Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Worker Without a Union...

My wack-job cousin, as regular readers know, is constantly needling me about my leftwing views. Recently she sent me an email she got from one of her fascist friends about the public sector union movement. It was the usual bullshit:

...the left seem to conflate private sector unions with those in the public sector, which obfuscates the real problem. I've not heard any outcry to dismantle private unions. But public employee unions are an entirely different problem ... a very large problem.
Without question state budgetary issues related to public union excesses have done as much as anything to create fiscal crises across the country. Public unions have deliberately and systematically worked to overcharge for their services by "negotiating" with the powers that be, resulting in fat salary and benefit packages and retirement plans...
And on and on in that vein. It's nothing new. I've been hearing this crap for 30+ years, how the greedy public employees who are lucky to have a job have been sucking up all the tax dollars, blah blah blah.

You can't reason with these people and it's best to ignore them.

Except I did send her back this little zinger:
A worker without a union is like a mouse in a roomful of cats negotiating what to have for lunch.
That kind of burnt her, I think, since she doesn't belong to a union and has been whining for years about how low her pay is, how fucked up her working conditions are, etc etc etc.

Snark. Take that.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"I Knew Something Was Wrong..."

That's the word from the mother of one 16-year-old high school moron named Chad Farnan, who came home from his first day of honors history class taught by James Corbett and told his parents that Corbett had stated that there is no evidence that George Washington ever prayed in public.

"I knew something was wrong," Teresa Farnan said, "because we have a picture of George Washington praying in our home."

It boggles the mind -- calling Sarah Palin...

But wait, there's more: When crybaby Chad complained that Corbett was "attacking" his christian faith, his parents did the only sensible thing: Instead of directly confronting the teacher, they sent Chad to school with a tape recorder so he could record these horrible antiamerican antichristian so-called "ideas" that Corbett was spouting in his nefarious attempts to poison little Chad's mind.

And following this surreptitious -- and likely illegal -- recording, they took what can only be seen as the next sensible step: Instead of contacting the principal or the teacher, they filed a lawsuit, using something called the Advocates for Faith and Freedom, which I will admit I hadn't heard of before, but it appears to be "one of those" organizations, set up for the sole purpose of filing frivolous lawsuits on behalf of aggrieved believers in the One True Faith. Okay, not the sole purpose, since they appear to be pretty good at self-promotion and raising money.

It didn't take them but a few days to book appearances on the media outlets of the Usual Suspects -- Bill Orally, Slanthead Hannity, etc. -- in an attempt to inflame "the base" into sending them money for their "defense" -- never mind the fact that THEY filed the lawsuit and it was the poor history teacher who was the defendant.

Anyway, for what it's worth, the kind-of-reliable-but-not-really LA Times has most of the details, if you want to read them, but you can get a better picture of what happened if you read the article by the teacher himself, James Corbett, "In Defense of 'Jesus Glasses'":

The facts of my case are fairly simple. Chad Farnan, a 15-year-old self-described Christian fundamentalist student in my Advanced Placement European History class, sued me for a “pattern” of statements unconstitutionally hostile to religion. His claim was based on hours of illegal and surreptitious recordings.
. . .
I could criticize voodoo for animal cruelty in disemboweling a chicken, but not call the belief in entrail prophecy “superstition” or “nonsense.” By “Lemon” logic, the fundamentalist Muslim belief in jihad would be protected from criticism by a government actor as long as no crime was committed. How many government actors, including U.S. presidents, have criticized radical mullahs for their belief that the Koran demands death for infidels? I doubt any were in violation of the Constitution. Certainly, no legal scholar would argue that Christian beliefs have a special, and protected, place in constitutional law. So it may be upsetting to Christian fundamentalists for a teacher to say, for example, that a talking donkey is ridiculous, but should he be open to a lawsuit? I feel like I’m the donkey Chad and the Advocates are riding for fun and profit, but because I requested a summary judgment I—unlike biblical Balaam’s donkey—have no voice, “magic” or legal.
As we all know, the whole point of this lawsuit, and others like it, are not to "preserve the religious freedom" of poor put-upon students like whiny little Chad. No, they are intended to (1) Raise money for the Xian Right, and (2) Exercise a "chilling effect" on freedom of thought and its natural corollary, freedom of speech.

I wish that Corbett had not asked for that summary judgment. He should have gone full bore jury trial against these assholes. They need some "tough love" public humiliation. So they can be true "martyrs" for their faith...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Damn Those Atheist Muslims

You'd think that Newt Gingrich, who has a degree in history, would know better. But here's a guy who will pretty much say anything that comes out of his lizard brain, without the automatic self-guidance system that the rest of us normal people have.

Here's his latest:

"I have two grandchildren: Maggie is 11; Robert is 9," Gingrich said at Cornerstone Church here. "I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they're my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American."
It truly boggles the mind. Of course what the Newster would much prefer, I presume, is that this secular atheist country be dominated by the Xian Right. Yeah, that makes much more sense, and is much more palatable.

And I feel sorry for those two grandchildren, who are being dragged into politics as props for this kind of nonsense. Like Sarah Palin's offspringlets.

But it must be okay, since these are Republicans, the Party of Family Valuestm...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Malignancy, the GOP & Lance Armstrong

I see from The News that Iowa's own Steven King (not related to the famous author) has likened the health care reform act to a "malignant tumor" that must be yanked from the body for the patient (i.e., the US) to survive.

It's no secret that I am a cancer survivor myself, and it's good to see that a fellow cancer survivor, famous cyclist and record Tour de France seven-time-winner Lance Armstrong is calling King out on his bullshit:

"That is certainly a poor choice of words, I think. Certainly he would admit that. … I hope? ...Maybe he should use a sports analogy, or something, for his own sake."
Armstrong is in Washington to urge Congress not to cut funding for the National Institutes of Health, which faces a 5.1 percent cut over the next six months as part of a House-passed spending bill.
You go, Lance!

Okay, so who the fuck is Steve King? For the novices, King is a Rethug asshole (but I repeat myself) from Iowa who thinks that he's "all that", much more than he really is, and I guess he thinks that he can play "kingmaker" in the Iowa caucuses next year.

Fuck him. And the hose horse he rode in on.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, Frances Perkins, and the New Deal

Just 100 Years Ago Today:

Saturday, March 25, 1911, was a raw and chilly day in New York City. Just because it was a Saturday, that did not mean a day off work for the five hundred employees of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, a typical urban sewatshop which occupied the top three floors of a ten-story building at the corner of Greene Street and Washington Square, in Greenwich Village.

The employees, mostly young women between the ages 16 and 23, worked ten-hour days Monday through Friday, and an additional eight-and-a-half hours on Saturdays, all for an average pay of $6 per week ($135 in today’s dollars).

At 4:45 PM the work day was finally winding to a close for the tired sweatshop workers when a fire broke out on the 8th floor. The actual cause of the fire was ultimately undetermined, but fire marshals concluded it was likely due to an unextinguished match or smoldering cigarette butt discarded in a bin of scraps under the table of one of the fabric cutters.

Smoking was prohibited on the premises, but that generally didn’t stop the workers from sneaking a cigarette now and then.

Given the incendiary nature of the material -- fabric for women’s blouses -- the fire spread rapidly until it engulfed the entire floor, and then spread to the floors above.

While there were a number of exits available to the workers, several stairway doors were locked -- “to prevent theft” was the official excuse of the business owners, but some of the survivors had another explanation: The doors were locked to prevent, in a tragic irony, “the girls” from taking unauthorized smoke breaks. Managers who had the keys to the doors escaped early, somehow neglecting to unlock the doors on their way out.

The building did have a single fire escape, but it was so flimsy that it quickly became overloaded with people trying to escape and crumpled, sending many to their deaths on the sidewalk below.

Within minutes so much panic had set in that the employees started leaping from windows to escape the flames. The sidewalks became so littered with the dead and dying that fire fighters had difficulty even getting into the building.

When the day was over 146 persons had perished in what remains the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of New York City and the fourth largest in the history of the country.

The owners of the sweatshop, along with many of their employees, had managed to flee to the roof of the building and they survived.

The owners were charged with manslaughter by a grand jury and went to trial but they were ultimately found not guilty; they were almost equally as fortunate in the civil trial which followed three years later -- they were required to pay compensation, but in the amount of only $75 per victim (about $1600 today). The owners’ insurance company in turn paid them $400 per victim (about $8500), so the “unfortunate incident” actually turned out to be quite profitable for them.

However, in spite of this, some positive things came about from the terrible tragedy that was Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.

Because of the public outrage over the causes of the deaths and the tremendous loss of life, the state of New York launched several investigations into workplace safety and workers’ rights.

During the investigations, the fire chief of New York City stated that there were over 200 similar factories where another conflagration was not only possible, but likely.

The investigations also focused on workplace sanitation and occupational diseases in addition to fire safety, and as a result the state of New York enacted new laws and established new standards and regulations to ensure worker protection on the job. With these modernized labor laws, New York became one of the most progressive states in terms of labor reform and worker protection.

The labor movement, especially the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, got a tremendous boost in membership and influence, as did the Socialist Party.

Rose Schneiderman, a union activist and a socialist, spoke at a memorial for the victims a week after the tragedy and tied the event to the necessity for union organization:

…you have a couple of dollars for the sorrowing mothers, brothers and sisters by way of a charity gift. But every time the workers come out in the only way they know to protest against conditions which are unbearable the strong hand of the law is allowed to press down heavily upon us....I know from my experience it is up to the working people to save themselves. The only way they can save themselves is by a strong working-class movement.
But by far the most lasting legacy of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire came from a young woman who, by sheer coincidence, an accident of time and place, was an eyewitness on the ground.

Frances Perkins, a 28-year-old recent graduate student at Columbia University and head of the New York Consumers League, was enjoying a cup of tea near Washington Square when she heard the fire engines. She hurried to the scene just in time to see the doomed workers plunging to their deaths from the upper stories of the building.

Appalled by what she saw, Perkins became very active in the movement to reform working conditions and worked tirelessly on the Committee on Safety of the City of New York to improve factory safety.

In 1918 she was the first woman to be appointed to the New York State Industrial Commission, and she became its chair in 1926.

She ended up working closely with the New York governor, Franklin D. Roosevelt. When Roosevelt was inaugurated to the US presidency in 1933, he named Perkins to the post of Secretary of Labor, the first woman cabinet secretary in the history of the country.

As Secretary of Labor, Perkins put her tireless energy to work developing the sweeping reforms which were the hallmark achievements of the New Deal, most importantly, both the watershed Social Security Act of 1935 and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, both of which had long-term positive results for the working men and women of the United States.

Later Perkins said that the New Deal actually started on March 25, 1911 with the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.

Now, just 100 years after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory tragedy, we are engaged in a new struggle to preserve the worker protections and the regulations on business ultimately brought into existence by the outrage of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, a new struggle to prevent the overturn and disestablishment of the greatest achievements of the New Deal.

The Republican Party has made no secret of the fact that they want to roll back the New Deal and reinstitute the systems and the regulations -- or rather lack thereof -- and the kind of laissez-faire capitalism that made their industrialists so obscenely wealthy in America’s so-called Gilded Age, a time when labor was viewed as just another production commodity, another raw material to be used up and thrown out.

Are we not so very far away from a repeat of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory tragedy? All one needs to do is to look at what is continuing to happen in Wisconsin, not to mention the ongoing efforts in my own state to dismantle, piece by piece, the protections afforded by our own Department of Labor and Industries.

How many bricks can you take out of a wall before it collapses?

We must remain vigilant and keep fighting, so we don’t have to find out the answer to that question, and so we don’t have a repeat tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.

Let us always keep in mind the slogan of the old IWW: An injury to one is an injury to all.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Oh, the Irony!

You all know that I just launched my Internets business, Privacy Guaranteed Data Recovery, so it was ironic to the max that yesterday morning I woke up guessed it...a fried hard drive.

But, fortunately for all involved, I was able to go buy a new hard drive, install it into The Beast (what I call my circa 2006 desktop) AND successfully recover ALL of my data from the dead drive.

In the long run, it was a good thing that it happened, since I needed the refresher course, and there were a few things that I had somehow forgotten over the few years since I retired, but in the end I was able to recover all of my email, all of my passwords, all of my browser settings, and all of my personalization of Word.

Now I am refreshed, as is The Beast, and all is right with the world.

Ahhh. It's time to tipple a few micro-brewskis and kick back.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Reality-Challenged American Public

Ann Davidow has a great piece over at Buzzflash called Americans Often Refuse to Accept Reality. One of my favorite print media columnists, Leonard Pitts, has a column today entitled When Ears Don't Hear, Truth is Futile.

Both of these deal pretty much with the same topic, the tolerance of otherwise laughable concepts and ideas which in a Reality-Based world would not even come up for consideration, let alone discussion.

Davidow: almost every area of concern to the country there is a level of disbelief about anything that resembles fact-based information that is truly astonishing. Despite overwhelming support in the scientific community, for instance, that climate change is a serious challenge to the environment, many voters prefer to ignore those conclusions and turn instead to the limited intellects of political deniers. Perhaps the truth is too scary to contemplate or maybe the Limbaughs, Hannitys and Bachmans are just more entertaining and, besides, thinking otherwise requires greater mental capacity than they possess...
...what many people already believe could not be clearer: Black equals crime. We’re talking about at the mitochondrial level. We’re talking a crime strand on the DNA.
Black equals crime is a formulation as old as slave manacles and as modern as e-mail, the engine driving lynch mobs and lawmen who sold black men into slavery as late as 1945, and cops who pull black drivers over because .?.?. And the tragedy is not simply that many white men and women embrace this damnable lie in the face of all refutation, but that black children hear it and breathe it in like poison till it becomes part of them, till it informs how they see themselves in the world.
Some years ago, I posed a question to an audience of school kids. If a white person is murdered, what are the odds the assailant is black? Seventy-five percent? Hands — every hand in the room, it seemed — bolted into the air. Most of them belonged to black kids.
For the record, the actual number is 13.
Answers to this problem? I don't know. It seems insurmountable. When you have members of congress and presidential candidates believing -- seriously believing -- that the earth is only some 6,000 years old, and otherwise intelligent beings pushing for the inclusion of that "theory" as part of science education in our public schools, when the airwaves are polluted daily by the likes of Rush Limbaugh (who I think is intelligent and doesn't believe half the stuff he spouts -- all the more dangerous for that) and Glenn Beck (who I think is not intelligent and actually does believe the stuff he spouts, all the more dangerous for that), then I seriously question whether this great experiment in democracy (the USA) can long survive.

Jeez, what a bummer today has been... Hopefully I'll get some funny bone back tomorrow. Sorry to be such a buzzkill downer, man...

No Looting in Japan

It's become a talking point for the wingnuttery, including a letter to the editor today in my local paper: There was no looting in Japan following the earthquake. Flat out statement. Sounds good, looks good.

Because, of course, only BLACK people loot after a natural disaster.

Too bad it's not true. But of course, you know that anything coming out of the mouths of the ClusterFox "News" blowholes and their ilk is, ipso facto and QED, a lie. No, make that a FUCKING LIE.

Here's a story with the facts. At least 146 known cases of looting. With video.

The Grade School Solution

It's a lot like grade school, where the boys pick on only the girls that they like.

It's a funny thing that pretty much the only countries in the Middle East that we care enough about to bomb are ones that we "like", i.e., the ones that are actually sitting on a gazillion barrels of oil (Iraq) or sitting astride valuable real estate that can be used to throw down oil pipelines (Afghanistan) from the mid-Asian oil fields to the sea.

For the record, I do not support the Obama Administration's attacks on Libya. I know that I am at odds with a large portion of the nation, and even with my own Democratic Party, but I didn't back Bill Clinton's foreign misadventures, either.

And it's no secret that I hated Dubya for his illegal war on Iraq.

So back to Libya and Moammar Kadaffyduck. He's gone from a faintly humorous footnote to history to being painted by the CPM/SCLM* as the walking talking ranting raving embodiment of the love child of Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin by way of Mao Tse-Tung (or "Mao Zedong", or however the old dead guy is spelling his name this week). How long until the American populace gets ginned up for yet another "humanitarian" invasion of a Middle Eastern country?

BTW, where is Congress on all of this? John Boner is too busy getting drunk and playing golf to do anything except cut funding to NPR, and have we heard a single fucking word out of Mr. Orange Smash about all of the goddam JOBS he was supposed to be creating?

Of course, invading Libya will create a lot of jobs, I guess. Jobs for Halliburton, jobs for Blackwater (Motto: "If Jesus had chosen us for his security, he'd still be here"), and especially jobs for Arab terrorists, who will have yet another new rallying cry for jihad against the American Crusaders.

[* CPM/SCLM = Capitalist Pig Media/So-Called Liberal Media]

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Stone Homosexuals to Death? The Bible Says So...

Just when you thought that things couldn't possibly get any fucking weirder, the news out of Pennsylvania that an elderly man was beaten to death with a sockful of rocks swims to the surface.

According to the SF Gate website, Murray Seidman, a 70-year-old man in a Philadelphia suburb was beaten to death by a young "friend" (somewhat strangely named "John Thomas"...who can make this shit up?) who is now trying to claim that he was following the biblical injunction to stone homosexuals to death.

Must be true if the bible says so. Plus the little fucker with the sockful of rocks even prayed about it. Yep, sure enough, his god told him to go for it...

Perhaps the fact that he was the executor and sole beneficiary of the dead man's estate had just a minor bearing on that answer from god.

Naaa, probably not. As we all know, god works in "mysterious ways" and the fact that the perpetrator stood to gain from his foul deed, thereby having a clear motive, isn't a mystery at all, even though it shows up time and again in "mystery" fiction.

Go figure.

Welfare "Reform" Minnesota Style

The latest in loony behavior from Minnesota (Michelle Bachmann is from there, if you recall) is a proposal -- by RepubliCONs, naturally, the party of "government should leave people alone" -- to prohibit welfare recipients from having more than $20 in their pocket at any one time. Prohibit, as in "make illegal". Prohibit, as in "make it a crime"...

I don't know how they plan to enforce this -- maybe an army of welfare cops shaking down known poor people that they think have more than twenty bucks, maybe a pack of welfare-money-sniffing Alsatian Hounds (aka "German shepherds") roaming the streets of Poortown and snarling down any hapless welfare leaches who happen to have cash on them.

Jeez, this goes beyond what is normally weird, even for Rethugs. Hmmm, I wonder what's behind it...

No, I don't really, because if you study a little further, you find that welfare recipients in Minnesota get their benefits in the form of a debit-card-like device, which is good only in certain terminals. If this bill passes, then welfare recipients will not be able to draw out cash to pay their bills, buy food, etc. They will have to use the "special terminals" for each and every separate transaction, from buying groceries to buying gas to renting a video.

As you know, all of this electronic banking does not come free. Each and every transaction that goes through a cash machine generates a profit for the company that owns or administers the machine.

So who administers the processing and payment of this welfare debit card system?

Bank of America.

Surprised? No, me neither.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Future ClusterFox "News" On-Air Personality?

Here's a YouTube video that is going viral. It stars a UCLA student named Alexandra Wallace going on a racist rant against, of all people, Asians:

Okay, call me naive, but it strains credulity to think that this young woman would go on YouTube with such a racist, nativist, idiotic rant. I think that this was dreamed up as a joke and in the execution and delivery it went horribly wrong.

Now she'll have to live with this as her fifteen minutes of fame the rest of her life. Can you imagine her first job interview when she graduates?

Of course she can always go to work for the media wing of the RepubliCON Party. They love them some racists over there, 'specially them that gots them some push-up-yer-boobs bras and bubble-head-blond hair... Want to bet that she gets a permanent gig on ClusterFox "News" out of this?

Oh, and be sure to catch one Asian guy's answer to little Alexandra.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Japan Earthquake Relief

Here are five charities you can donate to for help in relieving the suffering from the 8.9 earthquake in Japan (from Yahoo! News):

Global Giving
With Global Giving, you choose what relief you're interested in donating to, and the organization gets your funds to your cause. If Japan is where you are sending your donation, Global Giving also provides you with updates of what is happening in the region. The Global Giving project for Japan is working with other relief organizations, with a funding goal of $90,000. Donate one time, monthly, or make a gift in memory of a loved one.
Red Cross
When you think of disaster relief organizations, the American Red Cross, founded in 1881 by Clara Barton, probably comes to mind.
You may contribute to the Red Cross on-line or by mail. Companies can look into matching gifts with the Red Cross. If you prefer to call in your donation, you can do that at 1-800-RED-CROSS for English or 1-800 257 7575 for Spanish. Or, you may text REDCROSS to 90999, and $10 will be added to your cell phone bill.
The AmeriCares International Disaster Relief Fund has been working with international disaster relief since 1982. Your donation helps with medicine, medical supplies and other assistance. In addition, as reported at the AmeriCares website, "Your gift will only be used to support our work at times of an international disaster."
The focus of UNICEF is children around the world. They work in over 150 countries and help support children with "health care and immunizations, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more." Americans can send in their financial support for the Japan earthquake online or by mail.
International Medical Corps
International Medical Corps focuses their efforts on "saving lives and relieving suffering through health care training and relief and development programs," globally.
Nancy Aossey, President and CEO of International Medical Corps released a statement, "We are putting together relief teams, as well as supplies, and are in contact with partners in Japan and other affected countries to assess needs and coordinate our activities. While Japan has a large capacity to manage a disaster of this scale, we will respond as needed."
Please consider making even a small donation to one or more of these worthy relief organizations. When humanity is on the line, it's up to all of us to help out.

I'm Now an Internet Businessman

So it turns out that being retired isn't as lucrative as I thought it was going to be, what with all of those pesky laws concerning the importation and distribution of rare South American herbs...

Just kidding. But I actually have started a business. I call it Privacy Guaranteed Data Recovery. Check it out. As the name implies, I extract data from your fried hard drive and guarantee personal privacy in returning it to you... Trade secrets, company plans, compromising emails or embarrassing photos -- no one will see them except you.

I decided to put to good use all that knowledge that I absorbed over my working life as a so-called Information Technology Specialist with the state of Washington.

Besides, it ought to keep me off the streets, out of the pool halls, and put some beer money in my pocket. Not to mention keeping She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed in new shoes...

So if you know anyone with a fried hard drive and some ... compromising ... information on it that they don't want anyone else to see, do them -- and me -- a favor and send them my way.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Islam Hater? This Video is for You

Here's US Rep Keith Ellison in response to the McCarthy-like witch hunt "hearings" of the King of the Khyber Popguns:

Jesus, when will we ever learn?

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Prosecutors: 'Oh, Waaah! We've Lost Our Death Penalty'

With today's watershed political-bravery action, Illinois has abolished the death penalty.

Predictably there's a flurry of wingnut hand-wringing rage over it, but the most poignant is this story out of Chicago, wherein the prosecutors are crying the blues because they've "lost their leverage" over murderers, rapists, etc., because...get this...they can no longer dangle the death penalty over someone's head and get them to cooperate by pleading guilty to a lesser charge.

Ex-fucking-cuse me? That is exactly what is wrong with having a fucking death penalty in this country. It's exercise is totally at the whim of a local prosecutor. So it happens that a local yokel prosecutor in a big Kill-em-All-Let-God-Sort-Em-Out state who is out to make a political name for himself can bring death penalty charges against pretty much anybody, and the more executions he can carve on his pistol-grip, the farther in politics he will advance.

On the other end of the scale is my own Washington State and its refusal to bring death penalty charges against America's most prolific serial killer Gary "Green River Killer" Ridgway, who has been convicted of 48 49 murders and who is believed responsible for something in excess of 70 killings.

If anyone deserves the death penalty, it is Gary Ridgway, yet he is over there at the maximum security pen at Walla Walla serving 48 life sentences -- no wait, make that 49, since he was recently transported back across the state for yet another trial and another guilty verdict and another life sentence, at the cost to the taxpayers of several hundred thousand dollars in a time of cramped budgets and forced layoffs from every state agency, including the Department of Corrections, who had to lay off correctional workers, with the result that one of their remaining employees was murdered by an inmate inside the Monroe prison...

But I'm starting to rant.

The bottom line is that as long as the death penalty is subject to the individual whim of politically ambitious prosecutors and as long as serial killers like Gary Ridgway can skate by while some crack-addled gang-banger who can't really figure out how to even handle a weapon shoots a bystander and ends up on death row for it, it's time to end the Ultimate Penalty.

I say Hooray for Illinois!, and you local-yokel ambitious prosecutors who claim that "the death penalty is how we express our respect for human life" and want a free ride to the top on the corpses of executed "criminals" can stick it up your collective asses.

Update 3-10-11: Apparently I failed, when I wrote this post, to make it clear that I am fundamentally opposed to the death penalty in all of its permutations. Well, I am, and that's that...

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Dark Side of Positive Thinking

Think there isn't a dark side to positive thinking? Think again. Acclaimed journalist, author and political activist Barbara Ehrenreich explores the darker side of positive thinking:

Cartoons by the RSAorg

Well worth the time to watch to the end. It puts a new spin on all that "Power of Positive Thinking" crap that we've been culturally saddled with forever -- well, since the early 50s -- but which got a whole new life with the ascent of the I-Got-Mine-So-Fuck-You generation.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Women's History Month: Louise Bryant

March is Women's History Month, so I'd like to kick it off with a short homage to Louise Bryant.

Those who have seen the epic 1981 historical film Reds will remember Diane Keaton playing the role of Louise Bryant opposite Warren Beatty as John Reed, but a movie can only do so much to illuminate a historical figure.

Louise Bryant (1885-1936) came from modest roots (her father had been a coal miner and railroad worker) and she eventually became active in the Suffrage Movement in Portland, Oregon.

It was also in Portland where she met native Portlander John Reed, and followed him to New York City, where she became active in left-wing and socialist causes. She also went to Russia with Reed, where they witnessed the 1917 Russian Revolution firsthand.

Most people know that John Reed wrote the definitive study of the revolution, Ten Days that Shook the World, published in 1919, but most people don't know that Louise Bryant beat him into print a year earlier with her reportage, Six Red Months in Russia, which is available for download at the University of Pennsylvania's digital library.

Both Reed and Bryant were dedicated communists by this time, so their reportage is a little ... shall we say "slanted" ... but they are nevertheless classic descriptions of one of history's most momentous events, one that pretty much shaped the rest of the 20th Century and one whose aftermath we are still dealing with today.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Oh Sweet Schaudenfreude!

For years the Rethugs have been crying about "voter fraud", and there's never been a single shred of evidence.

Until now.

Now the evidence is in, and -- sit down for this because I could hardly believe it myself -- it was the Republican Secretary of State in, of all places, Indiana who has been charged with it!

Well, in the words of Jane Ace, you could have knocked me over with a fender...

Ah, schaudenfreude, you are sooo sweet!!!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Book of the Month: The Good Old Days - They Were Terrible!

Way back in 1974, Otto Bettmann, of the world-famous Bettmann Archive of photography and images, wrote The Good Old Days - They Were Terrible!. It was intended as a nostrum against what Bettmann saw as an erroneous -- even dangerous --
reliance on the golden years of the past, a nostalgic longing for an America that was somehow...better...than the one of the early 1970s. It turned out he was right, for this longing for a better America past resulted in the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and we all know what happened after that.

Now that the Republicans and their Teabagger enablers appear to be in ideological ascendance, and want to "take the country back", this book will provide a sobering look at the kind of country they want to take us back to. Wealthy and corrupt corporations with their tentacles spread over the nation, child labor, horrific working conditions in unhealthy environments for low pay, the absence of food and drug laws that prevent the corporations from poisoning children and women, the suppression -- the outright murder -- of union organizers. It's all in this book, and much more, and it is profusely illustrated with contemporary illustrations from the vast library of the Bettmann Archive.

This book ought to be required reading for every American who longs to take us back to "the good old days"... But, as in most things, I am afraid that the people who really need to read it won't. And even if they did, they would most likely, against all odds, relate to the capitalist pigs who brought about such destruction and not to the vast majority of people who suffer under it. Jeez, just like they do now...