SocraticGadfly: 5/8/05 - 5/15/05

May 13, 2005

Don’t just blame management for GM woes

Attaturk, on Atrios, bemoans the fall of workers’ financial power at GM.

Here’s the original Paul Krugman column that got him started.

Krugman says:
In 1968, when General Motors was a widely emulated icon of American business, many of its workers were lifetime employees. On average, they earned about $29,000 a year in today's dollars, a solidly middle-class income at the time. They also had generous health and retirement benefits.
I agree with much of his column, but let’s not romanticize GM — or the GM employee — of yesterday or today.

Today’s average GM employee earns a lot more than $29,000 in today's money. A lot more. (I used to live in Flint, Michigan, and did college contract teaching to UAW workers, so I know. I’ve also heard that the stories about “Monday cars” and “Friday cars,” especially in the GM of yore, are entirely true.)

I'm not blaming unions for getting what they can, and believe we need stronger unions in many cases.

But, in the case of the automotive Big Three, unions have in the past and continue to shoot themselves in the foot at times.

They, as well as management, oppose increases in the CAFE, for example.

So, when Hubbert’s Peak starts playing out, and then Big Three sales finish going into the Toyota Tank, the UAW can blame itself as well as management.

The First Amendment MUST be preserved against fundies

Kevin Drum appears to think progressives should be more compromising on issues such as state-sponsored religious displays, public prayers, and such on the grounds that 98 percent of the battle has already been won.

See the original Matt Yglesias post that got Kevin started here.

This is one of Kevin’s, and Matt Yglesias’, dumber ideas.

The fundies want to reverse that 2 percent and aren't in a mood to compromise. The “silent majority” is clueless on that and will be rolled as to what is acceptable on public religious displays if compromise is the name of the game.

When does idealism compromise with pragmatism, then?

I face this from a highly personal angle, too. My dad is, I mean was, a minister in the main conservative Lutheran denomination. His sister is a Lutheran parochial school teacher. Their one grandfather was a minister. My oldest brother is. My No. 2 brother is a music director and works at denominational headquarters in his day job. My brother-in-law is a minister, after a young sister said years ago she'd never marry one.

I said “was” of my dad because he died a week ago and I’ve played hypocrite for a week. HE KNEW, and so did his sister, and my sister, but none of my brothers, nor dad's second wife, nor most other people at the funeral did.

In most ways, I’m more absolutist on this than freedom of the press — and I’m a newspaper editor — precisely because the other side, the fundamentalist part of the “other side,” at least, is not in a compromising mood. It's not holding on to the “last 2 percent” of the school prayer battle, Kev, it's keeping that from being changed to 20-30 percent being lost again.

Update, May 14:
Kevin continues to fight the battle with this post. Which leads to further response from me.

Religion in America has greatly evolved in the last 200 years. Many moderate to liberal Christians recognize the “Judeo” fig leaf within the phrase “Judeo-Christian heritage.” If Muslims don’t already outnumber Jews, they soon will. Can Hindus and Buddhists be that far behind?

So what then, Kev? Do we post verses from the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita, or the Pali Canon on courthouse walls?

Do you see any fundies raising their hands to vote for that one?

And no, don’t give me Scalia’s “civic religion” bullshit either.

May 12, 2005

Bull Moose pimping for Wal-Mart

(Or, the family that gets locked in together stays together)

Marshall Wittman of Bull Moose blog infamy, an alleged Democrat, thinks Wal-Mart is just so darned family-friendly with its banning of certain magazines, music, etc.

Does this family-friendliness extend to Wal-Mart’s quaint idea of locking family members working the graveyard at the same WallyWorld in the store together overnight?

May 08, 2005

An atheist faces death

Actually, it’s not the first time. In the summer of 2002, I got lost hiking in primitive backcountry in Canyonlands National Park and ran out of water on a typical 100-degree day. I did think I might have bought the farm, so to speak.

I ran through a “prayer” I would say at times the first year after I graduated from Lutheran seminary (no, I never entered the ministry), as I transitioned from some nebulous “religiosity” to at least a hard agnosticism. In this “prayer,” I called to Zeus, Allah, Yahweh, Buddha, Jesus, etc., in a rosary of world religions and mythologies.

But in Canyonlands, there was one big difference. At the end of saying this in the midst of 3 p.m. panic, I added the phrase “and myself” to the list. After doing that twice, I accepted that my own wits would be what saved me, or else the luck (in a non-mystical sense) of finding someone else hiking out there.

My wits remembered that some tinajas, or tanks, back down the trail a few miles, still had water in from the last rain of the monsoon. Already out of water, I paced my hiking, and hiking distances before hitting shelter, in the late afternoon heat. Obviously, I got there and drank my fill of water already teeming with tadpoles. I wound up having to spend a cold night on the canyon floor, but found my way out the next morning.

But, I actually have seriously faced death for the first time as an atheist. My father died May 7. And he was a an ultraconservative Lutheran pastor. He said he couldn’t read his devotional books the night before he died.

That may well be true – he had COPD from 55 years of smoking (See post immediately below, including a couple of philosophical observations there) and he may have been so oxygen-deprived as to be blurry-eyed.

Nonetheless, he knew I was an atheist and in fact had mailed me a book a month ago, called “I Don’t Have the Time to be an Atheist,” by Christian apologist Norman Geisler.

Was my dad getting his “pound of flesh” by asking me to read to him? Some people may consider that horrid, but other than not becoming a pastor myself after going to his alma mater undergrad and his alma mater seminary, our family had plenty of other dysfunctional water turning the grist wheels. Even if it was a genuine request on his part doesn’t rule out sidebar ulterior motives.

I felt sad for him, especially reading some of the more morbid, medieval-sounding prayers from an older Lutheran prayer and devotional book that was a confirmation gift to a cousin of his 60 years ago. The self-flagellation quotient was horrific.

I am my father’s ghost, doomed for a time to stalk the night.”

Philip Morris killed my dad

Fifty-five years of smoking Philip Morris and Robert J. Reynolds products, abetted by their corporate lies about cigarette safety, their lies and denials about their own in-house findings of problems, finally killed him May 7, 2005.

The lies were abetted by his own denials of the seriousness of the addiction, and even more so for many years by his version of fundamentalist Lutheran Christianity, seeing nicotine addiction as a sin, a God-damned weakness of human flesh, rather than an addiction to a highly toxic drug deliberately, capriciously and cold-heartedly manipulated by Morris and Reynolds.

The stance of pseudo-skepticism on cigarette research adopted for years by Morris and Reynolds is the biggest crock of corporate-shilled pseudoscience America and the world had seen, in all likelihood, or at least until the recent corporate attacks on global warming research.

As not just a skeptic, but an atheist, I know there is no “dad” any more to rest in peace. If only there were.

Sadly, one of the last things I did for him in life is get him the last damned cigarette he ever smoked hours before he died, oxygen tube in his nose.