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Posts by Crusader AXE of the Lost Causes

Convergence — Pope Francis, Tom Friedman, Russ Douthart show up at Ana Marie Cox’s place for Maureen dowd’s brownies

 Sometimes I publish entire articles here, sometimes I do it somewhere else and just give you the Link. This is one of the later cases. I was struck by a variety of articles over the weekend -- the Pope's interview with a Spanish weekly, Friedman and Douthart's columns and then, of all things, Ana Marie Cox's piece in The Guardian this morning. I normally don't read either Friedman or Douthart and the Pope doesn't have a regular byline at the sites I visit. I religiously read Ana Marie.

Anyway, they were all approaching a serious issue -- what the hell should we do about Iraq kinda, sorta -- and seemed to be going at it from different perspectives and getting to the same point. The Pope's interview really triggered it, when he equated fundamentalism with violence. I think there's a lot of truth to it -- show me someone who wants to quote chapter and verse of everything in an appeal to authority, and I'll show you a guy who'd like to smite the unbeliever...which in Iraq boils down to Sunnis and Shiites smiting each other and anybody else like Christians, Sufis and other sects who wanders past. They all make good points == enjoy.


English Comedian Awakens Me from Dogmatic Slumbers


Not so long ago, a buddy of mine named Eric Garland tweeted that he didn't think most of Thomas Piketty's critics had read the book. I responded by asking if he had just learned about the nonexistence of Santa Claus. Eric, a somewhat anarchical economic analyst and bass player responded with "No Santa? Next you'll say no confidence fariy." 

But, his ironic comment about the critics and Piketty makes a great point. If you're reading this blog, you probably recognize the name, and have an idea about what the guy has established as a position. Accrued wealth accrues more wealth faster than labor...or, rich people get rich faster than workers.This results in imbalance and is not a positive factor. But, sheesh, it's a thick book and most of it is review of research and a lot of it is boring stuff about calvados and cheese production in Normandy or something -- is there a Powerpoint adaptation? 

Last weekend, John Oliver ranted for 13 hilarious minutes on his new TV show, Last Week Tonight about the problem of boredom. We have the collective attention span of gerbils. So, if you want to sneak something by us, do so in the most boring possible way. In the Senate and the House, they can use their rules to safely put those of us not working n the capital to sleep-deprived fever dreams in no time. With bureaucratic things like Net Neutrality, they can do it with discussions of rules. 

I have Oliver's piece and my thoughts on the mess available here. Short form, they want us to trust the broadband industry to take care of our interests. Sure, trust the bureaucrats (did you know the guy running the FCC is the former chief lobbyist for the Cable industry??) and the lobbyists because...Benghazi? 

Categories: Politics
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Carol King wrote "Don’t Bring Me Down?" Really…


You know, Carol King wrote this. What the hell, ehh...

The oddest things make you get all philosophic...which I suppose is why philosophers and those of us who are kinda, sorta like that, the modern Philosophe's or Philosopotasters (if you're not sure what that means, ask Crispin) lead such odd lives. Anyway, I saw a piece in American Songwriter this morning and it got me thinking about, of all things, rock and roll as Apollo's chariot, so to speak. The fact that a truly great rock and roll band has to be able to cover other people's stuff exceptionally well while finding their own way. And, some people you might not expect to have any patience with anyone can handle spoiled prima donnas better than most. But, mainly the fact that lots of us had our lives and sanity saved by rock and roll...

Full piece at the Defeatists. Lots of music. Maybe even some good thinking. Maybe not. Figure it out. Since Typepad has a problem with comments at the Defeatists for some reason, feel free to post here or just email me at


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Not a lot about the Army, a lot about America

Ever since I heard the news from Fort Hood, I've been pissed off at the media and public response. Obviously, this was the work of a terrorist...two, it's the Army. Another crazed killer running amuck...well, no.

If you don't know shit and still talk and anybody listens, you're both fools. In this case, there are a few things we're starting to learn, and a lot we're still deducing, inducing and plain old guessing about. I spent most of my life with and around soldiers, and I have a few insights.

But, bottom line this is no different except for the clothes and location than any other act of workplace violence. As we learn more, it will tell us a lot about a lot of things, but less about the Army and more about stress, pain, and problems facing the poor, dispossessed and hopeless than we think.And, it's sad. And happens everyday, all over the country and in this case, somebody killed folks. Others punch wall, throw pencils or cups, scream, or hit someone. I think it's worth considering.


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Gunfire and Gummy Bears, Hand Grenades and Horseshoes


I published this piece yesterday over at Veterans Today and at The Defeatists. While I get more readers at Veterans Today, the software doesn't allow for music to be openly displayed which means the pieces lose some integrity; more than that, a lot of the comments I get there are really out to lunch.

My last post about Paul Ryan the Gombeen Man got a lot of interesting responses...and then the Irish guy made it all about him and was upset because I didn't get it that the IRA bombing campaigns were bad for Ireland. He also blamed the Famine on the Catholic Church and the dumb Irish peasants who had too many babies causing the land to be exhausted. Politely told him to feck off, as they say, and tell the folks in Connemara or in any pub in Dublin about his great theories...anyway, this is about the Crimea. 

I've been searching for a metaphor, and the one that historical orientation past, present, future might go a long way toward explaining the disconnect between the Russian Federation and the rest of the world...In struggling for my own metaphor, I had thought that Barrack Obama is a digital guy dealing with a digital universe and Putin, the Tea Party, and so on analog guys dealing with reality as an analog creation. TMind over matter, you don't mind, it don't matter. In Putin world, what we can do doesn't matter because he doesn't care. Frankly, the cited article in The Guardian really added so clarity and the KAL cartoon also made a big difference. 


Ukraine, Chess, Quidditch and Nukes…


In struggling for metaphor, I had thought that Barrack Obama is a digital guy dealing with a digital universe and Putin, the Tea Party, and so on analog guys dealing with reality as an analog creation. This is where current plans to downsize the force, cut weapons systems, avoid troops on the ground and use Special Ops for everything bumps into the base reality, the pre-analog reality. Mind over matter, you don't mind, it don't matter. In Putin world, what we can do doesn't matter.


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St Patrick’s day is a good day for some commie songs…


Put up a lengthy new piece over at The Defeatists...some good stuff in it. Tim Eagan wrote a great column this weekend on what a debased slug and hypocritical slime Paul Ryan is and why so extracts and links plus Bob Geldorf swearing at the monied establishment in Europe and the US.


Basically, Paul Ryan's appeal to the racist right with his use of the "poverty-entitlement-safety net qua cushion" is the same argument that cost Ireland 3 million people I70 years ago. It was a bad argument then, and it's worse now.



Actively seek by letting them arise…


Heidigger wrote someplace "Let being be..." I think most of us agree that after the first few chapters of Being and Time, Heidigger is basically useless, impossible to translate meaningfully into German from Heidiggerdido let alone to English...anyway, moments of clarity come from odd places. And, what serves me as clarity may obscure for, when you find it, enjoy...


Gettysburg as metaphor for desperation, ignorance and hope


While I might have a lot to say about the Defense proposal which has already been overtaken by events, or the invasion of Ukraine which has really been unfolding since Boris Gudonov's defeat of the Tartars and the beginning of the Russian state, I decided to look at things through something I kind of understand...and Gettysburg is a great example of how badly things can go...and serves well as a metaphor for things could have been better, could have been worse but ultimately, wouldn't change a lot. 

The meeting engagement, which are usually pretty sloppy and deadly affairs, was a draw leaving the union in occupation of the key terrain. Due to problems of communications, coordination and staff work as well as logistics, the maneuver phase trying to take Culp’s Hill, flank Cemetery Ridge and occupy Little and Big Round Tops failed. So, the Army of Northern Virginia was left on day 3 to try a frontal attack, across an open plain with unseen obstacles that would slow, disrupt and canalize attacking soldiers into killing grounds. It didn’t help that Pickett’s soldiers were exhausted; it didn’t make it simpler that George Pickett was a bellicose idiot, lacking even the reptilian sense of self-preservation that Dan Sickles exhibited. 

Billy Yank and Johnny Reb hit Starbucks circa 1863

UAW Nashville 1

The news that the United Auto Workers lost a union election at a Nashville VW plant has sent the labor movement into something of a what the hell just happened spin. Unfortunately, I think that the results were preordained, back in about 1863. We have an interesting history in this country of well meaning northerners going into the backward and dirty south to enlighten these poor sons and daughters of Dixie, and it just doesn't work because the Northerners aren't trusted and the track record hasn't been all that great.

Hell, the post-union industrialization of the South wasn't by VW but it was by Northern Manufacturers who realized that they could make a lot more money moving steel from Pittsburgh to Birmingham and screw the workers in Birmingham a lot less than they were being screwed by their own boss class, but screw them a lot more than they were screwing over their own workers in the North. One might write an interesting history of American Expansion and Exception as a race to exploit the more easily exploited at cost to the somewhat less exploited. Now, the industrialization of the South screwed over a lot of people, and the big companies took the blame; it was possible to find Southern bosses and they did. Reconstruction ultimately turned out OK for the Southerners although not ideal from their point of view; hence the 100 year affiliation to the Democratic party although not necessarily the party of Roosevelt and Johnson but something else entirely.


King Harvest (Has Surely Come)

Corn in the fields.
Listen to the rice when the wind blows 'cross the water,
King Harvest has surely come
I work for the union 'cause she's so good to me;
And I'm bound to come out on top,
That's where she said I should be
I will hear every word the boss may say,
For he's the one who hands me down my pay
Looks like this time I'm gonna get to stay,
I'm a union man, now, all the way
The smell of the leaves,
From the magnolia trees in the meadow,
King Harvest has surely come -- Robbie Robertson, the Band

real JR and BY

Billy Yank and Johnny Reb compare resumes There's a wonderful moment in Gettysburg when an Officer of the 2oth Maine is talking with some Southern prisoners, primarily with a private. It's pretty interesting in that I think it's incredibly real and captures something that we miss at times. They ask each other where they're from, and the Rebel says, "Tennessee. How about you?" The Yank says, "Maine. I've never been to Tennessee." The Reb says, "Don't reckon I've ever been to Tennesse either."

The Yank officer says, " I don't mean no disrespect about you all fighting, but I have to wonder, what are you fighting for?" Reb private responds, "What are you fighting for?"  Yank responds, "Why to free the slaves, of course. Preserve the union." Reb says, "I can't talk for anyone else, but I don't care about no darkies one way or the other. I'm fightin' for my Raaattts." Yank has no clue what he means, and says "What?" Rebel says, "My Raattts. That's what all of us are fighting for." The conversation continues, they agree that the war is an awful thing, they wish it was over and the Rebel admits to some acceptance that since he's a prisoner, he'll get to sit the rest of it out. They wish each other good luck and say "See you in Hell, Billy Yank." "See you in Hell, Johnny Reb." And one marches off to prison camp, and the other to Little Round Top.


If people like the UAW realized what that private was telling us and them, and what the scene was telling us, they might have been far more successful. First of all, we have radically different understandings of why we do things and what we're doing. Lots of reasons for that, and I've talked about  some of them before. But, we don't understand each other -- the UAW can talk about industrial democracy and having a way to influence the company through the union; the Southerner doesn't understand Industrial Democracy (Of course, neither does the UAW) and since he knows his bosses, he trusts them. The VW plant management may not have been actively opposed to the union drive, but they've treated the workers well and haven't lied to them too much. The workers want to be left alone and allowed to work and be treated fairly. The Germans have done a good job of that. So...


Now, I've had a checkered career, and have talked to a lot of people over the years in a lot of professions, including those in State Workforce Development Programs. A few years ago at a Conference, I was chatting with fellow Vet who a honcho in the Alabama Workforce Development Department and a guy who was working in the South Carolina Workforce Development. They told both told me that BMW in South Carolina and Mercedes Benz in Alabama had far lower turnover, fewer problems, lower unemployment insurance rates and lower employee incidence of lawsuits than the Honda and Nissan plants in both states. The Alabama guy said the same thing about the Koreans and Hyundai. Far more success than Honda with their workers. The reasons were simple; the German and the Korean attitudes toward the workers and the resulting culture were really far more attractive. At Mercedes, the workers all basically dress the same on the floor -- the blue lab/worker coat that those of us who've spent time in Germany are familiar with. There is no reserved parking for the bosses, it's all first come/first serve except for handicapped parking. The example that they both shared vigorously was the subject of litter -- at the German and Korean plants, if one of the bosses passed some litter, he'd stop and pick it up, either put it in his pocket or toss it in the trash. No big deal. At the Japanese plants, it was the opposite; before a Japanese manager would pick up a piece of litter, he would go find an American to have him pick up the litter.

Consider that. As an occasional management consultant, I can tell you that outsiders offering opinions about all the crap " you all are doing wrong" doesn't work well -- "It's the stranger with a stopwatch, brief case asking to borrow your watch so they can break it"- syndrome built large.So, the UAW goes south. They pick a plant that generally has good relations with the workers and where the company sees a union on the German Works Council model as a way to have better relations and produce higher quality. However, the company wasn't doing the organizing drive; the UAW was. I trust Bob, but who the hell are you?

So, while the Republican party did their people at the Nashville plant a major disservice by lying about the impact of the effort to organize on future industrial growth and continued production, the real disservice had to do with strategic stupidity on the part of the UAW. Go for the low hanging fruit, not the one's where you need to build a crane to pick at it. Or a step ladder. Go after the people the workers don't like, not those they more or less are indifferent to or actually like and trust. Next, the scene referenced above is interesting because the accents are so telling although a rural Maine accent is in a lot of ways not that different than a mountain Tennessee pattern. But, make certain the folks doing the organizing are "from around here." After forever in the Army, I consistently talk in a way that makes people think I'm from 100 miles or so south of them unless I'm in the south where they figure I'm from 100 miles north. If you're not driving a Ford or Chevvy, Pickup or a  VW Golf GT, why were you in Nashville as an organizer? If not, at least drive a 5.0 Mustang or a Five Liter Charger if you're headed to a Japanese plant. Get people who drive those sorts of cars, who like country music, and can sing along to Freebird and Sweet home Alabama.

The key thing about the South is the importance of family. Since they've been so embattled over time and so battered by various outsiders who mean well, the importance of "kin" among working class Southerners is a key thing. I was trying to enforce some simple Army regulations and found myself accused while in exile with the Reserves in Texas of being " a goddamned outside Yankee agitator." I made a point of being culturally nonsensitive despite which I still managed to make some friends for whom I still care deeply. Last time I cried over someone's death who wasn't family was when I heard that the S3 Secretary in the Brigade I was assigned to died from cancer. But, I was there long enough to lead by example and develop some expert and referent power. Just show up and start preaching, especially about what "the union is going to do for you..." without that and the native Texan or Alabamian or Tennessean hears some Yankee saying, "We're gonna take your women, corn and horses, and there's nothing much you can do about it." If the meaning of the message is what the receiver hears, well, nothing much you can do about it by shouting it louder.

This isn't any different than the spirit that grows up in military units -- there's me, my team, my squad, my platoon and my company. Everybody else is the damn enemy until proven otherwise.

Categories: Politics
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