I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken

Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
-Bertrand Russell

What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell

April 12, 2016 - 12:36 p.m.

State of the Unions

Writing about Honor Finnegan's show was berry berry good for my readership numbers. Yesterday's 117 visits were the second best day of my last 30. The average is 63 but the median is lower. Wow I just looked to see what the better day was, that surprised me. It was political, when I endorsed Hillary. Writing about politics often gives me angst, writing about music usually makes me feel good. It's a win win win situation. Music writing is a confluence of things that make me feel good about myself. When I love something I want the world to know about it. I want everyone to love it. People enjoy reading it and let me know. The artists like to know that they are appreciated. And it took me a long time but I became good at it. I'm never satisfied and there's a lot of room for improvement but I'm not one of those people that can only see their mistakes. It's also feeds one of my natural inclinations. When I think good things about a person I want to tell them. I don't want to be reticent about positive feelings. When someone does something great I want to tell them they did something great. I want to tell people "I love you." I want to thank people for existing. Only if those things are true of course. It's stressful to give undeserved praise.

The flip side of the coin is that I'm tough on artists that I don't like. No I don't tell them and I rarely say so here. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Being mediocre is not a moral failure. By definition most people are mediocre. But when I see far less talented people getting more praise or success than those that shine I get upset. We'll always have the Salieris overshadowing the Mozarts. Part of appreciating Mozart's greatness is recognizing Salieri's mundaneness. Garrison Keiller to the contrary everyone can't be above average. So I will continue to talk of nice people playing nice songs nicely, ermine violins, and of course, The Act, without ever naming names.

More of me singing the praises of things I love. When writing yesterday's entry I referred back to the edition of Wise Madness where I reviewed Roses and Victory. Looking back on that I saw that was when I started cooking with MSG. Two and a half months later it's become a staple. I wrote that the next day I'd try it on eggs. That might be the place I like it most. That came up because I'm thinking about breakfast. Yesterday I had a breakfast sandwich and I'm thinking of doing that two days in a row. They’ve just become so good since I started adding MSG. And now I have not had headaches.

I had a bit of a medical scare last night and I don't know how I did it. I somehow or other banged my retina. I didn't notice a thing till I turned the lights off and an arc of light appeared at the far let of my field of vision. If I moved my head quickly it came again. I was afraid of a detached retina but it went away. This morning when I woke up I had a huge floater in my left eye. That's gone away too. I didn't get hit in the head or poked in the eye so I have no idea how it happened.

So now after all that I'm going to do the thing I said causes me angst, I'm going to write about politics. It has very little to do with the presidential election but it should. I'm talking about unions. From the early parts of the 20th century through the 70s the union movement grew It bore fruit from the recovery from the Great Depression till the end of that era. It was an era of unprecedented gains in the lot of working people. The median real (adjusted for inflation) income rose and the middle class grew and the lower class shrunk. The median gained relative to the top 1%. The Gilded age gave way to the Guilded age. Income inequality shrunk. Then came renewed attacks on unions. They started with Nixon but accelerated tremendously under Reagan, the former head of the Screen Actors Guild. The assault came on two fronts and I can't say which was more damaging. One direct assaults. Most famously Reagan broke the air traffic controllers' union. On a quieter but more effective level came changes in laws and administrative rules. It became more difficult to fund and charter unions. States created "Right to Work" laws which should be called, "Right to give up your rights" laws. The right said they would increase prosperity, they didn't. Our economic growth went down, but they were happy as a larger and larger piece of the economic pie moved from labor to capital. Simultaneously the median income pretty much stopped growing except for a period during the Clinton administration and perhaps starting again now. Those were periods of full employment when employers had to compete against each other for workers. When people are desperate for any work they cannot play hardball negotiating on their own. A union still can. It's easy to find a worker, it's not as easy to replace an entire workforce. Because other employers have to compete with union shops it raises the income and benefits of those that aren't in unions too.

Unions do more that improve the economic lot of workers. They provide a political counterweight to corporations and the wealthy. By looking out for working people they are looking out for most people. Are they always right? Of course not. They will often take positions I disagree with, but without them only the rich have enough money and power to give a unified voice to politicians. As they wealthy gain money they gain political power which leads to weakening unions which leads to them getting wealthier. Unions are the best defense against that.

I'm not sure that the laws and regulations are where the greatest damage was done. Reagan was the Great Communicator. He changed the way many people think about things, and changed them in way that help the rich. People turned against welfare queens driving Cadillacs. They also turned against unions. This is what gets me and this is why I'm writing this. Too many people that consider themselves progressive are still anti-union or ambivalent about them. It's so rare that I find anyone defending unions. If you want a progressive agenda that's where to start. Getting people organized.

There have been changes in the economy since the labor movement hay day. The manufacturing sector has shrunk and the service and retail sectors have grown. People somehow got the notion that only factory workers can unionize. There' nothing inherent in manufacturing that makes it more conducive to unionization, it's just the sector of the economy that was largest when the labor movements started. Think about it what is the most unionized sector of the economy now, government workers. They aren't working in factories. There is no reason retail workers can't organize. If every Walmart were a union shop their employees wouldn't have to depend on food stamps and government programs to survive. The retail workers' union should be as powerful today as the auto workers' and steel workers' were in their day.

It has to go beyond that, to the gig economy. There's a freelancers' union but it's far more about getting benefits than improving working conditions. We could discuss this in terms of computer engineers and consultants but I'm going to discuss a world I know more about music. I hear all the time about venues treating musicians poorly. They expect musicians to work for little or no pay. They sexually harass women. Why does this happen, because they can always find someone desperate or naïve enough to work for them. If they knew that it would lead to people picketing out front they would change their tune.

I'm not saying it would be easy. I have no idea how to make this work. I do know that it has to start with people realizing it's important. With people saying, "The union is being a jerk about that but nobody else is around to stand up to management. I'll try to make the union better." It's about not confusing what is with what is inevitable. If we can make it happen there will be a better word a coming. We'll have to do it without Pete and Woody but we can find new people.

I did not want to write that but I'm glad I did. It wasn't hard once I started. I think about these things all the time. And now for that hameggandcheese on an English muffin with MSG to bring out the flavor.

I signed the Pro-Truth Pledge:
please hold me accountable.

Memories: Not that Horrid Song - May 29, 2018
Wise Madness is Now In Session - May 28, 2018
The NFL and the First Amendment - May 27, 2018
On The Road Again - May 26, 2018
Oliver the Three-Eyed Crow - May 25, 2018

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Horvendile April 12, 2016
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