Wednesday, January 30, 2008

We Must All Do Our Part To Preserve This Climate Of Fear

Here is a brief, but good, editorial on the importance of maintaining our xenophobias. America is depending on us. We red-blooded patriots must heed the call to be afraid.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Unions Aim to Subvert Democracy

This is an alarmist headline. It also happens to be true, which is why the alarm should be raised.

The United Food and Commercial Workers are trying to force unionization on the employees of the Bashas' grocery chain; meanwhile, a second union is trying to work its way into the Milum Textile Service in downtown Phoenix.

The Phoenix New Times reports that there is a lot more going on than just a little political lobbying:

At the heart of both conflicts is the unions' goal of forcing management into labor agreements without giving employees the chance to vote in a secret-ballot election....

Officials at Bashas' and Milum Textile say they want secret-ballot elections overseen by the National Labor Relations Board to decide whether their workers are unionized. If more than half of their employees vote to unionize, the companies would have to work with respective unions to set wages, benefits, and workplace rules for affiliated employees.

The unions have a different plan. They want to do an end-run around such elections, which long have been the usual route to organizing workers. They want the matter decided through what's known as the "card-check" system....

Under the card-check system, union advocates gather workers' signatures on union-approval cards over time. If they eventually get more than half of a company's workers to sign up, the union can legally represent the firm's employees without an election — as long as the employer agrees to acknowledge the card-check system.

Neither Bashas' nor Milum will acknowledge the system.

What's particularly galling about this "card-check system" is that the union will know who hasn't voted for them yet; no one's identity is kept secret.

In other words, the unions would like to overturn one of the key components of the democratic system: the secret ballot. Ancient Athens and Rome employed the secret ballot for many important decisions, but apparently the unions would rather take their cues from the totalitarians whose Marxist ideology still permeates so much of the American labor movement.

And just in case it wasn't enough for them to try to do away with secret balloting, they're busy bribing people to plant stories in the media:

Tolentino Lazaro, a 64-year-old janitor, said he used to see cats in the building occasionally, but not anymore. The place can get dirty, he admitted, but he said he never saw rats.

Lazaro's said his problem was that he didn't like how Bashas' treated him after he was injured on the job. He said the company paid him less because he was on light duty for a few months.

When Lazaro was finished telling his story to
New Times, Sanchez [a UFCW official] fished a $5 bill out of his wallet and started to hand it to Lazaro.

"No, no!" Giglio [another UFCW official] told Sanchez. "You're not supposed to pay him in front of the reporter."

And in case you were wondering, the United States House voted in favor of doing away with the secret ballot for union elections; only the Senate stopped them. In the lower chamber, every single Democrat voted to abolish secret balloting.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Proof the Super Bowl is Shady

My homepage is set to the local newspaper/NBC station back home in Phoenix. So when I first open my browser, I see a number of stories, including video. A recent one with the headline "More than 1,000 women paid to party at Super Bowl" caught my attention, and not in a good way.

(For technical reasons, I couldn't manage to post the video itself - something about javascript - but I've shared the print story for your consideration; it included a link to the video version.)

From the get-go I thought this didn't seem quite right, but when the third interviewee in the video started telling about all the different places she'd worked, it became undeniably clear: this is watered-down prostitution, paying women for the use of their bodies.

And, yes, for the record, I'm ashamed that this is happening in my home state.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Quincy Demands Apology for Racist Comment

Yesterday presidential candidate Barack Obama made a very racist comment implying that Caucasian-Americans cannot dance.

When asked if he thought Bill Clinton was America's "first black president," Mr. Obama answered: "I would have to investigate more Bill's dancing abilities and some of this other stuff before I accurately judged whether he was in fact a brother."

Some of us hoped that America had moved beyond this sort of racial stereotyping, but apparently not. In any case, the Quincy House blog is calling upon Barack Obama to apologize for his comments, which were deeply hurtful to members of the Caucasian-American community.

*** This post has not been vetted by all members of the Quincy House and may not represent the views of all House residents. ***

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Friday, January 18, 2008

A Whole New Meaning to "Red State - Blue State"


Monday, January 14, 2008

New Springtime for North Korea?

I discovered this post, sitting around as a draft, and figured I should post it, now that it's eleven months old...

The other day my Chinese Grand Strategy professor was explaining that he though Christianity was not about to take off in China, as some have suggested. He pointed out that, while there are many bona fide Christians in China, many Chinese Christian sects are little more than cults, with charismatic leaders who are often megalomaniacs and criminals. (In one case a while ago a leader of a Christian sect was jailed for sending out hit men to kill other such leaders.)

That was all fairly interesting, but what was really interesting was that my professor said he thinks North Korea is ripe for mass Christian conversion. The Christian communities in the South, both Catholic and Protestant, are large and strong, and are already laying plans to flood the North with missionary activity should the North Korean regime collapse. Furthermore, my professor argued that the end of the regime would also mark the death of the last shaky belief system remaining in North Korea. The atheistic state-worship of the Communist regime is believed to have little traction, but has also successfully managed to stamp out all other religions. The harvest may soon be in need of laborers…

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Just Some Thoughts...

For the last six or seven years I have been mulling over a set of issues concerning notions of inspiration, sequencing and different forms of art.

It is fairly common that we describe the relationship between two works of art in a way that is chronological, causal and hierarchic: this painting was inspired by that poem; this novel is the sequel to that one; this opera draws upon that epic.

There is an interesting (and somewhat natural) flow to this process. A painting or other visual form of art often depicts a scene from a story. Less often do you find an entire novel that was inspired by a single work of visual art (or even a series of pieces, such as the collected paintings of Monet). You do, however, sometimes find poetry with inspirations ranging from expansive narratives to very simple visual forms. Song, likewise, seems to be a flexible medium, though obviously certain types of songs - such as operas - are less so.

The process is usually, however, quite linear, monodirectional and hierarchic. If a scene from Homer’s Iliad inspired a particular sculpture, there is a certain sense in which we say the sculpture is indebted to the epic and in that regard, inferior to it. At the very least, no one would suggest that the sculpture would go on to influence how Homer writes his work. And yet, the sculpture might change how we read the epic. So why not break the linearity in more material ways?

What if a community of artists were to produce, as a single project, a corpus of interplaying works of art, with none primary - in time, causality or importance - to another? You will sometimes see an exhibit of visual arts which begin to do this, a series of works which revolve around a central theme and were created at roughly the same time. These, however, do little to transcend the distinctions between various forms of art; at most, such an exhibit might include painting, sculpture and prints, with some carefully selected background music. But what if such a body ran a fuller gamut: drawings, paintings, one-act plays, songs, poems, photographs, short stories?

I can imagine a dozen or two interdisciplinary artists choosing a theme - probably something broad like “fathers and sons” - and, over a course of time, producing an interconnected body of works. They might begin with paintings and drawings. One of these might be of a father with two young boys, walking hand in hand to the beach on a windy day. In a second round of creation, someone might wonder what their background was, going on to writing a short story about a husband who had just lost his wife, and took his boys to the beach in an attempt to raise their flagging spirits. Or was it just his own attempt to keep up appearances and deal with his own grief? This in turn might be picked up in a song or poem, and thence recycled into another drawing. A topic of properly-calibrated breadth would allow the artists to incorporate elements from various works in new and interesting ways.

What would the final product look like? I can imagine a sort of coffee table book, full of short stories and poems, lavishly illustrated with a variety of pictures, and containing the lyrics and music to an accompanying album of music. Is this an elaborate set of notes for the album, or is it just background to the book? Are these stories about a series of pictures, or illustrations to the stories? Such a project would relish such ambiguities, and happily play with them. With imagination, film or other artistic media might be included. (Narrative stories with an appendix of recipes are fairly common amongst certain genre of reading; why not include the culinary arts? Or brewing?)

Admittedly, this is a somewhat artificial way of doing something that happens, to a lesser extent, in the ordinary course of human cultural exchanges. Still, it might be a fun and interesting project, for those involved in its creation or appreciation. Alas, I am afraid I shall probably have to relegate myself to the latter category. But I enjoy just thinking about it.

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Europe's New Auteurs

at the WSJ.