Friday, March 31, 2006

union label

Okay, first a quick review:

Yeah, right.  Seriously, this image is so obsolete it's not even funny.  For a more accurate picture, imagine that the workers hand, the one on the bottom, of course, is being crushed to a pulp, dripping gore as the combined forces of Management and Uncle Sam try to squeeze as much as they can from it.Workers (or, Labor), that is, those who produce something for a living, are never inclined to work hard (shut up right now about work ethics, okay), because the harder they work, the less money they make for that work (in effect). Ever have a Rush Job? You have to bust your butt to get the job out the door, right? And while the company may get a substantially larger amount of money to do the job in a short amount of time, because you take less time to do the job, you actually get paid less money to do that job than you would for an ordinary one.

Management, on the other hand, are those whose job it is to make sure that the workers do more work in less time. Management would love to live in a world where every job is a rush job. It is the function of a manager to make sure not only that you do not spend valuable "company" time not producing something for that company, but that when you are producing you are doing so as fast as you can.

This is the essence of the labor/management conflict. Workers want more for their work, which can be achieved either through raises, or through working less hard (though this doesnt necessarily increase the final amount one may earn). Managers want to maximize the amount of work done for each dollar, which is why they're such a pain in the ass to the working person.

For most of recorded labor/management history, management has had a distinct advantage. The whip hand here (when it doesnt contain an actual whip, an event far too frequent in the past) is unemployment. There are almost always more workers than jobs, and this is the stick that management has been able to use to compensate for the rather paltry (frequently half-eaten and moldy) carrot it dangles before those it employs. There are exceptions, of course. The period after the Black Death ravaged Europe was said to be a particularly good time to be a peasant, assuming you had survived.

This was where Unions came in. While a company could easily survive the loss of one or two trouble-makering workers (asking for more money, I mean, seriously!) It found it much harder to survive the loss of all of its workers, especially when any one wishing to replace those workers must pass through a crowd of them in order to do so. Management, of course, hated this, because it got in the way of their job, which was to give workers as little money as possible while getting them to produce as much as possible.

If you want a possible answer as to why Union membership in the U.S. has declined, perhaps viewing the roll of unions within this context will help. For instance, take this story about a Plumbers Union in Philadelphia. They are upset because of plans to install no-flush toilets in a new office building. No-Flush means no plumbers, unless something clogs. That means half of the income normally associated with a urinal is now, forgive me, down the toilet.

Well, boo-fucking-hoo. First of all, lets get something straight. It's not really a Union. It's a Guild. Guilds are much older than unions, and they were created, not to protect the workers from exploitation, but to maximize the income of the guilds (which, I suppose, is okay, but that's not my point right now). Interestingly enough, a lot of guilds were created after the Black Death.
When a Plumber works on an office building under construction, that's when he is in a Union, because then the labor/management function kicks in: Guys in charge of building want to spend less and have Big Money on their side, guys doing the actual work of building want more and have the Union on their side. When a plumber comes to your house (or office building), and charges you $200 for 15 minutes worth of pipe-snaking, that's a Guild.

Maybe if Unions want to regain their stature in America, they need to concentrate more on the protecting Labor From Management side of things, and less on the Maximizing Guild-Members Profits side. Ordinary people (i.e., those who produce things) can sympathise with workers wanting to be paid more (see genuine government numbers here), but not when it appears to be avarice getting in the way of common sense. Blocking the installation of no-flush toilets because you dont want to lose potential income from fixing them would, I think, qualify here.
America's Unions dont have a membership problem. They have an image problem. The primary function of today's Unions seems to be the making of unreasonable demands and the protection of useless workers. Meanwhile, all over the country, the rights, wages, and stability of most workers continues to slip, without much comment from the unions aside from, "If you joined us, things would be better" ("feel the power of the Dark Side!").

Dubya hates working peopleLets face it. American Unions have gone the way of all organizations. They got large, formed a hierarcy, and developed a bureaucracy. Once the top was insulated from the bottom, they lost touch with those they were supposed to be serving, while the bottom ceased to even care about the organization (except for what it could get out of it). It's coasting now on its momentum, but momentum fades. Short of a major shake-up (a Union Reformation, if you will) it will someday stop.
Meanwhile, if you produce something for a living, expect your life to get worse before it gets better. Hopefully, something will come along to take the empty place at our side once occupied by unions, and it will do it before Management gets their hand on any real whips.



Using the above model, a question occurs to me. What is the function of a CEO, and other tip-top brass? I mean, in the one sense, they could be considered to be the acme of Management, those whose job it is to make all others produce more.
But maybe that's the wrong way to look at it. Let's (despite my "black/white" scree of the other day) break it down to absolute basics again. A CEO is suppose to produce profits for Stockholders (management). If the stockholders were doing their job correctly, they would be trying to pay the CEO as little as possible to get the job done.
Do they seem like they're doing that to you?

sharing is caring

If you are a comic book geek, you might enjoy this, a supervillian workout program. At left is the "Bags-O-Loot" dead lift (for the legs).

Sillyness by Pastor Rowe

Thursday, March 30, 2006

equilibrium

Okay, just want to share an idea with you that maybe you'll think is crazy. It regards a situation in India.
Seems that a centuries-old preference for male children is now being aided by technology. Now, instead of merely hoping for a boy-child, the wealthier members of Indian society are having sonograms to test for sex, then aborting the fetus should it prove to be female (as opposed to the old days, when you had to wait for the baby to be born, then kill it if it was a girl).
Normally, the boy to girl ratio of babies is around 1000 boys to 933 girls. But in India, surveys are showing, the ratio of boys to girls, assuming the parent has previously birthed a girl, is 1000 to 759. Following the birth of a male child, though, the ratio is roughly even (in other words, normal). Even worse is when the third child is preceded by two girls, where the number drops to 1000 : 719.

This is bad, obviously, and India has banned sex-selective abortions for over a decade, now. But like so many things, making something illegal doesnt make it stop. Officials have even taken to running sting operations to catch doctors who suggest the procedure to women who they find to be carrying a girl.

Here's my crazy take on the whole situation. While this is obviously pretty bad for girls now, I think, in the long run, it may work out that the practice will cause an end not only to the bad treatment of women in India, but perhaps even an end to the entire caste system.

Why? Because while the celebration of boy-children and the mourning of the arrival of a girl-child may be powerful social forces in India, I'm willing to bet that they are not as powerful as the urge for marriage and procreation. Even now, Indian men are experiencing a shortage of women to marry. How long can the practice of dowery demands continue in the face of a shortage? (remember the almighty Market, my friends). And if one cannot find a wife within one's own caste? Will the old taboos withstand, or will they be tossed aside in the interest of continuing one's genetic line, regardless.

Just a thought.

Carnival of the Liberals #9

CotL logoCotL #9 is now open at About.Atheism.

No, I'm not in it, having already used my latest "religious" post in #8. Oh well.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

wishing there was another way

I hope no one is expecting anything of substance today (though recent history certainly wouldnt make that a reasonable expectation, now, would it?). There wont be. My brain, after a week of vacation, a week of the whole family being home, and a weekend of somekind of intestinal virus, has simply shut down. Sadly, the following is the closest to a fully formed post that has managed to get out of my skull.

The other day I read this book, one that my wife had been reading (she laughed so much reading it, I couldnt resist). It was a story of a young lawyer in a large, prestigious London law firm who discovers that she's made a mistake that lost a client £50 million. She panics, jumps on a train, and through a series of events ends up on the country-house doorstep of a wealthy couple, mistakenly taken for their latest applicant for housekeeper. Though she knows nothing about housekeeping, she takes the job and frivolous hilarity ensues, blah blah blah.
Jump to the end, and she's been exonerated of the mistake (a frame-job) and offered a full partnership in the law firm. But she's learned to love her new life, and it's low-stress ways, and is torn between remaining a small-town house-keeper and going back to being a no-life, high-powered city attorney. And that's where I got irritated.

What is it with people, anyway. Why does everything have to be black or white? Are you a Republican or a Democrat? Are you a liberal or a conservative? Are you Saved or do you hate Jesus? With Us or Against Us? Red State or Blue State? Good or Evil?
Labor / Management?
North / South?
Gay/ Straight?
Dog / Cat?
Munsters / Addams Family?
Puh-tay-toe / Puh-tah-toe?

The other day, my daughter asked me, "Daddy, if you had to choose, which would you pick, to freeze to death or to burn to death?" Leaving off the question of just where such a question would come from for a 9-year old girl, I told her, "Neither, I would choose not to die." This answer, of course, frustrated the hell out of her, and we spent several minutes arguing about false choices, something I'm not sure I was getting through to her.

But I hope I did, because this is exactly the kind of thing that drives me crazy.

Here's an idea: Here in the U.S., we've lost our world domination in the manufacturing sector. We appear to be losing the race in the Sciences. And we all know the story of our lost Service Sector jobs. Maybe we need to cultivate a new specialty, a new road to world influence.

My idea? We develop a knack for coming up with a Third Way.

Imagine, taking the "liberal" penchant for "valuing" the point of view of the other person to a new place. A place where one can listen to the opinions of both sides, weigh them, and then say something along the lines of, "Well, you've both got some very good points, but obviously, you cant both have all that you want. but how about if we do this thing here, that neither of you seem to have thought of, and maybe everyone can go away reasonably happy.
Now, some might say that this was a little something once called "leadership", but, quite frankly, when I look around the world, I dont see much of it in evidence anywhere. And look, we live in the Age of Consultants, so why not take advantage of that. A little bit of training, a little bit of clever marketing, and a little bit of grey-area thinking, and we could be firmly back in the driver's seat almost as soon as the cumulative effects of Dubya's disasterous foriegn policies knock us out.

Oh, in case you're wondering, the unmentioned Third Way in the book: Why couldnt she simply have become a simple village lawyer?
Duh.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

more surveying

Hey, this is better than I thought it would be:

25 %

My weblog owns 25 % of me.
Does your weblog own you?

props to Coturnix

Saturday, March 25, 2006

resident evil

You Are 38% Evil

A bit of evil lurks in your heart, but you hide it well.
In some ways, you are the most dangerous kind of evil.

No crony left behind

Here, read this, and this, detailing how a "donation" to the Katrina Relief fund (in Houston) by the Queen Mother Barbara Bush, was specifically earmarked to be spent on an educational computer system called Ignite, manufactured by her son, Neil Bush.
Is the system any good? I dont know, maybe it is. But why donate money to HISD, invoking the name of Katrina, just to have the money returned to the company run by your own flesh and blood. Could it have anything to do with trying to look, at last, like the Bush Corporation is trying to do something about the victims of Katrina? ("Oh, look, Ma, another opportunity to make some cash off of the suffering of others!") Or is it more a lead in to having the newly rebuilt NOLA school system purchase a lot of the Ignite systems that "Teachers also found it to be effective in improving student understanding of history, engaging students in the learning process, and to a lesser degree, helping students pass the (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills)" ?
Not that any conditions will be made for federal money to be given to rebuilding or anything, heavens no. That kind of thing doesnt happen, right?

“And so many of the people in the political arena here, you know, were privileged anyway, so this — this [she chuckles slightly] is working very well for them.”

props to Education at the Brink
Hey, just a tin-foil moment here. I found this article claiming that Neil Bush was scheduled to have lunch "with Scott Hinckley, brother of John Hinckley, the day after a bullet came within an inch of making Neil Bush's father the new president of the United States". Is it true? Hell if I know. But I thought I'd pass it on anyway

Friday, March 24, 2006

duck!

I found this Mallard Fillmore cartoon on the Skeptical Observer's blog. He's no less disgusted by the strip (in general, not just this one) as I have always been (the Dallas Whoring News carries it, but I try not to read it).I see Mallard Fillmore as a kind of graphical Ann Coulter. Anyway, one of the beauties of many Bush supporters is that so many of the things they say can be turned back at them with almost no changes. Thus:

CotL #9 now open for submissions

CotL logoThis time the CotL is being held at About.Atheism.com. As the name suggests, they're going to be looking primarily at religious-based posts (though not necessarily so). In Austin's words:
Posts addressing religion or philosophy in some fashion will be preferred because About.com prefers that I stay “on topic.” I won’t automatically dismiss posts that don’t deal with religion, but if most are about religion then I can say that I’m not straying too far into the topic area of another site.
The Carnival goes up on Wednesday, March 29th (next week). Submissions must be in by Monday, March 27th at 6PM EST.

Arrr!

I was led here by Tree Story


My pirate name is:


Red Davy Bonney


Passion is a big part of your life, which makes sense for a pirate. You can be a little bit unpredictable, but a pirate's life is far from full of certainties, so that fits in pretty well. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from fidius.org.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

How I learned to start worrying (again) and hate the bomb

I know it may seem like I've fallen into hole, but I really havent. It's just been Spring Break here at the Daveawayfrom Household, and everyone has been at home, leaving me little time for blogging (I suspect summer will not be kind).

One place I have been talking this week is United We Lay, engaging (when I have time) in a rather long debate about nuclear pre-emptive strikes. It was the usual thing; on one side war-hawks who think nothing of American hegemony bringing death to hundreds of thousands of other people. On the other, good moral citizens who loath the military-industrial machine (fed on blood-slicked oil money) that the American Government represents these days, rather than its citizens. (Oh, and that George Walker Bush, jr., is the anti-christ).

Since it represents the only thing of any real substance I've said in a couple of weeks, I'll reproduce (more or less) my part in it here on my own blog.

First, though, just so no one thinks I'm exaggerating about the U.S. plans for using nukes if it wants to, here's an article from the Washington Post. Or how about this speech from a conference on U.S. nuclear policy and counterproliferation. Or maybe this rather over-the-top (one hopes) article describing how BushCo Policy will bring on a nuclear holocaust

But first, a little scenario: Say there's a playground. It's the oldest playground in town in the one of the poorer neighborhoods. Most of the kids there are related, but they fight, a lot, always whacking each other with sticks. Then one day a new kid shows up. He's a lot bigger than the others, and he's not carrying a stick, but an aluminum baseball bat. At first he says he just wants trade some candy for a soccer ball or two (the kids seem to have plenty), but pretty soon he's started telling the other kids what to do. The neighborhood kids, naturally, resent this, (and try to ignore him), but he can be rather insistant. They hope a few whacks might convince him to leave, but even though he might grunt a bit when smacked with a stick, it never slows down his fist when he hits back (most of the kids take to running attacks). Pretty soon the Big Kid is getting madder and madder, and threatening the locals with his bat. All they want him to do is go away (even the kids he's been giving candy to would like to see less of him), but he wont go.
Why wont he go back home and leave those kids alone? And is it any wonder that they too would like to get their hands on a baseball bat?

Personally, I think anyone advocating raining nuclear death upon anybody perhaps need to review a bit of information. The two small warheads dropped on Japan during WWII killed over 150,000 people instantly. After various cancers and birth defects took their toll, the number was over 310,000.

Two SMALL bombs dropped on relatively unimportant cities. Tell me again that you want those bombs dropped.

Someone suggested that those advocating or celebrating attacks upon the U.S. have somehow given up their "innocent civilian" status (through aggressive rhetoric, I guess). Oddly, they dont seem to have noticed that the same could be said for Americans who lobby for killing those who dont like them.
So who is innocent? Nobody.
But I'm not sure that should be the standard for who to kill. Shouldnt it require something a bit more, like, perhaps, a deadly attack, with a clear attacker. Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I thought we lived in a country where we believe that someone is innocent until proven guilty. Oh, and I think there was something about avoiding cruel and unusual punishment, also (I think killing a few hundred thousand people might qualify for "cruel", and probably also "unusual").

child scorched by Hiroshima blastAt least the people who are fighting against us are willing to get their hands dirty. Most Americans prefer to send the youth of the nation, that is, when we're not sending expensive explosive devices. You can see why we might like to use the Bomb. So "clean", so easy, and as long as the press is controlled, we'll barely have to look at the scorched skeletons of children. (Other people's children)

I'd also like to point out that should the U.S. undertake to do one of these "pre-emptive" strikes, it would be the third time that anyone had dropped a nuclear device, and it would have been done, once again, by the United States of America.

So, who's the dangerous bully? Who then would be the country that doesnt behave in a civilized manner? The most powerful nation on the planet, and when someone shakes a stick at us, and says, "oooh, I wish I had a baseball bat" (like the one we have), is the answer to break their skull open with that bat?

Well, listen, do you want to kill enough people to populate Cincinnati? Then go get a gun, hop on a plane, and go over there and start shooting. But dont sit there in your armchair in the comfort of your home, and talk about killing hundreds of thousands of people without even having to get up.

We are a Nation that claims that all are innocent until proven guilty, yet we can contemplate attacking a nation that we think might someday use nuclear weapons on us? If you had smacked your brother in the head and then claimed "he was going to hit me", you would still be in trouble. Pre-emptive attacks are the actions of cowards and bullies, and is perhaps the most Un-American action we could possibly engage in.
The Founders of this country, in addition to being Philosophers and Statesmen, were also gentlemen, something few in this country can now claim, especially those "leading" us. And Gentlemen, especially when dealing from a position of power, do not draw first blood.

And please dont insult anyone's intelligence anymore by bringing up 9/11®. There was no Iraq connection. There is no Iran connection. There is only Islam to draw the three things together (and, specifically, a fundamentalist version of Islam, not shared by all; see Wahabi and this BBC report). If you want to believe that's enough to justify killing on a scale of millions, that's your business, but then I must ask this:

What separates you from the Terrorists at that point?

Hey, for some more info on the bombing of Japan go here or here

linky-poo

Who is he REALLY?Ha! read this about Dubya on Pop's Bucket, and C3P0 will be explained.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

third time's a charm

CotL logoOr, my life is, cant tell. Oh, who am I kidding. Aside from a wonderful wife and children, most of my life shows distinct signs of a life of charm, so it's got to be something else.

What the hell am I talking about? Why that I have once again somehow bluffed my way into the Carnival of the Liberals, #8: The Hiaku Edition. Of course, dont take this as a reason not to check it out, because there are another 9 posts from people much better at this than I am, so go read already!

Lucky 13

Today is a very special day for me.

It is the day that I got married. 13 years ago today, I stood before a judge, my soon-to-be wife by my side (giggling helplessly), with her young son and two of our friends in attendance. We had been together for nearly four years, and for some reason, I felt that we had to get married as soon as possible (as possible, but including time for a honeymoon, that is), which turned out to be March 15.

I love my wife, and even though we've only been together for 17 years, I feel I've known her my whole life. She is smart, funny, attractive, and ornery as hell. She tells me every other day that she's fat, but dont believe her. And, as I tell her regularly, I married her for her brains, anyway.
Really, I did. Much as I may have admired her lovely 20-something year old body, I was seduced by her mind.

So, thirteen years later, we still embarass our children with our nuzzling, and I cannot resist touching her as I pass by. Plus, she plays the Rhyming Game with me. Generally, she beats me at it, which I find incredibly sexy.

Go ahead, think I'm weird.

I do have one regret about my marriage. It's that aforementioned March 15th. The Ides of March. That's the kind of thing that many people would take as an omen, but I'm not an omen kind of guy. So I ignored the date.
Fool!
Now, whenever we want to plan anything for our anniversary, we have to take Spring Break into account. Not our Spring Break, but other people's Spring Break. We were both in college when we got married, and the timing made sense then. Now, though?
Forget a nice trip to the beach. Or to the mountains. Or the Border. Unless we feel like sharing our special time with drunken college students. Which we dont.

So anyway, today's post is dedicated to my wife, whom I love very much. I hope this public dedication makes up for the fact that I forgot to go and buy you some Godiva, my Dear, though I know that it probably does not.

Monday, March 13, 2006

art

Well, it's monday, and all the museums are closed, so I thought I'd share a bit of artwork on-line with everybody. Before you shrug, and turn away, I'd like to point out that this is not a big box of art-sticks, but a sidewalk drawing of a big box of art-sticks, which is considerabley more impressive. This fellow, Julian Beever, does these things all over Europe and occasionally in the U.S., and, I assume, works out the dimensions before hand. Click on the picture to see more.giant chalk boxUpdate: some of the photos attached to the above link seem to be dead, so try here instead

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Republicans: building the Democrats of Tomorrow:
Today!

Oh, you're gonna love this one. There's a Dad here in our little Republican enclave of Highland Park*, Texas, who has said that he refuses to pay for his son's education unless he becomes a Registered Republican. The son has refused, and to support himself through school has instead started up his own clone of the million pixels of advertisements website pioneered by that guy in England.
Can you ask for a better example of what's wrong with today's Republican? Dad says, "Son, as your pimp-Daddy, if you want any cash out of me, I expect you to sign up for my party, which is, after all, the party of Big Money." Seriously, does this not sound like whoring to you?
It does to me.

One might ask, well, why not sign up, take the money, get the education, then, like any good Texas political type, change sides after you got what you wanted? Well, yeah, you could do that, but doesnt that sound like something someone without any sense of fair play, honor, decency, or gentlemanly behavior would do? To lie, take the money (the most important thing, the be-all and end-all), then run? Like perhaps, a Republican?
It does to me.
So, if you were serious about not being a Republican, you couldnt do it, right?

So, I guess, if you have a certain sense of honor, then you will tell Dad to shove his money and his party, and try and fend for yourself, just like poor people do. Well, sort of. Poor people would probably just go out and get a job, but you've got to admire the kid's entreprenurial spirit, even if it probably will lead to a future place in the Republican party. Most of all, I'd like to extend a hearty "Huzzah!" for not whoring himself. And if it turns out that he just cant cut it, well, I'm sure Dad'll still be there, his superfly Caddilac waiting, still offering that same trick.

Then he can take the money.

For now.


*Highland Park is one of those towns that was wealthy enough to avoid being swallowed up by the city as it expanded, and so is now surrounded by the city, providing a haven for wealthy, white (second wife) soccer moms and their insufferably spoiled children, where they can pretend that darker skinned people dont actually exist (except to clean up after them).

Friday, March 10, 2006

yesterday's tomorrow

do I have to tell you again?go to the funny, funny cartoon by clicking here
I was looking through some of Tom Tomorrow's "This Modern World" from the archives, specifically, the archives from before 9/11. I must admit, that I take a bit of comfort in seeing that the more things change, the more things seem to be the same.

But not much.

Some amusing highlights:
a parallel earth, Dick Cheney for V.P., the Promise of George Bush, Bush the Butt-Puppet, public safety, and an amazing time when we thought Bill Clinton looked corrupt also.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Carnival of the Liberals Number 8
The Hiaku Edition

CotL logoIs now open for submissions. No, it's not a poetry contest this time, but this rounds juror, Paul from Brainshrub, has declared that for each winning entry he will write an honorary Hiaku.
CotL #8 will be on Wednesday, March 15 and the deadline is Monday, March 13 at 11:59PM EST (midnight, if you have to think about it, like I did)

Told you so

Well, somewhere I told you so. I've spent the last hour and a half searching my archives for the proof, but I cant find it anywhere. Maybe I said it in a comment somewhere (quite likely).
What I said was along the lines of "Republicans in Congress are throwing a fit about illegal wiretapping, not because they dont like it, but because the president didnt include them in on it ". I'd show you the link if I could.

I can show this link, though, in which Senate Republicans sell the American people down the river, in exchange for a piece of the spying pie.
Oooo! Big surprise.
Here I was thinking that maybe Republicans were finally deciding that BushCo wasnt the greatest thing since sliced welfare mother, and it turns out they were just bitching about their share of dessert.

One question I might have here, though, which involves the timing. Just yesterday, a federal judge in Brooklyn demanded information from the Justice Department about possible government eavesdropping on conversations between eight former terror suspects who are now suing the government (there's also a judge in Virginia seeking information in a seperate case). Funny how this agreement has happened the next day. Coincidence?

Incidentally, Republicans support domestic wiretapping, without a whole lot of Democratic fuss. Read the Omnipotent Poobah for a possible reason why this is so.

Update: HA! found it!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Challenge! Answered!

If only they had roving eyes, I would be in heavenHa!
It's not nice to taunt Daveawayfromhome! Because you never know when he's gonna come up with a nice fish to smack you upside the head with!

First, to go with the picture, there's a Book! It's called Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith, by Rob Bell. It discusses Christianity and Jesus from a "fresh" perspective. No, I havent read it, but it sounds interesting and if the library has it, I'll give a whirl. Here's a testimonial:
This book is beautifully written. I have become not only a better Catholic but a better Christian. Rob writes with a guided hand to help truly Re-paint the Christian Faith. Finding truth where truth is, is one of the thoughts that help unite Gods people, not just those that consider themselves People of God. It is a much bigger picture than we can see, Velvet Elvis truly helped me to see even more of that picture!!
Velvet Elvis has Truly Helped. Words to live by, you know.

Okay, but maybe Jesus books dont float your boat. But you know you love Elvis! Everybody loves Elvis! Well here's a website for a guy who will paint your picture, on velvet, AS ELVIS!! How cool is that? Actually, it's the same guy who painted the above picture.

blog-whoring for the big box

Today, Rebecca at Death and Taxes discusses the stealth infiltration of big business, namely Wal-Mart, into the blogosphere. Her summary:
Michael Barbaro, in the New York Times, has written an article that addresses how Wal-Mart and bloggers are joining ranks to spread the gospel of Wal-Mart! Amen. In this article, we are told that a Wal-Mart employee, Marshall Manson, who is also a Blogger, writes email messages to bloggers who are receptive to Wal-Mart’s Plight (ah, yeah right!) offering them tips and information that they cannot get from the MainStream Media, or MSM, (Thanks Barbaro, I didn’t know that one yet) [me either]. Part of the issue explored in this story is that many receivers of these emails are simply cutting and pasting the information in their posts without saying where they got the information.
She then discusses her ethical problems with such behavior (which I've got to agree with). Being a fair-minded person, she also provides links to the opposition (notably, all people who participated in this practice), such as PunditGuy:
I don’t think it is evil for corporations to enlist bloggers to amplify their message. If the blogger decides to push the message along, it’s his or her choice. Conversely, if a blogger chooses to counter that message, again, it’s their choice. If a blogger has a passion for a particular topic and they write a lot about it, it’s possible that first time readers could assume the blogger’s professional interests somehow intersect. In the blogosphere, that’s usually a bad assumption to make. I have a feeling that Mr. Barbaro read many of our blogs for the first time while doing research on this piece. In many ways he jumped to conclusions about who we are and what we do.
Well, Pundit Guy is right, there really are no real "rules", though there is "etiquette" in the blogs. Quite frankly, I like it that way. Rules = control.

Yeah, they should have credited the pieces given to them by Wal-Mart. But I'd say that to an extent, this kind of thing is self-regulating. Little blogs who do this kind of thing, I think will be seen through eventually, dishonesty being dishonesty. Big blogs carry a certain momentum, but that can be slowed down by being caught and others crying foul. Most important is that people simply not rely on a single source for news. Blogs, PBS or NPR, the MSM, local dailies. Read them all, compare and contrast. It's a global world also, so try BBC or Aljazeera, and get a less Ameri-centric view of the goings on.

I really think this Wal-Mart thing and the controversy around it speaks more to the central problem of American Life: we want other people to do everything for us. Educate (and discipline) our children, fight our wars, keep our government in line, pre-form our opinions.
Do our thinking for us, O Authority!

That said, The Wal-Mart thing doesnt surprise me one little bit. Someone was going to do it (or, rather, get caught doing it) eventually. No, money doesnt have to switch sides. Maybe people do it because they want to be included in something big (and Wal-Mart is certainly big), maybe they do it because they really like Wal-Mart (I shop there because they're cheap, but I dont like them enough to shill for them), or maybe they just do it for the same reason they'll pay fifteen bucks to wear a T-shirt with advertising on it (all logo T-shirts should be gimmes). Maybe all these reasons are really the same: we're a herd animal, sheep, despite all the "lone wolf" mythos that we like to apply to ourselves.
But, we're sheep who can choose which herd we belong to. And it doesnt have to be a big one.

I think that the solution to this Wal-Mart situation is simply to complain about it bitterly. Nothing like a public scolding to make people think twice next time they get one of these bits of "news" passed on to them.
Wal-Mart is currently at the top of the Resource food-chain, and as such they require scrutiny, harrasment, skepticism, and outright hostility, lest they take the path of the Bush Administration (which, lets face it, experienced a 5-year honeymoon) and descend into arrogance, hubris and tyranny. Wal-Mart will cease to feel the heat when some other chain replaces them - and until then they can just suck it up.

They're Celebrities, so they get to endure the Paparazzi - did they think they got rich just because they're pretty?

Incidentally, in the interest of full disclosure, this post grew from a comment on Death and Taxes.

Monday, March 06, 2006

did I mention...

dogs playing poker in the new millenium


...that I'm taking a week of vacation?


This may explain all the activity that you may see here for a few days, just in case you're wondering what's gotten into me.


Update, 9:00 p.m.:
So, here I am, less than twelve hours after I say "whoa, look out folks, I've got time to burn out here in blog city", and I got...

...nothing. blank. zip.
I'm gonna go read a book.

Freudalizing Bush

Here's an interesting article from the Guardian analyzing Dubya's younger years. There are so many things there that I hardly know where to start. How about this:
The outcome of this childhood was what psychologists call an authoritarian personality. Authoritarianism was identified shortly after the second world war as part of research to discover the causes of fascism. As the name suggests, authoritarians impose the strictest possible discipline on themselves and others - the sort of regime found in today's White House, where prayers precede daily business, appointments are scheduled in five-minute blocks, women's skirts must be below the knee and Bush rises at 5.45am, invariably fitting in a 21-minute, three-mile jog before lunch.

Authoritarian personalities are organised around rabid hostility to "legitimate" targets, often ones nominated by their parents' prejudices. Intensely moralistic, they direct it towards despised social groups. As people, they avoid introspection or loving displays, preferring toughness and cynicism. They regard others with suspicion, attributing ulterior motives to the most innocent behaviour. They are liable to be superstitious. All these traits have been described in Bush many times, by friends or colleagues.
There's other good stuff here, too (including further proof towards my less-and-less tin-foil-hat idea that Dubya sees himself as an instrument of the Apocalypse). Any props here should go to Ran Prieur.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

quote for the day






Ah, the wisdom of Ben Franklin:

There was another Bookish Lad in the Town, John Collins by Name, with whom I was intimately aquainted. We sometimes disputed, and very fond we were of Arguement, & very desirous of confuting one another. Which disputatious turn, by the way, is apt to become a very bad Habit, making People often extremely disagreeable in Company, by the Contradiction that is necessary to bring it into Practice, & thence, besides souring & spoiling the Conversation, is productive of Disgusts & perhaps Emnities where you may have occasion for Friendship. I had caught it by reading my Father's Books of Dispute about Religion. Persons of good Sense, I have since observ'd, seldom fall into it, except Lawyers, University Men, and Men of all Sorts that have been bred at Edinburgh. (from The Autobiography)
What do you suppose Ben would have though about Rush Limbaugh?

Ironically, I've put off reading Franklin's Autobiography for years because I thought his writing was too convoluted.

micro-blogging

I suppose if you're not from round these parts, you may not care much, but I've started a "Texas" blog. That way I can spew vitriol (or even say something nice) about Texas stuff (and there's a lot of stuff here) without boring the rest of the world.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

with friends like these...

First of all, a disclaimer: In the following post I am speculating, not endorsing. I say this because years from now I dont want one of my daughters to show it to me and say something like, "You wrote this in 2006, so why is this bad for me now?" I'm sure after I've had a good lie-down I'll be really proud of her for having the gumption to both find the article and ask me about it, but, my dear, it is still speculation.


By now, you've probably all heard the term "friends with benefits". It refers to a practice among young people of having sexual relationships with those whom one has friendship, but no romantic involvement. In theory this results in "no strings attatched" sex, without the pressures of dating, or any other relationship commitment.
This isnt really anything new, certainly when I was in high school there was at least one crowd that engaged in casual sex amongst themselves, without any real feeling other than the hormonal pleasure of it. But apparently the scale of the thing has grown quite a bit since back in the day.
But really, how suprised should anyone be about this kind of thing? On top of their already raging hormones, modern teens must also deal with a constant barrage of media telling them just how great and important Sex is to Life. In America, money may be our god, but sex is our icon.
Every other commercial is a seduction. Some are just short of pornography (and if you've ever watched a cheap porno film, you'll recognise many commercials as being very much like the beginning of one). Inexplicable attraction and near rape caused by product usage, shampoo-derived orgasms, sexual favors bestowed upon the bearer of whatever product is being hawked; these are par for the course in the world advertisers, where nothing is not for sale.

This isnt new information, you've heard before, usually accompanied by a "what's wrong with our children?" diatribe/plea, perhaps on the evening news, or perhaps in your Daily Newspaper, in the "lifestyle" section, sandwiched between an ad for the latest teen sex comedy and an article about the latest fashion trends (cleavage is back!).
My twist here is that I'm going to say that this is not a sign of a breakdown of morals in American society.
Okay, maybe it is, but not the way most people think it is. The breakdown has already happened. The breakdown is the sexualization of nearly everything in our society, not because we're a nation of nyphomaniacs, but because we're a nation of voyeurs led by the nose by the lying minions of the Ad Council. We wallow in our Extreme Culture, chanting the mantra "if it feels good, do it", while, like junkies, searching for a bigger thrill as the old thrill grows staler everytime we see someone else doing it also.
Of course our children engage in regular, pre-mature, sexual activity. To expect anything different is like expecting someone to stay dry while being thrown in the ocean. They are soaked in sexuality, in their music, television, movies, even toys (seen Bratz dolls?). Almost all this sexuality is in the form of commerce, and rarely in a form of anything resembling caring intimacy.

Even Victorian-era teens often managed to have sex. There's a whole generation of writers (mostly male) who've written stories, plays, movies, books, and songs that involve losing their virginity (the older ones usually to either a hooker or their small town's "experienced" older female, the younger to the "unavailable" class beauty). Consider my own "older" generation, where almost nobody who's had pubic hair from the 70's onward kept their virginity intact until marriage.

So here are these kids. Sex is no big deal to them, having been surrounded by it all their lives. And they live in culture which values jadedness, so they must, at all time, appear to be cool, about sex especially. Why especially? Because one must be cool in the face of adversity, and one of the facets of sexuality they've grown up with is that it's a right messy bitch. Nothing causes problems faster and harder than sex, and while they may not have any experience telling them why this is true, they've seen enough stories to know that somehow it is true.
So, how does one go about avoiding the pain of the mess we call sex, while getting all the good parts that they've been told about over and over, by both the culture and their hormone-racked bodies? Suddenly, having sex with someone you already trust seems like a much better idea, doesnt it?

Oh, I know.
It doesnt really work out. Sex changes everything, regardless of what people might say. Friends, strangers, third cousins twice removed, everything reverberates after sex, shimmying like the San Andreas and causing almost as much destruction to whatever you thought you knew.
Not that that stops most of us. Or even should.

Of course, if you've got kids, especially if you've got girls, all this cerebrating means nothing when you consider the horrible, horrible idea of your child having sex!
'Cause really, you'll kill the little bastard who touches your baby inappropriately.

Breath. 10, 9, 8, 7...

Anyway, my point is that perhaps we're not looking at this issue from the right angle. Maybe, instead of a sign of the apocalypse, it's more of a coping mechanism.
Think about it.

And put those shotgun shells away, dammit.

because Nicolle Hollander is a goddess

I've been reading Sylvia for years, and yet, because no paper around here carries it, I tend to forget about her. And that's just wrong.

Friday, March 03, 2006

shameless duplication

Yeah, I'll admit it. I'm stealing this, whole, from Pastor Rowe at The Worst Hour in Radio History. But it's a worthy post, and to read it on his site you'd have to get there through posts about his penis, which some people might not be willing to do.
Plus, I'm lazy:


fiscally responsible, my ass!
It's really cute how Republicans think they're the party of fiscal responsbility. Like, puppies and rainbows cute. The traditional conservatives will say "WE'RE the ones for economic stability, not the neo-cons who have bastardized our philosophy," but that's a mostly bullshit interpretation, as the trad-cons have been out of power since basically Eisenhower. Yes, Nixon tried to keep the tradcon ideal of low taxes and balanced budgets afloat, but gave less than a shit about their other ideals of personal freedom or noninterventionist foreign policy. Although, to be fair, that last one was mostly the fault of Nixon's trained werewolf Kissinger, the vile, curly-haired shapeshiter responsible for more war and death than Idi Amin and Hirohito put together.

The reason why deficits have gone up astronomically in every Republican administration in the last quarter century is due to an obscure economic strategy known as "Starve the beast." It is, in essence, a blueprint for bankrupting the entirety of the American government so that when it finally collapses the government's spending can be re-engineered to follow conservative principles. And it makes sense. Lowering taxes and increasing spending is sure to please the voters, whereas raising taxes and/or cutting spending is political poison.

The architects of this philosophy seem the believe that when the government falters and cuts off its avenues of traditional spending, people will just accept it as a simple truth. Which, is of course, ridiculous. It will be anarchy. Old people who can't pay rent. Young people who can't go to college. Mothers who can't feed their children. Veterans who don't get their benefits. Children who can't go to school. The insane, thrown out on the streets. The sick who can't get medicine. The country will explode.
There, now that wasnt so bad, was it? Maybe tomorrow I'll have some words of my own.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Kill Your Television (right after watching, oh, I dont know, Con Air or Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)

Okay, I think we all know that TV violence has adverse effects on children (and adults, for that matter), even the Television People are no longer arguing about this. Studies (and there have been lots of them) show that exposure to television violence can have the following effects:

  • Children may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others
  • Children may be more fearful of the world around them
  • Children may be more likely to behave in aggressive or harmful ways toward others
There is a lot of violence on TV these days, and by many accounts the worst of this is on children's television, not because it's more graphic, but rather because it's less graphic, more sanitized. Cartoon violence, where no one really gets hurt. And not only does no one get hurt, frequently, no one even cares, or pays (Guess who it is that constantly gets away with repercusion-free violence: The "Good" Guy).
"A typical child in the U.S. watches 28 hours of TV weekly, seeing as many as 8,000 murders by the time he or she finishes elementary school at age 11, and worse, the killers are depicted as getting away with the murders 75% of the time while showing no remorse or accountability. Such TV violence socialization may make children immune to brutality and aggression, while others become fearful of living in such a dangerous society." (source: psychologymatters.org)
And before you start thinking that children's (and adults) shows have gone out of control, remember a major culprit TV violence that is often overlooked: Commercials (I couldnt find a study on this during my casual googling, but you dont really need one - just watch TV, and remember, too, that implied violence is nearly as good as the real thing).

Hey! How's about some statistics:

I. FAMILY LIFE
  • Percentage of households that possess at least one television: 99
  • Number of TV sets in the average U.S. household: 2.24
  • Percentage of U.S. homes with three or more TV sets: 66
  • Number of hours per day that TV is on in an average U.S. home: 6 hours, 47 minutes
  • Percentage of Americans that regularly watch television while eating dinner: 66
  • Number of hours of TV watched annually by Americans: 250 billion
  • Value of that time assuming an average wage of S5/hour: S1.25 trillion
  • Percentage of Americans who pay for cable TV: 56
  • Number of videos rented daily in the U.S.: 6 million
  • Number of public library items checked out daily: 3 million
  • Percentage of Americans who say they watch too much TV: 49
II. CHILDREN
  • Approximate number of studies examining TV's effects on children: 4,000
  • Number of minutes per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children: 3.5
  • Number of minutes per week that the average child watches television: 1,680
  • Percentage of day care centers that use TV during a typical day: 70
  • Percentage of parents who would like to limit their children's TV watching: 73
  • Percentage of 4-6 year-olds who, when asked to choose between watching TV and spending time with their fathers, preferred television: 54
  • Hours per year the average American youth spends in school: 900 hours
  • Hours per year the average American youth watches television: 1500
III. VIOLENCE
  • Number of murders seen on TV by the time an average child finishes elementary school: 8,000
  • Number of violent acts seen on TV by age 18: 200,000
  • Percentage of Americans who believe TV violence helps precipitate real life mayhem: 79
IV. COMMERCIALISM
  • Number of 30-second TV commercials seen in a year by an average child: 20,000
  • Number of TV commercials seen by the average person by age 65:
    2 million
  • Percentage of survey participants (1993) who said that TV commercials aimed at children make them too materialistic: 92
  • Rank of food products/fast-food restaurants among TV advertisements to kids: 1
  • Total spending by 100 leading TV advertisers in 1993: $15 billion
V. GENERAL
  • Percentage of local TV news broadcast time devoted to advertising: 30
  • Percentage devoted to stories about crime, disaster and war: 53.8
  • Percentage devoted to public service announcements: 0.7
  • Percentage of Americans who can name The Three Stooges: 59
  • Percentage who can name at least three justices of the U.S. Supreme Court: 17
Compiled by TV-Free America
1322 18th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 887-4036
What about adults? Yes, adults are affected, too.
Okay, that's not too surprising, we've been hearing this for years and all, right?Here's my thought: Why is television assumed only to affect our attitudes about violence? I mean, after the violence thing, most people just say something like, "Oh, it zombifies you".
Well, yes, it's a totally passive experience, best enjoyed when immobile, with your disbelief suspended and your critical thinking skills in neutral. But what I'm talking about is this: maybe, in addition to violence, television lessens people's sensitivity to other social ills! Social ills such as graft and corruption, or incompetence, or scandal.Try this experiment in the next week whenever you watch TV; Put a pad of paper and a pen on the seat next to you, marked with the following columns:
  1. corruption by a politician
  2. corruption by any other authority figure
  3. incompetence by a boss
  4. incompetence by any other authority figure
  5. scandal involving authority figures
Dont forget to include commercials!If everyday we are exposed to "examples" of bad behavior in our fictional Authority Figures as we watch television, perhaps it's no wonder that we dont seem to care about the Bad Behavior in our real Authority Figures.

Turn that damn thing off. Turn them all off.
Take your kids and yourself to the park, or go on a walk or a bicycle ride, or go to an Art Museum, or a Science Place, or just read a good book.

But whatever you do, turn off the TV!