Monday, March 26, 2007

Popularity Contest (vol. 2)

Just to keep us all up to date, the Association for Dressings and Sauces announced their Dressing of the Year for 2006.

One of the biggest differences between me now and me two years ago is my healthy, growing obsession with cooking and food. This choice, like their last few (not that I'm following...), makes no sense to anyone who's not in the dressing industry. "Asiago Peppercorn...for that delicious, nostalgic taste that brings you back to your college dorm salad bar." No thanks.

Here are my recommendations, based on comparative sampling:

Mendocino Mustard: Camille
hates mustard. It's like:
Me: Camille, quick word association, okay? "Karl Rove."
Camille: [
no hesitation] Mustard.

But she eats this brand. She actually requests it, all embarassed-like. Mendocino Mustard is the shit. Suggested on a Rudy's hamburger bun with olive oil mayo, green lettuce, a Quorn fake chicken patty, and Morningstar Farms fakon. It gives a powerfully convincing feel of Jack in the Box except with really tasty hot & sweet mustard. My favorite customer quote from their site: "A refrigerator without Mendocino Mustard is not a refrigerator." That's some pretty powerful negation. Like, this mustard challenges refrigerator identity politics. Close second favorite: "I've never wanted to get up in the middle of the night and stick my finger in a mustard jar until now."

Pain is Good Hot Sauce: Despite the name, this hot sauce is actually easier to eat than normal hot sauce due to the richness of flavor. It's hot, but not punishingly hot, and there's this other flavor of sweet and tangy that totally toasts my nibbles.* Also the packaging is recyclable and the design is so killer that it wards off some of the "packaged food pangs" I sometimes get when filling up my cart. They've got a Keebler-esque production team made up of Bubba, Mo, GeeGee, Blondie, Juanita, and Buckwheat (seriously). Original Juan, which produces the Pain is Good line, also makes a line called Old Fart Baked Beans. For a host reasons, both legitimate and not, Camille will never, ever, EVER buy or allow me to buy a product with the word "fart" in its name.

Daddy Sam's BBQ: This website is ridiculous. I apologize for linking to it. The sauce is great though -- it's thoroughly replaced Sweet Baby Ray's as my go-to sauce for tater tots, poached egg sandwiches, and chili.

What about salad dressing, you ask? Fuck store-bought salad dressing. If I need corn syrup, sodium benzoate and dehydrated onions I know where to find them. I dress myself; I dress my salad. Okay, getting kind of sassy. Obviously I didn't get much sleep last night.

*This is slang is so new I only just now noticed the stripes. Trying it out.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

that settles...something

It's hard to make heads or tails out of the recent decision by the California Nurses Association to affiliate with the AFL-CIO. It doesn't help that this news isn't getting a whole lot of attention, even though it could have fairly profound consequences for both healthcare organizing and healthcare policy going forward. Not having a cohesive opinion on this, I'll just throw out some stuff to consider.

- The CNA has historically prided itself on its independence, touting its ability to rise above labor politics, bureaucracy, etc. to advocate aggressively on behalf of nurses and patients. The independence also allowed the union to maintain a sometimes-criticized purity in terms of its membership -- only nurses. Ask a PCA or an animal care tech. how nurses view other folks "lower" down the hospital chain and you'll get an idea what I'm talking about. I'm not saying that purity's necessarily good or bad, nor is it unique to the CNA among AFL affiliates, but nurses will have to know that most of their per capita dues are going outside the profession and outside the hospital.

- Will this limit their remarkable political effectiveness? Being subsumed by the bureaucracy (and sluggishness) of AFL-CIO politics could weaken and slow down anyone. If done smartly, the added AFL-CIO resources could make the CNA an even bigger player in both statewide and national politics. We'll see.

- Is this going to help or hurt their national organizing ambitions? I think their independence and RN focus generally helped them organize in other states, but I don't know much about their campaigns. I don't totally see why someone would want to join the AFL-CIO right now, since -- apart from the newly-joined CNA -- very few of the affiliated unions are actually growing or attempting to do so in a strategic manner. In my admittedly biased view, the most dynamic and promising national organizing campaigns are being conducted by Change to Win affiliates: Justice for Janitors, Hotel Workers Rising, the Teamsters Port Campaign, Walmart, etc. And many of the natural allies for those campaigns are represented by (or in bargaining relationships with) SEIU in the healthcare industry. CNA and SIEU may still have some animus left over despite their partnership, but joint organizing within the same federation would certainly solve a lot more raiding problems than getting on opposite sides.

- Is the AFL-CIO's position on healthcare reform enough of a reason to affiliate? I actually think this makes some good sense. The AFL will strengthen its position by adding thousands of union nurses and experienced healthcare advocates, and the CNA will probably get more influence in what happens nationally than they previously had.

Is this getting boring for anyone else? It's boring me. I'm out.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

a legitimate improvement to national security

I'm speaking here, of course, about Congress's decision to grant organizing rights to 45,000 airport screeners. Can we all agree that, of the hundreds of millions of working Americans, these people should be on the list of Top Ten Professions Who We Really Need Be Happy On The Job? I'm going to skip over the obvious reasons for this, and I'll refrain from ranting about Mitch McConnell's remarks, because what did we expect?, and same goes for Richard Burr's comically inept and insulting attempt at a soundbite, but I will say this:

Why is it so damn hard for our elected officials to just say "Collective bargaining is good. It improves operations, increases retention, and protects workers." Meanwhile, all the reassurances about what the union won't be able to do (strike, bargain for pay, etc.) don't do anything to make me feel safer. A weak union doesn't protect anyone.

I know this is well-trod ground. I think it's worth a reminder that, as with many jobs, DHS employees make sacrifices and enter into obligations as part of their work. No union has the authority or the power to curtail the TSA from doing what it needs to do in an emergency, and plenty of collective bargaining agreements contain whole sections devoted to those exceptional circumstances. Similarly, all the TSA needs to do to avoid an emergency labor problem is employ enough people and treat them well enough to ensure proper staffing, training, etc.

To my mind, this debate exposes the equally well-trod ground of how inadequate the labor standards are for DHS employees, and the shameful hypocrisy of Congress and the Bush Administration in trying to get national security on the cheap, at the expense of our safety as well as the lives of the people charged with protecting us.

Okay, enough of that.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Tonight's Special: Tolerance, Smothered in Weak Sauce

In the middle of last month, the Anglican Communion primates met in Africa and issued an ultimatum to the Episcopal Church (its U.S. "branch"), asserting that if the Episcopal Church does not discontinue ordaining gay priests and performing gay marriages by September 30th, 2007, it will essentially be barred from "full participation" in the church. This has been brewing for the last four years or so, since the Episcopals began ordaining gay priests and allowing congregations flexibility to perform gay marriages.

Yesterday, in an act of stupendous cowardice, Kathline Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop, told 2 million Episcopalians that they should comply with this ultimatum. Now I recognize that we all regularly find ourselves in situations where we must tolerate the opinions and actions of others with whom we share common ground. In our personal lives, we may be compelled to tolerate or resign ourselves to the political beliefs of our parents, spouse, boss, etc. In my case, I often find that, to preserve solidarity and coalitions, I have to make peace with incremental reformers and latte liberals in order to remain an active participant in Democratic politics. I imagine that many SEIU members, and perhaps UNITE HERE members as well, have resigned themselves to accepting a somewhat watered-down immigration stance in exchange for a real seat at the table on immigration policy.

So I can understand why a progressive Episcopalian would not resign their membership in the Anglican Church, just as I can understand why a pro-choice woman would decide to take communion (not to mention any number of other examples). What I cannot understand, or for that matter stomach, is arguing that we should change our beliefs to retain our membership. One way or another, the Anglican Communion is trying to expunge the institutions and people that hold progressive views from its ranks. They want to kick you out for your beliefs, and your response is not to assert your right to membership and your beliefs, but rather, to buckle under, degrading both in the process.

With apologies to any Episcopalians out there, that frankly disgusts me. To position a "hunger for clarity" and an "intensity" of feeling as detrimental, as dangerous, in a religious context, simply seems disengenuous. After all, the Anglican primates aren't having any trouble with clarity -- they've made their views, and the intensity of their feeling about them, quite clear. I think it demeans Episcopalians to request from them more patience and less passion in the pursuit of Jesus's teachings. And to say that "We are being asked to pause in the journey, not to go back," is so flagrant a lie that I can't imagine how she kept a straight face. Tell that to the gay and lesbian Episcopalians currently in seminary. Tell that to the ones that have already been ordained, and to their congregations. It'd be like if, in 1967, Congress had come back to black Americans and said: "Look, I know you have voting rights now, but what with all the rioting and racial violence, we want to suspend them for a bit until we figure out a solution. It's not a step back for justice, it's just a pause until we can figure out how to live in harmony."

I admit that I feel rather uncomfortable judging the actions of one of the most progressive church leaders in the United States, and a critical ally in the fight for marriage equality and gay rights. And I don't presume to argue that those LGBT concerns should supercede the integrity and existence of the church. But how long can the church continue if it sacrifices its integrity and betrays its members? History would tell us, "A whole hell of a long time," but I prefer to ignore that. Here's hoping the Episcopal Executive Council and the House of Bishops will do the right thing.

Otherwise, they'll have to change their motto to: "The Episcopal Church [Conditionally] Welcomes You...Now with 50% Weaker Sauce!"