Union

Cheers to PB for an excellent post regarding the seeming anti-nexus of bottom-line worship and the interest of safety. An addendum to his observation that may or may not come back at a later date to bite me in the ass: When’s the last time you heard of a horrific nuclear accident in France? The entire country runs on nukes, ya know. But it’s entirely a public enterprise. Run by the government. Yep. PART OF THE COMMONS.

So I look forward to the day when we hear about the next French nu-kyoo-lar accident. Because then I can be proven wrong. Until that day, it stands as some of the finest evidence of the effectiveness of a vigorous support of a commons. So screw.

We’d be remiss on this tear if we didn’t mention the recent commemoration of 100 years since the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

See, on March 25, 1911, there was this blouse factory on floors 8 to 10 in this building in New York City. The factory employed about 500 people, mostly immigrant women, who worked nine hours a day during the week and seven hours on Sunday. (How’s that labor movement looking to you now?) There was a fire, likely started in a bin of scrap textile, where like two months’ of scrap had been allowed to pile up.

There was no audible fire alarm. And the only plausible escape route for the workers was locked to prevent the workers from stealing these shitty blouses.

From the Wiki:

Within three minutes, the Greene Street stairway became unusable in both directions.[16] Terrified employees crowded onto the single exterior fire escape, a flimsy and poorly-anchored iron structure which may have been broken before the fire. It soon twisted and collapsed from the heat and overload, spilling victims nearly 100 feet (30 m) to their deaths on the concrete pavement below. Elevator operators Joseph Zito[17] and Gaspar Mortillalo saved many lives by traveling three times up to the ninth floor for passengers, but Mortillalo was eventually forced to give up when the rails of his elevator buckled under the heat. Some victims pried the elevator doors open and jumped down the empty shaft. The weight of these bodies made it impossible for Zito to make another attempt.

129 women and 17 men died. Owners Max Blanck and Isaac Harris were indicted on charges of manslaughter.

They were acquitted.

To many people, 100 years seems like a long time. But it ain’t. In terms of history, in terms of geology, in terms of generations, it’s a morsel of time. And the awesome progress that was made as a result of this tragedy is now being brutally attacked by our landed gentry.

These workers were in that factory 52 hours a week. Do you like your 40 hours? Your weekend? Not to mention, do you like not getting locked in on the ninth floor and having to choose between asphyxiation or leaping to your doom like a fucking 9/11 victim?

Union.

What Really Happened 30 Years Ago Today

Thirty years ago today I stood on the corner of Connecticut and Q in Washington DC and watched a Presidential motorcade roll up the Avenue to the Hilton. As I always did in those days, I waved to the Raygunner in merry jest, one finger prominently displayed. I went back to my office to work and in a few more minutes sirens were blaring. John Hinckley had shot the Raygunner.

What happened next, of course, is history. Within minutes of Raygun’s arrival at George Washington Hospital’s emergency room, a team of comedy writers was called in to put the right spin on the President’s condition. Here is what they came up with: “Hope you guys are Republicans.” Which is what we now believe is what Raygun said to the doctors before surgery.

In the meantime, Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger (“Bring in the Jew,” Raygun used to say) contacted a college friend who worked in anamatronics at Disneyland. Not a month before, he had told Weinberger about a fabulous project at Disney, then undergoing its final tests, to build a robot that was so realistic it could serve drinks at a Hollywood cocktail party. (“Wow,” Cap thought at the time, “more useful than Ronnie.”) Disney called it humanoid animation, a project it started in the 1960s with an animated Abraham Lincoln. Disney planned to introduce the device at Epcot Center that summer. Future man was going to be a tour guide.

Now, Weinberger had other ideas. Sitting in the hospital with a dying President, watching Corporate plans for world domination slip away and  knowing  that the liberal policy wonk Vice President George Bush would derail the Raygun Revolution before it began, Weinberger declared: “We are going to animate the President.”

No one knows exactly what Disney was paid. Some say $5 billion came from a secret Pentagon fund that was later used to arm the Mujahadeen. Disney may have had to give up all rights, in perpetuity, so many believe that figure was low. Some believe as much as $20 billion was initially demanded, and it is known that the State Department was very helpful in locating the first Disney in Europe.

In any case a deal was done, and programmers from the Rand Corporation and technicians from Haliburton spent three days at Disney getting a crash course in operating and maintaining the amazing machine. The Disney engineering staff is said to have been at first pleased, but puzzled, and then defiant when informed they were to give up their baby. Many, being expendable and a threat to the secrecy of the project, latter disappeared.

Two weeks later the new Raygun was introduced to the nation, fully oiled up and ready for a shake down cruise. The only person who really knew any difference was Nancy Reagan, who was once heard to exclaim, “Better than my old dildo.”

After the Raygun retired, money for maintenance was scarce. The machine was allowed to get Alzheimer’s and fade away. There was a moment during the Clinton years when the Corporate Leadership became concerned that the new President was too liberal and threatened to bring Raygun back to the battlefield.   But Clinton, ever sensitive to the machinations of the powerful, put his money on NAFTA and made an abrupt right turn into the closet with Monica Lewinski.

It is here worth noting that there is a rumor that Disney intends to acquire Madam Tussauds and introduce a marvelous new animation technology. Will Raygun walk once again?

From the Halls of Fukajima

If there is one real lesson to be taken from the failures at Fukajima it is this: in an economy where the primary mission is to maximize profit, safety will always take a back seat. That is true whether the potential damage is the death of a few otherwise expendable coal miners, the destruction of the entire Louisiana fishing industry, or the devastation of the Japanese coast line and poisoning of thousands of citizens. Profit comes first. People who do not keep an eye on the profit bottom line lose their jobs.

A lot has been said about how the Japanese, being such technical geniuses and all, could surely be trusted not to screw this up. This assumption is wrong on a couple of counts. First, the Japanese are no more technical genius than Americans. We think they are because they made damn good cars, particularly in the early years when they had to prove to the American market that they really did make good cars. So they overcompensated and beat the crap out of the American car makers, whose primary interest was in selling junk that had to be replaced every three years. But the Japanese have lately proven they are also fallible in the car business, and now in nuclear power they look no smarter than the Soviets.

The truth is that the Japanese industry, like the American Nuke industry, has a long history of making mistakes and sweeping them under the rug. It also has a regulator that is happy never to take the carpets out for a dusting. The Japanese industry is “a scandal-ridden energy industry in a comfy relationship with government regulators often willing to overlook safety lapses,” according to the Huffington Post.


These include radiation leaks and failures of worker safety overlooked because of the potential scandal, but also because of the cost associated with fixing the problem. No bigger cost issue faces the Japanese industry than the problem of ensuring the safety of existing plants. Fukashima is old, outdated, and built when knowledge of potential damage was far less than perfect. So are many other Japanese plants. If there is a lesson from Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, it’s that there should be alternate and independent power sources on site at all times. While this was obvious, no one wanted to take the lesson to heart because of the cost of installing and maintaining adequate power backup. How soon do you think Japan will begin to install fool-proof back up power at its other nuclear plants?

Of course the US situation is nearly identical. A Union of Concerned Scientists report recently noted that Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspections conducted in 2010 failed to discover or correct 14 major issues at critical power plants. Note that the NRC only audits about five percent of nuclear power plant activity annually. Thus, it missed 14 major incidents while looking at five percent of the activity… how many overlooked incidents were not audited at all?

The truth is there is no real motivation for the nuclear power industry to be attendant to safety. Like the coal industry, its motivation is money. Managers are not paid for incidents that do not happen. Spending money to ensure nothing bad happens is never rewarded, even though failure to be prepared is often punished. In addition to being paid to play golf, managers are paid for the one thing that can be easily measured by the stockholders… the amount of profit that they show at the end of each year. If they can boost profit by cutting the safety budget, they will do it every time.

It is not as though there is a regulator in place motivated to ensure the interests of the general public are met. The general public does not have a strong voice in Washington. Where the regulator works, money talks and bullshit walks. In Washington, the Nuclear Industry does a lot of talking because it has a lot of money. The Industry spends a lot of it buying votes. The bureaucrats at the NRC have always been more pro industry than pro public, and they are certainly not going to risk the wrath of GE’s favorite Congressman for the sake of an extra margin of safety.

The truth is, as long as profit is a motive in the nuclear industry, there will never be a safe nuclear plant. If we really want safe nuclear power, we need to convert all nuclear plants to not-for-profit cooperatives whose first interest is delivering safe power to the people.

The War Is STILL Stupid

I have been silent here for some time; am adjusting to a new situation in life. However, I would be remiss if I did not make this brief point before I dash off to my new day job:

The United States and Britain have just handed Gaddafi exactly what he needs.

His most recent political struggle is no longer about his brutal attempt to quash an uprising. It is now about his persecution by a western superpower. His recent fumbling of his peoples’ hearts and minds will be readily recovered. We had better manage to drive Gaddafi from power. And when we do, we had best prepare for a godawful clusterfuck.

Our strikes in Tripoli are just the latest in a long series of missteps in this nation’s attempts to navigate in the Arab world. What we ought to be doing is doing everything in our power to reclaim our economic independence from these assholes so we can stop getting entangled in bullshit like this. What we are doing, even under The Obama, is to continue with the horrible, awful, shitty policies of the previous Preznit.

War. Still stupid. Solar panels on the White House. Now that was smart.

Politically Correct Again!

I am forced to revisit the issue of political correctness. The subject gets a second hook from the UCLA Coed who had to quit school after posting a You Tube rant about Asians who talk loudly on the phone in the library. Notice I didn’t say “an anti Asian rant,” because I don’t think she intended hate of Asians. I think she was complaining about an annoying practice that she attributed primarily to Asian students and she was calling them out on it. Therein lies a problem with political correctitude… sometimes it craps all over the truth.

Most people I know leave the room to find a private place to talk when they need to take a phone call. The one person who does not is a nice Asian woman I know who yammers away whenever and without consideration for place or privacy. Being the only person in the room who speaks Korean ensures her privacy, and maybe someone needs to suggest she move the conversation into the next room, but we are too polite to do so. I don’t hang out in places where there are lots of young Asians, but it may be true that she is not untypical.

So maybe what the UCLA girl said needed to be said. You go girl. I had the same thought when Juan Williams was fired by NPR. What he said was that when he sees an Arab looking person getting on an airplane he keeps a close watch on him for the whole flight. So do I. So does every healthy American who is at all aware of the potential danger of a terrorist. Is it racist to suggest that any random Arab may turn terrorist at any time? I will say that if you are looking out for potential terrorists on your airplane, it would not be entirely crazy to keep an eye on the Arabs… even though you might want to look out for the Skinhead with the pipe bomb in his pocket or the Teapartier who has plotted the Airline’s path over the IRS headquarters. By the way, in the USA it is not politically correct to point out that the majority of terrorists acts have been the work of white Americans of the right wing persuasion.

Last month I flew to Chicago. While waiting in the airport in a nearly empty lounge, two gentlemen from the Asian subcontinent … likely Pakistanis… chose to occupy the seat directly behind me. Big fellows, they rocked the seats about and threw their arms over the back of the chair so that, had I kept my seat, I would have been leaning on an unwonted arm. There was plenty of space so I moved. It is not the first time I have had this experience. My guess is it is a cultural thing that if you live in a country with zillions of people you think it is normal to sit closest to whatever people are around. I am an American, I find it annoying, and by the way I kept an eye on those guys all the way to Chicago.

Political correctness is a useful tool. It allows us to cast a blanket over differences which we know rationally are either immaterial or non-existent even though we may be culturally inclined to believe them to be true. It is a great mechanism for overcoming differences and moving on. It can also become a political tool that burys obvious truths and vilifies anyone who seems to have stepped over the boundaries of political correctitude. This might include the UCLA girl and certainly includes Rep. Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat, who correctly noted that the GOOP is engaged in using The Big Lie, a tactic invented by Nazis and perfected by Dik Chainey and Karl Rove, to control the public debate.

The very politically correct ban on the notion that God punishes all those who are not “True Christians” with hurricanes and tsunamis is one we cannot realistically expect to enforce. After all, the people who hold that view actually believe it, and we would be wise to know who they are in the event that they, like their brother Muslim Taliban, conclude it is their duty to give God a hand. By the way, it is probably not politically correct to suggest that Radical American Evangelicals and Taliban have anything in common.

Money for Nothing

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has just adopted a new slogan. They went to a lot of trouble for it, having an election where people got to vote on the final product and everything. Here is what they came up with: “No Tea for Me, Thanks, I Prefer Progress.”

That’s a zinger ain’t it? Jumps right off the page at you. In the history of campaign slogans it’s right up there with “A Chicken in Every Pot” and “Happy Days are Here Again.” Wowzer! Sure glad to see the Democratic Senate people are so hip and with it. In touch with the masses and all.

I did not vote in the slogan contest. I had my own suggestions that I think more closely reflect what the DSCC is all about. Here is one: “We Honor the Corporate Leaders.” “What’s Good for GM is Good for America.” Or how about: “We are Not Exactly Republicans” or “I’m Not Not licking Republicans.” Or this popular tune, “We Are Not Really Liberals.”

I am still getting calls from the DSCC asking for money, and I am giving stern lectures to the minimum wage earners they pay to make the calls on what it means to be Progressive. That means you support jobs in the USA by supporting labor and encouraging taxation and trade policies that keep jobs here. You support heath care for all. You support government regulation of the financial services industry, criminalization of white collar crime, equal rights for everyone, including the GLBT community. You want a rational immigration policy. You support environmental protection, clean water and clean air. You are opposed to most wars and prefer to see taxes spent on education. You support the bill of rights for everyone, not just evangelical Christians. I could go on, but you get the picture.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee supports only a handful of people I would call progressive (Al Franken, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar) and a larger handful of people who should caucus with the GOOP (Ben Nelson, Joe Manchin, Bill Nelson, Mark Pryor). I no longer give money to the Democratic Party, and only maintain a membership because I am active locally and there is no conflict with my PDA meetings.

If you get the idea that I don’t think the Democratic Party, particularly the President (I worked for) and his gang of Wall Street Ivy Leaguers, any longer represents my interests, you are correct. Moreover, I don’t think they have the best interests of the nation at heart. The Party of Roosevelt and Truman and Jimmy Carter has become the party of money.

Political Correctitude and the Wrath of God

Political correctness is the idea that you do not say things that are so offensive they need to be unsaid. Common rules of civility, really, kind of like when we were children and they taught us not to say shit or fuck … or fart in public.

I agree with some of these rules. I haven’t told a good looking female co-worker that she looks nice since about 1979, and I never use the “N” word or tolerate racist jokes. I don’t think butch chicks are funny.

Still I recognize there is some truth to the Conservative argument that political correctitude is a form of intellectual tyranny. For example, recent efforts by the left AND right to silence Rep. Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat, who correctly noted that the GOOP is engaged in using The Big Lie, a tactic invented by Nazis and perfected by Dik Chainey and Karl Rove, to control the public debate. (See KIAV The Truth Deserves Better Treatment).

Any time there is a natural disaster, we get a bunch of right wing churchers claiming the Wrath of God is raining down on us. Remember Jerry Falwell’s claim that Katrina was punishment for queers in New Orleans. So now we have this little airhead whose You Tube thanks to Jesus for waking up atheists in Japan has gone viral. Apparently she does not know that the Japanese have a long and serious religious tradition, Shinto, or maybe in her mind, anyone not Christian is an atheist.

And to complicate matters there is Gilbert Godfrey who got fired from his long-standing gig as the Aflak Goose for tweeting jokes about the tragedy in Japan.

I don’t know. Gilbert can’t help himself … it’s what he does… and little Miss Holy Cost…. probably can’t either. One a victim of professional training, the other a slave to irrational silliness. Gilbert, of course, is harmless, and while he will miss the income from AFLAK will probably not miss too many roasts.

I am not so sure how harmless Miss Holy Cost is in the long run. This is the danger Eric Hoffer warned us about. In the age of the Taliban, we always need to ask:  when does the righteous Wrath of God by earthquake give way to righteous Wrath of God by True Believer?

It’s a Brave New World Out There

This has rapidly become the age of the Corporation. The promise that was envisioned by the Supreme Court when it ruled that the right to contract trumped the right of unions to organize came to fruition in Citizens’ United, which confirms that Corporations have all the political rights of private citizens. Human rights no longer have value. Corporate rights reign supreme.

Corporations differ from private citizens in one respect… they are rich… and they lost no time in capitalizing on their new-found power.   Pouring millions of dollars into the mid-term election cycle, they channeled the votes of the stupid masses and turned back the clock of human progress 100 years. As proven in Wisconsin, unions are now powerless. The future is a land where the worker will settle for what he is offered, corporations have no obligation to their employees. The rich will get richer. The middle class will become a cheap labor pool that serves corporate interests.

The government is an instrument of Corporate power. Wall Street nearly destroyed the economy and was highly paid for its effort. Monsanto can sue a farmer if one of its patented seeds contaminates a farmer’s crop. Citizens are prohibited from seeking cheap prescription drugs in Canada. Health insurance companies are guaranteed a captive market by the government while citizens get no added protection against price gouging and only limited promise of better service. These times try men’s souls.

There is a world-wide depression on. Unemployment hovers at 9 percent.   Most people who get new jobs go to work at substantially less than they had been earning.  The price of food is rising, the ability to pay for it is falling. The world created 214 new billionaires last year, 23 of them in the USA.

The rich get richer. Fuck the poor. The price of prescription drugs rose 93 percent in New York between 2004 and 2010, 11 percent in 2010 alone. A drug that prevents premature birth cost $10 per dose a year ago. Next week it will cost $1500 per dose, about $30,000 per pregnancy, according to the Associated Press. How is that?

The government (which developed Makena along with the March of Dimes) recently granted one company, KV Pharmaceuticals, the exclusive right to manufacture the drug. Previously the drug was licensed to numerous producers. The single source license is intended to improve quality, which it will, and it won’t much affect rich people, who can afford to pay for quality. (Why buy a Ford when you can buy a Mercedes?) Poor people, whose lives are most likely to be disrupted by premature births? Fuck em.

The Real Question, Buried As Usual

The USA Toady breathlessly trumpets, above the fold, the following headline:

“In Wis., private sector pays less.” Wisconsin, the story reports, is one of 41 states where public employees earn higher average pay and benefits than private workers in the same state, this according to an analysis by the USA Toady itself.

It’s on the front page of the USA Toady. Above the fold. This ridiculous Republigoat meme has, as usual, become the generally accepted common wisdom. Those goddamn public employees are just sucking on the public boob, and they’re living it pretty high and might doing it, too, while the rest of us suffer and slave away working for the man and earn peanuts at it. Bastards.

If I were king of the world, it would be a law punishable by clothespins applied to one’s taint that each time a journalistic entity breathlessly reports any discrepancy of compensation between public and private sectors, he must also report on the compensation discrepancy in these Untied States between CEOs and the rest of us.

They would have to report that a CEO makes 200 times more money than your average laborer; that even as Forbes was reporting that CEO compensation had dipped in 2010, they were reporting that the average CEO earns $8 million. A year.

That’s about $666,666 per month. Per month.

If this country all of a sudden has a hard-on to talk about some sort of compensation inequity, why in the wide wide world of sports aren’t we talking about that one?

Unless you’re pulling down $700K a month, you ought to be.

Joke

A teabagger, a union member, and a CEO are sitting at a table with a dozen cookies.

The CEO immediately takes 11 cookies for himself, and then turns to the teabagger and says, “Watch out for that union guy. He wants part of your cookie.”