Sunday, August 31, 2008

Labor Day: What Does it Mean?

Labor Day is upon us, the last day of summer, right? Well, it used to have a much bigger meaning and it still does for those of us who grew up through the blood, sweat and tears of the working class. My father was forced into the Lawrence mills, the shoe factories in the eighth grade, forced to work piece by piece. You didn't receive a wage, only how many shoes you could "piece" together in a period of time. Sound familiar? I guess it sounds like China and Vietnam, but we used to treat our workers just like the Chinese are being treated today that the Olympics so eloquently masked.

As the industrial revolution dawned in the late 1800's our workers worked an average of 12 hour days, seven days a week in order to make a living in the northern cities (Beijing?). Women and children worked in the mills as well and in my home town of Lawrence, Massachusetts women led the movement for the Bread and Roses strike of 1912. As working conditions deteriorated because corporation sought more profit at the expense of it's labor force labor unions emerged. On September 5, 1982 10,000 workers marched from city hall to union square as the first ever Labor Day parade. These workers took an unpaid day off to honor America's workers and voice their concern with working conditions. Congress would not legalize the holiday until 12 years later. On May 11, 1894, workers of the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago struck to protest wage cuts and the firing of union representatives. On June 26 the American Railroad Union called a boycott of all Pullman railway cars. Within days, 50,000 rail workers complied and railroad traffic out of Chicago came to a halt. On July 4, President Grover Cleveland dispatched troops to Chicago. Much rioting and bloodshed ensued, but the government’s actions broke the strike and the boycott soon collapsed.

The strike brought worker’s rights to the public eye and Congress declared, in 1894, that the first Monday in September would be the holiday for workers, known as Labor Day. The day would be in September as not to be confused with May Day on May 1st that the world celebrates and was initiated by the Socialists. We owe a debt of gratitude to these folks, not just because we have tomorrow off, but because we no longer have an 84 hour work week, we have benefits (some of us), weekends off (some of us), paid vacation (some of us). We have come a long way, but of course over the past decade or so we have back tracked especially for the working class. Only about 16% of our work force is unionized and most of that is government unions. And what is the debt of gratitude our President wishes to show us - to our government unions?

The Bush administration is weighing an executive order that would eliminate a union-preferred method of labor organizing at large government contractors, according to people familiar with the situation. Labor leaders prefer a card-check system in which workers can form a union if a majority of them sign a union-authorization card. Companies generally prefer a secret-ballot election.

The issue has become a factor in some Senate races and the presidential campaign. Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, supports legislation favoring the card-check approach. Sen. John McCain, the likely Republican presidential nominee, opposes such legislation.

The card-check approach is favored because people who wish to have a union sign a card and give it to their union leader and if a majority of the cards are signed the get to form a union. This is how it is done in most of the western world, in fact in some European countries the workers can just negotiate with the owners and tell them they want a union and the company will abide.

Here, it is done differently, these companies prefer the secret ballot elections so they can intimidate its workers, hold anti-union campaigns throughout the election process, and as is often the case fire the leaders of the union movement, which is illegal. It doesn't matter, however because those who are fired eventually do get some compensation, but it is years later when the campaign is over and the election is lost. Even if an election is won it becomes impossible to negotiate a contract.

A card check system is pro-worker and on this Labor Day the Bush administration should be ashamed for signing such a thing. But, what do we expect from the most anti-labor government since the industrial revolution? Here is hoping in November.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hurricane Gustav

Hurricane Gustav has sustained winds of 150 MPH and is headed straight for the gulf coast - just to the west of New Orleans. The path could change, but regardless it will be devastating to the region. It could also rise to a level 5 hurricane by the time it sits in the warm waters of the gulf. This is scary. It is scheduled to hit on Monday morning, but it is so large the gulf coast will begin to feel the winds by tomorrow. It is now over Cuba to the west of Havana, but will devastate that region as well. More to follow I am sure.

Obama's Historic Acceptance Speech

McCain and Hillary Voters

What do McCain (and the Republicans) think about women? Remember this quip.

Sarah Palin's politics:
"A significant part of Palin's base of support lies among social and Christian conservatives. Her positions on social issues emerged slowly during the campaign: on abortion (should be banned for anything other than saving the life of the mother), stem cell research (opposed), physician-assisted suicide (opposed), creationism (should be discussed in schools), state health benefits for same-sex partners (opposed, and supports a constitutional amendment to bar them)."

Friday, August 29, 2008

Convention Coverage: Two Amazing Speeches

There was no one with more pressure on her speech than Michelle Obama. She had something to prove to the hatemongers that have killed her in the press as an "angry black woman." The first part of the speech was for them. But, when she gets going she proves she is the second best orator at the convention.

And as I tuck that little girl and her little sister into bed at night, I think about how one day, they'll have families of their own. And one day, they — and your sons and daughters — will tell their own children about what we did together in this election. They'll tell them how this time, we listened to our hopes, instead of our fears. How this time, we decided to stop doubting and to start dreaming. How this time, in this great country — where a girl from the South Side of Chicago can go to college and law school, and the son of a single mother from Hawaii can go all the way to the White House — we committed ourselves to building the world as it should be.

Hillary's speech to me was the most impressive in the first couple of nights because it was so unexpected and so inspirational. And it could not have been easy to give. Her career is certainly not done and I regained profound respect for her. Amazing. It doesn't take away many of the awful things that were said by her, her husband and her campaign, but she put tears in my eyes and her speech will be remembered in defeat as Ted Kennedy's was remembered in 1980. Simply astonishing. Below is my favorite part. If you don't want to watch the entire thing start at minute 16.

My mother was born before women could vote. But in this election my daughter got to vote for her mother for President.

This is the story of America. Of women and men who defy the odds and never give up.
How do we give this country back to them?
By following the example of a brave New Yorker , a woman who risked her life to shepherd slaves along the Underground Railroad.
And on that path to freedom, Harriett Tubman had one piece of advice.
If you hear the dogs, keep going.
If you see the torches in the woods, keep going.
If they're shouting after you, keep going.
Don't ever stop. Keep going.
If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.
Even in the darkest of moments, ordinary Americans have found the faith to keep going.
I've seen it in you. I've seen it in our teachers and firefighters, nurses and police officers, small business owners and union workers, the men and women of our military - you always keep going.
We are Americans. We're not big on quitting.
But remember, before we can keep going, we have to get going by electing Barack Obama president.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wake Up, America!

Thank you, Rep. Kucinich. Thank you so very much for your service to our country.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Maxed Out

This is one powerful film. If you have not seen it you should, fast (while you cut up your credit cards). It is about the takeover of our government by corporations in part, but also how entrenched every politician is & cozy in bed with these companies and that the 2005 Bankruptcy Law (which the new Vice Presidential nominee Senator Biden voted for) was a sham and a giveaway to credit card companies (the law was written by MBNA).

It shows how the system is stacked against the common person and how we simply all are a tragedy away from losing everything. It shows that when these tragedies do strike the credit card companies and collection agencies could care less about you, so they sell your debt to anyone with a penny. I was one of those people when I lost almost everything due to a terrible car accident (I got lucky and sued the fuckers). For years afterward I had scum bags calling me because they said I still owed them money (although I didn't).

Electing a democratic president will not change this fact, get rid of your debt or stop these companies from funding our government. Here is the trailer. You can also read the book "Maxed Out."

Roll Call vote for the Bankruptcy Bill, Senator Clinton did not vote though she supported an earlier version and Senator Obama did vote against it as most democrats did, but not Senator Biden.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Russian Never Wanted a War

Is this war just another act of American Imperialism? Mikhail Gorbacheve thinks so.
Op-Ed Contributor
Russia Never Wanted a War

Published: August 19, 2008

THE acute phase of the crisis provoked by the Georgian forces’ assault on Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, is now behind us. But how can one erase from memory the horrifying scenes of the nighttime rocket attack on a peaceful town, the razing of entire city blocks, the deaths of people taking cover in basements, the destruction of ancient monuments and ancestral graves?

Russia did not want this crisis. The Russian leadership is in a strong enough position domestically; it did not need a little victorious war. Russia was dragged into the fray by the recklessness of the Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili. He would not have dared to attack without outside support. Once he did, Russia could not afford inaction.

The decision by the Russian president, Dmitri Medvedev, to now cease hostilities was the right move by a responsible leader. The Russian president acted calmly, confidently and firmly. Anyone who expected confusion in Moscow was disappointed.

The planners of this campaign clearly wanted to make sure that, whatever the outcome, Russia would be blamed for worsening the situation. The West then mounted a propaganda attack against Russia, with the American news media leading the way.

The news coverage has been far from fair and balanced, especially during the first days of the crisis. Tskhinvali was in smoking ruins and thousands of people were fleeing — before any Russian troops arrived. Yet Russia was already being accused of aggression; news reports were often an embarrassing recitation of the Georgian leader’s deceptive statements.

It is still not quite clear whether the West was aware of Mr. Saakashvili’s plans to invade South Ossetia, and this is a serious matter. What is clear is that Western assistance in training Georgian troops and shipping large supplies of arms had been pushing the region toward war rather than peace.

If this military misadventure was a surprise for the Georgian leader’s foreign patrons, so much the worse. It looks like a classic wag-the-dog story.

Mr. Saakashvili had been lavished with praise for being a staunch American ally and a real democrat — and for helping out in Iraq. Now America’s friend has wrought disorder, and all of us — the Europeans and, most important, the region’s innocent civilians — must pick up the pieces.

Those who rush to judgment on what’s happening in the Caucasus, or those who seek influence there, should first have at least some idea of this region’s complexities. The Ossetians live both in Georgia and in Russia. The region is a patchwork of ethnic groups living in close proximity. Therefore, all talk of “this is our land,” “we are liberating our land,” is meaningless. We must think about the people who live on the land.

The problems of the Caucasus region cannot be solved by force. That has been tried more than once in the past two decades, and it has always boomeranged.

What is needed is a legally binding agreement not to use force. Mr. Saakashvili has repeatedly refused to sign such an agreement, for reasons that have now become abundantly clear.

The West would be wise to help achieve such an agreement now. If, instead, it chooses to blame Russia and re-arm Georgia, as American officials are suggesting, a new crisis will be inevitable. In that case, expect the worst.

In recent days, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President Bush have been promising to isolate Russia. Some American politicians have threatened to expel it from the Group of 8 industrialized nations, to abolish the NATO-Russia Council and to keep Russia out of the World Trade Organization.

These are empty threats. For some time now, Russians have been wondering: If our opinion counts for nothing in those institutions, do we really need them? Just to sit at the nicely set dinner table and listen to lectures?
Indeed, Russia has long been told to simply accept the facts. Here’s the independence of Kosovo for you. Here’s the abrogation of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, and the American decision to place missile defenses in neighboring countries. Here’s the unending expansion of NATO. All of these moves have been set against the backdrop of sweet talk about partnership. Why would anyone put up with such a charade?

There is much talk now in the United States about rethinking relations with Russia. One thing that should definitely be rethought: the habit of talking to Russia in a condescending way, without regard for its positions and interests.

Our two countries could develop a serious agenda for genuine, rather than token, cooperation. Many Americans, as well as Russians, understand the need for this. But is the same true of the political leaders?

A bipartisan commission led by Senator Chuck Hagel and former Senator Gary Hart has recently been established at Harvard to report on American-Russian relations to Congress and the next president. It includes serious people, and, judging by the commission’s early statements, its members understand the importance of Russia and the importance of constructive bilateral relations.

But the members of this commission should be careful. Their mandate is to present “policy recommendations for a new administration to advance America’s national interests in relations with Russia.” If that alone is the goal, then I doubt that much good will come out of it. If, however, the commission is ready to also consider the interests of the other side and of common security, it may actually help rebuild trust between Russia and the United States and allow them to start doing useful work together.

Mikhail Gorbachev is the former president of the Soviet Union. This article was translated by Pavel Palazhchenko from the Russian.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bronx Beauty

I went to College in the Bronx. Fordham University, on 187th and Fordham Road. I ate pizza for four years in Belmont, at some of the best pizza places in the world. I went to the greatest zoo in the world, The Bronx Zoo. I would go to see the greatest team in the world, the New York Yankees.
What I wouldn't see much of in the Bronx was beautiful subway stations.
If I went down to 81st Street, or Chelsea, or maybe Brooklyn Heights, I could see aesthetically pleasing subway stops, with murals, mosaic art and such. But not my Grand Concourse stop on the D train. It was, and is, grungy and kinda scary.
Things are changing. Art has come to the Bronx subway stations. In an article I just read in the New York Times, "Set in Glass, Artist’s Ode to Bronx Life Is Acclaimed," the story starts with these words:
The Freeman Street subway station, a few blocks south of Crotona Park in the south-central Bronx, could not seem farther from the art gallery precincts of Chelsea, SoHo and Dumbo. So New Yorkers might be surprised to know that a series of colored-glass panels on the elevated subway station has been acclaimed as an exemplary work of public art.

The work, known as “The El,” involves six scenes made of thousands of pieces of faceted glass, which are about an inch thick — far thicker than stained glass — and is held together by epoxy, for durability in harsh outdoor environments. The artist, Daniel Hauben, 52, created the work as a commission for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Arts for Transit project, which has placed artworks throughout the nation’s busiest transit system.

In June, “The El” was one of 40 works of art selected by Americans for the Arts, a nonprofit organization that promotes arts in the United States, for recognition in its annual Year in Review overview of exemplary contemporary public art installations.
This makes me really, really happy. And even though I am sitting in a chair thousands of miles away, in the south of Brazil, I feel a little closer to home when I read about beauty in Bronx subway stations.


For some people, that Barack Obama does not wear a flag pin on his lapel or that he doesn't have a big American flag on his campaign plane, means he is unqualified to be President. Based on such rationale, given the picture below, shouldn't those same people be calling for President Bush to be impeached (as if you didn't already have a reason)?
FYI, "toirtap" is "patriot" spelled backwards.

--R Thelonius

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Most Corporations Pay NO Income Tax

I mean do you have to have fucking economics degree to understand why we are in debt, why the dollar is weak and why the system is so far out of whack we are on the verge of disaster. In a time of war corporations are paying no income tax. And this is good how?

A new study by the GAO says most corporations, including the vast majority of foreign companies doing business in the United States, pay no income taxes. During the eight-year period covered by the report, 72 percent of foreign-owned corporations went at least one year without owing taxes, and the same was true for 55 percent of domestic corporations.

Small companies were much more likely to pay no taxes than larger companies. Still, more than 3,500 large domestic corporations - with more than $250 million in assets or $50 million in gross receipts - did not pay taxes in 2005.

The report said about 80 percent of the companies studied paid no taxes because they didn't generate any profit after expenses. Money-losing companies can legitimately owe no tax, and others can use provisions of the tax code to lower or eliminate their liability.

Simply irresponsible to allow this to happen, whether it is the tax code that allows this or funny corporate financing, allowing this to happen is taking money out of the system and in the pockets of big business. If you aren't angry you aren't paying attention.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

hoboken's new spots -- d a m e s & s w e e t

update: sweet is now open for business! cupcakes and mini cupcakes, cookies, brownies, red velvet cake, ganache cake and more... as well as many hot/cold coffee drinks. sweet has a warm, friendly vibe & enjoyable "mom's kitchen" decor. there are some tables to sit at and enjoy your fresh from the oven treats.

oh also another new local goodie on the horizon, sweet, a bakery opening on garden and 4th streets (in the old rue de jardin spot)... we spoke to the owner, angela. her staff bakes everything on the premises.

at last, my prayers answered... just when my green tea habit really set in... no more running to joe the art of coffee on the weekend or missing the old mola vibe...

dames coffee espresso bar set up shop early in july on first (the street with no chain stores) near clinton street. finally had a chance to try their drinks. dames did not disappoint. we tried a frozen mocha and a vanilla latte (with simple yet elegant latte art). yum. better than joe since the baristas are not as rushed. i've had a few mediocre drinks and because of a crowd one time some dude swiped my drink from the bar.

dames has a serious, new & shiny la marzocco espresso machine. the decor is minimalist, black & white, with some small works of art on the brick walls, and a fancy chandelier adds a fancy touch. some limited counter space to sit and drink. too bad the space is not bigger for a few tables. dames serves counter culture fair trade, organic coffee. hopefully dames can counter the spread of starbucks in hoboken.

read more about dames on the road to epiphany and check out temp tamp!

hoboken still has a soul... help support these local businesses!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Religulous - Bill Maher's New Movie - I Cannot Wait.

The Failing of John Edwards is the Least Disturbing Part of this Story

John Edwards admitted to his affair yesterday, finally. If what he is saying is true, then why do we give one f*** about this? Listen, I do not condone stepping out on people and screwing them over as Mr. Edwards has clearly done, but this is a private matter. If the affair happened in 2006 and he told Elizabeth about it in 2006 why should we care? I think the coverage is preposterous, like he offended us somehow, as if he cheated on all of us. That is simply preposterous. He is a public figure, yes, but do we think it truly affects us. He and his wife worked through this. Why should we judge either of them? Does the dry cleaner's affair down the street affect us? How about your mailman? The waitress at the local bar? Donald Trump? Why do we care at all?

Do I think people who have affairs should be considered for public office? Why the hell not! This is ludicrous for all of us to sit here and act like we are holier than thou and know what is in one another's heart. People's marriages and even more so people's sex lives are theirs and theirs alone. No one else's. If, in fact he fathered a child (according to him and Elizabeth he did not) and there is much more to the story, then I stand corrected. But, if this is the story I think the much more disturbing part of this story is the public and the media and this incessant need to be in one another's business. We sure don't care when we hear the screams of domestic violence in the neighborhood. We don't care when the people next door had their house foreclosed. We turn and look the other way. We turn and look the other way when another soldier dies or another Iraqi is butchered. We seem to not care about that. In the end it is between Elizabeth and John Edwards. And here is what Elizabeth said:

Our family has been through a lot. Some caused by nature, some caused by human weakness, and some – most recently – caused by the desire for sensationalism and profit without any regard for the human consequences. None of these has been easy. But we have stood with one another through them all. Although John believes he should stand alone and take the consequences of his action now, when the door closes behind him, he has his family waiting for him.

John made a terrible mistake in 2006. The fact that it is a mistake that many others have made before him did not make it any easier for me to hear when he told me what he had done. But he did tell me. And we began a long and painful process in 2006, a process oddly made somewhat easier with my diagnosis in March of 2007. This was our private matter, and I frankly wanted it to be private because as painful as it was I did not want to have to play it out on a public stage as well. Because of a recent string of hurtful and absurd lies in a tabloid publication, because of a picture falsely suggesting that John was spending time with a child it wrongly alleged he had fathered outside our marriage, our private matter could no longer be wholly private.

The pain of the long journey since 2006 was about to be renewed.

John has spoken in a long on-camera interview I hope you watch. Admitting one’s mistakes is a hard thing for anyone to do, and I am proud of the courage John showed by his honesty in the face of shame. The toll on our family of news helicopters over our house and reporters in our driveway is yet unknown. But now the truth is out, and the repair work that began in 2006 will continue. I ask that the public, who expressed concern about the harm John’s conduct has done to us, think also about the real harm that the present voyeurism does and give me and my family the privacy we need at this time.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Forget the Red Sox I Bleed Dodger Blue (and any small market team)

A new report by Major League Baseball investigators are looking into accusations that several New York Yankees prospects from the Dominican Republic were forced to kick back portions of their signing bonuses to one or more team employees, several sources told ESPN. This I expect, I mean come on it is the Yankees.

Last week, the Red Sox's Dominican scouting supervisor, Pablo Lantigua, was fired after MLB investigators confronted him about allegedly skimming signing bonuses, according to an MLB source. Sources also told ESPN that the investigation is expected to implicate roughly 20 people on "a handful" of teams before it is complete. Investigators also have expanded their probe into Venezuela, where many major league clubs have player academies. "Things are coming to a head," one source familiar with MLB's investigation said.

So, these a-holes go to the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, both places where baseball is religion and by the way are baseball factories for the major leagues (ever heard of Pedro, Manny, Ortiz, how about Omar Vizquel or Johan Santana?); these baseball scum low ball the hell out of these - to be superstars (these players do not receive anywhere near the money top prospects from the states receive) and then on the back end the little they do give, force them to hand it over to overpaid executives in the baseball club.

Disgusting. I am tired of the corporate scum running baseball. The Red Sox have now sent away Manny, Pedro and Nomar, my three favorite Red Sox players off to different teams - after bad mouthing them to the point where the fans in Boston didn't want them anyway. And now are part of an extortion ring against poor born latin players. Forget it. I am rooting for Manny over in Dodger land as well as I root for Nomar and Pedro. But...I now declare myself a small market baseball fan. I root for the Twins, the Devil Rays and the Brewers.

Here is rooting for a Brewers/Devil Rays series. Bring on the scummy Red Sox and the scummy Yankees. Karma is a bitch.

Iraq: Five Years

Ron Suskind in a new book claims the CIA forged intelligence to get us into war (duh!), but this seems to be a confirmation of this. Suskind writes in "The Way of the World," to be published Tuesday, that the alleged forgery - adamantly denied by the White House - was designed to portray a false link between Hussein's regime and al Qaeda as a justification for the Iraq war.

The author also claims that the Bush administration had information from a top Iraqi intelligence official "that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq - intelligence they received in plenty of time to stop an invasion."

These three videos below of Iraq are disconcerting to say the least. The reporter, an Arabic reporter that appears to be British asks what has the surge accomplished and displays what life in Iraq is really like. It is unnerving to say the least. We should be embarrassed we lied our way into war and we have left human beings living like this and left with the memories of terror. We will be paying for this as long as I will be alive.

The Iraq dead and the toll on the Iraqis.

Iraqi children and the consequences of our war. When will this end?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Obama Plays the Race Card By Virtue of Being Black

It is nearly impossible for me to post like I/we used to and it is disheartening for us, but I wanted to comment on this weekend's events of the Presidential campaign. It has come to a crescendo of what the GOP strategy is and it should come as no surprise to me, but actually it does: RACISM. McCain has attacked (not surrogates) Obama repeatedly now about his race and when the Obama campaign responds, the McCain campaign says, "see they are playing the race card." It got so bad this weekend, my "subversive" friends and I would say (when we saw an Obama sign in a yard) see there they go again: playing the race card.

The strategy is for McCain's campaign to subtly play racism and when Obama talks about it claim Obama is the real racist. It is stunning and shocking and the fucking idiots in the mainstream media buy it. But not the very conservative (but not crazy) David Gergen. He explains what is happening very succinctly below. I did not see this entire clip, but this minute and a half is worth it.

This is the ad they are talking about. I think it is disgusting!