Saturday, November 5, 2011

The 5th of November


I just posted my rendition of the famous rhyme on Facebook:

“Remember, remember,
That 'V for Vendetta' (
And the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 (
Are radically different,
Before making assertions
About the 5th of November. (Okay, it's not as catchy as the original)” –Me, 2:02pm CDT, 11/5/2011

I just have a small problem with the modern treatment of this day. I understand the desire to have a powerful symbol, all the better if it is historical, to rally your cause around.

However, one should probably do a little light reading before deciding.

The main issue I have is with the use of the rhyme and the date. The remembrance of the day, historically, is a remembrance of treason. And not the ‘good’ kind of treason (i.e., freedom fighting).

Anyone remember why Guy Fawkes was hanging out in a basement on the morning of November 5th, 1605?

Well, he was there to light the gunpowder stored in the undercroft the conspirators rented, conveniently located directly below the House of Lords. Why did he (and his conspirators) want to blow up the House of Lords while it sat in a session of Parliament?

Largely because the king, King James I, was a protestant, and the conspirators were going to simultaneously kidnap his (9-year-old) daughter, Princess Elizabeth, and install her as a Catholic queen (and presumably their puppet).

The anonymous letter sent to a member of Parliament (4th Baron Monteagle) warning the Catholics to stay away that day, which was dutifully shown to the King, led to the arrest of Guy Fawkes in the basement. (Did you know we call men ‘guys’ because of Guy Fawkes, and that until the term came to America with the colonials it was a derogatory term for sloppily-dressed men?) 

Now, as I said, the movie ‘V for Vendetta’ is what we are actually referencing in modern terms, like when Anonymous wears the Guy Fawkes masks made famous by … the movie. Guy Fawkes (the historical person) was distinctly not wearing a mask. He had no reason to. One of his few admirable traits was that, upon arrest, he basically said, “Yeah, I was gonna blow you a**holes up!” So at least he was proud until he jumped off the gallows to avoid more torture.

My point is that is is odd to me to use the symbols without properly referencing the movie. Obviously, the masks are a blatant movie reference, but then the masks themselves reference Guy Fawkes, and then people get all teary-eyed about how he was executed in his attempt to overthrow tyranny even though that is the furthest from the truth.

As someone who, to the everlasting annoyance of my friends, actually cites works when making assertions in conversation, I find the disregard for history unsettling. Use the symbol, reinvent it, but at least understand what you are doing.

The closest comparison I can think of is “Beware the Ides of March,” which is not remembered as ‘overthrow tyranny via assassination,’ but rather, beware treachery.

Which is exactly the message of the old English rhyme.

Personally, I find the anonymous letter writer more heroic, for preventing senseless violence and death.


- E

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Weakerthans: Sounds Familiar


I love The Weakerthans for the poetry of their songs, and especially the odd rhythms. Perhaps my favorite songs is off their album Fallow (yes, from 1997... so what?). Here’s how any old lyrics site has the lyrics to the song:

We emerged from youth all wide-eyed like the rest. Shedding skin faster than skin can grow, and armed with hammers, feathers, blunt knives: words, to meet and to define and to... but you must know the same games that we played in dirt, in dusty school yards has found a higher pitch and broader scale than we feared possible, and someone must be picked last, and one must bruise and one must fail. And that still twitching bird was so deceived by a window, so we eulogized fondly, we dug deep and threw its elegant plumage and frantic black eyes in a hole, and rushed out to kill something new, so we could bury that too.
The first chapters of lives almost made us give up altogether. Pushed towards tired forms of self immolation that seemed so original. I must, we must never stop watching the sky with our hands in our pockets, stop peering in windows when we know doors are shut. Stop yelling small stories and bad jokes and sorrows, and my voice will scratch to yell many more, but before I spill the things I mean to hide away, or gouge my eyes with platitudes of sentiment, I'll drown the urge for permanence and certainty; crouch down and scrawl my name with yours in wet cement.

Two paragraphs of prose. Which is fine. It’s interesting to see it written that way. Especially when it sounds like this (he’s singing it faster than the album here, too):


Now perhaps you see how this form of the lyrics is not capturing the poetry of the lyrics. So, here is how I laid out the lyrics. My blog is skinny, so I’ve capitalized and bolded new lines.

We emerged from youth all wide-eyed like the rest.
Shedding skin
Faster than skin can grow,
And armed with hammers, feathers, blunt knives: words, to meet and to define and to...
But you must know
The same games that we played in dirt,
In dusty school yards has found a higher pitch and broader scale
Than we feared possible, and someone must be picked last,
And one must bruise and one must fail.
And that still twitching bird was so
Deceived by a window,
So we eulogized fondly, we dug deep and threw
Its elegant plumage and frantic black eyes in a hole,
Then rushed out to kill something new,
So we could bury that too.
The first chapters of lives almost made us give up altogether.
Pushed towards tired forms of self immolation
That seemed so original. I must,
We must never stop
Watching the sky with our hands in our pockets, stop
Peering in windows when we know doors are shut.
Stop yelling small stories and bad jokes and sorrows, and
My voice will scratch to yell
Many more, but
Before I spill the things I mean to hide away,
Or gouge my eyes with platitudes of sentiment,
I'll drown the urge for permanence and certainty;
Crouch down and scrawl my name with yours in

I feel that is much more satisfying written out that way. And about 100 times more interesting. But really, you need to listen to the recording. Try to follow along with the prose version, then try to follow with my poetry version. Interesting, eh?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Cleaning the Garage


We got our dumpster today, which is super exciting. Also, they delivered a 30yd instead of a 20yd, which I guess is an added bonus.

It turned out well, because the crap in the garage took up a lot of space…

I didn’t remember my resolve to take a before picture, as I was super excited to start. Didn’t remember until I was halfway done, so it was moot. However, let me put it this way: a) I’ve made a good dent in a 30 cubic yard dumpster; b) before when you opened the door, all you saw was a sea of trash, couldn’t even walk in.

Here’s some highlights:

  • Old glass storm windows
  • The extra pieces for the ‘new’ gutters, including a ton of connectors
  • The old gutters. And their connectors.
  • 3 lawnmowers and a snowblower.
  • Old TV.
  • LP gas heater.
  • An entire wok set, still in the packaging (I kept that).
  • Many hockey sticks.
  • Clothes hangers. This guy had a problem. We find them everywhere. In this case, even attached to the spring for the garage door.
  • Lots of lumber, the good stuff I’m keeping.
  • 1.5 rear spoilers to an unknown car.
  • An old windshield wiper, in the new wiper’s box.
  • A crate that seemed to be purpose built to hold his old paint can lids.
  • The old garage (?) window.
  • Empty packaging, empty boxes.
  • An ice-hole drill thingy for ice fishing.
  • Lots of little bits of things: tiny pieces of foam insulation (less than 1 sqft), 6inch long pieces of downspout, 1ft long pieces of lumber. What did he expect to do with these things?
  • 6ft long, 1/4”ish thick, 6” wide piece of aluminum. To the scrappers!
  • Some sort of large pavilion-y tent thing.
  • And.. a kitchen sink. No joke.

It seems like whoever it was that packed the majority of this shit in there saved the old broken whatever whenever he replaced something. When we first moved in we got rid of an old dishwasher that was in there, and the dishwasher in the kitchen when we moved in was already from the 80s or 90s. That means the ‘old dishwasher’ sat in that garage for probably 25 years, through at least 2 subsequent owners before we got rid of it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Right of the People


“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Today, the Wisconsin Senate illegally voted through a bill that removes fundamental rights of the working people.

Today, in Michigan, the Senate passed a bill that allows the governor to declare a state of fiscal emergency (state of emergency law? sound familiar?) that allows the state government to dissolve contracts, dissolve unions, even dissolve town governments, and replace them with a unilateral dictator who can be paid an unlimited salary.

Today, unions (human rights) are under attack in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Idaho, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, Illinois, Tennessee, the list goes on.

Today, the fundamental rights of people in this country are under attack.

Today, we must exercise the right of the people to alter or abolish the government. We must do whatever we can, peacefully, to stop what the GOP and their cronies are trying to do. They have shown quite clearly that they will not obey the law. They held their votes tonight illegally. They have violated the state constitution to lock (and weld!) entrances to the capitol, denying constituents entrance.

Today, we must work to recall the republicans that are eligible. We must get out the vote in upcoming elections. We must challenge the illegal actions of the current government in courts of law.

Tomorrow, or the next day, when the Governor signs this bill into law, the public workers of the state of Wisconsin must stage a general strike, and all unions that are able must strike in solidarity, and the people must take to the streets, and we must take our government back.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

This is What Class Warfare Looks Like


“It is time for us all
To decide who we are
Do we fight for the right
To a night at the opera now?
Have you asked of yourselves
What's the price you might pay?
Is it simply a game
For rich young boys to play?
The color of the world
Is changing day by day...

Red - the blood of angry men!
Black - the dark of ages past!
Red - a world about to dawn!
Black - the night that ends at last!”
- Les Miserables

Today’s inspirational quote comes from Les Miserables (the musical), an apt source as you will see.

A favorite chant of protestors against Scott Walker’s attack on unions is “this is what democracy looks like.” This fight is not limited to Wisconsin, it is not limited to public-sector unions, it is an attack on all working people. So I say: this is what class warfare looks like.

In 1789 in France, the First Estate (the clergy), owned 10% of the land, paid no taxes, and comprised .039% of the population. The Second Estate (the nobility), owned 25% of the land, paid no taxes, and comprised 1.5% of the population. Meanwhile, the Third Estate (the peasants) comprised 98% of the population and paid all of the taxes. 1


In 2007 in the United States, the top 1% of the population owned 42.7% of the wealth, the next 19% owned 50.3% of the wealth, and the bottom 80% of the population owned a meager 7.0% of the wealth. And for a far more stark picture, the bottom 40% of the population own 0.3% of the wealth.2 And after the financial collapse of 2008-2009, the poor have only gotten poorer.

Generally speaking, if you ask someone in this country what social class they belong too, they say the middle class.3 In fact, 59% claim to be ‘upper middle class’ or ‘middle class,’ while only 39% consider themselves to be ‘working class.’

I’ll give everyone a hint: it’s very likely that on the larger scale, you are poor.

Meanwhile, corporations, whose profits have increased by 39% in 2010, pay little to no taxes. In Wisconsin, two-thirds of corporations pay no taxes, and part of our current budget hole is due to the $117 million corporate tax cut passed by the Republicans.4

Republicans tend to heavily call for the elimination of ‘death tax,’ their hyped-up name for the inheritance tax. The inheritance tax affects only those who received inheritance over $5 million dollars at the federal level, and only 1.6% of Americans receive more than $100,000.5

Taxes have continuously been cut for the wealthy and corporations, more than for the middle class and the poor. The bottom 20% pay 16% of their income in taxes, the next 20% pay 20.5%, the next 20% pay 25.3%, the next 20% pay 28.5%. This makes up the bottom 80% of people.6

Now it gets interesting. The next 10% (making around $100k/year), pay 30.2%, the next 5% pay 31.2%, the next 4% pay 31.6%, and the top 1% of the population, taking in an average of $1.3 million a year, pay a 30.8% income tax. You will note that in the top 19% of the population the increase in the percent of income taxed is almost flat, and that the top 1% pay about the same amount of tax as those making $100k, less than what those just below them pay.7

Why all these numbers? Why the reference to the French Revolution?

To show a few stark realities: ‘trickle down economics’ is a fraudulent policy that aims at consolidating wealth, the United States is driven by capitalism and not democracy, and that the wealthy have been engaging in class warfare for some time already.

The wealthy, including corporations (which according to law and the Supreme Court are people—wait until they have voting rights), are and have been forming a fascist oligarchy. They only care about profit, their wealth, and their power, and they don’t care what happens to the rest of us.

They have waged a war of propaganda, convincing millions of working-class Americans to support them while they strip away rights and increase the financial burden of the poor. They have slowly broken the unions that built this country to limit organized resistance to their advance.

Deregulation led to the current financial collapse, which affects the poor far more than it affects the wealthy. ‘Trickle down economics’ has led to the rich consolidating and becoming richer while the poor become poorer.

With the wide gap in wealth distribution, the demise of unions, the rising price of food8, and the vast expenditures to benefit corporations and the wealthy (labeled as ‘tax cuts,’ not spending), the current situation in the United States reminds me rather much of France in 1789.

The wealthy and the conservatives have been fighting this class war already. Meanwhile, union membership has dropped from 45% of workers in 1950 to 7% today.

Those who are complaining about the benefits and wages of union workers, know this: it is not the unions’ fault, it is yours. You have not organized.

The only way to defeat oligarchy is for the people to fight back. The 80% of this country who are downtrodden and poor need to rise up and declare that the people rule this country, not the wealthy and the corporations.

What we have seen in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, Wisconsin, and elsewhere is the realization of people that they hold the power in the social contract. Many of these battles have just begun, and all are far from over.

The wealthy have been waging class warfare for decades, convincing the people that their best interests were served by the wealthy being wealthier.

Now the people have begun to wake up, and it is time for the people to fight.


1 Retrieved 2011-2-21.
2 Retrieved 2011-2-21.
3 Retrieved 2011-2-21.
4 Retrieved 2011-2-21.
5 Retrieved 2011-2-21.
6 ibid.
7 ibid.
8 Retrieved 2011-2-22.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

“We all have to suffer”


“First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
                                       -Martin Niemöller1

I’ve seen many people speak against the protesters and public workers in Wisconsin by saying ‘in this economy we all have to suffer.’

It’s true, we are all suffering. And most public workers (my family included) probably saw the increase in what they pay for their healthcare, pension, and other benefits coming. It was a pretty obvious move for Governor Walker.

This change represents a 7% pay cut for most public employees in Wisconsin2. It is a falsehood that public employees have ‘paid nothing’ for their benefits. Generally speaking, public employees work for far lower wages than a private sector counterpart, and part of the exchange is the improved benefits. You can look at what a teacher makes, and decide for yourself.

And this is not necessarily the ‘only option’ that Governor Walker makes it out to be3. Other states have had similar issues and have come up with different solutions4.

This, however, is not the real issue. The real issue is the undermining of the basic rights of the citizens of this state.

Article 23, Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
(3). Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4). Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.5

It’s true, Scott Walker is not denying the ability to join a union, but he is taking away the fundamental power that a union has—the power of collective bargaining.

Without collective bargaining, a union only has one big option—to walk out, to strike. And this is not the best option for anyone—the state, the workers, or the people. And by law, public employees are prohibited from striking.6

And if you think that Scott Walker is only coming after the public employees, or that he’s only coming after the unions, you are mistaken.

1 Retrieved 2011-2-16.
2 Retrieved 2011-2-16.
3 Retrieved 2011-2-16.
4 Retrieved 2011-2-16.
5 Retrieved 2011-2-16.
6 Retrieved 2011-2-16.