Friday, August 29, 2003
These sort of people make me sick. I've been trying to follow Yale strike news since workers walked off the job on Wednesday. While a student there, I spent a fair amount of time studying the sorry history of labor disputes there, and this week it's mostly just maked me upset to see the same thing happen as happened in 1971, 1974, 1977, and 1984. I admit I'm a bit worried about the strength of the unions this time around--they haven't had an open-ended strike since '84, and recent negotiation concessions suggest a weakening of the Federation.

Yale's history of strikes means that parents who are bringing kids to school now sometimes lived through their own strikes as Yale students. A Hartford Courant article captures this gem, a woman named Sherry Mayer whose hostility to workers, apathy in the face of injustice, and concious and intentional ignorance angers and disappoints me as a Yalie, and makes me sick as a person:

A Yale graduate herself, [Sherry] Mayer remembers workers striking during her exams. She also remembers the strikes as a "nuisance."

"Nothing has changed, I think," she said. "I didn't really care what the issues were then, and I don't really care what the issues are now."

Every time I read that line I just get angrier that someone could really think so selfishly. (Link via YaleInsider.)

In better news, Howard Dean ('71, and parent of an '05) is hosting a dinner tonight for students and parents who won't cross the picket lines.
Wednesday, August 27, 2003
Blog news. This is my last day of work at Harvard, and thus my last day of regular high-speed internet access. I'm also about to leave Boston. I don't know what any of this will mean to the future of this blog. It seems possible that this entire project will just be a summer fling, forever enshiring the half-baked thoughts I had the summer I spent working at Harvard. Or maybe I'll continue for the time being. I dunno. Regardless of this blog's long-term prospects, for the immediate future, I expect sparse posting, or what posting there will be to be short and mostly links to articles.
Tuesday, August 26, 2003
Yale workers to strike tomorrow. YaleInsider is writing predictably long and breathless posts about the upcoming strike of 6,000 clerical, technical, service, and maintenance workers at Yale. I'm not there and I'm not involved, so I'm not going to comment on it, except to suggest to my readers that they check YaleInsider and the Federation of Hospital and University Employees website if they want details during what promises to be a long strike.

Today's YaleInsider post is particularly gushy about Joe Lieberman, who came to campus on Monday to urge the administration to settle. To wit, "This wasn't just a "Come, Deliver sound bite, Leave" photo op for Lieberman. The variety of quotes appearing in different newspapers indicates how important this fight is for him." This is reasonable; after all, Lieberman is the only presidential candidate who has come to visit Yale over the strike issue. (The other two Yalie Democrats running for president, Kerry '66 and Dean '71, joined him and lots and lots of other big and not-so-big names in a mass statement (pdf) urging the administration to settle.) At first glance, Lieberman's presence in this fight seems a bit odd, given his unwillingness to court labor. Josh Eidelson notes the difference between national Lieberman (far right of the Democratic Party) and Yale-New Haven Lieberman (saying all the right progressive things, although nothing compared to when he was actually a relatively progressive leader as state senator and state attorney general). I think there's an easy explanation, and it explains why I'm not making a big deal about this like I would be if any of the other candidates came by to show their support. When Lieberman does Yale--especially when Lieberman does Yale unions--he's not running for president; he's running for senate. Unlike the Verizon strike, say, the Yale strike is local. It matters some to other higher education unions (although the real battle at Yale that mattered nationally was over graduate students, and unfortunately the unions seem to have lost that one), and it matters to HERE and to John Wilhelm. But it doesn't matter all that much to the national labor movement (except to the extent that a win at Yale could mean good things for Wilhelm's bid to become the next AFL-CIO president, and potentially vice versa). It's a local strike important to local unions and New Haven. Most New Haven politicians have to support the unions, because that's 6,000 or more votes they don't want to throw away, and in local elections that could matter. So Lieberman, who knows there's at least some chance that he's going to be running for reelection in 2006, wants to sure up his base (or is it shore up his base?) at home. This may prove particularly important if his rightward campaign for president alienates liberals in Connecticut. Thus, to make a long story short, he gets no credit in his presidential race for helping out Yale workers.
Thanks. A very belated thank you to Brandon Wu for the link and the kind words.
Monday, August 25, 2003
Radio and Sept. 11. Today while collating (don't ask), I occupied myself as usual by listing to old episodes of This American Life. I just finished listening to the episode titled Before and After (listen here), which was broadcast September 21, 2001. Two comments: It showed just how amazing the TAL team is to assemble such a good show so quickly. And, similarly, Ira Glass is an amazing interviewer, as heard in the first act, in which he interviews a World Trade Center survivor. Two: The rawness of the show, and of the emotions expressed, is easy to forget two years later. Listening to this show broadcast so soon after the attacks reminded me of the emotion that surrounded everything in those days. It's worth a listen
Half-formed thoughts on experiencing history. At Historiological Notes, there's a question inspired, I assume, by the big blackout two weeks ago: "If one, due to builders, have to live without running water for a couple of days, can that be considered to have an experience of how it was to live without running water (or how people can live without running water in underdeveloped countries)? . . . How can we really create the mentality of the past?" This reminds me of a conversation I had this winter visiting Vermont over Martin Luther King Day Weekend. Standing in the countryside in the snow, it was a quiet that one simply doesn't experience in the modern city. But the fact that I noticed it of course suggests that it was abnormal for me. Someone who lived in such silence all the time would presumably never notice it, just as I never notice the 60 Hz hum of the electric system. (Or 40 Hz, whatever.) In his book Unredeemed Captive, John Demos has my favorite footnote ever (which I will now proceed, I'm sure, to misquote): his citation for describing an arduous snow-shoe journedy through New England is a reference to his own experience show-shoeing through New England. I suppose that's as good as he could do, but it goes without saying that Demos' experience show-shoeing in the 1980s was rather different than John Williams' experience in the 1600s. Not just because Demos did it voluntarily and for fun--mostly because Demos is used to sitting in a heated house and office and classroom, driving from home to campus when he needs to, having the streets and sidewalks plowed, etc. Demos notices the difference between his every day and the days he goes out snow-shoeing. Williams presumably experienced his forced trek through differences from his every day, but the two everydays--Demos' and Williams'--are wildy different. It's almost absurd to think that what Demos' experiences is anything like what Williams did.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't try. Going to the places we write about, trying to simulate the conditions we describe are important parts of the historical process. When I was writing about coal miners in Cape Breton, I went into a coal mine in order to have some semblance of understanding of the conditions my subjects lived in. Of course, I wasn't actually mining coal--I was in a demonstration mine at a museum--I didn't have to work there every day, I was safe, et cetera, et cetera. But it was the closest I could get. Perhaps even more useful was the simple act of walking around the pit heads, exploring the churches that were the emphasis of my project, and simply trying to understand the geography of the mining towns. I certainly can't claim to have experienced the same thing that the miners experienced--but it was closer than if I had just sat in the archives and read letters.
More on marriage. Reader AR (whom I hope doesn't mind my responding publically, rather than in email) takes issue with my post on civil unions below, in which I suggested that it was a good idea to divorce (so to speak) the concept of religious marriage and secular unions. AR, who describes herself as "a queer person working in the equal marriage movement" lists four reasons she disagrees with me.

First she argues that the the US system, at least, religious and secular marriages are already distinct. "A religious official can sign a marriage license that a couple obtains from a town clerk after getting the appropriate blood tests and thus make it valid, but without that license, a religious marriage ceremony, spiritually significant as it may be, confers none of the more than 1400 legal responsibilities and protections of marriage. . . . At the same time, the signature of a religious official is not at all necessary to make that marriage certificate valid--it can be signed by a justice of the peace as well. In other words, what is a legally binding marriage is defined by the state, and not by faith traditions." There are two different issues here. One, that secular officials (justices of the peace, judges, sea captains, etc.) (is it really true that sea captains can marry people?) may officiate weddings, thus suggesting that the secular state hasn't entirely given control to religious authorities; and two, that because the state is involved in religious weddings (through the marriage certificate process) the state retains control of marriage. I don't think either of these things really proves that secular, state marriages are completely distinct from religious ones. The fact is that clergy officiate ceremonies that are recognized by the state, that they sign the marriage certificates that make the weddings bindings. Yes, there are also secular weddings in which our friendly sea captain performs that role, but in is done all the time by religious officials. Furthermore, our government accepts marriages performed solely religiously or traditionally when performed in other countries. (Ironically, as AR points out, we don't recognize marriages performed by the Canadian state when they're between people of the same sex.) So yes, the state retains some control, but the actual act of marriage is often (most often?) given over to religious officials. AR argues, " As far as getting a civil marriage (which is what really matters if we're talking about protections, rights, and responsibilities), the secular state is not at all dependent on religious institutions." But that's just the point. Why have our civil marriages officiated by people who aren't representatives of the civil authorities? Isn't it better to have civil authorities officiate the civil marriage and then let private authorities do whatever they want to do with no effect on civil marriage.

Second, AR suggests that "moving the state out of the marriage business," as I put it, is more difficult in the US than in France or Canada, where the national government controls marriage law, rather than the state government. Putting aside whether this is really true in Canada (where, for instance, the premier of Alberta is trying to block the change in federal marriage law, and where it was an Ontario court that started all this in the first place), I don't see how it really matters. Yes, traditionally states have recognized the marriages performed in other states--but as AR rightly points out, this has been undermined by state and federal Defense of Marriage Acts. So yes, there was a time that marriage per se was an important right to be fought for in one state, because it would spread around to other states that right. (AR points to the example of the Lovings, the interracial couple married in one state who demanded their marriage be recognized in a state that forbade interracial marriages.) In contrast, there is no tradition of states recognizing other states' "civil unions." In other words, traditionally the vocabulary has mattered But given that we have the DOMAs, that power of the word marriage has been deminished. If Massachusetts or Connecticut or New Jersey establish gay marriages, they're unlikely to be recognized any more than gay marriages performed in Toronto or gay civil union ceremonies performed in Burlington.

Third, and closely related, AR suggests that it's the term marriage that is important to getting the benefits that comes with marriage. But this is eroding, in both directions. As discussed above, it's eroding down, as it were, because the state and federal DOMAs have taken much of the power out of the word marriage to ensure equality for gays. It's no longer good enough to simply win gay marriage in Massachusetts, have people flock to the Berkshires to get married, and hope to be recognized either by the federal government or their home state governments. Marriage--the word, the act--doesn't have that power anymore, unfortunately. In the other direction, private benefit givers like large employers are increasingly giving benefits to "domestic partners" regardless of marriage status. Is this good enough? Of course not, because it's still very spotty, and it still doesn't cover many of the benefits of marriage. But it's an indication that the power of the institution of marriage is eroding.

Fourth, AR argues that marriage is symbolically important to gain acceptance of queers into mainstream society, and because same-sex couples want to be able to engage in the rites important to their families and themselves. I agree on both counts. It is certainly important that all people have the right to choose marriage, if they so choose. AR writes, "If I decide to spend my life with a woman, I want my mother to be able to say that she danced at my wedding, not that she danced at my ceremony of civil union. I want my kids to be able to say that that their moms are married." All well and good, if that's what she wants. But some people don't want it, and the silver lining in the cloud of anti-gay discrimination is that gays have created alternative family structures from which we can all learn. AR wants a wedding, and wants to tell her children that she's married because that's what's expected of her. But surely it'll be a better world when AR doesn't feel the social pressure to get married, or when it doesn't matter if children's parents are married. If we diminish the importance of marriage, maybe AR (and for that matter, straight people who feel the same pressures) won't feel like they have to get married. And it seems to me that a division between civil unions and religious marriages would go a good way to doing that.
Friday, August 22, 2003
More good news for Illinois workers. A few weeks ago, I blogged about Rod Blagojevich signing four pro-worker pieces of legislation. Now he's raising the minimum wage.

UPDATE: Nathan Newman has followed up on the post above with two more about the minimum wage.
Thursday, August 21, 2003
Inside joke. Only a very small number of people who read my blog will understand why this is amusing, but I'm going to post it here anyway. In the UK, a man attacked another man with a samurai sword in a dispute over a woman. As a side note: I'd seen this case before, but am only getting around to posting it now, so I had to use Google news to find it. It's truly amazing how many different attacks come up when you google "samurai attack."
Wednesday, August 20, 2003
Protesting Verizon. Brett Marston has posted a note he sent Verizon threatening to switch his wireless provider over their suit against CWA. People who want to take coordinated action against Verizon should go to fairnessatVerizon.com, where the CWA is asking supporters to pledge to change their phone service if Verizon doesn't agree to a fair contract.

[Don't know how today got to be so filled with labor posts. But now I'm listed as a labor blog on Nathan Newman's blogroll, so I guess it's appropriate. Thanks to Nathan, by the way.]
More on Dean and labor here from Nathan Newman, whose often interesting blog I found thanks to YaleInsider's redesign. Newman argues that Dean's labor issues webpage is stronger on details than anyone else's. See my comments on Dean's page here and on the AFL's candidate debate here.

UPDATE: The Joe Kenehan Center ("commentary on politics, culture, and the union movement") has had a series of posts this month on labor endorsements, including one on the AFL debate and Gephardt's chances at an endorsement, and another on Andy Stern's proposal to judge candidates on their ability to "hang" with real voters (a death knell for Kerry).
Does organizing trump politics? The American Prospect describes what it sees as a strange alliance between unions on the left (UNITE, SEIU, HERE) that organize and unions on the right (the Laborers and Carpenters) that organize. It's well worth reading. (Link via YaleInsider, which has had some particularly meaty posts in the past week or so.) Tangential to the major point of the article was a hint at the tension between SEIU and the CWA, in which the president of the communications workers argues that his model of organizing--in which members do the work, rather than just-out-of-college staffers--is better for the health of the union, because it promotes rank-and-file participation and leadership.

UPDATE: I realize that my readers might need union acronyms spelled out. Therefore: UNITE is Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees; SEIU is the Service Employees International Union; HERE is the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees; and CWA is Communications Workers of America.
Ethnic Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia after World War II are suing for restitution. I only just saw this Boston Globe article thanks to HNN. Comments may come later.
Civil unions. Paul Martin, who is expected to be the next Canadian prime minister, may be backing away from gay marriage. The Globe and Mail Reports that he's considering taking the state out of the marriage business entirely. Instead, the government would record "civil unions" and churches would deal with "marriages." Some gay rights groups (and the NDP) worry that this will create a backlash against gay marraige, since straights won't will be upset that the government has stopped handling marriages. But to me this seems like a good idea independent of the issue of gay rights for two reasons. Why should a secular state ever be reliant on religious groups to perform marriages? If people want a priest or a rabbi or a "Universal Life Minister" (ie their friend) to perform a wedding, that's fine--but that should be a different matter from the state's involvement. I believe that already in France, marriages must be performed by the mayor or deputy mayor in order to be recognized by the state. (This comes from recallinga report I wrote on France in the 4th grade, so it may be completely wrong--can anyone confirm?)

It also seems like a good idea because it deminishes the importance of marriage, which I don't think is a bad thing. In the quest for gay equality, one thing that's been lost is that deprived of the right to marriage, many gay people have developed alternative styles of families that can often be as supportive or more supportive of individuals than traditional marriages. If "marriage" becomes a solely religious institution, and "civil unions" become what matters for pensions, employment benefits, health care decisions, parenting, etc. (ie, where families intersect with the state and the outside world), that would open up exciting new possibilities to shape families.
Tuesday, August 19, 2003
"Engaging" George Bush. Josh Cherniss takes to task Howard Dean for saying that George Bush is engaging. A common friend whom Josh identifies as "RS" has already argued that Dean is simply being politically astute by not sinking to the sorts of ad hominem arguments like those we bloggers can engage in. Josh insists on arguing, however, "Bush isn't an 'engaging person'. He's an arrogant, irresponsible, smug, mean-spirited, secretive, power-hungry jerk, from what I can see."

I dislike George Bush as much as--probably more than--Josh, as far as his policies go. And, like Josh, I can't pretend to know him personally. But as much as I hate to admit it, the man is affable, and he knows how to be a nice guy. People--even those people who distrust him and abhore his politics and policies--like him for a reason. In May 2001, I was an organizer of the first hostile audience Bush faced since he had become president, when he gave a speech at Yale's graduation ceremony. Given how notoriously apolitical Yalies are--particularly during commencement, when they want nothing to distract from "their day"--it was remarkably successful. When Bush first appeared on stage, there were loud boos. People turned their back on him. The audience--that is, the graduates--became a sea of angry signs, calling on Bush to "do Yale proud" by giving up various of his noxious policies. Bush gave what I thought was an offensive, inappropriate speech, in which he suggested he was proud of his poor grades--a particularly obnoxious speech given the circumstances. By the end of the speech, though, he had brough the crowd around. People clapped for him at the end. The boos died out. People laughed throughout the speech. In many newspaper stories about the speech, the story became "they hated him, but then he won them over." To wit: The Yale Alumni Magazine: "By the time the ten-minute address was through, the audience was, if not won over, then at least quiet." Or the Washington Post: "There were still boos and yellow protest signs when Bush finished--but not as many."

That's why Bush is successful in politics. Yes, he's affable, yes he's engaging. We opponents of Bush have to see that and work around it, or else we'll end up with a race like Bush-Gore again.
Organic food at Yale. A post on Monday on YaleInsider was surprisingly dismissive of a new program at Yale at which one dining hall (out of 13 undergrad dining halls) will serve local, organic food. (The post referred to an article over the weekend in the Times.) The Times article wasn't very good, I agree, but this is a story to trumpet for several reasons. (1) The encouragement of local food consumption is important in its own right. It's encouraging to see Yale actually spending money in order to act in a socially beneficial manner. (2) Contrary to the impression the Times gave (which is that Alice Waters waltzed into Yale with this idea of local food and they bought it off the back), this is a major success for a student advocacy group. As Yalies know, times when students win a fight with the administration are few and far between, and it's important to the student left to trumpet loudly each such success so that we have precidents on which to build. (3) Aramark, the company that runs the dining halls, has been cutting down on local foods in the Yale dining halls in order to save money. This has largely meant that (skilled) cooks have seen their jobs deskilled over the past few years, so that rather than actually making food in the kitchens, they're largely reheating pre-made food. Since this is a direct attack on skilled union labor, the union that includes the cooks (Local 35) has been at the forefront of attacking this policy. Since YaleInsider is produced by the Yale Unions, I wonder why they aren't making a bigger deal of this new program
Monday, August 18, 2003
Roma in the Forward. Roma remain one of the most hated and discriminated against minorities in Europe. George Soros, in this week's Forward, calls on modern Jews to demand justice.
Thanks. Over the weekend (or at least, over the week I wasn't blogging), Yale Insider redesigned their page and included me on the blogroll. Thanks. And a belated thanks to Protocols for including me in their list of Jews who blog.
One wonders why he had to ask. This week's Savage Love has a letter from a man who has just dumped is girlfriend, but is worried that he was too hard on her. First, she sucked on his tongue so hard it started to bleed, and continued after he told her it was hurting him. But here's the kicker: "Shopping for dinner one night, she indicated the cucumber I had picked out would be useful for more than just salad. That night we used the cucumber as a sex toy. A couple days later, after a dinner with my mother and my daughter, she informed me that the cucumber in the salad was the very same one that we used for sex. I was upset; she thought it was no big deal. I would have gladly eaten it myself but I was angry that my mother and daughter were fed the sexy cucumber without their consent." Dan urges (scroll down; it's the last letter) the writer to stay the hell away from frightening woman.

MORE: While you're at the Stranger website, check out their 2003 Queer Issue, in which gay and lesbian writers are "asking that you straight people--no, insisting that you straight people--start taking the bad along with the good of gay culture." Several interesting, and fun, essays.

How not to fight a war on terrorism. Step one: don't pull resources away from hunting terrorists. The Boston Globe today reports that the US is shifting intelligence agents from Afghanistan, where they were looking for Osama bin Laden (remember him?), to Iraq, where they'll be looking for Saddam Hussein. This is clearly an adminstration that knows its priorities.
Tuesday, August 12, 2003
Taking a break. I'm going to be out of town for the next half week or so, so expect light posting through the end of the coming weekend.
Monday, August 11, 2003
From the Department of Making Things Worse. Perhaps three-fourths (or more!) of the hits this blog received today were from people looking for pictures of Georgy Russell. Most of them were from searches for things like "Georgy Russell pictures" or somesuch. Let it be known that there are no pictures of Georgy Russell on this site, and indeed there has barely been any discussion of Georgy Russell. Anyone looking for pictures of Georgy Russell should direct themselves to Georgy Russell's page of pictures of Georgy Russell (my favorite is the first on the page). Again: no Georgy Russell pictures here.

There. That ought to keep 'em coming.

(I also got a few hits today from people looking for information on the size of Arnold Schwarzenegger's penis. I don't want to ask.)

UPDATE, OVER A WEEK LATER: Ok, now I'm getting tired of it. Enough already. Georgy for govenor people, go away. Or at least, if you stumble here looking for nudie pictures or whatever, at least I hope you're reading my blog and planning on coming back for the content I actually do have here.
Israel and apartheid. Josh Cherniss accused the new Israeli marriage law of being apartheid-like. True enough. The bulldozing of Palestinian houses in Jerusalem has a direct echo of the house demolitions in apartheid South Africa, where it was the explicit policy to prevent permanent urban settlement of Africans. Brian Walt of Rabbis for Human Rights North America links Israeli house demolitions to Tisha B'Av, the holiday commemorating the destruction of the Temple, in this week's Forward. Also in this week's Forward is a good article by Leonard Fein criticizing the World Zionist Organization's efforts to make sure Israeli Jews win the demographic race against Palestinians.
Tony Auth's cartoon. Josh Cherniss gets in a huff about this cartoon. Josh Eidelson explains why he's wrong. Josh Eidelson doesn't mention the remarkably similar Nazi cartoon shown on Little Green Footballs, but I don't think its existence changes his point. The coincidence of the two drawings may be a somewhat disturbing, but assuming that Auth didn't know about the Nazi version, we can't hold him responsible for it. On the other hand, if it was a deliberate copy, I take it back and agree with Josh Cherniss.
Saturday, August 09, 2003
Anti-environmentalist scare tactics. Today's Times op-ed page has an op-art piece by David Ropeik (an public health person at Harvard) and Nigel Holmes (a graphic designer) illustrating the relative risk and hype of various "summer dangers." (Or click here for the text description.) The West Nile Virus is almost at the top of the more hype-less actual risk ladder--below only shark attacks. That confirms what I read last summer (and summers before) about how relatively harmless West Nile actually is. That should put in perspective an op-ed piece on Thursday by Henry Miller. Miller cites the "significant threat to public health" posed by West Nile and warns that "we may be on the verge of an epidemic." His solution is to use DDT--the notorious poison that was exposed in the seminal Silent Spring--to kill virus-bearing mosquitos.

This seems to be to be simply an attempt by anti-environmentalists to undo one of the first victories of the modern environmental movement based on scare tactics. Miller distorts the dangers of West Nile in order to scare people into supporting relegalizing a dangerous poison. This is more than just about DDT, of course. To overturn the DDT ban would be a stinging symbolic defeat of the environmental movement, since so much of that movement traces its history back to Rachel Carson. Further, Miller wants the US to undermine the UN Persistent Organic Pollutants Convention, which seems like just another step--like withrawing from Kyoto--toward dismantling the international system of environmental regulation.
Friday, August 08, 2003
Dave Rovics in Boston. I'm going to be on a plane to Baltimore during the concert, but any of my readers in Boston should try to go to the Dave Rovics show this coming Tuesday, August 12. I'll admit it: Dave Rovics is often over-earnest, and he's really not Pete Seeger, no matter how hard he tries. But he can be a lot of fun, and I like to support traditional leftist folk music. He's of the sort who knows Joe Hill songs--not just the famous one about Joe Hill, but actual songs Joe Hill wrote. Anyway, the concert's at the notoriously hard-to-find Lucy Parsons Center in the South End. The last time I tried to go there (for a Joe Hill song night, actually), I got lost and couldn't find it, so I suggest that you look at the directions before you head out. Details on the show are here.
Ted Kaczynski's reading list. This is fascinating. Kaczynski's trying to get hsi property back from the government, in particular his books. (I gather he's donating everything to the University of Michigan, to which he's donating his jailhouse letters.) Of particular interest is his list of books that were seized from his cabin. Notably abscent are very many political or primitivist texts.
Working without a contract. The other day when I posted on the decision by the CWA and IBEW to keep working after the contract expired, I completely missed part of why this tactic is so clever. Newsday's Mark Harrington explains that by not striking but keeping striking a constant possibility, the unions are forcing Verizon to pay two workforces--the regular workers, and the scabs held in reserve. Thus they're exerting economic pressure on the company while retaining their paychecks. Harrington says this is a relatively untested strategy; let's hope it works. (Link via LabourStart.)

UPDATE: Via Little Wild Bouquet, an article from the Village Voice on the same tactic of a strike feignt.
Academic labor. While hosting the AFL's Executive Council meeting, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich signed two laws greatly benefitting organized labor for university workers. (At the same time, he also signed two other pro-workers laws.) (Link from YaleInsider.) The first institutes card-check procedures for all public and educational employees. This means that the union will be recognized when the a majority of workers have signed authorization cards. Various people have argued that this should be how all unions are recognized. The second allows University of Illinois faculty to organize in three different units, rather than all together, thus allowing local control over the unions on each campus.
"Oct. 15 Meeting Preserves Gephardt's Hopes for Broad Support", or so says the Washington Post. Key points from Dan Balz: Gephardt's strength with manufacturing unions (which like his policies and history on trade), but weakness with service and public sector unions [which are the future of organized labor]; and the AFT's Sandra Feldman balking at supporting Dean because he's antiwar. Of course, not all of organized labor is pro-war.
Thursday, August 07, 2003
Blogroll. It's about time that I finally add Brett Marston to the blogroll. Marstonalia is one of my daily reads, so I thought it was about time my blogroll reflected that.
Who owns dorm windows? This week's issue of The Tech, MIT's student newspaper, offers a disturbing tale: a graduate student living in on campus housing, was ordered to remove an Israeli flag hanging out his apartment window. A number of conflicting reasons were given. Either he wasn't allowed to display the flag out his window because someone was offended, or because it was a fire hazard, or because it's ugly to have anything hanging out the window, or because something hanging could fall, or because something hanging could hit the window or building below and cause damage, or because it was disrespectful to neighbors (ie non-MIT Cambridge residents), or because it hadn't been approved by his building's student government. The administration and student government claim that the flag violated standard regulations and that the content (ie that it was an Israeli flag) had nothing to do with the order to remove it. The student claims that it was only because it was an Israeli flag. The flag remains up.

It seems obvious to me that the flag was ordered removed because of its content. The administration and the quasi-administration (ie the student government) offered so many different reasons that unauthorized banners are forbidden that they come off seeming absurd. But let's take them at their word, and assume that anything hung outside a room window would be ordered taken down unless it was approved by the student manager of the building. This still allows the authorities to ban speech based on content.

I hate to be the person to bring this to the attention of the blogosphere, or at least the very small corner of the blogosphere that reads waldheim. Israeli partisans hardly need more evidence of how their the oppressed and silenced minorities on campus. The fact is that most of the time it will be Israel's opponents, or others on the left, who are going to be hurt by policies like MIT's. Most of the time universities are going to object to banners hung by people like me, rather than people on the other side of the political spectrum. That's why I find the statement from the representative of MIT's Social Justice Cooperative so bizzare--he says that if a banner offends someone, it should be removed by the administration. I've had some dealings with MIT's activist community, and it's a strange bunch, but I would have expected a greater understanding of why free expression on university campuses is so important.

At Yale, student windows were generally seen as the property of the students who lived behind them. That is, with few exceptions, people could hang whatever they wanted out of their window, asthetics or potential damage notwithstanding. In the four years I was there, there were two instances I knew of in which the administration or a quasi-authority figure ordered a banner taken down. In one case (a banner after Sept. 11 that said "Kill them all, let God sort them out"), the administration reversed itself and apologized after a group of leftists and anti-war activists wrote a letter to the dean objecting. We recognized that we were the ones who would be hurt by a rule that declared windows off limits to controversial banners. Indeed, the other example was part of a larger action in which students around campus hung anti-administration banners from their windows during Parents Weekend. A college master ordered one of the banners taken down, citing aesthetics, despite the fact that immediately below the banner in question was hung a jolly roger to which he had never objected. In that case, the student simply ignored his master and took it down of his own accord after a few weeks. (At least that's my memory. Josh should remember better, since it was his roommate.) The only other instance I know of took place during the 1977 strike, in which a student hung an anti-administration banner and was ordered to take it down. After several days (weeks?) of controversy, the administration backed down.

Yale has problems with free expression, particularly about campus issues. (Here is a poor summary [scroll down to the second section] of a presentation I gave on the subject for an alumni group; email me if you like and I'll send you my full presentation.) But current administrators, at least, recognize that hanging banners out of windows is an important part of ensuring that Yale students are allowed to express themselves on controversial matters. It's truly a shame MIT doesn't get it.
"You want to use a hyphen there? Ooooo, that's very naughty!" I feel so, so dorky for being excited about the new Chicago Manual. But it's the most major revision in thirty years! How could you not be excited?
"Hollywood's often tried to mix / Show business with politics, / From Helen Gahagan / To Ronald Reagan." What with Arnold Schwarzenegger running for governor in California, I've had Tom Lehrer in my head all day.

I've not commented on the upcoming debacle in California because I'm not particularly familiar with California politics, except what I get from national news, and national news about state and local politics is notoriously weak. But it does seem to me that Schwarzenegger's entry is the perfect solution for the Republicans. Many commentators have argued that winning the governorship now is what the Republican's don't need, because then instead of an unpopular Democrat overseeing a budget crisis, there'll be an unpopular Republican overseeing a budget crisis. Then at the next regular election, the Democrat will beat the unpopular incumbent. But with Arnie (as the BBC insisted on calling him last night) in the governor's mansion, Republicans can have their cake (a Republican governor) and eat it too (but he isn't a real politician, so you can't blame him).
Wednesday, August 06, 2003
Bulger resigns. Embattled UMass president Billy Bulger has finally resigned. The AP reports (via the Globe) actual resignation, but the Globe had reported this morning that he was going to. While this is good news for the university, which can now focus on education and saving itself, rather than on the Bulger brothers and their soap opera. But it probably isn't much consolation for students who are facing a fee increase of $1750 this year.

UPDATE: The Times' article on Bulger's resignation quotes, yet again, my friend Max Page.
Unions and the Democratic primaries. The latest news (perhaps I've found my niche in the blogosphere in my coverage of this): The New York Times has a brief article on the AFL-CIO's candidate forum; MSNBC has a more in-depth piece (link from LabourStart). The MSNBC article mentions that Gephardt has now won the national endorsement from the United Steelworkers. As regular readers know, I think this is a mistake. At the same time, it's important to realize that international unions aren't monolithic. For instance, the Chicago Teamsters local just endorsed John Kerry, despite the fact that the international endorsed Gephardt.

I'm currently watching C-SPAN's archive (Real video) of the candidates' forum in front of the AFL-CIO yesterday. I'm about an hour into it right now, and I'll update this post if there's anthing in the last half hour that strikes me as interesting. Some notes, in no particular order:

For more on the AFL's debate, see their website on the election.

UPDATE: The AP has a longish article on the forum and the chances for an early (ie October) endorsement from the AFL. Andy Stern, the somewhat plastic-looking president of the service workers' union, the country's largest, says, "There's only one issue here: Dick Gephardt. Dick Gephardt has the greatest and most passionate labor support of any candidate. The question is how broad is that support.'' Read: We really want to endorse Dick Gephardt because he's been a real friend, but we know he's going to lose, so we're stalling for time. AP says that Stern's SEIU and AFSCME are showing "interest" in Kerry. Remember that since in order to win the AFL's endorsement a candidate needs the support of unions representing two-thirds of the total membership, no once can win without the support of SEIU and AFSCME.
Monday, August 04, 2003
Ivy blogs. There are a great many things that bother me about about Yale Pundits, but the thing that bothers me the most is the gratutiously elitist list of college newspapers they have up. They list only Ivy League student newspapers, and they list all the Ivy student newspapers (well, all the Ivy student dailies). Now, I can be elitist with the best of 'em, and I have no problem with recognizing that there is an elite. But to simply pick Ivy League newspapers as the only ones worth listing (and, presumably, the only ones worth reading) is simply ignorant elitism. Common wisdom, as I understand it, holds that the Cavalier Daily at the University of Virginia is among the three best college papers (along with the Crimson and the DP). The Stanford Daily is also pretty good, I think, but that might just because I'm good friends with a former editor there. I don't know the reputations of other newspapers at, say, big midwestern schools, so I can't comment. But the Yale Pundits' knee-jerk assumption that it's the Ivy League newspapers that are the best is simply absurd.

More discriminating is the new blog ivyJews, run by a group of Jews "from every Jew-friendly Ivy-- naturally leavin [sic] out Princeton and Dartmouth." Despite being (cough) an Ivy Jew myself, I'm usually a bit wary both of Ivy-wide groups (see above) and Jewish student organizations (who tend to be, shall we say, not particularly welcoming to Jews like me), but the folks seem like nice people, and besides, they linked to me and wrote me a nice email asking for a plug. They promise more frequent posts after the semester starts, so I'll be sure to check them out regularly.

CLARIFICATION: I just want to make clear that I wrote the above snarky comment about YalePundits before I even saw that Mitch Webber had declared the he doesn't like me very much. As for his assertions about me: I simply let the record of my hostility to various countries and various species speak for itself. Suffice to say that as far as I know the only thing Mitch knows about my politics is what I wrote for two years in the Yale Daily News, and I don't remember writing anything, ever, about Israel (or puppies), and only once or twice about the United States as a whole. (For those of you who don't want to wade through my columns, know that I made a point of writing exclusively about Yale and New Haven issues.) I have no idea which class I took with Mitch, but I can't think of a single one in which my opinions on Israel or America were discussed. How Mitch presumes to know my affinities and hostilities about such matters is beyond me.
Red letter day. I'm about to leave the office, and therefore probably not have a chance to see my visitor stats before tomorrow morning, so I'll do this now: Thanks to Josh Chafetz today was by far the record-setting day for hits to this blog, nearly five times higher than normal, and I believe more than double the previous record. Apparently, when I post about thongs, I get a lot of hits; when I post about, say, historical methodology, Josh Cherniss gets a link to his blog. What's the lesson to draw from these patters? Clearly: more posts about German penis size. And a hearty welcome to those who thanks to OxBlog are seeing my blog for the first time, and hopes that you'll come back.
German penises. Ananova reports that Germany is requesting that the EU change its condom standards after finding that German penises are smaller than the EU thinks they should be. "On average they were 14.48 cms long and 3.95 cms wide. That makes them much smaller than the EU standard condom size of 17 cms in length and 5.6 cms in width." Oh, it's just too easy. But I'll say it anyway: was the first half of the 20th century merely because German men were trying to compensate?

MORE: Or, perhaps this is what Berlusconi is referring to when he says he's "almost a German."
CWA and IBEW postponed their strike this weekend, on the basis of progress being made at the bargaining table with Verizon. The Boston Globe on Sunday had a good overview reporting the postponement as its lead article. The news came too late for the Sunday Times (at least my edition) but is covered in a smaller article this morning. A postponed strike is certainly good news for the workers at Verizon, espeically members if the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, who are completely without a strike fund. Better to postpone the strike to allow workers that many more days of preparations. Is it good for the rest of us? Major successful strikes are good for the labor movement because it shows the strength of unions. The Teamster strike against UPS is a good example of this--a hard-fought, high-profile, successful strike really reinvigorated the movement. Successful strikes are also good in the long term for the unions conducting them. On the basic level, they get whatever concessions from management that they win. Strikes also encourage militancy among the rank and file, and they are times when rank and file leadership is developed and identified. Of course, in the short term, strikes suck for the union conducting it regardless of whther they win, because they're expensive for both members and for the union. Unsuccessful strikes, however, are terrible for everyone. The demoralize workers; they put workers in a worse position economically than they would have been if they'd just conceded to begin with; and they're bad for the rest of the labor movement, because just as "ev'ry victory's gonna bring another," defeat too feeds on itself.

A side note on the IBEW. I don't know what its structure looks like, or why they have no strike fund. I can't help but think that it's pretty irresponsible for a union to go into a major fight like this without preparing a fund to support members. There's a strange upside, though. Welfare rights organizations are working with the IBEW to teach members about food stamps and other government assistance available to them. This is a good political educational opportunity to show people who may be anti-welfare that not everyone who gets state aid is a lazy bum or a welfare queen. It will be interesting to see if they education they're getting pays off in political awareness.

On a related note, John Kerry is courting the labor vote by starting an initiative against the Bust administration's gutting of overtime protections. (See more here and here.) Kerry is launching a petition demanding that the Labor Department reverse itself. It's petition as organizing tool: people like me go to his website and see that he's "Taking A Stand" and then give him our name as someone interested in labor issues. The petition itself of course is meaningless and goes nowhere. It's interesting to read as a rhetorical exercise though. He focuses on how people will lose overtime pay not, as I have, on the fact that it guts the 40-hour week. And he has a very strange "I'm more patriotic that George Bush" moment, which seems to me to be something of a non-sequiter.

And finally, a note of thanks to Josh Eidelson for the link. I'm glad to know that not all the Yale undergrad blogs are scary and rightist.

Friday, August 01, 2003
Thank God it's five and I can get the hell out of here and stop wasting time. I've spent all day at the office and, I swear, done like two productive things. Jesus Christ what a waste of time. While I'm at it with this totally pointless post, I should apologize for the poor blogging quality this week. I don't think I've had a good post since last week. I'll try to do better, I promise.
Gephardt gets the Teamsters. It surprises no one to know that the Teamsters will endorse Dick Gephardt for president, the Times reports. Look for a formal endorsement August 9. That will make nine labor endorsements for Gephardt, and his second major one. I've argued before that unions shouldn't line up behind Gephardt, because (a) it's still too early, and to endorse this early means that the endorsement will be weakened, and (b) Gephardt's a loser. He was in the leadership of the Democratic Party when we lost miserably in 2002, he hasn't raised enough money, he's not going to get the nomination, and if he does, he's not going to beat Bush. Labor's just wasting its time an influence if they line up behind him.

UPDATE: Steven Greenhouse reported Sunday that Gephardt looks unlikely to get the AFL-CIO endorsement before the primaries. There's a conflict within the labor movement between wanting to endorse Gephardt because he's been tremendously loyal throughout the years and he's strong on labor issues, but at the same time recognizing that he's not going to win. The AFL seems headed to dealing with that conflict by avoiding the question until Gephardt finally gets out of the race.
I'm not being productive, and I don't want you to be, either. Check out MTV's coverage of the "SARS-stock" concert in Toronto the other day. People threw garbage at Justin Timberlake. How cool is that?

And on a completely absurd tangent, look at the URL for that article. It ends with "headlines=true". As oppose to what? Give me all those fake headlines, the ones that have nothing to do with the body of the article.

STILL WASTING TIME: Josh Chafetz pointed out Georgy Russell's campaign for California governor, for which she is selling thongs. Fine, fine. But Georgy's ain't got nothing on Jewcy.com, clearly trying to be the world's hippest Jews, and, yes, also selling thongs. I really can't do it justice without the logo, so go, waste time with me and look at it.

UPDATE ON MONDAY: Josh Chafetz has decided to waste time, too (I'm so proud to have prevented productivity among others). Thanks for the link. Happily, today I'm being pretty productive.
Verizon strike watch. I've been going on and on about the predicted strike at Verizon, but really the place to go for news is LabourStart, which usually has the latest news for such things. Here, I'll just continue my drumbeat that Democratic presidential candidates really need to show their support this weekend in order to be taken seriously by organized labor, particularly in New Hampshire. Yesterday, John Edwards was featured in the CWA strike bulletin for supporting Verizon workers already on strike in North Carolina, and the homepage of CWA local 1400 has pictures up of Gephardt's visit. And at yesterday's rally in Boston, the president of the IBEW local read a letter from John Kerry introducing it as from the next president, although frankly the fact that he couldn't manage to show up (unlike three congressmen) doesn't speak well for him in my book.

The Times has an article on strike preparations titled Past Looms Large as Verizon Prepares for a Strike, and the Globe had a piece yesterday and today. The Washington Post emphasizes that the company is digging in its heels.

One reason that this is an important fight is that it effects tens of thousands of workers and their families. Another reason it's important is that it is a big strike, and big strikes always effect the rest of the labor movement. But even if you don't give a fig about Verizon workers or about the labor movement, you should care, because really this strike is about health care for everyone in the country. The slogan they're using is "Health care for all, not health cuts at Verizon," and the emphasis is on preventing backsliding on health insurance premiums for those already covered. Ed Hill, IBEW's international president, explained in his speech last night: "If we had a government that really cared enough about the issue, they would get off their backside and do something about the health care crisis in this country, instead of leaving it to labor and management to fight it out at every contract negotiation. If Verizon is serious about health insurance, we’ll stand with them to fight for decent health benefits for all. But I don’t see their corporate leaders or any other corporate leaders leading the charge on Capitol Hill on that issue." The aim is to force companies to go with their unions to government and say "health care is too expensive, we need a governmental solution." But this will only happen if companies are prevented from shifting health care costs to their employees.

I'm not going to bore my readers with a description of the rally yesterday, but only relate a conversation I heard between two IBEW members as we were waiting for the speeches to start. "Anything we lose now," one of them said, "we're never getting back."

UPDATE: Labor Notes has a good, broad overview of the Verizon fight in its August issue.

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