Quote of the moment: Goodbye unions, goodbye democracy

March 20, 2011

Nelson Lichtenstein, University of California - Santa Barbara

Nelson Lichtenstein, University of California - Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Independent photo

Most jobs in America are not in manufacturing or subject to international competition. So the service sector, retail, construction — there are a huge number of jobs where international competition has nothing to do with it. The obstacles there are domestic. Labor law is totally dysfunctional. Workers really don’t have the right to form unions of their choosing. So you’re right to be pessimistic, just for different reasons.

I also have a mega-historical answer to that question, though. If you look at the last 150 years of history across all nations with a working class of some sort, the maintenance of democracy and the maintenance of a union movement are joined at the hip. We’ve seen this dramatically reconfirmed in Spain and South Korea and Poland over the years. If democracy has a future, then so too must trade unionism. Sadly, that doesn’t offer much hope for my lifetime. But there is such a thing as conflict between capital and labor.

Nelson Lichtenstein is arguably the most influential living historian of American labor; interviewed by Ezra Klein of the Washington Post blogs, March 10, 2011

When reform efforts frustrate themselves

March 20, 2011

Sometimes, state and administrative pressure to change school culture is counterproductive, sometimes destructive enough to derail reform efforts.  How?

When the teachers are made scapegoats.

Dana Goldstein, Lady Wonk, followed up on the reform efforts at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island, from last year:

Despite their clear pleasure in working with the students, Kulla and Cherko said teacher morale throughout the building remains low, in part because of last year’s termination crisis and the resulting high-turnover among staff, and in part because student discipline remains a major problem.

“The kids, when they’re here, need to know this is a place of learning,” Kulla said. “Right now they don’t.” Cherko added that the layoff crisis was interpreted by many students as a sign that their teachers were incompentent. “I’m not sure they realize how nationally-driven what happened last year was,” he said. “They say, ‘The teachers got fired because they’re bad at their jobs.'”

The Central Falls administration certainly seems hard at work attempting to improve discipline and attendence; the fact that the numbers remain problematic show just how difficult it is to revitalize a school’s culture. The termination crisis, unfortunately, probably worsenend the problem by sending students and their parents the message that CFHS teachers are not respected professionals.

Goldstein discusses other issues, and it’s worth a read.

“I Have Sex” — students speak out against ideological attack on Planned Parenthood

March 20, 2011

Here’s something to think about, from students at Wesleyan College:

The film’s producers on Facebook.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Dana Goldstein, Lady Wonk.

Another Brazilian wins Lurie Cartoon Award from UN Correspondents

March 20, 2011

2010’s Lurie Award Winner for cartooning was another Brazilian — as in 2007.  The subject is global warming, with a wistful look at what might happen:

Lurie Award Winner, 2010 - Raimundo Waldez Da C. Duarte in Amazonia, in Brazil

Lurie Award Winner, 2010 - Raimundo Waldez Da C. Duarte in the publication Amazonia, in Brazil

Ice continues to melt at the South Pole, alas.  How to break it to the penguins?

Cartoonist Raimundo Waldez Da C. Duarte, Amazonia, Brazil

Cartoonist Raimundo Waldez Da C. Duarte, Amazonia, Brazil

Raimundo Waldez Da C. Duarte took $10,000  from the award.  He cartoons for Amazonia in Brazil.

You may view the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place cartoons, and ten citations for excellence, at the Lurie Award site.

Radiation dose comparison charts from XKCD

March 20, 2011

No, there’s no humor in this thing — just good, solid information.

XKCD put together a chart that shows in geometric terms how various radiation doses work. With a tip of the pen to Bob Parks, the chart notes that cell phones don’t count here because cell phones don’t put out ionizing radiation, the type that causes cancer, but just radio waves.

The chart won’t be easy to read here — click on the image and go to the XKCD site for a bigger, more readable image:

Radiation Dose Chart from XKCD

Radiation Dose Chart from XKCD

It’s a good, clear graphic in its full size.  Go see.

Republicans and fixing the economy

March 20, 2011

Apparently they think that “fix the economy” means something more akin to “fix your dog” than increase jobs.

If you’re unemployed, or facing layoff, you will be happy to know how the Republicans have your back.  Or, happy to know they’re doing something behind your back.  Or they’re trying to put you flat on your back.  Or something.

Evolution of the Neo-Tea Party

March 20, 2011

Evolution of the Neo-Tea Party, by Verbalobe

Evolution of the Neo-Tea Party, by Verbalobe

Oh, For Goodness Sake claims it comes from Verbalobe, but I can’t find it there.  Verbalobe signed it, though . . . .

Yellowstone, Land to Life — a film to free from bondage

March 20, 2011

Yes, it’s a tease.  Drat.  Just a trailer for the film.

But how exquisite is just the trailer!

Yellowstone National Park Orientation Film (excerpt) from Northern Light Productions on Vimeo.

Northern Light Productions made the film for the “Canyon Visitor Education Center in Yellowstone National Park. The film offers a compelling overview of the ‘big picture’ geology that has shaped and continues to influence Yellowstone and its ecosystem.”

Big picture geology?  How about making this film available to schools to talk about geology, geography, and history?

Yellowstone National Park annually gets about three million visitors.  Yellowstone is one of those places that ever American should see — but at that rate, it would be more than 100 years before everybody gets there.

We need good, beautifully shot, well-produced, interesting films on American landmarks in the classroom.

How do we get this one freed for America’s kids, Yellowstone Park?

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