postimg
Aug 2012 15

by Steven Whitney

All of us take too many things for granted, the rights and rewards we enjoy for which others greatly sacrificed and often even died. On Memorial Day we do reverently honor our fallen, and we still wildly celebrate our nation’s birth on July 4th…but Labor Day, once a holiday that truly paid tribute to workers, has become just a three day weekend of boating, beaches, and barbeque, with nary a thought of the valiant, against-all-odds struggle of both individual and organized labor. These days it should probably be called a Bank Holiday, like in England, because the financial sector has had a great three decades at the expense of labor.

Long forgotten are the inhumane working conditions of the past – sweat shops, child labor, company towns, workplaces incubating extreme physical danger and biological disease, unbearably long hours for barely sustainable wages, and so much more. The many thousands of lives lost in union struggles over the past 200 years have faded in our memory like a sunset disappearing over a lost horizon.

In 1806, the Philadelphia Journeymen Cordwainers union went on strike for higher wages. These already poor shoemakers were bankrupted and convicted on charges of criminal conspiracy, setting a precedent of conservative governments combatting labor from that very first U.S. strike to the present.

Over the next century, the battles between owners and workers – let’s say the 5% against the 95% – were constant and bloody, with state militias, our national Army, city police forces, and hired goons all ganging up to inflict pain and punishment on workers. Men, women, and children alike were beaten, shot (sometimes mowed down by new-fangled machine guns), hanged, executed, imprisoned, and deported. The workers themselves – whether they were miners, carpenters, railway hands, dressmakers, auto or steel workers, skilled or unskilled – were branded as organizers, anarchists, socialists, and communists…all because they wanted a living wage and a better life.

In 1911, seamstresses – women and young girls – at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company threatened a strike for higher wages. Within a few days, their workplace – the top three floors of a ten-story building – was consumed by fire. 147 died – many by jumping out the windows, others burned or were trampled to death as they tried to escape through exits that had been locked. Two weeks later, the company owners were indicted not for murder, but manslaughter.

By the 1920s – an era of unchecked conservative policies advocating deregulation and a pro-business agenda – the U.S. Bureau of Investigation, the forerunner of the FBI, created a strike force called Palmer’s Raiders whose mission was to crush unions and workers under the guise of anti-communism. The violence and injustices visited upon workers was unprecedented, even when measured against the worst bloodbaths in labor’s history – the Haymarket Riot, the Tompkins Square Riot, the Bay View Massacre, the Thibodaux Massacre, the Ludlow Massacre, and literally hundreds more battlegrounds. The Republican congress even passed laws totally abolishing the right of workers to strike, assemble, bargain collectively, and picket.

It took the Great Depression and a Democratic congress to right the ship of state – and the state of unions in America. Early on, FDR recognized the role of labor in revitalizing a financially bankrupt economy when he said:

“It is one of the characteristics of a free and democratic nation that it have free and independent labor unions.”

A mere two months after taking office in 1933, FDR passed the National Industrial Recovery Act, which not only restored all the rights denied them by Republicans, but also contained provisions like minimum wage and maximum hours. Since that time historians have isolated its most important passage:

“Employees shall have the right to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and shall be free from the interference, restraint, or coercion of employers.”

By empowering workers, America arose from the ashes of the Depression, our country’s infrastructure was built from the ground up, a World War was won, and the largest and most stable middle-class in the world was created. FDR’s pro-labor programs ended the Republican era of plutocratic “job creators,” trickle-down bubble economies, and in 1934 American voters gave Democrats the largest majority either party had (and has) ever held in Congress – 322 Democrats to 103 Republicans – leading to the Fair Labor Standards Act and the greatest period of wealth and job creation, productivity, prosperity, and income equality any nation has ever known.

Today, with the sweatshops and child labor camps gone, we all enjoy the fruits of the labor movement’s long struggle – the 8-hour workday and 5-day week, equal pay for equal work, 2 weeks’ vacation, sick days, higher wages, safe and regulated working environments, health care, collective bargaining, the rights of petition and assembly, worker’s compensation, non-discriminatory employment practices, laws protecting whistleblowers, pension and retirement funds, and, of course, the Family and Medical Leave Act, passed by Clinton’s Democratic congress in 1993. Labor was behind it all – and even aggressively backed Martin Luther King Jr.’s crusade for Equal Rights.

Predictably, starting when Reagan fired the Air Traffic Controllers in 1981, Republicans have consistently tried to turn back every one of those hard-won benefits. In this year’s GOP primaries, a return to child labor was even floated as a viable solution to the economic disaster caused by Bush-Cheney / Republican economic policies. For the last 30 years, the GOP has hacked away at labor and unions. Because of that, wages of American workers now make up the lowest percentage of GDP since 1947, even as corporate profits are the highest in 40 years. That obscene inequality is not a coincidence – it is the priority of the modern Republican party, this year led by Romney and the despicable hypocrisy of Paul Ryan.

So if we are to rebuild a strong Middle Class and keep America a land “of, by, and for the people” – if we are to avoid a dystopian Blade Runneresque future – we must continually recognize the importance of labor’s contribution to the growth and strength of our nation. Most of us – probably 95% or more – are, or came from, the working class, and now is not the time to lose sight of our heritage. Instead, we must pick up the cudgel of those who came before us. Too many of our ancestors actually died – sacrificed their very lives – to give us and not our wealthy overlords the power to determine our own destinies.

This Labor Day, September 3rd, instead of the all-day backyard barbeque, let’s take a few hours to mobilize our faith in ourselves and in the founding principles of our nation by hitting the streets once again to honor and support America’s two greatest assets – the worker and the Middle Class. They are one and the same.

Related Posts:
Chicken Shits: The Slippery Slopes of Chick-fil-A
The Vagina Solution
Fighting Back Part 4: The Big Liar, Intimidation And Revenge
Fighting Back Part 3: Fighting Fire With Fire
When The Past Is Prologue
Fighting Back Part 2: Defining Rovian Politics
Fighting Back
The Electoral Scam
Being Fair
Occupy Reality
Giving. . . And Taking Back
A Tale Of Two Grovers
A Last Pitch For Truth
America: Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.
Gotcha!

postimg
Aug 2012 09

by Lee Camp

We already treat war like it’s some kind of game without real world consequences. So why not take it that next step? Introducing “War: The Gameshow!” If you’re the last to die, you win a camouflage Snuggie! Hosted by funnyman Howie Mandel!

[..]

postimg
Aug 2012 08

by Steven Whitney

During the past week, Republicans have fervently fanned the flames of our ongoing culture wars in order to distract, deflect, divide, and conquer. And, once again, it’s just in time to muddy the minds of an already half-hapless electorate just prior to a national election.

This time the battleground is Chick-fil-A – a chicken joint started in 1946, a time when taxes were high and small business start-ups flourished across the country. A few weeks ago, its President, Dan Cathy, publicly supported “the biblical definition of the family unit” and warned ominously that supporting same-sex marriage invites “God’s judgment on our nation.”

While I myself believe God looks very favorably on any marriage and family built on love and devotion, Mr. Cathy seems to think we’re in store for an apocalyptic display of His considerable wrath, not unlike Pat Robertson implying that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for legalized abortion.

Cathy’s comments caused a backlash among fair-minded consumers, which then created predictable blowback from the Religious Right. A successful “Kiss-In” was held by GLBT organizers while Mike Huckabee orchestrated an equally successful “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” in response.

In a curious instance of parallel opposites, the last time fast food servers were in a big-time Human Rights skirmish was in 1960, when four young Black students began a sit-in at the local Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, spurring a nationwide challenge to racial inequality in the South. So a question must be asked: if he could fly back in time, would Mr. Huckabee have organized a “Segregated Lunch Counter Appreciation Day?”

At this point everyone on both sides has acted within the rights granted them by the First Amendment. And while some observers may seethe, as a nation we will stand tall or fall mightily on our protection and preservation of these primary rights.

Yet the most legally and morally troubling aspect of this brouhaha comes from two surprising sources: a handful of the nation’s mayors and The Huffington Post.

The only limitation in the First Amendment is that the government – local, state, or national – cannot restrict any of the rights granted within it.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

But as if on cue, just when a small Chick-fil-A crisis was about to pass almost unnoticed into history, mayors from Boston, Chicago, D.C., San Francisco, and other cities shoved it into the spotlight by grandstanding pro-GLBT platforms and actually threatening the chicken franchise with bans of various sorts. While politicos generally pander to the electorate, this time they made things worse, not only by igniting a firestorm, but by changing the conversation. Now, instead of having to defend the indefensible – homophobia – Chick-fil-A has been pushed into the more just position of defending its First Amendment rights. From the big bully on the block, the mayors transformed both Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A into martyrs to the cause of “traditional” marriage – hence, the veritable firestorm.

Rather than abuse political pressure, the mayors would be better advised to launch municipal investigations to determine if Chick-fil-A practices discrimination in hiring or any other areas of its business…and to advocate for legislation favoring all human rights, including passage of Gay Marriage acts. That is a legitimate use of political power. Remember, everything has a flip side – if government can punish a chicken joint for speaking out today, it can punish you for expressing opposite opinions tomorrow. That is why the First Amendment is inviolate.

The second troubling aspect of this ruckus was Noah Michelson’s misguided piece in The Huffington Post, one of our most influential political website. If he was just an independent blogger, I’d pass on commenting, but Mr. Michelson is listed as the editor of their Gay Voices section, so when he’s wrong, a lot of readers walk away misinformed.

In his article, Mr. Michelson states that Chick-fil-A‘s stance is not a First Amendment issue because it makes a lot of money and then donates millions to anti-gay causes. But I would imagine that Mr. Michelson also donates money he makes from his employment to pro-GLBT advocacy groups…and that is his right, just as it is the right of a private business and those who work for it to donate a portion of their earnings to charitable or political causes they believe in, as wrong-headed as they may be.

Secondly, Mr. Michelson more or less makes the ages-old argument that Chick-fil-A’s speech is too terrible to be protected. In support of that, he urges readers to link to selected sites, gaze at photos of beaten and murdered GLBTs, and read the tragic stories that accompany them. While only sociopaths could not be saddened and outraged by his examples, he’s still dead wrong, understandably reacting only with his emotions. (In trials of heinous crimes, certain photos are deemed inadmissible because of the inherently prejudicial nature they would provoke on jurors’ emotions.)

Mr. Michelson states that he is “in love with the First Amendment.” But it’s a dubious claim from someone who obviously does not fully understand it.

Freedom of speech – indeed, the entire First Amendment – applies equally to the best, most moral people and the worst, most indecent racist, homophobic, pedophiliac motherfuckers under American jurisdiction.

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK), as odious a group that has ever existed, marched 50,000 hooded members down Pennsylvania Avenue in our nation’s capital, protected by the First Amendment. Their supporters donated money to their evil brotherhood and the stories and photos of their torture, lynchings, and murders would turn the stomach of Hannibal Lechter.

An offshoot of George Lincoln Rockwell’s American Nazi movement planned a parade in Skokie, Illinois, home to a large community of Holocaust survivors. Yes, there was outrage – the reports and photos of the murder of six million were almost incomprehensible – but, as documented in When the Nazis Came to Skokie, the swastika-bearing marchers won support from the ACLU, the Supreme Court (citing First Amendment rights), and, surprisingly, leaders of Skokie’s Jewish community. Apparently, refugees from a totalitarian state knew more than anyone the importance of free speech.

If any group’s speech was ever too terrible to be considered free, I’d put the KKK and Nazi-wannabes at the top of the list. And yet, they still held that right because they were Americans, and in America we let everyone have their say and hope that facts, common sense, and decency prevails – that is who we are, or at least who we are supposed to be, as a nation. Rightly or wrongly, a democracy ultimately believes in its people.

Journalists who make a difference are those who act, not whine or threaten to jump out of the window if they hear one more reference to their opponent’s rights. Especially when bullies, cowards – and, in this case, chicken shits – hide behind a First Amendment cloak. Over the last thirty years, the GLBT movement has engineered the smartest, most admirable and effective campaign for human rights anywhere in the world. They did it by being aggressive – by showing solidarity in boycotts and expressing their First Amendment rights to protest through outrage and ridicule – not by crying when somebody said bad things about them. Gay Pride was and is pure genius and its effect has been positively felt in every part of the globe. Yes, there are still many battles to win, but if any group can truly overcome, I’d bet on the GLBTs. And I’d also wager they’ll do it without impeding the rights of those who are hell-bent on denying theirs.

Related Posts:
The Vagina Solution
Fighting Back Part 4: The Big Liar, Intimidation And Revenge
Fighting Back Part 3: Fighting Fire With Fire
When The Past Is Prologue
Fighting Back Part 2: Defining Rovian Politics
Fighting Back
The Electoral Scam
Being Fair
Occupy Reality
Giving. . . And Taking Back
A Tale Of Two Grovers
A Last Pitch For Truth
America: Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.
Gotcha!

postimg
Aug 2012 07

by Lee Camp

It all seems to be coming together into one. 90% of our media is owned by only six corporations. Every movie is about a super hero, and we act like the President is the only lawmaker who matters. How much further can things condense? Are we headed towards a cultural singularity? An end point?

[..]

postimg
Aug 2012 01

by Steven Whitney

A few weeks ago, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in Michigan sought to force into law some of the most restrictive anti-choice legislation in our country – placing onerous regulations on abortion providers and banning all abortions after 20 weeks.

Rep. Lisa Brown objected on religious grounds, arguing that her Jewish faith allowed for therapeutic abortions when the mother’s life is in danger, without regard to the length of pregnancy. And, during a heated debate on women’s reproductive health, she actually uttered the word “vagina.”

The reaction was swift – Republicans were so shocked by the word that Brown was banned from speaking on the floor for “violating the decorum of the House.”

“What she said was offensive,” said Republican Mike Callton. “It was so disgusting, so vile, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.”

In the next day’s Detroit Free Press, Brown retorted: “If they are going to legislate my anatomy, I see no reason why I can’t mention it. After all, it is the medically correct term.”

If I were a woman I’d ask myself how anyone who thinks the word vagina is “vile and disgusting” could cast an unbiased vote on issues relating to women’s health care. But I’m not, and since these squeamish Republicans seem caught in a Peter Pan syndrome that forbids them from ever growing up, they need help in finding a word sufficiently acceptable for – well, you know – that thing…down there. Otherwise, the ages old Battle between the Sexes might just become a full-blown GOP War on Women.

Obviously, the c-word isn’t suitable. First of all, Republicans believe the c-word is compromise and, secondly, if vagina offends them, the actual c-word would give these pussies cardiac arrest.

Browsing through several online and hard copy thesauruses, there are literally hundreds (perhaps thousands) of street synonyms listed for vagina, some complimentary – slang like sugar, honey pot, sweet spot, tunnel of love – and others too vulgar to print in a family column. Some are neither naughty nor nice, but none really fill the bill, especially considering the unwanted trans-vaginal ultrasounds the GOP intends to force on women who want abortions – calling them trans-poontang scans would be a hard sell.

There’s less good news in the second most spoken language in America. The Spanish word for vagina is…la vagina. The same damn word, with the added insult of a feminine article preceding it. Feminine words in the esteemed halls of Congress – you must be kidding.

Of course, there are hundreds of Spanish street expressions, but just like in English there are none that fit every woman. While I can indeed envision Sarah Palin referring to her chocha, especially during one of those wild voodoo dance ceremonies which exorcises demons, I cannot see the more distinguished Senator Olympia Snowe calling hers a hoo-hoo.

So synonyms in either language fall short of our goal.

What if we used a symbolic representation – perhaps… a flower? Certainly not a Venus Fly Trap – Republicans are already too scared to even say the v-word, much less picture themselves devoured by it. We need something less threatening – say, an American Rose. It’s beautiful and opens wide in the morning sun. What more could any Republican want? But alas, a rose by any other name is still a rose. So that’s a wash.

Something from the internet? How about a yahoo? No, that’s what most Republicans shout when they finally get into a vagina…with the noted exception of the K Street mob. Or google? Sorry, but that would inalterably change the whole meaning of “googling” someone before a first date.

Maybe the art world has the answer. Like calling it an O’Keefe – or perhaps just a Georgia – as tribute to the woman who painted so much flora resembling the object of our attention. Then again, when Republicans actually look at her work, they find it “disturbing.”

A Picasso might be good, but he lived in France too long and we know the GOP considers all things French to be tres vulgaire. A Klimt sounds almost right – not many Republicans know what a real Klimt is anyway. Unfortunately, he was Viennese and the GOP probably wants its v-word moniker to sound American. Besides, another Viennese – Sigmund Freud – messed up their heads with all that dirty sex stuff when they were kids.

Since none of these suffice, perhaps the best possible solution is to rename the vagina after an esteemed servant of the people – like calling a hundred dollar bill a Benji because Benjamin Franklin’s picture adorns it.

Wait a second, I think we’re onto something…I’ve got it! A true eureka moment!

Eric Cantor!!

His last name is short and flexible and he’s undoubtedly the biggest actual c-word in Congressional history. Republicans everywhere could now speak openly about a woman’s cantor, even their infections (cantoritis) or cantoral discharges without fear of – as Rick Santorum would say – throwing up all over themselves in abject disgust. And, you have to admit, even trans-cantoral ultrasounds has a certain je ne sais quoi ring to it.

Eric Cantor himself should be proud. Examining his record and agenda, it’s clear that he has long aimed to become the public face of the c-word…and now it’s within his grasp. And how could any other Republican object? More than half the people on earth have one of these things and now it’s going to be rebranded as a cantor, in honor of one of their own.

It’s the perfect vagina solution.

Related Posts:
Fighting Back Part 4: The Big Liar, Intimidation And Revenge
Fighting Back Part 3: Fighting Fire With Fire
When The Past Is Prologue
Fighting Back Part 2: Defining Rovian Politics
Fighting Back
The Electoral Scam
Being Fair
Occupy Reality
Giving. . . And Taking Back
A Tale Of Two Grovers
A Last Pitch For Truth
America: Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.
Gotcha!

Page 5 of 11« First...34567...10...Last »