Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Just shut up and play your banjo, Steve.

According to former comedian Steve Martin, who was last observed being funny about 20 years ago, atheists don't have any songs.

Actually, they do. Here's one, for example: 



And here's another. Perhaps Steve has heard this one:



And another:



There are others.

I hope that this has been educational, Steve.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A few from Menomena

From the 2010 album Mines:



Wednesday, March 16, 2011

For Your Further Enlightenment XVI

I took a six-day break from the blog, so some of these links will seem dated. (Since I created this post, Republicans in Wisconsin have broken the law to pass their union-killing legislation.)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Could Lane's latest be the worst RedState post ever?

RedState's Moe Lane is moaning about a "contemptible" letter signed by leaders of police, firefighters, and teachers in Wisconsin and sent to the President of Marshall & Ilsley Corporation in Milwaukee. The part of the letter Lane quotes reads as follows:
The undersigned groups would like your company to publicly oppose Governor Walker’s efforts to virtually eliminate collective bargaining for public employees in Wisconsin. While we appreciate that you may need some time to consider this request, we ask for your response by March 17. In the event that you do not respond to this request by that date, we will assume that you stand with Governor Walker and against the teachers, nurses, police officers, fire fighters, and other dedicated public employees who serve our communities.

In the event that you cannot support this effort to save collective bargaining, please be advised that the undersigned will publicly and formally boycott the goods and services provided by your company.
Here is what Lane says about the letter:
Now, this would not be a contemptible letter if it were signed by members of private sector unions.  Private sector unions work in trades, and they have the right to make informed business choices (and even uninformed ones).  But public sector union members are supposedly public servants - and they are expected to avoid even the hint of impropriety in their labor disputes.  This is a barely-veiled threat from the cops and the firemen that organizations subject to the anti-labor reform boycott cannot expect a prompt and effective response from them in case of emergency.  Simply put, there are different standards of behavior for emergency responders.  Stricter ones, because being a repository of the public trust carries with it an expectation of behavior that is appropriate for that trust.  This letter harms that trust.

Stop.  Let me explicitly say that I do not believe any pious excuses along the lines of “That’s not what they meant!”  This is precisely the kind of let’s-imply-without-saying, sneak behavior that we’ve all come to expect from union ‘negotiators.’  Let me also explicitly say that the cops and firemen have nobody but themselves to blame for making anybody trust them less as a result of this letter: if they don’t want people to have legitimate concerns about public ’servants’ taking partisan sides, then public ’servants’ shouldn’t take partisan sides.  
I am inclined to interpret Lane's post as uncharitably as he has interpreted the letter he's moaning about. Rather than take the high road, I will emulate the behavior exemplified by those conservative bloggers who also happen to be assholes such as Lane and pay Lane back in his own coin.

According to Lane, the members of private sector unions have the right to make business choices. The implication is that members of public sector unions do not have the right to make business choices. Is Lane seriously suggesting that once a person joins a public sector union that that person surrenders her right to make business choices? Is Lane seriously suggesting that the members of public sector unions can be forced to do business with M&I Bank? Is Lane seriously suggesting that persons cannot collectively choose not to do business with this or that corporation? How free can a market be when persons cannot make free choices within that market? Conservatives claim that they are in favor of free markets, but many of them (including Lane, evidently) really aren't (which is something that I have known for some time).

The threat being made in the letter is a potential boycott of goods and services provided by M&I Bank, and that's it. It is clear to anyone who has a command of the English language that the people signing the letter and the members of the groups they represent are threatening to not do business with M&I Bank. That's what a boycott is. And it is abundantly clear that that is all that is being threatened in the letter. If Lane thinks that he can tell people who they can and cannot do business with, then he can go fuck himself.

Lane, however, claims that he has detected an implication in the letter that emergency responders will not respond as promptly and effectively to emergencies involving M&I Bank if M&I Bank does not express opposition to Scott Walker's union-killing bill. I detect no such implication whatsoever, either in the passage Lane quoted or in the rest of the letter. Lane insists that it's there: remember, he says, "I do not believe any pious excuses along the lines of 'That’s not what they meant!'  This is precisely the kind of let’s-imply-without-saying, sneak behavior that we’ve all come to expect from union 'negotiators.'" It doesn't matter, then, what the letter says: if the letter contains the threat, it's in there, and if the letter does not contain the threat, it's still in there. That is why, in the final analysis, Lane's post is a miserable, worthless piece of shit.

Did you know that Scott Walker's union-killing bill does not apply to police and firefighter unions? According to the New York Times,
The new law weakens unions representing public sector employees by limiting bargaining to wages, restricting raises to inflation, increasing the amount employees pay for health insurance and pensions, and giving union members the right not to pay dues. It also requires unions to hold annual votes to determine if workers still want to belong. The law exempts firefighters and law enforcement personnel. 
Why would it exempt firefighters and police officers? Because they tend to vote Republican, while teachers tend to vote Democratic. The bill targets teachers' unions because the bill is an attempt to weaken the Democratic Party in Wisconsin and make the Republican Party more powerful as a result. Funny, then, that Lane would claim that public servants should be politically neutral, when the political views of cops and firefighters were obviously a consideration in the design of Walker's union-killing bill.

Think about what Lane is alleging. Does he seriously mean to suggest that if there is a fire at a branch of M&I Bank, that firefighters won't respond as quickly as they otherwise would and subsequently endanger innocent human lives? Is Lane seriously suggesting that in the event of a bank robbery at a branch of M&I Bank, police officers will lollygag on their way to the scene and again put innocent human lives at risk? Seriously?

Lane's insane post tells us virtually nothing about labor relations in Wisconsin, but it speaks volumes about Lane himself, and this is what it tells us: even if you tend to be conservative and vote Republican, if you cross Lane on an issue like this, he will plunge the knife in and twist it. Lane's post ends with the following words:
If I lived in Wisconsin, I would be pounding the table right now and demanding that every signatory to that letter hand in their badges.  Since I don’t, it’s incumbent on Wisconsin citizens to make an answer to this.
 Indeed you would, Moe, indeed you would. Because you are a prick.

Friday, March 11, 2011

History Lesson for Scott Walker

This is our moment, this is our time to change the course of history. —Scott Walker
Ronald Reagan, Remarks in Chicago, Illinois, at the Annual Convention and Centennial Observance of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, 3 September 1981:
This union has a proud history. Just 100 years ago, having only a few thousand members, you opened your first convention in Chicago. Now, it's not true that I attended that convention, also. [Laughter] Since then, you've grown to more than 800,000 members. You've served as a bulwark in America's free union movement.

Over the years, this union was responsible for improving the well-being of its members as they labored building this Nation. And through the collective bargaining system, you improved images—or wages, I should say—benefits, and working conditions. More than that, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners has shown time and time again that it supports our free market system and the fundamental tenets of American democracy. It was this belief in representative government and free enterprise that gave the working people of this country unequaled freedom and prosperity.

We forget this at our peril. In these recent years when advocates of collectivism and government intervention have held sway, we should recall the wisdom of that greatest of labor statesmen, the founder of the American labor movement, Samuel Gompers. He said, "Doing for people what they can and ought to do for themselves is a dangerous experiment. In the last analysis, the welfare of the workers depends on their own initiative. Whatever is done under the guise of philanthropy or social morality which in any way lessens initiative is the greatest crime that can be committed against the toilers. Let social busybodies and professional 'public morals experts' in their fads reflect upon the perils they rashly invite under this pretense of social welfare."

Samuel Gompers believed with all his heart that if a worker was properly and fairly paid for his work, he could provide for himself without having to hold out this hand to a caseworker for government-provided benefits. He was a champion of collective bargaining.

Collective bargaining in the years since has played a major role in America's economic miracle. Unions represent some of the freest institutions in this land. There are few finer examples of participatory democracy to be found anywhere. Too often, discussion about the labor movement concentrates on disputes, corruption, and strikes. But while these things are headlines, there are thousands of good agreements reached and put into practice every year without a hitch.

Part of successful collective bargaining is honest, straightforward exchanges. A number of Presidents have observed that of all the meetings in the Oval Office, the most direct, productive, and useful have been with the leaders of organized labor. Straight talk has always been a feature of these exchanges, and that's a tradition I want to continue here today. You and I may not always agree, as President Konyha said, on everything, but we should always remember how much we have in common.

I can guarantee you today that this administration will not fight inflation by attacking the sacred right of American workers to negotiate their wages. We propose to control government, not people. Now, today I want to express again my belief in our American system of collective bargaining and pledge that there will always be an open door to you in this administration.

During my 8 years as Governor of California, I was proud of my relationship with organized labor. Yes, we had disagreements over such things as welfare reform and budget allocation, but we followed the advice of a one-time mayor of Boston who said, "We can disagree without being disagreeable."

Some people would have forgotten-except your president very graciously reminded you—that I am the first man to attain this high office who was formerly president of an AF of L-CIO union.
Ronald Reagan, Labor Day Speech at Liberty State Park, Jersey City, New Jersey, 1 September 1980:
On this day, dedicated to American working men and women, may I tell you the vision I have of a new administration and of a new Congress, filled with new members dedicated to the values we honor today?

Beginning in January of 1981, American workers will once again be heeded.  Their needs and values will be acted upon in Washington.  I will consult with representatives of organized labor on those matters concerning the welfare of the working people of this nation.

I happen to be the only president of a union ever to be a candidate for President of the United States.

As president of my union -- the Screen Actors Guild -- I spent many hours with the late George Meany, whose love of this country and whose belief in a strong defense against all totalitarians is one of labor’s greatest legacies.  One year ago today on Labor Day George Meany told the American people:

“As American workers and their families return from their summer vacations they face growing unemployment and inflation, a climate of economic anxiety and uncertainty."

Well I pledge to you in his memory that the voice of the American worker will once again be heeded in Washington and that the climate of fear that he spoke of will no longer threaten workers and their families.

When we talk about tax reduction, when we talk about ending inflation by stopping it where it starts -- in Washington -- we are talking about a way to bring labor and management together for America.  We are talking about jobs, and productivity and wages.  We are talking about doing away with Jimmy Carter’s view of a no-growth policy, and ever-shrinking economic pie with smaller pieces for each of us.

That’s no answer.  We can have a bigger pie with bigger slices for everyone.  I believe that together you and I can bake that bigger pie.  We can make that dream that brought so many of us or our parents and grandparents to this land live once more.

Let us work to protect the human right to acquire and own a home, and make sure that that right is extended to as many Americans as possible.  A home is part of that dream.

I want to work in Washington to roll back the crushing burden of taxation that limits investment, production, and the generation of real wealth for our people.  A job, and savings, and hope for our children is part of that dream.

I want to help Americans of every race, creed and heritage keep and build that sense of community which is at the heart of America, for a decent neighborhood is part of that dream.

We will work to strengthen the small business sector which creates most of the new jobs we need for our people.  Small business needs relief from government paperwork, relief from over-regulation, relief from a  host of governmentally-created problems that defeat the effort of creative men and women.  A chance to invest, build and produce new wealth is part of the dream.

But restoring the American dream requires more than restoring a sound, productive economy, vitally important as that is.  It requires a return to spiritual and moral values, values so deeply held by those who came here to build a new life.  We need to restore those values in our daily life, in our neighborhoods and in our government’s dealings with the other nations of the world.

These are the values inspiring those brave workers in Poland. The values that have inspired other dissidents under Communist domination.  They remind us that where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost.  They remind us that freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.  You and I must protect and preserve freedom here or it will not be passed on to our children.  Today the workers in Poland are showing a new generation not how high is the price of freedom but how much it is worth that price.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

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It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. ---W.K. Clifford

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear. ---Thomas Jefferson