Monday, March 28, 2011

DID YOU HEAR ABOUT ISRAEL'S "DAY OF RAGE"?

Lloyd Agte

(The United States policy in regard to Israel has always been pretty straight-forward:  Anything they do to “protect” their state is just fine with us.  Well, to many of us some of those actions need to be reviewed as to their long-term effect on the broader Middle East policy.  In this article Lloyd addresses one of the most recent Israeli actions.)

Don't feel bad, I had not heard about it either.  Only by stumbling onto it on the American Aljazeera web site did I happen to catch it.  In this turbulent time when much of the Mid East is in protest and flux, this is probably the best single source of news.  If you presume it does not give an objective account of what is happening, then that presumption is called "prejudice," that is, to pre-judge.  So I recommend you go on the site and judge for yourself and share your opinion on this blog.

But as to the "'Day of Rage' Poured Wrath on Palestinians," here is the link:   The "day of rage," as Mel Frykberg explains it began last Thursday in reaction to the March 11 knife killings of an Israeli settler family--parents and three children--near Nablus, in an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank.  I'm sure you all heard about that as it was on every news program I heard on TV and NPR for two or three days or so. But the settler's rage was also directed at the Israeli government because they had torn down some illegal structures on one illegal settlement. As reported by Ha'aretz these were tents and tin shacks (there are an estimated 100 such "illegal-illegal" settlements in the West Bank). That is, this settlement was in an area where the government had not authorized any building--thus, an illegal-illegal settlement (illegal to Israel and to the UN), as opposed to a legal-illegal settlement (legal to Israel but not to the UN).

Though there were no suspects, and some said that the killers could have been Thai laborers involved in a pay dispute, the settlers nevertheless went on a rage against Palestinians for the duration of the week when "day of rage" was to take place across the Arab world.  Settlers burned tires in the street and blocked traffic in Nablus, pedestrians were attacked with stones and Molotov cocktails, a house was firebombed in a nearby village, and on Monday, 3/21, a Palestinian was stabbed by settlers, a shop was burned and settlers stoned cars in Hebron and ran over a five-year-old boy, giving him minor injuries. On Sunday, 3/20, an 11-year-old Palestinian girl was run over while walking to school.  Jewish settlers with machine guns accompanied by the IDF tore up hundreds of olive trees planted by Palestinian farmers near Bethlehem.

Why did they do this?  The reasoning is so unbelievable that it is necessary to quote some lines from the report by Mel Frykberg in their entirety to prevent the reader from thinking the Israeli response is being distorted:

"The government must understand that it doesn't pay to destroy our homes and we are going to make them regret what happened here," said Rabbi Meir Goldmintz, who teaches at West Bank seminary.

"We are going to pay them (Palestinians) a visit to do what the Israeli government should be doing to them and not to us," he said pointing at nearby Palestinian villages. So if you are angry with your government for enforcing its laws, abuse, terrorize, and destroy property of the Palestinians.  Is this sick logic or what?

 But wait, there's more.  In response to and as punishment for the killings, the Israeli government authorized the building of 500 new settlement houses.  And the icing on the cake is that, according to a report in Ha'aretz, the previously ruled illegal settlements would now be legalized.  Meanwhile the Israeli government is setting about in earnest demolishing "illegal" Palestinian homes, which means that after the Israelis have demolished a Palestinian home (70 so far just this year--and it's only March), the Palestinian has to get a permit to build a new one and the Israelis make it next to impossible to get a permit.  So the homeowner has no choice but to build one without a permit.

Is it coincidental that this illegal land seizure and Israeli State-sanctioned terrorism against the Palestinian people is taking place now?  Probably not.   With the "breaking news" in the U.S. obsessed with radiation in Japan, uprisings in the Arab world, and a heated political wrangling taking place over the cost of 175 Hellfire missiles fired at Libya, the Israeli atrocities are able to sneak under the radar.  (Not that most of their atrocities against the Palestinians don't do that anyway, even in times of no news.) Then after the "fog of war" clears there are new "facts on the ground" in Israel--new houses built, Palestinian homes and land and wells destroyed--and hey, Americans are interested in the Future, forget about the past. 
  

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Those Republicans Just Keep On Making Me Laugh!


By Dan Perin

If it weren’t so darn serious, I would have a break down laughing at the Republican crazies out there.  To name just a couple of highlights:

Andrew Brietbart thinks Sarah Palin is “too big” to be President.  Quoted from Chris Good, an associate editor at The Atlantic.

 "I think the presidency is beneath her. There's more power in being Oprah Winfrey than in being Barack Obama. It would be my goal for Palin to become Oprah and be the ultimate kingmaker for twenty-odd years. Oprah anointed Barack Obama."
  
Michele Bachmann (Or here: http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-05-04/rep-michele-bachmannrsquos-wackiest-moments/) has formed an exploratory committee suggesting a run for the presidency in 2012.  (From the Daily Kos.)  This is the woman who didn’t know that the “shot heard round the world,” referring to the start of the American Revolution, was not fired in New Hampshire, but in Massachusetts.  This is but one of her many gaffs when attempting to talk about the history or Constitution of the United States.

The Daily Show offered its best gotcha-media perspective on Republicans' criticism of Obama's actions in Libya. Just a few weeks ago, prominent GOPers like John McCain and John Bolton insisted that a no-fly zone would be the best action the United States could take in the warring North African nation. When Obama committed to the no-fly zone with U.N. support, the same camp was quick to scold the President for his lack of leadership in gathering support for a no-fly zone.

Like I said, if it wasn’t so serious I’d be laughing.  But I am NOT laughing.  I think it is just about time to send the Republican Party to Exile Island where they fight the Dodo Bird to see who gets to be restored to the world.   I’m betting on the Dodo Bird!

Just saying . . .

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The First Time I Met Dan Perin

 By Lloyd Agte

In the Backwash of the '60s.

Mysterious forces seem to be at work in the connecting up of two personalities. Such was the case of my connection with Dan Perin, the founder and chief organizer of The Whole Life Learning Center in Denver at the time.  We met at a Humanistic Psychology conference in Littleton, a northern suburb of Denver, in 1974, if memory serves correctly.  I was an instructor at Casper College at the time, in English, and my wife had recently gotten a job in Casper as a social worker.  She had learned of the Humanistic Psychology conference, which, it turned out, was an organization of people in the helping and mental professions who had been infected with the liberating New Age radical experiments in living and self-help medicine and the happy harvest of the explosion of radical thinking concepts that arose from the social revolutions of the1960s. 
As it turned out, I was totally ripe for the New Age thinking that the conference participants were putting forth, a partial explanation of which follows.

Stress is Stress: PTSD

Dial forward some sixteen years later.  It is May of 1990, in a meet-up with my estranged wife (separated but not legally) at Kent State University for a gathering of old radicals who had been involved in anti-war politics before and after the murder of four students by the Ohio National Guard at an anti-war rally on the Kent State Campus, on May 4, 1970.  I said to her that I thought I had been suffering for years from PTS, Post Traumatic Stress, and that probably many of us in the anti-war movement were also.  (This was before the "D" got tacked on the end of the acronym for "Disorder," so now it's PTSD.)  She thought my pronouncement silly at the time, but a few weeks later in a telephone conversation, she said that she thought I was right. But Isn't PTS(D) "owned" by combat soldiers, you might ask?  And why would I say I had such a thing?

Dial back to the fall of 1973, after I had started my job as Instructor at Casper College, a year before meeting with Dan.  I had left Kent State in the spring of 1972 to work as a carpenter's helper for the season, followed by a late winter to early-summer vacation escape to Mexico in a van.  In Casper after hiring on as an Instructor at Casper College, my wife and I bought an old house in Casper to renovate.  We had done the same thing at Kent--at Brady Lake, a couple miles from Kent, to be exact-- but the house there was more than twice the size, twice the quality, and yet half the money of our house in Casper. In Kent we had been near the tapering excesses of the industrial heartland (Akron, granted, was a rapidly fading one), where cost of living was low and used material in abundance, whereas in Casper we were on a wind-swept prairie, in a sort of third-world energy colony, where out-of-state oil corporations called the shots, and where scarcity of second-hand materials and high cost of living became painfully obvious.

That fall, shortly after we moved into our little house, we were walking our German Shepherd Gretel in the park near our house in the evening.  We were wandering at random when a Casper Police cruiser spotted us and turned the corner and parked on a dead-end street and them proceeded to shine its spotlight on us.  I presumed it was the "Hippies in the Park; they must be up to no good" syndrome (I had a full beard and fairly long hair, or by Casper standards, "really long hair"), and so except for being insulted and angry, I deliberately paid little heed and we continued our random wandering.  He finally shut off his light and the cruiser left.  Then in a few minutes suddenly a sound penetrated the darkening evening-- s-s-h-u-u-u-s-s-s-s-s-s-h-h-h.  I turned and began running at full speed as my mind had calculated beyond my rational control: "incoming! Tear Gas!  Incoming!  Tear Gas!"  And then after a few giant steps, there came the "fwit, fwit, fwit, fwit" of the popped-up underground sprinklers that had just turned on.  It had been the roar of the water in the pipes that had created the swish of that Doppler sound.   Slightly wet and giddy, we made it to the sidewalk and collapsed in hysterical laughter.  What fools.  But there it was, that was Post Traumatic Stress catching us unawares. 

Granted the post-traumatic stress we suffered does not compare in intensity to one suffered by a soldier under fire in a war that is taking the lives of fellow soldiers and possibly his own, or with someone in a hurricane that is taking the lives of friends and family, but the effects, though not as severe, nevertheless take their toll.   It's all a matter of stress, the degree, and the duration.

In the Eye of the Anti-War Storm

Any time you organize, or act alone, to challenge power over the long term, the stress is there and never totally goes away.  In the case of myself, it was a balancing act between teaching well under my Teaching Fellowship at Kent State, maintaining grades in graduate school and still actively resisting the war.   After the May 4, 1970 shootings, the campus became a lock-down environment: physical display of ID cards, no rallies, constant surveillance, and so on.  Terrified freshmen were warned not to gather in groups, discuss what had happened in the spring before they matriculated, etc.  When we did start the rallies again, in the spring of 1971, it was under great duress.  From every rooftop, every window, every doorway, there could be and often was a man with a camera taking pictures of us.  Campus police, Portage County Sheriff's Department, CIA, Army Intelligence, National Guard, Ohio State Police, F.B.I.--and these are only some of the obviously known entities.  Somewhere, probably, there is a complete list.

And so you go on, overpowering the fear, presuming that an arrest, however illegal, looms on the horizon.  But you act under the Constitution, the right to assemble, to petition the government, and so on.  You exercise your rights, full well knowing that the weight of the State wants to crush them when they can find an excuse or when they think they dare, they will.  And through all this you have to thread through the needle's eye of morality.  Violent response to the violence in Southeast Asia would be all too human, and was advocated by some groups, but it would only (and did) stoke more violence.  Even the self-defense of the Black Panther Party was interpreted by the establishment as aggressive violence.  Passive resistance was highly recommended by some of the professors, but that merely meant, "don't do anything that matters or that will change things."  And while they were against violence, apparently the violence in Southeast Asia being done in our name was outside the paradigm.  Any government-policy resistance group means an organization, and that brings up the question of if it should be totally open and aboveground or totally underground, totally secret.  But the latter is all but impossible in an open university setting, and since inclusion is at the heart of American Education, my approach was to exercise the open, completely aboveground options until they have been fully exhausted. 

They WERE out to get you!

Plus there were hired undercover snitches of all shapes and forms on and about the Kent State University Campus.  Some unknown "power that be" moved our neighbor and his wife to a different house and moved in an undercover snitch and his wife/girlfriend (a conclusion later drawn).  He told me he was a non-union bricklayer and cursed the pigs (police) apparently to gain my approval.  But I had worked as a hod carrier for brick layers for two summers, and I noted the absence of mortar on his clothes and particularly noticed that his boots were not marked up on the toes and outside edge from scuffing against the masonry or block wall, so I knew he was lying and presumed he was the a police version of Neighborhood Watch, only this was "Neighbor Watch."  And the clincher, which my wife astutely discovered, is that whenever our phone rang, one of them would go inside. 

And in the spring of 1971 or '72 I was part of an assemblage protesting a "Miss Hot Pants" contest in the Student Center, going out over campus radio, that some fraternities were putting on, which consisted of their parading their girlfriends or whatever down a runway in Hot Pants (see fashion archives if you are under 40--VERY tight short-shorts), a contest which we considered chauvinistic and degrading to women.  So at each runway launch we would chant in unison, "One, Two, Three, Four, We Don't Want Your F***ing Whores."  (That was pretty lame, too, fighting fire with fire--like who was degrading them the most, but in the spirit of the times we thought we were real funny.)  But the profanity kept the contest off the air, and they finally quit in dismay.  But in the mean time a former student of mine who was active in Vietnam Veterans Against the War had just come from Washington D.C. where he had befriended someone who was a veteran, but not a Vietnam vet, and he had him along for the Hot Pants Protest.  Let's just call him "The Crazy Irishman."  He shouted, he screamed, he pounded the tables; he jumped up on the tables and jumped from table to table.  I was thinking at the time, "Either this guy has a heck of a lot of guts, or he has no clue about what a police state this campus is--or both.  It turned out, much to my former student's chagrin, that he was an undercover cop working for the Washington D.C. Police, and when the opportunity arose for him to hook up with an active Vietnam Vet war protestor, they paid his way for a fishing expedition.  So agent provocateur is another

All this is a way of saying that you could trust your closest friends, but that was about it.  And besides ratcheting up the paranoia, it said to me that as long as the avenues of open protest were open under the Constitution, they needed to be pursued and that the romance of "The Underground" was just that.   And you can't educate students, any group for that matter, about what is wrong with government foreign policy if you leave them out of the loop because of your secret group.  Indeed, much of the political passivity in the main body of students was a product of ignorance and an all-too-ready willingness to accept the government and corporate-influenced media's explanation of events--sort of like today, only now it is worse, for the corporate control of the media is now total.

 "If You Are Not Paranoid, You Don't Have a Grasp On Reality"--a 60s Saying

But I digress in my attempt to justify the self-diagnosis of PTS(D).  But one more example: I remember while working in Lewiston, Idaho as a carpenter the summer we left Kent, 1972, our graduate studies in limbo, and with both of our Corvairs still registered with Ohio plates. A couple of times someone asked, "How is it that you came from Ohio to Idaho," and my immediate paranoid response to the innocent question was, "Who's asking?"  It took a few months to get over that and to get over wondering if the headlights behind me were following me or just going in the same direction.  Drug induced?  No, after the campus killings, we (my wife and I) gave up what little marijuana smoking we had occasionally indulged in.  It does induce paranoia in stressful situations in most people, and it decreases organizing efficiency in the complicated politics of resistance, and more importantly, it makes one vulnerable to arrest.  For it became clear that drugs seem to have been tolerated in Kent by the various governmental establishments until things started to heat up politically, and then there would be busts.  And then the tokers would come to our political meetings crying for money to "bail out our brothers and sisters" who are a "valuable part of our counter culture movement," and so on.  Time, money and energy were thus bled from the highly taxed organizing strength reserves of our anti-war groups.  Yet on the other hand, when the major rallies started in the spring (hard to get people to stand out in the sleet and snow for a political rally), voila, suddenly the campus seemed to be flooded with drugs.

 On one occasion I was one of the organizers for a rally in 1972 and had a partner who was to be helping.  As rally was about to get started, I was talking to him, but he seemed strangely non-communicative, and in further trying to get some organizing ironed out, he seemed just plain weird.  I finally said, "What the f*** is wrong with you?"  And as he waved around on his legs, seemingly barely able to stand, he said, grinning, "I'm all soaped up."  (That is, he had taken a soporific, a relaxing agent, a sleep-inducer, the nickname or brand I no longer remember).  Obviously, he was totally useless.  As were many other stoned potential protesters who might or might not come to the rally.  Was it a coincidence that waves of drugs flooded in under the watchful eye of the narc squads keeping an eye on the campus upon which the National Guard two years previously had without provocation murdered four students? Was this total county/state/federal surveillance system watching the campus of 25,000 and the small town of Kent caught napping such that dealers (with no subsequent arrests) were able to flood campus and town before an advertised anti-war political rally?  I don't THINK so.

Finding the Healing Waters

But I digress.  Wait, I already said that.  Please pardon my digression from my digression.   Oh, yes, I was in the process of telling of my first meeting with Dan Perin at the Humanistic Psychology Conference in Colorado.  And I got diverted telling of some of the mental baggage I was dragging with me.  And all to justify my saying that I suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress from being intensely involved in the anti-war movement at Kent State (though graduate school can do the same thing, as the halls of graduate academia are littered with the bones of students whose spirits tell tales of how they shorted out from brain overload, faculty politics, state politics, graduate school politics, a personality clash with a professor, or all of the above).   I would like to say that I remember with crystal clarity the entirety of Dan's presentation in my first encounter with him some thirty-seven years ago, but I would be lying.  In fact, I don't remember if he did a mini-meditation or just talked about the Whole Life Learning Center and consciousness issues.  But I remember that he stuck a chord, that something clicked, and that I talked to him after the presentation and got a card, the address, etc. to make future contact.  And I remember thinking, seeing him stand there and talk, "I can trust that guy with my life."  I'm sure many of us have had that impression of someone, and I'm willing to bet that in almost all cases it has turned out to be true.  Because I still am of that opinion.  (See "From Agitation to Meditation" for a blurry snapshot of some of the psychic rebuilding at Dan Perin’s Whole Life Learning Center in Denver)  at http://lifecentering.blogspot.com/

Have You Been Paying Attention?


My good friend, and associate, Raven Dana, sent me an article she thought we might like to share on our blog.  She said the article, “Punctuations,” by John L. Peterson, made her “blood boil.”  Well, it made mine boil as well.  This is another example of what this blog is all about—attempting to wake people up about the abuses of government and corporate power.



Sunday, March 20, 2011

Oh, My! What Have I Done?

By Dan Perin
I started this blog because of my concern for conditions affecting humankind from my local community, to the state, country and world.  It just seemed to me no one was paying attention.  Perhaps the lack of attention was due to the numbness created by the overwhelming assault from “news” organizations.  We have gone from the print media—newspapers and magazines—to radio, television and now the Internet with all its variations of blogs and social media. 

Since beginning to write my own thoughts and to share those of the co-administrator of this blog, I have found headlines from newspapers, magazines and the Internet news services bombarding me even more than before.  I am almost immobilized by the number of issues clamoring for my attention.  It is impossible to report on them all.  Of course, that is not even the goal of the blog, but even so, I cannot help but be aware of how many issues are confronting all of us.

Lloyd even suggested I develop a rating code for articles so readers could quickly zero in on those of particular interest.  That only made the self-inflicted pressure even worse!  What I finally came to in my own thinking was that none of us can do all things or be all things to all people.  Nothing new about that!  But it is a realization I had to come to if I was to maintain my own sanity in regard to the challenges we all face. My pile of newspapers, magazines and prints of Internet resources continues to grow and I now realize some will just never find their way into my articles!

So, even though the headlines assault my senses with unending pressure to “Write about me!  Write about me!” I am going to try to sit back and let some inner filter of my consciousness move me to select the issues that most suit me.  Lloyd, of course, will do the same.  The result, I hope, will find a receptive mind and heart out there.  I would welcome any suggestions readers might have as to how best to negotiate the need to critique what is happening out there while maintaining a balanced inner life.

What Can WE All Do?  If not enough of us are paying attention to political and social issues, then WE can make it a point to choose an issue close to our own interest and get with others of like mind.  Formulate research and action groups who can get the issue before the people who can DO something about it.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Show Is Not Over In Wisconsin!

By Dan Perin
Governor Scott Walker’s brazen attempt to foil the “open meetings” rule by passing the ban on public workers collective bargaining rights in the dark of night has met its first legal challenge.

Judge Maryann Sumi issued a temporary restraining order Friday barring the publication of the controversial law.  That gives opponents of the law some breathing room to marshal their next efforts to permanently prevent it from taking effect.  So the fight is not over and needs the continued support of those who oppose the manner in which not only Governor Walker, but Republican governors in other states, are attempting to sidetrack any social issue that gives middle class Americans a hand up toward realizing their dreams of a life of dignity and financial security.  (See: Here)

The reason this is an important issue is that it affects those well beyond Wisconsin’s borders. It is representative of the broad Republican political policy to take from the poor and give to the rich.  Whatever happened to their crying about jobs?  It was nothing but “Yak, yak, yak,” a meaningless jabber to confuse the voters into thinking they would actually do something about jobs if they were elected in the 2010 vote.  What they are doing is scuttling worker’s rights and pushing the kind of budget cuts that affect the lowest wage earners while giving more tax breaks to their business friends.

See the Congressional Budget Office report on Republican economic policy (here).

We urge you to pay attention to what is going on in your state, your community.  Inform yourself on the issues and vote your conscience one way or the other, but know what you are doing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

On Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!

Article By Lloyd Agte, Preface by Dan Perin

For some time I have been concerned about the way in which the political picture is turning away from the middle class in America and toward the wealthiest members of the populace.  There is a natural philosophical difference between Republicans and Democrats.  That is why we have two parties.  Typically, the Republicans favor legislation that supports the needs of the business community, mainly BIG business.  The Democrats have typically represented the needs of the working man and woman.  In the past both parties found many ways to share their differences in dialogue and then bring about conclusions that they felt would benefit the country as a whole.

I don’t think there is any doubt that times have changed.  The divisions are sharper and more damaging to society as a whole.  Unfortunately, much of this is due to the election of our first black President.  I am amazed at the latent bigotry and racism that has surfaced.  That attitude has led to a “sink the Democratic agenda and this President at all costs.”

The straw that broke the camel’s back for me and that led to the development of this blog in cooperation with my long-time friend, Lloyd Agte, was the effort of Wisconsin Governor Walker to abolish collective bargaining agreements for the public sector workers, this after they had already agreed to concessions.  In our email exchanges we felt that we could add voice to the debate and, hopefully, provide suggestions for actions that we might take to bring about positive change.

Please take a few minutes to read Lloyd’s personal account of his union/employer interactions. 

Ich Bin Ein Wisconsinite

On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Plunge right through that line
Run the ball clear down the field,
A touchdown sure this time. (U rah rah)

The right wing attack on the middle-class and on labor continues apace, apparently on plan.  The unchecked corporate greed that busted the world economy in 2008 resulted in record deficits. In order to prevent a World Depression, the federal government borrowed money from present and future taxpayers to rescue the banks and corporations floundering in the mud of their own creation.  And how do they show their gratitude?  By coming to the rescue and helping to bail the U.S. out of debt?  By spreading some of their miraculously retained wealth around to the taxpayers who saved them?  Of course not.  They show their gratitude by attempting to squeeze from the middle-class what little wealth it still owns and by squeezing more energy from workers, in this case public workers. Of course this will have a trickle-down effect, so private labor will soon suffer too. Sally Kohn (on Fox News website, of all places) notes "the top five big banks on Wall Street set aside $89.54 billion for bonuses last year."  Well there you go Republican deficit hawks, there is 90 billion of the 100 billion you are trying to throw into the deficit bucket.  Now throw in the bonuses for bank #6 and you've got the whole salami.

The Real Wage Picture
The wacko pundits and politicians attacking the Wisconsin teachers as spoiled, highly paid and with too many benefits, have a distorted view of what high wages are and apparently are clueless that without decent health insurance and a solid retirement, teachers will become demoralized and the quality of education will decline even more rapidly than it already has in the past two decades.   (In the first week of May, Jon Stewart showed a half-dozen clips of pundits on Fox from last fall saying--in their support of eliminating taxes for the rich-- that $250,000 was not a lot of money, yet now they (or their ilk) are saying that a $57,000/yr. salary for a teacher makes them too rich.)    In addition, the right wing haters of worker rights seem deliberately clueless about a) how much time (about five years) to get a degree AND get certified, and b) how much money it takes to pay for five years of college now (multiply a year's cost by five and you will be staggered), c) how much debt most future teachers have when they graduate ($35,000 for a relative of mine who can only get substitute teaching in this economic downturn), and d) how much energy it takes to cope with a public education institution filled with functional, dysfunctional, disturbed, special needs and disabled students every day.  I spent much of my life in higher education, not in public schools, though I was certified to teach high school when I graduated from the University of Idaho, and I even had a job offer in Red Bluff, California. But my high school student teaching experience in Coeur d'Alene convinced me I was a bit lacking in the coping skills necessary to be effective in a high school environment.  At that point I entered graduate school, got a teaching assistantship to pay my way on the Master's degree and began a long and mostly satisfactory career in college teaching, getting a PhD in English at Kent State University in 1980.  But I never earned enough money to buy a new house or a new car.

My Own Experience With and Without the Union
But I was a union member too, once upon a time, in the Aircraft Machinists Union at Boeing Aircraft in Seattle for over two years, starting in 1957, after I got out of high school.  And the union was not much--one of those "company unions" that the company forms to keep a "real union" out.  (Hollywood tried the same thing in the late 30s with the writer's union, but the Writer's Guild would not buy into it.  Finally, the Hollywood bosses and some right wing politicians and right wing newscasters resorted to the Communist Witch Hunt in the late '40s and early '50s and got the union busting job done--which just illustrates that the ruling elite like the Koch Brothers, who bankrolled Scott Walker's campaign, will stop at nothing short of a brick wall, which apparently the labor movement has to become.) The dues were not much in the Machinists Union, but then neither were the benefits.   I was a Final Assembly Inspector, and not only did I not do any machining, doing any work on a plane with any tool was strictly forbidden.

However, working my way through college, I became a hod carrier in the early 1960s. I was paid $3.50 an hour until I joined the Hod Carriers and Longshoremen Union, at which time I received $4.50/hr (it took a couple weeks to acquire the capital for dues).  It was a brutal, eight-hour day, entirely physical throughout the day.  But it was fair and predictable.  At the high wage (at the time--as entry wage at Boeing then was just over $2.00/hr--bottom starting wage at a Boeing factory being $1.60/hr when I hired on in 1957.  We started on time, and we ended on time.  One could gauge one's energy reserves appropriately.  Though I worked for a range of contractors all over Seattle, as building jobs are usually short-lived, from a few days to a few weeks, there never was a question about hours, pay, and so forth.  You showed up on time and did your work, mixing concrete, wheeling barrows of concrete along a plank 11 inches wide two, three stories up sometimes, stocked up scaffold with blocks, bricks, etc. kept the brick and block layers happy with fresh or tempered mortar, and so on.  A bricklayer's slave, but it was good and fair slave wages.  I had no complaints.  Union reps were on call and they often visited the work sight. Though sometimes I think someone had called one to check on me. Being just 22, I think sometimes it was suspected that that I was not a member. So the rep would check my card, sometimes call it in, and that was it. That was fine.  He was doing a job I was paying him to do.

At the end of my junior year in college, since I had broken up with my Seattle girlfriend, I decided instead to seek summer work in Spokane, a hundred miles from the University at Moscow and 50 miles from my parents' home.  I had a lead on a sidewalk- construction labor job, where streets were being widened and new sidewalks were being laid.  That was a federally granted project (or a lion's share of it) and part of the stipulation for the contractor was that he was to pay union wages.  I can't remember the figure, not as much as the Seattle hod carrier wage, but certainly better than the $2.00 an hour I had been earning part-time as a service station attendant at a Texaco station in Moscow that necessity had forced me to hold during the previous school year.  The project kept getting delayed, so in the interim I hustled what jobs I could. I worked for a spell for one bricklayer with his own small company, a man who was even less organized than I.  We would start at 8:00 one day, then he would move that up to 6:00 the next.  Then we would stop at 5:00 one day and the next work until 7:00 (no overtime pay, of course).  Then one Friday night, after I had my meager weekend planned, he said, "Well, let's work tomorrow" (straight hourly wages, of course).  Okay, I said, and did not say anything, showed up on time on Saturday and we worked for about two hours, not accomplishing much at all.  At which time he said, "Oh, let's call it good for the day."  That's what you get without a union.   And when Federal Income Tax time rolled around, it seems that he had not turned in the withholding he had taken from me.  Luckily, I still had the check stubs, so I guess the IRS got it straightened out.   Again, that's what you get without a union.

Unions In Name Only
Finally, the sidewalk job started, and I went to work.  There was some random manipulation of hours, but it was mostly a regular 6:00 a.m. start.   And to be fair, concrete has its own sweet time that it takes to cure, thus quitting time is dictated by a varying chemical reaction rather than the time clock.  But with the early starts the crew got to hear the angry ranting of residents when they came out to get in their cars and drive to work and found blocking their exit to the street a fresh river of concrete which had just been poured for the new sidewalk.  The contractor did not give a damn.  He just wanted to milk what fortune he could from the government contract.  At the end of the week I received my first paycheck.  And it was short.  The wage per hour was a dollar and a half or so (don't remember exactly) short of what the union wage rate was.  I jumped the boss about it and asked what was going on, that I understood this was a government-sponsored project and that he was to pay a union wage.  Well, "Yes," he said, apparently responding to my charge hat this government-sponsored job was to pay union wages. Then he said, "But no, this is not a union job," thus implying that the low wage was a take-it-or-leave-it choice of mine. The next week some workers were kneeling down setting sidewalk forms and grousing about something, hours and working conditions, and I said that if you had a union in here you probably could do something about it, and I complained about the boss cheating on the government contract.  Again I brought up the need for a union and one of the workers, one whom I think had worked for the boss for a while, looked up and said, "But if you had a union in here, you might end up working beside some colored guy."  I was so flabbergasted that I could not even answer.  To choose poverty and misery and work-place abuse over racial tolerance!  Needless to say, I did not last long after that. I think a "union agitator" was ratted out.  I was let go after my next Friday paycheck.  That's what you get without a union.  (Note: to be fair, the Aircraft Machinists Union may have improved, as the word from Seattle after the new AF tanker contract was awarded to Seattle was that it went there because of the highly skilled union employees, as opposed to going South where the Boeing plant is non-union.)

Public Vs Private Sector Workers
"There are more public workers in unions than in private sector" the anti-democracy, free-market coyotes howl.  But of course, since the corporations have shut down factories and shipped the jobs off to China, or wherever they earn an extra nickel that can go into an offshore account. What do you expect?  The public sector has stayed stronger than the private because it is not so easy to outsource public workers to a foreign country.  (I probably should not bring this up or some Republican will put a bill before congress to privatize and outsource the IRS to India.  Or maybe Afghanistan, since they are in more desperate need of economic help.)  And why not outsource the collection of corporate taxes to Sicily.  Would we not be collecting more money than we are now?  Mama Mia, all the broken kneecaps of those corporate managers, I would hope so.

Clearly torpedoing the unions will just exacerbate the income disparity in the country, without doing anything to reduce the deficit.  In 1976 the top 1 percent of total income earners stood at 8.9 percent of the total earners.  Today it is 25%.  That is, the top 1 percent of income earners hog a quarter of the total income earned in the United States.  During this time the average inflation-adjusted hourly wage declined by more than 7 percent.   There is a protest in Wisconsin because the corporate money flowing into the political system is designed to make the rich richer and the politicians are working for them to make that happen.  They are working to make it a winner-take-all economy.  That's what you get without a union.

What Can WE Do About This Issue?
There is a "Shame on You, Gov. Walker" petition offered by  Care2 that you can sign at:
Petition

Monday, March 14, 2011

Politics Northwest | World Vision pleads against gutting foreign aid budget | Seattle Times Newspaper

Before getting all upset about how much "foreign aid" is going out around the world, take a look at this argument for more careful consideration.

Politics Northwest | World Vision pleads against gutting foreign aid budget | Seattle Times Newspaper

Troop Withdrawal From Afghanistan

There is a resolution to withdraw troops from Afghanistan to come before the Senate.  If you want to take some action regarding this resolution, go to this site for information on contacting your Senator.

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d112:hc28:

This represents one type if issue we expect to present on this blog.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

First Posts Are Being Prepared

We have several articles in the hopper and will soon begin to post them.  So, be sure to come back and check us out again. --Dan Perin