In that, he’s like our very own Bill Clinton.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“You can fool too many of the people too much of the time.” — James Thurber

LOOK TO THE SKIES!

Looks like that big fist of rain up around the Chi-town area is getting ready to come down upon us.

We’re still not ready to complain about another washed-out weekend, though.

NOAA Satellite View, 9:15am, EST

STRAIGHT FROM HIS LIPS

In the category of People Will Believe Any Bullshit Anyone Tosses At Them, this book cover has to rank among the top ten:

And just to show how bizarre Homo Sapiens sapiens is, a London-based gossip columnist in 1956 described Milwaukee’s greatest piano player thusly:

“… [A] deadly, winking, sniggering, snuggling, chromium-plated, scent-impregnated, luminous, quivering, giggling, fruit-flavored, mincing, ice-covered heap of mother love.”

Ice-covered?

Upon reading this, Wladziu Valentino Liberace sued the gossip columnist and his newspaper, The Mirror, for libel. And won!

Liberace on the witness stand swore he wasn’t a homosexual (even though the columnist had not explicitly accused him of being gay) and said — I remind you, under oath — that he’d never had a homosexual experience.

And you wonder why some people believe Barack Obama was born in some terrorist madrasah in Kenya run by Karl Marx’s heirs, abortionists, and pedophiles.

INTELLIGENT LIFE?

And then there’s this from I Fucking Love Science. Many people were sorely disappointed the other night when the moon did not, as advertised, turn blue.

See, there was supposed to be a blue moon a week ago today. The Twitter-verse went full-tilt apopolectic when our celestial nightlight did not shine in the wavelength range of 475 nanometers.

Colors On The Electromagnetic Spectrum

Anyway, tons and tons of deep thinkers flooded the hell that is Tweet-ville with irate complaints that the moon was, well, still white.

To wit:

And you wonder why some people believe it was Barack Obama who crashed the economy.

CRUST OF BREAD AND SUCH

Still wondering if the Romneys understand what it’s like for the rest of us? That is, those of us who didn’t grow up uber-wealthy?

Read this:

This is not to say a rich guy can’t have empathy. Franklin Roosevelt never missed a meal in his life but he had a feeling for those who had.

TRADING PLACES

RUNNIN’ OUT OF FOOLS

Originally recorded by Aretha Franklin, this version was done some 30 years later by Neko Case, perhaps the only woman who could do justice to it other than the Queen of Soul.

Here’s how I waste my time. How about you? Share your fave sites with us via the comments section. Just type in the name of the site, not the url; we’ll find them. If we like them, we’ll include them — if not, we’ll ignore them.

I Love ChartsLife as seen through charts.

From I Love Charts

XKCD — “A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.”

SkepchickWomen scientists look at the world and the universe.

IndexedAll the answers in graph form, on index cards.

Science Is Awesome (formerly I Fucking Love Science)A Facebook community of science geeks.

Present/&/CorrectFun, compelling, gorgeous and/or scary graphic designs and visual creations throughout the years and from all over the world.

Flip Flop Fly BallBaseball as seen through infographics, haikus, song lyrics, and other odd communications devices.

Mental FlossFacts.

Click For Full Article

SodaplayCreate your own models or play with other people’s models.

Eat Sleep DrawAn endless stream of artwork submitted by an endless stream of people.

Big ThinkTapping the brains of notable intellectuals for their opinions, predictions, and diagnoses.

The Daily PuppySo shoot me.

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