No Evacuation for Riker’s Island and Other Things Wrong With the World

August 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

On the one hand, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomburg is just a tool in the machine. On the other hand, he should step down from public office and devote the rest of his life to penance and fasting.

Bloomberg, pulling ahead in the political race to drive us into total societal decay, refuses to evacuate Riker’s Island in the face of Hurricane Irene.   Riker’s Island is more vulnerable to the hurricane than are other parts of the city.  Leaving the prisoners and guards there essentially plays russian roulette with an entire class of people.

It’s not like we as a country haven’t seen this in our lifetimes.  Hurricane Katrina showed us what happens when people in prison are left to die.  They die.  That is not an accident but design – it’s institutionalized murder.

The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that just over three percent of the total U.S. population is imprisoned or jailed, on probation, or paroled.  We know who these people are; they are poor people, People of Color, people deemed less than human.  And we know that once it’s acceptable to categorize a class of people unfit or unworthy, that category can be expanded to include almost anyone.

And no, I really don’t think that prison is in any way a deterrent from crime, or that the justice system is anything more than a system designed to maintain and widen a permanent underclass. The way to reduce crime is to create a society where people are not deadened and desperate.

It’s not like all or most of the criminals are in prison.  What is crime? Is it a crime when a New York City police officer is a serial rapist? Answer: maybe, but not an important one. Is it a crime when the head of the International Monetary Fund rapes a maid in an expensive New York City hotel?

Crime is crime when the people in power are hurt, or threatened, or looked at the wrong way. When those people commit crimes, that’s just Politics and Justice. That’s just Money.




Rainbows, puppies, bleak realities.

May 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

I promised a post on education, and then I went silent for a good long time. Whenever I go silent, when too much is happening publicly and privately and I cannot both process and speak, when I am wordless because all individual bad happenings are actually systems and the systems are choking us because that is the plan, that is how they’re designed, I wonder how I’ll ever say the thing I need to say. All things I want to say really boil down to one thing, unsayable, and I am rendered and subject both to the systems that enmesh me and my own unsayable visions of a better world.

One of my earliest memories: I am three and struggling to narrate to Dad the story of the two girls and the dog and the rainbow. He told me stories, and I wanted to tell him mine.

Two girls, an adventure, a happy doggy.  It was glory. The girls were inside the rainbow and it was a happiness beyond measure. Narrative as experience: the rainbow which was a world, one much larger and warmer and safer and more joyful than ours.

In my memory, Dad writes down my words and they flatten into nothing like anything I envision. The dog is just a puppy. The girls are just girls. What is left unsaid is how all three of them are the most beautiful people (or puppies as the case may be) in this world just as everyone in the world is. Internally beautiful. Radiant in the core of the self. What the rainbow did was to make this manifest.

I am not naive – I understand that puppies cannot live in rainbows.

Actually I am naive because in my mind people are as beautiful as a puppy in a three-year-old’s rainbow. And this is true even as I despise the moral and social degenerates who live to take that last little bit of beautiful from those who already have next to nothing.

I hate the haterz ’cause they hate my rainbow.  Or puppy.  Or something.

This post is so far off-track it’s hard to believe there ever was a track. Or that drafts of it have been sitting around for weeks. And anyway, what about the bleak realities? The title of this post advertised bleak realities.

Here goes: my working thesis is that people who cannot remember a little naive joy and wonder are the ones who shut it all down. Sometimes I am that person too. But the whole point of telling individual stories is to connect us to one-another, thus connecting us to our own humanity, thus making us want a better world for all because we are all human (or puppies).

I hope this works, because for so many my God is the world a horror-show. What kind of degenerate wants it that way?

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire legacy

March 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

Cornell University – ILR School – The Triangle Factory Fire – Photos and Illustrations.

Today is the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. This is our past… and our future if unions are decertified and delegitimized in the U.S.

Rumor has it that Illinois is considered the last stronghold of unionism in this country, and that the Koch-funded Rethugs are introducing a bill decertifying all Education unions on March 29th. That’s when the Illinois Legislature opens for Spring session. Education, as I’m sure I don’t need to remind you, is a female-dominated profession.

Coming up soon: a post on job safety in Education. There will be thrills, excitement, and way too many chills.

Serfs Up!

March 11, 2011 § 2 Comments

We are a nation that has never come to terms with the fact that our lives and our ways of being were built on slavery and genocide. We don’t want to admit how much our lifestyles depend on women’s unpaid labor. We don’t want to think about the goods we import and the lives we destroy through trade.

It is too big and too hard to think about these things all the time. And it is so easy to fall into the trap of shame. Eating chocolate has connections to slavery in the Ivory Coast. Wearing clothes connects us to the human and environmental catastrophe that is the global garment trade. Some of us try to buy ethical goods – handmade, fair trade. Some of us are too poor to afford the added expense of organic meat and wheat and cotton. Some of us self-righteously proclaim that we live on discards, as if that solves structural problems.

And all these products and grievances, these oppressions we commit and then erase from memory, make us vulnerable. If we cannot admit that our own often unintentional exploitations are wrong, then we cannot fight the big exploiters when they come for us.

What the exploiters want is to make us totally subject to our employers. Serfs, basically. Drug tests, cell phones, 24-7 on-call employees are just the beginning. When we lose the right to bargain collectively, we lose the right to demand safe workplaces, lunch breaks, and bathroom breaks.

We cannot – as individuals with our individual lives and loves and grievances, our petty hurts and deep wounds, our holidays and gadgets – we cannot solve structural problems biographically.

The history of the labor movement in this country is in part a history of racism and corruption, a history that excludes much of the work performed by women. It’s a history of bargaining on the back of the other poor slob who’s just thismuch poorer than you.


In Wisconsin historically female professions (teachers and nurses) are targets of union-busting while historically male professions (cops and firefighters) are not. The idea is to play the groups off each other. But no one seems to be falling for that shit. Private union workers have shown up in droves to support public ones. Today, amidst all the bad news, firefighters started withdrawing money and closing accounts in the bank that supported Governor Scott Walker.

These seem like small things, but they speak to a collective memory and a deep understanding of the history of labor in the U.S. This is why I am hopeful in the face of anti-union bills and laws in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, and now in Rhode Island.

Well that and the fucking masses of people who keep on showing up in protest. Individuals are making decisions to become part of a collective movement. It is not centralized. It is not run from the top. And it shows every sign of remaining united. People are aware that they’re taking part in history, making history.

Can we win?

Oh hell yes.

Wisconsin Senate Approves Gutting of Wisconsin Workers

March 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

UPI NewsTrack TopNews –

Unbelievable, unconscionable, and almost definitely illegal.  Rumors have it that Rethugs are doing this to provoke general strikes.  I don’t know if that would be a good or a bad thing.

This is it people.  We push back now or we have no country to save.

Ammunition Found Outside Wisconsin Capitol

March 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

Ammunition Found Outside Wisconsin Capitol – Madison News Story – WISC Madison.

The protests have been totally peaceful so far. Gov Walker has admitted on tape to thinking about planting troublemakers in the crowd. Tea Partiers have been urging their rabid supporters to fake being Union workers and then act out on camera. Is it paranoia that I don’t believe the bullets were planted by the protesters? Because I really really don’t believe the bullets were planted by protesters.

American Re-Unions

February 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

I am blown away by the people of Wisconsin, by their strength and perseverance. They’ve touched off a labor movement. Along with the massive 100,000 person demonstrations in Madison, there were solidarity demonstrations in all other 49 states. There were demonstrations to protect Planned Parenthood from Repugnitan attacks on its funding and, you know, its existence. A new group, US Uncut (modeled on the British group UK Uncut) organized its first demonstrations intended to force corporate tax-delinquents to PAY UP before any social programs are cut.

Even our own little union at my university is revitalized by Wisconsin. The contract that we’ve been negotiating for the better part of three years is going to be up for vote soon. The union leadership says they won’t budge on preventing the administration from forcing a work increase and salary cut on our instructors.

Most of our non-tenured full-time instructors make between $30,000 and $33,000 a year. I make more, but I’m well under the average for my position and education.  Our university has the worst pay of all the Illinois state universities. Chicago is not a cheap city to live in. The president of the university gave herself a $43,000 raise a couple of years ago.  Her raise is higher than my salary, and I haven’t had so much as a cost-of-living increase since 2008.

We’ve had two demonstrations in the last week, and both of them have drawn over 250 staff, faculty, and students. This after two years of moribund union membership meetings. I love our students–smart, worldly, driven, diverse and just altogether awesome. They deserve better than having teachers and advisors forced to sacrifice ourselves just to do our work. The admins want us to sacrifice more.

Paul Krugman’s Feb 21 editorial outlines how shared sacrifice is a myth, and how the Rethugs don’t just want our little monies:

But Mr. Walker isn’t interested in making a deal. Partly that’s because he doesn’t want to share the sacrifice: even as he proclaims that Wisconsin faces a terrible fiscal crisis, he has been pushing through tax cuts that make the deficit worse. Mainly, however, he has made it clear that rather than bargaining with workers, he wants to end workers’ ability to bargain.

I like Fred Klonsky’s simple explanation of “shared sacrifice” even better.

Are those doing public service jobs responsible for the current crisis? Did we fail to meet our obligations?

A thief breaks into your home and steals all you own. The police catch the thief and find all your belongings in the thief’s garage. The police split the items between you and the thief.

“Shared sacrifice,” they explain.

Some of the administrators who used to talk to me avoid me now. Today at the rally I saw some of them standing around and glaring at us. This is not what I want because I don’t dislike them personally. It ain’t personal, except for the fact that it is personal for the instructors making $30,000 to our president’s $300,000.

“At least you have health insurance” people say.  “At least you have a job.”

“I wouldn’t have even that much without a union” I reply.

You should have a union too.