Archive for the 'That’s So Class-y' category

Competitive Farm Marketing

You cannot sleep in on Saturday and expect the black raspberries to sit around waiting for you to show up at the farmer's market. You just can't. They will have up and left you forlorn and bereft, as they jump quickly, even frantically, into the first reusable cloth bag or colorful wicker basket that strolls by.

The natural habitat of berries at a farmer's market is close to the pay station. It's no good standing around waiting politely for the line to shuffle along the table to the berries. Say "excuse me" if you must, but slip in between and grab some of those jumpy berries NOW, and return to the end of the line, holding on tightly. You will be ever so glad you did once you reach the pay station and survey the scorched landscape that was once a lush berry patch. Remain vigilant until you have paid for the berries and secured them in your reusable cloth bag/colorful wicker basket. Because when you set them down on the table to retrieve your wallet, so as to make an offering to the berry gods, 99% of the time the hand of the person behind you will instantly hover over your berries while they ask, in foolish hope and lust combined: "Are these yours?" Whatever you are in engaged in at the moment, stop and lay a hand possessively somewhere on the berries with a firm "Yes!" that brooks no sharing.

Secure the berries carefully in your vehicle, in a cooler if you can't park in the shade. Then, and only then, return to the market to shop for the more abundant comestibles, the zucchinis and cucumbers, the cabbages and carrots, the peppers and potatoes. These will make the bulk of your meals in the coming week but the berries will make your bliss.

In your childhood you watched cartoons on Saturday morning and then tramped the woods with your friends, collecting the berries in a bucket, eating as you went, returning home with stained hands and a pailful that your mother turned into something delicious. You only had to compete with the birds, and there was enough for everyone anyway. But you washed your hands, and grew up, and went away to college, and then to grad school, and then all over the place, and now you live a cosmopolitan life in a city that offers so much more than you ever could have dreamed of in your little home town. You can have anything you want, really. You can even have your berries and eat them, too.

Share

6 responses so far

You "Lean In" to Puke. You Organize For Change.

I have no problem with leaning in. Really I don't. If you are going to puke on someone's shoes, you had best lean in a little, lest the spatter hit your own glorious footwear.  And Zuskateers know that it's just sadly necessary to give someone a proper shoe-puking now and again, if only for the sake of our own mental health.

But if it's real, substantive change we're after, then we'd best be talking about organizing and collective action. In all cases, it is most heartily recommended that one know something of one's history. Our foremothers' struggles and triumphs are inspirational, to be sure, but they are also instructional.

Do not waste your time, energy, or cash enriching Sheryl Sandberg with her corporatized vision of a pseudo-feminism for individuals. Do not Lean In. Do read Susan Faludi's excellent critique of that whole hot mess situating it in history dating back to the Lowell "mill girls" in 1834. I must confess I did not know this:

The mill workers went on to agitate against an unjust system in all its forms. When Lowell’s state representative thwarted the women’s statewide battle for the ten-hour day, they mobilized and succeeded in having him voted out of office—nearly eighty years before women had the vote. Mill women in Lowell and, in the decades to come, their counterparts throughout New England threw themselves into the abolitionist movement (drawing connections between the cotton picked by slaves and the fabric they wove in the mills); campaigned for better health care, safer schools, decent housing, and cleaner water and streets; and joined the fight for women’s suffrage.

Now that is far more interesting than that Leaning In bla. If those women, in the 1800s, through collective action, could get a dudebro out of office without even having the vote, imagine what we could accomplish today with the vote. If only we organized. And worked together. And stopped thinking of success as something that individuals obtain, for their own self-interests.

 

Hat tip to @KMBTweets for the link to the Faludi article. Follow @KMBTweets on twitter. You will not be sorry!

Share

5 responses so far

Washington Trades and Labor Building

A few weeks ago I was in Washington, Pa - or what everyone in southwestern Pa refers to as "Little Washington". I've been there on numerous occasions but this was the first time I'd seen this building.

Washington Trades and Labor Building, Washington, PA

 

This is a closer view of the entrance.

Washington Trades and Labor Building entrance

 

The building now houses the Newman Center for Washington & Jefferson College on its second floor.

What had originally caught my eye, and led me to want to investigate more closely, was the stone slab on the lower left of the building front.

Inscribed stone slab on the front of Washington Trades and Labor Building

 

The inscription reads:

This granite is dedicated in memory of our brothers and sisters of Washington and Greene Counties who paid the ultimate price for employment many of which due solely to corporate greed and employer indifference to safety.

"Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living" Mary Harris 'Mother' Jones

"The present age handed over the workers, each alone and defenseless, to the unbridled greed of competitors...so that a very few and exceedingly rich men had laid a yoke of almost slavery on the unnumbered masses of non-owning workers." Pope Leo XIII

It's difficult to describe how I felt when I read that. It was breathtaking to see such strong words chiseled in granite right there out in the open for everyone to see - right here in the age of Scott Walker and Mitt Romney.  It's not some very old monument either - it was dedicated in 2001.  I haven't been able to find any information about the building or the granite marker.  If anyone knows anything about either, I'd appreciate it if you'd leave a comment.

If the Republicans have their way, we'll be right back in the world these quotes describe - indeed we're heading there.  It is so discouraging to a child of a UMWA man, to see how beaten down unions are in the U.S. today.

 

Share

2 responses so far

Personal Care Robots Are The Last Thing We Need

I just heard a story on NPR's All Things Considered that made me want to rip my hair out.  Personal robots!  You know you want one!  You don't need one, but that doesn't matter.  They will be made, you will learn to want them, and you'll be getting them and upgrading them just like your smart phone or iPad.  (Side note: If anyone can explain to me why the new robot thingies always have to be called "Rosie" I will be grateful.  Don't blame it on the Jetsons.  Where did the Jetsons come up with Rosie? Is it all just to mock the real Rosies, the riveters of WWII?)

We don't need robots to walk our dogs or wash our windows.  We don't need them to "fold towels, help elderly and disabled people with home care, and even fetch a beer".  For one thing, there's plenty enough beer-fetching going on in America's households as it is.  For another, if you can't be bothered to walk you own dog, or pay another human to do it for you when you are too busy, you shouldn't have a dog.  Robot dog walkers just take away one more job from young people.

But what REALLY hacks me off is the idea of robots designed to help the elderly and disabled with home care.  What the elderly and disabled need is more contact with other human beings, not less.  They don't need to be even more isolated in their homes than they already are.  They need people they can talk to and interact with and tell their stories to.  We need to pay decent living wages for this kind of care, to value it for the real importance it actually has, not sluff it off on the fantasy product of robotics researchers.

In any case, that bla bla about robots helping the elderly and disabled is just robotics engineers blowing smoke up your ass to keep their projects running.  Do you think something that currently costs $400,000 to build is being designed to help one of the most despised and neglected segments of our population? Where else is money and effort on this scale being poured into improving the lives of the elderly and the disabled?

Robots are going to be a hip thing for the youth culture, just like smart phones and iPads.  Things you could live without but are so cool to have, things that are always being upgraded.  Things that are costly.  The elderly and disabled, by and large, don't have extra cash to lay out on costly toys.  They aren't going to buy dog-walking, beer-fetching robots.

Redesigning existing home stock to be universally accessible, or making sure your local government buildings and restaurants really are accessible as they claim to be, or lobbying for better care for returning disabled veterans - none of this sounds as sexy as beer-toting personal robots, I am sure.  But all of it would be a a helluva lot more useful than one more fancy toy for your neighbor to envy.

Share

14 responses so far

The More Things Change...

Got my Jan-Feb 2012 issue of the UMWA Journal recently and read this on page 2:

UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL

The time has come when all members of the working class must sink their petty differences and personal political opinions, and take a united and definite position. The great danger is… the capitalist class will, by means of their entrenched power in government, judiciary, the public press and financial organizations…obtain such a hold upon society that the work of redemption will be frustrated for generations to come. While the working class divide their energies and divide political parties…the capitalist class will move solidly along [its] well-defined purpose.

That's pretty much what I've been thinking lately.  I think that's at least part of what the "We are the 99%" protests have been trying to convey.

Depressingly enough, it appeared in the UMW Journal 100 years ago, on January 18, 1912. I think of all that my grandfathers struggled and fought for, and how much of it has been taken away from us.  Even the eight-hour day, which organized labor won as a right through years of difficult, dangerous, and deadly strikes and protests, is all but gone.

Let's say you work at a university or a company.  You have your "hourly wage" employees and your "salaried" employees.  Everybody knows it's much better to be a salaried employee, right?  More money, better career track, better benefits (well...as long as you can hang on to them),  and the cachet of being salaried.  No wage slave are you!  No mucking about with unions for your highly educated and trained self!  Unions are for the lower class of employees, the lesser skilled, the less important, the interchangeable parts.  You are a unique individual and you don't need a union to represent you!  You represent yourself!  You are your own brand! Just look at your web page!  People follow you on Twitter!  [Follow me @TSZuska ! For realz!] You aren't one of those nine-to-fivers who work just to live, you live for your work.  Every now and then you'll agree that a St. K3rn takes it a bit too far, but really, you've got to put in the long hours to get results and you need to show you are dedicated researcher/company person.  You're online, tuned in, available 24/7; work comes home with you, and you live with your work.  In 1848 French workers won a 12-hour workday. There are PIs today who would question those French workers' dedication.  Only 12 hours? "Science doesn't stop at 5 on Fridays," as my master's thesis advisor said.

But what good would a union do?  Science/industry/God demands the sacrifice of your time and no progress can be made without it.  However will the coal mines operate if we don't have the tiny hands of children to pick the slate out of the coal at the breakers? The main point is that you are an individual and you are going to make it to the top.  Remember, we don't talk about haves and have-nots in this country.  We speak of haves, and soon-to-haves.

 

Fifty years ago, Rep. Elmer Holland (D.-PA) was quoted in the pages of the February 1, 1962 UMW Journal as follows:

It’s all too easy to dream up reasons why the labor movement should be shackled even more. And if the labor movement is not alert that is precisely what will happen.

If you don't believe Elmer Holland, you just go ask Scott Walker and the Koch brothers!

Twenty-five years ago, UMWA members were being urged to buy American-made goods, even if they cost more, and to complain to stores if they could not find what they wanted made in America.  But WalMart is so cheap!  And now that our unions have been crushed, our wages curtailed, our benefits taken away, and job security just some vague dream we once heard about, who can afford to "buy American"?  If, indeed, there's anything left made in America after the orgy of right-sizing and down-sizing and out-sourcing moved most of our manufacturing base elsewhere.

The Philadelphia Inquirer business section yesterday explained how Dansko would love to move all its manufacturing back into the U.S.  The main reason it can't is not wages.

Even if the company were to offer U.S. workers wages similar to what it pays in Italy - $18 to $20 an hour - its founders say there would remain the fundamental issue of where to find people with the expertise, or the desire, to take those jobs, given how shoemaking as an industry has been decimated.

"It's really about there's no knowledge - no knowledge, no support structure," Kjellerup said. "Because if you had that, I think America could be competitive in manufacturing."

And so we have the conundrum of a company that would like to pay good wages to make its product in America, but can't, thanks to decades of outsourcing.

Share

3 responses so far

The Working Mom Issue: It Depends

I recently lost my mind completely and went on the twitters.  Due to my folly, I caught a link from @DoubleXSci to this article at the LA Times about the science of being a working mother: The MD: What Science Says About Working Moms, and What the Heart Says.  I have read a skajillion of these kinds of articles in my lifetime.  This one tells us no worries!  Go on and be a working mom!

Searching for more definitive answers, researchers at UC Irvine combined the results of 69 different studies on the topic. Their findings, published by the American Psychological Assn. in 2010, were reassuring. With few exceptions, children whose mothers returned to work when they were young fared just as well as those with stay-at-home moms.

"The only negative effects were found with very intensive, full-time employment early on," says Wendy Goldberg, a professor in the department of psychology and social behavior at UC Irvine. "We have to look at other factors that affect child achievement and behavior. Maternal work isn't the whole story by any means."

I firmly believe that if decent childcare is readily available, no one's going to be seriously damaged if mommy goes back to work whenever she wants.  Daddy goes back to work on day 1 and somehow kids survive.  We rarely think about the consequences of that separation at birth, do we?

But two lines in the above quote get me.  "The only negative effects were found with very intensive, full time employment early on" and "Maternal work isn't the whole story by any means."  I would think not.  I would guess that whether or not you call your work a "career" and whether or not your work pays enough to keep you and your kid(s) from starving are two big, related factors, that might also tie into that intensive, full-time employment early on biz.  You might call what I am picking at here "class issues".

Here are some stereotypes we know and love:

1.  Welfare queens who just keep having babies so they can get a bigger check and stay home and not have to work.

2.  Hardworking middle class people who do their part and don't want to see their taxes go to support someone else.

3.  Women in science who have babies don't work as hard and want special treatment and extra credit for lesser quality work.

Take note that in theory, women are also included in "hardworking middle class people" but in practice deployment of the statement invokes an ideal of a nuclear family with hardworking man supporting wife and kids at home.  So, we can now start putting together rules for being a woman with kids:

If you are poor, you should not have kids, because then you will need the government to support you, and that is unfair to hardworking middle class people who do their part.  If you are poor and work, you can have kids, but don't expect childcare because again, that would be unfair to the hardworking middle class.  If you are poor and work and your kids are endangered because your part-time WalMart wages won't pay for adequate childcare, they will be taken from you because you are a bad mother. Also, try not to get sick, because health insurance? Ha!

If you are middle class, congratulations!  You have a hardworking husband who will take care of you and the kids, and of course you will probably want to homeschool the kids.  If your husband's salary is inadequate to support this lifestyle, he is not hardworking enough.  You may have to get a job to help out, but don't expect childcare.  That would be unfair to other hardworking middle class people.  Keep your fingers crossed that hubby does not die or divorce you. You may have insurance, but it may be mostly useless so again, try not to get sick.

If you are one of those career women, you should not be having children at all, just to pay someone else to raise them.  If you really want to have children, then you can't devote yourself to your career anyway.  So why hurt both your children and yourself?  Besides, if you have children, no one will take your work seriously.  Even if you get married and don't have children, people will be wondering if you might not just pop out a kid at any moment, confirming their suspicions that you are not serious.  Probably best to stay single.  Then they will just gossip about how you are an ice queen and frigid and a bull dyke and lesbian and ball-breaker and not a normal woman and need a good fucking and who would want to fuck you anyway.  It's not too late to think about becoming a nurse, or teacher, or even an executive assistant.  Then you can look for a nice man, settle down into a middle class lifestyle, and have some kids.  Try not to be poor, and try not to get sick.

If you are one of those career women who runs a company, you can do pretty much whatever you want because you will have lots of money and you own a company.  Not that it will be easy or that you will be universally loved or respected for it.  Just sayin', money=choice.

If you are one of those career women who wants to go into politics, you had better have children, and be prepared at all times to talk about (1) how important being a good mother is to you and how you have always arranged your schedule to be there for your children when they need you and (2) how having children will in no way ever impact on your ability to function as [fill in public office here] in even the slightest manner.

I think that mostly covers it.  Good luck!  Anyone with additional advice on how to be a woman with children, please leave a note in the comments!

Share

11 responses so far

No Modesty Left At All

People keep saying the dead-tree format is over and done with but you can still learn so much from reading the newspaper.  Take for example this (for once) sensible editorial I chanced upon yesterday in the radical left-leaning Philadelphia Inquirer.  If you are "poor", ask yourself:  WWJD?  Be prepared to shape up in a hurry because He'd tell you something like this:

Our Lord Jesus: Are you a tween working 60 hours a week sticking things on pots while rats gnaw at you, just so you can get your dad out of debtor's prison?  No?  What you are is lounging about in your air-conditioned paradise with your cable tv, maybe even going to the public library and using the computer to get on the Internet there, and you're whinging away because you're "hungry".  If you're so hungry, why are you so fat?  Riddle me that one, Batman!  Your school (though I wouldn't let my kids go there) is free (for now, till we institute the voucher system) and your government pays for "much" of the tab of state and community colleges (if by "much" we include "ever decreasing amounts").  Why are you so dumb?  You can be as "poor" as you want and we won't even put you in debtor's prison!

 

You see, being poor used to be about really suffering in a hideous manner unto death. If the impoverished people are fat, have cars, and aren't in jail, the system is working pretty good for them.  But give the "poor" a little and they still aren't satisfied.  It's not enough to be a wage slave in a rat-free environment.**  They want equal opportunities, too!  But the whole point of success is to give your children unusually good opportunities. But no, the "poor" want to make it about the size of the gap, claiming that if the rich get richer, the poor should too.  That's just crazy talk!

Myself, I say it's time we solved this "poverty" problem, such as it is, once and for all.  Modesty will not serve; let us be bold in our proposals.  What few poor we do have should be fed an all organic, no hormones or antibiotics diet for three months to cleanse their systems, then humanely slaughtered on-site in old style, non-industrial abattoirs. We should not limit ourselves to just the more obvious, meatier cuts but strive for a whole human, nose to foot approach.  Many parts of the poor will pair well with a good pinot noir, and there is nothing like poor heart - tender, amazing, not funky like liver, and poor trotters make great tacos.  Even if it weren't respectful to the poor to practice nose-to-foot eating, the ecological benefits alone make it a wise choice for the environmentally conscious eater -- feeding multiple mouths with one whole animal and all its edible parts is much more efficient and less tolling on our environment than processing multiple animals to feed only a few mouths, which is what we do when limiting ourselves to eating only a single part.  You know, like chicken nuggets.  Which I hear, make the "poor" so fat, but also our wallets, so what are you going to do.

 

**Well, I did hear today about a transport authority worker stuck in a booth all day who has to dodge rats running around his feet so, technically, I guess we haven't quite achieved "wage slave in a rat-free environment" yet.  So close!

Share

10 responses so far

Hunger Relief vs. Poverty Relief: I Vote For More of Both

Last Saturday I came home from the farmer's market, made mega-veggie eggs for me and Mr. Z, and blogged about it.  Zuskateer Kea commented

All very well if you can afford it.

And she's right.  I am extremely fortunate both to be able to afford nutritious fresh produce, and to have good sources of it readily available to me. In parts of Philadelphia with high poverty rates, there are no grocery stores at all, and corner bodega shops may carry little or no fresh produce.  A recent series of articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer about efforts to support community gardens and teach young children about gardening and good eating habits revealed that many young kids in the city don't even know what fresh fruits and vegetables look like, and can't identify them by name when they are shown them.  This is an abominable situation.  Our young children, and the parents struggling to raise them, deserve better. Continue Reading »

Share

26 responses so far

Remembrance of Pies Past

Last year for the first time I made a shepherd's pie, in time for Pi Day, but inexplicably did not blog it. Onion, carrots, chunks of lamb meat in a savory filling, topped with mashed potatoes and sprinkled with cheese, then run under the broiler.  We dined with pleasure, and were sated.

Shepherd's Pie, One Year Ago

 

I love good pie, but alas, must purchase it or start with frozen crust. I cannot make a crust.

I love also the oblong pie that sits on a shelf in a wrapper,  Hostess Fruit Pies. Last week I searched but could not find them in my local supermarket - most likely because they are low class and my aspirational supermarket won't go slumming.  Years ago, when we were too stupid to know how low class we were, my mother packed these in my father's dinner bucket.  Something sweet at the end of a meal taken in the dark of a coal seam.  Sometimes he didn't eat everything in his bucket, or drink all the water in the bottom.  When the dinner pail came home, the leftovers that had journeyed to the underworld and back seemed especially desirable to we children - the water, more tasty, more thirst-quenching than nectar; the bit of sandwich or fruit pie, more savory than a feast. An unwrapped fruit pie was often saved for the next day's bucket; but once in awhile, we were permitted to devour it.

After I wrote that last sentence, I searched on google for "coal miner's bucket" and found this, where you can see great pictures and learn a little about a coal miner's life.  And there, I also read this:

I used to love to get anything my dad brought home in his bucket. It always seemed to taste better after it had been in there.

This gave me an odd and comforting happiness.

Hostess may have served my father's  dark world pie needs, but in the land of sunlight, it was my mother's coconut cream pie he loved.  We talked of pie today, and she told me how she made her own crust, and her own meringue, but used boxed vanilla pudding for the filling, adding a handful of coconut to it before putting it in the shell.  Back then, this was not instant pudding; it required some cooking.   I can remember my mother's meringues, picture them in my mind's eye; they were wonderful.  She made them from scratch, from egg whites; I cannot make crust, let alone meringue.

How did Daddy come to love coconut cream pie, I asked, did he always like it, or did you make it and he came to like yours?  Oh, I guess I just made it, and he started eating it, and that was the one he liked best.  I always made it for him on his birthday, he never had a cake, just the coconut cream pie.  My mother, when she made it, she made it all - the crust, the meringue, the filling.  I don't know how she did, cooked that pudding, how she made that.  I never was great with crust, mine came out okay.  Betty was the one who could make crust, so light and flaky!  Now, I heard somewhere where you could make crust with lard instead of Crisco, but where are you going to get lard today? I'd like to make one of those pies again.  Maybe when you are here and we are at the house.

If that could be, that would be the best pie day ever.

Share

13 responses so far

Where We're All Heading in Scott Walker's Handbasket

Now indeed is the winter of our labor discontent.

Scott Walker, you'll recall, is the Rethuglican who has creatively called his union-busting scheme a "budget repair" bill.  Once we've finished stripping workers of all their rights - collective bargaining is just the first step! there's so much more that can be taken away once the collective bargaining is gone! - we can bring back many useful practices from the good ol' days.  The history of Blair Mountain is instructive in this regard.  Maybe you'll want to go visit Blair Mountain, and see the historical marker, but I'd do it now if I were you, before Mr. Peabody rips it off the face of the earth to get at the coal underneath.

Two years ago, Blair Mountain was entered into the National Register of Historic Places. And then, just a few months later, it was taken off by state officials.

Lawyers hired by West Virginia's largest coal companies came up with a list of landowners who, they said, objected to the designation.

"There's apparently a lot of money to be made by blowing this mountain up and taking all the coal out from it," labor historian Gordon Simmons says, referring to mountaintop removal.

Fuck you, coal companies. Isn't it enough that your predecessors had a hired army of goons and federal troops dispatched by the president to keep coal miners from forming a union?  Now you want to literally erase the history from the face of the earth? Fuck. You.

Well, Scott Walker's not calling in the troops yet on the citizens of Wisconsin. I'm sure that's just crazy to even imagine.  Why, people have the right to collective bargaining!  Oh wait, he's taking that away.  Well, they have the right to be in a union!  Oh wait, he's trying to make it really, really, really hard for there to be a union at all, what with the yearly votes for the union to exist, and the optional dues, and the fact that once your union can't bargain, and pay raises are strictly limited, you're going to wonder why you should pay dues or be in the union at all. You might as well join the Elks and spent your union dues on beer; at least you'll get drunk for your money.

So once the union is gone, and the plutocrats can pay us whatever they deem we are worth, and fire us whenever they feel like it, and take away our benefits on a whim - oh wait, you're saying, that's my life now?  Because you're not in a union.  Have you grumbled about unions in the past?  A union exists to protect you from all that.  But they talked you into thinking that the union was making your life hell, not the top 400 of them who hold more cash, stocks, and land than  the bottom 155 million of us combinedCrabs in a barrel, they wanted to make us, and it mostly worked.

Anyway, as I was saying, once they've taken us back to the point where we have as many rights as those coal miners at Blair Mountain (maybe they'll start paying us in scrip again!), they can imprison us even faster than they do now.    Pennsylvania's prison population has grown 500% in the last 30 years - that's a promising industry!  A caller to Marty Moss-Coane's radio show this morning suggested that prisoners be placed 3 to a cell, but only two of them in the cell at any given time; one would always be out working an eight hour shift.  Put the prisoners to work!  Well, at least they'd have an eight hour day, if not a five-day work week.  But why be limited by the arbitrary eight-hour day? We could pack them four to a cell and take out two at a time for 12-hour shifts.  It's not like they have a union or anything.

Yeah, where did you think your eight-hour day and five-day work week came from?  Oh, you say, not me, I'm a professional, I'm a scientist, I'm a grad student/postdoc/professor, and I work long hours.  I'm k3rntastic!  Science demands no less, I work for the love of it, I work long hours because if I don't someone else will step right into my place and work just as hard and take my job. Oh crap, that last one sounds just exactly like what the coal miners used to say before they got themselves organized and formed a union.  You know what?  Coal miners are professionals too, and take pride in their work, and love what they do, too.  They like having a union that regulates working conditions, and says if you work overtime you get time and a half.  What do policies like that do?  They create more jobs, and make employers think twice about overworking the employees they do have, because it costs more.  Oh, unions won't work for science. Science is so different!  Believe me, baby, if you wanted a union bad enough, you'd find a way to make it work.

Listen up:  Philip Dray, author of There Is Power In A Union: The Epic Story Of Labor In America, will be on Fresh Air this afternoon, to put the Wisconsin union battle in a historical context. Listen live at 3 pm or audio available online after 5 pm.  Read the little blurb about the show - it's fascinating.  Here's the piece that was a real shocker even for me.

[quoting Dray]: Every city in America has these large brick armories in the city. I used to think they were there for soldiers to gather to go abroad but those were built in an era when authorities wanted a place where soldiers could gather to bring down local labor unrest.

Yeah, they didn't teach me any of this history in school.  Certainly not in the coal patch public schools. They did not tell me how the tax dollars of our forebears went to constructing buildings for the express purpose of gathering troops to suppress the formation of unions by those same forebears.  Well, not the tax dollars of the Blair Mountain coal miners, per se.  They were paid in scrip, which could only be spent at the company store.

If you have a few extra dollars in your pocket this month, consider donating to a union to help fund organizing struggles, general strike funds, etc.  You can become an associate member of the United Mine Workers of America for $5 a month.  Write to your congressperson and insist that Blair Mountain be placed on National Register of Historic Places, not ripped apart by coal companies.  Speak up when someone is union bashing and say you wish everyone had the kinds of benefits and job security that a union can negotiate for its members.  Don't be a crab in the barrel that the plutocrats and Rethuglicans are constructing for us all.

My grandparents lived through the union-organizing hell of the past.  Let's not go back there in Governor Walker's handbasket.

Share

9 responses so far

Park Granny In The Backyard - In A Granny Pod!

When your parents or another beloved relative starts getting to that point where they really shouldn't be all alone at home away from family, but they aren't quite ready for a nursing home or even assisted living, what do you do?  Many people choose to have elderly family members move in with them but this is not always a good or even workable option.  Maybe you don't have the space.  Maybe you do, but you and the elderly relatives really value your privacy and sense of independent living space. You'd like to be close-er, just not on top of each other. Z-Mom has said to me a zillion times, "I don't want to live with one of my children.  That's not good for the marriage."

What to do?  Well, we already make use of U-Store-It places for all our extra stuff that just doesn't fit in the house.  Take that concept, bring it into the back yard, add some electricity, running water, and monitoring systems, and you've got Granny Pods!

Seriously.  Developed by Rev. Kenneth Dupin in Virginia and more properly called the MEDcottage, it fits in your backyard, assuming your backyard is big enough.  And that you've got one.  And can afford it. Tiny House Blog has a nice cutaway schematic of the layout, and a link to a longer WaPo article.  Interesting comment thread on the THB post.  Apparently these would rent for $2k per month which is less than many assisted living homes.  The design presented here may not be the optimal one (see the comment thread at THB for criticisms) but this does present an alternative for our aging population.  Not everyone who owns a house can or would want to redo it for elderly living, or buy a house with an in-law suite.  The pod solution is temporary, available for the time needed, and then removed when the elderly person passes on or moves to nursing care.  Clearly this is a solution for suburban/rural lifestyles, and will not help people in the cities with aging relatives.  Or anybody whose problem is fundamentally one of scarce resources to begin with.

You know, looking at the Granny Pod, I'm thinking, why not just get a nice piece of land suitable for gardening and plunk down a Granny Pod on it.  Then I can age in place quite nicely. I don't know where all the books and Mr. Z's music and taper gear would go.  Maybe we could get an Arts & Humanities Pod Annex next door.

I'm filing this one under both Geekalicious AND Technology Gone Bad because I'm just not sure yet...it's still an individualized solution to a societal issue.

UPDATE:  Ha.  Now that I've had a chance to read the WaPo article I see that snooty-ass Fairfax County (VA) Supervisor Jeff C. McKay (D-Lee) feels the MEDcottages are okay for them rural folk who don't have any standards, but not for us fine city folk with all our zoning and whatnot.  Appearances must be kept up.  Off to the nursing home, Granny!!!!

Share

8 responses so far

What's So Great About Your STEMmy Lifestyle Anyway? Inquiring Minds Want To Know!

Why should any woman get any degree in a STEM discipline? Especially if she has to wade through tons of bullshit courses to get there, and part of the learning, it appears, has to do with learning how to be someone you aren't? Some other gender, some other race - or some other social class?
skeptifem challenges the female STEM universe thus:

Continue Reading »

Share

54 responses so far

Why Are You So Angry?

Thegoodman really, really wants to know.

If you do not consider yourself a failure, that is great. Why then are you so angry about this situation? If it has worked out well for you, what is driving your passionate hatred for our patriarch society?
Like many gender discussions/arguments, your approach has made me feel guilty for being a man. This doesn't accomplish anything positive since I soon get defensive because I cannot help it that I am a man and I shouldn't feel guilty about just as you shouldn't feel guilty for being a woman.

This is hilarious in so many ways. Let's recap. I explained how petulant whiny white d00ds make the same boring complaint over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, believing themselves to be the first clever souls ever to have come up with it, and then listed several calm responses I often used, each of which, even the pissy one, were intended to engage the petulant whiners in some reflective thinking. Then I described what was going on in my mind while I was spoon-feeding Diversity 101 to the petulant whiners, even though we all know I never allowed myself to say any of those angry thoughts out loud. Because part of my job was, in fact, the spoon-feeding. We may debate whether the spoon-feeding does much good at all, but in any case, I was paid to spoon-feed.
So, my dear Zuskateers. While I've been away, occupied with allergies, migraines, and the Morris Arboretum plant sale, you have apparently taken on Zuska's Outreach Project for D00dly D00ds. I stand in amazement at your handiwork. Through over 250 comments now you have explained, reasoned, provided links, illustrated points, discussed. And Thegoodman, who has trotted out every tired douchey trope we've all encountered eighty bazillion times before he showed his sorry self on this blog, is puzzled by the presence of anger. Oh, he occasionally will acknowledge that you are passionate about this subject, in a most condescending fashion - it's a sweet way of saying "I see you are all emotional about this, and so I can't expect you to be rational, or draw upon facts, the way I do, but that's okay, I excuse you, and admire your feminine passion." Calling what he's seeing "passion" has two effects: it dismisses the arguments being made as non-logical, non-intellectual, and it downgrades the seething anger many of us are carrying around from dealing with douchey d00ds all our lives to just a quaint little "passion", something sweetly feminine.
I have news for you, Thegoodman. I am not passionate about discrimination and inequity. I am fucking angry.
So many things in that epic thread caught my attention but I'll just focus on a few things here.

Continue Reading »

Share

262 responses so far

Let Them Eat...Whatever's In These Dented Cans From The Back Of My Pantry

Feb 15 2010 Published by under Outrage of the Week, That's So Class-y

Don't you just love food palaces? Round these parts in Philly, we have several new Wegmans stores to choose from, and of course Whole Foods. A new Whole Foods opened not far from where I live that includes a little bar - you can have a beer or glass of wine and a little something to eat if you find the experience of shopping for your whole foods wholly exhausting and need to partake of serious refreshment. The big chain grocery stores have even stepped up their games to stay in competition. In downtown Philly, there is Di Bruno Brothers, a gourmand's shopping paradise, not to mention Reading Terminal Market, the Italian Market, and who knows how many other little gourmet shops throughout Philadelphia and the surrounding environs.
When you're pushing a cart around at, say, Wegmans - or any other food palace - loading up the goodies, and finally wheeling your way to the checkout, you probably aren't thinking to yourself, "where do those employees shop for their food?" At least one Wegmans employee in this area, it turns out, shops at a local food bank.
The food bank in question, The Lord's Pantry in Downingtown, has won honors and praise for its operation. Unlike many pantries that just hand people a bag of food, people who come to the Lord's Pantry can come in, look around, shop and choose what they need and want. It is a place with dignity. And they help people figure out what other benefits and assistance they might be eligible for, and how to apply for it. Here's some frightening data from the article:

In 2006, the Lord's Pantry served just 1,200 people; in 2009, 15,336. Last month, an all-time high of 60 families showed up on a single day. To be eligible, a family of four can earn up to $33,075 a year, individuals $16,245.

It should be noted that the food pantry is located in a upscale community where the median income is $82,979.
The day after this article appeared in my paper, another ran explaining how anger against the poor was on the rise, and how the percentage of people who think the poor have become "too dependent" on government assistance has increased from 69% to 72% in the last few years. This has happened, mind you, at the same time that my state legislature is cutting aid to the poorest elderly and disabled.

A previously undisclosed detail of Pennsylvania's brutal budget deal calls for slashing the state's already modest $27 to $42 monthly SSI supplement by 20 percent to 25 percent. Individuals will lose $5 a month, couples $10.

How much does it cost to take paratransit to a grocery store, to buy the groceries you can't afford? Why, $10. Please remember these cuts are being proposed for people who are getting about $600 a month. I invite you to make out your monthly budget with that figure. No, wait, make that $590. Because we do not want you becoming too dependent upon government assistance.
I know in these past few weeks that everyone has been emptying their pocketbooks for the disaster in Haiti and surely the need is great there. It is great to see the outpouring of support and sympathy. Hopefully we can channel a little of that love and sympathy for the needy right next door - sometimes literally - too, and stop blaming them for their need. A lot of those people using The Lord's Pantry in Downingtown used to donate to it not so long ago.
I like to give to Philabundance. I like that their vision of hunger relief includes fresh produce and dignity, not dented expired mystery cans from the back of someone's pantry. I am grateful I have some extra to share.

And yet even the have-nots recognize that others may be worse off.
"If we're having a good month, I don't come," Borden says. "I leave it for someone else who needs it."

If only the "haves" in the state legislature had half as much empathy and sense.

Share

Comments are off for this post

Eat Your Soup! If You Can...

Jan 24 2010 Published by under Tales From The Coal Patch, That's So Class-y

This is a story about making chicken soup completely from scratch, with local, organic ingredients, and starting with the carcass of a roasted chicken. The soup was very, very good, and looked like this:
soup.jpg
The chicken in question came from Pikeland Pastured Poultry. All the vegetables in the soup came from Landisdale Farm.
But the chicken had to do a little traveling before its bones came to rest in my soup pot.

Continue Reading »

Share

Comments are off for this post

Older posts »