Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Freedom of Other People

Early the morning of March 24, 1944 a German patrol pulled up to a home on the outskirts of in the Polish town of Markowa.  The Germans had been alerted by a local police constable to the fact that eight Jews, comprising members of two different families, had secretly been given shelter by Josef Ulma, a prominent citizen and the town librarian. The Germans surrounded the home, and after extracting the Jews shot all eight of them in the head on the spot. Not satisfied with this bloody deed, the Germans turned to the Ulma family themselves. For hiding Jews in defiance of German martial law, Joseph was shot.  The fact that Jospeh’s wife Wiktoria was his eight months pregnant, failed to soften the Soldier’s hearts and she was shot as well. Finally, the Nazis turned their attention to the UIma’s six children, now weeping loudly and profusely at the sight of their dead parents.  Methodically, mercilessly and in cold blood they were shot as well. The eldest of the Ulma children was eight years old. The youngest was but two.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Without further comment:

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The House that the NRA Built.

In pondering the significance of the Umpqua Community college tragedy, one of a seemingly unbroken string of mass killings to shake the nation since the shocking Columbine massacre 16 years ago, the first and perhaps most distasteful truth we have to acknowledge is that this shooting will not change anything. I’m sorry to be so blunt. I’m sorry if this sounds defeatist. But any honest assessment of the politics and the culture of firearms in America must come to the simple and inescapable conclusion that thanks to our nation’s out-sized love of firearms, at this very moment somewhere in the Midwest a mother is preparing dinner for a daughter who won’t live to see her 21st birthday, somewhere down South a father and son are restoring an old car that will be completed by just one of them under a somber cloud of loss, somewhere in New England a young couple are planning for a future life together in a world that has a place set aside for only one of them, and this is a scene that is being replayed hundreds, if not thousands of times this very moment all across our country.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

He's a blowhard, a liar and a racist, but a stopped clock, as they say...

“I think it’s a great country, there are a lot of great families, and it’s not just four families or whatever. There are other people out there that are very qualified, and we’ve had enough Bushes.”

--Barbara Bush, in a 2013 Today Show interview, responding to the question of whether Jeb Bush should run for president in 2016. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Of Guns and News Organizations...

Took a vacation day and a trip down to D.C. yesterday. As I toured the museums and monuments I passed by the Newseum, a private museum dedicated to cataloguing journalism's contribution to our nation's development and discourse. Outside, the Newseum has an exhibit that consists of front pages from newspaper around the country and some from around the world. Yesterday the great majority of U.S. newspapers included a front page story on the slayings of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, two CBS television journalists who were murdered by a disgruntled ex-coworker while performing a live on-air interview. The coverage raged the gamut from shock, to outrage, to sensationalist... with a special category reserved for the New York Post's unbelievably tasteless front page comic-strip style photomontage of Parker's last moments.

The Nebraska paper was a bit different, however. I don't at the moment recall whether they covered this crime on their front page (they likely did, along with most news outlets) but the headline story concerned a voter initiative to retain the death penalty in that state.

The juxtaposition of these two events, it seems to me, is telling. I have long been an opponent of the death penalty and one of the  principal reasons for my opposition is the firmly held belief that, far from acting as a deterrent to the sorts of violent crimes the nation witnessed on Wednesday, the existence of a Death penalty perversely legitimizes them. In enshrining the notion that Justice is served when the State puts a man to death for the commission of a heinous crime, the criminal justice system in some sense legitimizes the crimes of those who kill others in response to a perceived slight or wrong. For these individuals seem to see themselves as instruments of justice meeting out punishment on their own terms. Let us not forget that we live in a nation governed by deep suspicion of government monopolies and of government in general. Time and time again we are told that anything the government does would be more efficiently and more expertly executed by the private sector. This laissez faire ideology extends not only to functions traditionally performed by the private sector in a capitalist society (manufacture and delivery of consumer goods and services) but even to functions that are traditionally the province of government in most developed societies (witness the proliferation of private prisons, for instance, or the use, by the U.S. military of private security contracting firms such as Blackwater). In a very real sense, taking "justice" into one's own hands, up to and including execution,  is a logical extension of this sort of thinking.

Now, of course, it's impossible to state categorically that a justice system that enshrines the notion that the taking of a human life is never a justified response to crime would have prevented this or any other crime. There has never been a human society so perfect where murder is non-existent, and certainly, when the objective of a murder is the securing of material benefit (as would be the case in a robbery, for instance, or murder in the course of perpetuating insurance fraud) the State's views on life, death and justice are largely irrelevant to the criminal who commits the act. But I do believe that a society that promotion the notion that it is never right for the State or any individual to end the life of another (excepting, or course, un-avoidable, immediate self-defense or the protection of others in similar immediate danger) is a society claims for itself a certain moral authority and in so doing ennobles its citizenry by promoting this principle of inviolability. The net effect would likely be a long-term lessening of these sorts of despicable acts of unjustifiable vengeance (a description that could equally apply to the death penalty itself).

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Remember when...

Got annoyed at those "remember when" Reagan idolatry pics, so I decided to do one of my own. Enjoy:

Friday, June 19, 2015

Back From the Dead?

Haven't posted in ages... can't say I'm going to make this a regular thing (maybe, maybe not). Nonetheless, I recently wrote a comment for the ZDNet website that I though worth sharing here (no it wasn't a post or commentary, just a comment in the comments section of an article, LOL).

In any case, my comment was in response to an article that was discussing layoffs in the tech sector (where I happen to work). Recently two large companies, Con Edison in California and the Disney corporation have dismissed large numbers of IT staff in favor of foreign born replacements brought in under the H1B Visa program, that supposedly is meant to allow companies to hire foreign workers for positions that are difficult to fill with native born workers (who may, for instance, lack the necessary tech skills).

But the actions of Disney and Con Edison make a mockery of this program. How possibly, one might ask, are companies filling difficult to fill positions when they're replacing American born workers who already fill those positions?

That this is even possible, is due many factors, but in no small part to the death of organized labor in this nation. Here is what I wrote:

This is just another example of the woefully uneven power dynamic between employers and their employees that has resulted from and been exacerbated by the slow death of organized labor in this country. A union shop would never have stood by for something like this, watching passively as a large contingent of their co-workers were replaced by cheaper, foreign labor while being forced to train their replacements (shades of digging your own grave). Had these folks been represented by a union, they could have walked off en masse, and paralyzed the company, forcing it to rethink its plans. Instead, these workers can only lament their fate, and train their replacements like dogs with their tails between their legs, begging for whatever scraps might fall off their master's table. They are cowed, and pliant in hopes of a good reference that might allow them to find another job, and a few months severance that might keep them from losing their homes.

The death of the labor movement has been accompanied by huge disparities in wealth and income between the most wealthy (the 1%, if you will) and the rest of us. It is no accident. And with this mounting wealth disparity, the moneyed classes have also gained untold influence in government. A conservative Supreme Court is busy codifying the notion that the wealthy are entitled to an outsized degree of influence in the political process, and acts that one would have been derided as bribery are now enshrined as "free speech" by Judges appointed by politicians who themselves were bought and paid for by billionaires who know a good investment when they see one. What I'm saying is this: don't look to Congress to "fix" the problem of H1B abuse. The whole point of the program is to make the country more "competitive" by driving down wages and producing a more docile work force. What happened at Con Edison and Walt Disney isn't a "bug"... it's a "feature" of the program. It's the whole point of the program. 

The whole notion that U.S. workers, who are chomping at the bit for decent paying jobs, and were reared in the nation with the best higher-education system in the world cannot be trained, and must instead make way for engineers trained in a third world country is simply ludicrous, and the fact that these employees were made to *train their replacements* puts the lie to even that foolishness. This is all about the bottom line, plain and simple. And until IT professionals realize that they are dispensable, disposable pawns, and get over their innate Libertarian ideological tendencies and start seriously contemplating solidarity and mass action, everyone's job is at risk.