Archive for the 'The Occasional Post on National Politics' category

It's Not The Same

It drives me nuts to read stuff like this and this about presidential candidate "likeability".

People don't like Trump because he is a racist, sexist, egomaniac who wants to Make America Great Again -Now With More Fascism! People don't like Clinton because she's a woman who doesn't give them a warm fuzzy feeling, and whose strong leadership qualities, which they would admire in any dude candidate, make them anxious and confused because they are attached to a Person Of Vagina.

People don't like Trump because they recognize him as the populist threat to democracy the Founding Fathers fretted over. People don't like Clinton because they are more comfortable with an old dude spouting fiery socialist rhetoric than a (less) old woman proposing thoughtful policies to advance the welfare of women and families.

People don't like Trump because he's tearing down an established party, running roughshod over that party's longstanding cherished policies and principles, and doing his level best to destroy any remaining shreds of respect not just for party leaders but for the concepts of experience, expertise, knowledge, logic, democracy, nonviolence, and civil rights. (Even if one can argue that Trump is merely reaping what the GOP has sown for years now, nothing says the sowers have to like the result any more than the rest of us.) People don't like Clinton because, you know, she's certainly qualified to be president, but, well, she's stiff, she's old, she's unattractive, she shouts/shrieks/cackles, she has that hair/those pantsuits/those cankles, her only qualification [besides the Senate and Secretary of State experience] is being married to Bill.

People like Trump because he's a filthy rich New Yorker who says he knows how Wall Street works and who disrespects women. People dislike Clinton because they suspect her of being filthy rich and hanging with people on Wall Street.  And people dislike Clinton despite her promotion of women-centric policy issues [either because they are anti-women or because "she doesn't speak for women". You know, the way Bernie does.]

When the press talks about Trump and Clinton being the two most unlikable presidential candidates ever in the recorded history of time, about how people are just having to choose between who they dislike the least, it obscures serious and meaningful differences. If Bernie's supporters can't bring themselves around to voting for Clinton in the fall, it doesn't mean they are standing true to their principles or trying to bring about a revolution. It means they would be more comfortable with American-style populist fascism than with a democratic leader who shares many but not all of their policy goals, but who happens to be female.

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View From The Taker-Zone

Paul Ryan is rethinking that whole "makers and takers" rhetoric, so I hear. He has had an insight. People who are "accepting government benefits" don't actually "want to be dependent". [We won't argue about whether it is accurate to characterize a social safety net as a "benefit". I think of "benefits" as things like "free chocolate at lunch!" or "my job provides me a leased automobile!" or "zillions of dollars worth of stock options even though I ran the company into the ground!" Not, you know "here's $300 worth of food stamps, go feed your kids for a month!" But I digress.] However:

It should be noted that there are two separate ingredients that make up “makers and takers” doctrine. The first is the idea that those who are relying on government want to be dependent on it, because it’s an easier life. The second is the idea that those who are relying on government are stuck in a plight, perhaps against their will, that is counter-productive for them, in that it increases dependence and saps individual initiative.

While Paul Ryan has had the amazing insight that people do not want to be dependent, he is less sure that they are not somehow stuck against their will. Not in a safety net - in a hammock! A hammock that has lulled them into dependency! Against their will!

I thought it would be of use to Mr. Ryan if I were to give him just a tiny glimpse of life here rocking sweetly in the hammock of SSDI, lulled to dependency on the government largess.

Last night Mr. Z and I began the ever-so-fun process of preparing our 2015 taxes. TurboTax was happy to let me know that my SSDI income for 2015 is GREATER THAN that of 2014 - by a total of $408! COLA raises are the breeze that make the hammock swing! TurboTax also cheerfully informed us that, although last year we had received a modest refund of about $200, this year we owed a payment in an amount just under...$400.

The extra $10 or so of the difference between my SSDI COLA and the federal tax owed is, of course, a lavish extravagance that has lulled me into remaining disabled by chronic migraines and dependent on SSDI, against my true will. Which, of course, is to remain disabled by chronic migraines and NOT "accept government benefits".

One "government benefit" that you may see people who are homeowners "accepting" around tax time is the federal deduction for mortgage interest paid. Unlike the rhetoric around the social safety net, this is a true benefit. It is a pure bonus of buying a house, that the federal government says "good news for you! You can deduct all that interest if you itemize your taxes! Aren't you glad you're a homeowner?" No one ever calls a homeowner a "taker" for accepting this clear, outright government benefit. Homeowners have done nothing special to deserve it. They will not go hungry, or unclothed, or unhoused, or fail to receive needed medical treatment, if this tax break is not extended to them. It. Is. A. Benefit.

Many homeowners even put up actual hammocks in their backyards, rocking contentedly in them after taking their tax break, knowing that the federal government - and Paul Ryan - is somewhere smiling beneficently upon them.

I am the farthest thing from a Trumpist you could find in this U.S. of A., but Paul Ryan's half-way non-pology for "makers and takers" rhetoric is the best the GOP can muster, no wonder The Orange Man is a hit among the disaffected middle class Republicans.

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History Repeating Itself In The Ugliest Of Ways

Last week's Supreme Court ruling in the Obergefell v. Hodges case was barely out the door before the concerted effort to undermine and resist it got itself off and running. It was surely organized and ready to go well ahead of time. Consistent talking points don't spring up by themselves.

Nearly all the essential elements of the conservative resistance can be found in an editorial by John Yoo that ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer this past Sunday.

1. The Court has overstepped its bounds. This decision should have been left to legislative acts in the political process. Instead, five unelected elites in robes with jobs-for-life forced this on us! [And where else do people have jobs for life? The academy! And we already know that's bad!]

2. Our Founding Fathers didn't intend for the gays to have a right to marry! You are changing the definition of marriage and rights! [The Founding Father weren't big on marriage or rights for the blacks. But let's not talk about that.]

3. If the gays are so entitled to marriage as an equality thing, how come we still get to discriminate against them in other ways? Huh? Gotcha! Contradiction! You can't give them All The Equalities because then you'd have to give them to any "self-defined group"! It's not like the gays are a real thing. [And hurray! We can keep on discriminating against them in housing and employment, unless your locality unfortunately specifically prohibits it!]

4. Maybe society would have gone this way anyway, but that's society's choice. If society wants to give special rights to certain special interest groups, that's society's choice. Like abortion for women. Which the Court took out of the hands of The People in Roe v. Wade. And you see how well that worked out. Nobody was happy and there was a big backlash and everything got ruined instead of fixed all nice like it would have been if the Court had left everything alone. Sure, you can point to Brown v. Board of Education as a counterexample for how things work out just fine, but really, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 - legislative acts in the political process - were far more important for racial equality which we totally have now.  [And by the way the Court was totally within bounds and right to gut the Voting Rights Act last year! Certain questions just can't be left to Congress!]

Well, thanks John Yoo for laying it all out for us.

You know, it's not like the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act had anything to do with Brown v. Board of Education. Or that it took any action of the courts subsequent to Brown to enforce its ruling.

You can read about the lasting effects of organized resistance to Brown in a book by Kristen Green, "Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County." Never underestimate the power of a committed and organized group of bigots to keep an oppressed group down. Just as the white Virginians founded the Defenders of State Sovereignty and Individual Liberties, talking about rights and liberties to defend segregation, so today the American Renewal Project is hard at work dispensing rhetoric about rights and liberties of evangelical Christians to discriminate against same-sex couples seeking to marry. Or really anyone and anything they find disgusting and unholy. And even though nothing in Obergefell can be construed as forcing pastors to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, legislators are busy passing laws to "project" them from the evil overreaching Court's heinous blasphemous abomination. These are cynical ploys designed to cater to the religious right and simultaneously whip up fear and frenzy in the populace at large, to keep them from realizing that, in fact, no one's marriage has been threatened, their religious liberties are quite safe, and the world did not end.

The editorials, the websites, the organizations defending America, the Presidential candidates explaining why county clerks don't have to obey the Supreme Court - it's a very well-organized effort to undermine Obergefell and resist the expansion of civil rights for LGBT people.

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Letter to Santa

My mother kept a book for each of her children (at least, the younger ones) called "School Days. It had two pages and a pocket for each grade. It had room to record your child's teacher(s), friends, pets, hobbies, clubs & activities, awards & achievements, sports, school & location, height & weight, "additional information", a place to paste their photo, and a line for them to print or sign their name, as they gained prowess. We always thought the entry for school and location was hilarious because you could just put it in at the beginning of the book: Bobtown Elementary, Mapletown Jr-Sr High School. What else was there to know? We had no concept of kids moving from one school to another as their families moved. Nevertheless we dutifully filled it in.

Fifth grade's additional information dutifully notes in my crabbed printing "My teeth are coming in; hair is shoulder length; am going to write". A very important year: the gap from my missing front teeth, which had inspired the great poetic work "Toothless and Teethless" (another time, Zuskateers) was finally getting patched; and I declared myself as a writer. Never mind there were detours through engineering and administration, and writing turned out to be blogging. I was right all along.

The pockets were for newspaper clippings, extraordinary art work, and things of that nature. I was going to say "I don't know how she had time to keep up with that" for all of us. Except that, you know, we were our mother's job - nay, her life's work. There was time because this is what she did. I was thinking the other day how badly we've all been hoodwinked with that "how can I combine career and family" question. The question implies that "family" a.k.a. mothering (and here I mean mothering, not parenting) is something that is not very difficult, creative, important, worthwhile, or time-consuming when done right. Therefore it can be "combined" with Career, which is all of those, by correct application. Think of Career as the shiny new glass tile of your kitchen backsplash that everyone looks at and wants, and Family as the grout which you paste in the thin little spaces inbetween (and nevermind that you need the grout to keep the whole business together).  Once the grout is properly in, you need not think of it much anymore, and can refocus all your attention on the pretty, shiny glass tile.

Mothering can be done by women or men, I think, but it truly is more than a full time job - it is a life's work.  Parenting is something different. It can be done by one or two parents, and parented children can thrive just as well as mothered children. Whether you are in a family where the children are being mothered or parented, life for everyone would be so much better if everyone's workplace was less greedy and demanding. And not just your fancy white collar jobs.  I remember my dad would trade shifts with someone in the coal mine, or go without sleep before the next shift, so he could see me or my sister or brother sing a silly song in a school play, or be crowned Queen of Hearts at Valentine's, or march with the band at our first football game. Mom would be glad he was there, and then worry about him at work.

Among the ephemera my mother saved in the pockets of my school years was a frantic 5th grade note:

Mom,

I need 50 cents, one self-addressed envelope, 3 buttons, my cotton balls, and a milk carton for Monday. Also, get me up at 7:00 and make sure I get up then.

Sue

p.s. I need an 8-cent stamp

I would dearly love to know what that was all about.

Another piece she saved leads us finally to the title of this post - a letter to Santa. Written when I was 9 years old and in the fourth grade, I was teetering on the edge of believing/non-believing. As a budding scientist, I was hoping to garner some proof one way or the other.

Letter to Santa Claus from 9-yr-old Zuska

Letter to Santa Claus from 9-yr-old Zuska

The text of the letter reads:

Dear Santa,

We left some cookies and milk for you, and some salt for your reindeer. (Be sure they all get equal amounts.) I hope you brought my Love doll, and Cindy's doll like mine. Are you real? (Write yes or no) [Arrow pointing to two blank lines]

I really do believe in you.

Suzy, Cindy, Paul, Andy, Eddie, Mom, Dad [unexplainable sibling deletion - sorry, Pat!]

In the morning, the cookies and milk, and the salt, were gone, and the letter was signed in elaborate script "Thank you Merry Christmas - Santa". Santa declined to answer the "are you real yes or no" portion of the letter. Obviously beneath his dignity, or maybe he just didn't see it - it was in the messiest part of the letter, and he was probably in a hurry.

So Santa, since I have written proof of your realness, I'm writing again to ask for just a few things this year. I believe I have been especially good this past year. I've whined only the usual amount about the migraines; I've done a lot of elder care and not begrudgingly either - time spent with elders can be difficult but is often a gift itself; I've done most of the litter box duty and all of the cat puke duty. So please, please Santa, this is what I am hoping for.

1. Let lots and lots and lots more people follow George Bush Sr.'s lead and resign from the NRA.

2. Let those who remain fight like hell to change the organization from within.

3. Let Wayne LaPierre vanish into a world where the only sound is is own howling.

4. Let the tide be turned back on the vicious onslaught against workers and unions.

5. Let the people realize that not just the children, but the teachers, too, are our future.

6. Let parenting and mothering both become more possible and pleasurable as real and unconstrained choices for all.

7. Let The Hobbit be a reasonably pleasurable and escapist viewing experience for me and not a total crushing disappointment when I compare it to my own mental images of the novel.

Thank you, Santa. I know you are busy this time of year and I will appreciate anything you can do with this list. If #7 is too difficult you can leave it off.

One last question. Are you real?

(Write yes or no).  ___  ___

 

 

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Revenge: How They Voted!

Immediately after the election,  there of course commenced the usual discussions of voter demographics. White men, the endangered species, ironically voting for the party of climate change denial!  Single women for Obama and free contraception! As erudite and fascinating as it all was, what people really want to know is: how did the denizens of Revenge-land vote?  Now, for the first time, the exit poll results are available!

First, the Graysons:

Victoria Grayson: The lady likes her luxury. She’s a one-percenter for sure, and she’s married. She's had at least two affairs, and even though she can obviously afford her own birth control, she didn't seem interested in it when she was with David Clarke. Solid Romney vote.

Daniel Grayson: Victoria's son; Amily's former lover and husband-to-be, he wanted to vote Obama to show Amily he's not a complete Grayson but in the end went Romney to protect Grayson Global interests.

Ashley Davenport: former social planner, Amily's former friend, former gf of Tyler, former snitch for Conrad, now Daniel's fiance and hoping to make herself a true official Grayson someday soon, Ashley voted for everyone.

Charlotte Grayson: Finally, for sure, it's Declan! Yes, Declan! It's been him all along! For now.

Conrad Grayson: Third party Initiative candidate, secret ballot. VERY secret.

Next, the folks down at Porter's Bar:

Jack Porter: Jack's a white dude working stiff in New York so he could go either Obama or Romney. But Nolan's his best friend, and Biden forcing Obama's hand on gay marriage tipped the scale: Obama.

Nolan: Ran a SuperPac for Obama. Also was going to hack Romney's Twitter account but Amily called him away at the last minute for revenge-y stuff.

Declan: Just hoping to reach voting age still boning Charlotte & without becoming a felon, if the writers will lay off dicking with his character.

Baby Carl: No one; he's just a cute baby!

Emanda: Whoever Amily told her to vote for.

Kara Clarke: Write-in vote, the White-Haired Man.

Also voted:

Padma Lahari: Her relationship with Nolan will become even more rocky when he finds out she voted Romney. It's a sad truth that people never talk politics before they fall in love. Nolan will hack DemocraticPassions.com to find the perfect mate for himself, but will lose the info on him/her as he is called away by Amily to do revenge-y stuff. In the end he won't mind.

Helen Crowley: It's best you don't know any more than you already do about her.

Satoshi Takeda and Aidan Mathis, as illegal aliens, committed voter fraud. They both voted Obama to undermine Grayson Global.

Did not vote:

Mason Treadwell: is now a felon and behind bars.

Amily Thorne: Amily was busy setting up Mason Treadwell to take the fall for the murder of the white-haired man and and explosion of the jet containing all the evidence, while making Conrad and Victoria think that the Initiative actually did the setting up of Treadwell, so that they are now terrified and will continue to do what the Initiative asks; and was reviewing Revenge Camp fundamentals with Aiden; and didn't make it to the polls before they closed.

Results:

Counting Ashley's votes for everyone and the voter fraud votes, we have:

Obama, 5

Romney, 4

White-Haired Man, 2

Initiative, 2

Declan, 2

Unknown, 2

Didn't vote, 4

(what, did you forget to count Baby Carl as no-vote?)

Obama/Biden win the Revenge vote over Romney/what'shisname by a narrow margin!

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Washington Trades and Labor Building

A few weeks ago I was in Washington, Pa - or what everyone in southwestern Pa refers to as "Little Washington". I've been there on numerous occasions but this was the first time I'd seen this building.

Washington Trades and Labor Building, Washington, PA

This is a closer view of the entrance.

Washington Trades and Labor Building entrance

The building now houses the Newman Center for Washington & Jefferson College on its second floor.

What had originally caught my eye, and led me to want to investigate more closely, was the stone slab on the lower left of the building front.

Inscribed stone slab on the front of Washington Trades and Labor Building

The inscription reads:

This granite is dedicated in memory of our brothers and sisters of Washington and Greene Counties who paid the ultimate price for employment many of which due solely to corporate greed and employer indifference to safety.

"Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living" Mary Harris 'Mother' Jones

"The present age handed over the workers, each alone and defenseless, to the unbridled greed of competitors...so that a very few and exceedingly rich men had laid a yoke of almost slavery on the unnumbered masses of non-owning workers." Pope Leo XIII

It's difficult to describe how I felt when I read that. It was breathtaking to see such strong words chiseled in granite right there out in the open for everyone to see - right here in the age of Scott Walker and Mitt Romney.  It's not some very old monument either - it was dedicated in 2001.  I haven't been able to find any information about the building or the granite marker.  If anyone knows anything about either, I'd appreciate it if you'd leave a comment.

If the Republicans have their way, we'll be right back in the world these quotes describe - indeed we're heading there.  It is so discouraging to a child of a UMWA man, to see how beaten down unions are in the U.S. today.

 

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The More Things Change...

Got my Jan-Feb 2012 issue of the UMWA Journal recently and read this on page 2:

UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL

The time has come when all members of the working class must sink their petty differences and personal political opinions, and take a united and definite position. The great danger is… the capitalist class will, by means of their entrenched power in government, judiciary, the public press and financial organizations…obtain such a hold upon society that the work of redemption will be frustrated for generations to come. While the working class divide their energies and divide political parties…the capitalist class will move solidly along [its] well-defined purpose.

That's pretty much what I've been thinking lately.  I think that's at least part of what the "We are the 99%" protests have been trying to convey.

Depressingly enough, it appeared in the UMW Journal 100 years ago, on January 18, 1912. I think of all that my grandfathers struggled and fought for, and how much of it has been taken away from us.  Even the eight-hour day, which organized labor won as a right through years of difficult, dangerous, and deadly strikes and protests, is all but gone.

Let's say you work at a university or a company.  You have your "hourly wage" employees and your "salaried" employees.  Everybody knows it's much better to be a salaried employee, right?  More money, better career track, better benefits (well...as long as you can hang on to them),  and the cachet of being salaried.  No wage slave are you!  No mucking about with unions for your highly educated and trained self!  Unions are for the lower class of employees, the lesser skilled, the less important, the interchangeable parts.  You are a unique individual and you don't need a union to represent you!  You represent yourself!  You are your own brand! Just look at your web page!  People follow you on Twitter!  [Follow me @TSZuska ! For realz!] You aren't one of those nine-to-fivers who work just to live, you live for your work.  Every now and then you'll agree that a St. K3rn takes it a bit too far, but really, you've got to put in the long hours to get results and you need to show you are dedicated researcher/company person.  You're online, tuned in, available 24/7; work comes home with you, and you live with your work.  In 1848 French workers won a 12-hour workday. There are PIs today who would question those French workers' dedication.  Only 12 hours? "Science doesn't stop at 5 on Fridays," as my master's thesis advisor said.

But what good would a union do?  Science/industry/God demands the sacrifice of your time and no progress can be made without it.  However will the coal mines operate if we don't have the tiny hands of children to pick the slate out of the coal at the breakers? The main point is that you are an individual and you are going to make it to the top.  Remember, we don't talk about haves and have-nots in this country.  We speak of haves, and soon-to-haves.

 

Fifty years ago, Rep. Elmer Holland (D.-PA) was quoted in the pages of the February 1, 1962 UMW Journal as follows:

It’s all too easy to dream up reasons why the labor movement should be shackled even more. And if the labor movement is not alert that is precisely what will happen.

If you don't believe Elmer Holland, you just go ask Scott Walker and the Koch brothers!

Twenty-five years ago, UMWA members were being urged to buy American-made goods, even if they cost more, and to complain to stores if they could not find what they wanted made in America.  But WalMart is so cheap!  And now that our unions have been crushed, our wages curtailed, our benefits taken away, and job security just some vague dream we once heard about, who can afford to "buy American"?  If, indeed, there's anything left made in America after the orgy of right-sizing and down-sizing and out-sourcing moved most of our manufacturing base elsewhere.

The Philadelphia Inquirer business section yesterday explained how Dansko would love to move all its manufacturing back into the U.S.  The main reason it can't is not wages.

Even if the company were to offer U.S. workers wages similar to what it pays in Italy - $18 to $20 an hour - its founders say there would remain the fundamental issue of where to find people with the expertise, or the desire, to take those jobs, given how shoemaking as an industry has been decimated.

"It's really about there's no knowledge - no knowledge, no support structure," Kjellerup said. "Because if you had that, I think America could be competitive in manufacturing."

And so we have the conundrum of a company that would like to pay good wages to make its product in America, but can't, thanks to decades of outsourcing.

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No Modesty Left At All

People keep saying the dead-tree format is over and done with but you can still learn so much from reading the newspaper.  Take for example this (for once) sensible editorial I chanced upon yesterday in the radical left-leaning Philadelphia Inquirer.  If you are "poor", ask yourself:  WWJD?  Be prepared to shape up in a hurry because He'd tell you something like this:

Our Lord Jesus: Are you a tween working 60 hours a week sticking things on pots while rats gnaw at you, just so you can get your dad out of debtor's prison?  No?  What you are is lounging about in your air-conditioned paradise with your cable tv, maybe even going to the public library and using the computer to get on the Internet there, and you're whinging away because you're "hungry".  If you're so hungry, why are you so fat?  Riddle me that one, Batman!  Your school (though I wouldn't let my kids go there) is free (for now, till we institute the voucher system) and your government pays for "much" of the tab of state and community colleges (if by "much" we include "ever decreasing amounts").  Why are you so dumb?  You can be as "poor" as you want and we won't even put you in debtor's prison!

 

You see, being poor used to be about really suffering in a hideous manner unto death. If the impoverished people are fat, have cars, and aren't in jail, the system is working pretty good for them.  But give the "poor" a little and they still aren't satisfied.  It's not enough to be a wage slave in a rat-free environment.**  They want equal opportunities, too!  But the whole point of success is to give your children unusually good opportunities. But no, the "poor" want to make it about the size of the gap, claiming that if the rich get richer, the poor should too.  That's just crazy talk!

Myself, I say it's time we solved this "poverty" problem, such as it is, once and for all.  Modesty will not serve; let us be bold in our proposals.  What few poor we do have should be fed an all organic, no hormones or antibiotics diet for three months to cleanse their systems, then humanely slaughtered on-site in old style, non-industrial abattoirs. We should not limit ourselves to just the more obvious, meatier cuts but strive for a whole human, nose to foot approach.  Many parts of the poor will pair well with a good pinot noir, and there is nothing like poor heart - tender, amazing, not funky like liver, and poor trotters make great tacos.  Even if it weren't respectful to the poor to practice nose-to-foot eating, the ecological benefits alone make it a wise choice for the environmentally conscious eater -- feeding multiple mouths with one whole animal and all its edible parts is much more efficient and less tolling on our environment than processing multiple animals to feed only a few mouths, which is what we do when limiting ourselves to eating only a single part.  You know, like chicken nuggets.  Which I hear, make the "poor" so fat, but also our wallets, so what are you going to do.

 

**Well, I did hear today about a transport authority worker stuck in a booth all day who has to dodge rats running around his feet so, technically, I guess we haven't quite achieved "wage slave in a rat-free environment" yet.  So close!

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Getting "In God We Trust" Back Into This Country

It's December 29th, and I'm taking a little time out of the mad holiday rush to sit down, relax, and write out some Christmas cards.  I know what you're thinking: Zuska, isn't this just a tad early to start working on the 2012 mailing list?  You are correct. However, it's a dandy time for cranking out the 2011 cards.  Hopes are high that they will actually reach a mailbox, maybe even in 2011.  For lo these several years I've not managed to send out anything more than a card to Z-mom, but I feel a Christmas miracle coming on. Surely a month of incessant Christmas carols everywhere I go will have inspired me.

Last year while digging around in a cupboard I came across a box of Christmas cards with envelopes already addressed and stamped.  A few signatures and a personal note or two were all that was lacking.  I thought briefly about converting these abandoned cards to a 2010 mailing. But the amount of extra postage each envelope needed would tell the whole embarrassing story.  Fortunately my township recycles paper.

I was inspired to mull over my ongoing Christmas card mailing list failures-to-launch while listening to All Things Considered; Iowan Man and Potential Mitt Romney Supporter plaintively inquired the following:

  "Yeah, I was wondering what you're planning on doing to get 'In God We Trust' back into this country again because our kids can't even celebrate Christmas in this country for fear of offending someone else," said the potential supporter. "Y'know, when we came here, we were founded on 'In God We Trust' and I'd like to see that back in this country again." [emphasis mine]

Could that be it?  Iowan Man may be on to something here.  I thought I was lazy and perhaps somewhat concerned about all the paper wastage. But I am fairly sure now that this is the problem:  I can't celebrate Christmas by sending out cards for fear of offending someone else.  It just has to be that.

In solidarity with Iowan Man, I offer below The Lament of the White Christian During  Xmas Election Season.

We can't even celebrate Christmas in this country for fear of offending someone else. Sure, you can buy Hanukkah cards - some of your best friends are Jewish! - but it's just a pity card because you can't send them a real Christmas card. They probably know it and wish their second-class holiday was the real one, and that makes you feel soooo awkward. Just because your holiday is Number 1 is no reason for other people to make you feel bad.

Then you have your atheist friends (hah! as if). You can't even say Merry Christmas because they will call out the ACLU and sue you, even if you X-out Jesus and say Merry Xmas.  What are you left with? Season's Greetings and Happy Holidays and Sparkle Season and other euphemisms that are just pushing "In God We Trust" right out of this country and making our kids afraid.

The worst of all is the Muslims, of which I don't personally know any, but they just get enraged when they hear anything about Christmas.  They are going to take over this country and mark my words, we are going to have to celebrate Christmas in secret, because they will kill us if they find out.  They have already gotten a Muslim elected president and pretty soon no Christian will be safe anywhere.

We need to get "In God We Trust" back in this country so that when the end times come, we'll be Raptured.  So, what I want to know, Mr./Ms. Presidential Candidate, can you promise me that if I vote for you, your first priority will be to install the authoritarian white christian theocracy I'm pining for?  Merry Christmas, In God We Trust.

 

 

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Where We're All Heading in Scott Walker's Handbasket

Now indeed is the winter of our labor discontent.

Scott Walker, you'll recall, is the Rethuglican who has creatively called his union-busting scheme a "budget repair" bill.  Once we've finished stripping workers of all their rights - collective bargaining is just the first step! there's so much more that can be taken away once the collective bargaining is gone! - we can bring back many useful practices from the good ol' days.  The history of Blair Mountain is instructive in this regard.  Maybe you'll want to go visit Blair Mountain, and see the historical marker, but I'd do it now if I were you, before Mr. Peabody rips it off the face of the earth to get at the coal underneath.

Two years ago, Blair Mountain was entered into the National Register of Historic Places. And then, just a few months later, it was taken off by state officials.

Lawyers hired by West Virginia's largest coal companies came up with a list of landowners who, they said, objected to the designation.

"There's apparently a lot of money to be made by blowing this mountain up and taking all the coal out from it," labor historian Gordon Simmons says, referring to mountaintop removal.

Fuck you, coal companies. Isn't it enough that your predecessors had a hired army of goons and federal troops dispatched by the president to keep coal miners from forming a union?  Now you want to literally erase the history from the face of the earth? Fuck. You.

Well, Scott Walker's not calling in the troops yet on the citizens of Wisconsin. I'm sure that's just crazy to even imagine.  Why, people have the right to collective bargaining!  Oh wait, he's taking that away.  Well, they have the right to be in a union!  Oh wait, he's trying to make it really, really, really hard for there to be a union at all, what with the yearly votes for the union to exist, and the optional dues, and the fact that once your union can't bargain, and pay raises are strictly limited, you're going to wonder why you should pay dues or be in the union at all. You might as well join the Elks and spent your union dues on beer; at least you'll get drunk for your money.

So once the union is gone, and the plutocrats can pay us whatever they deem we are worth, and fire us whenever they feel like it, and take away our benefits on a whim - oh wait, you're saying, that's my life now?  Because you're not in a union.  Have you grumbled about unions in the past?  A union exists to protect you from all that.  But they talked you into thinking that the union was making your life hell, not the top 400 of them who hold more cash, stocks, and land than  the bottom 155 million of us combinedCrabs in a barrel, they wanted to make us, and it mostly worked.

Anyway, as I was saying, once they've taken us back to the point where we have as many rights as those coal miners at Blair Mountain (maybe they'll start paying us in scrip again!), they can imprison us even faster than they do now.    Pennsylvania's prison population has grown 500% in the last 30 years - that's a promising industry!  A caller to Marty Moss-Coane's radio show this morning suggested that prisoners be placed 3 to a cell, but only two of them in the cell at any given time; one would always be out working an eight hour shift.  Put the prisoners to work!  Well, at least they'd have an eight hour day, if not a five-day work week.  But why be limited by the arbitrary eight-hour day? We could pack them four to a cell and take out two at a time for 12-hour shifts.  It's not like they have a union or anything.

Yeah, where did you think your eight-hour day and five-day work week came from?  Oh, you say, not me, I'm a professional, I'm a scientist, I'm a grad student/postdoc/professor, and I work long hours.  I'm k3rntastic!  Science demands no less, I work for the love of it, I work long hours because if I don't someone else will step right into my place and work just as hard and take my job. Oh crap, that last one sounds just exactly like what the coal miners used to say before they got themselves organized and formed a union.  You know what?  Coal miners are professionals too, and take pride in their work, and love what they do, too.  They like having a union that regulates working conditions, and says if you work overtime you get time and a half.  What do policies like that do?  They create more jobs, and make employers think twice about overworking the employees they do have, because it costs more.  Oh, unions won't work for science. Science is so different!  Believe me, baby, if you wanted a union bad enough, you'd find a way to make it work.

Listen up:  Philip Dray, author of There Is Power In A Union: The Epic Story Of Labor In America, will be on Fresh Air this afternoon, to put the Wisconsin union battle in a historical context. Listen live at 3 pm or audio available online after 5 pm.  Read the little blurb about the show - it's fascinating.  Here's the piece that was a real shocker even for me.

[quoting Dray]: Every city in America has these large brick armories in the city. I used to think they were there for soldiers to gather to go abroad but those were built in an era when authorities wanted a place where soldiers could gather to bring down local labor unrest.

Yeah, they didn't teach me any of this history in school.  Certainly not in the coal patch public schools. They did not tell me how the tax dollars of our forebears went to constructing buildings for the express purpose of gathering troops to suppress the formation of unions by those same forebears.  Well, not the tax dollars of the Blair Mountain coal miners, per se.  They were paid in scrip, which could only be spent at the company store.

If you have a few extra dollars in your pocket this month, consider donating to a union to help fund organizing struggles, general strike funds, etc.  You can become an associate member of the United Mine Workers of America for $5 a month.  Write to your congressperson and insist that Blair Mountain be placed on National Register of Historic Places, not ripped apart by coal companies.  Speak up when someone is union bashing and say you wish everyone had the kinds of benefits and job security that a union can negotiate for its members.  Don't be a crab in the barrel that the plutocrats and Rethuglicans are constructing for us all.

My grandparents lived through the union-organizing hell of the past.  Let's not go back there in Governor Walker's handbasket.

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