Tuesday, February 21, 2006

long time coming...

David Irving's been sentenced to three years in Austrian prison, for holocaust denial.

In some ways, this is terrific, because one of the first things that comes to mind when you hear about his brand of disgusting, irresponsible scholarship is: "there oughta be a law against that."

In Austria (and eight other European countries), there is.

So in my heart, I hope he serves every day and I hope it's awful.

But in my head, I wonder about whether this is a fair or appropriate use of the criminal justice system.

Bad scholarship shouldn't be illegal, nor should being an unrepentant bigot.

Scholarship that meets the legal standards of inciteful hate speech or libel should be illegal, and it is.

I haven't read too much of Irving's material, but I've read excerpts, and while there's no doubt he's a holocaust denier (which in my book puts him just below oil-company lawyers and Fred Phelps in the seventh ring of hell), I don't know whether his writings ought to classify him as a criminal. Obviously, in Austria and Germany the legislatures feel that the damage caused by Holocaust denial is significant enough to represent a threat to freedom, health, or safety. Or, at least, they perceived that threat when the laws were passed.

I have no trouble seeing the damage caused by holocaust denial, just as I have no trouble seeing the damage caused by expressions of racial or ethnic prejudice. These actions present a threat to the psychological health of individuals and their communities, as well as a threat to the integrity of current ideas and the historical record. But that's a risk inherent to the preservation of free speech. Without demonstrating a clear and present danger to freedom, health, security, etc. (not manufacturing one, as the Bush administration did with the Patriot Act), the anti-Holocaust denial laws do not seem justified.

Irving's nemesis, Deborah Lipstadt, agrees that the free speech concern should take precedent. But she manages a nice dig at the end of the article, which I think is warranted considering what he put her through.

Nothing is served by having David Irving in a jail cell, except that he has become an international news issue. Let him go home and let him continue talking to six people in a basement. Let him fade into obscurity where he belongs.

Ice cold!!

fixed link

The House of Labor blog link was broken.

Now it's fixed.

Don't say I never did anything for you.

Because I did -- I just fixed the link.

Try it.

It's fixed.

Friday, February 17, 2006

...and the response.

Who I work for, apparently.

The guy on the right is Bruce Raynor, the General President of Unite Here.

It ought to be patently obvious to anyone that his quote was taken out of context (the presence of Kim Jong Il pretty much destroys the pretense of credibility). But for the record, the quote came from a 2003 article in the NYT about UNITE's efforts to organize Cintas (archived at CommonDreams).

Here's what he said:

"There's no reason to subject the workers to an election," he said, adding that employees were often vulnerable to threats, intimidation and firing during election drives. (my emphasis)
The context is kinda important, don't you think? In fact, I wouldn't even call the threat of intimidation and harassment "context" in this case. I'd call it "a secondary clause in the same damn sentence which apparently, for stylistic reasons, the author decided to present without quotation marks."

Incidentally, violating labor law has been a matter of course for Cintas, so you can see why an NLRB-sponsored election might prompt serious concerns. This guy has a lot more in common with Kim Jong Il and Castro than Bruce Raynor.

Anyway, the ad I linked to above was created by the Center for Union Facts, a newly-formed non-profit that has gone on the attack against union organizing with front-page ads in the NYT, the WSJ, & the Post. The site itself is poorly researched at best, and libelous at worst -- if not actually in violation of labor law. As an example, check out Nathan Newman's dissection of their statistics regarding "labor racketeering." And it goes without saying that when you stock "impartial" government agencies with rabid anti-union advocates, and you instruct them to go after unions, you'll get more government cases against unions. So simple volume of cases isn't much to base an argument on -- though, as I'll get to below, the substance of those cases is indeed crucial.

The CUF is a front group. It's run by Rick Berman, who some of you may remember from his industry-funded attacks on smoking laws, drunk-driving laws, health laws, and environmental laws. If that doesn't float your boat, how about his industry-funded attacks on the minimum wage laws, living wage laws, and healthcare laws? Yup, that's him too. Quick CV: he's worked as a labor lawyer for steel & auto producers. He's worked as a lobbyist for food, alcohol, & tobacco industries.

And -- wait for it -- he was the labor law director of the US Chamber of Commerce under Nixon.

So, no big surprises there.

What's funny about the site, to me, is that no matter how corrupt and greedy they try to make unions look, the numbers that are supposed to shock us are actually pretty paltry. The president of an international union makes $200,000 a year? Good lord! And the political contributions, which are supposed to enrage the common man, are comically small compared with industry counterparts. In fact, they're small compared with the $5 million/year Berman plans to spend on this campaign.

HOWEVER: It should definitely be noted that the CUF site, though its contents are hopelessly biased in their presentation, does offer a wealth of details in the areas of corruption & criminal behavior. Labor movement proponents (including myself) have often been heard to argue that crime and corruption are just as prevalent, or more prevalent, in corporate America or government as they are in organized labor. While this may be true, there's a reason we hold ourselves to a higher standard, and we can't choose when that standard is enforced. The actions of union leaders in practicing, condoning, or ignoring corrupt/criminal behavior within their organizations is despicable, and should be decried at all levels of the movement, and outside it.

The thing is, of course, that exposure isn't what they're after. Berman admitted as much when he was working for the restaurant industry, in an interview the Chain Leader trade publication (link unavailable):

“Our offensive strategy is to shoot the messenger. Given the activists’ plans to alarm beyond all reason, we’ve got to attack their credibility as spokespersons.”

It would be great if a site called "Union facts" actually contained a balanced presentation of, well, union facts. Like the union/non-union wage differential, unionization rates in public/private sector, by industry, skill level, etc. Benefits across union/non-union professions, union stance/involvement in various social/political issues, history, relevant law & how it's generally applied, etc. That would put the corruption, crime, and political contributions in context, and -- I'd argue -- would do a lot more to erode call attention to the existing problems.

the starting gun...

This is why I haven't been blogging much for the last little period of time.

There were over 1,400 Local 2 members signed in and over 700 labor and community allies. Needless to say, we didn't all fit in the 900-person ballroom at the Renaissance Parc 55. I can't tell you anything about the program itself. I know lots about the translation equipment, the truck, the t-shirts, the signs, the music (picked by ME, MOTHERFUCKERS!!), the photo display...

We would've been able to hold it in a bigger room, except all the big convention hotels in the city are either under boycott or full from the business we moved there as part of the boycott.

My bad.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

thank god someone is marrying me...

...because I am not to be trusted with my own facial hair (recently unearthed, from a Culture Clash performance in 2003). Before people get all up in arms about me breaking my ironclad guarantee to NewPlastic readers, let me state for the record that you were promised no pictures of people you don't know, drunk. Y'all know me, and anyway, I might have been drunk when I decided to grow that ri-cock-ulous goatee, but I was sober for this picture. I can't speak for Sarah Stillman, who's sitting next to me, but even so -- everyone knows Sarah.

While we're on the subject of unearthed photos, check this out (forwarded to me by alert reader and former colleague Jocelyn Lippert). I would like to meet the person who took this photo and explain some things.

Also, the hotel I'm standing in front of has since been sold. Coincidence? I think not. Vague, tangential, Busta-Rhymes-to-Kevin-Bacon-type connection?

You be the judge.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

found a new one.

Everyone knows, I'm a sucker for generators.

So here's another one, which has entertained me to no end.

LFO is prominent.

But terrible lyrics are easy to come up with. Harder to find are lyrics that are simultaneously the worst and the best.

A few examples from hiphop (there are tons more in the rock/pop world):

"Anything can happen, you can't stop the shining
You lookin at my watch, but my mind's really the diamond
- Wyclef

"during sex lay there i'ma have to ask if it's good
this rap stuff stressful let's go see if we can relax in the woods"
- Silkk the Shocker

"I don't have no problem with you fuckin' me
But I have a little problem with you not fuckin' me"
-ODB (the undisputed king of best/worst hiphop lines)

And finally, this entire verse from Nice & Smooth's "Sometimes I Rhyme Slow" is either your favorite or the worst thing you've ever heard.

"Sometimes I rhyme slow sometimes I rhyme quick
I'm sweeter and thicker than a chico stick
Here's an ice cream cone honey take a lick
I go to Bay Plaza and catch a flick
Wore my Timberland boots so I can stomp ticks
Scandalous get a wiff of this mist
Just like the Yar Boys now I'm blissed
I feel good per se good state of mind
Drive a red Sterling and the seats recline
I love it when a lady treats me kind
Go to Tavern on the Green have a glass of wine
He say, she say I heard it through the grapevine
No static, got an automatic
Too much of anything makes you an addict
Teasin, skeezin, all so pleasin
Don't ask why I got my own reasons
Smooth B Greg Nice Slick Nick clique
Sometimes I rhyme slow sometimes I rhyme quick..."

Greg Nice stomps ticks.
Don't ask why. He has his own reasons.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

new webcomics

I added a few more webcomics to the link list down there. Folks who read webcomics probably know about most/all of these already, but for the rest, they're worth a look if you're looking for a reason to come to work in the morning.

A Softer World - Vaguely surrealist photo collage w/dark & hilarious text.

Dinosaur Comics
- The exact opposite of A Softer World. The same six panels of dinosaur clip-art every day, with different dialogue. Fairly addictive.

Dr. McNinja - Son of an Irish ninja family grows up to become a doctor, disappointing his parents. Fairly self-explanatory.

Overcompensating - This is constantly described as Jeffrey Rowland's autobiographical comic, but as far as I can tell it bears only passing resemblance to real events. It's extremely funny and charming.

Perry Bible Fellowship - The best new find. Totally bizarre, crude, and hilarious short gag strips with a revolving variety of art styles and characters.

Wigu - Jeffrey Rowland's previous strip, an epic, which you just have to read. Like Achewood, it's an entire world with characters informed by the same permeated personality. Lots of fun.