Thursday, September 29, 2005

Saint Hillary

Matt Bai has an interesting piece on Hillary Clinton coming out in Sunday’s NYT Magazine. The main thrust of the article is that Clinton’s shift toward the center can be seen as perfectly consistent with attitudes and positions she has had (but perhaps under-expressed) since the days of the Clinton presidency. Bai points out that there is a rift in the Democratic party that Hillary may not be aware of, or the significance of which she may not sufficiently appreciate.

"What Dean's candidacy brought into the open…. was another kind of growing and powerful tension in Democratic politics that had little to do with ideology. Activists often describe this divide as being between "insiders" and "outsiders," but the best description I've heard came from Simon Rosenberg, a Democratic operative who runs the advocacy group N.D.N. (formerly New Democrat Network), which sprang from Clintonian centrism of the early 1990's. As Rosenberg explained it, the party is currently riven between its "governing class" and its "activist class." The former includes the establishment types who populate Washington - politicians, interest groups, consultants and policy makers. The second comprises "Net roots" Democrats on the local level; that is, grass-roots Democrats, many of whom were inspired by Dean and who connect to politics primarily online, through blogs or Web-based activist groups like The argument between the camps isn't about policy so much as about tactics, and a lot of Democrats in Washington don't even seem to know it's happening.

"The activist class believes, essentially, that Democrats in Washington have damaged the party by trying to negotiate and compromise with Republicans - in short, by trying to govern. The "Net roots" believe that an effective minority party should disengage from the governing process and eschew new proposals or big ideas. Instead, the party should dedicate itself to winning local elections and killing each new Republican proposal that comes down the track. To the activist class, trying to cut deals with Republicans is tantamount to appeasement."

The whole piece will be available on line Sunday. (Free registration required) I recommend it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Random Selection

The Balcony

We are tumbling head over heels towards our October 6th Preview. In the words of Cynthia Meier, our Managing Director:

“The play is big and sprawling and wonderful and awful and scary and sweet. We've been through this enough times to know that somehow, some way, magically, it will all come together and be the best we could possibly make it. The Balcony is a great adventure!”

If you live in Tucson, I hope you’ll make an effort to get to The Balcony. Jean Genet is probably not for everyone although his take on politics, appearance and reality is surprisingly appropriate for our time.

But take heed…this ain’t The Sound of Music. Visit The Rogue Theatre here.

Riding Safe

Isn’t it odd that when we write about the motorcycle life we find it so easy to use an adjective to modify a verb.

I have always tried to “ride safe,” paying particular attention my riding gear. When I started riding forty-five years ago about all we had for protection was leather for road rash and layers of sweaters for warmth. Well, sweaters and newspapers.

Folk wisdom held that if you got stuck in cold weather you could pad yourself with newspapers inside your jacket and pants. The problem with that is that if you had already gotten chilled all the newspapers did was to make you bulky. Electrically heated riding suits were unheard of.

Rain gear? We had some, but it was frequently bulky rubberized stuff that didn’t breathe, so you got just as wet from the inside out as you did from the outside in. I remember the almost boundless joy with which I received my first Belstaff jacket, an English contribution to motorcycling that more than made up for ‘reliable Lucas electrics.’

Belstaff was the best riding and rain gear I ever owned and I still have one of the older jackets. Belstaff continues in business, by the way.

(I’m sure Lucas’s reputation was not so well justified as we all believed but it was fun to refer to ‘the prince of darkness’ and the motto on the Lucas coat of Arms: Never Go Out After Dark)

I’m prompted to these recollections by the fact that we continue to have temperatures in or near triple digits, and I have succumbed to the climate. I have given up all protective gear except helmet and gloves; no jacket, no fancy euro-style riding suit, no ventilated “Joe Rocket” gear. I’m riding around town in devil-may-care t-shirts.

He Wasn’t Wearing a Helmet

Sometime in the past two weeks the Star printed a short notice of the death of a local motorcyclist, who was killed by an automobile. I can’t find the piece on line, so my recollection of the details is sketchy. I do remember ‘killed’ and ‘wasn’t wearing a helmet.’

That old refrain again. What else wasn’t he wearing? He wasn’t wearing a bra; he wasn’t wearing a seal skin hat; he wasn’t wearing golf shoes; he wasn’t wearing a tuxedo; there’s a lot of stuff he wasn’t wearing. Was not wearing it contributory to his death?

The helmet reference would only be pertinent if he died of injuries that wearing a helmet would have prevented. If not, then the old ‘no helmet’ refrain is just another way of blaming the victim.

Of No Conceivable Interest to Anyone But Me

Today is my birthday. It’s been a helluva ride.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Spooky Tooth Cycles

Riffing On The Star

There’s a long article in today’s Arizona Daily Star about a local mo-ped builder, named Roland Bosma. It’s a good piece, written by Tina Velez, and you can read it here.

Giving you the link is just a little courtesy and the only reason I mention it is that it is a courtesy the Star seldom extends to its readers. Tina knew there was a web site because she mentions it. I guess the editors were afraid we’d jump to it and not return to the ad-cluttered pages of the Star.

Since Tina didn't help, I googled Spooky Tooth and found this…the Spooky Tooth web site. Now that’s pretty interesting. Go ahead and visit…you might dig the band, and I don’t care if you leave the blog. But come back, because this is the link for Spooky Tooth Cycles.

That’s a pretty goth look, but basically full of good stuff about the bikes. Once you’ve poked around there for a while you’ll probably find a little rat in a white sporty car. Click it and go here.

If you’re back, wasn’t that fun?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Rogue, Genet, and The Balcony

I picked up a copy of Robert Brustein’s, “The Theatre of Revolt,” from the resource table at one end of our rehearsal space. I can’t hope to summarize Brustein’s extended treatment of the theatre of revolt and of the relation between Antonin Artaud and Genet, but one or two sentences struck me squarely between the eyes.

Genet has “the capacity to transform pathology into ceremonious drama through a rich, imaginative use of the stage. Genet’s plays take the form of liberated dreams, organized into rites.”

The Balcony is a rite, a ceremony, the closest analogy to which is, perhaps, a high mass. One of the challenges for the actor…especially a novice, which I count myself, is to recognize that there are ceremonies within the ceremonies, appearances within the appearances.

At some point trying to winkle out the logic underlying the pieces of the ritual is nearly impossible. Who am I? Am I an actor participating in a ceremonial ritual? When I become “the Envoy” what do I become?

Am I an envoy on a mission to save the social structure attacked by revolution? Am I, that is, an element piercing the illusions of the Balcony from outside? Or am I simply another customer of Madam Irma’s illusions playing out a sexual fantasy with a whore dressed as Saint Teresa? Or am I a combination of those possibilities?

At Mass, when the host is elevated, is it important to settle the question of whether it is a wheaten wafer or the body of Christ?
No, because what counts is the ritual of elevation, the rite in which Priest, Acolytes, and the worshipers take part.

So it is with “The Balcony.”


Friday, September 23, 2005

A Change of Season

The thermometer outside my home-office window is registering 100 degrees, typical early fall weather for the Sonoran desert. Relatives, who live in the small dark place we call New England, are always riffing on the theme of changing seasons.

They wouldn’t want to live here, they’d miss the changing seasons. Well of course they would. After a long, dark, cold, slush-filled winter (followed by mud time) who wouldn’t rejoice at the emergence of the occasional crocus or tulip and the odd sunny day filled with weak yellow light and temperatures in the low fifties.

Crisp, brisk, fall days? You bet. And what a relief after steamy eastern summers that leave birds gasping on the lawn. And just think, in five or six weeks all the leaves will be gone (from the trees, but not from the yard) and late fall mists and rains will be followed by…oh boy...winter.

Despite what they think we do have seasonal changes here in the desert, but Desert Rats have had to become sensitively tuned to changes of light and temperature to enjoy them.

I noticed riding home from rehearsal last night that there was a very slight edge to the air. Still plenty warm enough for shirt-sleeve riding, but not the unabated continuance of daytime heat that we notice in June.

We’ll celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with ornate picnics in the desert, sunglasses welcome, but keep a light wrap available for the post-sundown brandy. Right after Thanksgiving our Malls will fill with shoppers, many of whom are visitors from the east. They are confused. They are wearing flip-flops and shorts in weather that the desert rat understands requires a light-weight sleeveless down vest.

And they say we don’t have changes of season!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Bush Approval Ratings? So What!

Approval Ratings? Phooey!

Democrats are taking a good deal of pleasure in the President’s falling approval ratings. They seem to believe that a great turning in their favor is taking place and that there is, at last, Democratic light at the end of the Republican tunnel.

Actually this is an illusion…not because the approval rating isn’t really going down but because (excuse me, here) the Conservatives don’t give a shit what their numbers are. The public doesn’t vote in Congress and it’s in Congress where their numbers still give them control.

There’s plenty of time between now and November 2006 to continue to dismantle the social progress of the past 70 years. The destruction of a strong and humane system of social welfare policies requires only that they be starved of money, which huge deficits will do.

I am (for the moment) a lifelong Democrat, and I despair at the inaction of the Democratic minority in Congress. It should stop worrying about its own re-election and speak out forcefully in favor of reinstating the Bush tax cuts.
We had a war tax in WWII. We should have a war/disaster tax now.

The ‘fight’ over the Roberts appointment was a wasted effort. Could no one count to 60? The election in ’06 is probably our last chance and I’m afraid the party will blow it.

Independent’s Day.

Arizona’s election laws allow Independents to vote in either party’s primary contests. I happen to live in a state legislative district that’s dominated by the Republicans. Next primary cycle my Republican state Senator, Toni Hellon, will be opposed by a troglodyte Republican house member from the district who is “term limited.”

Hellon may not be the greatest, but she is, at least open to reason. I’d much rather have her than Huffman so I’ll re-register and give her my vote.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Times Select

Times Select Redux

I amused myself yesterday cruising the blogosphere for reactions to the NY Times’s decision to charge for some of its content. Generally I would have hoped lefty bloggers to be tougher, but many of them were squealing like recently deflowered virgins.

They were shocked…shocked…to find out that newspapers felt they had a right to be paid for their wares. One blogger, I’ll spare you her name, was outraged that on top of her 40 grand tuition bill she would now have to pay to read Krugman on line.

Well, it’ll be a hardship all right. She’ll have to go out to a news stand and buy a copy of the paper once a week…twice a week if she wants to read Maureen Dowd, too. Or she could go to the college library, or any library most likely, and read them for free. Or aren’t they worth the effort?

Here in Tucson it’ll cost a buck a week (total) to buy the Arizona Daily Star on the days those columns run. (They won’t be on line in the Star, either.)

In The Meantime The News is Still Free

Well, almost all of it. Tricky business, here. Op-Ed columnists like Krugman don’t make stuff up out of whole cloth. Their opinions are grounded in facts that they point in our direction. I admit it’s arguable that we may be more poorly informed without them.

But most of the Times reportage is still on line and still free. And I’m pretty sure that we can count on activist bloggers to point us in the direction of material in our favorite columnists’ offerings.

More important to me is the fact that the entire NYT archive is going to be available to me (100 hits a month) for the price of my annual subscription.

A Changing Business Model

It may be that in 20 years dead tree editions of newspapers will be niche products and that most reporting will be on line. When that happens you can be sure that we’ll be asked to ‘subscribe’ to the online versions. And who could complain? No, really, who could complain? I’d like to hear from my many reader about this.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Monday Morning Report

Bumper Stickers

Driving around Tucson you still see plenty of ‘Kerry-Edwards’ bumper stickers, but practically none for ‘Bush 04.’ Maybe Democrats are flying the flag in the same spirit that that the South continued to cherish the Stars and Bars. Perhaps Republicans have stripped their bumpers clean in the spirit of ‘well we won that one, so let’s move on.’

But frankly, I don’t think the Democrats are continuing to fly the flag in the spirit of a lost cause, but as a proclamation that the evidence has demonstrated that they were right about Bush after all… and I wonder if many moderate Republicans aren’t just a tad embarrassed by their emperor’s naked incompetence.

NY Times Select

Well, I popped for it. I paid for online access to NYT columnists and special features. I could have subscribed for home delivery and got Times Select for free, but even at the introductory rate for the dead tree edition I’d have quickly been out of pocket.

Eventually Times Select readers will have access to NYT articles back to the first year of publication.

You can take a look free for two weeks and that will give you a chance to look at the video interviews with columnists Krugman, Friedman, Kristoff and the others. I thought the interviews were fascinating.

Will it all be worth my 39 bucks? We’ll see what the year brings.

Arizona Daily Star

I know I’ll never be able to get my wife, Katherine, to give up her “paper” paper, but I’d be happy to. It costs me 156 bucks a year to subscribe to the Star. I’d be willing to pop for 50 bucks a year if I could get a "Star Select” on line that had only the news and features that I regularly read and if, and make that a big IF, it was less cluttered and jittery than it is now.

The Star on line is one of the least attractive news sites on the web.

Take a look and see if you don’t agree. Link. If you do agree that the Star’s web site needs cleaning up, drop a note to Starnet Online Editor, John Bolton:

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Get Fuzzy

I’m a big booster of Darby Conley’s cartoon strip, “Get Fuzzy.” Satchel the dog is enchanting and Bucky the cat is wickedly loveable…in a depraved and irresistible way.

I suspect that there is more of Bucky in Conley than we have ever suspected and I offer the following as proof. Some months ago Conley ran a short series of “rejected story ideas.”

I was rifling through my image collection earlier today and discovered that I had saved on of those strips, which I offer below. It perfectly suited the bloody-minded emotional mood I’ve been in lately.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Angst and Taxes

Tax Time

Two hundred billion here, two hundred billion there…but what the hell they’ll just pass the bill on to us, and the next gang to take charge inside the Beltway.

Already the Republican leadership is saying that we can re-build New Orleans and Iraq if we just cut spending on some other programs. Why, we might even be able to continue to cut taxes, too!

This is a testing time for the American people and for Congress. Most especially it is a testing time for Democrats in Congress, who are going to have to stand up and make some tough decisions.

One of those is the decision to raise taxes, either with a war-time style “recovery tax” or by re-instating taxes that have already been cut. If the President, Congress, and the rest of us really want to rebuild New Orleans we have to be willing to sacrifice to do it.

The alternative is to push the “sacrifice” ahead to some future generation, which can cope with it while seated in the rubble of a deficit-savaged economy.

Thank God It’s Just Another Day

Do you remember, however dimly, when we thanked God it was Friday? When the weekend was the time for recovery from a work-filled week? When we looked forward to the escape from quotidian anxieties?

Now Friday is just the day before the next stressful bout with our own lives.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Odds and Ends

Busy Days

I’m in the last weeks of rehearsal for The Rogue Theatre production of Jean Genet’s “The Balcony,” which will open with a preview performance here in Tucson on October 6.

When I first read the script I wondered if many in a Tucson audience would “get it,” but over the weeks of rehearsal I’ve come to see this play not only as accessible, but as timely in dimensions that are really astonishing. They may not like what they “get,” but they surely will “get it.”

Visit the Rogue’s marvelous web site and read what the theatre’s all about. Link

The Environment Of Surfaces

Many months ago, before the Raven flew out of the blogosphere, I exchanged notes with him about the “environment of surfaces.” This, I take it, is the environment increasing numbers of us live in today. It’s an environment of appearances, like images on a movie screen, and like those images there is nothing behind them, or before or after them but more images.

These surfaces refer only to themselves and hence are always exactly what they seem. Can only be what they seem. Our political world has become exactly that, and the Bush administration has mastered its manipulation.

For the prisoner of the environment of surfaces there is not both appearance and reality, there is only appearance. And truth is what you are told it is.

In the Balcony the Envoy and the Queen come upon three photographers faking publicity scenes. The queen blurts out, “But those are false images.” The Envoy replies, “They are true images…born of a false spectacle.” The people will see the iages, the surfaces, and that will be their reality.

He is her majesty’s Rove.

Annoying Pop Up

The University of Phoenix, which is supposed to be an educational institution, markets itself with the aggressive determination of a used car lot. It’s main tool is an annoying pop-up that seems slyly capable of weaseling past my pop-up blockers.

If I could find the e-mail address of a President, or Chancellor, or someone on a Board of Directors I would suggest we bury him or her in e-mails of complaint.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Guilty Party

I imagine I'll be removing this post, with its nifty picture of the old curmudgeon as soon as I've managed to get it on my profile.
The blogger picture softward is much easier to use than Radioland, as I've commented elsewhere. Once I get my profile pic up I'll take this down. So don't get too attached to it. `Just a little joke there.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Blame The Press

All They know Is What They Read In The Papers

The latest spin from the spin-meisters in Washington is a variation on the old “blame the press” theme. Government reaction to the growing disaster was slow because everyone was misled by the press into thinking that New Orleans had dodged the bullet.

Well isn’t that just peachy! Apparently the main source of government emergency information is the press. And here I was thinking that there was all sorts of sophisticated communications wizardry protecting me from natural and man-made disasters.

God help us if a first strike takes out the Washington Post. No one inside the beltway will have the foggiest effing idea of what’s happening.

Take a look at a short piece in Salon’s War Room

The Cinderella Man

I saw The Cinderella Man over the weekend. Boxing movies are not everyone’s favorite film fare. Boxing, for that matter, is not as popular as it once was, when there were more fights and boxing was largely a working-class guy’s sport.

This is a wonderful movie, stitched through with the history of the great depression and filmed in a subdued color that almost suggests the rotogravure newspaper sections of the Twenties and Thirties.

The recreations of the fights are (I’m told) extremely accurate. They are also very gritty and may not be for the tender-hearted. The story of James J. Braddock is the story of a man who literally fought his way out of the depression to become the hero of his working class buddies on the docks.

There is a good site devoted to Braddock that you can get by clicking here. Interesting sidelight: Braddock’s granddaughter is actress Rosemarie Dewitt, who plays Sara Wilson in the movie.

A Rite of Passage

I’ve written about this before, I think, but I’m sure it has something to do with my affection for the movie. There was a least so it was in Chicago…that going to the fights was as much a rite of passage as getting laid, or being able to smoke without hiding your cigarettes.

A father would come home and tell the mom that he and a couple of the boys were going to the fights that night and he thought he’d take the kid, if he wanted to go. Did the kid want to go? You bet. This was an invitation into man’s estate. Tonight he wouldn’t be a kid, he’d be one of the boys.

These were usually club fights, held in smoky social halls or neighborhood auditoriums, with fighters on their way up or their way down. There weren’t many women at these fights, at least not “nice” women. No one’s mother, no one’s sheltered sister went to the fights.

Your father’s friends might offer you a cigarette, or a seegar and a beer, and your father would look the other way and you’d try to smoke the one and drink the other without disgracing yourself.

That sort of thing could make you a boxing fan for life.

Monday, September 12, 2005


So I’m in my ‘second office’ at Starbucks the other day, pretending to work but really waiting for the nearly naked tootsies from Catalina Foothills High School to arrive on break, when the Borgs arrived.

These were two neatly dressed guys of indeterminate age with silver appliances screwed into their ears. They were talking but not to one another. Since Star Trek times the Borgs have apparently managed to get the control devices reduced in size. Pretty scary.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Building Freedom Day

Katherine and I visited the newest job site of Tucson Habitat For Humanity this morning. Nearly 1000 volunteers were building eight new homes for their fellow citizens, folks who would not otherwise have ever had a place of their own.

Recipients of Habitat-built houses must put 400 hours of sweat-equity into their homes. When they move in they become home owners, with a monthly interest free mortgage payment of 400 hundred dollars. The mortgage has a term of 25 years, and their monthly payment goes back into Habitat’s kitty.

When Habitat receives donations of $65,000 dollars it buys material to start a new building project. Current estimates of final building material cost is around $90,000.

The City of Tucson donated the land for the current project on condition that its own architect do the design…pro bono, I believe.

I thought today’s work project was an example of everything good that Americans think about themselves. Gay and straight, black and white, young and old, anglo and hispanic, all such differences unimportant as they sweated in the desert sun for their fellow citizens.

An American community.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Reader’s Oasis: The Last Chapter

You may have missed the announcement buried in Thursday’s Business section of the Star: After five years one of Tucson’s few remaining independent bookstores is closing. In the end it was unable to compete with the giant bookstore chains or with the trend to on-line book selling.

Reader’s Oasis made a special effort to display and sell the books of local authors but what made it special for me was that its people were book people, not simply clerks who rang up a sale.

The Oasis was truly that, a green place in the marketing desert where you went if you couldn’t buy a book without holding it first, and where conversation about books always led to the suggestion of something else you were sure to enjoy.

The sales paradigm in the book business is changing and I suppose my kicking at the net isn’t going to stop the trend. Go on line, order the book, have it delivered to your door. The days of going to a bookstore in the same spirit that one went to a movie, or the theatre, as an entertainment in itself, are gone, or soon will be.

What a pity.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Curmudgeon Strikes Again

I got some e-mail from the Curmudgeon very early this morning. It really is a “Letter From Underground.” I think his liver may be diseased.

“Once you drag government into the kitchen and drown it in the bathtub there’s no point in being surprised if it leaves you to drown in the attic. Life in a state of nature (without a strong, efficient, well-run, intelligently managed government) is exactly what Hobbes said it was: Nasty, mean, swinish, brutal, and short.

“I might not have the quotation letter perfect, but you get the idea.

“These people are supposed to protect us against terrorists, as well as come to our aid in the event of a great natural disaster. Lots of luck. About the only thing they’ve managed to do is make airline travel annoying. I have a friend who bought metal-free shoes. They do not trip any alarms. He still has to take them off.

“It surprises me that nearly everyone in America spent hours glued to the tube and still polls show people think the President did a good job “handling” the disaster. What were they watching, re-runs of Charlton Heston disaster movies?


“I learned a tough lesson a few days ago: Don’t strike up a conversation with an old guy. I was leaving a local bakery and made a casual comment to an old geezer who was dusting his SUV with his handkerchief.

“I got his life story.

“The lesson I learned: No one gives a rat’s ass about how it used to be when you were a boy. Don’t bore the world around you to death. That was then, and this is now. The distance between then and now becomes greater with each passing month of technology-fueled change. Shut up and learn about “now.”


“A famous philosopher once said the bad art was corrupted feeling. Bad art can corrupt feeling, too. The principle applies to all art, including architecture. I would not normally obsess about this except for the fact that a local charter school has built a string of classroom buildings to house their little children that are bone ugly.

"Amphiboly warning: the classrooms are ugly, not the kids. If I thought I could count on your knowing when we use “that” and when we use “who” the warning would not be necessary.

"At any rate, I watched these classrooms being built (cheaply, I imagine) and they have all the charm of sheds assembled to house migrant cotton pickers.
“Kids are sensitive to these things. Oh, well. Perhaps the classrooms have lots of brightly colored posters.

Maybe something like, “Christ Curing The Esthetically Challenged.”

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Patty-Cake, Patty-Cake

September 7, 2005 @ 3:24 PM

Jim Pederson, the former Chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party, is running for Congress. He’s running for the U.S. Senate as a matter of fact, against Republican Senator John Kyl.

Kyl represents everything that needs to be changed in the administration’s conservative, “God Helps Those Who Help Themselves” approach to the nation’s welfare.

But Pederson is running with such delicacy of feeling as to suggest that he has bought in on the Republican frame for the debate: Now we must all pull together…plenty of time for investigations and finger-pointing later.

I don’t know whether to scream or throw up.

I want our candidates and our Congressional delegation to howl, to refuse to be silent, refuse to be “cooperative.” Right now is the time to be critical. God, I wish Pederson had had the courage to say that he was declaring now, today, when the human consequences of Republican policies were clear and unforgettable.

I wish he’d had the courage to speak up, even at the risk of frightening off the middle-of-the-roaders in our party who think that the sweet spirit of conciliation is the way to win.

I wish he’s had the courage to risk losing for being accused of ‘playing politics’. It might be the only way to win.

Smaller Is Better

A Short Rant--
For those who care I’ve posted a short rant about the modern giganto-bikes over at Motorcycles.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

And Then She Drowned

September 4, 2005 @ 10:30 am

Editor and Publisher Reports:

11:15 AM ET. In a remarkable TV moment this morning, Tim Russert on Meet the Press talked with Aaron Broussard, president of hard-hit Jefferson Parish, immediately after Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff defended the federal response to the tragedy. An angry Broussard called for the firing of top officials responsible for the poor response, saying "the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history."

But his appearance ended with the man in tears and even Russert barely able to keep it together, when Broussard said:

"The guy who runs this building I’m in, Emergency Management, he’s responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, 'Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?' and he said, 'Yeah, Mama, somebody’s coming to get you.' Somebody’s coming to get you on Tuesday. [Broussard begins sobbing.] Somebody’s coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Friday...and she drowned Friday night!

And From The Times-Picayune:

In an open letter to the President the New Orleans paper said, in part:

Every official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be fired, Director Michael Brown especially.

In a nationally televised interview Thursday night, he said his agency hadn’t known until that day that thousands of storm victims were stranded at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. He gave another nationally televised interview the next morning and said, "We’ve provided food to the people at the Convention Center so that they’ve gotten at least one, if not two meals, every single day."

Lies don’t get more bald-faced than that, Mr. President.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Labor Day Greetings!

Everyone loves Labor Day. It's a great three day weekend, with a paid day off. The weather's fine and the back yard and patio look as good as they have all year. If you're not going to the mountains, lakes or seashore... kick back, light the grill, and suck down a brew.

You might also remember to thank the men and women of organized labor... many of whom were beaten, murdered, or run out of town so that we could enjoy the eight hour day, paid vacations, pensions, and guarantees that women and children would not be exploited in the workplace.

You may have forgotten, but the eight hour day and the paid vacation are not part of the natural order of things. They represent labor union victories.

I am now about to use a certain word. It's not a bad word, it's just a simple noun. I guarantee you I do not freight it with any nasty emotional overtones. Ready?

Capitalism. Our economic system is Capitalism. It is a nifty system; it really works. But it is intrinsic to that system that it treats labor like any other raw material and will always try to buy it as cheaply as possible. It will go overseas for it; it will confine it in little cubicles; and it will buy a lot of it part time so it doesn't have to pay benefits.

That's the way the system works...for labor. It doesn't work quite that way for other kinds of raw material. Sure, a contractor will try to buy cement cheaply, but he has to dicker with the cement guy, who will raise or lower his price until the two can agree to do business.

In the sports world, when a college basketball star hires an agent to negotiate with team owners we think nothing of it. The agents bargain with the owners for the players' services and the athletes refuse to play until they have a contract. But if a group of carpenters gets together to do the same thing it's socialism...or worse.

On the 2nd of November in 1909, during what became known as the "Uprising of the 20,000," female garment workers went on strike in New York. Many were arrested and a judge told those arrested: "You are on strike against God."

Wow...who'd have guessed?

There's nothing unpatriotic about the union movement; it's as American as apple pie. Boston carpenters walked off the job in April of 1825 in the interest of a 10 hour work day. Ten years later, children working in the silk mills in Patterson, New Jersey went on strike. Of course they had an outtrageous demand: A six day work week of eleven hour days.

Sweatshops, eleven hour days, inadequate wages and wretched or dangerous working conditions are largely a thing of the past. The result is we tend not to notice or care about Capitalism's continuous attack on the power and even the existence of the union movement. This may not be a good thing.

A union is the average hourly worker's only defense against the economic power of a system that always tries to buy raw materials at the lowest possible price. It's not dumb, if you're an hourly wage person, to remember you're just so much raw material to that system.

The union maid and her guy aren't opposed to Capitalism. If you stop and think about it, the fact is that just the opposite is true. These folks simply want to behave exactly like all the other links in the capitalist chain of supply and demand. All they ask for is the right to bargain for the price they get for their labor and the conditions under which it is supplied.

Why should they be the only players in the game denied that right? But for now, enough. Get the ol' hammock swinging, pop another brew, and dribble mustard from a hot dog on your shirt. Enjoy the day off with pay. It looks like we've all profited from the American labor movement, even if we've never belonged to a union.

On Labor's special day let's all heed the old organizing slogan and "Take it easy....but take it."